Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Dies Atra

No pic today, although the sleeve in fact progresses well.

Today is the darkest in the calendar for me (despite St Andrew's cheering presence), because of a grim family event 45 years ago.

Two years ago, the anniversary picked up some extra baggage.

We were in Kirkmichael. Walking back from the village in the morning, I met a friend who told me that our nearest neighbour had cancer.

Relations with the neighbour's family had not always been easy. They were already there when we bought our house, Burnside, in 1963. There was -- is -- no access to Burnside except over land owned by the N. family. Well, I suppose we could buy a helicopter. In retrospect, the lawyer who acted for us on the purchase should have attended to the matter of access, but he didn't.

All went well for 20 years or so. Then the old generation of N's passed away and the new ones began objecting to our driveway. We were happy to make a new one, entirely at our expense, out of sight of their house. Even so, it had to cross a field of theirs.

It is hard to remember now how this situation could lead to years of expensive bickering, but it did. Finally we got our new driveway.

Then a couple of years after that, our water supply failed. In order to connect to the village water, a pipe had to be laid across that same field. Our contractor dug a trench along the line of our old water pipe. The N's were furious -- the trench should have followed the line of our new driveway. They kept us without water for a year while we bickered some more.

But I had always liked I., the woman who now had cancer. I think she was sorry about what had happened, which was the fault of her brother (driveway) and her husband (water). So I resolved to knit her a chemo cap.

That afternoon I slipped in the dank grass, fell and broke my right arm rather badly just below the shoulder. An uncomfortable winter ensued. I was able to knit again in time to knit I. her chemo cap in February or March. She liked it. She died in June.

We hoped her husband would move away -- hey! we might even be able to buy that blasted field. But he's still there, and indeed we are going to a little drinks party this coming Sunday up there, hosted by G. and his new bidey-in. Should be interesting.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Gorey's "Fruitcake" Posted by Hello


I got a fair amount done on Mungo's sleeve last night; if all goes well, there should be enough for a picture tomorrow.

But today's illustration is of a favourite Christmas card, sent me a few years ago by my oldest friend. We were college roommates in 1950. I love it -- I already loved Edward Gorey -- and now it is the earliest of my Christmas routines, to take it out and prop it up on the table in front of me as I start to write the Christmas cards. And I did start yesterday -- five done. Half an hour lost to knitting.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

The finished Wallaby Posted by Hello


Here's a picture of the Wallaby. It's still unblocked, but I think I will do that at some point soon. I am pleased with the result. Those are balls of Koigu for Mungo's sweater in the background.

Chinese knitting revisited

I got this message from "alltangledup" last night, a propos yesterday's Blog entry: "chinese isn't all that peculiar, but men are.. especially when it comes to buying yarn. " I laughed out loud -- not a conventional Internet lol -- I laughed out loud.

I have been corresponding with Janis, who sent a corrected title for the book about Chinese knitting. It's "Patterns from China" by Judith Gross. Here's the URL:


but if that doesn't work, you could just go to Amazon and do a search. Despite being 20 years old, the book still seems to be available. I'm going to order it, and will eventually report further.

Current knitting

I didn't get much done on Mungo's sleeve last night, but the two-circular method seems to be working well enough.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Travel socks Posted by Hello

Back to Knitting

The picture above is the promised record of what was accomplished during the week away -- hosband's socks finished, daughter Rachel's first one nicely started. Last night I finished Mungo's Koigu sweater up to the armpits, and started the first sleeve -- on two circulars. I think I got the hang of it, after a few struggles.

I heard from Janis yesterday, so we're back in touch. I hope she won't mind my quoting part of what she said about Chinese knitting, since comments don't seem to show up on this Blog:

"There is a book that was published when China was just opening back up again (late 70's or early 80's) with the creative and original title "Knitting in China" It is a lovely but now outdated book. It tells how it is very popular to knit for children in China. At the time the book was published, knitting supplies were not that easy to come by. Inexpensive wools and synthetics were available at "the People's Department stores" and handwritten knitting stitch patterns were posted on the wall and people would copy them down. Patterns for garments were not common. Knitters would sometimes unravel garments and remake them to be thrifty or in order to obtain a new supply of yarn."

I'll have a look on Abebooks today for "Knitting in China".

And here, since I'm in recycling mode, is part of what I said to Janis once I got her email address:

"Our son James is the Economist magazine's Beijing correspondent. He speaks fluent Mandarin -- when he worked for the BBC he used often to broadcast in that language. When we were in Beijing last year I visited several LYS's which were found by paying attention as we moved around the city -- not a technique which would work in Edinburgh or London or even New York. In one, I bought some lovely near-cobweb-weight black yarn to knit a lacy evening wrap for a granddaughter. I had knit her mother the one from Gladys Amedro's book "Shetland Lace" for her 40th birthday, and now Helen wanted one too. I tried to sell her on some of the coloured lace yarn in my extensive stash, but no, black is clearly the new black for London's teenagers.

I knit the wrap -- it came out slightly larger than her mother's one, but the yarn was infinately more wonderful to work with than Jamieson & Smith cobweb-weight. I have more than half the purchase left over, which I may well use to knit the thing again for my sister's seventieth birthday in '06.

Anyway, I asked James to tell the shop assistant that I was going to knit a lacy wrap for my granddaughter, and he shrank back in horror; he didn't know how to say it, he claimed. I haven't studied French since I attended Asbury Park High School (later made famous by Bruce Springsteen's attendance) more than 50 years ago, and I certainly can't speak it, but I could have made a stab at that. "dentelle" "grande-fille" and some miming. Chinese must be a _very_ peculiar language. "

Friday, November 26, 2004

A postcard I found in London Posted by Hello

Home Again

We're safely back from London, very tired. I have much to report in the way of grandchildren met, art viewed, Christmas shopping accomplished -- but for today, the illustration is of a postcard I found in a bookshop there.

Janis (who wrote to me about knitting in China): of course I remember you, but alas haven't kept your email address and your message came to me as one of those blasted anonymous Blogger comments to which I can't reply. I am jean@jeanmile.demon.co.uk -- just send me your email address. I want to write to you. I must get this comment/email thing sorted, too.

I finished the then-current pair of travel socks soon after we got there, and started a pair for the daughter we were staying with. She likes 'em short, and has small feet, a pleasant change from knitting for gents I'm not far off finishing the first sock, in a jolly Socka Color yarn, white with little flecks of green, blue, yellow, and red. Rather Christmassy, in fact, in an unobtrusive way. Picture tomorrow.

It is always nice to come home to Edinburgh from London. When we get there, we still have nearly an hour's journey to whichever house we are staying at, most of it through pretty ugly terrain. When we get to Edinburgh, we have ten minutes' walk home, through this lovely city, beautiful even in darkness.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Dr Who

Here I am in London, where all is well. The new grandson, still nameless, seems a nice baby. We've seen lots of art, with more to come.

On Sunday we saw an episode of "Monarch of the Glen", generally eschewed in Edinburgh as it bears no relation whatsoever to Scottish country life as we know it. The actor Tom Baker turned up in Sunday's episode -- he who used to be Dr Who.

When we knitters speak of a "Dr Who scarf" what we really mean is a "Tom-Baker-as-Dr-Who scarf". Several other actors played the part before and after TB. None of them wore scarves.

I knit one at the end of '03 and the beginning of '04, in the dark of the year, and found it very soothing to do. I was inspired by a fortuitous picture in the newspaper of Tom Baker in his glory days, wearing his scarf. I'll write again one day soon on the subject of Comfort Knitting. Last year's one is on my website, www.jeanmile.demon.co.uk.

Baker, I am sorry to say, has grown stouter with the passing of the years -- he's not the only one --but the wonderful voice is still there, and he still conveys the delightful sense that the role he is playing is utter nonsense so let's ham it up.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

To London...

We're off, for nearly a week. I ought to be able to post some un-illustrated tidbit while we're there, but normal service will be suspended. (The difficulty is to find a moment when (a) 18-year-old Hellie is not on the telephone and (b) her sister Lizzie isn't playing with the Sims.) I hope to come back with many pictures of the nameless boy, perhaps even wrapped in his shawl.

I finished the Wallaby last night. Actually finished-finished, underarms woven, loose ends dealt with. I may or may not block it when we get back. The digital camera is packed with the London stuff, so the final picture will have to wait, too.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Rachel, knitting Posted by Hello

Knitting in China

That's a more cheerful picture, surely, than another orange Wallaby one.

My granddaughter Rachel lives in Beijing. Not to be confused with her aunt, my daughter Rachel, who lives in London. I haven't done very well at starting the next two generations on a knitting career, but I did teach Rachel when her family was here in Scotland in the summer, and she took to it with enthusiasm.

When they left, the knitting was left behind by mistake and a number of other things deliberately, in a last-minute panic about whether the luggage was overweight. I was pretty slow about bestirring myself to pack things up and mail them on, and the post offices involved were then remarkably slow about actually making the delivery. But they finally arrived yesterday, and Rachel has been reunited with her knitting -- happily, it would appear.

The Chinese are knitters, so Rachel's nanny ought to be able to keep the flame alight.

I have high hopes for Rachel and her younger sister Kirsty -- there is a book to be written about knitting in China, and maybe they could do it. Rachel speaks pretty good Mandarin, and Kirsty (now four) was brought up with it as her first language.

We were there for a very happy fortnight in April of last year. I saw lots of people knitting, and bought some yarn. The most interesting sighting was on the day when we drove out into the country to visit the Wall. Our son enjoys seeking out bits of it other than the famous spot where Queens and Presidents are photographed. In one village, with substantial remains marked with a "national monument" plaque, a youth told James that we were the first foreigners who had ever come there.

In that same village, we saw a group of women sitting by the roadside, knitting. We asked if we could take a photograph but they didn't like the idea -- shyness, I think, rather than hostility. I wish I had gone home that evening and made careful notes of what I had seen. One of them, I remember, was knitting an all-in-one small (but not baby-sized) garment in dense grey wool. She was using long sharp-looking double-pointed needles, some of which had been left behind holding stitches while she worked on one of the limbs.

Well, I want Rachel and Kirsty in 20 or 30 years' time to go out into the countryside and find out about Chinese peasant knitting. And yarn -- we weren't far from Beijing, but I doubt very much if those women ever went there to visit an LYS.

Maybe, of course, there is such a book -- they are the Middle Kingdom, after all; we're the periphery. In that case, Rachel and Kirsty can translate it.

I brought a couple of Chinese knitting magazines back, provided by a kind friend, but they were a disapointment -- western-style patterns throughout.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Mungo's Koigu, again Posted by Hello

Back in Edinburgh

...after an energetic weekend in the country. The weather was kind, which cannot be guaranteed in Perthshire in November or indeed any other month, and we got a lot done outside. The deer have been down, but contented themselves with eating the tops off an unsuccessful brassica called "Romanesco" and left my successful kale. Kale has never yet made it past the winter solstice -- we shall see.

My dear vegetables are fenced against rabbits, and when I win the lottery I'll get deer fencing.

I didn't get quite as far as hoped with Mungo's Koigu sweater -- it still lacks ten or more rounds to the armpits. I brought it back here, and will resume as soon as I finish the Wallaby. I reached the neck ribbing on that last night. I think I'll do two inches or so, and double it inside.

If I'm slightly worried about the Wallaby being too small, I'm also worried about Mungo's Koigu being too large. And the fault, for once, has nothing to do with gauge. For Mungo, I measured a loose-fitting sweat shirt when he was here in the summer. For Fergus, I'm aiming at the dimensions given for "child, small" in Vicky Square's book, "Knitting Great Classics".

Well, as with the kale, we shall see.

I doubt if I'll have Mungo's sweater finished for Christmas, and I'm not going to obsess about it. It'll be finished a lot sooner than it otherwise would have been, now that it's goingt to be an Edinburgh WIP. The Debbie Bliss yarn and the Ribwarmer pattern will go to Kirkmichael next time.

We're going to London on Thursday for a strenuous week of art galleries -- all weeks in London are strenuous in that respect -- and, of course, of meeting the new, nameless baby. I should finish the current pair of travel socks while we're there (currently, turning the second heel) and perhaps start the next one.

Alexander knows a lot about things, and could theoretically help with the two major outstanding problems on this Blog -- how to insert an "email me" button and how to fix comments so that they're accessible to all. But he is also a very hands-on father, and he now has two sons on his hands, so I doubt if such mundane matters will be worthy of his attention.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Nearly done Posted by Hello

The Wallaby -- nearly

Last night didn't quite get me to the neck ribbing, but I'm close. I'm very pleased with the result -- and my laborious trial-and-error arithmetic about the rate of the raglan decreases seems to have got it right. My husband thinks it looks too small for Fergus. I think we're OK.

Judith wrote yesterday encouraging me to do circular knitting on two circular needles. (I tried and failed with the Wallaby sleeves.) I have done it in the past, and am going to try again, with her encouragement. I may reach the sleeves of Mungo's Koigu sweater while we're in Kirkmichael this weekend. I'll take circulars and try. And when we get back, the Wallaby itself will probably get too small for its present needle as I get nearer the neck, so I'll try the system for that, too.

Meg Swansen "revisited" the EPS in four articles in Knitter's Magazine in (I think) 2000. I knit a sweater for son-in-law David (father of the Drake boys) from those articles. Instructions for knitting-on-two-circulars were included in part two, when we got to the sleeves, and I did it successfully then. When I knit Theo's Koigu sweater recently, I did the sleeves flat until they were big enough to reach around one circular needle. I'll put the relevant issue of Knitter's with the stuff to take to Kirkmichael.

Both Judith and Brigid wrote to say they share my enthusiasm for the "Maya" yarn mentioned yesterday. Brigid has actually got some and is knitting wrist warmers. I had a lovely email from Sydney, too. It seems extraordinary that anybody reads this Blog, let alone three people!

We're off to Kirkmichael today, back Monday, if life goes according to plan. The Blog should resume on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

"Maya" from Debbie Bliss Posted by Hello

Temptation Unresisted

I was wandering around John Lewis's yarn department yesterday, after an unsuccessful attempt at early Christmas shopping elsewhere in the store, and fell for this yarn. Even in the unsatisfactory glare of a flash photograph, I think you can see why. It's called "Maya" and the label is most unforthcoming, information-wise. It's pure wool and "handspun". No yardage.

I think November is the most dangerous of months for yielding to yarn-buying temptation.

I'm thinking ribwarmer. I knit one from Noro Kureyon a couple of years ago and I wear it fairly often -- oftener, probably, than most other things I've knit for myself. But the shoulders are rather butch, and I'd like to try again and see if I can narrow them. Meg Swansen did a "Woolgathering" on the ribwarmer pattern. and I think she even says something about that aspect of things. This could be the next Kirkmichael project -- I need easy, straightforward knitting there.

In fact, I might after all yield to the temptation to bring Mungo's Koigu sweater back to Edinburgh and see if I can finish it for him for Christmas. The Wallaby will be finished or as-near-as-dammit this evening (insh'Allah). I'm a little bit worried about giving Fergus his Wallaby for Christmas and having to tell his brother Mungo that his sweater isn't finished. I feel much happier about the size of the Wallaby now that it's got its top nearly on.

Picture of Wallaby promised for tomorrow, finished or not. We've postponed Kirkmichael until tomorrow, too.

No more news from London, which I trust is good news. Three of our previous 12 grandchildren were born with serious birth defects (to three different sets of parents) and I was braced for a further extension of our medical vocabulary, but it begins to look as if we may have got away with it this time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

The new baby with his parents Posted by Hello
Ketki and her sons Posted by Hello


The Wallaby, to begin with, progresses well. Sleeves are attached and I'm zooming through the raglan shaping. I've now abandoned the Wallaby booklet and trusted myself entirely to EPS. There was a moment yesterday morning when I was forced to think, an unpleasant process. I knew roughly how many rounds there should be between armpit and neck; I knew how many stitches I needed to do away with. Decreasing at the four raglan points every second round would get me to the neck too quickly; every third round would be too slow; so it had to be a combination. I got it, I think, by trial and error. Is there some mathematical formula that would have helped?

Just as well. I then went to see our dentist about some rumbling pain and he x-rayed and said, out it must come. I spent the rest of the day capable of knitting, but definately not capable of thought. And we won't go to Kirkmichael today. Maybe tomorrow, maybe Friday.

Lace Knitting

Judith wrote to me about lace knitting, a propos yesterday's shawl. The yarn, I should have said, was Lorna's Laces "Helen's Lace" in a shade called "watercolor".

I didn't knit shawls for my first four grandchildren, the children of our own eldest child, Rachel. When the first pregnancy was announced in what might be called the second wave, I knit a hap shawl for him of Shetland jumper weight from a pattern in Madeleine Weston's "Traditional Sweater Book". An interesting construction method -- she has one knit the edging for two sides, pick up stitches and knit inwards decreasing at the mitred corners, and then make another similar piece, and finally knit the centre square back and forth, picking up stitches from the inward edges of the trapezoids at the end of every row. That leaves the final side of the square, and two corners, to be joined at the end. The pattern was basic "hap" -- feather-and-fan for the trapezoids, garter stitch in the centre. I had a lot of fun doing it. The baby was Oliver Drake, who died at six weeks. He was wrapped in the shawl for burial.

Next was his cousin Alistair Miles. I knit him another Weston hap. He's fine.

Then Oliver's mother got pregnant again and this time I pulled out all the stops, as I then thought, and knit one of Gladys Amedro's patterns in lace-weight yarn, from a leaflet I bought from Jamieson & Smith. Archie is fine too. Amedro's construction method is similar to Weston's, but she has you knit the entire edging first. At the end there's nothing to do except graft the final side of the centre square to the bottom edge of the fourth trapezoid. This is the way I like to do it, and the method I have used ever since.

From then on I knit a shawl for nearly everybody. When Alistair's younger sister was expected, I pulled out even more stops and knit a Christening dress and shawl in cobweb-weight yarn, based on the pattern in Amedro's book "Shetland Lace" but with alterations.

By then I was ready to embark on a little mild self-design. Sharon Miller's wonderful book "Heirloom Lace" came out at just the right time, and also I was fortunate enough to meet New Zealand's champion lace knitter, Margaret Stove.

Oliver and Archie's youngest brother, the inimitable Fergus, intended recipient of the Wallaby, got perhaps my best shawl design. Keep it simple, stupid.

The two Miles boys -- the two-day-old one and his brother Jamie, in the pictures above -- got shawls in which I was rather too ambitious, and didn't provide the zig-zag line which I'm now sure a trapezoid needs to held it together.

Much of this can be seen on my website, www.jeanmile.demon.co.uk. And my email address is jean@jeanmile.demon.co.uk. I might as well stick it in from time to time, until I figure out how to add an "email me" button.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Shawl for Unnamed Grandson Posted by Hello

It's a Boy!

My 13th grandchild was born yesterday, a 7lb 11oz boy, younger brother to James. No pics yet, so today's illustration is the one this Blog started with, the shawl I knit for this child. It is my fourth attempt to design a Shetland shawl. Some have been more successful than others. Now I must tear myself away however briefly from the solipsistic delights of Blogging to post the shawl on my website, with explanatory notes.

I picked an edging from Sharon Miller's wonderful "Heirloom Knitting". Because the repeat didn't give me the length I wanted for the sides, I added a transition bit at each corner, simply repeating the first and last row of the edging pattern for a while. It looks a bit odd, but does the trick. Iy would have been better to have taken a few rows out of the edging pattern and knit the scallops (therefore) smaller but in a multiple of stitches that would have achieved what I wanted. That would have required too much thought.

The trapezoids have at their centres a swastika, not to express lunatic political opinions but because it is an ancient Hindu symbol of good fortune and the baby's mother is a Hindu. In the corners appear thistles to represent the baby's Scottish-born father, my son. Then there are sort of paisley-like teardrop things floating about. This is not entirely successful. Trapedoids, I am now convinced, need a zigzag line of some sort from one edge to the other, to pull them together. Another 13 grandchildren and I might begin to get somewhere with shawl design.

The centre square, which is fairly successful, I think, is meant to represent the London Transport symbol, a circle with a horizontal bar through it, to stand for the child's birthplace. London, I mean, not that he was born on a bus. It can be discerned with the eyes of faith.

Meanwhile, back at the Wallaby, I am in the process of attaching the sleeves. It looks small, but I think it is just bunching on the needles. I seem to be getting the gauge I'm aiming at -- seven stitches to the inch -- which gives the wanted circumference of 25 inches.

Monday, November 08, 2004

My Audience

My sister -- Theo's mother; see yesterday -- and my friend Selma both read my Blog yesterday! Selma sent a comment via the comment facility. I still don't know for sure whether my replies to comments (I've had but few, and have replied to all) are sent on. I suspect not. I need an "email me" button.

The second Wallaby sleeve progresses. We're going to Kirkmichael on Wednesday, I think. I hope to have body and sleeves joined before we leave.

I found myself toying with the idea yesterday of knitting other Christmas presents, besides Fergus's wallaby. If I bring Mungo's Koigu sweater (like Theo's but smaller) back from Kirkmichael, I could probably have it finished in time. I bought a slipper-sock kit from Claudia of Countrywool when I was at Camp Stitches in '99. That would knit up quickly and make a nice present for someone....

But I have stamped on these ideas. I hate knitting to deadlines. Sometimes it's necessary -- babies get born, for instance, and need a shawl then and not when they are walking and talking. I knit a lot of things for people and when I finish the things, I give them to the people. Let's keep it that way. The Knitlist at this time of year gets fuller and fuller of messages from people who are frantically knitting presents. The dark is depressing enough without that.

Chinese cashmere

On a brighter note, my sister says that both she and her husband will be passing through London on their way to Mozambique in early '05 and would be glad -- well, willing, at any rate -- to bring yarn. I saw in the paper yesterday that the Chinese may soon be forced to re-value their currency, so maybe I had better go ahead and order the yarn. Selma says she's seen it, and it's good.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

Theo in his Koigu sweater Posted by Hello

Theo's Koigu sweater

Here it is! in a picture fresh from the ether. Theo has been working for Senator Kerry, setting the stage for rallies before the candidate arrived. In particular, he was in charge of arrangements for the press. After Tuesday's sad outcome, he spent a couple of days with his parents in CT before moving on with life -- I don't yet know whither. I had sent the sweater ahead to be waiting for him there.

The size looks good. Sleeves could even have been shorter. I hope the horizontal welts don't look too silly. It's hard to tell from the photograph.

Meanwhile back at the ranch I finished the first Wallaby sleeve last night and started the second. We'll be going to Kirkmichael in a couple of days, so progress will be arrested.

My Yarn Score

One of the things I do is keep track, in an Excel spreadsheet, of Yarn In and Yarn Out. It's a meaningless statistic -- the yarn for the recent Striped Fringe scarf, for instance, consisted of seven skeins of Louet Gems Merino. When the scarf was finished, I had seven oddballs. Score 7 in, 0 out, although the yarn was promptly and virtuously knitted.

But the score for 2004 is so far extremely good -- a Dr Who scarf in January knocked off a lot of oddballs, but even more important, I gave a substantial amount away.

In the best of years, grim November is a time when one is severely tempted to buy (unnecessary) yarn. This year is worse than usual, because one needs urgent cheering up after Kerry's defeat. But the spreadsheet is some curb to temptation. Whether or not a sufficient one, remains to be seen.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

The first sleeve Posted by Hello

Wallaby Progress

The first sleeve is nearly finished -- I think I'll go for 8" as specified in the Wallaby booklet, after all. I won't break the yarn, though, so adjustment will still be possible until sleeves and body are joined. The Wallaby leaflet said to do all the increases at once after the ribbing, rather than taper the sleeve -- better for the shape of a child's arm, they claim. It looks a bit odd.

I've been thinking of some retail therapy to cheer myself up after the US presidential election. Googling on "Rowan 4-ply soft" produced a nice website here in Britain with a much better range of colours than is available in the local John Lewis. And my sister says she and her husband are thinking of going back to Mozambique, where they have been working for several years -- that might mean that they will be passing through London from Connecticut in February and could bring me some yarn (obviating customs duties). www.handknitting.com has got some very tempting Chinese cashmere in a wonderful range of colours -- each order is dyed-to-order, and it takes a whole week.

Last week's issue of the Economist magazine, in a series of articles about IT, quotes someone called Soetsu Yanagi (new to me) who published a book in 1972 called "The Unknown Craftsman": "Man is most free when his tools are proportionate to his needs." I'm not sure I could explain what that means, but it strikes a chord. A couple of knitting needles, a ball of yarn. Similarly, to grow my vegetables, not many tools are needed, each utterly proportionate to the job in hand.

Friday, November 05, 2004

The Wallaby Proceeds Posted by Hello

On We Go

I started the first Wallaby sleeve last night. It is more or less visible in the picture, coming in from the left. I put those pieces of cardboard in the kangaroo pouch to demonstrate that it is really there.

I began the sleeve using the two-circular-needle method of knitting small numbers of stitches in the round. I've done it before, but last night I got myself (and the knitting) in a twist, and happily reverted -- after a bit of ripping out -- to using sock needles.

I have found ever since I knit sweaters for my children when they really were children, that knitting patterns always make children's sleeves too long. I said this to my sister-in-law many decades ago, and she said that her children had arms of normal length. But I think I'm right, and it's not that my children and now grandchildren have unusually stumpy arms. Look at patterns for children's sweaters and notice how often the youthful model is wearing the sleeves rolled up.

Fine in a studio picture, a real nuisance in real life, especially for a small child, whereas an inch or so of bare wrist never did anyone any harm. The Wallaby pattern specifies 8" for the sleeves of the smallest size. Vicky Square's "Knitting Great Classics" shows a full 10 1/2" on the Child, Small size. I'll do about 7" I think. We'll see when we get there.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Three Boys Posted by Hello

The Next Day

Here is what is meant to be a cheerful picture, with no knitting in sight.

The boys are the three surviving sons of my daughter and son-in-law who live in Thessaloniki. Their elder brother Oliver died at six weeks.

Earlier this year, David and Helen were thinking of buying a weekend house somewhere in the country. The photograph shows a near-derelict possibility being explored. In a roomful of left-behind books, Archie, the eldest, behind, is clearly reading one. He speaks and reads Greek with the amazing facility children have. Mungo, in the foreground, is equally clearly not. Fergus, on the right, thinks he is.

Fergus, for whom the Wallaby is currently being knit, was two in March (not long before this picture was taken). He wears nappies and hasn't much in the way of vocabulary but, as this picture suggests, he simply assumes that he is a Boy like everybody else. The effect is enchanting.

Mungo is the one for whom the current Kirkmichael project is being knit, a striped Koigu sweater like Theo's.

I got the kangaroo pouch for Fergus's sweater attached last night. Pictures are just going to show orange-on-orange, I am afraid, but I'll attempt another one tomorrow. Tonight I'll start a sleeve.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

First Day of the Rest of Our Lives

I'm tired and depressed and there's not much to say, but I wanted to say something while it's still today and not tomorrow. As I vaguely remember it, Aristotle thought that democracy was not a very good system, but that it was better, on balance, than the alternatives. I went into my corner grocer shop late yesterday to buy a newspaper. Mr Hussain was eating a sandwich -- breaking his Ramadan fast, presumably, since the sun had set. He saw my Kerry tee-shirt and more or less pursued me out of the shop crying "We support you! We support you!"

I've finished the kangaroo pouch on Fergus's Wallaby and fused it to the body of the sweater. Only a couple more rows until the armpits.

I went into John Lewis today -- when submerged in gloom, buy yarn, is a good rule of life -- to see if Rowan 4-Ply Soft still exists and if so in what colours. It does! The range is fairly limited, but not bad. I'm thinking of another EPS, in wide stripes of two colours to the armpits, and then the sleeves and yoke knit wrist-to-wrist in narrower stripes of the same colours. Somewhere in the Zimmermann opus is a sweater constructed like this, except that the top bit in her case is cabled. My feelings of success as Fergus's Wallaby progresses persuade me that I can knit anything, and don't even have to bother much with swatching. I didn't buy any yarn today, but ideas are germinating.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

The Wallaby progresses Posted by Hello

Back Again

We had a happy but strenuous weekend with our friends -- no blogging. But I kept knitting, at least a little bit. The result appears (I hope) above. I am nearly finished with the Wallaby pouch. I should polish that off this evening, and resume knitting the body. I have decided to press ahead with this little sweater and get it finished before resuming the Fair Isle jacket. Fergus can have it for a Christmas present.

On stitch numbers: I picked up 76 for the pouch. It went well, with that row of purl bumps. Adjusting by percentage didn't seem to work, for reasons too tedious to explain, so I found a size in the Wallaby pattern leaflet which had 76 stitches in the pouch (adult 34" chest, it was) and followed those instructions. It's working OK, I think. The pouch will reach nearly to the armholes but that seems a reasonable arrangement for a two-year-old.

I love, love, love the yarn. The next time I am in a yarn shop I will see if Rowan 4-ply soft is to be had in less alarming colours. Maybe yet another EPS sweater, for myself, striped in two colours... I think what I really love, is merino wool, which this is. I've done a lot of knitting with merino yarn this year -- a couple of Koigu projects, and two in Louet Gems Merino.

I-think-I-read-somewhere that the merino sheep doesn't live happily in Britain, although it's hard to see why. It can't be the cold, because Morehouse Farm, famous for merino, is in New York State, which is colder even than Perthshire. Maybe the damp.

Good news: Theo's Koigu sweater has reached Connecticut safely. Theo himself with be with Senator Kerry for the victory party (or the wake) in Boston tonight, and will then go see his parents. So we should have a picture here soon. My sister, Theo's mother, said in an email yesterday that the sweater fits Theo's father, who is built on the same lines, so I think all is well.