Saturday, March 25, 2017

It was a rather fraught day. Fair Isle knitting does not consort well with constant interruption. Still, I got another border pattern done. I don’t care for it much. You’ll see, soon.

All this talk of the J&S-Shetland-Museum sweater – the one you knit, MaureeninFargo, although I hadn’t grasped that until today – has made me wonder whether I should try to see what can be made of that, using my colours. I’m pretty sure it would be easy to chart it, using the illustration in Mucklestone’s book and the ones posted by Maureen and the one other Raveller who has attempted it.

I think maybe that will be the next experiment for my swatch-scarf. Only one lozenge-pattern per row, of course, and perhaps even a different peerie.

There’s a passage in Meg’s introduction to her Fair Isle cardigan in “Knitting” which baffles me. Maybe you can help. She is writing about the problem of what to do with a Fair Isle, knit bottom-up, when you get to the armholes. Work back and forth, which will involve purling? Or steek, and go on knitting in the round? Both solutions are found on Shetland, she says.

Then this: “Designers Lizbeth Upitis and Joyce Williams knit forwards and backwards from the underarm up – no steeks, no cutting, no purling back in pattern.”

What does that mean? The only Third Way I can think of is to cut the yarn at the end of every row and push everything back to the other end of the needle. That is indeed possible, but I wouldn’t describe it as “knitting forwards and backwards”.

Here’s my husband’s Tannehill, dark line and all:

In my wanderings last night, I wound up on Jimmy Bean’s madtosh DK page. I haven’t been there for quite a while. A great many of the colours were unfamiliar, and goodness! how wonderful! No wonder Tannehill went under, if they bring out new colours at that rate. It occurred to me to wonder whether the pattern for my leftovers, perhaps supplemented by one or two skeins of new-and-wonderful colours, might be this, which you’ve seen before:

It is written for 4-ply (sport weight, that would be, I think, more or less) in one size only.  But it might not even have to be converted, as that one size is distinctly petite. Maybe in DK, it would come out about right. If conversion is necessary, I don’t think it would be too difficult.

Now I must go and put the clocks forward, and put some cider on ice for tomorrow….

Friday, March 24, 2017

I had to go down to Tesco today for this and that. I bought my cider to drink on Sunday – the mid-Lent break. It’s perhaps a bit dangerous to have it in the house untouchable for a whole day and a half, but I think I’m up to it. I was there in the car, and it’s heavy. I often stop at Tesco on the way back from Mass – but they have been known to run out of Weston’s Vintage on a Sunday, and I drink no other.

So it’s here.

I had another good day with Tannehill. The third skein has been joined in. I think I have earned my weekend of Fair Isle.

I didn’t take a picture. I kept putting it off because I was going to knit a few more rounds, and then, of course, the light was gone. But tomorrow I won’t knit it at all, and the light promises to be good, so there we are. And on Sunday the clocks go forward and we’ll have even more light.

Madtosh is notorious for having skeins of different values. This third skein of Tannehill is very dark, and has produced the sharpest colour-change line I’ve ever had. You’ll see. I’m not going to worry about it. My husband doesn’t go out and about. What he wants is a cosy DK sweater asap.

MaureeninFargo has written to me to say that she didn’t adapt Meg’s video-vest to make her own cardigan (as I said yesterday) – Meg did it herself. It’s the cover picture, indeed, of her book “Knitting”. In view of recent events, you may be surprised to hear that I found that book exactly where it belonged, with EZ and Meg’s other books. It sounds from what she says there as if vest and cardigan evolved simultaneously.

Kate Davies has posted an interesting blog entry called Patients and Doctors. No knitting in it at all. It sounds as if she is writing a book about her stroke.

Kristie (comment yesterday), my hesitation about knitting the museum-quality sweater for which Jamieson&Smith offer a “temporarily unavailable” kit, would not be the knitting of a whole Fair Isle sweater in fingering weight. That’s fun. It would be the fiddliness of knitting all those different lozenges, and of knitting the peerie pattern as the v-neck edging.

Meg says, in the introduction to the cardigan pattern in “Knitting”:

“Those who have experienced the excitement and contentment of knitting a true Fair Isle pattern need not be told of the pure pleasure involved. Elizabeth once described Fair Isle knitting as ‘painting with a different color in each hand and never having to rinse the brushes.’ For me it is like going into a trance.”

Just so. All those different lozenges might spoil it.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Another good day with Tannehill. I should join in the third skein tomorrow, and I’m not a million miles from the point where I separate back and front at the underarm. I think a picture would be a good idea, although I don’t trust it to do justice to the beautiful colour. Tomorrow.

I spent some time wandering around the internet last night, while waiting for the nurse to come. I discovered that Jamieson & Smith offer a kit based on a particular sweater in the Shetland Museum which is illustrated in Mucklestone’s book and which I mentioned only a couple of days ago – the one in which the pattern in every lozenge is different.

The J&S text says that in the original sweater, the different-ness extends to the back, but that they have simplified things by making the back and front identical, lozenge-wise. They phrase it more elegantly.

The odd thing is that this kit is “currently unavailable”. Why on earth? They must have the pattern, and it uses nothing but shades of their own Shetland Heritage yarn.

I haven’t advanced either with colouring-in the squares in Excel or downloading the allegedly free copy of Stitch and Motif Maker. The idea is to spend a happy weekend knitting the next 15-row border pattern, and another peerie, onto the swatch-scarf. The border has already been planned, and coloured however clumsily with pen and pencil. Then when it is finished, I hope it will itself prompt the next experiment and that’s when I can try colouring by computer.

Ravelry suggested the other day looking at your friends’ projects if you find yourself drained of inspiration. That’s how I found MaureeninFargo’s Fair Isle sweaters – her husband is wearing the vest Meg designed for Knitter’s magazine and also published with accompanying video. Then Maureen must have transformed the pattern into a cardigan for herself. The result is rather impressive.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Another anxious evening, waiting for a nurse to come and see to my husband’s catheter. I think the last time this happened was on the eve of the EYF – not long ago – and I was afraid I wouldn’t get there. He has been weak and droopy of late.

I steadily knit Tannehill in the intervals of my nursing duties. Today, I must confess with some embarrassment, I weighed the ball of yarn several times, until finally I got it down under 50 grams, therefore half way through, therefore entitled to half of the 12% I have assigned to each skein, for sidebar purposes, on the strength of Sweater Wizard’s estimate of how much yarn is needed in all.

(There are 46 days in Lent, so, for that one, each day earns 2%, with a bonus 1% every Tuesday when another week is completed.)

Thank you, Southern Gal, for suggesting Excel for my Fair Isle charting. I don’t think I even knew it offered colour. I use Excel extensively for the Income Tax, and for a Christmas list now spanning many years, but nothing else.

And I also seem to have discovered that Stitch and Motif Maker is available as a free download. I haven’t done it yet, because I discovered that on the iPad and thought I wanted the program here on the laptop. But I’m not sure that’s true, now that I write that sentence down. We’ll see, tomorrow. I want to be able to print my little designs and keep them together in some sort of portfolio.

But I can print from the iPad.

Shandy, I’m sure you’re right about the importance of having an overall colour. I’ve gone for that dark green you mention, and will need to order more of it rather soon.

It’s a stormy night. Poor nurses.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017


Three weeks done – nearly half-way. Thursday is in fact the half-way point. Rachel and I agreed on the phone last week that this is where Lent gets a bit dreary. One skips through the first few days, sustained by a virtuous glow. But now it just seems a long, long way to the end. Laetare Sunday, however, looms: the mid-Lent day off. It will be very welcome.

Other non-knit

Mungo sent Helen, and she sent me, this enchanting mosaic he saw in a Beirut museum, of the infant Alexander the Great having a bath.


Tannehill progresses. There’s much to be said for boring & DK, if you’re keen to get something done.

I continue to think about Fair Isle. Here are the yarns chosen for next weekend’s experiment:

And here they are in tonal form. I think I’m getting the idea.

Thank you very much, Theresa and Karen, for your comments yesterday about my first attempt. At the moment, I am far too impatient to try again with something completely different, to take your advice. But you have persuaded me that it would be a good idea, when I have more or less decided on the motifs and the arrangement I want to go forward with, to knit them together and consider the total effect, as Mucklestone has done for the admirable “Mix and Match” swatches towards the end of her book.

I’m in no hurry – maybe that’s the secret of happy swatching. And the longer the better, as far as the scarf is concerned. Maybe I’d better go ahead and knit this vest before I’m too old to pull it off.

I’ve bought myself sets of coloured pens and pencils (such as everybody needs for their colouring books these days – a most unexpected enthusiasm) and I have been trying to chart the pattern I have chosen in the colours I’m going to use. But the colours of the pens and pencils are pretty remote from the colours of the yarns and it doesn’t work very well. I wish I could find Stitch and Motif Maker.

Monday, March 20, 2017

I finished the motif and added a peerie and returned with some reluctance to Tannehill:

I am fully swept up in Mucklestone’s enthusiasm for swatching Fair Isle. I like this first result better than I thought I would when I was half-way through, except I don’t entirely like that yellow in the middle. Next time I’ll try a pattern with the dark colours in the background and the pattern in light. Kate Davies in her Macrihanish pattern alternates two such patterns, light and dark, with peeries in between. She uses only six colours altogether. Maybe I’m trying to squeeze in too many:

I’m not going to “design” the scarf, beyond centering the motifs and separating border patterns with peeries. I think the colours will hold it together. I might as well try different peeries each time, too. I think I had vaguely hoped that the stitch repeats in 15-row border patterns would all be the same, so that each repeat could be different (as I read somewhere that traditional Fair Isles are) and still line up. But they’re not.

I bought Mucklestone’s book, “200 Fair Isle Designs”. It arrived today. It offers a good deal more than the title promises – general instructions on all aspects of Fair Isle knitting, to begin with. The patterns are photographed life-size, with an accompanying chart and another chart offering an alternative colour-way. In some cases the pattern is also photographed with another pattern from elsewhere in the book, showing how they might be combined. In others, a chart shows how a border pattern can become an all-over.

She illustrates a stunning sweater from the Shetland Museum which seems to have a different pattern in every lozenge – that is, the “O’s” of the famous OXO – even within a row. And the peerie pattern in between reappears as the neck edging. Genius.

And speaking of books, thank you, Chloe (comment yesterday) for suggesting that good old Ravelry will show me the patterns in Sally Melville’s “Styles”. I am mystified by the absence of that book. I haven’t looked at it for a long time, so it is unlikely to have been left lying around somewhere (although that is possible). I will keep looking where it belongs, with the Melville’s on the “design” shelf or with the outsize knitting books elsewhere. Maybe it will re-materialise the way Gaughan’s cable book did recently.

The Tannehill sweater is coming along nicely. It can’t help being boring, and the yarn is beautiful.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

I decided that I might as well start the swatch scarf, so I did.

It was an interesting experience. The 12” circular needle is somewhat awkward, but not excruciatingly so. I didn’t have much trouble with the pattern, as I did in Hazel Tindall’s class, but my left hand didn’t behave as well as it might, and the first half of the 15-row OXO motif I launched into was productive of a good deal of tension across the shoulders. The second half went better.

I’m within two rows of finishing the motif. I’ll try to show it to you tomorrow. I don’t think I’m entirely satisfied with the way the colours are working together. I can see how this might get to be a lot of fun.

When this motif is finished, and maybe a peerie to round it off, I’ll wind another skein of Tannehill and revert to that.

Thank you very much for your help with my madtosh leftovers, and apologies, Tamar, for not giving you credit for the suggestion that I look at Kaffe. And I can see myself getting swept away by the temptation to buy a few more skeins to go with the leftovers I’ve already got. Something has got to be a main colour. I’ll pay close attention to how many skeins are consumed by my husband’s sweater. Composition Book Grey and Roast Hatch Chillies are the two I’ve got the most of.


Helen’s middle son Mungo is going to Beirut tomorrow. We’re all a bit nervous (except for Mungo). He is doing Arabic at Oxford, and his college has given him a travel grant to spend a week in a place where it is spoken. As far as I can understand it, however, he is learning classical Arabic which won’t get him very far with the spoken language.