In knitting circles, there’s an iconic lace scarf known as the ‘Ishbel’.

Me and Ishbel are having some trouble getting friendly with each other. And just in case you are not a knitter, just read on and substitute Ishbel for any other task or project that ails you.

I first picked up Ishbel some about 18 months ago. It all went well doing the plain bit in the middle. It all went to pieces doing the fancy lacy bit. Sadly, with lace knitting, there’s no cheating… you gotta get every stitch right or the pattern just won’t work. I learned that trying to cheat. I also learned that there’s a lovely concept in knitting called a ‘lifeline’.

Basically, you insert a thread of yarn through all your live stitches on the needle. If you are doing a complicated pattern that you need to unpick, you can then quickly rip it back exactly to your starting point and begin again.

So restarting the lace bit of my scarf for the umpteenth time, I used a lifeline. I knit four rows and was chuffed that the pattern and my knitting seemed to match up. I got to row five only to discover that I no longer had a match made in heaven. Reluctantly, I ripped back four rows of lace knitting back to said lifeline. Recounted the stitches. Reread the pattern. Started over (again).

Same story. Five is not my lucky number. In desperation, I consulted a well-known knitting site looking for errata. Errata are pattern corrections. There were none. Instead I discovered that Ishbel is so popular that 10,850 other knitters have made this project. And that’s just the ones who have bothered to post online. Over 10,000 people and I can’t master the damn thing. Great.

Problem with starting over yet again is that full of foolish optimism, I had already moved my lifeline up by four rows. So this time, no quick ripping back to the beginning but knitting painstakingly backwards. Stitch by stitch. Several hundred of them. Aaaargh…!

But I won’t give up. I have now printed a fresh copy of the pattern. Energy-cleansed the whole project over burning sage. Without setting fire to it (although it smells smoky). I’ll be using multiple lifelines. And stitch markers. And everything else other knitters have told me will work. And pray. A lot.

I will conquer Ishbel. And wear her proudly.

One day.

Fibre Folly


One of the things that get me juiced in life is knitting. Don’t worry, dear non-knitter. This is not turning into a knitting blog. There already are plenty of those for the yarn addicts among us, ones with intriguing titles such as the Yarn Harlot or Knit Fast, Purl Young.

So even if balls of yarn and wooden sticks are not your thing, stick with me. After all, people often relate to their passion in other contexts. A VIP at my previous company used to sing at annual meetings. I heard The Beermat Entrepreneur deliver a business keynote themed entirely around The Beatles. So here you have it, a post on knitting.

I read an article the other day that addressed the perception that knitting is an old-fashioned pursuit, a ‘nana craft’. The author went on to point out that whilst previous generations may have done it out of necessity, the days of knitting to save money are long gone. My pocket book can attest to this. Especially if you shun acrylics, there’s pretty much no way you can knit something cheaper than buying it ready-made in the shop. So really, knitting today is a luxury, both in terms of the fancy yarns you can buy and the leisurely hours you devote to it. After all, the wartime generation hardly clicked their rosewood needles wrapped with cashmere or baby alpaca on a lazy Sunday afternoon. So knitting today really is more metro and less retro than you might think.

It’s also good for balancing your root chakra. Like gardening or drumming, but significantly more accessible. You can’t really feel the rhythm and pull a drum out of your bag on a busy train, but you can grab your sock-in-progress in a flash. And unless you pick a horrendously complicated pattern, knitting gives you time to relax and unwind and to make something beautiful in the process. Sounds like an all around win-win to me.

I believe I will be treated to some Lilly-free time this afternoon. I shall sit on the sofa and submit to the knit.