top-down jumpers

When I knit, I am impatient, messy and passionate. I want to try my clothes on frequently as I knit them to check the progress and perhaps to reassure myself because I am not a confident knitter yet. Unfortunately traditional jumper construction – from the bottom edge up to the neckline does not allow me to try and adjust things, instead it leaves me with bits of the garment. Somehow I am supposed to just fill in the missing parts and imagine how it will all fit together in harmony.

Hm.. not sure about this…



It is frustrating..

I’ve been knitting Kate Davies’ Warriston jumper for several weeks now using Wendy Traditional Aran Yarn which my mother-in-law gave me last Christmas. It’s a sturdy lovely yarn and I love the pattern too. I had to use different size needles though to achieve the correct gauge. And really for me the gauge is a constant source of anxiety because, like I said, I am a messy knitter. I want to say that I’ve been enjoying knitting Warriston, but I can’t and this isn’t any fault of Kate’s. It’s just knitting a jumper from the bottom edge up to the neck seems illogical and unintuitive to me.

This is possibly because when I decided to learn to knit jumpers I bought a brilliant book by Barbara G. Walker called Knitting from the TopIf you are thinking of designing your own knitwear someday this book is inspiring and empowering. Walker takes you through the process of designing knitwear that actually fits. Top-down construction allows you to try your garment on at any moment and to make the necessary adjustments as you go along. You can, if you like adjust garment’s length, include shaping where necessary, or correct mistakes. Top-down construction makes knitting flexible, it allows you to play with the garment – it gives you freedom that bottom-up construction method does not. Knitting from the bottom up gives you one chance at making the garment that works.

There are many amazing knitters who have embraced knitting from the top – like Karen Templer from Fringe Association who wrote several blog posts on how to design a raglan pullover. And Ann Budd’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters is an amazing source of information for a budding designer.

But I feel that top-down construction is still something unorthodox, slightly odd, maybe even embarrassing because it is untraditional. Is it because there is a myth that knitting from the top is difficult?

To me, there is something so lovely about slowly adding to the whole jumper, seeing it grow and take shape. It seems so much more intuitive and natural than having a garment in bits and pieces that need to be put together. But for now I will continue knitting my Warriston and needles crossed it’ll fit me in the end.



new beginnings



This time two years ago we packed our belongings, our books, and our tools and moved to the west of Ireland in search of a new life. There were no concrete plans, no connections, no jobs, just a sense of adventure and hopes, and a feeling that we might be just lucky. And we were. We were cradled with warmth and showered with love, we found our dream jobs, met fantastic people and created community around us. In short, Ireland has become our home.

I feel that by applying for a license to take a sparrowhawk from the wild we have committed ourselves to this land. Searching for this illusive raptor has given me reasons to roam around places where I would have not ventured otherwise. When I walk around the woods, I am not just strolling, not just passing by, I am really looking. Looking at each tree, the moss, the bumps and the ivy on the tree trunk, the ground and the rocks around it for signs and clues… I become a wild raptor, I think like a sparrowhawk.

Landscapes become meaningful when you are searching for something. A falconer standing on a remote bog watching her falcon above is intimately connected to the landscape. The bog becomes alive. She can read its signs, the place has a meaning. And beauty.

So to celebrate our connection to Ireland, we’ve started a podcast about falconry called Wild Take. It’ll be mostly about our adventures in falconry and, if we get a license to take a wild sparrowhawk, about us training it and hunting with the bird this summer. This is our first attempt in the podcast world and we are really excited which you’ll probably detect if you listen to the trailer here. You can subscribe to future episodes on iTunes and on Podcast addict.

Meanwhile here is me with my new toy —  a wool winder! This wool is being turned into a Warriston jumper. Yes, a sturdy wooly item is absolutely a must for our cold and wet summers here.