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I have difficulty expressing gratitude adequately, especially verbally. I’m much more comfortable with material or practical gestures, than with words. Knitting, and particularly lace knitting, has given me a perfect vehicle for occasions in nothing short of an epic poem is needed! The process of knitting a lace shawl is meditative and measured; often increasing in complication as the pattern grows and expands. I love every stage of shawl knitting – the choosing, the swatching, the confidence of the first few rows, the methodical body work, and the breathless anxiety of the last few rows. It is a labour of love, and this one was finished last week as an 80th birthday gift.

Moonlight Shawl

Pattern: Moonlight Sonata Shawl, by Shui Kuen Kozinski.

Yarn: Garthenor Organic Shetland Single Ply Laceweight, in ‘Fawn’.

Needles: 3mm KnitPro Symfonie circulars.

(Ravelry link)

Verdict:  I loved knitting this shawl. The sunspot motif is bolder than most lace knitting I’ve done, and is easy to ‘read’ and memorize. (Although there isn’t a ‘plain’ knitting row in the whole pattern).  The shawl is shaped at the neck to fit shoulders more comfortably, and the back curves gently (which I prefer to a sharp point). I used a thinner yarn than the pattern recommends, so I worked 12 repeats of the pattern instead of 10. The pattern is clearly written and comprehensive, and a great introduction to shaped Faroese-style shawls.

The yarn is also wonderful: a balanced single in a blend of natural colours, with subtle shading. The Shetland wool gives the shawl considerable substance and warmth, despite the lightness of the fabric. And the slight stickiness of the yarn meant that I only used one lifeline, and could easily pick up any dropped stitches.

I would have done without even that one lifeline, except that one of the tips of my KnitPro circulars popped out of its cable, causing me to scramble to catch the dozen or so escapist stitches. I stuck the tip back in with some superglue, and haven’t had any more incidents. I’ve read that this problem may be quite widespread in KnitPro/KnitPicks, but I think that the needles are lovely enough to risk it.Moonlight Shawl

As usual with deadline knitting, I put in several frantic hours in the last week in order to finish on time! Having exhausted all my favourite podcasts early on in this project, I searched out a new source of background media – and settled on the many wonderful lectures available at the TED site. I strongly recommend these if you like to knit while listening to interesting words: the lectures are mostly 15-20 minutes long, and on subjects as diverse as bacterial chemical communication, new ways of looking at poverty statistics, and futuristic robotic design. (A favourite was Margaret Wertheim’s lecture on using crochet to illustrate hyperbolic geometry).

The shawl was a joy to knit and was well liked by the recipient. It’s gratifying to see that, as a means of communicating affection and gratitude, lace knitting is as eloquent and complex as any language.

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A few weeks ago, exhausted and grouchy, and thinking “Why should I let the toad work / Squat on my life?” we escaped our responsibilities for a few days. We’ve returned, refreshed and rounder of girth, after a relaxing break.

We wanted to get as far as our (pretty meagre) resources would take us, so we aimed for the edge of Europe, for the city that has one foot in Asia – Istanbul.

Istanbul

Although we were only there for four days, we managed to cram our time full of incredible experiences, sights and tastes. Byzantine and Ottoman architecture dominates the city, an order of magnitude greater than the shops and apartments that line the narrow streets. Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet were particularly stunning, as was the tiny church of St Saviour in Chora – crammed full of exquisite mosaics and frescoes. The bazaars were saturated with colour and texture, and we overcame our inhibitons enough to barter for some goodies. We ate until we were full, and walked until our feet hurt – and then hopped on a ferry to explore the city by water.  (More photos of our trip here).

Kürkçü Han: wool seller

I even managed to do a spot of yarn shopping (!). The winding streets between the Grand Bazaar and the Spice Bazaar are lined with shops and informal stalls where many of the locals buy and sell their wares. A narrow opening from Mahmutpaşa Street leads to an enclosed courtyard bazaar – Kürkçü Han – which houses several dozen yarn and linen stores.

This rainy picture was taken from the first-floor corridor that surrounds the courtyard. Make sure you explore upstairs if you are coming here – the corridor is lined with yarn stalls.

This guy had a great little shop, crammed to the rafters with all sorts of yarns. Most of the offerings were vibrant acrylics and cottons, but I found some pure undyed wool crammed into a plastic bag in front of his stall. I bartered with the owner, but he was persuaded by one of his other customers not to budge in price (in fact, I think she was pushing him to charge me more than the stated price!). I came away with ten hanks of creamy worsted weight wool, for the bargain price of £5. This will be yarn for dyeing, I think.

We came away from Istanbul reluctantly, but spent the rest of our break relaxing with family around England. We’re back at work, and holding onto our renewed energy levels. And we’ve learned our lesson – don’t wait until you reach breaking point to take a break. Even a few days away can make a world of difference!