Thursday, June 30, 2005

The current state of Thomas-the-Younger's sweater Posted by Hello

Well, there it is. I reached the armpits, although I didn't advance beyond that point. I like the way it's looking, perhaps even better than the black-background prototype.

There is an intellectual excitement about knitting the Princess Shawl edging which makes ordinary knitting, even with Koigu, seem banal. The Princess continues to move forward -- I'm doing better with my funny eyes than I would have thought possible, and that lifeline is moving down, away from the needles.

The missing Katcha Katcha never did turn up, so I've resurrected an old, broken Peg It board with most of its pegs missing. It has, in fact, only four, but that's enough to count the 20 rows of the pattern and also to record how many repeats have been achieved. It would be such a shame to knit 87 of them when I only need 85. I positively enjoy moving a peg after every row, whereas clicking the Katcha was just for-the-record.

An interesting, but not surprising, thing I have noticed about the striped Koigu: on Jamie's one, and the adult-sized one I am doing for Rachel in the country, there is a very strong visual illustion that the coloured stripes are broader than the near-black background ones. This time, it's the other way around: the background stripes seem broader.

Other bloggers have much more interesting lives. Maybe next week when Edinburgh is being torn apart by anarchists I will have something of more general interest to write about.






Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I still haven't reached the armpits on Thomas-the-Younger's striped Koigu. I don't feel it deserves a picture. Maybe tomorrow.

We gave our daughter Rachel a basic digital camera for her birthday last week. She is the mother of Thomas-the-Elder (and others), and will be going to his graduation from Cambridge on Friday. If our son Alexander, her brother (father of Thomas-the-Younger and another), can spare her an hour's instruction before then, we may have a graduation picture here soon.

The eye situation continues good. I find I can knit the Princess Shawl edging with not much more difficulty than before. So I got a bit of that done yesterday, too. When did eye implants become possible? I have been vaguely aware of medical advances over the years -- indeed, was acquainted with the man who invented ultrasound scanning for babies. He was Professor of Gynecology at Glasgow University. He didn't invent the mechanics of it; he saw it being applied in shipbuilding, which used to be a great thing in Glasgow, and realised that it would be useful for babies. In my day -- our youngest is 42 -- there was nothing but x-ray which by then they had the sense to use very sparingly.

But plastic eyes? I missed that one altogether, and I must say, I'm impressed.

The new IK astonished me by turning up here yesterday. I'm not terribly taken with anything on a first flip-through, although there's a little striped skirt that I was briefly tempted to try to sell to a granddaughter. Who has time to knit little striped skirts?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Eyes and Things (such as knitting)

I am walking around without glasses for the first time since quite early childhood. Not that I can see all that well without them. I experimented yesterday with an eye patch -- if I covered the good eye, maybe the old one could then function with its glasses on. If I covered the bad eye, maybe the good eye would be happier on its own. While I was fussing about with this project, I snapped the elastic against my expensive new eye. It was an instant of utter terror, followed by several hours of anxiety, but all seems well. I have put patch and glasses away and we'll just totter on like this. The sooner the second cataract can be done and proper glasses issued, the better.

I unpinned the Princess edging and, not easily, got it back on the needles. Progress was then further complicated by the mysterious disappearance of my Katcha Katcha -- the vital holder of the current row-count. I figured it out, I think, and knit three rows, not without difficulty. I plan to go on like that, a few rows a day, just so as not to forget the pattern. I have left in the thread I put the stitches on for dressing, as a life-line. Although one I sincerely hope I will never have to clutch.

Thomas-the-Younger's striped Koigu progresses. Today I should reach the point where I divide for front and back.


Our son James, who lives in Beijing, has been camping recently with his son Alistair, at Xanadu. I have an anthropologist friend who has done some work at Timbuctoo, but I did not know until just now that Xanadu was a real place as well. Alistair said that camping was more fun at Kirkmichael  -- certainly the first time in human history that Strathardle has been compared to Xanadu in any respect -- let alone, favourably.

Everybody says how fresh colours look after a cataract operation, and it is true, but I am even more struck by the surface texture of things -- the ply of yarn, pixels on the computer screen, gunge in the kitchen, the grain of the wood of the tea-tray.


Monday, June 27, 2005

Thomas' striped Koigu -- we're nearly to the armpits Posted by Hello


All seems to have gone well, and the experience of private medicine, except for the absence of chilled white wine, was delicious. The new eye is much better than the old one, and they are not cooperating very well yet, with the result that I can't actually see very well, but otherwise everything is fine. Thank you, everybody, for good wishes.

I agonised all day Friday about what knitting to take in -- my usual waiting-room socks, or Thomas-the-Younger's striped Koigu? In the end I took both, and a book. I couldn't read, as things turned out, and didn't knit the sock, but I got a lot done on Thomas' sweater while I waited for the doctor to turn up and release me yesterday. Koigu was a particularly delicious yarn to exercise a post-cataract eye on.

Do Dhillon said he learned to knit at school. Garter squares, to be sewn into blankets for Africa. He thought at the time that that was an odd continent to dispatch woollen blankets to. He was at school in Leicester, and is roughly coeval with our children, who also went to school there, but nobody taught them to knit.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Only 79 edging repeats to go! Posted by Hello

Thomas the Elder

I don't know why we had that big gap after the headline in yesterday's Blog. Were they waiting for a picture of Andy Murray? Will it happen again today?

Today's news is that Thomas the Elder got a first. There's no doubt at all that he was in utterly genuine distress over that examination paper on which His Question didn't turn up. And he hasn't got this far in life without sitting some pretty important exams along the way -- he never made an unreasonable amount of fuss about them before. Never mind. It happened. Joy is unconfined.

Princess Shawl

There it is, above, with my original attempt beside it, for comparison. Gauge is now just about perfect. Again yesterday I did  nearly two repeats. I can now manage intermittent short bursts of conversation, and television (unwatched, of course) in the background. That simplifies life. I gather from the Heirloom Knitting list that the yarn isn't offered for sale yet on Sharon's website, but it came with a perfectly normal-looking Hairloom Knitting ballband on it and I feel sure that by the distant time when I need more, it'll be there.


The current magazine turned up here yesterday, rather more promptly than usual. Zilch, I would say, except for a useful-looking article about coillars and a first-rate Perri Klass. That thing on the back cover looks remarkably clapotis-like, although I can see that it's different, and has a head hole. Chicken? Egg? Or just an idea whose time has come?


The operation is scheduled for this afternoon, and I will stay in the hospital overnight. Will I get a glass of chilled white wine with my supper, do you think? I should be back here in Drummond Place tomorrow morning. You can start worrying if a new blog entry hasn't turned up by Tuesday. 


Friday, June 24, 2005

Andy Murray

I've been enjoying Wimbledon since the teen-aged sensation of the year was named John McInroe. Yesterday was a good day, although it's disconcerting to find the current hero appreciably younger than one of my grandchildren. Thomas-the-Elder will be 21 this summer, Andy Murray is only 18.

The Princess Shawl coming along very nicely. No disasters yesterday, and I did the better part of two whole repeats. At that rate, I could actually finish the edging this year! I'll dress and photograph it tomorrow. The cataract surgery isn't until the afternoon, so I should have plenty of time to do that and to get a picture up.

I wouldn't quite say I am on top of the pattern, but I'm definately coming along side it. In most cases, now, I can look at the chart before I start the row, and then sit back and knit right across without further peering. That speeds things up, and makes it much pleasanter.

I was astonished (and so were other lace knitters) to learn, when Sharon's wonderful book came out, that when you're knitting garter stitch with fine yarn, it doesn't matter which direction decreases lean in. In other words, the symbols / and \ in the chart can both be treated as k2tog. (Or SSK) That helps a lot, too. On the whole, I'm doing directional decreases out of habit, but sometimes when it's hard to get hold of the two stitches, I switch for convenience to whichever one works. And she's right, of course -- the appearance of the fabric isn't affected at all.

My sister suggested in an email yesterday that when her son Theo gets married, perhaps his bride could wear this shawl. That's an exciting thought (assuming he doesn't intend to take a wife this year or next) -- I might actually get to see it in action.

Striped Koigu

I made reasonable progress with the ribbing, too, until the tennis got to be so exciting that I couldn't do even that. I get to stay in the BUPA hospital overnight after my eye is done, so I'll take it along (rather than the current sock).

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Today is our daughter Rachel's 47th birthday. She was born in a Glasgow hospital and when they came round with the newspapers I bought an Express. I have it still. I looked up the horoscrope of my new baby and it said, "Not a day you will remember." That's worthy of the Delphic Oracle.

THREE kind people left comments about the tammy. Many, many thanks. Normally, as faithful readers will know, I don't log on when we are in the country. The computer there is for my husband's work, and never connecting to the internet seems to me the surest way to keep it virus-free.  But on the Fourth Saturday of August the house will be full of people with high-powered portables and wi-fi and bluetooth and God knows what, and I will make use of one of them to log on to Blogger and tell you the fate of the tammy.

And Daisy wrote directly ( to suggest coloured Boye circulars for the Princess shawl, because of the way the stitches will show up against the colours. I am very grateful for the suggestion, and am earnestly pursuing a source. I will order long circulars in both 2mm and 2.25 sizes.

Striped Koigu for Thomas-the-Younger

I didn't get much done yesterday. I must at least finish the ribbing before my cataract is done on Saturday.

Princess Shawl

That, on the other hand, moves forward nicely in the gossamer yarn. I've done three repeats but won't dress it yet because I can't bear to give it up, even for a few hours.

After the first two repeats, I decided that the result really was going to be slightly smaller than Sharon's prototype, so I thought I'd do the third repeat on a 2.25mm needle just to see. Well, that needle is dull grey and not as sharp as my nice shiny Chinese 2mm so things progressed not quite as well, but I stuck at it and suddenly, inexplicably found myself in the middle of a major disaster. I still can't understand what went wrong. It was not easy to recover any sort of locus standi. Apart from the obvious problems, the yarn sort of sticks to itself and is hard to unravel.

You'll be able to see the faulty bit clearly when I finally dress and photograph it. Meanwhile I went back to the nice Chinese needle and all is going well again. Maybe it doesn't really matter if my shawl is only eight feet across the top instead of nine.


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

New beginnings Posted by Hello


I am to have the first cataract done on Saturday -- great news. I had given up hope that it could be so soon, not having heard anything from Dr Dhillon on Monday. The following two Saturdays are less convenient, as various friends will be coming and going, and on July 2 anyway Edinburgh will be in chaos for the G8. And July 16 is so far away I might almost have stayed with the NHS. Anyway, Saturday it is.

Princess Shawl

Sharon was as good as her word -- a ball of her gossamer wool arrived in yesterday's post. I cast on at once, and made good progress. I'm not quite sure I enjoy the experience as much as I did with the other yarn. This stuff is like knitting air. But the great thing is, I can do it.

EZ says in one of her books that Shetland cobweb yarn is "unknittable with".  An intolerant remark, I've always thought -- and lady, you ain't seen nuffin.

I've actually gone down a needle size, to 2mm. (Sharon specifies 2.25; I had been using 2.5 with the other yarn.) I have a nifty 2mm circular which I bought in Beijing two years ago -- shiny metal like an Addi Turbo, on which the stitches show up well, and nice and sharp. It'll be funny if I now wind up with a shawl smaller than Sharon's prototype. The trouble is, this needle is too short to take on the entire shawl, so I've only got six or eight months (while I knit the border) to find something as good, but longer.

Like last time, I'll knit three repeats or so and then dress it and we can have a look.

Another striped Koigu

And I also cast on for Thomas-the-Youynger's striped Koigu, having at last dispatched the disliked tammy to FO-land.  It's the perfect antidote to gossamer knitting, the perfect Wimbledon project, and ought to be good for post-cataract knitting, too, if eyesight should be wonky for a while.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The tammy, being blocked on a dinner plate. My entry for the Strathardle Highland Games Home Industries Tent this year: "A hat, any craft" Posted by Hello

I complain so in November -- I shouldn't let this day (of them all) pass without saying how I love the summer light. We live just around the corner from the house in which Robert Louis Stevenson grumbled, in A Child's Garden of Verses, of having to go to bed by day. I'd love to see the summer solstice in Lerwick, which is hundreds of miles further north.


I finished it. I hope I will get it blocked soon, and post a final picture in a couple of hours. It looks OK, I think. It's wonderful to be rid of it. I got half-way with the casting on of a striped Koigu for Thomas-the-Younger.

Princess Shawl

But the real knitting excitement yesterday was that Sharon Miller rang up. Rang me up. I posted a note to the Heirloom Knitting group, referring to yesterday's musings on the Blog about shawl size, since they are always wanting to hear about how our projects are getting along. She was worried that leaving a couple of "feathers" out will distort the shawl and diminish the design (not just in size, I mean). She is going to send me some of her new gossamer wool, which is fine enough to knit the pattern as written.

Under the circumstances, I didn't knit any more of my edging yesterday. I missed it sorely. As soon as the new yarn comes I will cast on and try. It is bone-coloured, she said, not utterly white. That may make it easier to see.

She clearly understood the wrench it would be to abandon even as few as eleven repeats of the edging. And I am still not ruling out the possibility of knitting the shawl as written with the current yarn, and just letting the result be huge. She said she used to do about four points a day, when she was knitting that edging. I doubt if I could ever manage more than two.


Monday, June 20, 2005

My Princess Shawl edging, this morning Posted by Hello

Princess Shawl

The picture shows where we are -- the 12th repeat. This breakneck pace will not be maintained over the next fortnight, for today is the first day of Wimbledon and this is not Wimbledon knitting.

If I persevere -- it'll be months yet before I regard myself as committed -- it will definately be with this yarn (Heirloom Knitting's own 2-ply merino lace) and needle size (2.5 mm). So the resulting shawl, if there ever is one, will be bigger than the big prototype.

I did some calculations yesterday. The first three repeats were dressed, as I think you can see, so I've got a more or less accurate piece to measure and calculate from. Trouble is, the calculations involve square roots, and there's no back-of-the-book to look the answers up in.

My edging is 8.5 cm at the widest point, as against Sharon's 7.5. My repeats are 5.5 cm, hers 5 cm. I think my finished shawl (if I knit it as written) would have a hypotenuse of about 11 feet. Sharon's is nine feet. I calculate my perpendicular measurement, however, to be 65", whereas Sharon's is 64". Could that be right?

The answer is, I think, to forge ahead as I am doing -- I am delighted with the look of the fabric, I'm enjoying the knitting, I'm even beginning to get the hang of the fiendish pattern. At some point in the months ahead, I will do the calculations again. I will also calculate how many edging repeats I would need if I were to take two "feathers" out of the border. The answer is,  about 71 repeats, I think (as opposed to 85) -- I worked it out, but didn't keep my working. When the edging reaches that length, I'll dress it again and measure and then decide whether to reduce the pattern or just let the result be very big.

Bridget Rorem's famous wedding shawl for her daughter, described in Piecework, was about 76" square, she says.


I'm down to the last 4 or 5 rounds, and it's awful. Double-pointed needles and colours everywhere. I've just got to set my teeth and do it. I can, I will, I must, to coin a phrase. The next project-- a striped Koigu for Thomas-the-Younger -- is perfect Wimbledon knitting.

Or I could finish off Thomas-the-Elder's socks. He will graduate from Cambridge next week, and turn 21 in August, so it would be nice to send him some socks. His mother Rachel rang up last night to say that he was in a state of great distress about his final exams, now complete. He was reading history, and the question he was expecting and hoping for, for which he had been preparing for a year, didn't turn up. Modern youth, saddled with debt, needs to worry, I gather. Nobody is going to hire you with a lower second degree, I am told. We should have the actual result soon.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Lettuce and rocket, this morning Posted by Hello


We'll be harvesting lettuce and rocket leaves from the doorstep soon. The picture shows the current state of play.


No date yet for the eye replacement op. Drs at the BUPA (private) hospital vie for operating theatre slots like airplanes queueing to take off, he said, and the booking office wasn't open on Saturday. I'll hear from his secretary early next week. He only operates on Saturdays -- the 25th would therefore be the earliest possible, and I sort of gathered that that wasn't very likely. The Saturday after that, Edinburgh is likely to be fairly paralysed by a preliminary-to-G8 demonstration.

He confirmed my impression that the cataracts are getting worse fairly briskly.

He admired my waiting-room socks (for Thomas-the-elder, nearly finished) and wondered if turning a heel was particularly difficult. This from a man who takes people's eyes apart and puts them together again. It is the sort of things drs say to old ladies, of course.

Princess Shawl

I meant Pythagoras -- the man who is going to help me calculate the finished size -- not Archimedes. I will also want to calculate the length of the line from the point of the right triangle to the middle of the hypotenuse. What's that called? The perpendicular, perhaps. Up to about five and a half feet might be all right -- beyond that it would be trailing on the floor behind the bride and only really appropriate for a wedding in Westminster Abbey. Prince William could do worse than one of my granddaughters, but we can't count on him.

I've finished ten repeats of the edging.It's getting to be more and more fun, and I certainly have no wish to search for another yarn. I'd better put in a marker here. And I hope I'll face up to those calculations for tomorrow.


Since there's only one of me, not much got done on it yesterday. But since I am now decreasing 14 stitches every other round, it's getting smaller fast and will be done soon.

Saturday, June 18, 2005


Today is the day I have an appointment with an Eye Man. (He is named Pofessor Dillon, but spells it with an "h" -- which looks to me like an affectation.) What one gets when one Goes Private, apart from unusual spellings, is promptitude for elective surgery, or so I have always understood. I will be very disappointed if I come back today without a fixed date for my eye replacement, and that in the near future.

Princess Shawl

I'm doing the 9th edging repeat. When I've done 10, I'll photograph it again, and also do some serious calculations concerning size. I would judge from the picture that the shape is essentially a right-angled triangle. I have the data to calculate the eventual length of the equal sides a) if I knit the shawl as written and b), the currently favoured option, if I reduce it in order the achieve the original size with the thicker yarn I am using. And from there I can work out the length of the third size, putting Archimedes to practical use for, I think, the first time in my life. I have forgotton how to calculate square roots -- it involves a certain amount of hit-and-miss, I seem to remember, like long division. But I see that the calculator provided with this computer has a sqrt button.

I am making some mistakes. I think my main difficulty is not being able to anticipate which side of a decrease the YO is going to appear on. I will have plenty of time to give this matter serious thought, if I persevere. Much less peering at the chart will be necessary once I can get my mind around it.


I've started the crown decreases. Not far to go now. I think the single most useful thing anyone has ever told me about knitting, came from Margaret Stove herself: namely, the first stitch a needle enters for any decrease, will be the stitch that winds up on top. I don't think I've ever seen that in print. Knowing it, has saved me hours scrabbling through the books reminding myself which decrease I want for a particular effect. For the tammy, we're using what Starmore calls a "vertical double decrease" -- thus making slightly heavy weather of the fact that the centre stitch of three winds up on top.


Friday, June 17, 2005

Clematis montana Posted by Hello
Broad beans Posted by Hello

I'll mark time with more gardening pictures today.

We've had many an unsuccessful struggle with clematis, but I think we've finally got a montana going on the front of the house. It's been in a year; these are its first flowers. It's growing with enthusiasm -- the last thing my husband said as we got into the car on Tuesday, was that it had reached the gutters. We'll have to attend to it first thing, when we get back.

And here, too, is a picture of some broad beans which actually came up. A second sowing, two days later, same seed packet, but in a sluggier part of the vegetable patch, achieved about 20% germination.

Tam o'Shanter

I read the poem. Sure enough, he's wearing his "gude blue bonnet" -- but there's nothing to explain why he should have given his name to it, up there with the Duke of Wellington and Lord Cardigan.

My own tammy progresses. I've started to decrease, and may even be able to finish it off over the weekend. What a relief that would be.

Princess Shawl

If I knew for sure what the word "Zen-like" means, I might say that this is a Zenlike experience. There is no realistic prospect of finishing in any sort of imaginable future -- of finishing the edging, even, let alone the shawl. The whole pleasure resides in the process, like life itself.

And I am enjoying it. I'm somewhere in the 8th repeat at the moment, more and more resolved to go on with the present yarn. Someone on the Heirloom Knitting list said yesterday that she can't make headway with the #70 crochet cotton prescribed, which rather strengthens my preference.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Rachel's striped Koigu -- latest Posted by Hello


Jen -- wonderful to hear from you. Please email me directly, so that I can reply. I need an "Email Me" button on this Blog.

That's Rachel's Koigu sweater above, my country knitting, with the start of the first sleeve. When I finally finish, I'll post the pattern on my website. The toddler version is already there --- I printed it out and am using it to design Rachel's version, changing the numbers as I go. The next project here is going to be another toddler-sized one, for Thomas-the-Younger's first birthday in November. I have found some improvements I want to make in the smaller version of the pattern -- it's not wrong, but there are bits which could be more clearly expressed.


I'll try to stick to that spelling, the one Starmore uses in the pattern I'm knitting. I pressed ahead grimly last night, for fear I would come to hate the project so that it would stay unfinished. I've got to have something to enter at the Games.

Panela's question a couple of days ago, set me wondering. Why is a tam or tammy so called? The Oxford Dictionary says -- as I had always believed -- that it is named after Tam o'Shanter, the eponymous hero of Burns' poem. So I guess my job for today is to read the poem, to see whether there is any reference to Tam's headgear.

The classic work on the subject is Mary Rowe's book "Knitted Tams". It's a good, comprehensive work, although perhaps a bit thin, since there isn't really a book's worth of things to say about tams. The shape is more or less that of old Scottish bonnets -- as in "...follow the bonnets of Bonny Dundee", a stirring song. Rowe says that Fair Isle tams came in in the 1930's, which would seem likely.

The fun of them lies in those crown decreases (which I haven't reached on mine) when the pattern behaves like a kaleidoscope.

Princess Shawl

To say that I am "inching" forward with the edging of the Princess, would be to give a far more sprightly impression of my progress than I deserve. Moving forward, however, I am. Sharon says on the Heirloom Knitting mailing list that she now has a gossamer wool yarn, finer than the finer-than-cobweb merino which she sells and which I'm using (and which is too big for the pattern, if you remember).

She sent me a skein of something with my order, to try swatching -- that is presumably the new yarn. Also, the very morning last week when we left for the country, the cotton yarn which she herself used for the prototype shawl arrived in the mail. I haven't yet tried either. I continue to like the look of what I'm knitting with the heavier yarn -- ha! heavier! And the fact that, if I persevere, I will have to reduce the pattern, gives me some hope of finishing in my lifetime.

Some designers farm out their designs for others to knit up. Sharon is surely the only woman in the kingdom who could have knit the prototype -- let alone design it.



Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The garden, yesterday Posted by Hello
Potatoes, earthed up Posted by Hello

Safely Back

...and I'm glad I won't be doing that again until I have at least one new eye, but all in fact went well on the driving front.

I got the body of Rachel's striuped Koigu finished, the second shoulder joined, the sleeve increases calculated, and a good start made on the first sleeve. Pic soon.

The news from the garden is less cheerful. In fact I have never been so disappointed, this time of year. This time last year, I was nibbling the firstsalad leaves. This year, no lettuce, no rocket, no carrots, no French beans, and a very poor showing from a number of other things. Saddest, perhaps, the courgettes, boring to eat but such fun to grow. There were two or three seeds under each of the eight plastic bottles you can see in the picture. I have exactly two seedlings. The runner beans, which are meant to climb the tepee behind, aren't all that much better. Three of the eight canes are empty.

I suspect a multiplicity of causes (pace my friend William of Occam). Slugs for the lettuce, cold for the courgettes, maybe even pheasants for the French beans. I planted a whole lot more seeds -- for many things, it's still not too late -- and sprinkled slug pellets with a liberal hand. My sister-in-law and the Prince of Wales would be distressed to hear it, so we won't tell them.

The tatties are looking good. I earthed them up to their green eyebrows, as I won't be seeing them again for a while.

And I cut a lot of grass.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Reply to Pam

A tammy (or tammie -- I seem to spell it differently on different days) is a Tam-o'-Shanter (whatever that means), one of those dinner-plate-type hats with Fair Isle patterning.
The tammy -- first picture Posted by Hello

Princess Shawl

I got a full repeat, and a bit more, of the Princess shawl edging done yesterday. Imagine another five years of blog entries like that one, and you'll see what we've let ourselves in for.

I surmounted the first disaster, too -- the discovery of an errant stitch cavorting merrily downwards. I unravelled three or four rows, got the stitches more or less back on the needle, and succeeded -- that was the hardest part -- in figuring out where I now was and how to proceed. I have never used a "lifeline" in lace knitting -- where you run a contrast thread through the stitches so that if the Worst Happens, you have a known, fixed point to unravel back to. But I think, if I go on with this, it might be a good idea to start doing it when I get to the huge and beautiful border.

I heard from my cyber-friend Janis this morning -- the one who is thinking of doing a Knitalong with me on this thing. She wonders how a bride  would wear it, given that it is a triangle. I think the long top edge would go on the head, secured with a crown of some sort. She also wonders, why not just knit it as written with the larger yarn, and let the result be as large as it wants to? That's an interesting thought. I think I know enough now -- from having dressed the beginning of the edging -- to calculate pretty closely how big that would in fact be. I'll hit the calculator one day soon, and find out. Janis asks that the next time I photograph the edging, I put in some object to provide a sense of scale. Good idea.

Other Knitting news

The tammy proceeds. Picture above. I don't think I could knit the Princess Shawl full time. It's mentally exhausting, in a curious and rather exhilerating sort of way. That may change as I get further into it, and when I have my new eyes installed. Meanwhile, the tammy continues to seem both coarse and boring. I'm glad it won't take long. It should become marginally more interesting when we get to the decreases on the crown. For now, the Fair Isle patterns are so easy as to seem insulting. My fault, for going for a ready-made pattern.

I had a look at the Knitting Curmudgeon ( when I was cruising the knitting blogs yesterday, and found a reference to myself, an honour which stunned me. My friend Selma knows both her and Queer Joe, and says that in real life the Curmudgeon is rather sweet and Joe rather bitchy, in both cases unlike their blogs.


We're off to the country today, to rejoin my vegetables (and the over-grown grass). Blogging should resume next Wednesday, the 15th. I'll be glad to stop wrestling with cobwebs for a while and get back to Rachel's striped Koigu. When we get back here, I will probably have forgotton all I have so far achieved with the Princess border, and have hands too roughened by toil to knit it, anyway.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Thomas and James Posted by Hello

I had trouble surfing my favourite blogs this morning, so maybe I won't be able to post this, either.

There's now some colour in the tammie, and there should be more by tomorrow. For today, we'll have a Grandchild Picture, celebrating Jamie's second birthday. His father Alexander sent three yesterday. I chose this one for publication because it includes my friend Thomas-the-Younger.

Knitting will persumably remain in a quiet groove for some time. I have set myself, vaguely, to do half-a-repeat of the Princess Shawl edging pattern daily. Effectively, forever. I did a full one yesterday. I posted to the Heirloom Knitting group; no response, except that a brave soul in Sweden took me up on  my offer of a cone of Japanese silk. She'll be sorry.


Since going to that movie last week and realising how much worse my sight is than it was the last time we went to a movie, I have been increasingly worried about the irresponsibility involved in driving about when I can't see very well. I've lost count of how many Decisions I have made about this eye thing, but yesterday I made another -- and made an appointment to see an Eye Man privately (and at enormous expense) on the 18th. I hope he will be able to do the operation(s) quite soon thereafter; this month, anyway.

We're going to the country tomorrow (irresponsibly). If we get back alive, that'll be it, effectively, until I get my new eyes. The Thessaloniki daughter and grandchildren will take up residence there in mid-July. Helen will be able to drive down to Edinburgh to fetch us. There should be lots of people about all through August who could do that, and with any luck I'll be back on the road myself by the end of that month.

So that really leaves only the month's gap between mid-June and mid-July, when we normally would have gone up there once for a few days. I must see if I can find anyone to cut the grass -- a month's grace is longer than I care to allow it. The vegetables will have to fend for themselves. I think it's probably just as well to be here in Edinburgh for the G8 summit anyway, to defend one's furniture and one's stash from Geldof and the anarchists.

Monday, June 06, 2005

The Princess shawl, eventually Posted by Hello

Nice, innit? Even in this somewhat fuzzy picture.

Yesterday I took the first three repeats of the Princess shawl edging pattern off the needles and blocked them. I am delighted with the result. I really like this yarn. I like this fabric. Yesterday, too, I broke through some sort of pain barrier, and I like the knitting more and more. Which is not to say that I have become any less slow and clumsy.

Trouble is, Sharon is right of course -- if I go on knitting the pattern as written in this yarn, I'll wind up with something that would cover the Millenium Dome. How many n's in "millenium"?

I think the thing to do is to forge on, however. It is easy enough to calculate that if I knit a mere 70 or 71 repeats of the edging, I will have a strip as long as Sharon got with 85. If I then pick up stitches along the straight edge, I will have enough stitches for nine "feathers" in the beautiful border, instead of Sharon's eleven. So far so good. I can't see any way to take any rows out of the border without desecration, so I'll wind up with a rectangular piece -- there doesn't seem to be any shaping in the border -- rather deeper than designed, but not grotesquely so. As I suspected, most of the discrepancy in the gauge between this yarn and the original, is in the stitch count. The row count is off too, but not nearly as much.

Then the border is ingeniously gathered, and attached to a triangular centre which starts effectively with a single stitch in the absolute centre of the central feather, and widens out. The re-sizing of that might take care of itself -- famous last words -- since I will start with fewer stitches. Finally there's a border across the top.

I will have years to read and re-read the pattern and think about these things as I go along, but go along is what I think I'll do. At least that's what I think this morning. I'll write a post for the Heirloomknitting group to which I belong, and which Sharon reads, so that she can cry out in horror if need be.

Meanwhile the ribbing for the tammy is finished, the crown increases done, and after a few more boring plain rows I should get to start some simple colour stuff today. Picture soon.

Vivat! Senator Biden

...who thinks the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay should be closed down.

What the EU needs, incidentally, is a body like the American Senate -- two or three people elected from each member state, and meeting in open session. At the moment we are run by the Commission which has members appointed by each member state, and which meets in camera.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

My lettuce -- latest! Posted by Hello

The thrilling pace of knitting news in the last few days has subsided somewhat -- except that the new Knitting magazine turned up yestrday, earlier than I expected.

I've got five more rows to do of the third repeat of the Princess edging. Then I think I'll dress it, and will thus I hope be able to offer a picture before we go to the country on Wednesday. I still like the way it looks, but it's tough going. I am beginning to gt a sense of how the pattern works -- that's when one starts to make mistakes, of course -- but it's a titantic struggle for mind and eye and hand. Turning from it to the initial ribbing for the tammy, feels like knitting an overcoat. Shetland jumper weight.

So for todaywe'll have a nice restful picture of the doorstep lettuces and rocket.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Here is the pattern I shall attempt Posted by Hello

I was wandering around, having my usual morning look at favourite blogs, and stumbled through the undergrowth towards this one: It's not about knitting at all, but it's entertaining. Read her profile.


I've finished two repeats of the edging pattern -- only 83 to go. I still like the look of it. I wonder, if I go on, if I'll ever learn the edging pattern? I reflected last night that it's perhaps a bit silly to embark on this without at least trying the yarn that Sharon herself used for the exemplar, given that I revere her above any other British knitter,and that all the world's goods are now available at the click of a mouse. So I ordered a ball, and we'll see. DMC Crochet Cotton #70. Never heard of it, don't like knitting with cotton. But Sharon normally knits with wool, too -- and cotton would be more durable. We shall see.


I realised as soon as I wrote the sentence a couple of days ago, about knitting a Fair Isle tammy, that that was in fact the thing to do. So the Cranberry Squares idea, in Koigu, has been abandoned, a pattern (Starmore, I'm afraid) selected, and odd balls chosen that seemed to bear some relation to her colour words. "Ochre", "dark lavender", that sort of thing. They don't look too bad, standing in a row.

The trouble with struggling on with Cranberry Squares was that, if I did in fact eventually give up, I would have several little squares of Koigu which would have to be abandoned, as the lengths of yarn would be far too short for useful unravelling.  I regard Koigu as I might spun gold, so that seemed a good reason to desist. Tammies are quick and fun.

Lang Leve Nederland

Tineke supplied the words I needed the other day, to express the Dutch equivalent of "Vive la France". Here they proudly are. I am somewhat Dutch myself, having lived more than a third of my long life as Miss Smits. I have a memory, which probably isn't entirely true, of my father and his three brothers sitting silent and grim-faced over the radio, in their mother's house, as news was broadcast of the German invasion in 1940. Did it happen over a weekend? Memory assigns that mental image to a Sunday. Were all four brothers really there? Never mind. Lang leve Nederland.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Finished! Posted by Hello

Still working through yesterday's knitting excitements...

And, indeed, there's one that hasn't been mentioned yet. My order from Heirloom Knitting arrived. With it a note from Sharon saying that she doesn't think the fine merino yarn she sells (of which I had ordered one ball, for testing) will be suitable for the Princess Shawl without alterations to the pattern. "Alterations" meaning "simplifications" -- the yarn is too thick. I sat down and started at once, nevertheless. I used a 2.5 mm needle, coarse by Sharon's standards, fine by mine. Sort of meeting in the middle.

I've done nearly one and a half repeats of the edging. It's not just that I love the yarn,and that (unlike the silk of my first attempt), I can actually do it, but I also like the way that tiny scrap of lace looks, hanging on my needle. The silk just looked like a mess. I think the thing to do is knit four or five repeats and then take it off the needle and dress it and consider the future. Even just smoothing it out on my knee, it's obvious that Sharon is essentially right -- the row tension is not bad, but the stitch tension is too big, that is, the edging is wider than it should be.

Finished size doesn't matter all that much on a shawl, of course, but this one, knit Sharon Miller's way, is huge. One doesn't want it much huge-er.

So Death has, for the moment, retreated from the sitting room, but still with that familiar grin on his chaps. You've started, but will you have time to finish?


I hope to dispatch it to granddaughter Hellie today. I've printed out the first two pages of the pattern again. I'll send them to her for the sake of the photographs. This has proved to be a rare instance of knitting that I actually like better now that it's finished than I did while things were going on. Silk is utterly unyielding and therefore surprisingly harsh to knit. This yarn is only half silk, but even so the fabric seemed sort of stiff and uninteresting. But with the last ladder laddered, it becomes wonderfully slithery. I hope she likes it.

The pattern is still up: it's at

Odds and Ends

That still leaves the issue of the hat for my Games entry. I've come to a decision on that one, which I will reveal tomorrow. I'm still winding yarn, Merging Colors and Pioneer. I thinned my doorstep lettuces yesterday, and weeded them. I've added my friend Janis' blog to my Favorites list:

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The first mitred square Posted by Hello

I don't know how to say the equivalent of "Vive la France" in Dutch. I would if I could. I flew to America with my eldest granddaughter Hellie when she was 11 or so -- her first visit. We arrived in Boston and as the plane came down I told her about the Tea Party which had once taken place in the water below us. So it is, this week. The EU is a great idea but too many of us clearly feel as I do that our destiny is being usurped by unelected men in suits.

Lots of activity on the knitting front in the last 24 hours. I finished my Clapotis (and I mean finished-finished, ends and all). I heard from Judith, expanding the idea she had advanced in the apparently unreadable comment. Many thanks for this.

The Clapotis:
I think the pattern is fine as written.  I am sure it has enough drape if
you can use the exact yarn specified. The problem is when substituting yarn
how do you know how much yarn to use? A tension square really does not help
that much as you are looking at length and drape and flow.
I decided to use stash and worked out this 5/5 system to get the drape I
wanted and it seems to be successful with whatever yarn I try. Yes it is a
system of fifths 1/5 for the start and increases and one 1/5 for the
decreases and end and then a MINIMUM of 3/5 for the middle bit and it all
seems to be in proportion. If the recipient is very tall you could add a bit
more in the middle. You just knit the increases until you have used up 1/5
then start the middle section, use the 3/5 then commence the decreases with
the last 1/5 and it all falls into place.
I just found it easier to weigh it all when knitting mainly as I had only
200g of Jaeger Luxury Tweed for the 1st one and managed it fine (40g
beginning 40g end and 120gfor the middle) So it then seemed sensible to
weigh for the rest!!
I do hope this is clear. Please note I am not trying to take over the
wonderful design or offend the designer. I was just trying to figure out an
effective way of using stash and not running out of yarn!

AND I heard from Sharon Miller:

Regarding the Princess Shawl Pattern: as you may know, this was a special ‘Limited (to 250 copies) Edition’ pattern, which has now sold out.  We hope to make it available again but have committed not to do so before 3rd November 2007 and how and in what format it will be in is still to be decided.

So what about the link which Ingrid supplied and which I posted yesterday? I'll look into that.

AND I started the Cranberry Squares hat from the Winter '04 edition of Knitter's. I have made the first mitred square, see picture above, and I didn't enjoy doing it. It was fiddly. As I've remarked recently, knitting is no fun if it's no fun. Morning, as so often, has brought some consoling thoughts. Try shorter needles. Try marking the centre decrease so that I don't have to keep peering and counting stitches. I'll give it another go this evening, and if I still don't like it, I'll scrub it, and knit a Fair Isle tam instead. The Games program just says "Hat --any craft".

Well, there's more to be said on most of the subjects above but that's plenty for now. My baby lettuces on the doorstep are now showing their true, red leaves -- and they have weeds!



Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The Clapotis, being knit; and the Pioneer yarn, being wound Posted by Hello

Today should see the Clapotis off the needles.

Two people (two!) have wrriten to me to say that they can't read Judith's comment about the Clapotis. I can read it fine, but I can't copy-and-paste it. She says that the Clapotis pattern as printed doesn't provide enough drape or flow. She finds it works best if the two end triangles -- the increase rows at the beginning, and the decrease rows at the end -- are each 1/5 of the total amount of yarn used, and the middle section therefore 3/5ths. She divides her yarn by weight before starting. Judith, if that's a travesty of your system, write me an email ( which I will be able to copy and paste into the blog.

Ingrid wrote from Sweden -- I am read on two continents! -- to say that the Princess shawl pattern is available: I just hadn't explored the Heirloom Knitting website with enough vigour. I gave up when I didn't find it next to the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I did lift the Pioneer off the swift onto a chair, successfully. I haven't finished winding it yet, but it's going much better. I put the first Merging Color on the swift, and that's going well too. I sort of like winding yarn, up to a point. It puts me in touch with my ingredients.


I mentioned an article in last Sunday's Independent about posting pictures to Blogger. When I went to cut it out on Monday, it was gone. Newspapers usually stay around this house for a fortnight, as we often go back to retrieve things, but my husband had for some reason bundled that one straight out the door into Monday's collection. Nor did Googling on "posting pictures to Blogger" help -- just endless references to Blogger's help pages, which I have been reading and re-reading for months, and equally endless citations from user forums, complaining about how difficult it is to get pictures into Blogger.

But yesterday morning, as I was drifting in and out of sleep and listening to the early-morning BBC -- my favourite non-knit time of the day, from 5:30 to 7 am, roughly -- the word I needed came to mind: Flickr. I hadn't even tried to remember it, when reading the article. But there it was. I've looked up the website, but haven't explored it yet.

It sounds as if we are going to have to do some battening down of hatches here in Edinburgh, for the G8 summit meeting. Why can't they do it by video link and save us all millions? Two thousand US marines are coming to defend GWB, we are told. Bush spent a summer or two in Glen Isla when he was a lad, staying with cattle-raising friends of his old man. The newspapers were speculating yesterday about whether he might go back for a visit, while he's here. Glen Isla is only a hill or two away from our glen. They'll close down Perthshire altogether if Bush is there. I like to wonder whether the youthful Bush was brought by his hosts to the Strathardle Highland Gathering -- "the Games" -- on the fourth Saturday in August. It could be, although I think Glen Isla have games of their own, so probably not. My next knitting, which I will surely be able to cast on this week, will be the hat which will be my Games entry this year.