It's National Knitting Night in Norway tomorrow evening, when an attempt will be made on the world record Sheep to Sweater time of 4hrs 51mins 14secs, from catching the sheep and shearing, through spinning to knitting, making up and wearing, and the whole thing will be televised live.... well I'd watch it.
Meanwhile the reality is that from sheep to wearing takes a good deal longer here; so long that I have had time to think up a name for this very easy shawl that I have been knitting on every step and stop of the 1600 mile round trip to Orkney and home again... the Waulkmill Hap.
Hap, a word that may have Norse origins, is also a word with several meanings; not only to cover up and wrap up warmly, but also fortune, chance, a happening, an occurrence, and this name choosing, as you will see, is a serendipitous happenstance of both.
I've rounded up the flock halfway with the Rams & Yowes blanket and after a bit of midway patterning I just have to repeat the same again upsidedown. I am delighted with it so far which could all change when I have to finally cut the steek and do the borders, but whilst I can just about manage to control the flock through an episode of Downton, or being driven somewhere, it is too complicated for on the hoof travel knitting (for me) so I have rested the flock for a while.
Then, having started on Kate Davies' Northmavine Hap I quickly realised that this was far too complicated for travel knitting too, we would miss every flight while I dropped the countless markers and insisted on finishing a row or I would lose my place; meanwhile conversation and seeing what was happening around me would be impossible. So I have improvised from a selection of patterns to arrive at this one, and having bought one hank of the wool on our last visit it seemed sensible to have it on the needles so that I could at least justify buying some more on this visit.
I swooped on two more hanks of hand-dyed North Ronaldsay double-knitting equivalent. No two hanks will ever be the same but I have a near-enough match that will blend beautifully...
The sheep on North Ronaldsay, a rare and endangered breed, are thought to have been established in the UK in the 9th century, a breeding mix of Viking, Saxon and local. Living on the rocks and beaches of the island and feeding on the seaweed, the harsh weather conditions produce a salt and sand-filled double coat of both soft and coarser hair. This makes for a unique fleece and wool which must be wonderful to spin and is certainly very lovely to knit, but it was a chance find as we drove back to our loch-side hotel that evening that sealed the deal on the name for the hap.
'Waulkmill Bay,' said the sign and on impulse I turned left and headed that way. I wanted the Tinker to see as much of Orkney as we could manage, and we did manage about 250 miles-worth. It was late afternoon, the light was starting to dip and dim, but neither of us were prepared for the breathtaking sight that would greet us...
Deserted sandy beaches are at a premium anywhere these days, I love the thought of them and don't get to walk them often enough, and this one was exquisite. We looked on from the comfort of the car, and as the waves rippled in I thought of those accent rows on the shawl that I was actually spacing out because they are a bit yarn-over-knit-two-together laborious...
...but in fact...no, I could reframe that... really I was representing the waves flowing into Waulkmill Bay wasn't I.
'The people of the Hebridean islands, off the coast of Scotland, held "waulking" bees in which song was a central element. Waulking was a method of shrinking (fulling) woven woolen cloth through the application of moisture and heavy pressure (it is essentially a felting process.) The women of the community would gather around a long trestle, pounding long lengths of fabric with their hands and feet...."
Now I have no intention of 'waulking' my hap if I can help it, but I love the association of that with singing and quilting bees, and the shared social pleasure of women's work and creativity. I am holding that sight of Waulkmill Bay in my mind's eye along with those waves, and making a promise to myself to walk it on our next visit.
I picked up a book of knitting patterns whilst in Orkney, Patterns for North Ronaldsay Yarn by Elizabeth Lovick, and I do plan to try some more challenging lace stitches, but for now this hap pattern is simplicity itself. Several of you have asked me about it, and though I am no pattern composer you will hopefully find my usable version of it in a file here.
You are very welcome to print it out.
I am using 5mm Knit Pro needles on a 100cm cable, but not knitting in the round, increasing the spacing between the wave rows each time and will have used 200gms of wool by the end I think. This spacing is a bit random (like the waves) as in when I feel up to it, but it is allowing plain knitting for the pure Orkney colours of the wool to ebb and flow beautifully. Row upon row drifts along and then suddenly a little stack of the same colour will build up and then blend, and even the needles match the wool.
Once you get the centre stitch and edges well-established the rest falls into place with ease, and the good news is that you can knit and fly at the same time.
Mind you, my heart skipped a beat or two at Kirkwall airport as we were leaving, when I noticed 'knitting needles' on the list of forbidden items in cabin luggage just as we walked into departures and security checks. I'd already got them through Exeter and Edinburgh but was halfway to needing resuscitation when, after a prolonged look on the X ray machine, and some huddled discussion and pointing amongst officials, my precious bag was set aside for closer inspection. My worst nightmare was unfolding and I was already envisaging what sort of a childish spectacle I might make of myself if my knitting was confiscated.
Relief... it was the scissors...the blessed, tiny little scissors.
So what will you be knitting on National Knitting night...// ]]>