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Fiber Friday: Comfort Stitching
Crafting my way to better health.
INSIDE: handmade solace, swatch tests, yarn lessons learned, celestial embroidery, Estonian knitting + flowering trees.
Before we get started this week, I’d just like to thank my new Fiber Supporters. And those who became Fiber Insiders, could you please reply and tell me if you were able to download your free copy of my book Knitting Habits? Thank you!
In this last month, knitting has been my comfort as I’ve been slowly recovering from illness. It’s rare for me to be so unwell for this many weeks, and it’s made me realize how much I take my health for granted. In fact, my abilities!
As I sat to knit, I thought about what it is that knitting provides in relation to comfort. So, I wrote a list.
Yarn in all its forms: soft, squishy, thick, thin, rough, smooth, light, dense animal, plant, solid color, variegated color, and speckled.
The rhythmic movement of my wrists, hands and fingers, particularly with repetitive stitches.
The consistent, gentle tapping sound of my metal needles.
A sense of accomplishment, whether it’s only a few rows or many.
The connectedness I share with other knitters around the globe, knowing if I come across a hurdle, there’ll always be someone to help.
Contemplating future projects in all the glorious possibilities.
Being quiet and not having to attend to anything else but my knitting.
Excitement building as each stitch gets closer to my finished project.
Being aware of my breath and being present.
Handmade items provide comfort when worn or draped over our bodies to keep us warm. I’ve often described the woolen shawls I’ve made as “wearing a hug.”
The Smaug Socks I knitted for my Mum when she was going through chemotherapy were my attempt to give her strength and comfort. The design is based on the dragon Smaug from The Lord Of The Rings by Tolkien.
I wanted the socks to help her fight. It may sound strange, but the symbolism of a dragon when fighting a battle with cancer seemed apt. I imagined my Mum wearing her Smaug Socks in the chemo ward and having the strength of a dragon to help her. Thankfully, my Mum is now cancer free.
I remember my Mama’s crocheted blanket that was always available to place over me when I sat with her on her couch. When I was little, I played dress up games and would wear that blanket as a cape. It also provided comfort to her and many other family members when they visited.
That same blanket draped over her coffin when she passed away. It seemed so fitting the blanket would provide comfort in death as it had in life.
I knitted a cot blanket from mitered squares for my firstborn, which felt like I was knitting comfort and love into every stitch.
And later, I crocheted a colorful granny square blanket for my second child, but not until they were seven. They still have it now as a teenager.
Are there special pieces you’ve made that provide you or others comfort?
And another question for you: Do you take comfort in your chosen craft?
I've been knitting row upon row of knit stitches as I work on the body of my True Nature Tee. I'm knitting the cropped version and there's about three inches left before I knit the one-by-one twisted rib at the bottom.
I'm tossing up the idea as to whether I do shorter sleeves. My plan is to work the sleeves and keep checking what they look like on my arms until I'm happy with the length. The actual pattern has the sleeve length just above the elbow.
I'm feeling mine will be shorter than that.
The swatch from the Flow Tee has been washed, blocked and dried. The bottom section is my attempt at knitting continental. And the top section of the swatch is my normal English style.
I've still not reached the pattern gauge (26 stitches and 38 rows) in my swatch of 4x4 inches (10x10 cm) using the 3.25mm needles.
I got 27 stitches and 35 rows. So, it's closer than the swatch I did with a 3.5mm needles which was 25 stitches and 32 rows.
I've read the row gauge is important in this pattern because it defines a yoke depth and therefore the fit around the shoulders.
The great news for me is the pattern tells you how to adjust the depth of the yoke if your row gauge is slightly off. I'm very glad about that!
My son has knitted many bookmarks from scrap yarn in this week, and he's found he prefers garter stitch but has taken two color coordinated yarns and held them together to make one. It makes the process faster, he tells me.
He struggles with creating neat edges, so has experimented with knitting each stitch close to the tip and not stretching them too much. It seems to have made a good difference.
And after persisting for years with the first method of casting on he learned, which creates a rather loose edge, (pretty sure he does the cable cast on) he finally decided to learn a neater method. He found the backward loop cast on was looks neater and he's happy with the results.
Weaving in ends has never been something he's enjoyed. But thanks to the book, Vogue Knitting: The Ultimate Knitting Book, I borrowed from our local library, he found some pointers that made the process easier.
He's learned weaving in at least three inches of the tail and weaving in two opposing directions to prevent unraveling worked best.
He also knitted one bookmark with some eyelash yarn and never wants to do that again. Too difficult, apparently!
A trip down memory lane…
Back in 2021, I found out about Hannah from Rose Hip Island, an independent yarn dyer living in Tasmania. Her small business was featured as “Trader Of The Month” by Yarn Trader, a local yarn store and website in Port Adelaide, Australia.
I was looking for yarn to knit the Chasing Light Shawl pattern by Veera Välimäki and I fell in love with Hannah's Mia Bella Merino Silk and Pixie Mohair Lace. I decided to hold them together to knit the shawl.
Ordering yarn online is sometimes a gamble because the colors that show up on your screen are not always the color in real life.
I took that risk because I adored the purple shades and I figured even if the color was slightly different, it would be ok. The yarns when they arrived didn't disappoint and were true to what I'd seen online.
The experience of knitting this shawl taught me the lesson about buying more yarn at the start. Because, as I was halfway through the garter stitch section of the shawl, I realized I was going to run out of the Mia Bella Merino Silk yarn.
I got in touch with Hannah to see if she had more of that colorway. Sadly, she didn't, but she was happy to do a custom order for me and made me aware it wouldn't be the same color.
The new skein was more blue purple, but thankfully, it wasn't too noticeable. And I completed the shawl.
I'm always reminded of my Mama, my beloved grandmother, when I wear this shawl. She too loved purple!
What I’ve loved this week: reads, listens, visuals and gratitudes…
The Public Domain Review is a fascinating online journal I discovered recently, and they feature all sorts of interesting artifacts they find in the public domain. Which means they're out of copyright and are free for anyone to use and reuse.
A digital treasure trove, if you will.
One thing I found was a photo of an applique quilt made by Ellen Harding Baker, an American astronomy teacher in the 1870-80s called the Solar System Quilt. It took her just under a decade to make. No wonder, considering it's over 2m wide and tall! She used it as a visual aid for her students during her classes.
It depicts our solar system and a comet that passed earth in 1874.
It's absolutely stunning!
And here in Substack, the team fromhave written an article on Roosimine & Roositud, a type of Estonian knitting that creates the illusion of embroidery on knitted pieces. It looks enchanting in the article!
They talk about some patterns to try if you want to give the technique a go.
Thanks to a recommendation from, I've been listening to an audiobook version of Death of a Celebrity by M.C. Beaton. It's one of the books in the Hamish Macbeth murder mystery series.
I remember back in the mid-nineties, the BBC Scotland TV series loosely based on MC Beaton's mystery novels. But I never read any of her books.
I can see why they say loosely because the actor Robert Carlyle looks nothing like how Hamish Macbeth is described in the book: flaming red hair and tall.
Hamish Macbeth is good at detective work, but he's very self-absorbed. And in this book, he was “off women,” having found out his fiancé was going to get married to somebody else. He isn't very insightful and can be downright rude.
I'm not inclined to read any more of these series because I've become too annoyed at the main character!
I thought I'd try out the Agatha Raisin series by the same author. The audiobook is narrated by Penelope Keith, an actor whose voice I love. I have very fond memories of her acting in the TV series To the Manor Born.
But again, the character of Raisin sets me slightly on edge. She's arrogant and with seemingly little patience, but I'll persevere for a while longer.
I'm only up to chapter three.
In a previous issue of Fiber Friday, I mentioned the jacarandas in the area I'm living (beautiful trees that flower a stunning purple in the springtime.) They're originally from Central & South America, but they're everywhere in Australia.
I finally took a photo to show you. The trees are huge! They cover the ground with purple petals. It looks so pretty.
Another thing this area is known for is the beautiful gum trees and multicolor bark. A few days ago, I found one near the river with this beautiful silver hue.
Looks like someone's come along and spraypainted it with sparkly silver!
I'm thankful for the restful moments knitting stockinette rows have given me in these last weeks as I've been unwell.
I struggle with the opinion of others that knitting stockinette is a mindless activity. It's because I place a negative connotation on the word mindless. I equate “mindless” as not worthy of time being spent on that activity.
But the rows of knit stitches send me into a state of flow. And I love the rhythm of my needles and the gentle sound they make. I feel soothed.
A thought for you to ponder this coming week…
Finding time for what brings us joy, fulfillment and purpose is so important to keep our spirits uplifted.
So, may you give yourself time to spend on your craft this week, and may you go well with gladness in your heart.
How’s your crafting going? Leave a comment or press reply!
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Until next week,