Lesson One: There is nothing funnier than a knitted helmet.
Good news, Grandma has agreed to the blog proposal. When I pitched it to her as “I’d like to make my visits more frequent and I’d like to write a blog about them”, her first question was of course, “What’s a blog?” Good question, I answered. I managed to explain it as a kind of account of events, which she accepted. I told her I wouldn’t use her name or anything, and she giggled and exclaimed, “No names no pack drill!” She found this so funny I was hesitant to admit to her that I had no idea what she was talking about, but once I did she explained that it was an old saying originating from the military. Lost on the hopeless Gen Y yet again.
I had given Grandma a bit of a heads up for today by saying that I’d like her to choose our next project, given that I chose the last one which ended up being a bit of a disaster (particularly when Grandma decided it was all too hard for me and convinced me we could make the mittens without thumbs. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen mittens without thumbs but they are really just an awkward hand-sock, appearing to be more of a self-harm preventative than a strategy to keep warm).
Because of this Grandma had a few pattern books out. One of which was the Patons “Woolcraft” booklet pictured below, which she informed me I could keep. This soon made me happy not just because it’s old and I like old stuff, but because I enjoy having a giggle at some of the ludicrous designs it yields.
My favourite would have to be the ‘Knee Caps’; woolen knee covers as it were. Grandma explained that this was a fad mainly for older women with arthritis, however the picture featuring some sexy young legs would suggest otherwise. I like to think that this pattern was created for people like me who have a secret fear of kneecaps and their un-nerving ability to move around under the skin. I don’t even like people touching my kneecaps. Kneecap injuries? I’d prefer not to hear about them thank you. Keep it to yourself.
Maybe some “Knee Caps” could make for a future project of mine. Might keep those dodgy buggers in place.
Second favourite pattern? The “Man’s Helmet”. For obvious reasons. I like that this has been specifically designated for men. Women don’t need knitted helmets, of course. Impractical for the lives we lead. But for men? Absolutely essential.
So after a few giggles at these, Grandma was showing me some baby patterns and I told her a friend of mine is due in the next couple of weeks. This led us to the ‘Diana’ pattern. I like that the pattern has a person’s name. I can see a lot of cursing of that name in future. It’s actually a very gorgeous ‘Matinee Jacket’ (for babies that enjoy a bit of the old afternoon show…), and Grandma sourced some pretty bluey whitey greeny baby wool, 8 ply. Size 3.75mm needles.
So, there is our first project sorted. My friend having the baby had requested I make her new baby girl a knitted headband like the one I’ve made myself… instead she’s going to get a (most likely skewwhiff) Matinee Jacket. Whether she bloody wants it or not. The Pattern book we’re taking it from was bought before my Uncle was born (Grandma’s first child), in 1956. It is literally falling apart in Grandma’s hands as we suss out the pattern. She offered for me to take it with me before I left, confused by my refusal. I tried telling her it was an antique and I didn’t want to destroy it, she only scoffed back at me.
Once we’d picked our pattern, Grandma provided a bit of a lesson on needle sizes and told me that I may need to go up a size if my tension is too tight – which it is at the moment after too much time with size 12mm needles. She showed me how to loop the wool around my pinky and index finger to improve tension also. I also realized when we cast on that I’ve been doing this incorrectly for some time, knitting the stitch and then pulling it through rather than between stitches. No wonder all my scarves start out looking a little awkward. If any friends/ family are reading this: no refunds.
As I cast on 42 stitches, Grandma and I talked about how knitting seems to have skipped a generation; her daughter (my Aunty) was never interested in it, but now Grandma is teaching both me and my younger cousin. I asked if she thought this may have been related to Women’s Liberation and she nodded, agreeing that it became very ‘uncool’ after that… but she was more of the opinion that it had more to do with how much easier it is to just buy clothes now, and that people have now lost interest in hand-making garments. She referred to my Mum, who when I was younger worked in the fabric section of Aherns (now bought out by David Jones), and how upset she was when this section was closed down, because by the mid nineties, many women had stopped sewing.
I told Grandma about Etsy, and how popular this is due to the new demand for hand-made things, from a generation of people deprived of the novelty. She was really pleased to hear this. I told her I’d bring my laptop for her to see next time.
Poor old Grandma also had a whinge about Spotlight’s poor choice in wool options (I’ve been there too, they are pretty average I’ve never actually bought yarn from there), but where I can go to the specialty yarn stores instead, Grandma can’t afford them. I told her about buying wool online (though I never have), and we agreed to have a go at it together some time.
So after 2 hours of chatting, drinking tea, picking out a pattern and starting on it, we really only got a few garter stitch rows done!! See below for finished product. Grandma left me to finish off 5 more garter stitch rows before we start increasing, next lesson.
Have a lovely week!