Thursday, 8 May 2014

Why I like nothing better than a good stitch and a bitch and how I aim to use this to improve Anglo Canadian relations or She Don't Use Jelly aka as I finished my tangerine jumper

Hello my sweet things,

How the devil are we all?  I for one am embracing the long overdue spring gracing our fair isle by lying on the grass at lunchtime barefoot.  I really do hope it's here to stay even though I've finally finished the woolfest that is the tangerine dream. So typical of me to present the world with a heavy Aran jumper just as the temperature starts to soar.  Fear not though because she's not a seasonal whimsy but an heirloom to be cherished year upon year.

I  think it's best to start at the beginning so let me take you back to when I first came to Brighton and indeed crafting.  As I previously documented I found myself back in B town in 2010 and I spent the summer getting reacquainted with the area.  By the time autumn came I was itching to take up a new hobby to while away the long nights and at that point with my leg still being naff, running wasn't an option. Instead I found myself getting into crochet.  I think I was in Urban Outfitters of all places and I spied the book below and decided to have a crack at crochet.  I made some pandas whilst watching a documentary on the Savoy narrated by Stephen Fry whilst quaffing a full bodied red.  It was then and there I thought I think I'm gonna bloody like this crafting lark.

This book is ace by the way and I highly recommend.

Not long after that I suffered the dreaded insomnia and was up late and crocheting and ended up googling sewing and started reading dear Tilly's blog and woosh my pilot light was lit and sewing was the next thing on the agenda.  I spent a good chuck of  2011 flexing my sewing muscles having hooked up with darling Zoe who herself was a new B town resident.  She massively encouraged me and aided and abetted me with fabric.  The summer flew by and as autumn returned I had a yearning for the yarn once more.  It was at this time I discovered a Stitch and Bitch  at wool shop a few roads from my house and met some amazing ladies and a fella and the best way of spending a Thursday night.

Our original home in Purl until the shop closed.  Where much wine and tea were drunk and laughs were had.

Our new home in the Prestonville Arms in Seven Dials where the wine still flows free and there's an open fire!

Once Purl closed we knew that we all still wanted to meet because what better way can there be to spend a Thursday night than drinking cava, eating chips and discussing bad taxidermy.  Yes bad taxidermy that is one of the topics we return to again and again and I still have no idea why.  After a long week at work there's times when I think oh I'm a bit too tired to go tonight but I kick my ass and I go and I'm always glad of it because it completely lifts me out of whatever funk I'm in.  It's definitely a kind of therapy and all of us have turned up at times with a lot on our plates and we've all gone home laughing and feeling a lot better about life. We've become real life friends to and have celebrated the wedding of one stitcher and the birth of another one's small person plus all the other triumphs in life.  I can thoroughly recommend joining a stitch and bitch group if you want to dip your toe in the crafty waters and meet fantastic people.    I think without them the tangerine dream would have been just that a dream.  I had lots of encouragement and advice from the ladies, which ultimately saw her become a reality. So now you've had the background to this yarn (sorry couldn't resist) I'll bring you to the main event.

The crossover from crochet to knitting came when I promised a lovely lady who is sadly no longer with us anymore that I would keep the knitting flame burning bright.

Tanya, a close family friend, lovely Mam,a champion knitter and all round good egg who sadly lost her battle with cancer 2 years ago today.  

She was an incredible person with an iron will.  She knitted up until she was too ill to.  The last time I saw her we were really laughing about whatever mad item of clothing I was wearing and she was at peace with what was happening to her.  For me it was tinged with sadness because I knew it would probably be the last time I saw her alive.  She loved all my crafty ways and made me promise I  would give knitting a go and I said I'd give it my best shot.  She died a a few days before her 45th birthday and when my Mam phoned to tell me I cried my eyes out and then I made a call to Purl and got booked on the beginner's knitting course because I wasn't going to let a dear friend down.  All the way through the knitting of the tangerine dream I've thought of Tanya and when I thought about chucking it in because it was taking ages or was too difficult I was reminded that to live this life is a privilege and not a given.  So I best to be sure to give mine a damn good go to honour the passing of hers.  It feels like she's weaved into all the strands :)

The book in, which I found inspiration.

Once I'd got a bit of practice under my belt I was gifted the above book in June 2012 for my 32nd birthday. Flicking through it I thought the designs looked pretty advanced bu then I saw her and fell in love.

All parts of me then and now know that tackling an Aran cardigan as your first knit project is not entirely advisable but neither is walking across France and Spain in Crocs but I did that as well.

I kinda figured from small acorns mighty oaks grow and what was the point in knitting a scarf if I wanted a 1960s style tangerine cardigan.  So out went reason to be replaced by my enthusiasm and belief that will a little elbow grease I could knit this baby.  Unfortunately the first hurdle I hit was that the wool I required for the project wasn't available in Europe.  I kid you not the email I received from Malabrigo on trying to source the wool had the subject, "Trouble at mill".  I was not to be thwarted nor was I going to even attempt to substitute.  I was already enough of a rookie on a difficult project let alone adding anymore uncertainty into the mix.

Eventually managed to source it from America and they were doing an offer so it worked out really reasonable and arrived in time for me to walk across Scotland with it.  What more perfect location to start an Aran jumper?

Once I'd gained gauge, which took several attempts I got stuck in and cast on the back, which I think was 150 stitches and the full enormity of what I was doing hit me.  This was November 2012.

I tried to knit most days and many times employed initiative when I couldn't find a cable needle.

I had a bit of a break in early 2013 but my March as spring was springing I was breaking the back of the back.

By May 2013 the back was finally done after having to frog 30 rows at the top after not realising I'd lost my place and thought oh I'll knit  through it will sort itself out.  I warn you this is the belief of a fool.  I eventually  had to admit defeat and rip it all back.  This was when I knew I was gonna finish the swine because although there were public tears on a very busy bus no part of me wanted to say sod it and chuck it out of the window.

Summer came round again bringing with it it holidays and hi jinx.  Progress slowed but on I plodded much to the surprise of myself and those around me who had worried I might get bored and it would be forever a WIP. I can actually say hand on heart I enjoyed the whole experience despite the tears, which I guess is a testament to doing what you want rather than what you should.

Finally, in the September 2013 there was a woollen vest that Delilah dutifully wore all through the winter.  Helpful gal that she is :)

All that was left with the sleeves and I thought ooh blink and they will be done.  Fortunately one of my very wise stitch and bitch buddies, Renee leveled with me and said, "honey the sleeves are like knitting a whole garment again".  This was the reality check I needed because I had delusions of grandeur that I'd be wearing this over the 2013 Christmas period despite a full time job, a shed load of sewing commissions and  marathon training.  Someone needed to put that fire out before I got disheartened and lobbed it in the to be done pile.

By mid January 2014 we had one sleeve.  I hasten to add more wool had to be ordered to finish this beast and again for number two and the making up!

Then hallelujah by 2nd March 2014 she was all knitted and I hit up YouTube to learn mattress stitch for the final push to golden glory.

At last all that was left to do was block it and then pick up stitches and knit the button band.  I decided to go for a wet block after reading it was the best treatment for merino and then for three long days I waited for it to dry out. Then in what I can only assume was a final fit of madness I stayed up until 4am using a crochet hook and a fierce disposition to pick up the stitches from the cast off edge to knit the neckband. On the early hours of 20 March 2014 my woollen baby arrived :)

Welcome to the tangerine dream.

A little from the side.

Check out that decrease in pattern.  That happened!

The face of batshit joy and relief that this woollen beast was finally tamed :)
Phew!  Well if you're still with me then well done because this post was a doosie but I guess that's in keeping with the scope of project.  I'm glad I didn't realise how big a deal knitting this cardigan was gonna be back in June 2012 as I may have tossed it side.  Seeing as this baby encompasses nearly 2 years of my life  I thought I'd chuck in some stats because I'm a bit geeky like that.
Knitting Stats
·         Balls of wool used 13, which equates to 1783m or 1.1 miles.
·         Weight of jumper 1.3kg equal to the weight of an adult human brain.
·         Length of time to complete 504 days, which is equivalent to the gestation period of an elephant.
·         Number of countries knitted in is 4 these are England, Scotland, Germany and Spain.  Most unusual place knitting has taken place is probably outside Amnesia before a night of raving in Ibiza.
·         Number of conversations started up over knitting is too many to count.  Most memorable though would probably be with a lovely Scottish fisherman from Oban whose Mam knitted him several Aran jumpers 30 years ago and they’re still going strong.  He said every clan had a different pattern because if you went overboard you tended to be unrecognisable on recovery but the pattern was easy to identify you as a Mackenzie or Stewart.  Gruesome but nonetheless very interesting.
·         Side eyes from commuting businessmen whilst I knitted and drank cider countless.  I can only think that the consumption of cider and the knitting of an Aran cardigan are mutually exclusive I thank gad they’re not.
·         Number of heartbreaks just one but a big one and one little heart wobble.  All good now though.  Knitting is a good healer :)
·         Number of babies born during the gestation period of my woollen wonder two absolute beauts and one on the way with my gorgeous bro and his lady expecting in two weeks’ time.
·         Number of years the tangerine likely to be worn a lifetime!
So my darlings that is very much that.  I'll leave with a picture of the Gos because rumour has it he is a very keen knitter and I would more than enjoy the opportunity to knock off a few rows with him.  So Ryan if you're reading this the Prestonville Knitters and I meet every Thursday night between 8pm - 10pm at the Prestonville Arms, Brighton.  Obviously, you'll need a place to stay and I'm more than happy to offer mine.  It's no trouble at all ;)  Anyone else fancies a stitch our doors is always open.

Love always,

Miss D



  1. Sew Little Time8 May 2014 at 17:12

    amazing. a true labour of love for tanya. and she has taught you a great new skill! my gran was a great aran knitter (and an everything else knitter and taught me to knit when i was 7 - crochet still eludes me tho!) and knitted jumpers for claire grogan and john gordon sinclair (by way of a random family connection). wear it with pride!

  2. Another lovely blog post lady! You are a true inspiration in skill and style. The tangerine dream is an amazing feat... You have got me thinking about my next knitted garment project and what it might be! The last I attempted... a 40's cardi ended up as a rather fancy cushion on my sofa! Must persevere...
    Big love c c c

  3. I remember when you brought that round the day you met D! Good going- am dead proud of you! x

  4. Probably my favourite blog post yet! Love the story of TD and I love that pretty much everyone you know has seen you knit TD at some point! Love you x

  5. Umm. I can't express how much I love that you persevered with this and how perfectly you it is in all it's golden glory. Wowsers!

  6. Wowzers! That is one impressive story, and an impressive jumper at the end!

    I found the fact about the different Aran patterns for different clans fascinating - thanks for including it in your fact round-up. :-)

  7. Errrmagerd! This post has made me so happy! And your tangerine cardi is delicious! Thanks

  8. Wooooo! Congrats on a dreamy cardigan. It's an excellent tribute to your friend

  9. rehanonmackenzie19 May 2014 at 14:39

    Thank you darling. I really blinking lover her :) xxx

  10. rehanonmackenzie19 May 2014 at 14:52

    thanks so much it was an epic journey but one I'm v glad to have taken :) Glad it made you happy it has me too. Everytime I wear her i think about all the life in her xxx

  11. That is the cardigan of dreams. A vision in orange. I love it! xxx

  12. rehanonmackenzie28 May 2014 at 16:36

    Hey lady thanks so much :) I do love a fact xxx

  13. rehanonmackenzie28 May 2014 at 16:38

    Ah you sweet woman you. It was a good test of staying power that's for damn straight :) She's worth it for all the use she's gonna get xxx

  14. rehanonmackenzie28 May 2014 at 16:38

    Right back at ya sunshine xxx

  15. rehanonmackenzie28 May 2014 at 16:40

    Ah Laura you sweetheart :) Thanks so much means a lot coming from you and your right everyone has witnessed the journey :) love you too xxx

  16. rehanonmackenzie28 May 2014 at 16:41

    Ah man that's so long ago. He's such a little nugget now bless him :) thanks for the praise. It's a high honour as you are such a knitty lady xxx

  17. rehanonmackenzie28 May 2014 at 16:42

    Ah thanks so much my lamb you're very kind. I say go after whatever your sweet heart desires. I'm totes on a shawl next to breathe life into my inner Stevie Nicks :) xxx

  18. rehanonmackenzie28 May 2014 at 16:45

    Indeed she has :) she will live on in golden glory. Your Gran sounds like a legend. Cor knitted for JGS nice work! Ever since Gregory's Girl he's giving me a twinkle :) xxx