Wednesday, October 10, 2018


Here we go. I’m frightened. Tomorrow should be easy – Helen will drive us to the airport after an early lunch; fly to Naples; taxi to hotel; supper somewhere. Only nine more days to go.

However, at least today was a great success on the knitting front. I finished Rachel’s socks – I can take them to her when I go down for the great-granddaughter’s Christening at the end of the month.

And I woke up knowing where the pattern was for the sweater constructed of mitred triangles – Jamieson’s Shetland Knitting Book One. (There are three books in that excellent series, I think – at least, that’s all I’ve got.) My synapses are at their very best – not saying much – first thing in the morning.

What you do is cast on two stitches and knit for a while in garter stitch increasing one at each end of every other row. Stripes are nice here. One edge of your triangle is going to be the lower edge of the garment, the other, part of a side seam. When it’s big enough to go half-way across the wearer, leave it aside and make another the same. Join the two on one needle, with a stitch marker between, and from here on out continue to increase at the outer edges but decrease on either side of the stitch marker. Somehow or other it adjusts itself into a rectangle/square.

And I found my other copy of Laine, more or less where it should be, and you’re right, Mary Lou, and thank you for that: it was “Ancasta” I was thinking of. I think it’s been superseded in my queue by now. KD’s Stronachlachar is ahead of it, certainly. I think I went to see Baa Ram Ewe yarns at that EYF – see yesterday’s comment by Mary Lou – and wasn’t overwhelmed.

So – thanks to Kirsten and the Bond Knitting Machine – that’s all three of yesterday’s half-memories nailed. Very satisfactory.

Non-knit

I’m so glad you like that recipe of Jamie’s, Shandy. You can always steam some new potatoes or warm a baguette, if they want some carbohydrate. It also has the great advantage of being easy to eat, if you’re giving lunch to someone you’re not entirely comfortable with, for whatever reason, and it looks as if you’ve taken trouble.

I’ll be back here on the 21st or 22nd, if all goes well. A big “if”.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018


I remain paralysed by terror, and in addition have been pinned to the spot today by waiting in for Amazon to deliver some new bags for my new vacuum cleaner. I was afraid the package might be too big for our (big) letter box, if it looked much like the photograph. They’ve still got another two and a half hours in which to deliver it, but waiting is tedious.

I hope I’ll get started on packing tonight. Tomorrow I’ve got to go back to Waitrose because they were short on cat food on Monday.

However, today, of course, saw the reappearance of Andrew and Andrea after three weeks away, with their report on Shetland Wool Week. Wonderful!

Knitting-wise, today has been the day of the half-remembered. You might be able to help me with one of them.

The first (you can’t help) arose from Andrea’s interesting interview with Hazel Tindall. I worked out a pattern once, based on something in one of my books, which was rather like that interesting diagonal pattern she showed us. The beauty of it was that it was swatch-free. You started in a corner – or in the centre? – knitting a triangle, and kept on going until it reached half-way across the prospective wearer, and then…

I think I could reconstitute it, if I could remember which book provided the inspiration. I posted the pattern on a website I used to maintain before I started blogging. That’s a long time ago, and several hard disks in the past.

The second (you certainly can’t help here) is that Laine #6 arrived, and looks good. I haven’t really started yet, but briefly turning over the pages stirred a memory that in the only other issue I’ve bought, there was a pattern which was a serious candidate for my queue. So the question is, where is that issue?

But here’s one you might be able to do. There used (?20 years ago) to be a simple knitting machine, quite widely sold. I remember it in John Lewis. It was a bit more than a knitting frame, I think – that is, I believe it had a carrier which went back and forth. But it was pretty basic. The question here is, what was it called? I think it was a short name, perhaps only four letters, but I wouldn’t swear to that. Googling has advanced me not at all.

Monday, October 08, 2018


Another day of not-much-forward, but a bit. (Allegro ma non troppo, solo un poco ) I found a nice pink plastic folder and arranged all our print-outs into it, in order, starting with “speedy boarding” for our EasyJet flight on Thursday. Archie looked up our hotels and says I haven’t done very well in Naples, but the other two are much better.

But the Naples one is very near the station, and that’s good, as we will want to leave from there on the Circumvesuviana to see Herculaneum, and we will want it again, two days later, for the train to Reggio Calabria. Archie says he was taken to Herculaneum as a sulky teen-ager and stayed in the car reading his book. Now he’d like to see it.

And I wouldn’t mind seeing it again.

Andy Goldsworthy is one of my favourite artists, and I have seen something like this one framed in a doorway. God has achieved much the same effect, as I remember it, in a doorway in the public baths in Herculaneum, through which the lava is about to roll. I’d like to see that again. (Herculaneum was buried in lava, Pompeii only in ash and therefore much easier to excavate.) There is also an upper room in Herculaneum with the only Christian symbol – a Greek cross sunk in the wall – found in either city. (Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.) I talked my way up there once, and am very glad to have seen it. I wonder if it’s on show, these days.

It will be interesting, too, to compare Naples, next door to Vesuvius, with Catania, where we end up, over which Etna looms.

As for knitting, I made good progress with Rachel’s sock today, thanks to Pointless, and should finish by Wednesday. My difficulty these days is that I tend to huddle in the nice cosy kitchen with my cats, after writing to you and having supper, instead of going back into the sitting room to watch television and knit. But tonight there’s a must-see programme about TS Eliot so I may do better.

Mary Lou: Gaughan does those cross-overs like this: Left to right: K2tog, leaving stitches on left-hand needle; knit the first one again; move everything to right-hand needle. Right to left: slip first two stitches on left-hand needle to right-hand needle one at a time, slipping as if to knit; replace on left-hand needle in new orientation; knit the second stitch on left-hand needle tbl; knit both stitches on left-hand needle together tbl; move all to right-hand needle.

Margaret Stove’s admirable principle – the stitch the needle enters first will wind up on top – applies as well here as it does to decreases.

Sunday, October 07, 2018


Not much was accomplished today, either. I’ve renewed my Old Person’s Rail Card, which I will need for my trip to London almost immediately after Italy, for the Christening of the newest great-granddaughter. That's something.

And I’ve finished the Foldlines swatch. It’s slightly too big in both directions. I think I’ll try again with a smaller needle. It’s going to be a fun sweater to knit, but obviously requires a much lighter-coloured yarn. The emphatic diagonals are a one-over-one cross, done in a most ingenious way, new to me. No slipping of stitches off the needle and grabbing them from behind. They both stay on the needle throughout. The less emphatic diagonals are just purl stitches.



I’m watching, or re-watching, an Amy Herzog Craftsy class about “perfect fit”. She’s good, that woman. She is emphatic that what you want from a swatch is a fabric you like. Once you’ve got that, do the maths to make it fit instead of fretting about "getting gauge". I think my swatch is a bit looser than it might be. She had an interesting passage, too, in the lesson I watched last night, about how much ease you need for different shapes of sweater. “Foldlines” counts as a dropped-shoulder, I think; therefore plenty of ease.

The only other knitting news is that I ordered La Laine No. 6. I have one previous issue – it’s absurdly expensive. This one sounds particularly good.

Non-knit

I remain in a state of near-panic about Italy, but there was some good advice this morning in the “A Life in the Day of…” page in the Sunday Times. The actor, director, producer and DJ Idris Elba says, “I imagine myself out of my body and I look down and I see six other people exactly like me, doing exactly the same thing, and that makes me feel a lot calmer.” Sort of silly, but I think I see what he means.

Here’s a picture I took accidentally, immediately after photographing the swatch. That’s some of my madtosh DK stash, and my dear cat Perdita.





Saturday, October 06, 2018


I’ve done a little bit. I’ve got a new central heating system – Greek Helen’s efficiency, again – and I needed to figure out how to turn it off when I’m away. My brother-in-law found the manual on-line (that’s what you do, these days) and printed it out for me on my lovely new printer. Today I sat down and did the figuring-out. It’s easy.

And I have a card that looks like a bank or credit card, but which in fact you load with money in advance. The modern equivalent of travellers’ cheques, I guess. I originally got it to take to Palermo. Today I topped it up on-line.

And – the big one – I spent a very happy half-hour with the Edinburgh Yarn Festival class list for next year. Except for the fact that they still haven’t persuaded Franklin to come… I’m going to try for Felicity Ford and Tom of Holland, if I can find a family member willing to give up next Saturday afternoon for me. The actual booking won’t take long, but the preliminary nervous tension, the being poised over the keyboard ready to refresh the screen at 4 p.m. precisely, is fairly wearing. I’ll be in Naples.

And that’s about it. A couple more rows on my swatch. I can always get some more sock needles at Cathy’s Knits next week if I haven’t finished that sock.

Non-knit

Shandy, we didn’t talk much about Kavanaugh when my sister was here, because there really wasn’t much to say. I think we were all agreed that it was his tearful testimony to the committee which really disqualified him for the Supreme Court.

There is an interesting and to me horrifying article in this morning’s Times about Greek letter fraternities. We have never had them at Oberlin. They are as strange to me as to any of you. But Kavanaugh is quintessentially a frat boy, I can see that. The article says that all but two presidents since 1825 (Carter & Obama?)  have been members, and 85 percent of Supreme Court justices. That’s far worse than the strangle-hold Eton has here, or even public schools in general. And public schools are, to some extent at least, a civilizing influence. Fraternities are not.

Friday, October 05, 2018


My sister and her husband left this morning for London and are presumably, by now, safely established in Sydenham with the James Mileses. It wasn’t as sad as some partings are, at our age – we’re all planning to see each other again next summer at Joe Ogden’s wedding to Becca (he’s Rachel’s second son).

And meanwhile Archie got the new printer to work from this computer, and we’ve printed out all our paperwork for Italy including our EasyJet boarding passes. Today we went up to John Lewis and bought a lot of Euro’s at their Bureau de Change since the Bank of Scotland had proved unhelpful on the subject.

That leaves a couple of little things to do, inevitably, the welfare of the cats to secure, but we’re essentially ready and neither of our passports has expired.

Maureen and I met up here before going out to our lunch on Tuesday, so I was able to introduce her to my cats and to Archie himself, whom she particularly enjoyed meeting. She should be back in Fargo by now, or nearly.

I celebrated, if that’s the word, by casting on a swatch for Gaughan’s “Foldlines” – the swatch is, sensibly, one of the pattern squares. I’m about halfway through it. It’s not entirely easy, and I think I can see a mistake, but it’s not entirely difficult, either, and would surely get easier as the sweater progressed. It requires a light-coloured wool, and I haven’t got one in madtosh DK. I’m using Burnt Hatch Chillis, or whatever it’s called. And the result will give me the size of the square. And that's what's required of a swatch. I might even wash and block it.

Meanwhile I’ve got to finish Rachel’s sock before next Thursday, to free the sock needles for Italy knitting. Plenty of time, including this evening.

Tuesday, October 02, 2018


We’re moving forward. I bought a new printer. Archie has installed it, up to a point. I can print from the iPad, and celebrated by printing the Foldlines pattern, most beautifully, and our Italian railway tickets. But I can’t yet print from this laptop around which life is based; and there are other confusions related to my wireless network. And there’s lots more Italian-holiday stuff to be printed.

Perhaps Archie and I can return to the problem tomorrow. Today was largely devoted to a most delightful lunch with Maureen – almost as good as going to Shetland Wool Week myself. It is wonderful how the knitting community seems like a village. We talked about the big names – Beth Brown-Reinsel, Amy Detjen, Meg, Carol Christiansen – as though they were all old friends instead of (in my case, at least) rather distant acquaintances at best.

And I hope I have been indeed inspired to resume the Calcutta Cup vest. Even Shetland must be impressed with Maureen’s knitting. She was wearing a Fair Isle vest of her own, and it was wonderful.

My sister and brother-in-law are successfully here and tonight, presumably, successfully in Glasgow.

And tonight I am looking forward to the BBC programme about the near-collapse of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and with it the British financial system, ten years ago. We had – still have – shares in the bank. It was a share for widows-and-orphans within recent memory, and its fall took with it a nice share of our income. It is nice to reflect, at least, that I can walk around Edinburgh and look people in the eye (not that I know anyone), and Fred Goodwin can't. He's a lot richer, though, and probably doesn't even spend it on knitting wool.