We’ve reached that post-summer pre-autumn jitter that can’t decide whether to roast us, freeze us, soak us, drop spheres of ice on our heads, or blow us over – so it swings wildly between all of these things. Permacultural food-grower Liz Zorab refers to this sub-season as The Pause, which describes it admirably, in my arrogant opinion. (Actually we’ve moved past that stage into proper-autumn if I’m honest, but it takes me so long to finish drafting a blog post that I’ll probably be scraping ice off the keyboard by the time you read these words.)
The Pause is an oddball time of year, and if the weather can’t make up its mind then neither can I. Should I bring logs inside for the fire, rip out the fading remnants of summer food crops, and finally finish knitting the Stoic Spouse’s first ever jumper? Or should I make ice cubes using edible flowers ready for evening drinkies on the patio, crochet a cotton vest top, and hunt for butterflies? It’s a tough one.
Going out these days involves donning sunglasses, raincoat, sandals, woolly hat, suncream, windproof trousers, and some properly woolly socks. And even all this will be somehow wrong, because the universe will invent a new weather phenomenon for the morning walk to school: “Oh look, Twinnage, millions of hamsters are falling from the sky. We absolutely do not have any wardrobe options to protect us from this, so you’ll just have to run.” But hey, we’re knitters and hookers so we can improvise something, right?
The book is progressing, though slower than my editor might wish. One of the projects is a bolster cushion, with ornate text worked in stranded knitting. I designed it, I made it, BUT I long ago learned not to ignore that little voice whispering “It’s not good enough.” The other designs completed thus far are – dare I show my arrogance yet again – not too shabby, but this one just isn’t good enough. It’s not terrible, but if you’re ever leafing through the book post-publication, I don’t want to be thinking “Man, I hope s/he doesn’t notice page 37.”
So I’ve bitten the bullet (not literally – I don’t want to break my teeth) and I’m remaking the thing, smaller and cooler and with yarn that’s better-suited to the project (Stylecraft Special, in case you’re curious). Here we get to the tricky bit. For obvious reasons, I can’t show you the actual thing, OR the chart of the actual stranded motifs, OR even play you a recording of the truly creative obscenities I’ve snarled as I grappled with creating this object. But there is one thing I can show you. I’ve got a bold colour palette in mind, so I needed to swatch, to test out all sorts of questions and hypotheses in my mind. So I knitted a micro-bolster with an utterly random swirling pattern in place of the actual text on the actual bolster, so that I could answer questions such as:-
- Should I stick to just cream as a contrast colour? (Yes.)
- Is there sufficient contrast between paler shades and cream, especially for parts of the motif that are only one stitch wide? (Barely. Consider minimising their use.)
- Would I like a second glass of wine? (Most definitely, yes.)
- Do any of the paler colours in the palette play nicely together? (Not really. Avoid if possible.)
- Was Brexit a terrible idea? (Of course it was, and how could it ever have been otherwise?)
And on the basis of all that, I wrote a set of ‘rules’ for designing the stripes, as photographed below. Please don’t be alarmed by the diagram at the top that looks as though I was summoning a demon. That said, if I could summon a demon to resolve my knitting/crochet quandaries, I’d have ZERO hesitation in doing so.
I think I’m getting there. The new version is much much better. I just want to be able to think – as you flick through the completed book – “Ooh, I hope s/he notices page 37”. And I’m sorry that I cannot yet show my progress to you lovely yarny lot.
But yeah, I mentioned distractions that come between me and a completed manuscript. There are many, of course. The problem is that real life keeps running across my field of vision, stark-naked, waving its arms aloft and yelling “WA-HEY, LOOK AT MEEEEEEEEEEE!” We’ve had the Twinnage’s 11th birthday, and the pressure of figuring out where to apply as they face the prospect of moving up from primary to secondary school next September.
The quantity of food that’s still coming in from the garden is a happy distraction, too. The other day, I harvested 14 kg (31 lbs) of dessert grapes, and they are delicious, despite the rather ropey summer we’ve had this year.
I patiently obeyed the instructions not to let any grapes develop past infancy for the first three years after planting the vine, but this year I was finally allowed to Go For It. We’ve given away a lot of grapes to friends… which has had NO NOTICEABLE IMPACT WHATSOEVER on the volume of fruit still occupying the freezer. Celery and pears and apples and patty pan squash and black Spanish radish and carrots and lettuce and fennel are also in abundance right now, and – once a frost has blessed them with sweetness – we’ll begin harvesting the Brussels sprouts and parsnips and celeriac – three of my very favourite vegetables. As I’ve said before, growing all this food has been a coping strategy through cancer, covid, and Brexit, and I’m not about to stop now that the world seems to be getting even crazier.
I’m not about to stop knitting either, so a first draft of the book will, I hope, be ready pretty soon.
In the meantime, may your yarnery prove beautiful and may you never drop a stitch.