2009 in knitting…a tangled yarn

I so much enjoyed reading Ruth’s knitting of 2009 post that I wanted to write one of my own. I also thought this would be a good time to see what came of the Knitting Resolutions that I penned this time last year…

*WARNING! This post is Long and full of Ravelry links, so if you’re not logged into Ravelry, you might want to log in now!*

1. Your best FO of the year

It’s really a combination of Layter*, the Swaledale Socks and the Cairn hat, all for related reasons. Ostensibly what I like is that these three objects represent a growing love for British Wool and the different qualities inherent in the fleeces of different sheep. Yet they are also three things which are somehow embedded into the journeys and friendships which have surrounded my knitting this year. The Swaledale Socks always will remind me of Rachael and Louise, who first alerted me to the importance of knitting with UK yarns when I discovered Prick Your Finger back in 2007. Staying in the lake district with Rachael and her family over Easter was beautiful and sad for many reasons, but it also drew together for me a landscape that has been central to the history of wool production in the UK, and an artist whose books and projects inspired me more than anything else when I got back into knitting around four years ago. When I was working on Love is Awesome, Rachael was knitting Relics of an Awesome picnic, and during the gallery open hours, we huddled around a feeble heater in the freezing gallery and ate sourdough bread with cheese. During dark days, those were happy moments. Massive inspiration was also taken from the visit I paid to Prick Your Finger during the day that I decided to turn into a flier;

At Prick Your Finger, apples distributed. Harmonious chomping of beautiful women congregating in place of yarn. Talk of thrift, heartache, mending colds, imaginary hamsters, yearnings for children, troubles of men, joys of giant pencils, delight of knitted DNA. Rachael spins yarn. Sounds amazing. New wheel creaks. Many photos of me with giant, knitted pencils. TEA to drink. I love these women.

…and I also recall with much affection the beach-walk that I took with Kate during the Autumn last year, which finally inspired the maritime feeling of the satisfyingly crunchy Swaledale yarn.

Through Rachael I met Cecelia, who was a driving force behind this year’s incredible WOOLFEST. Cecelia found some articles to help me with steeking Carolyn’s Gansey for Rachael’s UFO project, which was really helpful and she also told me a little bit about Carolyn, which made it easier to work on the Gansey of Woolfest’s much missed founder…

…Woolfest is also where I got the wool for Layter from, and where myself, Liz, Kate, Tom and Lara had the camping adventure of dreams at Buttermere. Knitting up Layter reminded me of the glee of that time and the excitement we all shared about being able to meet sheep farmers and buy wool in the same context. As great as it was to meet all the animals and vendors at Woolfest, the spirited post-event conversations had in the pub afterwards and the shared joy of the camping experience are the things I treasure most from that time, and the things that Layter somehow reminds me of.

In making the Cairn hat, I was spinning from Jacob, Romney and Wensleydale, and so learning a very little bit about how the handle and feeling of different fleeces works. I love all the memories of my great spinning weekend with Liz and Ruth that wearing my Cairn hat evokes, and the strong ties between places, British Sheep Breeds, learning and friendship that it somehow embodies. The hat also reminds me of Julia and her farm, which is where we learned to spin; another important place in my map of British-wool-learnings, and another valued friendship with an amazing woman who teaches me things.

Not really involving UK sheep breeds but certainly in the same zone re: precious friendships and knitting projects, are pill-up and slim-shady; the two jumpers and matching hats that Emmylou and I worked on throughout Love is Awesome. Much good woman-talk is stitched into those hats and sweaters and so they are also favourite FOs for love and friendship reasons.

Love *is* Awesome.

There are so many ties of friendship in the knitting – from blog buddies to real life knitting buddies to the ongoing wonderment of Sticks’n’String and the Oxford Bluestockings – that it is impossible to enumerate everything here, but there is a lot of love; awesome love and awesome women – tied up in my knitting and this handful of FOs is just a fraction of that love.

Rav links:

Cairn hat
Swaledale Sea Socks
Slim Shady / Pill-up
My Headigan / Emmylou’s Headigan

2. Best FO(s) of the year made by a blog you link to (or through Ravelry).

Manon by Bowerbird Knits.

I just think it’s amazing; the whole process of the thing, the beauty of the final object, the amazing attention to detail and the feats of spinning, dyeing and knitting all combined into a single object… beautiful. I love how the fleece-to-sweater process seems to be continuing with those blue-dyed wool burritos too!

HOWEVER, since I can never really just stick to one thing…

I am also in awe of Judith’s amazing Samhain shawl; when she bought it to knitting to show to us I thought it looked the invisibility cloak in the Harry Potter books. It looks to me like it was knit by magic.

AND… isn’t Gypsywagon’s Dancing Grannies the best cardigan ever?

OH, and I can’t skip over the beautiful Ouessant Beret by The Spinning Shepherd Louisa84’s gorgeous Birthday Shawl, Fiberenabler’s incredible Adult Surprise Sweater in handspun wool, Kate’s amazing neepheid, Harpa Jónsdóttir’s Vík, and this, which I think is my favourite version of the Ulmus Shawl.

3. Best yarn you tried

Shetland yarn in DK weight from Blacker Designs! The saving grace in the many rip-outs and setbacks faced by the Mansweater project was this yarn. Springy, soft, lively and full of bounce, warmth and forgiveness, this is the warmest, earthiest, most scrumptious yarn I have knit with this year.

4. Best new book/mag/pattern of 2008

Twist Collective still offer the best patterns in my opinion, but I have a really soft spot for the Yarn Forward magazine issue earlier this year that featured the march of the fibres sweater and because I fell in love with fibre this year, this is my pattern of the year.

5. Best new knitting fibrecraft technique or gadget you tried in 2008

2-handed colourwork; a revelation!

6. Top 5 inspirations–what five things inspired you the most over the past year?

All of my friends! You know who you are… you are the best and biggest inspiration of them all
Julia and Julia’s sheep
Many walks with Mark
Many various Soundscapes
Landscapes, (especially Sussex)

7. Designer(s) who most amazed & inspired you throughout the year

by I was inspired by Kate’s Manu for its simple elegance, fine finishings and flattering fit, and have been amazed in general by all her designs. I have especially enjoyed the context for her designs that she provides on her blog.
I was amazed by how many incredible gloves and mittens Suzanne designed this year; so much so that I had to email at one point and tell her I think she is the Queen of the colourwork mittens!
I am always inspired by Liz’s knitting but the things she designed from her handspun this year were especially amazing; I love the Shetland Waffle Socks and Bollo the Bifflosaur especially. However I think she also designed the Oriel scarf, which is one of the loveliest pieces of knitting I touched this year!
I have also been massively enjoying the colour designs and blog of The Spinning Shepherd for ideas about fleece colours and knowledge about Ouessant sheep. Check out this post for insights into the grey/brown hues of some of the fleeces produced by her animals!
I also think that Ysolda’s whimsical little knits book #2 is full of pretty things; I especially love Damson and have seen lots of lovely versions of this shawl.
And the other design which totally inspired me – though I am not yet sure what to do with the yarn – is the beautiful dye job done by The Unique Sheep on the incredible Jack’s Beach gradient colourway, which is possibly my favourite yarn colourway ever of all time! it would be amazing to do something like a shawlette version of HatboxRose’s amazing Earth Maiden Shawl but I am not sure yet how best to showcase the full beauty of those beachy shades…

Now, about those knitting resolutions I made last year…

1. I intend only to buy Independant, UK-produced yarn from small-scale producers this year for my projects and to knit through the stash I have from other countries and major, commercial yarn-producers.

I stuck to this resolution apart from 6 balls of wool for projects which required specific yarns that I couldn’t substitute; that’s good enough for me.

2. I want to dye more of my own yarn, for personal projects, using plants from my garden.

I did this! There was much walnut dyeing and some weld dyeing, of which I will write more when I decide what to do with the resultant 600m of laceweight in fluorescent green/yellow.

3. I aim to get articles and patterns published in several places including The Zine I’m working on, (see next resolution) an online knitting publication, and a printed magazine.

I haven’t had any patterns published and the Zine was the first victim of my amazing ability to overcommit. But I was delighted to have The Knitting Tourist published on the Twist Collective website earlier this year and I relished the chance to write about Julia and her sheep for Yarn Forward magazine at the start of 2009.

4. I want to get the first edition of The Zine out before summer!

See above!

5. I aim to master at least 2 techniques in the Cat Bhordi book enough to be able to improvise custom-made socks for myself.

I haven’t mastered any Cat Bhordi techniques beyond the la-linc and ra-link increases detailed at the start of the wondrous New Pathways sock knitting book, but I did instead become enamoured by Priscilla Gibson Roberts’ book on simple socks and it has pleased me immensely to learn about socks from her this year instead.

6. I am resolved to read more Elizabeth Zimmerman, more Debbie New and more Cat Bhordi. I love the crossovers in their books between practical knitting techniques and philosophy.

Much Elizabeth Zimmerman was read; and much Priscilla-Gibson-Roberts. What I have learnt about reading and knitting is that sometimes the slower I read and the more I knit, the more I learn…

7. I want to finally record the first edition of the podcast I’ve been planning since October.

I experimented a little bit with doing a knitting podcast when I made the wandering maker, but I was not sure how well it worked or whether it was worth pursuing and because I spend so much time editing sounds for other purposes, I didn’t focus too much on this in the end.

8. I want to meaningfully integrate knitting into my arts practise and exhibit some sound/knitting work at some stage during the year.

I did this! The knitted speakers, the knitted headphones and the knitted walking stick cosies were all featured in the Love is Awesome exhibition, and my interests in sound/landscape/place/knitting have now found a common ground in walking.

9. I want to develop on and improve the knitted vegetable workshop, as one income-strand for me.

Not so many knitted vegetables this year and no workshops of which to speak… I did knit a Blackbird though?

10. I want to do the colourwork course that I downloaded months ago!

I did not ‘do the course’ but I did learn how to do stranded knitting and I *love* it.

11. I want to earn enough money from articles, commissions, art exhibitions etc. to be able to replace my camera with an SLR. As much as I love my little point and shoot camera, I miss the ability to fully control depth of field, aperture, f-stop etc. and it is time to make an investment.

I did not succeed in this ambition but it was joyous indeed to continue using the trusty, lightweight, point-and-shoot Pentax Optio that I have had since before I started this blog and I have learned to love it even more!

12. I want my writing to improve through regular practise.

I do not know if it has improved but I certainly feel more confident about writing; I will need this confidence for 2010, the year of the PhD writeup and completion. Because of this, I am making the extremely minimalistic resolution this year to just keep on doing what I’m doing with the knitting, because I love it and it is joyous, and because it keeps me in touch with all the people, things and places that I love.

Huzzah! I hope you are happy with your year of knitting and with whatever you have resolved or not resolved to do with your knitting in 2010.

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