Thursday, October 30, 2008

Onwards – as somebody once said.

Last night, progressing peacefully through row 6 of the 10th repeat of the Princess centre, I came to a pretty horrendous hole, all my own making, much worse and in a more conspicuous place than the moth damage I may or may not have discovered yesterday. I think it was a k3tog from which one stitch had escaped, a few rows down.

I secured the stitches and put the work aside. Today I’ll have to try to fix it, and to finish the row, and then that’s, I think, that, for now. The package at the Post Office yesterday was Ketki’s Araucania yarn (from The Craft Cottage – excellent service). While my sister is here, I’ll knit Alexander’s socks, if at all. Then the sweater.

I’ve obviously bought far too much yarn (no wonder it seemed expensive) – I could tell that from the weight of the package, as I walked home from the sorting office. I will certainly need to do a swatch cap, because I want to retain as far as possible the lovely drape I’m getting on my Araucania sweater in Strathardle, and that could mean trying different needle sizes.

Odds and ends

Chronic Knitting Syndrome and I are going to a Habu trunk show and workshop at K1 Yarns towards the end of November; should be fun.

If you follow the link, you can see CKS’s pinwheel shawl/blanket, which is enough to make us all drop what we’re doing and knit that.

My order of Franklin’s Guys With Yarn calendar has arrived. I guess I could wish that it were spiral-bound, but it’s pretty wonderful anyway.

The new Knitting magazine(the UK mag) has turned up, too – it gets better and better without ever quite becoming compulsive. There’s an attractive big cabled scarf in the Christmas supplement.


Judith, the Palin as President page is delicious; many thanks for that. Although to do the woman justice, I gather she got cross at all the fuss about her Neiman Marcus clothes, stopped wearing them, and now appears in jeans. In which, it has to be admitted, she looks good.

Angel, it is interesting what you say about the free-range farm on the outskirts of Oberlin which butchers its own animals. The European Union made rules about abattoirs some years ago which meant that many small ones (including an excellent pork butcher in Blairgowrie) were forced to close, and that animals, therefore, often now have to travel much further to be slaughtered.

Mr Dorward’s chickens were very good, like everything he sold. They weren’t labelled “free range” or “organic” or “corn-fed” or anything, but they tasted wonderful and the juices jelled. I complimented him on them once. He had been getting them from the same supplier for many years, he said, and he thought a lot of the difference lay in the way they were killed.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here we are back. The weather was abominable most of the time, and I didn’t get much done. My husband did better.

Then, yesterday morning, this:

The radio says that there is snow in London today, the first time for such an event in October since 1934. None in Edinburgh, so far.

A great sadness hung over the visit, in that our butcher has retired. He was the best butcher I have ever known. Getting to his shop in Alyth is a bit out-of-the-way, a real treat for myself therefore (as I thought) when I went last Friday. His name is still above the door; I didn’t grasp what had happened until I got inside.

His name is Michael Dorward. I won’t bother with the link to the story of his retirement in the Blairgowrie Advertiser: you can find it if you Google, but it doesn’t tell you much. The Advertiser did say that the new proprietor will continue to use Mr Dorward’s recipes, but I can tell you that the pork, leek and apricot sausages, my absolute favourite in the world, don’t taste the same. They were perfectly competent sausages, but they weren’t Mr Dorward’s pork, leek, and apricot.

It is a small, unprepossessing shop. Mr Dorward clearly had no interest in empire-building. He had a fierce price in the product he sold. The shop was full of notices of prizes his sausages had won, and the account of the time he was chosen to supply haggis to Scotland’s World Cup rugby team, and awards your supper had earned, for all the good it did them -- the prize cards won by the cattle he had bought at Forfar Market.

Probably the quickest way to say how good he was, is to tell you that he accepted neither credit nor debit cards. He resented (as many shopkeepers do) the tax the bank demanded for every transaction. Even the corner shops whose proprietors speak only Urdu take cards these days. In Mr Dorward’s case, Perthshire happily queued up to pay him in cash.

So that was terrible.

I didn’t get much knitting done – here’s the current state of the Araucania sweater. Love that yarn. The post office put a card through the door while we were away to say that they tried to deliver a parcel – I hope to get up to collect it today, and hope it will be the yarn for Ketki’s sweater.

Back here, I finished the 9th repeat of the Princess centre last night– only 43% of the total, according to Cynthia’s Formula. Disapppointing – I had hoped to be nearer 50%, because the second half of anything always goes faster. The irony is, as you can see from the second picture, I’m nearly to the end of the border. It’s just that every row now takes half-an-hour.

When I spread it out for photography this morning, I found two small holes which could even be moth damage. I am not as horrified as I ought to be: careful mending will scarcely show up in that sea of stitches. But I will put it away with great caution, this time, when I switch to Ketki’s sweater.


Tamar, thank you. I think I’m OK – I think the word “behind” was a mistake on my part. My sister will be here tomorrow – tomorrow! – and we can talk about it. Not only is she a doctor, she has suffered a torn retina not all that long ago.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

I think my eye is going to be all right. I was astonished, when I got home from the appointment, at the ease and relief I felt. I must have been reeely scared.

I was emphatic (thanks, Tamar) in telling them that sight in the affected eye had deteriorated during the week. The nice man agreed – I’ve got fluid on/in/under the retina, and it may need laser treatment. They prefer to leave it a few weeks – he explained it all in Layman’s Terms and I’m afraid the word “pudding” occurred – and the delay won’t affect the outcome. (Unlike a detached retina, which he assured me I hadn’t got -- that needs prompt treatment, he agreed.)

My next appt is towards the end of November.

Not the least happy event of the day was a message from Leslie B. of NJ. Our virtual friendship goes back a long way.

When I originally got online, ’94 I think it was, the very first thing I did was sign up for a newsgroup called (I think) rec.crafts.textiles. I’d read about it in VK. Nothing happened. I think I even tried to send a message once saying, “Is anybody out there?” Then, somehow, I discovered that it needed to be rec.crafts.textiles.yarn – and I began to get messages.

It was wonderful, after a lifetime of being nutty about knitting all by myself, suddenly to be in touch with other loonies. I wrote a note once about finishing a shawl for a baby, and Leslie wrote to me and said, why don’t you join the Knitlist? And I did. And the rest is history.

Those were the great days of Phyllis Stein, and of Selma Kaplan’s virtual parties around her virtual pool, to cheer up the stay-at-homes who couldn’t go to Stitches. (I don’t remember any talk of Rhinebeck. Is that more recent?) I’m still in touch with Phyllis, and Selma has become a flesh-and-blood friend.

Here are Alexander’s socks. I’m just over half-way through the dread k2p2 rib the second time. As I think you can see, I now do gents’ socks with a k6p2 rib for the body and the top of the foot. The knitting is not as blissful as the plain vanilla st st round-and-round I used to do, but it’s bearable, and I think it makes a neater sock.

I don’t see how anyone could bear to work toe-up, and have the awful ribbing to do at the end.

I’ve embarked on row 44 of the 9th repeat of the Princess centre. One more evening should finish it off – but that won’t be until next week, as we’re hoping to go to Strathardle today at last. The weather is abominable: if the Forth Bridge is closed, we’ll turn around and come back. Otherwise, I should reappear next Wednesday.

Angel, I'd love to know which Ohio college you're at. I was at Oberlin. You could email me at the address in the sidebar if you don't want to make the information public.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

World Affairs

The world seems, just at the moment, to have embarked on another roller coaster ride. Share prices and – bizarrely, to my mind – the value of the pound fell briskly last night and are continuing to do so this morning.

Theresa, I’ve added that site you suggested to my Favorites. It looks encouraging. Justin Webb seems to think McCain might win in the Electoral College although he will lose the popular vote. My sister saw a CNN presentation yesterday where some rather convincing Republican commentators predicted a McCain win. She came away worried. The newspaper articles on the he-is-going-to-visit-his-grandmother theme are all we could ask for.

I remain confident. I think. It’s very hard to grasp, after all this time, that it will soon be over.

We have had two new donations to our thermometer, one of them with a message about my eyes. I am very grateful. I haven’t matched them yet – and if I do, it won’t show on the thermometer anyway because I now have to come in from “abroad”. Someone claiming to be from “Obama for America” rang me up the other evening and asked for my passport number all over again – I have had to supply it with my last two or three donations. I didn’t divulge it again. She said she’d send me an email, and never did. It was odd. Her voice sounded absolutely right for a keen young Obama supporter.

I’m having trouble with red and blue. I don’t think we had them when I was young. I associate red with left and therefore expect it to be the Democratic colour. I have to re-think things from the start every time I see one of those maps.

When I was young the Democrats could count on the “solid South”. I gather Lyndon Johnson signed it away with the Civil Rights act (and good for him). It would be rather wonderful if Obama could reclaim even one Confederate state.


The non-junk e-mail I get included this, this morning, about a new wool-and-silk Koigu. Mmmmmm. I bought some cashmere Koigu last year, some may remember, and learned the never-to-be-forgotten lesson that cashmere doesn’t take dye all that well. (I knit up all the yarn, though; at least it’s not languishing in stash.) But silk does, and of course wool does.

Theresa, I can never get stitch and row tension (gauge) to coincide, and have long since given up trying. How do they do it?

I’ve finished row 38 of the 9th repeat of the Princess centre. The rows are definitely getting long and slow – and November looms. It now doesn’t seem very likely that I’ll achieve my aim of knitting the first 17 rows of the next repeat, the moderately tough ones, before switching to Ketki’s sweater.

Perhaps I could take a picture of Alexander’s socks for tomorrow. Cynthia, you can count on me not to attempt the Princess with dilated pupils. There should be a report on my eyes tomorrow, too, even if it’s only “no news”.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I got all those things done yesterday, and a couple of others. Filing the income tax on-line is pretty stressful. I sent the ballot off with an expensive kind of air mail (but still costing less than Monmouth County NJ spent on me) which means that I can track it. I told the dr about my continuing visual probs; she thought they might be the aftermath of last week’s event, and that they will fade like a bruise.

That’s plausible enough to cheer me up until I get to the hospital tomorrow, but I will certainly press hard there. That is an alarming story about your friend, Tamar, all the more memorable because it is a detached retina that I am afraid of, without knowing much about it. I know that swift action is necessary, and can save sight. I was told when I had my cataract operations three years ago that the shape of my eye socket makes me somewhat more than ordinarily prone.

I read somewhere once the advice to doctors, “Listen to the patient; he is telling you the diagnosis.”


The radio this morning says that Obama’s team is worried about his taking two days off to see his grandmother. I don’t think they need to worry one bit. He’ll get the media coverage that his campaigning would have achieved, probably more, if you want to be cynical, and he is showing himself to be a human being with commendably sound priorities.

Donna, you’re young. I can remember another VP besides Johnson who got inaugurated suddenly and proved a good president, namely Harry Truman. I saw this clip yesterday and thought it rather funny in an appalling sort of way. Reflecting on it, I thought I must have misunderstood – that was surely Tina Fey. I went back and looked again. It was Sarah Palin.

But this is supposed to be about knitting.

I sent for the yarn for Ketki’s sweater yesterday. I hope this is going to work. It cost a lot. There was a wonderfully silly article in the Financial Times last Saturday about people saving money in these hard times by knitting and growing vegetables. The only way knitting can save an appreciable amount of money is if you find a gem in a charity shop and unravel it and re-use the yarn. And vegetable-growing demands an awful lot of hard work to break even.

I made some progress with Alexander’s second sock in the dr’s waiting room yesterday, and hope to make more at the eye hospital tomorrow. An eye appointment is especially useful because you get not only the preliminary waiting time, but an extra 20 minutes when they send you out again to wait for the drops to work.

I have embarked on row 34 of the 9th repeat of the Princess centre.

And revisited the new Knitter’s. Perhaps there’s not much of interest after all, even Perri Klass is beginning to lose me, but I liked Rick’s “one-yarn intarsia” idea, and the Violets and Roses jacket. I looked again at Rowan Colorscape yesterday in John Lewis, however, after dispatching my ballot, and again thought that there was something not-quite-as-wonderful-as-it-should be about the colours.

Monday, October 20, 2008

A day frot with event.

After breakfast I will go up to the post office and dispatch my vote. And things are looking good. Powell’s endorsement is a big one – that’s the man who could have been the first black president of the U.S. if he had chosen to go down that path. And Justin Webb thinks the public has spotted the fact that our friend Mrs Palin isn’t fit to be president.

I watched some of the clips on my computer from that charity dinner at which Obama and McCain both spoke. Of course it was their speechwriters being funny, but both men played their parts well and the good humour of the whole event was touching. How can one not love Obama’s smile? I thought the Cardinal was a hoot – he looked straight out of Monty Python. I have never seen the Cardinal Archbishop of Edinburgh looking remotely like that, either in news photographs or when he pitches up at the Cathedral as not infrequently. Maybe there are different degrees of Cardinal and New York ranks higher? Maybe it’s just that I’ve never seen Keith Patrick at a formal dinner.

Then, as if that weren’t enough, my patriotic duty discharged I will file our income tax for ‘07-‘08 on-line. I did it last year; I had a dry run yesterday and established that our password and ID code still work. The figures are ready. But it’s scary.

At the end of the afternoon I have an appt with our dr – it’s just to have my blood pressure taken, hoping to establish whether that is a factor in what went wrong with my eye last week. I expected only to see the practice nurse. But I am not at all happy with the current performance of my left eye, and will be glad to tell a doctor about it.

As for knitting, I’m doing row 30 of the 9th repeat of the Princess centre. We hope to go to Strathardle on Thursday, after my next appt at the eye hospital. The rows are too long these days to allow a realistic hope of finishing the repeat (46 rows) by then. Maybe I’ll apply Cynthia’s Formula on Wednesday night anyway, to see how far I’ve got, percentage-wise.

I learn from an ad in the new Knitter’s that KF has done some more sock yarns for Regia!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Nice time in Glasgow – good little exhibition, very happy visit with Alexander and Ketki and their boys.

But the big excitement around here is – my ballot arrived. I had nearly given up hope. It came just before we left on Friday morning. First I thought I’d take it along and post it from a post office near Alexander on Saturday morning. But I don’t know if there is a post office near Alexander (in the event, I didn’t see one) and I don’t quite trust them to be working full tilt on Saturday morning anyway. So I took it out of the bag again, like Eeyore, and will hare up to the post office here first thing tomorrow morning.

I ticked the box on the application that said I would be perfectly happy to have it by e-mail if NJ procedure allowed. They chose to send it by a special sort of airmail – I had to sign for it – costing the taxpayer $26.32. I will send it back by the most expensive method offered by the Royal Mail, but I don’t expect it to cost that much.

I am awfully glad to see that I could vote for the Green Party or the Socialist Workers Party, just as if I lived in Glenrothes. There is even a pair who belong to no party at all: Jeffrey “Jeff” Boss and his VP candidate Andrea Marie Psoras. What do you have to do to get on the ballot? Here, it takes both signatures and money. You get the money back if you get a reasonable proportion of the vote.

The newspapers and airwaves here are suddenly full of will-people-really-vote-for-Obama? stories. Perhaps because they have to write about something.

Knitting-wise, I finished the first of Alexander’s socks, and we decided that the Second Skein problem can be allowed to pass. Thomas-the-Younger is pleased with the idea that Daddy will have socks to match his (Thomas’s) sweater.

And last night, very weary, I knocked off row 24 of repeat #9 of the Princess centre.

The new Knitter’s is here, and one or two things actually look interesting. More on this subject to follow.

Angel, I can’t really believe you’ll have trouble at the polls, but it’s dreadful that the thought should even cross your mind.

Shandy, you’re right, it’s very hard to predict what’s going to succeed, both for oneself and for others. Children seem easier in this respect than adults? (I really admire your pumpkins.)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Glasgow today. I should be back here on Sunday, insh’Allah. Ketki is returning from New York this morning – she may be making landfall just about now. (I love that phrase, and hope I’ve got it right.) She has to work this afternoon, her husband says, and by this evening may be too tired to explain high finance and the world situation to her aged in-laws, although I’m sure she’ll try if asked.

My eyes continue to function perfectly satisfactorily. What happened, Wednesday morning, was that I saw huge black “floaters” when I tried to look out through them, like patches of oil on water. I don’t suppose it lasted more than two minutes, three at the outside, but I was terrified. It kind of underlined the precariousness of life, and what can happen between this moment and the next. It’s true of all of us all the time, but it gets true-er as one gets older.

I got a bit of sock-knitting done yesterday while my husband was trying on trousers in Marks and Spencer. I don’t usually carry knitting on such expeditions, but fortunately I had it with me then. I have joined in the new skein, and after the initial two or three rounds, it looks fine. The colours are OK – this is Araucania “Multi” we’re talking about – but wound into a ball, the new yarn looked as if the proportions of the colours were seriously different, much more green and grey than in the first skein.

The journey to Glasgow takes about ¾’s of an hour – plenty of time to knit a couple of inches and discover the truth.

Lisa, you’re right (comment yesterday), that the change, if it turns out to be apparent, won’t matter for this sock, because by now we’re well inside the shoe. Trouble is, this is the first sock.

Maureen in Fargo – yes, thanks, that’s the pic I was thinking of. (Surely it appears in one of the books?) And that’s a Bog Jacket EZ is wearing, surely. And you’re also right -- Hanne Falkenburg was the name I was groping for yesterday.

Mary Lou, I’m inclined to agree with Maureen (because that’s what I want to think) – that garter stitch isn’t intrinsically droopy, and that your trouble must have been the yarn. I’ve found a source for Lorna’s Laces worsted-weight in the Panopticon colourway (sock yarn is easier to locate); I think I ought to go ahead and order. The eye trouble was one of those crises that makes one feel that one is temporarily exempt from the normal rules of caution and prudence.

I read with concern about your political anxieties. Fortunately, all of my own cousins, even the seconds and the once-removed's, are rock-solid. Is it significant, Freudian-signal-wise, that you chose to knit a hat with circling wolves?

The calmer political articles at the moment are saying that no candidate, as far ahead as Obama is now, has ever lost. The Obama campaign itself, appealing to me daily for money, says that Al Gore was in this position in October, 2000. But then – Al Gore didn’t lose....

(Obama Campaign: if one of the five Vogue Knitting Books I still lack comes up on eBay, you’ll get your donation. I’ve been mentally promising that for a long time – I don’t think I’ve had a VKB to bid for in all of ’08.)

I’ve reached row 23 of the 9th repeat of the Princess centre. There are more than 400 stitches per row now, and life is serious.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

World Affairs

The world’s stock markets are in as much of a mess as ever this morning, if not more so. Even in 1932 there couldn’t have been quite so much going on, so near a presidential election. Maybe in 1940. I didn’t hear much of the debate. I gather McCain had a good evening.

My Left Eye

No more symptoms – that’s a good thing. Thank you for your sympathy.

The Eye Hospital rang up at lunchtime yesterday to offer me an appointment this morning. I was torn between relief to be seeing someone so soon, and anxiety that they seemed to be taking it so seriously. They rang up again an hour later to move the appointment to yesterday afternoon.

So I went, of course, and nothing much happened. I will see someone again in about a week, and someone else – at a Retinal Clinic? -- in six weeks. I’ve got to go get my blood pressure taken at my own doctor’s practice. It was not disasterous but somewhat elevated yesterday, but the dr thot that might have been the stress of the occasion.

I got off the bus on Princes Street on the way home, and bought Jamie Oliver’s new book ("The Ministry of Food") – half price at Waterstone’s. It promises well. I am a great fan of his.

My thoughts about what I do like, started in train by not much liking “Inspired to Knit”, have taken me back to the Zimmermann corpus. Predictably, I can’t find the picture I’m thinking of, of EZ and Meg, but I’m pretty sure it’s a Bog Jacket I have in my mind’s eye.

It’s not just basicness and garter stitch – it’s the neat fit. I have a Shetland garter stitch jacket, loose and droopy – I can’t think of the designer’s name, but you’d recognise it if I could. It took a lot of knitting (“Long Day’s Journey Into Garter Stitch” as Meg says somewhere, I think in the pattern for the Adult Surprise) and I’ve scarcely worn it. It’s in a drawer somewhere.

But a nice, neat Bog….My wanderings the other day took me to the list of prizes the Knitters for Obama group is offering on Ravelry if you donate. One of them was a couple of skeins of Lorna’s Laces in the Panopticon colourway; I had almost completely forgotten about that.

So there’s a definite something for my Wish List: a Bog Jacket in Panopticon.

Sock-knitting-in-waiting-rooms predominated yesterday. I’m steaming down the foot of Alexander’s first sock. I’ve finished the original skein of yarn, and will thus be able to do a couple of inches in the new yarn on the train tomorrow, going to Glasgow, so that he (and I) can have a good look.

I’ve reached row 18 of the 9th repeat of the Princess Centre.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wednesday got off to an exciting start this morning with a burst blood vessel in my left eye. I know because I’ve seen an Eye Man. He rang up the eye hospital as I sat there, to find out if they wanted to see me straight away, and they didn’t. There’s nothing to be done immediately, he says, and I’ll hear from the hospital soon about an appointment. He’ll fax them details and a photograph of my Inner Eye.

So that was scary.


I’ve reached row 14 of Repeat No #9 – the slow, slightly difficult part of the repeat is finished. I gave up calculating and tried counting motifs, outwards from the centre stitch, and still find that there are fewer stitches on the right side. I’m adding them at decent intervals.

I’m sure the picking up of stitches has been correctly done. What happens is that you pick up a stitch from the border at the end of every row – and begin the next row by knitting two together. The actual new stitches come from that faggoting: yo, k2tog, yo on each side every other row.

There’s room for clumsiness at the end/beginning of a row, but that doesn’t explain how I could be so very far out. I thought of your idea, Cynthia, that the centre marker had somehow been moved – but that doesn’t help. If my calculations are right, there are too few stitches in the row, no matter where that marker is.

“Inspired to Knit”, recommended by Franklin for its difficulta, turned up yesterday. It’s not for me, I’m afraid, although one or two of the shrug-like garments briefly tempt. Still, it’s endlessly fun entering a new book in LibraryThing.

It set me to wondering for a while, what it is I do like, when it comes to actual garments for myself. EZ, I think, and not much else. Those late pictures of her with Meg wearing garter stitch jackets (The Bog Jacket? Round the Bend?) are utterly attractive. Why don’t I just knit one?

I took Alexander’s sock along to the oculist, and finished the gusset decreases while waiting for the eye drops to work. A problem looms. I’m using an Araucania Multi and the current skein is nearly finished. I started winding the next one, and it becomes obvious that although very similar, it is not the same.

Alexander is not a natty dresser (he doesn’t own a suit or even a jacket) but he has his standards. As it happens, we are going to Glasgow on Friday to see some art – Chardin and Boucher at the Hunterian, if I’ve got it right -- and to stay overnight with the Mileses at their second home in the city. So I can show him what’s going on. I had better take some other yarn so that I can cast on socks for my husband if Alexander throws up his hands in horror.

And meanwhile Ketki, the banker, should have some tales to tell us. I think her bank, JP Morgan Chase, had some of Bush's largesse forced on it yesterday.

We’re going up to Princes Street this afternoon on various tedious errands. I may cheer myself up with the new Jamie Oliver book.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Financial Crisis

So, Gordon Brown has saved the world! and even the USofA is going to “socialize” its banks today? Who’dda thot it?

Reflections on three levels, national first: This is bad news for the Scottish Nationalists, previously riding high. If last week's crisis had happened in a free Scotland, we’d have been down the tubes like Iceland. (The RBS and a still-substantial part of HBOS, once Scotland’s pride, are Scotland’s problems.) (And those problems far exceed Scotland’s GDP.) I predict that Labour will hold Glenrothes, and rightly so.

Civic: this will make a big difference to Edinburgh. When we came here 15 years ago, there was a brewery somewhere about, and on some days you could smell the hops, or whatever it is breweries smell of. That smell wouldn’t have been welcome if it had been with us every day, but on its occasional appearances, it was bracing. The brewery closed. The smell is gone. Edinburgh is different.

And it will be even more different, very different, with the power and the money gone.

Personal: I spent yesterday afternoon working on the income tax, and made great progress. With the figures all there in front of me, I couldn’t resist looking to see how much worse off we’ll be in the current tax year without dividends from our shares in HBOS and RBS. The answer took me aback.

On the bright side (for Scottish readers): Andy Hornby is out of a job!


Here’s the Princess, six rows into the 9th repeat. It’s hard to believe, looking at it like this, that I’ve knit only just-over-a-third of the centre.

The offset 7th repeat can be seen if you apply yourself, but I am no longer worried at all about its ultimate effect.

Cynthia: I had exactly your thought yesterday, even before I read your comment. The pattern repeat is only 12 stitches. I have put markers every 24 stitches, working outwards from the centre stitch. At the end of a repeat, I don’t actually count stitches, I count markers, multiply by 24, and then count the extra stitches at the end of the row.

So the lack-of-stitches I mentioned yesterday could be entirely explained if one of the markers enclosed not 24 but 36 stitches.

But the trouble is – that isn’t true.

I remain baffled, and continue to count and recount, while at the same time adding a stitch every four rows near the right-hand edge. No one will notice.

Knititch, yo’s are no problem. In lace knitting, one constantly relates what one is doing to the row below, just as in colour knitting. A missing yo can easily be restored by picking up the bar before the next stitch and knitting into it. A misplaced yo can be dispensed with by just dropping it.

Breaking news

I wouldn't have mentioned this if I hadn't already ordered the ones I want -- but Franklin's calendar is now available if you follow the link from his website.

Monday, October 13, 2008

British banks have more or less been nationalised. Stock markets are calmer and more cheerful. There seems to be somewhat less likelihood that the lights will go out. Whew! I guess.

I visit this website often and find it a great comfort.

The Princess

I can’t take a picture right now because I’m in less-than-the-middle of row 2 of the 9th repeat. Sometime today.

The good news is that I finished no. 8 with no further offsetting. The application of Cynthia’s Formula revealed that I have now knit 35.45% of the centre – more than a third!

The bad news is that I am lacking ten or eleven stitches on the right side. How on earth did that happen?

It is easy to calculate how many stitches there should be after each repeat, and it is part of my end-of-repeat routine to do so. There were eight stitches on each side of the centre stitch when the first repeat began. Each repeat adds 23 stitches to each side. At the end of the seventh repeat, everything was fine. What happened?

Eyeballing the border, everything looks fine there – the centre is creeping forward evenly on each side and as far as I can see has reached the same point on each side. Maybe I should try counting the remaining stitches, though.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

World Affairs

I don’t entirely feel that those men (and that woman) in Washington in their suits have quite come to grips with the problem. I would expect them to be sitting up all night in their shirtsleeves, and there doesn’t seem to be much sign of that.

I’m not greatly enamoured of our Prime Minister, either – a basically good, moral man, I think, somewhat corrupted by the desire for and eventual taste of power. But I think he knows what’s going on, unlike, say, G.W.Bush, and I have therefore a smidgen more hope for the emergency meeting of European leaders today.

Robert Peston’s latest says that depositors in the Royal Bank of Scotland – hey! that’s us! -- needn’t be spooked by what he has just reported. The world is full of such comforting remarks just now, and they don’t entirely comfort.

Tamar, I couldn’t agree more with your comment yesterday. There’s nothing to do but carry on carrying on.

On a happier note, I found this yesterday while wandering aimlessly around in search of news and entertainment. That’s the old McCain, the man I used to feel would do pretty well as president if push came to shove. There’s a video at the end of the item.



In spite of yesterday’s fine words, I offset row 37. I discovered the mistake in what might be called “time” and only had to unpick about 80 stitches. I didn’t enjoy it. It made me wonder again how much disorder I have already knit without noticing. Everything below looks all right, without pursuing the question too closely.

The second half of the pattern is a series of what might be called parallel chevrons. They don’t overlap, and so the potential for trouble exists every time a new one is set in place.

The moral here is, I think, that creating acres of a fairly simple lace stitch invites inattention.

I’m now embarked on row 42. By now, each row is an event; even so, I may well finish the current (8th) repeat – 46 rows – today. If so, tomorrow both a pic and a report on the result of a new application of (what I shall continue to think of as) Cynthia’s Formula – what percentage of the entire centre have I knit so far?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The last hour or so on Wall Street yesterday seemed a bit more cheerful, at least on the broke-even-I-needed-the-money level. For once, I’m glad to welcome a weekend. Normally I hate them: TGIM is my motto, just as I prefer the green Sundays-After-Pentecost to Lent and Advent and Easter and Christmas and all that stuff.

Robert Peston is still very worried. It’s not the stock exchange, it’s the banking system.

And – to revert to the election – Justin Webb says that “some Republicans despise Obama in a way few Democrats despise McCain.” So now they know what it feels like. It’s worse, despising an actual president. Republicans suffered in the 30’s – “that man in the White House” – and their time may be coming again.

Anyway, knitting.

I’m at row 35 of the 8th centre repeat, still on target for finishing it tomorrow.

I had another offset scare yesterday. The pattern of the entire centre is a very easy 12-stitch repeat, in two bars: that is, there are pretty strong vertical lines every six stitches. There are several places during the 46-row repeats when it is all too easy to offset the pattern. I wonder how much muddle I’ve already created.

At least I’m now fully seized of the problem. The solution is easy: the partial chart marks the centre stitch. At the beginning of each row, one should not only determine what to do next, but also look to see where the centre stitch falls in the pattern. Each marker – I’ve put them in every 24 stitches, two repeats – will come at the same place.

I didn’t send for any yarn yesterday, but I worked on it. Knititch, your comment yesterday almost sent me back to Shetland jumper weight. Araucania comes in good colours, and quite a nice range, but of course nothing like the choice in Shetland. But I do love Araucania for colour and feel and washability, and I’m going to press ahead with this strange attempt.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Financial Crisis -- latest

This is exactly what it must feel like to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel.

For much of yesterday, the world seemed to be bumping along on the bottom. One was reminded of the old story of the gambler who came happily home from the track to report that he had broken even – “A good thing, too; I really needed the money.”

No such luck. That wasn’t the bottom at all.

Like you, Barbara (comment yesterday), I’ve got plenty of stash to see me out. (I photographed it all for Ravelry when I first joined; I'm Tayside00; you can look. There have been additions since then, but nothing, I think, very substantial.) But I had the kind of panicky feeling one gets, this morning, that maybe I should order the yarn for Ketki’s sweater today, and some of Sharon’s gossamer CashSilk for the Wedding Ring Shawl, while my credit card still works, just to be sure I have something to take with me into the forest.

Ketki’s sweater could easily be done from Shetland jumper-weight stash, but I love Araucania and I think it would make a wonderfully comfortable and durable Fair Isle sweater, and I’d like to try.

You’re right, Mary Lou, about the seriously calming effect of knitting. I’m glad to have a medical word for how it works. I have been completely transformed from a miserable sweaty wreck when required to fly, into an intrepid birdman, by the simple expedient of taking sock-knitting along. I first did it when we flew to the US for my mother’s 90th birthday, therefore 12 years ago almost exactly. The change in me has been astonishing, and the resulting socks are much appreciated far and wide.

I might as well mention here that I’ve reached row 29 of the 8th repeat of the Princess centre. Might finish it by Sunday night?

The Iceland story continues to astonish. Hundreds of local authorities (not “several”, as I said yesterday), in Scotland as well as England, kept their spare money in Icelandic banks. So many that one suspects a common source of advice. Someone on the radio last night while I was doing the washing up, seemed to suggest that it might have been advice circulated by the Treasury itself.

Our Prime Minister says it is “illegal” for Iceland to freeze all those millions of pounds, and responded yesterday by freezing Icelandic assets in Britain, under legislation designed to inconvenience terrorists. It shows, if showing were needed, that you have to be careful about voting emergency powers to governments. They’ll be used in ways you don’t expect.

There’s one piece of really good news this morning – Evelyn Waugh would have loved it. There is a plan afoot – this is perfectly serious – to distribute mobile telephone/cameras in substantial numbers to the Afghani population so that they can make little films of happy scenes and distribute them to each other and post them on the Internet and thus counter Taliban propaganda. The Taliban apparently circulate pictures of corpses left behind after American and British air strikes and it has an unsettling effect.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Bit late this morning.

World Financial Crisis

The Oct 6 New Yorker got here yesterday – every single cartoon relates to the mess we’re in. Must be intentional, although it doesn’t seem to be announced. I wish the presidential candidates showed more awareness of what’s going on. Part of what is so scary about all this is the feeling that nobody in the world (except perhaps Mr Paulson) has more than the vaguest idea.

Shandy asks (comment, yesterday) what we’re afraid of. It’s essentially the feeling of unchartedness. Here on my desk beside the computer are bank statements showing a healthy balance. But what if the bank goes down? That would have been unthinkable even a few weeks ago. It isn’t, now. The failure of the Icelandic banks has (to my surprise) involved more than 300,000 British on-line savers, and several local authorities in England who have deposited millions.

Most of them will probably get most of it back from the British government (Iceland being broke) but for the moment it’s out of reach.

That’s what my husband is afraid of, banks failing. We did take some cash out yesterday, and I must be sure to get him to show me where he’s stashed it. The process was easier and far less embarrassing than I expected.

I an more afraid of a general crumbling of society. We’ll all have less money. In our case, I assume our pension is safe. Can anything be assumed? We’ll have less supplementary income-from-savings. My sister and brother-in-law find – and they’re not alone – that there is less in their retirement account than they were expecting. She is a bit worried, I think; Roger, ever sanguine, says that everything’s fine – they’ll just have to die a bit sooner than planned.

Other people have jobs and houses to lose. If things should get bad enough that people are hungry – and nothing can be ruled out, these days – we’d be better off in Kirkmichael, even if we confine the firepower to rabbits.

Robert Peston's blog (another BBC reporter) is consistently good.


I’ve reached (but not finished) row 23 of the 8th repeat: half-way through the 46 rows of the repeat, in a sense. The rows have quite suddenly begun to feel rather long. I must have just short of 350 stitches at the moment – a bagatelle, compared to the border.

I have sort of set myself the goal of finishing the slow movement of the 10th repeat before I stop for Ketki’s sweater. That’s an easy point at which to resume. Even that probably won’t be halfway through the centre, although there are only 13.7 repeats in all. It’s an interesting lesson in geometry – like the old story of the sage who asked the king to put one grain of rice on the first square of a chessboard for him, two on the second, four on the third, and to go on doubling the number on each of the 64 squares.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister and the Governor of the Bank of England sat up all night, we are told, devising a plan to save the British banking system. The Japanese stock market was having another very bad day even as they talked. And our own has started distinctly badly this morning, despite their best efforts. “Gentlemen in England now a-bed, shall think themselves quite lucky they are not here, because it’s going to be extremely scary.” – from the current Economist. Trouble is, there’s nowhere else to go. Stop the world, I want to get off.

My husband (seriously) thinks it might be a good idea to get some pound notes out of the bank – if they’re still handing them out, this morning – and stash them under the bed. I think it might be better to get plenty of ammo in, so that we can go to Strathardle and burn wood to keep warm and shoot sheep for food. Both plans equally useless, I suspect.

The Presidential election seems a side-issue by now. I heard some of the debate, not the parts about finance, and again, thought it banal.

More cheerful topics, including knitting

Mary Lou, you’ll have a grand time with “Put Out More Flags”. It’s Waugh’s happiest book. It was published in 1942, before El Alamein. It may well have been written even before Pearl Harbor. Those were dark days. It’s a profoundly patriotic book, but it still contains various elements which make me feel that it is vastly to the credit of the wartime censors that they let it through.

Cynthia, Gilbert and Sullivan was an Important Early Influence for me. My father had several of the operas in huge heavy albums of 12” breakable gramophone records, D’Oyly Carte recordings that must have been made in the 30’s. I wonder what happened to them?

And as for knitting, I’ve finished the slow movement at the beginning of Princess Centre Repeat No. 8.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

World Affairs

The leader in yesterday’s Telegraph (the “Waffy”, here) led off with the remark: “There is an unsettling air of unreality about this stage of the banking crisis, not unlike the Phoney War in 1939-40. Something extremely unpleasant is about to hit us, but we don’t quite know what.”

That sent me back to Evelyn Waugh’s “Put Out More Flags”, the book of the Phoney War. I envy those who haven’t read it yet, but the rest of us can at least read it again.

What is going to happen to Iceland? You can’t very well close down a whole country, can you? It has been a delight, in all this gloom, to learn that the chain of cheap food shops in Britain called “Iceland” is in fact owned by Iceland.

Tonight’s debate will be uncommonly interesting. They say McCain is particularly good at Town Hall style debating. They say Obama is much better on economics, but since nobody seems to know how we got here (Clinton’s housing policies? deregulation? greed? China?) or what to do next, that may not help him much. I hope there will be somebody in charge who will try to make them answer the questions.

Knitting is a great comfort at times like these (and at most others).

I finished off the 7th pattern repeat of the Princess centre, and am by now well-embarked on the 8th. The stitches on the needle are even, left and right. I attempted a rough count of the ones remaining to be picked up – they’re hard to count, but my general impression is that the numbers are pretty evenly matched.

I applied Cynthia’s formula and found that I have knit 27.3% of the centre so far. Will four more balls of yarn be enough? I’ll try again on that one at the end of each repeat. Each repeat will contribute a larger percentage than the one before it.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Thomas and the Bear at Lincoln’s Inn. I’m not used to seeing him in spectacles. It looks odd…

And here’s the Princess.

The offset isn’t quite what we call in computing a Fatal Error, although it's distinctly unfortunate. I think it looks rather worse in the photographs than it does in real life. My decision – not the same as yesterday’s decision – is to revert to the original set of the pattern. The offset occurs half-way up the centre, visually (although not half-way through the knitting of it) – that will help make it look less accidental. Or so I tell myself.

There are still a couple of rows to go before Repeat No. 7 is finished. When that’s done, I’ll count stitches again, this time being careful not to count the centre stitch twice as I think I may have done after Repeats Nos. 5 & 6. Will the numbers be equal on each side? I’m sure not. I will also apply Cynthia’s formula (comment, October 2) to discover what proportion of the centre I’ve finished knitting. That will be fun.

I joined in a new ball of yarn last night – that’s always an Event. I think it was the 7th from an original purchase of 10, but it was a long time ago and who knows?

Part of the laying-out-on-the-floor-for-photography thing is to eyeball each side to see whether I seem to have advanced to the same point of the border pattern. That’s assuming I started at the precise centre – I think I can trust myself to have done that. Sharon is most emphatic on the point. The left-hand side always seems to be slightly in advance, although the right-hand side is the one with a couple more stitches.

I do not understand this. I make cautious adjustments. When I get down to the last two repeats, with about 50 stitches left to pick up on each side, I’ll address the serious business of making sure that the numbers will be equal when I get to the end game.

Meanwhile, I am very grateful indeed for everybody’s helpful suggestions as to why I can knit a gold or red Wedding Ring or Unst. Of course – somebody might marry a Hindu, as Alexander was lucky enough to do, and the wedding will be all red and gold. That’s all the excuse I need. I probably don’t have time to finish it, life-expectancy-wise, but at least I can look forward to a future of Heirloom Knitting. The Wedding Ring looks the more fun of the two.

I won’t actually order the yarn yet, though.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

From Thomas-the-Elder yesterday:

“…You will be pleased to hear that 'the bear', resplendent in his swallowtail coat of a beautiful blue, made it to Call night and I hope my mother will email you some photos when she manages to upload them. I sat next to the Rt. Hon. Lord Walker of Gestingthorpe at dinner who told me about Thomas Erskine, who was a member of Lincoln's Inn, and his role in the seditious libel trials of the 1790s. In light of this I have decided to name the Bear 'Erskine'. I hope you approve…”

The Princess continues well. I should be near enough the end of the 7th repeat for a picture tomorrow. I increasingly think I will proceed with the pattern as now set, but we shall see.

I allowed myself yesterday to imagine a future in which the Princess is finished – I felt bereft. I wandered back to the Heirloom Knitting site, and learned that Sharon is now offering a cashmere-and-silk gossamer yarn in various colours. (Her 100% merino gossamer yarn, which I am using for the Princess and which I adore, comes only in white.) I’ve got the patterns both for the Unst Bridal Shawl and the Shetland Lace Wedding Ring Shawl – either would be a worthy successor.

But why?

The point of the Princess is to be a bridal veil for granddaughters and people like that. Even if no one ever wears it, I’ve got a reason for knitting it. But a red or gold Unst Bridal Shawl? What use would it ever be, even in imagination?

I’ve got plenty of time to think about it.

World Affairs

Another bank down, this time in Germany. A big one. And events in Iceland, of all places, border on the bizarre. One imagines a simple, frugal and rather prosperous people, devoted to knitting. It turns out they are foolhardy venture capitalists like everybody else, and they’re paying for it.

The numbers look good for Obama at the moment. I wouldn’t blame him for fleeing in horror from the prospect of that job. I hope he’s got team members with steady nerves and some grasp of what’s going on.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Princess moves forward so well that my current favoured-option to deal with the inadvertent offset of the pattern, is to go forward as the pattern as now set; the ultimate dog-leg. I think when I finish the 7th repeat, in a couple of days, the thing will be to spread it out for photography and then leave it there a day for contemplation – and see what you guys think. I can always work on the Tilted Blocks scarf from “Knitting New Scarves” – we’d almost forgotten about that one.

Clare G., I had a lot of fun with the palette generator and have earmarked it in the “Knitting Ideas and Thots” section of my Favorites list. I agree, yesterday’s angel emerges disappointingly from the process; Vermeer’s Milkmaid, surprisingly, isn’t much better. But Edith Sitwell – again, from yesterday -- does rather well.

(The Milkmaid was Shan’s idea. Visiting her blog just now to establish the link, I have been sold on “A Fine Fleece”. Maybe I’m not too old to learn to spin, and meanwhile there are wonderful patterns there.)

I’m beginning to fear that I may have to use Shetland yarn after all, for the sake of the generous choice of colours.


Kathie, I am very glad I was spared the sight of Mrs Palin winking at the camera. We could have seen the whole debate last night (a day after the event) but I eschewed it.

Friday, October 03, 2008

I’m feeling a bit better about life. The debate was inconclusive, again, but at least no gaffes from our side. The BBC man wrote a live commentary as it proceeded – I could wish the moderator had tried to get them to answer the questions.

I’m feeling happier about the Princess, too. The repeat for the centre pattern is only 12 stitches. I have accidentally offset it by half, and the vertical lines of the pattern continue upwards pretty well. (That’s how the mistake happened, and why I couldn’t see it right away.)

The thing to do, I think, will be to get the next repeat, No. 8, back on track. And when that’s finished, to decide whether to go ahead offsetting every repeat, or to press on leaving repeat No. 7, the current one, out of step with the rest. I’ll pause after each repeat as before, and take pictures. Sometimes, at least for someone as unobservant as I, the camera sees things the eye has missed.

A dressmaker friend – she made Rachel’s wedding dress, more than a quarter of a century ago – said to me once, “If you can’t hide it, make a feature of it.” Sound advice, in any craft. That’s an argument in favour of offsetting every repeat from now on.

Cynthia, thank you for the formula for calculating how far you’ve got. It sounds so simple. I’ll apply it when No 7 is finished – not long now, I’m more than half-way through, counting by line-numbers, and by now the additional stitch-per-row adds relatively little in proportion to what’s already there.

So, London

It was tough. My husband is pretty slow on his pins these days, and tires easily. And London requires a lot of getting-around. We were helped by the fact that, most unusually, he wasn’t interested in either of two big shows: Bacon at the Tate or Rothko at Tatmo. We went to Dulwich (always a pleasure) to see the De Brays (17th century Dutch portraitists, father and sons); the Courtauld for Cezanne; the Portrait Gallery for Wyndham Lewis; and the BM for Hadrian – a mistake. It occupied a whole day, was hideously crowded, hideously expensive with no reduction for Old Age Pensioners, and, to our taste, not very well labelled.

These are the postcards I brought back as potential colour schemes for Ketki’s sweater. The angel is in the permanent collection at Dulwich; Edith Sitwell was in the Wyndham Lewis exhibition. I rather incline towards the angel.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Back to Real Life, the Princess, the Fall of Western Capitalism, the Vice-Presidential debate. I hope Biden can rein himself in sufficiently to let Mrs Palin self-destruct. We heard most of the first debate last week in our middle-of-the-night elderly-insomniac radio-listening, and found it, I am sorry to report, banal. Like a high-school debate. Both had mugged up their facts and figures, and spewed them forth. Neither seemed entirely to grasp that the sky was falling. I gather that if one actually saw it, McCain looked old.

The Princess

I have something so dreadful to report, I wish I could avoid mentioning it. I have been anxious about this for some days, but eyeballing seemed to reassure. Now – I knit half-a-row this morning before embarking on the day – I know it’s true. I offset the pattern when I started the seventh repeat.

There’s no life-line. I can’t take out 20 rows. It’ll have to stand. I think the thing to do is to proceed in the new mode, rather than reverting to the former one and leaving the seventh repeat off on its own. I’ll consider the question anew when the seventh repeat is finished. Perhaps revert after the ninth repeat? We shall see.

Cynthia, I would love to know the formula which would tell me how much more knitting I’ve got to go on the centre. I agree, that this is a project to be savoured for the experience, but still, it’s an intellectual question which I think I might have been able to solve myself when younger. Certainly not now.

I hope your border proceeds well. The border is more fun than anything, and you can measure your progress by the picture on the front cover of Heirloom Knitting, and that’s fun too.

I’m enjoying it as much as ever, despite the disaster just mentioned. I even considered taking her with me to London, but decided that that was too dangerous. Instead, I worked on the current travel-sock.

There hasn’t been much waiting-room or travel lately; it was good to get to grips with it. It’s an Araucania Multi with which I knit a sweater for one of Alexander’s sons; I thought it might amuse to use the same yarn for socks for Daddy. I’m doing a k6,p2 rib for the body of the sock – not as quick or as blissful to knit as round-and-round in st st, but it makes a neat sock.

Don’t miss – I’m sure no one ever does – Franklin’s recent essay on difficulta. (Speaking of difficulty, I don’t even know how to produce that accent on the “a”.) I’m going to order “Inspired to Knit” right away. I’d send for an edition of Statius’ “Thebaid” if Franklin told me to.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Much to say, of which “safely home” is perhaps the most important – but I think the bear deserves pride of place today.

Thomas-the-Elder is going to be called to the bar on Thursday. The bear was for him:

When I, good friends, was called to the bar
I’d an appetite fresh and hearty,
But I was, as many young barristers are
An impecunious party.

I’d a swallowtail-coat of a beautiful blue,
A brief that I’d bought of a booby,
A couple of shirts and a collar or two,
And a ring that looked like a ruby.*

I didn’t attempt to buy a brief, and I failed on “a collar or two”, but the rest was there, including two shirts from Marks & Spencer. The ring was difficult. We had tried several antique shops which hover on the edge of being junk shops – the best sort – here in Edinburgh without success. We visited Electric Avenue in Brixton when we were down in London in the spring. No luck.

But I found it, during the Edinburgh Festival. The normally pleasant terraces beside and around the National Gallery, above Princes Street Gardens, are at that time hideous with crowds and people selling tacky things. My husband and I were hurtling along, as far as hurtle was possible in such a press, from one art exhibition to another, when I saw what I had been looking for – a ruby set in a ring with six small diamonds, mine for £2. I hung it around the bear’s neck on a cord.

But the thing that pulled it all together was the bear’s wig – I will be forever grateful, Shan.

Thomas was very pleased, and I think he said the bear will be taken to the Calling, and may appear in the photographs. (Lincoln’s Inn spelled Calling so, with a capital letter, in the sheaf of paper they sent Thomas specifying how he was to be dressed and how behave on the day.) He – Thomas – isn’t allowed a wig for the actual ceremony, but may wear one for the photographs afterwards.

He was born with a condition called “malrotation of the gut” – the first of several grandchildren to expand our medical vocabularies – and needed a life-saving middle-of-the-night operation when three days old. [Apparently the intestines, in early pregnancy, form outside the foetus, and are put in place with a flick of the Divine wrist which occasionally goes wrong.] It has ever since seemed slightly improbable and very wonderful that we have Thomas at all.

*(W.S. Gilbert, the Judge’s Song, from Trial by Jury)