This is mostly a knitting blog. Sometimes pictures of things I've made, sometimes not. I'm a guy who knits, I usually attend a men's stitch 'n' bitch on Monday nights, and I prefer natural fibres to artificial ones. I have a love-hate relationship with bamboo yarns: I love what they can do and how they look, I hate how they are made. I've been knitting since about 2003, though I really didn't get into it until 2005, while convelescing with a broken leg. I must have discovered something good, 'cause I'm still knitting years later.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Yan, Tan, Tethera

I am reading, among several other things,* Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching stories. They reference a counting system once found in England that was used to count sheep, starting with yan, tan, tethera. Since I am the product of a good liberal arts education, I looked up Yan, Tan, Tethera and whilst reading the article, discovered that it was also used to count knitting in some part(s) of England.

The words seem to be based on Brythonic Celtic languages (Welsh and Breton are the surviving examples of Brythonic languages; Irish and Scottish Gaelic are surviving members of Goidelic languages). The article gives several versions of the counting system, and anyone can see the connexions between the given words. I followed the link listed to the Wiki article on this counting system being used in knitting, and was sent here. The numbers are listed as follows:

  1. Yahn                             11.  Yahn-dik
  2. Tahn                             12.  Tayn-dik
  3. Tether                          13.  Tether-dik
  4. Mether                         14.  Mether-dik
  5. Mimph                         15.  Mimph-it
  6. Hithher                        16.  Yahn-a-mimphit
  7. Lithher                          17.  Tayn-a-mimphit
  8. Auver                            18.  Tether-a-mimphit
  9. Dauver                        19.  Mether-a-mimphit
  10. Dik                                20.  Jig-it

Part of why I find this so fascinating is that when casting on hundreds of stitches, I'll put stitch markers every 20 stitches. Now, if I can memorise this counting system, I'll feel like I'm part of an older knitting tradition. Sadly, it appears that the use of this counting system in England is extinct. I think we should revive the tradition. This is the type of thing that makes me happy, and exclaim, "Cool!" I know, I'm kind of geeky that way.

* I'm also reading Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion, by Anne Somerset,
Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China, by Jung Chang,
Joanna: The Notorious Queen of Naples, Jerusalem, & Sicily, by Nancy Goldstone
I have a thing for historical biography, and just finished (again) George, Nicholas, and Wilhelm: Three Royal Cousins and the Road to World War I, by Miranda Carter


  1. This is fascinating. I love it when folklife and knitting meet.
    Thanks to your geeky propensities.

    1. My pleasure! I plan on doing more research into this counting system. I find it fascinating.