Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I’m sorry to say goodbye to January. It’s a grand month, full of hope and new beginnings – especially when the weather is easy, as this year. The light level must be about the same as in November; I marvel every time at how different January feels. The snowdrops are blooming – and, hey! I saw some dandelions yesterday!

I’ve accomplished a bit this month, but the trouble with doing anything about chaos is that all I ever achieve is to reveal more of it. Dirt, ironing, piles of paper – the principle applies across the board.


Thanks for the encouragement about seed-sprouting. Lorna, when I read your message, I thought, I’ll try alfalfa next and then I ought, no, I’ll try alfalfa right now. The sprouter has two tiers. So I have soaked some overnight, where it swelled up nicely, and I’ve now spread it about. Meanwhile the onion seeds have made very slight progress. All my older seeds are in Kirkmichael – I will look out the old lettuce and broccoli (thanks, Pamela) when we are next there.

Mar, please light the Christmas tree candles next year, just once, on Christmas afternoon as it gets dark. You’ll survive, I promise you.

Lee, I’ll certainly have a look at that Detroit website.


I started the hat last night, and it’s looking good. Alas the print-out doesn’t include the URL. I think I may have mentioned it when I downloaded it, but it’s too much trouble to trawl back through the archives.

Here’s a picture of the lace- and cobweb-weight yarn I pulled out of stash to tempt my sister. Nothing is quite right, though, so we’re going for something from the considerable range of colours in Sharon Miller's merino lace-weight. I notice that it’s on sale for the next two days! My sister wants absolutely everything in A Gathering of Lace but in the end I think will stick with Amedro’s Cobweb Evening Wrap for shape, and I’ll put in some patterns from Heirloom Knitting, yet to be chosen.

The three skeins on the right I bought in Beijing. I wonder if they might even have some cashmere in them. They were completely unlabelled and I had no syllable of language in common with the nice woman in the shop. I hoped my sister might go for that yellow, which is such a wonderful Chinese-y colour. But she says it's not for her.

Lorna wants to enter a Scottish team in the Knitting Olympics. Why not? I’m only vaguely aware of what’s going on, but I was attracted by the notion of the Knitting Special Olympics. It was on one of the blogs I read, but can I find it now? no. The idea was that you started knitting something on Day One and maybe you finished it sometime and maybe you laid it aside and started knitting something else.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Well, here are some stripes, much bleached by the flash. I do love stripes, these are coming out all right – but something isn’t working for me here. I got the travel socks out last night and did a few rounds. I found a really rather nice, largish oddball of some beautiful Manos, and a hat pattern I downloaded recently, and a short 5mm needle, and tonight’s knitting will be that.

And I hope I’ll have time today to order the nudibranch yarn (for the thing I’m going to test-knit for Lorna) and perhaps something for the forthcoming shrug, as well. I will resume stripe-thinking in due course, I hope.


YES, Carol, I am American. We lived in Detroit from 1940 (probably) until 1946 – in a child’s memory, that was forever – on Parkside between Seven and Eight Mile Roads, or was it between Six and Seven? Write to me, jean-at-milesandmiles.demon.co.uk, and we can talk Detroit. I was a passionate Tiger fan.

I agree that Christmas tree candles are essentially a German thing, atu. For years we had only rigid clip-on candle holders and it used to take hours to get them reasonably level as branches insisted on springing up or drooping. We knew that in Germany they had holders with a sort of ball socket so that the candle as well as the branch could adjust. Eventually we succeeded in getting some, and they make life easier.

Laurie, I like your stripe idea a lot. Thank you. It’s rather like the way I do Fair Isle, where I choose a number of colours more or less – usually, more -- than the number of rows in the pattern-repeat, so that each time the pattern repeats, it comes at a different point in the colour sequence. When I come back to these KF yarns, I’m going to try it your way.

And Mandella, thank you for the kind words.


On Saturday morning, just as I was posting my Blog entry, in fact, the first of my seed orders arrived. One of the things in the package was a neat little plastic seed-sprouter, for growing bean sprouts and things like that to eat in your salads. And a collection of thirteen different types of seeds, to sprout in it. Mostly this was purchased for Helen, who likes healthy eating and who spends some weeks in Strathardle with her boys in the summer. It will be fun for them, too.

However, I couldn’t wait, and have started off with some onion seeds (chosen at random) and I have to tell you that nothing seems to be happening. I was promised “delicious sprouts” within two or three days. I started right away, on Saturday morning. Time is running out.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

If I had given the matter any serious thought, I would have realised that the veil would photograph better if I pinned it out on a coloured sheet. There is a contemporary artist, Scottish I think, certainly British, who paints folds of fabric and is particularly eloquent doing white-on-white. By this time tomorrow – no, I’ve got it. Alison Watt. That’s what this photograph looks like, sort of: an Alison Watt.

I will photograph the veil again on a more useful background, after I unpin it and before DHL’ing it to Beijing. I tried to send the photograph there yesterday evening, but usa.net all of a sudden decided to “refuse” my emails. I was invited to write to their postmaster and ask why. I felt that the enquiry was unlikely to lead anywhere. A copy got through – at least, didn’t come back – when sent to James’s Economist email address.


I had a sort of interesting and rather depressing time of it during last night’s knitting session, after a day of thinking about random, and downloading a useful Random Number Generator which Helen pointed me to. What I discovered, actually knitting, is what Tamar hints at in her yesterday’s comment: random doesn’t work, at least with colours. You’ve got to think what you’re going to use next, and why.

I’ll show you a picture tomorrow, and hope it will illustrate the point.

Meanwhile, in the swatch, I have switched from KF’s Roman Stripes (1), where both stripe width and colour are supposed to be “random”, to Korean Stripes, where broadish bands of neutral colours – 8 or 10 or 12 rows – are separated by three or four one-row stripes of brighter colours. This provides me with a bit more structure (=less thinking) and Alexander, perhaps, with a less gaudy sweater. We’ll see.

I remain rabbit-in-the-headlights about what actually I’m going to do, tonight, tomorrow, Tuesday. Three days swatching (four, counting last night) is far too much. My sister will be here tomorrow and Tuesday: that rules out Princess Shawl knitting. Nothing else is ready. The choice comes down to socks, or actually casting on for Alexander’s sweater.


The Linklater fire was caused by electric Christmas tree lights, Lorna. Or at least, so we are told. I thought they were supposed to be safe these days. By the 31st of December a rootless tree would be a tinder-box waiting for ignition, of course.

We always have candles on our tree, an affectation of my husband’s which I have never met anywhere else. I remember being taught in Safety Lessons at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan about Christmas tree candles, and thinking it very odd to have such lessons, since nobody had anything of the sort. But the grown-up world was odd, in those days. It still is.

If you keep an eye on candles, and don’t light them after Boxing Day (or, as in the days when we always had Christmas in Strathardle, if you have a rooted Christmas tree) there’s little or no danger.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

News from all over

Scaffolding has gone up at the Linklaters’ house on the other side of the square, where they had a terrible fire in the very early hours of 2006. Quick work. (See blog entries for January 2 and 3, if you’re at all interested.)

I’m quite pleased with the result of my hair cut yesterday.

I finished yesterday’s “Diabolical” Su Doku in the Waffy, using an advanced technique Marcella taught me. Self-confidence is somewhat restored.

And I finished the First Holy Communion veil. Now we’ll see…. I hope there will be a photograph of it being blocked, tomorrow.


I tumbled the yarns together from my two recent eBay purchases of Rowan kits, thinking, I’m going to regret this: but I’m absolutely sure I will never want to knit either pattern as supplied, and I wanted to see how they worked, together. The answer is, fine.

Then I arranged the coloured balls in the eight compartments of my Kaffe Fassett Yarn Holder. I think it is actually a thing for butlers to arrange crockery in. My husband got it for me years ago, during my major KF phase. It helps a lot. You arrange the balls in order according to the colour scheme – A and B in the first compartment, C and D in the second, and so forth – and then you can find them readily as the chart demands them.

This time, the idea is more that each compartment holds roughly similar shades. The idea will be to select a compartment at random…

I haven’t worked out how to do that, yet. Karin’s suggestion (for which I never thanked her) of using dice is a good one – neither of the toy shops near here had dice, however, when I tried yesterday. I’m sure there are some in Edinburgh somewhere (all of ours are at Burnside, which is where grandchildren play games). The link Obscure provided to a random stripe generator looks good, too, especially since it addresses the twin questions of random colours and random stripe-width.

I didn’t get any swatch-knitting done yesterday, but I did wind a skein of a dark yarn to start off with, and knit a couple rows of garter stitch to get things rolling.

The first two pages of Kaffe’s Pattern Library show 13 different stripe patterns, all involving random colour choice and most also involving random stripe width, but each organised differently. There is a good deal more method in that man’s approach to pattern than his easy-going manner would have us believe.

My husband has been an assiduous gallery-goer all his adult life, and he never throws a hand-out away. He actually has a list from a KF exhibition, back in the days when KF was an artist who hadn’t yet discovered knitting. He wasn’t really terribly good, I’m afraid, and would never have got all that far, I don’t think, except for the happy accident of picking up needles and becoming the Leonardo of knitting.

Friday, January 27, 2006

I’ve got to have my hair cut this morning. The appointment makes a grievous inroad into my day – I get little enough done at the best of times -- but I can’t go around looking like this any longer.

Marcella is helping me with Su Doku – I couldn’t do yesterday’s one in the Waffy, either. Maybe they’ve got a new setter this week.

Franklin (never less than interesting) is very interesting on the subject of manners this morning. Don’t miss the comment by “Mama Lu”, if you visit.


I should finish the First Holy Communion veil this evening. I’m right up there on the top, and there are only a few repeats to go. The count came out as wrong as it could possibly be – if I carry straight on without fudging, I will arrive at the end with the edging at its maximum stitch count, 12; whereas I started, of course, with the minimum, 9. And the two ends then have to be fused.

I find myself in a sudden panic about what to do next – meaning, this evening. Usually, when I finish a long-term project, the next one has already slotted itself into place. This time, I’m not-quite-ready with a couple of important ones: I’m going to test-knit her “nudibranch” pattern for Lorna, and perhaps learn some biology while I’m about it. We’ve reached the stage of choosing yarns, but I haven’t got them yet.

And I’m going to knit a shawl for my sister this year, but final choices haven’t been made on that front yet, either. She’ll be here next week.

I want to do some more on the Princess shawl, before I go on to anything else. But I won’t feel like fine lace this evening.

I’ve got the current travel-socks, of course. I’m not destitute. But I think I decided as I was stating the problem just now, that what I will do is swatch KF stripe ideas in my Rowan yarns from the two recent Ebay purchases, thinking eventually of a sweater for Alexander.

Non-Knit – Haggis and Hamas

You’d feel even worse about haggis, Swapna, if you knew what was in it. And that’s a sheep’s stomach, or so they tell us, in which it is encased. I wonder if haggis would be any more than a curiosity in 18th-century cookbooks, if Burns hadn’t written that poem.

It’s funny how cross all these high-minded politicians with their enthusiasm for “democracy” can get, when people vote the wrong way. I’m talking about Palestine, of course. Clinton made me and Mrs Thatcher very cross when he welcomed Gerry Adams to the White House at a time when he (GA) was a terrorist pure and simple, without even a democratic mandate. Mrs Thatcher and I were wrong, Clinton was right, and things are at least marginally better in Northern Ireland these days because Clinton was right. Maybe it would do Mr Bush good to talk to Hamas.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

For the last three days, I have failed to complete a Su Doku. Monday’s and Tuesday’s were only rated “moderate”. Yesterday’s was meant to be “tough”. I failed on all of them. And on Sunday, I messed up an IoS “difficult” – “messed up” means that something was wrong, I made a mistake somewhere. “Failed to complete” means just that – I got so far, and could get no further. Am I losing my faculties?

Two tidbits from Strathardle –

The gentlemen sheep have been separated from the ladies and returned to bachelor quarters, where they look pretty disgruntled.

I finished a ball of yarn (black Koigu). Given my current obsession with lace knitting, finishing a ball or skein becomes increasingly rare, and is always cause for rejoicing. I keep track on a spreadsheet of yarn-in and yarn-out for the year (except that in mid-’05, it got away from me). So the score for ’06 stands at: 20 in (the Rowan kit purchased on eBay), 1 out.

I had a good year in ’04 – the only way to achieve that is to give yarn away, in substantial quantity, at some point. Otherwise, the best I’ve ever done is to break even.


I’ve been studying the links Judith sent, and have also asked Rachel to have a look at some of them on behalf of her daughters, my stylish granddaughters. Without hauling the magazine out to check, I think that some shrugs are constructed more or less like the Round Trip Jacket which was such fun to knit (other shrugs are less fun, being simply knit from cuff to cuff). So I can have all the fun, and the Noro yarn if I want, and still knit a proper shrug.

I like the look of this one: http://bluealvarez.com/bluealva/patterns/hotlava.html, although I’d shorten the arms a bit. And this one http://www.thedietdiary.com/blog/lucia/329 is actually a shrug-generator.


Here are what will probably turn out to be the last progress-pictures. I did reach the second shoulder last night: two or three more sessions should do it. I also include an attempted close-up of the initials: RM for Rachel who will be making her First Holy Communion in April, KM for her little sister Kirsty.


I was sorry to learn yesterday that the tale of someone trying to copyright the phrase "Stitch and Bitch" is perfectly true. Incredible! And you'll be glad to hear that we enjoyed our haggis.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Here is a picture of tonight’s supper. There was a time, not so long ago, when I would eat haggis, and that reluctantly, only twice a year: today, and on St Andrew’s Day. But I have become cautiously rather fond of it.

Laurie: I, too, have found that packages to China take an unconscionable time to arrive, although they always do manage to get there, in the end, however packed with printed matter or woollen fabric. But I fear the veil will have to go DHL, if only to speed things up. It’s not the expense I mind, it’s filling out all those blasted forms in quintuplicate. You’d think I could send it to the Economist office in London and have it make the rest of the journey by diplomatic bag, but apparently not.

I didn’t get much done on it yesterday – I had to attend a Drummond Place Civic Society committee meeting. I got some sock knitting done while there and the rest of the time, I’m sorry to say, I was actually asleep. I hope to finish edging the second long side today, and turn the corner onto the second shoulder.

My sister (who is based in Africa these days) has got as far as London. She has seen Rachel’s Amedro “Lacy Evening Wrap” and approves the shape but has, for the moment, decided on colour instead of black for her own shawl, so that gives us lots to think about. I’m rather glad. I’m a bit weary of white at the moment, and black is not much better.

I have been incensed at the reports on various blogs -- Franklin and You Knit What??, to name but two – that someone is trying to claim copyright on the phrase “Stitch and Bitch”. Is that possible? I was so cross that I followed the links and ordered the tee-shirt. I know that Cafepress tee-shirts are wonderful American things with some substance to them. I can always wear it in the garden although not, I think, on Broughton Street.


Judith has sent me the most remarkable list of links. I ought to be able to narrow the search down quite a lot today. And give some serious thought to the question of who is going to wear this thing. We are not really shrug-type people.

It was only yesterday, for the first time, that I realised how superior IK is to the other magazines, when you want to find a pattern for a particular type of thing. Knitter’s has a table of contents listing the patterns by their silly names – that’s fine if you’re looking for the Round Trip Jacket, but not otherwise. VK doesn’t list the patterns at all. IK actually tells you, in the table of contents, what each pattern is.. hat, shawl, pullover, whatever.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


My favourite person has survived the plane crash – see yesterday – and was last night, pale and wan on her hospital bed, re-united with her loved ones. Not a dry eye in the house.

Thompson and Morgan, the seedsmen, are sold out of parthenocarpic courgette seeds, although it’s only January. I thought you’d want to know.

Our youngest child – Helen, in Thessaloniki – is 43 today. How old does that make us?

Don’t miss Franklin's list of Stasher Movies.


Many thanks to all who helped me, yesterday, with the question of whether the Round Trip jacket is a shrug. Cathy herself, who had originally thought that it might be, now agrees that it isn’t. I remain tempted by Tamar’s suggestion that I just knit it anyway, and let the judges decide. (We're talking about my entry in the Knitting category of the Home Industries Tent at the Strathardle Highland Gathering this summer.) But I’ll browse recent magazines, and I have printed out the interesting pattern which Jade provided a link to yesterday. I could always knit _that_ in Noro.

The only shrug I have ever actually knitted is the one Mandella mentions, in A Gathering of Lace. It was, as I remember – maddeningly, I can’t seem to find it in the book at the moment – essentially a long rectangle with cuffs at either end. [My sister is going to be here for a night or two next week. One of my Projects for ’06 is to knit her a shawl – I must be sure to have her browse that book.]


Here is the current state of Rachel’s striped Koigu, in Strathardle. I was browsing in my archives yesterday – nothing so interesting as one’s own prose, as any diary-keeper will confirm – and discover that this project is more than a year old. Never mind. We’re getting there.

And likewise, with the edging of the veil. I learned in the post office yesterday that you are not supposed to send “woollen material” to China. Poof to that. I’ve done it before.

Monday, January 23, 2006

It always takes a while, when we get back from London or Strathardle, to get life back into gear and to deal with the ankle-deep pile of mail lying behind the door – it can actually be difficult to get in. We made some progress yesterday; not much. In the afternoon we went to the view of the Drambuie Sale, the auction house being just around the corner. I’ve never seen so many people at a sale view. Le tout Edinburgh. I didn’t recognise anyone although my husband spotted a Prominent Figure. There was nothing we wanted. There were a number of pictures derivative of Our Artist (who has a lot to answer for) and one drawing by him.

I have at last finished edging the bottom of the First Holy Communion veil, and started up the far side. It seems awfully short and broad. I’ll block for length. Picture soon.

Today, instead of the promised progress picture of Rachel’s striped Koigu, I am repeating a recently posted picture of my daughter-in-law Cathy in her Round Trip jacket, taken on Boxing Day. What I need to know is, is it a shrug? And if not, what is a shrug?

The reason I ask is that I was told that “a shrug” is one of the knitting categories for the Home Industries Tent at the Strathardle Highland Gathering this summer (fourth Saturday in August). The program hasn’t been published yet – that’s an inside tip from a member of the committee.

The Round Trip is great fun to knit, and of course an excuse to buy Noro is great fun too. I’d love to do it again, if it would qualify. Opinions eagerly sought.

I would hope to enter some vegetables, too, but it wouldn’t affect the seed order, to know the categories. There are only about six vegetables I can grow anyway.

I gather we missed an epic week of Our Soap (no television at Burnside). Rachel hints that almost the entire cast perished in a plane crash. We’ll catch up today.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

A good week away. The weather was mild and open. My vegetable plot as of yesterday morning may look, to the untutored eye, identical with its state when we were last there in December, but not so. I trundled three loads of manure home from the neighbouring field – you can see them if you peer. And even got some soil turned. I am not strong enough, or fit enough, or some combination of the two, to do very much heavy gardening at a time, so it was particularly gratifying to be able to bring a couple of days of March work forward into January. Below, right, a picture of my feeble efforts.

And I perfected this year’s seed orders, and will enter them via their various websites in the next couple of days. I wonder if the harvest will even pay for the seeds – but that’s not the way to look at it. My vegetables give me enormous pleasure, and healthy outdoor exercise. Their slightly wobbly green lines are very satisfactory to the eye, a tiny fragment of nature tamed. Any appearance they actually make on the table is pure bonus and of course, when I hit it right, incomparably delicious. Golf-ball sized beetroot cooked with their greens; freshly-dug potatoes with salt and pepper and butter…

The little pink noses of the rhubarb haven’t appeared yet, so I didn’t put the forcing pot in place.


I didn’t finish the left sleeve of Rachel’s striped Koigu – picture tomorrow – but there are only 15 rows to go, so I should polish it off next time. I may, then, bring it back here for the excitements of the neck placket and collar and finishing: Strathardle is for curling up in front of the fire with mindless knitting – which means I need to get the next mindless knitting in place.

For some reason my blog comes up without its comments this morning; I hope they’re not lost forever. So I can’t thank by name whoever it was who suggested using dice to achieve randomness. Fibonacci is a tempting idea, too, especially as it’s Alexander we’re thinking of and he is a mathematician. Sometime soon I will pile my two Rowan eBay purchases together to see how the colours work, and may even try swatching some of Kaffe’s stripe ideas.

It’s nice to be back and get caught up with Swapna and Franklin and Joe. I’ll call on my other friends this morning.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Well, here we are. The weather forecast is reasonably good – “warm and blustery”; we can handle that. The CD is ready. We’re going to Strathardle today. Blogging should resume on Saturday or Sunday.

CD-making proved utterly easy, as is the way with computers. Either utterly easy or all afternoon cursing and swearing because it won’t do the simplest thing.

Alexander gave us the Oxford English Dictionary on CD-ROM a few Christmasses ago – that’s the whole, multi-volumned works. At first, we didn’t have a computer capable of running it with any ease, and when we got this one, it was the first thing I installed. It was sort of awesome to hold that little circle in my hand and think of the many feet of library shelf-space it represented, and the scholarship that produced it.

Similarly, yesterday. Decades of my husband's work and more than a million words, there in the palm of my hand. I made a second copy, and we’ll take it with us today.


The edging hasn’t quite reached the end of the bottom edge of the veil – I had hoped to achieve that before we left.

Looking at Kaffe’s pattern book has sort of persuaded me that stripes would be nice (to use my new Rowan yarns in a sweater for Alexander). The trouble is that Kaffe keeps saying, do it at random, and I find random extremely difficult. The only thing to do would be to plot it out in advance. Or, there’s a pattern in Glorious Knitting where he gives a complete sequence for “random” stripes – I could use that.


Swapna and I corresponded yesterday – see Comments – on the Domestic Life of the Elephant, prompted by yesterday’s picture. The topic is at least as far from the subject of her remarkable Blog, as it is from mine.

I got to worrying at Mass – there is nothing like religious observance for setting the mind free to roam – about how a baby elephant suckles. When I got home and looked at the picture again, it seemed as if it might just about be possible, given the slow-slung stomach of Mrs Elephant. But then Swapna gave me a link (in one of yesterday’s comments) to a website with some interesting Facts about the Elephant, and one of them is that a baby elephant suckles with its mouth, not its trunk, which sort of re-opens the question.

In every mammal I’ve ever met, suckling is comforting. Even with cows and horses and sheep and people like that, where both parties are standing up, the baby butts its head into the comfortable warmth of its mother’s flank. How do elephants manage? Does a mother elephant lie down? I need to know more.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

A satisfsctory day yesterday. My husband was some comfort to his anxious sister, and helped draft a letter to the city building authorities. He thinks the whole fuss might have been avoided if the neighbours had been open with her from the beginning. And I got the files in order for transferring to a CD for his publisher, and wrote the covering letter in which he found surprisingly little to grumble about.

So for a moment I have the heady feeling you get when a big job is done, that I have all the time in the world at my disposal. I will cut, or burn, or whatever it is you do, the actual CD this afternoon. We’ll mail it from the village when we are in Strathardle. The next job is to tidy up my neglected papers, I think.

Here’s my new yarn. I’ve taken Kaffe’s Pattern Library off the shelf and will browse happily. This yarn is DK, as is the kit I bought on American eBay recently (for a lot more money). I will browse with that in mind.

The veil is a little more edged. The Doris pattern is so easy that it’s very difficult to do – I often can’t remember, 30 seconds later, which row it is I have just finished. There are lots of mistakes, therefore.

Thank you for the comment, Mandella. I am vaguely aware that People's Friend and Woman's Weekly still have knitting patterns. I'll resume my old habit of having a look, as I stand dreamily in front of a magazine display.

My sister and her husband have been visiting big game in Swasi. Here is a picture of a baby elephant, born on Christmas day.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The edging extends just about exactly half-way around the veil, at the moment.

The yarn that Helen bought for me on eBay has just arrived – before dawn. I think the colours will photograph a bit better if I wait for daylight, so here, to help us along, is a blurry picture of the pattern – which I won’t be using. (I couldn't scan it, because it's stuck to the box.) Twenty balls of Rowan Designer DK and Dk Tweed, in colours much darker and more harmonious than the pattern would suggest. I got a bargain.

The other thing that turned up yesterday was the new Knitting. It inspires, as always, the feeling that they’re trying hard and doing well and it doesn’t quite jell. The problem, I have finally decided, lies in the designs, presumably because the magazine can’t afford to pay like IK and VK and Knitter’s and Rowan, and hasn’t succeeded yet in unearthing an undiscovered talent happy to work for peanuts.

Back in the Good Old Days, Britain was awash in weekly women’s magazines of a homely nature. I can scarcely remember what they contained – mild fashion and milder recipes, fiction, Beverley Nichols – and knitting patterns. Every week. Often rather interesting ones. I think they mostly came from the spinners, rather than directly from the designers, and I assume that they were in-house designs which were deemed, in the end, a little too adventurous (or, in other cases, too dull) to be worth a substantial print-run as a pattern leaflet. Do the spinners still employ designers? They must.


Lauri, that’s cheering news, that my homepage comes up on top when one Googles on “Gladys Amedro”.

When she died, I heard of it from a cyber-friend in Texas. She – the friend – had been on two knitting tours of Shetland, where she met Amedro and they subsequently kept in touch. After her death, her son went through his mother’s address book and wrote to people, and the woman in Texas emailed me. Could it possibly have been Mary Morrison? I have unfortunately forgotton.

At any rate, I wondered if anyone was going to write an obituary, and in the end, did it myself. I’m glad I did – she certainly deserved one. It’s there on my homepage, as it appeared in the Scotsman. I was out-of-pocket, too. They used that nice photograph from her book, with the knitting in her hands. I got it from the photographer in Lerwick who took it. I had to pay him for it, and the Scotsman didn’t even send me a fiver for the obituary.


File conversion continues well. My husband will venture forth to Morningside this afternoon, to advise and comfort his sister who is having bad Neighbour Problems. They have embarked on massive and tasteless building works and amongst other distresses and anxieties, my sister-in-law fears for the safety of a common wall.

But, like most ill winds, this will have advantages: namely, it will give me a chance to hunker down to the job this afternoon and, especially, to write the covering letter to accompany the CD to the publisher. My husband will then have all day tomorrow to complain about it, and re-write.

Friday, January 13, 2006

The edging goes on and on.

The expected monthly issue of the British magazine “Knitting” hasn’t turned up yet. When I could sense the presence of a knitting magazine in yesterday’s post, I thought, Ahah! But no – it was the Winter VK. A bit late in the day, surely, as our thoughts turn towards snowdrops and forced rhubarb. We should be wearing this stuff now, if so inclined, not starting to think about knitting it.

The only things I like are Brandon Mably’s hat, No. 36, and Meg’s, in her article on Armenian knitting. For that, she prescribes Shetland wool and Icelandic lace-weight wool and adds, “Sometimes my wool choices are based on Not Having to Get Up Out of My Knitting Chair”. The hat has a nice cat motif. I could use Shetland for both main colour and contrast. I am a bit tempted.

I find it wise not to be too hard on VK even when the designs seem extreme. Try looking at the same issue again in a year or two, and you often find that things have somehow mysteriously become mainstream and even rather attractive.

Judy sent me these wonderful photographs yesterday, and says it is all right for me to post them here.

That’s the Christening dress from Gladys Amedro’s book Shetland lace. Judy says she finished it just in time. I think it's a wonderful piece of knitting. I knit it once myself:

Judy was knitting for her grandson Cedric Thabang, who was christened on Christmas Eve in Mbabane, Swaziland. Here is his father Thabi, holding him, with his mother Alix, wearing the lace stole Judy knit for her wedding – also an Amedro pattern, the Fine Lace Stole and Scarf. Isn’t that lovely?

I’ve knit that one too, in the smaller, “scarf” version, but I don’t have a picture. Mine was in qiviut, for my mother.

I think I’ve knit more items from Amedro’s book than from anything else I own. I’ve sort of graduated from it now that we’ve got Heirloom Knitting. Amedro is much more basic. But I love it, and may indeed be about to return, if I knit my sister’s forthcoming shawl in the Cobweb Lace Wrap shape (an obtuse triangle, I think it would be called, although that sounds rude). The lace panels will be from HK, though.


File conversion continues, like lace edging. I’m on target to finish the whole job over the weekend, freeing us for Strathardle on Monday.

Mr and Mrs Dee, the fishmonger and his wife, have returned from their Spanish holiday at last. We had seared tuna for lunch yesterday, and haddock fish cakes for supper.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Not much knitting, although the veil is now edged down one long side. Today I should turn eastwards along the bottom.

On Blogger's opening page there is a little box where the names of Blogs which have been recently updated scroll ceaselessly past. The number and variety is astonishing. Sometimes I click on a few.

That was how I found Swapna, a few days ago. She is writing a very moving and difficult account of her father’s final illness. If you visit her site, as I would strongly recommend, scroll down and start at the beginning. She hasn’t been doing it for very long – there are only three posts so far. She honoured me by visiting this blog yesterday, and leaving a comment admirous of my husband’s ankles.

I have also discovered in the same fashion Misadventurous Melissa, an attorney working as a nurse in California. She had this to say recently:

"Another one of the nurses in my hospital suffered a catastrophic stroke while at work a couple of months ago. He's just now starting to breathe on his own, but he is unable to communicate and no one really knows how much he understands. He's still in our ICU.This nurse is also the sole support of his quadriplegic wife, minor child and wheelchair-bound, seriously ill mother. Because he is no longer able to work, he was terminated, which also resulted in the loss of his health insurance. His family is now being sent massive bills for his hospitalization. Something just feels terribly wrong with that too. (And I thought that I had problems)"

As it happens, one of my long-standing regulars, dooce, wrote about health insurance yesterday, too. We grumble about the NHS when they are slow to get around to cataract operations. It is good to be reminded of the treasure we have.

Yesterday my husband and I went to visit an old friend, whose name was once as well known in Edinburgh as Magnus Linklater’s or Tim Clifford’s is today. He had a stroke some years ago, and also has Parkinson’s. He lived at home successfully for quite a while, but recently the nursing got to be too much for his 80-year-old wife, and he is now in a nursing home. He is virtually paralysed, slow of speech and thought, but perfectly clear. He said he wished it were over – he has nothing at all to live for.

I’ll aim for cheerfulness tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

An exciting time of it yesterday. Cyber-friend Helen alerted me to a Rowan kit on ebay. I was interested, although the pattern would appear to be a strong contender for inclusion in You Knit What??. The attraction was all those out-of-date Rowan yarns. I’m not an eBayista, so Helen kindly bid for me -- and we won, thanks to her intrepid holding-back of our bid until the final seconds, at about 8:30 last night. More news, when the package arrives.

Maybe I’d better arrange my purchase into a nice KF pattern for Alexander and stop thinking about Jamieson.

Meanwhile here is the current state of the veil, partially-edged. I had a moment yesterday of wondering whether I should start again again and go around in the right direction (clock-wise). What you see is, strictly, the wrong side of the edging, because I am doing it this perverse way. Then I decided no, it’s fine. There’s a harsh line at the top – did I pick up the stitches from the wrong side, as well? Perhaps. But that will be hidden under a garland, in wear. I’m not going to worry.


I was grateful for yesterday’s comments. As it happens, I have a ball of very fine cotton which I ordered last year as possible material for the Princess shawl – it is the actual stuff Sharon Miller used for the prototype. But Sharon intervened at the eleventh hour, and sent me a ball of her new Gossamer Merino, not yet at that time even for sale on her website. I much prefer wool, and am now happily using that. I had been wondering whether I had to count the ball of cotton as Stash Acquisition. But now it has a role – it will be my ravel cord, and it should be perfect for the task.

The Knibbies

I was most gratified that Mar agreed with my judgement of them, in a comment yesterday. She writes an extremely entertaining Blog herself, it should be mentioned. For the Knibbies, see Joe, and scroll back a bit.


I’ve finished translating all the files of my husband’s magnum opus from their primitive state into Microsoft Word. Now I’ve got to double back and update the ones he has recently updated. He has kept a list. The number of those will be in dozens, at the worst (rather than hundreds). I hope I will be able to get that done, and the CD made, and a covering letter written, in the next few days, leaving next week clear for Strathardle. If the snow has gone. It’s time to put the forcing-pot over the rhubarb, with a roll of the drums: 2006 is starting!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Lorna, I would be honoured to test-knit the Nudibranch. Jean-at-milesandmiles.demon.co.uk. As soon as this veil thing is on its way to Beijing, I am yours.

Rachel, Dawn, Susoolu, Jamieson v. Jamieson&Smith. I have no idea how it happened, and it’s crazy. Are they cousins who had a falling-out a generation ago? Is it, perhaps, just a very common name on Shetland? I’m surprised the knitting community doesn’t have a legend to explain it. Dawn was right, it was Jamieson’s I was after. Google let me down: that’s rare. I googled on something like Jamieson’s Shetland, limited myself to UK websites, clicked I’m Feeling Lucky, and was taken to an omnium gatherum Shetland site which listed Jamieson all right, address and phone number, but didn’t offer an URL. In fact, invited me to provide one.

I think they used to spin for Alice Starmore when she first offered yarn under her name, but if so that link was broken long ago, and anyway it’s a minefield I ought not to venture into. I’ve got their three pattern books, all very good, and I see from the link Dawn provides in her comment yesterday that there are more. Back in my Fair Isle days, I liked their colours a wee bit better than Jamieson&Smith’s, although I ordered from both. (If I knit Fair Isle now, it’s from stash.) They – Jamieson’s – had a very attractive stall at the Ally Pally Knitting and Stitching Show. I don’t think Jamieson&Smith were there.

Mar, thank you for the observations on both provisional cast-on and the “Knitting Cast On”. I managed pretty well last night, unpicking the waste yarn and grabbing the stitches along the first shoulder of the veil. But what’s this about a ravel cord? Knit the final row of the waste bit in something smooth and shiny, perhaps? I feel I’m about to learn something.

Enjay, thank you for your kind comment. Laurie, I looked at the YarnShoppe sale of Paton’s Kroy, and it is very tempting indeed. Thank you. Do I need more Unknit Socks, is now the question?


Queer Joe has posted the results of the voting for Best Knitting Blog in various categories. (He ruled himself out.) Like several of his commentators, I’m not entirely convinced by the results. The Most Entertaining knitting blogs out there, beyond any doubt at all, are Franklin and You Knit What?? in their utterly different ways, and mere democracy is not going to tell me different.

And – oh yes – the veil edging has almost covered the first shoulder, and should turn downwards along the first long side edge this evening. Picture tomorrow.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Titanic struggles continue with the veil, but I think I made real progress yesterday.

I started by ripping out what I had done – despite my announced intention to soldier on. For some unimaginable reason, I had made no effort at a provisional cast-on, or even a loose one. But at least I could do the pick-up evenly and carefully, and then knit a row to get the stitches even even-er. So I did that.

(I have become a better knitter in the decade I have had access to the Internet, and it is almost entirely due to an increased readiness to rip.)

I decided to knit the edging in st st, since the veil is so knit and since it definitely has a right side and a wrong side, because of the initials. So I started to do that, and found after a while that I was doing it backwards, with the right side of the edging on the wrong side of the veil.

More ripping, and a reversion to a garter stitch edging. The problem was, I think, that I have, for some other unimaginable reason, set off in the “wrong” direction, and am going around the veil counter-clockwise this time, as I attach the edging. I figure it doesn’t matter in garter stitch, and am beginning to like the look. I may well have done enough for another picture tomorrow.

One day I’ll try the “Knitting Cast On” on page 33 of Heirloom Knitting which seems to produce a little row of loops for picking up later. I’m not strong on provisional cast-ons. When I absolutely have to do one, I use the one where you crochet the stitches on to the needle. For the other places in this veil where provisional cast-ons were required, including the edging itself, I did it the machine-knitter’s way, with a couple of rows knitted in a waste yarn first. It’s not entirely easy to get at the stitches you want, that way, because knitting doesn’t ravel upwards, but it’s not impossible. I should reach the first point where I have to do it, today, as the veil widens out after the little head-piece.

Meanwhile here is a picture of my husband yesterday in his new socks, waiting for his supper.


Thanks for the help on gauge, Atu – and I love the socks (on your Blog). And Lorna, although I am not generally speaking a poncho-person, I am mightily impressed by Chantelle. It looks a lot of fun to knit, too. And comfortable and cosy. And not too absurdly long. Your fans are waiting eagerly for the Nudibranch.

I continue to turn over thoughts for the future. Jamieson doesn’t seem to have a web page – is that possible? To choose yarn for Alexander’s sweater, maybe. And my sister and I continue to discuss ideas for her forthcoming shawl.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Not much achieved yesterday, like swimming through treacle. I did clean the refrigerator, at least.

Here’s the current state of the veil. The initials can be read with the eyes of faith. Here (I hope) is a close up of "RM".

The edging proved tough. For one thing, I couldn’t remember how to do it, given a veil in one hand, a ball of yarn, two sock needles of the right size (I thought they’d be useful) – what do I do next? I got it in the end. Abandon the sock needles. Slip the circular I’ve been using all along, through some of the cast-on stitches. Cast on for the edging next to the picked-up stitches. Knit the right-side rows of the edging away from the veil, on to the other end of the circular needle. Knit the wrong-side rows back towards the veil, and knit the last stitch together with a stitch from the veil.


I struggled mightily with the edging I said I was going to use, the Wave Lace Edging on p. 118 of “Heirloom Knitting”. Eventually I gave up, and switched to the Doris Edging on p. 74. It’s easy and I’m doing fine, but so far I don’t like the effect. It looks too big and lacey. The photographs of the prototype veil, which is currently missing, seem much neater. (That's it, to the left.) But that edging pattern – from Hazel Carter’s “Shetland Lace Knitting from Charts” in fact has even more stitches in it.

I think the thing is to soldier on for a while, at least for today.

I’m also worried about – I don’t know what to call it. Gauge, in a sense.

As I knit up and down the vertical edges, I’ll be using the loops I made, one to every two rows of the veil. So two rows of the edging will fit with two rows of veil. But what about the horizontal bits? There (except for this cast-on edge) I have real stitches waiting. If I attach the edging to every one of them, won’t that make it bunchy? I know that knit stitches are not square, but can never remember without a lot of anxious cogitation whether they are taller than they are wide, or vice versa. I think the answer is relevant here, but in which direction does it tend?

I think I need, not early bed, but some fresh air. But I’m reluctant to decamp to Strathardle until I’ve got this file-translation job finished, and the CD on its way to the publisher in London.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Finished, more or less.

The lace knitting on the body of the veil is done. I have 1 ½ more plain rows to do, in order to incorporate the twisted stitches Bridget Rorem wants me to do in the second row above each YO in the lacey initials. Then back to the top and start edging. A photograph is promised for tomorrow, with the stitches safely secured on a length of yarn.

I took “Heirloom Knitting” off the shelf yesterday, to choose an edging. Gosh, that’s a good book. I was interested to discover, or more likely re-discover, on p. 53, that Sharon’s Shetland lace career began with the old Paton’s pattern designed by Mrs Hunter of Unst. So did mine. (It’s mentioned in Hazel Carter’s bibliography, too.) I knit it for Rachel before she was born, when we were so poor that I bought the yarn one ball at a time, as required. The bits are all knit separately – four trapezoids, the centre square, the edging. Incredible. Rachel took me by surprise when there was still a bit of edging to do. I finished it in hospital, and a dear friend sewed it together so that I could carry her – Rachel – home in it. The bottom one, on the pattern leaflet.

I think I’ve chosen the Wave Lace Edging on p. 118 for the veil. It has the advantage of being only eight rows long. I’m not going to plan the edging in advance. I’ll just start, attaching it as I go. So the shorter the repeat, the easier it will be to fudge things as necessary when I get around to the starting place again.

I’m a bit alarmed at its four-star rating, but hey! if I can knit the Princess Shawl edging, I can do anything.


I haven’t forgotton the report on the year’s knitting. In fact, I did a bit of work on it yesterday. But my main goal in life, apart from blogging, is to translate the files of my husband’s magnum opus into a modern format, to send to the publisher this month. I’ve done hundreds, and the end is in sight. The end of the first phase. Then I’ll have to update the files he’s been altering recently, be instructed about what to include that I’ve left out, organise them all and burn a CD.

The only non-knit blog I read much is Dooce. She writes well but gets a bit repetitious, what with the toddler she dotes on and her problems with constipation and the Mormon church. And no knitting. But she has this, this morning, about sweaters, and I like it:

"Jon also bought me a inoffensive sweater, which might sound bad to you but is perfect for me. Sweaters should not smile or portray emotion. They should not be yummy. They shouldn’t glimmer or shimmer or reflect particles of the atmosphere. Sweaters should just exist without getting in anyone’s way, and the one he bought me serves its singular purpose for existence: I can wear it five days in a row and no one will really notice."

Just what I hope to achieve for Alexander.

Friday, January 06, 2006

See below -- Blogger won't let me incorporate the image this morning. Posted by Picasa
Yesterday’s knitting had some of the symmetry of a Greek tragedy.

You will remember that I was afraid, this time yesterday, that I had to rip out the start I had made on knitting lacey initials into the First Holy Communion veil. Then I went to have a look – and to take a picture for Blog purposes – and discovered that I hadn’t made the mistake I thought I had made, and so everything was all right after all.

BUT a dozen or so stitches came off one end of the circular needle I’m using, in the process of photography. Shouldn’t be much of a problem; nothing but st st there. But I couldn’t get them back. Rather, I could, but the spot looked terrible – too much yarn, and I couldn’t see why. All loose and hole-y.The only thing to do, in the end, was to rip out several rows. I went back before the beginning of the initials, because I knew that getting everything back on the needle was going to be a titanic struggle, and I didn’t want to deal with lacey initials as well as all the rest of it.

The struggle was titanic, prompting several times the inclination to burst into tears and throw the whole thing away and start again. But it’s done, and it’ll pass the galloping horse test. And the initials are re-started, I think not as well centered as before. I’ll be more careful the next time I get the camera out.

I’m having a nice time thinking about what to do next. Here in Edinburgh, it’ll be a shawl for my sister, after an interlude in which I will resume the Princess Shawl. In Kirkmichael, where Rachel’s striped Koigu is nearing its end, I hope to knit something for Alexander, who has been grumbling that he hasn’t had a sweater since ought six. I’d love to do something in “Malabrigo” which Halcyon Yarn sells – sort of single-colour Manos. But it’s worsted weight, like Manos, and that’s too heavy. There’s a potentially suitable pattern in the Jamieson 3 book (see above). Maybe I’ll just do that one, using their DK yarn, for which the pattern is written. Alexander grumbles about my necklines – I like that one, and might be able to do it.

The pattern and yarn for my sister’s shawl also remain to be chosen, another delicious mental activity.


Thanks, Mar. Yes, I too sort of like the way the world stops, this time of year. Having the two big holidays on Sunday is particularly good. And I like the fresh-minted, almost convalescent feeling one has as it starts up again.

Our fishmonger is a treasure. We rarely ate fish when we lived in Birmingham because it always had bones in it and my husband always got them. But Mr Dee, as the Italians say, sa i fatti suoi – he can fillet a fish. It’s a tiny little shop in which he offers fish for sale by the pound, which is strictly illegal these days (true). A fair proportion of the Edinburgh legal establishment lives around here, and must buy fish from him. He and his wife regularly go off to Spain after the New Year, and again after the Festival. They are sorely missed. As Bush would not be.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Yesterday I began knitting lacey initials into the First Holy Communion veil. The veil is for my granddaughter Rachel Miles, who will make her First Holy Communion in April. But her little sister Kirsten is not many years younger, so I have decided to do both sets of initials.

It occurred to me that this would be a good point to insert a “life-line” – a lace-knitter’s device by which a fine thread is threaded through a row, so that if disaster strikes you can rip back to that point and recover the stitches easily. Did I do it? You guess.

As I said yesterday, the veil is knit top-down so the letters in Bridget Rorem’s useful lacey alphabet have to be turned upside down. And the right-side rows, where the patterning is, are knit from right to left, so the letters “R” and “K” also have to be reversed – “M” is OK because it is symmetrical on its vertical axis, if I’ve got the terms right.

Even after thinking about this for much of the night, and writing about it yesterday morning, I found it confusing. I still had the “K” to chart yesterday, and did it with panache, thinking, I’ve got the hang of this – but when I turned my chart the other way, I found that I hadn’t reversed the letter.

I was finally satisfied, and started knitting. I’ve done six rows, nearly half-way. I then turned the veil the other way up – the way the viewer will see it – and discover that, reading from left to right, I am knitting MR MK.

……..After I wrote that much, I went off to try to take a photograph to show you what I mean – and found that the knitting fairies had come in the night and rearranged the letters the right way around. That is a picture of RM beginning to emerge. The veil is photographed right-way up and from the right side (the photograph looks a bit like reversed st st, but I have double-checked: it's not), and you can at least see that the larger letter, the M, is to the right of the other one, as it should be.

I remain confused, and I’ll let what I’ve just written stand. I suspect that the moral, if any, is that it's a good idea to put a major disaster down and go to bed.


Franklin, thank you. I know that what I need to do, to show the AlmanacAlong button, is to insert some HTML code into my template. (I can talk a good game.) How do I get the code?

Laurie, I thought there was a Yahoo knit-the-almanac group. It’ll be interesting to see what happens this time.

Grace, thank you for the further help on the steamer front. A bright future opens before me.


2006 is gradually staggering to her feet. We had a mail delivery yesterday, and today the local butcher will re-open. The year won’t really start for me until the fishmonger and his wife get back from their annual New Year holiday in Spain, in another week or so, but it’s progress. Yesterday was ugly with freezing fog

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The early morning radio says that Magnus Linklater has written about his fire in today’s Times, so I’ll buy that for today, instead of the Waffy, when I walk across the square to see Mr Ahmed.

Grace, thank you for your comment. I’ve followed the link, and the steamer looks very good. You have the travel version? Would they let it in with charging duty? One never knows. I’ve had two tee-shirts recently from CafePress (who issue Franklin's designs) without paying extra, and a wall-clock from Florida. I think I’ll try. I liked your homepage, too.


The picture shows the current state of the First Holy Communion veil. I charted some initials yesterday. I need a background of 22 stitches for two initials plus two stitches in between. I think you can see from the picture how the plain triangles are forming as the lace patterns draw to separate points, but I haven’t got 22 stitches in any of them yet. One more row.

That means that the lacey initials will extend below the finish of the side panels, and even a row or two below the end of the central one. I faced three options: 1) fagedaboutit, lace-initial-wise. 2) have only one initial per granddaughter, so that I could start higher up 3) let them extend downwards. I’ve gone for option 3.

Charting was terrible. The initials have to be knit from the top down, obviously, and you can’t just turn a lace pattern upside down as you might a colour one. Plus, they’ve got to be done backwards, as right-side rows are knit from right to left. I’ve done this often enough before, but yesterday it proved a real struggle.

Previous lacey lettering, however, has all been done on shawls knit circularly. See Kirsty’s Christening gown and shawl – down at the bottom of the page – for an example. I knit shawls by what I think of as the Amedro System – edging first, pick up stitches, decrease towards the centre – so that that lettering, too, as in the present case, was done top-down. But the fact that I was knitting circularly meant – why? – that I could knit the lettering from left to right, which was much easier. I’m not quite sure I see why that should affect the difficulty of charting, though.

Other Knitting

Franklin and a friend are sponsoring a EZ Knitter’s Almanac Knitalong. He offers a button to add to one’s sidebar and I would do it if I knew how, but I am embarrassed to ask. However, I got the book out yesterday and fear I won’t be any use as a knitter-along, as I’ve got things on my mind to do, and there’s not much there I can use. Maybe I’ll be able to join in at some point.

Shall I utter out loud the ultimate heresy? As a writer, I vastly prefer her daughter Meg. EZ was a genius, no doubt, but there is an edge of arrogance in her writing that I don’t like. Goodness knows she had lots to be arrogant about. Meg is gentler.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

The front page of yesterday’s Scotsman. It’s extraordinary that we could have slept through it all.

No one was hurt, Sheila, and the fire was confined to the sitting room – “drawing room”, they apparently call it over there on the south side of the square – although the rest of the house had a lot of smoke and water. The Linklaters and some guests were in the room when it happened, and they had (unlike us) a fire extinguisher. It must have been one quick fire. They all got out, and Magnus Linklater went up and roused the people in the top flat. There wasn’t time to think about the cat. When the Linklaters got back to their ruined house, they heard a cross little voice from half-way up a chimney on the upstairs floor. The cat is fine, and the Linklaters must have felt rather as Pandora did when she found Hope at the bottom of her box.

Thank you, Lorna and Janis, for advice about back-ups. I like the idea of keeping a dissertation in the freezer! I am currently at work translating my husband’s work, file by file, into Microsoft Word. I’ve done 250 so far. When I make a CD for the publisher in a week or so, I’ll make a second one for us, and take it to Strathardle.


Sheila, you’ll love the Round Trip jacket. I’m so glad you’re going to try it. I think the pattern in the magazine suggests unwinding the yarn so that you can start at the same point in the colour sequence for each sleeve. I have a friend who did that when she knit the jacket, but I didn’t bother, and I modestly think it looks fine as it is. And no yarn wasted.

Vivienne, I’m going to look into the matter of a steamer from Argos.

I think I’ve got the decrease-increase business worked out for the bottom of the Communion Veil, after a few shaky rows. We should be about ready for another picture tomorrow. Today’s job is to chart those lacey initials, and maybe even get started on them.

Monday, January 02, 2006

I thought, when I wrote yesterday morning, that the internal-monologue aspect of my New Year’s practices would be pretty dull. Not so. When I walked across the square a little later to get the papers, Mr Ahmed told me that there had been a bad fire in the night at Magnus Linklater’s house.

After I took this picture, I joined the awed group of neighbours which you can see. I was told that the fire had been caused by Christmas tree lights. I thought they were supposed to be safe, these days. An unrooted Christmas tree would be dry as tinder by the 31st of December.

We – on the other side of the square – had been completely unaware that anything was going on. If we heard anything, we put it down to the New Year. Although my husband says he saw the trees in Drummond Place Gardens silhouetted against an unusual light, as we were going to bed, and thought it was rather a nice effect.

One of the neighbours wondered, as we stood there, whether Mr Linklater’s study had escaped. I thought of my husband’s magnum opus. He always saves his work to a floppy disk when he stops for the night, or when he finishes work on one file and proceeds to another. He prints each file as he finishes it. But all three – the computer, the back-ups, and the hard copy – are in the same room. God could snap His fingers and take it all away.

We used to read the Times, where Mr Linklater has a weekly column. We switched to the Waffy when the Times went tabloid, as we need a newspaper we can wrap things up in. Rachel will watch the Times this week to see if the Drummond Place fire is mentioned.

So that’s what I was thinking about, yesterday.


Blocking – it’s an interesting question, Kate.

I’ve been a pretty resolute non-blocker, most of my life. Two things changed me. One is lace knitting. I knit a shawl for Helen’s second baby, the year after the death of her eldest son. I was pulling out all the stops, I thought at the time – Shetland lace-weight, no less. And stop-pulling included blocking, so I did it. (Previous mild lace efforts had had a brief pass of the steam iron.) Blocking is essential for lace, and I have never been tempted to omit it since. Fortunately, it’s tremendous fun and I now look forward to it.

The other thing was a remark of Meg Swansen’s, in her book “Knitting”, I think. She talks about blocking a finished garment, and adds “I love this stage”. If she had written a stern lecture on the importance of blocking, I’d have paid no attention. She recommends blocking the finished garment and points out that modest but significant changes to its shape can be made at this stage.

When I finished Theo’s Koigu sweater, it was definitely on the short side. So I blocked it for length, and am happy with the result.

Crazy Aunt Purl had an interesting post recently about a hand-held steamer which Annie Modesitt gave her, for blocking purposes. I wonder if they are to be had in this country.

The veil: I’m now at the point where, if I were knitting an altar frontal, the side panels would separate from the central one and form points. I am trying to follow the pattern, but to add as many stitches as I decrease, so that I will have a space between the panels where I can put the lacey initials of the intended first wearer, and of her younger sister. I’m struggling. More soon.

I haven’t forgotton about the summary of the year, either.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year, everybody. Happy Ought Six. It’s going to be a magical year. I will finish the Princess Shawl, and Scotland will win the Calcutta Cup. We don’t celebrate, but the palpable feeling of excitement on the streets in the last hours of the old year in Scotland is always invigorating – it’s just the same in Kirkmichael as in Edinburgh. And, here, the midnight fireworks wake us up and can be seen over the trees in Drummond Place Gardens, if we open the bedroom curtains. I love fireworks.

I have some little things I do on New Year’s Day. I write down the first two headlines of the first broadcast news I hear. (Today, Russia has cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine. That’s a big one.) I try to write down, later in the day, the main topics of concern to the internal monologue I carry around with me. I write down what has been achieved in the dead year, and some Achievables for the year to come. All this on a page in my Filofax.

The first Achievable, now that the chore of writing Christmas cards is definitely over, will be to get my husband’s Magnum Opus to the publisher. Every file – there are hundreds – has to be opened and then saved in Microsoft Word. I’ve done about 160 files so far, and I’m not half-way through. Then I have to make a CD. Then persuade him that I have used the most up-to-date version of every file. I hope to get the donkey work done in a week or so, and reserve a second week for the persuasion bit, which will be harder. And get the CD to them in mid-January, as promised.

On or near this day I write the account of the year’s knitting as already mentioned. I made a good start on that yesterday. You will hear more soon.

And on or near this day, I write down the knitting I hope to do this year. Not resolutions, definitely not; just what’s-at-the-top-of-my-mind-at-the-moment. That goes on an electronic Filofax page in Lotus Organiser. It’s interesting to look back on them. Most years, I knit most of what’s there. I didn’t do as well as that in ’05, but I did the big one: I started the Princess Shawl.

Beginning with these deathless paragraphs, I’m going to keep a private archive of blog entries, too.

I got a bit more Communion Veil done yesterday. I’m now very near the point where I plan to introduce my granddaughters’ lacey initials. I will therefore have to take some knitting time off to chart them. Chiz.

Today’s illustration is another Christmas one – Rachel in her Swirly Scarf, on Boxing Day. There’s Cathy in the background in her Round Trip jacket.