Sunday, 22 May 2011

Spring knitting

I'm a big fan of the Electric Sheep podcast, but there is one area where I disagree with the podcaster, Hoxton Handmade, and that is in the area of Summer knitting. Hoxton Handmade has made it clear that she doesn't particularly appreciate Summer knitting, which she equates with cotton. I perfectly understand her aversion to knitting with cotton, which I also have found to be heavy and stiff. What I don't comprehend is her outright dismissal of linen and hemp.

I look forward to Spring - not only for the warmer temperatures, the lighter evenings and the return to allotment gardening, but also (and possibly mainly) for the return of my Spring/Summer wardrobe. Which mainly consists of linen garments. I absolutely ADORE linen. I really can't express it emphatically enough. It is to my mind the most appealing of fabrics, being both comfortable and elegant. Yes, I know it wrinkles, but it is supposed to do that, so you can go through your day secure in the knowledge that your clothes will remain effortlessly elegant regardless of how much they naturally bunch and wrinkle.

It is understandable for British people not to appreciate linen. After all, it is a fabric that really comes into its own in very hot weather, which is something one doesn't suffer from much in Britain. My appreciation for linen really began when I lived in the desert, because no matter how much you sweated, the fabric would absorb it and dry off almost immediately. Also, because it is quite a stiff fabric it doesn't cling to the skin, so it allows air to circulate around your body.

I suppose it is a fabric one associates more with Southern Europe, and in fact the first time I saw flax fields was in Normandy. It is even attractive in plant form - the flowers are pale blue and the seed heads are plump and regular. I'm growing some on my garden, partly because it's supposed to be a good companion plant with carrots, and also just because I wanted to see if I could. After all, if it grows in Normandy, it should grow in Oxford.
Flax plant image from Wikipedia Commons

My favourite linen yarn is La Droguerie DK linen, which comes in a range of gorgeous, shiny colours. I also like Katia 4 ply lino, which I plan to use for this pattern - that is, unless I find some nice linen on my trip to Italy:

Liesl tunic
Lately I've also started buying more hemp, which is not just for hippies any more, despite the lingering characterisation (yes, hemp is related to cannabis, no, your clothes won't make you high). Hemp is not as smooth as linen, but also doesn't wrinkle as much. It's a more environmental option than cotton, being less destructive to grow as it requires fewer pesticides and herbicides. Also it is more durable than cotton and becomes softer with wear.

I knit a skirt out of Hemp for Knitting Allhemp6 last year, and I wear it all the time (knit skirts, incidentally, being another subject upon which Hoxton Handmade and I differ). It is incredibly wearable, comfortable, and best of all, machine washable. Although I developed calluses on my fingers, I was not discouraged, and in fact am currently knitting this dress from the same yarn:

Jill's dress
I aim to finish this dress by early June so I can wear it in Italy. I am well on my way to achieving this goal - probably within one skein or less. Fortunately, because I'm getting very bored of the endless stocking stitch. I chose the colour because I own nothing else in that shade. I was afraid I was getting into a rut with the endless green, but as you can see, like everything else in my wardrobe it goes beautifully with chartreuse.