Saturday, December 31, 2005

"Back in Ought Six..."

Janis, I'll do it! (yesterday's comment)

The phrase above, in today's title, is a family favourite of ours, as of many. I've heard Bart Simpson say it. I Googled on it recently, in inverted commas, and got pages of examples, but no explanation of its origin. Whatever -- today is the last day in the world that we can use it. Henceforth, I'll go with "late forty-eight", I think, for which at least I know the source. (The song "Take Back Your Mink" in Guys and Dolls)

Yesterday was pleasantly thrown off-kilter, for us. Our son-in-law Ed has been in Strathardle this week for a breath of fresh air, with his two daughters. He was planning to drive back today, after dispatching the elder daughter by train yesterday. They had a good deal of difficulty as they left to catch the train, because of snow, and when they got back, found that it had been snowing all day and they couldn't get the car anywhere near the house.

Ed packed up, closed the house (no small task), and hauled luggage to the car by sled. It took him three trips, over about half a mile. That's hard work, in deep snow. He and the remaining daughter came here last night. We had a pleasant time, and dispatched them this morning -- a mild, open day, at least in Edinburgh -- for the rest of the drive south.

So that's the answer to your question about the weather, Donna. My husband and I didn't have any trouble at all -- I dreaded spending all day Thursday on a snowbound train somewhere in Yorkshire, but we sped happily north with no delay. It's been savagely cold, both here and in London.

But I got a couple of socks darned last night, as an earnest of the better person I am going to be in ought six, and a couple of rows further on the veil.

Do go visit Joe's site to vote in the Knitter's Blog competition. There are lots of blogs there which I haven't heard of and mean to explore. Voting for "most entertaining" was particularly difficult. You Knit What is not so much a blog as a public service, I feel. It is ceaselessly entertaining. But so is Franklin, and he is a blog. A tricky one.

Here's a picture from our Christmas holiday, for today's illustration. It's the Round Trip jacket from Knitter's Fall '03, in Noro Kureyon. That's James' wife Cathy, drinking champagne. There was a lot of it about. The jacket kept slipping off, she says -- other people have made the same complaint about that fun pattern -- until she added an antique Chinese button.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Desiderato(que) acquiescimus lecto

I can be as highbrow as Franklin although a lesser knitter and utterly non-artist. The line is from Catullus and means, roughly, that it's awfully nice to get home and lie down on one's own bed.

We had a very nice time away, too. Not only Alexander and Rachel and their entire families, but James and Cathy and theirs (who had come from Beijing to spend Christmas with her family, in Cheltenham, and came to London on Boxing Day for two days with us). And a fair amount of art -- an unpleasant Italian-American whose name I forget, at the Gargossian Gallery; Samuel Palmer at the British Museum; Derain at the Courtauld; Douanier Rousseau at the place my husband calls Tatmo; and finally the huge Chinese exhibition at the Royal Academy, which we had the added pleasure of strolling through with James and his family. He complained that there were no labels in Chinese. Many of the visitors were Chinese, all -- or almost all -- of the exhibition came from there, some of the other visitors must have been English students of Chinese. It does seem a bit off.

All this, plus Christmas.


I worked hard on the current pair of travel-socks. 2005 has been rather short on FO's. I didn't expect to finish, but I did. When we set out last week, the second sock was represented by less than an inch of ribbing.

And I got the next one started, on the train yesterday. It's for Cathy, who is so small that it should be finished almost instantaneously. She likes her socks short, too.

I did the Kitchener'ing in the evening when we were back here.

There will be other knitting pictures from London in the days to come.

One of the things to be done in the next couple of days -- after I have laid in provisions; Scotland still takes the New Year rather seriously -- will be to write the Annual Summary of the year's knitting. This will be the tenth time I have done it. I print them out and keep them in the loose files with records of my FO's, and occasionally re-read them to my intense interest. They are guaranteed to bore the shirts off everyone else.

The first eight appeared on the Knitlist. Last year, I put a brief note there with a link to this blog. This year, I know from Marian Poller's experience that I am not allowed to do that. I could post the whole thing to the Knitlist and bore the shirts off them, but I fear that that may not be allowed either under the new regime, and I certainly can't risk a rejection. So it will just have to blush unseen here. Be warned.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas Day in the Morning

All well here. The fact thst London is 400 miles or so south of Edinburgh, and that the days have been bright, gives indeed the illusion that one can sense already the turn of the year. I am so greatly blessed by and in my children and grandchildren that I tremble sometimes, in moments like these, at the extent of my felicity.

Thank you, Mar and Franklin, for the Christmas greetings. Decorating the tree while Kings College Choic sings is an essential part of our celebration. That piercing soprano, Once in Royal David's City, is the moment when Christmas begins for us. They say that the boy who is to do it doesn't know, each year, until the moment when they are all lined up and about to process in and the whole world is listening. Then the choir master taps one of them on the shoulder.

Tamar, the First Holy Communion Veil is my pattern in a sense, but all the hard work was done by Mariane Kinzel in a design for an altar frontal which I have incorporated. There is a description on my website. It's called "Lizzie Ogden's Communion Veil" or something like that. I've printed out myown instructions for use this second time round, and I hope to tighten them up a bit (=render more intelligible) when this veil is finished. It worries me that attempts to Google on "knitted first holy communion veil" don't produce my suggestions, or at least, not in the first couple of pages. I doubt if there are many other patterns out there, if any. Anyone who Googled on that phrase would be happy to read my notes, I think.

I'm pressing hard with the travel socks, and making good progress. Picture on return.

Happy holidays to all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Dies Alba

We made it! The Winter Solstice! There will be more light tomorrow -- unless someone up there forgets to throw the switch. I always worry a bit about that.

We're going to London this morning, returning next Thursday. I'll try to post a seasonal entry from down there, but normal blogging will be suspended until Friday the 30th.

The little package from Heirloom Knitting turned up yesterday, as I thought it would, so I was able to knit peacefully on for a couple more rows.

Happy festiveness to all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The battle in World War II which was "the end of the beginning" was El Alamein, of course. We are still reading Churchill at bedtime -- 1942 was tough, despite the active engagement of the Americans. Singapore has fallen and the Japanese are rampaging around the Pacific unchecked, threatening both India and Australia. Malta is sorely pressed, and is essential for British defence of the Middle East. And Auchenlech has half a million men in Egypt, all having to be supplied by convoys around the Cape, but seems strangely reluctant to launch an offensive against Rommel. Montgomery hasn't appeared on the scene yet. Now read on...

I lost contact with the world for an hour or so yesterday morning; presumably a crisis at Demon. It was really scary. I can forget how dependent I am on my ghostly friends.

Anyway, the veil lacks but two rows before the leaf-pattern in the side panels is finished.

I have run out of yarn, and won't be able to do any more until the wee package arrives from Heirloom Knitting. It could be today.


I got the medicaments and the smoked salmon, and got almost all the wrapping done. Two cards remain to write (it's getting rather late for them), clothes to iron, camera to prepare, and knitting, and... I think I'd better make a list.

One aspect of Christmas for the elderly which the newspaper columnists although desperate for material do not seem to have noticed, is how it brings bad news. I don't mean death, although that is bad enough, but sparkling minds reduced in darkness and silence to wheelchairs and nursing homes.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Su Doku

Thanks to the brilliant team assembled from my blog-readers, we've nearly cracked last Sunday Times's puzzle. Tricia in Michigan made the break-through. It's beginning to look as if we don't have to rely on "what-if" after all.

Knitting Miscellany

Joe says that the blog which has received the most votes, so far, in his Knitting Blog Awards competition, is one he had never heard of. I am waiting breathlessly for his revelation of the finalists. And note that hyperlink!

This picture of a Bolivian woman voting was in yesterday's Waffy. The pattern of her sweater looks extremely interesting, although my husband points out that in these days of globalisation, one can't be sure she didn't get it from VK or Knitty.


Two days left now in which to get ourselves to London. A couple more cards to write, many presents to wrap but thank goodness, none to post. Some of the multiple medicaments which keep my husband on his feet, to be collected from the chemist. Smoked salmon for Rachel to be purchased from our dear fishmonger. An attempt to be made to find clean and respectable clothes in which to present myself. The camera to be purged of unwanted pics and its battery charged. Knitting laid out to take, and a book to read. Woof!

With two more evenings to go, I should finish the main body of the side panels of the First Holy Communion veil. The centre panel goes on a bit longer. I'll post a picture before we leave. Not the end, not even the beginning of the end, but at least, the end of the beginning, as Churchill said of a battle whose name I know perfectly well but can't think of at the moment.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Cousin Marie and Dom Joly

I'm going to give today's blog over to a political rant. The veil has progressed another few rows. I've figured out how to do proper hyperlinks here at Blogger itself -- the Blogger Users Group advises against Microsoft Word, anyway. As soon as I get a round tuit, I'll get to work on the sidebar, but they're in short supply this time of year.

Tamar, thank you for your kind words, but no, it was a woman who said that little jackets made bottoms look big. She was complaining that her husband had given her one. Rachel, my hit-counter shows referrals (i.e, people who come here because I'm in someone else's sidebar) and "key words" if anyone should get here via Google, but only IP addresses (if that's the phrase) for other folks. It would be fun to see people coming back. 122 hits yesterday.

Dom Joly

He writes a column for the Independent on Sunday, which I always read. He's Something On Television, too. Yesterday's column -- and of course I can't vouch for the truth of any of this -- found him in Costa Rica, which he had reached after changing planes in Miami. "Big mistake. As usual [because he was born in the Lebanon] I was taken aside at passport control and ushered -- without any explanation -- into a mini Ellis Island where poor unfortunates... sat awaiting 'processing' and hoping to avoid extraordinary rendition...Three times, I explained to one of the officials that I was only in transit and had no wish to enter the country but my plane was leaving in two hours [note the interval] and if I missed it I would have to come in...I was told that this was unfortunate as I was most likely going to miss my plane as US citizens were given priority in the queue...

"I sat and sat while one man gave a Mexican an incredibly hard time for not speaking English. The other three officials ate doughnuts and made phone calls. Finally I exploded as my departure time got to just 30 minutes away but I was told that we were 'Not in Engurrrland now'...

"I was eventually 'processed'...I was released, with no apology, half an hour after my plane had departed for Costa Rica.

"Desperately, I tried to find another flight and managed to buy a ticket on one that was leaving four hours later. I then tried to pass through security to sit and wait by my gate. Another official told me, however, that since I had been registered as entering the country, I had to be stamped out. I joined another interminable queue in another weird office. This process took another four hours and I proceeded to miss my second departing flight. Again there was no apology, no excuse, frankly no point in the whole thing."

He finally got to San Jose, on the third attempt, but his luggage is still in Miami.

Cousin Marie

She was my father's cousin, rather older than he was, born therefore, perhaps, in the 1880's. In 1938 she was travelling alone in Europe. She wrote letters home to my parents, and my mother made a little article from their content which was published in the New Yorker late in the year. It was called "Cousin Marie and the Reich". Cousin Marie was pretty cross at my mother for that.

Marie left Paris in late September, about the time Mr Chamberlain went to Munich and came back with Hitler's signature on that piece of paper that meant "peace in our time". "The American ambassador in Paris was urging Americans to evacuate the city, but he expected them to travel west." Marie decided to take a boat trip down the Rhine.

Unfortunately, her German visa was out of date. At the border "the first inspector who came into her compartment took one look at her passport and started to talk German very fast...When Cousin Marie failed to understand the inspector, he called another inspector, who explained in slower German that she would have to leave the comfortable compartment and the train and come with him to the police station to get a new visa. There was another train for Frankfort two hours later, which he was sure she could take."

The police escorted her to the Rathaus, where she was questioned. "On the whole it was a friendly conversation, but in the end they wouldn't take the responsibility of passing her. The head man handed her passport back to the large, blond policeman, who took her to the Chief of Police....Cousin Marie had been thinking on the way over that she didn't seem to be getting anywhere and perhaps she ought to do something, so when she saw the Chief of Police she said 'Heil Hitler!' She doesn't, as a matter of fact, like Hitler at all, but everyone else was saying it and it didn't seem the sort of remark a captured spy would make. The Chief of Police smiled, but he nevertheless asked the same questions over again. He wound up with an extra one: What was her profession?

"'None,' said Cousin Marie, and then added, 'Just to live.'

"At that he really laughed and the blond policeman laughed, so Cousin Marie thought she could safely laugh too.

"'Ja, zu leben. Eine gute Profession,' said the Chief of Police, and he stamped her passport...

"The Chief of Police had to telephone the station to ask them to hold the five o'clock train a few minutes for her. Cousin Marie had never had a train held for her before."

Sunday, December 18, 2005

This is an addendum to the entry below.

Nope -- photographs won't upload. Odd, when Blogger itself supplied the Word add-on. Here is the picture I refer to.

I'll have to revert to composing in Blogger and do without hyperlinks for the time being.

This is yet another

This is yet another attempt to improve formatting. I’ve downloaded a little program from Blogger which works as an add-on to Microsoft Word and may enable me both to embed photographs and to have real, grown-up hyperlinks.

Let’s try a photograph. (image placeholder) All right, up to a point. The next thing to figure out, is how to move it left or right, but we’ll leave it here for the moment. This is a picture of Alistair Miles (some years ago), James’s son, wearing a sweater I sort of designed, called an “Archie”. You’ll find the pattern on my website – hey, that seems to work. The beauty of it is, you don’t have to swatch or indeed to have any idea at all how many stitches you’re going to need. You just start, and knit diagonally until it’s big enough.

I never did knit one for Archie (Helen’s son).


I had 110 hits yesterday (fewer than the incomplete count on Friday – maybe lots of people log-on from work). That’s more than I expected. I would have been satisfied with 30, delighted by 50. Many of them are blood relatives, of course. I have tried to resist the temptation of having a look myself, several times a day, just to see if there are any comments.

I think Joe is wrong, however, to make number-of-hits and number-of-links important criteria in his new Knitting Blog Awards. Part of the point should be to find and reward blogs that blush unseen.


The veil advances. I’ll photograph it again before we go on London on Thursday. I’m now doing the penultimate repeat of the side-panel pattern and may, therefore, have finished the main body of the thing before we leave. It will still have to be edged, of course. I live in a constant state of anxiety about mis-counting the mesh in the central part and thus mis-aligning the big motif, but so far all is well. I’m now pretty sure that two balls of Sharon Miller's Merino Lace are going to be enough, so I went ahead and ordered one more.

In the side panels, the decreases and the increases are not adjacent to each other, for the most part, and that makes it unusually hard to figure out what has gone wrong, when something has. It can be difficult enough, in lace, because of the increases and decreases, to figure out exactly which stitches of the row below you ought to be knitting now, and when they are separate, the difficulty increases.

There was an article in the Waffy yesterday which said that “little jackets make even women who are quite small look as if they have rhino flanks for bottoms.” I think she was thinking more of a bolero-shape than something like the boxy Kate Gilbert jacket in IK, but it’s another strike against it, in addition to the curling-edge-problem mentioned yesterday. I’ve been reading about facings in my books and it all sounds rather difficult.

Now, let’s see if I can publish this right here from Word….

Saturday, December 17, 2005


Alexander rang up yesterday morning, muttering something about "utter incompetence" which I didn't quite catch, and offering to go into Blogger himself and straighten things out. So he did. We've now got comments back under control (although with the permanent loss, apparently, of many of my treasured comments from the past) and the hit-counter incorporated as well. I am pleasantly surprised at how many of us there are. I will report tomorrow, when the system has had a whole 24 hours to run.


The great thing about this veil is that the rows are short enough that several are accomplished at each session, even though the session be brief, so progress is visible. I got out my treasured copy of Piecework for May/June, '98, yesterday. That's the one with Bridget Rorem's essay about the bridal veil she knit for her daughter Ingrid. There's no pattern for the veil in Piecework (although Bridget later contributed a similar, although reduced pattern to Meg Swansen's "A Gathering of Lace") but there is a lacy alphabet, fully charted. I have used it several times, to sign shawls, and will use it again here to incorporate the initials of the wearer and her younger sister.

The Curmudgeon ( likes Kate Gilbert's jacket pattern in the current IK, too, (like me and Joe and Selma) but has the wisdom to point out that the front edges curl inward. Would attaching a facing help? If so, what? I must have the answer on my bookshelves somewhere.

My sister wrote yesterday, asking for a shawl to replace one which vanished into the void when an airline lost a suitcase. A happy loss, as I had wanted to knit her one for her 70th birthday next year -- a prospect which makes me feel a good deal older than my own did, a couple of years ago -- but soon realised there was no way it could be done in secret (she reads the blog) without depriving myself of anything to write about. Now it's out in the open. We are discussing patterns and yarns.

She is living and working in Mozambique at the moment. She attached this cheerful Christmas picture.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Lee, the Kinzel "Arabesque" scarf is beautiful. It's in the same book as my altar frontal, as I'm sure you know. I'm also pretty sure that this veil is the only Kinzel I'll ever knit, but I greatly admire her work. And I suspect it hits new heights for accuracy.

Comments and Hit-Counting

You'll probably have guessed what happened. Alexander said to take his code out and see if comments were restored. I did and they weren't. So I hared back to Haloscan and got their code again and pasted it in, with the ridiculous result you see: I've now got two, but all my beloved former comments are gone. Perhaps I'll have another go at the template soon, perhaps I can't stand it. At least I've still got a blog.

Queer Joe is starting an Annual Award for knitting blogs. I don't see how anyone can read enough of them to judge. We each have our little round. I'll have to vote, though. Joe, himself. Franklin. ( Mar. ( Crazy Aunt Purl. ( There are others. They'll have to be shoehorned into the different categories. Crazy Aunt Purl is brilliant at detailed photographs illustrating techniques -- see her latest; but I'm not sure there's a category for that.

When I composed blog entries off-line in a program called BlogJet, it let me hide URLs behind words or phrases in proper, grown-up hyperlinks. I don't seem to be able to do that, here in Blogger itself. But BlogJet doesn't let me enbed photographs. I'll get it all straightened out in the end.

Meanwhile, a bit more veil was done, and a bit more Christmas. I've got two boxes ready for the post, each containing multiple presents. They represent such an Achievement, there on the floor, that I will be sorry to part with them. This afternoon will have to be spent queueing at the Post Office.

Su Doku

We've run into a road block. It would appear that there are some puzzles which can only be solved by trial-and-error, or suck-it-and-see, to use a more technical term. Pick a square in which only two numbers can possibly appear, try one of them, and see what result you get, down the line. Lorna and I disapprove mightily. This is not Su Doku as we have always understood it.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Marcella in the Netherlands has joined our SuDoku-along, and anyone else interested is more than welcome. Write to me: So far, all that is happening is that we are contemplating the puzzle posted yesterday without making any progress at all. The idea is that if anyone can place a number, s/he will share it with the others with the reason so that we can all move forward together.

I'm not entirely stupid. I did the one labelled "Tough" in yesterday's Telegraph before breakfast. But this one utterly defeats me.

On another matter, my son Alexander has provided me with some HTML code for my Blogger template which provides me with a hit-count, i.e., a tally of how many people visit this Blog. Most of them of course are me, having a look during the day to see if there are any comments. Putting the new code in has for some reason removed the Haloscan comment facility. Until Alexander tells me how to get that back, we are reduced to Blogger's own comments.

Back to our Knitting

Thank you for your very helpful comments yesterday, Mar, about vest-designing. I saw them before Haloscan disappeared. I should have remembered myself that I could get a good idea of the yardage needed by regarding sleeves as 1/3 of the total of a sweater. I think for the moment I will move the idea to a back burner until I can re-unite myself with Vicky Square's Knitting Great Basics, an invaluable resource. I'm pretty sure I don't have enough yarn. I could buy some more and stripe it!

Joe ( said yesterday that he had had coffee recently with my friend Selma, lucky man, and they talked about the new IK. They liked the Kate Gilbert pattern which I recently mentioned being tempted by myself. Having my taste vindicated in such an august circle greatly increases the chances that I'll one day knit it.

On my way home from Sainsbury's yesterday, I suddenly realised why I was having trouble with the stitch count at one repeating point in the Communion veil. The picture is not so much to show progress, although there's been a bit, as to illustrate the point.

Kinzel has a four-stitch selvedge at either edge. I have substituted a two-stitch edge (yo, k2tog at the beginning of every row, and k2tog at the end, to create a picot edge to which a lace edging will eventually be attached. I have tried to arrange this picture so that you can see a few of the loops.)

So I pay no attention to Kinzel's four stitches.

But what suddenly struck me was that on that one row only, the selvedge edge must be taking one stitch from the side panel, and at the other side (of the side panel) the centre panel must be eating a stitch as well. Sure enough, that's it.

I have fudged the earlier occurances well enough that the mistakes are invisible, I think, but from here on out, I'll do it right. Alexander is a brilliant cook-- one of his maxims is: read the recipe all the way through before you start. The same might well be said to apply to knitting.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Oh, Lorna, I didn't mean a challenge. I was thinking more of mutual help and support, a SuDoku-along. When either of us figured out where a number goes, she would write to the other and explain where and why. It would be wonderful if your husband would take over this role and we could just sit back and learn. I attach my pitiful effort from last Sunday to inspire him. I like to work a SuDoku while my porridge is cooking, and on Sundays I can't.

I'm, if you want to pursue the subject off-blog. Or anybody else wants to say anything.

Helen, I agree about the nice PO in Canonmills, and go there as often as I can. But the dreadful St James Centre one can be combined with buying fish from wonderful Mr and Mrs Dee, and also with looking at yarn in John Lewis, so I often wind up there after all.


The lunch party was delightful, and I got a good set of Christmas cards written. I'm going to be OK if I don't falter.

Inspired by my own words yesterday, I've begun thinking about what to knit when the veil is finished. Here is some recent retail-therapy-stash-enhancement, four skeins of Debbie Bliss' Maya. What to do with it? I had kind of thought of a vest, but Sweater Wizard doesn't do sleeveless, and my copy of Knitting Great Basics is in Kirkmichael I think (it's full of schematics for just about everything in all sizes and weights of yarn), and flipping through Folk Vests leads me to suspect I haven't got enough yarn. I don't need another ribwarmer. Are we to be reduced to a series of watchcaps? It's really too heavy for a scarf. Or perhaps I should buy some more and do something slightly more adventurous from the Folk Vests book?

The odd-ball in the picture is also Maya, left over from knitting a ribwarmer with a former four-skein purchase.

Meanwhile the veil made some progress. I'm having trouble with the stitch count on certain rows, and can't yet see why. I've reached the cross-piece of the central cross.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Lorna: That's how I do a Su Doku. For a long time I was too grand to use a pencil, and never got beyond "Moderate". Then last summer I upped my technique, do it exactly as you describe in yesterday's comment, and can now, usually, finish the "Fiendish" and "Diabolical" ones, if I give it enough time. But I can't get anywhere with the Sunday Times. Can you? Get it next week and we'll do it together over the following six months. It's called "Superior" and is on the inside back page of the News Review section. Hell, they'll probably have an easy one for Christmas.

The solution -- for those of you who haven't been bitten -- is of no use to a Su Doku doer. It's no use being told which number goes where: one has to know, why.

My husband's birthday

Helen in Thessaloniki just sent some photographs. (Alas, her new digital camera has lost its flash function, so we won't have pictures of Fergus in his new Wallaby for a while.)

Our four children clubbed together and gave him -- I may have mentioned this -- a drawing by the artist he knows more about than anyone else. Slipped inside a birthday card. This is the moment, in our kitchen at home before going out to lunch, when they gave it to him, and the photograph well captures his astonishment and delight, overlaid with the scholar's interest in the object. It is signed and dated and located (=bears the name of the city in which it was done). We have a good local framer and have moved with unusual celerity, for us. It's now hanging in the sitting room.

This one shows the moment of the final surprise, when we got to the restaurant and he discovered the Nine Old Friends. It hasn't scanned quite as well as the first. From left to right, after my husband, two of the old friends, me, looking distraught, Rachel, and Rachel's youngest child, her daughter Lizzie.


I got a few more rows of the veil done, in intervals of Christmas-card-writing (and got another good day's work done on them, too). I am alarmed to see even blog-writers mired down in Christmas knitting, just the way Knitlist-members used to be when I read the Knitlist. There is quite enough to panic about this time of year, without letting knitting get stressful, too. I've got to prepare some more packages for the post, my most-hated job, and toil up the hill to a remote post office with them, since they've closed our local. How can I do that and keep up Christmas-card production? We're going out to lunch today, to a 50th birthday party, which will probably mean virtually nothing done.

But both the veil and Rachel's striped Koigu, in Strathardle, are far enough along that I am thinking seriously about their replacements. I always used to be astonished, when people wrote to the Knitlist to say they had finished something and couldn't think what to do next. The whole fun of finishing something, is starting the next thing. And while you're finishing, you can think and plan -- and, hey! if need be, order the yarn.

Monday, December 12, 2005

We're moving along. I suppose I'm about half-way done with the main body of the thing -- then are are another, what? 40 rows, while points form at the bottom. You can currently see the top -- this is top-down -- of the big cross beginning to form.

I've relaxed about size. This is a little girl we're talking about. It'll be fine.

And it's not a rest-of-my-lifetime project, either, like the Princess Shawl. This one will get finished. The event is in April, so I've got time. Indeed if I'd known earlier that James and his family were going to spend Christmas in England, I might have had it done in time to take back. As it is, it'll have to be DHL and that's a bore (not the expense so much as filling out the forms).


I did the arithmetic on the Christmas cards, recoiled from the result, and got a good day's work done yesterday. The difficulty, of course, lies in maintaining the pace without making the cards sound perfunctory.

The Sunday Times Su Doku was as impossible as ever. I put in 5 numbers, I think. What am I missing?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Not much to report. The Communion veil advances. Another picture soon. I'm doing the big cross now in the central bit -- it's what's called filet lace, I think, a technique not much used, where a st st motif floats on a sea of mesh. Pretty easy except for all the counting. And I'm beginning to get the hang of the side panels, where the pattern repeats over about 12 rows. I had a twinge of anxiety yesterday after that talk about the yarn -- is this yarn too fine? Will the veil be embarrassingly small? I'd be happy, on the other hand, to add a bit to its length, in order to incorporate the wearer's initials, and her sister's. Time will tell.

No picture today, so here's an old one, of James's wife Cathy in her wedding sweater. I don't think the colours of the real thing are quite as violent as this, but maybe they are. I knit one for each daughter and daughter-in-law. It's full of what are meant to be significant symbols. I think that row where a shield seems to alternate with an animal of some sort, represents Cornwall, where Cathy's father comes from. The next big motif in an upwards direction is meant to be the Robertson crest, for James. The lowest one looks like an attempt at something Chinese -- you get the idea. Why is there no ribbing at the bottom?

I have realised that Kate Gilbert, who designed the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket I rather admire in IK, is the one who designed the Clapotis. It (the jacket) represents all I don't like in knitting, anti-ethnic, anti-Zimmermann, lots of separate pieces to block and sew together. But I'm still tempted. It might be good for me.

Thanks for the comments about stash. I, too, thought of writing to the Knitting and Crochet Guild, Lorna, but decided it was quicker and easier to write here. Of course, not all of my stash was prudently laid aside. The enormous quantity of Shetland jumper-weight to be found there derives from my Fair Isle days (as above). If one buys two ounces of every colour one intends to use, and does this over several years for I suppose at least eight all-over-patterned sweaters of 10-12 colours each, one acquires a back-log. And some purchases, not many but some, were pure retail therapy. I have actually mentioned my Knitting Stuff (=stash, magazines, books, and my swift) in my Will, mostly to prevent the ignorant and well-intentioned from throwing it all away. Some of the books are curiously valuable these days.


I have dispatched the Christmas packages to Thessaloniki and made a good but not sufficient start on the Christmas cards. I think today I'd better tot up how many remain to do (lots) and divide by the number of available days.

I can usually do the So Doku's labelled "Fiendish" and "Diabolical" in the Times and Telegraph, if I am willing to squander the time. But I have never yet succeeded with the Sunday Times. Maybe today.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Last Train to San Fernando

Alexander, yesterday, took his sons for a ride on the 159, remembering the day long ago when a friend took him and Rachel for a ride on the Last Glasgow Tram. That is a picture of James Miles-the-Younger actually stepping up onto the open platform of an old-style bus for the last time in the world. Behind him is a pushchair containing his brother, Thomas-the-Younger, controlled by their nanny, Carleen.

And from Rachel: "Joe and i had a wonderful time on the bus yesterday. we felt like celebrities with people lining the whole route taking pictures. We saw saw some beautiful old buses and listened to all the sweet men on the bus reminiscing about the different models."

I can't remember the route number of the last Glasgow tram, but no one who was there could ever forget that its destination was Auchenshuggle.


The winter IK turned up yesterday, definately an occasion for pulses to quicken. I am even rather tempted by the Pearl Buck Swing Jacket -- I think the shape might suit the shapeless matronly figure. And the yarn is British -- Jaeger Extra Fine Merino DK -- so I could get it without paying duty. Indeed, they have it in my local John Lewis, in a range of uninspiring colours. There must be better ones out there.

And, oh! the ad for the Mediterranean cruise on page 65! Candace Strick is a friend, and Elizabeth Lavold a designer I admire extravagantly, and every port of call except perhaps Marseille, somewhere I have been and would love to re-visit, or somewhere I haven't been and would love to see. It's only a dream. I couldn't leave my vegetable garden in July. But what a dream!

JoVE, that's not dental floss I'm knitting the Communion Veil with -- just you wait until I get back to the Princess Shawl. This is Sharon Miller's Merino Lace. I started out knitting the Princess with it, and was having a great time, until Sharon herself rang me up and told me to stop, the yarn was too big for the job. The Princess is now being done in her Gossamer Merino. I haven't ordered more Merino Lace yet. I am determined, if possible, not to add to stash with this job, and so will knit until the current ball is nearly done and I can gauge how much more I need.

Speaking of stash, there is an idiotic little article in the current magazine of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, wondering why we do it. That's easy, lady: for fear the yarn won't be there next year. What will happen to Koigu when Maie Landra retires? She's not young. What has happened to Socka Colors? I could go on. We all could. The safest place for yarn is in my cupboard.

Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm tottering on with the Communion veil. The pattern is the altar frontal (a reduced version of) from Marianne Kinzel's Second Book of Modern Lace Knitting. I've done 51 rows of 183 but the final rows are short, where it forms points, so I'm really further on than that sounds.

It occurred to me only within the last half-hour that I might be able to copy and enlarge the chart, which would help a lot. I drew pencil lines through each row as I finished knitting it the first time, never thinking that I would pass this way again. For those of us accustomed to Sharon Miller's large, clear charts, it's tough, and the pencil lines make it worse.

When James was here, for my husband's birthday, I took this rather silly and sentimental picture after he had gone jet-lagged to bed. There's the veil, which I had got out to show him -- it's his daughter who will wear it. (I was actually knitting Swirly 1 at the time.) And there are his shoes.


Today the last of the old London busses with an open platform at the back, will make its last journey. It is getting a certain amount of national (and probably international) attention. The route, 159, starts very near where Rachel lives in Streatham. We often take it when we are there. It goes past the Imperial War Museum (occasional interesting exhibitions there), over Westminster Bridge, always breath-taking, up Whitehall to Trafalgar Square (for the National Gallery) and on up Regent Street, where one can hop off to visit the Bond Street dealers, or walk on to the Royal Academy. For the Tate, we take the 159 only as far as Brixton and then the Victoria Line subway to Pimlico.

This from Rachel yesterday: Yesterday i decided to say goodbye to the 159 (its last journey is on Friday) and take a trip up to Oxford street. Nobody was there and i achieved a fair amount [of Christmas shopping]. Joe has a day off today for the feast of the Immaculate Conception (no longer a Holy Day here although you might have to go). In the past he has had to go to mass at the oratory but fifth formers get a day off for study so i thought we might go back to oxford Street as he wants to do some shopping and today they are running some of the very first Routemasters on the route with the fares going to charity. The garage has been seething with photographers all week and as i was coming back yesterday someone was making a film on the top deck, interviewing an old bus driver. it's all very sad.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

I finished Swirly 2. It came out much shorter -- much swirlier, in fact -- than 1. Maybe it'll relax.

There's a Swirly pattern in the new issue of Knitter's mentioned yesterday. But it's crochet.

I got back to work on the Communion Veil last night, as hoped, and found I was further on than I thought I was, which was nice. Like everyone else, including Joe, recently, I get confused about "lace knitting" and "knitted lace". Was it Margaret Stove herself who first applied the terms? There's a real distinction; the difficulty lies in remembering which term to apply to which. Anyway, the veil is what I think is called "lace knitting" -- every other row plain -- which speeds things along a bit. The Princess Shawl is very much the other, therefore if I'm right, "knitted lace", with excitement in every row.


My website does seem to be visible, despite a brief disappearance. ( Thanks to all who reassured me. The difficulty -- if there is one -- is as you perceived it, Mar: what will happen now? The old domain name, jeanmile, is defunct, isn't it? Will it expire at the end of the year when my dial-up connection was due to be up? Can I get in with the old password? I could always try, of course, but I think I'd better ring them up. I must have some web space somewhere, and all the stuff is here on my home computer, so we'll be all right in the end.

The last of my internet-ordered Christmas presents turned up yesterday, and as with all the previous ones, these were at least as good as I had hoped for from the catalogue description. Next year I'll start earlier and get more catalogues. The Science Museum is a good one which I didn't have this year, and I'll try the V&A. Now all I've got to do is write a million Christmas cards, and wrap up a huge pile of presents and (worst) consign many of them to the post, and I feel so smug about the present-buying that it's hard to take these responsibilities seriously.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Home again, again. Here's yesterday morning's picture of the vegetable garden, on which no work got done. I didn't even get across the field you see behind to collect a barrow-load of manure. But we cleaned the gutters of their load of autumn leaves, and the ditch that runs beside the driveway likewise, and pruned an apple tree, and did various other winter-type chores. The conical tree in this picture is an abies grandis; my husband planted it, when it was much smaller.

We have no television there, no internet connection, no mail to speak of, no newspapers unless we make the effort to drive to a neighbouring hamlet. The result is a wonderful cleansing of the palate, like a spoonful of sherbet between courses. And the illusion that life is perfectly manageable.

This time of year is good for knitting, too. Darkness drives one indoors by half past four. You will remember of course that at our last visit north, I had only just started the ribbing on the second sleeve of Rachel's striped Koigu. Now, we're getting distinctly near the end of that sleeve.

Ten more stripes to go. Then I will have to give serious thought -- I don't like thought -- to the neck placket and collar. Up to now, I'm just enlarging the pattern I designed for a toddler, but I think the neck demands a bit more in the way of application.

Here in Edinburgh, I'm within a hundred stitches or so of finishing the cast-off of Swirly 2. Then I must pick up the First Holy Communion veil and do at least a wadge of it before allowing myself any more solstice-comfort knitting.

The new issue of Knitting (the British magazine) was waiting for us here. There's a wonderful article by Mary Morrison -- who is surely the Mary Morrison of -- about a trip to Shetland. I was delighted to note that she went sufficiently native to refer, at the end, to "the return trip to Scotland". I've never been there, alas, but I know that that's how Shetlanders refer to the mainland: "Scotland". "Mainland", I think, means to them the largest Shetland island.

I've decided what to do with that magazine. Despite what I said once about never throwing away a knitting magazine, that's what I'm going to do. I'll keep each issue for a year, as I do with my food magazines, and then have a last flip through just in case, before binning it. I've got to go on subscribing, for the sake of British knitting. We need this magazine, and they're really trying. But storage space is getting tight, and I'm certainly not going to throw away a VK or a Knitter's or an IK.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'm putting the final border on Swirly 2. But we're going to Strathardle today -- no more Blog until next Tuesday or Wednesday -- so it won't actually be finished for a while.

The newspaper we know as the Waffy had One of Those Articles yesterday: "Knitting is no longer the preserve of your granny, and homespun knitwear need not look dull and frumpy...Knitwear has never been more chic" etc. I think the word "homespun" is mis-used there, but let it go.

The Vogue Knitting Book for Autumn, 1955, (left), leads off with the words: "It is hard now to remember that there was a time when knitting had little or nothing to do with fashion; that there was an endless sameness of design in sensible cardigans, traditional pullovers, classic sweaters...."

Plus ca change... as Franklin might say. (

The delicious irony of course is that the bright young readers of VKB in 1955 are today's despised grannies. Namely, me.

In those days, the American and British VK's were separate magazines, with some overlap of patterns. The British one started in the early 30's and lasted until the late 60's. (One of the very last issues published the very first KF to see the light of day -- a fairly conventional Fair Isle vest, wonderful for its time, printed out row-by-row, no chart.) I've got the majority of them, but there are big gaps in the early sequence. The numbering suggests that they were published throughout the war. I'd love to find one of those. They are undated, but the Coronation is referred to in what must therefore be the spring issue of 1953, and the rest can be dated from that.

I think the only other external event I have ever noticed on the pages of VK was 9/11.


I love broadband. I think the always-on-ness is even more wonderful than the speed. One day soon, when I've recovered from the initial excitement, I'll have to phone Demon again and find out exactly what has happened to my website.

I got started on the Christmas cards, in the sense that I got the supplies spread out on the dining room table, and "Fruitcake" propped up (see yesterday). But I only actually wrote one. I think I'd better take enough for the American recipients along to the country today, with the hopes of posting them from the village on Monday.