Friday, 30 October 2015

Knit the Sky Book Review and the Clock Back Flap Bag Project

"Look, Elinor, I could spin the sky!" Pulling out a pillow case full of sheep's fleece used to exhaust the Japanese Indigo dye vats, I tossed armfuls of blue wool towards my companion. "It's so exciting, Storey Publishing have sent me another book to review.  Listen to the title, 'Knit the Sky, Cultivate Your Creativity with a Playful Way of Knitting.'"  Elinor was disappearing under a rain of falling fleece.  "The actual sky project says, 'Each day, you will knit a stripe in colors that match that particular day's sky... At the end of a year, you will have a scarf that the clouds have drifted through.'"  

I clasped the book to my heart,  "Totally awesome idea, from now on, we absolutely must take time to 'appreciate the colorful show that swirls above our heads at every moment.'"  Flinging myself down on the bed, I gazed up through the skylight. 
Elinor dug her way up from under the drift of wool.  
"Bloody hell, Fran, you're as playful as a heffalump, overdosed on honey."  
"Oh, don't be mouldy.  I'd love to spin and knit a sky scarf."

My companion lay back beside me and polished her specs.  Solid cloud could just about be seen through the seagull shit caking the glass.
"Just a couple of snags, Beaut. We live in Wales, winter is coming and you're going to need more cloud greys than sky blues." She took the book away from me and turned the page.  "Don't forget that fleece came off a Welsh Mountain crossbreed sheep. Spin it and you can knit a scarf that will exfoliate your neck every time you 'let your beautiful garment remind you to keep looking up.'"  Rolling off the bed, Elinor started fossicking about in my yarn stash.
"These are all quite soft." she called.  "How about knitting a turdily awesome scarf, one that would remind you to keep looking down?"
"A what?"  I sat up to see she had chosen a selection of my hand spun woollen yarns.
"Knit the Shit.  A record of your bowel habit with a stripe for every poo.  'With each flush, the colours of an unrepeatable crap disappear down the pan...'"
I grabbed the book back out of her hooves.  
"Stop laughing, Elinor, that's really horrible."
"Then you could use all your piss awful plant dyed skeins to decorate it with, oh yes ... tiddly pom poms."

It is no use trying to have a sensible conversation with an hysterical sheep.  Knit the Sky was written by Lea Redmond.  Though I'll grant she can come across a little saccharine for the tooth of your typical Brit, I do think she is onto something good with her philosophy of actively infusing your knitting with your own life. Lea is right, I'd bet most knitters find an old jumper will remind them of the phase of time when they had it on the needles, how they were feeling, who they were with.  Even working from a standard pattern, the act of creation makes a handknit into a deeply personal microcosm.  Why not go another step and let the changing world around you influence the colours or dictate the shapes? 
The thirty projects in the book may be simple to knit, but there are considerable challenges in carrying them out.  The idea of knitting as a mode of connection with people and places leads Lea to suggest partnerships and family group projects or talking to all the people in your street before knitting a stripe the colour of their houses. In my case, that would mean a hundred shades of pebble dash and a monstrous strain on my British reserve.  Last Saturday afternoon, I was sitting in the kitchen, still leafing through the book.
"I quite fancy knitting an 'Heirloom Time Traveller'.  You do half a scarf and put it away with a message to your great-grandchild, for them to finish in a hundred years time."
Elinor made a face and set her teacup down.
"They don't have moths in America, then, Beaut?"
"Lea has that covered, cedar wood repels insects.  She says 'Imagine that you stumble across a cedar box in your grandparent's attic."
"Your grandchild would need a bloody good imagination, there's been no attic in this house since you had the loft converted."
"Oh, picky, picky, you're not supposed to take it so literally.  Since my family don't live in the Little House on the Prairie, how about a 'Sun Salutation'?  Great excuse to spend the whole day knitting from sunrise to sunset."
"Another scarf, is it?"  Elinor read over my shoulder.  "'A circle shape, knit using the intarsia technique will quickly grow on the wooden horizon of my needles, mimicking the sunrise in real time.'  Intarsia?  You can barely switch the kettle on before 9am."
"Enough, Elinor, I am going to have a go at this one.  The clocks go back an hour for the end of British Summer Time tonight, so I'll have an extra hour in bed."
"Hate to break this to you, Beaut, but I think you'll find the sun sticks to Greenwich Mean Time."

The Clock Back Flap Bag Project

On Saturday evening, I knitted a circle in white wool, bound off in black i-cord and crocheted clock hands pointing to 1 o'clock. Just as well I did this bit in advance, as it took ages longer than I thought and I really am slow in the morning.  
Getting up at 6.45am on Sunday, oh bother, it was already light, though the actual sunrise didn't happen til 6.55am.  In short, I did not cast on my 25 stitches before the crack of dawn and completely forgot to bow, needles in hand, to 'greet the centre of our solar system with all the attention I can muster.'  It was beautiful morning, nonetheless.  Using a couple of balls of chunky Sirdar colour change yarn that my sister
bought at a car boot sale, I was knitting in an extra strand of white Shetland yarn while the sun shone and a strand of grey Herdwick when it got cloudy.  Himself appeared at 9am to tell me he thought this project had bonkers written all over it.  Still, the cup of tea and bacon sandwich were most welcome.  With the feeling restored to my frozen hands, I cast on 3 more stitches at each end of the row to start the body of
the bag.  Elinor did not arise til 11.30am, by which point I had had a hot shower and walked the dog and was getting along much faster.
"I'll say this for you, Beaut.  You've got a whim of iron."
Minding the shop Crafts by the Sea that afternoon, an occasional customer interrupted the flow of knitting, himself stopped by on his cycling route and BG brought cups of tea when she joined me  
for an hour or two.  While these events are not marked within the bag, I knitted a strand of white yarn with two shades of blue, since the sun shone steadily through the condensation on the shop window.  Bands of dark cloud later on meant frequent changes to grey and lots of little ends to weave in later, before a grandstand view of the sun setting over the sea about 5pm.  Time to shut up the shop and cast off.  Back home, the pieces of knitting went through a 40 degree cotton wash machine cycle.  I wondered if the various millspun yarns would shrink differently, giving fancy effects, but they were all 50% wool and the final result was firm and even.  I went to bed leaving it pinned out flat on a towel to dry.

Final verdict - Knit the Sky is a book worth reading.  Lea Redmond inspired me to knit in a way I have never done before, integrating process and product, making an ordinary day memorable and commemorated in knitting.

Published October 2015
ISBN 978-1-61212-333-2 hardcover at £14.99
ISBN 978-1-61212-334-9 ebook

Take no notice of that awful sheep.


  1. PMSL at the thought of a bowel habit stripe scarf - it'll be on the needles tomorrow|!!

  2. Sigh. No sooner had I cleaned the tea sprayed over the monitor from reading the above, than I read the reply to the reply and have to clean it again...

  3. Best laugh I've had all week. Wonder how it would go down as a guild challenge?

    Susan (Pembs).