Why should we take photos?

I’m sure there’s a knitter out there who loves to be photographed in her newly finished garment. Who flounces and flirts in front of the camera and gleefully examines the resulting images.

Right? There’ll be someone, won’t there?

…crickets…

If there is, I’m yet to meet her (or him, of course). The vast majority of knitters shy from the camera, reluctantly positioning themselves there when absolutely necessary. They’re plenty proud of their finished object, but themselves? Not so much.

So why should we take photos of our FOs?

To help out other knitters

The database of photos on Rav is an invaluable resource. Photos of clothing on hangers and dress forms can be arty and cute, but they rarely tell us what the garment will look like on a real person (I don’t think I know anyone shaped like a dress form*). I’m including cowls, scarves, and shawls; all too often, these are draped over inorganic (if pretty) objects and we can’t see how they would work in real life, on a real person.

Rav images can show if the pattern really works out the way the designer intended and if it will look good on a particularly body type. Not to mention the myriad of fibre and colour combinations.

If you’re avoiding taking photos, think of all the Ravellers!

Ursula cardigans on Rav - I don't think I would've had the confidence to make this cardigan without all these great examples

Ursula cardigans on Rav – I don’t think I would’ve had the confidence to make this cardigan without all these great examples

To  think objectively about our photos  – and ourselves!

On Saturday morning, I decided I must photography my newly finished Avery Cowl on myself. Just balls up and take the damn photo. Did my hair, bought a tripod, and flinched my way through it. Sighed over the resulting images.

But although I originally sighed at my photos, each time I looked at them, I felt a little better. I looked at them more critically, but in a more constructive manner. That photo was a little over exposed, but the way I positioned my arms was good. The cowl needing adjusting in that photo, but that’s easily fixed. Rather than a whole object that expressed all that was wrong with me and my appearance/knitting abilities/photography skills, it became just another photo – which could be accessed more objectively.

Photographs allow us to critique, but not judge. 

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After a bit of effort, I don’t look at this image and think – jezz, that’s a bit gormless. I needed to settle the cowl a little bit, remove the distractions from the right of the image, and possibly smile a bit more – but all of those things are achievable!

 

To take better photos

As much as we continually repeat phrases like ‘practice makes perfect’, it’s surprising how much we don’t believe it. We (or at least myself and many people I know) want to be good at something now. And feel bad when we don’t. Which is ridiculous.

The best thing about ‘practising’ photography is that you really can see yourself getting better – you have evidence of how ‘bad’ you used to be and how much ‘better’ you’ve become!

For top tips on taking better photos, have a look at this post by sewing blogger Cashmerette. In addition to excellent tips, Cashmerette has been photographing herself for so long you can see her progress – if you needed evidence that practice will make perfection!

The only way to get better is practice – and that includes getting better at practising! 

So many things wrong with these slippers and the image – practice has improved by my knitting and photography!

*Amendment: After making the blatant statement that no one is shaped like a dress form, I have discovered one of my knitting friends has the exact same measurements as a Spotlight dressmakers dummy. I am oddly jealous.

Yarnalong: Blue Lightning, Podcasts & Ursula

Reading: Blue Lightning by Anne Cleeves

After much debate, I set aside the lighthouse book. It doesn’t matter how much you may want to know the information in a book, if it’s not enjoyable, it’s not worth it.

Instead I’m reading Blue Lightning by Ann Cleeves. Because knitting a Fair Isle cardigan in yarn from Lerwick and using a pattern book dedicated to how awesome the Shetland Islands are wasn’t enough to make me wish I was back there. I have to actually read about them too.  

Listening: Various

As knitting Fair Isle goes a lot faster when I’m actually looking at it, I’m burning through several podcasts:

Dan Carlin’s ‘Hardcore History’

The Wrath of Khan series turned out to be rather addictive, due to my complete ignorance of Mongols – seriously, where were they going to burn, rape, and pillage next? Carlin can be a little repetitive in stressing his themes (in this case that of ‘should we hold the Mongols to account for the tens of millions of people they killed?’), but that works rather well – if you’re not paying close attention, you’ll still be able to follow the narrative.

Melvyn Bragg’s ‘In Our Time’

I’m a long-time favourite of ‘In Our Time’, the BBC4 program that discusses the ‘history of ideas’. I thought it had gone on a break, but it turns out my iTunes had just stopped downloading it – I now have several months to catch up on!

Favourite episode this week: ‘The Enuch’, if only to hear the female academic remark that castration really is a simple process and Bragg’s protestations to the contrary.

This American Life

This is currently constantly on in my car as I can’t find a radio station I don’t hate.

Knitting: Ursula

Good news: it appears to fit. I’ve changed down a needle size in the hope of creating a little bit of a waist and settling in for the long haul. Where’s the next podcast at?

See what everyone else is knitting/reading/listening to over on the original Yarnalong.

Yarnalong: Lighthouses, Genghis Khan, and Ursula

Reading: Romance of Australian Lighthouses by Valmai Phillips

I’m about halfway through Romance and, while it’s still interesting, I have definitely identified just what’s wrong with it: a lack of structure and an assumption the reader has good knowledge of the Australian coast. The later amplifies the former – if you don’t have any knowledge of the coast, the abrupt jump to the next lighthouse is disorientating.

Listening: The Wrath of Khans series from Dan Carlin’s ‘Hardcore History’ podcast 

I tried to finish Guns, Germs, and Steel, I really did, but in the end I gave up because I just wasn’t interested. Macro history isn’t really my jam and I don’t believe Diamond does a particularly good job of it.

I’ve turned to Dan Carlin, who makes history exciting instead. Carlin’s fairly famous for his ‘Hardcore History’ podcast series and with good reason. He has an excellent style, which borders on being overly-dramatic, but really just conveys his massive passion for military history. He’s incredibly well-read and doesn’t shy away from the more terrible aspects of war. I’m working my way through the Wrath of Khans series.

Knitting: Ursula Cardigan

I’ve just cast on the Ursula cardigan by Kate Davies. Luckily, I’m knitting this as a KAL with Sharon, because otherwise I would’ve given up by now.

Challenges include:

  • every second size in the pattern has a different gauge
  • it’s a very exacting fit with nil ease
  • I very rarely get the same gauge as Kate Davies
  • I didn’t buy enough yarn, so I can’t do another swatch and will just have to hope my calculations are correct
  • I’m doing a KAL with a person so much smaller than myself, I’ll be knitting a third more stitches. But at least I’ll have company, right?

For more Yarnalong inspiration, visit the original.

Waikato Rugby Jumper

For a long time, I’ve wanted to knit my friends’ son a rugby jumper. They’re a sports-mad family and the cricket vest I made him a couple of years ago has seen many outings (as evidenced by photos on Twitter. Again people, if you want your friend to keep knitting for you, keep posting those happy pics). A rugby jumper seemed the next step.

There was a wee hiccup – Rav didn’t have a rugby jersey pattern. Or at least, not quite what I had in mind. I wanted a vintage Kiwi rugby jersey that looked like Colin Mead would wear. It would look like it gained a couple of kilos when it rained,* but that was fine, strapping rugby lads could carry it. And above all else, the collar had to be perfect.

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I worried and fretted over it, but in the end, the collar was the easiest part. I did it in one go and I’m pretty happy with how it turn out.

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The hard part was designing a jumper for a child who’s measurements I wasn’t sure about. It’s very difficult to find an accurate children’s sizing chart. While I had wanted the jumper to be a surprise, I ended up having to ask for Ed’s measurements, just to be on the safe side. With the input of the ladies at Richmond Knitters, who know a great deal more about child than I, I managed to create a jumper that fit.

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I’d love to write this pattern up, but with very little knowledge of children’s sizes, I feel I wouldn’t be able to offer accurate sizing. Which is a pity, because I’m sure there’s many Kiwi nanas and mums who’d like to make. Perhaps it’s time to develop my skills a bit more….

* I’m not exaggerating. When I was about thirteen, some of the boys weighed themselves before and after a very wet muddy game. They gained at least 2 kgs.

Beware of Yarn Snobbery

It’s oh-so-easy to fall into yarn snobbery and not even notice. Snobbery of any kind if quite insidious and coming under its influence is a process so gradual, we may not even notice.

For the Baby Fair Isle jumper, I had been gifted the yarn scraps for the colourwork (thanks Sharon!) and only needed to buy the main colour. I decided to treat myself and took a trip to Woolarium, with a plan to get some lovely sock yarn or something similar.

The helpful shop owner and I went through my options, but they were fairly limited; none of the sock yarns suited the colours I had or were too variagated, and many of the solids weren’t machine-washable (a requirement of the giftee).

‘There’s always the Paton’s Dreamtime,’ the shop lady remarked.

Patons? I thought. But it so…generic. It’ll be overly processed and boring. It’ll be made in China. It’ll be the yarn equivalent of factory lager.

I had, in short, become a yarn snob.

Fortunately, there were two colours that matched the two sets of scraps I had, so I picked it up – and was wrong on all counts. The Dreamtime knit up gorgeously, it smelt deliciously sheepy, and is made in Australia. I ended up buying two colours, charcoal and dark fawn (one for each of the scrap sets), and am ever-so-glad that I did. The charcoal is beautiful, with a slight heathery appearance. There were no knots or breaks. And the price – while I’m all for paying people what their talents and labour is worth, it’s nice to be able to make a baby jumper for under $25.

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Baby Girl Fair Isle also a ridiculously cute pattern. It’s knit from the bottom up, with the body and sleeves added together at the armpits and the simple yoke knitted up after that. My only complaint is the construction is written a bit strangely with too much breaking of the yarn – I ignored the instructions for joining the sleeves on and did it the way I normally do.

It’s almost as beautiful on the inside!

baby-girl-fair-isle-3

I will definitely be knitting this again and I’ll definitely be using Patons again. Well, I kind of have to, I bought the yarn to make a second!

Ravelled here.

Yarnalong: Lighthouses, Diamonds, & Cowls

Weekend before last, I found myself in a secondhand book store. This isn’t an unusual occurrence – show me a town and I’ll show you a secondhand book store. I love them. They’re so full of hope and promise. You never know what you’ll find and who you’ll become by reading the books.

Except…I hardly ever read the books I buy.

It’s terrible. They just come home and sit next to my bed, looking downcast and asking, why haven’t you read me yet? Or worse, they go on a shelf and I don’t even notice them.

So I’m going to use the Yarnalong in an effort to actually read these books. (Also, inspired by Sharon, I’m going to give audio books a go).

yarnalong-20150401

Reading: Romance of Australian Lighthouses by Valmai Phillips

I have an odd obsession with lighthouses at the moment. I’m only up to the second chapter of Romance. It can jump around in the chronology a little bit, which feels a little like being tugged and washed about in a choppy sea, so I guess that’s appropriate.

This book was purchased from City Basement Books. If you’re in Melbourne, you need to check this treasure trove out – masses of titles and lower than normal city prices.

Listening: Guns, Germs, & Steel by Jared Diamond

Having had a friend devote a honours essay to the problems with this book, I’m not really that keen to read it. But then, it’s such a well-known history, I feel I should. An audio book feels like a good compromise.

It has the usual problems of a popular global history – it overgeneralises and oversimplifies.

Knitting: Avery Cowl

Just casting off!

For more Yarnalong inspiration, visit the original.

The Ideal ‘Welcome to the World’ Present

Babies are the people I’m most likely to knit for. They haven’t had time to make an enemy of me yet, they’re quick and easy to knit for, and everyone coos over the finished product. It’s win, win, win.

Normally I make a baby cardigan or jumper. Sometimes booties or socks. Maybe even a hat. It’s always been something they could wear, which brings with it the inevitable worries. What if it’s too small? How long will it fit them for? Is this wool really washable? I usually counter these worries by making the clothing a size or two big (cuffs can always be rolled up, extra body length never goes astray) and using yarn that I know to reliable in the washing machine.

Until now.

The recent spate of babies amongst my Auckland friends has caused me to be a bit more creative. This was particular true for one set of new parents. The dad is a keen gardener and home brewer, the mum likes to be social and out and about. For some reason, whenever I pictured them and their new baby, I saw them outside, baby tucked up in pram and being included in their outgoing lives. And what makes a happy baby in a pram? A blanket.

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I think I may have found my new perfect baby present idea. A ten ply pram blanket takes about the same amount of time to knit as a baby jumper. It uses a little bit more yarn, but not so much. And best of all – it will always fit and it will fit for a very long time. And baby seemed to like it – check out how stoked he is!

FYI – if you want to keep getting baby presents, it’s best to Tweet out a photo of the new present being used on the day you received it. Nothing make a knitter happier.

For this baby blanket, I used The Walt Painted Baby Blanket by Danielle Romanetti, knitted up in the ever reliable Bendigo Luxury ten ply. Ravelled here.

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A word of warning though – baby blankets also make perfect lap blankets and you may fall in love with it like I did while making it! It took a lot of self discipline to gift this creation.

Heff Cardigan

Ever finished a knitting project and wanted to knit the pattern again straight away? Nope, me neither – until now.

The Baby Sophisticate cardigan is so quick, easy, and adorable that as soon as I’d cast off, I wanted to knit another one. I had to Instagram it right away, without blocking, sewing in the ends, or attaching the buttons. It’s that damn cute.

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The pattern – by Linden Down – is exceptionally well-written and the construction is super easy, knit top down for the body and sleeves, with the collar worked in short rows. I very rarely gush about a pattern, but this one is just gush-worthy.

Speaking of weaving in ends – as proposed after the mess I’d made of the ends on Chatty Cardigan, I really wanted to do a much better job on the Heff Cardigan. I read through (okay, looked at the pictures) Ysolda’s Technique Thursday weaving in ends post. I split the yarn as recommended, but took it under the entire stitch – it didn’t seem to make a bump on the other side. Perhaps I leave mine a little looser. Most of the yarns I knit with will felt ever-so-slightly, so I’m okay with a bit of looseness. The result is visible, but not by much:

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Because this cardigan obviously wasn’t cute enough, I added the cutest buttons I could find: lion buttons from Morris and Sons.

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And why did I call this the Heff Cardigan? Because it reminds me of Hugh Heffner’s smoking jackets!

Ravelled here.

Chatty Cardigan

Do you like interesting construction techniques? Love grafting garter stitch? Need practice picking up provisional cast ons?

Then Snug Too is for you!

This pattern has an interesting construction; the body is knit sideways, with the front, hood and sleeves picked up and knitted later. Knitted in ten ply it’s easy to see what you’re doing and why, making this the perfect pattern to practice a number of skills.

Chatty Hoodie3

I love the finished product and it was ridiculously quick to knit.

My only dislike of my version of this hoodie is the finishing – which is annoying, as it was not two weeks ago that I vowed to be better at it. Unfortunately:

  1. the thick 10ply ends look terrible woven in. They’re fine on the right side, but are prominent worms on the wrong side. Which is unfortunate as the wrong side of the hood is also a right side. Next time I will follow Ysolda’s tips for sewing in ends.
  2. the hem at the bottom isn’t very even. I thought blocking would fix this, but then when I went to block, the garter stitch stretched an alarming amount. I didn’t want to be stern with the hem and make it any larger than it already was.

Not that any of this really matters – the intended recipient (the adorable Devon, son of Selina) will only care that it is toasty and warm, as he is not yet two.

Chatty Hoodie1

I dubbed the pattern ‘Chatty Hoodie‘ because I had so many conversations with strangers about knitting while making it.

  • On the train from Warrnambool to Melbourne I discussed knitting with two ladies from the Darwin. They remarked they couldn’t remember the last time they saw someone knit, because nobody – seriously nobody – knits in the Northern Territory. It’s too hot, all of the time.
  • As it was the first thing my new flatmate has seen me knit, there were the inevitable questions – especially around blocking. Blocking seems weird to pretty much every non-knitter, but, as a hairdresser, he seemed to understand the interaction of fibres and water.
  • Lastly, I had a very long and in-depth conversation with lovely lad on a tram. Having given up cigarettes and booze, he now wanted something to do with his hands in social situations – he was tossing up between knitting and whittling. I hoped I convinced him knitting was a lot more practical, due to it’s lack of knives and woodchips. He asked me to slow down so he could see how stitches were made – so I did, only to be asked in a very small voice if perhaps I could slow down just a little bit more?

I sure hope all the name doesn’t rub off on the baby – but knowing his parents, I bet Devon turns into a little chatterbox!

Living (or Dying?) By The Queue

On Saturday night, the Richmond Knitters met for their annual Christmas dinner. Delicious food was eaten, many laughs were had, and some serious cheating went on in the quiz (not by me!).

At some point in the night, some (I think Catherine), mentioned making a list of future knitting projects (like the Rav queue) and sticking to it for all of next year. It was met with a general feeling of ‘yeah, right, that’ll never happen’, but it got me thinking. Would there be anything to gain from such an undertaking? Would it be an enjoyable endeavour? And most of all – would I be able to stick to it?

I can definitely think of some things I could gain – it would ensure that patterns and yarns would finally be used, my yarn budget would be limited, and I could finish birthday/Christmas presents on time. I’m sure the results would be enjoyable, but I’m not so sure the process would be. And, could I stick to it? Sure I could, I told myself as I headed home from the dinner.

Three days later I had abandoned my Waterlily because inspiration had struck for an absolutely perfect Christmas present. While I know the present is going to be immensely well-received, I was still a little sad; I’d hoped for Waterlily to be finished by Christmas. Maybe this whole queue thing wasn’t such a bad idea…

Even just considering the idea of Living by the Queue is useful. It’s really made me question what do I really want to knit next? Who do I really want to knit for? How much can I knit in a year?* Would being a monogamous knitter make me be (or seem) more productive?

I have got the answers for these questions yet. I’m still staring at my Rav queue.

* The answer from 2014 is 3 shawls, 1 cowl, 2 adult cardigans, 1 baby cardigan, 1 pair of socks, 1 lace-edged hat, 1 pair of mittens, 1 pair of tank slippers, and 12 ribbed hats. Which, when you write it in one list, seems pretty good.