Monday, 19 May 2014

Woolly Wrestling

I was told of a new wool shop in the nearby town so set off on my trusty bicycle (the tyres managed to stay up - in my book that is trusty) along the glorious flat promenade with the expectation of wooly wonders to behold. Yes I do get the irony, wool is a odd obsession in the sunshine but then I make no claims to be level headed and logical! 

The shop itself was a hobby store, which is wonderful but the wool section merely had a few balls of very cheap wool. I wanted some angora as the jumper I am knitting is eating the wool at rather a fast rate and I may only really have enough for a tea cosy! I asked the shop owner about other types of wool and she told me that sadly it just did not sell - her customers just wanted the cheaper balls. 

It took me back a few years when I remember standing in John Lewis which had some fabulous wool for sale - my simple calculations estimated the cost of a jumper to be in the region of £80 at the time it was beyond my budget. I remember my frustration - surely they must realise that you can buy a jumper in a store ready made for about £30 what were they thinking? 

Now my opinion is beginning to shift - I have become disconnected with the making process and my value system is based around the cost of buying something in the shops, often made in countries where wages are low - I am beginning to wake up to how much it has warped my values and my expectations. I see rails and rails of clothes and jumpers in charity shops, worn for a season or two then simply discarded, if it costs us so little then why on earth would we value it? Yet our resources are not limitless - we need to understand where this direction is headed. If all our money is being spent in shops -eventually we will lose our ability to make anything, skills will disappear - we will become dependent and ultimately at their mercy. Moreover, we simply cannot sustain this concept of throw away that pervades everything we buy from bread, clothes, through to white goods and furniture. 

It is not a fast easy process to create wool, it needs to be teased, spun and dyed that means hours of work by someone and it is my choice to decide if that someone is sitting in a factory in a third world country or a farmer's wife making extra money to make ends meet in the UK. 

I get a great deal of satisfaction from creating something with love, care and consideration, why not then have the same reverence for the raw materials? How much nicer it would be to wear something that had been lovingly made from sheep to my fingers - something that would be treasured for years to come. If I wear my jumper for eight years then it will only amount to £10 a year - it brings the cost into a more realistic amount. 

For me, knitting is a sensory experience - I made an item with some of this £1.99 /100g wool - it was a waste. The garment simply did not feel nice to wear and knitting with it was not pleasant either. I spend a great deal of time in wool shops touching the wool - I want something soft and comforting next to my skin and if it is comfortable to wear then I won't be parting with it easily. 

Here is sneak peek at what I am making, what you cannot do is feel how wonderfully soft and downy it is. I will do a post about fair isle knitting and patterns soon. In the meantime happy knitting! 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Knit witts!

I have just started knitting again after many years - I learnt to knit when I was about 8 or 9, it seemed to come naturally to me and even now there is a beautiful state of meditation and calm as I pass the wool round the needles and see the gentle progression of my garment. 

Jumpers these days are not made in the traditional sense, look at any jumper and you will discover that it is made in a similar way to a dress would be, only using a fine knitted material to make up its jumper like appearance. 

For years, I have had a sense of disillusionment, most knits are shapeless, despite their delightful elasticity - it appears the trend is for mostly shapeless garments that do not flatter anyone's figure. 

Take this one for example, it bulges at the hips, cuts across the widest part of the body (which in this model is tiny) and does nothing for her at all apart from hide her body away. In an ordinary woman this would be a disaster, the stripes running across the body would accentuate and make anyone look wider than they are, and the drooping shoulder would make her look as if she was slouching. Now I am not a prig, this is a nice bright jumper for days when you want to curl up on a sofa, with a cup of tea, an open fire and good book, but it could do both - it could flatter the body rather than fattening it! 

You would imagine Chanel would get things right, but look at the hip line, with that very chunky rib, the model is tiny but it makes her look bigger than she is. While the lace insert detail at the back is lovely, this could have been made to fit closer to the body, the black hole at the bottom indicates that there is a gap - and the folds you can see at the back would be resting on the rise of the bottom..... not flattering at all! 

This is from this season, and a knitting magazine so it should get things right, but in this case it doesn't - she looks absolutely enormous, there is no shape and the short length makes her look as if she has outgrown it. Now I can understand the lovely sixties vibe that comes out of this but what is it doing for this girl? It doesn't flatter at all. 

Doesn't she look lovely? That gorgeous neckline accentuates her collarbone, and you can see she is a woman - the style is making her neck look long, the delicate sleeves enhance the curve of her chest and out to her arms. This flatters her shape and makes her look feminine, she is not disappearing under a shapeless jumper. 

This makes stunning use of the stitch and the properties of knitting, I love the structure the rib gives and the way it reflects the bias cut style of the 1930's. Notice too that it finishes just below the waist, not at the hip, this is kinder to body and gives rise to curves without distorting the size of the hip. The upright direction of the rib on the lower half has a slimming effect, and while the shaping enhances the bust, it does it subtly. 

Vintage patters make knitwear sexy, yes you read that right, sexy. Imagine you can be warm and sexy how good would that be! 

Look at the complexity of the patterns created, how they used the knitting to create puff sleeves, frills and curves. Thank goodness for the current Vintage trend, it has allowed us all to re-claim the lost art of knitting, to be inventive and use it to enhance our bodies. 

This was a next jumper that was in the shops last year, and it shows that the current desire for more fitted styles are in demand. No matter what shape you were, this little jumper would have made you beautiful, as the lovely ribbing enhances the waist, the lines would draw the waist in so that it would appear smaller. 

This pretty cardigan is from Primark, it is still a little longer - ending at the hip line, but the pretty crochet collar is a nice touch. If you intend to buy knitwear then my advice is to buy one size smaller you will find your body shape won't disappear. 

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