Blogtober 2021 : Day 1
Well, hello to you!
It’s 1 October and that means it’s Blogtober! In case you’ve never heard of it, it’s an entire month of daily blog posts, sometimes on a particular subject if you choose to take part in a “prompt” challenge where you are given a list of subjects to write about, but often a daily post about – well, daily life!
Lucy took part in Blogtober last year and I thoroughly enjoyed her posts about coffee and walking and the day to day stuff that she wrote about. It’s quite a commitment to post every day, though, and I can remember thinking even as I read her daily posts, ‘Blimey, that seems like a lot of work!” – but here I am about to launch into the very same thing for October this year. Is it a lot of work? Ask me again on 31 October and I am sure that I will be more than qualified to tell you! 🙂
So how is this going to work? Well, first of all, don’t worry if you’re on the mailing list that you’re going to be bombarded with daily emails from me. Nobody wants that so what I will do is send one every Friday as I have been doing recently with the week’s posts so that you can catch up if want to – of course, you can visit the blog every day to see if I’m keeping up but that’s up to you and I won’t remind you in case I get on your nerves! 🙂
I’ve set myself a knitting project for October which I thought might be a fun thing to record over the month. A couple of weeks ago, I did an online virtual knitting workshop with Janette Budge, Shetland designer and tutor (you can see her beautiful designs here) to learn how to use a Shetland knitting belt or “makkin belt”. The knitting belt is an oval leather pad stuffed with horsehair and attached to a belt which you fasten around your waist and then you put one end of your (extremely long) double pointed needle into one the holes in the pad and it holds it steady whilst you knit.
You might think I’m joking when I talk about “extremely long” DPNs but I can promise you that I am not at all! These things are like javelins and I can see that I’m going to have my eye out if I’m not careful! 🙂
Just for context, the green needles on the right are the size that I usually use for my socks. They are 20cm (8in) so you can see that the others are considerably longer! The middle needles are 30cm (12in) and the ones on the left are 40cm (16in). Seriously, I could probably spear my own fish with those!
If you’re someone who knits with your needle tucked under your arm then this might sound familiar to you, and indeed using the knitting belt is a similar process. Janette, who also knows a fair bit about Shetland knitting history, said that no one really knows how the belts came about but the women of the islands used to earn extra money by knitting jumpers (sweaters), shawls, and other items and having a needle steady in the belt meant that not only could they knit extremely fast but also that they could let go of their knitting when they needed to and it would be held safely by the belt.
We all had some homework to do before the class which involved knitting a short swatch so that we could see if using the knitting belt affected our tension, and we used that same swatch to practice straight knitting and then knitting in the round.
I can’t tell you exactly why I decided that I wanted to have a go at this technique now. I’ve known about it for a while but the urge had never really gripped me to do any more than just know about it until recently. I’m happy with my current knitting style – I tried out Continental knitting a few years ago as I liked the idea of being able to knit faster but although I think it’s useful to be able to knit in different styles, I’m still faster and more even when I knit in my usual throwing style. The knitting belt technique also uses this method and I was surprised how quickly it felt completely natural. In fact, whilst I don’t think I will ever be up to this speed, I can absolutely see how you can knit faster like this.
Knitting in the round is also possible using just three needles although I’ve got to say that a couple of weeks into learning the technique, it feels very fiddly at the moment – a bit like magic loop without the flexibility of the cable – although I might try casting on some socks at some point just to see if I can do it.
My project for October is a shawl called Changing Staircases by Dragon Hoard Designs which is free on Ravelry. I just fancied knitting someone else’s pattern for a change and this one has knit, purl, increases and decreases which I thought would be good practice. I’m using a skein of Heartspun yarn from Woolly Chic which I originally bought for a pair of no-nylon socks as it’s 70% BFL and 30% Tencel (an eco alternative to nylon) but I decided that I wanted to use it for this project instead. It’s very soft and has a beautiful shine to it – I can always buy another skein for socks later if I want to do that. The shade is purple, and it’s a very lovely colour.
The needles specified in the pattern are 3.75mm which of course I didn’t have in javelin-sized needles … or did I? I thought I would take a look through my old needles just in case there was some remote chance that there were some longer needles in there. These needle cases belonged to my Mum and my Nan and they both used long single-pointed needles (because that’s what most people knitted with when I grew up) although I knew that there was an extra section in the cases for all kinds of odd needles, some in pairs and some not.
You’re never going to believe this (and it took me a few moments to myself) but that set of DPNs at the top tied together with green yarn is a set of 30cm 3.75mm needles. What are the chances of that?! 3.75mm are old UK 9 size so it’s not entirely impossible that they would be in there, but I don’t ever remember seeing my Mum or my Nan knitting with double points – I’m very glad that one of them did, though!
This is where I am up to on Day One. As you can see from the photo, the shawl is an asymmetrical one a bit like my Couthie shawl and they always grow very quickly in the beginning. It does make you feel a bit like a knitting superstar when you see the length after a short time, but it will all slow down soon enough as the rows get longer!
What I have noticed about the belt almost straight away is that my posture has improved as I’ve had a tendency to slouch recently and it’s made my neck hurt. I’ve also had moments when it has felt as if the yarn is knitting itself – sudden bursts of smooth acceleration that stop as soon as I notice I’m doing it 🙂 The best thing, though, is that I’m finding purl significantly quicker than it ever is usually, and that’s a Very Good Thing for me as I am usually quite slow at purling but unlike last time with the Continental knitting, this hasn’t been about trying to knit faster as I have realised that the enjoyment is in the process for me, however fast I knit. Production line knitting just isn’t the same!
I’m going to stop here for today and show you some more tomorrow, but before I go I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who took the time to write to me about Toffee, our beloved cat to whom we had to say goodbye on Monday. I promise that I will reply to all of your messages, and to everyone who has experienced that same heartbreaking goodbye whether recently or in the past, I’m sending you lots of love.
I’ll be back tomorrow … and the day after … and the day after … I’m not sure if that’s a threat or a promise, but I’ll see you then! 🙂 xx