Blogtober 2021 : Day 1

Well, hello to you!

The ground is littered with fallen leaves and conkers. A pair of purple wellies are at the bottom of the photo

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.

A stuffed brown leather oval attached to two blue belt straps. There are holes punched in the oval and it is bound together with blue plastic cord. A purple skein of yarn is just visible in the bottom right hand corner.

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! 🙂

Three sets of double pointed needles in varying sizes. The longest set are on the left in a black packet, then the middle-sized set with two of the needles on the table and the rest in a blue packet, and two green needles of the smallest size next to them.

Yes, the longest needles are slightly bent, but I expect they’ll be even more bent by the time I’ve finished with them! 🙂

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.

A laptop sits on a wooden table next to a brown leather knitting belt and some knitting in pink yarn on needles.

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.

Two fabric knitting needle cases open on a black surface. The needles are divided into sizes and each size has it's own slot. They are a mixture of coloured plastic and metal needles. At the top of the photo are two needle packets and a set of DPNs tied together with green yarn.

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!

A small section of shawl knitted in purple yarn is on a single needle which is stuck into one of the holes of a brown leather knitting belt.

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

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34 Responses

  1. Sheena Cartledge says:

    So sorry to hear about Toffee, we lost our beloved Millie, she was 20 (we think) when she died, she was a rescue cat so we and the vet weren’t really sure of her age. I miss her every day as she used to sit on my desk as I work from home. Love to you all

  2. Sheena Cartledge says:

    My Nanna used to use a knitting belt, she lived in a Craster in Northumberland. I still have a Gansey that she knitted for my Dad. Happy memories

    • winwickmum says:

      Wow, that’s amazing … although you’ve reminded me that I still have an Aran jumper that my Nan knitted for my Dad. I used to wear it as a teenager because it was huge and I felt very stylish in it, and he used to get cross in case I stretched it out of shape! 🙂 xx

  3. Geeha says:

    Great to see you’re taking part in Blogtober. With dark evenings and my husband’s health issues meaning struggling with the overstretched NHS it will be good to have something to look forward to each day

    • winwickmum says:

      I hope that I will be able to keep up and you’ll have something to read every day! I’m sorry to hear that your husband’s health isn’t good, and I hope that things improve with your local NHS services soon as we start to return to a sort of normal xx

  4. Christine Whiting says:

    Looking forward to to the month ahead!

  5. Irune says:

    Great! One of your posts every day!! I can’t wait for them 😉

  6. Mary says:

    Fascinating!! And oh the joy to see a picture of your needle roll…I have my granny’s, it’s exactly the same! I am almost 70 so you can imagine how old it is, but I absolutely love it! What a treat to read a post every day. Good luck!!

  7. Jude says:

    I like the look of that shawl, and when I’ve finished yarn bombing for my church I think I’ll find some yarn from my’ginormous’ stash and have it ready for the colder weather. Many thanks!

  8. Sandra Muir says:

    My dad worked in Shetland in the 50s/60s and I learned to knit Fair Isle mitts on 3 pins but, although I have a belt from that era, I never mastered using it.

    • winwickmum says:

      Wow, Fair Isle mitts take some doing at the best of times so to knit them on 3 needles as well is very impressive! Using the belt is easier than I expected so it might be something that you could get to grips with if you wanted to give it another go 🙂 xx

  9. Claire says:

    I started my own Changing Staircases shawl this week too, with some beautiful yarn I bought at Yarndale. I’m looking forward to knitting along with you!

  10. Lynne Rowe says:

    I’m looking forward to your daily musings Christine – this one is so interesting as hadn’t heard of a knitting belt before, so I’ve learned something new already. See you tomorrow xx

    • winwickmum says:

      I can’t quite remember where I heard about them – it must have been Instagram or a blog post as I don’t know anybody who uses one. I’ll certainly keep you posted on how it goes! 🙂 xx

  11. Sue Hermiston says:

    I have my Shetland nana’s belt and needles. The belt, which was made by her father or brothers (several sisters were all supplied with one so who made which one is lost in the mists of time) has many more holes than yours. I remember Nana using it daily, knitting extremely fast. The Shetland Wool Week online sessions were fully booked when I discovered them, so hearing about your progress should, I hope, spur me on to try using the belt myself.

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh that’s a lovely story, and you should definitely give it a go! The Shetland Wool Week sessions were run by Janette Budge who also ran the workshop that I did so you can find them through her website (I’ve put the link in the post) if you need to later on. You get the one hour live session then 6 videos to watch as often as you need for 6 months, and there are regular Q&A/chat sessions too xx

  12. Susan Rayner says:

    I am really looking forward to reading your daily post in Blogtober!! The Shetland knitting belt looks fascinating! I too am much faster using my old English method of knitting and my tension is more even depsite years of Swiss teachers trying to make me switch!!

    • winwickmum says:

      My Continental knitting tension isn’t great either, despite me giving it a really good go over the years. Now, I tend to use the technique mostly for colourwork although it’s quite useful to be able to change sometimes if my right hand starts to ache … although that’s probably my slouchy posture which I should be working on instead! 🙂 xx

  13. Gillian Edwards says:

    Looking forward to Blogtober ! Those belts look fascinating but don’t think I could cope with those long needles.

    • winwickmum says:

      I didn’t think I would either but they’re not quite as long as you think by the time you’ve stuck them into the belt and they do hold your knitting out in front of you so you sit up properly. I’ve not taken my eye (or anyone else’s) out yet so I consider that a bonus! xx

  14. Jackie says:

    Sorry to read the start of your blogtober,you pets are a member of your family so it is just as upsetting when they pass away.
    I like your idea of this blog and look forward to seeing it, October thing is a Drytober. No alcohol for the money and a £1 in the YARNDALE JAR ready for next year.
    This past 18 months have made is so very easy to ‘pour another one ‘or ‘open another one ‘ that I thought stop. So I did OK only yesterday, but I am thinking of that lovely Aran wool the farmer from Scotland was selling at YARNDALE.

    • winwickmum says:

      Oh that’s a really good idea! You’re right, it has been very easy to have a glass of wine or whatever in the evening over the last 18 months, we’ve definitely had more empty bottles than usual! xx

  15. Sarah Murray says:

    A knitting belt and super long DPN’s, whatever next? Always something new to learn in knitting. A brilliant first post, looking forward to the rest and to see the finished knitted project. Will your Blogtober end on a spooky note I wonder 🙂

  16. Pam MacLennan says:

    Sorry to hear about Toffee. I lost my Burmese, Coco last year just before her 17th birthday and I miss her everyday. Some days I swear I can still hear her. She loved sitting on my knee at night while I knitted and never touched my yarn or knitting. Everything always had some Coco hair knitted into it though.
    I loved reading todays blog post about the belt. Very interesting and I look forward to seeing and hearing more about your knitting and progress as the month goes on.
    Between you and Lucy we’ll all have something to look forward to.

    • winwickmum says:

      I’m so sorry to hear about Coco, and I know exactly what you mean about some part of her being knitted into everything! Yes, you’ll be ready for a rest at the end of this month with all this blogging going on! 🙂 xx

  17. Lindsay says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about Toffee Christine. They truly are part of the family and leave such a big hole when they are no longer around.

    It’s fascinating to see you using a knitting belt and to hear you felt it’s helped not just your posture but your your purl speed too.

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