Saturday, February 01, 2014

I like February – nothing is expected of it; every spring day (and there are usually a good few) is a bonus. The light is coming back. The groundhog shouldn't have much to disturb it tomorrow – the weather has been blustery and overcast. And next Saturday I'm going to the Calcutta Cup.

41 scallops done – I could even finish the edging this weekend.

I am now completely bewildered about how to cast on for the centre. Like Epaminondas, mind how you step on them pies. And there's a German folk story, isn't there? about a father-and-son pair (perhaps) who keep trying to act on successive pieces of advice, Not Clever Elsa – her problem was creative worry. Anybody?

  • Sharon Miller's “knitting on” technique leaves a nice little row of loops for picking up later, she says. It's sort of like the cable cast-on, but not quite. She says that the line is more visible than using waste wool, which is the only alternative she suggests. I had thought I was going to try that.
  • But Purl Bee's tutorial yesterday inspired me to try the crocheted chain again – I have been humiliated by that one in the past, and now I think I could do it. I am sure you are right, Ellen: the chain should be made with a slippery-smooth mercerised cotton.
  • On the other hand, the crochet-the-provisional-loops-straight-on-to-the-needle approach which you mention, Mary Lou and Ivy, is a sure-fire way to do it. I learned that from Candace Strick, in one of her mitered garter stitch jacket patterns.

Other suggestions yesterday, Judy's Magic and so on, sound to me more appropriate for a circular shawl knit centre-out. But the Unst Bridal is Shetland-type, with a centre square. I've got to cast on 120 stitches or so, and later pick up the stitches to knit the border outwards.

So, goodness knows.


Thank you for comments about the picture sale, and for not mentioning the artist's name. Rachel sent a note of commiseration yesterday with this picture to cheer us up:

That's Hellie's lovely boyfriend Matt, on the right. The other man is Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the greatest batsman cricket has ever known, worshipped as a god in India. Rachel doesn't mention where they met, or how.

Northof49 has posted an interesting article about some super technology which allows you to switch back and forth between audio-book and reading for yourself, depending on whether or not you are knitting Fair Isle. She says it is disconcerting, because the characters you see in your head when you are reading the page yourself are not the ones the actor creates.

I vividly remember going to see My Friend Flicka when I was a child, expecting that the movie would make visible for me my mental construction of that well-loved book. It was All Wrong, from beginning to end. On the other hand, I would put in a rare vote for the BBC's Pride and Prejudice a few years ago – the one that left us all in love with Colin Firth. That was good. It was even illuminating.

Nothing suits me for reading just now. I've got half-a-dozen books on the go, each of which I mean to go back to, but not just now. So I am re-reading Mansfield Park for the 37th time. Goodness, it's good. She is as good as the 19th century Realists, as Evelyn Waugh himself, at absolutely skewering a character with a bit of quoted speech. No comment needed.


  1. Films of children's books are AN ABOMINATION - I well remember seeing one of "Heidi" at about the age of 8 - not only did I not recognise the characters, since they looked totally different to the ones in the book, but they had CHANGED THE STORY. I don't think I could cope with swopping to and fro from book to audio!

  2. You can't go wrong with Lucy Neatby. Her videos are very wonderful with very clear instructions.

  3. As to provisional cast ons, for a center-out I like Emily Ocker's. For this project I would cast on over another circular needle, the right size or a smaller one. Then I let it hang until I need those sts. Is it Judy' Magic Cast On? I've used it for mitten linings and begun-at-the-center back shawls.
    Good luck.
    I hope you're feeling better!

  4. Anonymous12:44 PM

    So is the center square knit flat,with border stitches picked up from all sides? If so, then you are right, Judy's Magic Cast On isn't what you want.

    Beverly in NJ

  5. I always use a long-tail provisional caston where the top yarn is your working wool and the bottom a smooth waste yarn. Slip knot the two together and put on needle but do not count this as a stitch. Then hold the yarns in slingshot fashion and work a long-tail CO - the working yarn should wrap around the needle and waste yarn. At the end go back and pull out the waste yarn, placing the live stitches on the needle. Works a treat and I don't have to fiddle with crochet :)

  6. I agree about the BBC's version of Pride and Prejudice. It was brilliant. But then again, putting Colin Firth into the leading role is a bit like putting cream cheese icing on a dessert. It makes even the driest, dullest offering palatable. :-)

  7. LynnR4:01 PM

    Is it a Grimm fairy tale? This looks to be a comprehensive summary of them, although it would take some time to get through the list...

  8. JMCO is useful for more than just circles (such as a hat); a sock toe is not a circle (anatomically). Add in EZ's formula for knitting a square, and you're gold!

  9. There is a Grimm fairy tale "Die kluge Else" (Clever Elsa) where Else, who is about to marry, sees an axe hanging on the wall in the cellar and imagines being married and having a child and this child walking beneath the axe and the axe falling down and killing the child. Else starts crying and sobbing and tells everybody who comes to look why she doesn´t return what is going to happen until the whole household is crying with her - and admiring her cleverness. It is one of the more peculiar fairy tales of the Grimm brothers.

  10. Mansfield Park is such a very good book. There are some dark undercurrents for people paying attention.

    After trying many provisional cast-ons, the crochet-directly-on-the-hook is my first choice for almost any situation except the toe of a sock. I love the way that you start the project with a properly tensioned and gauged knit row, the waste yarn is easy to remove, and there is no problem with picking up a stitch from the wrong part of a crocheted chain. I think the last problem is more likely to raise its head when working with fine yarn - it's harder to see which loop is the right one than those elegant diagrams would lead you to believe. This technique also benefits from the use of a slippery cotton yarn as the waste yarn. That's my 2-cents, best wishes as you decide what technique to use.

    1. Oops - crochet directly on the NEEDLE not the hook!

  11. Anonymous6:15 PM

    I also love Jane Austen's ability to puncture ballooned personalities with a well placed quip or quote. It is what made me a devoted fan after not reading more than excerpts when in English Literature classes as a teenager.
    As for a provisional cast on...I've tried several and now - thanks to the above comments - have a few more to try. Looking forward to updates on the progress of the shawl.
    May the Calcutta Cup be a big delight for you and the family.

  12. Re Provisional cast on: I use Judy's magic cast on (or a version thereof) whenever I can, when it comes into 120 st territory though I recommend the crochet straight onto the needle crochet castor. With that many stitches and 2 circular cables snaking around each other and lace weight yarn to boot I recommend the latter. I agree about the mercerised cotton - in fact I think it's an absolute must. Anything that sheds fibre and is darker than the working yarn will leave a dark visible line in the join. That's on top of fibrous yarn getting 'velcroed' onto the tacky Shetland fibres.

    Interesting to 'read' your shawl grow. And I'm sorry to read about you coming second in the bid for the painting.

    Happy knitting, Imke

  13. I just had to say, Hellie's boyfriend Matt is extremely handsome. Extremely.

  14. KarenE10:07 AM

    The knitted cast on is really easy - it's just the second stitch of the cable cast on repeated to the required number of stitches. It leaves a neat little edging of loops and is really elastic. It is one loop per stitch, unlike the loops one can make at sides by beginning each row (yo k2 tog) which is one loop per 2 rows.