Debbie Bliss pattern for knitted polo shirt

Debbie Bliss polo shirt with Fair Isle band

Another Debbie Bliss pattern I really love and this is the 6th time of making. It’s a brilliant little jumper – just two buttons which can be fastened or not, depending on how still the child will keep, and nice partly-inset sleeves which don’t droop too far down over the shoulder; the collar is a good one too, whether fitting snuggly around the neck  or pulled up around the ears secured by a scarf. Normally I like splashing colour about but this time I was happy to use just 2 colours for the Fair Isle band. The yarn used is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. The main colour is Lilac while the Fair Isle band is in Duck Egg Blue and a very, very pale green, which is no longer available and whose name and number I have now lost. (Sized for 12-18 months, but it comes up nice and roomy.)

It’s been another bitty week of finishing things off, sorting things out and packing up the cushions made weeks ago but not yet sent for various different reasons. Oh and of course there’s the hours and hours spent trying to order yarn on line and not getting anywhere and I’m trying not to mention the flurry of scam phone calls under the guise of being from our bank which in the end had us taking a good brisk walk into town to the high street branch just to check nothing untoward had been happening. We are fortunate that at least our bank, and peace of mind, is just a good brisk walk away – pity those who have to get in the car or catch a bus because their bank is miles away or even in another town.

Debbie Bliss polo shirt: detail of collar

This week has also brought obituaries for two of my favourite writers. As I’ve gone through life, I find I’ve made a note of certain interesting people who I hope life might throw across my path so that I could encounter them in reality – a sort of bucket list of people to meet. The problem is that most of these people are older than me and recently they seem to be dying at an ever quickening rate. Never mind about being able to tick people off because I’ve met them, I’m having to cross them off my list because no one can now ever meet them!

Debbie Bliss pattern for polo shirt: detail of Fair Isle band

Jan Morris was a pretty unique human being and a wonderful writer about all sort of things, but best of all to my mind she was a marvellously evocative writer about places. In earlier life, as James Morris, there was the scoop of the successful conquest of Everest by Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and then some 20 years later, in 1972, came the much publicised gender reassignment surgery when James became Jan, an utterly honest account of which appears in her book ‘Conundrum’ of 1974. I’d encountered Jan’s son Mark in undergraduate theatre while at Oxford and I found him perfectly at ease with his father’s transition. (Someone once said they’d gone along to meet Mark’s parents and there sat 2 perfectly charming elderly ladies – that was it, there was no melodramatic flamboyance, just a desire to be an ordinary woman.) In fact, Jan’s wife, Elizabeth, gave Jan lifelong support – throughout the years of  hormone therapy, through surgery in Casablanca and on into the rest of Jan’s life. Legal necessity meant they had to divorce but they remained living together. A civil partnership formalised their relationship once again in 2008. Jan’s books on Venice and Oxford in particular are glorious – to be read again and again,  light and shade of the author’s voice being enjoyed in a new way with each reading (occasionally she could be irritatingly twee, but I can forgive some indulgence when so much of the books is so good.) ‘Trieste and the Meaning of Nowhere’ has been on my reading list for sometime, if only because it’s such a ridiculously challenging title written by one you know couldn’t write a boring book however hard they tried.  The book title is also a bit of an earworm – since it wriggled into my head, I can’t get rid of it. I shall really have to get hold of a copy and read it in celebration of a life now past.

Debbie Bliss polo shirt pattern : detail of Fair Isle band

If Jan Morris was a pioneer in a non-travel, travel book, non- fiction, Jill Paton Walsh took fiction, in the form of her book ‘Knowledge of Angels’ as far as it would go and squeezed it until it squeaked. Though already a published writer, no publisher would touch the book (19 rejected it) so she published it herself and was rewarded by being shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It should have won the Booker, for the book challenges the reader to consider big, big issues, like what constitutes human goodness and how we value it in a society where formalised religion may punish a good, pure man because he doesn’t fit the mould, while religious piety elsewhere conceals the ultimate kind of hypocrisy. The whole idea of a mould is additionally challenged by the appearance of a wolf child – will nature be tamed by nurture. I can’t find my copy of the book so I’m stuck trying to remember it in anything but the broadest outline but I do know that it’s the sort of book I could do with reading again every few years  to clear my head of superficial matters and remind myself of the things that really matter in life.

Fair Isle samples

Many will remember Jill Paton Walsh from reading or recommending her books to children. One of our favourites  perhaps was ‘A Parcel of Patterns’ about the Derbyshire village of Eyam which sealed itself up during the Great Plague of 1665 to try to contain the pandemic. (Horrible as our pandemic is, that one was much, much worse.) Multi talented, at the other end of her powers came her crime writing. Not only did she complete Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey novel, Thrones, Dominions but she devised her own detective, a sort of young Miss Marple, Imogen Quy (to rhyme with Why), who works as a nurse in a Cambridge College but whose sleuthing outperforms the deductive logic of the entire Senior  Common Room. My favourite is The Bad Quarto whose clever plot combines night climbing (which both horrifies and fascinates me) and Shakespeare (both in print and on stage). Another book to read again; another person crossed off the list.

Other polo shirts knitted using the same pattern (all with different Fair Isle bands):

Little silver-grey polo shirt with little tree Fair Isle band:

Pale pink polo shirt with baby blue/white/rose pink Fair Isle:

Denim blue polo shirt with a chequer band and another Fair Isle band in magenta/stone/pink/lemon/light blue blue

Magenta polo shirt with a chevron border and floral Fair Isle in pale blue/green/pink/salmon and citrus:

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  1. ceci
    Posted November 25, 2020 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    Ah, what a relief, I having been trying to remember the author of the Imogene mysteries, and here you are producing it for me. I now have them on hold at my local library!


    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2020 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      How fortuitous! Glad to be of help.
      It is so irritating when a name or title hovers around, teasing you just under the surface of conscious thought.

  2. Posted November 25, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    There was another of the Imogen Quy stories which had a lot about quilting in it, and dating fabrics by print design. And I’ve never read any of Jan Morris’s books, but I’m now certain I need to!

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 25, 2020 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

      Ooh, I can’t remember one about quilting and fabric design but now I you’ve mentioned it, I want to get hold of a copy.
      I haven’t got time to google for it at the moment so if you remember the title, that would be hugely appreciated.
      Do read Jan Morris’s Oxford or Venice – indeed buy them and keep them on shelves so you can pick them up again and again.

      • Posted November 29, 2020 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

        I’ll ask my Mam. She leant me the book, and she may even still have it!

        • Mary Addison
          Posted November 29, 2020 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, Rachel. That would be great.

          • Posted December 8, 2020 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

            It might have been “A Piece of Justice”

          • Mary Addison
            Posted December 8, 2020 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

            Thanks Rachel. I’m beginning to think I’ve read it – doesn’t the ending involve a quilt on the wall of a farmhouse in Wales or am I getting the book confused with one by Alice Thomas Ellis? Either way, I shall have to read it again. I probably read it too quickly for the whodunnit element and paid insufficient attention to the quilting.

  3. Amara Bray
    Posted November 29, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    These do seem like fascinating people. I have the personal belief that we will be able to meet people on the other side of death someday. Here is hoping. I would like to meet Jan’s wife too. What a woman. I have a friend who’s son/daughter is in transition right now and it sounds like such a hard process for him/her and for my friend. People around them aren’t always kind. So much strength is needed. Can I ask what may seem like a silly question to you? Is Debbie Bliss still an actual person designing these patterns and producing yarns? Or is it just the name of a company at this point?

    • Mary Addison
      Posted November 29, 2020 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      It is comfort to think death is not the end and so many people with no religious beliefs feel there is something more somewhere. As you say, ‘here’s hoping’.
      I think it was very hard for Jan Morris when she became a woman and her wife was undoubtedly a huge positive help. But it seems hard in quite different ways nowadays – social media and trolling with the cruelty that being able to make comments anonymously can’t help at all. It’s sad to hear that our friend and their child are finding it so difficult.
      Debbie Bliss is a real person and she did even respond to a comment I made on her website in person a few years ago. She was, however, very ill with cancer a year or so ago and I think that coincided with the company that dealt with distributing her yarns and patterns ceasing to trade. Since then you have to order her products through LoveCrafts (which may be American). We haven’t found ordering on their website easy (difficult to add promised price reductions to the order and sometimes the order doesn’t even get through). There is also no phone number – I do find it helpful to talk to a real person. All the individuals with small businesses who used to sell DB yarns (and who happily answer the phone) have now been cut out and just this week I’ve bought up the last of one small company’s stock of DB yarn. So often in business terms small is beautiful for the consumer!

      • Amara Bray
        Posted November 29, 2020 at 5:37 pm | Permalink

        Very true. The internet has made a pot of wonderful things so easy, but also a lot of horrible things too easy to do. I’m so sorry to hear about Debbie Bliss, her illness and the change to her business.

        • Mary Addison
          Posted November 29, 2020 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

          The world gets ever more complex, with much that is good but more than enough that is not so good.
          We need to exercise the judgment of Solomon on a daily basis.

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