A few days before Christmas the ladies of Ancient Arts were discussing the Christmas break and what we should be doing, both in our personal lives and for the business during that time. Being as we are a yarn company, blog posts and knitting are never far from the discussion, and it occurred to me that given our Christmas KAL, it might be fun to do a post checking in on what we, the knitters of Ancient Arts, are up to these days!
The interesting thing about this post is that without discussing it with each other, we all seem to be in the same place in our knitting lives. A place where we are a taking a look at why we knit, for whom do we knit, and what we want out of it. We come from different generations, and many people would suggest that this means we would have varied interests and motives for knitting. And in some ways this is true. But even so, we all ended up this Christmas in a place that has taken us back to knitting for ourselves. Um, OK, you might say, what’s the big deal? Well the big deal to me is that somehow in spite of our very varied backgrounds, we all came to a place where we HAD to come back to knitting for ourselves!
For me, knitting is done for two reasons. Knitting for others, and knitting things I NEED. Knitting for myself has always been utilitarian in many ways, and I always come last in the equation as it’s selfish too. If there is any knitting to be done for others that takes priority. With the development of the yarn company, and the evolving of my family, my efforts for the last six years became directed towards knitting for the yarn company. I knit show samples, and designs that are part of the company repertoire. But somehow along the way knitting for ME got pushed aside entirely, beginning about 20 years ago. I own exactly one hand knit shawl I made many years ago from yarn I spun myself. That’s it. To me, I didn’t rate my own hand knits and that started to bother me more and more.
So back in April I decided to do something about it and knit myself a sweater, something I haven’t done in over 20 years. I knit a sweater in Ancient Arts Merino Nylon sock yarn into a design by the very talented Caroline D (Codex), and it was intended for me. It’s a new colorway I love dearly (Kelpie) and it came out beautifully (except for the castoff on the sleeves which for some unknown reason I massively messed up and have to redo). But somehow along the way this sweater has crept into being a show display. Yikes.
OK I decided, I can do this, and once again this fall I set out to try to knit for ME. I cast on with Big Squeeze in Great Blue Heron and knit what has become known as my Zombie Arms sweater. Never swatch under the influence of a lovely wine, as you will forget to check something, and the end result is a sweater only someone 6’5” in 4” heels can wear. Alas. I made a couch blanket really. Or a crazy show sample… I also started a gorgeous shawl and had a lot of fun posting to get help from our lovely readers on choosing colour. It’s coming along beautifully even if the shop cats are “helping”. And I pulled out the Addi Turbo King Knitting machine and made some scarves for display and gifts (helped by the shop cat of course who put herself away in the box). But I still have no sweater I can wear.
So I tried again and this time I did something radical to get me that sweater I want so much, and along the way learned something too. I bought yarn from SOMEONE ELSE so it could never be a show sample (and it’s not yarn any of my family would like so I can’t give it away) from the lovely people at Bee Hive in Victoria BC, and chose Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (in Sap) and started knitting Timber by Shannon Cook. This is a lovely pattern, and is knitting fabulously, but it gave me a revelation. Or perhaps it reminded me of something I had forgotten in a way. Knitting purely in and of itself, with no other expectations of it (aside from my own re will it wrap around my ever expanding posterior), has became almost foreign to me now, but it is SO MUCH FUN! I had lost the real fun (and the therapy) in knitting and hadn’t even known it! I can safely say that this is the project that I have enjoyed the most in at least ten years, and yes, it’s for ME. What a novel feeling that is. I highly recommend it!
The Other Caroline
All leading up to Christmas I was slammed with making gifts. This is unusual, I’m typically a very selfish knitter and usually only make one or two gifts over an entire year. But this year I got all inspired and stuff. I made 3 pairs of mittens, wove a scarf, knit a blanket, and quilted 3 Minecraft pillows. I fell down the rabbit-hole of gift creating! So when Boxing Day rolled around I obstinately pulled out some yarn and started knitting for myself.
To be honest, what actually happened was that I pulled out some beautiful “Reinvent, Too” (an upcoming yarn from Ancient Arts) to do some designing and the design didn’t work. So I got frustrated and I ripped it out and started again. That didn’t work, so I tried something else. That didn’t work either. So I frogged it and sat there for a while in a funk. I then gave up and decided I was going to knit the sweater that I had been thinking about for months, I have ten skeins of “Reinvent, Too” in the amazing Terracotta colourway just for me! But when I pulled out the pattern and looked at it, it just didn’t inspire me. I started cruising Ravelry and came across a pattern I had been wanting to knit for a really long time. But I didn’t have any contrasting colour… then I got an idea. An awful idea. I got a wonderful, awful idea! And I shamelessly filched 20 grams in each colour from the yarn I was supposed to be designing from (I estimated I needed 55-60 grams of each, so that still gave me a nice cushion.).
I haven’t been able to stop knitting since I started this two days ago. It’s the Idunn Idunn Idunn by Ragga Eiriksdottir. I attended a talk by Ragga with Caroline and Barb at Knit City and I really enjoyed it. I’ve always loved the pattern, but hearing Ragga talk about Iceland made me want to knit my own lopapeysa very badly. I’ve gone down a needle size and up a sweater size because my gauge has been very loose in the past couple years, and I also want something that is durable and warm. I am absolutely loving this yarn, the colours, and the pattern. AND I can assuage my pilfering guilt because I’ll have enough left over so that I can knit a sample in the Terracotta as well! It’s win-win all around! I plan on knitting this nonstop until it’s done.
THE Barb Brown
When we decided to write a bit about what we’ve been knitting lately I decided to share an “AHA!” moment with everyone.
I was scrolling through Ravelry, looking at new groups, and came across “Selfish Knitters”. Curious, I clicked on the group and read a number of threads. The idea of the group…basically…is about knitting for ourselves (a few others, but mostly ME knitting). This was the AHA! Moment. I realized that, yes, I do regard knitting for myself as a selfish. And I realized further that is one of those ideas that I like to call wrong.
Crafters and Makers of all types have, I think, fallen into this trap at some point in their crafting career. I’m not sure how it happens. For me, I think it was a progression. Step 1: The kid needs a hat more than I do. Step 2: that magazine subscription is due now. Right now. Step 3: All knitting for others is more important than knitting for me. Step 4: Knitting for myself is selfish.
I decided to change my ways, and climb out of that hole. Each week I now devote a block of time to knitting for ME. And it’s a good thing. I have 4 sweaters I knit for myself. The oldest is 37 years old (Irish Bainin wool lasts!) The newest is 14 years old.
I made this decision (and have been struggling to reinforce it in my brain!) about 2 months ago. I have to put the finishing on the armholes, and finish the back of the neck on this one
Irish Wool my family brought to me from Ireland turned into this.
The vest/top from a cashmere blend yarn from The Skye Shilasdair Shop. Just needs a wee bit on the front and it’s done.
A cardigan yarn known only as “Custom dyed for Barb as she is Awesome” gifted by DH Glenn, in Pysanky, just needs the yoke finished, and the front bands.
I am fairly certain the top two will be done for New Year’s Eve. The bottom one should be done before Ukrainian Christmas. And I am going through my yarn I have collected over the last 10 years that I have stashed for Me Knitting and deciding on my next project.
And you know what??? The knitting for the kids got done, the submission knitting got done, and I enjoyed it all more than I have in years. A little selfishness that truly isn’t selfish but rather reminds me that I too am worth knitting for… Priceless!