One pattern. Two knitters. Three balls of yarn. How could the results be so different?
If Poirot were a knitter (you just know he would make heirloom shawls), even he would puzzle at this. It is the eternal mystery of knitting that even with the same materials (indeed even with the exact same needles), two knitters will produce subtly different work. Some of us knit tighter, some of us knit looser, some of us closely follow a pattern and some of us purposely go off-pattern and run into the woods screaming “They will never take me alive!”
It all started innocently enough. As readers of our blog will know, both my sister (KnitWit) and I (LouBug) spotted the Oliver Fox Pillow pattern in our latest copy of Let’s Knit magazine. Old habits die hard, and despite both of us now being proper grown-ups (we have mortgages and everything!), we both decided to make it…but in a competitive way. Yes, competitive in that special way that only siblings can manage – the one where you both end up being 9-years-old again.
Being the youngest and more sensible sister, I sourced the yarn (which we were able to split between us). I loved the idea of a Knit-Off, largely because my sister is very competitive and likes to win, but actually had little chance of winning. I have been knitting for a clear decade longer and I quietly decided to wipe the floor with her. See, I told you – back to being at school.
I did feel a bit mean (for a whole minute) that I was able to knit two in the time she took to knit about a half of one, but I felt genuinely sorry for the fact that despite the colour-work going surprisingly well for a novice, her foxy delight looked decidedly…off.
KnitWit was not a happy bunny when she put her one next to mine, in a brief (yet touching) reunion of all three fox pillows. Perhaps the kind of bunny that was, well, faced with a “skulk” of foxes. “Why so teeny?!” she whined. Yes, weirdly her one did look a little bijou compared to mine.
It clearly isn’t nice being proud of a new skill and then realising that someone else has done much better. I suppose I was lucky, when I was honing my knitting skills I didn’t really have anyone to compare my efforts to, much like a beast left to evolve on the Galapagos Islands free from predator pressure. KnitWit’s knitting was actually very good, but the finishing up somewhat let the side down spoiling an otherwise great bit of intarsia. So, being a gracious winner, I put on my (knitted) thinking cap and decided to diagnose some of KnitWit’s pillow problems.
So, Diagnosis Foxy began in earnest. Pass the mortar board dear sister, my ‘professional-looking finish’ knowledge is poised and I am ready to “Pass It On”:
1: Block it
I was knitting for years before I realised the massive difference blocking can make. This is the reason that my pillow is bigger and less saggy than KnitWit’s one. By stretching it out, wetting it, stretching it some more and leaving it to dry, you help the stitches to settle and even out. It also helps to even out the colour-work joins and neaten up the edges and ear points. Yes it is tedious and yes you do have to be patient and wait a day before sewing up. But unpick it, dampen it (plant sprays work well) and pin it out. After a couple of hours, shape, damp and re-stretch it (at least twice).
Novice KnitWit is more than capable of this feat of knitting prowess, now that she has moved on from using drawing pins (thanks largely to a horrified mother-in-law swiftly purchasing proper pins, as one might offer a food parcel to the needy).
2: Seam it properly
Even Mr KnitWit commented on your interesting approach to making up knit pieces. It isn’t fabric, and turning it inside out and stitching it together with big woolly stitches adds bulk to the join. For my pillows I crocheted the pieces together (which also created a pleasing piped edge), but failing that, mattress stitch is your new friend. Done well it will magically disappear and look like it was knitted in the round.
I can imagine KnitWit’s response to my request for her to un-pick her hard work – unprintable on this blog, of course.
3: Buy a pillow pad
I am all for recycling old bed pillows for stuffing, but for this type of project you need the shaping that a properly made pillow pad has. This will avoid the (frankly weird) lumps that KnitWit’s fox pillow had. The pillow pad also has the advantage of having a white fabric case which helps the colours shine out and avoids wispy leaky threads.
Having said that, it was only for the saving grace of KnitWit’s mother-in-law donating pillow stuffing that saved her fox pillow from being stuffed with old socks, or left-over yarn…
I hope that this advice has been useful – advice gleaned from experience and from my wonderful Knit Club friends over the years. Just a few finishing-up pointers can make all the difference, allowing a knitting project to be rightfully and proudly displayed – and not hidden!
Please feel free to take this advice and “Pass it On”!
This blog entry is my submission to the Deramores Blog Awards 2014. Deramores is the UK’s number one online retailer of knitting and crochet supplies.