Thursday, January 20, 2011

I heard no more from Morningside yesterday. Emily, yes, my sister-in-law is somehow or other signed up for the Marie Curie hospice in the south of the city, and a hospice nurse visits regularly. I have urged my niece to draw her aside, this week, and try to talk about the Larger Picture, and the possibility of respite care. But my hopes, for the moment, are pinned on domestic help. C. will surely be happier and more comfortable at home, close to her daughter.

The other daughter, F., the energetic Glasgow businesswoman, said in a message to me yesterday “I am very concerned that rather than getting the best out of what time she has with Mum [my sister] is taking on too much”. Taking on too much, perhaps, but she’s there on the spot, and somebody’s got to do it. But with F. on the job, I hope help will soon be arranged.

I have embarrassingly little knitting to report. I’m still a couple of rows short of finishing the cowl. Part of the trouble has been “Wait for Me”, the dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s autobiography, which I have just acquired as a belated Christmas present. It sparkles on every page. She is the youngest, and now the only survivor, of the famous Mitford sisters, a very remarkable crew.

When she was a debutant, in the late 30’s: “Wool shops selling a kaleidoscope of coloured skeins from Sirdar and Paton & Baldwin were a feature of every London street; there were patterns and wool for rug-making and darning, and for knitting everything under the sun, including dogs’ coats, which I knitted for my whippet Studley.”

I remember wool shops, much like that, from the 50’s. Not the modern palaces of pleasure, but small, functional shops serving a firm, useful purpose – baby clothes and socks and cardigans. Every serious shopping street would have at least one such place. Whatever you wanted to knit, you could be sure of finding a leaflet for it, as she says. “Rug-making” puzzles me – maybe in London. Books and magazines were nowhere to be seen, in such shops, and indeed few existed, except for my beloved VKB.

I did a wee bit of googling this morning in furtherance of my vague travelling-stitch ideas. Rowan “Calmer” turns out to be cotton and acrylic – no wool. It makes Wendy’s Aran even more extraordinary – link yesterday – but completely rules it out, for me. And Rowan’s Extra-Fine Merino DK shows every sign of having been discontinued.

I will not panic. That’s how stashes get too big. I’m sure I can find it somewhere on eBay, if I decide to go on down that path. I am sure I can find something with lots of wool in it and good stitch definition, if I decide to look elsewhere.

Of course I can.


  1. Rug making. I remember in the 1950's that at least one of the wool shops in Penzance sold rug wool. However, when my Father made a hooked rug he bought a kit from Readicut - the wool was already cut to the lengths, and packaged as little cylinders, with a paper wrap. The other advantage with the kit was that you got a painted canvas.

  2. I wonder if it referred to traveling rugs? Not that I ever hear that term, just in reading UK books, I think. We had a shop in my town in NJ like that when I was first knitting as a teenager - Kaye's House of Yarn. Everything was stacked up on shelves and you had to ask to touch anything. It was a wonder I was brave enough to even go in.

  3. Anonymous2:25 PM

    I was thinking the same thing as Mary Lou - maybe the reference was to what I might call a stadium blanket? A heavy blanket to be used in the car or at an outdoor event?


  4. Donice3:02 PM

    I laughed when I read that panic can lead to a big stash - having recently learned that Mission Falls 1824 washable wool is being discontinued, I have been sitting on my hands trying not to order lots of it. I like it very much for washable baby things that can be knit in a worsted gauge. Am knitting an Owlet sweater for 5-month granddaughter out of it right now. One of the best things I knit for my first grandchild was a bunting, out of the same wool, that has had heavy use by two babies now and still looks great.

  5. Ladies, ladies, how could you forget latchethooked rugs. As Jean from Cornwall has pointed out. As a teenager I wasn't really a knitter myself although I was surrounded by family knitters. But I loved going to the yarn store to select the colours for my latest latchet hooked rug. And I also needed yarn for the pompom rugs I made - did anyone else ever make those? Would you believe that I might still have some items in my stash left over from those distant days.

  6. MaureenTakoma4:27 PM

    I finished Deborah Devonshire's book right before Christmas and it's a delight all the way through. The collection of letters between her and Patrick Leigh Fermor is somewhat interesting.

  7. =Tamar4:53 PM

    Frangipani gansey yarn? Do they make a DK weight?

  8. Thank you Janet - quite right too. Travelling rugs were woven. Blankets, really, but in dark colours, or often checked, and they lived in the car, and were also used for picnic rugs, of sitting on the beach. This was in the days when it was quite unthinkable to have anything but cream or off-white blankets on the bed, and sheets were white and no other colour (apart from the pastel stripes that you could get in flannelette)