Friday, July 21, 2006

Our first day in Strathardle, last Saturday, was St Swithen’s Day. It was beautiful from beginning to end, and the good saint is doing his best to live up to his reputation. Central Perthshire hasn’t been as stiflingly hot as London, but it’s been pretty warm. I made good use of my new Oriental Gardening Tool, and love it, but the garden implement most in evidence was the watering can. Meanwhile the beans on the doorstep here had a near-death experience from lack of water, but I think they can be saved.


I divided Ketki’s gansey for front-and-back. For the first few rows I tried “combination knitting” – wrapping the yarn the wrong way round, for the purl stitches – and then decided, sod this. It was no fun: getting my mind round the concept of knitting the pattern from behind on alternate rows; remembering how to wrap the purl stitches; working into the backs of stitches which had been purled on the previous row. It was all too much. (The point of "combination knitting" is to bring back-and-forth gauge into harmony with round-and-round.)

However, this all may be academic now. Yesterday morning, Helen and I were ordering sweaters for ourselves from a catalogue, using as our model the sweater Alexander gave me to size Ketki’s from. (It’s got red wine stains down the front but is otherwise in fine shape; it’ll make me a great country sweater once the gansey is done.)

And what with one thing and another, and having the tape measure out as well, I measured across the gansey – which is possible now that front and back are divided – and found that it is far too narrow. It has pulled in, like ribbing, and become much, much narrower than the swatch.

So much for swatching, indeed. I’ve never liked or trusted it. Meg says she never swatches – starts with a sleeve, instead. But you can’t do that with a gansey.

I’ve brought it back here and will today (I hope) take it off the needles, wash and block, and see what we’ve got. Happily, I’ve got the Paisley Long Shawl to comfort me. I finished the hexagons last night and started the little spacer bands at the end. Not much longer to go, on this first half.


All is well. In fact, this is shaping up as one of my best years. The only trouble is, there is nothing to eat yet, except for salads and some rather tough spinach-substitutes. Maybe it’s the way I grow them. Much is promised for next month, but normally we are picking the first courgettes now, and tucking into the potatoes. This year – probably because of the long, cold spring – the courgettes are 10 days or a fortnight away, and the potatoes few and small.

There was no frost (feared as I left, a week ago) but we had had a visit from a deer. (Dolores and her friends would have made very similar footprints, but, and I am sorry to have to say it, far more mess.) It was an idle visit of enquiry, and not much damage was done. Some viola flowers, the tips of the peas, a leaf or two of kale.

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