Fluid Dynamics

We have returned in one piece from a week traversing the weird and windy roads of Scotland. I am very, very tired, both from the amount of traveling and the stupid cold that followed me north. The end result of this is that I did a lot of sleeping in the car, and relatively little knitting, so I only have about an inch of ballgown.

Also, that thing I said about “lots of stocking stitch in the round? For the most part, that didn’t work out. It was clear from about a third of the way through the (924 stitch) cast on that “join in the round, taking care not to twist” was going to be nigh on impossible, and there was no way I was ripping out and starting again for something of that length.

Instead, I worked flat for 11 (I think) rows before trying to join the wretched thing, which meant that I ending up purling around the twisty roads by Loch Ness trying not to vomit. Teething troubles, shall we say.

Moving on…

We drank whisky:


We had a cosy fire in a little cabin while the rain lashed down:


And of course, we visited some yarn shops (and yes, also stopped to look at interesting tidal races and tea shops because that is the Yarn Widower’s thing).

Shilasdair on Skye was our first stop. They’re specialists in dyeing with plants found in the landscape around them, and if you think this means that the resulting yarns are dull or lacking in colour, then you’re in for a surprise:


I only bought three skeins, and I consider that an act of considerable restraint.

The next yarn stop of note was in Edinburgh. Ginger Twist is a stalwart of the local yarnie scene, and I couldn’t resist going in to have a smoosh. Unfortunately, budget restraints had kicked in at this point and I could only really justify getting one skein, but isn’t it a beauty?IMG_0343

The colourway is called “Tink”, and I really hope that isn’t a prophecy.

Our friends got married outside on a bridge, mercifully during a brief interlude when the sun came out. No one objected, neither participant tried to run away or said the wrong name, and the usher didn’t lose the rings.

The Yarn Widower has been, on the whole, an absolutely delightful traveling companion. However, I cannot resist (with his permission, of course) telling you about a little incident just after we arrived on Islay.

Before I begin, he would like me to note that we had been on the road for over ten hours that day, and several celebratory drams were taken upon arrival. He also accepts that I will dine out on this story for years.

The room at our B&B had a lovely freestanding tub, claw feet and all. As I was very tired, he gallantly offered to run me a bath. I accepted. When it was about half full, I went in to check on it. “Ow!” I cried, dipping a finger into the water. “That’s scalding!”

So as is logical, I went to turn on the cold tap. The Yarn Widower shooed me away, offering a convoluted explanation about how adding more hot water would make it cool down quicker. I expressed my doubts.

“I have a master’s degree in fluid dynamics,” he said firmly. “I know how to run a bath.”

At that point I left him to it, because I was far too tired to take argue, or even to point out that his master’s is actually in atmosphere and ocean dynamics. We may not be married, but part of any long-lasting relationship is picking your battles.

Now, I would love to say that I make it a personal rule never to take pleasure in the suffering of others, but that would be a lie. Schadenfreude is one of my favourite things, even when it involves people I care deeply about.

Even allowing for my usual cruelty and heartlessness, the cry of pain when he put a hand in the full, absolutely boiling tub was for some reason especially satisfying. If nothing else, it was proof that the laws of irony were still fully functional, and for that I am grateful.


The Total Perspective Vortex

The Total Perspective Vortex

I have a trip coming up. Two dear friends are getting married on Skye next week, and we’ve been invited. It’s a fair old trek, so naturally my first thought was travel knitting. Aside from getting to the wedding, we’re also going to explore around a bit and make a week of it.

This means lots of driving, and since the Yarn Widower gets carsick, it also means a lot of passenger time for, plenty of it on winding roads. So, I need something I can do without looking at my hands much. It also needs to be whisky-related screw-up proof: we’re going to Islay as well, so it’d be rude not to.

Lots of stocking stitch in the round seems an obvious choice. There are lots of options: plain socks, break the back of a bottom-up jumper, a plain pi shawl…

Or something else entirely.

Fans of Douglas Adams will be familiar with the Total Perspective Vortex. It is known as the worst torture to which anyone can be subjected, and was invented by Trin Tragula to get back at his wife, who frequently claimed he had no sense of proportion. The Vortex destroys the mind of anyone placed within it by showing how small and insignificant they are in relation to the whole universe. This is because, according to Adams, “In an infinite universe, the one thing sentient life cannot afford to have is a sense of proportion”.

Reader, I fear I may be in need of it. What I have settled on involves a great deal of stocking stitch in the round, but on quite a grand scale. I’m making a ball gown. Out of laceweight. On 2.5mm needles (yes, I’ve checked my tension and that is the size I need). I must be mad.

The armaments (ambient mess not included)

Some background: I’ve had the yarn and pattern (Arwen by Marie Wallin) for a while, so this isn’t totally out of the blue – I’ve just been trying to get the stamina up to dive in. In case any of you think I’m totally insane, I don’t expect to manage the whole thing in the week we’re away. Maybe give it a few years?

As a jobbing singer, I get a reasonable amount of use out of my eveningwear, and a knitted dress seems like a good antidote to chilly country churches.

So this seems like the perfect opportunity. I have 10,500 metres of yarn, which is just as well, since it’s been discontinued, and I bought it in bulk when it was on clearance – thirty balls, to be precise. That’s about twice as much as the pattern says I’ll need, but I love the colour and I like to be prepared. If you’re interested, it’s Sublime Extra Fine Merino Lace in Ikat (shade 401).

I have yarn. I have needles. I have a round trip to the Hebrides. My friends, wish me luck, wish me courage, just don’t wish me a sense of proportion. It’s the one thing I can’t afford right now.

Is this thing on?

I feel like I should be tapping a mike and squinting into a blurry webcam. That’s not quite the case, but I’ve never been very good at introducing myself. In knitting situations, I tend to just plonk myself down, pull out my needles and start talking, while completely forgetting to introduce myself. To every group of knitters I have done this to in the past, sorry, and thank you for breaking the awkward barrier to ask me my name eventually!

But to avoid that moment here, let me say first of all that my name is Jess. I’m a knitter, spinner, writer, mezzo-soprano and mad cat lady (although not necessarily in that order). I live in a house in an undisclosed location in the north of England that is full of musical instruments. At last count: two sousaphones, an orchestral tuba, two trombones, three saxophones, four clarinets, an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar, an electric keyboard, two flutes and an unknown number of tin whistles.

Not all of them belong to me. I have found this, along with the four and a half bikes that are not mine either, to be excellent leverage when negotiating for yarn storage space.

More years ago than I care to admit, my editor told me: “You should start a blog. See if people want to read what you have to say.”

I don’t think she envisioned knitting being in the plan, and neither did I at that stage, but nevertheless, here you go. A Blog. Ximena, I’m sorry it took me so long, but thank you for the encouragement.

And thank you, if you’re reading this. Do check back soon. If I can work out how, there may even be pictures.