Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where to start?

We had a grand time with our friends from Birmingham days – they now grow vegetables on the banks of the Isis, and have to put up with badgers eating the sweetcorn. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

They were here in Edinburgh because their daughter (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) is appearing in a two-man play at the Assembly Rooms, “Wonderland”, about Lewis Carroll. (Edinburgh readers take note.) She’s had a substantial and very favourable (4-star) review in the Times. The Scotsman hasn’t got there yet. Helen and I and her boys hope to go next Monday.

Yesterday most unexpectedly I got a Canon PowerShot camera for my recently-passed birthday from Helen and Rachel. (Madhur Jaffrey and I share the birthday, including the year. She still seems to be bounding about, so why should I worry?) It’s essentially less fancy than the camera whose work you normally see here – but it takes better pictures. Here is the first ever:

If I tried to do that with the other camera – set on “Auto” – it would take the light level from the window and show the room in darkness. Likewise – or do I mean, contrariwise? – landscape shots with bright skies or sparkling frost come out over-exposed. The controls allow me to adjust shutter speed and aperture, and I used to understand those things. But in old age, maybe it’s better to have a camera that knows what to do and just does it.

(That pail contains the potatoes I brought from Strathardle. The idea is to save the soil that comes off them and take it back. My husband is a topsoil nut, but curiously cool on manuring. Manure is topsoil.)

Pixels can’t be adjusted on the new camera, so I’ll have to be careful not to let the computer get gummed up with multi-pixel’d shots of half-knit socks.

Another excitement yesterday was a package from the Schoolhouse – the English translation of “Twisted-Stitch Knitting”, “Norwegian Patterns for Knitting”, and “Portuguese Style of Knitting”.

I started with a last-named, and it’s most interesting. Much of it is concerned with the knitty-gritty – how Portuguese knitters tension yarn and form stitches. I mean to do some serious work with it. “Purling is easier than knitting” – how’s that for a statement that would have made EZ sit up?

There are some patterns at the back, and I was struck with this one: Side-to-side in garter stitch, shaped with short rows.

I admired it for a while, and then I thought, why not? I have found myself increasingly reluctant to get back to fiddling with that kimono. There’s still time. So I started it last night, scaling down to preemie size as I went. So far so good. The pattern is written with every row purl, but I’m not doing that.

Now I’m off to walk around Drummond Place Gardens with my MP3 player. I’ve only done it once so far. The earplugs stayed in. The sound is great. I couldn’t understand much of the Italian – rapid-fire conversation with much laughter. I’ve now downloaded a couple more programs which I hope will be calmer and more didactic. I want something I can nearly understand, to listen to again and again until I get it.


  1. Am I right in thinking that the Portugese method is to tension the yarn round the back of ones neck, and to use a thumb to flick it round the needle? I remember a young woman, an Italian immigrant, knitting on the bus, using that method. I was amazed by the speed, and the beautiful evenness of the fabric she was producing.

  2. I took a class from Andrea Wong a few years ago and sometimes use the technique when doing long rows of purl. It seems to be really good for two color, but I'm not sure if I am up for retraining.

  3. Anonymous7:01 PM

    I echo Jeanfromcornwall's question, while adding that I have also heard such a purling technique identified as "Near Eastern" and "Greek". However, the only knitter I have actually seen use the technique was Brazilian, which argues for a Portuguese connection.
    -- Gretchen

  4. I love my PowerShot. The pictures I get from it are really nice. As to the size of the pictures, I often go into Windows Paint and reduce them down by 50%. I don't change the settings on the camera because there have been times when I just want a small part of the picture's detail but shrinking the entire pic would lose that detail, so I delineate the part I want to keep, move it to the left upper corner, then crop out the rest.