My birthday this year occurred during lockdown and I had a treat of a day concentrating fully on a textile project. I treated myself to a Workshop based on notes from a, sadly no longer with us, machine knitting genius called Audrey Palmer. When I lived in Cheshire I attended a couple of workshops based on her work run by Carol at Metropolitan Knitting (1). These were in about 2006 and I then knitted several baby blankets based on what I had learnt and gave these to friends and family. These blankets had the advantage that they could go in the washing machine and still look good when they came out, unlike the fine Shetland Lace ones I also knit.
Part of a Baby Blanket
Audrey concentrated on the Knitweave technique where thicker and fancy yarns are carried across the face of the knitting and caught down by a finer base yarn. She developed a range of clothing, tops, skirts, jackets and more art based projects for the home. I particularly liked her attention to detail and her edgings.
I decided for my lockdown birthday I would revise her technique, draft out a pattern for a top, make a toile and then make the top. I haven’t worked on this every day but after an great initial birthday workshop with Audrey’s first book (2) less than a month later the top is finished and photographed.
The pattern is less fitted than I normally use and it is knitted sideways on the knitting machine so the pattern is more flattering running vertically rather than horizontally. I did several samples and the one that was my favourite after several days of looking at the samples ‘pinned up’ was the final choice. It uses a very fine base yarn and a boucle yarn, I think rayon probably. I have had this for years and probably was tempted to buy it from a Knitting and Stitching Show. This has turned out to be good use for it and I have another in brown and cream so I might try a different clothing item with that. The yarn is very slippery and only the colours have stopped me giving them to the charity shop!
Why ‘Summer Seas’ ? The sample reminds me of the glorious colour of the sea both in Shetland - Meal and Norwick beaches spring to mind - and in Norfolk on glorious sunny days. I look forward to seeing the sea again, we don’t live far away but it will be all the more glorious when we can go safely (3)
The front and back took about an hour and a half each to knit. I had to remember, or keep referring to, my sequence of 18 rows which involved 3 different techniques as well as keep an eye on my pattern shape to get the neck and shoulder shaping in the right places. Full concentration was needed. One shoulder was joined with the sewing machine and then the neck edges were knitted. Audrey, as I mentioned, was excellent on detail and I spent several days trialling edgings for the neck using the edge of the tension square. When I found one I thought would work I then wanted to try it on a curve. I found a sample neckline ( useful to have a supply of these I find) and it worked on the curve so it was back to the machine to knit these on.
The little cap sleeves were knitted separately and then added. Nice touches here include a technique for adding a sharp edge to the bottom of the sleeve, and also for knitting in a facing. The procedure for adding the sleeve to the garment results in a near invisible seam and I have learnt to value knowing when to pick up a convex or concave loop of previous knitting.
Both shoulders and the side seams were stitched on the sewing machine.
Having tried lots of edgings for the bottom I went with a simple crochet edging, having spent time trying crab stitch and different hook sizes too. I just needed an edging that would look good when the top was worn out of a waistband but would not be bulky when ‘tucked in’.
Edging of bottom
I love the top, it fits well, it drapes, the neck works and even better it looks good under the teal cardigan I have just knitted.
Image of top
and teal cardigan on top
Final weight of the top is 150g.
It used so little of the fancy yarn I have enough for probably a long sleeved top like this or jacket or skirt in which case it would work as a dress. So more nice decisions to make.
I learnt a lot from doing this and it feels like the tip of an iceberg to another area of machine knitting to enjoy.
- Metropolitan Knitting, Cheshire was such a great place to live near. Unfortunately it is no longer running courses and you will need to check to see if it is still selling yarn.
- Audrey’s book that I refer too, is called Create With Knitweave. Unfortunately it is out of print and virtually impossible to find a copy now.
- I believe ‘lockdown’ is a small sacrifice to make in this war to save lives. My relatives made far greater sacrifices. My grandfather was in the trenches and prisoner of war camps in the First World War; recent documentaries for the VE celebrations have highlighted the sacrifices made by my parent’s generation for six long years and both my son and daughter in law are front line medical staff currently. I do find it difficult when some people presently are trying the bend the rules, failing to understand the severity of the situation the world faces now and unable to do ‘their’ bit!