Thursday, May 05, 2016

I am very grateful for all your comments about interchangeable needles, which I will pursue with care and report on soon. Maybe I don’t need those smaller sizes after all. I’m with you, Melfina, in being hard on sock needles, although in my case it’s sets of four or five. I can’t stand the magic loop, probably because I haven’t given it enough of a chance.

The big domestic news is that Rachel phoned yesterday. She is going to take two days off work at the end of the month and come all the way up here to be in charge of things so that I can go off to Strathardle when Greek Helen is here with her family, and stay overnight!

Poor Perdita is in heat again, and it had already occurred to us to send her up there with Helen (if she [Perdita] can hold the thought that long). It’s our only real hope of kittens, since we can’t let her out here, straight onto a busy-ish road. I’ve tried both the vet and the Cats Protection League for help with this problem, in vain. I don’t know of any Kirkmichael toms, but a queen in heat has her ways of calling to them.


Here’s the link (I hope) to the Knitter’s Review article about British yarn – KD’s Buachaille, Rachel Atkinson (“Daughter of a Shepherd”) and Ysolda Teague.

I think this thing about farmers burning yarn because it costs them more to shear the sheep than they can get by selling it, is a bit misleading, although perfectly true. It is not that the knitters of Britain are letting the farmers down; it is that the wool is so coarse that it is fit for nothing except carpets, and carpets have (a) gone all acrylic and (b) relocated to Belgium and the Netherlands anyway.

I would recommend an excellent book called “Counting Sheep” by Philip Walling, 2014. Indeed, I think I should start reading it again myself. I want to understand the “remarkably sophisticated stratified national meat-producing system, based on double cross-breeding, which has come to be called the sheep pyramid.” Is that what goes on in Strathardle? I thought those idle Scottish Blackface just had their lambs every spring, and some got kept to refresh the flock, and the rest turned into lamp chops. Double cross-breeding?

The interesting turning-point, in the history of British sheep, Walling says, was during the Industrial Revolution, as the great cities of England were forming, when farsighted sheepmen, in particular Robert Bakewell, saw that wool – the foundation of England’s wealth for centuries – was, in future, going to be of rather less importance than mutton, and began to breed sheep with that aim in mind. He even encouraged incest among them, to reinforce desirable characteristics, to the horror of the pious.

The author is a barrister turned sheep-farmer. He writes with a pleasant facility. Alas, he is no knitter, and there is not as much as we would like about, for instance, Shetland sheep. All is forgiven for the news that a Bluefaced Leicester “should have a head like a solicitor” – with a photograph which perfectly illustrates the point. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Progress on the Neap Shawl feels slower now that there are so many stitches; in fact, it is moving forward nicely. I’ll stop increasing at the end of the present pattern repeat, and put in one of those stitch markers like a little plastic safety pin – normally a nuisance, but just what’s wanted here to mark the beginning of the long straight centre section. The kitchen scales assure me that there are still 57 grams in the ball -- and it's only required to get halfway across.

“Knitting” magazine turned up yesterday – I think I’ve had every issue since the beginning, although I haven’t added them to my over-extensive archives. I’ve never been tempted to knit anything I’ve seen there – is it the relatively unsophisticated photography? or the actual designs? I suspect the latter.

I was interested, however, in the pattern called “Arela”. The magazine says: “It’s two garments in one: a back-opening jumper and an elegant cardigan.” In Ohio in the 1950’s we often wore cardigans backwards. When I got to Glasgow in ’54 the notion was thought so very peculiar that I quickly abandoned it. What goes around, comes around.

But the major interest in the new issue lies elsewhere, in an article about independent dyers – much like Ginger Twist, where I recently spent a lot of money, although she isn’t included in the article. I had never thought of the basic idea of the article, that when one is laboriously constructing something, for weeks or months, it is particularly satisfying to be working with materials which are themselves unique and hand-crafted.

I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that, although it is a very interesting idea. Kate Davies’ Buachaille yarn isn’t hand-dyed (is it?), but when I finally knit something from it, I don’t think that will be a drawback.

The other idea which percolates through the current issue of “Knitting” is that of interchangeable needles (again). And, again, the drawback for me is that they don’t seem to come in the smaller sizes which is what I mostly knit with. Jeanette Sloan in “Ask Jeanette” distinctly implies that you can get them down to 2.75mm, although all the information I have so far clicked on, starts at 3.5mm or so.  Jeanette used to run an excellent LYS overlooking the Meadows: I can’t count her quite as a friend, but surely an acquaintance, and always read her article.

But this issue is full of food for thought – and things to explore on-line.

I got the latest Knitter’s Review in my email in-tray this morning – an interesting article about British yarns, prompting enough thoughts that I’ll leave it until tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

I wrote something last night, but it has vanished. Start again.

We lived in Leicester for a while – four happy years at the end of the ‘60’s, before moving on to Birmingham. My husband founded the Art History dep’t at the university there. We have no interest in football, but enough in Leicester that we rejoice this morning in their success.

I continue happily with the Neap Tide shawl. I have nearly achieved the desired width – length is still a long way short of target. If I had been paying attention to gauge from the beginning, I could have achieved a gentle curve and a relatively short centre section (knit straight) as the designer intended – but I didn’t. The centre section will have to be fairly long. Never mind; I’m going to love it anyway.

The colour might be described as “olive drab” and, together with the style of the shawl, suggests a BBC costume director’s idea for a Sunday night serial of Tess of the D’Ubervilles.  But then you see the other colours, and the shine of the silk. Very subtle, very satisfactory.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Again, little news, (and less thought) -- but that little, good.

My sister has fixed a date and booked a ticket for coming to see us at the end of June. Very good news.

I went happily on with the Neap Tide shawl. Soon I’ll have to fit it into the programme. I did some weighing and measuring and extrapolating this morning. I weighed the ball while I had the scales out for my husband’s porridge – there are still more than 70 grams there, out of 100. The width is getting on nicely. The length is still distinctly short of the metre which will be wanted at the halfway point.

But all I’ve got to do is keep adding increase-repeats of the pattern until I am satisfied with the width, and then knit straight, Centre Section-type repeats until I’ve got half the length. Keeping track a bit, so that the return half can be harmonious. 

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Oh, dear – here is May, most beloved of months. And there’s no way to slow it down.

Not much today, but all good:

Knitting continues well – starting the Neap Tide shawl was the right thing for me to do. I did a bit more measuring and extrapolating yesterday, and decided that the extra stitches I have added are not nearly enough to get near the desired width, even allowing for blocking. So I am progressing through the Second Increase Section, as through the First, increasing one stitch on every right-side row. It makes for easier knitting, too; less thinking.

The current skein – there are two – looks as if it will last forever. I will re-group (=recalculate) towards the end of this section.

I wonder if this is the yarn I knit the Fantoosh in. The label doesn’t give it a name, just the fibre content and “4-ply”. The colour is called Crazy Ivan.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Another good day, yesterday. The Neap Tide shawl was just what I needed – the difference between knitting to pick up when I happened to have a chance to sit down; and knitting to contrive opportunities to get back to.

I calculated, very roughly, how many more stitches I needed to achieve the width specified in the pattern, given my gauge and given its, and I decided that two additional pattern repeats in the first Increase Section would about do it, 14 extra stitches.  Obviously, two more repeats add length as well as width. I have done that, and have now advanced to the second Increase Section, where the increases don’t come as fast.

Towards the end of this section, I should be able to get a better idea how things are going. I can add more repeats in the Centre section to increase the length, if need be. And if I decide that more width is needed, I can incorporate more stitches into the latter parts of the second Increase Section, without increasing length and at some damage to the slope of the curve.

It’s a super pattern. The yarn is wonderful too.

I often marvel at smart newspaper columnists who say that later life never involves any mathematics, so why learn all that stuff?  This particular problem was pretty elementary – I figured that I needed 25% more stitches than I had, and two pattern repeats, with increases on every pattern row, seemed to do the trick.

(And, knitting aside, what about the question, which often arises these days, of what a 1.5% tax free interest rate is worth to a basic rate? a higher rate? tax payer. That one involves elementary algebra. I can do it if I apply myself, and would feel a bit uncomfortable, I think, if I couldn’t.)

Friday, April 29, 2016

At least there’s knitting to talk about today…

Kristie alerted me to the latest news from the Vintage Shetland Project. “Publication date” is now mid-August, with the manuscript to be finished in July. I can’t entirely remember my own progression through belief to irritation to despair. I now don’t believe anything she says; I won’t be disappointed again.

If you Google the VSP, you won’t learn any more. What puzzles me slightly is that no negative note appears, at least in the first five pages. Endless praise and excitement from 2015. No references to (for instance) me. Could I be the only crowdfunder in the universe to be expressing doubt and irritation on-line? And even if so, why not cite me? I often find references to myself in Google when I look for something I’m interested in. Not this time.

What a contrast, all this, to Kate Davies’ hap book. It is already approaching the page-layout stage, and I am absolutely sure that it will appear later this year, as promised – and she doesn’t even have crowdfunders to please.

Yesterday I thought that what I needed was something new. We’ve all felt like that. So I got out my packages from the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. I wanted something that started small and simple and got bigger. I settled on Mary Lou’s “Neap Tide” pattern for which I had bought two skeins of glowing yarn (50% merino, 50% silk) from the Old Maiden Aunt.

Most of yesterday’s knitting time went into winding a skein of it. It wasn’t exactly tangled, but it wasn’t exactly straightforward either. And 400 yards is a lot of yards. But I got it done.

Then problems presented themselves. The pattern says “fingering weight yarn”. There must have been something about the yarn which suggested to me, that day at the EYF, that it was fingering weight. The label doesn’t actually say so. Mary Lou’s recommended yarn is 255 yards to 100 grams. Old Maiden Aunt (see above) has 400 yards. I hadn’t previously taken that in.

Old Maiden Aunt recommends 2-3mm needles. Mary Lou says 4.5mm. Swatching is for wimps – at least when we are talking about shawls. I went for 3.5mm and am delighted with the fabric I’m getting. But I have knitted enough to determine – no surprise – that if I persevere with the pattern as written, my shawl is going to be on the small side. I think the solution will be two extra repeats in the First Increase Section, where I now am. 


Thank you for your comments about my sudden swoop into the Greek alphabet yesterday. I wasn’t doing anything fancy at the time. CKP, you may well be right that I hit Alt-Shift as I was sitting here thinking what to say next. I won’t try it again, just at the moment. And I enjoyed the Wikipedia entry about “lorem ipsum”. I have often wondered. It must have been very satisfying for the scholar who identified the passage in Cicero which has been rubbished to furnish that text.