Sunday, 2 November 2008


October is now over and I have spun my skein of pink yarn. Thank you to everyone for your positive responses. I also wanted to let you know that my Justgiving page has now closed and we have raised over £170 for Breast Cancer Awareness. I am grateful to you for your generosity. The Have you Checked your Breasts sock pattern is still available for free download. I have moved it in with the other free patterns on the sidebar.

I did, however get a response from a friend which was the last thing that I wanted to hear. I am publishing short extracts which I hope that she will not mind.

Dear Jane

I love reading your blog. And I wanted to say thanks, for mentioning Breast Cancer Awareness month. For me, Jane, and surprisingly so, Breast Cancer Awareness has taken on a whole new meaning for me.

Jane, I am telling you this because I really do appreciate you spreading the word about Breast Cancer Awareness and the importance of getting a mammogram. I don't want anyone to go through what I'm going through!

If courage and good humour were guarantees of recovery I am sure that all will be well. October may well be over but we need to take good care of ourselves and those we love all year.

And just as my friend did in her message, let's get back to the knitting. I've been making the Jolly Waves sock my travel project this week. I started knitting these socks on Lantern Moon ebony dpns. I knew that this was a risk as I snapped one of them like a dry twig last time I worked with them so I tried my best to use them gently. Sure enough, despite my care I managed to snap one so swapped back to my usual Crystal Palace bamboos. Now I've been a bit tired and distracted this week and as you can see, was not doing what I exhort my students on a regular basis to do - read my knitting. I did not notice that the stripes were not as they should be to the extent that when they reached the leg they had gone all to pot. I can only imagine that, despite these needles being the same size, I had been holding the fragile ebonies so tentatively that it had affected the tension and therefore the striping of my socks.

I'm going to have to rip back to half way down the foot where the needle change happened and start again with a larger needle and hope that the stripes sort themselves out. I'm amazed at how sensitive this yarn is. Usually, I find ripping back very irritating but it's a learning experience and not the biggest deal in the world after all.

All my good intentions at sticking to my numerous works in progress were thrown out of the window the other day when RooKnits mentioned that she was starting a mitten from the Selbuvotter book.
I have had this book for a while and have been plucking up the courage to embark upon one of the beautiful and intricate patterns. I promised myself that once I had finished a few projects I would allow myself to have a go but I am weak...

The other morning I was unceremoniously woken at 5.00am by an angry mouse trying to escape from the humane trap I had set in the kitchen. I knew I couldn't bear to leave the poor little thing to struggle until my normal getting up time so I got dressed and marched him to the end of the garden and released him. Of course by this time I was wide awake and the stranded mitten bug took advantage of my enfeebled state.

Before I knew where I was I had gathered all my mitten books, my box of mitten yarns and was matching patterns and yarns.

Seems like counting balls of yarn is much more effective for me than counting sheep so it wasn't long before I was contentedly asleep, surrounded by yarn...

This weekend, I decided life was too short not to indulge myself so I cast on NHM 7. Traditionally, Selbu mittens are made in black or red on a white background. I prefer something a bit different so I chose a deep red and yellow ochre in Jamieson's Spindrift.

I have to admit that I have been completely transfixed with this project. I have been so utterly absorbed with doing just one more row to see how the pattern will emerge and so delighted that something so beautiful is dropping from my needles that I am feeling more peaceful and relaxed than I have for a long time. It feels as if the intense concentration is somehow recharging my batteries. It is just what I need.

Terri Shea, the author also makes this wonderfully reassuring observation:

The greatest discovery I made in studying the old mittens is how the old knitters were not necessarily any more talented than we are. They followed patterns,made mistakes, corrected them - or didn't....

What they did seem to do better than we do is to accept the mistakes that they made....Today we have an expectation that everything we make should be neat and finished and cleanly, perfectly designed. That's because in the mass produced world, it is....

A Selbu knitter wouldn't have thrown away a project if it wasn't perfect. She would have made what fix was practical then continued knitting.

Selbuvotter are folk objects, not high art. A hallmark of folk art is the small mistakes and inconsistencies; They are what give a piece its life and liveliness, compared t the sleek perfection of Fine Art and mechanised production.... We are all imperfect, and it is our faults and flaws that make us unique and beautiful.

This week I have had the chance to put a lot of things in perspective. I've learned that life can change and throw us challenges when we least expect it. That while I have thought that I have been having troubles, they are nothing to the things that friends are coping with.

I've also been reminded that when knitting misbehaves it isn't a big deal, it's only knitting. At the same time, by giving me the chance to take a step back and lose myself in total absorption in a project, rebuilding my resilience, this simple process with sticks and string can be surprisingly powerful.


RooKnits said...

I've finished my first mitten, complete with small mistakes and the blog post forming in my head is much the same as yours! I love your mitten, I had a hard time deciding between number 7 and the one I finally decided on. Off to find the camera and see if I can get a decent picture. This is the first piece of knitting for ages that I have truely loved and been completely absorbed in... brilliant.

sussexyorkie said...

I'm not visiting here anymore, I want to knit mitts now. Thankfully I am bookless. If you want some more Lantern Moons to break I have a part set!

Karen said...

Beautiful! And much to think about, too.

Lin said...

Well done on the fund raising, what a great amount you made!

Dawn said...

Beautiful mittens. I'm definitely going to have to start some now that I've seen them on both of your blogs.

tea and cake said...

hello Jane, what a lovely and powerful post this is, thank you. You are so right about what is important in life - and, I'm glad to hear others are as weak as me in the resisting stakes! This mitten is beautful and I've put the book on my amazon wish list, and if santa doesn't oblige, I will! xx

Anni said...

gorgeous mittens. I've got a Selbu book in Norwegian and although I should be able to knit from Norwegian patterns I'm struggling with it. My Mum knitted us all Selbu mittens a couple of eyars ago for Christmas but unfortunately the wool was really itchy and none of use canbear to wear it. I've been thinking of knitting some in merino or alpaca.

Funny reading about mittens as I'm teaching a mittens and gloves workshop on Thursday and need to come up with a master pattern to use for the workshop.

LittleBerry said...

I can see I'm going to end up buying Selbuvotter..... your blog is not good for my bank balance :o)

Mrs J said...

Well done you.... and I LOVE the mitts. My estonian mitts are on my 'must finish by christmas' list!