Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Well. I couldn’t have knit a garter stitch scarf during that match. But does Mr Murray have anything left for the rest of the week? Mr Federer, au contraire, sets about his work rather like our dentist, calm and supremely skilful, without any needless expenditure of energy.

I adore the Williams sisters, but I think I can relax today and let them get on with things without my help.

Hat, I remembered Virginia Wade after I posted yesterday. Yes, indeed. By an interesting coincidence, my husband was greatly smitten with her, too, although he never got any closer than the wrong side of a television screen.

Tamar and Mary Lou, I am grateful for your sympathy as I struggle with my husband’s Palm and Documents-to-Go. I failed yesterday after a considerable time-consuming struggle, although I think I may be making progress and I have a couple more ideas for today. Mary Lou, important question: how does a Blackberry change things? Can you email files to it from a desktop? Does it run a word processor?

The idea behind this wretched Palm of ours – and a good one – is to have an easily-pocketable device which can be taken along to libraries when matters of detail are being checked. There in your hand, instead of endless print-outs, is the whole thing. You can see what you’ve written and what you need to discover.

The intention was never for anyone to read the Palm version, although there was once when my husband’s publisher was here – this was in the days before the Kindle – and I went into the study to get them for lunch just as my husband was showing off the Palm, and the publisher saying, “Tell you what, H*mish – we won’t publish it, we’ll just give everyone one of these.” The day may come.

One of the things I regret about the Modern World is the death of the computer manual. It was a form of literature I used to adore. I am sure if I had a Palm manual and a Documents to Go manual which I could take into the bath with me, I could work things out in a trice. The Palm manual is available in .pdf format, and for Documents to Go there is only wretched Help. It’s not the same.

You’ll have gathered that not much knitting was done yesterday. Still, I did most of a Princess edging repeat, and the left front of the cardigan has nearly reached the neck shaping. Progress. There was an article in the Scotsman yesterday about Kinloch Anderson which has solidified my intention of going to see them to study a jabot.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Not much knitting done yesterday, either, but at least I have finished the back and embarked on one of the fronts of the cardigan, and knit a pleasant six rows of Princess border this morning.

So largely non-knit today.


I tend not to get excited about affronts to one sex or the other, but I have been much struck with repeated assertions in the press that if Mr Murray should win Wimbledon this week (and he’s got a long way to go), it would be the first British win since Fred Perry in 1936. It would not. Ann Jones of Birmingham, a neighbour of ours at the time – although not an acquaintance – won it, and I think there may have been another English woman winner since the war. Ann Jones beat Billie Jean King in the final – a victory worth having.

I love the Wimbledon fortnight, but I also tend not to get excited about the latest British player, of either sex. Mr Murray is an exception. Four years ago, when he first made his mark on Wimbledon, the First Saturday coincided with my first cataract operation. I was concerned, throughout the operation, with the need to get back to the ward where I could, if not watch, at least listen to the tennis. Murray won his first two sets that day, and lost the next three. Our parallel ordeals created a bond (at least on my side) which persists.

Last year I thought, he’s never going to make it, he’s too scrawny. I gather his mentors thought the same thing, and have prescribed body building.

Documents to Go

One of my tasks in life is to keep a version of my husband’s magnum opus up to date on a Palm. The filter program, which can take files from Microsoft Word and massage them and squirt them into the Palm, is called Documents to Go. It won’t (in the version we have) do footnotes or endnotes, so part of my responsibility is to copy the endnotes for each file into the real text, and also insert real numbers for them.

I’ve got a bit behindhand with my husband’s recent revisions lately, and have resolved to do better. Yesterday I attempted a “hot sync” to bring us up to date, or nearer up to date than we were, and I failed. The program gets a certain way and then aborts, complaining that there are too many files.

I know how it feels (there are hundreds), but that’s silly. There are just as many files as there were last time – it’s only that some of them need to be updated.

So I am struggling. I am proceeding at the moment on a version of the old solution of turning it off and then on again – deleting all the files from Documents to Go, and re-identifying them to the program. It’s slow work, as each one is laboriously converted into a “handheld version”.

A 2009 version of Documents to Go will do footnotes – but it needs a 2009 Palm to squirt them into. We may be forced into that solution.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

I didn’t knit much yesterday – scared to finish the Princess? – but I find that the back of the cardigan is only ½” short of the desired length this morning, so today should see one of the fronts well advanced. It’s cider-on-Sunday again (with a good weigh-in this morning) so I’ll leave the Princess altogether alone.

Janet, what I meant was that my husband deserves a knitter-wife with a thoroughly scholarly and inquiring approach to the subject, not one prepared to bash ahead with designing and knitting a jabot without even considering the historical dimension. Tamar, I think that anybody who marries anybody is going to learn a whole lot by experience. Enthusiasm sweeps us along or we’d none of us dare embark upon it.

The piper at yesterday’s Drummond Place Garden Party used to wear a jabot, he said, but he found it uncomfortable and gave up. His wife, an efficient and reliable woman, is going to set about looking for it and failing that, make enquiries among friends. She is sceptical about whether knitting can produce a suitable fabric, and said it would have to be something of wedding-ring-shawl fineness. Precisely. And I don’t believe that Cashsilk would be uncomfortable.

I went back to Christine Duchrow and find that, with Judy Gibson’s help, I think I could make a stab at one of her jabot patterns if I tried. The English introduction to the books says that it’s going to be tough, and that you have to be prepared to rip – mentioning the additional hazard of mistakes in the patterns themselves. The editor then says cheerfully that unravelling knitting is easy – unlike weaving. Another example of life’s interesting tendency to converge, for this echoes your interesting comment on Penelope’s tapestry, Tamar.

Helen C.K.S. mentions that the forthcoming “Reversible Knitting” book, of which I had been dimly aware, is by Lynn Barr who wrote “Knitting New Scarves”. That I hadn’t grasped, and it puts the new book in the must-have class.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Four and three-quarters top edging repeats to go – I’m going to miss my Princess dreadfully. It’s almost a different craft from other knitting.

Much of my internal monologue yesterday was accordingly devoted to jabot-knitting. My husband says I should go to the Museum of Scotland and get them to show me the ones (if any) in their collection. My husband has a strong tendency in this direction – to set the initial hurdle for a project not impossibly high, but high enough that the whole thing is likely to remain un-done. Enterprises of great pitch and moment with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.

However, in this case I am confident of my ground. I don’t care how Bonnie Prince Charlie wore a jabot. I want to know how a modern one is shaped, and how a modern gent attaches it to his neck. The difficulty – and it’s bad enough, as difficulties go – is that I’ve got to visit Kinloch Anderson. And Kinloch Anderson have moved out to Leith, which might as well be in the Western Isles these days. Because the City Fathers are tearing the city apart, slowly, to install trams in it, and the road between here and Leith has been in a state of terrible upheaval for months.

Edinburgh is stuffed with silly kilt shops, of course, but K.A. is the only one I think I could trust in this matter.

However, I had a thought just now. Today is the day of the annual Drummond Place Garden Party. A neighbour usually plays the pipes. He won’t be wearing full fig, it would be inappropriate, but he will be wearing a kilt and it’s worth asking him, in the quiet intervals while he’s drawing breath – does he own a jabot? Does he know anyone around here who has one? I’ll do it.

I got Christine Duchrow out last night, and sank down in despair. I doubt if I’ll ever manage to knit one of her patterns. “In order to knit one of these patterns, you need to find all of its parts,” Judy Gibson begins. On the other hand, I can look at the pictures; I can fire up Stitch and Motif Maker and start sketching some ideas for a roughly trianguloid piece of lace, and I can swatch it in the sample of Cashsilk which Sharon sent with my recent purchase of the Queen Ring Shawl pattern.

The Faculty Meeting Knitter knit her Princess in Cashsilk, and I think Sharon used it for the prototype of the Queen Ring shawl.

Sharon has written an absolutely fascinating letter to the Yahoo Heirloom Knitting Group this morning, quoting at length from “Harley Radington”, a novel by Dorothea Primrose Campbell, 1821. It describes the practice of knitting, and Shetland costume, in what sounds like highly authentic detail – from the time before lace knitting took off. Tamar, maybe you’d better join the group just to read it. It’s more historical than many of the posts to the HistoricKnit group.

Sharon is a serious scholar of Shetland knitting, as well as a serious technician when it comes to understanding how a particular piece of lace was constructed. My husband should have married her

Friday, June 26, 2009

What Housework? has a good post on happiness this morning – and a good idea for sowing peas. I, too, grow a low variety of real peas (in addition to high-climbing mange-touts) – why leave room for weeds between the rows? I’ll remember that, next year.

Mary Lou, thank you for the kind words about the Princess. (I hugely enjoyed your Twittery account of your day, posted on June 9.) I’m very happy with the present scheme – one repeat of the edging pattern, then on to the cardigan. I do best with the edging when I’m reasonably fresh. Of late (except for yesterday) it has been going remarkably smoothly, no little tink’s or presences or absences of unaccountable stitches. The cardigan is perfect for tiredness and cider-on-Sunday.

I’ve thought of a niggle – uncharacteristically perfectionist, for me. At the end, I am supposed to lace-graft the edging I’m knitting to the original first row. Surely it would be a good idea, therefore, to finish with row 19 and try to create row 20 with the grafting? That has the additional advantage of having the working yarn at the outside edge when the grafting starts. Maybe I’ll post a query to the Heirloom Knitting group about this. There has been a certain amount of correspondence about finishing the Princess and lace-grafting, but I don’t remember anyone touching on this point.

Here’s the current state of the cardigan – not all that far from the upper edge of the back. The new Schoolhouse Press adult-baby-child (ABC) Surprise pattern includes, amidst much else, the possibility of an i-cord bind-off, new to me, I think. I will leave the shoulder stitches live, with that as a possibility. Or at least a three-needle bind-off, an effect I love.

The Faculty Meeting Knitter (she who recently finished her Princess) has introduced me, virtually speaking, to Yarn Market’s Impressionist Collection. Golly. Life is definitely too short.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

A good day yesterday, generally.

I got my thing at auction – Theo and Jenni’s wedding present, after two previous ideas had come to nothing. I had your message before I left the house, Dawn, and it added a spring to my step.

Auctioneers – you probably know this – print an estimate for each item in their catalogues, a range of prices (£8-£10, shall we say) in which they think the final bid will fall. It doesn’t commit anybody to anything; it’s just a guide.

In this case, I had to get my prize at or below the bottom rung of the estimate. Beyond that, it would be too dear. Yesterday’s auctioneer was either selling a great many things to bidders who weren’t present but had left bids (that’s common), or else she was withdrawing items which didn’t reach their reserve – the minimum price specified by the seller. Not all items have reserves. The bidder doesn’t know.

She would name a price, for item after item, and if she didn’t get a bid, instead of asking for a lower bid, she’d knock it down (a technical term) at that price, and move on. You don’t have to worry about her going to bed hungry – some items went to two or three times the top estimate. When my one came up, she named a price below the estimate, I bid – still below the estimate – and that was that. She knocked it down to me.

We’re terribly pleased with it; we could always give Theo and Jenni a food mixer.

You understood the situation with the charges aright, Tamar. I must have been unusually lucid. 25% was added to the amount I bid – that sum went straight into the auctioneer’s pocket. Then 17.5% was charged on that premium as value-added tax. The item itself was untaxed, presumably because of age or pre-ownership. The auctioneer will have charged the seller a percentage of the hammer price, as well.

Now that that considerable anxiety has been resolved, it is time to make and start executing a final list: shoes, tights, hair, restraining undergarment, US currency, jacket.

On top of that success, the weather was good (and is so again today) so the external painting is moving on at a fair clip; and I lined up a remorselessly efficient local woman to clean the Strathardle house before Helen gets here.

And as for knitting, here’s the Princess, with 7 ¼ repeats of the top edging left to go. I wonder if Penelope, after Odysseus came home and disposed of her suitors, went back and finished that tapestry?

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I finally sat down to the accumulated mail yesterday and discovered a letter from Mr G., inviting me to his son Alexander’s funeral last Saturday. It is a good thing we meet in the street on Monday, so that he knows my absence wasn’t due to indifference. Today is osteoporosis-pill-day and I spent my half-hour (no food, no drink, remain upright) writing to them. The sort of thing one often intends but can’t always trust oneself to carry through on.

Today’s excitement – for it’s all go, around here – is the initiation of the painting of our outside woodwork, window frames and front door, and my appearance at a local auction house. The item we want will almost certainly be priced beyond our means, but these are hard times, and you never know. The auctioneer imposes a buyer’s premium at twenty-five percent so I have had to do some preliminary arithmetic to know how much I will actually be spending if I bid, say, £5. (£6.25 – plus VAT at 17.5% on £1.25. The mind boggles, just when steadiness is needed.)

I must get there in time to get my paddle (for bidding with) and settle down and calm down and start knitting, before our number comes up.

I had a grand time lunching yesterday with Helen C.K.S. and the Fishwife. We didn’t even talk about knitting much, except that Helen is about to buy Sally Melville’s “Mother-Daughter Knits”. I’ve got the rest of Melville’s books, and like them a lot although I don’t think I’ve ever knit anything from one of them. I tend to avoid books of patterns these days unless there’s a reason – but Helen says this one is strong on how-to-adjust-sizing. Maybe that, and Melville’s name, is enough of a reason.

That happy pair, Helen and the Fishwife, are going to Woolfest on Saturday.

And the Fishwife gave me three tomato plants – different varieties. Here they are on the doorstep in yesterday's sunshine:

I have never grown tomatoes, and am excited about this. Here, while we are at it, are the rest of the doorstep vegetables. The herb garden:

and a courgette called “Midnight”:

It is a new cultivar from Thompson and Morgan, billed as being sufficiently compact to grow in a pot on one’s patio. We shall see. So far, I’m unimpressed. The plant you see is the sole survivor of six seeds, three sown indoors and three, directly in the pot. It’s not that I chose the best one – this was the only one. However, it looks cheerful enough at the moment.

As for actual knitting, I did my edging repeat on the Princess yesterday, and decided that the cardigan was at last 12” long and so divided it and am knitting the back at what feels like great speed. It’s good Wimbledon knitting.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Alexander G. is dead. I wrote about him here on May 14. I met his father in the street yesterday. Alexander got better from all the things that were wrong, was discharged from hospital and came home, and died in his sleep a couple of days later, 42 days old. So after all that roller coaster of joy and anxiety and hope and despair, his grieving parents had to see him subjected to a post mortem.

I told Mr G about Helen and David’s eldest son Oliver. He died at much the same age. He would have been 14 this year. All I could say was, time helps.

The funeral was on Saturday. Mr G has observed how people at work avoid him because they don’t know what to say. He’s a nice man.


Today is, by local standards, an occasion of wild excitement. First, I must get my husband across town to the Royal Infirmary for a routine respiratory-test appointment. Even in youth, he was not an easy man to activate in the morning. Now that blood-testing and insulin-injecting and pill-popping have been added to the routine, and putting shoes on is hard work, things move – to put it mildly – even more slowly.

Then I am going out to lunch with Helen C.K.S. and the Fishwife. The latter is a formidable vegetable-grower and I have a number of questions to put to her.

Culinary tip: Pakistani mangoes are in season. With most fresh fruit and vegetables, one does better for price and freshness at the supermarket, in a depressing sort of way. For the mangoes, head for a corner shop. I have seen them at Waitrose, half the size and twice the price. The London Street Grocery on the corner of Broughton Street has some particularly yummy ones, if you don’t have a corner shop of your own. There are mangoes and mangoes: insist on Pakistani.

I just tried “supererogation” on Microsoft Word. It recognises it as a correctly-spelled word – but it can’t correct “superogation”.


I did my statutory repeat of the Princess edging yesterday. It seems to be progressing rather slowly, although the end is tantalizingly near.

And I knit onwards, with the Child’s Cardigan. It is at a stage which every knitter must have encountered, when it refuses to grow. I lay it flat and smooth it out and measure after every stripe, and it always measures 11". I’m aiming at 12". No doubt, one day soon, it will be 13 ¼". Apart from that idiosyncrasy, I like it a lot.

The new Knitter’s turned up yesterday, the more welcome for being unexpected. I sort of like Rick’s Cumbria jacket, although not his choice of colours. And Sine-Cosine looks fun, once one peers very, very closely at the picture.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The longest day plus one – it’s all over for another year.

We’re back, tired. No frost, I think, or only the lightest touch on the tip of one twig of the apple tree. But cold. Midges and rain, one expects at the summer solstice; I don’t think I’ve ever known it so cold.

The tenderest vegetables, courgettes and French beans, just stood there looking somewhat yellow. I feared that they had had such a check to growth that they wouldn’t be able to pull themselves together when warm weather came.

But a week is a long time in summer gardening – they seemed a bit more cheerful and even a bit bigger by the end of it. It rained like mad, at last – they liked that.

I devoted most of my time and strength to disentangling grass and weeds from the wire fence intended to deter the less adventurous rabbit. With the result that the tout ensemble is looking unusually tidy – not that that makes much difference to the vegetables.

There is no doubt that slugs are on the move in abundance – nematodes have not checked them this year. I think they must be making off with my constantly re-sown lettuces and, indeed, salsola soda. I discovered that Mrs D. at the Cr*ft of Dounie is selling plants she has grown – a new venture, and they are very well grown indeed.

I bought some of her lettuces, to make up for my failures. The slugs killed the weakest one promptly, and started in on the next. I am sorry to have to report that I reached for the pellets at last. I have re-sown salsola soda for the third time, and sprinkled slug pellets generously over the spot.

(I don't think plastic water bottles are much use against slugs -- they tunnel up from below.)

The peas and broad beans and potatoes, meanwhile, grow as cheerfully as if they preferred cool weather. Which they do. French beans in the foreground.
The climbing beans aren't doing much climbing, but they're still alive. The nasturtiums are to provide capers, and cheerfulness.

I didn’t do much knitting, after all. But some. The Child’s Cardigan should reach the armpits today, back and fronts knitted as one. I’ve done a repeat and a bit of the Princess border since we got back. The pattern begins to slip after even so short a break. I’m glad I was persuaded not to put it away.


Sir Fred Goodwin has given up several million pounds-worth of his pension -- don't worry; he's still got lots -- in order, it is said, to achieve what we’ve got: namely the chance to live peacefully in this beautiful city without being spat upon by neighbours. (He is currently in the South of France under heavy guard.) I doubt if he’ll pull it off, either – too many of us are RBS shareholders whom he has impoverished. So, count your blessings.

Last night my husband wanted to use the word “superogatory”. Checking both Webster’s and the Shorter Oxford, he couldn’t find it. “Here, let me…” but I couldn’t either. I typed it in to the computer and swiftly learned – I can see you smiling up your sleeve – that it is really “supererogatory”. I was puzzled when I was a child and they told me that you looked words up in a dictionary to find out how to spell them. How could you look a word up if you didn’t know how to spell it in the first place? Fifty years later, it would appear that I was right.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Isn’t it wonderful how life sometimes fits together?

I am at this very moment printing out Pandaman’s st st version of the baby surprise, the link that Tamar supplied earlier in the week. I thought I ought to have it for the archives, to be kept with the Schoolhouse Press Surprise leaflet.

It involves double decreases on some of the purl rows.

And only yesterday I read another brilliant blog entry by Fleegle – about purl decreases, including a centered double purl decrease so marvellously simple that I think it should henceforth be known as a Fleegle.

As far as my Surprise is concerned, however, I will adopt Fleegle’s own advice: “My favorite method, not described here in detail, is to avoid patterns that require me to do this.” I.e., my own Surprise, as I said yesterday, will be in the original garter stitch for weight, since I am committed to sock yarn.

I polished off another repeat of the Princess yesterday, and again counted ahead to the end, trying to count the links in the chained border edge in groups of ten, because each repeat eliminates ten of them. I got the same answer, that at the end I will finish a repeat with four links still to go. I think I will skip a link on the very next repeat.


We’re going to Strathardle today, for a whole week if we can stand it. I should be back in position by Monday the 22nd at the latest. Will I find all those poor little beans flattened by frost? I’ll take the cardigan along – it’s perfect tired-gardener knitting, and I hope to bring it back in a nearly-finished state.

Beth, the seedbed roll: we had a mini heat wave with drought in May (I suspect that was our summer). When we got to Strathardle for our two-nighter early last week, I found the earth very dry. I think I carried more water in those two days than I did all the previous summer. It’s heavy stuff.

The one instruction for the seedbed roll is, “keep watered”. I think that’s all it was. The seeds dried up at a crucial stage.

Knitterguy asked how I was getting on with square-foot gardening. The answer, it’s still there, in rather diminished form this year. Maybe I’ll have another look at the texts when I re-join my gardening library later today. One of my “raised beds” was devoted to the seedbed roll, and we know what happened to that. The other is at the moment half square-feet and half rows. A square foot is not quite enough for spinach, so I put in a row of that, the length of the bed. That’s the spinach that bolted before it was big enough to harvest, another victim, I think, of the mini-drought. And a row of salsola soda. Ha.

The square feet aren’t doing much, so far. That’s where the salad things are meant to be, and they simply haven't come up.

Here is a recent picture of Alexander’s vegetables on the shores of Loch Fyne, just to show what can be achieved if you put your mind to it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Here we are, and all’s well.

Laser eye treatment is not fun, but not so painful that one would be forced to blurt out the codes, if one were a spy being tortured. I was determined to tell the dr about my improved cholesterol, whether he was interested or not. I needn’t have worried – he cast but a glance at my papers and said, “What about the cholesterol?” in the tone of a man asking, “When am I going to see that essay?” So the new, satisfactory level and the fact that it was achieved with “diet” have been recorded.

When I left he said that I wasn’t to read or watch television for the rest of the day. I extrapolated from that, “…or turn the computer on, or knit.” What was I supposed to do? Housework? I spent the day in bed, drifting in and out of sleep and listening to blessed Radio 4 and sustaining myself with sips of cider. In the evening when the effect of the drops had worn off I allowed myself to work on the Child’s Cardigan. The ribbing is finished, and the rib-to-body increases, and I can do it pretty well with my eyes shut.

I am delighted with its progress, and with the feel of the yarn and the fabric. This is the back and fronts being done together. I have included a seam stitch on either side. I think the line of one of them can just be discerned, on the left. The result is going to be pretty colourful:

On Monday, before all this happened, I went ahead and ordered yarn for an Adult Surprise for myself, from Angelika. She seems to specialise in Lorna’s Laces, and her website inspires confidence. Some of them don’t.

There didn’t seem to be any of Franklin’s Panopticon in sport weight, and only one skein in sock weight. So I got that: and some Amy’s Vintage Office – that’s the Curmudgeon’s yarn; I love the look of it, and the idea. And some Roadside Gerry – that’s Annie’s, of course. I keep remembering it as "Gerry's Roadkill" and have to look up its real name every time. And single skeins of several others – Envy, to pick up the yellowy-green element in Franklin’s yarn; Mother Lode and Tuscany and Andersonville; and some Charcoal to hold them all together. Far too much. It should be waiting for me in CT next month.

A sock-weight garter stitch jacket will be a good weight, and will take a lot of knitting. I will certainly centre the decreases.

I pressed on the with Princess yesterday, with my recovered eyes. I have finished edging the centre, and ended at a point in the edging pattern not at all where I had calculated I should end. Did I get it backwards, and increase the rate of picking up stitches where I should have slowed down? Whatever, I got it wrong, and the footwork to make things come out even will now have to be done on the second border edge. An informal assessment suggests that I’ll have to skip over four pick-ups, somewhere or other. That should be manageable.

The car got its certificate needing only new wiper blades. Last year and the year before were far more painful.

There are some interesting questions in recent comments about my vegetable-growing : tomorrow.

Monday, June 08, 2009

A peaceful and successful knitting day yesterday. I finished another repeat of the Princess centre; cast on the new version of the Child’s Cardigan (all in one piece) and made good progress with the ribbing. Picture soon. I love the way the yarn feels in my hands: that augurs well. And Sweater Wizard includes an estimate of how much yardage will be needed. If it's right, I’ve got plenty. I worry a lot on that front – so that’s a comfort.

I am touched at your sadness for the poor Surprise, Janet. But as with most experience, it may not be wasted. I am still churning thoughts around in my mind for Life After the Princess: a jabot for James, a jacket for myself incorporating Panopticon yarn (Adult Surprise? Round the Bend?), another couple of months, like last year, devoted to sock knitting.

I learned from the aborted Surprise that a worsted weight yarn will be too heavy for a jacket for myself. It’ll have to be Sport or even Sock. I also learn, from a trawl just now, that Franklin’s yarn isn’t all that easy to come by. Even Angelika seems to be running low.

I won’t be here tomorrow. The eye appointment is early, by my choice: it gets it out of the way, for me; and finds the doctor at his early-morning best, or so I hope. I plan to come home and go to bed with a bottle of cider.

On Wednesday the car must go in for its annual health check – I only just realised that it is due. That appointment is even earlier, but -- assuming for the moment that I can see to drive, on Wednesday -- I should be back here and typing away before the morning is too far advanced.

If not, see you on Thursday.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sober Sunday

The Tempter has suggested that since (a) I have lost a stone so far this year and (b) laser eye surgery is a relatively rare event, I could afford some cider both today and on Tuesday. I resisted. Likewise, I rose above his suggestion, referred to yesterday, of not swatching for my new attempt at a Child’s Cardigan.

Here, first of all, is the Surprise, on its way to the stash cupboard. Good riddance.

Here is the pile of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sport which will, I hope, become a Child’s Cardigan.

Here is the swatch.

It was a useful exercise (surprise). I don’t think it’ll affect size calculations much – I haven’t taken a tape measure to it yet. And anyway, if it doesn’t fit one granddaughter, it’ll fit another. But swatching established that I like the suggested needle size, and like the fabric it produces. The idea, if it can be elevated to that status, is st st stripes separated by black garter stitch ridges. I prefer six-row stripes (top of swatch) to four-row ones (bottom).

The black is provided by some Jaeger Matchmaker DK which happened to be about. It is slightly heavier than sport weight. I don’t think that will matter in the body of the cardigan, but I have decided, as a result of swatching, to do the ribbing in Lorna’s Laces.

In real life, the stripes will be different colours. I don’t have enough of any one.

I don’t see why I shouldn’t [famous last words, those] – why I shouldn’t knit the body in one piece to the underarms. It’ll do away with a lot of loose ends. I hope to cast on today, on that assumption.


Meanwhile, the Princess top edging continues to edge forward. Two recent landmarks: I have embarked on the last bunch of 50 stitches from the centre, and I have finished the original purchase of Gossamer Merino and joined in the auxiliary ball I bought recently. I don’t think there is any detectable difference.

Miriam Pittenger has launched a blog about her Princess and other adventures. I signed up as a follower just now, and Google chose to illustrate me, not with the usual back-view-on-the-front-step picture, but with one of Mungo, Archie and Fergus Drake of Athens.

Thanks, everybody, for advice on keeping those lines straight in Surprises. I’ve knit the baby version half a dozen times at least. I suspect that on most of them, I centered the decreases. I’m sure that on at least one, the line wavers. I agree with Janet and Stash Haus that markers are the answer. I had one that came after the Crucial Stitch on right-side -- that is, action -- rows. It involved a certain amount of to-ing and fro-ing with stitches and marker every time I got there on a decrease row, but it worked.

Until I carelessly removed it while unpicking a whole row. I was able to relocate the Crucial Stitch while I was still in decrease mode, but when the same thing happened in the increase section, I was flummoxed.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

A distressing day on the knitting front.

I have continued to be dissatisfied with the Child’s Surprise, even in its ripped-back, re-started and improved version. Yesterday I abandoned it, and felt as one does half way through an exam when one realises one has attempted the wrong questions, or half-an-hour before a dinner party when you suddenly grasp that the recipe is too complicated.

I think I know what the replacement will be, after some frantic thinking and stash-searching. I am well-endowed with Lorna’s Laces in various beautiful shades of Shepherd Sock. I’ll ask the Sweater Wizard for a striped pattern, using the information on the ball band for gauge. Hope to cast on today.

What was wrong with the Surprise? Well, to begin with, the beautiful Fyberspates yarn is the wrong colour for a child’s cardigan. Secondly, garter stitch is demanding. I tried to keep up a rhythm and to think peaceful thoughts, but it kept looking like My First Potholder. Blocking would have helped, of course.

But the clincher was when I lost track of the Marked Stitch last night.

On my first attempt – the one I ripped out on May 31 – I centered the decreases, and purled the vital stitch on the wrong side. That makes it dead easy to follow the line and also, incidentally, makes the stitch itself sweep consistently on from the decrease section into the one where you are increasing on either side of it.

But EZ is emphatic about an uncentered decrease (slip 1, k2tog, psso), and can be very dictatorial for a woman so scornful of Blind Followers. So this time I did it her way, and it was my undoing

I had finished the first assignment: cast on 9K, decrease 4 stitches every other row down to 5K. I had started increasing back up to 9K. Then I carelessly increased on a wrong-side row. In trying to unpick and remedy the mistake, I found I had lost hold and couldn’t recover. In garter stitch, a stitch with an increase on either side of it is remarkably hard to follow the course of, or so I found it. I flung the whole thing aside with a wild cry.

There’s still plenty of time. It’s still early June.

The camera battery needs to be charged. I cannot illustrate disaster for you today.

On a brighter note, the Christine Duchrow books I ordered from the Needle Arts bookshop turned up yesterday – and sure enough, there are jabot patterns. I have found two already. (Fortunately, “jabot” in German is “jabot”.)

There is an English introduction to each of the books, with a guide to the chart symbols. Also, Judy Gibson has posted some highly useful information which I have printed out. Was she one of the great names of the Knitlist in the ‘90’s? or am I thinking of Judy Sumner?

The designs are mostly – obviously, not exclusively – doilies. They are beautiful. I would never knit a doily anyway, and contemplating them, I fear they would have to be knit perfectly. I couldn’t do that. My Princess – and, incidentally, I did a repeat yesterday – sweeps the eye of the beholder on with her sheer size, but is full of small mistakes.


I had some automated security calls yesterday -- a new experience for me -- from James’s credit card company. In the course of subsequent emails to and from Beijing, I discovered that the charges under suspicion were perfectly all right, and one of them was for a Kindle. He is about to spend some time in Washington working on an Economist special on Sino-American relations and hopes to find a Kindle waiting at his hotel. Foreign books are laborious and expensive to acquire in China: it makes a lot of sense. And he has always loved gadgets. Maybe he’ll let me have a wee go on it, when we meet in CT in July.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Nature or knitting? Nature, I think. Knitting will keep. I worked on the Child’s Surprise while we were away, and made some progress. Today is the first real day of the New Scheme: work on the Princess until I have finished an edging repeat, then switch. We’ll see how it goes.

Nature Notes

The year took its Great Leap Forward during the ten days we were away. Instead of a struggle to coax it out of hibernation, it’s now all hands on deck to keep it under control.

The bats are back. They swoop silently and mysteriously about in the long, light night, after the birds have gone to sleep. We put up a nesting box for them years ago, high on the garage wall, with a cut-out bat on it to make its purpose clear, but they don’t use it.

The cuckoo, when it first turned up, uttered its characteristic call once or twice and then shut up. Now, it shouts interminably until one wishes someone would come out and shoot it. I wondered – is this fanciful? – whether it was singing to its children. Its interesting domestic arrangements mean that it is at leisure, while everyone else is working his or her feathers off feeding the nestlings. Does a cuckoo perch nearby? and sing to its child, “You’re not really a blackbird. Just wait. I’ll explain everything.”

We’ve had crows nesting in one of our chimneys the last two years. We don’t like them. Last winter we sent a man up a ladder to block access with wire netting. The crows turned up in the spring, bewildered and cross. But they continued to hang around, and we became increasingly suspicious. This time, there was no doubt – both of us heard the baby crows in the chimney, shouting for cheeseburgers. We have been outwitted.


More good news than bad. Start with the bad:

The seedbed roll is a complete failure, I think. The seeds have shrivelled up inside it. The first lesson of gardening is, don’t give up just yet, so I left most of it down and even watered it, but I begrudged it all that space so I dispensed with some and planted the seeds it was supposed to produce for me: carrots and beets and chard.

No salad stuff yet. I re-sowed, like our dentist.

No salsola soda, either, or very little. I am cherishing a few very small tufts of “chive-like leaves”, but they could turn out to be grass.

A promising row of spinach has gone to flower, only three inches high.

And the good:

Peas, broad beans and potatoes continue to flourish. Why do I bother trying to grow anything else? These are the mange-tout peas. There are some ordinary ones somewhere else, also doing well:

The transplanted courgettes have done splendidly in their plastic water bottles – they even have flower buds. The directly-sown ones have germinated abundantly.

The transplanted climbing beans, both runner and Cherokee Trail of Tears, look a bit shell-shocked, but they have survived transplanting, too. And the directly-sown ones are coming up nicely.

The French beans suffered the most from my injudicious exposure of them to the doorstep winds. Only three, at best, now survive. But the directly-sown ones are doing fine. I see from my notes that the one year I had a decent crop, they were sown in the open ground on June 6.

The Great Fear for the next ten days or so, is frost.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

I’ve got the computer in radio-mode, about to listen to the President’s interview with the BBC.

We’ve decided on a mercy-dash to Strathardle today, for a two-nighter. We have to be back on Thursday, so that my husband can vote. So I should be here on Friday.

All went well, yesterday. The dentist has affixed what he called a “temporary crown”, although he’s put it in to stay. That was because the state of my remaining teeth didn’t justify the expense of a proper one. Oh, dear. But that’s fine with me – I was almost more worried about the time-consuming repeat appointments than the cost. And now I can smile.

(Mary Lou, I don’t understand how dentistry fits into the NHS. I know that it’s not entirely a successful arrangement. Some dentists are wholly private, like ours, others wholly NHS, some do a bit of both. It’s hard to find a good NHS dentist. Often, it’s hard to find an NHS dentist at all.)

Our dentist is a Dutchman, quiet, not exactly taciturn but his job is dentistry and he gets on with it. We think he is the best dentist in the world. But I discovered yesterday that a question to Mr van S. about his vegetables renders him positively chatty. He lives and gardens in Perth, not entirely irrelevant to Strathardle. He has had a lot of trouble this cold, wet spring with things that simply don’t come up. Just like me. Most encouraging.

And then, in the afternoon, I learned that my blameless life has reduced cholesterol to an entirely acceptable level, and most of that is “good” cholesterol. So no pills. I’ve got an appointment to have the wart frozen off. He said it was a straightforward, innocent wart.

All this charging about yesterday deprived the Princess of some of her time, but progress was made. 53 1/2 repeats of the top edging done. The centre stitches are waiting on lengths of yarn, in 50-stitch bunches. It works well. I have just finished the antepenultimate bunch – so seven repeats, more or less, will finish edging the centre, then there will be 13 or 14 on the second edge of the border. I am even giving a bit of preliminary thought to the footwork necessary to make the whole edging finish on a full repeat.

That bump between the centre and the border will smooth itself out sufficiently -- don't worry. It has also become obvious, only in the last couple of days, that I'm going to need that extra ball of yarn.

I will take the Surprise to Strathardle, and knit like mad with any strength left over from gardening, to justify Princess-time on our return.

So: did the runner beans, French beans, and courgettes survive being planted out? What about the seedbed roll? And the salsola soda? The excitement is almost too much.

(The interview with the President is over. He was good. And what should the following item on the famous “Today” programme be – just as I reached out to turn the sound off – but vegetable-growing!)

Monday, June 01, 2009

OK, so as planned I have ripped out the old Surprise Sweater and started it anew, with the thought of livening up the colours. I sat in the kitchen ripping and listening to Mr. Nadal losing his tennis match yesterday afternoon, and was a bit disconcerted at how much ripping was involved. Knitting it again will take a while. Still, I got it done and started over.

I was struck with how demanding garter stitch is. I found, after the first decrease row, that I was one stitch out in the placing of the decreases. That wouldn’t matter a bit, in fine lace (at least, not to me). A discrete K2tog here, a careful M1 there, and the problem is solved. But garter stitch is much more serious. I tinked back and got it right.

And today is May 31, as far as the Princess is concerned. Dental and medical, in the real world. I have broken a centre front tooth and all my glitzy clothes and svelte figure cannot save me from looking like a bag lady until I get it fixed. It’s going to be expensive; I hope not too time consuming.

Then in the afternoon I see a doctor to find out if my improved lifestyle has reduced my cholesterol or whether I need to take statins like everybody else. And perhaps see about the removal of a new, prominent wart on my upper lip which rather underlines the bag lady effect.

Kate, yours is sensible advice, about dieting and reviling the flesh and constitutionals. Don’t worry – this isn’t a diet I’m on, but an Improved Way of Life. I did it once before, with great benefit to myself, but it ended abruptly when I broke my left arm. Daily cider was absolutely required, and once resumed, not abandoned. This time I hope to go on forever, more or less. And I’m consciously trying to incorporate more striding about, here in Edinburgh – plenty of hills to practice on. In Strathardle, there’s the garden.

(We watched Hannah and Her Sisters over the weekend – one of the characters claims to be a reformed alcoholic. Beer had been her downfall, and I noticed that she said it had made her fat.)

Tamar, I don’t think I had ever heard about Mercury being retrograde. Does the same apply to Mars? which (without having gone very deeply into things) seems to me as if it might be capable of the same phenomenon because of being between us and the sun. Are there any other planets in that position? I could have told you like a shot, when I was 12.

I am dubious, but there is a residual pool of belief in there somewhere. Once when I was middle aged and more energetic, I read Augustine’s City of God (in Latin, too) – I’m not sure I finished it. I was struck with how much time and energy he devotes to refuting astrology: it came before Christianity and from some points of view, looks set fair to survive it.