Saturday, October 21, 2017

I wasn’t going to write tonight – but why not? I’ve got to stay up another hour at least before I can empty the slow cooker and stow the contents. No knitting today.

I miss my husband most when something happens – often a small something – which I can’t tell him about, although he would have been interested. There were two such, today – one, not small.

The dear friend who drove us (me and Sister Helen) to wrest Paradox away from her natural family, took a picture of her mother Esther. Who is also, of course,  Perdita’s mother:

The person in the background must be Paradox’ full brother or sister. That’s what most of the kittens of our Dear Old Cat Poussin looked like, plus a few ginger toms. She never produced a calico/tortoiseshell-and-white. Two years ago, when the same friend took to me acquire Perdita, we didn’t get to meet Esther. I am glad to be able to record her here.

My husband would have liked to see that picture.

The other news, the not-small one, was the accidental discovery of the death of an old friend. He died a few days before my husband did, so at least I no longer have to feel guilty about not writing to him at once. He was substantially younger than I am, and even more substantially (19 years) younger than my husband.

My husband remarked of similar news, not all that long ago (I’ve forgotten the details) that he was in danger of outliving everybody. Quite so. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Here are today’s cats. Perdita continues to growl and hiss, but without much conviction. At tea-time, Paradox actually lifted a little paw and pushed Perdita away from the plate. And she retreated, and sat watching from a few inches away, growling gently, until Paradox finished.


Jill, thank you very much for the idea that silk, in a luxurious sock yarn, will prove as strong as nylon. Now, where have I put that book? I think I remember not only deciding to put it on the pile of sock books – I’ve got a lot – in the bedroom, but actually doing it. But it’s not there, and it doesn’t seem to be in any of the few other possible places. Maddening.

Mary Lou, you must certainly watch Fruity Knitting. Start with the latest, the Shetland Wool Week episode. A great deal of the attraction lies in the careful way Andrea prepares for interviews and conducts them, but there is much else.

Jane, you’re quite right that Nancy M. mentions, in her Craftsy class (I’m doing it too) that she had given that scarf to a friend to do.

Skeindalous, I ordered Nancy’s tuck-stitch book from Ysolda yesterday, and paid £30 for it. Not cheap.

Tamar, I suspect you’re right (as usual!) about doing the required two-colour cast-on for the brioche tuck cowl – my class with Nancy at the EYF – by doing a backward-loop cast-on and then knitting the first row in the other colour from the far end, by sliding the stitches back. I’ll address this problem in the new year.


I’ve reached the fourth ribbon in Miss Rachel’s Yoke. I’ll take a pic tomorrow when the light comes back. Much of today’s knitting time was spent on needles – I thought maybe I would find yoke-knitting as fun as it ought to be, if I used a shorter one. So I did. And then discovered, when I began the next round, that there was a tiny flaw between the cable and the wooden tip which meant that the stitches would not slide.

So I had to move them all, from behind, onto another needle – a whole round of knitting, almost, for which I got no credit.

Then I decided that the work was uncomfortably tight and that, even at this late stage, I would try going up a size. I’ve done that. It’s too soon to comment.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Elaine, thank you very much for the link (comment yesterday) about how electricity came to Unst. I wondered about the RAF. And that’s most interesting, Shandy, that Unst was ahead of rural Cumbria.

Again today, knitting was much impeded by an affectionate kitten. Just when I think I’ve got the sitting room to myself, it comes trotting in, all wreathed in furry smiles. It is a pity Paradox wasn’t the elder sister – she is just the cat my husband wanted, for sitting on his lap in his last months. Perdita was useless.

Here’s today’s cat picture. The scene was not quite as peaceful as it looks, but I do think we are making progress. Milk is a rare treat.

Nor I have started reading Traditional Knitting in North Russia. There’s lots to read in the new VK, and I have gone on turning the pages of Lovick and thinking about the forthcoming great-grandchild. Lovick surprises me by suggesting an acrylic yarn for a baby shawl which is going to be used and washed. I see the point, but…

The Silk Road sock patterns are tempting. I don’t know where I’ve put that book – I thought it was on the sock-book pile. The recommended yarns are each more luxurious-sounding than the last, but none, I think, has more than 10% acrylic (I expect 25%) and several are completely natural. I can’t believe they’d stand up long to being worn on actual human feet, but I’d be delighted to be contradicted.

Fruity Knitting had a q&a session with Nancy Marchant, live for their big-hitting patrons and then available as a podcast for the rest of us. It was interesting. I learned one valuable thing – this long tail cast-on I’m supposed to do with two colours before arriving at her EYF class, does not result in alternate stitches of different colours. It just means that the stitches on the needle are one colour, and the row beneath, the other. I can probably achieve that the old knit-into-the-loop-on-the-left-thumb way.

And I’ve heard Marchant say it herself. I suspect that has saved me a lot of time and anxiety.

I also learn that she has written a new book about the “tuck” system which my class is going to be about. Amazon has never heard of it, but Ysolda is selling it. Marchant said that in the US, it’s available from the Schoolhouse.

She does all her own knitting. That's another thing I learned.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chloe, that’s an awfully interesting question – when did Unst get electricity? I was surprised, after an admittedly not-very-strenuous search, at how reluctant the ever-helpful Google was to tell me. Shetland is still not on the National Grid. I think Lerwick got electricity at some point between the wars, like the rest of GB. But Lerwick is a long way, and two ferry rides, away from Unst. Well-off households will have had their own generators before WWII  -- at least, that’s how I imagine things.

But in any event, the amazing lace in the Lerwick museum (and the shawl here in Edinburgh, of which Sharon Miller’s “Princess” pattern is a simplification) were knit in the 19th century.

All the promised delights arrived in today’s post – plus the new VK. Liz Lovick’s book has a couple of real possibilities for the new great-grandchild. I considered knitting it the Christening dress she offers, but I think I’ll go for a more utilitarian hap. Lovick says in her introduction, as I said yesterday, that spinning was done in the winter and fine lace knitting in the summer when you could see what you were doing.

The knitting of North Russia is going to take some reading, but looks interesting. The knitting is largely bright and cheerful with fairly simple geometric patterns. I have already discovered that “sweater” is not a Russian word – they use the English, which strongly implies that they haven’t been knitting sweaters for all that long.


Here’s today’s picture.

When we lived in Birmingham, we had what I suppose would have to be called a French window in the sitting room, with glass nearly down to the floor. There was a radiator set into this window, with a little bit of space between it and the glass. In the winter, in the hours when the central heating was on, our Dear Old Cat Poussin would sit there, between the radiator and the window, warming her furry bottom and surveying her domain.

The old cat next door soon learned the secrets of the timing of our central heating, and would come to call. The sound of their caterwauling filled the house. But with glass between them, no harm was done.

I used to think this was a game of their own, but I am beginning to wonder if it might not be a cat-thing: to have a fight with the parties on opposite sides of a barrier, minimizing damage. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Today’s knitting was somewhat impeded by a purring kitten, but, on the other hand, I did make some progress. I should finish the second ribbon of Miss Rachel’s Yoke tomorrow, and have something to show you. I’m slightly worried about the danger of running out of the main colour, but I’m sure KD has more in her shop and a change of dye-lot matters little in the middle of a colour pattern.

I grumble about the pattern being so easy that it’s difficult, and so it is – but it’s a brilliant interpretation of the woven pattern KD is referencing.

I continue to enjoy the Craftsy spinning class, and I’ve also watched a few shorties on YouTube. And I’ve been thinking about Unst. The yarn for that amazing lace had first to be spun. I think (from the knowledge I have acquired in the last 48 hours) that very skilled hands might have been able to go on spinning in the dark months (and it’s very dark, up there). And leave the actual knitting for when the light came back.

I think I’ve got two knitting books arriving tomorrow: one by Liz Lovick which may contain a pattern, glimpsed on Ravelry, for a possible hap for next April’s great-grandchild; and one, completely unknown, about knitting in North Russia. Sometimes, when all else fails, I wander through the knitting books on Amazon. That’s where I found it.


Perdita was crosser than ever today, but I think that may be because Paradox is becoming bolder in offering friendship.

My kitchen door is an endless source of fun for kittens. You can open and shut it with the push of a paw, and push things underneath and rush around to the other side to see if they are there (rather like playing Pooh Sticks). Perdita has largely outgrown such childish pleasures, but I think this scene from this morning shows elements of game-playing, however much Perdita might choose to deny it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

No storm here so far, although it’s been a wet, grey, discouraging day. Radio and television have placed reporters at various strategic west coast spots, the way they do on such occasions. One of them said, on the radio news, that he had seen a sea gull flying backwards.

A better day’s knitting, today. Rachel’s Yoke is not quite as blissful as I had anticipated. Maybe after another decrease round things will begin to fall into place. It’s looking good. There are nine six-round “ribbons” on the yoke. I’m halfway through the second of them. A picture soon, when I’ve reached the third.

Here are my cats, this morning. Perdita turned around and growled and stalked out of the room shortly after the picture was taken. The object between them is a catnip rat, the gift of a dear friend to Perdita when she was a kitten. I don’t know where either of them is this evening. I may soon have to go to bed without shutting Paradox into the dining room.

Nancy Marchant’s cowl class at the EYF – the one I succeeded in getting – requires one to cast on 96 stitches with two colours, using the long-tail cast-on. The instructions with the class notes don’t suffice, at least not for me, but she does it in her Craftsy class and in her books, so I have no excuse for not mastering it. I will have to start working on it soon after the new year.

I think the grandmother who taught me to knit just showed me a backward loop. I learned the long-tail cast on, I think, from a friend at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit. I do it, as she showed me, by wrapping the yarn around my left thumb and knitting into it.

I don’t think I had ever seen the cat’s-cradle method (which everybody, including Marchant, seems to use) until the happy day a few years ago when I took two classes with Franklin at Loop, having travelled down to London on purpose. (I got to meet Shandy that day, too). He cast on something during the lesson. I was tremendously impressed. But I've never actually done it myself.

Isabella, thank you again for pointing me to Jacey Boggs-Falkner’s Craftsy class on spinning. I’m two lessons in, and enjoying it tremendously. I restrained myself with some difficulty from rushing out and buying a wheel this morning. Do you know what a Short Forward Draft is? (Well, obviously, you do, Isabella.) What a tremendous amount there is to learn and do, absolutely fundamental to knitting. I’ve left it awfully late. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nothing to report. I dozed in front of the television this afternoon, watching or rather listening to the recent documentary about Queen Victoria and the real Abdul. Not without interest. But the little cat was asleep on my lap and of knitting there was none.

Yesterday immediately after those frantic few minutes of EYF-booking I got an e-ticket and a PayPal receipt for my Nancy Marchant class, but nothing for the other one, the drop spindle. I logged on to PayPal and confirmed that payment had been made for the second class. I thought I’d leave it for a bit until things calmed down. But there was still nothing this morning.

So I emailed them. I had a reply, and an e-ticket, within half an hour. We’re talking about 10 o’clock on Sunday morning. Those women are amazing – it’s no wonder the EYF is such a success. It was suggested, in their reply, that my other ticket might be in the Junk file. I looked, and sure enough, there it was, nestled among all the “Hello, Tanya”s. Although it must have arrived within five minutes of the Marchant one.

Isabella (comment yesterday) I am very grateful indeed for your suggestion about the Craftsy spinning class, and think I will take you up on it. I didn’t even know that Craftsy did spinning.

I’ve ordered the new edition of the book of Silk Road sock patterns. Although I don’t go in for sock patterns – I buy sock yarn, and sit back and let them knit themselves. I must get something organised for the trip to London for the baptism in a fortnight’s time. The Silk Road book will be here tomorrow.

I have long been distressed that Bruce Weinstein pronounces the two syllables of his surname differently. (He is both a cook and a knitwear designer; I’ve got him on Craftsy in both capacities, and knit Archie a sweater last year from a design in his book “Knits Men Want”.) The constant reiteration of the surname in recent days is some help to me in trying to remember how it’s done, although I heard a pundit on the midday news today saying “Wine-stine” the way I keep wanting to do it. Like Einstein. He wouldn’t have been half as clever if he had pronounced his name “Ein-steen”.