Thursday, 26 July 2012

baby surprise : hand-made vs hand-crafted

baby surprise jacket, open
I have been knitting for almost 10 years now and have noticed that over time my tastes have changed.
At first I threw myself into projects head first - anything I thought of I would fearlessly set about designing and (attempting) to make. I learned any necessary skills on the way. I basically wanted own and wear exactly what I wanted.

My knitting skills developed a lot and I eventually became a competent knitter. I had occasional successes but mainly I produced little that was wearable/usable.

Everything looked 'hand-made' in the worst possible way.

Over time my desire for unique and self-made garments moved to a passion for knitting from vintage patterns. Tiny stitches in fine yarns appealed. Maybe this was a subconscious desire to distance myself from my hand-made first knits.

I had more successes, but many projects still lie unfinished. I learnt more and more advanced techniques and tricks to recreate garments from a time when hand-knitting was a common way to acquire a special item of clothing rather than the consumer driven fashion of today.

However, when I first became pregnant I no longer had the motivation, time nor energy for knitting complicated adult-sized garments. Nor did I have the time to care for delicate hand-knits. Also my ever-increasing baby-bump meant I may not fit into anything I did manage to complete.

Fortunately I now had an extremely important, very small, and as yet unborn person whom I wanted to shower with my knitting affection and so developed my appreciation for the knitting patterns of Elizabeth Zimmerman.

I now have two small boys and have made many of Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jackets and the accompanying booties and hats. I have not yet tired of them. Rows and rows of cleverly increasing and decreasing garter stitch - comforting, interesting, intriguing and with a genius twist at the end when sewing it all together. For me it is the perfect knitting project when heavily pregnant.
baby surprise jacket, closed but no buttons

Elizabeth Zimmerman's patterns were created not just with the end result in mind, but also with thought to the enjoyment of the process of knitting itself. This suits me well when I have few precious moments to knit and want to make the most of this time.

Zimmerman designed as a knitter, for a knitter. Her work embraces the process of the craft itself. The resulting finished garments looks exquisitely 'hand-crafted', as opposed to the rough-and-ready 'hand-made' of my first forays into knitting.

I never did quite finish this jacket for my son who took me by surprise when he arrived a week early. Despite the best of intentions I never got round to sewing on the buttons. Instead I am left with two rows of button holes due to Elizabeth Zimmerman's genius instructions to make holes on either side of the jacket and sew the buttons over the holes once baby is born (and its sex is known) neatly ensuring the holes and buttons are properly aligned with minimum effort.
baby surprise jacket, with baby

It is just this sort of detail which makes Zimmerman's patterns such a pleasure to create.

Monday, 16 July 2012

the story so far

So much has changed since I last posted that when I decided to return to blogging I planned to set up a brand new blog. However when I looked back I wanted to keep some continuity with what I had written in the past. So I decided on a compromise - change the name, keep the content and see what happens. With this in mind, here is a brief synopsis of what I have been doing these past few years...

I am now the mother of two small boys and am coming to the end of my second maternity leave. Sadly, despite having my research proposal accepted, I was unable to enrol onto a PhD studying online craft communities as planned.

At the time I was due to enrol on the PhD I was in hospital with my eldest (and as then my only) son who was having a major operation for a congenital heart condition from which he had a somewhat difficult recovery. Being there for him was more important than anything else in my world and so I put the degree on hold.

Since then I have had another son and it feels like it is only now, over two years since, that I am starting to get sufficient time and space to afford myself the luxury of thinking for thinking's sake. And hence my return to blogging.

For me the events of the last few years have cast new light on the themes of this blog - 'creation' and 'creativity' have taken on a new perspective after having children, which are without a doubt the most wonderful and magical creations I have ever, and will ever, create.

My thoughts of gender have been challenged by the prospect of raising two boys in house where every one else, even our pets, are male. Additionally I have experienced first hand how online communities can offer support, comfort and understanding through trying times.

I have found my relationship with craft has also changed. What, why and how I make have been affected by time constraints and my new-found pragmatism that came with motherhood. Possibly related to this my taste have shifted towards more simple, minimal, 'hand-crafted' designs.

I'm now blogging in a much richer environment, with many others discussing similar themes. Particularly inspiring is the work of David Gauntlett from Westminster University and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded Digital Transformstions project.

With this blog my aims are relatively simple: I intend to blog about once a week and to blog about a wide variety of things relating to craft, digital and community. Other than this I have no specific outcomes in mind other than to see where these thoughts take me...