Saturday, September 28, 2019

A lovely fin-de-septembre day, but I am pinned to the spot by the need to wait for the postman to bring me that expensive ball of yarn for Matt’s pocket square. He’s usually earlier than this on a Saturday.

Helen’s little party was very jolly and noisy last night. (My husband never went to "openings".) I saw the book, but wasn’t allowed to buy it because she said she can get a few copies cheap. All the other artisans had submitted photographs of themselves, but Helen, handsomer than any of them, provided pictures only of her hands, setting tesserae.

There is a remark in the text about the pleasure of making a mosaic which sounds remarkably like the pleasure of the kind of knitting I am doing at the moment, the Spring Shawl. I’ll quote it for you when I finally get the book. Helen herself had long ago noticed the similarity between mosaic-making and knitting.

I’ve finished row 38 of the Spring Shawl borders – halfway up Chart One, as far as line numbers go. But the stitch count is increasing by two every row…

I’ve started wondering a good deal about how lace knitters managed without charts. Fair Isle knitters had their exercise books with coloured squares, and the three simple cylinders of the human body to work with --but I’m pretty sure the charting of lace is very recent. There’s no hint of it in Amedro.

Much lace design (including the Spring Shawl) is a matter of setting fairly simple 5-,6-,or7-row patterns into familiar shapes. That’s still not easy to do without a way of visualising the whole. And it doesn’t cover situations like the Princess shawl – probably the most complicated lace pattern ever written – which is a simplification by Sharon Miller of a shawl knit on Unst for a royal princess long before they had electricity up there, let alone lace charts.

The knitter made a copy, which is in the Museum of Scotland here. I don’t know whether the royal family still have their one.

That’s the question I should have asked Elizabeth Johnston when I was on my Wool Adventure in May, but didn’t.

…while I’ve been writing this, the yarn arrived through the letter box. I needn’t have waited in at all.


  1. =Tamar9:10 PM

    A theory - the knitter took notes as she went along, designing on the fly. Then she used the notes for the second one. Nobody else understood the notes, so they were destroyed at some point, not necessarily by her.

    Post offices work by Murphy's Law.

  2. Was there not an interview on Fruity Knitting with two ladies from Shetland - I'm thinking they talked about how they knew lace patterns off by heart and just fitted them into a basic shape. You know that phase where you can do the pattern in your sleep? Perhaps they did not write anything down at all.

  3. I’m glad the evening turned out well. The connection between you and Helen with your crafts must be a lovely thing to share. I used the link to look at the Princess Shawl. I’ve looked before, but it wasn’t in the newer online format with photos. I cannot begin to imagine tackling this. What an accomplishment. Simplification indeed. And unlike the Royal family who perhaps laid aside the shawl, all of yours are so treasured. And now the pocket square fits into the same category. Glad it arrived, but isn’t it awful to waste a day waiting?

  4. Congratulations to Helen:)!!!