Thursday, March 26, 2015

Archie has been and gone – he should be well over Belgium by now. I lay half-awake for much of the night, wondering whether he was capable o getting himself up and out at 4 a.m., and whether the taxi would come. Of course he was, of course it did. Perhaps it's just as well that the night will be a short one – because of the time change – when it's my turn.

Here's Archie in the sweater:

I think it can be classed as a success. I wouldn't mind it an inch shorter in both body and sleeves, and I wouldn't mind a slightly higher neck. That will look better if he wears something wkth a collar underneath.

Last night's knitting involved an unfortunate mis-crossed cable in the third repeat on the back of the Sous Sous. What to do? I know it is possible to ladder back just the cable stitches and re-cross them. But 15 stitches are involved – could I pull it off? Or frog – no, tink – two rows and do it properly? That's the best option, but a bit daunting because the work is so wide; there's an awful lot of double moss stitch to unpick. Or figure that in a dark yarn, low down on the back, a mis-crossed cable has a certain rustic charm?


The kind friend who has been driving us to so many appts lately, has offered to give a home to my little Chinese chilli plants while we are away. (They're looking well, but don't have true leaves yet.) That will be a huge relief.

I'd better leave it there for today. I'm having my hair done this morning, and must fetch the newspapers and lay out my husband's breakfast before I go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All well. Not even much panic. I am moving nicely through the day-by-day items on my schedule. Today my husband has a dental appt., and Archie is coming in the evening to be in position for the early-morning EasyJet flight tomorrow. At least he won't have to contend with the Astronomer Royal and the loss of an hour, as I will on Sunday. I haven't scheduled anything else for today.

I'll be sure to get a picture for you of Archie in his new sweater.

The danger of a list is that it can lull one into a false sense of security. I am trying to keep alert and to think of more things to write down, as well as enjoying the keen pleasure of crossing out other things.


I sent the latest pocket square off to London and await the verdict.

And I proceeded with the Sous Sous. I am well into the third repeat, beginning to master the rhythm of the ribbing across the central panel and not making any more mistakes, so far, with the double moss stitch on the sides. It's looking great.

The ribs – is that what you'd call them? – which cross each other to form the cable pattern consist of k1b, p1, k1b instead of the k3 one might expect. I'm proceeding more briskly now that I've grasped that.

The first skein of Whiskey Barrel hasn't far to go. It'll see me through this third repeat, but not much beyond. I am mildly worried. The pattern is written for madelinetosh DK. It specifies seven skeins for the Medium size I am knitting. I bought eight.

There seem to be eleven repeats in the back, so I'll probably be into the fourth skein when I finish. The front will be much smaller, with a deep v-neck and that scoop out of the bottom hem which Greek Helen thinks will draw too much attention to the wearer's less-than-perfect un-flat stomach. And the over-wide front and back provide about half of the sleeve length – only another 7 1/2” will be needed for each sleeve, and they're narrow.

So I'm probably fine for yarn. It's just that one needs something to worry about.

I'll try to get a picture for you soon. The yarn is so dark I'm not sure the luscious pattern will show up.

Mary Lou, the fun of fine lace knitting is that one moves onto an entirely different plane of being. Finshing is impossible, so one doesn't even think about it. One simply enjoys the moment. “Patience” is the wrong word for the quality of mind needed. I think I am talking myself into picking up the Queen Ring and forging ahead. 

Sharon Miller says she finished it in five months, working two hours per evening. But I bet she knits more adroitly than I do, and perhaps has fewer ingerruptions per knitting session.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Our EasyJet flight on Sunday leaves at 7 a.m. That will mean getting up at about 4, and having a taxi here at about 4:30. In fact, we are going to travel together in one taxi – C. will summon it to Morningside at about 4:15 and we therefore won't leave Drummond Place until slightly after 4:30 which will fret me a bit, but it should be all right.

Last night, as I was lying there peacefully waiting for sleep to come, I thought of something. I have confirmed it on-line this morning, The clocks go forward on Sunday. We've got to get up at three.

I'll change the clocks in the house, and my watch, on Saturday morning as soon as the party (my husband, Alexander, Rachel) sets forth towards London. That might help a bit.

I finished the Pocket Square yesterday, tidied and pressed it, and will dispatch it to London today. It's less bulky than the DK ones, as hoped. The colour isn't very strong. We'll see what they think. It would be great if it passes muster, as I've got the yarn and can take it to Athens and practice Continental Knitting.

And I resumed the Sous Sous. The secret of multiple-WIP-ery is surely never to leave anything for too long, so that resumption doesn't involve a strenuous mental readjustment. I'm nearly finished with the second pattern repeat. I'll press on at least through the third.

I also spent some time with three Sharon Miller shawl patterns, trying to extract the relevant figures for comparison. The Unst (just completed), the Wedding Ring and the Queen Ring are all standard-shape Shetland shawls, with an edging, four borders, and a square centre. Unlike the Princess, which is an enormous triangle. So what one needs to know, essentially, is how many stitches there are in the long outward edge of each border, and how deep the borders are. All the rest follows from that.

It is not altogether easy to find this information in the patterns. Sharon writes rather diffusively (I think might be the word) and she prefers to start with the centre. And in the case of the Queen Ring, she offers several alternatives which affect the stitch count.

The answer is roughly that the Unst is the smallest of the three, then the Wedding Ring, then, by a fair margin, the Queen Ring. I don't think it's going to be possible to reduce and simplify and still retain the elements I want. A framed centre has to be of a certain size or the frame will simply overwhelm and swallow the centre. The borders have to be in proportion. The edging has to go all the way around.

So maybe I'd better just go ahead and start the Queen Ring and see what happens. The pattern is based on an actual shawl which Sharon bought at auction. She tries to copy the original technique – knitting from the edging inwards. That is the method I prefer. Indeed, after doing it Sharon's way, centre-outwards, for the Unst, I resolved, never again.

The Queen Ring pattern has the four borders knit separately and seamed at the end. I'm certainly not going to do that. Even Sharon found it tough going. It has occurred to me that the simplest solution to the garter stitch problem (instead of purling alternate rounds, or mastering the Fleegle System) might be to knit the borders all-in-one not circularly but back-and-forth, with a single open seam. Plenty of time to think about such things as I knit the edging.

I made a start at Christmas, which now seems a very long time ago – ten edging points done. It's an easy edging pattern to learn, I remember. And it looks rather nice – I got it out yesterday.

As far as I know, Sharon hasn't published the pattern for her own-design “Fine Lace Framed Shawl”, but it could be deduced from the calculations and charts of pp 215-218 of Heirloom Knitting. Maybe I should add it to my little compilation.

New follower -- hi!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A fairly successful day, yesterday. I got two of the three things I had assigned myself, done. The third, putting the spare room back in order after its use as a blocking room, has been postponed until tomorrow when the cleaning woman is here. Hellie's shawl is finished and tenderly packed and labelled. I've probably mentioned that Rachel (the bride's mother) is coming up on Friday night to accompany Alexander and my husband on their drive south on Saturday– so I can consign it into her hands and be sure the shawl will be safely conveyed.

I have been thinking about More Lace. Sharon's Queen Ring is probably too ambitious for my time of life. (Anything is probably too ambitious, but never mind that.) But maybe her Wedding Ring Shawl, another said-to-be 72” square number, would be possible. Or rather, use that as the basis for what might grandly be called my own design: I want to do a framed centre. See Heirloom Knitting, page 215 for a splendid one in the Shetland Museum. And I'd like boteh's in the border – that's what those Paisley-shawl-like motifs are called. (The link is to Wikipedia.)

The Queen Ring has both of those features, so maybe what I want is just a somewhat simplified and smaller Queen Ring. I'll give this some thought. What does one use for lace-planning software these days? I've got Stitch and Motif Maker, although I haven't used it for years or tried it on a newer computer.

I've got three more granddaughters in the pipeline, so to speak, and there's no chance at all for a veil for each of them. But one more, maybe...

Not much knitting got done yesterday, as usual for a Sunday. My husband had an unusual computer problem, ingenious even for him – endnotes which seemed to disappear off the right-hand margin. The complete endnote was there, somehow – one could see the complete text if one hovered the cursor over the number in the text. But the end of each note didn't appear in the list of notes at the end of the document, and couldn't be reached for editing.

I can't say I cracked that one – I don't know what he had done wrong. But I found a workaround that recovered the full text, in plain sight, edit-able. Valuable knitting time was consumed in the operation.

I advanced the current Pocket Square somewhat, however. I'm now decreasing. It's still looking good. I should be able to dispatch it to London tomorrow. I do hope Matt likes it. I could knock off a couple more in Athens. And, Lisa, I think you're right – it would be just the thing for practising Continental Knitting. Bugger the Parthenon.

However, yesterday's excitement in the knitting line was an email from Webs about (among other things) a new(ish) madelinetosh yarn called madelinetosh Twist Light. It's not all that new, because Ravelry is replete with happy users and their FO's. It's a proper sock yarn, with 25% nylon, and plyed. Not to be confused with madelinetosh Sock which is 100% merino and unplyed.

I had been thinking that it was time my husband had another pair of socks. He's got a drawerful; they wear well. But he hasn't had a new pair for a long time. I've got some nice stuff in my Unknit Sock bag, but it's all along the lines of Kaffe-for-Regia or Into the Whirled, nothing for a gent with conservative tastes in footware. Well, there you are – what could be better than Whiskey Barrel itself? And there are many other possibilities in Webs' enticing pages.

A bit of Googling suggests that mt Twist Light hasn't reached these shores yet. Neither Loop nor Meadow Yarn seem to have it, anyway. I'd be very happy to be corrected on that point. Otherwise it looks like a third order in rapid succession to Webs. Will the Queen notice this time?


Old friends are coming to lunch today, so I haven't scheduled anything for myself except a couple of phone calls, brief but important. And I'll have to tidy the sitting room a bit and nip out to a local Marks & Spencer-light for some sandwiches. (The friends have been warned.) I'll offer beer and if they like the idea, I'll have some too -- with a clear conscience. What I have given up for Lent is, after all, only Weston's Vintage Cider, although the effect has beenb no alcohol at all except for Laetare Sunday (and six pounds of weight lost).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm sure you're right, Susann, that that mosaic (two days ago) shows Dionysius and his panther. A cat, in a sense. I'll tell Helen. The mosaic is in the museum in Antalya (Turkey). I hope we're going to see lots of mosaics while we're in Greece.

I'm now in countdown mode. One week from right-this-minute I should be aloft, well on my way across Europe, knitting my sock. I have made a schedule of the days, assigning tasks to each, keeping Friday clear Any spare time, and I can drag a task forward from the dwindling stock of future days. Whenever I find myself thinking, I mustn't forget to... and whenever my husband says, You've got to... – down it goes on the schedule.

Today's top-of-the-list job is to finish tidying and (alas) mending Hellie's shawl, and put it in a box, and label the box clearly, and put it near the front door to go to London on Saturday. Here's the shawl:

One comfort (as you view that gaping hole) is that it is a lot easier to mend lace up to the galloping-horse stage than a lot of other sorts of knitting. It won't pass muster with Sharon Miller or the Shetland Museum, of course.

Yesterday's knitting went well. The rugby did not – Scotland lost by a fearful margin, the worst score of a disastrous season. We've won the Wooden Spoon, fair and square.

I got that last skein wound for the Tokyo shawl. And of course you're right, Liz and Lou and Skeindalous, that plastic bags would solve the problem of identifying the near-identical yarns. The fifth one, which I've just wound, doesn't just add itself to the sequence of the other four. That is, it won't form the next broad band but will pop up unexpectedly later on.

I finished band six, one of the narrow accent bands, and decided that that was a good place to stop. My fear about leaving anything is not that I'll forget it, just that today will never be quite the right day for resuming it, again and again until too late. Exactly as happened to the Green Granite Blocks, as you say, Weavinfool. I'm less inclined to that sort of thing than I used to be. That's some comfort.

So I cast on another trial Pocket Square with the new yarn from Webs. It's a fingering yarn and the point of it, you will remember, was to produce something less bulky than the last two DK attempts. It's looking good. And there should be plenty of time for it to get to London this week. With the first one, I stopped increasing and started decreasing when I had 62 stitches and it Looked About Right. I've gone on doing that. This time, since the yarn is finer, I thought I'd need more stitches – but no, 62 is About Right again.

I think it's going to be firm enough. Garter stitch helps a lot. I could perhaps go down another needle size, if need be.

I've mentioned that I've been getting a lot of emails from Craftsy. Yesterday I fell for their special offer of a course on Continental Knitting. I thought I could try it out in Athens in the intervals of looking at ruins and mosaics and shopping for Greek knitting wool. Am I too old for a new physical skill, one wonders? I think, if I can make any progress, it will be a good start towards learning to use a Shetland knitting belt.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The eclipse was something of a disappointment. I thought, with 92% of the sun obscured, the light would be a bit crepuscular. It wasn't -- it was just slightly eerie. This picture was taken at the maximum moment. There's not much point showing you the others.

However, I did see it. One of the neighbours, as we gathered on the street, had a piece of dark brown polythene, A-4 sized, fairly solid but still pliable. I can't think what its use might have been in real life. He had folded it over and was looking at the sun through two layers. He said it was perfectly safe and invited me to look. I took his reassurance cum grano salis but still allowed myself a quick keek. There it was! – the sun's orb obscured except for a glowing crescent bottom right.

A total eclipse such as you have experienced, Shandy, must really be something. I think James made an expedition to see one once, in the Gobi desert.

Later, I went up the hill as planned. I now have a reliable watch strap and some sound and comfortable tights. My husband has enough medicaments of various sorts to see him through his week in London.

Knitting went well. I am all but finished with the fifth Tokyo shawl band. The next one is another of the four-row accent stripes. The plan is to go on with it for today, including winding the next – and last – skein. I am sort of worried about this multiple-WIPery, afraid that something will slip through the system and languish unknit despite my best intentions until I wake up one day and realise that it has become a UFO. I will certainly return to the Tokyo with a lighter step if the winding of that final skein is behind rather than before me.

And it's a good job for doing as I watch rugby. Scotland play Ireland today, here in Edinburgh. It's the last weekend of the Five Nations tournament. The Loch Fyne Mileses are coming over, but I don't think we'll see them. It could be a good match.

Skeindalous, have you any suggestions as to how to label the balls of Tokyo yarn? I have already spotted the danger. They are all so sub fusc, and of course carried with the grey alpaca, that it's virtually impossible to decide which is which even by comparing them with what has already been knit. I am keeping them in strict order on the floor:

My husband isn't nimble enough to get over there, the cleaning woman has too much sense to disturb them, and we don't (alas!) have a cat. So far so good.

I got the first skein of luxurious pocket-square yarn wound. I have bought four skeins, venturing all. It seemed foolish to go on buying one trial skein at a time when I was ordering from the US. I think, after the experience of winding it yesterday, that four is going to be too many (I need eight squares). And if Matt chooses one of the other, heavier yarns in the end, it will all be wasted.

Since the Bridal Shawl is already blocked, I hope to use some time this morning (where that job was pencilled in) to unpin it and attend to loose ends and ahem! a couple of holes. Maybe even get it packed for its trip to London a week today.

Hat, you're right – and well remembered! – Hellie is tiny, although so dynamic that one doesn't notice it. A small shawl will cover more of her than it would have done on a more substantial bride.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Good old Edinburgh! The forecasts were very gloomy last night, but the day is starting off as bright and sunny as anyone could ask, with only a few wisps of high cloud. It could still change – the show doesn't start for another hour. It'll reach its apogee an hour after that. I'm talking about the eclipse, of course. I plan to take a series of pictures of Drummond Place for you, to show progressive darkness, not the sun's disk.

But I might venture that black bucket of water on the step again, and a very, very, very quick glance at the sun's reflection in it.

They must be clearing the decks at the Eye Pavillion and gearing up for a busy weekend. A sobering thought.

More utter non-knit:

Greek Helen sent this image yesterday. She says that cats in ancient mosaics are incredibly rare, and once she realised that this one was drinking water from the cup, not playing with string as she had at first thought, she wondered if it was a cat at all.

I told her that that is the detail which proves it is a cat. My husband and I are old enough to remember the Good Old Days when cows were sometimes milked by hand and the kindly farmer would direct an occasional jet of warm milk straight into the mouth of one of the hopefully-waiting cats. Neither of us ever heard of a dog mastering that trick.

Now, knitting

I got the shawl blocked yesterday. Here is the “before” picture, but I am afraid that in its present state it is next thing to invisible. I'll have to think of a way to photograph it for you after I unpin it.

It is disappointingly small – just under five feet square, whereas Sharon predicted 72” which is six feet. She asked for J&S cobweb “or similar”. I used their Shetland Supreme Lace Weight which probably hadn't been invented when she wrote the pattern – it's the result of a relatively recent collaboration with the Shetland Museum.

I wouldn't use any other. And I used the needles Sharon asked for, 2.25mm. Again, I wouldn't use any other. I'm delighted with the fabric. I've blocked that baby within an inch of its life – there's certainly not another six inches in each direction to be found there.

So Hellie will just have to have a disappointingly small shawl, if she wears it at all. At least the audience, those who were at Thomas' and Lucy's wedding and were paying any attention, will see at a glance that she's not wearing the Princess all over again.

As for other knitting, I got on a bit further than expected yesterday. The next skein of Tokyo Shawl yarn has been wound and the next band begun. I'll go on with it today, and also wind a skein of the new, pocket-square yarn. There's only one more Tokyo skein to wind, which is a relief. The yarn is  fine and it takes a long time. Mercifully, the alpaca yarn which is carried along throughout, comes ready-wound, as do the small balls for the accent stripes.

It's going to be hard to photograph it before the end, what with the way the cast-on edge rolls up and the alternate st st and reversed st st bands puff out. The chiselled effect created by the YO's and k2tog's distant from each other won't show until it's blocked, I fear.

And on that subject, the pattern says to pin it out to shape and then place a damp cloth on it and leave it to dry. It'll need a big cloth, even a sheet – it's supposed to be 28” x 68”. Has anyone ever blocked like that? Would it be all right to do it the usual way, wetting the article then rolling it as dry as possible in towels then pinning out?

The sun is still shining brightly, but there's a bit more cloud and some wind. I think I'll go get the papers now, before the show starts.