Thursday, May 05, 2016

I am very grateful for all your comments about interchangeable needles, which I will pursue with care and report on soon. Maybe I don’t need those smaller sizes after all. I’m with you, Melfina, in being hard on sock needles, although in my case it’s sets of four or five. I can’t stand the magic loop, probably because I haven’t given it enough of a chance.

The big domestic news is that Rachel phoned yesterday. She is going to take two days off work at the end of the month and come all the way up here to be in charge of things so that I can go off to Strathardle when Greek Helen is here with her family, and stay overnight!

Poor Perdita is in heat again, and it had already occurred to us to send her up there with Helen (if she [Perdita] can hold the thought that long). It’s our only real hope of kittens, since we can’t let her out here, straight onto a busy-ish road. I’ve tried both the vet and the Cats Protection League for help with this problem, in vain. I don’t know of any Kirkmichael toms, but a queen in heat has her ways of calling to them.


Here’s the link (I hope) to the Knitter’s Review article about British yarn – KD’s Buachaille, Rachel Atkinson (“Daughter of a Shepherd”) and Ysolda Teague.

I think this thing about farmers burning yarn because it costs them more to shear the sheep than they can get by selling it, is a bit misleading, although perfectly true. It is not that the knitters of Britain are letting the farmers down; it is that the wool is so coarse that it is fit for nothing except carpets, and carpets have (a) gone all acrylic and (b) relocated to Belgium and the Netherlands anyway.

I would recommend an excellent book called “Counting Sheep” by Philip Walling, 2014. Indeed, I think I should start reading it again myself. I want to understand the “remarkably sophisticated stratified national meat-producing system, based on double cross-breeding, which has come to be called the sheep pyramid.” Is that what goes on in Strathardle? I thought those idle Scottish Blackface just had their lambs every spring, and some got kept to refresh the flock, and the rest turned into lamp chops. Double cross-breeding?

The interesting turning-point, in the history of British sheep, Walling says, was during the Industrial Revolution, as the great cities of England were forming, when farsighted sheepmen, in particular Robert Bakewell, saw that wool – the foundation of England’s wealth for centuries – was, in future, going to be of rather less importance than mutton, and began to breed sheep with that aim in mind. He even encouraged incest among them, to reinforce desirable characteristics, to the horror of the pious.

The author is a barrister turned sheep-farmer. He writes with a pleasant facility. Alas, he is no knitter, and there is not as much as we would like about, for instance, Shetland sheep. All is forgiven for the news that a Bluefaced Leicester “should have a head like a solicitor” – with a photograph which perfectly illustrates the point. 


  1. I prefer bamboo DPN for socks, too. I will use magic loop on some things, but not socks. I purchased Counting Sheep, probably on your initial review, and now must get it out and read it.

  2. I didn't read about burning wool in Scotland but I know it is a common practice for farmers to compost their wool here in upstate New York. I'm actually working with a client now who has come up with a process for making batting from this coarser/shorter wool. Apparently it is perfect for the process as it doesn't compress like finer wool. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed that he is successful and can create a second income stream for our farmers.

  3. Anonymous4:48 PM

    Alas, Walling's Counting Sheep is not in my local library system (though there are several books with the same title, some of them children's picture books and some that purport to tell the reader how to avoid insomnia). I must look further afield; the comparison between a BFL and a solicitor makes the book a must-read, even apart from my interest in fiber!
    -- stashdragon