Archive for August, 2012

It has been a while since I last wrote a knitting blog post, but that doesn’t mean my knitting needles have been sitting idle. Inbetween the flurries of mending activity in the last few months, I have also managed to do a lot of knitting. Amongst others I made myself a v-neck jumper:

After reading Susan Crawford’s blog post about her new knitwear model, I decided that I should also model my own knitwear. I may look somewhat bleary-eyed, but that’s what happens when you need to help putting in the final touches of your partner’s Masters Dissertation (an oral history research about young women’s leisure, space and identity in 1960s Belfast, since you ask), at 1:30 in the morning.

After having knitted a few jumpers using Elisabeth Zimmermann’s seamless construction methods, it was time to investigate another construction technique. This v-neck saddle-shoulder sweater has been knitted from the top down, following Barbara Walker’s ‘recipe.’ Her book Knitting from the Top is a knitting cult classic, for all the right reasons. In twelve chapters, Walker talks you through knitting all the garments you can think of, starting from the top. She relies on taking good measurements, and a generous swatch, so you can work out how to get just the right size. Most items are knitted seamlessly, so once you’ve cast off, all that’s left to do, is sewing in the yarn tails and block the item. The real eye-opener here is the shaped shoulder knitted in the round. Yes, this is actually possible!

After taking all the necessary measurements and working out my gauge from my swatch, this jumper starts with knitting the shoulder straps for the saddle shoulders. Stitches are picked up from the long sides of the shoulder and then the back is knitted. I included short row shaping to make sloped shoulders. Once you have completed the armholes, you put all stitches on some waste yarn, and do the same for the front. when the armholes are completed on the front, everything is put on one large circular needle, and one can continue knitting the body in the round. After this, stitches are picked up for the sleeves, and the sleeve cap is shaped with short rows too. Once these are completed, the sleeve is knitted in the round to the cuff. Walker also gives you directions to knit in the round all the way from the shoulders, and instead of picking up stitches, you create the armhole/sleeve seams by increases. Genious!

As you can see in the following picture, the v-neck has been shaped by increases and this looks really neat:

All the welts have been knitted in a 2×1 rib, with the knit stitch knitted through the backloop. I like the graphic quality this gives, although I’m not sure if I would use this again, as I find that at the cuffs and the hem tend to curl up a bit. Perhaps next time I either do a 1×1 rib, or a 2×2 rib, so that the amounts of knits and purls are completely balanced.

However, I do particularly like the shaping of the V with a centred double decrease:


The cast-off looks so neat and sharply cornered, because on the cast-off row, I also did a centred double decrease at the corner, before taking the previous stitch over the new stitch and off the needle.

For the side seams I employed Elisabeth Zimmermann’s ‘phoney seam’. Before starting the ribbing, I dropped down the seam stitch all the way to the armpit, and hooked it back up with a crochet hook, alternating picking up one, and two strands. I mainly used this as it makes blocking much easier, as this way I don’t have to guess where the side seams would be. You can see the phoney seam as one column of slightly larger stitches.


There are a few niggles in this jumper that I’m happy to live with, but which I want to avoid in the future. These mainly concern the shoulders and armholes. I think I could have made the shoulder saddles a little bit shorter, and the armholes a little bit deeper.I think this will make the sweater sit better on my shoulders. I already mentioned my doubts about the pattern I used for ribbing. The sweater could’ve been little bit longer, and lastly, the sleeves could be a little bit wider. Evenso, I’m really pleased with this jumper; it’s a great addition to my wardrobe.

My v-neck jumper was knitted in Excelana 4ply, in the Persian Grey colourway. Excelana is Susan Crawford’s range of knitting yarn, especially developed to recreate the look and feel of vintage yarns, which complements her vintage style patterns. I still have a couple of balls left, so don’t be surprised if I make a hat to match!

Have you ever knitted a garment from the top down? What did and didn’t you like about this approach?


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As many of you will know, I attended the UK’s first research symposium on mending. MendRS¬†took place on the first weekend of July and today I want to share my reflections on the symposium as part of the MendRS Blog Tour; at the end of this post you will find all the other dates past and future.

The Symposium took place at Bill Lloyd’s farm, called Slough Farm:

Here you can see Bill chatting with Miriam Dym, one of the presenters at MendRS. As you can see, it was a very casual affair, with most people staying in tents, and the big barn in the back serving as our conference centre, auditorium, canteen and coffee shop (Miriam and I shared many a damn fine cup of coffee.)

I didn’t quite know what to expect from the symposium and I decided to go with an open mind and a blank slate. It was amazing how quickly I felt at home at the barn and how quickly we got to know each other. It soon became clear that despite all the different areas of interest from the participants, there seemed to be a common underlying mindset: if something is broken, whatever this might be, the first question any of the MendRS participants ask is “can this be repaired” and not “can this be replaced.” We all felt this approach is no longer a common one, as everything seems to be available in abundance and mostly cheaply, too, and most people choose the perceived easier option of replacement.

This manifested itself in many ways. To start with, I found many examples of Visible Mending around the farm:

A day before the symposium started, Kendal experienced an unusual amount of rain and one of the footpaths had to be repaired after a flash-flooding:

Steve Grundy, who does many repairs at Slough farm, patched his work trousers with cotton and leather:

Slough Farm was built in 1771! This grand old age meant there were many repairs to be found on the buildings themselves, but I particularly liked this plastic corrugated roof on a little extension, as it somehow really works together (click on the picture for a larger version):

The D.I.Y. Store brought together broken objects and mending skills. As the Mender in Residence I was given the challenge of repairing these trainers with cracked soles. As you can see, I couldn’t help myself applying a knitterly approach to this task:

Artist Kate Lynch had several projects on the go and you can find out much more about them on her own website, but one of the things I really enjoyed was her Helping Hands project, where symposium participants were invited to highlight Visible Mending on the farm, or things that required mending. I found this rug:

Apart from presenting my Visible Mending Programme, I also taught people to darn and to knit, and performed quite a few repairs, including Bill’s guernsey. Here you can see the mended collar, and I also put in his initials:

After this weekend of sharing thoughts and listening to talks in a relaxed environment, I realised that the scale on which people work is very different. Some people think big and would like to see policy changes, all the way down to where I feel most comfortable: a very hands-on practical and personal approach through the Visible Mending Programme. Attending the symposium has shown me the validity of this approach, and I want to continue providing repair inspiration, skills and services and share the joy of mending!

Here’s a teaser of my next mending project. All shall be revealed in due course on my blog, so keep an eye out.

The MendRS Blog Tour has only just started, and there are many stops still to come. It’s also worth checking the previous tour stops; you can find them all in this comprehensive list:

Tour Date Blogger URL
Tour Taster Clare Thomas http://cleaningbeaches.wordpress.com/2012/07/07/mending-objects-mending-roadsides-mending-lives/
Tour Taster Flowering Elbow http://www.floweringelbow.org/2012/invent/musings-on-mending-mendrs/
20/07/2012 Mend*RS http://mendrs.net
25/07/2012 GUTmag www.gutmag.eu
27/072012 Futuremenders http://futuremenders.com/
03/08/2012 Keep & Share http://www.keepandshare.co.uk/blog
10/08/2012 Venerable Clothing http://venerableclothing.blogspot.co.uk
17/08/2012 tomofholland http://tomofholland.com
24/08/2012 bridgetharvey http://bridgetharvey.blogspot.co.uk/
31/08/2012 textilelives http://textilelives.co.uk (NOT LIVE YET)
07/09/2012 KnittedGeographies http://knittedgeographies.wordpress.com/
14/09/2012 lizparker lizparker.org
21/09/2012 The Bunny Pile http://thebunnypile.wordpress.com/
28/09/2012 Unstructured Material http://www.unstructuredmaterial.blogspot.co.uk/
05/10/2012 The Blogging Phenotype blog.spinningkid.info
12/10/2012 Logo Removal Service http://www.logoremovalservice.com/news-log-etc/
19/10/2012 Caitlin DeSilvey and Steve Bond http://smallisbeautifulproject.blogspot.co.uk/
26/10/2012 Stitched Up http://www.stitchedupuk.co.uk

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