Sunday, March 06, 2016

Not much knitting yesterday. An old friend came to see us, with some welcome art-world gossip for my husband. I fiddled with the Knitcircus sock while she was here, and am very near the toe. I was too tired thereafter for anything else.

Madtosh “Tannehill”: my sister found Chelsea yarns on the internet, and offered to bring the yarn when she comes to see us in the summer. She and her husband are currently in the throes of selling up in CT and moving to a retirement community in DC, where they used to live. It sounds like a sensible move, and it sounds as if this is the moment to do it. But if you really want a recipe for feeling old, having your younger sister – and her even younger husband -- go into a retirement community will do it.

Meanwhile, one of you most kindly contacted Chelsea Yarns and reserved on my behalf most of the 11 skeins they claim to have. Before I went to London last month, I calculated that I would need 10 skeins for a v-neck sleeved sweater for my husband, and in the current circumstances I think I might as well take all 11.

I’ve forwarded their messages to each other, and am sitting back bemused, and grateful. One good thing is that there are only 11 skeins – I can’t find much of any, anywhere else. So whatever happens, I won’t be inundated.

As for carbon footprints, I’m pretty irresponsible; and I love madtosh; and I have accumulated valuable data by knitting that recent v-neck for my husband, a great success; and Archie’s sweater, perhaps slightly less of a success but still not too bad.

The big question remains, Georgia O’Keefe? My memory and my notes confirm that I knit my husband a sleeveless pullover in that shade. The NHS swallowed it last year. It was green. Those statements are facts. But Georgia O’Keefe now, from any source, looks blue. My husband is peculiarly anti-blue. I have no doubt that the lost sweater was not blue. It’s all very odd.

My oldest knitting book is “The Knitter’s Friend” from 1847. It has a pattern for “the much-admired SHETLAND SHAWL”. On four pins, cast on any number of stitches divisible by 22. The first round is: “bring the thread forward, and take two stitches together, take two together three times, bring the thread forward and knit one stitch five times, bring the thread forward and take two together, take two together twice, knit one, bring the thread forward, and take two stitches in one.” (it adds up to 22 all right.)

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th round are plain knit. Then repeat the pattern round. And so on.

The result would be a large cylinder, wouldn’t it? People in the 19th century weren’t stupid. I can only assume that one was meant to know how to decrease towards the centre of one’s shawl. 


  1. Anonymous12:37 PM

    Yesterday at the Shetland Museum a study day was held entitled 'Authenticity in Culturally-based Knitting', which included a talk by Carol Christiansen on the 19th century Pattern Book Project. It was broadcast live but later this week will be on Youtube and can be found at

  2. That sounds like feather and fan. They must have assumed all a knitter needed was the fancy bit. I recently helped a knitter in class with an old Dale of Norway pattern. There was a separate ribbed rectangle with instructions to sew it to the sweater 'in such a way as to form a collar." We tracked down a photo online from the early 60s and puzzled it thru, but it did make me see how much detail is expected these days!

  3. Anonymous1:48 PM

    Aren't there 4 stitches increased but 8 stitches decreased in that pattern? Or does "take 2 stitches in one" mean knit front back? But then the stitch count is wrong?

    I haven't had coffee yet....

    Beverly in NJ

  4. =Tamar2:38 PM

    I agree with Beverly, the count seems to result in a net decrease of four stitches per repeat. I don't know whether that's a lot or a little, in context. What seems odd to me is that the repeat doesn't reflect over a center line. Could there be a typo somewhere? People were expected to find the typos themselves.

  5. Anonymous2:44 PM

    A visit from an old friend sounds like the best medicine yet.
    best wishes for as smooth a week as possible
    and do take care of yourself (as others have said)

  6. It does sound like a feather and fan variant, if "bring yarn forward" is a yo (am assuming it is as that's what you'd end up with). I'm not seeing the decreases you guys are mentioning, it looks like the k2togs & yos balance. yo,k2tog, 3k2tog, 5yo, yo, k2tog, 2k2tog, k1, yo, k2tog is how I read it, translated but not neatened up. I may be wrong about that lone k1, it seems odd.

    1. Anonymous9:05 PM

      Ahh, I took "bring the thread forward and knit one stitch five times," to mean "yo, k5" but it may have meant "yo, k1” five times. In that case, the inc and dec are balanced.

      Beverly in NJ.

  7. Jean, MadTosh doesn't have dye lots. Now my Mum would take that to mean that the dying was so consistent that no lots were needed.

    With MadTosh what it really means is that each vat of dye is cooked up individually. However many skeins that fit in the vat (10, 12, 20?) are that colour.

    Then the next vat is mixed up and the next batch of yarn goes in. It will be slightly different in colour from the previous batch.

    With enough time and lots in between, Georgia may have morphed from green to blue.

  8. Oh Jean - I must keep those instructions. I'm teaching a class on Shetland Lace knitting next summer and it will be something for my students to wonder at! I have seen other old instructions but nothing quite like that one. Thank you!

  9. Booksangel11:31 AM

    Jean, is it a square shawl and not a round one? One would knit this feather and fan center add any edging already known to the knitter and the piece was done.