Monday, January 31, 2005

Late Sunday

We're hoping to go to the country tomorrow (Monday), so this is the last time anyone will hear from me until next weekend. Our son Alexander is planning to come to see us on Tuesday with his wife Ketki and his sons Jamie and Thomas the Younger, so I should have some snaps when I get back. Knitting will be done with my new Koigu!

QueerJoe doesn't seem to post as often as he used to, just now. ( I miss my daily fix. I ordered some sock needles from him yesterday, of an interesting-sounding Indian wood, and will report on them when they arrive. The last time we went to London I broke a sock needle on the train going south -- I use Brittany birches, which I love, in sets of five -- and spent the entire visit in a fever of anxiety lest I break another and have to stop knitting. I didn't, but my Brittany stock is getting low. and QueerJoe's supplies sound interesting. The cost isn't that high -- if HM Customs hits me, it can be endured.

I'm trying to extricate myself from the Knitlist. I've turned it off, for the moment, since my week at last is over, and life feels a bit empty. I could bear to go on if the list were moderated, as it has been for the last few days, as we have struggled to stop a "survey" which too many people loved to fill out. "Moderated" would mean that I could log on four or five times a day and read and approve or disapprove the up-to-12 messages waiting for my attention. "Unmoderated" means that one week in four, I have to read the whole damn lot, 180+ each day, and write mild notes of disapproval to the authors of messages which would have been stopped if we'd been moderated. If you see what I mean. (Advertisements, flames, virus messages, copyright violations.anything to do with knitting on airplanes-- that sort of thing.) For reasons I still don't grasp, the Head Listmom is violently opposed ("moderation sucks" -- and she's a minister's wife) so I've got to get out.

The Fair Isle jacket is nearing the armpits. I've got 19 stitches in the underarm gusset (when I finish the current round) -- the idea was to have 25. But, as well as other calculations, I'm measuring the jacket against a beloved store-boughten cardigan of my own, and certainly won't knit the current jacket to be any longer: and we're getting close to the armpits. It won't matter if the gusset is two or four or even six stitches short.

As I write -- but I'm sure things will be different when I post this tomorrow morning -- we are waiting, as we have been for hours, for news of the Hercules transport plane which came down north of Baghdad today. It happened nearly seven hours ago, as I write, and details seem remarkably scarce. Tony's appearance on television to applaud the Iraqi election revealed that he knows what we don't know, and his costume seemed distinctly subdued. We shall see. The quiet seems ominous. Lots of people must know exactly who and exactly what was on that plane.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

My new alpaca Posted by Hello


My week of Knitlist moderation is over!

I got the above wonderful picture from CT yesterday of the new wonderful handpainted alpaca. I can hardly wait. It looks as if I have two different shades -- I had forgotton that I asked for that. If so, I will return to my idea of shadow ribbing, I guess you might call it, a fisherman's rib technique, dead easy, using two yarns so that one rib is in one colour and the other, on the other side, in the other colour. Not clear. I'll return to the subject when I get the yarn.

And I'll have the perfect excuse (a May deadline) to stop whatever I'm doing and knit the scarf at once, a rare treat.

Knitter's Magazine finally turned up yesterday. You will remember that I was recently urged to re-subscribe, in a message sent to this address but aimed at someone named Linda Peterson. Sure enough, the subscriber ID on the renewal notice was not mine, either. I think I'll go on waiting. I've still got two issues to come.

My reaction to the magazine was rather the opposite of the way VK affected me. I received it with cries of joy, but there's nothing there for me. I do like my friend Janis Witkins' hat design, though, and may even attempt it. She says it was originally designed for Koigu, and I would certainly use that if I do have a go at it.

We'll be going to the country on Monday, so I can start the striped Koigu sweater for daughter Rachel.


Friday, January 28, 2005

Progress with the jacket Posted by Hello

A reader complains that you've had nothing to look at but a haggis for too long. True. It's been a long, hard week on the Knitlist (my duty ends with today). I'm thinking of quitting.

Here's the latest on the Fair Isle jacket. I think the photograph shows how the colours are settling down -- so much so that perhaps I ought to put in another stripe of pink or the bright blue at some point just so the discrepancy isn't too marked. In the corner of the picture you can see the poor old Ribwarmer. I have decided to get the jacket as far as the armpits -- not long to go, now -- and at that point resume the tedium of ribwarmer-binding.

My sister reports that my handpainted alpaca from Honey Lane Farm has arrived -- in CT; I won't see it for another month or more. It's to be a skinny ribbed scarf as a graduation-from-law-school present for nephew Theo's girfriend Kristin. Alpaca is sheet chocolate to knit, of course, and I'm greatly looking forward to it. My sister will bring it when she whizzes through London on her way to Africa in late February. Meanwhile I'll try to get a picture.

My seeds have started to arrive. Oh, happiness! We're going to the country on Monday, probably for the week, not that it will be possible to do anything yet. One of the things I did last year, in my constant search for something to eat before July, was to sow some turnips (the small, round, white watery ones, I mean, not the delicious big yellows) which one is said to be able to eat the leaves of. I presume that means there will be new leaves in the spring. They were sown late in the summer, rather thickly. Came up fine. The leaves are now lying flat on the ground looking miserable but at least the deer didn't eat them. I discovered in a foodie magazine yesterday that turnip leaves are called cime di rape and this news has filled me with hope and enthusiasm for my crop.

The new VK has turned up (but still no Knitter's). One recoils in horror, as usual, from a first look, but a more thorough perusal offers some possibilities.


Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Great Chieftan o' the Puddin-race! Posted by Hello


Do you know what that is? It's a haggis. And do you know what today is? The 25th of January.

We didn't go in for this sort of local colour when we lived in Glasgow in the 50's and 60's. I was pleased, indeed, that our youngest child -- Helen, in Thessaloniki -- finished being born on January 24th with half an hour to spare. But now we eat haggis and neeps (quietly at home) with everybody else, and even some whisky with it. A very small quantity of that, in my case. Whisky and I don't agree.

This is my week on duty with the Knitlist. I've already read 94 messages, and it's only half-past eight in the morning. I can't go on like this.

Somebody wrote to tell me that Alice Starmore's "Stillwater" book (which contains the dreaded pattern) is selling for $175 somewhere on the Internet. Does that make me feel a bit better about the weeks wasted on the pattern? No. But perhaps it does make me feel better about spending so much money on knitting.

The Fair Isle jacket inches forward. The ribwarmer, so far, lies where it fell.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Fergus and his brothers Posted by Hello

The Wallaby -- last appearance

We got some pictures from Greece yesterday of grandsons cavorting about the Peloponnese. Here are Archie, Fergus in his Wallaby, an unknown girl, and Mungo. The Wallaby was clearly none too big, to begin with (it has since shrunk to uselessness). I took a course at Stitches East in '02 on Designing for Children, and I remember the techer saying that children, on the whole, grow vertically without expanding much in circumference.

It's interesting in this case. I had been worried that the sweater was too small, but it's clearly fine, round-and-round, just a bit too short. The neckline is on the big side, too. This was one of the ones I calculated on the EPS system, as modified by Meg Swansen. She suggests making the neck 50% of the circumference of the body, for children -- 40%, I think, for adults. Too big is certainly better than those dreadful tussles to pull a too-tight sweater over the head of a patient child, but I think when I knit a duplicate Wallaby I may go down a bit.

I know that Mungo likes his Koigu, but haven't had a report on fit.

Here, the Fair Isle jacket progresses, gussets and all, as I continue to fiddle with the colours.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Me, wearing the Ribwarmer Posted by Hello
The Ribwarmer, from the back Posted by Hello

The Ribwarmer, again

Well, there it is. And although it lay there beautifully while being blocked, there remains something seriously wrong with the lower corners which becomes obvious when one puts it on. I briefly considered trying another, more savage blocking, but soon decided that the only thing is to take out the i-cord edging again. Nobody says I have to replace it, either, but if I do, it'll have to be on much bigger needles. and perhaps with a longer stretch of unattached cord around those corners..

I've laid it aside for a few days while I recxover my temper, though. I've just started the under-arm gussets for the Fair Isle jacket, which gives me a sort of purpose in life, and I want to press on with that for the time being.

No more water through the dining-room ceiling. It's very cold here, but dry and bright and beautiful.


Friday, January 21, 2005

The Games Posted by Hello

Something Completely Different cheer us all up.

Here we are at the Strathardle Highland Gathering last summer. The object of the game is to get up very early in the morning and get one's car into an ace position at the edge of the field, so that food and drink can be dispensed from it all day.

From left to right, my nephew Theo, his girlfriend Kristin deep in conversation with our eldest grandchild, Thomas the Elder; Thomas's sister Lizzie, my husband, _his_ sister holding her grandson Jakob.

Behind Kristin is our daughter-in-law Ketki and her husband Alexander, wearing the old Hong Kong rugby shirt he always wears to the Games, deep in conversation with his brother James (the man who walks through minefields), holding a beer can. James' daughter Kirsty is beside him (between Lizzie and my husband), with her mother Cathy behind her.

Which is by way of saying, no more water has come through the dining-room ceiling, and there's not much doing on the knitting front. I have decided to put gussets under the arms of the Fair Isle jacket, and have less than an inch to go before I start them.

I'm still tinkering with the colours. The nearly-white blush shade is too strong. I won't rip out what I've done, but I don't think I'll repeat it. Likewise the red -- I have substituted a gentler red. And I'm adding another green, and a variegated yellow with green-y tones. We shall see.

I have had a solicitation from Knitter's to come to Camp Stitches, but still haven't got the current magazine. It was correctly addressed, to me, not to Linda Peterson.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

The Fair Isle jacket, so far Posted by Hello

Things Are Looking Up

The plumber came, I am told, and found a cracked pipe. We are now waiting for him to replace it, and the girls upstairs have, I hope, all grasped at last that they musn't have a bath until he does. I have that sort of slightly light-headed feeling one gets when an ugly problem resolves itself. Mrs Carson and I are now on first-name terms.

The Fair Isle jacket progresses. I think even in the picture you can see how the later section is more legible than the earlier, but I still think I was right to go ahead, not rip back to the beginning again. Apart from legibility, I like the overall look of the colors, when I see it lying there in a heap. Sort of peaceful. I don't think even now I'm as far along as I got with the Stillwater pattern before ripping it out. I'm vastly happier.

I've added -- it should appear below, because it really belongs with yesterday's message -- a picture of the ribwarmer being blocked. It's still damp.

I got a renewal invitation from Knitter's the other day, correctly addressed in every respect except that it was sent to "Linda Peterson".  I think I'll wait at least until the current issue shows up (with my friend's hat pattern in it), to see how that's addressed. Surely it can't be long now. Is the "customer number" on the recent message mine or Linda's?

Helen in Thessaloniki points out, a propos the news that her brother James has walked through a minefield, that this is the same man who gave serious consideration to spending the Christmas holiday in Phuket. They had been to Thailand last year and had a nice time. I feel a superstitious twinge about the tendency of things to happen in threes. Does he have an appointment in Samarra?


The ribwarmer, being blocked Posted by Hello

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


We seem to be having less and less knit-content....

I felt quite pleased with our day, in the early evening yesterday. I  blocked the ribwarmer, and it looks great. We had a routine hospital appointment at the diabetic clinic for my husband, and he's doing fine. Blood-sugar control good, no problems revealed by the annual eye-test -- blindness being one of the many disagreeable possible side-effects of his condition.

We heard from Mrs Carson, who has secured a plumber for this morning. In the mean time, she has told the girls not to use the bath. They have a shower somewhere else, so they shouldn't suffer too much.

I got some ironing done.

But at nine, I discovered that the newspaper under the Trouble Spot was wet again. I phoned upstairs. Oh, yes, somebody _had_ had a bath, she didn't know she wasn't supposed to.

When Mrs Carson and I were having a similar tussle some years ago about drips into our kitchen, I waited far too long before insisting that she take her kitchen floorboards up and find the trouble. In the mean time, I kept running up and down stairs and questioning the then-tenants about what they had just been doing, every time the drips fell. At one point, I remember saying to our nice lawyer (he's now in jail), "They seem to be sober and responsible young people." And he said, "There's no such thing."

I had a nice note of sympathy from Ann yesterday, about water problems. It's very mysterious stuff. I'm, if anyone wants to email me. Or send a comment and include your own email address in the body of it. I hate not being able to answer people, which is what happens with comments for some reason.

The Fair Isle jacket is coming along very well. Another picture soon. Mungo in Thessaloniki is delighted with his Koigu jumper.

Our son James is the Beijing correspondent of the Economist magazine. The current issue has a survey of Taiwan by him, actually identified by name. One section of it is about Kinmen Island, which I had never heard of. It is a small island near the mainland, belonging to Taiwan. One of my maxims is that it is impossible to worry retrospectively, but when I read the following paragraph yesterday, I sort of changed my mind:

""The island could be a huge attraction for mainlanders, 1,000 of whom already board boats every day simply to sail close and gawp at one of the giant slogans put up many years ago by Taiwanese troops: 'Unite China with the Three Principles of the People' -- the philosophy espoused by Sun Yat-sen and adopted by the KMT. If they set foot on Kinmen, however, they are in danger from poorly marked minefields, if they stray off the roads, as your correspondent discovered after walking throiugh one by mistake."


Monday, January 17, 2005

Mrs Carson

Last night I caught water in the very act of dripping through my dining room ceiling. I have covered the chest under the Fatal Spot with newspaper, and the drips made a very audible quick staccato-sound. I phoned the young ladies upstairs. Someone, indeed, had just had a bath. She hadn't used the shower-head, and hadn't splashed (I was told), so the fault must be somewhere in the plumbing.

Earlier in the day, I had succeeded in actually speaking to the owner of the flat. As I feared, she doesn't employ a letting agent. We go back quite a way, Mrs Carson and I -- the last time this happened, she did have an agent -- it simplifies the transaction enormously, from my point of view. But I had guessed from the upper-class arrogance of both tenant and landlord that this time she might be letting, even, to a daughter and her mates, and therefore thought she could do without an agent -- since they cost, and the only inconvenience would be to me. None of the young ladies has "Carson" for a surname, but that proves nothing, these days.

She will get onto it, she said, and get back to me. I phoned her again when I caught the drip in action, just to keep her au fait with events. Watch this space.

When I write about our country neighbours, I avoid mentioning names, and I am stingy with the names of the village and the glen, just in case the neighbour should be addicted to Google. MRS CARSON, however, is welcome to read every syllable of this. I suspect she's not a Google'r.

The Ribwarmer

It's finished. It looks really good. The new peripheral i-cord is still slightly tight, so I think I will block it. Perhaps when it's dry I'll get my husband to take a picture of me wearing it.

Other Knitting

I sorted out the yarn, the needles, the pattern-aids today for the striped Koigu sweater like Jamie's which I mean to knit for my daughter. They're in "the box" to go to the country with us next time. Pattern-aids being my own pattern for Jamie's sweater, Meg Swansen's issue of "Woolgathering" devoted to Elizabeth's Percentage System, and the book "Knitting Great Basics" by Vicky Square which consists pretty well entirely of schematics with matching stitch-numbers.

I don't think I mentioned that I was wandering around John Lewis recently, partly in search of the annual Kitchen Item which I like to buy myself in January. I failed on that one -- too much choice -- but bought ANOTHER four skeins of Debbie Bliss' "Maya". This will probably be a straight-up-and-down v-necked vest, also for self. But the ourchase reveals a certain weakness of character.

But I've now got the famous alien scarf pattern, done in shadow-knitting. It derives from the Stitch 'n Bitch book, but was reprinted in the Guardian last week. I'm keen to do that for an alien-loving grandson.


Indulge a proud mother:

Saturday, January 15, 2005

"How Very Stressful"

My republican sympathies deepen. When you next hear from me, it will probably be from the barricades.

I discovered yesterday morning that water has been coming down from the flat above through our dining room ceiling. This has happened before, over the years, and I had been suspicious, a week ago, that it was happening again. Don't be paranoid, I said to myself. This morning, there was no doubt.

I went upstairs and spoke to the tenants, young ladies with proper accents. They were all sitting around the kitchen table when I arrived, with friends, and a laptop computer. The leading youing lady took me to see the bathroom, whence, I suspect, the trouble stems -- and one of the ones remaining at the table spoke the line above, "How very stressful", as we left the room.

They gave me their telephone number, which I can ring if I can catch water in the act; and also the owner's. I rang her, and spoke to her cook, also very proper of accent. Mrs Carson is out on a shoot, she said. A movie star? I wondered. No -- field sports. I left our phone number. She didn't phone. She had a big dinner on that evening, the cook said, and no doubt she needed a shower after a day in the field.

To be continued...

The Ribwarmer

I tried it on yesterday, and the tight peripheral i-cord felt like a garotte. So I didn't wait for blocking; I took it out right away, and got a good two-thirds of the way around on the second attempt. I've got the right needle size this time, I think. I love the yarn (Debbie Bliss' "Maya".) It's like having a tabby cat in my lap.

The Ribwarmer Posted by Hello
Jamie in his Koigu sweater Posted by Hello

Ribwarmer, Koigu

Janis asks to see a pic of my new Koigu. I'm afraid it's just a dozen skeins of black, to let me duplicate grandson Jamie's sweater for daughter Rachel. I offer instead another pic of Jamie in his sweater, taken on Christmas day during the present-opening session in the afternoon. Behind him you can see my husband, on the left, and Jamie's mother Ketki holding her second son, Thomas the Younger, who is wearing his Baby Surprise. I mean to do exactly the same thing for Rachel's sweater -- five row stripes alternating black and all the Koigu colours I can lay my hands on.

One more evening should finish the ribwarmer. I got it assembled last night, and i-corded almost all the way around one armhole. It remains to be seen whether blocking will smooth it out a bit, or whether I'll need to take out the i-cord which goes around the periphery and re-do it on a larger needle.

Janis is encouraging on the subject of eating pea-shoots. I saw something about it again in a foodie magazine yesterday -- Sainsbury's is selling them, with the peas still attached. So perhaps I could grow them on the windowsill and save precious garden space.

I have been fretting about Prince Harry and his swastika. There was a brilliant, Tacitean story in the Times yesterday about it. Harry and William and a hooray-Henry silly-upper-class-twit of a friend, named Mr Pelly I think, went together to a costume shop a few days before the party. Harry chose the costume we all know, William went as a leopard, and Mr Pelly elected to go as the Queen. On the night, hey all went together to the party, where Mr Pelly entertained the guests by making a speech in the Queen's silly voice.

And what the article didn't need to say, and didn't say, was that a) neither William nor Mr Pelly saw anything wrong with Harry's choice of costume and b) neither William nor Harry said to Mr Pelly, I'd rather you didn't make fun of my grandmother.

It's enough to turn one republican. Small-R.




Friday, January 14, 2005

Home Again, Again

We're back. Our village got off lightly in the storms this week. My husband lost a larch tree, and the lights flickered so ominously that evening that we got the candles out, but they weren't needed. We were lucky. All the rest of the glen, downhill from our village to the point where our river loses its identity in the next one, lost power and were still without it yesterday, two days later.

I finished the basic knitting of the ribwarmer, and have brought it back for finishing-finishing. I'm edging it with attached i-cord, perhaps too tight, but it looks very neat. It's not as awful a job as it sounds, either, probably because the work never has to be turned. Certainly much more fun than knitting the dreaded ribbed button band for a cardigan. "Work until the band, slightly stretched, reaches..." That one. I've never mastered knit-back-backwards. I can do it, but I don't like it, so when that unpleasant chore presents itself, there's nothing for it but to turn and turn again.

Sad news from Thessaloniki. This from our son-in-law:

"Fergus looked marvellous in his pullover.  Neither of us think that any item of clothing has ever suited him better and he wore it continuously while clambering over Mycenae, Tiryns, Epidavros during our recent trip down south. It somehow enhanced his boyishness. Very tragically it has met with a disaster in that it has shrunk to half its size.  To be direct on the issue, is there any chance of another one?  This one will not go to waste as Helen intends to send it to Alexander for baby Thomas but we would love another one sometime.  Our washing machine has a habit of being hotter than its settings so it might be a good idea to make it for a 4-5 year old to allow for shrinkage."

That's the Wallaby, of course.The yarn is supposed to be machine-washable at 40 degrees.  I bought a pack of it -- Rowan 4-ply Soft -- in the Liberty sale last summer, and so I now have left-overs too few for any major project but too many to ignore. No better use could be made of them than to knit Fergus another, larger Wallaby. What shall I tell them to do with Mungo's Koigu sweater, washing-wise?

While we were away, the package of dark Koigu arrived from which will form the background for our daughter Rachel's striped sweater. That'll be the next country project.

Last night I sank gratefully back into knitting the Fair Isle jacket, but for the next few days, I think the thing is to alternate evenings between that and ribwarmer-finishing.

The deer have been down and finished off my kale. It really is no use trying to have any greens standing through the winter, without deer-fencing, and I shall abandon the attempt. I finished my seed orders while we were there, and sent them off, and look forward, as one does in January, to a golden year with no frost after May 15 and no weed suffered to gain a foothold. I read somewhere that some supermarket was selling pea-shoots -- baby plants about four inches high -- as a stir-fry vegetable. I have some left-over pea seed from last year, and will certainly try that. Some things, and peas figure on that very short list, actually like to grow in cool, damp Strathardle.



Sunday, January 09, 2005

The Knitting Year, 2004


Here's the promised summary of the year...

We're off to the country today, so silence falls until later in the week. No computer there, the Debbie Bliss "Maya" ribwarmer to knit.

The Year's Knitting

This is my NINTH annual summary of the year's knitting. The previous ones have been posted to the Knitlist (and also printed and saved), but I think my discursive style is better suited to this medium than to the new, leaner, fitter Knitlist.

I bought or was given 52 balls or skeins of yarn this year, and knit or gave away 102 -- a personal best. You wouldn't think it to look in the cupboard. I was surprised to note that the yarn-out total is divided precisely equally: 51 knit, 51 given away.

I own 22 pairs of unknit socks. There's one (just started) on the needles,of course. I finished only four pairs this year. I realised, belatedly, only this year that Stahl, the makers of Socka Colors, have merged with someone with the result that the dark, manly variegated Socka Color shades I love are for the most part available no longer. I put out an appeal on the Knitlist and acquired some skeins by purchase or exchange, and others as gifts from dear friends. Some of my acquisitions are only two balls each, and I prefer to knit gents' socks long in the leg, which requires half of a third ball. So some people will have to have toes of a different color, from the oddball bag. The current pair, for Grandson Thomas the Elder, will be such a pair, of a gorgeous dark bronze Lang Jawoll yarn.

This was the year of Koigu, for me, and of Elizabeth Zimmermann, in particular Elizabeth's Percentage System (EPS), the system she devised devised for constructing a sweater.

Stash Reduction

A Dr Who scarf of Shetland jumper-weight oddballs

A "shape-it" scarf for myself from "The Knit Stitch" by Sally Melville, of some very old yarn called Jaeger "Winter Ribbon". Love the scarf.

The "Round Trip" jacket in Noro Kureyon, from the pattern in Knitter's Magazine, Fall, 2003. The yarn was bought in November, 2003 so only just qualifies as "stash" -- the technical definition of which is, any yarn owned and not on the needles on the night of 31 December/January 1 of any year.

A moebius scarf for myself in luscious alpaca from Honey Lane Farms (www.honeylanefarms,com), a gift from Gail Roger in 2003.

A striped Koigu sweater for my grandson James, from my extensive Koigu stash. The pattern is on my website,

A shawl for (as it proved) my new grandson Thomas the Younger, of Lorna's Laces Helen's Lace in the shade "Watercolour". This project involved finishing a whole skein of Helen's Lace -- a serious achievement. I did that in 2003, too.

A striped Koigu sweater for nephew Theo, from my extensive Koigu stash. EPS.

A striped Koigu, sort of a scaled-down version of Theo;s, for grandson Mungo, because he admired Theo's in the making. Another EPS. Finished on the last day of the old year.

Stash Reduction in Progress

I'm working on a Fair Isle jacket for daughter Rachel from my extensive Shetland jumper-weight stash.

Yarn Bought Within the Year and Promptly Knit

The Harmony jacket, a Candace Eisner Strick design from I did it in a child's size to enter in the "child's cardigan" class in the Home Industries Tent at the Strathardle Highland Gathering in August. I thought I was guaranteed a gold, but it was unplaced. My family still think I wuz robbed, but that's because they are admiring the pattern rather than judging the knitting. It fit granddaughter Rachel fine, and she seems to like it.

The "striped fringe" scarf from a recent issue of Interweave Knits -- Winter '03? The yarn is Louet Gems Merino, the same as the Harmony jacket... I used leftovers from both to knit a Baby Surprise for grandson Thomas the Younger.

A Wonderful Wallaby for grandson Fergus in some Rowan 4-ply Soft which I bought in the summer in the Liberty sale. The design had to be re-thought for the finer yarn, and once I had the wallaby pouch finished I abandoned the pattern altogether and retreated to EPS.

Prompt Knitting in Progress

I fell for some Debbie Bliss "Maya" in November, a month when my resolve is at its lowest. It's currently my country knitting, taking shape as an EZ ribwarmer.

Stash Enhancement

Two skeins of Lorna's Laces "Helen's Lace" in the shade "Pioneer". I intended it for Thomas the Younger's shawl, but decided it was too gloomy for baby-wear. It's a wonderful shade, though, so I hope I'll knit it this year.


Saturday, January 08, 2005

Fair Isle jacket -- note steek Posted by Hello

Return to the Fair Isle

We're cruising along. I decided yesterday, however, that I'm going to change horses in midstream despite traditional recommendations against.

Up to now, I've been working with nine colours, letting each one run for three rows and never changing both pattern and background colours on the same row. The balls of yarn are all lined up, and as each change comes, I pick up the next colour that presents itself. That means (since I'm working with an odd number) that any particular colour appears alternately as pattern and as background.

Does that make any sense?

I don't entirely mind the effect, but I don't think this arrangement contributes anything, either. So I have divided the colours into a pattern group and a background group and will proceed like that. There are different numbers in the two groups (I threw in a couple of extra colours while I was at it) so the colours will change in relation to each other -- unlike the earlier arrangement -- and of course in both arrangements they change in relation to the pattern.

I'll have to do several inches more before it will become clear whether the change from one system to the other is too violent. The colours are the same, the pattern is the same -- there will clearly be a difference, but I hope an acceptable one.

Meanwhile I am working on a summary of the knitting I did in 2004. I do this every year -- this one will be the ninth. I print them out and keep them in my FO file and frequently re-read with interest. Talk about solipsistic.


Friday, January 07, 2005

Rachel in her scarf Posted by Hello


Today's picture is irrelevant and meant to be cheerful. It was taken a whole year ago, in Beijing, and shows granddaughter Rachel in her DrWho scarf.

I heard from Thessaloniki yesterday. They have all been spending the holiday week rampaging around the Peloponnese and seeing some interesting things. Helen wrote: "I took a picture of Fergus with his orange hair in his orange jumper under an orange tree. There is nothing sweeter than a small boy in a home knit." That's the recent wallaby, of course. Alas, she doesn't have a digital camera so we will have to wait a fair while to see the picture.

I think by tomorrow the Fair Isle jacket will have made enough progress that I can reasonably photograph it again.




Thursday, January 06, 2005

Mungo's Koigu sweater -- finished Posted by Hello

Somewhat More Cheerful

The obituary for my daughter's friend Robin Needham who perished in the tsunami is at It's very touching.

I am irritated at my former hero Colin Powell for saying (on more than one occasion) that American relief efforts would show the Muslim world how nice Americans can be. This ain't a political or religious matter, mister. It's a question of human beings. I think maybe what he actually saw yesterday will shut him up on that theme. I hope so. When Clinton bombed the Serbs on behalf of the Muslims of Bosnia, he might have said the same thing, but had the wit not to.

Yesterday I solved the problem of how to get documents into an old Palm. The day before that I solved the anxieties caused by the odd behaviour of my computer by applying the Ultimate Cure -- I turned it off and turned it on again. All is well.

The Fair Isle jacket proceeds nicely. I'm confident that the pattern is legible, less so, that I like the effect. It's pleasant knitting, though. I've nearly finished the first pattern repeat. Vertical symmetry is beginning to kick in -- that is, on the way down I'm knitting the same rows over again, that I knit on the way up. The real killer with Stillwater was when I finished an entire pattern repeat, 62 rows I think, and started on the next one, and realised that things were never going to get even moderately easier.

Mungo's Koigu began its journey to Thessaloniki yesterday. I think I'll have that for today's illustration. (Illustrations go up after text, so as to come out on top.)


Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Is it legible? Posted by Hello

2005 Gets Started

These ramblings have been too long unillustrated. Above, I hope, is a picture of the newly re-commenced Fair Isle jacket. The knitting is now -- being symmetrical -- pleasant and fast. The issue is whether what I am doing with the colours will result in a legible pattern, or just confusion. It's far too soon to tell.


I spent much of yesterday wrestling with the problem of how to get a lot of documents loaded into a not-quite-state-of-the-art Palm Pilot. I have not succeeded. and my dear computer has become slightly odd and very much slower as a result of the attempt. Poof.

There is a truly excellent article about Einstein in the current issue of the Economist -- tackling head-on Winnie-the-Pooh's immortal question, "Tell me, somebody, what did he do?" I was glad to see that our near neighbour (although not, of course, contemporary) James Clerk Maxwell was included in the discussion. I have never even begun to understand what he did.

It is good to be reminded that there are, occasionally, still differences between Britain and the US. If Tony Blair had set up a group to coax more money out of us for tsunami victims -- consisting, say, of John Major and the Prince of Wales, because I can't think of any other ex-Prime Ministers who are both alive and compos mentis -- he would have been laughed, or hissed, off-stage. I'm thinking, of course, of Bush's little performance yesterday involving Clinton and his father.

The news that Guantanamo Bay prisoners may be kept forever is truly chilling. I read the definition of habeas corpus in Webster's International Dictionery yesterday, almost in tears.



Monday, January 03, 2005


Again yesterday morning, my modem quietly dropped the line with the result that five or six deathless paragraphs proved to be nothing of the sort. I'm composing this in an off-line program called BlogJet, which gives me, I think, a spar to hang on to. I didn't try to reconstruct the morning's work right away, being too cross.

I began, I remember, by saying that sometimes when I log on to Queer Joe and discover that he hasn't written anything, I feel a sort of sense of relief. I haven't missed anything, and I don't need to read on. So maybe it's just as well that I've missed a couple of days here.

I finished Mungo's sweater in the dying hours of the old year. I'm now resuming the erstwhile Fair Isle jacket, formerly Starmore's "Stillwater" pattern, now ripped back to the ribbing and re-commenced in a traditional, symmetrical pattern. It's going better than Stillwater did. It remains to be seen how the colours are working.

Mary Hughes-Thompson's Koigu site is, apparently without the "www" bit. My dark Koigu is speeding eastwards already, she says.

I have discovered at the same time (must have been Saturday, in both cases) as receiving a request for a knitted present to mark a graduation in the summer. Honey Lane Farms does hand-dyed alpaca of great beauty and considerable expense, but a scarf won't take much.


James writes from Beijing that their Christmas holiday in Thailand last year (meaning, '03) was on the other side of the country. They seriously considered Phuket for this year but decided to face up to the horrors of a traditional Christmas instead. Beijing even provived the snow.

Our daughter Rachel lost two friends in the disaster, one of them of long standing, a visit-each-other's-houses-godparent-to-each-other's-children sort of friend. what the ancient Romans called hospes. He worked for CARE USA in Thailand. Rachel was worried when we were in London last week, in the sort of apotropaic way one worries about one's friends when they are anywhere near anything bad. But when emails, uncharactertisically, went unanswered, she went to the CARE website and found his obituary. Robin Needham. The rest of the family are safe, and have been evacuated.