Friday, March 24, 2017

I had to go down to Tesco today for this and that. I bought my cider to drink on Sunday – the mid-Lent break. It’s perhaps a bit dangerous to have it in the house untouchable for a whole day and a half, but I think I’m up to it. I was there in the car, and it’s heavy. I often stop at Tesco on the way back from Mass – but they have been known to run out of Weston’s Vintage on a Sunday, and I drink no other.

So it’s here.

I had another good day with Tannehill. The third skein has been joined in. I think I have earned my weekend of Fair Isle.

I didn’t take a picture. I kept putting it off because I was going to knit a few more rounds, and then, of course, the light was gone. But tomorrow I won’t knit it at all, and the light promises to be good, so there we are. And on Sunday the clocks go forward and we’ll have even more light.

Madtosh is notorious for having skeins of different values. This third skein of Tannehill is very dark, and has produced the sharpest colour-change line I’ve ever had. You’ll see. I’m not going to worry about it. My husband doesn’t go out and about. What he wants is a cosy DK sweater asap.

MaureeninFargo has written to me to say that she didn’t adapt Meg’s video-vest to make her own cardigan (as I said yesterday) – Meg did it herself. It’s the cover picture, indeed, of her book “Knitting”. In view of recent events, you may be surprised to hear that I found that book exactly where it belonged, with EZ and Meg’s other books. It sounds from what she says there as if vest and cardigan evolved simultaneously.

Kate Davies has posted an interesting blog entry called Patients and Doctors. No knitting in it at all. It sounds as if she is writing a book about her stroke.

Kristie (comment yesterday), my hesitation about knitting the museum-quality sweater for which Jamieson&Smith offer a “temporarily unavailable” kit, would not be the knitting of a whole Fair Isle sweater in fingering weight. That’s fun. It would be the fiddliness of knitting all those different lozenges, and of knitting the peerie pattern as the v-neck edging.

Meg says, in the introduction to the cardigan pattern in “Knitting”:

“Those who have experienced the excitement and contentment of knitting a true Fair Isle pattern need not be told of the pure pleasure involved. Elizabeth once described Fair Isle knitting as ‘painting with a different color in each hand and never having to rinse the brushes.’ For me it is like going into a trance.”


Just so. All those different lozenges might spoil it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another good day with Tannehill. I should join in the third skein tomorrow, and I’m not a million miles from the point where I separate back and front at the underarm. I think a picture would be a good idea, although I don’t trust it to do justice to the beautiful colour. Tomorrow.

I spent some time wandering around the internet last night, while waiting for the nurse to come. I discovered that Jamieson & Smith offer a kit based on a particular sweater in the Shetland Museum which is illustrated in Mucklestone’s book and which I mentioned only a couple of days ago – the one in which the pattern in every lozenge is different.

The J&S text says that in the original sweater, the different-ness extends to the back, but that they have simplified things by making the back and front identical, lozenge-wise. They phrase it more elegantly.

The odd thing is that this kit is “currently unavailable”. Why on earth? They must have the pattern, and it uses nothing but shades of their own Shetland Heritage yarn.

I haven’t advanced either with colouring-in the squares in Excel or downloading the allegedly free copy of Stitch and Motif Maker. The idea is to spend a happy weekend knitting the next 15-row border pattern, and another peerie, onto the swatch-scarf. The border has already been planned, and coloured however clumsily with pen and pencil. Then when it is finished, I hope it will itself prompt the next experiment and that’s when I can try colouring by computer.


Ravelry suggested the other day looking at your friends’ projects if you find yourself drained of inspiration. That’s how I found MaureeninFargo’s Fair Isle sweaters – her husband is wearing the vest Meg designed for Knitter’s magazine and also published with accompanying video. Then Maureen must have transformed the pattern into a cardigan for herself. The result is rather impressive.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Another anxious evening, waiting for a nurse to come and see to my husband’s catheter. I think the last time this happened was on the eve of the EYF – not long ago – and I was afraid I wouldn’t get there. He has been weak and droopy of late.

I steadily knit Tannehill in the intervals of my nursing duties. Today, I must confess with some embarrassment, I weighed the ball of yarn several times, until finally I got it down under 50 grams, therefore half way through, therefore entitled to half of the 12% I have assigned to each skein, for sidebar purposes, on the strength of Sweater Wizard’s estimate of how much yarn is needed in all.

(There are 46 days in Lent, so, for that one, each day earns 2%, with a bonus 1% every Tuesday when another week is completed.)

Thank you, Southern Gal, for suggesting Excel for my Fair Isle charting. I don’t think I even knew it offered colour. I use Excel extensively for the Income Tax, and for a Christmas list now spanning many years, but nothing else.

And I also seem to have discovered that Stitch and Motif Maker is available as a free download. I haven’t done it yet, because I discovered that on the iPad and thought I wanted the program here on the laptop. But I’m not sure that’s true, now that I write that sentence down. We’ll see, tomorrow. I want to be able to print my little designs and keep them together in some sort of portfolio.

But I can print from the iPad.

Shandy, I’m sure you’re right about the importance of having an overall colour. I’ve gone for that dark green you mention, and will need to order more of it rather soon.


It’s a stormy night. Poor nurses.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Lent

Three weeks done – nearly half-way. Thursday is in fact the half-way point. Rachel and I agreed on the phone last week that this is where Lent gets a bit dreary. One skips through the first few days, sustained by a virtuous glow. But now it just seems a long, long way to the end. Laetare Sunday, however, looms: the mid-Lent day off. It will be very welcome.

Other non-knit

Mungo sent Helen, and she sent me, this enchanting mosaic he saw in a Beirut museum, of the infant Alexander the Great having a bath.




Knitting

Tannehill progresses. There’s much to be said for boring & DK, if you’re keen to get something done.

I continue to think about Fair Isle. Here are the yarns chosen for next weekend’s experiment:



And here they are in tonal form. I think I’m getting the idea.



Thank you very much, Theresa and Karen, for your comments yesterday about my first attempt. At the moment, I am far too impatient to try again with something completely different, to take your advice. But you have persuaded me that it would be a good idea, when I have more or less decided on the motifs and the arrangement I want to go forward with, to knit them together and consider the total effect, as Mucklestone has done for the admirable “Mix and Match” swatches towards the end of her book.

I’m in no hurry – maybe that’s the secret of happy swatching. And the longer the better, as far as the scarf is concerned. Maybe I’d better go ahead and knit this vest before I’m too old to pull it off.


I’ve bought myself sets of coloured pens and pencils (such as everybody needs for their colouring books these days – a most unexpected enthusiasm) and I have been trying to chart the pattern I have chosen in the colours I’m going to use. But the colours of the pens and pencils are pretty remote from the colours of the yarns and it doesn’t work very well. I wish I could find Stitch and Motif Maker.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I finished the motif and added a peerie and returned with some reluctance to Tannehill:




I am fully swept up in Mucklestone’s enthusiasm for swatching Fair Isle. I like this first result better than I thought I would when I was half-way through, except I don’t entirely like that yellow in the middle. Next time I’ll try a pattern with the dark colours in the background and the pattern in light. Kate Davies in her Macrihanish pattern alternates two such patterns, light and dark, with peeries in between. She uses only six colours altogether. Maybe I’m trying to squeeze in too many:



I’m not going to “design” the scarf, beyond centering the motifs and separating border patterns with peeries. I think the colours will hold it together. I might as well try different peeries each time, too. I think I had vaguely hoped that the stitch repeats in 15-row border patterns would all be the same, so that each repeat could be different (as I read somewhere that traditional Fair Isles are) and still line up. But they’re not.

I bought Mucklestone’s book, “200 Fair Isle Designs”. It arrived today. It offers a good deal more than the title promises – general instructions on all aspects of Fair Isle knitting, to begin with. The patterns are photographed life-size, with an accompanying chart and another chart offering an alternative colour-way. In some cases the pattern is also photographed with another pattern from elsewhere in the book, showing how they might be combined. In others, a chart shows how a border pattern can become an all-over.

She illustrates a stunning sweater from the Shetland Museum which seems to have a different pattern in every lozenge – that is, the “O’s” of the famous OXO – even within a row. And the peerie pattern in between reappears as the neck edging. Genius.

And speaking of books, thank you, Chloe (comment yesterday) for suggesting that good old Ravelry will show me the patterns in Sally Melville’s “Styles”. I am mystified by the absence of that book. I haven’t looked at it for a long time, so it is unlikely to have been left lying around somewhere (although that is possible). I will keep looking where it belongs, with the Melville’s on the “design” shelf or with the outsize knitting books elsewhere. Maybe it will re-materialise the way Gaughan’s cable book did recently.


The Tannehill sweater is coming along nicely. It can’t help being boring, and the yarn is beautiful.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I decided that I might as well start the swatch scarf, so I did.

It was an interesting experience. The 12” circular needle is somewhat awkward, but not excruciatingly so. I didn’t have much trouble with the pattern, as I did in Hazel Tindall’s class, but my left hand didn’t behave as well as it might, and the first half of the 15-row OXO motif I launched into was productive of a good deal of tension across the shoulders. The second half went better.

I’m within two rows of finishing the motif. I’ll try to show it to you tomorrow. I don’t think I’m entirely satisfied with the way the colours are working together. I can see how this might get to be a lot of fun.

When this motif is finished, and maybe a peerie to round it off, I’ll wind another skein of Tannehill and revert to that.

Thank you very much for your help with my madtosh leftovers, and apologies, Tamar, for not giving you credit for the suggestion that I look at Kaffe. And I can see myself getting swept away by the temptation to buy a few more skeins to go with the leftovers I’ve already got. Something has got to be a main colour. I’ll pay close attention to how many skeins are consumed by my husband’s sweater. Composition Book Grey and Roast Hatch Chillies are the two I’ve got the most of.

Non-knit


Helen’s middle son Mungo is going to Beirut tomorrow. We’re all a bit nervous (except for Mungo). He is doing Arabic at Oxford, and his college has given him a travel grant to spend a week in a place where it is spoken. As far as I can understand it, however, he is learning classical Arabic which won’t get him very far with the spoken language.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

My husband has now been four months home from hospital.

Today was a better day – than last Saturday, I mean. Scotland beat Italy by a tidy score, without letting them score anything at all. AND IRELAND BEAT ENGLAND! That one was on a knife-edge until the concluding seconds. England had been pretty well taking it for granted that they would win, and thereby win the Grand Slam, so-called, which would have meant they had beaten every other nation in the tournament. Pride goeth before a fall, not infrequently.

The tournament is now over for this year. We came fourth.

The Tannehill sweater was perfect for rugby knitting, round and round in st st. I got a fair amount done, and am nearly finished with the first skein. It’s lovely stuff. Why did they give it up?

I thought a bit about what to do with all my madetosh leftovers. And you’re quite right, Beverly, about “Tart” – I had forgotten that single skein of red I got to make facings for Archie’s sweater. I’ve found it (I hope – it’s unlabelled) and added it to the pile. I’ve always rather fancied this, from a VK of about 50 years ago:



It’s written for a 4-ply yarn, but I think could be converted to DK without too much difficulty. And I think there would be enough “Tart” for the smallest stripe. On the reverse of this image, that is, on the preceding page of the magazine, is a sleeveless Fair Isle cardigan-vest by Kaffe, his first published pattern, I believe. 

And he is a good idea too, Beverly, as a source of inspiration, except that he so often uses far more colours than I have to hand.  I wanted to have a look at Sally Melville’s “Styles” but I can’t find it. I haven’t looked at it for years, have never knit from it, but that’s no excuse for its not being where it ought to be, on the “design” shelf with the other Melville’s.

Beverly, you’re right, too, about recording FO’s in Ravelry. My practice is to date the pattern leaflet and put it, or my notes, or at any rate something, in a manilla folder. When it gets too full for comfort, I transfer the contents into a box file and start again. I have been doing this since sometime in the ‘70’s. But it’s a bit messy and sometimes incomplete. Ravelry would be much more secure.

I took a guess and looked today in the box file that runs from the late 70’s through the early 80’s, and found several things from my Fair Isle Phase. The notes for two of them had, as a notation of the needles used, “9 and 11”. That takes you back. 9=3.75mm so I’ll try both that and 4mm. I’ve got short circulars for both those sizes. Are they so short that my hands will hurt?


So I’m ready to attempt the Feral Knitter’s swatch-scarf. She suggests 128 stitches on a 16” circular. Any day now.

Friday, March 17, 2017

American holidays which afford shopkeepers means of making money, are insinuating themselves more and more into the British calendar – Mother’s Day, Halloween. Even Easter seems to me to have suffered a new and excessive accession of chocolate rabbits in recent years. And Christmas, which was scarcely noticed in Scotland when I came in the 50’s, has become unspeakable.

(All the holidays I mention were observed in Britain before they became commercialized. But they were observed without all that stuff which now fills the shops for weeks in advance.)

But today is one we are spared. Each nation celebrates its own patron saint – Andrew, David, George. Although the English are not all that interested in George. Patrick is a bigger deal than any of them – but only in Ireland. Today was a bank holiday there, and everybody in Dublin is drunk, but the rest of us can go quietly and thankfully about our business with no need to drink green beer. (Rachel’s younger son Joe is in Dublin for the match tomorrow, so I have information about conditions there at first hand.)

Knitting

Kathleen and Mary Lou are right about the Knitter’s Almanac (comments yesterday). I knew you were right as soon as I read your comment, Kathleen. The sweater in question is EZ’s “open-collared pullover”, October’s offering. I think I followed her instructions all the way through, and the result is highly satisfactory.

I got on nicely with Tannehill today. The ribbing is finished, the increase row done, the body commenced.

I am soon going to have quite a lot of left-over madtosh DK: Composition-Book Grey, from Archie’s sweater; Whiskey Barrel; Roast Hatch Chillies; and, soon, Tannehill – if the Sweater Wizard’s estimate of how much I will use in this sweater is accurate. How to combine them all?


I have gone on thinking about Fair Isle. The swatch-scarf can serve several useful purposes. Colour, of course, and the provision of an accurate gauge swatch -- one must calculate the length with care so that the pattern does something sensible when back and front meet at the shoulder. And in addition, I have forgotten what needle size I use. I know that I knit tightly when I am stranding two colours, and therefore use a larger needle than I otherwise would for Shetland Jumper Weight. But how large?

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Here it is:



It is in many respects carelessly and rather sloppily done. I am lucky that it has turned out so well. It’s awfully cosy, despite being only half a brioche. Perhaps I can wear it the next time I go for a Serious Walk.

I had a feeling, as I was doing the plackets and collar, that EZ has such a neckline treatment somewhere. I couldn’t find it in the indices of her books. I knit a sweater once in fairly light-weight yarn on which I’ve done it, and my dim memory is that EZ was guiding my steps. I got it out today, to help me judge whether I had knit enough collar on the new one – and find that the collar and plackets are edged with i-cord. It looks very neat, and points again to EZ.

I had time for a bit more ribbing. Sweater Wizard would have me knit this sweater – a bog-standard DK long-sleeved v-necked pullover – in four pieces. And I know that lots of designers maintain that seams provide stability. But I am knitting this one in the round until the sleeve-holes start, then back and forth, like it or not. The ribbing looks very nice, but progress is slow. Sweater Wizard wants 22 rows of it. 22 rounds, in my case.

My tentative plan is to plod on like this until I finish the ribbing, and then maybe allow myself two evenings a week for frivolity – such as a Fair Isle swatch-scarf.

The bit of Meg’s video that I watched last night was a bit dispiriting. She was explaining the best cast-on for corrugated rib. The long-tail cast on, as I’m sure you know, can either be done by knitting into a loop around one’s left thumb (that’s how I do it) or by means of a cat’s-cradle construction into which the needle dips. That’s how Real Knitters like Meg and Franklin do it.

For corrugated rib, one doesn’t employ the long-tail cast on but a variant which will only have made sense to those who use the cat’s-cradle method. I could learn, I suppose. And anyway, corrugated rib isn’t essential.

Non-knit


Dreadful as are the events unfolding in the US of A, I am afraid I still feel even sorrier for Scotland. You’ve got the hope that there will still be free elections in four years’ time. Less than that, now – three years and eight months. But if Ms Sturgeon succeeds in wresting apart the United Kingdom, undoing more than 300 years of history (since the Act of Union), there will be no hope at all of putting things right, ever.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

That was a more productive day on the knitting front. I have finished sewing the half-brioche sweater together and knitting the plackets. I am maybe half-way through the collar. There are a good many loose ends to tidy away when that is done. Even so, I might finish tomorrow.

Which reminds me of another tidbit from Hazel Tindall. When you knit Fair Isle, you wind up with a fringe of ends up one side seam (on the inside) where you have attached a new colour every couple of rows. She said that it is all right to tidy and secure the loose ends by knotting. That’s what I’ve always done and would have continued doing, whatever she said, but I am enormously gratified to have her approval.

She didn’t press her way of knitting on us, although she was happy to demonstrate. She did say at the beginning, though, when we were all casting on our mug haps, that it is easier to join the work without twisting if, at that point, the stitches are on only two needles. Quite true, it turns out. I have always changed direction after casting on a sock, and ribbed one or even two rows back and forth before joining, but perhaps henceforth I’ll do it her way.

I enjoyed the beginning of Meg’s Fair Isle video, and hope to watch some more this evening. I left her about to tell me how to cast on in a way that would stop corrugated rib from flaring outwards.

Non-knit

Alexander came to see us, as often on a Wednesday. He is as depressed as I am at the prospect of another independence referendum – two more years of anxiety and bad temper, and then ---

He thinks that so profound a change should require a bit more than a simple majority, like constitutional amendments in the US. I’m inclined to agree.


He and his family will be here for the match against Italy on Saturday, the last day of the Six Nations tournament. But he and I are both almost more interested in Ireland-England at the end of the afternoon. Can Ireland stop the juggernaut? 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

That’s a fortnight of Lent disposed of – nearly 1/3. And Laetare Sunday is less than a fortnight distant. That’s when we relax for a day.

C. and I had a good walk, around Bonaly Reservoir this morning. The weather was bright and fairly vernal, but with a terrific wind, We walked for an hour, and covered perhaps 2 ½ miles. Not much, but there were two steep ascents involved. I feel much the better for it.

But I was in no state for much knitting when I got back. I’ve done some more ribbing, and must take care that the half-brioche sweater, so nearly finished, doesn’t slip away.

I watched some of Hazel Tindall’s video last night – it’s a two-disk set, but I can’t find the second disk or the box. Tonight I hope to watch a bit of Meg’s Fair Isle Vest video.  I was right: Hazel knits around with three needles, rather than four or five.

I had a nice time just now reading about what a wonderful time everybody had at the EYF, and looking at pictures of their hauls. My own acquisitions look positively restrained in comparison with many.

Non-knit

Jen, and Isabella (comments yesterday): my very happy weekend in Shetland happened not long before the (first) independence referendum. There was a substantial movement – posters in the airport, etc – in favour of the idea that if Scotland as a whole voted for independence, and the northern islands voted for union, they would be allowed to remain in the UK. They are not quite Scotland, up there; they have an interesting separate history.

But you can imagine how far they got with that idea, in the Scottish parliament.


The situation now seems to me rather parallel. We were promised last time that there wouldn’t be another referendum for a generation. 

Monday, March 13, 2017

Today wasn’t as productive. There are still a few inches to sew together on the final stretch of the half-brioche side-and-sleeve seam. I fetched Vogue Knitting from its place on the shelf in preparation for possibly adding a collar – I think it’s the best book I have for such details. I discovered in it, accidentally, that if you are adding a placket or collar of a different colour, you should pick up the stitches in the original colour and then switch. In this case, the Roast Hatch Chillies are there in the background all along, but the Whiskey Barrel predominates so strongly that I had probably better take Vogue’s advice.

I did some more ribbing on my husband’s sweater. He is of respectable circumference, and the Sweater Wizard wants 22 rounds of rib, so it’ll take a while.

And I read Alice Starmore’s Fair Isle book. It is extremely thorough, extremely Starmore. She, too, is keen on swatching and warns of the unexpected results that can arise when colours are combined.

On securing steeks: Peggy, you must bear in mind what Mary Lou wisely pointed out – that leaving a steek unsecured depends on your having used Shetland yarn, which is very “sticky”. Starmore cuts cheerfully into an unsecured steek, but insists that you hem it firmly down later. Mucklestone, towards the end of her lesson on securing steeks, does mention the possibility of doing nothing. Nor does she hem the facing later.

I'd better find out what Meg recommends, in that video I've got, before I decide.

Non-knit

I am going on a walk tomorrow with our niece, while the cleaner is here. I used to walk with her quite often, five miles or so. I wonder how much I can manage now – it’s been a long time.


I am greatly distressed to learn that there is to be another referendum on Scottish independence. 

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Today was quite productive on the knitting front. I finished the first of the long seams on the half-brioche sweater, enabling me to try it on, after a fashion. I think it’s going to fit rather well. I have embarked on the second seam. It’s slow work. I’m doing something between mattress stitch and a simple overcast.

I got a bit anxious about not having any actual knitting to hand – unusually, I don’t even have a pair of socks on the go. My Tannehill swatch has emerged from the wash, so I took gauge from it again (virtually unchanged) and then ran the figures through the Sweater Wizard and printed out a pattern for my husband’s plain-vanilla v-neck sweater. And cast it on. The SW is an excellent program – it’s a pity nobody has picked it up and run with it. It’s a pity computers keep changing all the time and rendering good programs obsolete. Like the British Quicken.

It is a great pleasure, knitting with madtosh DK.  I showed my husband the swatch, and he thoroughly approves of “Tannehill”. And I’ve got plenty. It’s been discontinued, so that’s an important fact. (The Sweater Wizard estimates how much you’ll need.) So we’re set fair.  

I’ve gone on thinking about Fair Isle. I can’t knit Alexander his vest without the Calcutta Cup, but I can knit a swatch-scarf and at the moment, fully intend to do so. I might even make it long enough to give to him, thus using up all the yarn. I’ll keep the ball bands carefully. Here is my yarn:



And here it is with the iPad’s “tonal” mask applied. I still don’t know what that achieves:



I think my plan for the immediate future, once the half-brioche is finished, will be to have my husband’s sweater as No. One WIP, with perhaps two days a week for frivolity: either Mary Lou’s baby sweater, or the swatch-scarf.

I wish I had asked Hazel Tindall exactly how she knits. I know that a knitting belt is always involved, and I suspect, from something she said, that she knits on three needles rather than four (or five). So knitting a sock would be exactly the same as knitting a sweater, except that she’d finish a needle and have to switch over much sooner. I’ve got her knitting video but have never watched much of it. Some of the answer may well be there.

I’ve also got Meg’s Fair Isle Vest video and have never even unwrapped it.


I have been surprised, going carefully back through “A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book”, to see that a great many of the patterns change both colours in the same row. I thought that was never done. Hazel said that she prefers not to.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

We lost. It was horrible.

A fortnight ago England could scarcely cope with Italy. (Italy are not terribly good, and almost always lose.) Today they ran rings around us from the beginning. I think I heard the man say that never in the long history of the Calcutta Cup has either side scored as many points as England did today. It was a bad-tempered match as well.

So now I must pull myself together and think about the future, after adding yesterday’s purchases to my already-over-lengthy queue. I have finished the jigsaw puzzle of constructing the top of the half-brioche sweater, and have embarked on the long, straight seams of the sides and the underarm. I was constantly afraid of some egregious mistake, like the time I sewed the Sous Sous together with one piece upside down, but I think I’m all right.

During the match I swatched for the plain-vanilla v-necked sweater in madtosh DK “Tannehill”which I’ve been meaning to knit for my husband. I’ve got lots of madtosh DK swatches, but they lack reference to any particular needle size. I won’t want to start for a week or so, when I have finally and for real finished the half-brioche, so I think I will take careful note of the present gauge (and needle size) and then wash it (by machine, since it is meant to be superwash) and try again.

Hazel Tindall’s class

We were meant to knit mug haps – little cosies to put around our mugs of tea. I don’t think anyone finished. I certainly didn’t, although I intend to. It didn’t prevent the class from being delightful and of great use and interest.

Hazel provided us with a table-ful of little yarn butterflies from which to choose our colours, and spoke most interestingly on the subject of colour. I still don’t think I grasp the point about colour values, and why it is useful to photograph our yarn choices in black and white. Helen is taking a class at the Leith School of Art on Painting and Drawing (for the sake of designing mosaics) and says that the teacher has recommended that procedure. Mucklestone recommended it, too.

The mug hap, above the initial ribbing, consists of two repeats of a very simple 10-stitch 9-row Fair Isle pattern. I was distressed at how often I lost hold and had to rip back and try again. I was pleased with the result of my first repeat of the pattern, however, and decided to do the second with the same four colours, differently arranged. I don’t think I’m going to like it nearly as well. I’ll show you soon, I hope.

There were moments, despite my mental clumsiness, when I had the old feeling of exhilaration – why do I ever do any other sort of knitting, when I could be knitting Fair Isle?

I hope, after all this thought, that I’ll go ahead and knit a swatch-scarf, as recommended by the Feral Knitter.


I might add that Hazel doesn’t like circular needles – too much time is wasted coaxing the stitches over the join. She uses a knitting belt even for socks and mug haps. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

It was wonderful.

It was brilliantly organised, and there were plenty of stewards, so that the capacity crowd – this event is obviously a huge success – scarcely suffered. It began when we were queuing before nine to get in for the class-attenders’ private hour at the market. People passed among us inspecting our class tickets and dispensing golden wrist-bands. All we had to do when the magic hour struck was walk in past the gate-keeper holding a hand aloft.

I have never seen such a market – and I’ve been to Stitches. Admittedly, not to Rhinebeck. It would be interesting to compare.

Several of you spoke to me (on account of my Thanks Obama bag) – that was nice. The first one, while we were still in that queue outside, had a Strachur Primary School bag of her own. That’s where Alexander and Ketki’s sons began their education, on Loch Fyne. Other people congratulated me on the bag for its own sake.

I didn’t wear knitting, but instead my new sweat shirt, whose only previous outing had been on Chrstmas Day:




And, sure enough! I met an Oberlin knitter. She was actually in Hazel Tindall’s class! If we can get Arthur Dent’s Infinite Improbability Drive to work that well at Twickenham tomorrow…

In the market: I bought the colours I couldn’t supply from stash, to make up the colour scheme for Alexander’s Fair Isle vest. 



I decided against the Brooklyn Tweed "Arbor" yarn for the Nila pattern, beautiful as it is. It cost something like £13 a skein, and I needed something like 15 skeins. That's too much, considering that I was doubtful about the pattern. But I can tell you that Jared was there, first thing in the morning and still there when I re-attacked the market after lunch. He looks younger than I expected. I also saw Gudrun Johnston (this year's patron of Shetland Wool Week) and Kate Davies and Carol Feller, among others.

I didn’t buy Baa Ram Ewe’s yarn for the shorter Ancasta, either. I didn’t like it quite well enough, face to face.

I did buy the Samite for Nancy’s Vest. I regretted that purchase almost as soon as made. I chose what I thought was a dusty red. It turned brown as soon as I had paid for it, but looks perhaps slightly better this evening.

I bought two skeins of Sweet Georgia sock yarn (=washable) for Mary Lou’s Pollywog Popover pattern from Drop Dead Easy Knits, one solid, one variegated. I’ll have an incentive to do that one soon, before the great-grandchildren start school. And I added an (expensive) mini-skein set also from Sweet Georgia. Mini-skeins were everywhere, as expected.

Hazel Tindall’s class was wonderful. She is delightful. I’ll have to write more about that tomorrow. For now, I’ll just tell you that Hazel Tindall doesn’t finish a steek – neither reinforcing it before cutting, nor hemming the facing in any way. That’s if she’s just knitting a sweater for herself. If she’s aiming at a competition, she takes more trouble. For the judges’ sake – the steek doesn’t need it.


So now I’ve got the yarn, and I’ve taken a class with Hazel Tindall. All we need is the Calcutta Cup.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

My husband is having some sort of trouble with his catheter. We’re waiting for a nurse.

Otherwise, I’m all set for tomorrow.

Last minute excitement: the EYF emailed me yesterday about a new yarn from Blacker called Samite which will be launched tomorrow. Shetland wool, “Ahimsa” silk, Gotland wool. It sounded sort of lace-weight from the blurb, and I even thought of doing a Houlland (from the Haps book, like Shandy) – but in fact, when yardage is compared to weight, it is far too heavy.

What it does match, almost precisely, is the yarn for Nancy’s Vest. So I shall look at it with that in mind.

“Ahimsa” silk is what happens when the moths have been allowed to grow up and emerge from their cocoons. I would guess that it’s cheaper than the real thing, when the moths are put to death unborn to preserve the cocoon intact. But Blacker crowns the blurb with a wonderful piece of silliness: “We’re thinking about the future of our planet and investing in Ahimsa silk guarantees that there will still be moths to make the silk of the future.”

As if the Chinese, who have been farming silk worms for millennia, hadn’t thought about that.

I’ve finished the basic knitting of the half-brioche, and have made quite good progress with assembly. How old-fashioned it feels, to be sewing knitting together piece by piece! There are only the usual four pieces, but the shoulder strap ensures that there’s lots of sewing.

It’s fun having more knitting to look forward to, placket and collar, as I toil on.


Now I must go polish my shoes and worry about my husband. I’ll report tomorrow if I am strong enough.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

I think I am all packed for the EYF, except for the iPad which I will add at the last moment for the sake of its camera (Hazel T. suggests a camera) and the notes I have made about sweater’s-worths of yarn. I found some knitter’s graph paper of my own right here, published by the Schoolhouse Press.

I also found the Sweater Wizard, and it seems to work on this computer. I don’t know which version of Windows I’ve got – not the latest. I can run Lotus Organizer but not, alas, Quicken. Maddeningly, I can’t find Stitch and Motif Maker. It’s far less important, but it’s still frustrating. It must be there somewhere. Helen popped in while I was searching, and was surprised that my computer even had a disk drive. But surely…

The EYF says that Jared will be available for meeting and greeting and signing his new, expensive book – for an hour and a half on Saturday. That doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t be at his stand on Friday. But probably.

What an extraordinary piece of luck, I keep reflecting, that this wonderful event is right here on my doorstep, considering how constrained my life now is. I would have found it very difficult even to get to Glasgow. There was a not-entirely-successful attempt to do something at Stirling a few years ago. I signed up and paid, but when it got to the time, found that I couldn’t get away from my responsibilities after all.


As for the half-brioche, I finished the body of the sleeve, as hoped, and am well forward with the shoulder strap. After that is a narrow piece which goes around the back of the neck. I’d have polished that off with ease by the weekend, were it not for the EYF and the Calcutta Cup.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

It wasn’t a particularly productive day on the knitting front: a supermarket sweep in the morning, my husband’s physiotherapist at midday, a very welcome visit from an old friend in the afternoon. I think three rows remain before I narrow the sleeve to just the shoulder strap.

Thank you for all your help about graph paper to take to Hazel Tindall’s class. What I did was order this little book from Amazon, which I thought could double as a notebook for taking notes in. If it doesn’t turn up by Thursday, I’ll think again.

While I was there, I also ordered this Knitting Calculator. I look forward to getting acquainted with it, although I am sure it is no substitute for the Sweater Wizard.

You’re right, of course, Maureen, that two-colour stranded knitting pulls in no matter how conscientiously one keeps smoothing out the right-hand needle, and the result is stitches which are pretty well square. My little book will have knitterly rectangles, I am sure. But it doesn’t matter – the point will surely be to use it for a quick note of a pattern or two.

Kate's "Inspired by Islay" book arrived in today's post, and is very nice indeed -- although I haven't had much time with it yet. 

A blog post from Ella Gordon says that she will be at the EYF. But Jamieson & Smith (where she works) won't be, I believe. She must be coming for the Shetland Wool Week stall. 

By the way, I will be carrying the "Thanks, Obama" bag which my sister brought me on the occasion of her recent visit.

Non-knit


There’s a week of Lent done. The worst is over. I am moving into the happy state of rejoicing in how much money I’m saving and how many heavy bottles I don’t have to carry home. And anyway it will be Laetare Sunday any moment now.

Monday, March 06, 2017

Here’s where we are:



…with the second sleeve very nearly to the point where it joins the body. I've also done the back, although it doesn't figure in this photograph. There is an egregious mistake in the middle of the sleeve you see, and a less serious one in the middle of the sleeve I’m still knitting. Miraculously, both mistakes are much less visible on the right side. Tinking brioche is virtually impossible.

The suggestion in the photograph that the sleeve is of a somewhat different tint to the body, is, alas, true.

I would be very grateful for your aesthetic advice. The pattern wants only ribbing (and buttonholes) at the neck. I am thinking, as I have said, of adding a collar. And I am thinking of doing all that in Roast Hatch Chillies. What do you think? Would that be too violent? I’ve got plenty of both yarns – that isn’t a consideration.

I’ve heard from Baa Ram Ewe so now I am fully equipped for the EYF. I remind myself that it would be wiser not to buy a sweater’s worth. We’ll see. And Nancy’s Vest might best be knit in Carol Sunday’s yarn.

I continue to watch Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Craftsy class on the Fair Isle Vest. I am increasingly enchanted by her. What fun it would be to go on the tours to Shetland which she leads with Gudrun Johnston! They stay at the wonderful house --  Burrastow – where Kristie and Kath and I stayed. One for my bucket list.

Mucklestone is devoted to swatching – not in a severe, schoolmistress-y way, but on the unlikely grounds that it’s fun. “You might never need to knit a garment again.” She says she knit all the swatches for her book “200 Fair Isle Designs”. By which I am rather tempted.

I will take the FT reproduction of Hopper’s “Gas” with me to the EYF to choose the colours I can’t supply from stash. After all this preparation, I think I will have to cast on a swatch-scarf even after we, predictably, lose the Calcutta Cup match on Saturday. That’s the day after the EYF, but it would be silly not to choose the colours there, eyeball to eyeball with the yarn, rather than wait and have to do it from a computer screen.

Here’s another job for you: I want to take squared paper with me to Hazel Tindall’s class. She suggests it as an option. I tried the stationery department in John Lewis yesterday: no luck. They’re busy knocking down the St James’ Centre, so Ryman’s is gone. But I know I have a knitting book – and probably more than one – which prints pages of empty squares. I’ve always thought that was a slightly cheaty way to pad out a book.


But now I want to find such a book and photocopy that page. Does anybody know what book it’s in? The chances are very good that I’ve got it, but I hesitate to start searching blindly.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

James has gone back to Sydenham.

I had a good day – I got a couple of things done, including unpinning the shawl. Perdita loves blocking – or rather, unblocking – lace. She rushes to the scene as soon as she contrives to get into the room – even when she could hardly have known that I was blocking lace – and starts pulling out the pins. I am anxious for the shawl, but far more anxious for her, and glad when the temptation can be removed.

I’m further on with the second sleeve of the half-brioche. I should finish it as far as the shoulder strap tomorrow or Tuesday. I’ll try to contrive a picture.

I got a little bit forward'er with the EYF – I’ve emailed Baa Ram Ewe (rather late in the day) to ask how much yarn the shorter Ancasta requires; and I’ve made a tidy list in my iPad of the yarn requirements of the various other possibilities.  Both Carol Sunday, “Nancy’s Vest”, and Jared, “Nila” list the yarn requirements on their websites, so I haven’t had to commit myself to buying a pattern yet.

And of course there will be gradient packs and I can always buy 100 grams of a good sock yarn or two.

There’s news of Susan Crawford: she has finished radiotherapy and is officially cancer-free. She will ease herself back into work next month, and hopes to let us know a publication date for the Vintage Shetland Project before the end of May. It might be of lugubrious interest to count the publication dates we’ve had so far, starting with November, 2015.

I’ve retrieved from my archives the Sweater-Wizard pattern for Alexander’s Calcutta Cup sweater of 2006, including the Stitch-and-Motif-Maker chart with the picture of the Cup. (I wonder if those useful programs will run on my present laptop?) Scotland also won in 2008. I knit a sweater for Ketki that time but have entirely forgotten its nature. Is it in the archives? If so, I went past it without noticing. 2010 was a draw – that was when I knit a hat for Alexander and Ketki’s son James, showing half the Cup. Alas, he lost it.


And I continue to watch Mucklestone’s interesting Craftsy class. We’ve had four or five lessons, and haven’t even started knitting. Yarn, colour, pattern.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

James’ son Alistair (computer science, Glasgow University) has come over for the day and night, and they have gone out for a Chinese. So here I am.

I did get the shawl blocked yesterday, and here it is:



It is small – I’m not going to measure again just now, but it’s three or four inches shorter on all sides than Mrs Hunter of Unst expects. I think it’s big enough for its purpose – to be not a fancy, kept-for-best shawl but a useful accessory for a summer baby. I am afraid you can see a clear line, to the right of the centre square, where I grafted it to the border.

On the other hand, this is the corner I sewed (having knit the borders with one corner open in order to achieve garter stitch and avoid purling). I simply overcast it, and I think the result is pretty successful.


I have gone on thinking about Fair Isle vests, and watching Mary Jane Mucklestone’s Craftsy class on the subject. She’s got a good lesson on colour. There are lots of examples on Ravelry of different people’s versions of the pattern supplied with the class. I was impressed with how good almost all of them look.

Here’s something I keep meaning to tell you: I find, in my copy of Sheila McGregor’s Fair Isle book, a print-out of something Liz Lovick posted in 2006. She says that in Shetland, “steek” means “stitch”, full stop. She says that she discussed this with a wide variety of knitters there. They were unanimous on the point, and their responses to the alternative meaning, often unprintable.

The reason I have put this interesting document in McGregor’s book is that Shetland knitters believe, Lovick says, that she was the first to use the word “steek” in its modern sense.

She says that a generation ago, Shetland knitters would either knit back and forth above the armholes, or, if they couldn’t stand purling, would cut the yarn at the end of every row and push the stitches back to the other end of the needle. Modern knitters, Lovick says, either do one of those two things, or use what amounts to a steek for the armholes without using the word.


Hazel Tindall herself used “steek” in our sense in a post to some forum or other that I read only yesterday, so things must have changed in the last decade. It happens – just as British knitters now speak confidently of “Kitchener stitch” which used to be an exclusively American phrase. Thanks, I am sure, to the internet.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Here it is, and you must agree that it looks rather wee:



I very much hope that I will get it blocked tomorrow morning. The day often starts rather slowly, waiting for my husband’s carers to come and help him get up. There might be time then, when I am at my liveliest anyway.

The shawl was finished this morning, leaving behind it the problem of what to knit for the rest of the day, once I had decided that there wasn’t time to block it on the spot. The half-brioche sweater was at a highly vulnerable stage, laid aside long enough that I had forgotten its little ways; enough remaining to be done that it was a slightly daunting prospect. And other knitterly delights were now occupying my mind.

Thus do projects gather momentum on the slippery slope to UFO-dom.

However, I picked it up and resumed it, and all went reasonably well. I made substantial progress on the second sleeve. After that, there will be a lot of sewing-together and a neck placket to which I think I might add a collar.

I printed out my e-ticket for my EYF class and put it carefully in the bag I mean to carry that day. I have had a detailed and comforting message from them, with a map, about how to find the back door which will admit class attenders to the market an hour early. And they also addressed my next question – do I have to go somewhere first to get an armband? And, if so, where? Or can I get in on the e-ticket? The answer is, the latter.

I am most fortunate that Hazel Tindall’s class is in the Corn Exchange. So I ought to have a generous half-hour in the market beforehand, plus as much as I have strength for afterwards.

Shandy, you’re right that I could pretty well wing it with the Fair Isle vest by now. Except that after reading the Feral Knitter and Knitsonik, I am actually enthused with the idea of swatching to practice moving colours around and seeing how they work with each other. And, Lisa, I got the Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book out and it’s even better than I remembered. Thanks for reminding me.

Non-knit

James is coming to see us tomorrow, leaving on Sunday. So I’ll be away until then.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

So -- that's one day of Lent down. The rest should be easy enough.

Helen has been given a grant by Creative Scotland to go to a mosaic-orientated conference in Chicago at the end of the summer. I think it has to do with mosaics as public art, mosaics for the community, but now I must find out exactly.

I must be about two-thirds of the way across the Kitchener’d seam that binds the final edge of the centre of Mrs Hunter’s shawl to the bottom of the fourth border piece. It’s looking good, although garter stitch grafting doesn’t have quite that magic quality of st st, where you can see a row of knit stitches emerging from your needle.

I think what those garter-stitch-grafting instructions mean, is that for the lower needle, having knit the previous row, you turn the needle as if to knit the next one; whereas for the top needle, having knit the previous row, you don’t turn. But I’m not exactly prepared to maintain that thesis in a court of law. I’m not even absolutely sure that I’m doing it right, but it looks neat and feels flexible.

I’m sure you’re right, Chloe, (comment yesterday) that people make themselves unnecessarily anxious about grafting. It doesn’t help that the first couple of stitches can be loose and awkward, before you see the magic happening.

I remember – this isn’t entirely relevant – the first time I knit a pair of socks. They were for my father, and I was probably 14 or 15. I had got the idea, from casual references in books, that turning a heel was about the most difficult thing you could do in knitting. I can still remember my surprise when I did the first one. I just followed the instructions, and there was a heel.

The shawl seemed rather wee, when I finally laid the two to-be-grafted edges together and shook out the whole. Blocking will help, of course. I wasn’t absolutely sure, until that moment, that I hadn’t, after all, twisted the stitches around the needle when I reached the centre and finally joined them into a circle. But that’s all right.

I’m no further forward, thinking about the Fair Isle vest. Lisa, yes, I’ve got the Shetlander’s Fair Isle graph book. It’s delicious. I had better get it out tomorrow and add it to my pile of resources. Also have a look at that yarn I bought at Jamieson & Smith that day, so see just what colours I have so far.