Thursday, October 18, 2012

Not much knitting yesterday. I’m getting old, too. Trailing out to the hospital, sitting around all afternoon, trailing back, bidding for that postcard: it all takes it out of you.

I got the card, for which I had to pay a truly preposterous amount of money. The astonished seller must be planning a holiday in Benidorm this morning. It was the same pattern as with other cards we have lost recently – everything is coasting along nicely with the bid standing at £3.50, and then in the last seconds my wealthy mystery opponent makes his move. This time I was ready for him, and had bid so absurdly high that all he succeeded in doing was to cost me a lot of money.

[That’s the way eBay works – no matter how big a bid you’ve entered, you only actually pay one bid above the competition. If there is any competition.]

I’ll scan it for you when it gets here. The seller is in Edinburgh, so it shouldn’t be long.

Despite my failure to accomplish much, there’s knitting (and knitting-related) news.

“A Legacy of Shetland Lace” arrived. It’s a gem. It comes from the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers. All the designers have donated their work; all profits will go to the work of the Guild. Each of the designers has a little biography attached to her pattern – it is interesting to learn how much goes on up there in the way of workshops and demonstrations. Clearly, if I ever get to Shetland, I’ll have to contact the Guild first.

There’s a delicious page early on of “Shetland words associated with knitting”. I particularly like “spret” – “when things go so wrong that you need to pull out the knitting needle and take back the last rows of knitting”. That doesn’t make it clear whether the word is a noun or a verb or an obscenity.

And “sok” means “a piece of knitting”. “Tak dee sok” means, “bring your knitting”.

I wondered about that one. I found no hint of it in the OED under “sock”. That word derives (it says) from the Latin “soccus”, a low, slipper-like shoe. It appears in various forms in the northern languages, Old Icelandic and Middle High Dutch and that sort of thing. But wait a moment – if it derives from the Latin, why doesn’t it show up in the Romance languages?

My first thought, seeing the Shetland meaning, was that “sok” originally meant “a piece of knitting” and came to mean “sock” because that was what, so often, was being knit. Who knows?

The patterns in the book are largely named for the village or the croft the designer came from. I am particularly drawn by the “Cuckron scarf” – “Sue named the Cuckron Scarf after her family’s croft. Cuckron is the sound made by the burn as it runs past the house.”

Our little house  in Strathardle also stands by a burn, and the constant sound of it, when one is outdoors, is a substantial part of the pleasure of being there. The Romans put the sound of water high on the list of desirable features for a country residence. It’s a nice little scarf, too – “designed for an elderly aunt who wanted a light scarf to keep the draughts off her neck”.

I’m seriously tempted.


  1. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Spret is a verb. It is also used to mean rip or burst as in 'you've spret your trousers' (especially when they're a little too small).

  2. That book sounds fantastic!

  3. skeindalous2:35 PM

    That seriously annoying tactic on eBay, of hiding in the shrubbery and jumping out at the last minute(second!)to overbid the smug competition, is called 'sniping'. I have been trumped by this many times! Usually for something I believe to be a minor item, out of the main stream. Sigh.

  4. Anonymous3:06 PM

    Thanks so much, Jean, for taking us into the book ... and Shetland. I thought that "sok" might mean "stitch- on-knitting" as a reminder to finish what's on the needles before beginning yet another project!! (which is what I have just done this AM .... sighhhhh

  5. Anonymous5:24 PM

    "Oh, spret!" I shall use it as an exclamation.

    Your competitor in the postcard auctions is probably using an automated sniping program (see skeindalous' definition above) to bid for him or her. No hovering at the keyboard for such determined buyers.
    -- Gretchen

  6. Jean, I've really enjoyed hearing about this book. Could you share where you found it?

  7. Hazel Tindall6:49 PM

    Delighted to see your comments on A Legacy of Shetland Lace. After publication the proof readers are vexed that one designer biography was missed out. If you would like a copy of that missing bit please email
    Hazel Tindall, chairman, Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers