Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I'm not entirely happy:

I wanted this to be the perfect dog, for our friend. I think it may be only the third stuffed toy I've ever knit. The first was a mermaid, for Hellie when she was a little girl. She loved it, eventually to death. Then Sam the Ram – and look what happened to him! (He now lives on Loch Fyne, in good condition.) But this dog seems clumsily knit. I fear the stuffing will show through.

Perhaps he'll improve after another session.

(Again, I was unable to post the picture from the Windows 10 computer, and have had to rush over here to the Mac. Odd.)

I have sewn the legs and tail and muzzle, and am now struggling to attach the tummy strip (remembering to start sewing at the nose-end). The instructions said to stuff the tail with yarn-ends but I couldn't get them right down to the tip, so I stuffed it with stuffing. Similarly, the instructions say to leave a slit in the tummy-strip-attachment process through which to insert the rest of the stuffing. I think it might be better to stuff the legs now, before proceeding further. Then there's the question of the pipe cleaners.

I am afraid I failed with mattress stitch, although I am still looking forward to doing it with some nice flat knitting, preferably with a selvedge. The Sous Sous should be perfect. I tried to mattress-stitch the first leg. I gave up at that point, and retreated to a nice YouTube video about whip stitch.


I am anxious about the way the press is anticipating the day, now less, I think, than a fortnight hence, when the Queen will become the longest-reigning monarch in British history, counting back to William the Conqueror, and beyond if you like. The current holder is Victoria. Our Queen has already won the title on points – she was several years older than Victoria when she became Queen, and she has reigned energetically ever since. Victoria withdrew from the world for years after Albert died, and again in old age.

But God has a wicked sense of humour, and it doesn't do to count chickens. The Queen doesn't want a fuss to be made, but has agreed to break her annual holiday at Balmoral to open a branch railway or something of the sort, so as to be seen in public that day. There are big plans for her ninetieth birthday next summer, but that's another matter.

My husband continues as before, keen to get home. I didn't mention the anniversary to him yesterday, but thank you for your good wishes. Now that we're in September, I can begin to wonder whether he will still be incarcerated on the 19th. If so, I can go to the wedding. 

I've booked myself a tentative place in our niece's car. My sister and her husband will be staying in the b&b carved out of the Laird's house, Ardkinglas itself. (Alexander and Ketki's house, where the wedding party will be, is on the Ardkinglas estate.)  And, for some reason, they will have an empty bedroom. Their son Theo is staying in Inverary across the loch.

We shall see.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Isn’t that nice?

It’s Fergus, dressed for the beginning-of-year service at school yesterday. His housemaster’s wife took the picture and sent it to his absent parents. (It doesn't rain on bank holiday weekends in Edinburgh, notice.)

And I finished the Tokyo shawl stint I had assigned myself. So today I must briskly revise mattress stitch and get to work on the dog.

I’ve been indulging in a bit of retail therapy this morning — Diana Henry’s new book, and a copper saucier. I saw a similar pan in John Lewis recently but it was one of those jam-yesterday-and-jam-tomorrow situations where I could only look at it, they wouldn’t sell it to me because it was on display.

The thing about cookery books is that no matter how complicated the recipe that tempts one, it’s not going to take as much time as even the simplest of knitting patterns. Jamie’s new book, however, doesn’t tempt me much. The food sounds as delicious as ever, but he has thrown caution to the winds when it comes to preparation-time (endless chopping of those healthy vegetables) and multiple-saucepan-use.

While I was with Amazon ordering Diana Henry, I accidentally discovered that Liz Lovick has been producing books hand over fist while I wasn’t looking. I’ve got her “Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting” — and now I have ordered “Magical Shetland Lace Shawls to Knit” and “Exploring Shawl Shapes”. Retail therapy, indeed.

The last-named is rather a good idea: she has collected and reproduced all the miniature shawls she uses to teach. I expect I’ll find that these books overlap each other quite a bit, and I know already that LL is no substitute for Sharon Miller. (The Heirloom Knitting site is still closed because of Mike’s illness. It sounds as if the Millers may be having an even worse year than the Mileses.)

The house is strangely empty with all those people gone. Helen phoned from Athens yesterday to confirm safe arrival.

Today is our 58th wedding anniversary. We have never observed the event, and I don’t think I’ll trouble my husband by mentioning it today. God did splendidly by us on Games Day 2007 (=eight years ago) with the Glenisla Shield for me and the Mandy Duncan cup for James’ and Cathy’s daughter Rachel (she was on the front page of the Blairgowrie Advertiser for that) and a huge family turn-out. Our children gave us a golden Scots pine which was later eaten by a neighbour’s horse.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

All well. They should be taxi-ing out for take-off any moment now.

David and Helen went out to Merchiston yesterday to spend the afternoon with Fergus, since they couldn't be at the beginning-of-year service for boys and parents this morning. They came back to say he is now happy as Larry, beginning to make friends, full of talk about what he has been doing and is about to do. He will make his first public appearance in a kilt at the service today, and wants to get to Marks and Spencer to buy a polo shirt to wear with it at a forthcoming ceilidh.

(Archie went to a ceilidh early in his Merchiston career, tripped and fell during a reel, and hasn't been to another, nor worn a kilt happily since.)

So that's good.

I got a customs charge bill yesterday, surely for the yarn from Jimmy Bean. That was quick. I've paid, but it won't be delivered until Wednesday perhaps because tomorrow is an English bank holiday. That gives me time, I hope, to finish the dog and give my husband's new sweater, whether it turns out to be Whiskey Barrel or Roasted Hatch Chillis, the dog's place in the rota.

I also got “Free Spirit Shawls” yesterday. It's good, although I really don't need another shawl book. There are a number of interesting designs, many of them neckerchief-type. Gunderson's “Heath”, for which I bought the book, is a particularly happy use of Noro Taiyo sock yarn. I need more time, and must start making better use of the time I've got.

I moved the Tokyo shawl onwards yesterday, at least somewhat. Today's target is to finish the 22nd band (of 29) –  which will be the end of the current Tokyo session.

I have been thinking of extending it, as a couple of Ravellers suggest. The pattern consists of a series of bands, alternating st st and reversed st st (so that the finished shawl will be reversible). Two broad bands followed by a narrow one.

I think this means that it takes six bands for the pattern to come back to its beginning: st st broad, reversed st st broad, st st narrow, reversed st st broad, st st broad, reversed st st narrow. So if I extend it, I should be prepared to do that much, and should ensure that I have enough yarn to do it, so that the ends of the shawl will match each other. Maybe that's too fussy, but I think it's necessary.


All the food writers seem to have discovered health simultaneously this season. I bought Jamie's “Everyday Superfood” this week, on sale cheap at the supermarket. Some good stuff, but largely too crunchy for my toothless husband. I think I'll get Diana Henry's “A Change of Appetite”. Nigel and Nigella are waiting in the wings.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

It's all go, today.

It's the final day here, for Helen and her family. She and her husband are leaving for Athens tomorrow on the absurdly early Sunday-morning flight that C. and I took at the end of March. How are Perdita and I to manage without them? Archie is back at school, and his youngest brother Fergus has, by now, spent nearly 48 hours there as a New Boy. He's not entirely happy.

The on-going sagas which have occupied the summer remain a) my husband's condition and b) the flat on Windsor Street which Helen has altered radically to prepare for their own occupancy in a year's time. It will be let again in the interval. Getting it ready to show to the letting agent yesterday has, needless to say, involved a series of major and minor crises which have left us all prostrate.

I hope to see it myself this morning, before Helen and I go to visit my husband, before she and her husband go to visit Fergus in the afternoon.

Before all this starts, I must go up the hill and buy some scallops for David and Helen's final summer-of-'15 supper this evening. It is, incidentally, the last day our dear fishmonger will be at work. I need to say goodbye and thank you. His nephew is taking over the business, the fifth generation of the family to be so occupied.

As for knitting, I moved forward with the Tokyo. I'll stop – for the moment – when I finish the current band, and move on to dog-assembly-and-stuffing.

I tried a couple of rows of Portuguese knitting yesterday, on Franklin's swatch. It went a good deal better than my attempts earlier this year at continental knitting. Yarn-around-the-neck is a bit uncomfortable. It might be worth getting, or confecting, a pin. And continuing to try a couple of rows a day. This is where the Craftsy system really scores – I can go back and back and watch the movements of the teacher's hands.

But the good old slow-and-clumsy system is what one needs for comfort.

And that's about it. Perdita's limp is gone.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Technology, this morning. (Perdita continues to improve.)

I have “migrated” Zite to Flipboard, successfully I think. I have bought Albers’ “Interaction of Color” (the app). I should have said something about that yesterday, after you sent the link, Kristen. It looks extremely interesting. The Apple App Shop is always stressful for me — why isn’t everybody as easy as the hated Amazon? Today they said that my (husband’s) credit card was about to expire and I had to update it.

Apple has forced me to use his. Everybody else on the internet is happy with mine. I knew he had been sent a new card, and that I must have put it somewhere safe since he wasn’t likely to use it. It turned out, after an anxious search, that I was carrying it. Sensible.

Then everything went haywire. After a series of increasingly odd error messages and requests to sign in to my own blog, I deduced that maybe it was time to turn the wi-fi booster off and on again. This is sometimes necessary, but the affected computers always pretend that the signal is strong and the trouble, somewhere else.

So I’ve done that, with the result that the booster doesn’t seem to work at all — none of the little lights came back on. We’re limping along with the main hub, and I won’t be able to watch Craftsy in bed unless I can fix it.

But at least the crazy error messages have stopped. That’s enough technology for just now.

The booster is in the sitting room. In my distress, running from computer to computer to iPad and to the booster and back, I left the door open. Perdita dashed in and with her unerring eye seized the ball of mohair which is carried along with every other colour in the Tokyo shawl, and dashed out of the room with it.

I took it away from her in the kitchen and, am happy to report, was able to restore it to its place unbroken. Well done, mohair.

I reached the 22nd band of the Tokyo yesterday, as hoped. I’m spending less time knitting, these days, than I used to when my husband was at home — because of not watching much television, and still not comfortable with knitting during the day, and going straight to bed after an early supper. I must press forward.

I went back over the crucial lessons in Portuguese knitting yesterday (in bed), namely tensioning and the actual movements for knitting and purling. Franklin’s swatches will be the perfect medium for practising, but I think today had better be devoted to that 22nd band.

…The trouble with the wi-fi booster turned out to be that its little On-Off button had been switched off. All is well. Full connectivity is restored. I couldn’t live without technology, but oh, dear.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

All went well. The vet agreed with my husband — he is rarely wrong, and of course, in this case, his opinion coincided with some expressed here. There is nothing much wrong with Perdita, nothing is broken, nothing dislocated. It is just a sprain, with some swelling and warmth. She will get better by herself. As indeed she is doing. She cantered down the passage ahead of me this morning at Pussy Cat’s Breakfast Time (5:45), instead of hobbling.

Here she is in her push chair, awaiting her turn at the surgery. She hissed at that dog.


I have nearly finished the 20th band (of 29) on the Tokyo shawl. The 21st is one of the little ones, so today’s target is to reach 22.

Thank you for your help with the future blocking. I’ve had a look on Ravelry. It appears to be pretty rectangular on the actual project page. Play it by ear. More than one knitter has extended the length and I suspect that’s a good idea. There’ll clearly be yarn available.

While I was there (on Ravelry) I had a look at Gunderson’s All Colors Sweater, the one we’ve been talking about. Never mind negative ease — I am alarmed to discover that it uses all the colours of Universal Yarn Deluxe Worsted — “about” 137 of them! There are no ends to weave in because one spit-splices, it says: a technique I have never mastered. It’s a magnificent production but for the moment I will stand at a respectful distance.

The side-bar led me in a couple of easy stages to “Free-Spirit Shawls” to which Gunderson has contributed a nice little shoulder shawl where the colour-changes of a Noro yarn do all the work. I’m tempted.


I’m getting on nicely with “Life’s Greatest Secret”, understanding perhaps 1/8th of it. It is odd to think of all these momentous things happening while I was at Oberlin, 1950-54, and all of us unaware of any of it. I think maybe I had heard of the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, but if so only because I had a friend who lived on Long Island, not because I had the faintest notion of what was going on there.

On the other hand, when Michael Ventris translated Linear B — and proved that it was Greek: I remember that, vividly.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Perdita’s appt with her new medical advisor is fairly early this morning. She’s not going to like it. I am going down with a friend who has provided a push-chair for cats. Perdita prefers to travel in the vegetable-carrier underneath. 

I knit peacefully on with the Tokyo yesterday. You’re right, Wanda, it’s beautiful. Was the one you saw in Copenhagen blocked into an ordinary, right-angle rectangle, or did the blocking respect the bias? If that question makes any sense. There’s lots of knitting involved and it’s worth keeping at it. I’ll do a few days more before I finish off that dog.

I haven’t yet attempted the new swatches for Franklin, but I’ve chosen the yarns. The temperature swatch is going to be Warm, and the chroma, as I said yesterday, blue. A “chroma” is a slice-of-pie-shaped wedge from the colour wheel. Interestingly, the spell-checker knows the word, although I didn’t.

Wednesday, that’s a stunning sweater (comment, yesterday), and you’re right, I’ve got granddaughters who could wear it. The colour pattern is one that makes one itch to get the needles out. I worry about whether it would be comfortable to wear wool so tight. Would the sweater mind being knit with a bit of positive ease to allow for a shirt underneath? That style, buttoned at the top for a bit and then hanging open, seems to be everywhere at the moment.

And, Fitz14, that is wonderful news that Arne and Carlos are going to be at McAree Bros soon. That’s very near here, a due passi, and I will certainly go along. I don’t know with quite what purpose. I could take a book and have them sign it. I could stand there and bask in their charm. I went to hear them speak at a Knitting Day at the National Museum a while ago. They are professional charmers.

Now it’s time for me to get dressed and put the cat in her push-chair.