the stitched journal project

Eager as I was to join the Stitched Journal project, I desperately needed a focus. It’s all very well using it to learn new stiches, but I wanted something to make the project cohesive. I thought a diary theme would work well with each piece reflecting the month, so I found some grey wool to represent a wet and overcast February and sat down with my Book of Stitches. To be truthful, it was a little depressing knitting with grey wool as the rain lashed down on the window and my mind wandered.

It occurred to me, as the wool slipped through my fingers transformed from a straight length into a knitted square of fabric, that there are many parallels between knitting and our farmed landscape. Rows of knitting rise and fall like furrowed fields while bobbles and textured patterns reflect the shapes of hedgerows. But if farming stops then the straight lines of cropped land revert to a tangled mass of scrub in the same way that a dropped ball of wool rolls away and knots into a jumbled mess. I yanked the dreary knitting from the needles, put away my grey wool and decided that my Stitched Journal project would be A Stitched Journal of the Farm.

horizontal lines on the farm

Where better to start than with horizontal lines. Farmers like straight lines. We sow seeds in straight lines, tramlines of bare earth stretch the length of the fields, our buildings are clad in wooden boards, corrugated tin or box profile cladding and wire is pulled taught between solid upright posts. Take a look across the fields and you’ll see horizontal bands of brown earth and green wheat crops that are interspersed with trees and hedges as the sky reaches down to meet them on the horizon.

landscape sketch

I sketched some ideas, searched for wool that might be something like the right colour and sat down to knit.

So, here is my Stitched Journal item for February. An Agricultural Landscape in Garter Slip Stitch*, with an extra horizontal blue band to represent all the rain that we’ve had this month. A brighter blue than the sky has been most of the month, but the closest I had in my basket of yarn “to be used up”.

slip garter stitch knitting

Agricultural Landscape

It isn’t perfect, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise. I’ve learnt that two colours in a row doesn’t mean I have to knit with two colours at once as slipping every other stitch introduces colour and a bit of texture. Garter Slip Stitch produces a firm fabric with little stretch so it would be good for pocket flaps and cuffs or (if you’re so inclined) for purses and dishcloths.

With luck March will bring a little more inspiration, perhaps of a sewing kind. I have ideas in my head, but recreating them may be a little more difficult.

Linking with Lola Nova for The Stitched Journal Project. Click the link to see all the other projects.

* Garter Slip Stitch

Cast on an odd number of stitches

1st Row Colour A: Knit
2nd Row Colour A: Knit
3rd Row Colour B: K1, *sl 1 purlwise, K1; repeat from * to end
4th Row Colour B: K1, *yf, sl 1 purlwise, yb, K1; repeat from * to end
5th Row Colour C: Knit
6th Row Colour C: Knit
7th Row Colour A: K2, *sl 1 purlwise, K1; repeat from * to last stitch, K1
8th Row Colour A: K2 *yf, sl 1 purlwise, yb, K1; repeat from * to last stitch, K1

a little light stitching

tape measure sewing thread

I’m a lazy knitter and a careless sewer. Too keen to get started on the project, I neglect the basics. Knit a swatch? Not always. When I do knit one, I carefully pin it out, find the tape measure and count the stitches. Recount the stitches. Take a vague approximation of the two. Refer back to the pattern. My tension doesn’t seem quite the same. Never mind, I’ll just knit the next size up or down. You can probably guess whether I make a muslin before starting a sewing project. No matter how many times Jane shows that this is a basic step to ensure that you understand the techniques and can adjust the pattern to your own shape, I just take the scissors to my chosen fabric and get started.  No wonder things don’t fit quite as perfectly as they could.

I enjoy knitting.  I like cutting steeks and turning the heel on a sock. I’ll happily knit with different colours, stranding the wool across the back of the work, though I’m bad at planning and just wing it on the needles, but when it comes to fancy stitches I duck out. Really, does that jumper need a cabled pattern? I convince myself it will look just fine without. A fancy cowl neck, a picot hem or lace pattern? No chance.

I start sewing projects with enthusiasm but alas, I shall never be as talented as my mother, which is why I mainly knit and don’t sew. Last summer I had a little phase of sewing. I converted an old skirt into a top with surprising success and then bought some fabric to make another top using the same pattern. I’m not sure what I managed to do, but the top came out too short, so not quite such a success. The skirt I made was alright to wear if there was nothing else clean in the wardrobe but the fabric I bought to make a dress is still unsullied by scissors and needle, neatly folded away.

This is a rather long winded way to say that I’m joining in the Stitched Journal Project. To quote Alex “It is a project to get the ideas flowing, to process the days in a creative way, to try new techniques and to push past fears that keep us from making something.  It isn’t about perfection, or getting it “just right,” it is about process and perspective.

I’m mentioning it, because I thought you might be tempted to join in too. I’m going to use it to widen my horizons; to try the things I usually ignore. Expand my knitting beyond plain rows of knit and purl, do a little creative sewing along the way, maybe some crochet or rug making. Who knows.  I’ve dragged out my “Complete Book of Needlecrafts” and “Book of Knitting Stitches”. I’ve sorted my knitting needles into pairs, my sewing machine is dusted down and I’m ready for action. I don’t suppose for one minute that I’ll actually put everything into a real journal; it will probably just get stuffed in a box. Or maybe I’ll just make it into a digital journal. Oh, how easy that is to type. I have absolutely no idea what a digital journal is.