Thursday, April 24, 2014

I've just been looking over Archie's application to be included on the electoral register, not a complicated document. We were in some doubt about whether boarding school constitutes residence, but apparently it's OK. And for the purposes of the Referendum, he's old enough. This is the scariest vote I've ever known. There will be no going back, like voting for Hitler.

I think we may have stumbled on a Great Truth (comments yesterday) – more specifically, Mr. Shandy did. Namely, the tendency of houses to resent the incursion of visitors. Alexander and Ketki were struck by lightening once when we were there for a few days. No wi-fi for a fortnight. And once, during a savage winter, when the Beijing Mileses were here with us, a lump of ice formed at the base of a down pipe so that waste water from the washing machine – which was otherwise working perfectly – backed up into the bathtub.


I am still indulging the fantasy that each round of the Unst Bridal Shawl is the same length as the preceeding one, but it's getting harder to maintain as the stitch count mounts. I've finished the third set of motifs, round 54, and now have four nice easy inter-motif rounds as my reward. The (theoretical) half-way point, round 68, could be said to be within hailing distance. Pic soon.

I spent some time with Sharon's pattern for the Queen Ring Shawl yesterday, and discovered that she includes there a chart for a framed centre as an alternative. I am pretty sure that no such thing has ever been published elsewhere (except, of course, in “Heirloom Knitting”). So that's now high on my wish-list.

The Queen Ring is a copy of an antique shawl in Sharon's own collection, and for that reason she has written the pattern the way the original was knitted, inwards, starting with the edging. The way I like to do it. She, like the original knitter, did the borders separately and spent laborious hours at the end sewing the whole thing together.

I would try to do it in one piece. First the edging, then pick up stitches for all four borders and knit inwards with mitred corners, finally knit the centre as an extension (so to speak) of one of the borders while at the same time attaching it to two others, left and right, by taking in a stitch at the end of every row. At the end, the top of the centre would have to be grafted to the bottom of the fourth border.

I don't see why it couldn't be done that way, given world enough and time.

But I'm going to have to master garter-stitch-in-the-round first. I couldn't think of doing the Queen Ring with a messy corner.

Sharon knit hers in a superfine yarn which is a blend of cashmere and silk. A tempting thought, but I am so utterly enamoured with J&S Shetland Supreme 1-ply Lace Weight that I am inclined to stick with it. I started the Princess in a silk yarn and got about halfway through the first repeat of the edging.


Here are some blurry pictures for you of Easter on Mount Pelion. (.png extension -- what's that?) Archie with his brothers Mungo and Fergus, in the top one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We're safely back. We had a grand time.

If your heart isn't otherwise engaged, I'd be grateful if you'd root for Liverpool to win the league. They are well placed at the moment, with three matches to go. I'll explain later.

We had a whole weekend of amazing weather – Alexander and Ketki claimed they hadn't seen the sun since October. We enjoyed it al the more because of reports of rain in London. Since then, the normal gloomy damp has resumed service.

On Saturday Alexander had booked most of us in to have lunch (delicious!) at Loch Fyne Oyster. He and Ketki and Rachel stayed home to look after my husband. Afterwards the lunchers walked to a local brewery where some members of the party wanted to buy cases of beer to take home. Here some of us are on the way, on the bridge over the River What's-Its-Name where it flows into the very tip of Loch Fyne. My pace was slow; they were waiting for me to catch up.

And here are Hellie's boyfriend Matt and I, on the road along to the brewery. Crazy old woman:

Later that afternoon, the water back at the house started to fail, and by Easter morning, was completely gone. Alexander and Ketki share a private supply with half a dozen others in the vicinity. It was inconvenient, to say the least, with nine house guests in addition to the basic four members of the household. Ketki's Hindu calm was unaffected. Eventually the water was restored.

Alexander has given me three little chilli plants from the ones he has raised from seed. Two have names I recognise, the third is labelled X-FH and is, he says, “Chinese”. I think that means he has planted seeds from dried chillis purchased there. Exciting. We also came away with some duck eggs -- rather like the dreadful Mrs Norris in "Mansfield Park", "having fidgetted about, and obtained a few pheasant's eggs and a cream cheese from the housekeeper..."


I toiled away on the Unst Bridal Shawl, as addictive as a 1500-piece jigsaw, as I think I've said before. I am now nearly finished (not without a good sprinkling of mistakes) with that motif which is so rich in k3tog's, and I will be glad to see the back of it.  I tried every approach Google could find for me. I was seriously tempted to throw in the sponge and work them as p3tog, which is perfectly easy. Would it have mattered?

I've also handed over the mended Princess to the bride-to-be.

I am thinking about the Queen Ring Shawl, and also that framed one from Heirloom Knitting. Life is too short to be spent on anything except elaborate lace.

But now Jared has published a new edition of Wool People, vaguely Japanese-based and absolutely chock-a-block with delectable things.

What is one to do? Knit on, with confidence and hope.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here we are – Good Friday. My husband has not counted his pills yet or packed the work he wants to take. He doesn't entirely grasp how slow he has become at everything, and how soon Rachel and Ed might be here.

The weather is chilly-bright and the forecast is good, for Scotland, anyway. I don't know when the party will break up – probably on Monday. I should be back here by the middle of next week.

I've reached round 45 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. It's a stinker – in fact, the current set of motifs is a stinker in general, and they are currently at their widest point. The next Significant Point will be Round 68, half-way if you overlook those steadily-increasing corners. It seems a long way off.

I wrote to Michael and Sharon at Heirloom Knitting about that framed shawl pattern, has it ever been published separately? I haven't heard from them yet. I'm sure the answer is no.

One more mildly interesting thing about it (it's knit centre-out, as I have said): when Sharon finished the borders, she decreased one stitch in six before starting the edging. That seems rather a lot to me, and demonstrates again, if demonstration were needed, that knitting is forgiving stuff, as the Master said.

Happy Weekend, everybody.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Health continues to improve, and the weekend on Loch Fyne is currently “on”. Rachel and Ed will pick us up on their way there from London. We have arranged to communicate by text tomorrow, as they battle their way northwards through the holiday traffic – very 21st century.

Yesterday I re-potted my chilli plants. Today we count pills and pack.

I think I am going to re-cast-off the entire upper edge of my sister's shawl. At first glance, I thought it was garter stitch, but I've had a look at the pattern and (a) it's moss stitch, much less fun; and (b) there is a lot of adroit short-rowing at the end, or rather long-rowing as stitches once left behind are gradually incorporated – only the last two rows involve the entire stitch-count. So I mustn't unravel mindlessly.

Nevertheless, it should prove relatively peaceful kitchen-table knitting. The Bridal Shawl is distinctly anti-social.

I had a look at Liz Lovick's book. Sure enough, she has a section called “designing with frames” but they aren't the sort of frames I was talking about yesterday. On careful re-reading, I think Sharon Miller's magnificent framed shawl could be reconstructed from “Heirloom Knitting”. I wonder why she never published it as a separate pattern? Feeling that no one would want it, since it was already in the book? I think she's wrong, if so.

What Lovick does say, is that island knitters almost invariably use k3togtbl for the double-decreases which are so plaguing me. I had a go yesterday – the current motifs have got a lot of them, and of course the surrounding trellis is composed of nothing else. I think perhaps k3togtbl does work a bit better in the trellis – it's easier and more secure than the centred decreases I've been doing, and easier to retrieve in the unhappy cases where such a decrease has to be unpicked.

In the motif, it doesn't work as well. It all depends on how the stitches to be decreased were formed in the preceding round. I've settled down with slip 1, k2tog, psso for those. Both alternatives produce angled results. I was astonished when I first learned from “Heirloom Knitting” that the angle of a decrease doesn't matter in fine lace knitting. Lovick agrees.

Miller's instructions for the framed shawl (such as they are), are worked centre-outwards. Lovick seems to like to do it that way, too. Not me, if only to avoid that long cast-on along one edge of the centre. I was feeling a bit frustrated about the resulting problem of turning the border pattern on its head, if I insist on knitting edging-inwards. Myrna Stahman says she includes lessons on how to do it, in her lace tutorials.

But then it occurred to me, I know how to do it. I've done it.

I've used Bridget Rorem's lace alphabet several times, and at least once, I had to reverse the letters, and did so successfully. In 2009 (I discover, by googling my own blog) I knit a First Holy Communion veil for James' and Cathy's daughters, incorporating the initials of both girls. It was knit from the top down so the letters had to be reversed. Here are finished pictures of it:

And here is an account of my struggles with the initials. I remember that day well, when I thought I was knitting the mirror-image of the effect I wanted.

Many border patterns wouldn't suffer much – including the one I'm knitting at the moment – if they were simply knit in the other direction. Not by turning the chart upside down, which might present problems, but by fitting the pattern as given (centre-out) into the greater abundance of initial stitches available when knitting edging-in. If you centre the pattern with care, it shouldn't be difficult.

I was rather struck, reading those old blog entries, with how much earlier I used to get up, five years ago.

The current (or about-to-be-current) Economist has a 14-page pullout by James, I am told, although he has unfortunately been pushed off the front cover by the Ukraine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My husband was markedly better yesterday – hope is revived, for our Easter weekend.

I got the Princess mended. Clumsily done, I fear, but no big deal. The holes (three) were small and the results no worse than a patch where the knitting had gone bad – they are mercifully rare, in the Princess. I was younger then. The results are pretty well unspottable, in that sea of knitting, even after the rider dismounts.

My sister gave me – nearly a year ago! – a shawl of hers to mend. It's Amedro's Cobweb Evening Wrap in a beautiful blue. After I finished and packaged the Princess, I got it out with its original yarn, and may tackle it tomorrow. One of the faults there is a break in the long cast-off row. That's a bit tricky.

And I knit obsessively on, on the Unst Bridal Shawl. I have now reached round 40. It occurred to me that if (as is the case) I have about 100 more rounds to do, I will add another four hundred stitches before the job is done. And I already have plenty of stitches.

I got “Heirloom Knitting” out again yesterday, and was again struck with the idea of a Framed Shawl – essentially the good old edging-border-centre-square arrangement, but with a frame containing a small pattern around the centre square. Sharon knit one, a stunner, which is shewn on page 215. She also illustrates an antique one from the Lerwick museum on the following page. I'm pretty sure that neither she nor – it almost goes without saying – anyone else, has ever published a pattern. Me, I'm a Blind Follower if ever there was one.

The book contains enough information, and partial charts, that Sharon's design could be re-created by a determined knitter.

Googling is no help, especially since “frame” can refer to the structure on which a shawl is dressed and to a “hand frame” on which semi-machine knitting is done. One entry suggested that there might be something in Elizabeth Lovick's new book. I'll look.


Kate Davies has recently returned from Iceland, as we all know. Her recent blog entries are full of beautiful photography and sensitive writing, as always. The one for April 10 mentions a “ a rift valley separating the Continental plates of Europe and America”. That sounds remarkably like Unst. She says that the plates are pulling apart at the rate of an inch a year. On Unst, they seemed to lie peacefully side by side, laced together with finger lakes.

My own blog entry for 30/9/13 has a picture. We must be talking about the same continental plates. Unst is the northernmost land in the British isles. Iceland is much further north, and a bit to the east. There's no land in between.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My post-Strathardle cold is virtually gone, but my husband is suffering, to an extent that puts our Easter weekend in some doubt. He was coughing and sneezing all day yesterday, but is not feverish (so I doubt if a dr could help) and seemed to sleep soundly enough, without coughing. So we shall see. Three days offer time to improve.

I am trying to get some pictures of daffodils for you, and a progress pic of the Unst Bridal Shawl. That involves trotting back and forth to my old, slow desktop computer, and it is taking a long time. The importation of photographs to the new laptop is a problem I have yet to solve.

I've reached round 37, of the borders of the shawl. It seemed a good point to record progress – only 99 rounds to go. Since I'm knitting centre-out, there is no edge except the one on the needle and photography is even more difficult than usual. And this one has come out fuzzy, to boot. But you sort of get the idea.

The messy corner is settling down. The pivot stitch isn't making a nice chain, like the centre stitches at the other three corners. It sort of zigzags. But it's consistent, and beginning to look reasonably tidy. I have stopped doing the right-side-row YO's on either side of the pivot stitch, and instead pick up the bar between stitches at that point on the wrong-side rows. I think the result will be slightly less sloppy-looking.

I do so share your enthusiasm, Marciepooh, for rows that get progressively shorter. I have deprived myself of that pleasure this time, by knitting centre-out, and I don't think I'll do it again.

The job that can no longer be postponed is the mending of two moth holes (I hope it's only two) in the Princess shawl. The bride-to-be will be at Loch Fyne at Easter. This is my chance to hand it over. Margaret Stove herself showed me how to pin out a piece of defective lace on a pillow. I can't remember what she said to do next. She has a certain amount on the subject in the book we mentioned yesterday, but nothing specific.

I trust common sense will help. Secure any live stitches which may be wandering about, reconstruct as appropriate.

Thanks for the pointer to Franklin's new blog entry, FiberQat. I must sign up for his doctor. I don't check Feedly as often as I ought, and have rather fallen behind on blog-reading. I still miss the days when Google did the job of keeping me in touch.

Here are some daffodils from Strathardle, and the "curry dumplings" at the back door, most welcome of weeds. Primula denticulata, in fact.

Monday, April 14, 2014

You're right, Jean – Margaret Stove didn't knit Prince George's shawl. It was her design, but only in the sense that it is included in her 2010 book “Wrapped in Lace”. It says on her website that “through physical limitations [she] is no longer able to complete large project commissions”. (She's 74.)

It's a lovely shawl – but one I'm sure I'll never knit. You begin by making 64 points, either separately or connected, then you line them all up and knit the centre inwards, back and forth with a herringbone stitch seam at the end. The pattern consists of ferns, the emblem of New Zealand and so rather appropriate for a royal gift.

Amedro designed a shawl for one of Prince Andrew's daughters, I seem to remember. I don't know whether it was commissioned. I don't think Sharon Miller has ever knit for a royal baby.

I didn't get much done yesterday. We watched “No Country for Old Men”. It's not conducive to lace knitting. You need to see every frame.

I've embarked on round 34, at least. It's the final round for the second row of motifs, followed by three blissfully simple rounds before the next set of motifs is introduced.

I half-heard someone talking on the radio about Arthur Miller's plays the other evening – “every line has its place”. That's the joy of this sort of knitting. Each of the 136 rounds in the borders is different, each fits in its place.

Our niece was wearing her red Mourning Shawl in Strathardle last week. I wish now I had snatched it from her shoulders and had a critical look at it. I didn't even get a picture of her wearing it. It was “Granny Cheyne's Shetland Shawl” from Margaret Stove's book just mentioned. That was the one where I used Fleegle's system – two balls of yarn, one for each direction – to create garter stitch in the round.

I think when the current shawl is finished, there is going to be no escape from making a serious circular swatch to explore all the ways of achieving garter stitch. The pivot stitch seems to be working reasonably well, but I don't think it's perfect.

The spring edition of the Twist Collective is out. There are some wonderful things, needless to say, including some very tempting lace. Nothing by Franklin, though.

Tamar, you may be sure I will keep you posted about my further experiments with Good King Henry. I got involved with it in the first place because, like you, I love spinach and was tempted by the idea of a perennial source of it.  

I'm sorry there are no daffodils -- tomorrow, I hope.