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Alison – a knitter with a purpose

I’m patient about some things, but it annoys me if I have to try things again and again.  I want to do it right, I don’t find it relaxing

Learning to knit: Mum was always knitting and sewing, so it was always about.  I never looked at her and thought that I wanted to do that.  I like to do things for a purpose, such as getting badges as a Brownie, so I asked to be shown how to knit and I made dishcloths.  They’re not straightforward – it is more than knit and purl, you have to drop stitches to make the holes.  Knitting for me is functional, I don’t feel creative with it.

In my late teens, I was given a knitting pamphlet for toys. So when my sister went to University I made her a knitted Ned. I knitted one for myself which was in greys and white with a red saddle. Hers was turquoise with a purple saddle. Then some of the friends of my boyfriend asked for one too. It was just what you did. Since then I’ve only really done knitting when I’ve needed to do it as wool became increasingly expensive, so unless I saw something I really wanted, I wouldn’t make it. If you’re not sure how it’s going to turn out, the cost puts me off.

When I had children, you couldn’t get nice fine knitted things for babies, so I did it as a labour of love, I felt I had to.  But I realised that they don’t wash very well, regardless of how expensive the wool and how much trouble you’ve put in to making it.  I was working as well, so I just didn’t have time to do it and I stopped.

My husbands’ mum was a fantastic and prolific knitter – but you never knew what size you were going to get.  When I met him at college, he had this green ribbed polo neck, a kind of fisherman’s jumper that was fantastically long, more like a tunic.  It certainly wasn’t in vogue at the time.  She’d knit things for our sons which were sometimes a bit strange so they only really wore them once.  They were all very loose and unusual. 

My Tension Square: The name of the wool is Bamboozle, which sums up knitting to me – a mystery! I wanted some sea type colouring. I was disappointed with the stocking stitch square as it didn’t have the texture that I wanted.  As you knit it, the thin and thick patches just blend together and the more interesting side is the reverse where it was all lumpy and bumpy.  So I decided to knit another square in garter stitch which I hoped would have more texture.  The good thing about the wool is that if you did drop a stitch you wouldn’t actually notice. 

I have to unpick if I make a mistake.  Which usually means that I have to start again at the beginning as I like using textured wools and it’s difficult to unravel them so I can’t pick up the stitches properly and I’m not satisfied.  So I knit very slow and try not to make mistakes.  I certainly don’t do tension squares.  I do a couple of rows to see how it’s going and make a judgement about whether I need to start again.  I’m quite a tight knitter.  I’m patient about some things, but it annoys me if I have to try things again and again.  I want to do it right, I don’t find it relaxing.

Knitted Wonders: I wanted to make something different for my granddaughter, Poppy.  So I thought I’d make a cuddly toy that meant more than something bought off the shelf.  I happened to see this lion pattern on eBay (Dillon) and liked the look of it.  A lot of people from the local WI knit, but it’s very old fashioned and doesn’t attract me.  Then I showed it to her older brother, and his face dropped – so I offered to make him a toy as well.  He initially wanted a dinosaur, but after a few minutes he changed his mind to wanting a crocodile.  I always feel disappointed because they never look exactly like the picture however well you follow the pattern.  Some of the instructions aren’t always that clear, so it takes trial and error to get it right.  They’re done out of love, I don’t do multiple orders, they’re one off. 

Whilst browsing for the lion pattern, I did see some lovely Christmas mice for tree ornaments which I’m thinking of making for next year.  They have very fluffy ears which I like.  I like Toys as in theory they don’t take as long as clothes.  But they’re not relaxing as you constantly have to count stitches for the shaping.  I feel good once they’re done, but I’m a bit perfectionist so I never think they look as good as they should.  I find YouTube pretty good to have a look how to do things.  I’ve never been interested in doing scarves or garments.  It’s too much time and money, so I only knit when I see a need which isn’t often.

Last year I started felting with wool, and made some sheep in a field.  I really enjoyed it, the textures in the wool and the choice of using carded or not carded wool.  I want to make some 3D figures too, probably animals.  I’ve got some books to show me how to do the techniques, but I’m not sure when I will get around to it. 

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Published by jencableart

Jen Cable is a mixed media textile artist who loves to draw attention to the outmoded, fabulous, awful and bizarre aspects of culture and everyday society

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