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I am a mother, a grandmother, and a teacher. But whatever happens in my life, I keep sewing. I have worked as a political communicator and now as a teacher in my formal life. I have also written extensively on sewing. I have been a frequent contributor and contributing editor of Threads magazine and the Australian magazine Dressmaking with Stitches. My book Sew.. the garment-making book of knowledge was published in May 2018 and is available for pre-order from Amazon



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Sunday, August 2, 2020

Knitting during a pandemic

I don't want to labour a discussion of the times. We have had a pretty easy time of it here in Nova Scotia and let's hope it stays that way.

However this affects everyone and we are all staying close to home more than usual and there is a sort of anxiety running in the background. I now only check the news once a day and told my husband that if he is going to listen to things more often than that would he please put on headphones - some voices I don't need to hear in this house.

I am trying not to add to anyone's angst myself and to focus on things that are more enduring than this moment in time. Nature, children, dogs, cooking, ordering fabric.

And I have returned to knitting in the evenings.

Now I am a garment sewist through and through and I put a lot of effort into my sewing. I am particularly interested in construction details and techniques.

To me knitting is about none of that. I realize how innovative and technical knitting has become but that's not why I knit. I knit like a sort of repetitive meditation. Round and round without a lot of thinking. Like those Buddhist monks in Japan who spent their lifetimes raking gravel into patterns as sort of a religious practice. When I first talked to someone who had gone on a Buddhist retreat and did just this for a couple of months I have to tell you it didn't make a lot of sense to me. My cultural background is big on the useful activity and sitting down or any activity without a meaningful output was just not on the books.

However these days when there is too much incoming to handle all at once the idea of stopping a raking the gravel, or knitting the same stitches for hours if not days at a time, is starting to make sense to me. It's like you jump off the train for a bit onto the platform to catch your breath and let a few of those trains just pass you by.

So committed to non-demanding knitting in my evenings has meant some basic circular knitting with easy patterns. I just don't need to be doing anything right now that requires me to stop and watch a YouTube video to figure it out. 

You get what I mean?

Any of you learning a new language at the moment?

See what I mean.

As a result I have been knitting a lot of socks and a few sweaters. The first of these, appropriately, was the "Homebody" pattern by Heidi Kirrmaier. I had some Eco wool in a bin and knit this up for my daughter. I left it at her house and she sent me back this picture with the message "It fits perfectly."

The fit around the shoulders and neckline in particular is outstanding and due to the placement of the raglan lines. Since this is a seamless top down pattern (I love hand sewing but completely hate sewing sweater pieces together) it is hard to get a nice fit without a lot of shaping but I think this one does it. I think I will knit myself one too once I have figured out a decent online yarn source. I know where to order fabric but not yarn and I am not feeling like hitting the stores at the moment.

As far as patterns go it was pretty cryptic. Heidi is an excellent designer but has a technical professional background and her instructions were very efficient but all charts and numbers. Being numerically challenged, and highly text based,  in a few places I wrote the instructions out in words to I would stay on track, but you wouldn't probably need to do that. I intend to knit more of Heidi's patterns and maybe won't even need to do that myself again now I have a better understanding of the logic of her patterns.

The second sweater I knit was for myself from Ann Budd's really interesting Book of Sweater Patterns. This is a great resource for folks like me who only want to knit something simple and hate fooling around with gauge. Basically you knit a swatch first with a needle size and yarn you like, measure the number of stitches per inch and then match the gauge you already have to the numbers you need to cast on etc. according to the size you want.

Did I explain that correctly?

Anyway it's a pretty relaxed approach to low key sweater knitting and that suits me just fine at the moment. Here I am in a basic dropped shoulder, knit in the round with no seams to sew, V neck. I am wearing my favourite poplin antique pull on shorts and some pretty weird glasses.

The moral of the story with the glasses is if you go into the optometrist's and announce "I need something bright and cheerful" and you only try on the glasses with a mask on over your whole face when you go back to pick up these glasses they might be pretty bright turquoise. The six-year-old thought they were outstanding, my daughter, his mother thought they would be just fine for wearing around the house. 

There is of course a real possibility too that at this stage of the game I worry more about cheerful than looking like a maniac.

Now tell me what you are doing? What are your own current self soothing activities? Any of you knitting too? Reviving lost activities? (I have also considered hauling out some 30 year old cross stitch patterns).

How are you mediating? How do you manage to actually do that? What is your mediation equivalent?

Seems to me ideas on this are worth sharing.