Monday, 8 December 2008

NVQ in Knitting

Thank goodness I'm better at last - other than still having to whisper as my voice hasn't come back properly. While I was sick, one of the things I missed most was my knitting blog (TV or computers made my head ache so I couldn't update it). So instead, over the week, I thought about why I missed my blog so much, and I think it is helping me to knit in the same way that an NVQ is supposed to help you be more efficient at work. I thought NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) were rubbish when I was first introduced to them - partly because I was told they were the same as A-levels, which they clearly are not. A-levels are more about critically examining an academic subject. NVQs encourage you to examine your approach to a practical subject - and that's what my blog does for my knitting. Several times I've written down a problem or described a situation that I didn't understand and shortly after clarifying the issue, the answer has arrived. It's like keeping a nature notebook or a record of scientific experiments. There's also a touch of zen in there - by recording what's happening in the moment, I'm learning to be more mindful.

They say you should always write down your goals, so here's my knitting goal: I want to be able to knit beautiful designer garments very quickly. Oh, and they have to fit and be perfectly finished as well. And after a year or two on that happy pinnacle I might move on to designing my own garments. That's pretty ambitious, and it's not happening quickly. This week I've been wondering why.

I was browsing through some knit alongs and then looking at people's finished projects at Ravelry and the huge variety in outcome on the same pattern is fascinating - even when knitters use the specified yarn, the results vary, so the answer has to lie in the skill of the individual knitter. At the moment my knitting lies at the rubbish end of the spectrum. So how do I get to the fabulous finished garment stage? I've been hopping from pattern to pattern - thinking, well this one didn't work so I'll throw it away and look for the magic pattern that will work, or the magic yarn, or hey, maybe there's a magic needle out there. Instead maybe I should settle down to knit several versions of the same simple pattern and not leave it until I can knit it beautifully?

I hunted out another of my disasters from before I started blogging: Cloud by Kim Hargreaves. This is my third attempt at it - I spent ages struggling with increasing and decreasing in double rib (all I had to do was follow the pattern to the letter, but I managed to get tangled up). I made two test versions using 2 strands of a big cone of Shetland that came from a charity shop for 50p. The first one was such a mess of tangled ribbing that I threw it away and started again but the second attempt came out too small, so that went in the bin and I decided to make the 'real' one in the largest size. Unfortunately, it too was tiny, as you can see, but I think I know what went wrong - I substituted a fine wool for the specified cotton of Calmer, and the wool is far too elastic. I knit a swatch of double knit cotton and you can see how flat it lies in comparison to the wool. It's Jaeger Extra Fine Merino in Alpine green, which is far too good to waste, so it's the frog pond for this particular yarn.

I made the sweater version of Loll from the same Rowan Calmer book using some white vintage Jaeger double knit wool for Andy's sister, and that turned out beautifully; she looks like a snow princess in it, so substituting yarn obviously has a lot of angles to it. What works beautifully in stocking stitch might not work at all in rib - in fact, it didn't! Never mind, I will make another test Cloud when some cotton-type stuff turns up to see if my theory on the nature of the yarn is correct. I do like the look of this cardigan and one day I'll own it (beautifully made, of course) in coffee-bean coloured Calmer.

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