Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Knitting dresses

There are two kinds of knitters, process knitters and product knitters. Ok, there are actually more kinds of knitters than that - as many kinds as there are knitters, really. And process versus product is like nature versus nurture - it's always a mixture of both. But if I had to choose one over the other, I would say I'm a product knitter.

Product knitters are more focussed on completion, process knitters savour the activity of knitting. Process knitters hate finishing and sewing up, and can leave projects unfinished for months while they get on with other knitting. Product knitters can't wait to finish the items on their needles so they can start enjoying wearing their knitting.

The product knitter in me loves finishing - that is when everything comes together and I can finally see how my new item of clothing looks and fits. It probably also helps that hand sewing reminds me of my childhood, when I used to spend many happy hours piecing together tiny clothes for my dollhouse dolls. Hand sewing for me is play, not drudgery.

I knit mainly to make things for me to wear (I'll admit it, I'm a thoroughly selfish knitter). And since I mostly wear skirts and dresses, I have to knit skirts and dresses. You have to be a product knitter to even consider knitting dresses. They must be the most boring item to knit ever, involving miles and miles of stockinette. Yet I went ahead and knit two dresses this year. I started one in alpaca early this spring, and then when it was time to set aside winter fibers I immediately started another one in hemp.

I finished the hemp one and blogged about it back in June. I picked up the alpaca again in September and finally finished a few days ago. The pattern is Still Light Tunic by Veera Välimäki - knit from the top down, it has a fitted raglan top with pockets tucked into folds on the front. The pattern is well written and the styling is ingenious and flattering.

Like all good patterns, this one includes a schematic

I knit my Still Light in the yarn the pattern calls for - Drops alpaca - a very affordable Norwegian yarn available in a brilliant range of colours. I get mine from Scandinavian Knitting Design. The yarn has recently gone up from £2.99 to £3.15 for a 50g ball, but even with today's prices this dress used less than £30 worth of yarn. Personally, I see no reason why knitted items should cost less than store bought - but it doesn't hurt.

I chose teal, to match a button I bought at La Droguerie in Paris.

All told, it probably only took me a couple of months of knitting, with a long summer hiatus in between start and finish. The worst part (as always) was the sleeves. I absolutely hate knitting sleeves. They are usually the last part of a garment to be knit, and by the time I get to them I am thoroughly fed up with the project and just want to be done already. I was slightly tempted to leave the dress sleeveless, but it wouldn't have been very practical in alpaca, so I soldiered on.

I had to redo the cuffs several times because I didn't measure the sleeve length correctly. I did the first one too short, redid it, and then did the second one too short as well. And then, when I went to undo the second sleeve, I mixed them up and undid the first sleeve instead! D'oh! There was only one good thing about these sleeves - they are 3/4 length, so at least I didn't have to knit all the way down to my wrists.

My Northern Light

But oh, the joy when everything was done, the project was blocked, and I could admire my brand new dress. I wish I could have worn it immediately, but it is still too cosy for this time of year. I probably won't be able to resist wearing it to Yarn School in Glasgow this weekend. It's cold and wet up north, and with any luck the venue (quite appropriately a church designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh) will be suitably drafty.