Very cute moorit things

1. Maizy. Of course. But particularly cute because her coat has been lovingly hand stripped. By me.

She no longer resembles a miniature highland cow. She now has portions of sleek, shiny, subtly brindled terrier outer coat. That would be from her border terrier mother.

Elsewhere about her person, however:

there are peculiar golden silky wispy bits which just refuse to be pulled out. They, no doubt, are part of the “travelling man” father’s heritage. Oh, and her tail is disproportionately bulbous because she won’t let me tug at it, not even for the freeze-dried liver treats.

2. The Manx Loaghtan sheep which may, so various sites inform me, occasionally grow six horns.

These three good-looking boys have only four horns apiece. Where on earth would another pair of horns actually fit on? And why, despite spending almost every summer of my first 14 years with family on the Isle of Man, do I not remember seeing such a beast? It’s an at-risk breed, which is sad, and makes me immediately wish to remove to the planned coastal retirement home and grow them in quantities along with other so-called “primitive” breeds. Like the seaweed-eating North Ronaldsay, for example.

3. The yarn of the above (Manx, not Orkadian):

I have 500g and am currently sifting through thousands of possible patterns on ravelry. None has yet leaped out as deserving to be knitted in this.

And moorit? According to

(1825)

I’m glad I know that.

Five point five

I’ve knitted five point five pairs of socks so far this year. (And blogged here once. So infrequently that every time I open up the dashboard I’m told I need to update the software which takes time and destroys motivation.)

Of those 11 socks four were for B2 whose feet grow at the usual implausibly fast rate of the young and who will only wear socks which have not been knitted by me under protest. So he’s had two pairs in basic rib to replace the two pairs he’s grown out of.

The odd sock was the second half of a pair for my father started long ago. They’re from the wonderful New Zealand based website Vintage Purls which hosts a selection of free vintage patterns. These are “Golf Hose in Cable Stitch” from a pattern published in 1935 and they fit superbly. They’re on ravelry here. They, and the chance discovery of a useful row-counting method, featured in an earlier (two years earlier… that’s serious second sock syndrome!) post.

socks 2

The other three pairs have all been for me, two of them the product of fabulous gifts of yarn. The first some Noro Silk Garden Sock from P. Much thought was devoted to which pattern to use, the end result (Seven of Hearts by Omly Crafts) being a reference to these. Much effort was expended to ensure that, making two socks from a single ball of yarn, not a single inch of the was wasted and that the stripes on the socks matched up as far as possible. This involved kitchen balance scales, frequent restarting of the toe of the second sock and using some of the yarn from the first sock to finish the top of the second sock. The result, however, is pleasing even to this verging-on-obsessive perfectionist. [On ravelry.]

hearts2

The second birthday socks, yarn from A, required less cogitation and no scales. Firstly because Koigu Painter’s Palette Premium Merino (also known as KPPPM) comes in 50g skeins, each enough for a single sock, secondly because it was immediately obvious this was the yarn I’d been waiting for to use for Cookie A’s Pomatomus which I’d been wanting to knit for a long time. The only faffing incurred was converting the pattern to be worked from the toe up, thus allowing the socks to be as long as possible and all the yarn to be used. The modifications are on ravelry.

hippo1

On, on. Sock knitting – portable self-soothing. Next up are various short lacy plans in non-wool yarns for summer. There’s even a thought for a design of my own fermenting gently in the back of the brain.

Knitting on sticks

Shepherd on stilts, knitting, with his flock 1905

Stilts first appeared well before the forest, when Les Landes was an immense marshy country, very flat, with the vegetation primarily consisting of grass and undergrowth. Principally, it was shepherds who lived in this landscape. The shepherds had several reasons for using stilts:

  • in order to more easily make a path through the vegetation when the shepherds travelled the long daily distances required by their sheep-tending;
  • to avoid wetting their feet in the marshes;
  • but their main use was to be able to supervise their flocks of sheep from afar.

The medieval peasants of the marshy Les Landes area kept vast herds of sheep. The shepherds used the sheep for manure and wool, rather than meat. It is said that these shepherds would walk on stilts to increase their stride and see greater distances, and knit while watching their sheep. To keep their wool from ruin, these men wore a knitting belt and made their own felted jackets and protective clothing for their feet.

The great, home-hewn ash poles were kept on hooks attached to the beams of cottage ceilings and could be mounted with ease by sitting on the mantelpiece, or with more difficulty from ground level. The walker lashed the stilts to his upper legs by cloth or leather bindings called arroumères, and thus left his hands free. He carried a third and longer pole as a balance, and when stationary he could prop his back on it to provide a firm tripod while he watched over the sheep. On his back he carried a little satchel, the baluchon, in which he kept food, animal medicines and the materials needed for knitting the footless stockings peculiar to the district.

Shepherd resting on stilts and knitting

There are tantalising suggestions that the shepherds used hooked needles (whether latched or not I can’t make out) but I don’t have access to either the book or the paper in which this appears to be recorded.

People who saw them in the distance compared them to tiny steeples and giant spiders. They could cover up to 75 miles a day at 8mph. When Napoleon’s empress Marie-Louise travelled through the Landes . . . her carriage was escorted for several miles by shepherds on stilts who could easily have overtaken the horses.

Claret and Olives, Angus Bethune Reach, 1852, pp 72-74:

The novelty of a population upon stilts men, women, and children, spurning the ground, and living habitually four or five feet higher than the rest of mankind irresistibly takes the imagination, and I leant anxiously from the carriage to catch the first glimpse of a Landean in his native style. I looked long in vain. We passed hut after hut, but they seemed deserted, except that the lean swine burrowing round the turf walls gave evidence that the pork had proprietors somewhere. At last I was gratified ; as the train passed not very quickly along a jungle of bushes and coppice-wood, a black, shaggy figure rose above it, as if he were standing upon the ends of the twigs. The effect was quite eldritch. We saw him but as a vision, but the high conical hat with broad brims, like Mother Bed-cap’s, the swarthy, bearded face, and the rough, dirty sheep- skin, which hung fleecily from the shoulders of the apparition, haunted me. He was come and gone, and that was all. Presently, however, the natives began to heave in sight in sufficient profusion. There were three gigantic-looking figures stalking together across an expanse of dusky heath. I thought them men, and rather tall ones ; but my companions, more accustomed to the sight, said they were boys on comparatively short stilts, herding the sheep, which were scattered like little greyish stones all over the waste.

Anon, near a cottage, we saw a woman, in dark, coarse clothes, with shortish petticoats, sauntering almost four feet from the ground, and next beheld at a distance, and on the summit of a sand-ridge, relieved against the sky, three figures, each leaning back, and supported, as it seemed, not only by two daddy long-legs’ limbs, but by a third, which appeared to grow out of the small of their backs. The phenomenon was promptly explained by my bloused cicerone, who seemed to feel especial pleasure at my interest in the matter. The third leg was a pole or staff the people carry, with a new moon-shaped crutch at the top, which, applied to the back, serves as a capital prop. With his legs spread out, and his back- stay firmly pitched, the shepherd of the Landes feels as much at home as you would in the easiest of easy chairs.

” He will remain so for hours, without stirring, and without being wearied,” said my fellow-passenger. “It is away of sitting down in the Landes. Why, a shepherd, could stand so, long enough to knit a pair of stockings, ay, and not have an ache in his back. Sometimes they play cards, so, without once coming off their stilts.”

The best project ever (so far)

It started with a mail via flickr, one of those “you don’t know me, but… ” that usually mean something interesting is about to happen. It was headlined “Soon to be Doctor Krista“:

I’m Krista’s Dad and I need a favor from you – I need to find a Doctor Who scarf. Of course it needs to come from the Mother Country, not some colonial fake. Where can I buy one or could you make her one? I tried to find her a Tardis and did not have any luck so I thought of the scarf. For one of my birthdays she and her mother gave me a commemorative Dr. Who stamp so now with her becoming a true doctor, I must repay in kind.

How many levels of awesome is that? For a start there’s Krista’s geektasticness for even knowing, let alone loving, Dr Who, a British sci-fi tv series born several decades before she was as well as the other side of the atlantic. But even more awesome as far as I’m concerned is the fabulousness of her parents who knew of and appreciated her interest and came up with possibly the best PhD present idea in the world. (I think they must have known I knitted because of this.)

And it only got better. Because there is (but of course) an entire website devoted to this singular (and yet, as we shall see, multiple) item of clothing – The Doctor Who Scarf. Which is not one scarf but a multitude of different scarves which mutated over time (but not always linearly to the the viewer) and even regenerated into something, visually at least, very different.

A piece of swift and unscientific research revealed that, to us Brits, the original is also the best, so that’s the scarf that was made since we couldn’t find one for sale. Armed with a printout of the “pattern” I went with artist F, who has, unsurprisingly, superb colour sense, to the nearest large haberdashery department to get the wool. This looked as though it might be a considerable challenge since all the brands featured on the website are American and not widely available here (if at all). But we were fantastically lucky. The Rowan yarn Wool Cotton has a very close approximation to each of the seven shades required and is, miraculously, also the right weight.

1 The yarn

Knitting started in the summer on Holy Island, and continued hither and yon through the autumn. This thing is BIG. There was a hideous number of ends to darn in and tassels to be added. Finally it was finished, ceremonially photographed

9 Ok, so I broke the gate

and despatched.

At last, months after Krista was Doctored and even more months after it was started, it has found its home. Hurrah!

(It’s on ravelry here.)

Let's hear it for the girls

From Shelley (who’s on it) a link to NxE’s list of the 50 most influential ‘female’ [sic] bloggers.

Fantastic to see Rebecca MacKinnon high up on the list citing her co-founding of Global Voices Online as the prime reason for her influence (although it would have been even better if they’d spelled her name correctly).

What really made me laugh, though, was a line in the entry for the similarly highly-ranked Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka Yarn Harlot about whom it is said “known as the “Knitting Sensei”, Pearl-McPhee might not be the most important figure to everyone”…. Uh, right. Whereas of course all the others on the list are?

I still take great pleasure in the fact that the biggest hit spike this blog ever received, by far, was not due to linkage from any A-list sites/bloggers but from a knitting-and-baking blog entirely unlisted on Technorati and similar arbiters of rank. “Influence”, so far as I am aware, is not a phenomenon confined to technology, gossip and politics.

Let’s hear it for the girls

From Shelley (who’s on it) a link to NxE’s list of the 50 most influential ‘female’ [sic] bloggers.

Fantastic to see Rebecca MacKinnon high up on the list citing her co-founding of Global Voices Online as the prime reason for her influence (although it would have been even better if they’d spelled her name correctly).

What really made me laugh, though, was a line in the entry for the similarly highly-ranked Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, aka Yarn Harlot about whom it is said “known as the “Knitting Sensei”, Pearl-McPhee might not be the most important figure to everyone”…. Uh, right. Whereas of course all the others on the list are?

I still take great pleasure in the fact that the biggest hit spike this blog ever received, by far, was not due to linkage from any A-list sites/bloggers but from a knitting-and-baking blog entirely unlisted on Technorati and similar arbiters of rank. “Influence”, so far as I am aware, is not a phenomenon confined to technology, gossip and politics.

Fleecing the sheep

“Did you know” ask Craig and Gerard “that there are more than 60 breeds of sheep in the UK?”

We had the best of the weekend weather yesterday, without a doubt. The spawn and I winkled Jean from her work and went to the Alternative Village Fête where, to celebrate all things ovine, we selected beautiful British yarn from the baskets available and Jean, SecondSpawn and I knitted a swatch to attach to the I Knit London sheep.

We were not alone. Large numbers of people leapt at the chance to do likewise, sitting in the sun, accompanied by various attractions ranging from Rediscovered Urban Rituals, the Bollywood Brass Band and (very surreal, this) a man who made a hat entirely out of cake icing (and plastic cups and sugar-coloured-sprinkly-things too, but they weren’t mentioned).

FirstSpawn is not a knitter but he kept us in stitches (sorry, couldn’t resist) with wisecracks about his “new” mobile phone. Due to an unfortunate incident over which I shall draw a discreet veil he is now reduced to using a, uh, vintage (more than ten years old!) handset – my very first mobile in fact. In a youth culture where only the very latest, most complex and most expensive will do his brick is going to stick out like, well, a brick. However he is putting a brave face on things.

“You know how small is good in mobile phone terms”, he says, “well *my* mobile phone has got the smallest screen I’ve ever seen”.

Lolmario

Courtesy of Hg.

(I’m working on the arms, ok? give a knitter a chance, why don’t you. Damn cat.)

Fibretaxis

Cats, as we know, have small brains. Much of their limited capacity is utilised in ways the average amoeba would not find challenging. Take, for instance, phototaxis. The average vegetable is capable of phototaxis. And the average vegetable uses it for a useful purpose – photosynthesis. The average cat is also capable of phototaxis, but the purpose is highly maladaptive.

I am talking, of course, about the ability of the average cat to assess the quality of light reflected from its coat and, having done so, move to position itself precisely on a surface displaying exactly the opposite properties. My cat, for instance, is mostly white. This means he comes to rest on the darkest possible surface, ideally an item of my clothing, upon which he can then shed his hair liberally. Black cats, obviously, choose pale clothing to sit on.

Why this should be is a mystery. It would appear to be counter-productive given the average reaction of the average cat owner on discovering their clothing looking like it’s been caught in a pillow fight is not positive and friendly towards the offending cat. My theory is that cats are so unbelievably vain they care not for the opprobrium this behaviour attracts since their only concern is to set themselves off to best advantage.

There is another taxis that cats have refined to an art form, and this is fibretaxis. For there is no place, however obscure and protected, that one can place ones knitting that the average cat will not locate in order then to sit, lie or otherwise lounge squarely on the work in progress. No item of knitting is too small or insignificant. An inch or so of sock is as inviting as, for instance, the completed back of a large garment.

Here we have a typical example of the behaviour in action.

Feline fibretaxis

Reading from top left to bottom right we have the cat insinuating itself on the edge of the knitting (which has been placed on the kitchen table to be measured); total occupation is achieved with the entirety of the cat’s body (including tail) placed inside the boundaries of the knitted surface; any suggestion of removal is greeted with extreme contempt; the territory is defended with vigour.

Why? I ask myself. Why, why, why? I whimper as I nurse my slashed hands and attempt to remove white hairs from my green garment without getting it covered in red blood.

The cat merely looks inscrutable (he is, after all, an oriental breed) and I realise my question is in vain. He has about as much idea of why as a cabbage has of how, but without the advantage of tasting delicious boiled and covered with melted butter and freshly-ground black pepper.