Friday, September 13, 2013

Yesterday was on the whole a success – at least, I didn’t slip backwards. Today I must ensure that we have all we need for the weekend meals, so that I can take tomorrow off and go walking with our niece. It’s been more than six months since we last did this – it was in February, the day the Pope resigned. How much have I declined in that time? We’re going to tackle the John Muir Way.

Our Pathfinder guide says that we might see some red-breasted mergansers. I had to look them up.

And then – meals planned and supplies in – get back to the Shetland-fret.

The BSJ progresses well. Another couple of sessions should polish it off. I grasped, too late, that if I want to make it a little bit wider, in the hopes that it wouldn’t pull out of shape when buttoned across the infant chest, the moment to do it was just before the first column of buttonholes. That improvement – if it is one – will have to wait for the next baby.

And then – goodness! – what next? The Milano yarn should be here today. My mother was advised once, when confronted with a multitude of tasks, to start with the one that bugged her the most. That’s good advice. So I should perhaps tackle the small, fiddly item I want to knit as a Christmas present – the one I will need a sheet of acetate for; or go back to the Stephen West shawl, at least long enough to get back in the saddle.

First, of course, tidy and block Relax2.

Sally Melville has published an interesting rant about how knits need seams, for structure. Herzog – who has an equally interesting post about blocking “three-dimensional” knitting – would certainly agree. There’s a whole new Craftsy class about seaming. All I need to do, for the moment, is to practice mattress stitch, which I am keen to master anyway, and get back to my Craftsy class with Franklin.

Why don’t I do it? Why does nothing get done?

Melville says that knitting-in-the-round tends to skew in wear. She’s probably right. Peasant knitting – fishermen’s ganseys, Fair Isle – gains a good deal of structure from its dense fabric. And then EZ came along and taught us all how much fun it was to knit around and avoid purling. But there is certainly a divide here, between Fashion Knitting and Peasant Knitting. The pendulum seems to be swinging back towards the former.

Melville says that she has mastered purling with two colours (for Fair Isle). It sounds very awkward, and I have never enjoyed it in the slightest. I would rather cut out a v-neck than knit back-and-forth. I’ve done it, easily and successfuly.  It might be a question to ask a Shetland knitter if I meet any.


Lizzie says: “ The biggest sport here is basketball so I am looking forward to that starting, it is so popular here that you have to get into groups and camp outside the stadium for a whole week before the game in order to secure your tickets! Normally it is done in groups of thirty and a rota is created for sitting out between 8am-10pm everyday for a week!

I didn’t go to a single football game in high school or college, but I did go to basketball at least once, and it was totally thrilling. “Stand up and cheer/ Cheer long and loud for Asbury High School/ For today we raise/ The blue and black above all others.” 


  1. Why not ask Kate Davis? She's the local expert in the history of Shetland knitting etc after all. She may well know.

  2. Blue and black - is that a description of the players, when they come off the field?
    I do agree that round and round knitting produces a spiral effect - subtler that in a lot of t-shirts etc, but that is because there are fewer stitches. I must be an oddity - I don't find purl a problem, and prefer the purl rows in colour knitting - I hold the yarns in my right hand and it is all in the angle of my wrist. At least, on the wrong side of the piece, I can see what my floats are up to.

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  4. I would think that in places where there is stress that seams would add structure to a garment's fit, such as the armholes and shoulders. As for side seams, I don't know. I would think that a colorwork sweater by its nature would hold up well. I suppose it depends on the yarn -- the stickier, the firmer.

  5. Gerri5:14 PM

    I 've purled in fair isle and had no issues. For me, I would rather purl that deal with a steek in many situations. I made a aran vest that is an EZ pattern and realized late that it was silly to have the steek. Given my yarn choose, llama, I would have been far better off to go back/forth. I do think side seams make a difference.

    Probably choose based on project and purpose of the garment.

    As has been said, "knitter's choice."

  6. What a curious rant, I don't see one as "wrong" and another as "right", it depends on the situation. If you hold to that you end up with silly situations such as trying to knit socks flat or do a yoke sweater with at least 5 pieces and seams in silly places (as I have read in a pattern put out by a major British yarn company).

    As purl seems to have been invented a good while after knitting, doing things in pieces is really a modern phenomenon.

    There is also the problem for those of us who aren't keen on sewing (and hence knit) and so tend to put off sewing together our sweaters almost indefinitely.

  7. Anonymous11:18 PM

    I'm a Shetlander and I would always knit fair isle in the round rather than purl(although I can do it). If I'm knitting a swatch I would join the wool at the start of the row and break it off at the end of each row to ensure the right side of the knitting is always facing me. You can instantly see how the patterns and colours are progressing. I always use a knitting belt.
    Enjoy your trip to Shetland. Remember to visit the Textile museum at the Bod of Gremista in Lerwick. I was there earlier this week and there are some lovely items of knitwear on display and for sale.

  8. I'm late to read and respond, but I just took a course from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (Knitting for Speed & Efficiency) and she showed the class a purling technique from Peru that blew my mind. You wrap the yarn around your neck, like Sally Melville describes, which keeps the yarn in the front of your work. Stick the needle in the front of the stitch, then use your thumb (left thumb I think) to twitch the yarn around the needle. It turns out this is the way Peruvian knitters knit - completely in purl stitch, so that the inside of the work is what faces the knitter. Sally Melville must be throwing one color with her right hand, and Peruvian purling the second color with the thumb of her left hand.