I was taught to knit by my mum when I was about 5 years old using teeny wee needles. Then at about the age of 7 we had to knit a tea cosy at school, a truly hideous thing. The boys did raffia work while the girls knitted.
In the 1970s there was quite a resurgence in craft work, it was all a bit hippy-ish I suppose. So knitting really took off again and I got right into the pointy sticks and became quite proficient at it.
My pride and joy was the Fair Isle jumper which I knitted for my husband around 1980 and it is still going strong after all these years of careful washing.
Fair Isle Jumper
So as you can see I wasn’t bad at knitting and the wool wasn’t too expensive then so I did quite a lot of it even although we were pretty skint (poor) back then.
Later on in the 80’s, the boys arrived with just 19 months in between them and as you can imagine there was quite a fair amount of cot blanket, bootees and matinee jacket knitting going on. Certainly for the first baby anyway – then a strange thing happened and my brain seemed to be – well I can only describe it as being ‘hijacked’, and suddenly I couldn’t concentrate on anything much beyond feeds and nappies. Our first boy hardly slept at all which didn’t help matters.
So boy number 2 hardly got anything knitted for him and the matinee jacket which I did manage is a very much plainer effort than his brother’s.
After that I just gave up for a long time and have only recently picked up the needles again, but I was really shocked to see how much knitting wool had gone up in price. I can understand that there are a lot of processes that a sheep fleece has to go through before you get to a ball of wool, but I know for a fact that the sheep farmers are getting pennies for the fleeces. It seems such a shame when they have all the hard work and worry of the sheep. In fact the farmers are being fleeced.
So what with me trying to tidy things up in the house and get rid of stuff or use it up in some way, I decided to knit with the left over bits of wool which have accumulated in various work baskets over the years. And as I’m trying to knit my way back up to Fair Isle and Aran standard again I decided to start back at the beginning with squares with a slight difference, just to make them a bit more interesting.
These knitted shapes are actually described as “shells” and I found the pattern instructions in a 1940s knitting book called Modern Knitting Illustrated, which has patterns for everything that the well dressed war time person needed. Including knitted knickers (very itchy I imagine).
Use a size of needles which suits the left-over wool which you have and cast on 41 stitches and knit about 8 rows in garter stitch. Still working in garter stitch, knit 2 stitches together each side of the middle stitch, which you should mark to make life easier for you. I slip a safety pin onto the middle stitch which you can pull on to help you decide when you should be knitting 2 together. Knit the next row straight and continue in this way, decreasing in the middle of each alternate row until 3 stitches remain. Knit these 3 stitches together and fasten off.
The shells can then be sewn together to form a pattern or just randomly and it is more decorative than just plain squares.