There are a handful of knitting patterns that I have loved since they were released but never yet knitted. Most of the time it’s because the right yarn would require shopping, and waiting for it to arrive, and it’s passed over for the instant gratification of another pair of socks, or a little something that’s worked its way to the top strata of the stash.
The love is constant, never wains, and while they may only make it higher up the mental “knit this next” list by a sort of hydraulic pressure from finished projects, neither are they deleted.
If we’re going to be bluntly honest here, knitting woolies for my children is not the most cost effective way of clothing them. I like to knit in natural fibres, to the point that I can think of only a couple of yarns in the entire stash where there’s anything extra. Lovely yarn doesn’t come cheap, and without a shadow of a doubt, I could buy something that would keep the winter chill off for less than the yarn.
There are of course a hundred and one reasons why handmade jumpers still win; the natural fibres, adjusting the fit for my very tall children, being wrapped in the physical expression of their Mama’s love, even when she’s not there, and the buttons. Choosing buttons is at least five reasons in itself. But there’s got to be some balance in the middle and what it means is that when a cardigan for Elma will take four balls of yarn (ish), buying an extra three because I want to do some colourwork has got to be really worth it.
There was never any doubt that either Chickadee was anything less than awesome; I’ve yet to knit one of Ysolda’s patterns that doesn’t turn out beautifully and make you feel terribly clever in the bargain, but my yarn budget is not unlimited and so it sat, unmoving, on my list.
Years and *cough* lots of years ago, I’d bought three skeins of Quince & Co’s Chickadee, in Delft, Nasturtium and Frost, just to have a little play with. It was new to the market, knitters were raving about it all over the internet and it was irresistibly soft and plump in person.
Those three skeins sat in my stash, and every now and then I’d pick them up and pet them, and put them back while I went on looking for whatever I needed. And somehow, and this is where it must have been some sort of knitting magic, my rummaging through the boxes brought four balls of Rowan Pure Wool DK up to the top to sit next to them.
I pulled out the box and there it was, a favourite colour combination all laid out ready to be knit.
Now the knitting fates are not that kind and there was one ever so teeny tiny slight hitch; this is DK yarn and the pattern is knit for 4ply. But what’s the point of having two maths A-levels if you can’t occasionally put them to good use. One set of scribbles calculations on the back of an envelope and I cast on the aged 2 size on 3.75mm needles with the fairly confident expectation that it would end up somewhere between the age 4 and the age 6.
I think I ended up nearer to the 6 than the 4 and it is definitely on the big side for Elma at the moment, but the joy of children is that they grow, and I firmly expect it to be perfect for the middle of August when no doubt it will be colder than it was on Christmas Day!
It was a lovely project to knit; interesting in the colourwork and nice and soothing in the ‘my brain does not need any more adventures today’ expanse of nave blue, and I can easily see myself repeating the trick to make a larger size
if she ever when she grows out of this one.
As well as being interesting, and only a handful of rows, those little birds gave me a schooling in colourwork. I’ve made a good few stranded knits over the years, including the Magnum Opus Alice Starmore blankets for Kitty, Elma and Pip and I’m pretty competent at knitting with one yarn in each hand, and it gives me nicely spaces floats and pretty stitches. But I’ve never paid that much attention to which yarn is in which hand, I’ve always used whichever was the most comfortable, usually the yarn with the most stitches in my right hand. But when I tried that on these little birds, or rather, on their border ribbon, having the orange in my dominant right hand in the first row, and thereby the upper float but in the other hand and the lower float on the next, the two rows blended into one and all I could see was an uneven straight band of orange. I could sort of push and pull it into place but it just wasn’t having it as a permenant solution.
I pulled back to the start of the colourwork, and set out again, each hand sticking strictly to each colour and it worked; all swoops and swirls just as they should be. I’m not sure I’ll ever entirely cure myself of the habit of letting the main colour be dominant, but on little projects, or on a line I particularly want to make pop, it’s a new skill worth knowing.