Thursday, October 31, 2013

Breaking news

Jenni and Theo’s son Theodore was born yesterday. 

It was a long, hard labour ending with a Caesarian, but all are well.  He shares Archie’s birthday – Archie was 17 yesterday. It’s rather an appropriate birthday to share – Archie, too, was born the year after an infant brother who died. And Archie, too, was born by Caesarian – in his case, because he was discovered at the very last moment to be upside down.

This new Theodore is to be called Ted as was my father, his great-grandfather.  Now I’ll have to sew buttons on that BSJ and get up to the post office.

So today Helen and her sons will head back to Athens, much missed. Mungo liked Glenalmond better than Fettes, an unexpected result. It ranks lower in league tables but that isn’t necessarily significant. He will be entering the sixth form: he wants to do an Ancient Greek A-Level, and to start Latin of which he doesn’t know a word. They seem happy to oblige. We shall see.


Mary Lou, I think it’s pretty well essential to have someone else help you with measurements when you start on CustomFit. Some of them are easy enough to do for oneself, like the (hem, hem) inter-nipple distance. Others near impossible. I hope this scheme is a huge success and that eventually she’ll include men. I have a bad track record, fitting men.

(And on the other matter your comment touches on: I had to look up Simon Serrailler yesterday to check on how to spell him, and thus discovered that there will be a new book about him in September, 2014. Will I live that long?)

Knitting moved peacefully forward yesterday. I’ve made a good start on the centre chart of Rams & Yowes. I’ll show you, as soon as the pattern begins to resolve itself. The initial roll has finally given up. It stays put, and I make visible progress beyond its reach. I’m knitting more Rs&Ys than Milano these days, but both are still happening.

The fiddly Christmas knitting I have in mind is on pages 112ff of “Knit Your Own Britain”. I can safely assume that the intended recipient doesn’t have a copy. Tomorrow is November. Maybe I’d better start knitting little pieces of it from time to time.

It isn’t just knitting, either: Christmas is encroaching more and more on the year, like that roll at the beginning of Rams & Yowes. My husband’s birthday is just after the middle of November. When I was young, I used to regard that as the signal to get started on Christmas – and often didn’t do it. Now, everything seems to be in full swing in October. There was even a pull-out Christmas present supplement in the Scotsman yesterday (with some rather good ideas).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sorry for yesterday. You probably guessed that it was a case of sitting-over-breakfast, and also of wanting to put Helen’s brief visit to the best use. We got both of us measured and into CustomFit  yesterday morning. And changed some lightbulbs. She has organised someone to come tomorrow morning and assess us for mobility aids. She is searching for a new cleaning woman, since our wonderful Polish girl recently got a proper job and left us. Helen is something of a whirlwind.

She is waking up in Strathardle this morning – she’s there to refill the little trays with mouse poison (I ran out, the last time we were there) and drain the water for the winter. Her middle son, Mungo, is spending the night at a relatively nearby boarding school, Glenalmond. The night before he had been at Fettes, here in Edinburgh, and his younger brother Fergus at Merchiston, where Archie is. I look forward to the boys’ reports on all this when they get back here this afternoon.

I’ll show Helen the basic CustomFit sweater shapes if we have a quiet moment, and see what she thinks about yarn weights. I am increasingly impressed with the solidity of the CustomFit website. Herzog has planned carefully and worked hard. I could use Relax2 as a great big swatch – do I know what size needle I used? I assume if anything comes of this, that I’ll be going on with madelinetosh. In fact, I’ll swatch anew.

Then they’re all going back to Athens tomorrow.

On-the-spot knitting has reached crucial moments for both projects. I have finished the first set of Yowes, knit the six-row border pattern again, and am ready to start the big Rams’-Horn section which fills the middle of the blankie. Kate D. says that it is more knitterly than the Yowes. I am doing my best with the colours and trying not to worry too much. By now, every ball has been employed so all – all! -- I have to do is match the colour-symbol on the chart to the choice I made for that symbol last time. But several shades are close to each other, and I don’t have a Ott light.

And I’m ready to start the underarm increases for Milano/Relax3. Helen admires it.

Yesterday I had to be up in St James Centre to get something weighed at the post office – great for my pedometer score. I have ambitions for a piece of silly Christmas knitting from Knit Your Own Britain, and although I am sure I could do it all from stash, I allowed myself, extravagantly, to buy some of the yarn specified by the pattern. It shouldn’t take long to knit, this thing. It has to be finished with quite a bit of embroidery, which is not my forte. But I think experience has shewn that if the desired end can be hinted at, the eye of the observer will do the rest.


I have just finished Susan Hill’s novella, Black Sheep. I always read Alan Massie in the Scotsman book section on Saturday, and often follow his recommendations. This was one. It’s very good, very grim, about a pit village. No fictional date or place is specified – pre-WWI, I think, and they seem to be English rather than Scots or Welsh. I wonder if I would have read it if I had known how very grim it is. Still, it’s also very good.

But, goodness gracious me, Susan Hill is the only person in the world who can tell us how Simon Serrailler is getting on and I wish she would. There's a thriller recommendation for you. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pretty miscellaneous this morning.

 -- I ought to finish the first sheep chart today – and get Milano to the underarm increases as well. Except that Helen is due back from Venice, and for the moment all the boys are employed at various schools, and there probably won’t be much knitting. The English are having their storm today; all is peaceful in Edinburgh. I only hope she is flying back directly and not through Heathrow.

You’re right, Linda – I ought to record both her and my measurements in CustomFit. We’ll see how agonizing the procedure turns out to be. The first instruction is to tie a string around yourself at your natural waistline. Have I got a natural waistline?

Apart from measuring each other, we need to Talk About Christmas.  Helen and her family plan to celebrate it here in Edinburgh with us – surely the last time I will be even remotely in charge, even if Helen does all the work. I have told my husband that we’re going on a cruise next year.

Only three years ago I had the big idea of a last family Christmas in Strathardle, and booked the whole hotel. Alexander wanted to be at home with his family; my husband’s sister, here in Edinburgh, suddenly turned out to be dying; and the winter weather made it near-impossible to get to Strathardle anyway. My astonishment now is that I had the oomph to think of such a project at all.

 -- I discover from Zite that someone has made a picture book of the sweaters knit by that eccentric Dutch woman who knit for decades, putting everything away unworn. Then someone found out. Here is Stephen West’s account of visiting an exhibition of her sweaters. Here is a link to the video of her sitting enthroned while everyone dances in the street wearing her sweaters.

And the picture book looks good. It’s by Christien Meindertsma. The knitter’s name is Loes Veenstra. has got it; promises to get it in for me.

 -- The Telegraph Magazine last Saturday had a brilliant spread on the new book ”Best in Show: Knit Your Own Zoo” by Sally Muir and Joanna Osborne. I’ve ordered that, too, for my Curiosities shelf along with Knit Your Own Royal Wedding and Knit Your Own Great Britain. Indeed, there is a small fiddly thing from the latter book that I must get started on soon if I really want to have it ready for Christmas. My husband extravagantly admires the leopard from the Zoo book, as pictured in the Telegraph. Would I have the energy to knit that, too?

 -- Kate Davies’ latest blog post is interesting, as always. She has been working on top-down design using Susie Myers’ Contiguous system. I’ve never done top-down at all. So much to learn!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Here we are.

As you see, the initial curl is following me up Rams&Yowes – it is now encroaching on the second row of sheep. This makes me feel as if I’m not making any progress at all, whereas in fact I am moving slowly but steadily forward.

And here’s my beloved Milano/Relax3:


Sharon Miller in “Heirloom Knitting” says that the traditional way is to knit four pieces, each consisting of edging and a mitred border, leaving all stitches live; then lace them together at the corners with herringbone stitch; then start the centre on one set of live stitches, taking in a stitch from one side or the other at the end of every row. If there’s one thing I enjoy more than another, it’s that process. At the end, graft the centre to the live stitches of the fourth edge piece.

This makes a good deal of sense, as compared to Mary Thomas’ statement that the centre is knit onto the first edge piece before the other three sides have come into being.

And it also goes a long way towards solving the problem that I created for myself yesterday – how is lace managed with a knitting belt? The answer is that only two needles are required, since no more than a quarter of the stitches are being worked at any one time. There won’t be an extra, hanging needle. And maybe they had invented point protectors for themselves. And maybe fine lace was knit by fierce elderly women who weren’t to be disturbed for the purposes of cutting peat or changing nappies. I'd still like to go back to Unst and see it demonstrated.

And the whole problem of how-to-do-the-borders-in-garter-stitch also disappears. It is a 20th century creation, resulting from the invention of circular needles. It's enough to tempt me to master herringbone stitch.

I wish Sharon Miller would lead a little tour to Shetland. I would whip off my apron and be out the door like a shot. She never seems to do anything like that, never appears at knitting jamborees. She rang me up once, when I had written something on-line about starting the Princess edging, and needed to know that I was using an unsuitable yarn. 


I signed up yesterday. The website seems firm and capable. Judging from the sheer number of beta-testers and their sweaters, Herzog has worked this out with some care. I think I have decided to measure Helen if she’ll let me, rather than have her measure me. I haven’t knit her a sweater for a long time.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Helen and her boys have (for the moment) vanished as suddenly as they arrived. She is in Venice with her husband David, a slightly belated 50th-birthday treat for both. Mungo and Fergus are staying with a friend very near here. The friend will take them on Monday morning to different schools where each will have a “taster” day of boarding school life. Helen will get back on Monday (if the threatened storm confines itself to southern England as promised) and retrieve her sons on Tuesday.

So Monday afternoon is my big chance to have her measure me for Herzog’s CustomFit. I’ll have a look at the website before then and decide whether to proceed. Indeed, I could then measure her.

I moved peacefully forward with actual knitting yesterday – if I can put on a bit of speed (=three rounds instead of two), the current rank of sheep will begin to acquire faces today. A day or two more will polish off this particular chart. The Milano/Relax3 still has 4cm to go before the underarm shapings -- as I remember Relax1&2, it pretty well knits itself from there.  I’m knitting the final stripe in the original colour sequence – ready to start over. It's looking great.

I read Mary Thomas on Shetland shawl construction. Today I’ll try to have a look at Heirloom Knitting. Thomas’ method involves a fair amount of sewing. Maybe that’s what they did – what they do. She would have it that you knit one-quarter of the edging; pick up stitches and knit one border inwards, decreasing at the edges; insert a row of eyelets and knit the centre; and then do three more pieces and attach them.

My first lace knitting, a shawl for Rachel before she was born from a Paton’s leaflet, was designed by Mrs Hunter of Unst (it says) and was knit in five separate pieces, later to be seamed. But that is more likely to be Paton’s way of doing things in the 50s, than Mrs Hunter’s idea.

I was interested to see that Mary Thomas says “The work was done on two needles, a third being used for knitting”. I must have read that passage at least a dozen times without noticing – but now I’ve seen it done!

Only this morning, however, do I worry about that technique in relation to lace knitting. It’ll work fine for Fair Isle, where the fabric is relatively tight and the yarn adhesive. Indeed, the system is said to allow the knitter to take her hands off it altogether, leaving it suspended from the belt, when she has to attend to something else.

But does this work for lace? Lace stitches are notoriously keen to escape. I’ll have to go back to Unst and arrange a demonstration.

Mary Thomas says that Shetland lace pattern stitches are few in number, “only ten being truly native”. She illustrates them, and has been widely believed. But surely that’s nonsense.


I often turn up in Zite these days. Yesterday an article of mine appeared illustrated with a picture of a woman I had never seen. Half my age, head only, grinning idiotically. It was rather unnerving.

Friday, October 25, 2013

This day is called the Feast of Crispian...

Another apology-for-a-blog. Helen and her younger boys are safely here, and I have sat away my blogging-time over the breakfast table. Helen will go to Venice and the boys to a friend nearby, any moment now.

Not much knitting yesterday, but I got in my two rounds of Rams & Yowes. Little and often, is the secret.

Thank you for the thriller-writers in yesterday’s comments. All will be carefully saved, and tasted. I agree with what you say about male and female writers, Hat – although I must try Reginald Hill. I have never got very far even with Rebus. But it was not always so – in the glory days of the 1950’s, we had Michael Innes and Edmund Crispin and others, I am sure. Clever and funny.

And I also need to go back to the question of how-not-to-purl-when-knitting-a-shawl. The woman in the Ravelry thread had a very clever way of knitting back & forth, beginning each row with a YO, and then lacing the edges together, i.e., not sewing or grafting. The effect was startlingly good, but could I do it? And I must look at Mary Thomas. What did the knitters of Unst actually do?

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Judging from the television news last night, I don’t think That Baby had a shawl at all. He was wearing a magnificent Christening dress which every royal baby since William the Conqueror has worn (I exaggerate slightly) – it got a bit fragile recently, and has been meticulously reproduced. But no shawl.

I’ll study the pictures in today’s papers with care.

Googling seems to reveal that Shetland presented the infant prince with a Christening gown, rather than a shawl, and the story from New Zealand is even more confusing – did someone knit something for him from Margaret Stove’s “Wrapped in Lace”? But they must have had things in drawers, as I said yesterday – including the shawl Margaret Stove herself was commissioned to design and knit for Prince William.

I didn’t get much done of my own knitting yesterday – the statutory two rounds of Rams & Yowes, completing the third row of sheep; and some delicious and restorative Milano. We got to the doctor’s office on time, and had our flu injections, but it felt like a day’s work.

Today’s event is art-historical and therefore non-blog-able. And I must also get beds ready for Greek Helen and her sons.


The Crime Writers Association is polling its members to discover the best thriller ever written, the best series, and the best writer. (I’m not tremendously impressed – no nomination for Traitor’s Purse or Tiger in the Smoke.) Then a Telegraph columnist produced his own short list. That one startled me by including Agatha Christie’s “Nemesis”, a very late work and one I had never heard of. “The murderer sticks out like Miss Marple on an 18-30 holiday, but the inability to construct the usual clockwork plot seems to have freed Christie to explore the themes of evil and retribution with rare power.”

So I’m reading it (that’s the joy and danger of Kindle), and enjoying it. I’ve never read Reginald Hill at all; he’s on all the lists. Nor Louise Penny, recommended by Kristie.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Today’s excitement is getting to the dr’s office for our flu jabs. The nurse offered to do my husband when he was there recently for some bloods. That would have simplified life considerably. But he said no, so we now have a half-day’s struggle to get back there for an appointment earlier than is entirely comfortable for him.

Leaving little time for blogging. Rams etc. went on well yesterday – the third row of yowes now have their faces, and I should begin on the fourth – and final, for this chart – today.

The heavenly Milano still lacks 8cm of the underarm-increase point.

Comments: Thanks for your help with the shawl-purling problem. I will consult both Mary Thomas and the Heirloom Knitting Ravelry group today. I belong to the Yahoo group, and get their postings by email, and had failed to consider that there would be a Ravelry group, too, larger and more active.

I trust there will be more time for contemplation tomorrow – although Thursday has its promised excitements too, including the arrival of Greek Helen with her two younger sons, late at night.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

A better day with Rams & Yowes.

That initial roll is a nuisance. In the end, it’ll be flattened by the final border. For now, it swallows the little six-row edge pattern and the entire first rank of sheep. But I have finally knit my way beyond it. I got a whole seven rounds done yesterday. The third rank of sheep should acquire their faces today. That's the steek, down the middle.,

And here’s Milano/Relax3. Beautiful, no? The stitch count is right and the markers in place. The stripes are really straight, not wavy.

I spent a while yesterday entertaining the fantasy of knitting an another fancy shawl for future brides, maybe Sharon Miller’s Unst Bridal Shawl.

The Princess is an enormous triangle – knit back and forth, therefore, producing garter stitch which is the norm. All Sharon’s others – most Shetland shawls – are square: edging, four borders, centre. How to make the borders come out in garter stitch?

Knit them separately and sew them together? Just knit them round and round in st st and don’t worry about it? In very fine yarn, the difference is not as great as all that. Or, of course, purl alternate rows?

I had remembered that Amedro eschewed purling altogether, and that her technique was to do the edging first, pick up stitches, and knit inwards all the way to the centre – no central square. But memory has distorted things somewhat. There’s plenty of purling in Amedro. It’s only the Brora Black Shawl that seems to combine a garter stitch edging with a st st body: i.e., all knit.

Madeline Weston’s “Old Shell Shawl” in “The Traditional Sweater Book” starts with half the edging, and then picks up stitches for two of the four borders. This process is then repeated, and finally the centre is knit back and forth. Two corner seams to sew – better than four. I don’t think I’ve seen that idea anywhere else.

Somebody – I think quite likely Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer – came up with the idea of wrapping and turning at the end of every round, as you knit the borders. I did that once – that wrapped-and-turned corner looks different from the others, but it’s maybe not too bad. And then there’s Fleegle’s brilliant idea, of turning around as before but with a separate ball of yarn for each side.

I did that for my most recent shawl, the Mourning Shawl for our niece after her mother, my husband’s sister, died. I think I sort of muddled things and the turns aren’t perfect.

It’s all a bit of a dream.

Monday, October 21, 2013

That was a better-than-usual Sunday for knitting. I think I got four whole rounds of Rams & Yowes done – I require two of myself, before sinking back with Milano/Relax3. I’ve nearly finished the second row of sheep – and I’m half-way through the first sheep chart. There is still a long way to go – the centre chart is slightly longer than the sheep charts, and when the centre is done, there’s the second sheep chart, upside down, and then a little edging pattern.

And a prodigious amount of knitting for the final edging – but that will be single-colour and therefore less stiff.

And it’s something, to be half-way through the first sheep chart.

This excellent Shetland-Wool-Week blog led me to this one. There might be more. The first one, the Domestic Soundscape, includes a picture of Rams&Yowes, as displayed at Jamieson & Smith last week. It’s clearly not as stiff as mine – and it must be knit with the right yarns. Maybe I’ll go up another needle size today.

The second one has a blissful account of a day’s outing to Unst. But they didn’t see Muckle Flugga!

I have still a whole happy 10cm to go with Milano/Relax 3 before the underarm increases. I think I’ve adjusted the stitch count successfully. I can spend a jolly time this evening counting, and putting in the half-way marker.


Thanks for yours yesterday, Foggy Knitter, about Fair Isle. It’s something about the geometrical patterns, and the way the stitches usually move left and right one place at a time, and the way both hands contribute, that makes it all utterly soothing. Lace knitting has something of the same quality, but without the contribution from the other hand.

And thanks to everybody else, for the comments about baths for the elderly. We don’t have a shower, and they have their own dangers, anyway. I had showers my first two mornings on Shetland, and then decided that I was seriously afraid of slipping and falling and so abandoned the practice.

Our current procedure for my husband’s bath is that he sits on an inverted plastic box in the bathtub – I don’t know what it was originally intended for. Perhaps a planter for a small tree. Until recently, all I had to do was come in and scrub his back. The box is slightly lower than the edge of the bath. He can more or less slide from one to the other, and from there to the bathroom chair, but it’s now a struggle. We will have to tweak our technique.

There’s a shop near here called something silly like the Galloping Tortoise, full of aids for the infirmities of later life. I like the sound of a transfer bench. I also like the idea of a Community Occupational Therapist. Thanks for that, Hat. The shop is staffed by a cheerful and helpful young man – a species of which I am particularly fond – who might be able to advise on both fronts. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A new week.

That Baby will be Christened. We’re all breathlessly waiting to see the shawl. My copy of “Shetland Textiles 800 BC to the Present” came yesterday – in it, Oliver Henry says that a shawl has been presented from Shetland. Do I vaguely remember that New Zealand has also sent one? And no doubt the Royal Family have some of their own in a drawer. We’ll be watching. It had better not be store-boughten this time.

And Amy Herzog has gone live with CustomFit, launching it at Rhinebeck. I haven’t looked yet. Greek Helen will be here at the weekend. Maybe I could face up to having her take the necessary measurements.

Yesterday was strenuous. My husband had a bath – a process which now involves both of us, full on and bad tempered. It was very hard work, and I didn’t even get much credit for it on the pedometer. We aren’t going to be able to manage this much longer.

As for knitting, I got my two rounds of Rams & Yowes done. If I can keep it up, one day I’ll finish. I increased the needle size (thanks to the usual prompt service from Meadow Yarn), so far with no result. The fabric still seems stiff. I’ll give it a few more rounds before I go up another notch.

Meanwhile, the second rank of sheep should acquire faces today.

An informal sitting-room-floor measure of  Milano/Relax3 gauge suggests that I’m knitting tight there, too, although it doesn’t look or feel like that. A whole 7 stitches to the inch.  I am now judiciously sticking in some increases so that when I get to the shaping, I will have exactly the number of stitches I have worked with before.

Kristie urges me, in an email yesterday, to go ahead and buy that Carol Sunday scarf. She – Kristie – was the one who persuaded me (without much difficulty) to get the yarn for Kate Davies’ Northmavine Hap when we were in Jamieson & Smith together. She may well succeed again this time. So when am I going to knit all these things?

“Shetland Textiles”, mentioned above. Very highly recommended. It’s a big, coffee-table book, written by many hands. Museum curators, scholars working for PhD’s, native Shetlanders whose family histories go back generations. With a certain amount of overlap among those categories. Wonderful photographs, both old and new.

As the title suggests, it’s not all about knitting, although knitting predominates. I haven’t really got very far with it yet. There’s an article by Hazel Tindall – the fastest knitter in the world, mentioned here recently, with the help of whose YouTube video I still hope to master the knitting belt. She writes about the pleasure of Fair Isle knitting, and I remember thinking, in my own Fair Isle phase, Why do I ever knit anything else?

The sooner I get on to that vest, the better.

Annie at Knitsofacto – she should have been with us on Shetland, if things had gone according to plan – says that she has “refused some fabulous offers lately” to include advertising in her blog. I will certainly never have ads here – but why don’t I ever get any fabulous offers? Or any offers at all? Does Annie have 207 followers?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Another three followers! What's going on? Welcome, welcome!

The only way to get more knitting done, I decided, is to do more knitting. I got in three rounds of Rams&Yowes yesterday, slipping them in during the day so that evening-knitting-time was still reserved for Milano/Relax3. On that one, there are about 9cm to go before the underarm increases.

I cast on for a pure Milano, of course, and have six fewer stitches than if I’d aimed for Relax3 from the start. It doesn’t really matter among so many, I don’t think, but it might be a good idea to measure gauge today and then increase or decrease surreptitiously until I have the precise number for one of the Relax sizes. It’ll make that short-row shoulder shaping a lot easier if I know what I'm doing.

At least I’m not at Rhinebeck this weekend, where I’d be sure to buy a whole lot more yarn. Maybe I could order that Carol Sunday scarf (see yesterday) and think of it as my at-least-I-wasn’t-at-Rhinebeck purchase.


My sister has reached DC safely. All is well.

The New Yorker came yesterday, with a new story by Alice Munro. I’m sure it would be there whatever had happened, but also sure they timed it in the hopes of being able to say (as they do) in the little notes about contributors, Alice Munro just won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

I “met” her first in the New Yorker, as also William Trevor and Jhumpa Lahiri (shortlisted for the Booker this year). And there have been an awful lot of others, through the years: Updike; Hersey’s “Hiroshima” and Carson’s “The Silent Spring”. “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and Capote’s “In Cold Blood”. Shirley Jackson’s very remarkable story, The Lottery. Two brilliant stories by Stephen King, of all people.

That’s not meant to be a comprehensive list for the New Yorker, just a partial list of things I vividly remember reading in its pages.

Munro has published 57 stories there, it says. A real New Yorker author, then. A well-deserved prize, for both.

New topic: my husband is a member of the London Library. The annual subscription is distinctly expensive -- £460 per year, about to be raised to £475. Now that we don’t go to London, we don’t get much for our money. He used to spend frequent scholarly afternoons there.

It’s a very good cause, and we have looked on the payment as a charitable donation. And my husband still enjoys and uses on-line access to the Dictionary of National Biography, provided by the Library. But yesterday we decided to pack it in, and take out a life membership.

That’s going to cost us £1100. It would cost my sister £2300. It would cost Rachel £10,200 and each of her sib, £12,300. (Rachel has recently passed what is clearly regarded as an actuarial milestone.) As for the grandchildren, forgeddaboutit. It is really rather disconcerting to face up to the implications of the fact that the London Library actuaries rate us so cheaply. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

FOUR new followers -- and one of you was the 200th!

Hat, my new pedometer is an Omron GOsmart, model HJ-112. It comes from the US of A but I think such things are pretty international, these days. It says at the beginning of the booklet that it features advanced 2D Smart Sensor technology, which is superior to the simple pendulum design. I don’t know whether that is nonsense or not, but the machine itself is very confidence-inspiring. It automatically resets itself to 0 at midnight! I only clocked up about 4000 steps yesterday.

Carol Sunday, the temptress, sent me a message about this scarf yesterday. I can have the pattern free, valued customer that I am, if I download it within the next fortnight. However, of course, it’s not just the pattern I want, it’s the kit, it’s those delicious Sunday yarns to prolong the Milano experience.

Apart from the two projects I am laboriously knitting, there’s the Fair Isle vest waiting in the wings, and the urge to start a lace project, and Kate Davies’ Northmavine Hap (I bought the yarn at Jamieson & Smith), and wanting to try out Herzog’s CustomFit – I gather that’s now very near the launch pad. What is one to do?

There was a while, in recent years, when I had things sufficiently under control as only to buy yarn when I could foresee knitting with it. Things are getting out of hand again. Obviously, I could buy and buy when I was in Lerwick, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Nor do I regret it -- I want to knit each of those things, right now. 

At any rate, here are the Rams & Yowes, to date. Not very far along, but they’re sweet.

I think, even this late in the game, it might be worth moving them onto a larger-gauge needle.

And the Milano/Relax3  progresses. It’s still about 5” short of the underarm increases. That’s fine. I’m happy to drift on forever.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The 199th follower has joined us! This is exciting!

My sister is gone. I got up and saw her off in the darkness. She should be airborne at the moment, if all is proceeding according to plan, between Edinburgh and London. Her subsequent flight, to DC, doesn’t leave until after lunch. It’ll be a long day. She’ll spend the weekend with Theo and Jenni, insh'Allah, whose baby is now fairly immanent.

I probably won’t see her again until The Wedding, still more than a year distant. We have reached a stage in life where Brutus’ farewell to Cassius before Philippi (I love it) is not inappropriate:

If we do meet again, why, we shall smile:
If not, why then this parting was well made.

He concludes, a couple of lines later,

But it sufficeth that the day will end,
And then the end is known. Come, ho! Away!

She brought me a pedometer, which promises to be good fun. I have had them before and have been unimpressed, but this one claims to be founded on a superior technology. It will certainly provide an incentive to keep moving, at least until the novelty wears off. I was slightly short of 5000 steps yesterday, just pottering about.


I’ve finished the first rank of sheep on the Rams & Yowes blankie, and they’re looking cute. There’s no edging – that comes later – so it curls, which makes photography difficult. I’ll try tomorrow, by which time I should have started on the next set of sheep.

I’m having a bit of trouble figuring out which yarn is which. The ball bands identify the yarns only by numbers – I’ve mentioned this before. It was easy to discover the Shetland names for each, and write them on the ball bands. The key to the pattern, however, identifies them not with symbols but with little coloured squares. This makes the pattern charts very legible, in one sense, but it’s not always entirely easy to decide whether gaulmogot or shaela (say) is intended in a particular spot. All the yarns are undyed.

I don’t suppose it matters all that much. I’ve labelled the first chart with my decisions, in the hope of at least achieving consistency.

And the Milano proceeds. I’ve pretty well decided to go for Relax3, shape-wise. But I’m glad to say that I still have several peaceful evenings before I even have to start increasing for the dolman underarms.


I think you may well be right about those Greek “knitting sticks”, Tamar. My first reaction to your comment was, “But, it says on the label…” But the label doesn’t make all that much sense, and museum curators, even in Greece, may not know all that much about knitting. “Used as an extension of the knitting needle, the holder is tucked under the left arm. One of the five needles used in knitting socks and stockings, the one on which the stitches are gathered, is fitted securely into a small hole at the top of the holder.”

I can’t see holes on those sticks into which a needle could be securely fitted, either.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I had lunch with one of you – one of us – yesterday, and had a grand time. We talked of shoes and ships and sealing wax, scarcely of knitting at all. The Dewey decimal system, possums, Elizabeth Grant of Rothiemerchus…

And at the end of the afternoon, my sister and I faced up to moving all those books off the chest at the end of the passage, in order to retrieve the Princess shawl. It’s fine. Gosh, did I knit that?

So when Lucy and Thomas come to see us next month, they can take it away.

I was in the V&A once with a scholarly friend from Oberlin days. Looking at some amazing ecclesiastical embroidery, I remarked that it must be rather gratifying, if one were a nun who had devoted her life to that kind of thing, when it was finally finished and she got to watch the Bishop saying Mass while wearing her life’s work.

My friend thought not. Better to stride about the world getting a PhD, according to her.

But so I will feel if/when I get to be there on the day when Lucy wears the Princess. Bear in mind that both brides and (in the old days) Bishops spend much of the ceremony with their backs to the audience.

Not much else to report. My programme, these days, is to knit two rounds of Rams and Yowes before sinking back with the Milano. Yesterday, I didn’t even finish the two rounds. I’m nearing the end of the first rank of sheep.

Holly, thanks for the link to the gansey.blogspot man with his discussion of various knitting techniques. His article about the use of a knitting sheath is also very interesting. I am really rather hopeful that it’s going to work when I try again with mine, on a different project.

And, golly! I’ve got to knit lace again, and soon. I bought some yarn for that, too, at Jamieson & Smith that happy day.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Some progress made at resuming the threads of life. It’s astonishing how much paper-work three days’ absence generates.

My sister is here to attend a medical conference. She has located the Conference Centre and today will begin actually attending. She is younger than I am, and energetic, and it is proposed that we face up to getting the Princess shawl out from its interment. She was in London over the weekend, and had lunch with Lucy (the prospective bride) and Thomas, and reports that Lucy is enthusiastic about the idea of wearing it.

She is going from here to Washington, and could take the BSJ. Maybe I'll take advantage of the offer, and get those buttons sewn on.


I am now knitting Rams & Yowes round and round on a circular. It remains rather tight and harsh. It’s looking good. I wonder about a larger needle size -- although it’s getting rather late to switch, and I don’t have the right sort of needle one size larger, either. I am sort of encouraged by this unsatisfactory state of affairs to hope that some of my difficulties with the knitting belt were due to the project. Maybe I’ll be able to use the belt successfully for the forthcoming Fair Isle vest.

And speaking of knitting belts, Helen sent me these pictures she took at the Greek Folk Art Museum in Athens. There is an interesting essay to be written about the speed-knitting techniques and accessories of different nations. Maybe a book. Franklin might be the man..

Enlarge the middle one for an interesting, although to me largely unintelligible, label about how the knitting sticks were used.

And the Milano glides blissfully on. I’ve got to make a final decision soon – before I discover that I’ve knit a yard past the point where I should have divided for the armholes – about whether to knit the pattern as given, or Relax3. And in the latter case, how do I handle stripes on the sleeves? Thinking, again. Some people seem to enjoy it. Not me.

The new VK turned up yesterday. They send it in a plain brown envelope, for some reason, as if it were pornography – not in a horrible plastic sleeve like every other publication. So I don’t recognise it when I pick it up from the mat, which but enhances the pleasure later on.

Magazine-wise, this issue (Autumn 2013) is a sensation. Five brilliant articles, one after another, including a wonderful feature on Kate Davies. That should anchor her star in the firmament. Nancy Marchant writes on brioche, with an interesting scarf pattern appended.

I love brioche, and should apply myself to it. My first experience of it, decades ago, was an utterly easy k1, k1b throughout, “k1b” meaning “knit 1 through the stitch in the row below”. No yarn overs, no nothing. So what I need to know is, how does the result of that technique differ (if at all) from other approaches.

And there’s Meg on Tam-o-shanters, and Debbie Newton with a fascinating applied cable technique, expanding on a pattern of hers later in the issue; and an article about dickeys. I’m old enough to remember them from last time. They should be quick and fun to knit, and cosy to wear.

When we get past all this excitement to the actual patterns, there’s nothing that stirs me. But I have found that a good VK matures like a good wine – five years from now, those patterns will be better.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Safely home, and we had a grand time. The weather was astonishing, all the more enjoyed because it was pissing down in London. My husband, listening to the forecasts last week, worried about what tasks we could set Joe if the rain kept us all indoors.

It didn’t, and he toiled mightily tidying up and sawing fallen branches in my husband’s little larch plantation. His mother Rachel had forbidden him to use the chain saw, and us, to let him use it. I was just as glad, but he could have done much more with its help. Maybe next summer James can teach him how to use it. James is the only man who can get it started, anyway – it is a fairly new Stihl chain saw chosen for its easy-start characteristics.

I would ascribe the glorious weather to what James calls the Strathardle Microclimate – except that Kate Davies’ blog makes it sound as if the glory was Scotland-wide.

Lizzie (Joe’s younger sister) has been in Texas this weekend with university friends. She sent this, this morning, from Austin. Not only is the street named “Elizabeth”, but there is a sticker there somewhere saying “Brixton” – which is practically where she lives, in London.


I took “Rams and Yowes” along, and didn’t get much done. First of all, the bamboo circular I had taken proved to have the slightest chip in one of the ends, which meant that stitches, effectively, would not slide from the cable to the point. I turned the needle around, no small feat, and that went better – the defective connection was perfectly capable of transferring stitches from the point to the cable.

But the needle was too long. Not impossibly too long -- I could knit without stretching the work, but it involved a constant effort of stitch-pushing. Last night I transferred it all to a better needle and absented myself from felicity a while (=the Milano) to get things going in a better fashion.

Milano: I now can’t find your comment – I hope you’re here this morning. You liked the size otherwise, but wanted to lengthen it and were afraid there wouldn’t be enough yarn. Please write to Carol Sunday – I don’t know anything about her at all, have never dealt with her except for buying my Milano: but the yarn (the blissful yarn!) is hers as well as the pattern. She might be able to help.


Don’t blame me for this. I am trying to report what a young Englishman said.

Joe was in Philadelphia recently – something about opening a sports centre which was somehow connected with his work in London. The sports centre was – is – in a deprived area north of Philadelphia. Shootings are near-daily events, he was told. He was surprised at how rapidly and smoothly one moves between prosperous-middle-class and impoverished-nearly-totally-black areas. And this from a man who lives near Brixton (see above), one of London’s most notorious areas.

But what really astonished him was when the moment came, during the opening of the sports centre, for singing the Star Spangled Banner. Everyone stood there, hand on heart, belting it out. Singing the praises of a country which had short-changed them, Joe felt. They wouldn’t have treated “God Save the Queen” like that in Brixton, he said. How is it instilled, that sort of patriotism? I couldn’t answer. When I was young we had the war to instill patriotism in us. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Joe is safely here, and we will be off to Strathardle later this morning. I am in the near-panic-attack state which is becoming familiar. Greek Helen has prescribed valerian – it does help. What’s in it?


-- I’ve had a nice letter from the bride-to-be: she wants to wear the Princess! So next week when we get back I will move all those books off the chest in which it is stored, and have a look. Moths? Even more worrying, has it yellowed? We saw an interesting contraption in Shetland, a sort of smoke box such as might have been used to kipper a herring, which was in fact used, we were told, to whiten fine lace with sulphur smoke.

I don’t think I want to embark on that.

This will be the church. Thomas wrote to the parish priest (Lucy is not a Catholic) and they are now in touch and everything seems set fair. I’m sort of against photography during a religious service, but it is irreligiously pleasant to think of how well the Princess will look in that setting. Someone can take a picture on my behalf.

 -- Yesterday’s knitting belt session went very badly. I have decided to take Rams & Yowes along today, without the belt. I can still practise the Tindall way of holding the yarn and needle. I need to get acquainted with the pattern without the nervous pressure.

 I’ve never read any of the Harlot’s books, Genny (comment yesterday), but am much attracted by the passage you suggest in Free Range Knitter, about the different ways people manage yarn and needles.

 -- I find I am enjoying the Milano so much I don’t want to finish it. I can’t remember ever feeling like that about a piece of knitting before, and no doubt part of the feeling stems from the difficulties of the knitting belt struggle. I remember feeling like that about Brideshead Revisited, the first time I read it, in the mid-50’s. I don’t want this to end. It seems a bit overblown, these days – as it did to Waugh himself before he died.

 -- Don’t miss Kate Davies’ post about Foula wool, with wonderful photographs. Kristie and Kath, we’ve got to go to Foula next time, as well as Fair Isle.

--     Liz Lovick’s book “The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting” turned up yesterday from Amazon. Its value is as a how-to-design book. (There is a workshop on that topic on Unst this week, I believe – candidates got the organiser out of bed with their phone calls on the first day of registration.)

I feel a bit calmer for having spent this time with you. Back here Monday, insh’Allah.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Knitting belt

I struggled on. I am much encouraged by your comment, scifiknitter – and especially in the fact that you’ve stuck with the Stephanie Pearl-McPhee method since taking her class. Despite my announcement 48 hours ago that I wasn’t going to intellectualize this thing, I did just that yesterday.

Here are my sources: Pearl-McPhee and Hazel Tindall. The latter is a Shetland knitter who posted a little clip on her blog to demonstrate the use of a knitting belt. You wouldn’t suspect it from the link I’ve provided, but she is the fastest knitter in the world. I mean, literally. She wins competitions. She has slowed herself down considerably to demonstrate the belt.

The first thing one notices is that the two tension the yarn quite differently. In Tindall’s case, it goes directly from the current stitch over her right index finger and then disappears into the palm of her hand. The great thing about  a flesh-and-blood lesson from such a person is that you could ask her to open her hand and show you exactly where the yarn goes next.

(She’s taking part in Shetland Wool Week at this very moment. Too late now.)

And she keeps her right thumb on the rigid needle.

Whereas Pearl-McPhee tensions the yarn around the third and fourth fingers, as you say, scifiknitter. I think one could discover its exact course from the video link I’ve given. And she keeps her whole hand free of the needle, except for that pressure from the heel (if that's the word).

The essence of my problem is that my right hand wants to drop-and-throw – to move back and forth with each stitch from the tip of the needle to a place further down. And I’m never going to get up any speed if I can’t teach it to move less.

I tried for a while yesterday to do it Tindall’s way – to thread the yarn across my index finger as she does, and to keep my thumb on the needle so that the hand couldn’t get away, so to speak. I think for the moment, that may be the way forward. But it’s interesting that the two are so different.

When I cast all this aside and sink back with the Milano, I wrap the yarn around the middle finger of my right hand. So the Pearl-McPhee method ought to be easier?

I got the Relax pattern out yesterday. It and the Milano have virtually the same number of stitches, so I’m free to switch patterns in mid-stream.


Thank you for the equestrian observations. The position of a sword on the left thigh makes good sense as a reason for mounting a horse from the left. Right-handedness by itself won’t do – you have to put your left leg in the stirrup and use it to heave yourself up (unless your butler is handy to give you a boost). One is not often aware of it, but the left leg shares the left hand’s weakness.

I always mount a bicycle from the left, but I think that is because my teen-aged self fancied herself on horseback.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013


Here’s a question for you.

We were weary last night after a hospital appt for my husband to have his right hand scanned for rheumatic trouble. All went well, appt kept promptly, we were back for a late lunch before he succumbed to a low-blood-sugar episode – but this sort of thing takes its toll of us old folks, and in the evening we were fit for nothing more than Gregory Peck v. the Apache Nation.

And my question is this: is the convention that one mounts a horse from the left, a universal constant in the relation of man and beast? Or just a European notion? What did they do in the mountains of Peru or on the steppes of Tibet before the television newsmen arrived? Obviously, Apaches in the employment of Hollywood are going to leap on from the left, but that doesn’t  answer the question.


On I went, with my knitting belt. I had two single-colour rounds yesterday. Speed was up to a slow trot, to continue the equine theme.

I noticed that my right hand was briefly aiming the rigid needle for its entry into the stitch, before nipping up to throw the yarn. I had another look at the Harlot’s video – is that what her right hand does? No. Her fingers are completely free of any other task than throwing the yarn, but part of her right hand – what do you call it? the bit between the wrist and the point where the thumb bone is connected to the hand bone? – is pressed against the needle.

By the time I found that out, I was back to a two-colour passage and couldn’t make it work at all.

I’ll struggle on, but so far there is not the slightest pleasure in this.

But, ah! the Milano! Thank goodness for the Milano! There’s much to be said for love-at-first-sight and impulse-buying.

All the colours are now employed, and I have started back up the row with two-round and eight-round stripes transposed. Perhaps you can just see, on the right-hand part of the circular needle, the start of an eight-round stripe in Aqua which is the two-round stripe with which the story begins.

 I’m going to have to think about shape pretty promptly. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to do it today. If I’m going to knit this as Relax3, I will need underarm increases for the dolman sleeves. Milano, as written, has underarm decreases for what might loosely be termed set-in sleeves, although the joining line comes halfway between shoulder and elbow.

I think I incline towards the Relax shaping, since it has worked well for me twice. But I’ll have to think about it. I really dislike thinking. 

Monday, October 07, 2013

The big news is that Thomas-the-Elder and his Lucy plan to get married on November 1st – next year. All Saints' Day, a good start. My husband says he can’t go. He’ll have to -- we’ll start worrying about that in May or June. A wheelchair would have to be involved, but such things are not unknown. My concern is that, just as this past year has taken its toll, so will the coming one.

A late 18th-century country house in Yorkshire has been hired as the venue, so grand that I would be embarrassed to include the link.

Thomas and Lucy will be in Edinburgh sometime in November, this year. We’ll get the Princess shawl out and have a look. It will take me half a day to move all the books off the top of the chest where it is stored.


This turned up on Zite – it purports to be a woman knitting for Scottish independence, not my scene nor would the activity be much endorsed in Shetland. I am puzzled as to what it shows – she’s knitting around on three long needles, apparently, without a knitting belt. But what are her hands actually doing? If you peer closely, there appears to be the tip of a fourth needle in her right hand. What happened to the rest of it? Has a knitting belt been photo-brushed out?

I had a less satisfactory time with my belt yesterday, but forged on. I am back with three needles. That’s better. I have determined on a new approach, for the moment –  instead of trying to issue executive orders from the brain, to let my hands get on with the job, constrained by the facts that they’ve got three needles to deal with and that one needle is held rigid in the belt.

I took a class with Annie Modesitt once. She knits weird, as she says on her blog page. I gather she was mostly self-taught, and sort of fell into a method she calls Combination Knitting which is incredibly fast. Alas, it didn’t work for me. But, given the belt, maybe my hands can figure something out.

I was very grateful for your comment yesterday, Maureen, about your own struggles with a knitting belt. Like you, I scoop the yarn from the left-hand needle in two-colour knitting. What was happening yesterday was that the rigid needle was making that slight movement, assisted by the right hand. I doubt if that’s the “right” approach. I must learn to flick the yarn over the needle with the left forefinger? That’s what I mean by an executive order which, for the moment, I am trying to avoid.

After half-an-hour of that sort of thing, picking up the Milano was like having the cat jump onto my lap after a long, hard day. And, a big bonus – there is one less skein to wind than I thought. There is another skein, and it’ll have to be wound one day – but it’s a second skein of the border colour. It doesn’t have to be done now. The final colour is wound and should be attached to the sweater today. Pic tomorrow, if so.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

We had a nice time with Archie. He had to get back to school at the end of the afternoon  because they’re having a big harvest-festival thing today. He’s visibly older and stronger and more grown-up than he was a year ago, just as my husband and I are visibly older and weaker. Nature balances out nicely.

A book called “Shetland Textiles: 800 BC to the Present” will be launched tomorrow as Shetland Wool Week begins. 10% off if you order this week. It’s expensive, but I figured I had to have it, this being the Year I Went to Shetland.

We were a bit sorry not to be able to time our visit to coincide with Wool Week – I think now that it was a good thing. There would have been crowds – at least small, Shetland-sized crowds – in the places we had to ourselves, and Burrastow (the b&b/hotel where we lived so comfortably and ate so well) would have been closed – Pierre was about to go back to Bruges for the winter.

Browsing the Shrtland Heritage website just now, I found this: A Taste of Burrastow. So it was already known for food before Pierre bought it! I think I’ll have to order that one, too. Maybe there'll be a recipe for reestit mutton soup.

Knitting with the belt went a bit better yesterday, after a poor beginning – I sat down with it and discovered that I had knit most of the second round with the long-tail instead of the working yarn. It happens. So much of that practice session was spent straightening things out.

When I got back to work, I left the right hand to its own devices. If it wants to clutch the rigid needle in between yarn throws, it might as well do so, at least for now. The left hand did well at lifting the stitch off, and can manage the second colour of yarn as well without difficulty.

Using four needles, however, is awkward. They flap about and get in each other's way. Today I will try to go back to three.

It would be nice if this style of knitting would take over and make me more efficient.  Rachel’s younger son Joe is coming up this week, taking a couple of days off work to help us with energetic tasks in Strathardle. (And it will be nice for me to be there with another adult.) I can’t take both projects along – with all those balls of wool, there wouldn’t be room for much else in the car.

So I mean to take Rams & Yowes. Maybe I’ll allow myself to add a circular needle to the package, just in case.

But I'm not going to force things. If my old slow-and-clumsy way goes on being more fun, I'll stick with it. On the other hand, the softness of the Milano yarns gives it an unfair advantage at the moment.

Milano continues well – only two more colours to be incorporated, and then the sequence begins again with the two-round-stripes changing places with the eight-round ones. Another pic soon.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The knitting belt arrived, and I got started. This is going to be tough.

I cast on “Rams & Yowes”. Observing my hands in the evening, when I had reverted to the Milano and was letting them do things their own way, I discover that my right hand does all the work. The left hand serves only to hold the left needle steady.

I insert the right-hand needle in the stitch from below, with the needle coming out behind the left-hand needle. Then I let go, and wrap the yarn around the needle. Then I take hold again and wiggle the needle to the front of the left-hand needle, and then out of the old stitch. That’s the toughest thing for a learner to master – getting the old stitch off the needle while leaving the new one in place.

Everybody must knit more or less like that. I was observing myself with special care.

With the knitting belt, the role of the right hand is reduced to tensioning the yarn and wrapping it around the needle. The left hand must then lift the stitch up and off. Stephanie P-McF in that video I mentioned says that the combination is very like the action of a sewing machine.

Well, my hands don’t like doing it, especially does the left hand not enjoy being asked to contribute.

I mean to press on. Today I will reach the first two-colour round and it will be interesting to see what happens. Will my way of holding one colour in each hand work at all? Or will I have to learn to do it the way we saw demonstrated on Shetland, with both colours in the right hand? Somewhere I’ve got one of those finger-stall things for keeping colours separate. I’ve used it with moderate success on the rare occasions I’ve attempted Scandinavian knitting of one sort or another, and needed three colours in the same row.

Knitting around with only three needles didn’t work very well – things felt very tight. So I’ve added a fourth in order not to burden myself with too much learning at once.

Meanwhile, the Milano progresses. I wound one more skein, and will have to do another before the next session. I think I will become increasingly fond of it as it comes to provide a refuge from my attempts to learn a new skill. The yarn is lovely on the hands, too – merino with a dash of cashmere – whereas Shetland Supreme is firm and tough.


Archie is coming for the night. It will be good to see him. He was here while I was away, but I missed his visit entirely. I wonder if he has secured a place on the voters’ roll, looking forward to the Referendum.

Friday, October 04, 2013

I’ve suddenly run out of things to say.

Will the knitting belt arrive today? There are four more skeins to wind for the Milano, and I had best press on remorselessly until all are incorporated in the garment. Once a colour is in its place for the first time, it can be identified from the Stripe Sequence in the pattern – “curry” distinguished from “Dijon”, “buff” from “sand”, for instance. While still in the skein, they have their names on the band. But in between, they are just balls of yarn in my untidy sitting room so I am deliberately not getting too far ahead of myself, winding-wise.

n      The Norwegians, that mysterious race, have started screening  “slow TV” – a cross-country train journey, lasting for hours; the construction and lighting of a log fire, lasting even longer. Now we are promised an evening of people knitting. So far, other nations do not seem to be joining a bidding war to show these programmes, but knitting may provide the break-through.

n      Stashdragon (comment yesterday), a remarkable example of  what we were talking about, the freedom of traditional knitters who know their materials and their limitations, is the work of Marta Stina Abrahamsdotter, a 19th century Swedish pauper. Her work is now in museums. I found it in Britt-Marie Christoffersson’s book “Swedish Sweaters”. That book is high on my very select list: Books I Own That I Have Never Knit From but Mean To One Day Real Soon.

n      Else (comment yesterday), I tried to teach myself English Parlor Style knitting 60 years ago – it is said to be very effective in showing off pretty hands, not that I had any. But I couldn’t do it. I am anxious, on that account, as to whether I’ll be able to master knitting with the belt.

n      I mustn’t forget that there’s a fiddly, silly, secret thing to be knit for Christmas. I'd better tackle it soon.


My husband is doing better with his modern computer, although he still hates it. I have forgotten which of you it was who taught me about Ctrl-Z. I hope you’re still reading, and will recognise yourself with a glow of satisfaction. That one has got us out of a couple of nasty holes in the last couple of days. And I think my husband has taken on board my warning that the Ctrl key is dangerously near the Shift key. He has stopped (for the moment) suggesting that we get a Man In To Explain It All. That’s progress.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

I have heard from Jamieson & Smith that my order is on the way, the knitting belt and long steel pins -- so casting-on is currently in suspension and I press happily on with Milano. Here it is:

Nice, isn’t it? I think when I reach divide-for-armholes, I'll get the Relax pattern out and see if I want to edge it in that direction in any respect (sleeves, specifically). A bit late in the day, you may feel.

Scifiknitter left a comment recently – a few days in arrears, so some may have missed it – about the Yarn Harlot’s class in “Knitting for Speed and Efficiency”. Oh, that’s for me! I’ve google’d it – she pops up hither and yon teaching it, but there’s no sign of an on-line class. But she is mentioned in a Craftsy blog post, with a link to an amateur video on YouTube of her knitting in a style she calls Irish Cottage Knitting.

That’s where you tuck a long needle under your armpit to hold it rigid – much the same effect as a knitting belt. The video will be more use to me, I suspect, than any of the actual knitting-belt ones I have found so far.

The Shetland knitting-belt user, knitting around on dp’s, uses only three needles. Doreen mentioned that to us. FancyTiger and her friends had a demonstration from a different designer, not far from Doreen, who confirmed the point. (The link is to the FancyTiger blog post which discusses the matter, but the whole of her Shetland adventure is well worth reading.)

The point of the Shetland belt is not only that it holds the needle rigid while you’re knitting, but also that you can leave the whole thing suspended at your waist while you stir the soup or dig some potatoes or change a nappy. The fewer needles involved, the better.

Maybe my best approach would be to work the Milano that way for a while, to get used to the technique as it involves only one yarn, and then move on to Rams and Yowes and/or a Fair Isle Vest.

Meg Swansen’s vest will do fine as a starting point – she does vary the patterns all (or most) of the way up. The peerie patterns – the smaller ones separating the major ones – could be more interesting. That’s easily remedied. One of the knitters on the project page to which I have linked you appears to disdain the jumble of changing patterns, and has settled for alternating two of them.

The difficulty with designing Fair Isle, Sheila McGregor points out, is to get things to come out right at the shoulder. That thought brings me back to my long-held belief that knitters working in a tradition get to know the way it works, their gauge both stitch and row, and can introduce variations almost instinctively which the rest of us have to work out with graph paper and sums.