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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Knitting with Sara 

On my way to the woolly gathering last week, I was full of knitting musings and inspirations. Up the sunny hills, along by the woods, the bog, the perfect curving horizon in the distance all out in Spring’s green glory. I was returning to Jenny's equally light filled kitchen, where a warm welcome and great chat was assured from fellow knitters and crafters alike. 

Sara Thompson has been kindly leading us through the knitting gatherings. The second craft block/woolly gathering that has been provided here, the first being crochet. We will have had six sessions of knitting classes, where everything from very beginners to the old hands can come and knit together, learn and share the experience. Sara’s skill and wonderful guidance has been available throughout, for any of those knitty gritty questions, pattern related, needle sizes, yarn size, or like me, How do you start again? 

I have not knitted since I was about 10 years old I imagine. My last project being a jumper in lilac wool yarn. Taking me well over a year to make, and moving house in between. On completion, it was far too small for a growing me. But you know,  I was so absolutely satisfied with finishing alone, I don’t think I had an ounce of disappointment about the size. My mother had assisted me too, with pattern reading and bringing it all together, another reason why I liked it so much. I still feel a little like I did then, when I finish making something new. I beam with a sense of accomplishment, and thats saying nothing about the value of the process of making. 
But firstly tell me this? How have we come to be knitting again after all these years. So willingly we are sharing skills, meeting old and new friends, and truly making beautiful things. 
This knitting group would for so many generations have been a working group, the social and fun element would have been secondary. These gorgeous yarns could have been hard to come by, and a mountain of work to produce. Like the women of the Aran islands, not so far from us here in east Clare. They worked their needles and yarn hard to keep their fishermen warm and dry at sea. It was a serious business, a necessity.

In far contrast to those who knitted to keep their families clothed, I am making a frivolous pair of pink wooly legwarmers for my two year old niece, who has joined me at some of the knitting classes. I am under no pressure I can assure you. But, I am reclaiming something old, brilliant and rightfully mine. 
In honesty I did it with crochet first( which I adore) but confirm my position now with the crafting revolution as I knit: )

We are good at this knitting, it heals us to makes things and gather together, be supportive and creative simultaneously. Its a virtuous skill to come back to or learn for the first time. It can become artful and inventive, or stay simple and functional, either way your hands are performing, producing, and imbuing some piece of fiber/yarn/fabric with love, good intention and you are putting in your real attention. In a world of so much strife and crisis, and a pace thats hard to keep with up, its such a wonderful attribute of knitting, that you can find yourself transported to calm, like a place at your granny's kitchen, fire hissing, old cat purring and a warm heart at your side to share the time of day with. 

Agnus, my great grandmother would rip back jumpers that my father grew out of and add another ball to make the next size up. Talk about recycling!!!! I love it. And with slogans like “Mend and Make do” being popular in those, her times, we can imagine what it meant to them to have the ability to work and provide like this. 
I have no knitting of hers, but I have some crochet pieces, now treasures to me, and can see her obvious skill and artfulness. It was undoubtedly more to her than work alone. I wonder did she gather with other woolly lovers?
See Mia's crochet blog from a few weeks back Timeless Stitching, she describes beautifully her experience of crochet and Knitting with her own grandmother.

Speaking of our grandmother's, Is it a thrifty thing to make your own jumper? Yes, if you take into consideration, the cost of a well made, or handmade garment, especially if you are using pure and natural yarns, merino, cashmere, silk, alpaca, bamboo. Anything containing these would be a substantial investment to buy off the rack, and more expensive than making yourself, and thats before you think about the experience of making it. 

The woolly gatherings seem to cultivated quite a passionate attitude towards the kind of yarns we are using. I have learned so much about what and how and which yarns to use for what, and Sara imparts her real love of color and texture through her own work, patterns choices on offer and books she has shared with us. 

I am quite certain knitting has evolved far beyond its original functionality and necessity, and has quite literally taken on a whole new life, but not so far that it cant still poccess that part of itself, that knots threads together with two needles, and makes something that wraps you in the utter pleasure of texture, softness and warmth. 

Its craft, its artform, its revived and suffused with a love of something ancient and natural, its personal, and its social. The woolly gatherings are full of a sense of community spirit. With knitting and craft groups springing up all over the place from New York to these Clare hills( equally cool of course) in such numbers, it IS a revolution, and one filled with goodness, carrying with it both sentiment and respect of the past with exciting possibilities of the future.

Guerilla knitting/yarn bombing/extreme knitting is another wonderful spin off from the knitting revival. If you don’t know about it check out some of these blogs and sites devoted to it below. The more I think about it the more I love this idea of soft graffiti. Who can protest against a bike rack wrapped in stripes of yarn, or a tree in a park, or a telephone box, a bridge. It is such an antithesis to the hardness and aggression present in the world and a bright reminder of our softer side. 

Also below some artists who are using this knitting rebirth in an amazing way.

*****Here is another link to a wonderful you tube about the importance of handwork in our lives.

Two little pink leg warmers complete: )

I have wanted to knit again for the longest time, but find it is much more realistic that I can actually learn with other people and in person rather than from a book. The woolly Gatherings are offering that space and its golden. 

Thank you dear reader!!!!

Elizabeth Porritt Carrington. 

If you would like to know more about what I am making and writing about, you can find me here at Elisheva Project you will also find this blog post there.

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post and so well written Elizabeth. It expresses everything I feel about our group. It has changed my life here in Ireland and I love it. I'm so looking forward to the Spinning workshop too.