Monday, January 23, 2017

Real Books

As I may have mentioned earlier, I have been an avid reader all my life.  Recently, a number of innovations have given me particular pleasure.

I was not an early adopter of the Kindle, but I am committed to mine now.  A friend will mention a book title in an email or a blog post, and, in an instant, I can buy that work and it will arrive, as if by magic, on my machine - no hunting in bookshops, no ordering up in libraries - instant gratification. 

Once, I would stock up with paperbacks on offer and read my way through them.  Then they would pile up.  But not now, as the Kindle stores them all invisibly.  Of course, one can no longer pass them on to others, but how often did that happen anyway?  I used to cart mine off to Oxfam.

The other day, I had left my reading specs behind.  Just by going up one font size on the Kindle I was able to manage perfectly well.

I recently finished reading Juliet Barker's biography of the Brontes, all 850 pages of it, and a very worthwhile read it was.  I decided to move on to her book on Wordsworth, a similar tour de force.  But not available on Kindle, oddly.  However, here's the next wonder of modern life: for 0.01p I bought a second-hand copy on-line.  Even with £2.80 postage, that is a huge bargain.  It duly arrived, and its bookmark reveals that it had been bought at Dove Cottage originally.

But now:  This is a hard-back book, as long as the one on the Brontes.  That one slipped invisibly into my Kindle, which maintained its heft as a slim volume weighing almost nothing.  The Wordsworth biography is a solid brick of a book weighing, amazing, but true, three and a half pounds.  It accompanies me around the house like a small pet.  And the print size - non-adjustable, of course - is very small, going to minute for the extensive quotations from the works.  I certainly can't imagine reading this book outside the house.

Of course, in a real-life bookshop one is led to titles  and authors previously unknown.  The front cover - indeed the title - can be very persuasive, in a way which does not happen with the Kindle.  Books with a visual element are wasted on it.  I continue to buy knitting books as books.

This is my progress so far on Houlland.  It's not been the easiest of starts, even after I managed the pick up.  I think you could call the pattern deceptively simple, as it has been only to easy to slip out of line (Twice) or even mistake a wrong side for a right side row (once).  The yarn I'm using, Filigree Lace, is a merino single and rather unforgiving to unpick.  I think I have the measure of the pattern now, but we'll see.

Finally a fingerless mitt, knitted while waiting for good enough daylight to unpick a couple of rows of Houlland.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017


Remember this?  It's the edging lace for Houlland, a hap shawl from "The Book of Haps".  I completed the 64 peaks of the lace and then got stuck.  The next instruction was to pick up 315 stitches along the flat edge, right side facing.

I did this, fairly successfully, but then I noticed that the right side now had quite a solid ugly ridge, while the wrong side looked much better.  Clearly I had picked up the wrong row somehow.  I tried again, but got stuck.  There was no consistent row to pick up and there were several shifts in the line, probably caused by me making small errors as I knitted the lace and not noticing.  I put it down after several attempts and gave it up as a bad job.

Recently I mentioned this on Jean in Edinburgh's blog and a knitter from Holland quoted the designer's advice on the matter - the designer, Donna Smith, lives in Shetland. This is how the knitting community works these days.

Now I have not only got the stitches picked up, but I've also realised something else.  I don't care for knitting on circular needles.  Stitches are hard to count against the cables and there is an awkward shift between the cable and the needle section.  But Donna Smith advises using sixteen inch needles.  Shetland knitters traditionally would have used wires ie long, thin, double pointed needles for whatever they were knitting.  So yesterday I bought a pair of long 3mm needles and the relief is palpable. 

So we emerge from the enforced break of the holidays.  Many years ago I remember a friend at college stating that she believed she could exist perfectly happily in isolation with Radio 4, some tapestry and a well-stocked library.  At eighteen, I have to say that I was doubtful about this - it seemed to leave out a few essentials.

However, with the gym closed and our usual activities on hold it has felt a little like that here.  I've been reading Juliet Barker's biography of the whole Bronte family, which runs to some 850 pages.  Just at the right time, up came Sally Wainwright's  brilliant film, "To Walk Invisible", on the same topic.  And then, the serial of "Northanger Abbey" available on catchup in two omnibus instalments...

A little tapestry to work while listening.  The extra crewel wool finally arrived and I was able to complete the design. Now I am just working the background stitches, which is much less fun.