Denim blue jumper with first attempt at Fair Isle

Debbie Bliss raglan sweater with a little Fair Isle bands

Debbie Bliss raglan sweater with a little Fair Isle bands

For my first attempt at Fair Isle I decided to take it gently and opted for a single band of patterning around the bottom of the jumper and sleeves. I used my old favourite  pattern, Debbie Bliss’s 2 colour raglan sweater (from Baby Cashmerino 5) and married it with a  design for the Fair Isle which appears elsewhere in the same book. I’m sure one day I will move on to proper Shetland wool as I’m a bit of a fabric and fibre purist but at the moment I’m happy to continue with Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino which washes well and isn’t pilling or going out of shape.

Boy's jumper: detail of Fair Isle pattern (both jumper pattern and Fair Isle are from Debbie Bliss's Baby Cashmerino book 5)

Boy’s jumper: detail of Fair Isle pattern (both jumper pattern and Fair Isle are from Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino book 5)

I enjoyed doing the Fair Isle, especially because – simple as it looks – the yellow wool (more of a pale lime green) forms 2 different motifs over 8 stitches horizontally. Once I got into the right rhythm (muttering lime,lime,lime/grey,grey,lime,grey,grey) for the 8 stitch repeat, it was great fun and  deeply satisfying.

Boy's jumper: detail of Fair Isle pattern (both jumper pattern and Fair Isle are from Debbie Bliss's Baby Cashmerino book 5)

Boy’s jumper: detail of Fair Isle pattern (both jumper pattern and Fair Isle are from Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino book 5)

I finished this a few weeks ago but have only just delivered it. The recipient had just got out of a car after a long journey from his great granny in North Wales and was a buzz of activity after his confinement. The wonder was that as many as 2 photographs show him still and even contemplative.

Boy's jumper: detail of Fair Isle pattern (both jumper pattern and Fair Isle are from Debbie Bliss's Baby Cashmerino book 5)

Boy’s jumper: detail of Fair Isle pattern (both jumper pattern and Fair Isle are from Debbie Bliss’s Baby Cashmerino book 5)

On a different note. I learned to drive in 1999 on my third attempt*, not much encouraged by the examiner telling me if I had left it a week I would have failed (the pass level was about to change). I never felt happy in charge of a car, but then again our family car had the unfortunate habit of leaping out of first gear and once, being encouraged into fifth gear on the Dorchester bypass, the gear knob actually came off in my hand.

Well, I lived in London then and tended to use public transport most of the time. About 10 years ago, I came to live in the county and knew I had to drive. Lots of lessons later I thought I might be a hopeless case. Then… in summer the clutch went on our car in Devon and I muttered to the vicar that I thought perhaps we might both benefit from an automatic… say in a year’s time.  When chiming the right note, thought is master to the action with the vicar and the next day, with no warning, he appeared saying we should go and try out an automatic car he had just had a look at on the way back from the dentist.

We bought it. At first I made little journeys locally, then to Henley and back until last week  we set off for the western Cotswolds with me driving (thinking the vicar might take over before joining the A40).  Not only did I drive to our village destination but the next day I drove into Cheltenham, circled around looking for parking and then in the afternoon did the return journey. The next day I drove home to Oxfordshire.

I am candescent with joy. I cannot express the delight I feel at finally being at ease in a car … and even enjoying driving. I had begun to think this would never happen.  And the funny thing is the more I sheepishly say to people that I wouldn’t be driving if we didn’t have an automatic, the more people I discover are driving an automatic too.  Do we in England have a theoretical thing about serious people not driving automatics only to find that in fact their latest car is just that. Why oh why did I take so long to work this out? The moral of this tale is not only never give up … but do make sure there’s not an easier solution that’s being overlooked because it seems just too easy. And let’s be quite clear there is no greater merit in taking the more difficult route  (unless you’re Sir Ranulph Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes, or the most nutty of mountaineers) for permanent failure may lie that way. Onward and upward I say but  with judicious glances at sidewards solutions.

*27 November 2015 The Times newspaper: Best drivers pass their test 3rd time.

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  1. Posted December 4, 2015 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

    Well Done! We moved to the Far East in 2000 and an automatic was the only thing available. We are back in the UK now and have another automatic, it does make the whole thing easier!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Thank you Elaine. Easier and more enjoyable.

  2. Posted December 4, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    Small, active people are probably best dressed in something washable. Knit the Shetland wool for yourself!

    IWell done you! I think automatic gearboxes have considerably improved over the last few years, and there are now automatics which are fun to drive. I actually like driving manuals, but my current car is an automatic and I love it.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Rachel. Thank you Rachel for your good sense about wools and driving.

  3. Bev S.
    Posted December 6, 2015 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I waited until I was 17 to learn how to drive (which is ancient here in the U.S.) because we had manual cars and lived on a hill. I hated it. I didn’t drive when we lived in Brazil mostly because everyone there thought that they were Formula 1 race car drivers. My husband loved the experience. Now back in the States, I have an automatic and am the proud owner of a 1999 Toyota Camry with 185,000 miles on it. I love my car!

    Good for you with the Fair Isle! I would recommend looking up Kate Davies Designs (she also has a blog) to see other simple fair isle designs.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

      How interesting that you learned on a manual at 17 but even after getting that young brain and hands co-ordinated you are now happier with an automatic. This is very comforting to hear as I always thought I would have been fine if I’d just learned to drive a long time ago. Can’t believe how much I’m enjoying it now.
      I do look at Kate Davies blog which is very good. Recently I have been thinking that when I graduate to pure wool I shall use her patterns.

  4. Jane Rowley
    Posted December 6, 2015 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    You should be proud of your mastery of Fair Isle, and what a delightful model! You have inspired me to try Fair Isle in my next knitting project.

    It took me 4 attempts to pass my driving test 23 years ago and I am still surprised when I arrive somewhere in one piece! Will try an automatic next time as I’ve been told it eases the pressure if you have any back problems, particularly sciatica.

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

      Well Jane, I wouldn’t put it at mastery yet, just enjoying trying little bands of pattern on straight bits of knitting.
      My husband has bones slowly fusing in his back which causes some pain from time to time. On long journeys he found using two feet very tiring and uncomfortable. The automatic is much more comfortable for him, so we’re both happy now!

  5. Dixie Lee
    Posted December 8, 2015 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Automatic transmissions cost less to manufacture and are more fuel-efficient than standards. Furthermore, they’ve been available for over 60 years, and are surely proven technology. Yet, one is charged more for an automatic! Why?

    Here in the US, very few people drive ‘sticks’ any more (except for those anxious to assert their superiority by driving expensive sports cars and putting others to shame for their lack of knowlege) and I’ve always been puzzled as to why the rest of the world hasn’t followed along. Congratulations!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 8, 2015 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

      Very interesting and very true. And my husband has just said that the insurance is more expensive too.
      Anyway now I’m converted to automatics and shall never look back.

  6. Mildred Clayson
    Posted December 9, 2015 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Hooray for automatics! I passed my driving test fifth time in an auto after failing four times on a manual!
    I admire your attempt at Fairisle. For me it is the very pinnacle of knitting and I would very much like to try it some day but as I have only just started knitting at 40 it may take some time!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted December 9, 2015 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      Good for you Mildred for not giving up… and for seeing the solution lay in having an automatic. I have absolutely no idea why I never pushed for an automatic years ago.
      I only really started knitting this year – I did one jumper in my twenties but nothing since then. I probably wouldn’t have taken to knitting again if it weren’t for the birth of a grandchild -little jumpers are so enticing and seemingly doable. I recommend finding a small person in need of jumpers Mildred and then add on difficulty with each subsequent garment!

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