Back in 2014, I answered a Twitter call for entries to a TV knitting competition. The general gist was that they were looking for male knitters who had made, or who could make in the time available, a Christmas jumper. The show: Kirstie's Handmade Christmas on Channel 4 (UK T.V). When I was given the details of what was needed, I seriously thought about backing out. Could I really design and knit a jumper in only 5 weeks? I'm not a tortoise with the needles but I'm also no speed knitter like the super-talented Shetland knitter, Hazel Tindall or the inspiring Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I would have to source yarn, find a basic jumper pattern shape and design something entirely appropriate for the task and I would have to do it pronto.
You will have no idea of the swearing and tears that went into that woolly creation! Although, if you're a knitter yourself, you do? Perhaps it's no coincidence that the Ravelry website asks members what is their favourite curse word for their profile. Mine is FFS. So, although I'm not unique in turning the knitting air blue, only my hubby could attest to the emotional bruises that jumper inflicted, mainly because he had to suffer them too when I asked for the umpteenth time, "what do you think if I were to do this....?" There are no right answers to such questions.
The ever present dangers with such an undertaking are Tacky vs Tasteful and Stretch Yourself vs Play it Safe. I oscillated back and forth on those questions so many times I was dizzy. And, to add to the mix, I was having a tough time at work and had a bout of shingles to get over. I knitted. I unpicked. I redesigned. I knitted again. I unpicked. I ran out of wool so I ordered some more (Woolwarehouse, you should try them, they're great). I knitted again. I cried. The body was too tight. I adapted it and added patterned side panels. I got over it and moved on. I cried again, the sleeves didn't fit because of the changes I'd already made. I brought into play my tailoring skills and my rusty knowledge of flat pattern cutting. I worked it out. I ran out of yarn again! I ordered more and I finished up.
Despite all the challenges, I came through and I was moderately pleased with the result. Mostly, I was glad to have finished in the time and relieved that I didn't have to pick up my needles ever again if I didn't want to. But the best bit was still to come, the filming day.
The competition was filmed at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. This huge stately pile was home to an amazing craft festival and Kirstie Allsopp's TV team had set up camp in one wing of the building. They were filming several items that day, including other craft competitions to be featured on the show: best Christmas Tree decoration and best Christmas Cake decoration. The place was buzzing with creativity and simmering with competitiveness. Kirstie said it herself on the show that the atmosphere between the cake decorators was intense. I'm pleased to say that the atmosphere between the knitters was much more jovial and more collaborative than combative. They really were a great bunch of guys, all keen knitters with varying skills and knitting CVs stretching back months to years. We were asked to strut our stuff in a catwalk style down one of Blenheim's columned corridors. Whizzing around us as we did so was a cameraman on roller skates - like a woolly Starlight Express. On reaching the end of the catwalk, we were grilled by Kirstie and her fellow judge, knitting supremo and all round goddess, Erika Knight. Erika was keen to know about the techniques involved in making our jumpers and inspected them on the inside as well as commenting on the design choices.
In my mind, there was one clear winner and it wasn't me.: a beautiful Scandinavian style stag jumper with stranded colour work. So, I was surprised and delighted that the judges chose my jumper...my cursed tortured jumper...to win. VIDI. Kirstie's Best Christmas Jumper 2014.
You can view it here
I was presented with a handmade laurel wreath and a very sweet 'Oscar' figure which was adorned with a handmade miniature scarf. Chuffed? You bet I was. Put off knitting for life? Not on your telly nelly.
And more of this story to come....