“Very nice, but remember it’s the sweater you’re knitting and not the model inside it.” Granny’s cautionary mantra sometimes made me wish she was more classically trained in the art of Granny-ness. How about a Granny who said things like “ooh how lovely dear, won’t you look nice in that”?
But she was (of course) right – and I learned to love and value that honesty and straightness. I could have done with some of her wisdom before casting on the Noro Kibou tunic. It may have spared me the disappointment I’ve been wrestling with since casting off on Saturday afternoon.
It should have been a magical moment. The one where you’ve completed all those thousands of stitches and miles of fibre, when you loosen the last stitch, ease it off the needle and pull the thread through. It’s supposed to be a delicious moment. A moment to catch your breath, exhale, smile secretly (or not) to yourself and feel a bit wonderful about it all, to examine, stroke and admire your work. It can also feel a bit sad as with the sense of loss you get from the last page of a loved novel that’s been your companion for a time. Finishing the knitting of it means that your relationship is about to change – as wearing the thing will never be as intimate as working it. But never mind all that, you can reassure yourself that you’ve still got the sewing up and weaving-in-ends to do. It’s not time (yet) for slackening off or for getting too emotional about the journey’s end.
But what if the relationship goes wrong? It’s a taboo that we don’t often speak about. And as a wool shop owner there may be good reasons not to break that taboo. But I’m also a knitter and I never set out to lead people down woolly garden paths in this shop. It’s supposed to be about real wool and real knitting for real people.
So the truth is that I cast off the last stitch on Saturday afternoon and I hated it. There, it’s out now. Actually I had my suspicions through the whole of the last sleeve edging but I deliberately folded them away into the fabric, avoiding laying out the whole ghastly thing until it was all done check over here. Perhaps it will look better on? I pulled it over my head and looked in the mirror at the hang of it with colour, texture and stripes reminding me of a stoneware vase that’s sat on my mother’s mantle piece since the 1970s. The vase is a large heavy boxy thing that suits dusty dried flowers. It would have worked as an interesting swatch inspired by the colours of a Mediterranean village scene. It was a super piece for learning about knitting on the bias. There was a lot going for it – just not as a tunic for a short, size 14 (on a good day), 43 year old. I tried pulling my best mirror face but still it hung shapelessly and unhelpfully over every bulge. So why did it drape gracefully over the curves of the gorgeous model in the pattern booklet? That’s when I heard Granny’s voice in my head. What on earth was I thinking of?
One thousand meters of beautifully spun wool, silk and cotton, about 10 hours of knitting and a vision of myself looking accomplished and a bit stylish – all down the tubes. So I folded up the offending tunic and stuffed it to the back of the Noro Kibou cube where I decided it might come in handy as an oversized swatch for curious customers.
And after that, there was only one thing left to do.
I pulled the most divine skein of hand dyed ruby 4ply off the shelf, printed out Heidi Kirrmaier’s Vitamin D last seen modelled by a real and very fabulous knitter, and cast on determined that this time it would be magical.