I’ve been able to knit for as long as I can remember. I was lucky enough to learn to knit at a very young age. I also learnt to crochet. And a bit later I learnt to sew, by hand and on a sewing machine.
As a child I loved all of these activities. I did them on and off, depending on my age and what other interests I had at the time.
At one time I remember making a lot of small squares for a crocheted rug but I’m not sure if I ever sewed them all together to actually make the end product!
My first success
When I was about 12 years old someone gave me some real wool on a cone which I thought was amazingly exotic! I’d only ever had cheap synthetic stuff before that. This wool was a kind of boring beige colour, but nevertheless I decided it would be great as a scarf. I made it into a very, very long scarf.
In fact, the only reason it wasn’t longer than it was is because I got to the end of the wool and was left with a bare cone. Otherwise I think it would have been even longer. As it was it was probably at least a couple of metres long.
And I thought I was very, very cool when I wore my scarf to school! I was so proud to tell everyone that I made it myself.
I’d even made a fringe to go at each end. It was the end of the 70s and it really was a great fashion statement back then (for an 11 year old!).
I didn’t always knit a lot over the years. I was often busy with life as a young, single, working mum, and I had other things to do that were a little more energetic than knitting.
But I do remember that I knitted myself a jumper once. It was black with big stripy bands of bright colours going around it. I was about 20 years old and I stayed up nights to make it. I’d only ever knitted scarves before that, so it was the first ‘grown up’ thing I’d knitted.
Knitting in Paris – the ‘Cache Nez’
Fast forward a lot of years and I found myself living in Paris. I was there as a tourist, so I had no job to keep me busy.
A friend showed us something that his grandmother had made for his grandfather when they were young and rode motorcycles. In French it’s called a ‘cache nez’ (this would translate into something like a ‘nose hider’ in English, although I think they’re actually called ‘neck gaiters’).
But it was a little different to what people use today. It had a bib, which was joined onto the neck part, and was made for protecting the chest from the cold while riding a motorcycle.
Back in the days when the grandmother made it, there weren’t any warm synthetic clothes especially for motorcyclists like there are nowadays, and there weren’t zips either. They needed all the help they could get to block their chests from the cold wind as they rode. The cache nez, with the bib, was great protection for them.
As I had nothing much to do with my days (I’d been to Paris a lot by then and wasn’t interested in doing typical ‘tourist’ things. Plus, I didn’t have any money!), I decided to make some cache nez for my French friends. They all rode either scooters or motorcycles, and it can get pretty cold in Paris when you’re on a bike.
So, I started knitting cache nez. I made a special ‘Spiderman’ version for Olivier (as he’s a fan and collector of Spiderman things). I lined the back of the bib with black satin, which added another small layer of warmth.
I made quite a few different ones for friends. One with a pig, one with a big ‘S’ like Superman, and some other fun designs.
And I made some for Olivier’s family who used them not for motorcycles, but for when they went skiing!
And then came fingerless gloves
I really enjoyed knitting so I started to look for other things to make. After searching online I found some patterns for ‘cut-off’ fingerless gloves so I made some of them. I gave most of them away because I had no need for them all, I just enjoyed making them!
And then I was asked to make some little jumpers for some dogs. I made about 3 of them with different designs, but unfortunately I didn’t think to take any photos of them.
I spent a few months doing not much else besides knitting, and I really enjoyed it. But like all good things, it had to end because I eventually left Paris and onto other adventures in Moscow.
Knitting in Moscow
In Moscow I made some more cache nez for Olivier, but without the bib. He didn’t ride bikes in Moscow and although it was cold he didn’t really have a need for extra chest protection. He did, however, bring his Spiderman cache nez with him and wore it on the coldest days.
A year or so before I left Moscow, I decided to try knitting for profit, and made some fingerless gloves for sale. I had so much fun shopping for wool! I bought so many different colours and types of yarn, and enjoyed all the different patterns they made as I knitted the gloves.
Here are some of them:
Well, I didn’t sell anything, but I did make a lot of friends happy when I gave them my gloves just before leaving Russia last year!
Knitting in Bulgaria
When we arrived in Bulgaria, I decided to make some more fingerless gloves because I knew that it would start to get cold, and this time I made them for Olivier and me.
So I bought knitting needles and wool, and got started all over again. And then something amazing happened.
We were having a drink with some new friends, and one of them saw my gloves and asked me to make some for her. Then her mum said that she wanted some too.
I was thrilled and got onto it straightaway!
However, it wasn’t going to end there. After giving her the gloves, my new friend asked if I could make some baby clothes and a blanket for one of her friends! What a great challenge – I’d never knitted baby clothes before. She sent me some pictures of what she had in mind, and after confirming the colours with her I got started.
And this is the result of the very first baby clothes and blanket that I ever made!
But then she asked me to make the same again, in different colours, for another of her friends who was also having a baby!
And then there were winter hats to make, some cache nez (without the bib), and more fingerless gloves were ordered!
I was knitting for hours every day and it was such a pleasure! I’m always relaxed when I knit, as long as I’m not being disturbed when I’m trying to count, or when I’m working on a complicated pattern.
I’m quite proud to say that she loved what I made and so did her friends who were on the receiving end of these hand-knitted things.
Crocheted dog hats!
And then, I was asked to make a beret for a dog! I’d never seen a woollen hat for a dog, so I looked it up online and didn’t really know what to think!
After some hesitation I managed to make a couple of hats for a dog. I didn’t really know the exact size of the dog, but the ones I made are pretty stretchy so I’m hoping that they ended up ok (the dog and the owner of the dog are in another country).
A couple of months ago friend of mine in Denmark offered to send me some of her wool because she said that she has so much of it she could open a shop! This friend is someone I’ve never met, but she reached out to me online while Olivier and I were locked down and stuck in Bucharest, as I had mentioned in a Facebook group for expats that I was feeling a bit lost and alone and needed a bit of support. (Big thanks to Kay Cee!)
We’ve kept in touch since then, and when I showed her photos of my knitting she made the offer to send me some wool. As soon as I received the package I made myself this winter hat.
Which brings me back to emergency gloves. What are emergency gloves? Well, let me explain.
When I lived in Russia I always had several pairs of gloves. Some really warm thick ones for the dead of winter. Some less thick ones for normal winter days. Some mittens because I think they are warmer than gloves. Some really thin ones to wear under my mittens or other gloves because my fingers are always cold. Old ones and new ones. Ones to wear to work and ones just for out walking. If you live in a cold country you’ll probably be the same – you can never have too many pairs of gloves.
Plus, I was always losing them, so it was necessary to have spares at home just in case.
When we left Moscow in March last year, we had planned to spend 6 months or more in Asia and Australia, so as we were packing we left all our winter clothes behind and took only summer clothes with us. I was dreaming of tropical weather in shorts, tshirts, and dresses.
As you probably know, things turned out differently, and after arriving in a very hot Bulgaria at the end of July, things changed pretty suddenly as summer turned into autumn, and autumn turned into winter.
It got cold! We had to buy winter clothes all over again. We had nothing suitable for the cold weather!
So back in October or November, we were at a market, and I bought one pair of black knitted gloves. Just your standard, basic, machine knitted gloves that you see everywhere.
I wore them all winter. They were just warm enough, although on some of the colder days I would have been happier with a thicker pair. But they were mostly fine.
It’s now March, and although we’re getting some warm and sunny days now, I’m still wearing gloves from time to time because it can still be a bit cold.
Last week we had to take a bus to Veliko Tarnovo because our car was at the mechanics there and we had to go and pick it up. We never usually travel between villages by bus because we have a car.
It was quite cold and I was wearing my new blue winter hat, and my black gloves.
So we took the bus and as it was the first time we didn’t really know where to get off. When we got to the next town, the bus stopped to let someone on, so we made a split second decision that we would get off right there. I jumped up, holding onto my winter hat, and ran out of the bus.
Unfortunately I wasn’t holding onto my gloves. They’d been on my lap. When I stood up they probably fell to the floor.
I’d lost my only pair of gloves. And it was still cold. And I hate shopping.
So, I decided to make myself some emergency gloves. Gloves that I will need to wear only for another few weeks, and not even every day. Gloves that will fill the little gap between now and when gloves are no longer needed – probably only a few weeks, if that.
I looked online for some patterns and decided that mittens would be much easier to make than gloves (no fiddling around trying to make the fingers). I found a pattern that I liked, checked that I had the right sized needles, and grabbed the wool that matches my winter hat, and made the emergency gloves/mittens.
They were so easy to make (and I love knitting so much) that I got some of my odd wool that was left over from other projects and made a second pair of emergency gloves.
Just in case I lose the first emergency pair.
Do you have any knitting stories you’d like to share? Or maybe you’re more into crochet? Feel free to put links to any great knitting projects in the comments!
Shared on Natalie the Explorer’s Weekend Coffee Share