Saturday, March 31, 2007

Our friends have been safely delivered to Waverley Station.

Yesterday’s cultural outing was, in the end, not to Falkland Palace but to Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott’s wonderful house in the Borders, and to Melrose Abbey nearby, bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang. We had a grand time. I am very tired.

Not much knitting. I am nearly ready to fuse the wallaby pouch to the body. I think I’ll press ahead and do that, and maybe finish the body, before sinking back into the arms of my Princess.

One further note on Wednesday’s visit to the Museum of Scotland: the knitting showcase included a Fair Isle sweater, as I have mentioned. It was nearly 100 years old (1910). It is distinctly short in both body and sleeves – a sweater for a man to do some work in. It was folded so that I couldn’t see how the sleeves were attached to the shoulders, or how the pattern behaved at that interesting juncture. It had a round neck with stand-up Fair-Isle-patterned collar.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Many, many thanks for everybody’s kind messages yesterday. I’ll never have a readership like the Harlot’s and am happier with my faithful few. We hover around 250 on weekdays.

Yesterday’s cultural outing was to Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery in Glasgow. It’s recently had a major overhaul and you never saw such a place for thematic arrangements, didacticism and noise. It’s also huge. They have a number of world-class paintings which we never even succeeded in finding, notably Whistler’s Portrait of Carlyle. Notably, I mean, among the ones we didn't see. We found some old favourites.

Nor did they seem to have any knitting to speak of, although it’s hard to say. I saw some pleasant socks from St Kilda in narrow dark and light stripes. They were made of “spun wool” said the label, without naming “knitting” as the process.

We are thinking Falkland Palace for today, but may be too exhausted to attempt it.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Readership down, weight up, and it’s raining – One of Those Mornings.

Surprise news, however, from yesterday’s cultural outing. One of our ports of call was the National Museum of Scotland. I hadn’t been there for quite a while, and made a point of going straight to the knitting showcase – Sanquhar gloves, a Fair Isle sweater, a 19th century Shetland lace shawl, a few machine-knit things.

And not just any 19th century Shetland lace shawl – the Princess herself!

To be precise: it was labeled as a copy of the shawl presented to Princess Alexandra in 1863. This one, the copy, was given in the same year to Miss Campbell of Jura, for her wedding, and later presented to the Museum by (presumably a different) Miss Campbell.

This provokes speculation about the identity of the knitter. Did the same woman knit it twice (a repetition, not a copy)? Or did she help a friend reproduce it? Either way, it must be the case that the original Princess shawl knitter was known to Miss Campbell, and probably connected to her by blood or love or both. And wanted her to have a princess’s shawl to wear on her wedding day.

Sharon Miller says somewhere, I think, that she believes she has located the Princess shawl knitter in the Report on the Truck System (see the passages in her Hap Shawl book) or the Statistical Account for Scotland. But I can’t find the passage. Could it even have been in a message to the Heirloom Knitting group? I could search the archives.

Anyway, when I got home I found a picture on the Museum of Scotland website. I don’t dare reproduce it, and I’m sure this URL won’t work:

(I've just tried it, and it does work. The sprouting seeds appear to nod away from the centre. Sharon's change is an improvement. )

I got it by googling on “Shetland lace shawl presented to Princess Alexandra in 1863” (without the quotation marks). The National Museum of Scotland was among the first dozen suggestions.

In the showcase, it was strategically folded so that you couldn’t see any of the cruces – the sprouting seeds and their nods, the insertion, the centre pattern. Perhaps if I wrote to the Curator of Textiles and said that I once spoke to Sharon Miller on the telephone….

I had always assumed that Sharon’s pattern was based on the actual presentation shawl in the Royal Collection (if it exists). But maybe she used this one. Her pattern is likely to be the most elaborate lace knitting pattern ever published, but it’s not a copy of the original Princess – it’s a simplification (!) and interpretation, a design of Sharon’s own.

The original was worked with finer thread (again, !) and has 16 ½ feathers instead of Sharon’s 11. The centre and edging are different, Sharon says, but similar in complexity and “feel”.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I knit round and round on the little-boy sweater yesterday, and sped forward. A week of this should advance things a good deal. Mrs. Friend from Boston, a knitter but not a fanatic, thought that The Yarn Yard Sock Club March offering with which it is being knit, was Japanese.

And the April yarn arrived. Natalie has done it again! The colour is (needless to say) not right in the photograph – in particular, the lightest shade is greener than it appears here. This month's solid yarn is not quite solid, but something Natalie calls "swirl". I long to have a go at ikat with this one.
My three-month subscription had run out, and I re-subscribed. I couldn't face a new month without a package from the Yarn Yard, even though I can't possibly keep up with the knitting.

Vogue Knitting Book 23, one of the Dutch war-time ones, went for £23 yesterday. I’d have bought it if it had been going cheap, because mine lacks its cover. That’s a decent price, although far from black-tulip. And my copy of No. 11 – the one I got for a fiver – turned up from Canada. It’s in better condition than its shabby cover suggests.

An eBay seller called sartyus (located in London) is selling some stunning American knitting magazines from the 20’s and early 30’s. I mustn’t let myself get distracted from the object of my pursuit, but these are really something.


I turned out to have slight-ish but measurable osteoporosis. There was some confusion about who I was, and I wonder if the message will ever get to my GP who needs to prescribe a wonder drug to prevent it getting any worse.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Not very far at all into row 171. I shouldn’t have started it.

One of those days when It’s All Happening…

Kristie, you were right! The package from the Schoolhouse Press turned up yesterday. I had completely forgotten what I’d ordered, so it was like getting a present. The answer is:

Invisible Threads in Knitting by Annemor Sundro
Anatolian Knitting Designs by Betsy Harrell and
Simply Shetland 2 &3 (why not 1?)

I had a whole bookcase built for my knitting books a couple of years ago, filling an otherwise unusable space in the passage. It’s full to bursting.

I’ve started with Invisible Threads. Sundro is the woman who rescued fragments of Norwegian sweaters from the pile in the rag factory and wrote “Everyday Knitting: Treasures from a Rag Pile”. She’s also the author of “Lusekofta fra Setesdal” which I seem to have in Norwegian – that must have been a Schoolhouse Press purchase. It is entirely devoted to the Norwegian lice-patterned sweater.

Invisible Threads meanders about through Norwegian history and traditions and symbols – I’m skimming. It is interspersed with simple and interesting patterns, Vibeke Lind-style. I was most interested to discover that the well known curse-of-knitting-for-the-boyfriend is part of Norwegian folk belief – don’t knit him a sweater until he proposes.


Natalie writes that The Yarn Yard April Sock Club package is in the mail. It’s early because she’s going on holiday. So maybe today!

I read the American eBay Vogue Knitting list yesterday, as I have determined to do every Monday. Nothing for me, but I found three war-time VKBs on offer from a seller in the Netherlands. (I think she’d have done better to offer them on the British list.) How did they get there? I like to think of an intrepid Dutch Resistance worker asking London to slip the new VKB into the package which was going to be dropped to her in the dark of the moon.


I’m going to a hospital today for a scan to determine whether I have osteoporosis. Should be interesting. My husband will have to meet the friends from Boston off their train by himself.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Halfway through row 168. The next landmark, 4/5ths or 80%, will be row 176 – not too far away.

Kathy, I love the account of Princess-knitting in your blog, and will watch breathlessly for your account and photograph of the insertion and the beginning of the centre. You are weeks – months – ahead of me, but/and your progress is enormously encouraging. I do so agree that the Princess, at this stage, takes over one’s life.

Our friends from Boston will arrive tomorrow, so this is the last day in which I can cram the Princess into every otherwise-unoccupied 10 minutes. One can’t sit down and do just-one-row, but one can easily do just-one-pattern-repeat, and then why not just-one-more?

On ssk’s – I was astonished when Sharon’s book first appeared to discover that she doesn’t think it matters, in garter stitch with fine yarn, which way you do a decrease. I’ve been doing them all the way through the Princess in the way they are written: k2tog for / and ssk for \. Except that sometimes, due to yo’s in the preceding row, ssk can be tricky, and then I revert to k2tog without compunction.


I’m still worrying about the non-appearance of the books I ordered from Schoolhouse Press, probably three weeks ago today. There were two other books, ordered the same day from two different American booksellers found through Abebooks: both arrived promptly.

One is Annichen Sibbern Bohn, “Norwegian Knitting Designs”. I said here not long ago, I think, that I had never heard of it, but now that it is in my hands, I’m sure I have. A Norwegian knitting friend lent it to me once, decades ago, when we lived in Birmingham. It is a slim vol consisting pretty well entirely of photographs and charts, and it’s terrific.

My other new book is Solveig Hisdal’s “Poetry in Stitches”. This one is a coffee table knitting book in the modern style – patterns based on traditional Norwegian, carried dramatically forward, dramatically photographed. I have heard that Hisdal doesn’t actually knit, and that some of the patterns suffer thereby when one comes to get to grips with their execution. I have no idea whether this is true, and anyway the patterns are sufficiently elaborate (and glorious) that no one except a fairly experienced knitter would be bold enough to tackle them.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Approaching the antepenultimate marker on row 163.

Perhaps a picture tomorrow, when I should have finished row 165, the ¾ point of the border. I also will have added more than 20 rows since I resumed work last week.

I’ve been thinking about the Princess, and the vast amount left to do. We’re having a competition (which I won’t enter) in the Heirloom Knitting list to state our Heirloom Knitting Goals for ’07. Winner to be drawn from a hat, I think, but never mind. The point is: goals.

Alexander’s first job after university was with Royal Insurance. They sent him on a brief course once where he learned about Achievables. I don’t know about him, but I find it a useful life-concept to keep hold of.

The next thing to do with the Princess is to finish the border – 220 rows. I can do that this year, easily I think, if I keep chuntering on.

Then comes a 20-row insertion which has the effect of gathering the border in and reducing the total of stitches by ¼. That looks tricky. Sharon says to lay the work aside and practice on some waste yarn. I will certainly do so. I really ought to be able to achieve that, too.

Then, when the insertion has been successfully added, you put most of the stitches on waste yarn or whatever, and start again on five stitches in the absolute middle. The centre is then knit back and forth, taking in a border stitch at the end of each row. I think that comes into the Achievable in ’07 category, too. And since five stitches isn’t very many, even a couple of evenings’ work should establish the centre nicely.

So those are my goals for the year. That will leave a lot of Princess knitting to be done, but the big hurdles will be behind me. The centre pattern looks very straightforward, and the edging (for the top) is difficult, but known.

I came to a very pleasant point last night – the pattern actually became familiar. When Ketki was pregnant with (as events proved) James-the-younger, Sharon’s book was fresh out, and I designed and knit this shawl, in Lorna’s Laces “Helen’s Lace”. I offer it now as an example of how not to design a shawl – I crammed far too much in.

One of the things I crammed was Sharon’s “sprouting seeds” – they even nod to the left and right, towards the swastika in the centre of the border. Last night while Princess-knitting, I reached the bottom of the seeds, although it’ll be another 20 rows and more before they start nodding. It was a delicious moment of I’ve-been-here-before. The knitting is slightly tricky here, because yo and associated decrease are separated by several stitches. Not difficult at all, but counter-instinctive and requiring attention.

(That's the thistle of Scotland in the corner, and a rose trellis pattern in the centre for the baby's country-of-birth. The swastika is a powerful Hindu symbol of good fortune -- the word is Sanskrit. That's for Ketki.)

(I wish I knew how to put comments on a photograph, and draw lines around significant portions, the way Crazy Aunt Purl does. Blow me down! I just went to her blog to verify the link, and she has devoted her most recent post to that very question. She uses PhotoShop, is the short answer.)

Domesticshorthair, I always knit socks on 1’s. Incidentally, Maureen has inspired me to try the Magic Loop method. She says it’s much faster. I’ll give it a go.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

I’ve launched myself onto row 159 of the Princess border.

I had a grand time with Maureen yesterday. As Mrs Moneypenny says in the FT today, of internet friendships, “Meeting people in the flesh is always a bit scary. What if you (or they) don’t live up to expectations? You develop an impression of people…and sometimes it is best not to spoil a relationship with harsh reality.”

We hit it off, and had a splendid time.

We have a lot of friends in common – people we know on-line. In many cases, one or the other of us (usually Maureen) had met the person in Real Life. Other friendships were wholly virtual. I have often thought about the virtual community provided by the internet, but had never been so struck as I was yesterday with how that community can intersect and enrich the real world.

We met at Drummond Wools, near the b&b where she is staying. I hadn’t been there for a decade or so, and won’t go again soon. It’s mostly sewing machines these days. Then we went on to HK Handknit, an excellent little shop which seems to get better every time I’m there. I had light-heartedly assumed that I was above temptation, but I’m always in the market for gents’ sock wool of interesting hues, and bought these:

(The light shade will be for a female person.)

Then we found a pleasant café and had coffee.

Here’s the cashmere Koigu. It was a slight disappointment – the colours are duller and flatter than they would be on wool. This must be the fault of the material, as we know they were dyed by the master’s hand. It is an interesting discovery. I have photographed them with an oddball of wool Koigu in a roughly comparable colourway and I think even allowing for the distortions of photography and computer monitors, you can see a hint of the difference.

Maureen brought me, as sheer good-natured gifts of friendship, these Knit Picks needles, said to be first-rate for lace, and this beautiful merino Knit Picks lace-weight yarn. I know that I mustn’t transfer the Princess border onto a new needle, but there is Victorian Lace Today and there is this wonderful new yarn and it could perfectly well be cast on to one of the new needles…

If only there were more hours in the day, and more days in one’s mortal span.

And, on that theme, thanks to everybody for the links to Malabrigo lace-weight. Thursday’s difficulty, carlarey, was clearly that hausofyarn inserts a dash in the phrase “Malabrigo – Baby Lace” and Google rightly refused to produce it when I insisted on the exact phrase.

And didn’t somebody suggest Webs? If so, it’s not there in the comments any more. But Webs does stock it. I probably would have ordered some on the spot if they hadn’t already sold out of the two colours I liked best.

And Handpaintedyarn has also got it, cheaper. I am embarrassed for choice, and (see above) underprovided with time.

Friday, March 23, 2007

In some haste, this morning…

I’m about to go on a yarn crawl, involving some sit-and-talk time I hope, with Maureen – who has (I hope) smuggled in some cashmere Koigu for me. We had hoped that Lorna could join us, but she’s stuck in Jedburgh. There are worse places.

First things first: Carlarey (yesterday’s comment), please tell me about Malabrigo Baby Lace. I googled to no avail at all, if I insisted in having all three words together in that order. My advice for your holiday, however, would be to leave it home and knit socks and enjoy the wine and the five funny people. Socks are always welcome, and I find that there’s something about the round-and-round’ness of knitting them that soothes away some of the horrors of transatlantic travel. If you must take the MBL along, I suppose the only possible pattern is feather-and-fan.

I’ve reached the early stages of row 155 of the Princess border. The next major landmark will be 165, the ¾ point.

How much longer do I have to go? I have a kind of a feeling that I sort of worked it out (and was horrified) during my last major Princess session. But put it this way: I bought ten dear little balls of gossamer merino (from Sharon, who ought to know). This week, I joined in the fourth of them.

The border, in the end, will form two (deep) sides of a triangle. The centre of the triangle and the top of it will be formed by the centre pattern, in the form of a triangular-shaped wedge, and the two ends of the border. And the top will then have to be edged with that not-easy edging. It’ll be interesting to see, if I ever get that far, whether my previous mastery of the edging will have been retained over the intervening years.

Sharon knit the whole thing in nine months, with intervals of laying it aside.


I have been thinking a little about Theo’s cashmere Koigu, of which the skeins I hope to acquire this morning are the outriders. When I got that IK out this week to look at the article about coaxing handpainted yarn into ikat patterns, I noticed a Koigu ad for a sweater in an all-over zigzag pattern: whatever you call feather-and-fan when the increases are done invisibly instead of with yo’s. And I thought maybe I’d go for a relatively unobtrusive all-over pattern. Estimating the amount of yarn needed is far easier with a single shade. It’s pleasant to think about.

I’m still waiting for the books I ordered from the Schoolhouse Press. We’ve had serious trouble lately with undelivered parcels, and I’m faintly worried.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Nearly half-way through row 151 of the Princess border (the markers between the colour repeats are colour-coded to let me know how far along the row I am). Fairly rattling along.

Thank you, everybody, for your kind comments about it. It’s really easy, believe me. No manoeuvres fancier than k3tog. Everything flows predictably from the preceding row. You do have to think about every stitch, just as you have to think what every word means in Latin or Henry James. And that’s what’s fun.

I was seized by a bit of a panic yesterday about how long this is taking – the last thing to think about while Princess-knitting. I started nearly two years ago, in May, ’05. At this rate I’ll be dead before it’s finished, or, perhaps even worse, the rising generation will start getting married while it’s still on the needles.

I see from its history, however – I keep a copy of Lotus Organiser entirely devoted to knitting; lots of interesting stuff there – that I have worked pretty steadily except for essential interruptions: a First Holy Communion veil for granddaughter Rachel in Beijing; a 70th birthday shawl for my sister; the broken arm; the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater. I don’t at the moment foresee any such pressing necessity – well, except the get-Obama-elected cashmere Koigu for Theo, and that can wait a while. So the thing is to work steadily on.

Maybe the little-boy sweater could be assigned to weekends, like cider. We’re going to London for some more art in Easter week. Maybe I could take it along, instead of socks.


Yesterday was largely devoted to cleaning, in anticipation of our friends’ visit next week. They are easy-going and uncritical friends, but still their unaccustomed eyes will see dirt that I can overlook. The trouble with dirt, I don’t need to tell you, is that the more you remove, the more reveals itself.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I did it – I resumed Princess knitting, and the experience was fully as wonderful as I remembered. Like reading Latin or Henry James. I am currently employed in the early part of row 147 of the border.

Things become even more fun after row 180 when what Sharon Miller calls “sprouting seed” motifs appear on the top of the motifs to the left and right of the central “feather” in this picture. They look a lot like motifs on Paisley shawls. All the “sprouting seeds” must nod towards the central “feather” of the whole border; thus, half of them nod to the left, half to the right. It doesn’t look too difficult to me, but I know some Princess-knitters have found it tough.

The whole border has 220 rows. And that will leave, I fear, most of the shawl still to knit.

The pattern was published in a limited edition, 250 copies I think, and although it will eventually re-appear on the Heirloom Knitting site, for now, that’s all. I am constantly surprised at how many of us are actually knitting it, from so small a base.

I don’t know what to do about interleaving it with little-boy-sweater knitting. Alternating days doesn’t feel right: the Princess is so demanding an intellectual experience that one wants to remain immersed in it. For the moment, I don’t need to worry. The presence of our friends from Boston next week will ensure (I hope) that the little-boy-sweater makes great progress, and the Princess none. Then we’ll see.

Other knitting…

While we were in Strathardle last week, I at last got hold of the schedule of the Home Industries Tent for this year’s Games. The knitting is truly disgusting. The choice is between a “knitted toy” and a “teddy for tragedies” which has to be donated. A pattern is provided for the latter. Talk about choice.

The last time something like this happened, I took refuge in the Handicrafts section, where they asked for a “hat (any craft)”. I knit them a tammy, and won first prize. Which is not to be compared with winning a first in the Knitting section. But this year Handicrafts offers so such escape.

So I’ll have to knit a toy.

There’s a rather nice sheep in the brand new issue of Knitting magazine. The trouble with that is (a) I’d have to buy some fluffy novelty wool to represent the fleece and (b) all the competitors will see Knitting, or have it pointed out by friends.

I’m going to try to repeat this mermaid, which I knit for granddaughter Hellie in 1992 or some such year. She loved it to death, and might be glad of a replacement. I have got plenty of yarn in appropriate colours in stash, some probably left over from the original. And nobody else, I’m willing to wager, is going to knit a mermaid.

In a pretty untidy house, my knitting archives are in rather good condition, you may rightly conclude.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ikat, etc.

Here’s the current state of the little-boy sweater, including the beginnings of the wallaby pouch. Attaching it was tough, even with the purl bumps to go by. I am all thumbs with a crochet hook in my hand. But the job has been successfully completed.

So today is the day to pick up the Princess.

Thanks for the help on ikat-knitting. Esther, you’re right, that’s the IK article I was thinking about – although I see when I look it up that it is about creating vertical stripes, not ikat. I googled, and got the excellent article you recommended, Anonymous. (Blogger has cut off the end of the URL in your comment, but the link just given will carry anyone interested to the spot.) Google also suggested a scarf pattern by Lucy Neatby.

I couldn’t find the Kim Salazar pattern. I think she is consolidating everything on the wiseneedle site – but I kept getting a pop-up which said I had won a Really Big Prize, and wouldn’t go away, so I fled without perhaps looking hard enough for the ikat pattern.

Clearly, some ikat-systems depend on the hand-painted yarn having equal lengths of each colour, which is not true of Yarnyard yard. But the article just mentioned by Estelle Carlson is based on the entire length of the repeat, from one loop of the skein to the next. Maybe I’ll play around a bit with the April Yarnyard offering.


Things have been incredibly exciting lately. In the last 16 days I have bought no fewer than eight rare, early copies, from six different sellers. Assuming the most recent purchases actually turn up, I now have all but 10 of the 69 issues in the original series. I am missing three war-time ones, and seven from the '30’s.

Last night I bought this one from a seller in Canada. I was the only bidder, and got it for the upset price of $9.99. That’s five pounds for the VKB of autumn, 1937. It’s obviously in shabby condition, but who cares? It’s got its cover. Clearly, I ought to be watching the American VK list; but there are hundreds of items on it, and it’s hard work. Delynne, a blog reader, spotted no. 11 for me. Thank you, and thank you.

And while we were in the country last week, my sister kindly bid for and got this one for me. It pains me to show you the picture. You can be sure I won’t treat it like that once it’s in my hands. It is the issue for autumn, 1944.

I hope (for the sake of my credit card, if nothing else) that that’s going to be all for a while. I can curl up with my treasures and study the evolution of the modern knitting magazine. The earliest VKB’s had neither a cover-picture of one of the delights within; nor a chatty introductory letter from the editor; nor multiple-sizing.

There will be reports to come.

Monday, March 19, 2007


Laritza, the yarn for Ketki’s gansey came from Jan at Frangipani. She was tremendously helpful – traditional 5-ply Guernsey wool is the only thing she sells, and there’s an excellent range of colours.

Helen, my mother too went a bit soft on Mother’s Day towards the end. I disapprove with every fibre of my being, but perhaps the same thing is happening to me – at any rate, Rachel always phones on Laetare Sunday. Neither of us makes any reference to the purpose of her call, but I’d miss it if it didn’t come.


I knit happily on, on the little-boy sweater. I don’t seem to have kept any notes about how to translate the Wonderful Wallaby pattern, which is written for worsted, into a finer yarn, but I’ve done it twice so it can’t be too difficult. The last time through someone suggested – and I wish I could remember who, to thank her again – putting in a line of purl stitches where the bottom of the wallaby pouch is going to be attached. Even with worsted, I found it very difficult to keep going in a straight line. So I’ve done that.

I like the way the colours are working out, a lot. But I’m going to leave it one more day before taking a picture. It’s not ikat, more a wonderful swirl. Natalie has warned me to be careful to wind each skein in the same direction. That is something I’m sure I’ve never heard of, but I think I can see what she means now that the knitting is underway.

There was an article somewhere once about getting ikat effects from a hand-painted yarn. Does anyone remember? It was probably in IK, probably in a general article about knitting with hand-painted yarn, not terribly recently. The general idea was that you coiled the yarn on the floor and measured the distance between repeats of the colour sequence and somehow incorporated the measurement in your knitting. It sounded like a lot of trouble when I read about it, and it sounds like trouble as I write it now, but I’d like to think about it again, now that I have discovered The Yarn Yard. I could try Google.

The books I ordered a fortnight ago are beginning to flow in, and there is still much to write about the Vogue Knitting Book, but I’m going to leave it all for another day. Since there’s nothing to illustrate this morning, I’ll quit with the usual picture of My Garden. Nothing much is happening under the rhubarb-forcing pot, but I got a few spadesful of earth turned over, and humped a load of manure in – you can see it piled up – and prepared four of the eventual eight stations for courgettes: that’s them under the plastic water-bottles.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Laetare Sunday

Knittingkate, I had always assumed that “Sassenach” meant “Southerner”, on no evidence – yesterday I looked it up, prompted by your question. It is a Gaelic-speaker’s word for “Saxon”. Apparently Irish Gaelic uses it too, and the Welsh have a related word. So, strictly, it has to mean the English only, perhaps even including the lowland Scots.

Here we are back again. We had a nice time, although spring has not made many inroads in Strathardle yet. There was no new floral display to incorporate in my March calendar effort, so here is a picture of my husband working on a weedy border in front of the house. Just as we were leaving I spotted our primrose in bloom, so that is another possibility.

We passed many daffodils on the way up, but ours are not out yet. I picked a few yesterday morning to bring back, however.

Ketki’s gansey progresses. It is beginning to seem endless, but this time I really did polish off Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern. There remain only a few nearly-plain rows and the front is finished. Then we have provisional casting-on, shoulder straps, neck gussets, all the fun of the fair. One day Alexander will have to take a proper picture to show off the surface texture.

Look at that cone! The knitting may be taking forever, but this time I finished off a whole cone and attached the next one. It was gratifying to be reminded how big they are.

We were back yesterday in time for the rugby. Ireland beat Italy, predictably, in Rome. France beat Scotland, thoroughly, in Paris. Scotland has not had a very good season. Until yesterday, neither had Wales; they had even managed to lose to Scotland. The last match of all yesterday was Wales v. England, in Cardiff. And Wales won. I’m afraid everybody in the Six Nations enjoys beating England (and seeing England beaten) most of all, so it was a grand climax to the day and to the season.

While I watched, I went on with the ribbing of the Wallaby sweater for a little Miles boy in The Yarn Yard’s March club offering. It was one of those days – we’ve all been there – when I seemed to rib and rib and rib with no result. Three times around, at least, for every round added to the work. But at last I finished, and attached the hand-painted yarn. (The ribbing is in the solid yarn.) I hope to do enough today to see how it’s going to work. I’m hoping for a sort of ikat effect.

Old friends from Boston are coming next week, and the Princess, for all her charms, is not company knitting. So a couple more days of this to get things thoroughly started. I think I’m a little bit afraid to pick up the Princess – can I still do it? Will I still enjoy it? But I felt those hesitations after the last long interval; I think I’ll be all right.

There’s lots of news on the VKB front. Soon.

I’m sure I explained about Laetare Sunday at tedious length last year, so I won’t go into it all again. One word shall suffice: cider.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

We’re planning to go to Strathardle today – back in place on Sunday, insh’Allah. Daffodils are everywhere in Edinburgh; I hope we’ve got one or two there, for my March calendar picture. The weather forecast is good. My seed order has arrived. The potatoes are chitting in the dining room, not far from the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater.

I blocked it as hoped, yesterday, and that’s a final picture of it until we see it on Alexander. I got the bit of extra girth I wanted in the blocking. I’m really quite pleased. The whole fun of blocking is going to visit and enjoy the result from time to time as it lies on the dining room floor.

This is a picture of Sunday’s and Monday’s work, securing those ends.

Ron – and everybody who has left a kind comment – this kind of knitting is really easy, once you have mastered knitting continental with the left hand and English with the right, and weaving, where necessary, as you go. I can’t knit continental with only one yarn, for some reason; but with two, there’s nothing to it. I learned, mysteriously, in the 60’s, from Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book, which has instructions for the weaving process. I don’t carry floats over more than three stitches, usually only two. The result is very tight, and needs a largish needle in compensation.

Then last night – not what I said I’d do next – I cast on for a Wallaby for a little Miles boy, with the The Yarn Yard yarn that Natalie dyed for me specially. It’s nice to knit with. I got about an inch done, maybe less: I committed the Fatal Error of picking up the work at a very early stage and setting off in the wrong direction. I guess it can happen at any stage, at least with ribbing. The mistake has been frogged and redeemed.

The link in that paragraph is to her page of one-off yarns. I covet that brickwork-and-lichen combination, but I Must Be Strong.

My plan remains to alternate small-boy-Wallaby and Princess, once I get the former established.


This is exciting news, that Eunny is to be editor of IK. The Curmudgeon says that the present editor, Pam Allen, is going to Classic Elite as creative director. She’ll be lost to me, in that position, and I’m sorry to see her go. The same sort of thing happened to Nancy Thomas, I think – former editor of both VK and Knitter’s. Another great editor.

But I hugely look forward to the day when Eunny picks up the reins. She is a brilliant and meticulous designer.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I bought VKB No. 13 yesterday, autumn 1938. I paid a lot, as I now expect to do for a pre-war issue. (For months and months, there were no VKB’s on offer of interest to me – suddenly, they’re as common as mail-order catalogues.)

The sale closed at 16:02 or something like that. I was so wrung-out when it was over that I didn’t even want to go back and watch the end of the match between England and France. It was a good one, but I couldn’t take any more excitement. England won.


I surprised myself by finishing the loose-ending and grafting last night. The Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater is done except for blocking, which I hope to accomplish this morning.

Rosesmama, here’s a rather blurry image of the raglan shaping. I kept one stitch from the sleeve and one from the body in the background colour (whatever it happened to be) on every round. After joining body and sleeves, I knit about an inch straight, which was a mistake. I then decreased every other round, one stitch on each side of each raglan line, eight stitches in all eliminated on every decrease round.

Until the whole thing was so long it was time to stop, and get rid of the rest of the stitches in the neck border.

And, yes, isn’t Eunny's sweater absolutely wonderful? I meant to say so yesterday. Presumably we’ll see more of it in Jamieson’s Shetland Knitting Book 4. I can’t wait. Like you, I couldn’t possibly wear it, and wouldn’t trust myself to get the fit for a daughter or daughter-in-law who could: but I can still gasp in admiration. Interesting that she steeked that whole neckline.

I was very interested, too, in what you said about knitting socks-within-socks and the famous passage in War and Peace. I think I read somewhere once that no one could figure out how the fictional character did it – but now we know that you could and did.

Jean, the instructions in VKB No. 2 achieve a lined baby sweater by alternating wools as well as stitches: 1st row: in white, knit 1, bring wool to front of needle, slip 1, bring wool across front of slipped stitch to back to needle. Repeat throughout row. 2nd row, using pink but still on the right side of the work so you must have slipped the stitches back to the beginning of a dp needle, Slip the stitch knitted in the previous row, bring wool to front of needle, purl the stitch slipped in the previous row, bring wool to back to needle. The 3rd and 4th rows are done from the wrong side. In the 3rd you’re purling the white stitches, and in the 4th, knitting the pink ones. Clear as mud?

Maralyn and Tamar, thanks for bringing me up to speed on “URL”. I live quietly, and don’t talk to people who have need to mention such things, so it all goes on in my head. I have always said “earl” to myself, and so of course I wrote “an URL”. Alexander moves somewhat more in the real world, and was clearly right to pick me up on it.

Lene, if you’re still here, I really like your striped sweater. That ribbing at the side looks like a good idea. Do you have a formula for how much to put in?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

The match was a thriller – Scotland lost by one point.

I finished knitting the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater. The neckline came out better than I expected. I’ll leave it for now. We’re going to London in early April (alas!) and it can be tried on Alexander then and comments solicited from the whole party.

“Finished knitting” does not, of course, mean “finished”. I’m working on the ends – I’ve done both sleeves and am inching up the side. At least Fair Isle isn’t as bad as tidying up after Kaffe. (Yes, I weave the ends in as I go, but I never trust them not to un-weave themselves, so I secure them anyway.) Then there are the underarm stitches to be grafted, and the blocking. Fair Isle isn’t as malleable at the blocking stage as sweaters knit in single yarns, but I hope to be able to get a little bit more width on both body and sleeves.

Double knitting

The link Natalie supplied in a comment yesterday was missing an “L”. This is the correct version, which she sent me later:

And see Kate’s comment yesterday for another very interesting article about the technique, from a different issue of Knitty. I’m going to have to keep a closer eye on that publication.

(I wrote “an URL” here not long ago, and Alexander pounced. It should be “a U.R.L.”, according to him. I asked Thomas-the-Elder yesterday over breakfast which way he said it, when he had to say it out loud. His reply was, “link”.)


Do follow up the very interesting link Lorna provided yesterday. The plain-vanilla link to the blog is The writer has come into possession of a delicious stock of American Vogue Knittings.

She says, if you scroll down to the post where she introduces the collection, that there’s a gap in the 70’s. I suspect – I’ll have to contrive to find out – that it was a real gap, that after the VKB went down in the late 60’s, there was no Vogue Knitting for a while on either side of the Atlantic, until the present Vogue Knitting International rose phoenix-like from the ashes. To coin a phrase.

I wandered around American eBay for a while yesterday. If I were really serious about this, I’d have to visit it regularly. VKB No. 2, the real VKB, the No. 2 I bought last Sunday, is on offer there. If No. 2, why not others?

American sellers are generous with illustrations, and there is no doubt that there is a considerable -- ?total -- overlap of patterns between VKB and the American magazine. I was particularly interested in the American Fall/Winter 1961 – the American ones are dated, thank goodness -- because I think I actually knit the pattern on the cover. But I knit it in 1956 or, less likely, ’55, when I was an undergraduate in Glasgow. By 1961 I was knee-deep in small children. I’ll buy that issue if it doesn’t fetch big bucks.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

What a day for pleasant surprises.

Our eldest grandson, Thomas-the-Elder, is here, on his way to Murrayfield to watch Scotland, almost certainly, lose to Ireland at rugby. He’ll be out carousing with friends this evening, but spent yesterday evening with his aged grandparents, by whom his company was much enjoyed.

Marcella has written to me with the name of a plant that repels rabbits!

Natalie of The Yarn Yard has written to say that the yarn she dyed for me specially, to knit a sweater for a small grandson, is on its way and should arrive today.


I bought VKB No. 29 on eBay yesterday, for a stiff but not quite black-tulip price. A few minutes later, the same seller sold No. 31 for one-third of what I had just paid. It’s a funny business. It was a highly significant purchase for me, in that I now have all the post-war VKB’s.

I also have a couple of tattered American ones, which I got a fair while ago in a swap with Judy Sumner of Knitlist fame. I looked at them yesterday, and discovered that “Vogue’s Knitting Book, 6th Edition” is copyright 1945. That’s a significant discovery. By 1945, the VKB was well into its second decade. Autumn, 1945, was VKB no. 27. That surely means that the British VKB was the original.

We spent the academic year 1960-61 in Northampton, MA. As I remember it, I didn’t knit at all that year – this was in the days before Webs. But I have a memory, it’s funny how trivial memories sometimes adhere, of picking up Vogue’s Knitting Book in a supermarket and flicking through it and not buying it because I already had the current VKB back home in Glasgow, and the patterns were largely the same.

So what I now need to do is seek out the American eBay and buy a date-able Vogue Knitting from the 50’s or early 60’s, and compare patterns to see if memory is accurate. Maybe if I’m lucky, the American magazine will have easy-to-find dates. Anything will do, and lacking-a-cover is fine, so it shouldn’t cost too much.

My friend Helen delivered Nos. 2 and 5 yesterday, purchased on Super Sunday. They’re good. For now, I will just mention that No. 2 has a baby jacket which, for just about the first time in all this book-collecting, makes me want to throw everything aside and knit it.

There is a technique called “double knitting” which I have read about but never tried, where you knit with two balls of yarn at once and by means of slipping stitches, and slipping whole rows back to the beginning of a dp needle, wind up with two conjoined pieces of fabric. The jacket in Vogue is perfectly simple, practically Vibeke Lind: you cast on at the lower back, knit straight up, add more stitches for the sleeves, divide at the neck and knit the fronts downward. And at the end you have a simple baby jacket – lined.

The cast-on and cast-off edges would automatically be joined. Would the selvedges? Vogue just says to finish the edges with “twisted cord”.


I should mention that I’m now doing the neck of the Calcutta Cup sweater. It’s almost certainly too big, but I might as well finish and see for sure. More tomorrow.

And that I mean to pursue the subject of Jane Waller and her books. Thanks, commenters.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Calcutta Cup sweater

I reached the lower-neck-shaping point yesterday, and got seriously to grips with it: sweater and pattern-sweater spread out on the floor; pen, paper, calculator, measuring-tape to hand. But before I got very far, I reflected.

When I reach the desired length – it should happen today – I will have a good many more than 40%K stitches. Meg says that’s fine; decrease them in the first round of the neck edging. (I must have miscalculated when sleeves were attached to body – I did a whole inch or so without shaping; clearly I shouldn’t have.)

But if I leave stitches behind for the neck now, and perhaps decrease a few more on either side of the neck before I finish, the decreases just mentioned will have to bunch on the remaining stitches. Won’t that unbalance things? The front will be wider than the back? Would that matter?

So I didn’t do anything, and am proceeding to the neck on all stitches. I will then try to raise the back with the neckband as we have been discussing, Xmasberry. I suspect you’re right that the difference between EZ’s treatments of the different sweaters may stem from the fact that one had colour patterns and the other didn’t.

But I remain determined to try again if the first attempt doesn’t succeed. I can still cut.


I’ve been revelling in my new purchases.

Number 9 is autumn, ’36. There is no hint of storm clouds gathering, or of the Depression. All is close-fitting, fine wools, one size per garment (although there are two patterns designed for a 38-inch bust measurement, one of them actually labelled “Suit for the Larger Woman”.) Suits figure prominently. The skirts are unlined, which seems odd to me. There are lots of sporty sweaters, all pretty trim to the modern eye, intended, according to the text, for golf and ski-ing and winter cruises.

There is even, oddly, a “Warm Coat for Winter Tennis”. It looks too bulky for tennis in any season.

The ads are wonderful, as ever. I am particularly taken with an ad for a Bairns-Wear layette leaflet – the cover shows a baby in the arms of a fully uniformed nurse: not a hospital nurse, I am sure, but a domestic employee, a “monthly nurse.” No mother in sight.

There is a full-page ad for Vogue itself. It came out fortnightly in those days, and included a knitting or crochet design in every issue. “Vogue is a life saver for the smartly poor.”


Here is a picture which turned up yesterday of grandson Fergus of Thessaloniki on holiday in Egypt last Christmas.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

I think I have decided to go for steeking, on that neckline. I’ll have to take action today or tomorrow.

It’s interesting what you say about shaping, Xmasberry. In fact, EZ does exactly what you suggest (great minds…) in the neckline of the Seamless Yoke Sweater, in KWT: that is, build up the back neck by short-rowing in the neckband itself. A yoke sweater is the same as a raglan until the point where sleeves and body are joined. After that, the decreases are clustered in their own rows, with a couple of inches of plain knitting between each. It reduces to about 40% K for the neck, just like the raglan.

So, couldn’t one use that technique for the raglan? But she doesn’t mention the possibility, and the raglan is in the very next chapter, so I’m wary.

The one comfort is that frogging is not impossible, and now that we’re talking about only a neckline’s-worth of stitches, it’s not even too daunting a prospect. I’m determined to get a decent-looking neckline one way or another.


Our treasures – Sunday’s expensive purchases -- arrived safely yesterday. My friend Helen has the two earlier ones, Nos. 2 and 5. We’re certainly not going to trust the Royal Mail a second time. I will wait patiently and cheerfully until she next happens to be passing.

Meanwhile she has copied out these two delicious paragraphs for us:

From No. 2, spring 1933:

"Practically all the garments in this book are new and really original designs. We hope you will like them, but if you have a weakness for classic cardigans and pullovers, you will find some interesting interpretations in Vogue's 1st Book of Knitting and Crochet. A few copies of this magazine are still on sale at good bookstalls, price 1/6 or 1/9 post paid from Vogue, 1 New Bond Street, London, W.1."

Helen adds, “If only…” At least we now know that the first VKB is labelled “1st”. I had often wondered if I’d recognise it – they might have published something and only later decided to make it the first of a series.

We’re often on New Bond Street when we’re in London, cruising the art dealers. I must have a reverent look at that address next time. Vogue was there right through the war.

Here’s the other, from No. 5:

"£50 or a thrilling holiday abroad this winter! Plan a charming original outfit for yourself or your baby. Choose your colour scheme from Viyella's 100 lovely shades..." 1st prize could be a Cook's Winter Sports holiday, 15 days for two people, value £63.00. 2nd prize could be a Cook's Tour to Italy, 14 days for two people, or £15 in cash. Most interestingly, "If the winner is a blind worker, 5 guineas will be added to each 1st, 2nd or 3rd prize."

Janet (comment yesterday), it would be wonderful if your friend could find some 40’s VKBs. I will happily pay her an average eBay price (that’s a lot, I’m afraid) for any I don’t have, and we could help her offer the others on eBay herself. She could be in for a very pleasant surprise.

Swapna, welcome home!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

I’ve been thinking about the neckline of the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater.

In the original text for the EPS seamless sweater, in Knitting Without Tears, EZ says to leave some of the stitches of the front on a holder about 2” short of the final length, and work the last decreases back and forth on the remaining stitches. Now, if there’s one thing that’s horrible, it’s purling Fair Isle. I read somewhere once that knitters on the northern islands will cut the yarn at the end of every row and go back and re-attach it at the other end, rather than purl.

I could do that. I think I have done it, at some point in my Fair Isle past. I could set my jaw and suffer 2” of working back and forth. I could steek the neck – I’ll get Feitelson and Starmore out today and read about that. I could knit on up and cut out a neckline afterwards, without steeking. I’ve done that too.

Meg doesn’t have much of anything to say about this in her re-workings of the EPS, in Woolgathering and the Knitter’s Magazine series. But she does raise the back with short rows, which I can’t do because of the pattern.

In the chapter on colour knitting, in KWT, the chapter with the famous account of cutting a steek and then going to lie down in a darkened room, the neck is initially straight, and EZ suggests various ways of building it up, including the Norwegian neck by which I am rather struck.

In the new Woolgathering, Meg says of her gansey, “A boat-neck is all very well, and simple, but it usually catches the wearer across the Adam’s Apple, so shaping is a kindness.”

Maybe I should put all the stitches on a thread and try the Calcutta Cup sweater on myself. Alexander and I aren’t grotesquely different in size.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

My friend and agent Helen came for coffee yesterday. We haven’t got our hands on Sunday’s purchases yet, but had plenty to talk about anyway. She has furnished me with a delicious list of knitting blogs and, as if I needed them, yarn sources. I’ll report when I’ve had a browse.

She also brought and left behind her father’s glorious gansey, pictured here recently. More about that later, too. It’s a wonderful garment.

And, a propos of nothing much, I do like the beret pattern Grumperina has posted. It might be just the thing for a future Yarn Yard club offering. I love berets.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

I felt sort of uneasy about how much money I had spent on knitting on Sunday, so yesterday I eased my conscience by spending even more.

In the morning I ordered Solveig Hisdal’s “Poetry in Stitches” and the Bohn “Norwegian Knitting Designs” book we were talking about, through Abebooks. I did it before I had seen your comments, Brigid, offering another source for the latter. I’m afraid to compare prices.

At midday the new Wool Gathering arrived, always an event. I ordered some more books from Meg.

Best of all, I wrote to Natalie at The Yarn Yard to ask if she had any more yarn like the March Club offering, so that I could knit a sweater for a little Miles boy – and she has dyed some for me specially! I’ve just had an email from her saying that it’s drying in front of the Aga.

My plan, when the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater (above) is finished, is to spend a couple of weeks settling back into the saddle with Princess knitting, and then divide the week between that and the little-boy sweater. There’ll still be plenty of time to get Barak elected. Maybe Theo’s cashmere Koigu could follow on after Ketki’s gansey as Strathardle knitting. If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for tomorrow.


The project this time is a gansey. It’s rather interesting, to line Meg’s instructions up against Ketki’s gansey.

Don’t choose a vertical pattern, she says. They tend to pull in like ribbing, and be unflattering. Well, I’ve used a vertical pattern.

Keep the gussets in reverse st st, she says (brilliant!) so that they recede. “This keeps them out of the way visually, but they’re there when needed for flailing about.” Well, I haven’t done that.

Perpendicular shoulder straps are handsome, she says. I’m about to embark on mine.

And she likes the Channel Island cast on and split garter-stitch welt. I’ve done that.

I’ll take the booklet to Strathardle next time, for help in sloping the shoulder.


Judith, have you approached the Knitting and Crochet Guild about your Monarch books? They have a library as well as a museum of knitted things. Another possibility might be a library in Lerwick. I feel, perhaps sentimentally, that they take things more seriously up there. I’ve left all my stuff in my will to a knitting lawyer friend, postponing the problem.

Ron, yes, I’m trying to stick with EZ’s percentage system for the sweater. Meg says 35-40% of K for the top of the sleeve – I read somewhere that she altered her mother’s proportions slightly. I’ve got 39%; I fiddled around a bit to ensure that both body and sleeve, at that point, had a complete set of 18-stitch pattern repeats.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Super Sunday

There won’t be another day like that for awhile.

I bought four VKB’s yesterday, and a copy of “Vogue Service Woolies”. Strictly speaking, I bought two VKB’s, and my friend and agent Helen secured the other two, while we were at Mass.

I am very much poorer this morning, and rather bemused. Two of the VKB’s went for solid but not unreasonable prices; for the other two we were bidding as if they were black tulips. The Service Woolies was rather cheap, perhaps because “Vogue” had been misspelled in its listing and it failed to turn up on collectors’ search lists. It’s easily done. My sister recently gave me an equivalent American WW2 publication: it will be interesting to compare them.

The ones I bought yesterday were nos. 2, 5, 9 and 22. I have been at this VKB-eBay caper for nine months now. Only once before has a single-digit VKB been offered for sale – no. 6 came up last June; I was outbid in the last-minute scramble.

It’s not hard to figure out that people who were knitting during the war are of an age to be dropping off the perch right now, and thanks to eBay, their knitting magazines are no longer shovelled straight into the skip. It is pleasant to think how many VKB’s eBay must have saved from extinction. When I began buying on eBay, my highest ambition was to own a wartime VKB. I’ve now got eight of the twelve.

But people who were knitting in the 30’s are rather rarer. Their attics have already been swept out. That’s why yesterday was so extraordinary, and probably won’t happen again.

I would have been glad of an email from the seller last night, thanking me for prompt payment and promising to send my purchases today. That sometimes happens. It didn’t, this time. Instead, she spent the evening -- in a state of astonishment and delight, I am sure -- listing some more of her mother’s old knitting magazines. I don’t want any of them, fortunately for my bank balance. She is tia18ch, if you want to have a look.

There were a couple of Stitchcraft magazines from the ‘30’s in yesterday’s lot. They made solid but not Vogue-like prices.

A full report will follow, needless to say, when I’ve actually got my hands on my treasures.

Meanwhile, knitting

Sure enough, I didn’t need any of the new yarn for the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater last night. I certainly will today. It should be about right for another picture tomorrow.

Janet, to double back, I don’t know the book "Norwegian Knitting Designs" by Annichen Sibbern Bohn which you mention in your comment for Saturday. I’ll have a go at Abebooks. Thank you.

And the eclipse

Lene, it must have been especially wonderful to see it from the countryside. My husband kept saying all day yesterday how wonderful it would have been in Kirkmichael. I’m sorry to hear you missed it in Baltimore, rosesmama. If it’s any comfort, James couldn’t see it in Peking, either. He’s keen on astronomy these days, and had even thought of checking into a high-rise hotel for a good view, but in the end it rained.

Sunday, March 04, 2007


We had an absolutely stunning lunar eclipse last night. I’ve never seen anything like it – and the whole show was on offer from our doorstep in Drummond Place. One of the newspaper articles in advance of the event said that the Crucifixion can be dated from such an event in Judea in 32 or 33 AD (authorities differ). I couldn’t find any mention of such a thing by flipping through a bible, or looking up “moon” in Cruden’s Concordance, but good old Google had no trouble: the reference is to Acts Chapter 2, St Peter’s sermon in which he quotes the prophet Joel about the moon turning to blood. There it was – I saw it last night.

Back to business…

Both packages of yarn turned up in the post.

After yesterday’s panic, it will be mildly interesting to see how long I can in fact knit on, on the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater, before I have to tie in some new yarn. Two colours are down to their last few yards, but as it happens, neither of them is in play at the moment.

However, the big excitement of the day was the other package, the The Yarn Yard club March offering. It’s stunning – springtime expressed in yarn. My camera is probably capable of much better than this, but my photographic abilities don’t match.

What I want to do is get hold of some more, if I can – maybe some other club member is getting snowed under with unknit socks – and knit a Wallaby-type sweater for one of the little Miles boys, with the ribbing and the wallaby pouch in the solid colour. I measured the boys when we were last in London, and asked them what their favourite colours were.

Alas, I didn’t record the answers. One said “blue” and the other said “green”, in the tone of people producing any-old-answer under duress. I can’t remember which was which, but with this yarn it wouldn’t matter.

I can use the pattern I worked out for Fergus Drake of Thessaloniki a year or so ago. Fergus is five today – Happy Birthday, boy! The original was knit in Rowan 4ply Soft, and I think would translate perfectly.

So when are you going to have time to do that, Jean?


Jayne sent me this URL this morning: Don’t miss.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Odds and ends, today.

No yarn from Jamieson & Smith yesterday (no post yet today) – I didn’t expect it to take even this long, and I am going to grind to a halt on the Calcutta Cup '06 sweater soon if it doesn't arrive (to coin a phrase).

Well spotted on my stitch-markers, Moorecat! My husband is much given to recycling. I have a little shot-glass on the coffee table containing markers – some real ones (I like the rubber ones Patternworks used to sell, maybe still does); some re-cycled, which he contributes; some curtain rings.

And, yes, quite a few stitches have been left behind at the underarm, to be grafted later. I’m working to Elizabeth’s Percentage System, first fully expressed in Knitting Without Tears. The number of stitches in the body is the basic number (“K”, for some reason) and the rule is to leave 8-10% of K behind at the underarm, on both body and sleeve of course. It’s quite a lot.

In my First Fair Isle Stage, in the 70’s, I worked out seamless-sweater-knitting for myself without having even heard of Elizabeth Zimmermann. I used to leave far fewer stitches behind at the underarm – or could it have been, none at all? The result was that the first couple of inches of the yoke were agonisingly tight to knit as one went around the sleeve. EZ’s way turns out to be perfectly comfortable. There’ll be quite a bit of grafting, but I positively enjoy grafting.

I got out Mrs Gaugain’s “Lady’s Knitting, Netting and Crochet Book” in pursuit of the discussion of the last couple of days, about old knitting terms. Again (as with Therese de Dillmont), she explains her abbreviations, and I don’t think it would be at all hard to follow them if one buckled down to it. Bishop Rutt says, by the way, that the abbreviations now in use were devised for Weldon’s Practical Needlework in 1906. The more I look things up in Rutt’s book, the more I admire it.

I looked up the Shetland shawl pattern I mentioned yesterday, in Mrs Gaugain's book. It’s the construction I wonder about here. It seems to be knitted from side to side, in one piece. It is edged with garter stitch – six rows to begin, and then six stitches at each edge as one proceeds; another six rows at the end. Finally, you’re meant to fringe it. The author says, most engagingly, “I shall endeavour to give a description of a knotted fringe…in the next following receipt; though I am doubtful I can explain it so as to be clearly understood by all knitters.”

Plus ca change…

It would be fun to try. I wonder if Sowerby has ever had a go at it. I might at least try to chart it one day.

Change of subject…

I had an email from Leigh Witchel this morning: very in-the-swim-of-things, me! He sought help with some articles he is writing, which I couldn’t provide, but the quest sent me to my Scandinavian shelf, and I was glad to be reminded again of Britt-Marie Christofferson’s “Swedish Sweaters”. It’s absolutely stuffed with interesting historical stuff, and sweaters I’d like to knit. One day.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Here’s the current state of play of the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater, with an attempted close-up of the raglan shaping. I’ve elected to dedicate only one stitch each from body and sleeve to serve as the decrease points and to be knit in the background colour every round.

The Nesting Shawl pattern turned up yesterday. It’s stunning, and most unusual. Now all I need is a great-grandchild.

No yarn yet. I’m waiting for the order from Jamieson & Smith, to keep me going on the sweater; and for The Yarn Yard club March offering. In the latter case, waiting is a good deal of the fun.


Sarah, one gets nowhere by clicking on the “knittingand” link that came with your comment yesterday – but the URL you actually provided in the comment works fine. What a lot of work you’ve done, and what a valuable resource you have created!

Therese de Dillmont provides an explanation of her terms at the beginning of the booklet I mentioned yesterday. I’m sure you’re right about “1 purl intake”.

Bishop Rutt says that Mrs Gaugain, in the 1840’s, was the first to publish a Shetland shawl pattern. I think I’ve got it, and will try to have a look today when I should be doing something else – just to see if I can follow the general idea. Sowerby in “Victorian Lace Today” is good and interesting on Mrs Gaugain.

While I was wandering around your site, Sarah, I found your Kids Knit book which I think I’ll have to get for my grandson Alistair. He got started knitting when he was with us in Kirkmichael last summer, and he was seriously good at it – just like the St-Paul-on-the-Road-to-Damascus pupil whom Franklin describes in Wednesday’s post. But he didn’t bring his knitting along when they came for Christmas, and seemed rather evasive on the subject. I’m rather afraid that gender stereotypes may be submerging him. I’ll try again. His sister Rachel also knits but so far doesn’t show Alistair’s ability.

Jean, I will hold you to your promise of an account of the LYS’s in suburban Surrey, the very first time I visit Carshalton.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Full speed ahead with the Calcutta Cup ’06 yoke. The rounds are lengthy, but nothing like a row of Princess-border-knitting – and they’re getting shorter, by eight stitches every two rounds. The difference will be sensible soon. I continue pleased both with progress and with the anticipated result.

I had a moment, the other day, of imagining a future when it’s finished which would consist of months divided between Princess-knitting and The Yarn Yard club offering. But where would that leave cashmere Koigu – the Shapely Shawlette, and Theo’s Barak-electing sweater? Life is too short.

My friend the Socklady recently sent me, out of sheer kindness, a substantial booklet by Therese de Dillmont (called “Knitting IIIrd Series”). It consists of lace edgings and insertions, and it’s seriously good.

For de Dillmont, see Bishop Rutt’s History of Hand Knitting. The booklet is undated, but he says that she died in 1890, which makes it somewhat earlier than I would have guessed. I have tried, rather gingerly, to scan a page without straining the binding.

The instructions seem very lucid, although not framed in the language we are used to. “1 over, 1 purled intake, knit 2, 1 purled intake, 2 overs…” I think I could do it if I set myself to it, but reading through the instructions filled me with renewed admiration for Jane Sowerby, who struggled with far worse when she was working on Victorian Lace Today – and with such magnificent results.

De Dillmont isn’t included in that book. Her work was early translated into English, but Sowerby restricts herself (wisely, I think) to actual English sources. Therese de Dillmont’s magnum opus is her Encyclopedia of Needlework. I’ve got it – in fact, it was one of my husband’s family books and came to our shelves with marriage many decades ago.

Place and Nationality

Yes, Dawn, I feel American, perhaps increasingly with age. There are days at a stretch when it doesn’t occur to me, and when I forget that (as you say, Janet) I identify myself whenever I open my mouth. I haven’t been to America for more than four years now: I find it confusing. I don’t understand, any longer, how to do things there. But that’s another matter. At least both you and I have taken rugby on board, Janet. I fear Ireland is going to make mincemeat of Scotland this year.

Jean, where is Carshalton? Is that suburban Surrey? James and Cathy have just bought a house there, although they don’t have much ides when they will leave Beijing and come and live in it. So perhaps one day I will be familiar with that part of the world.

I had the feeling you mention, about Celticness, very strongly when granddaughter Kirsty, James and Cathy’s daughter, was baptised in Gulval, a village near Penzance. Cathy’s father is a Cornishman, and lots of family remains in the vicinity. I left Edinburgh on a bonny, sunny day, travelled through frost and ice through England, and felt at the end not only that I had travelled through winter back into spring, but also through a different land, and I that I was back among Celts. Some of Cathy’s cousins are market gardeners. I talked at the party about potato-growing, and I remember that one does not mention Jersey Royals to a Cornish potato farmer.