Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. My sister and her family, who have converged on London from CT, DC, and Malawi, are going to cook Thanksgiving dinner – tomorrow, rather than today, for reasons unknown – for the London-based elements of my family. I feel much like Franklin about the whole thing, and am just as glad that ineluctable appointments drew us north before the event.

I had high hopes, while we were in London, of Taking Charge of Life (and Knitting). It’s not so easy, on the ground. But I got a skein wound, for Alexander’s Fair Isle. I’ve got all the yarns here on the floor of the Catalogue Room, where my computer lives, and am giving the matter of their arrangement serious thought. I tidied up the Therapy Scarf, and hope to block it this morning.

That’s not too bad, I guess, as far as Knitting goes.

Lene asked for a review of Sharon Miller’s Hap Shawl book, and I will try to oblige. Victorian Lace tomorrow, if all goes smoothly. This is going to be pretty high-school-style…

The book is 62 pages long, generously and fascinatingly illustrated with pictures, largely old postcards, from the author’s collection.

A “hap shawl” is a serviceable, warm shawl. The essential style is a garter stitch centre square, “Old Shale” borders, and a simple lace edging. Victorian Shetland women knit them for their own use, as they did stockings.

Everything else they knit was for the “company store” (as in, “I owe my soul to the company store”). In 1871, a report on the “truck system” – i.e., barter – was presented to Parliament. At the end of the hap shawl book, Sharon gives ten pages or so of the evidence provided for this report, as concerns knitting. It is fascinating to hear the knitters speaking in their own voices.

The book begins with 16 pages (illustrated) about the history of shawls in general and Shetland hap shawls in particular. There then follow, as you might expect, instructions for knitting hap shawls, both outwards-in and inwards-out, with the wonderful, readable charts we have come to expect from Sharon.

Hap shawls were often knit plain, but many others had shaded borders. The book includes several pages of colour schemes derived from shawls in Sharon’s collection, and others deduced from hand-coloured postcards. There are then variations: a “half-hap” in which the centre square has become a triangle, and “razor shell” scarves. And tips for knitters.

One of my favourite day-dreams is that Sharon may one day lead a group of her fans on a trip to Shetland.

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