Knitting (and sledging) without tears

Some people just never grow up so, like many others, we took to the slopes during the recent snow. We’d bought a sledge on impulse at the end of last winter (no doubt because it was in a sale) and, when the snow came, we retrieved it from the depths of the garage. The nearest slope is in the neighbouring field – only about 250 yards away but, as you can see, I dressed as if heading out on an artic expedition:

Not quite the Cresta Run but it's a start

Not quite the Cresta Run but it’s a start

It all started out quite well but I quickly discovered that sledging and dignity do not go hand in hand and after only a few attempts, each slightly less enthusiastic than the one before, I gave up and headed indoors. I don’t think it’s technically sledging when you end up with more snow on the sledge than under it:

Ooh - that's cold

Ooh – that’s cold

So, I happily retreated back to the warmth of home and my knitting. I recently acquired Elizabeth Zimmermann’s classic book ‘Knitting without Tears’ and I love it. It’s full of practical guidance but also some inspirational thoughts, such as:

“Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either”.

Reading the book is just like listening to a wise old friend talking about her passion for knitting. As well as outlining knitting techniques, the book also features some great patterns. These are not written like standard knitting patterns but rather as general guidelines to get you started before encouraging you to be creative and adapt to suit your own preferences – even ‘mistakes’ (apart from a split stitch, apparently) can be justified:

“Show me any ‘mistake’ and I will show you that it is only a misplaced pattern or an inappropriate technique. There are patterns that include dropped stitches and twisted stitches. There are projects that should be as tight as you can possibly knit; there are others where you have to relax to the point of lethargy in order to make them loose enough”.

So, following the guidelines I started knitting a tam o’shanter in Crazy Zauberball 6ply, colour 2090, Vitamin Injection. The guidelines prepare you for the fact that the hat looks like an ‘old bag’ which then needs to be blocked to the correct shape. I’d been asked to make the tam o’shanter large so couldn’t find a round plate that was large enough to work. But then inspiration – a vinyl record was just the right size and the two photos below show the transformation:

Knitting in progress

Knitting in progress

The benefits of blocking

The benefits of blocking

I may also have found a new addiction – hats are as much fun to knit as socks and the scope to add different colours and textures is enormous.

Happy hat knitting – may it soothe your spirit, troubled or not…

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