If you hadn’t gathered from my incessant mentioning of handmade items on Instagram, I will take absolutely any opportunity to talk about crafty things. Making your own clothes, especially. To the point where I’m probably a bit of a broken record these days, but hey, I made another top! And I like it lots! So shall use this opportunity to bring up the topic again. You see, this knitter has been beavering away with the needles lately, and would very much like to convince as many unsuspecting readers as possible to do the same.
Knitting and designing (crocheting and sewing from time to time) has always been my ~thing~, but in a few different ways. Only to be expected when a hobby spans well over half your 21 year life I guess! What started as a 9 year old’s project to work on after school, has continued through my teens and become an important part of my life. I rambled about how I was always destined to make things already here. To give you an idea of how my style and knitterly tastes have evolved and where I plan to go with this crafty lark in the future, I thought I’d first head on a thoroughly self-indulgent trip down memory lane.
Picture this: a very tall, very gangly, 11 year old who sometimes likes to play man hunt after school and sometimes likes to sit and knit her own clothes. She’s recently had her hair chopped into what feels like a very sophisticated bob that pokes out weirdly under the horse riding hat she wears nearly every day (to ride a horse, I must add – not just for shits and giggles), and would like to make herself some equally ~sophisticated~ clothes. However, being of child width and adult height with body shape most definitely ‘beanpole’, patterns that fit weren’t easy to come by so she made up her own instead. Primary evidence from the time right here – her mum blogged all about it back in the day and she had amazing support and encouragement from 2009 blog readers.
Shall stop talking about myself in the third person now.
The main thing that’s fascinated me with knitting since making my very first pair of socks is the ability to create 3D shapes using yarn and needles. Literally turning a corner, in the case of socks, and subtle shaping techniques that I use to make a garment fit a body just so. Coniston – the stripe top mentioned above – being the first of many examples. Super fitted, kinda preppy looks were my thing (and still are to an extent).
Then came the days where I was fascinated by clever ‘knitterly’ details and including elements that would make knitters wonder how on Earth it was done. 13 year old me got my kicks in unusual ways, you see. Clever hemming techniques, nifty ways of making pleats and layers, seamless set in sleeves – all unnoticeable to the non-knitter (kind of the whole point, what with being seamless and all) but satisfying for knitters to… knit. Clever detail with no real relation to high street fashion, because my taste had no real relation to high street fashion, and I was designing patterns that I a) enjoyed making, and b) hoped would appeal to other knitters. Earning money without leaving the house was of course an added advantage. It’s weird to look back and see that for a young teenager, I had a pretty damn good business going, and was making a decent amount of money doing something I loved. Very lucky.
Along came GCSEs, with textiles being an obvious choice. But why take on an easy project when you could make a skin tight, made to measure, lace and cable detailed skirt with hand embroidered matching top eh? I never have been one to choose the easy option. Bloody loved how it turned out though and the skirt I made (and received an A* for, thankfully after so much work) is probably the item I’m most proud of to this date.
During school holidays I still made some simple clothes, but just didn’t bother writing up and selling the patterns this time around. Some of those items turned out to be my favourites that I wear to this day – by this point I’d acquired the ‘still tall but a bit more shapely’ figure that I have today, and I’ll be damned if my knits aren’t well made enough to take a lot of wear.
Following GCSEs I naturally started A level textiles (alongside Maths, Physics and History – standard combination), which pushed me to be far more creative and make wacky arty pieces rather than anything remotely useful. I still found a way to work knitting and crochet in there whenever possible though and enjoyed the challenges, even if I felt like I spent every waking moment on those damned project books. A levels left me with limited crafty time for personal crafty endeavours so I basically made a few crochet bralets and that’s it. Shameful!
Fast forward a couple of years of making a few projects every now and then, and here I am, still knitting and loving it. What I’m also loving is seeing more and more people happy to pay for handmade items or learn to knit. The success of those Ganni sweaters shows you that! Once you realise how simple they are to make you’ll never be able to bring yourself to buy one though. The success of ‘Instagram’ handknit brands selling statement oversized cardigans has made handmade more mainstream (try saying that quickly), and I couldn’t be happier. Well, I could, and that’s because I know that if I’d titled a blog post ‘where to find Ganni knits for less’, it’d probably see far more click throughs than one with ‘handknit’ in the title. And the point I’m trying to make there isn’t bemoaning a lack of page views, but wishing more people weren’t put off by the idea of a bit of DIY.
I’d hope that you wouldn’t see photos of this rather vibrant knit and think ‘gah that looks naff and homemade’ (if you do, kindly keep thoughts to yourself). I’d hope you’d think more along the lines of ‘cute top, I’d buy that in Zara’, or even better ‘cute top, I wonder what shaping technique she used for that drawstring neck?’, but I won’t be fussy. Personally I’m rather happy with how it turned out and being 100% silk it feels delightful to wear, too. Not exactly like my original sketch but hey ho! Half the time designs turn out completely different to how I originally plan anyway, which was definitely the case for this one. My overflowing Pinterest boards are full of silky cowl necks, and I thought this 100% silk would make a drapey enough fabric for a nice cowl but nope, did not work. Looked very odd when I tried it on. 5 mins of faffing later and I decided to make it a high necked thingymabob with a drawstring instead, and I rather like the outcome.
In case you can’t tell from these photos I’m quite liking using less texture, more colour these days; I don’t think I could’ve picked a bolder combo if I tried with this one. We have lots of yarn on the shelves at home that we bought just because we liked the colour, with no idea of what to make with it, which has left us with a load of impractical quantities of yarn in every shade of the rainbow. So ‘tis about time I picked out some clashy combos and made them into something jazzy – Exhibit A right here. Might not be ~the~ most versatile item but it’s more wearable than 2 skeins of yarn on a shelf. Plan from here on out is to make as many fun items as everyday simple ones, you see. On the one hand it can seem like a waste of time making a simple sweater that you could easily buy, and on the other hand it seems sensible to invest time in making items that you’ll actually wear on a regular basis, so my intention is to just make a bit of both. Steering away from the fitted complex knits and making cleaner, simpler pieces most likely. Maybe following current trends a little more than I used to. Knitting wise there are potential projects and collaborations that I can’t say much about yet but either way, expect to see lots more around these parts. My sketchbooks are reopened, needles are at the ready and I’m more motivated than ever to make make make.
TL;DR: knitting needn’t be daunting, you can make cool things, it’s not for grannies, and y’all should have a go with a pair of needles.
Trousers are from PrettyLittleThing a couple of years ago… yarn is hand-dyed 100% silk from Knitwitches which appears to no longer have a website… ‘studio’ is the dining room with the table and chairs pushed to one end… and ‘photographer’ is a good old tripod and app combo. A thorough DIY job, this one!
Lily Kate x