Knitting when I'm happier / Happier when I'm knitting

I wasn't knitting for a long time. I wasn't spinning, either. Or writing, or creating much of anything at all.

There are a lot of reasons. My energy was low, I'd picked up other hobbies, I was having a rough time at work, and the whole world has been having a rough time for the past couple of years. Plus I had a pretty bad moth infestation, so the skeins sitting in my cupboard were less full of exciting possibilities and more full of disappointment.

So I lost my mojo. I lost my drive to create, and I focused on other things. It wasn't all bad - I read a lot books and learned tons. I grew and changed as a person. I think I got a little wiser. But when I'm not making things, I feel less like myself.

Handspun rainbow gradient half-circle shawl

I'm not sure which way is the right order: do I knit when I'm happy, or am I happy when I knit? They feed on each other in a seamless circle. Knitting makes me feel better, but I can't create when I have nothing to give. A few years ago, I lost my rhythm and got thrown out of the cycle. And suddenly, last month, I picked up some yarn and I felt the hunger again. I picked up the needles, and by the end of one week, I had made a shawl.

Immediately I made plans for the next one. I let the yarn flow through my hands; I watch the colours splash and meld while the fabric grows from the needles.

I'm feeling like myself again.


Flax from seed to shuttle

Since taking up weaving, I've had the opportunity to explore fibres I have never really enjoyed working with as a knitter. I've been using my tahkli and charkha to spin up loads of cotton (fantastic mindless spinning - when you can get in the groove, it's magic) and I've now started to become interested in flax/linen.

It's funny that two different plant fibres can be so dramatically different - where cotton is short, flax is incredibly long. Where cotton is soft and insubstantial, flax is unbreakably strong (really, it will cut your fingers before it will break). And while the cotton plant flourishes in hot sunny weather, flax is comfortable in the cool and cloudy climes of northern Europe.

This last point is what inspired me to order a flax starter kit from Flaxland. I tried to grow cotton last year, but it didn't work very well in always-overcast England. The Flaxland kit allows me to try out every stage of turning flax to linen, from growing to processing to yarn.

The kit really has everything - it is an excellent value! It contained:
- A packet of fibre flax seeds
- A booklet on the history of flax
- Some scutched fibre ready to be hackled/combed, enough to last me quite some time
- A 'breaker/hackle' - essentially a block of wood with teeth carved on one end :) a simple tool but effective!
- A metal comb for finer combing after hackling
- A face mask, as processing flax gets dusty
- A spindle - kind of a boat anchor, but it has these charming markings noting the traditional direction for spinning wool (clockwise / Z twist) vs flax (counterclockwise / S twist)
- A set of spools and a kind of mini-lazy-kate to ply off of
- Even some ribbon for dressing a distaff!

I tossed down some of the seeds in an empty patch in my garden (densely, so that the plants will compete with each other for the sun and grow nice and tall). They are doing well so far:

Who knows if they will make it to the end of the season, and if they do, if I will be able to successfully complete the long and involved process of turning it into fibre - but either way, I am having a fun time of it!

As for the linen I've spun? I warped up some cotton on the loom and am weaving some small towels in a mix of cotton and linen threads. I'll let you have a look when I've finished.


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Creativebug is a platform for video craft classes, kind of like Craftsy. However, instead of buying single classes a la carte, they operate on a Netflix-style subscription model, giving you access to all the classes at once for a period of time. I feel spoilt for choice, having gotten a free month's access - there are knitting and crochet classes, along with a ton of other crafts including sewing, jewelry making, vegetable canning and more!

For your own free pass, click below and enter the promo code SUMMER2015. You'll then get free access to Creativebug until June 30, as well as any one class to keep permanently.
Creativity is Contagious - 1 month free craft classes

I'm looking forward to diving in to their classes on double knitting, a skill I've never had the chance to pick up. Plus all their beginner sewing videos are of interest to me - since taking up weaving, I now have the ability to turn my copious yarn/fiber stash into fabric...


Driven by a sock

Do you ever have a project that just won't leave you alone? Where you just feel... compelled to work on it?

Not in a bad way; actually, in a very fulfilling way. These are the socks I've been working on in the evenings, pulling out on my lunch breaks, every spare minute I'm knitting on them and I'm loving it.

Toe up men's socks in progress knitting in the pub
I don't know why this project should compel me in this way; in fact normally I should be dreading these socks. They're a pair of socks for my partner, He of the Size Thirteen UK Feet. If you ever sit near me while I am working on socks for him, you will hear me whingeing. Whingeing about the 84 stitches around. About the more than 100g of yarn that they require. About how knitting socks for him takes for-everrrr.

I am an expert at whingeing, especially about knitting projects. BF does greatly appreciate his handknit socks, however, and when a pair recently bit the dust, he had me promise a replacement pair.

Last weekend we took a short break up to York, where we visited the lovely little wool shop RamShambles. There, he picked out some stripy Regia yarn (from the Jazz Color line) and I purchased the requisite three 50g balls.

(Happily, it won't take the entire 150g - but it takes just enough of the extra ball to require it if I don't want to do contrasting heels and toes)
Regia sock yarn in York
That was last Saturday, and I cast on that very night. I worked on them each evening of the holiday, and on the train home, and I just keep working on them.

It's one week later, and I've cast off the first sock. (Trust me, for a BF-sized sock, that's very good going)
Grey and green striped socks regia knitting fleegle heel
I tried a new bindoff for these socks: Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bindoff. I had heard of JSSBO before, but I had gotten it confused with Jeny Staiman's other bindoff technique, the interlock bindoff. Interlock is a sewn bindoff which matches the long-tail cast on - looks nice, but fiddly to work. JSSBO is worked on the needles, and is very easy to do.

It stretches just as far as the knitting does - perfect. It beats out my old standby, the Russian BO, which is normally fine but to get it that stretchy it has to be worked carefully and loosely. JSSBO came out perfectly stretchy on the first try. I might have a new favorite bindoff. As you can see in the picture, it does flare out a bit, but so does the Russian BO, so I don't mind too much.