Thank you everyone for your amazing comments on The Slow Wardrobe. I really appreciated everyone weighing in on the issues I raised with my criticisms of High Street Knits, and my thoughts regarding how to clothe myself in a way that feels right to me. Your comments were thoughtful and considered, and the whole discussion made me think about how emotional and complicated the issue of clothing the self is.
The discussion about clothing children and wool was especially interesting to me – and especially apposite – because this week I finished knitting the Christening Blanket which I designed and knit throughout Wovember for Mark’s nephew, Ben.
I have called this design ‘Jiggit’ because in one of my favourite series of books, (the Tiffany Aching series by Terry Pratchett) ‘Jiggit’ is the name given to the infant Tiffany by her much beloved shepherdess Grandmother – ususally in the context of “my little jiggit.” The word feels to me very affectionate and a little bit boisterous, which is what I had in mind when I started designing an Aran-weight blanket with lots of springy garter-stitch involved. I also feel that ‘jigget’ evokes the jig-jag effect created by the lace pattern, which is ‘Tilting Block’ from Barbara Walker’s Second Treasury of Knitting Patterns.
Finally – because I love WORDS – ‘Jiggit’ is also one of the Cumbrian counting words used by shepherds. It means ’20,’ which is the number of years I hope the blanket will last for.
I am going to offer to dye it if the glowing white of the organic shetland yarn of which ‘Jiggit’ is comprised ceases to be practical, and my care recommendations are to soak it in SOAK, bung it on a spin cycle to dry it out, and block it gently on a towel on a bed or big table. That is what I did, and it took not a lot of time, and it worked just fine.
As long as the moths do not find it very tasty, I hope it will be soft and useful and warm for some time.
I chose Garthenor organic Aran-weight Shetland for this project, because I have knit with this yarn before and find it characterful, soft, warm and lofty. The white shetland in particular has a luxurious creaminess about it, which I felt was appropriate for the ceremonial feeling of something to be used at a Christening. However I also wanted the blanket to have a useful, workaday life after its special appearance in Church, and it felt to me that Garthenor yarn could provide all of these things, being at once magical and earthy enough to fulfil religious and practical functions. I hope Ben and his parents will agree.
The softness is owed to the meticulous sorting skills of Chris King, AKA MR GARTHENOR. Here is Mr Garthenor at his Woolfest stall in 2009.
Woolfest can be an overwhelming place. Sheep are baaing, knitters are rummaging, venders are selling and wool excitement is everywhere. It was all threatening to be a bit much for me when I went in 2009, but I was becalmed when I met Chris, and we had a lovely, long conversation in which he shared his penchant for the Herdwick sheep, and talked with me about sorting and grading fleeces. I have found that there is a meticulousness and attention to detail amongst folk who are passionate about wool, and I was entranced by the way that Chris described his work. I was reminded of Chris’s words on wool when I read Ooey Ollie’s guest post for Wovember. I am only just beginning to learn how a fleece is graded and sorted, and it is always wonderful to learn from experienced folk how something from an animal’s back becomes something you can knit with.
I purchased enough DK weight at Woolfest to make a Baby Surprise Jacket back in July 2009 and found the experience of knitting with the Garthenor Yarn so pleasing that when it became apparent that Ben needed a Christening Blanket, I knew at once what I should knit it with.
The design process was a bit harder for me, as maths is by no mean my forte, and I kept on making errors which meant many false starts and much ripping back. The Shetland is strong, woollen-spun, and well able to handle such treatment, so we pressed on together; me and the yarn and my charts and a pen. After a fashion it all started to make sense and I found myself racing along on those rows of tilted blocks on trains between jobs and for half an hour every night, and in between all the work I have been doing on other things it was completed on Thursday night in time for the Christening. It is quite a simple design; a moss stitch and garter stitch border; a row of eyelets around the edge; and a central block of springy lace.
I wanted to take elements of the lace pattern and repeat them in the borders, and for the blanket to have straight edges that wouldn’t snag on things. The yarn relaxes and fulls magnificently when blocked and I’m really pleased with the stitch definition on those nice blocks. Alas I have no before/after pictures to show you the difference…
I am slightly displeased with my FO photos; does anyone have good tips for how best to photograph a 28″ x 40″ rectangle of knitting?
My favourite thing about ‘Jiggit’ is that I can explain to Ben and his Mum and Dad where the blanket has come from, I know the wool has no airmiles on it, I believe in the mission of the company which I purchased the yarn from, and I can explain the skills which were involved in turning the stuff which grew on the back of an animal into the thing which lies on the lap of a child. Colleen pointed out on Kate’s Cabbages and Roses post that the words ‘to clothe’ and ‘investment’ share a root; I love thinking about that fact, because for me knitting this blanket was not just about making a blanket, but also thinking about the things I want to keep alive in the world; the things I want to invest in for the future in an extremely tiny, stitch-by-stitch way.
And what are Christenings for, if not to consider such things? I am not religious in any organised-religion-way, but I believe in love, I believe in the Earth, and I do believe in wool.