Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Dies Atra

Here we are again at the low point of the year, a day of death in our family calendar and also the third anniversary of the day I fell and broke my right arm just below the shoulder. A dreadful winter ensued. It still aches a bit, like an old love, when I think about it. Something happened to the right wrist at the same time -- it was never explained to me exactly what, and some x-rays turned out to be missing, the day I sat down in front of a dr who was prepared to explain. My thumb and first two fingers still go numb when I've been driving for a while -- it must be something to do with the position of the arm. It's gradually getting better, but so slowly that the grave may supervene. A carpal tunnel operation was suggested -- "it's no big deal," the surgeon said -- but I didn't like him, and the thought of being again without the use of my right hand, however briefly, was a very big deal to me, so I didn't go ahead with that.

These are all things you don't want or need to know.

Now that I've got broadband, I thought I'd try to incorporate a picture in a post, the way the grownups do. It hasn't arrived quite where I expected it, but there it is. It's Edmund Gorey's "Fruitcake". A dear friend sent it to me as a Christmas card once. I prop it up to inspire me when I'm writing Christmas cards, and it wouldn't be at all a bad idea to start on that job today.

The visit of my husband's publishers went very well yesterday. The woman who is actually going to do the editing and layout stuff came, as well as the man who is in charge of the whole operation. They got an idea of the scale of the task (it's huge). My job is now to translate the several hundred files it consists of into MS Word and send them off to London on a CD. My husband still works on a DOS-based system. Modern technology makes it easier for a publisher to prise such a work from the author's hands -- the files I convert and send won't necessarily be in their final form; changes are easy, and my husband can go on making them.

If I now put in another picture, where will it appear? Let's try. It went up there at the top, next to the first one. I still have a lot to learn. It shows James and Alexander, at the Games last summer.

My email address is now I phoned Demon yesterday and to their credit, I got straight through on the second ring, no Mozart, no need to choose one of five options. None of the passwords we had been struggling with the day before seemed to work, so the nice young man reset both the connect password and the email password to the same thing, and sat there with infinate patience talking me through the process of entering it in all the right places. The mytob virus presumably continues to plague the old address, somewhere out there in space.

And, oh yes, knitting. I finished a skein of yarn yesterday, and am approaching the final swirl on Swirly 2.

Later: I edited this post, using Rachel's suggestion in the first comment, and, as you see, moved the pictures around fairly succesfully. The sky's the limit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Well, what a day.

I had best begin by saying that long garter stitch rows in a bright colour of a good wool yarn, are the veritable chicken soup of knitting, the perfect thing for the winter solstice, and for stress. I have reached the 12 plain rows on 450 stitches which preceed the final edging-increase on the 2nd half of the 2nd swirly.

And here I am on broadband. It's wonderful.

I failed to install it. All went well at first, but when I tried to activate the modem, the computer claimed that no driver was installed. I went around in circles for awhile, then phoned A Man. He had no trouble with that problem. (He unplugged everything from the USB ports, activated the modem, and then plugged everything back in.) But he couldn't get through to my email. I will have to ring the Demon helpline this morning and burst into tears. I didn't feel up to it last night. My website no longer seems to be available -- I think that means we achieved something.

For the time being, I can be reached as

Monday, November 28, 2005


had better be mentioned, however briefly. I finished the first half of Swirly 2, and am picking up the stitches for the second half. Thank you for your comment, Tamar. Increasingly, I'm happy with the colour, too. With only one half done, the scarf definately spirals, but "swirl" is a better word for what happens when it's double.

And the first half, on its own, is a good 18" shorter than Swirly 1 in its finished state.


Well, this is it. It's going to be a busy day in other respects, as my husband's publisher is coming up from London tomorrow and he -- my husband -- wants my help with some last-minute tidying of the Magnum Opus. But I don't think I can use that as an excuse for not tackling broadband. Thank you very much for your words of encouragement, commenters. Rachel is said to have done it herself, but I am sceptical of that claim.

Alexander confirms what you say, Helen, about right-clicking on the Norton icon to disable the program. I learned my meager computing skills in a different age, and am inclined to forget about right-clicking. He thinks I'll succeed with broadband installation, but is less sanguine about my chances of finding my way back to to get my email.

You'll hear all about it tomorrow. Or, of course, not.


Thank you for your comment, Lillian. I hope your daughter is enjoying Reading. What is she studying? I could suggest that you write to me,, except that I fear that address may never work again.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Applying the contrast edge to part 1 of swirly 2: it's very bright. Posted by Picasa

I should reach the border of the first half of the current swirly today -- I'll try a picture when it gets a bit lighter. It's plain Aegean blue, striped with a variegated Koigu which virtually disappears under the sea. At this rate, I'd have time to do a third scarf before Christmas.

I also printed out that hat pattern I mentioned a couple of days ago, and had some Noro Silk Garden thoughts about it. (That's a UK link.)


Yesterday's mail brought three parcels. Shopping on-line is as much fun as getting all the presents myself. At least, the first two I opened were presents. The third contained my new broadband modem. I started back as if I had found a scorpion. Now I've got to do it.

I've read the instructions. They don't sound too bad. (Except that I've got to disable Norton temporarily -- can I do that?) I think the thing is to read them again today, and then tackle the job on Monday morning, when I can phone A Man and hope for promptish help, if I get stuck. I've ordered broadband from the ISP I've had all along, Demon, and the difficult part of the instructions concerns accessing and converting my dear old dial-up account, once the computer is on broadband.

I've just had a look at Norton. I can't find anything in the help index about disabling it. I'll ask Alexander.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

I'm swirling happily along with the Aegean blue. It's a strong colour and I continue to worry a bit about that.

A great thing about all this swirl is that it is consuming stash, in a small way -- lace knitting doesn't do that. No amount of knitting, of anything, will ever make any visible impression on my stash, but there is always a certain satisfaction in actually finishing a ball or skein of yarn.


I have virtually finished Christmas shopping, although not all the stuff is here yet. It's incredible. No wonder the High Street retailers are having a hard time, when it's so easy and pleasant to avoid them altogether. Yesterday, however, I stepped out and bought a present in a shop.

I've had an email from Demon saying that my telephone line is now ADSL-enabled, or something like that. Fortunately the hardware hasn't turned up yet, so I haven't had to do anything.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Finished. It is held up in this picture by a bottle in the shape of George Washington. We have a pair of them, purchased in or near Northampton, MA, in 1960. Posted by Picasa

Finished the scarf. It's five feet long -- the instructions say it will be 80", but it's hard to measure swirly, and maybe it will stretch, and five feet is fine, anyway. The cast-on edge forms a central spine, and I don't see how 150 stitches of Koigu or any sport-weight yarn can come out 5' long let alone 6 1/2', but such is the case.

I decided as I was driving back from leaving James and Kirsty at the airport -- they should be in Beijing by now -- that the Aegean blue yarn from Candace Strick was too strong, I'd knit in gentler colours for the second swirly. Then it got dark, and I decided I couldn't bear not to knit with Aegean blue. So I've cast on with that, but I'll bind and probably stripe it with variegated Koigu rather than black as I had planned.

I'll wait until the sun comes up (if it does) to photograph the first scarf, in the hopes of showing you something not too washed out.

The message below is from Thessaloniki, referring to the second orange Wallaby I knit for Fergus. The first one was his Christmas present last year. He was delighted with it. It shrank to Thomas-the-Younger size in the first wash. His mother took the second one back to Greece with her after the birthday visit last week.

"[Fergus] Is terribly pleased with his sweater. He has insisted on wearing it every day so far and i doubt he will ever wear anything else until it falls to pieces. He's that sort of boy. David says we will have to dry clean it (when he's asleep) so that it wont meet the same fate as the last one."
So that's nice. I'veasked for a picture.
James had time to look at the broadband-installing instructions before he left yesterday, and I feel bolder. Hey, I put a floppy disk drive in this computer with my own hands. I can do anything. The really good news is that he discovered a small sealed envelope with my broadband details -- including the new password, in clear. So that's all right. I remembered that I had used the password I use for banking, and that it was too long and I had had to shorten it in some respect -- what I couldn't remember, and foolishly hadn't noted, was exactly how I had shortened it.
The Mytob virus persecution has stopped for the last two days, establishing the source beyond doubt as an American computer, I think.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Kirsty on the doorstep Posted by Picasa
With my husband, in Drummond Place gardens Posted by Picasa

The winter glooms came down like an avalanche yesterday. Time to make some soup.

I'm putting the contrast edging on the swirly scarf, increasing in every stitch. Now it turns out I'm working on the right side after all. I don't know where the mistake was. The next row is the cast off, so I might finish today. And start another.

James and Kirsty will soon be on their way back to Beijing -- I'll drive them to the airport. So we'll say goodbye with some Kirsty-pictures, above.

I got some stuff about broadband yesterday, but not the stuff I need to connect. So James can't help; I'm on my own, and it sounds as if I can't just drift along with the dial-up connection. I'm anxious. I had to choose a new password and I'm not sure I remember it. If you suddenly don't hear from me for a while, that'll probably be the plughole I've disappeared down. I'd better hurry up and finish the Christmas on-line shopping.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Potential swirly scarves Posted by Picasa

All my favourite bloggers are too busy basting the turkey to write, so I wandered a bit further afield this morning and found these nice hats to knit. If anybody wants to join me in Christmas madness. And don't miss Helen's brilliant suggestion, in a comment yesterday, for a quick knitted present.

I have four more long plain rows to knit of the swirly scarf, before doubling the stitch number again in the contrast colour, and casting off in the same. Yesterday I laid out a few more potential swirlys. The blue yarn, a shade called Aegean, was a present from Candace Strick when I bought a sweater's-worth, still unknit, of her wonderful Merging Colors yarn. It's sort of a strong colour, but the kind of thing which is wonderfully comforting to knit in these dark days. With black for the contrast? Or striped with black?

The Aran-coloured Koigu, the background yarn in Thomas-the-Younger's striped Koigu sweater which was seen here a day or two ago, could be striped with variegated Koigu's for a sunny and cheerful stripy.

The other yarns are just lying there.


Today is James' and Kirsty's last day here. We plan to go see The Curse of the Were-Rabbit.

James keeps remarking on the darkness. Beijing is on a line with Madrid, or Washington DC, roughly, and things are a lot lighter down there. He's had brilliant sunny days almost all week, too, which lightens the load a lot, darkness-wise. I usually suffer badly from gloom and anxiety during this Dread Decameron, the last ten days of November. From there until the solstice, it's so awful it's funny. But this year, what with the excitement of the birthday and James's visit, I've hardly noticed.

Another thing I've been doing which helps a lot, is Christmas shopping on-line. I spent an hour in a crowded shop a couple of weeks ago. It was full of expensive things I couldn't imagine anyone wanting, and awful people, and was pretty depressing. So I've been going through those catalogues which rain down on one. My husband says he wouldn't want to buy things without seeing them, but so far I have been pleased with the quality of what has turned up. And the process is blissfully painless.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Half-way. It's longer than it appears here. Posted by Picasa
Kirsty went to the National Gallery Posted by Picasa

I'm swirling away, but I made a stupid mistake.

I got the 150 original stitches back onto a needle -- that black line is the waste wool which was holding them -- and set out in the opposite direction. Start with a wrong-side row, the instructions say. I gave the matter little or no thought -- it's garter stitch after all -- and now I see that I have started with a right-side row. The scarf is finished, as you see, with a contrast stripe, and when you do that in garter stitch, there is very clearly a right side and a wrong side.

I'm not going to rip it out. I have two choices: to add or subtract a row, so that both sides are the same. Or to do the right number of rows, so that the right side for the contrast stripes will be different on the two halves. Since both sides will surely be visible on the wearer, I think that's the option to go for.

I continue to be overjoyed with the pattern. I hate holiday-deadline knitting. I don't do it. The Knitlist -- at least in the old days when self-expression was allowed -- is full, this time of year, of stress-filled accounts of knitting incomplete.

But this scarf is tempting me to join that miserable band. How many could I finish by Christmas? The thing is, they will make great presents for the very people who are the hardest to think of presents for. I'm certainly going to try a stripy one next, this time actually giving some thought to right-side, wrong-side (the answer will be to mix them up, I think).


James and Kirsty and I went to Deep Sea World yesterday, and had a nice time. It is right under the famous Forth Rail Bridge of which we therefore had an unusual and breathtaking view.


Monday, November 21, 2005

My husband, at his birthday lunch Posted by Picasa
Two of our guests -- namely Snow White and Rose Red in their striped Koigu sweaters. Posted by Picasa

The birthday was a total success. I'm sorry not to have written yesterday. I was exhausted, and perhaps, if the truth be told, somewhat hung over.

Our four children gave my husband a small drawing by the artist he knows all about, and a delightful Grandchild Book for which each child had designed a page, at least those capable of such a feat. These things were presented just before lunch, and then we all walked up to the restaurant and there were the Nine Old Friends, a surprise as total for my husband as James's arrival on Thursday, and just as welcome. I think perhaps the best moment of the day, for me, was getting there and hearing the murmur of voices behind the door which meant that our friends had arrived and were drinking champagne.

The food and the service were fine, and we all had a nice time.

Nephew Theo, who arrived late and breathless straight off a transatlantic flight, is now in London compiling photographs onto CD's I hope. So there may be more birthday pictures soon.


For fully two hours yesterday morning, I couldn't find my knitting (the swirly scarf). It was dreadful. It finally turned up on the floor in a corner of the bed room, where I had tossed it at the last minute before we left for the restaurant.

I've finished the first half, cast it off, and it swirls. I love it. I took a picture of it swirling, which we will have tomorrow, knowing that when I picked up the cast-on stitches and started knitting the other half in the opposite direction, the swirl would temporarily disappear. I'm in the middle of unpicking the waste yarn, and it is slow going. Next time -- and I am currently resolved to do another one right away -- I'll use that provisional-cast-on system involving a crochet hook.


Kate, welcome aboard.

The pattern for the Communion veil is my own, except that you'll need Marianne Kinzel's Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting for an altar frontal of hers which I have adapted for my purposes. My copy is a Dover reprint. I don't know if it's still in print, but a library would get it for you. I'm not finding the going entirely easy this time, and may be able to tweak the pattern to its advantage as I go along.

Another thought would be to knit a rectangle of any lace, perhaps with a small headpiece at one end. Queer Joe did that for a neice recently, I believe.

I'm Write to me if I can help further.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Kids love row-counters Posted by Picasa

Well, here we are, the 19th of November.

I still haven't finished the seating plan. That's what I'll do right away, instead of my morning SuDoku. I've got the cards, and I figure I'll be able to nip in and distribute them during the initial Champagne Reception bit.

The picture shows Helen, from Thessaloniki, helping her nephew James, from London, play with my Katcha-Katcha. I think it previously registered the row-count for the Communion Veil, and I think I'll be able to reconstruct it.

Meanwhile I got to the final increase row for the first half of the swirly scarf, but haven't done it yet. At this rate, I should be able to finish another before Christmas. What about a stripey swirly?

Tomorrow's blog may be late, as we will have added another to the Drummond Place body count, and he'll be on a mattress on the floor in here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Breakfast: Kirsty is homesick. James is glad to have a proper cup of English tea. Posted by Picasa

They're here.

James was afraid to go to bed last night, for fear both he and Kirsty would wake up on Beijing time. He needed have worried. It's now early afternoon in Beijing, 7:30 a.m. in Edinburgh, and there hasn't been a peep out of either of them.

My husband was completely surprised. The ensuing scene was near enough my favourite moment in all of English literature, the meeting of the Knightley brothers in "Emma", where "'How d'ye do, George?' and 'John, how are you?' succeeded in the true English style, burying under a calmness that seemed all but indifference, the real attachment which would have led either of them, if required, to do every thing for the good of the other."

I was pretty exhausted at the end by the nervous tensions of the day. The new swirly scarf progresses well -- and there's nothing like long rows of garter stitch for comfort knitting, as I found when I combined a Baby Surprise with a cataract operation. I may reach the next increase row and subsequent cast-off today. I may not.

I'll wait until James and Kirsty get up, I think, and perhaps add a picture of them breakfasting.

He has a new and alarming Haliban (="Bank of Scotland") story. Three forged cheques have been presented on their account, totalling £1500. They were written on a chequebook which never reached them -- and therefore fraud from within the bank is one of the possibilities. Cathy has spent arduous (and expensive) hours on the telephone, and the money has been refunded. But the bank is curiously uninterested in involving the police, and has declined to say, so far, where the cheques were presented. Beijing? Edinburgh? It should be easy enough to tell. They were signed with Cathy's name, in a signature not remotely resembling hers. Were they accompanied with a card?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Scotland Street tunnel Posted by Picasa
Our crack Posted by Picasa

In the stirring lyrics of the old British football song, Here we go! Here we go! Here we go! I have heard no more from Beijing, so presumably James and Kirsty are at this very moment somewhere over the Urals. And I am far too twitchy to venture out to lunch without my knitting, so I phoned my sister-in-law in a quiet moment yesterday and told her it was coming too. She agreed that it would be rude to bring it, but was quite understanding. The excuse -- perfectly valid -- is that this is Christmas knitting. She knows that James is coming, and that he's supposed to be kept secret until he arrives.

I cast on the second-attempt swirly scarf yesterday, and it is at a perfect stage to accompany me. I've got as far as 450 stitches and am now required to do 12 rows plain. All is going well so far, but with the other attempt it was the third doubling of the stitch count that did for me. In this case, when I've done the 12 plain rows, I am supposed to double the stitch count again, and then immediately cast off, pick up the cast-on stitches, and set off in the opposite direction.

Today's illustrations are, obviously, not knit-related. I have friends who enjoy Alexander McCall Smith's accounts of life on Scotland Street (which is just around the corner from Drummond Place). I tried to read the first one when it was serialised in the Scotsman, and found it seriously boring, but it figures on many a best-seller list.

One of my Smith-reading friends asked the other day if there is really a tunnel under Scotland Street, so today's pictures are (a) the mouth of the tunnel, down by Tesco's, photographed yesterday, and (b) the crack in the wall of our hall, which my husband is convinced is tunnel-related. McCall Smith suggests, I believe, that there is access to the tunnel from a door or doors on Scotland Street. I don't know about that, but it sounds not unlikely. Edinburgh is a funny sort of place, that way.


Thanks for comments. Anyone remotely interested must know by now that Pakistan won the first test. My husband and I are reading Churchill on the Second World War at bedtime, and on Tuesday evening had just finished the chapter on the fall of Singapore. England's collapse on Wednesday morning, from a relatively good position, was very similar.

Lee, thanks for the tip about "Knitting on the Road". I've heard good things about it, too; perhaps it will be my next purchase. I still haven't looked at "Knitting Vintage Socks".

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

My new books Posted by Picasa

Here we are where we thought we were on Saturday: James and Kirsty are coming tomorrow. Nervous tension mounts. We're going to lunch with my husband's sister tomorrow, in south Edinburgh, which should help in a way to take my mind off waiting for the doorbell to ring. (Their plane lands at 4:30, giving us plenty of time to get home.) But I'm not allowed to take knitting when we go there. It would be rude, my husband says.

Look what I got in the mail yesterday! at last.

The scarf book is fully as good as it's cracked up to be. I haven't really tackled socks yet. Estonia is a disappointment. Curiously, they don't seem to go in for sweaters in Estonia -- it all seems to be socks and mittens, not all that much fancier than Sanquhar patterns. I think sweaters were invented in the early 19th century for seafaring men to wear -- I must have a look at Rutt today to see what he says on that subject. Estonia has plenty of coastline. Maybe they don't like fish.

The section on folk culture at the beginning trembles on the edge of self-parody. "The one who does not come to the bonfire on St. John's Day, his barley will be full of thistles, and his oats will be full of grasses." No kidding.

Mary Hughes-Thompson has kindly sent me her Koigu swirly scarf pattern (which I have also ordered and paid for, from the woman who now runs the business). It is the familiar technique, with a few extra plain rows thrown in, and incorporating Judith's idea of picking up the cast-on stitches and repeating the scarf in the opposite direction. I've printed it out and I may well start it today, as being easier to deal with for one in a state of nerves. The veil progresses, but it's not easy.

My husband got so cross yesterday about my unsatisfactory answers about who was going to sleep where on Friday and Saturday nights, that I had to ring up Rachel and conduct an entirely fictitious conversation on the subject.

Even the cricket -- the Test Match in Pakistan -- has become exciting, which is almost a contradiction in terms.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The impending excitement of The Birthday stifles thought.

I progressed somewhat with the veil, puzzled as to why the side panels continue to seem so difficult. I am about to adopt one of EZ's many pieces of excellent advice: look at your knitting. That is, watch the pattern as it evolves as well as peering at the incomprehensible chart.

I think the main panel, where a solid st st cross floats on a field of net, is what is called filet lace, but if so the only book I have which describes it is Mary Thomas, and she's in the bedroom with my sleeping husband. It's odd that my considerable library of lace-knitting books (which is accessible, in a bookcase in the hall) doesn't seem to mention this technique.

My friend Mary Hughes-Thompson used to be the Koigu Lady, but recently sold the business, including all her own designs. I recently learned from her that one of those designs is a swirly scarf, and I have just ordered it from her successor at enormous expense, although I could probably do it myself from what I have learned recently. It looks like the now familiar cast-on-lengthwise, double-the-stitches-a-couple-of-times technique.

JoVE, thank you for the link to the stashbuster socks (comment, yesterday). I have knit very successful bedsocks from the oddball bag, just knitting with one ball until it ran out and then attaching the next. I tried that once from the DK oddball bag, therefore in pure wool, and they wore out almost at once. Bedsocks, even though never worn for walking, seem to require sock yarn just like any other sock.


I astonished myself by signing up for broadband last night. It would be nice if the stuff would come in time that James can help me install it, but it probably won't.

Thank you, Carla, for your suggestion (comment, yesterday) about my Mytob virus plague. Actually, I think broadband is going to cure it, because I have been forced to choose a new domain name. Mytob is one of those viruses which appears to come from myself (, and addresses like that). And thank you for the link to your blog, which I shall continue to look at. It is indeed wonderful how we are all in touch with each other although we will never meet. The internet has changed the world.

Our MP Mark Lazarowicz, Edinburgh North and Leith, (L), was one of the ones who voted against the government last Wednesday on the issue of whether or not it was OK to hold people for 90 days without charge. One of the uglier things Tony Blair said afterwards was that silly old Parliament had voted against him, but The People were for it. Mr Lazarowicz is a good, hard-working constituency MP, not a firebrand, not a name anyone knows, certainly not known as a rebel. I sent him an email saying, well done on the vote. I have never done that before.

I got a reply yesterday -- a form letter which would had served whichever side I had espoused -- saying that he has had a big mailbag on this subject, and that 80% of the people who wrote applauded what he had done.

So boo! to Tony.



Monday, November 14, 2005

The Communion veil, so far Posted by Picasa

The Communion veil is moving along. I've done 29 rows of 182, and it's one of those patterns with plain rows in between the fancy ones. Yarn and needles are getting on well together. It's not entirely easy, but it's not terribly hard either.

The dark yarn, of course, is to hold the stitches until I'm ready to put the edging on. I learned how to do a proper temporary cast-on with a crochet hook when I was knitting Candace Strick's Harmony pattern last year. Her patterns are brilliantly lucid, and that one included a number of useful techniques. But this time I didn't bother. It'll be a bit harder to un-pick.

We're all right on the stitch count. I cast on 47 stitches for each of the side panels, and now I have 59 -- but that's what's supposed to happen. I either hadn't noticed, the last time I did it, or had completely forgotton. I can now "read" lace well enough that when I'm a stitch out here or there, either too many or too few, I can compensate in the right place. I was pretty old before I acquired that skill.

I emailed my four children with the link to Franklin's latest cartoon. Alexander said rather bitterly on the telephone the other day, when we had finished the Daddy's-birthday conversation, that it didn't apply to him because I hadn't knit anything for him since Late Forty-eight. I'll have to give that one some thought for the 2006 wish-list. Maybe those yarns I bought recently from ebay for KF's "Magyar" pattern...


The Mytob virus followed its familiar weekend routine again -- I had all Saturday off, and much of Sunday, and they began coming in thick and fast in the early evening yesterday. Presumably it's a virus which manages not to trouble its host too much.

We had the Jamie Oliver sausage thing (see yesterday) last night -- I froze the extra sausages, meant for James and Kirsty. It was good, but slightly too complicated for an evening where everyone is tired and happy and excited. I'll have to think again for Thursday, when they should really be here.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Thomas-the-Younger and his mother Ketki. The stripes on the sweater are of equal width. When I did it with black for the contrast yarn, the coloured stripes looked wider. Posted by Picasa

If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for tomorrow.

James isn't coming today. Not until Thursday.

It doesn't matter much in itself, and can still, I hope, be a surprise, but it meant I had to go ahead and tell my husband lamely, myself, about the plans for Saturday -- about some of them, anyway -- instead of having James's finger on the doorbell be the announcement. He seems actually surprised and rather pleased -- did he think we were going to let his 80th birthday pass without any celebration? Possibly.

I told him that Rachel and Alexander and their families are coming up from London. He started worrying about where everyone is going to sleep, which may involve me in  subterfuge if not actual lies, if he persists in wondering. The answer is that his British-based children and grandchildren have made their own arrangements, to leave Drummond Place for the ones arriving from Beijing and Thessaloniki, but I don't want to tell him that yet.

James's problem is that the Leader of the Free World has chosen my husband's birthday for a visit to Beijing, and the Economist wants James to write about it in advance, for this week's issue. He could write perfectly well in Drummond Place, but the magazine is clearly scrupulous about datelines and wants this one to be filed from China.

I was going to make Jamie Oliver's Sausages with pan-cooked chutney and leek mash for James and Kirsty this evening. It's got cranberries in it.


So that's a picture of Thomas-the-Younger in his birthday sweater, with his mother Ketki. We didn't see him when we were in London last week. He looks a lot grown-up-er than he did when we saw him in October.

The veil progresses. I'm having some trouble with the stitch count.

On sock odd-balls: thank you for your comment, LaurieG. I don't knit socks for children much -- I did once, and the child's mother said she couldn't wear wool, and it sort of put me off. Maybe I should resume. There's a delicious sock-oddball pattern called the Mexacali Baby Ole in Knitter's Summer '03. I knit that once for James-the-Younger (Thomas's brother), and meant to do another, although I never have.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Progress on the current travel socks Posted by Picasa

Yeah, I've got my tooth on. Teresa, that was an immensely helpful comment -- if it happens again, I will know what to do (anchor it with toothpaste), and, better yet, I am encouraged by what you say to believe that the permanent crown, when it eventually arrives, will be more, well, permanent.

Some old friends came to tea yesterday and I was able to smile uninhibitedly.

So that's the state of the current travel sock. I got quite a lot done -- I was only about 3/4's of the way down the leg when we set out on Monday. I think the change of yarn for the toe looks well. It is the expedient of necessity, because I had only two balls of the main yarn, but I now wish that I had bought only two balls more often, once my sock-yarn-oddball-bag began to bulk out. I would have preferred a more flamboyant change-of-colour, but my husband, for whom the socks are destined, preferred sober.

And the Communion Veil is moving ahead nicely here. There's enough that I think it will be worth photographing tomorrow.

The neighbour with the baby with the cleft palate is finding life tough. The baby had a good birth weight, and is throwing himself into the struggle with vigour, but it is, his father says, like trying to suck with your mouth open and both parents are pretty worn down. A nurse comes in every day to weigh the baby and see how things are progressing. I also learn that the Baby Surprise is coming apart at the shoulder. I'll get it back tomorrow for repairs.

And tomorrow evening James and his five-year-old daughter Kirsty, currently in Beijing, will turn up on the doorstep here, insh'Allah.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Mar and Janis, thanks for your comments. Poor old Knitlist.

Non-knit, today

My new temporary crown fell off its tooth while I was eating a prawn and avocado sandwich on soft white bread in a London pub, so my first job this morning is to have it stuck back on again. I will postpone photography, therefore (of progress on the Travel Sock), until tomorrow.

It was grand to be in London on Wednesday when Parliament, so long despised by our current masters, stood up and said boo! to Tony Blair, in defence of of the principle of extending one of our ancient and hard-won freedoms -- habeas corpus, in this case -- even to men of brown complexion.

It was an interesting day in other respects, too. Towards the end of the afternoon, we were in a small Bond Street gallery, just leaving in fact, as a man arrived with an entourage. He was of slightly less than middle height, wearing a hat, tanned. I got a distinct whiff of homosexuality from the group. The gallery-owner cried "Hello, David!" with great enthusiasm several times.

When we got to the pavement my husband said, that was David Hockney -- an artist whose work I have admired and enjoyed for many decades. I don't mean to imply that there is anything wrong with living in California (the tan), or being gay, or being deaf -- all of which are true of Hockney; just to say, I had all the data, and missed it. I don't suppose my husband had ever actually seen him before, either.

Then, ten minutes later, we saw the Queen.

We had just time, we thought, to nip around the corner to the Royal Academy for a few moments. When we got there, we found Piccadilly closed to traffic, and the Royal Academy closed to the public, and the streets bristling with police. While we were still wondering what to do next, we found that we effectively couldn't do anything, so we stood there. There's a terrific show of Chinese art at the RA at the moment, and the Queen was clearly touring it with Mr Hu, the Chinese prime minister.

After a little while the great gates opened and a lot of cars and white vans came out, including a serious-looking black one. Chinese pro-Tibet demonstrators made a lot of noise, as did a smaller party of patriotic Chinese, who beat drums. The police kept the two groups apart. We thought that was it, and we had missed seeing anyone, but after a few more minutes the gates opened again and out came a very big, very shiny black car, with minimal escort, flying the Royal Standard. Prince Philip was sitting on our side and I saw him clearly. It seems safe to assume that the woman beside him -- wearing a hat, like Mr Hockney -- was his wife.


Monday, November 07, 2005

London, again. Blogging should resume on Saturday; possibly even Friday. Once we've knocked off the big Rubens show at the NG, and the Turner Prize at the Tate -- my husband has never missed a Turner Prize exhibition, since its inception -- we may just come home, he says. Fortunately, and unusually, I bought an open ticket this time (instead of a cheapo based on a particular train) so the option is open.

He thinks next week will be quiet and productive. I know otherwise, in that James and his five-year-old daughter Kirsty will be here.

I got the shoulder stitches cast on for the veil, and have knit two rows on all of them. Understanding a Kinzel pattern took a bit of doing, but if I've done it once I can do it again, I figure, and I think I've got myself straight. Time will tell. It's not that it isn't lucid; it's just that her charting methods are different from Sharon's. In particular, an empty square in Kinzel means "no stitch"; Sharon uses it to mean "garter stitch", and doesn't seem to need a "no stitch" symbol.


Hi, June! I've been with the Knitlist for 10 years, too. (I'm still a member, although I rarely read it.) For the first eight years, I posted an annual this-is-what-I've-knit-this year, in late December. One year I started a snowball thereby which rolled on into February. Last year, when I was still a "Listmom", traffic seemed high and heavy, so I just posted a brief note saying that the annual summary would be found here. This time, for number 10,  I gather from Marian's experience (yesterday) that that won't be allowed. If I wanted to be naughty, I could write humbly to one of the Knitlist high-heid-yins and ask what to do, but I think it'll be too much trouble.


Sunday, November 06, 2005

The headpiece -- nearly finished Posted by Picasa

Progress, with the veil. In fact, there's not much more of the little headpiece to do, and I may reach the shoulder increases today. That will leave two more evenings, at the end of next week, after we get back from London, before James gets here: I should have something plausible-looking to show him. The knitting is very easy, to us Princess Shawl veterans, but being easy doesn't actually make it very easy to knit, if that's not too much of an oxymoron.

In London, and on the way, I might finish the first of the current pair of travel socks if I keep at it. It's a gent's sock, and I knit 'em long in the leg.

The Knitlist

I heard from my cyber-friend Marian in Israel yesterday. She had posted this to the Knitlist:

I finished the Allspice vest which is a kit from Anna
> Zilboorg and uses some great mohair/wool yarns from Liisu. I added
> pockets and plan on wearing it a lot this season. You can see it on
> my blog.
>> Marian Poller

The message was rejected by the now-heavily-moderated List, and Marian received this reply from the thought police:

> Posting a message which says "look at this on my blog" IS NOT OK -
> unless it includes significant knitting content.

The Knitlist is fanatic (and rightly, I guess) about advertising -- but Marian's Blog is an innocent of that offence as my own. In the Good Old Days, posting proudly about an FO was standard stuff. Adding a link to a photograph would seem a rather good idea. I'm glad I'm out of that morass.


My husband's birthday draws alarmingly near -- less than a fortnight, now. I realised yesterday that I've got to work out a seating plan. I had been drifting along thinking that once I had got everybody to the restaurant I could go home and have a nap, but it won't be like that. There are various factors to be considered. For instance, the balance of the sexes among our party of 22 is fairly even. Does one deem one half of a same-sex pair to be the opposite sex, when aiming for a boy-girl-boy-girl seating arrangement? Or not? Where should someone sensitive about status but not interested in art history, be placed? How to distribute Rachel's four children, all well-brought-up and with something to say for themselves? One doesn't want them clinging to each other in a miserable lump, but doesn't want to maroon any one of them among the art historians, either. It's all rather fun, like being God for a while.





Saturday, November 05, 2005

The longest journey starts with a single step... Posted by Picasa

Handmade socks as stocking-fillers, Lynne? What a lucky family! I recently bestowed a pair as a 21st-birthday-present, and the recipient was delighted. I only knit socks for grown-ups. It seemed appropriate.

Well, I bit the bullet and started the Communion Veil yesterday. I'm using Sharon's merino lace, left over from the first attempt at the Princess Shawl, before I switched to gossamer. I'll need more, but I can afford to knit for a while before I start guessing how much more. It feels a bit loose: maybe I'll try going down a needle size. Sharon says the yarn is slightly finer than Shetland cobweb, for which the pattern was designed. It's knit from the top down, starting with a relatively narrow headpiece and soon widening at the shoulders.

I've got my temporary crown. It was quite a lengthy procedure, and as it was going on, I tried to remember the pattern for the Princess Shawl edging, with which, some may remember, I comforted myself while my 2nd cataract was being dealt with. I couldn't even do the first row, yesterday.

Walking home -- it's not far, to the dentist -- it occurred to me to wonder whether my difficulty with the twirly scarf (excessive tightness, when I got to the third increase row) lay in the fact that I was using a yarn which was half silk. Silk is notoriously unyielding stuff. I may have another shot, with wool. More likely, though, I'll switch to the pattern I mentioned yesterday from the Scarf Style book. Slower but easier, and it looks fun.

The baby who got the latest Surprise was born on Tuesday, and his parents seem delighted with him. I've only seen pictures taken on his father's mobile telephone, so far, but I am promised one eventually, wearing the jacket. The cleft palate of course wasn't a shock, having been seen on the scan, and doesn't seem as bad as feared. Zak, for that is his name, is able to feed, with a syringe, and will be allowed home in about a week if all continues well. He'll have his first operation when he's about three months old. For some reason his father had feared that the left eye was affected but as soon as he was born he was given to his father to hold, and opened both eyes wide and said, in effect, Hello, Daddy.


Friday, November 04, 2005

The "Ridged Raglan" pattern is in Knitter's Spring '99, Janis. Well worth getting out of the pile and having a look at. I'm pretty sure I knit a second, successful one.

Once you start looking for whirly scarves, Lynne, you begin to find them all over the place. It was seeing one in Marks and Spencer that got me started, too. The one I'm struggling with is pretty well like this one: See also -- a whole website devoted to them, with lots of links.

The essence of the thing is to cast on stitches for the finished length you want, using needles somewhat larger than you normally would for the yarn chosen. The one I'm doing has a cable cast-on, presumably for firmness, and uses a needle one size larger again for forming the stitches.

Row 1: knit

Row 2: knit into the front and back of every stitch.

Repeat rows 1 and 2 twice more. Knit one more row. Cast off, using the larger needle again.

My cyber-friend Judith, who is knitting these as fast as she can because everyone who sees one, wants one, then picks up stitches along the cast-on edge and repeats the process in the other direction.

There is also a very interesting pattern in the book "Scarf Style" which uses a completely different technique, knitting the scarf from end to end, ruffle by ruffle, using short rows.

Me, I finished row 18 on the Princess Shawl Edging last night and, against my better judgment, started 19. There I'll have to leave it. I have pattern, yarn and needle ready for the First Holy Communion veil, and hope to get to that this evening.

Today, at last, I will have that tooth crowned.

Lorna, yes, it was the Scotsman. And thank you for the sudoku like -- do I dare look? I've bookmarked your website and intend to continue following your adventures.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Not an FO: waiting to be transformed back into stash. Posted by Picasa

Many thanks to everybody for the comments about my too-tight twirly scarf. Yes, I knit a plain row after cast-on, and between each increase row. Judith's idea of using a smaller needle for this one, final increase row feels as if it might work. I didn't rip the thing out yesterday, so I might well try that.

The tightness is not just number-of-stitches, which I could deal with. Hey, I'm knitting the Princess Shawl Border on 840 or so. But they're so tight that I can't push them along the needle, which is half the fun of knitting.

I was interested to learn from my kind commentators that Queer Joe had done such a scarf in Koigu. I thought of that, and then I wondered whether, if I went on with the same size needle, it would be so loose that it would flop around and not twirl. A certain amount of tightness must be essential.

I have some more or less solid green and brown in my extensive Koigu stash, with which I once knit the above sweater. It's a Knitter's pattern -- I'll try to look out the source for tomorrow; a really good one. It comes in all sizes from toddler to adult, and it's a cardigan as well as a pullover, with an interesting construction technique. I don't know why it didn't become a cult. Well, maybe I do: because the first time I knit it, I misunderstood the instructions -- how could I have been so stupid? -- with the result, as I think you can see, that the miter on the right shoulder (to the left above) is seriously awry, not centered. So the sweater lives in stash, and as far as it is possible not to like Koigu colours, I don't like the colours very much.

But they'd be perfect for a twirly scarf. The pattern Judith has me going on is double -- you pick up stitches from the cast-on edge and do it all again. So I could use both. But on what size needle? We'll see.

So yesterday I knit row 17 of the Princess Shawl Border, and started happily back across row 18.

But that'll have to be that. James is coming from China for his father's birthday on the 13th, which is any minute now. (The birthday is not till the 19th.) I'll have to get started on the replacement First Holy Communion veil at once.


And my husband has announced that we have to go back to London to see some big art shows which have opened since we were there. There is nothing for it but to leap into action, and book us down next week. If I drag my feet even for a moment, I'll have to explain why we can't go the week after (James will be here), and spoil the surprise.

Lorna, I followed with pleasure the link you left with your comment. That makes two readers in Scotland, which makes it worthwhile to repeat something from yesterday's paper, unintelligible to the majority. The columnist Fraser Nelson was writing about the stunning lack of judgment Mr Blunkett showed in joining the board of DNA Bioscience, "a company which brokers the kind of tests which decide Blunkett-style paternity arguments. This appointment goes beyond self-parody. It is the equivalent of David McLetchie joining the board of an Edinburgh black cab company."


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

This is Cherry Tree Hill's worsted-weight merino-and-silk; and it's not working. The colourway is Java, and I love it. Posted by Picasa

Fete des Morts

Failure. I think I must be doing something wrong -- the yarn is too heavy, perhaps? Above is my twirly, swirly scarf. I've doubled the no. of stitches twice, but the third time is proving too much for me. Too tight. No fun. I suppose it's got to be tight in order to twirl and swirl, but this is beyond a joke. So tonight I'll rip it out and fall blissfully back into the arms of the Princess shawl edging.

I'll go on following links and thinking about such scarves, though. I'd still like to do one.


Dooce, whom I read regularly, says this morning that she makes a living writing the blog. Franklin, why not give up the day job? Moreover, you'd have the sort of ads I'd like to follow up; unlike hers.

I read in the Scotsman yesterday that if Mr Alito is confirmed, the Court will have a Catholic majority. That doesn't seem right. In fact, it seems wierd.

Thank you for the link, Grace (in yesterday's comment). I followed it and enjoyed.



Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A distinctly flashed-out picture of my new FO. Posted by Picasa


I'm rather pleased with the result, and it looks distinctly Fergus-sized. The pattern was spat out by the Sweater Wizard computer program, with Wallaby pouch and decorated yoke added by me. The yarn is Rowan 4-ply soft, in perhaps a slightly unfortunate colour (from Rowan's point of view) which I bought on sale at Liberty in the summer of '04. The colour is perfect for Fergus.

It is pretty similar in gauge and twist and feel to Koigu and to Louet Gems Merino. Who knows? they may all come from the same mill (Koigu, of course, being dyed by those geniuses in Canada). In any case, I have been doing enough with those yarns recently that I was able to type in my gauge with confidence. Traditional knitters, I have long thought, have the considerable advantage of working again and again with the same materials, so that all the sizing issues are utterly familiar to them, and they can concentrate on varying the traditional themes.

I'm not a great fan of swatching.

What Next?

I'm pretty sure I'm going to cast on a crinkled scarf this evening, using a pattern Judith pointed me towards. Poor Princess! But I comfort myself with the thought that I'm using up stash, and acquiring a Christmas present for someone if it works. And it shouldn't take long.


Here we are in November, and the climate is so comfortable that we haven't yet seriously considered turning on the heat. Bizarre. I went out shopping yesterday in shirt sleeves and ribwarmer. We are lucky enough to have an antique Aga, and the kitchen is in the centre of the flat; that helps. But it's a warm house, in general -- the warmest we've ever lived in, handy in old age. We turn off everything, always, when we go away, and homecoming never feels distressingly gelid. There are people living above and below, of course -- but that was true of our first flat, In Glasgow in the '50's. And that house was cold.

As part of the Great Switch of Bank Accounts, I must now use the Royal Bank's on-line banking service. Their security is much better than the Bank of Scotland security which I am used to, with the result that sometimes I do something wrong and can't get in myself and I am terrified of the process.


Pamela, thank you for the link. I don't want fuzzy, though, and can't really tell if the underlying pattern is what I'm looking for.

Grace, thank you for the long note. I still want to see your website. Before I heard from you, I tried Googling on "Princess Shawl Grace" and found myself back on my own Blog. Perhaps if I tried "Historical costume Grace" I'd do better.