Wednesday, 4 September 2013

I could say quilting or rather sewing was my first love, but that would be wrong. I remember sewing little scraps of fabric together with my mum when I was about 7 or 8 and when about 10 I "helped" my mother make a little patchwork blanket for the sister's doll's pram. Santa must have had a good run on prams that year - the sister got a little pram, as did cousins Patricia and Angela, all 3 different colours. The fact that Granda was a foreman in Triang the toy factory, and that an Uncle worked there too is only a coincidence I am sure. Anyhow, my mum made sparkly pram covers edged with lace which appeared with these Santa presents. They were done in great secrecy but I knew. After the Santa day when the presents were no longer secret, I helped to make a little pink and white patchwork blanket for her doll's pram. And you know what, the fun was in the making!

But before that I was determined to learn to knit. My aunt Edith sat for ages reciting "in through the bunny hole, around the big tree ...................." one Saturday night until she eventually got fed up and went out with her glamorous royal navy boyfriend, complete with beehive (her, not the sailor). I was their bridesmaid aged about 6 so, I must have been about 4 at the time. Well, I loved the knitting, and quickly got bored knitting doll's scarves. In no time mum had me knitting doll's hats and lacy knitting. When we eventually were taught to knit in school at about 8, I was helping the teacher show the other children. And, as for my guide badge in knitting, well easy peasy. 

Enough boasting and droning on about how I was a child prodigy, in knitting anyway. I have always loved knitting and reading too. I used to knit myself dresses, jumpers, whatever. One weekend the boyfriend (long since the husband, aka Artistic Director) and I were going to Dublin for a weekend and I decided to knit myself a dress. The wool was a beautiful tweed, blues and pinks from McNutts in Donegal. I cast onto a circular needle and just kept knitting and stepping into the knitted circle and asking "is it long enough yet?"
When my flat mates felt it was long enough, ie late the night before we left, I just cast off and joined the shoulders. In hindsight it was rather short, but it covered all the necessary body parts and looked rather fetching with my white stiletto ankle boots and pink ribbed tights! As Billy Bragg says, "must I paint you a picture of how it must look"

As Ronnie Corbett would say "I digress", I continued my knitting through to my own two sons, until one day son number 1 asked "can you knit school trousers?" and then whispered to son number 2 "I told you she would have to buy school trousers". At that point, I felt it was time to stop knitting. And so I was delighted to find blogs where people knit socks! Knitting but not as I knew it Jim. Knitting that doesn't make my huge top half look even huger or middle aged! And so began the challenge. 

I bought some sock wool in a lovely little shop called Darn It and Stitch It in Blue Boar Street, Oxford, compact but all gorgeous. I loved the fair isle effect of the wool when knitted.

 By another of life's strange coincidences the daughter's bestie Amy asked me to teach her knit. She wanted to learn to knit so she could knit socks! I offered to knit them for her, after all the wool was there and it was her birthday in a few weeks, this was last Christmas. 

Well, I knit sock number 1 and turned the heel. It looked incredibly tight and my friend said she used to knit socks and had never seen a heel like that. I swore blind that was how it was supposed to look, finished the sock and posted it to Amy as a starter sock. Began sock number 2 and discovered I had left out 28 rows in the turning of the heel, which might just have made a difference. Finally mastered turning the heel and knit the foot about 3 inches too long, knitting at my dad's one afternoon. Ripped out again. Finished the sock  but there is something wrong with the toe shaping, it is too long, footered about with that. Finally finished the socks in August, only took 8 months!

 Amy has modelled the socks but has yet to have them officially handed over, I think we should celebrate with something sparkly! ~These socks were of course the prototype of all the socks to come. I have now realised that although Amy has quite long feet, she is of course very slim and I should have really knit a smaller size but lengthened them! With her slim ankles they will be flapping about in the wind! MAYBE she will get a second pair sometime.

I have now started knitting socks number 2, for myself, have really enjoyed knitting them but of course my cankles fill them out! But, the story of my socks, equally enthralling is for another post. I have also had a request for another 2 pairs, incredibly. Hope either winter is not too cold, the daughter and husband may have to wait a while!


  1. Thank you Helen for your comment on my blog.
    I am leaving soon for the exhibition , just wondering what to wear.
    Loved reading your post. I think the sock story would make a good children's book complete with knitted dress, stiletto boots, beehive, handsome sailor, and misshaped sock characters flapping in the wind. The illustrations could be hilarious. Good luck with the sock thing. Rather you than me!

  2. Thank you Angela for your nice comment, it made me laugh. You know I remember learning to knit so vividly I can even remember the hardness of the beehive and the smell of the "hair lacquer"!


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