Saturday, January 19, 2019


As so often, these days, there’s nothing to report. I haven’t even done any more knitting. I had an Italian lesson this morning, and as usual it flattened me. We are struggling through the sequence of moods and tenses in indirect speech. Then the supermarket, then a long nap with my dear cats.

Thank you for all your helpful suggestions about our desert island. This is a difficult one indeed. I would hate to leave Sharon Miller’s “Heirloom Knitting” behind. But that restricts one to lace. Or what about Debbie New’s “Unexpected Knitting”? – that would keep one making interesting discoveries for quite a while. Cat, I agree that a Japanese stitch dictionary has a lot to recommend it.

As for yarn, it sounds as if we can agree on J&S jumper weight. I like your idea, Cat, that one could un-ply it to create lace-weight.

Mary Lou, Mary Thomas’ books were an important stride forward for me, too. It was from her that I learned how to catch the unused yarn in two-colour knitting in all four situations: when you want to catch the left-hand yarn when knitting with the right hand; or the right-hand yarn when knitting with the left. And so forth, for the two manoeuvres needed when purling. This discovery came at a crucial moment for me, when I was getting interested in Fair Isle.

But I wouldn’t take her to the island.  I can’t stand those cartoons.

As I said yesterday, thank goodness it’s a decision we don’t have to make.

Non-knit

The Duke of Edinburgh has had a new Range Rover delivered, and has been spotted driving about in it. There’s something to be said for being impossibly rich.

Shandy and Southern Gal and Beth, I do absolutely agree with you in admiration for Mrs May. Don’t forget that she’s got Type One diabetes to manage – no joke of a disease, requiring constant attention. It would be more than embarrassing to have a hypoglycemic episode on the floor of the House. 

Friday, January 18, 2019


Little to report, but that little, good.

I woke up feeling so droopy that I wondered whether I should cancel my personal trainer’s visit. But I didn’t, and it was the right decision. I felt much better after being made to move, and am determined to keep movement going.

The Stronachlachar is 1” short of the underarm shapings. I should also finish the fourth skein of yarn tomorrow. It’s all go.

And the Duke of Edinburgh seems to be OK. I was afraid he would die of shock during the night. I was glad to hear that the police breathalysed both drivers (both were clear). The policeman will have a story for the rest of his life – “Just blow here, Sir”. It sounds as if the villain was the Low Winter Sun which can make driving (and, sometimes, walking) such a nightmare this time of year. It gets better after Groundhog Day.

Jim Arnall-Culliford has an interesting blog post, imagining himself on Desert Island Disks. What if you had to pick one knitting book and one yarn to take along? He would choose the Knitter’s Almanac (EZ). Not so I. My yarn would be MadTosh DK – I’m assuming I would have permanent access to the entire range. But that would mean no lace knitting… Thank goodness it won’t really happen, but it’s fun to go on thinking about what book I would take. It’s easy enough to form a short list, very difficult to narrow it down to one.

Thursday, January 17, 2019


I’m sorry, again, to have left you in the lurch. There’s nothing much wrong here except a lack of sprightliness. I have done a bit of knitting, but not enough that it’s worth measuring the Stronachlachar again. Tomorrow, perhaps. My personal trainer is coming back tomorrow and I have warned her that she will have to start again from the beginning.

But guess what? I got a New Yorker in today’s post!

As for British politics, Gilbert got it right, as usual:

   When in that House MP’s divide,
      If they’ve a brain and cerebellum too,
   They’ve got to leave that brain outside
      And vote just as their leaders tell ‘em to.

   But then the prospect of a lot
      Of dull MP’s, in close proximity,
   All thinking for themselves, is what
      No man can face with equanimity.

And that’s exactly where we are at the moment.

The only knitting news I can think of is that Brooklyn Tweed’s “Winter 19” lookbook is out. Goodness, they’re good. I think I’ve mentioned that they’ll be here at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival again this year. Two years ago, it was Jared himself.

I hope the Duke of Edinburgh is OK. He is a great inspiration to the elderly.

Monday, January 14, 2019


I’m sorry for yesterday’s absence. I’m not very sprightly, just now.

Judy has provided the definitive link to the solution of the turnip-swede-rutabaga question. In which it appears that rutabagas are swedes, just as you say, Mary Lou. I am sustaining myself these days with a succession of delicious home-made vegetable soups. Perhaps I will include a swede in the next one.

I’ve done some knitting, while watching endless television discussions of our political crisis. For once in a millennium, one might wish for a written constitution. Be that as it may, I have finished four pattern repeats on the Stronachlachar, equalling 14 inches. The target is 16, for the underarm, where some interesting shaping begins.

Non-knit

Here’s a gloomy little item, of dubious relevance.

There was a story in the paper last week about a very distinguished BBC reporter, Martin Bell, who tripped over a suitcase not long ago in the Gatwick railway station as he was returning home from a cruise, and landed on his face and actually broke his skull. He is now retired, but appreciably  younger than I am. The NHS has patched him together very nicely indeed.

That might have been me, in Reggio Calabria. I suppose the difference is that Martin Bell, with the suitcase in front of him, had nowhere to go except onto his face. Whereas I just tripped over some unevenness in the pavement, with unobstructed space in front, and was able to make a three-point landing (face, left forearm, left knee).

Still, it shows why it’s a good idea to take out travel insurance.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


I’m sorry about yesterday – I wasn’t entirely well. Perhaps the second half of the “back end” malaise? At any rate, a brief, violent diarrhoea, and a general misery all day. There was nothing in the previous day’s food consumption which could explain it.  No knitting at all, since I was last here – and this evening, again, must be devoted to Italian homework.

I can’t help with the interesting swede/turnip/rutabaga discussion. I think I have always vaguely assumed that the small round white things called “turnips” – not all that common, in supermarkets in Scotland – would grow up to be the big orange things called “swedes”. Especially because when one speaks of “neeps” here, as in “neeps and tatties”, one means a delicious mash made from swedes. Burns Night is nearly upon us, and that is an essential feature, up there with the haggis.

I don’t know what a rutabaga is. My mother was not an adventurous cook. No doubt Google could straighten all this out, if I applied myself.

I wasn’t entirely comatose yesterday. Wandering around the internet in the evening, I discovered that the Shetland Museum has recently embarked on the “Lace Project”. It sounds very exciting, and the prospect of a publication at the end makes it even more so.

I’ve had an email from the New Yorker about the digital delights available to me “as a print subscriber”. But still no magazine.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Eleven and ½ inches of the 16 needed for the Stronachlachar underarm have now been done. I thought my industrious application would have taken me a bit further than that. I have wound the fourth skein and joined it in – that’s something.

Thank you for your help, as ever. Pascoag Girl, I can’t find “Restoration” over here, but I found it with ease at Lacis. As before, the thing is to finish Stronachlachar, see where we are in the calendar, and present the bride with the choices, if any.

Non-knit

Shandy and Kirsten, I once left my sons behind in Kirkmichael with nothing to eat, I’ve forgotten why. They sensibly enough went into the adjacent field and helped themselves to some of the swedes which had been put out for the sheep.

Tonight’s food programme is by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who can be entertaining. Tom Kerridge was pretty dull last night.

Mary Lou, my New Yorker subscription has expired, I don’t quite understand why. I renewed it on-line before Christmas. All went smoothly, except that I haven’t started getting any issues yet. I get a daily update from them, and I saw that article about the Greek alphabet there. Interesting, indeed.

Wednesday, January 09, 2019


Little to report. The Stronachlachar is 10 ½ inches,  carelessly measured on the kitchen table. I need 16, to qualify for the underarm shaping. I’ve finished the third pattern repeat, and have nearly finished the third of seven skeins.

I wouldn’t quite call it a resolution, but I think perhaps if I huddle in the kitchen watching Netflix on my iPad, I can knit at the same time. When I try to watch television in the sitting room in the evening, the needles tend to drop from my nerveless fingers. Perhaps the chair is too comfortable.

I also mean to read slightly more serious books, fewer “yellows” as we call them in Italian. I read a lot. I have embarked on “Enthusiasm” (church history) by R.A. Knox, which is a flesh and blood book from my own shelves; and “The Egoist” on the iPad (it was free).

We shall see.

Thank you, as ever, for your help with my various problems. I think maybe “Rock Island” will do as it stands, at least to offer to Jenna. It’s a good size. And thank you, Mary Lou, for “Orvus Paste”. It’s available here, and I am interested to see that it is used for whitening horses.

And Helen (anon) – what you say about “candidatus” awakens dim memories of my own long-forgotten education. I actually saw the apparatus for suspending a newly-knit shawl over burning sulphur when I went to Shetland with Kristie and Kath that happy time.  But how, exactly, was the necessary whiteness for “candidatus” achieved? I doubt if the answer would help much with Hellie’s shawl.

Now I’m going to go watch a cookery programme, while I knit. My husband abhorred the genre, and often said that he regarded cookery programmes as pornography. Tonight it’s Tom Kerridge, teaching people how to cook from scratch.