Sunday, January 31, 2010

Septuagesima Sunday

Except that it isn’t, any more.

When I was young, the three Sundays before Lent were called the time of Septuagesima. The priest wore purple instead of the green which denotes Ordinary Time – I love Ordinary Time, normally, in liturgy as in the rest of life. Thank God it’s Monday, is my motto. But the purple of Septuagesima Sunday was a useful reminder that Lent was immanent.

Nowadays, there’s no warning at all, unless you happen to notice the cookery writers talking about pancakes.

Septuagesima was a fairly late addition to the liturgical year, and it was swept away in recent reforms. I pay more attention to it now than when it was actually observed. I’m going to miss my ciderous Sundays fully as much, if not more, as I used to miss cider on all seven days.

Tennis: there is a distinct feeling of Scotland Expects, around here.

Andy Murray was a boy at that school in Dunblane the day Thomas Hamilton came in and started shooting children. Now there’s a factoid for you.

There’s much to be said, about the pronunciation of “often” – Tamar, that’s fascinating; about the difficulties of calculating a new gauge for the Harlequin; about the Grandson sweater. I’ve done nine inches of sleeve – I’ll try to take a picture when full daylight arrives.

But now I’m going to go turn on the television.

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Webster’s and Oxford agree – pestle-without-a-“t” is the preferred pronunciation, pestle-with-a-“t” is the second choice. So poof to Neil MacGregor, and to my husband who agrees with him on that point.

Mel (comment yesterday), that is a fascinating piece of information, that gooseberry bushes are forbidden in Maine. What my son James would call a “factoid”, although that’s not what that word means, unfortunately.

Gooseberry bushes here are greatly prone to what is actually called “American gooseberry mould”. I wonder if there is any connection? We put three bushes in when we first made the current vegetable garden, about twelve years ago. They got so mouldy that I took them out after a couple of years. The gooseberries along the old driveway don’t get mouldy, so I took cuttings from them. They struck easily enough, but they don’t go in for cropping. So I am about to take them out and replace with ones which the catalogue boasts are mould-resistant.


Thank you for your kind words about the Grandson Sweater, Ron. I’m rather pleased with it myself, at this stage. I started the first sleeve yesterday. After a very little ribbing, it goes straight into a passage of pattern, still very simple. Colour knitting on dp needles is awkward, I keep dropping needles and getting tangled up, but it’s still not as bad as purling. And the excitement of whizzing around the circuit in a few minutes, after the 284-stitch circumference of the body of the sweater, is truly exhilerating.

I should finish the patterned section today. We’ll have a pic tomorrow. It won’t be too long, either, before I have increased enough stitches that I can switch to a short circular.

Theresa, my plan for the Harlequin is to re-write the pattern with more stitches-per-mitre, to achieve the size without knitting Koigu on huge needles. The ball-band says 3 mm for Koigu. I knit the gauge swatch on a 3.5 mm needle, figuring that that would allow me scope to reduce needle size as part of the shaping, the way Slicer-Smith prescribes.

Only I see she uses four different sizes of needle. I may not have allowed myself enough scope. The 3.5mm gauge square is a good texture, I think, firm but not too firm. Maybe I’d better try one at 4mm. Alternatively, see what Koigu is like at 2mm – in either case, so that I have a four-size range to work with.

I long to get cracking on this, but I must do the promised ear-flap hat. I have wound the yarn, and, like last week, intend to take Sunday off to get started. Last Sunday I couldn’t bear to drag myself away from the sweater, and the same thing may happen tomorrow.

And, Theresa, a propos your blog, I would vote against selling knitting books. My motto has always been, even of the absolute dogs -- and I have more than a few of those -- You Never Know.

Friday, January 29, 2010


The commentators are getting it right, this year. If Mr Murray wins this tournament, or any other big one, he’ll be the first British man to do such a thing since – I think I’ve got this right – Fred Perry won the American Open in 1936. But not the first “Briton”, since both Ann Jones and Virginia Wade have won Wimbledon in fairly recent years.

Someone came to lunch yesterday, so I couldn’t devote the time I would have liked, to tennis-watching in the morning. I was in the kitchen, listening to the radio, when he hit a winning shot that went not over the net but around it. Fortunately we got to see it on the news in the evening.

Neil MacGregor was talking about vegetable-growing and cooking in the broadcast I heard this morning. Farming is another thing, he said, that started up simultaneously hither and yon rather than, as previously thought, spreading outward from an initial point. Not surprising, what with the Ice Age having ended and all. He was talking about an ancient pestle, and pronounced the “t”. Madhur Jaffrey – one of my very favourite cooks – made a contribution to the programme, and pronounced it as I do, without the “t”. I’ll have to look it up.

Mel, my essential problem with seed-ordering is that all my notes and most of my catalogues are in Perthshire. I know I mean to grow fewer potatoes (and more broad beans) this year – but does that mean two varieties instead of three? or three instead of four? I can’t remember. I know that one of the two parthenocarpic courgettes I regularly plant consistently does better than the other, and last year I decided to dispense with the weaker one. But which is which?

But your reminder about fruit is timely. I know I want three more autumn-fruiting raspberries, and two gooseberries, and I might as well order them today. I have been trying to grow gooseberries with cuttings struck from the ones that grow wild along the driveway, and it’s not working.


And talking about ordering things – Kate, I want some of those sock needles. (The link, appropriately, is to an Australian site, but the needles are easily found elsewhere.) The Addi circular sock needle I bought recently is, so far, too painful for the wrist. I think it will come into its own the next time I knit socks for a man.

I’ve said before, I think, that I’m spending far more money on knitting this year than if I were buying yarn.

Jean, I was interested to learn from your comment yesterday that the Harlequin pattern was in Knitter’s. It completely passed me by. No use looking it up, though, because the aspects of the layout in the book which I’m finding difficult, are utterly Knitter-ly. I am encouraged that you think Koigu will work, lightness-wise. But why not? The ASJ was done in sock yarn, a very similar weight, and that turned out very wearable.

Meanwhile – drum roll – I’ve finished the body of the Grandson Sweater. It no longer looks overly large, and the ribbing at the bottom is even behaving better, at least this morning.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Thank you, as ever, for yesterday’s comments. I’m glad the phrase “Queen of England” is still (just) current in the US, although I’m sure you’re right, Kristen, that the fact that the royals have come down to earth must dim its effectiveness. And I love the variations, especially “Queen of Spain” in Angel’s family.

Thanks for the help on the books, too. I think Hoxbro must be the one I was thinking of. Amazon lets you page through that one – it’s clearly not going to add to what I’ve already got. Ginger Luters might be better, might not. I think I’ll hold off.

(The Curmudgeon says in her latest post that “Just putting away 200+ knitting, spinning, and weaving books was a gigunda pain in the ass.” I’ve got 299 knitting books, according to Librarything, and I find arranging and re-arranging them almost as much fun as knitting. No accounting for tastes.)

I spent more time with Slicer-Smith yesterday. I’ve figured out the armholes. You just make slits by working half-mitres at the appropriate places.

I had some clear time yesterday afternoon and instead of going back to the Knitting Glossary DVD, I knit the gauge square for the Harlequin patterns. The result was as I expected – Koigu is far lighter than the yarn used in the book. My square is about 4 ¼” across as opposed to the required 5”. That’s too big a difference to be accommodated by a needle-change. I’ll have to re-do the numbers in the pattern.

Is Koigu too light? But one wants light. And a lot of the pattern is in garter stitch, which is intrinsically heavy. I think the only thing to do is to press on, prepared (as ever) to stop if it isn’t working.

Meanwhile, I’ve only got four more rounds of the body of the Grandson Sweater to do after the current one is finished. The back neck steek is in place. The shoulder pattern may be simple, but I think it looks extremely well. I’ll have enough yarn left over to knit the whole thing again for a small boy, but the yarn (Rauma Finullgarn) while not exactly harsh is sort of firm and not-soft. Knit it big, so that the small boy could wear lots underneath?


I tried to spend some of yesterday afternoon organizing my seed order, but found I couldn’t get up steam for the job, here in Edinburgh. I hope we’ll get to Strathardle next week. The other day I rang a friend who keeps a b&b, to arrange accommodation for the Games weekend – if it’s nearly February, it’s time to think about the Games. She said that lumps of snow are still lying about in the village street. Our house is half-a-mile away, gently uphill. There will be more snow there, quite likely banked up along the driveway.

On the other hand, it’s thawing every day.

It will be interesting to see how the house has fared. I think the kitchen is secure against mice – but have they come in to nest in the pillows and eat the lagging off the pipes? They like lagging. Similarly, the water was turned off and the pipes drained, but I don’t think I put salt in the lavatory pans, and there’s a great length of pipe from the mains water through our neighbour’s field to our house which could have frozen and burst.

Not to mention what the deer may have done in the garden.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Could this be Andy Murray’s year? I sort of gave up on him in ’09 when he failed to win any of the big ones, and when Juan del Potro appeared out of nowhere like a comet and overtook him in the ratings. I think del Potro is younger than Murray, too. But here we are in Melbourne with Murray through to the semi-finals of the Australian Open without losing a set, and del Potro out. We shall see.

I knit with passion yesterday to reach the neck shaping and form what EZ calls a kangaroo pouch with my steek. Then I had to do another ¾” before I was allowed to start the shoulder pattern. It’s childishly simple, and a steek seems rather an over-elaborate means to avoid purling it. Still, two colours are two colours, and purling them is hell.

At 2” I am to abandon some more stitches, and make another steek, in the back. I hope soon there will be enough pattern that you can actually see it in a picture.

Theresa, don’t go away. (Comment yesterday – she’s knitting the Slicer-Smith Harlequin coat.) I spent some more time with the book yesterday. I had already grasped what you say, that first you knit the skirt top down and then turn it over and knit bottom up. Yesterday I solved one of my remaining problems – how do you achieve different sizes in the skirt? I could see already how the bodice is shaped, and it’s rather ingenious.

Today’s question is, where are the armholes?

I wonder if there’s a Ravelry group?

It occurred to me yesterday that this coat/jacket, in which mitered squares are combined into a shaped garment, may be a break-through of Slicer-Smith’s own. Herr Schulz and Maie Landra have wonderful colours and wonderful squares and wonderful combinations – see especially Landra’s legendary Oriental Jacket – but little or nothing in the way of shaping. Another book on mitred knitting recently swam into and out of my ken. It was by someone we have heard of. Does anyone know what I could be thinking of? And whether garments are shaped in that one?

And, Theresa, there’s a whole book on Knitting Brioche, not yet published here in Britain. Needless to say, I have ordered it. I spent some time rearranging knitting books the other day. I am seriously running out of space.


Neil MacGregor’s programme this morning – the one I listened to, anyway; I’m a couple of days behind – had another remarkable simultaneity for me: about 50,000 years ago, people all over the world started decorating things, and making images. Today’s object was about 13,000 years old – a mere nothing, time-wise. It was a mammoth’s tusk, carved into an image of reindeer swimming, and apparently useless, fully qualifying as art. The Ice Age was in full swing 13,000 years ago, he said. Its end, an early example of Global Warming, may have had something to do with the simultaneous world-wide rise of great cities.

Helen, (comment yesterday), “King of England” – or, as appropriate, “Queen” – is an American expression meaning, roughly, someone impossibly grand or someone who thinks himself so. Can any American reader confirm that the phrase is still in use, or was it just something my mother used to say?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Ah – the secret is to turn Neil Macgregor on as soon as I’ve booted the computer, and let him talk while I read emails and look at the Lolcats and warm up the brain cells with a jigsaw puzzle. That way he's finished before I’m ready to start writing.

He was talking about a stone chopping tool in the one I listened to this morning, the oldest man-made object. And knitting could be said to feature, obliquely, when he said that it is a human characteristic to make things more complicated than they strictly need to be. (A simple woollen tube, with tubular arms attached, would keep Joe warm. The Grandson Sweater doesn’t really need patterns.) The theme of the whole series is going to be that we define ourselves as human by making things, and coming to depend on the things we make.

He said that the best thing about being Director of the British Museum is that every so often he gets to hold something from the collection in his hands. It reminded me of a passage in Diana Cooper’s “The Light of Common Day”, the middle volume of her autobiography: “He suggested on Sunday that we should all go over to Windsor Castle and see the library there. ‘No one ever sees it…It’s a bit off the beaten track. There’s an awfully good fellow there called Mr. Morshead. He’s most awfully nice. He told me the other day to go over any time I like.’”

The speaker was Edward VIII, the King of England.

Anyway, knitting

I am within a scant half-inch of the neck shaping. Today should be the day.

The girth looks less alarming now that it's also got length. The bottom edge is still curling.

I’ve been studying Slicer-Smith as much as possible, in the intervals when the computer is being particularly slow. I think I’m beginning to get the idea of the Harlequin Coat. As well as wanting a day off to start that hat, I want another one to knit a gauge-square in Koigu.

I haven’t figured out yet how to alter the size. The schematics seem to show three sizes, so there must be a way. The issue there is, who to knit it for? Unless I am going to enter my Edith Sitwell phase, it will be far too dramatic for me and anyway I don’t lead that sort of life. Cathy is a possible choice, distinctly stylish, and the one among daughters and daughters-in-law who probably moves in society the most. Cathy is tiny. Greek Helen is another possibility, but she’s in line for a shawl.

The hat: Tamar, I’m going to knit it, as I did Lizzie’s, with two strands of sock-weight-wool held together. That produces a very firm, cosy fabric and I think obviates the need to line it completely.

Monday, January 25, 2010

I couldn’t bear to put the Grandson Sweater down, so near the neck shaping. I should reach it tomorrow, maybe even today. And just as well, because now I have read your comments and will find a crochet hook and do a provisional cast-on when I do take that day off and start the hat.

I am listening to Neil MacGregor’s first programme, about a mummy. I include the link because I spent quite a while wandering about in confusion on the fancy BBC website before I found an actual Listen Now button. Presumably you can Listen Now anywhere in the world.

I wonder if he will touch on a fact that amazes me, the way high civilisation starts at the same split second (in evolutionary terms) four or five thousand years ago, in Egypt and Greece and Israel and Persia and India and China: great cities, literature and art. I rate the Americas and sub-saharan Africa a bit lower, for not having literature, but they were making and building wonderful things in those places, too.

Some of this can be explained by people influencing each other, some by world-wide advances in agriculture which made it possible to live in cities. But the simultaneous-ness still seems remarkable.

My other big question is, why don’t we all speak the same language? We all started out in East Africa, and the evolutionary changes that permit speech – the development of the brain, and of the tongue and jaw and vocal cords – are so many and varied that they must have taken a long time. And the evolutionary advantages of speech – which, as I understand the system, mean that good talkers tend to get their genes passed on – only work in a community. It’s no use shouting, The baddies are coming! if there is no one to hear and understand you.

So once all that was in place, and we had made our hand axes and were ready to start spreading over the world, we must have had some sort of language, and I would expect us to have it still, in the sense that all the Indo-European languages from English through Hebrew to Sanskrit, can be shown to have common roots. But it is not so. Finnish and Chinese, to name but two, are utterly, fundamentally different.

It is amusing to reflect, as one watches people walking about the streets with their little telephones, how very important talking is, to the human animal. Many mammals – most, I should guess – are sociable, and we humans express that quality by constantly talking to each other.

Unless Neil MacGregor develops an interest in knitting, it is going to be hard to listen to him and at the same time keep this blog on track.

Blogger offered me a comment for moderation just now, in Russian. I rejected it, but in one ense it would have fitted in nicely with today's topics.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I have been struggling with a research assignment for my husband – to figure out exactly which member of the Torlonia family was Duke of Bracciano in 1832 – and the effort has eaten rather severely into blogging time. The Italian Wikipedia finally cracked it – I should have thought of them sooner. My husband doesn’t use the Internet, but appreciates it, and has assignments for me which seem to multiply by the day.

However, there’s not much to report here anyway. I joined in a 5th ball of yarn to the Grandson Sweater yesterday, and decided that the percentages in the Progress Bar were altogether too cautious. I bought 15 balls of white, and started off by assuming I’d use all of them. I now think ten will be plenty, and have adjusted accordingly.

I think I’ll take today off and wind yarn and maybe cast on for Rachel-the-Younger’s ear-flap hat. The pattern begins with a couple of inches which get folded under to make a hem – that’s where I got in trouble last time, trying to pick up stitches from the cast-on edge to knit the hem in place on the fly, so to speak.

My idea this time is to knit the inside portion in a bright colour which will peep out. I can’t find a true red, but I’ve got a nearly-red which should do the trick. The main body of the hat will be in a browny Araucania Multi. As for the hem, we’ll see.


Shandy (comment yesterday), I like the idea of objects to encapsulate history a lot, although I have an innate prejudice against archaeology in favour of the written word. We heard only one of Neil Macgregor’s broadcasts last week, the hand-axe, and it was good. I find I can record the programmes on our television set, and I thought we could listen to them after we have watched “Neighbours” and the news, but my husband prefers something visual. I’ll have to listen here in the morning on my computer, while composing my prose.

Today is Greek Helen's birthday. She avoided coinciding with The Poet by a mere half-hour.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I wasn’t fishing for compliments yesterday, honest. But very grateful for those that came.

I had a good time yesterday. I watched the Knitting Glossary passages about the Drop-Shoulder Sweater – knitting a tube to the shoulder, and cutting it open. That’s exactly what I’m doing, and I’ll re-watch those passages intently before taking action on the sleeve-holes. EZ was much more active in this bit.

Next time, I’ll just start at the beginning of the DVD and let it flow. It's wonderful. It doesn't waste time, either.

I got out my Koigu collection, a pleasure in itself, and sorted it somewhat with the Slicer-Smith Harlequin Coat in mind. I started with the idea of sorting the pile into Lights and Darks, and soon saw that the Darks could be usefully subdivided into Reds and Greens and Blues. There are a few solids. That left only a relatively small pile of Unclassifiables.

The Lights:

The Reds:

The Blues:

The Greens:

The Solids:

None of the Above:

There's lots to play with, there. I think -- without having ventured on any calculations -- that I can do a jacket with Reds and Lights alone.

I don’t think I entirely understand the instructions for the Harlequin Coat. And I think it's the Knitter's layout rather than Slicer-Smith that confuses me. Try it and you may, I say. But I need to spend more time with the book, as well. I don’t think I want to trouble Koigu with a stitch pattern, but that leaves the Metro Jacket and the Stripe Jacket, at least, with ideas that might go a long way.

As for actual knitting, little progress. I took my eye off the ball at some point, and discovered, as I was about to start a seeding round, that I had done three rounds of plain white since the last one, instead of the required two. I knit on for a few stitches in the hope that it Wouldn’t Matter, but I soon decided that the famous rider, even if she couldn’t pinpoint the error, would sense something wrong. And it came at just the worst point, across the upper chest.

So I took it out. The yarn was very firm and cooperative, but it still took a while to recover all the stitches and then to knit the next round, re-sitting the stitches that were the wrong way around and unsplitting the ones that had got split in the picking-up process. It’s all done. I’m ready to move forward, paying attention.

Thanks for the pointers (comments, yesterday) to Ysolda’s blog, and to Cornflower’s. I’ve subscribed to both.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Five inches to go until the shoulder patterning on the Grandson Sweater. Endless. Maybe I'd better put in a pic tomorrow, just to brighten the page.

Yesterday didn’t quite work out as hoped – when has that ever happened before? – but I got at least to watch the Steek sections of “A Knitting Glossary” and they were – surprise! – good. I hope to see some more today. The passage on securing a steek by crochet was terrific, and I learned a technique I couldn’t have grasped in any other way, about how to crochet the centre stitch of a steek to the adjacent stitch first on one side, then on the other, and finally to cut the ladders in the middle of the stitch. I think maybe I can even do that for the Grandson, although my sleeve-holes don’t actually have a steek in them.

Is EZ going to contribute more to some of the other sections? or was this filmed in her decline?

Various, mostly knit-related

Kate Davies’ blog is so wonderful and professional-looking that it makes me feel sad. What’s the use? A brilliant post yesterday on knitting sticks.

In that radio programme I listened to yesterday – link provided by Jenny; there are still four days to go – there was a brief contribution from someone who started knitting and blogging when she was at university and one thing led to another and now, I think she said she lives by selling patterns. Who was she? Did anyone catch the name?

In the non-knit parts of the programme they were talking about making a list of objects to define the history of Scotland (tying in with Neil Macgregor’s current radio series from the British Museum) and someone emailed from Blairgowrie to nominate the Miegle stones and the presenter said with a merry laugh that she had never heard of them. It occurred to me that it is high time our grandchildren were taken on expeditions to see some of the more remarkable things within easy reach of Strathardle. The Dunfallandy Stone is equally near although in the other direction. Better than taking them to the movies in Perth on a wet August afternoon, although they might not like it as well.

Maybe one could even knit a sweater based on a Meigle stone, with the help of Elsebeth’s Lavold’s book and, of course, not until I am at liberty to buy yarn again.

On another matter, connected in thought by the absence from my stash of any sweater’s-worth of yarn in a single, sober colour, it has not proved easy after all to find a plain, heavyish v-neck sweater for my husband. The department stores are full of thin, thin sweaters for people in offices. Ask for heavy and you get zipper-necks and even sillier things which my husband would not dream of wearing. I retrieved a catalogue from the paper I was putting out for recycling yesterday, and despite his reluctance to buy anything sight-unseen (I do it all the time), we have gone for this.

I hope to spend some time with “Swing, Swagger, Drape” today, too. Inspired by your comment, Theresa, I don’t see why I shouldn’t start toying with the idea of knitting the Harlequin Coat itself in Koigu.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I’m not going to measure today, but you may be assured that I have inched forward. Or perhaps, less-than-inched.

Jenny, thank you for the link to the Kate Davies broadcast. I am listening as I write (the first part of the programme isn’t about knitting) – the link is good for five more days.

Yesterday’s Big Knitting News was that the package from Schoolhouse arrived – “The Hapsaalu Shawl”, Jane Slicer-Smith’s “Swing, Swagger, Drape” and the EZ-and-Meg Knitting Techniques DVD. (This yarn-fast is proving expensive in the book line.) I think I see a way to arrange the day so that I can spend some time with the DVD this afternoon.

Both the books are good. I had wondered a bit about spending all that money for one shawl, but it turns out that the title is generic, as one might say, The Shetland Shawl. It needs much more time than I have given it so far, but is clearly going to be good both for the background and for the knitting. Good pictures, too, both historical and contemporary.

I love the spread on pp 18-19: “Master Knitters from the late 19th century” – six grim dames; “Today’s Masters” – six cheerful biddies in traditional costumes; “Future Masters” – six pretty young things draped over park benches. All 18 women with knitting in their hands, of course.

Slicer-Smith promises well, too. I threw it in on the theory that if Meg is selling it, it can’t be entirely bad. There is a section on mitred squares – including, indeed, the cover pattern – which is going to be useful when/if I finally get around to planning something for my Koigu.


Donna, I hope you’ll take up knit-documenting. And I love your phrase, “Cold Sheep”, for a knit-fast. I’m still a long way short of the total of days you achieved.

Jenny, the radio programme is very interesting – Liz Lovick as well as Kate Davies. It includes the fascinating tidbit, mentioned by the presenter as having arrived by email, that there were no sheep in Japan until the mid-19th century. Is that partly why their knitting is so exciting – they come to it fresh?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Very miscellaneous, today. I'm feeling dull and low.

About 16 ½” of Grandson Sweater are done, out of 23”. It’s sort of dragging. If I had divided for the armholes, the same amount of knitting would make me feel as if I were getting somewhere. Perhaps I’ll take a day off soon to wind the yarn for Rachel-the-Younger’s earflap hat, and even cast it on.

I was briefly in John Lewis’s yarn department on Saturday – there’s no harm in looking – and saw Lindsay-the-Rowan-woman, whom I hadn’t seen for awhile. There’s an article in the new Rowan magazine (which I bought) about knitting outdoors, by Dr Kate Davies. Lindsay said her blog was good. It took me awhile to find it – Google on “Kate Davies” and you get an interesting-enough blog unrelated to knitting. This is the address you want, and it does look good.

Temptation: Joe has been knitting a scarf in “mini-Mochi” yarn which I had never heard of, and which I have added to my post-yarn-fast list.

A more serious temptation looms, in that when we finally feel strong and brave enough to venture north, it is quite likely – whatever the state of the driveway and the water supply – that I will be able to see the 2010 Games Programme, and learn what the knitting classes are this year. Can at least one of them – there are always two -- be done from stash?


Mary Lou, I hope you’ll take up documenting your FO’s again. It’s fun, and very useful. It becomes an anticipated part of the clean-up process, along with gathering up the yarn ends from the floor around your knitting chair. I don’t have many photographs in the recent years of my archive, now that digitalisation has struck. That's a loss, and perhaps I’ll get a proper print of that one of Christmas-knitting-recipients on the shores of Loch Fyne.

Barbara, that’s the perfect phrase to sum up future-unease. I’ll be back here tomorrow, God willing and the creeks don’t rise.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Yes, it is much to be hoped that death will find one at work. I think it was St Ignatius who was asked one day, as he was sweeping the floor, what he would do if he knew the world were going to end in half an hour, and he said, I would go on sweeping the floor. And gardeners look forward, especially in the spring. That’s what gardening is all about. But John Cushnie’s death was a reminder – and they abound – that man proposes, God disposes, and every statement about the future needs a silent God willing, insh’Allah, D.V.

In my case, it turned out all right – I finished that ball of wool, and joined in the next one. Not very much progress on the Grandson Sweater yesterday otherwise, however, maybe 5/8”. The day was devoted to my husband’s appointment at the Respiratory dep’t of the Royal Infirmary. Aiming at the appropriate bus, catching it, travelling on it, waiting to see a dr, travelling home again, consumed almost all available time and much mental energy. We felt it a worthwhile undertaking, although I still don’t understand why he is so breathless.

I took the KF sock along, and made progress. The Progress Bars have been altered.

(I have had a spate of spurious comments lately. The ones that worry me are the brief, harmless-looking ones containing no links and betraying themselves only by their irrelevance. I had one yesterday that I was willing to give the benefit of the doubt, until it replicated itself three or four times attached to various posts. Who does that, and why on earth?)

I looked out my print-out of the pattern for the ear-flap hat yesterday. Thirty years ago I took a manila folder and labelled it “Knitting Actually Done, 1979-”. In it I started putting patterns, notes, swatches, photographs, whatever, related to FO’s. At a stroke, this practice reduced to manageable proportions my tendency to surround myself with UFO’s.

Eventually the folder was bulging. Then I put its contents into a box file, and labelled it, and wrote a new start-date on the folder, and began again. I am constantly surprised at how often I open the folder to look for something, as I did yesterday, or even go back through the box files. In my KnitList days, I used to post an annual summary of knitting-done. I printed them out and put them in the appropriate places in the file. They are useful in speeding up the occasional search for projects-long-completed.

Yesterday I decided it was high time for a fourth box file, and another new start.

The intervals are not consistent – the first one was a whole decade, from 1979 through 1988. I was still working then, and had children at home at least for part of the time. The periods have been shorter, since. The most recent one, as can just be discerned from the photograph, was seven years long.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Not much, today.

Tamar, that is an interesting comment (as always, from you) about how ribbing flips upwards. I don’t remember being troubled with this before. But then, one usually increases the stitch count by about 10% at that point – here, there was no increase, just a larger needle. I’ll try extending the ribs as you suggest if I ever find myself here again.

I had a second comment yesterday, from “Avril”, whose intentions were saucy, or perhaps worse, judging from her illustrations, and who wrote in Chinese. That’s a first, for me.

I’ve now done about 15” of Grandson Sweater, out of 23". I will certainly finish that ball of yarn today.

(A well-known British gardener named John Cushnie died suddenly at the New Year. A decade younger than I am, tall and fit-looking. Much missed. The Telegraph for Jan 2 had a full-page article by him – he’d already been dead for a couple of days, but perhaps there was no one about during the holiday even to add a mournful preface to the page. The article was standard holiday-page-filling stuff about all the things he was going to do this year – not sow too many lettuces at a time, grow unusual vegetables, remember where the daffodils are. Any of us could have written it. But John Cushnie won’t do any of those things. It makes one more than usually afraid to use the future tense in any sentence involving a first-person pronoun.)

“The Knitter’s Book of Wool” turned up on Saturday. The fascinating first third of it is about wool. Sheep are discussed breed by breed. (But it’s an American book, and so doesn’t tell me why merino sheep won’t “do” in Britain, where so many other breeds thrive. What don’t they like? Or am I wrong about that? They seem to live in hot places – Spain, originally; Australia; now America. Maybe that’s it.)

The patterns, in the remaining 2/3rds of the book, are on the dull side, to my eye. Take the text from this book, and the patterns from “A Fine Fleece”, and you’ve got a single, wonderful book.

We’ll see what Helen C.K.S. has to say about it – she promises a discussion soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

You were tactful not to pick me up on yesterday’s gaffe, when I located the legendary Boar Hunt in prehistoric Scotland. Which would have been a fine place for it, but it’s not for me to move it about. I should have written “Calydonian” not “Caledonian”.

Ovid’s lines describing Atalanta (Metamorphoses VIII, 322-3) are:

Talis erat cultu, facies, quam dicere vere
Virgineam in puero, puerilem in virgine possis.

“Her dress and face were such as you could truly call
Maidenly in a boy, boyish in a maiden.”

Meleager fell in love with her at first sight, but it didn’t end well.


I have about nine inches to go to the neck of the Grandson Sweater – I must be at the armpits, or slightly above. All goes well, except for its tendency to flip up at the bottom, as you can see in the photograph. I am fairly confident that blocking will settle it down, but “fairly confident” is not the same as “completely happy”.

I will finish another ball of white yarn today or tomorrow. Now that I am sure I’ve got enough, I welcome these milestones.

I had an email from Rachel-the-Younger in Beijing yesterday, asking for a hat like her cousin Lizzie’s. That’s the ear-flap, made from the Ear Flap Hat Generator the Fishwife pointed me to. There’s nothing, absolutely nothing, I like so much as a request from a Loved One to be knit something I have knit for another Loved One. It means they maybe don’t push everything to the back of the drawer as soon as I’m out the door after all.

So I’ll choose some yarn and get it wound and perhaps swatched and then when we finally make our bid for Strathardle – we have our eyes on the first week of February, at the moment – I’ll take it along. This time, it might be nice to introduce a bit of patterning. We are too feeble, and there's too much snow about, to attempt a venture into the countryside this week.


The British “Knitting” magazine turned up yesterday, a good issue. It includes a pamphlet entitled “Holidays Courses & Exhibitions Guide 2010” in which there is no mention of the Knit Camp in Stirling in August. Now, I know how these things work – you pay for an ad, we write about you. But in this case the venture is so bold, unique for Britain I believe, that I feel they have compromised editorial integrity by leaving it out.

I’ve just had a look at the KnitCamp’s Ravelry group, and discover that someone is organising a trip to Shetland for the following week – bus from Stirling to Aberdeen, ferry to Lerwick, an excursion to Unst included. Were I but free! It wouldn’t even involve being away on the Fourth Saturday of August, either. Rachel and Ed more or less skipped celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary for the sake of being at the Games. I could scarcely just nip off to Unst.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My husband is so much better that we suspect the A&E dr was right, and antibiotics to zap an infection were the right course of action. It’s a good thing (for us) that the Infirmary was pressed for bed-space (all those old ladies toppling over on the ice last week) or they might have kept him in to be on the safe side. He’s much better off here.

Taking knitting along didn’t involve much thought, and I had had plenty of time for thought, anyway, during that long, uncomfortable night. The bag is always ready. During the last years of my mother’s life, when she was too frail to travel, I tried to visit her twice a year in the US. I found I could knit six or seven pairs of socks in a year without cutting in to real knitting-time at all. And cured my fear of flying by knitting in the air, to boot.

Now it’s many fewer socks-per-year, unless I dedicate knitting time to them. But still the bag is there. We have a hospital appt on Monday to see a breathing consultant (by happy coincidence) – that should see me well down the foot of the current sock.

Lisa, I’ve lost hold of the names of my KF sock yarns. This one may well be “Easter”. It’s the first time I’ve used one of the newer issue, where some of the stripes have wavy edges. If anything could be more fun than one of the original KF sock yarns, it’s this. I have started an actual, written list of yarns I might want to buy when the fast is over. KF sock yarns are at the very top.

Another thing on the list is a sweater’s-worth of monochrome yarn of a subdued shade. My stash has nothing like that. My husband wants a basic sweater, but draws the lines at stripes. I don’t think there’s anything there that will do. It would be absurd to break the fast to buy yarn for this purpose, when he can buy such a sweater relatively easily. It would be a great stash-buster, though – if only I had the yarn in the stash.

The other thing that inspires this thought is “A Fine Fleece”, which abounds in attractive patterns with interesting surface patterns to be knit in sober yarns. And I find myself greatly drawn to her collars. “October Frost”, “espresso”, and Donice’s “fylingdales” all have enticing collars.

Since so many seem to have the book already – the androgynous model is actually male, do you think? Or do we have a subtle hymn to Lesbianism? There is a line in Ovid, describing I think Atalanta at the Caledonian Boar Hunt, although I’m not going to look it up just now, saying that her face was of the sort that appeared on a girl, boyish, and on a boy, girlish. It is very striking sort of face when you see it, and there it is.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Sorry for the gap.

My husband, and therefore I, had an uncomfortable night Wed-Thur, chest pain and breathlessness. Yes, I know – but I also knew that he wasn’t at death’s door, and was more comfortable at home than he would be anywhere else. I couldn’t let it drift, though, so in the morning phoned our GP’s practice.

A dr came promptly – house calls are rare, these days; we haven’t requested one for years – and with equal promptitude sent for an ambulance to carry us off to the Royal Infirmary where we spent many tedious hours. All the probing and x-rays and blood tests seem to have shewn that a heart problem wasn’t involved. A dr eventually diagnosed a slight lung infection, and sent us home with some antibiotic. We both slept much better last night.

I had packed knitting and mobile phone, as well as all the pills and diabetic stuff my husband needs, and got a lot done on the KF socks for Rachel which are my current waiting-room knitting. I started them sometime in December when all the Christmas knitting was finished, but hadn't got very far. The yarn is wonderfully cheerful.

I had forgotten to re-acquaint myself with the Oliver-sock (Ravelry link) foot-shaping technique, but I think our discharge from A&E came at just the right moment, and I will still be able to apply it.

Perhaps I forgot to tell you that my husband noticed and remarked on the good fit of the Oliver-type bedsocks I knit him recently.

The Grandson Sweater is now within a whisker of being half-way from cast-on to neck shaping. Much else to report – Knitter’s was here on the mat when we got back yesterday, and a duller winter issue of a knitting magazine is hard to imagine. “A Fine Fleece” has arrived. Helen C.K.S.’s latest blog entry has inspired me to order “A Knitter’s Book of Wool” – I’m pretty sure that that, and not “A Fine Fleece”, is the book I have had a nagging should-have-ordered feeling about.

That’s enough for today.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I learned a lot about tempered glass yesterday, and am glad to have a context into which to fit my exploding tumbler. Thanks, everybody. Ron sent me this interesting link which makes it sound as if stacking the tumblers, as I have been doing for decades, may be the source of the trouble. I have now put away – unstacked – all but three or four, which is plenty when no one else is here. That leaves room on the kitchen shelf not to stack the others. The experience will certainly add a note of adventure to cider-drinking henceforth. Not to mention sugar-free bitter lemon.


It progresses. I have sailed into the doldrums, when it seems as if no matter how much I do, I’m not getting anywhere. The tape measure belies that – I am now more than 1/3 of the way from cast-on to neck. A couple more evenings and I’ll be half-way there. I could always switch to a sleeve, if I get really bored.

I should finish a second ball of wool this evening. For the time being, since there were 15 balls of white in the order, I am assuming that each one consumed adds 6 or 7 percent (alternately) to the Progress Bar. It is beginning to look as if I have too much yarn (thank goodness), since two balls have carried me this far forward. So those percentages are an underestimate, and that’s the way I like it.

My husband noticed the sweater last night, and asked what I was doing. He didn’t say that it looks far too big for Joe, and that is encouraging, as he is sharp-eyed and perceptive.

Ron asked (comment, Monday) whether the seeding on this sweater is the same as the “lice” on a Norwegian sweater? Yes, exactly so; just that the colours are reversed. And the question reminded me that this is not, after all, the first time I have done such a thing. I knit Greek Helen a Norwegian-type sweater when she was still at school, and that was a while ago. It was rather successful, and it had lice on it.

I hold the yarns in separate hands when I’m doing the seeding – and will knit the patterned parts like that. I can knit two-handed fine when I’m doing Fair Isle or whatever; I enjoy it – what I can’t do, is the left-hand bit separately. That is, I can’t knit “continental”. I used to try that and other techniques. I hugely admired the dazzlingly fast way Annie Modesitt knits, as demonstrated in the class I took with her recently. But on the whole, I’ve given up. I’m comfortable with my slow and awkward drop-and-throw. Let’s not worry.

Stirling in August

One of the things I’m looking forward to about the Japanese knitting class, is talking to other participants about sources. The booklet I have – the one called “Flat Knitting of the New Style”, or something like that – is part of a series called, engagingly, “Let’s Knit”. How do I find more? Who is the designer of the one I have? There is a picture of presumably him, a young man – but what is his name? Where can I see more of his work?

As for Jared, the photography class with Franklin is on Wednesday morning, and nothing is happening for anyone on Wednesday afternoon, except an excursion to New Lanark (which would be interesting). Maybe Franklin and Jared and I can have lunch together. A girl can dream!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

An extraordinary thing happened.

My husband and I were having supper last night in the sitting room in front of the television, as is our wont. We each had our plate on our knee. On the coffee table in front of us was the tray, and on it were two tumblers, his containing cold beer, mine Waitrose sugar-free bitter lemon at room temperature. The ambient temperature was Drummond-Place-cool.

There was nothing else on the tray. The tumblers weren’t touching each other, nor was either of us touching one of them. In the mindless Monday television we were watching, nobody was singing.

My tumbler exploded.

We have long used these tumblers, in both houses. They are called Duralex, and I think they may be French. They are supposed to be unbreakable, and have served us well. They are the sort of thing you might encounter in a vile café. Indeed, we augmented our collection once by ordering some from a catering catalogue. They do break, explosively, if dropped on the hard kitchen floor in Kirkmichael.

This event seems to me to violate all the known laws of physics, and I find it rather worrying.

At least it wasn’t cider.


I have done nearly eight inches of Grandson Sweater. I was worried at first about whether I had enough yarn – there’s no reason to worry, I did the maths carefully, grams to ounces to yards to metres, and ordered some extra as always. But one needs something to worry about. It would be dreadful to have to order one more ball – and then have to re-set my no-yarn gauge. It’s beginning to look as if I’m going to be all right.

I am glad to hear such good things from you about all three of my recent extravagances – the Haapsalu shawl book, “A Fine Fleece”, and the Japanese knitting class in Stirling next summer. I have a kind of a feeling that I heard about a book like “A Fine Fleece”, half yarn-information, half patterns, and thought, that sounds interesting. And then the title got away from me. So maybe this is it. It will be worth it, almost, for the wonderful Fylingdales cardigan that Donice is thinking about.

I hesitated long over Japanese knitting, because it meant not taking a class from Jared. Even if I didn’t have to get back to my husband and my vegetables in Strathardle, one gets tired. I was tired by the third day when I went to Camp Stitches 10 years ago. And I decided it was more useful to take a class in a subject that I am interested in and know virtually nothing about, than to reinforce topics I do know about for the sake of being taught by Jared.

But I could be wrong.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I was wrong about the weather. We had a considerable thaw in Edinburgh yesterday, and today seems, so far, like a January day in Scotland. Not very nice, rather cold, rather damp, but not arctic.

Donice (comment yesterday), I think you had better come to the Knit Camp in Stirling next summer – Jared himself is teaching a class on “Plan Your Own Aran”, and Beth Brown-Reinsel will also be there, if you decide to go down that path.

I signed up yesterday. The class schedule had altered and expanded since I first looked. I put myself down for Franklin’s class on Photographing Your Fibre, that was a given, and for two classes, adding up to one all-day class, on Japanese Knitting with Donna Druchunas. That means missing a lot of other things, like especially Jared. It would be wonderful to be there all week, winding up with the Ravelry Day on Saturday (August 14, I think). But I have my responsibilities.

I mean to commute from Strathardle, but if anyone has a spare bed for Tuesday or Wednesday night, I'd be interested. Accommodation has to be booked for the whole week.

Donice, I ordered “A Fine Fleece” from Amazon just now, in admiration for the Fylingdales cardigan you’re thinking of – Amazon let me turn the pages on-line – and also in the hope of learning about wool from a spinner’s perspective.

The Grandson Sweater moves on. The three-row seeding pattern is very satisfactory in the way it marks one’s progress. Rachel drove Joe (the grandson in question) back to Nottingham for the new university term yesterday. She says, “Joe's house is freezing. His room is particularly bad because it is an annexe with 3 outside walls – so, damp and cold. That sweater will come in very handy.”

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The funny thing about this weather is its constancy – most un-British. I am used to walking across the square to get the newspapers after I finish blogging., and then reporting to my husband on the state of the weather. Now it’s No Change, day after day. We had a bit of a snow flurry yesterday and my hopes rose. Nope. Nothing.

The big plus that we’re nearly three weeks past the solstice already. When the crack does come, it will have spring in tow.

The ironing and the paperwork are showing definite signs of diminution, as I chip away at them. Not so the stash.

Here’s the Grandson Sweater. Despite its impressive circumference, we’re trotting on nicely. That’s a quarter of the distance from cast-on to neck-shaping already. I don’t think I’ve ever knit seeding before, certainly not on this scale. I like it. I like the effect, and I like the fact that it’s very nearly as quick as st st to do. I seem to have included the end-of-round jog for your delight. I don't think it'll be very obtrusive in the end.


Grannypurple, yes, you’re right about the deliciousness of buying books in a yarn fast. But calorie-free delicious foods? The closest I can come (in thought) is lobster.

Mary Lou and Julie, thanks for the steek-help. I like the idea of hand-sewing a steek. Anything to avoid unpacking the sewing machine. And Julie, I will certainly search your blog for tips. This is fun.

Catdownunder, I am delighted to have your recommendation for the Haapsalu Shawl book. It’s expensive, and a bit of a long shot. I already own “the near-legendary Estonian shawl book, Pitsilised Koekirjad” that Meg says she would like to reprint. (So where did I get it? if not from her.)

I doubt if I’ll ever use either of them, although one never knows. I've owned and enjoyed reading Susanne Pagoldh’s “Nordic Knitting” for a long time. I am very glad to be ptomoting it, by way of the Grandson Sweater, into the fairly small subset of Books I Have Actually Knit From.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

It’s too cold for prolonged composition. And this weather is getting boring. I’d prefer a nice, cosy snowstorm, at whatever inconvenience to my fellow-citizens.

I’ve reached the seeding on the Grandson Sweater. There should be enough by tomorrow to merit a pic. I’m worried again about size – is it too big? I recalculated, and find that I’m getting the size I'm aiming at, after anxious thought. That’s some comfort. Essentially, I’m knitting a Medium although the measurements I took at source over the holiday might suggest Small.

I tend to wind up too snug when I aim at a good fit. And this isn’t an indoor sweater. I’ll press on, at least for now.

But have you seen the cardigan Joe knit for his mom? That’s what I call fit.

Thank you for the help on the steek question. Moorecat, of course you’re right, smites brow – the neck stitches would be left securely behind, and a steek cast on above them.

Elizabeth, I ordered the “Knitting Glossary” DVD just now. I established last year that Schoolhouse Press DVD’s will run on my machine. I’ve got two, the Russian Prime and the Saddle-Sleeved Jacket, but haven’t done them justice. This sounds much more useful and more dip-into-able. I had been hesitating anyway over the new Estonian lace book they’re selling, “The Haapsula Shawl”; your comment sort of tipped the balance. I ordered that, too.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The weather continues savagely cold, although there’s not much snow here in Drummond Place. The newspapers have stopped talking about worst-for-30-years (that would be, The Year We Lost The Cat) and switched to worst-for-50 (that would be, The Year Helen Was Born, although I am sure she would have me add that it wasn’t quite 50 years ago).

(The cat managed to escape from the car during a kerfuffle in Blairgowrie as she was being driven north for her Christmas holiday. After a long, anxious search we were forced to drive on without her. Helen and I got up before dawn the next morning and went back. Helen’s shout of joy from the Bank of Scotland car park must have awakened the town, and still echoes in my ears. That night, it snowed and snowed and snowed. It would have been impossible, 24 hours later, to get the car up our driveway.)


Moorecat, I have read about the crochet method of securing a steek, but have never applied it. I will certainly use it on the sleeve-holes this time. I haven’t had the sewing machine in action for years, and don’t relish the prospect.

The neck, on the other hand, if I steek it, will involve cutting stitches in a situation where they might think of running downwards. Maybe I’d better grit my teeth and knit the shoulder pattern back and forth after all. It is 17 rows deep, of which only eight would have to be purled. It’s finite.

FiberQat, I hope you’ll blog about your ASJ, The worst stretch, I can warn you, is that second, outward mitre. I’m jealous of the pic of you and Franklin – I’d better get around to booking Stirling today.

Julie, thanks for the info about Norwegian and Scottish steeking. I like to know that sort of thing. And thanks for the review in your blog of the new VK. I’ll go back to that when my copy turns up. It’s interesting, your remark that photographers aren’t credited. In My Day, VK credited the photographers and didn’t bother mentioning the names of the designers. Diane Arbus and David Bailey come to mind, in different generations.

Stash haus, I am interested in what you say about unspun Icelandic from the Schoolhouse Press not needing to be secured if you want to cut it. That yarn has been at the edge of my consciousness for a long time, and I think I’ll put it on my buy-when-the-fast-is-over list. I have a vague feeling that football players can only be bought and sold during a relatively brief “window” once a year. Maybe I should approach yarn-buying in the same way.

Actual Knitting

I haven’t quite reached the point where the seeding starts. And haven’t quite finished the first ball of yarn. Both of those things should happen today, and the Progress Bar can get its first boost.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Important left-over issues

Gretchen, thank you for that long-tail cast-on tip (comment, Tuesday). I shall never again for the rest of my life cast on for anything larger than a hat, without using it.

The “Mysterious Christmas Project” was just Thomas-the-Elder’s scarf. He occasionally stops by here.

Shandy, the ASJ has two small buttons at the top. I just sort of thot that it’s rare (and hard on the figure) to wear a cardigan buttoned all the way down, and of course a lot easier not to have to place all those buttonholes and sew on all those buttons.

The Grandson Sweater

Here it is again. I'm doing the plain bit at the bottom, and hope to reach the seeding today.

I find that Pagoldh herself, in the section of general instructions for all sweaters, has detailed instructions for cutting-open. There’s a bit in Vibeke Lind, too. I shall proceed unconcerned (and not put in a steek). If there’s yarn to spare, I’ll turn around and knit five or six st st rows at the top of the sleeve inside out, like turning a kilt ho after you’ve knit the turn-over, to form a facing for the cut edge on the inside.

I realised yesterday – writing is remarkably conducive to thinking, sometimes – that the pattern as written requires one to knit the shoulder patterning back and forth. So I will knit the seeding straight up in a tube, as required, and then, at the moment when I am supposed to leave some stitches on a holder for the neck and start going back and forth, I’ll abandon the whole thing and knit the sleeves.

And if (again) there’s yarn to spare, I will then be able (I think) to knit the shoulders in the round, with fill-in stitches in the middle, I suppose they would qualify as a steek, to be cut away afterwards.

Lisa, I think my technique for cutting v-necks in the old days was to put in a line or two of machine-stitching and then cut outside the line. Stitches for the ribbing would be picked up just inside the line. That leaves a little fringe, including the machine stitching, on the inside of the sweater, which for neatness and security ought to be held down with herring-bone stitch or the like.

Janet, if I pull this off I hope you will be emboldened to try steeking. I suspect it works best with sort of fuzzy yarn, like Shetland and like this Finullgarn stuff. But the big thing is that knitting, although keen to ravel downwards, isn’t terribly interested in going sideways. (Your photograph gives the lie to my remarks above about cardigan-buttoning -- but you've got the figure for it.)


I got some ironing done yesterday, and dealt with two pieces of paper and an e-bill. The idea is to keep at it. The weather is on my side – in a different January, we might be heading for Strathardle now. It would be folly to attempt it this year. My husband points out that even when Scotland has thawed, snow is likely to remain piled up on our driveway where it runs across the bottom of the Ns’ field.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Twelfth Night

Kate, I’ve always thought it was today – and the BBC began today’s transmission by saying that today is “Wednesday, the 6th of January, Twelfth Night.” So I guess Christmas itself doesn’t count among the 12? I had never wondered about that before.

And today, I feel, 2010 really gets underway in Drummond Place. We have Christmas presents to open yet, and cards to put away, and are well enough to get started on the massive catching-up. Ironing and paper work are completely out of control, in my case.

Yesterday went well. A Plan of Action has been agreed upon for the Magnum Opus, with which all seem happy. My husband enjoyed talking about Art World events and people, a type of conversation he mostly has to do without, these days. The soup was OK, although not as good as the last time I made it. Gerri, I tossed out the word “agrodolce” yesterday thinking more of its Italian meaning, “sour-sweet”, than of the famous sauce. The soup has fish sauce, chillis, sugar, and lime juice in it. Not sour, in fact. hot-salty-sweet.


I have finished the first instruction for the Grandson Sweater, namely to knit 1 ¼” in k2, p2 rib, and feel a good deal happier about the size. Now we have 2 ½” in plain white, before the seeding starts.

I have read all the way through the instructions, a bit late in the day, and discovered that there are no directions at all about the sleeve openings, except to say curtly at the beginning that they must be cut open and the sleeves sewn in. Once I start the seeding, after the current 2 ½” plain, I am to carry on until I reach the neck.

Now that I know, I’ve got plenty of time to read around the subject before I get to the underarm point. I started with McGregor, who doesn’t seem to touch on the subject, but I’ve got plenty of other Scandinavian texts. I’m not afraid of cutting. In my Fair Isle Phase, back in the 80’s, I often knit sweaters right up to the top and then cut them to shape the neckline, v-neck or crew or whatever.

However, the serious job on the knitting front right now is to book my classes for the Knit Camp in Stirling in August – even if I never get there. Franklin on photographing fabric is a given – Alexander says he would be better employed teaching me to draw sheep. The rest is more difficult. I can’t be away from my duties too long. The programme on offer is rich and exciting.

More soon.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Today’s excitement, the first of 2010, is that my husband’s publisher is coming to lunch, to work on/talk about the Magnum Opus. If he can get here. The bitter cold continues, and a couple of airports between here and London are closed. A chicken noodle soup with an agrodolce element is proposed.

A certain amount of kerfuffle will be involved. I must be brief here.

Christmas knitting

The slouch hat is a free Ravelry download. (You asked, Anonymous.) The preliminary rounds of k1b, p1 ribbing involve a certain amount of teeth-gritting, I remember, but they look extremely well when completed and after that it’s a doddle. I notice – going back this morning for the link – that the designer used 47 gr, so my left-over singleton ball of KF yarn should be enough. James's watch cap is generic, from instructions in Vicki Square's "Knit Great Basics", a very useful book of schematics.

The ASJ is Rachel’s. I think she likes it. I had stopped blogging for those last few hectic days before Christmas, but I remember I wanted to tell you this (you probably know): I wondered whether I could skip blocking. I even wondered whether garter stitch really needs it. But I went ahead and did it, and it had a marvellous calming and smoothing effect.

I got this picture from Beijing yesterday. It’s called “Walking to Lunch in a Blizzard” and was taken on Sunday the 3rd. Beijing is on the edge of the Gobi desert, bitter cold in winter, unpleasantly hot in summer, not much in between and not much precipitation ever. So this is unusual. That’s more snow than we’ve got in Edinburgh at the moment.

However, the important thing here is that James and Kirsty are both wearing their new hats.

Other knitting

It was rather satisfactory, the way things worked out. Christmas knitting completed, I had nothing – well, nothing to speak of – on the needles, and was ready to start a new, major project with the New Year.

Yesterday I cast on the Grandson Sweater. Twice, because the long-tail for the first attempt was perhaps four stitches short of the needed 284. I have swatched, and measured, and thought, and worried. The result, at the moment, seems vaster than empires and more slow. I can only press on, and resolve to turn back and start again if need be.


"Neighbours" is back! Yesterday's plot line was "Rebecca agrees to re-stock Harold's Store". The excitement was almost too much for us.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Here we are, chaps! We got here! 2010! Let’s hope it’s a good one, all round.

I was very grateful for all the holiday wishes appended to my last post, and heartily wish them all back to you.

We have been ill – par for the Christmas course. “Gastric flu”, if that amateur diagnosis is still acceptable. My husband is still rather droopy, but improving. His illness started sooner, and was less violent. I had eight hours of vomiting on the afternoon and evening of the 31st, just after the Beijing Mileses left, very sudden of onset and departure, and remain slightly weak, but fully functioning.

We had a good time, though.

Here are Ketki and her sons in the kitchen, probably on Christmas Eve:

This is the climactic moment of Christmas Day, when the cook pours flaming brandy over the pudding:

Alistair Miles of Beijing got an Absolutely Wonderful Laptop from his parents:
And here are the knitting pictures. Ketki in her old pink gansey, just before Christmas dinner:

The group picture of my Christmas knitting, on the shores of Loch Fyne just before the party broke up on the 27th. From left to right, Thomas-the-Elder is his Lynn Barr scarf, his mother Rachel in the ASJ, his sister Lizzie in the ear-flap hat, his Aunt Cathy in the Sock Yarn Slouch Hat, his cousin Kirsty in the watch cap of round-the-world Chinese cashmere, and finally his Uncle James, in his watch cap.

Here’s an extra, taken a few minutes later in front of the inn at Cairndow. James has taken his cap off. I like the slouch hat a lot, and may return to the pattern. I knit and dispatched two chemo caps over the hols, one of them of KF sock yarn (maybe not soft enough, as I explained in the covering letter, but washable). That leaves me with a ball-and-a-bit of that wonderful yarn which could find itself metamorphosed into another slouch.

Much else to say, including primarily the planning and early decisions for the Grandson sweater. But I think I’ll keep it for later.