This post is purely to draw your attention to my blog menu to which I have added a slot called Poems. Five years ago I was a mature student at the University of East Anglia studying creative writing. I ended up with a Masters in Poetry but I do not consider myself a poet at all.
A lot of my writing, not surprisingly, ended up being about sewing or clothes or costumes and garments. And about motherhood and laundry and stuff like that. So I have decided to be brave and put some of it on the blog.
I was most privileged to study for a year with the poet Michael Laskey, the founder of the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival. He was also the creator and editor of the poetry magazine Smiths Knoll. It used to look like this, every month, with a different number of course.
And once he published my rather odd poem called Knitting – which is what I am starting with. And it was partially based on this dear old jumper which I knitted thirty years ago!
Sadly the festival and the magazine are no longer running.
And this is proving to be the most difficult blog post I have written thus far. Anyway, if I ever went on a Poetry Desert Island Discs (as if!) Michael Laskey would undoubtedly be in my selection; and if you are not a reader of poetry he is an excellent place to start.
Selfies and the approach of Sixty do not make good bedfellows. This is not one.
Throughout the month of May I wore something cobbled, made, made years ago, repaired, knitted, knitted twice, darned and altered … every day. Next year I should probably stick with Mend it May. To begin with I put the ‘outfit’ on the stand to record some form of evidence. But sorting out the iPhone first thing in the morning, running late, indecision about which horrid clothes to wear and the paucity of sartorial options became a reason to stay in bed.
There was some fine weather at the beginning of the month and in a feeble attempt to fool the passing blog reader I pegged the laundry of same clothes on the line. No amount of rearranging, turning upside down or catching a better gust of wind made any difference.
So although I met the challenge May flagged up for me what a dreary old wardrobe I have. Wardrobe? Let me rephrase that – it’s a heap on a chair, half-empty drawers containing the unwearables and a pile of ironing.
I love sewing. I teach sewing. I love the construction of clothes, especially those that celebrate the simplicity of the craft and require a few good tools – a sewing machine that does zig-zag, sharp scissors, sharp pins, needles and cotton thread. I love the geometry of pattern cutting. But I don’t think I like fashion on me.
Years ago, as an apprentice costume maker at the wonderful Cosprop, that was my sewing – putting fascinating clothes together to be displayed by a confident actress.
What’s the next challenge on the list? Hah – The Big Vintage Sew Along. I’m halfway through that one, trying to remember to take pics along the way. I love the skirt I’m making
– but I know I won’t wear it.
It is a wet afternoon in Norfolk. The house is quiet, apart from the slosh of the dishwasher. And here’s the dilemma. It concerns choices.
Option 1 – a bloody great stack of ironing which, with something decent on Radio 4, wouldn’t be too bad I suppose. But just look at it! I have tried to capture in the photograph the hugeness and irksomeness of the task but I’m not certain I’ve done it full justice.
Option 2 – this is the triangular scarf thing I started a couple of months ago. The intention was to finish up lots of small amounts of Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumper weight. I began to run out of the brighter shades so I decided the left hand side would be intentionally dark. It has seen me through the whole of Bake Off, a full season of Gardener’s World (even the trips to arboretums and gravel gardens), Lady Chatterley and The Go Between. And now it’s finished – sort of. And I am bereft without knitting. There are a few ends to sew in. Then the edge to sort out, which is going to be crocheted, but I don’t really know what I’m doing with a crochet hook beyond cat blankets, so …
Option 3 – finish off this long top which so far I quite like. It is made up in some lovely soft cotton from Merchant and Mills using Vogue V1177 pattern that I found at The Knit and Stitch about four years ago. The picture on the envelope is not quite the look I’m going for. I shall be wearing it with sturdy leg coverings, some sort of liberty bodice and probably the aforementioned scarf. The task is a nice one though – sew on the buttons and slipstitch the hem. But you see I’m not being honest because …
Option 4 has just arrived in the post!
This is 800 grams of beautifully packaged Double Knitting wool from Blacker Yarns who are based in Cornwall. It is still wrapped in its grey tissue paper, tied with matching wool – I can’t bear to spoil it! It’s just the colour I wanted, a serviceable navy blue, and I’m sure nobody will notice if I put on an old film or boxed set and get started!
Summer is not the best time for knitting. Autumn is my favourite, when darkness shrinks the days and the fire can be lit. This is the best time for embarking on a new project. For a long time I have been making do with the wool I have had in stock, which is mostly the 4 ply equivalent from the wonderful Jamieson and Smith up in the Shetland Islands. They call it 2 ply jumper weight. I have bought loads of this in all their amazing colours and once bought on impulse, a ton of red, quite out of character for me as I described in The Tyranny of Red Wool.
Well, this autumn I am going to trawl through the patterns again, think very carefully and then splash out on the right wool in the right amount and therefore not mix dye batches. Until then, I am making a strange triangular scarf out of all the remnants – at the moment it reminds me of an Oxfam blanket.
I am aiming for roughly square shapes, but I don’t think it matters if they drift towards rectangles. Each square is 12 stitches wide and probably 16 rows high, worked on size 10 needles in stocking stitch. At the end of each row of squares I add a triangle. It’s not the easiest knitting, there’s a fair bit of guess work and masses of tangles. I am cutting the approximate length for each square first and sewing the ends in on the back as I go along to reduce the muddle. It’s easy to pick up and put down and there isn’t much real thinking involved, only decisions about which colour to use next from a steadily diminishing and knotty range. When it’s finished I will attempt to crochet an edge all around to somehow bind the whole thing together.
Also, by way of a confessional, I thought I would include the final pictures of the red 1940s cardigan. I certainly don’t want to put it on at the moment. I’m not sure I will ever feel that cold or even that bold. But it is finished and I’m not undoing it ever again. I think they call it closure.