Sunday, April 19, 2015

Progress as hoped, yesterday – the 11th Tokyo stripe finished; it's time for the next little five-row stripe. I laid it aside as planned and reverted to the current pocket square. I've passed the half-way point, the passage where pretty constant counting is needed to ensure that I turn around on exactly 62 stitches. From here on out, as long as I do it right every time – k1, k2tog, yo, ssk, knit to end – I just have to keep it up until only four stitches remain, and then bind off.

Do another, while the iron is hot? Or revert at once to the Sous Sous?

Today, books. I've got three to report on.

The Manly Art of Knitting

I must have heard of this from Zite, and ordered it for the sake of the cover photograph of the cowboy knitting. It's an utterly basic book, very faintly tongue in cheek, by a man, for men, covering the essentials. I wish I had had it to give to Alistair, the summer he was learning to knit in Strathardle. He had real ability, and won a prize for a scarf in the Games that summer, and gave it up entirely because Men Don't Knit in China.

Maybe it's not too late.

Unst Heritage Lace

This one is utterly enchanting. It is little more than a pamphlet from the Unst Heritage Centre, with a bit of local history and patterns for three all-overs, three “laces” (=scalloped edging patterns) and two motifs which could be combined or repeated ad lib. I hope I've counted rightly. Where relevant – “Unst Snaadraps”, for example, or “Flukra” -- the lace patterns are illustrated with photographs of the local phenomena their names suggest. “Flukra” are gently falling snowflakes.

The patterns are charted and also given line-by-line, in both cases using the old “T” and “C” – “take” and “cast” – for k2tog and YO. Amedro does it that way. I used to find it an easy and pleasant way to sing the repeat to myself, so to speak.

When we were there, I asked why Unst of all places, the most northerly inhabited (or uninhabited) British island, had become the home of extravagantly fine lace knitting. Answer came there none. There doesn't even seem to be a local legend explaining it. But there it is.

Ten Poems About Knitting

James spotted this in a bookshop window, and sent it up to me with my husband was he was returned after the Easter holiday. One of the poems is actually about “The Manly Art of Knitting”. Another is by Emily Dickenson. It's from the Candlestick Press, and nicely done.


On page 46 of the current British edition of The Economist, you will find the headline “Arabia Infelix”. James rang up on Thursday, deadline day, to make sure that the Latin was acceptable. I was glad to do my bit.

In 1954, the summer I was 21, I had a hunble but not entirely menial job at Life Magazine in NYC. They were the happiest weeks of my life, I think. It couldn't have lasted – I would have had to go on to something more stressful and join the others weeping in the Ladies'.

We got our copies of the magazine, stamped STAFF in big letters, the day before publication, and enjoyed riding home on the subway with the cover prominently displayed. One week there was a headline, perhaps even over the leader, “O Tempore O Mores”. If I had had my wits about me as I should have had, I could have cried, Stop the presses! (It should be “tempora”.) A chance missed forever. At least “Arabia Infelix” is right.


  1. I remember seeing that book in a yarn shop window on 57th street a zillion years ago, and have always regretted not buying it. Has it been reprinted? I'll have to look.

  2. A few days ago I was desperately looking in the art shop for a birthday present for our son's 46th birthday. To my surprise I saw The Manly Art of Knitting. The book was so attractive that I nearly bought it as a joke for one of presents.