Friday, April 18, 2014

Here we are – Good Friday. My husband has not counted his pills yet or packed the work he wants to take. He doesn't entirely grasp how slow he has become at everything, and how soon Rachel and Ed might be here.

The weather is chilly-bright and the forecast is good, for Scotland, anyway. I don't know when the party will break up – probably on Monday. I should be back here by the middle of next week.

I've reached round 45 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. It's a stinker – in fact, the current set of motifs is a stinker in general, and they are currently at their widest point. The next Significant Point will be Round 68, half-way if you overlook those steadily-increasing corners. It seems a long way off.

I wrote to Michael and Sharon at Heirloom Knitting about that framed shawl pattern, has it ever been published separately? I haven't heard from them yet. I'm sure the answer is no.

One more mildly interesting thing about it (it's knit centre-out, as I have said): when Sharon finished the borders, she decreased one stitch in six before starting the edging. That seems rather a lot to me, and demonstrates again, if demonstration were needed, that knitting is forgiving stuff, as the Master said.

Happy Weekend, everybody.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Health continues to improve, and the weekend on Loch Fyne is currently “on”. Rachel and Ed will pick us up on their way there from London. We have arranged to communicate by text tomorrow, as they battle their way northwards through the holiday traffic – very 21st century.

Yesterday I re-potted my chilli plants. Today we count pills and pack.

I think I am going to re-cast-off the entire upper edge of my sister's shawl. At first glance, I thought it was garter stitch, but I've had a look at the pattern and (a) it's moss stitch, much less fun; and (b) there is a lot of adroit short-rowing at the end, or rather long-rowing as stitches once left behind are gradually incorporated – only the last two rows involve the entire stitch-count. So I mustn't unravel mindlessly.

Nevertheless, it should prove relatively peaceful kitchen-table knitting. The Bridal Shawl is distinctly anti-social.

I had a look at Liz Lovick's book. Sure enough, she has a section called “designing with frames” but they aren't the sort of frames I was talking about yesterday. On careful re-reading, I think Sharon Miller's magnificent framed shawl could be reconstructed from “Heirloom Knitting”. I wonder why she never published it as a separate pattern? Feeling that no one would want it, since it was already in the book? I think she's wrong, if so.

What Lovick does say, is that island knitters almost invariably use k3togtbl for the double-decreases which are so plaguing me. I had a go yesterday – the current motifs have got a lot of them, and of course the surrounding trellis is composed of nothing else. I think perhaps k3togtbl does work a bit better in the trellis – it's easier and more secure than the centred decreases I've been doing, and easier to retrieve in the unhappy cases where such a decrease has to be unpicked.

In the motif, it doesn't work as well. It all depends on how the stitches to be decreased were formed in the preceding round. I've settled down with slip 1, k2tog, psso for those. Both alternatives produce angled results. I was astonished when I first learned from “Heirloom Knitting” that the angle of a decrease doesn't matter in fine lace knitting. Lovick agrees.

Miller's instructions for the framed shawl (such as they are), are worked centre-outwards. Lovick seems to like to do it that way, too. Not me, if only to avoid that long cast-on along one edge of the centre. I was feeling a bit frustrated about the resulting problem of turning the border pattern on its head, if I insist on knitting edging-inwards. Myrna Stahman says she includes lessons on how to do it, in her lace tutorials.

But then it occurred to me, I know how to do it. I've done it.

I've used Bridget Rorem's lace alphabet several times, and at least once, I had to reverse the letters, and did so successfully. In 2009 (I discover, by googling my own blog) I knit a First Holy Communion veil for James' and Cathy's daughters, incorporating the initials of both girls. It was knit from the top down so the letters had to be reversed. Here are finished pictures of it:

And here is an account of my struggles with the initials. I remember that day well, when I thought I was knitting the mirror-image of the effect I wanted.

Many border patterns wouldn't suffer much – including the one I'm knitting at the moment – if they were simply knit in the other direction. Not by turning the chart upside down, which might present problems, but by fitting the pattern as given (centre-out) into the greater abundance of initial stitches available when knitting edging-in. If you centre the pattern with care, it shouldn't be difficult.

I was rather struck, reading those old blog entries, with how much earlier I used to get up, five years ago.

The current (or about-to-be-current) Economist has a 14-page pullout by James, I am told, although he has unfortunately been pushed off the front cover by the Ukraine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My husband was markedly better yesterday – hope is revived, for our Easter weekend.

I got the Princess mended. Clumsily done, I fear, but no big deal. The holes (three) were small and the results no worse than a patch where the knitting had gone bad – they are mercifully rare, in the Princess. I was younger then. The results are pretty well unspottable, in that sea of knitting, even after the rider dismounts.

My sister gave me – nearly a year ago! – a shawl of hers to mend. It's Amedro's Cobweb Evening Wrap in a beautiful blue. After I finished and packaged the Princess, I got it out with its original yarn, and may tackle it tomorrow. One of the faults there is a break in the long cast-off row. That's a bit tricky.

And I knit obsessively on, on the Unst Bridal Shawl. I have now reached round 40. It occurred to me that if (as is the case) I have about 100 more rounds to do, I will add another four hundred stitches before the job is done. And I already have plenty of stitches.

I got “Heirloom Knitting” out again yesterday, and was again struck with the idea of a Framed Shawl – essentially the good old edging-border-centre-square arrangement, but with a frame containing a small pattern around the centre square. Sharon knit one, a stunner, which is shewn on page 215. She also illustrates an antique one from the Lerwick museum on the following page. I'm pretty sure that neither she nor – it almost goes without saying – anyone else, has ever published a pattern. Me, I'm a Blind Follower if ever there was one.

The book contains enough information, and partial charts, that Sharon's design could be re-created by a determined knitter.

Googling is no help, especially since “frame” can refer to the structure on which a shawl is dressed and to a “hand frame” on which semi-machine knitting is done. One entry suggested that there might be something in Elizabeth Lovick's new book. I'll look.


Kate Davies has recently returned from Iceland, as we all know. Her recent blog entries are full of beautiful photography and sensitive writing, as always. The one for April 10 mentions a “ a rift valley separating the Continental plates of Europe and America”. That sounds remarkably like Unst. She says that the plates are pulling apart at the rate of an inch a year. On Unst, they seemed to lie peacefully side by side, laced together with finger lakes.

My own blog entry for 30/9/13 has a picture. We must be talking about the same continental plates. Unst is the northernmost land in the British isles. Iceland is much further north, and a bit to the east. There's no land in between.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My post-Strathardle cold is virtually gone, but my husband is suffering, to an extent that puts our Easter weekend in some doubt. He was coughing and sneezing all day yesterday, but is not feverish (so I doubt if a dr could help) and seemed to sleep soundly enough, without coughing. So we shall see. Three days offer time to improve.

I am trying to get some pictures of daffodils for you, and a progress pic of the Unst Bridal Shawl. That involves trotting back and forth to my old, slow desktop computer, and it is taking a long time. The importation of photographs to the new laptop is a problem I have yet to solve.

I've reached round 37, of the borders of the shawl. It seemed a good point to record progress – only 99 rounds to go. Since I'm knitting centre-out, there is no edge except the one on the needle and photography is even more difficult than usual. And this one has come out fuzzy, to boot. But you sort of get the idea.

The messy corner is settling down. The pivot stitch isn't making a nice chain, like the centre stitches at the other three corners. It sort of zigzags. But it's consistent, and beginning to look reasonably tidy. I have stopped doing the right-side-row YO's on either side of the pivot stitch, and instead pick up the bar between stitches at that point on the wrong-side rows. I think the result will be slightly less sloppy-looking.

I do so share your enthusiasm, Marciepooh, for rows that get progressively shorter. I have deprived myself of that pleasure this time, by knitting centre-out, and I don't think I'll do it again.

The job that can no longer be postponed is the mending of two moth holes (I hope it's only two) in the Princess shawl. The bride-to-be will be at Loch Fyne at Easter. This is my chance to hand it over. Margaret Stove herself showed me how to pin out a piece of defective lace on a pillow. I can't remember what she said to do next. She has a certain amount on the subject in the book we mentioned yesterday, but nothing specific.

I trust common sense will help. Secure any live stitches which may be wandering about, reconstruct as appropriate.

Thanks for the pointer to Franklin's new blog entry, FiberQat. I must sign up for his doctor. I don't check Feedly as often as I ought, and have rather fallen behind on blog-reading. I still miss the days when Google did the job of keeping me in touch.

Here are some daffodils from Strathardle, and the "curry dumplings" at the back door, most welcome of weeds. Primula denticulata, in fact.

Monday, April 14, 2014

You're right, Jean – Margaret Stove didn't knit Prince George's shawl. It was her design, but only in the sense that it is included in her 2010 book “Wrapped in Lace”. It says on her website that “through physical limitations [she] is no longer able to complete large project commissions”. (She's 74.)

It's a lovely shawl – but one I'm sure I'll never knit. You begin by making 64 points, either separately or connected, then you line them all up and knit the centre inwards, back and forth with a herringbone stitch seam at the end. The pattern consists of ferns, the emblem of New Zealand and so rather appropriate for a royal gift.

Amedro designed a shawl for one of Prince Andrew's daughters, I seem to remember. I don't know whether it was commissioned. I don't think Sharon Miller has ever knit for a royal baby.

I didn't get much done yesterday. We watched “No Country for Old Men”. It's not conducive to lace knitting. You need to see every frame.

I've embarked on round 34, at least. It's the final round for the second row of motifs, followed by three blissfully simple rounds before the next set of motifs is introduced.

I half-heard someone talking on the radio about Arthur Miller's plays the other evening – “every line has its place”. That's the joy of this sort of knitting. Each of the 136 rounds in the borders is different, each fits in its place.

Our niece was wearing her red Mourning Shawl in Strathardle last week. I wish now I had snatched it from her shoulders and had a critical look at it. I didn't even get a picture of her wearing it. It was “Granny Cheyne's Shetland Shawl” from Margaret Stove's book just mentioned. That was the one where I used Fleegle's system – two balls of yarn, one for each direction – to create garter stitch in the round.

I think when the current shawl is finished, there is going to be no escape from making a serious circular swatch to explore all the ways of achieving garter stitch. The pivot stitch seems to be working reasonably well, but I don't think it's perfect.

The spring edition of the Twist Collective is out. There are some wonderful things, needless to say, including some very tempting lace. Nothing by Franklin, though.

Tamar, you may be sure I will keep you posted about my further experiments with Good King Henry. I got involved with it in the first place because, like you, I love spinach and was tempted by the idea of a perennial source of it.  

I'm sorry there are no daffodils -- tomorrow, I hope.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I'm much better, and my husband somewhat so, but we're not going to attempt Mass this morning.

I'd better start with knitting as there's not going to be much of it here. I have just heard the radio say that Prince William was presented with a shawl yesterday “knitted by a woman in New Zealand”. That's got to be Margaret Stove, who of course designed and knitted one for him when he came to New Zealand aged nine months. I'll have to do some serious googling if the newspapers don't oblige.

Well, we had a grand week in Strathardle, in fine weather with many daffodils. My husband had a low blood sugar crisis on Tuesday as a result of going down the commonty to see our specimen trees, and in particular the Scots pine planted for his sister who died in 2011. It's doing splendidly, and he had never seen it.

It was getting back to the house that proved difficult. We managed that, just, but by then my husband was semi-conscious. We called in the Scottish Ambulance Service, who were brilliant.

I don't think there can be any question, in future, that we need someone else to be there with us. I couldn't have managed that alone. He'd still be down the commonty. This time the "someone else" was our niece, the daughter of the sister for whom the Scots pine was planted. She was brilliant throughout, and it was a good week.

We've engaged a man to look after the garden. Much of my dear vegetable plot has perished of neglect or marauders. He is going to put in a couple of rows of potatoes. Rhubarb is still there, and garlic both cultivated and wild, Welsh onions much eaten by deer but still hanging in there, Babington leeks I think – and Good King Henry.

Some may remember my history with this vegetable. I first heard of it in Dr Hessayon's “Be Your Own Vegetable and Herb Expert”, but the story is the same everywhere – a thoroughly satisfactory spinach substitute, grown for centuries in cottage gardens. Indeed, it has every virtue except one. It's perennial; very hardy; unliked by sheep, deer, and rabbits; doesn't creep underground like mint or seed itself all over the place like everybody else. (It's deep-rooted: stock can be increased by carefully digging up an established plant in the spring and cutting it into two or three with a sharp knife.)

The only trouble is, it tastes terrible.

After tenderly weeding my own little stock, I googled it yet again – and this time, I hit pay dirt: an article in the Guardian by a woman who has actually tasted the stuff and found it bitter. She says that the secret is to soak the leaves in salt water for half an hour before cooking-as-spinach. She also recommends it (presumably unsoaked?) in a salsa verde. I keenly look forward to trying both ideas.

And then it occurred to me, rather belatedly, that this is a classic instance of a common happening: someone authoritative asserts something, everybody else copies without question. The Royal Horticultural Society says it, so it must be true. (I'm guessing – I have no idea about the sequence of publication.) Cue Hessayon, Wikipedia, “Perennial Vegetables”.

As for knitting, I did little, although I have at least established the ribbing for the second sock. Back here, I am engaged on round 33 (of 136) of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl and will have more to say about that tomorrow, along with some pictures of daffodils, perhaps.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Brief touching of base...

We had a good week in Strathardle (thanks to our niece) and are safely home. I have not-much-but-something to tell you, little about knitting but movement on the Good King Henry front. Both of us subsided yesterday evening -- I'm worse, but he's older, so it evens out. It;s wonderful how, so often, the human frame can persevere in the task that needs to be done before bending before nature and infirmity.

I hope to reappear tomorrow, bright as a button.

And meanwhile, I am tremendously excited by your message, SarahSeattle, suggesting that the Pivot Stitch may be the answer to all our problems.