Sunday, November 23, 2008

I went back to my blog of a year ago, expecting to find it resonant with end-of-year darkness and gloom. Not a bit of it. Varied and interesting knitting (the Shapely Shawlette, the Koolhaas hat, the Earth Stripe stole, the Linked Rib scarf from Knitting New Scarves, the cast-on for Theo’s Obama-electing gansey), discussions of my new VKBs and of – I had completely forgotten this – Mary Walker Phillips’ “Creative Knitting”; visits to Strathardle in which I seem to have been energetic and cheerful, and not come back wheezing.

(I recently let “Creative Knitting” go by me on eBay for £36.50. It’s a bit less than that in Abebooks. A year ago we were talking $200 or so.)

One of my Theories of Life is that the downward spiral accelerates after 70. If McCain is 72 now, he’d have been 76 by the time his first term ended, and that’s a long way down. I’ll be 76 next year, and I know.

But here we are in ’08 and there’s nothing to be done about it. I am engaged on the rib-to-body increases for Ketki’s sweater, and have done the arithmetic concerned with fitting in the Calcutta Cup motif. Picture soon.

So perhaps the thing is to return to a discussion of my recently-purchased VKB No. 12, spring 1938.

It’s full of tailored suits, dresses and little blouses for people shaped like the Duchess of Windsor. No multiple-sizing in those days. Not much celebration of the unique qualities of knitting: more an imitation of cutting and sewing cloth. It occurs to me that the tail-end of the Depression was hovering about in 1938 – not as bad here as in the U.S., but still a presence. That may have had something to do with close fitting and fine yarns.

It will be interesting indeed to see what the new austerity brings us in the way of knitting patterns in ’09.

And I thought again of the genius of EZ. She was shaped like the Duchess of Windsor. She was 28 (and newly in America) when that VKB was published, her life's work not yet started. The general relaxation and empowerment of knitters would have happened without her, in the end, I suppose. But what energy and clarity of thought is required to see the way forward when living in a strange land entirely surrounded by patterns for little blouses.


  1. I would recommend knitting something small and achievable in lovely colours, such as Newfoundland Mittens ( pattern free on Ravelry) I know that you are using light, bright colours, but there is something about picking colour combinations for a quick project, then getting a result soon. which is very satisfying.

  2. i suppose you knitted the earth stripe because november calls for colours. i love that shawl.

    and you are right about elizabeth zimmermann. it is fun how she had a completely new take on knitting that is actually new to this day. when i use other people's patterns like the drops jacket i am knitting currently the way the patterns are written annoys me endlessly.

    apart from ez i think the starmores write the best patterns in the world. nothing can go wrong as long as you do what you are being told.

  3. Anonymous1:54 PM

    I was going to wonder whether the dark days affected people so much more before reliable electric light, but now I think I doubt that notion. In those days, I suspect the average person had so much work to do that they were glad of an excuse to draw in and go to bed soon after sundown. They followed the earth's rhythms more, and didn't struggle against them like we do.

    Shandy seems to be on the right track with the mitten idea.

  4. Anonymous3:41 PM

    Jean, I think the big difference between last November and this one is we are all in the midst of an economic downturn of yet unknown proportions. The fear that the whole thing brings about, coupled with the physical darkness that occurs this time of year are enough to send even the most optimistic and cheery of us ducking under the covers. I agree with Shandy's prescription- knit up a quick project in a bright color. What was it EZ said- "Knit on, through all crises"?