Wednesday, February 28, 2007

I’ve done a half-pattern-repeat, nine rows, on the Calcutta Cup sweater yoke, and have embarked on the first decrease round. All seems to be going well. Picture soon. I ordered the needful extra yarn from Jamieson and Smith.

My new copy of VKB 36, complete with cover, turned up promptly and has been given its place in the archives.

Thank you for the suggestion about backing faulty VKB’s, Anonymous. I’ll look into it. There are only two or three I’d really like to replace. Most eBay sellers send them out in nice plastic sleeves, which of course I retain.

Most VKB’s are undated, and most eBay sellers (except for the few who are in on the system) guess a later date than the correct one as they offer one for sale, -- a compliment to Vogue’s style, I think. But the Coronation makes an appearance in some of the advertisements in what must therefore be the Spring, ’53 issue, and it is possible to count forward and back from there. Since discovering that, I have bought a couple of immediate-post-war issues which actually have a date on the cover, and confirm my calculations.

(As far as I can remember, 9/11 is the only other contemporary event to intrude on those pages, in the modern incarnation of the magazine. The war is ever-present in the wartime issues, in the form of rationing and the need to keep warm, but there is no reference to Dunkirk or Pearl Harbour or el Alamein.)

I have just worked out, contemplating my VKB Desiderata List, that its life began when mine did, if one counts one’s intrauterine months as I believe the Chinese do. If it was published regularly twice a year from beginning to end – which I am now sure it was, right through the war – the first issue must have come out in the autumn of 1932. I was born in August, ’33. So there’s a factoid for you.

Moving on…

Some weeks ago I mentioned a stunning gansey, from Eriskay, which belonged to a friend’s father. She has now photographed it for me – for us all, as I have her permission to share these pictures. I love those silver buttons.

These pictures are all of the same sweater. I am sorry to throw them at you higgelty-piggelty, but I think you'll be happiest seeing them all. The pattern is concentrated on the upper yoke, as you see. The craftsmanship and attention to detail are breathtaking.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Jean, if you go out in the rain this morning and cut an armful of that Cornish forsythia, I guarantee that you’ll have a better vase-ful than mine this time next week. Nothing forces so wonderfully as forsythia. My mother always loved to do it. It lights up the winter.

Tamar, you may be right about fertiliser. In its early years, our bush lived in my vegetable garden, to protect it from rabbits. And therefore was exposed to the manure I spread, and that’s highly nitrogenous, I think. Now we have banished the forsythia to a conspicuous but hard-to-reach spot in the wilderness, where it seems to be doing better.

Anyway, knitting

I joined the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater into one piece yesterday and, sure enough, it’s fun. My husband admired it last night: a rare compliment. I finished a skein of yarn, so today I’ll have to get in touch with Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick, making a strenuous effort not to order too much to-be-on-the-safe-side. The ball I polished off was one of the four background browns. I’m using them at random, so I can go on without it for a while.

Alexander, for whom it is destined, is 47 today. Happy Birthday, Alexander. He was born in 1960, as some simple arithmetic will reveal, so that from February 27th onward every year, his age ends with the same digit as the current year. When I have to remember how old anyone else is, I count forward or back from Alexander.

And I ordered Sharon’s Nesting Shawl, at least partly for its lovely name. I can’t see life being long enough to let me get around to knitting it, but you never know.

VKB No. 41, autumn ’52 I think, sold for £22 on eBay yesterday. I wasn’t involved. That’s three times what I paid for No. 36 the day before. There seems to be little or no rhyme or reason to the prices, as far as I can see. It turns out that my No. 41 has its cover, anyway – I’d like to replace it because it’s in bad shape, held together with dried-out and yellowed Sellotape, but at least it’s complete. And I’m only here for the knitting.

Janet (comment yesterday), I don’t think I’ve ever attempted a top-down design. I’m wary of them, for some reason, although I’ve got Barbara Walker’s book. It’s not an absolute no-no, like bobbles. Maybe one day.

Monday, February 26, 2007

I finished the second sleeve, to the very last stitch, but got no further. Insh’Allah, a picture tomorrow of the whole thing put together. I did the arithmetic; it all seems to work out rather well. Elizabeth’s Percentage System must somehow resonate with the universe.

To be specific, leaving 8% of K unattached at the underarms on each sleeve and at the corresponding points on the body (32% K abandoned altogether) leaves enough stitches that if you then decrease 8 of them every other row, as instructed, until 40%K are left for the neck – the yoke comes out quite a reasonable size! I want it a little longer, so I’ll do half a dozen plain rows first. All the instructions are terribly keen on some short-rowing at this point, but the pattern forbids that.

The only other news on the knitting front concerns VKB on eBay.

We’ve had a long lull lately. Last night I bought, for what seemed to me a very reasonable price, No. 36, spring 1950, because my copy lacks its cover and this one was described as being in good condition, including a cover. I may even, for the first time, have reaped the benefit of late bidding and steady nerves.

I wasn’t going to put in my nuclear bid just for a cover, and I wasn’t too agitated about whether I got it or not. My bid, by good fortune, was 30p higher than the underbidder’s one. You can’t tell how high the opposition is willing to go, in eBay, until you enter a bid. Then, the maximum the opposition has specified will either outbid you at once with no further action on their part, or you’ll be top and their maximum will be revealed.

The latter scenario was what happened in this case, and I may have moved so late that she didn’t have time to re-think and re-group. Another of my coverless ones is coming up this afternoon, but that's already too expensive, I fear.


That’s interesting, Gwen, about KnitPicks needles being heavy. The one I’m using for the Princess – I got it from Sharon, I’m pretty sure – is wonderfully light. Part of the pleasure is the glorious lightness of the whole thing, lying in one’s lap like a misplaced cloud.

In having a quick look at the Heirloom Knitting site just now, to make sure I had the right URL for the link, I saw that there’s a new pattern, the Nesting Shawl. Hmmm.


Hozzat? as I gather we say in cricket.

We have a forsythia bush in Strathardle which we put in at least 10 years ago. It grows and flourishes, but doesn’t go in much for flowering. The only suggestion the books can make is that you’re pruning too hard, if that happens. Certainly not our problem. Last week, before we left, I cut a few branches to bring home for forcing – and look what we’ve got! It can be hard to tell the difference between a leaf bud and a flower bud, with forsythia, so all this golden delight has unfolded before our delighted eyes since the return.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

We might as well get it out of the way first…

Scotland disgraced themselves. It was the first time in the five? years that Italy have been playing in the Six Nations championship, that they won a match away from Rome. They haven’t won all that many in Rome, either. They won yesterday, here in Edinburgh.

Then came Dublin. By that time, it was tea-time. My husband doesn’t enjoy watching rugby, and doesn’t entirely approve of it, so I didn’t see much of that match. The anthem-singing bit went off in a perfectly grown-up fashion, and then Ireland won by an even larger margin than Italy’s over Scotland. I’m happy for you, Janet.

I am sorry my remark yesterday was interpreted by some commenters to mean that I didn’t like Ireland or the Irish. I didn’t mean that at all. I love 'em. What I don’t like is nationalism (off the rugby field). I am sad when the British Isles behave like the Balkans.

That remark will no doubt get me into worse trouble. I am sure Bulgaria is a very nice place.

Lace Knitting

Many thanks for the helpful comments on that subject. I will defer without hesitation to the unanimous opinion, expressed first by Laritza (whose work I know), and stick with my present 2.25mm needle for the rest of the Princess.

But that doesn’t mean I couldn’t try a 2.5’er for a future project. I was especially glad to hear from you, koigu-courier, because my latest message to you (not important) has bounced twice. At least we can communicate this way. The trouble seems to be with googlemail – a message to Rachel in London bounced last night.

I’d love to have a look at the KnitPick lace needles when you’re here. In fact, why don’t I commission you here and now to bring me a long 2.5mm one? I followed the link you provided in yesterday’s comment, Moorecat, and was seriously impressed.

Knitting knitting

I think I may finish the second sleeve today. Then comes the fun bit.

Mostly I’m relying on Meg’s re-stating of EPS in the four issues of Knitter’s in 2000, but yesterday I had another look at The Source (Knitting Without Tears) and today I must also consult the issue of Woolgathering – I’ve used it before – where Meg treats of the subject.

I’ll have to do some arithmetic, too.

At the moment, I’m rather taken with the Norwegian Collar which I found in KWT.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Big excitement yesterday, then disillusion, then renewed interest…

I learned from Grumperina (whose blog I regularly read) that Skacel, the Addi Turbo people, have been induced to bring out a lace needle. It’s got to be wonderful, with that matchless Addi Turbo join – one spends an awful lot of time, in lace knitting, easing the stitches over the join. I don’t entirely mind, but it takes time.

The new Addi laces have got a sharper point than other Addi Turbo’s, too, but not so sharp, apparently, that they draw blood. That’s important, too.

Hence, big excitement.

Then I examined the Skacel page carefully, and discovered that the smallest gauge for the new needles is 2.5mm. My dear Princess is being knit on a 2.25. Would the difference matter? It’s less than a needle size. But I simply wouldn’t dare take the chance, would I?

Hence, disillusion.

But I feel stouter-hearted this morning. Perhaps I’ll pose the question to the Heirloom Knitting group.

Meanwhile the Calcutta Cup ’06 sleeve progressed. A couple more evenings should see it done.


I should have introduced before now the new websites in the “Who’s Who in the Family” section over there in the sidebar.

My nephew Theo, one of my most faithful readers, has started a “family blog” to which he and his parents contribute. I hope it prospers, and I expect to learn a lot.

My daughter-in-law Catherine Sampson has launched her own website. As I remember it, James rushed out and secured the URL as soon as she signed her first contract with Macmillan’s. That was three or four years ago: this is its first appearance in action, heralding the publication of her third thriller this coming summer. The website is full of interesting things, and good pictures. Have a look.

Even Less Knit

Today is a big rugby day, with all six nations playing. That means that one of the more interesting matches, France v. Wales, will be played entirely at night, kickoff 8 p.m. GMT which is presumably even later in France. I deeply disapprove.

Italy are here in Edinburgh. Scotland ought to win. The best match of the day could turn out to be Ireland v. England in Dublin. Because the rugby stadium is being revamped, they will play in “Croke Park”, a place with a nationalist history. There could be protests before people with long memories let “God Save the Queen” be sung there. The match itself could be good. Ireland have a real chance. Normally, I’m happy to see England beaten at anything, but I have Feelings about Irish nationalism which weigh on the other side today.

Friday, February 23, 2007

As I thought – that sleeve, on one circular, fairly hums along. It won’t be long now…and then I must start some serious thinking about necklines.

What is it about spring? The knitting magazines are all utterly blah, or approaching that state, and here we are wanting to buy all the yarn there is, and knit everything we can imagine. Franklin even wants to learn to crochet granny squares. (It’s a stunning scarf, Franklin, and granny squares are easy and fun. Crede expertae.) It’s something about reading blogs and seeing what everyone is doing and wanting to do it all oneself. It's something about spring.


If the worst comes to the worst and I have to knit a toy as my Games entry this year, I’ll look first for a pattern for a mermaid which I knit for granddaughter Hellie a good many years ago. She loved it, and eventually it sort of wore out; I’m sure she’d like another one. Hellie always seems to be the one who winds up with my Games entry.

And, Kate, that’s a good idea, about trying to get onto the Home Industries Tent committee myself. I doubt if it would work, because our visits are so irregular. And it would also mean, of course, that I would have to think of things for the knitting section. There is always a choice of two things: one daft, like a lavatory roll cover, and one fairly sensible, if we’re lucky. Thinking of things is harder than complaining about what the committee comes up with: but hey! we haven’t been asked for a scarf in any recent year that I can remember. There’s an idea, for free.

I hope your pregnancy goes forward without further incident, after that grim beginning. And no, shamefully, I’ve never seen the Falkirk Wheel. It does indeed look fascinating. If it’s any comfort, we have some prospect of taking the boat out to the ruins of Inchcolm Abbey, on an island in the Firth of Forth. Every year since we moved to Edinburgh, we say, we really must… and every year we don’t get around to it. But next month some old friends from Boston are coming to see us, and this could be the moment.

One year at the Festival they did Macbeth there, starting with the witches moving among the passengers on the boat. Boy am I sorry I missed that.

Deb, I learned “insh’Allah” from my daughter, too. She and her family – this is Helen we're talking about, in Thessaloniki – went back to Cairo for Christmas. She and her husband met and married there, and hadn’t been back for 10 years or more, and found it sadly changed, rich and poor segregated from each other, everybody hostile.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Odds and Ends

I got the 2nd sleeve of the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater onto one needle last night – it’s a bit of a stretch, which doesn’t matter and will soon ease. Things should go much faster now. Pic tomorrow, insh’Allah. I’m perhaps half-way up, measured vertically.

“Knitting” (which I never got around to cancelling) and IK were waiting when we got back from the country. Nothing I’d knit in either, as usual for spring. It’s fun in IK, though, to find contributions from people whose blogs I read.

Three skeins of cashmere Koigu – destined for a Shapely Shawlette, and as the outriders for nephew Theo’s get-Barak-elected sweater – have arrived in North Dakota at the home of the kind friend who will carry them to Edinburgh next month. She reports well of them.

The programme for the ’07 Strathardle Highland Gathering Home Industries Tent still hasn’t been published, but Mary in the shop (who is on the committee) thinks that the main knitting item is going to be a children’s toy. Gloom.

I’ll have to have the Calcutta Cup sweater finished in time for Alexander to wear it on the 4th Saturday in August. That shouldn’t be difficult.

Here’s the ritual picture of my vegetable plot, as it appeared day before yesterday, with the rhubarb-forcing pot in place. It doesn’t look very promising, but some years at this season it looks as if it had gone out of cultivation altogether.


Mhairi, I love “Helen’s Lace”, in the Lorna’s Laces range, for coloured lace. In my slow-paced reconstruction of my website in its new home, I’ve got a few lace items in place: they were all done with that yarn. Not that the colour photography is very reliable. I think there are British sources for at least some of the range.

Southern Gal, I know about knitting-back-backwards, and have laboriously succeeded in doing it, but I don’t enjoy it, so I don’t persevere. Maybe if I ever get to Meg’s Camp…dream on.

Donice, what fun that sounds, to audit some Latin classes!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Here we are, and it’s Lent again.

I have of late regarded it as all right to drink cider on weekdays (a) when one has a broken arm; (b) at Christmastide; (c) in London; (d) when one isn’t feeling very well; and (e) at Carnival time – so there’s plenty to give up.

We had a good time in Kirkmichael, with good weather. Spring is pushing hard at the door. I am mildly working on the putting together of a Burnside calendar. Here is the February picture. Those are snowdrops in the foreground, my husband working on his beech hedge behind.

I didn’t get much done in general, and in particular, not much knitting. The gansey is at a difficult stage, as alternate rows have to be knit on the wrong side which means flipping the whole pattern over in one’s mind. It isn’t just a matter of knit-the-knits and purl-the-purls: the pattern, and it’s a rather difficult one in its unobtrusive way, has to be advanced.

However, there is now only one more motif to do, and then the problems become different and I hope more interesting.

The Calcutta Cup ’06 sleeve went swimmingly last night; with luck, I should soon really get somewhere with that.


Thanks to everybody for straightening out the Danish royal family. I am particularly glad to learn that the smallest girl is Anne-Marie. That will add a lot to my already considerable pleasure in that picture (previous post).

In our early married days in Glasgow, we lived next door to a Frenchwoman who used to pass on her copies of Paris Match. The magazine was in those days (perhaps still is) particularly interested in the doings of royalty. I vividly remember the courtship of Constantine of Greece and Anne-Marie of Denmark (she was very young, I believe) and have felt ever since, when they crop up for one reason or another, that we are almost acquainted.

Donice, everybody thinks Oberlin must mean I’m musical, but alas no. I was at the college, not the conservatory; majored in Latin. Class of ’54.

Carlarey, that is simply astonishing, that you met Swapna through me. I have some dear flesh-and-blood friends whose acquaintance I first made here in cyberspace, but I think this must be the first time I actually introduced anybody to anybody.

Speaking of which, Franklin met Leigh Witchel the other day: that’s less remarkable, but still amuses. I knew Leigh (=have actually met him in the real world) back in the Knit List days.

Friday, February 16, 2007

I continue to feel good, as if recently released from prison. We’re planning to go to Strathardle today, back probably on Fat Tuesday.

I was briefly in John Lewis' yarn dept. yesterday, where I looked at the new Rowan magazine. I had heard that Sharon Miller's shawl was wrongly attributed, but they seem to have straightened that out. On the other hand, one of the designers listed on the cover was "Kaffe Fasette". Incredible!

Here’s today’s progress-picture of the second sleeve. I’m going to need more yarn at some point pretty soon. I am determined not to buy more than is strictly required – my whole Shetland stash, which is considerable, was formed by buying an extra skein or two to-be-on-the-safe-side. And it’s much harder to get it right now that the yarn is put up in 25 gram balls instead of two-ounce skeins. But service from Lerwick is good, and I’ll just have to stop-and-start, if need be.

Thank you for yesterday’s references to URL's where the Danish prince can be seen, wrapped in his hand-knit shawl. It looks very simple and homely, and prompts me to risk the wrath of the Thought Police by scanning in this picture from Vibeke Lind’s “Knitting in the Nordic Tradition.” It shows the D*nish R*yal F*mily on a visit to Greenland in 1952 and is right up there among my favourite knitting pictures of all time. Presumably one of the boys pictured is the new prince’s grandfather.

Non-knit and Pretty Pointless

On the ship which brought me back from Britain to America at the end of the summer of 1953, we must have had some sort of Talent Evening at which I remember a little boy, wearing a kilt, who sang “Bonnie Dundee.” I was electrified, and got myself a record of it which I often played during the ensuing year at Oberlin.

And I often think of it, as we drive out of Edinburgh towards the Bridge, as we will this morning, and see Fife on the other side: “And it’s Ho! for the west coast, and let us gae free…”

Last night I looked it up and discovered after all these years, that I had it wrong. Not “west coast” but “west port” – which is just down the way. Graham of Claverhouse was himself leaving Edinburgh, and glad to be going. He died at Killiekrankie which is not all that far from Kirkmichael as highland distances go. I have visited his grave at Blair Atholl.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Definitely a good day yesterday. Speaking of which, don’t miss Franklin's valentine to us all. Love that boy.

For the first time since this thing started, I stayed on my feet all day – and feel even peppier this morning. In the afternoon we walked up to the Royal Academy and saw the student show. Much youthful angst.

I finished The Yarn Yard socks, and hope to dispatch them to London this afternoon.

I re-started the Calcutta Cup ’06 sleeve. There’s a long way to go, but I’m back in the saddle.

I ordered three skeins of cashmere Koigu (!) to be sent to a cyber-friend who will visit Edinburgh next month. I read through the Shapely Shawlette pattern and I think I have at least the general idea. Thank you all for comments relating to its construction, which I will certainly refer back to when the time comes.
And I got some work done on my website (see sidebar). There are still plenty of loose ends and blind alleys, but some of the lace stuff is now up.

My friend and sometime eBay agent Helen sent me this link yesterday (which she got from you, Kathy in Juneau):

It’s delicious. Don’t miss.

I referred it to my sources in Beijing, wondering which of the characters displayed actually said “knitting”, and have had this slightly dampening reply:

“The three characters directly above the word ‘knitting’. The characters say ‘knitted products’. It appears to be a list of things on sale in a shop. The English words don't cover the entire range of products advertised in Chinese. There are also shoes, hats, water and ice-cream.”


Carlarey, I’ve been racking my brains for the “other brown candidate” you mention. Richardson? Condi? But neither has declared yet, have they? Guiliani isn’t exactly a WASP either, but again, he isn’t officially in (and he wouldn’t count as brown).

Thanks for Barak’s middle initial. I think in fact I had already heard it. Clearly, his parents weren’t looking ahead to the presidency when they named their little baby. It seems to me that a certain familiarity with Islam couldn’t do a world leader much harm these days.


knititch, could you possibly send us an URL for a picture of your Crown Princess with her baby in the shawl knit by her mother? And I meant to say to you yesterday, I find written instructions – rather than pictures – the easiest way to get to grips with grafting. Now that I knit Travel Socks, I have finally, in the last decade, learned to do it, at least for st st, without having to look it up every time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

I finished and even Kitchener’d The Yarn Yard second sock last night. There are a couple of loose ends, but tonight’s knitting will certainly have to be that second sleeve of the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater. Takes deep breath.

Having said which, I’ve run out of things to say.

I was wandering around just now, clicking on links in the sidebars of blogs, as a way of postponing the getting to grips with 14-02-07, and found this hat pattern recommended by Fuzzy Logic Knits. Next month’s Yarn Yard subscription yarn? I’ll photograph the socks tomorrow with the leftover yarn, of which there is an abundance. A hat wouldn’t get me very far.

Comments – mostly political today

Southern Gal, I was especially interested in yours, and I am sure that the people who are concerned with these things are testing political pulses all over America on that very question. My own feeling, from my remote perch, and speaking as a life-long Democrat, is that Hillary is dragging along all the baggage of her husband’s presidency, plus the resentment of the cookie-bakers, plus the memory of her failure on health care reform. (Who said, “Judge my presidency by what I achieve in health care?” I’m just asking.) Whereas BO – that man urgently needs a middle initial; has he got one? – comes fresh. We shall see.

Kathy in Juneau, you’ve hit a totally illogical nerve to which I feel absurdly responsive. Would knitting a cashmere Koigu for Theo somehow qualify as putting one’s shoulder to the forward propulsion of the BO bandwagon?

I had a similarly ridiculous feeling when my daughter Helen was pregnant for the second time.

Her eldest son died at six weeks, and is buried (in Kirkmichael) wrapped in his shawl. For Archie, who came next, I knit this one, of Jamieson & Smith lace-weight. It was for me, at the time, a forward movement into the unknown, finer yarn and fancier lace than I had ever tackled before.

And I constantly felt, as I worked on it, that I was helping God knit the baby. First the endless edging – it’s an Amedro pattern, and that’s the way she does things – while the baby himself took shape and Helen felt lousy. Then the fun part, while Archie grew and got strong.

So you may well have contributed to a sweater for Theo, if not necessarily to the next presidency, although we can hope.

I like your Box-the-Compass, a pattern I have often admired. I will follow its progress.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

I saw a doctor, who seemed distinctly unimpressed with my feeble state, but prescribed a five-day course of penicillin. I felt very sprightly last night – placebo effect? getting better anyway? or Alexander Fleming in action? This morning, perhaps not quite the further increase in sprightliness that I might have hoped for.

Both doctor and pharmacy were very prompt, and I didn’t get much sock done. However, I’m more than half-way from heel to toe, so might even finish today.


Knititch, thanks for your comment. On reflection, I have knit in cashmere, this cardigan for my sister. Jaeger 4-ply, I think. And it doesn’t droop. The button bands roll inwards, though. I hate button bands in general but was so careful with those. However, that fault is almost certainly not to be blamed on the material. My sister has had bad trouble with gourmet moths, too.

A blog-reading cyber-friend is coming to Edinburgh next month, and has kindly agreed to carry in some cashmere Koigu. It's far too expensive to take the slightest change with customs duty. I'll order it today, enough for the Shapely Shawlette. Donice, it was fun to hear that you not only remember the pattern but are actually knitting it. Please report on progress from time to time.


On my re-structured website, I’m putting family pictures on the opening page. I used pure text the first time, for quick loading, but now that everybody’s got broadband I thought I might branch out. Yesterday my sister sent me this one, which I will add to the website soon. That’s her son, my nephew Theo, the prospective wearer of the prospective cashmere Koigu, on the left, and some politician or other, on the right.

My sister worked in Washington for the first Clinton administration, and has the highest regard for Hillary’s abilities. But she – my sister – seems as full of enthusiasm as the rest of us, for the new man. He could bring a genuine healing touch to a divided land. It will be interesting to see what happens. I haven’t felt so keen since Kennedy.

He must be very tall, to be taller than Theo.

Monday, February 12, 2007

I’ve rounded the heel of The Yarn Yard sock, and since I have a doctor’s appt this afternoon (thanks to you, Tamar), which will probably involve some waiting, I should polish the whole thing off pretty promptly.

I reflected last night that the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater is at a particularly vulnerable stage at the moment – vulnerable to slipping down the slope to UFO status. I mustn’t let that happen – better times are ahead. At the moment, I’m a few inches into the second sleeve. Rounds are quickly finished and then its time to change the bloody colours yet again. It’s on two circulars and they keep flopping about. It's awfully easy to knit something else instead.

Pretty soon the sleeve will acquire a more substantial circumference, and be do-able on one circular needle. And not too long after that, the whole thing will be joined on one needle and it all gets really fun. So – forward!

Loose ends

Lorna, despite my silence, I haven’t overlooked the meme you tagged me with (I hope I’ve got the technical language right). It’s not at all easy to think of five things about myself which (a) can’t be readily deduced from the blog and (b) I am willing to publish; but I think I’m getting close.

Nor does my silence on the subject of cashmere Koigu mean that I have stopped thinking about it. Rummaging about among my patterns, I discover the once-famous Shapely Shawlette by Judy Pascale. I must have bought it when I took a class with her at Stitches East ’02. It’s actually written for Koigu, and I suspect that’s the way to go.

I knit a striped Koigu for my nephew Theo a couple of years ago. He seems pleased with it; I’d prefer a bit more ease. (I thought the sweater Mr Cameron was wearing for his television appearances yesterday was just about perfect for colour, style, fit and ease.) He – Theo, not Mr Cameron -- has himself put forward the idea of a cashmere Koigu sweater. It would take some thinking about, but it’s certainly a delicious thought.

Cashmere Koigu seems to have exactly the same yardage per gram as wool; that’s an encouraging start. Does it droop? I’ve never knit a cashmere sweater. I knit an alpaca one once, for myself, and after no more than three wearings, it was knee-length. There must be some discussion of this subject, amongst all my books

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Scotland won. It was a scrappy and rather unsatisfactory match, but there’s no doubt that winning is better than losing.

Natalie’s comments yesterday prompt me to reveal that Chris Paterson is virtually a member of our family.

Some years ago, we gave Ketki as part of her Christmas present, a Scotland-supporting teddy bear. He’s wearing a little Scotland sweater and hat, and waving the Saltire. She and Alexander decided to name him after the first man to score a try for Scotland in the forthcoming Six Nations tournament. (I suspect it was still Five Nations, in those days.) That’s how he comes to be called Paterson.

He watches every Scotland match, as faithfully as Princess Anne. When Alexander and Ketki spent a winter in NY, before they had children, Rachel was responsible for ensuring that Paterson always took his place before the television set when Scotland was playing.

And now Chris Paterson the man is captain of Scotland and one of the best kickers-at-goal in the world.

I found, yesterday, that even a scrappy and unsatisfactory match was too exciting for much knitting, even very easy knitting. But later on I got almost to the heel of the second sock, and I think now that I’ll press on to the end.


My reference yesterday to the Antipathies prompted me to take Alice from the shelf, and I looked at two famous shawls before I put it back – the White Queen, in the scene where she shrieks first and pricks her finger on her shawl-pin second, is clearly wearing a woven shawl. The sheep-proprietress of that famous shop is wrapped in an indeterminate garment.

I have been mildly pursuing this subject lately. Ford Madox Brown’s famous picture "Work" shows very clearly a woman, upper left, wearing an elaborate Shetland shawl. (Click on the image in the link I’ve just given, and it will be enlarged enough that you can just about see it.) The picture itself lives in Manchester. I saw it once in a pre-Raphaelite show in London. It’s not a general-idea shawl; the artist had a real one in front of him, and you could almost knit it from his depiction. (It’s quite a large picture.)

The picture was painted mid-nineteenth-century, only a few years after the Great Exhibition which, we are told, popularised Shetland shawls.

When we were in London a few days ago, we went to a Frith exhibition at the Guildhall. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him. I was interested because he painted big pictures in the middle of the 19th century and on into the 1870’s; lots of people in public settings: “At the Railway Station,” “At the Seaside”, “Derby Day”, “Private View at the Royal Academy” were all included in the exhibition, and I would say after some careful peering that there wasn’t a single Shetland (or other knitted) shawl to be seen. Lots of woven ones.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Medical bulletin

You’re right, Tamar. I won’t leave it past Monday.

I was really feeling pretty good yesterday, on my feet all day, finished Rachel’s first sock and cast on the second. Less well this morning. It’s an ugly, raw day and Scotland are playing Wales at rugby so once the food is in, I’ll hunker down.

If you need a dr out of business hours (9-5, Monday to Friday) these days you have to phone something called NHS 24. If you try phoning your own doctor, the call gets diverted. I don’t know whether this applies to all of Britain, or just Scotland. At NHS 24 you will speak to a nurse who will tell you to take an aspirin, or, if the situation seems to her more serious than that, a paracetemol.

This works well, on the whole. There have been a few fatalities among polite and submissive callers, particularly those whose first language is not English and who have never seen a case of meningitis before. Can’t be helped.

Kate, I think I put that the wrong way around, yesterday. More seriously and accurately, the one thing worse than having a daughter between the ages of 12 and 30, is not having a daughter at all. I hope you get your girl! My quiverful of grandchildren is heavily biased towards boys -- see the website advertised in the sidebar.


Here’s the finished sock. I don’t know quite what to do now. It would be good to finish them off, and get an early report on the wearing qualities of this wonderful yarn. And it would mean I could look forward to next month’s subscription from The Yarn Yard with a high heart. And today’s rugby should move things forward nicely. On the other hand, sock-knitting is getting a bit boring…

The final magazine in the current deluge is the summer issue of Yarn, a new Australian publication. A kind cyber friend sent me a copy when I broke my arm. I have subscribed, and this was my first issue.

I’ve known ever since I first read Alice in Wonderland that people in the Antipathies walk about with their heads downwards, but it was still disconcerting to get the summer issue of something so homely and familiar as a knitting magazine – and find a whole selection of “simple gifts”.

I like this magazine; it’s friendly and accessible, with interesting patterns shewn on real-life models, and a good clutch of articles.

Friday, February 09, 2007

I’m much better. I was flat out all day yesterday, cancelled the Public Appearance, determined to see a doctor today – but this morning that seems a bit White-Queen, and more seriously, there’s everything to be said for not taking antibiotics if I’m getting better without them.

It leaves, however, little to report, since I knit only a round or two on Rachel’s socks yesterday. Tamar, I was immensely encouraged to learn that someone else didn’t know whether to continue the contrast-yarn through the gussets. I should know by now that whatever one doesn’t know, someone else doesn’t know it either, but it always comes as a delightful surprise.

Laurieg, I’ve left a comment on your brilliant why-worry post. How vividly it brought back those anxious years! I might add, that the one thing worse than not having a daughter, is having one, between the ages of 12 and 30.

Back in the saddle, I hope, tomorrow.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Tottering on; still not well. I have to make a very rare public appearance this evening. I think I’m up to it, and will streak for the door and grab a taxi home as soon as my bit is done. But I keep thinking of the time, decades ago, when I really did get pneumonia, after a week of staggering on because my contribution was absolutely essential to maintaining the spin of the earth on its axis. The experience was highly uncomfortable, and it took a good six months before I got my puff back. And I was younger then.

My doctor-sister says (rightly) that I am obsessed with pneumonia.



Thanks for help. I consulted my nephew Theo, who knows all about these things; looked at moveabletype; downloaded a trial program – which I suspect is pretty good -- from CoffeeCup; and decided to go on with “Web Express”, the program I have been using all along – and perhaps to take better advantage of its facilities. I have a book called “Complete Idiot’s Guide to Creating a Web Page”. It’s not exactly this year’s edition, but HTML hasn’t changed much.

I’ve done a bit more work, but there’s no more knitting over there yet.


Here’s the current state of Rachel’s Yarn Yard socks. I should have known to use the plain yarn for the heel flap and actual heel only – not to continue through the gusset. I’ll know next time. Meanwhile, I continue delighted with the yarn, and very interested with the effect it creates. I hope we’ll get a dark gentlemanly shade one month, and meanwhile I am earnestly planning sweaters for little boys. I think it would stripe with Rowan 4-ply soft and Louet Gems Merino.


The Winter VK turned up while we were in London. The big excitement – amongst some interesting things -- is Leigh Witchel’s sweater at No. 20. Leigh was a member of the Knitlist in its glory days. His alter ego Phyllis Stein had a lot in common with Dolores, despite not being a sheep.

I knit his Puzzlebox Aran from a long-ago Knitter’s for my brother-in-law – can’t find a pic. This new sweater has something in common with that design, in the way the patterning flows from rib to body to neckline; and must take a place on my HALFPINT list – well down, I am afraid.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ce l’ho fatta!

I think that means, I did it! in Italian. If it doesn’t, it’ll have to suffice for today. I have launched my new website. It’s there in the sidebar. Not much yet – no knitting. But the difficult and stressful part has been done. The rest is just a matter of sprucing up the old pages and squirting them into the ether.

For some reason, the process of connecting my little FTP program (a freebie called “Terrapin” of which I've become very fond) to a distant server aroused serious anxieties. It all went very smoothly, in fact. Yesterday’s difficulty, as I suspected, was that the name of my main page was “index.htm” whereas this time it had to be “index.html”. The nearer you get to the engine room of a computer, the more it behaves as it would have 30 years ago.

I’m looking around for a cheap or free editing program to improve the appearance of things. I need a navigation bar, to begin with.


Thank you, Jean and Fiona, for the help you gave my correspondent from Dieppe. She said she couldn’t find a list of abbreviations in Thompson. So I am interested to learn that you could, Jean. I can’t wait to get back to Strathardle and look again at the book myself.


I still didn’t feel very well yesterday (better this morning, I think) so extended the period of privilege and have nearly reached the heel of Rachel’s first Yarn Yard sock. I’ll hope to turn the heel today in the solid-coloured yarn and offer a picture tomorrow.

I’m in something of a quandary here. I love sock-knitting and have finished very few recently, because I knit them only when we travel, and we hug home more and more. Since my mother died nearly four years ago, I haven’t been to America and have no immediate prospect of going again. (Although nephew Theo pointed out once, when I was conducting a gloomy conversation on these lines, that I’ll have to come for his wedding.)

Set aside one day a week for socks, here in Edinburgh?

The other problem is that I can easily foresee that I am not going to be able to keep up with knitting my Yarn Yard subscription yarns, and equally not going to be able to give them up. We will eventually be overwhelmed with beautiful yarn.


They’ve been flowing in. The Winter Knitter’s has been here since before we went to London.
Has Kaffe ever designed for Knitter’s before? The result is fairly pedestrian, for him. In fact, I fear he has said all he has to say in knitting. I’d love to be proved wrong.

The only pattern that tempts me is the vest by his protégé Brandon Mably. It’s a very successful simplification of one he did for Rowan’s “Vintage Style” which I bought recently on eBay. Do I want his new book? I wish it would turn up in a bookstore so that I could have a look and decide.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

I'm better, definitely better. Not yet well. We have had our flu injections, as all well-behaved oldies should, and that has helped, I’m sure.

Yesterday, instead of blogging, I tackled the problem of squirting my webpages to their new home in the ether. I made real progress, in the sense that I have uploaded a few files to some destination or other, but not in the sense that the website can yet be viewed. I have a couple more tricks to try before I am reduced to phoning the nice young men at Uk-Cheapest.

I had a message yesterday from Dieppe (in Canada!) about a child’s hat pattern towards the end of Gladys Thompson’s book, “Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans”. My copy is in Kirkmichael, helping with Ketki’s gansey, so I can only guess. Her problem is this:

The instruction “sl1 k1b pss” , does it mean skip one stitch, knit the following one (leaving the stitch on the left needle) then purl the stitch you had previously skipped? There is also the probably equivalent “sl1 p1b kss”…

My first instinct was to think that it was the familiar “slip one, knit one-back-of-loop, pass slipped stitch over.” But the second example makes it much more likely that the writer from Dieppe is right, and that this is a two-stitch cross. But how could “sl1” mean “skip one”? There’s no “l” in “skip”. If anyone has the book to hand and can solve the problem, I will pass the word on to Dieppe.


Lots has piled up to be reported on.

Of which I think the Big Thing was the arrival last Saturday of my first package from The Yarn Yard Club. Wow! Despite clumsy photography, the picture gives some idea of the glow of this luscious stuff. And I had completely forgotten that the subscription would include a small skein of a matching solid yarn.

I’m really glad, now, that Natalie doesn’t seem to have a retail shop. She needs to keep busy with that dye-pot.

Last night I exercised the invalid’s prerogative not to get back to work (on the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater), and instead finished the travel socks, finished-finished them, Kitchener’ing and loose ends and all. And wound the big Yarn Yard skein, and cast on a pair of socks for Rachel.

She’s got small feet, and she likes her socks short in the leg. She remarked last week when we were in London that she wears socks I have knit for her all the time, and they never wear out. Flattery will get you everywhere.

I’m inclined to think I will go on with this sock at least for today. The yarn is heaven on the hands, and the fabric is turning out rather interesting, no stripes let alone pools.

But I can’t spend the rest of my life knitting Yarn Yard socks. (Why not?) I’ll have to start thinking of sweaters for small boys.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Sorry -- it's not Despond, although England retrieved the Calcutta Cup with a score of 42-20, as usual.

It's just that I've got a sort-of-a-bit-of-a flu.

Back tomorrow, I hope.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Calcutta Cup Day

There’s really very little hope. England regard today’s match as an easy 'un to start their season with. We are, however, cheerful.

Kate, rugby has some resemblance to American football, and many differences. It takes an American a fair while to get used to the idea that it is perfectly permissible to pick the ball up off the ground and run with it, and that the ball must never be passed to a player forward of the man who’s got it. Rugby is much more fluid than American football. At its very best, it’s like chess at speed.


Meanwhile there has been a (small) dramatic event in the knitting of the Calcutta Cup ’06 sweater. I have started the second sleeve, and managed, in the first couple of rows, to displace the pattern, rotating it perhaps nine stitches clockwise. There are some very simple rows which make it easy to go astray in the following row, especially when there isn’t very much to go on.

As you can see, the mistake itself is nearly undetectable, and would certainly pass the Horse Test even if the animal were just ambling along.

I discovered this the evening before we went to London, and decided to press on. I realised that it meant that things would be a bit off at the underarm. I have calculated the sleeves to finish at the same row as the body, and also, once all the increases have been increased, to have the sleeve “seam” occur at the same vertical point in the pattern as the side “seams” of the body. In this case, that calculation would be thrown off. The result would take a bit of fudging, I thought, but it could be done.

When I woke up the next morning, with the synapses somewhat restored, I realised while still in bed that the real problem would arise when I was knitting around on all the stitches after the sleeves had joined in: the pattern on the faulty sleeve would be very conspicuously askew.

So I ripped it out on Thursday night, when we got back from London – I think the week’s delay made the process less painful. I’m nearly back to where I was.

I am becoming obsessed with the idea of cashmere koigu. I can’t even allow myself to dream, however, without first working out exactly what I would do with it.

Friday, February 02, 2007


We are really getting too old for London. I never felt so strongly tempted as yesterday to kneel down and kiss the platform in Waverley Station, Pope-John-Paul-II fashion.

We got around and saw some art, and I pressed firmly forward with the travel socks. There should be enough downtime during the Calcutta Cup match tomorrow, to let me finish them off.

Speaking of which, Franklin says in his latest post: “I've been asked -- nay, commanded -- to step away from the keyboard for a couple of days and get some profound rest. I expect to be back on Monday, full of piss 'n' vinegar.”

You know what this is, don’t you? A typical English ploy (on the part of whoever did the asking-nay-commanding) to deprive Scotland of his support. Two days before last year’s match, assured that Franklin was behind us, I wrote here: “Poor England. It hardly seems fair.”

The match starts at 4 pm GMT, which is 11 am on the Eastern Seaboard, I think. I expect many knitterly thoughts to be directed towards Twickenham at that time, to make up for the loss of Franklin. Scotland last won the Cup there in 1983. (We’ve done marginally better in the even-numbered years, in Edinburgh.)


Our daughter Rachel and her family, with whom we were staying, have a new kitten, named Pushkin. He had never seen knitting before, and was delighted at the opportunities it offered.

One evening early in our stay he disappeared, causing many tears. When he finally sauntered into view, I said, “Next time, it won’t be so stressful.” I was wrong – he did it again on Wednesday and the stress was intense. The cleaning woman had been in action that day and it was feared that she had let him out into the street. (She hid our return ticket, causing a mauvais quart d’heure the next morning.)

Lizzie designed this poster, with tears streaming down her face. I think she has a future in advertising. (Scanning has distorted it: the original is perfectly straight.)

I am happy to report that it was my husband and I, sitting quietly at the kitchen table while everybody else ran distractedly up and down stairs, who heard the little voice from behind the cellar door.


VK was waiting when we got back, and in it I have learned about cashmere koigu.

Ron, that was a desperately sweet comment you left last time.

There’s much more to say, but I think I’ll leave it here for today.