Friday, 25 January 2008

A better knitting week

After a low point on Sunday when I began to despair of my current project, things have picked up on the knitting front this week (excuse the pun, it's purely intentional!). There was a moment, though, sitting in traffic on the M25 on the way back from a visit to my in-laws, when I would have happily given up on the whole thing. Having unravelled and re-knitted my North Star lace scarf I don't know how many times, the yarn broke in the middle of a row and the whole thing started to disintegrate before my eyes. Not the place to try and rectify things, I thought, and switched to my Rowan shawl. Managed to get to the end of a row on that with 86 stitches ("even I know that equals happiness" said my other half who has dutifully read last week's entry).
And that was the turning point: I got home and salvaged my lace and things have moved forward with only one minor setback since. I'm going to have to stop soon and wait for some new yarn to arrive from Shetland, though, as I don't have enough of the pink shade (Candyfloss) left to complete the project. And of course I've ordered other stuff as well - some more 2-ply Ultra in Moorit and Natural Black as I want to make another cockleshell scarf in the traditional Shetland colours for show at the Oxford Weavers, Spinners and Dyers' open weekend at the end of May. And while I was at it I ordered some 1-ply Cobweb in Natural White, which is the finest lace-weight yarn you can get. I thought I should be ready for the time when I feel able to face up to the challenge of a "wedding-ring shawl". You can see all these yarns (and buy on-line) at
Confusingly there is another Shetland company with a similar name, Jamieson and Smith, who also do a Cobweb 1 ply, in a wider range of colours, as well as a Shetland Supreme 'worsted' lace yarn in 1 and 2 ply (on cones only) in Natural White, Fawn, Grey, Moorit and Shetland Black. Their website is at and is definitely worth a look - not least for some lovely pictures of lace knitting. Jamieson and Smith's website contains a rather defensive-sounding statement that the company is "Not to be confused with other companies of a similar name". There must be a story behind these two different companies but I don't know what it is. I'll try to find out when I go back to Shetland this summer.
I really have not a shade of an excuse for buying more yarn at the moment: cupboards and drawers are over-flowing with the stuff. But hey, what can I say? It's a pretty inexpensive habit compared with Other Half's photography and travel fixation. On the other hand it may possibly be the case that I have now gone past the point when I could use up all my stash even if I knitted non-stop for the rest of my life...
The other really good thing that happened this week is that I now have the loan of a spinning wheel from the Oxford Guild as well as someone to teach me (thank you, Carole). So, who knows, perhaps my next order from Shetland will be a fleece!

Friday, 18 January 2008

Happiness or misery?

Charles Dickens' Mr Micawber has been on my mind this week. He's the character in David Copperfield who says: "Annual income £20, annual expenditure £19 nineteen and six, result happiness; annual income £20, annual expenditure £20 nought and six, result misery". Apart from needing a basic knowledge of pre-decimal currency, how does this famous maxim apply to knitting? Well in some ways it's been a pretty dismal knitting week. Good conversations at my knitting group and with friends, the gift of a lovely Shetland Lace pattern from Simply Knitting magazine, and further e-mails from people who saw my letter in The Times. But as far as actual knitting goes, rather a frustrating time. My Arctic Lace scarf is begun and the pattern looks lovely as you can see but there's a mistake I need to attend to when I've finished updating here and to be honest I'm not looking forward to another stint of ripping out and picking up stitches. Hey ho. Then there's the shawl I started working on as a bit of light relief - it's the free gift with this year's Rowan membership (definitely worth having by the way, go to for details). Just the thing for relaxing from lace, I thought, a cotton yarn on 5mm needles. The pattern is basically garter stitch with two pattern rows that involve wrapping the yarn round the needle on one row and dropping them off the next to create a light lacy look. Not too tricky, I thought, but can I do it? However carefully I count the wraparounds I've got too many stitches at the end of the row, which is where Mr Micawber comes in: 86 stitches, result happiness; 87 stitches, result misery. What idiot was it that said knitting is a good way to cope with the stresses of modern life? Oh yes, it was me! Back to stitch and rip...

Sunday, 13 January 2008

Chilean Knits and Antarctic Penguins

Finally, here are some pictures of my Chilean purchases for you to drool over. The trip itself was really hard work as I got ill on the plane going out and this continued all through our boat trip to the Antarctic Peninsula (no, we weren't on the boat the sank, although the one we were on has just had to be towed back to Ushuaia after hitting an iceberg!). Nevertheless, there is nothing like the landscape of Antarctica; after 8 days of blue-white ice and penguins I was surprisingly grateful for the browns and greens of Chile and the warmth of the Atacama Desert. We visited a craft village in Pomaire, an hour or so's drive out of Santiago, where I bought the piece of felt shown above. And in San Pedro de Atacama I found the hats and glittens and also the rope which I think is for lassoing your llama... The ear flap hat is fully reversible and beautifully made. Most of the knitting appears to be of this type, two or more colours using llama wool and often in natural dyes of brown and cream. Unfortunately I did very little knitting on my trip due to feeling so unwell although I did get out my bamboo needles on the journey home without any difficulty. Now I'm working on another lace scarf from Donna Druchunas' Alaskan book which I'll preview next time.