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Knitter in the hood : Kaaren

Knitter in the hood Collage Kaaren

Hello Kaaren

Your knitting has become a regular feature on our stories. We love your project choices, a mix of stylish classics and fun bold colour explorations. I think retirement has been wonderful for your knitting output. Would you agree?
LOL! Yes, absolutely. A few weeks after leaving full-time work, I had to create a new online profile for my retirement life, and I realised that my occupation now was “Knitter”. When I was working, I could complete a few projects each year. Now that I have so much more time for myself, I can finish a sweater in one to two weeks, depending on the complexity.

You have 49 projects on your Ravelry page, the first was the Carrowkeel Poloneck jumper in 2017. I remember this sweater well 😉 What is it about knitting that keeps your attention?
At the heart of it, I love doing something creative, I need that in my life to feel satisfied. Starting with some yarn, and then with your own hands turning that into a garment - it’s such a great feeling, from starting out with the idea, then seeing your project emerge right through to having the completed item in front of you, ready to wear or use. Somehow, wearing something that you’ve created yourself feels so much more special and rewarding and enjoyable than wearing something from a shop. I also love clothes and fashion, so knitting is a great excuse to indulge in adding to my wardrobe, and it’s also good excuse to just be thinking about clothes and fashion trends. I also enjoy the physical rhythm of knitting, and playing with different stitches and constructions. With each new project, I usually try to learn at least one new technique, there is so much to try out and discover. Plus, I love the warmth, support and camaraderie of the knitting community, both in our local community and also online.

Knitter in the hood Collage Kaaren

Saturday Night Sweater & Cumulus Top by PetiteKnit

How has the internet and social media influenced your knitting journey?
Getting onto Ravelry early on when I was starting out has been a really big help to me, to discover different styles that I like, to find patterns to use, to find out about different yarns. And then I learnt how to organize my Ravelry account, to keep track of my projects, and to save my favourites, put patterns into my library and play around with a queue of projects that I have in mind for the near future – that’s lots of fun, and suddenly hours have gone by without me even noticing!

Over the last year since I retired, I’ve got into Instagram as a way to follow knitting trends, find patterns and follow some favourite knitters and knitting designers – I mainly follow a small group of Danish knitters – their style is simple, well-constructed classics with a modern twist, very much like all good Danish design. I also now have my own knitting account on Instagram (@kpismyname) and it’s fun to update it every few days with progress on my latest project, and to share great knitting ideas that I come across on other people’s accounts.

I’ve loved your stash busting projects during lockdowns. Is that part of a considered and thoughtful approach to using the materials you have on hand? Maybe a bit Marie Kondo! Tell us do you stash/hoard/curate or only purchase with a project in mind?
Haha! My stash busting during lockdown came about because a) I don’t have very much storage space, so I needed to cut down on the amount of yarn that I had stored, b) because I was sick of having bits of yarn hanging around that were not quite enough for one project, and c) to be able to afford to keep knitting! I made a deal with myself that I would not buy any more yarn until I had busted most of the stash that had built up. I’m not a yarn hoarder, I generally only buy yarn for very specific projects that I have planned, and I usually only plan only two or three projects ahead at the most. So, I don’t have an enormous stash, it’s mainly leftovers from previous projects, but after a few years of knitting there were quite a few leftovers, and I also had a few bundles from projects that I had planned but had then ditched. The stash busting was also a fun challenge, because making something from what you already have can encourage you to be more creative, and try something new or different.

    
Cardigan No.3 by My Favourite Things

Process or product knitter? Where do you fall on the continuum?
Both, I like to combine both process and product in each new project. As I said, with each new project, I usually try to learn at least one new technique, stitch, construction, or product type, sometimes all at once - there is so much to try out and discover. And I like trying our new types of products. That keeps knitting fresh and always engaging. My favourite project is always a sweater, but I recently had lots of fun making balaclavas. (I’m not sure if I will ever get to wear the one that I made for myself, but I was able to give to other one to a niece in Scotland). However, I do not knit shawls. I don’t wear them, so I can’t see the point in me making one - unless someone asks me for one, I guess.

    
Balaclava Patterns by PetiteKnit & My Favourite Things. Cardiff Gloves by Anna Zhuravleva

How many WIPs do you have? A different project for different knit occasions??
I’m generally a very monogamous knitter (i.e., only one project at a time), except if I run out of yarn and have to wait for more to arrive! I like to really immerse myself into the feel of one project, and so I find it difficult to switch. Plus, I am always very driven to finish the project!

Guilt free or guilty pleasure? Do you have a favourite time and place to knit?  Do you have something on the side while knitting? Audio books, podcasts, Netflix, coffee…
Oh, totally guilt free -knitting is now my main occupation. I’m lucky that I can do this, as I live by myself, and I’m retired, so I have a lot of say in what I do with my time. But I did start knitting so that I had something to do while I was watching sport on tv (that’s my guilty pleasure!). Now the knitting has totally taken over the sports watching, and I sometimes have sport on in the background while I knit, but I often forget to watch the tv. I can’t knit while I watch anything that I have to concentrate on, like a drama - I make too many mistakes in my knitting. I usually knit at home, in a leather armchair in my living room that’s my devoted knitting chair, but sometimes on a sunny day I take my knitting for a walk to a local park, along with a bit of a picnic in the basket, and some music or a podcast on my phone to listen to. I also LOVE knitting together with others at the Cast Off Collective Crafternoons and Black Purl nights, I really hope that we can do these again sometime soon.


Aros & April by PetiteKnit

Who are you knitting for? yourself, family, friends, charities, gift… 
My poor family, they all pretty much know now that they’re going to get something knitted for their birthday and at Christmas. But they don’t seem to mind. So it’s usually one for me, then one for family or friends, then one for me, one for them, etc. etc.

What’s on your needles at the moment? Any tips for knitting through a Sydney summer?
I’ve just finished a little camisole for myself, knitted in pure linen (using Katia Yarns Lino, from Cast Off Collective!) And I’m so happy with it. When I started with the linen yarn, I was very uncertain if it was going to work out, it seemed very stiff and hard, but it’s totally softened during the knitting process, and the finished fabric is so soft, silky and light, and feels so luxurious against my skin – I think it will be perfect for the hot summer days that are still to come. So I’m now thinking about a collared short-sleeved shirt in linen.

Apart from using summer yarns like cotton, silk and linen, I’ve recently done a few smaller projects in wool, like gloves and hats which have been good summer knitting because they are light and aren’t too bulky, so don’t make you hot while you’re knitting.


Cumulus Top by PetiteKnit
Do you have a favourite yarn/fibre? What about colours?
I think the yarns that I enjoy the most are those that combine different fibres, such as a mix of merino, mohair and cotton or silk, or yak, or alpaca - they seem to have the best bounce and you get the best of each fibre. I have also recently started holding two or more fibres together to make up my own combinations – another fun way to discover and create new textures and also get a great depth of colours. If you look at my knitting accounts, it looks like there’s a lot of cream and browns, mixed in with some blues and a bit of pink. But I’ve recently started using and wearing some plain bold bright colours, which seem to bring out the best on my silver/grey hair.

As an experienced knitter do you have some words of wisdom or top tips for improving your game?
I think, the most important thing is to just go at your own pace, and do what feels good for you. If you want to try something new or different, go for it! If not, don’t worry, just stick with what you like. If you want to know how to do something, it’s so easy to look it up on the internet, there’s a plethora of really good videos where you can learn anything you want to do. Also, don’t be afraid to give it a go, if you just follow the steps, and be prepared to have a few goes at something before you get it right, then you’ll be surprised what you can do. And now I never expect anything to be perfect. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be handmade, that’s what makes it special.

    
Honey Bucket Bag, April Cardigan and Cumulus Top by PetiteKnit

Proudest knit moment?
That’s a really difficult question to answer. That’s a bit like being asked to choose a favourite child.

Of course, finishing my first sweater, with the much-needed and appreciated support and guidance of Cast Off Collective, was definitely a very proud feeling, I really could hardly believe that I’d done it, and without too much pain. I’m also pleased now that I had the guts earlier this year to start my own knitting account on Instagram, and to come out as a knitter. Before that I think I was a bit shy and embarrassed about being so devoted to knitting, but I feel better now that I’m out and proud about it. (It was also so that I didn’t bore all my non-knitting friends with endless knitting content!). As for a project that I’m most proud of, it might be my stash-busting Cardigan No. 3, for which I combined some leftover merino 4 ply, with lots of different colours I had left over in cotton/ cashmere plus some WATG Glitterball that I’d bought for socks that had never eventuated. I also went over the top with the puffiest short sleeves, so it’s made a very unique garment that I’m always very proud to wear.


Cardigan No.3 by My Favourite Things

What’s next? Where are you finding inspiration? A favourite designer or knitter that you are crushing on?
I’m pretty much hooked on the designs of two Danish designers, PetiteKnit and My Favourite Things. So my next project is PetiteKnit’s Jenny Cardigan, which is in smocking stitch all over – a new stich for me, and I’m doing it in a bright green merino held with matching mohair –adding in mohair is another of my current favourites. After that I’ve got some fabulous yarn from the UK maker We Are Knitters in a gorgeous multi-coloured pastel shade called Yarnicorn, which will also be a cardigan for me (since retiring I have discovered that the cardigan is very useful living at home garment), then I’ve got a list of garments for the family birthdays throughout the year. And somewhere in there I’d love to make a chunky jumper with big cables and big big tassels, which looks to be all the go in Europe at the moment, where the trend of structured knitting (using bands of multiple different stitch types) has taken off.

Where can we find you on a Saturday morning?
After an early morning walk with a friend at Manly Beach, or maybe even a swim, I’ll usually stay local, definitely having a coffee, probably at Aggy’s Corner. Then I love to drop in to Cast Off Collective just to say hullo to Wendy, or I might take the bus into the city if I need to shop for yarn or tools at Morris & Sons.

Top local tip for people visiting the northern beaches?
Apart from making a trip to Cast Off Collective, and collecting some amazing cheese next door at Cheese on Wheels? I recommend that you come on the ferry (please don’t bring your car, there’s too much traffic already!), and there’s no need to bother with dressing up, that way you’ll blend in better with the locals.

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?
That’s easy. Definitely Scandinavia, probably Copenhagen, or somewhere in Denmark. It’s just so so beautiful, I love the climate, the food, the people, the countryside, the architecture, the furniture, the design, and definitely the knitting – they are very keen on knitting! And they are so kind, gentle and well-mannered, stylish, and so cultured and civilized.

Wow, thank you Kaaren for sharing so generously about your knitting journey. Of course you would be perfectly suited to living in Denmark!

Follow Kaaren on instagram @kpismyname and Ravelry at KaarenHaas



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