In Which Crafts Combine

There’s a lot of talk in woolly circles about people being “bicraftual”. Normally, this refers to people who both knit and crochet. It’s surprisingly uncommon – most people either have a very strong preference for one over the other, or are like me. I tried crossing over to the dark side (crochet), but I just can’t get the hang of it. It’s not even as if I just need to get over the hump of being a beginner and therefore rubbish, as in the same timeframe I’ve gone from roving falling apart in my hands to being a reasonably proficient spinner. There is something about crochet that just. Does. Not. Compute. So the bicraftual label is not one I normally claim for myself.

However, I do sew. I sew pretty badly, but that’s besides the point. As it isn’t one of the “Ravelry crafts” – that’s knitting, crochet, spinning, weaving, dyeing and tatting, for the uninitiated – I tend not to consider it as part of the same crafty sphere.

I’m currently making an exception, because recently knitting and sewing have come together in a way that I didn’t really expect. To be fair, it’s mainly because I’m cheap and incompetent, but never mind.

I decided to make a pair of pyjama shorts from a recent-ish issue of BurdaStyle. Don’t ask me which one, as it is currently in disgrace. I traced off the pattern pieces, drafted on the seam allowances and set to work. And before any of you start on me in the comments, yes, I checked my measurements. Several times, because I was a little bit taken aback (OK, and also slightly offended) to find that I had a size 16 waist according to the sizing chart. But I told myself to stop being vain and silly, to trust the pattern and tape measure, and continued.

Partly because this was my first time sewing with a knitted fabric, and partly because the pattern directions were sodding confusing, I didn’t register the true size of what I was making until the time came to put the waist elastic in. I get that these are pyjamas and are meant to be loose-fitting, gathered in by the elastic. However, what I had made was HUGE. Proper ribcage to knees Victorian bloomers huge. Of course, I didn’t notice this until after I’d gone through the massive ball ache that is hemming round a corner.

So I ripped all the seams out, hacked off the seam and hem allowances, plus a few inches at the waist for good measure, and redid it all. Still massive. Rinse and repeat.

Did I mentioned that this was the third time I’d had to hem around those sodding corners? In jersey, which slips and slides and gets pulled out of shape if you look at it funny? Good. So I think you can appreciate that perhaps I didn’t do my best, neatest sewing on the final product, and thus it looks like it was sewn by a particularly uncoordinated drunk. Distressingly, I was sober the whole time so I can’t use that excuse, but I think you can see why I couldn’t face ripping it out and redoing it a fourth time.

This project also involved a scalloped lace trim around the hem. “Great!” I thought to myself on the way into the haberdashery. “I can use the lace to hide the wonky hem.”

There was technically nothing wrong with the plan. However, as I went round multiple haberdasheries, it became clear that everything that even vaguely met the requirements of the pattern and what I had in my head either: a) cost upwards of £8 a metre, so to hell with that, or b) didn’t exist. I tried the internet, but still nothing.

So I had a little think. This, my friends will tell you, never ends well. “I know!” I said to myself over a restorative ice cream, “I’ll knit a scalloped lace edging for it. I’ve got loads of Victorian knitting pamphlets, and they’re full of this kind of thing. Also, crochet cotton is way cheaper than this.”

Again, this was perfectly sound reasoning, but this time I had failed to account for the fact that none of the patterns in these periodicals seem to have been proofread, never mind test knit. An afternoon of attempting to Macgyver a few of them into submission (and cursing the name of Mlle. de Riego) followed, until I realised that Franklin Habit had already done the hard work for me over at Knitty. So I stopped frantically charting lace and starting knitting instead.img_0545

This is the result. Yes, those are 1.5mm needles. I’m knitting a lace weight ballgown, and you only just realised that I have a weakness for big projects on tiny needles?

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It’s also been quite fun having a project that will fit in a pencil case, but I digress.

Anyway, it’s taken a while, but I’ve finally managed to churn out enough edging to go around both legs, and sewn it on. I’ve even put the waist elastic in. So behold (I have ironed it, but for some reason it still photographs really creased).

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It turns out I am bicraftual, just not in the way I expected.

The Total Perspective Vortex

The Total Perspective Vortex

I have a trip coming up. Two dear friends are getting married on Skye next week, and we’ve been invited. It’s a fair old trek, so naturally my first thought was travel knitting. Aside from getting to the wedding, we’re also going to explore around a bit and make a week of it.

This means lots of driving, and since the Yarn Widower gets carsick, it also means a lot of passenger time for, plenty of it on winding roads. So, I need something I can do without looking at my hands much. It also needs to be whisky-related screw-up proof: we’re going to Islay as well, so it’d be rude not to.

Lots of stocking stitch in the round seems an obvious choice. There are lots of options: plain socks, break the back of a bottom-up jumper, a plain pi shawl…

Or something else entirely.

Fans of Douglas Adams will be familiar with the Total Perspective Vortex. It is known as the worst torture to which anyone can be subjected, and was invented by Trin Tragula to get back at his wife, who frequently claimed he had no sense of proportion. The Vortex destroys the mind of anyone placed within it by showing how small and insignificant they are in relation to the whole universe. This is because, according to Adams, “In an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion”.

Reader, I fear I may be in need of it. What I have settled on involves a great deal of stocking stitch in the round, but on quite a grand scale. I’m making a ball gown. Out of laceweight. On 2.5mm needles (yes, I’ve checked my tension and that is the size I need). I must be mad.

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The armaments (ambient mess not included)

Some background: I’ve had the yarn and pattern (Arwen by Marie Wallin) for a while, so this isn’t totally out of the blue – I’ve just been trying to get the stamina up to dive in. In case any of you think I’m totally insane, I don’t expect to manage the whole thing in the week we’re away. Maybe give it a few years?

As a jobbing singer, I get a reasonable amount of use out of my eveningwear, and a knitted dress seems like a good antidote to chilly country churches.

So this seems like the perfect opportunity. I have 10,500 metres of yarn, which is just as well, since it’s been discontinued, and I bought it in bulk when it was on clearance – thirty balls, to be precise. That’s about twice as much as the pattern says I’ll need, but I love the colour and I like to be prepared. If you’re interested, it’s Sublime Extra Fine Merino Lace in Ikat (shade 401).

I have yarn. I have needles. I have a round trip to the Hebrides. My friends, wish me luck, wish me courage, just don’t wish me a sense of proportion. It’s the one thing I can’t afford right now.