He always finds it

cat on a not mat

In fact I think he lies in wait until some careless child leaves the door open for more than a nanosecond and he slides past, silent and invisible. Thank goodness he didn't chew the needles. Those luscious (and expensive) wooden points used to be more desirable than catnip to him.

The knitting is now off the needles, apart from the front bands.

I currently have a delightful jumper which fits like a glove widthways but is slightly longer than I'd hoped.

The colour work is effectively invisible other than in a very strong light, but when examined under optimum conditions doesn't look too shabby.

There's only 40cm left of the last ball of green wool the pattern said is required. Luckily I bought an extra one so should have enough for the front bands.

The front bands, of course, have to be knitted on after the front of the jumper is cut up the middle to turn it into a cardigan.

I have never taken scissors to knitting in this way before.

I am apprehensive.


Sagas and knitting

So it turns out that knitting and sagas have been going together like, er, two things that go really well together, for a very long time. During the long winter of long nights one person would read (or recite from memory) while the rest of the family would get on with useful stuff – like knitting!

This illustration and the text below are from the Biographical Sketch of Jónas Halagrimsson:

During the long months of winter darkness, the time between lighting the lamps in the evening and going to bed was known as kvöldvaka (“evening waking”). During this time the members of the farm household would gather in the commons room (baðstofa) and devote themselves to various indoor tasks, many of them connected with the wool industry. Ebenezer Henderson, who probably observed scenes like this during his residence in Iceland over the winter of 1814-15, writes:

A winter evening in an Icelandic family presents a scene in the highest degree interesting and pleasing. Between three and four o’clock the lamp is hung up in the badstofa, or principal apartment, which answers the double purpose of a bed-chamber and sitting-room, and all the members of the family take their station, with their work in their hands, on their respective beds, all of which face each other. The master and mistress, together with the children, or other relations, occupy the beds at the inner end of the room; the rest are filled by the servants.

The work is no sooner begun, than one of the family, selected on purpose, advances to a seat near the lamp, and commences the evening lecture [i.e., reading], which generally consists of some old saga, or such other histories as are to be obtained on the island. . . . The reader is frequently interrupted, either by the head, or some of the more intelligent members of the family, who make remarks on various parts of the story, and propose questions, with a view to exercise the ingenuity of the children and servants. In some houses the sagas are repeated by such as have got them by heart; and instances are not uncommon of itinerating historians, who gain a livelihood during the winter, by staying at different farms till they have exhausted their stock of literary knowledge.

In the illustration reproduced above, a man who has just entered from outside chats with a woman who sits on her bed knitting. In the background (in the baðstofuhús, the private apartment panelled off at one end of the baðstofa), a woman dandles a baby. To her right an older man is engaged in fulling (i.e., squeezing, compressing, and thus thickening) the wool of a mitten or sock. To his right a boy reads out loud from a book in order to entertain the others.

It’s true. Who needs the television or radio or even, although this might have to be whispered, the internet, if you have a saga-reader, a bed, some knitting and a saga. Unless of course the saga is being read over the internet in which case that does become necessary.

I rather imagine that blogging will be pictorial progress (assuming there is any) for a time.

Care instructions for your anatomically correct knitted heart

Warm (40 C) wash cycle, minimum machine action. The regular contraction of the organ itself will provide sufficient flow of water. Have the temperature any warmer, however, and the contraction will be irregular, stronger and may even lead to shrinkage. Excessive machine action and/or contractions may cause felting of the arteries leading to loss of flexibility and possible heart attack.

Warm iron. Anaemia may cause rapid heart rate, it’s best to keep levels topped up.

Do not bleach. Paleness is one of the first signs of ill health and can indicate frostbite and anaemia among other things. Should loss of colour occur administer warm iron (see above).

Dry cleanable in all solvents. Other, of course, than hydrocarbons. Best stick to water.

Do not tumble dry. The irregular motion may trigger cardiac dysrhythmia which could result in cardiac arrest.

Remember to maintain pristine dental hygiene. There is a direct correlation between the health of the mouth and that of the heart. Floss regularly with a lace weight thread spun from the fleece of a sheep with a long staple. Blue-faced Leicester or Wensleydale would be ideal.

Regular exercise is also important to maintain your heart in optimum condition. Spinning classes are particularly recommended. Remember to vary the speed of the wheel to ensure you have a full aerobic workout.

Should you be unable to locate appropriate floss, remove some of the contents of your heart and take to your spinning class. With practice a lace weight will result.

With the correct care your anatomically correct knitted heart will give you years of trouble-free service.


I was delighted to hear this waft past my ears from the audiobook I’m currently enjoying as I labour on with the paternal socks (25% done, an annoying distraction from the bark), He Shall Thunder in the Sky by Elizabeth Peters

At least I had pressed upon him a parcel of food and a nice warm knitted scarf, made by my own hands. My friend Helen McIntosh had shown me how to do it, and I found, as she had claimed, that it actually assisted in ratiocination, since the process soon became mechanical and did not require one’s attention. I had made the scarf for Ramses, but he assured me he did not at all mind relinquishing it to his friend.

Indeed. Obviously an ungrateful toad, albeit more polite than my own.

Ratiocination. Such a good word.

Yesterday’s attire included 100% wool socks, 100% wool gloves, 100% wool hat, 100% wool cardigan (all knitted of course); coat of “50% pure new British wool” and scarf of “85% pure virgin British wool”. Somewhat to my surprise I realised I don’t have a wool knitted scarf only a couple made of alpaca which, while an excellent fibre in its own right, does not come from sheep.

Less than a week to go

Not that it hasn’t been fun, of course, but launching on 31 days of woolliness without aforethought has lead to some less than scintillating moments. Of which this is another. However Pepys wasn’t off put by banality so neither shall I be.

Rose late. Weather dull. Did knit some more of my swatch. Did watch Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings with the spawn, and did marvel anew at the elven cloaks.

Yes! they’re wool!

The special fabric used to make the Magic Elven cloaks was woven locally in New Zealand by Stansborough Fibres. They grow their own unique naturally grey wool at their farm just north of Wellington. These rare and unusual grey ‘Stansborough Gotland’ sheep, are the only flock of their kind in the world and produce fibre which is strong, soft and lustrous. Perfect for weaving designer fabrics….

The beautiful weave, soft silky texture, natural hues and its ability to warm, despite its lightweight feel, exactly match the description given by Tolkien.

And so to bed.

Snail-mailing and swatching

A lot of knitting-related packet-posting today. Including this pair, despatched in the mail. I’m worried about the disparity in size. I’m worried about whether they’ll fit. But off they go.

If they don’t fit, I’ll have a better idea for next time. If they do fit perhaps we’ll be sent a picture of them!

So on to swatching for the project now officially known as “Barking“. Lots of things to think about. Firstly, the yarn is on the thin side for an aran. On 4.5mm needles it’s still producing quite an open fabric, and I tend to knit tight. But does that matter? The gauge (the number of stitches and rows per inch) will of course determine the overall size of the “canvas”. It’s currently about 18 stitches and 26 rows to 4″, but that’s unblocked, and I’m not sure whether to go down a needle size.

Once the gauge is finalised a balance has to be struck between the ability of the different textured stitches available to emulate the nature of the bark and the level of detail this can reflect. Currently I’m looking at broad bands of four different textures – stocking stitch, garter stitch, moss stitch and reverse stocking stitch – to see the different effects of each and how they look bordering each other.

Three things are already clear to me – given the spiralling nature of the bark striations the body and arms will be best knit in the round; given the way the branches emerge from the trunk the best sort of sleeves would be bog-standard drop shoulders; using cables in the patterning would give a misleading impression since no one thing overlaps another in the bark, they are merely bifurcations in a single split surface.

I’m wary of letting things drift towards narrow ribbing simply because, well, I don’t know. Perhaps I have a prejudice against it. But maybe in order to convey the depth of the splits it’ll be the best solution.

Meanwhile my father has just phoned and ordered “another pair of stripy socks” for Christmas.


“Oh!” said another colleague, on hearing the inadvertent heel story. “That really makes me think of my gran. But it’s not nearly such a good tale.”

“Try me”, I said.

“OK. Well, my gran really loved the wrestling so every Saturday she’d put all her jewels on and sit down at four o clock to watch the wrestling on the telly.”

“Hold on, she’d put all her jewels on???”

“No! She’d get all her chores done! She’d been a cleaner all her life, she didn’t have any jewels.”

“Oh, sorry. It’s the cold. Affecting my hearing. Carry on.”

“So she’d sit down in front of the wrestling with her knitting and…”

“What did she knit?”

“Always baby clothes. She had about 98 gazillion grandkids and was always knitting them things. Endless sodding matinee jackets hanging off the needles.”

“Ok, I’m getting the picture.”

“So she’s sat, with her knitting, in front of the wrestling. And every single Saturday she’d fall asleep in front of the telly, but she wouldn’t stop knitting.”

“She’d fall asleep? and knit at the same time?”

“Yes. Her eyes would close and her head would nod but her hands would carry on knitting. And then at the end of the programme she’d wake up and have to undo it all.”

“You saw this happen?”

“Well obviously I was only a child, but it’s one of my most vivid memories watching her unpick the knitting she’d done when she was asleep. It wasn’t any good, you see, or not as good as the knitting she did when she was awake. So she had to unpick it. Every Saturday. After the wrestling.”