Sunday, October 31, 2010

Barbara, your experience with the Interweave Holiday issue this year was exactly mine last year. I was in my wonderful LYS – K1 Yarns, too little visited these days – buying, as I remember, a Christmas present for a granddaughter. There was the magazine, I’d heard of it, I picked it up, and like you, only discovered at the till what I’d let myself in for, price-wise. And I didn’t feel, subsequently, that it had added anything of use to my own mental pile of presents-that-might-be-knit-if-I-had-more-time.

In odd moments yesterday, striding about between shops on Broughton Street, for instance, I tried to think of something other than a paperback book that Franklin’s lovely cover could be used to cover. Without success. It looks too big for a mobile phone.

As hoped, I finished the main patterning of the Amedro shawl yesterday, and started picking up stitches for the top edging. The plan had been to take Sunday for the Japanese hat, but I can’t stop at a moment as exciting as this. The picking-up is particularly easy – a feature I had forgotten – because you just steam along picking up everything in sight, and then reduce to 177 sts-per-wing on the next row.

Much easier than trying to hit a precise target while picking-up, a process I always find stressful. Easier, at least, if one winds up with more than 177 stitches. We shall soon see.

The other major issue in life, my printer problem, would be too boring to write about were it not that knitting is peripherally involved.

You remember that jabot I knit for James? And how, to be properly turned out in highland dress, he needs a Montrose jacket to wear it with? We went to Kinloch Anderson in the summer, hoping to get him measured for one, but it turned out that you can’t be measured for a Montrose jacket without your kilt.

They gave him a form to take back to Beijing so that a Chinese tailor could measure him. He has only just now had it done – too late, surely, for St Andrew’s Night this year. I need to print it out and take it to K.A. He can go in for a fitting when he is here for Christmas.

You also remember that I recently broke a vital Little Plastic Piece off my printer. I have tried superglue. It didn’t work. Yesterday we had a nice long email from Rachel about this and that. I knew my husband would want to read it, so I tried tying the printer together – and it worked!

But this morning it won’t print James’s measurements. (It looks very loose in that picture. I've tightened it.)

There are work-arounds. I can send the measurements to our neighbours downstairs for printing, for instance. But it’s sort of depressing.


An often-amusing feature of the Saturday Financial Times is their “Lunch with the FT”. A wide range of people (we’ve had both Michael Caine and Larry Gagosian recently) are invited for lunch and a chat. The guest chooses the venue for lunch, the FT pays.

Yesterday it was Bill Gates. The choice was a pleasant but modest-sounding spot across the street from his office. At the end:

“I drink up my coffee and ask for the bill. As I produce my credit card, Gates looks slightly amused. ‘You’re sure you want to pay for this?’ he says. ‘I’ve got money.’”

Saturday, October 30, 2010

We had a nice walk. The weather wasn’t what you’d call good, but far less abominable than predicted and we were both glad that we had forged stoutly ahead with our plans. We walked for a couple of hours near an Edinburgh city reservoir in the Pentland hills. Now I know where the Pentlands are.

In the evening Amedro finally leapt ahead – I should finish the main patterning this evening. Next comes the top edging, and I may well find that picking up stitches from that dark yarn is a task requiring natural light, and leave it for tomorrow. We shall see.

Knitting, miscellaneous

Someone wrote to me the other day about the “cul-de-sac” pattern. She had lost the last page, she said, and needed to know how many stitches to pick up for the edging. Could I help? I didn’t think I had ever heard of the pattern, let alone knit it, but I Google’d in case senility was affecting the memory.

It’s a Lavold pattern, a seriously nice one. It was published in Knitter’s, so I must in fact have seen it before and could even have tried to dig it out from the pile and help the poor woman. I sent her off instead to another blogger who had actually knit it. The last thing I need is another addition to the HALFPINT list, but it’s one to remember.

Franklin has had some patterns published, throwing his groupies into a tizzy. One is a book cover – beautiful, yes, but useful? – in Interweave Knits Holiday Gifts 2010. I bought last year’s issue for a lot of money, and regretted it. The other is a lace stole, based on Jackie Kennedy’s wedding veil, in a book called “Modern Knits, Vintage Style”. His first pattern in a printed book. He is deservedly proud of it. It’s knit in Lorna’s Laces Helen’s Lace, too, one of my faves, well represented in stash.

But absolutely the sort of book I don’t buy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I’m going for a walk today – a real one, without my MP3 player. My husband’s niece and I did this once before. (She is an infant teacher, currently working half-time, lives in Morningside.) One of Edinburgh’s many merits is how near the real country is, just outside. It is often possible to stand on a street-corner and see out, to the hills beyond. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a little book about Edinburgh – he mentions that feature, and it’s still true.

So that should make a pleasant day, except that the weather forecast is atrocious. I keep twitching the curtain: still dark, no rain so far.

Thanks for your help on American health. There was a good New Yorker article back when Hillary was trying to reform it, about how she hadn’t taken the insurance industry sufficiently into account. I’m sure, by now, insurance is part of the problem as well as part of the solution. American friends seem to talk of little else.

Another thing that surprised me in Annie’s article was the fact that Gerry is covered by Medicare. He has multiple myeloma, and was covered for the first couple of years by insurance he had through his employment. But I thought Medicare was only for the over-65’s. I tried Googling, and it immediately became obvious I could be there all day. If Annie says he has Medicare, I’m sure he does.

One good thing, I gather: elderly Americans can travel. If my husband and I were up to it, which we aren’t, it would be difficult and by now very expensive to buy insurance for a trip. Whereas Medicare, apparently, covers you from Patagonia to Peking.

Linda, Annie was teaching knitting in Italy. Her account made it sound like pure holiday, but she always writes like that. I seethe anew at the thought of her not getting paid – fees or travel expenses – for Stirling in August. Maybe things have got better? But she shouldn’t even have had to wait and worry.


Another good Amedro session.

I went on thinking about Christmas. Thinking about quick hats (see yesterday) took me to the Knitter’s Almanac. I grew interested in December’s “Wishbone sweater”. Perhaps for a small person? And very interested in EZ’s remark that it is not to be attempted with fine yarn – it won’t work. She is emphatic, and repeats the advice. But she doesn’t know why.

The pattern is written for Sheepsdown again, 2 ½ sts to the inch. I did a bit of Googling, and found several examples in worsted, nothing finer. It’s been a long time – I wondered if Meg might not have tackled the problem, just as she solved brioche-in-the-round. But a search of the Schoolhouse site for “wishbone” produces nothing.

The problem is intriguing. But then I remembered that anyway, I’ve got some worsted. I bought it at Camp Stitches in ’99 with a sock-slipper pattern. It should be ripe by now.

But first I must finish Amedro, and Matt’s socks, and the Japanese hat. Then we can think about these fripperies.

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Mel, “cool” tee-shirts is/are a brilliant idea, which I shall make use of. Especially as it can be employed for those most difficult members of my list, young teen-aged boys whose interests and expertise lie entirely in the field of computer gaming.

And, Angel, my husband has those very slippers, and is equally devoted to them. Alexander and Ketki wanted to give him slippers one Christmas, and I said – how did I know? – order those, from LLBean. It was obvious that they wouldn’t come in time; Alexander and Ketki would have given up and gone for British slippers. I said no, persevere. So on Christmas day all my husband had was the description cut out from the Bean catalogue but later he got the slippers.

Christmas has always been a big thing in my husband’s family. It’s hard work, but it’s the price that has to be paid for returning light and the coming of spring. One of my few efficiencies in life is to keep a spreadsheet of what I give whom. Most of the columns are now suppressed, to make room on the screen for the last three years. And some of the rows are hidden, too, as people drop off the perch. I’ve started the 2010 column. Just contemplating it helps.

Yesterday I remembered EZ’s hats in Knitting Without Tears: they are practically instantaneous, and there are some people on the list who haven’t had too much knitting lately. I’ve got a brioche watchcap of my own, and am fond of it. One has to fiddle with stitch numbers, if one’s stash contains nothing as huge as Sheepsdown. I knit the snail hat once and the result was about big enough to fit a snail.

Amedro shawl

Here is a progress report:

The odd thing is how I don’t seem to accomplish any more rows-per-evening, now that individual rows are so short. Never mind; I am progressing nicely. Now there is only one column of patterning left in the wings, and I am half-way through the penultimate repeat of it. The centre pattern remains demanding, but I’ve got hold of it.


I do not at all understand poor Annie's struggles with health insurance (just as I have never understood much about American health). I thought Obama's much-maligned reform meant that everybody had to buy insurance, and that insurance companies couldn't turn you down for pre-existing conditions. Clearly not so, on either count.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One rained-all-day, three brilliant-sunshine-and-hard-frost. We had a good time, ate a dish of autumn raspberries, some sorrel soup and also an artichoke soup. That was the first harvest from the Jerusalem artichoke tubers the Fishwife gave me on Groundhog Day. It’s a bit early to lift them, but I was curious. Mine are pretty small (so far), compared to the parent tubers, but the soup was delicious.

We also had some perpetual spinach – tough and chewy. My husband wouldn’t eat it. I found it rather tasty, worth the effort. And a first picking of kale – again, too early to start taking it, really, but I thought, if the deer are going to come and get it, I might as well get in first. It was very good.

Not exactly living off the land, but fun.

I got some beds cleaned, manured and covered, including one where artichokes (real ones) are to go.

And I tackled the Japanese hat. It was rather odd, descending from the pure Olympian realms of pattern-decipherment into the heat and dust of needles and yarn. With no edging at all, the bottom edge of the hat curled atrociously and perhaps partly for that reason, but mostly because I had been cavalier about gauge, I didn’t notice until I had finished the top that the hat was seriously too small.

That stopped me in my tracks for a bit. Add some length? Regard the whole thing as a swatch and start again with some Rowan DK? (Two, at least, of the five exemplars on Ravelry were knit with that yarn, and, hey! it’s nearly November.) Eventually I calmed down and chose the first option. I’m adding length, although I fear it will spoil the neatness of the pattern. I’ll need to take a day off Amedro soon to finish it again, and to add a pompom and braids. And block – those earflaps keep trying to flip upwards – aiming for a bit of width.

In my musings about Japanese knitting, before we went away, I found this blog. She's Japanese, her English is fluent, she lives in London, she designs knitwear, she keeps cats. As they say, what's not to like? Maybe I Knit could hire her for a day-class in interpreting Japanese patterns.

Meanwhile Amedro progresses. I have turned the last page of the pattern. There are currently three motif-columns in each wing, and I am about to start nibbling at the outer ones. Pic soon.

I have done a bit of Christmas-browsing (Science Museum, IWOOT) and have retreated, depressed. There seems to be little anyone could conceivably want, and it costs £35. It makes me wonder whether I should try to knit somebody something after all, when Amedro is finished. Christmas knitting is against all my principles, but the situation looks desperate.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Just after I launched yesterday’s post into the ether, I was visited by a Moment of Illumination.

That four-row chart for the edging of my Japanese hat is there to show precisely how the edging goes around the ear-flap. On the third of the four rows, there are decreases at the inner corners – where the flap grows out of the hat – and increases at the outer edge. Obviously, since you’re working in the round, you’re going to encounter one flap from the back and the other one from the front. There is a little code at the top of the chart (it had been puzzling me a lot) with arrows pointing right and left – and with the Japanese characters for “right” and “left”, it turns out – to reassure you that you treat both earflaps the same no matter which direction you’re going. Decrease, increase, increase, decrease.

That’s pretty well it, then. A great many Japanese characters remain un-interpreted, even when you allow for the fact that some of them must say “hat” and “earflap”. And I’m still slightly puzzled by that chain around the earflap, and quite possibly around the entire lower edge of the hat.

I’ve ordered the “Hand Knitting Techniques Book” from Needle Arts, a companion work, apparently, to the stellar “Clear and Simple Knitting Symbols” which I’ve already got. I am hoping that the chain will appear there.

Maybe this pattern doesn't use a provisional cast-on at all? Maybe the chain around the bottom of the hat is just the cast-on edge, with a crochet chain added to the earflaps to facilitate a smooth pick-up all round?

Never have I had such fun with a pattern before casting on a stitch. We’re going to Strathardle today – back by Tuesday or so – and since the whole Strathardle-project thing is up in the air, I think I’m going to try the hat. I’ll take Matt’s socks along to fall back on in case things go wrong.

The pattern seems to use something like DK yarn, a quality in which my stash is sadly lacking. (I’ve got tons of lace-weight, Shetland jumper-weight, and Koigu-and-sock weight, fingering I think you’d call it.) I’ve decided to try using the left-overs from last winter’s Grandson Sweater.

This has been such an exciting intellectual adventure that I wish there was a Japanese sweater pattern which transported me with delight, so that I could throw myself into its interpretation. There are lots I admire, but nothing that makes me want to knit it Right This Moment.

See you next week.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I am not doing very well, these days, at thinking of the obvious.

It should have occurred to me that Lord Peter started from inside the church. As I struggled with my Japanese hat pattern, and grasped that the edging and the hat must involve a provisional cast-on, since they are knit in different directions, I should have thought that maybe you knit the hat first and then attached an edging.

I was struggling with the mental concept of knitting the edging first, with the ear-flaps somehow contained in it, until I read Jeanfromcornwall’s comment yesterday. The alternative hypothesis (knitting the hat first) was soon confirmed by Mary Lou’s comment and re-confirmed, later in the day, by my finding the Japanese characters for “pick up stitches”.

I thought of seeking help from Ravelry, although not immediately, but even then it didn’t occur to me for quite a while that someone else might have knit this very hat. In fact, five Ravellers have posted it. Two of them, the two best, seem to contribute only in Japanese. A third is French. I have sent a Ravelry message to one of the others, so far without result.

I think maybe I should try writing to the Japanese.

So the case must be – unless I am overlooking something else obvious – that you knit the hat and then pick up stitches and then knit the ear-flaps – might be a chance to try some knitting-back-backwards here – and then edge the whole thing. I can’t think of any other way to do it. A drawing of the ear-flap shows a kind of chain around it. I feel sure that I read somewhere yesterday that Japanese designers often do such a chain from which stitches are then picked up. If so, I can’t find it now.

That leaves the four-row chart for the edging itself. It contains many opacities. At that point I could just wing it, but I’d like to get it right.

Marsha at the Needle Arts Book Shop – can’t recommend highly enough – has prepared a free hand-out on Japanese knitting, downloadable from the website. I’ve got it and have printed it, back in the days when I had a functioning printer. It’s very basic, and very helpful.

She recommends this wonderful Japanese website. It’s got a good Japanese-English knitting dictionary. If you go there, be sure to look at the knitting haiku’s – lower left-hand corner of opening page.

And I love this bit. Incomprehension is a two-way street:

"'Knitting Pattern' is the biggest obstacle for Japanese. Usual English-Japanese translator tend to translate knitting pattern to Japanese text which we don't make sense. We try to make a descripton of it."

I very much like the idea of Jeanfromcornwall’s cast-on producing a “messy loopy edge” as an alternative to a provisional cast-on which is a bit of a nuisance.

All well with Amedro. A new landmark looms – soon there will be fewer stitches in each of the two wings than there are in the unchanging centre portion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

You’ve cracked it, Beverly. Of course, the Sayers character – it might have been Lord Peter himself – was coming out of the church when he turned right to avoid walking around it widdershins. Many thanks.

It has been suggested before, Ann, that I figure in Alexander McCall Smith’s pages. The long, windowless wall in the room in which I sit is part of Scotland Street. I will observe my dog-walking neighbours with more interest in the future. Any one of them might be fictional, too. A bit like Through the Looking-Glass.

I didn’t walk yesterday. As soon as I powered up, going clock-wise, the leg muscles protested, although I am comfortable enough tottering about during the day. I let myself out of the top gate and went on to the newsagent. Going clock-wise is going to be an Entirely Different Experience.


More Amedro progress. The 7th pattern repeat is finished, a new page of text started. There are 11 repeats in all, not 10 as I have said here before. The decreases have started nibbling away at columns of the diamond motif, leaving only three columns intact in the centres of the wings.

I applied myself mentally to the Japanese instructions for that hat yesterday, and made much more progress than I might have expected. The Fair Isle part should be easy enough. I don’t quite get the beginning. The garter-stitch edging is knit downwards (from a provisional cast-on?) and appears to go around the ear-flaps, which is rather neat.

I was pretty slow to figure out that help may be available. All it needs is one English-speaking knitter, somewhere in the world, who understands this hat, and the chances are not bad at all that I can find her/him. I have posted the question to the Ravelry group, and have also joined a Japanese knitting group on Yahoo.

That reminds me of a final footnote to the jabot-knitting story. That problem was eventually solved exactly as above, by finding Joanie Newsome and the jabot pattern she offers free on Ravelry. The answer was, knit it in tiers. An alternative is to knit a single rectangle of lace and fold it in a way I had explained to me but never understood. Well, the footnote consists of the fact that an answer to that question is on page 47 of Starmore’s “Celtic Knitting”. The jabot there is crisp linen, not knitting, but the fold is illustrated clearly enough.

I think. But I’m not going back there. I found the illustration when I was revving up for my class with Starmore at the I Knit weekend.

This morning’s excitement is getting my husband to an early, for him, appointment with our practice nurse to find out how his thyroid and blood pressure and such-like are getting on. I’ll take Matt’s socks along.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not much done yesterday. My leg is better. My husband suggests, intelligently, that I might walk around Drummond Place Garden in the other direction occasionally. I always go widdershins, but I’ll try it clockwise this morning. Perhaps without the jogging.

(The link is to a Wikipedia article. There is an interesting, and odd, quotation from Dorothy Sayers attached: “He turned to his right, knowing that it is unlucky to walk around a church widdershins.” But if you turn to your right – as I do, when I go through the gate into Drummond Place Garden -- you are going widdershins, with the object you are circling on your left. It’s not like Sayers to get such a thing wrong.)

Here is a picture of the Amedro shawl, with a column of roundels consumed.

I have been meaning to mention: it is knit in st st, except for the initial scalloped edging (which continues to curl ominously). Amedro does this for her square shawls, because her method is to knit the entire edging first, then pick up stitches and work inwards to the very centre, decreasing at the four corners.

But this shawl could perfectly well be in the more traditional garter stitch, because it’s knit back and forth. Maybe, indeed, if I ever knit a fifth exemplar, I’ll do it that way. The wrong-side rows would be pleasanter. The interesting thing here is that it is very difficult to tell which side is which, perhaps partly because of the darkness of the wool. The only sure way to tell is to look at the YO’s and see if they just lie across the needle, or have been knit into.

I spent a few moments on Ravelry this morning looking at ear-flap hats. I can’t remember, just now, where to find the free self-generating earflap hat pattern the Fishwife pointed me towards last year. I’ve got the print-out, but I’d need to run it again with a new gauge.

Not that I’m chickening out from the excitement of knitting in Japanese. Just that it might be wise to have a fallback. Ravelry has pages and pages of such hats, and I was reminded that I’ve got Charlene Schurch’s hat book. I’ll have a look.

Since I started composing this, some grandchildren-pictures have arrived from Beijing.

Kirsty (on the right) and her friend Prudence after a cross-country run, looking very healthy.

And Alistair, doing as he is told….

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Another good day with the shawl. Perhaps a pic tomorrow, showing how the decreases have swallowed a column of roundels. Which means, four columns of roundels, one at each side of each wing.

And I have remembered the project I really ought to turn to next…

An earflap hat – although fashion has presumably moved on by now – for Rachel-the-Younger. My first attempt, earlier this year, never completed its journey to Beijing. Rachel will be here for Christmas. This one could be presented personally. This particular pattern is Japanese, and should be a relatively easy first attempt at decipherment, atoning for my failure to attend Donna Druchunas’ classes on the subject at Knit Camp. The Shetland jumper-weight stash should provide plenty of material.

(The wretched printer will still scan, at least. Thank you for your comments about my mishap. Hsknitter, you’re probably right that a replacement printer won’t break the bank. I’ll try superglue first, of course. Anne, your eloquent little essay on Little Plastic Bits that Break Off deserves to be widely read. Comments, Friday, for both.)

In thinking about the future, I keep mentally circling around the Anhinga pattern. I don’t think it would suit me, or anyone I knit for, but it continues to fascinate. Helen CKS made one. I must discuss it with her.

On-going narratives

The salsola soda I finally succeeded in germinating on the doorstep, survived in the wild but made very little further progress. Alexander says his carrots behaved like that this year. I think I’ll abandon the attempt – especially as I have mentally filled the available vegetable-growing space for next year twice over already.

I still walk fast around Drummond Place garden most mornings listening to Italian radio on my MP3 player. I even jog a few steps during each circuit – are you allowed to do that if you’re not wearing trainers? Last night I was struck with muscular pain in my left leg which will curtail this activity for a couple of days.

I still weigh roughly two stone less than I did early last year, but lately a couple of unwanted pounds seem to have come to stay. Weight varies from day to day by as much as 2 ½ pounds in either direction, so it is not entirely easy to tell. You’ve got to watch for trends. I have relaxed a bit on cider lately since it didn’t seem to be doing any harm, but am now reverting to the full rigour of my system: only-on-Sunday. I remember writing here last year that my somewhat improved spirits during the dark weeks which are soon to start, might be due to Vitamin D or might be due to lo-cider, since alcohol is depressing. (Or might be illusory.) So it’s a good moment to cut back.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Not much, today. I cleared out the other larder shelf and was left, not with a glow of virtue this time, but a depressed awareness of how much is undone, on all sides. And Christmas looms. Perhaps it’s time to start taking Vitamin D again.

Sharon M. has posted a wonderful defence of shawl-knitting to the Heirloom Knitting Group. She used to do 1000-piece jigsaw puzzles, she says. She concludes with the observation – it’s a good one – that tidying up is like doing a real-life jigsaw.

Mrs Posh Yarn signed up to be my friend in Ravelry the other day! It’s no use looking at the site at the moment, actually, because they’re off to Rhinebeck like everyone else in the world. It sounds to me as if they couldn’t possibly sell more yarn than they do right now, but, hey! what a wonderful place to be.

All continues well on the Amedro shawl front. It remains near-compulsive, despite being so easy. Amedro writes out and of course numbers all the pattern rows. And today I should pass the half-way mark, as far as the patterns in the body of the shawl are concerned. A significant landmark, especially as the rows are getting shorter.

The body patterns aren’t the whole story. There’s a top edging to be negotiated -- back up to 431 stitches, more roundels, and finally moss st., which won’t be fun. I hope my silly system for the sidebar has left enough percentage points to cover it.

I’m beginning to push the Next Project question around in my mind. Christmas? Hasn’t everybody got all the scarves and hats they could want? Round the Bend? I got the pattern out yesterday – it sounds challenging. Technique-wise, it’s sort of a brilliant development of the EZ ribwarmer. Back to the Green Granite Blocks? The finished back piece is on display over the sitting-room sofa, a constant reminder of my dereliction of duty.


Yesterday’s Economist is good on the question of how the Chilean mine rescue was done. President Pinero ordered his government to take charge at the beginning, dismissed the useless mine owners, brought in a state-owned copper-producing company called Codelco. He deserved his prominent place on the happy day of the rescue. Think of Bush and New Orleans.

And there were a couple of paragraphs, at least, in the Telegraph yesterday about the man I’ve been wondering about, the rescue worker who was the last man in that hole. He was also the first one to go down in the capsule.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I spent a virtuous hour or so yesterday cleaning out a shelf of what might be called my larder. The shelf is deep and awkwardly shaped, and the cupboard is awkward to get at, so a certain number of impulse buys tend to congregate at the back until they are past their sell-by dates. The glow of virtue when the job is done doesn’t entirely make up for the fact that nothing much else got done yesterday morning.

That's the "after" picture, perhaps I should add. The tins of Green Giant corn are my snack-of-desperation, when I can stand the pangs of hunger no longer. Today I’ll have to do the upper shelf.

The Amedro shawl trots on. No more disasters. I’ve started the sixth pattern repeat and – major event – turned another page in Amedro’s book.

Phyllis, I am intrigued at what you say about knitting-back-backwards. I’m sure I’ve tried and failed – or at least, not enjoyed it. But I never before heard it compared to tinking, which of course I do all the time (and rather enjoy). I do turn the work around when the tinking gets tough, as when a K2tog has to be undone. Is there a good on-line source? (Jean, try Google.) It seems silly to buy a whole entrelac book just for that.


Alltangledup, I envy you those chillies. Where are you? They would be impossible here.

Alexander is a serious cook, and he used to have his brother James bring specified dried chillies back from China. Not only would Alexander cook with them, he also planted the seeds, with great success. That was when he lived in London and had a little conservatory on the back of his house near Clapham Common. No chillies on Loch Fyne.

WoollyBits, I am sure you have made a fundamental point about the history of vegetable-growing when you say that there is usually a good reason why some vegetables are grown and others not. Good King Henry, I understand, went out as a cottage garden plant when true spinach (delicious!) came in.

I grew it when I first started my current vegetable plot, ten or twelve years ago. I had so little success with making it palatable that I dug it all up. Then a couple of years ago I bought another plant from a nice herb-growing woman at the Blairgowrie Farmers’ Market (in the Wellmeadow, 4th Saturday of every month). I’ve divided it twice now, in successive springs. Maybe next year, as well as the planned soup and omelette, I’ll try adding a few leaves to a dish of perpetual spinach.

And, Woollybits, I like that skull. I think I’d better seek out that pattern from Lion Brand and earmark it for the little boys on Loch Fyne next year. (They will still be the “little boys” in our family when they are 23 and 21.)

There’s a problem, which I’m cross about. Yesterday I was trying to print a recipe and got a silly message telling me to take both ink cartridges out of the printer and put them back again. In my exasperation, I snapped off a piece of plastic from the black ink holder. Am I going to have to buy a whole new printer – as I had to get a whole new food processor when I snapped the little plastic lip off the bowl? I’ll try super glue first.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

I never knit socks for myself – that’s how I managed to overlook the stupendously obvious reasons for knitting toe-up (try on for fit, knit until you’ve used up the yarn and then stop). Many thanks. I retire abashed.

Good progress with the shawl yesterday, no more disasters. I think I’ve reached the tipping-point, where fewer stitches on the needle really do mean more rows knit per evening.

I was much struck the other day with Franklin’s enthusiasm for Gwen Bortner’s new Entrelac book – so new, it hasn’t been published in Britain yet. (And I see there’s another entrelac book coming hard on its heels.) Franklin is sent so many free knitting books – poor man! – that he has to cull his shelves regularly, but he says this one is a keeper.

I am surprised and intrigued. I wouldn’t have thought there was all that much to say on the subject. I was absolutely enthralled when I first encountered it, in Sheila McGregor’s “Traditional Scandinavian Knitting”. For my first attempt, I somehow managed to paint myself into a corner that involved cutting the yarn after every square.

I got better than that, but never got past the Michelin Man effect. Maybe it’s time for another look? And Franklin says that he learned from this book to knit-back-backwards in what amounts to no time flat. I suspect he is a good deal more adroit than I am – but it would certainly be a skill worth having.

The author had an entrelac pattern, “Prussian Jewels”, in Knitter’s 91, Summer ’08. I pursued it to Ravelry and decided I don’t like it very much. So I think the answer for the time being, at least, is Wait and See.


I read Alexander’s copy of Mark Diacono’s brand new book, “A Taste of the Unexpected”, at the weekend. I won’t be buying it. The idea is to forget about potatoes and carrots and things and grow what you really like to eat. (Has he ever tasted freshly-dug potatoes, boiled or steamed a point and then tossed with salt and pepper and butter and a handful of torn-up sorrel?) But he makes insufficient allowance for the fact that we don’t all garden in Devon, and the choice of contents is idiosyncratic. Rhubarb is included, sea kale is not.

It sent me off on a Google search this morning for Good King Henry, my first attempt at a perennial vegetable. It used to be common, all the sources say. I've got several plants, doing very nicely. The only trouble is, it doesn’t taste very nice. Next year I’ll try soup, and an omelette.


The story of the rescue of the Chilean miners is a very rare example of utterly good news, straight up and down, unadulterated. I hope we’ll learn how it was done. In a world over-full of badly-organised events (Knit Camp 2010, the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, the Edinburgh tram project all come to mind as examples) that one was a model. No faffing about, no well-we’ll-have-to-try-something-else. Did they have a contingency plan all along for how to get men out from under half-a-mile of solid rock?

Do go read Jeanfromcornwall’s blog entry.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Back to business.

Here’s the Amedro shawl. I’m now occupied with the fifth pattern repeat, of ten. The rows are just beginning to feel a bit shorter. Another dropped stitch last night, not much damage. I’m really quite pleased with that centre pattern from the Love Darg book.

The decreases are about to start eating into the outer columns of roundels. That’s exciting.

And here are Matt’s socks. As hoped, I made great progress over the weekend. I finished Sock #1 on Friday, on the outward journey, and cast on for #2. I then gritted my teeth and got that ribbing done over Saturday and Sunday. I’m now more than halfway from ribbing to heel flap – it does itself, once one gets past that hurdle.

I found myself wondering again why some people knit socks from the toe up? Is it just because they can, like climbing Everest because it’s there? There seem to me three serious drawbacks:

1) You’ve got to start with a six- or eight-stitch cast-on, like a bloody doiley.
2) The horrible ribbing comes last.
3) You’ve lost the chance to adjust the foot length, if you should get it slightly wrong. I particularly welcome that feature this time, knitting for unfamiliar feet.

Who knows?

It almost looks as if the original 100-gram skein is going to be enough for both socks. Usually, buying sock yarn in 50-gram balls, I find a gent needs some extra at least for the toe shaping. I no longer buy the third ball, but improvise something from the odd-ball bag.

But I didn’t feel I knew Matt well enough for zany toes. Maybe next time.

The extra skein is no loss, even in my current austere mood. I plan to knit the Round the Bend jacket fairly soon, in a kaleidoscope of Koigu and sock yarn. Dark solids and near-solids will be wanted to pull it together.

Or maybe the new EZ book will come out before I get there, and I will be swept away by something in it.

Heard on the radio

I listen off and on through the night, like many old folks. Both of the items which follow could be based on a semi-conscious misunderstanding.

a) I think I heard them say on the World Service that the great Joan Sutherland was a knitter.

b) This morning, on the Today programme, they were talking about a trust fund owned/administered by the Shetland Island Council, with money from oil. That’s running out, but is soon to be replaced by money from natural gas. The suggestion was that this fund was sometimes put to rather odd uses, and that the accounting is a bit opaque. My thought was, so they could have afforded to keep knitting as a compulsory subject in primary schools after all. It has recently been abolished and the knitting teachers sacked, for an annual saving of a fairly trivial sum, as annual savings go in Council circles.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

We had a grand time.

On Saturday morning, I weeded the artichokes.

Alexander cut the grass.

My husband pruned the cider orchard.

Thomas drew pictures while James cut out paper lanterns.

Ketki did the dishes.

It was a wonderful day.

On Sunday, James and Alexander did some mathematics together. They enjoy that.

Soon it will be time for guising. Thomas has decided to go as Death. Alexander made him a scythe, but he still needs a dark cloak to shade his face. Coincidentally, if you click on the link you will find a Wikipedia entry illustrated with a picture of a child in the identical costume. I told Thomas that there are in fact two bones in the lower leg, tibia and fibula.

Friday, October 08, 2010

We’re going to Loch Fyne today – train to Glasgow, and Alexander will pick us up there. I should be back by Tuesday or so with cute pictures of grandsons and distressing ones of what the deer have done to Alexander's nascent cider orchard.

Knitting progresses. There was some trouble yesterday – a dropped stitch, which has been recovered without too much damage, although it’s visible. And a mistake which I simply don’t understand in a roundel, so easy one ought not to be able to fail. Again, visible. The difficult centre section remains near-perfect.

Knit Camp

More brooding. The organizer’s post implies that they suffered from a lack of capital – banks wouldn’t lend, no grant. The Scottish press is full, these days, of stories of people who did get loans and grants for big events, and went belly-up anyway. A notorious “Homecoming” thing a couple of years ago has sucked in a lot of taxpayer’s money, and the ice rink in Princes Street Gardens at the New Year -- one wouldn't expect trouble there -- has been a major financial flop. I think on that one, it was the banks who suffered. Or was there some involvement of the Edinburgh ratepayers?

But how would money have helped Knit Camp? Other, of course, than by paying the tutors and moving the loss elsewhere? Which presumably is not how it works at XRX.

Punters (me, for instance) paid up front, and at least some of them (me, again) paid early. I don’t see that there was much to be paid out by the organizers in the early days. They didn’t even confirm bookings by mail. They didn’t advertise much, except on-line. There won’t have been much to pay out except office expenses. Maybe she means they could have hired staff. That would certainly have made things run more smoothly, but would it have affected the overall financial result?

From every account I have heard, the actual event has to be ranked a success. Tutors and campers pulled together and knit and enjoyed themselves.

I had best begin the process of revolving in slow circles which precedes the catching of a train.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Again, little to report. An afternoon at the Royal Infirmary Diabetic Department is excruciatingly boring – it advanced Matt’s sock further than expected, however. The toe-shaping is immanent; the Loch Fyne weekend should carry me beyond the ribbing of the second sock.

And I’ve finished the third pattern repeat (of ten) on the Amedro shawl. And finished a page of text – that feels like achievement.

We were both exhausted last night. That’s a feature of old age: not to be compared with illness and death, downer-wise, but still, a drawback. The journey to the new Royal Infirmary is about an hour each way, and there’s much sitting to be done when one gets there. It meant that we had no lunch yesterday. Blood-sugar-wise, we did fine, but I think it contributed to the evening tiredness.

Evelyn Waugh, “Scoop”, describing the set-up at Boot Magna: “Ten servants waited upon the household and upon one another, but in a desultory fashion, for they could spare very little time from the five meat meals which tradition daily allowed them.” That’s us, essentially.

Knit Camp

Cat, you are right that the rules about red tape/temporary visas/educational events need to be looked at calmly. But that was just the last and most spectacular snafu, and could have nothing to do with the (presumed) financial shortfall which means tutors aren’t being paid. The organizer, in the post I linked to yesterday, suggested that British turnout was less than expected. Even that should have been factored in (classes cancelled, or whatever) by the time the event started.

I think it fell between two stools – I have attended both “Camp Stitches” and “Stitches East” in the US: they are two different beasts. The Camp is in a remote-ish place – Lake George, in my blissful experience. Everybody comes for the whole time. The curriculum and the market are limited. (But wonderful – the second time, I did a whole three-day shawl workshop with Joan Shrouder, a different species of shawl each day.)

Stitches, on the other hand, is in a city – Atlantic City, NJ, for me. Big, big curriculum and big, big market. You stay in a hotel or come for the day and pick and choose as you please.

Stirling was ni l’un ni l’autre.


The arrival of “Diagonal Knitting” the other day sent me back to Debbie New’s “Unexpected Knitting” – another Schoolhouse Press publication. That’s really the one, in my opinion. I’ve never knit anything from it, but I want to, every time I read it. Maybe I should try to focus on something and add it to the HALFPINT list. There are some great stash-busters.

If you’ve never seen the book, try to find it and have a look. Start at the beginning, with the garter-stitch quilt which is – believe me – a photograph of Debbie’s grandmother. I don’t understand how it was done, and it doesn’t matter, because I’m certainly not going to try. It’s amazing and wonderful.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Little to report. I’m nibbling away at the edges of the Amedro shawl. I’ve eliminated 80 stitches so far, but it’s still hard to believe that, if I go on decreasing at this rate, the shawl won’t be vaster than empires before I get to the end.

All goes well. That centre pattern repeats over only six stitches, and Sharon has made a correspondingly small chart for it. Now that I’m on top of the problem, I realise that a slightly larger chart, showing how the pattern offsets every four rows, would make it a lot easier to grasp.

Knit Camp

I’ve been brooding about Knit Camp. Deb Robson, in the blog post I linked to yesterday, provides a link to a blog post by the organizer herself. It’s a pretty remarkable document, I think.

I went over to Ravelry this morning to see what’s going on – the computer is being very slow to load pages; I’ll miss my power walk today. I found that a fund has been established to pay the tutors. It is being run by chartered accountants Clifford Towers who are making no charge. This is, I hope, the PayPal link. I made a donation.

Fund-raising is also being done by de-stashing. I might have a go at that, but a simple donation is easier.

Aren’t knitters wonderful?


Today’s event is the diabetes appointment. At the moment, I’m halfway or a bit more down the foot of Matt’s first sock. I have set myself to finish it, and to do the onerous 50 rounds of ribbing for the second, by the time we get back from Loch Fyne on Monday.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

So it turns out that Annie M. hasn’t been paid for Knit Camp. As I’ve said here before, I haven’t been paying much attention since my own failure to turn up, but I feel sure that I read somewhere that matters had been somehow taken out of the organizer’s hands, and tutors had been paid. Clearly not so.

Annie’s blog post has a link to Lucy Neatby’s, which we knew about, and Deb Robson’s, which is new to me.

This is a very sad affair for British knitting in general. Several Ravellers said that during the height of the crisis. How right they were. How fortunate that Franklin pulled out in time. I don’t suppose there are many knitting experts who are so rich that they can afford to swan over to Stirling and do a week’s work for nothing.

I’m sorry I didn’t go, so that I could say that I Was There, like Dunkirk. Except that, comparatively speaking, Dunkirk was pretty well organized.


I am bounding ahead with the Amedro shawl, now starting the third pattern repeat of the main section. There are ten repeats in all, plus a few rows – but by the end, there will only be five stitches in each of the wing sections, not enough for a complete pattern width-wise.

The wings consist of columns of two alternating patterns – roundels, easy even for me; and “diamond chain stitch” – the one Helen somehow thinks represents both Scotland and Greece. I’m struggling a bit with that one, although it’s very simple, because not all of its rows are symmetrical as lace usually is.

This is my fourth time through this pattern, as far as the shape and the edgings are concerned. But for Nos 2 and 3, I substituted other lace patterns for the main parts. So I haven’t done Diamond Chain Stitch since the first time, Rachel’s 40th birthday shawl which can be precisely dated to 1998. I don’t remember having trouble with it then.

I’ve now charted it, which helps.

On the other hand, I’m beginning to get a mental grip of the central pattern. It’s a most inappropriate choice for this shawl, being completely lace-y while in the wings those two columns of patterns float in quite a lot of st st, as you see, which speeds things along no end.


Thank you, Cat. I’ll give “Brave New Knits” a miss, at least for now. There isn’t much space left on the knitting shelves, anyway. Our home-library system is much like yours: sections for categories, and on the whole we can find what we want. Yesterday’s poster is hanging in my husband’s study, where all the books are either Art or Reference, and where they’re probably tidier than in the rest of the house.

And there’s a mystery. We cannot find Geoffrey Dutton’s book “Some Branch Against the Sky”, his account of “marginal gardening” very near us in Strathardle. We bought it earlier this year, attentive readers will remember, and took it north, I am sure. That is the appropriate place, and that is where the gardening books are. Now that children and grandchildren have temporarily withdrawn, it’s time to read it. Where is it? That house is small, and I searched it fairly comprehensively on a rainy day last week without result.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Much of the weekend was taken up with hanging a new picture – a framed poster, in fact. Framed and glazed; it's heavy. We’re pleased with the result, but it was hard work for geriatrics.

You have to choose the height, and the position in relation to the window, and make little marks on the wallpaper with chalk. You have to calculate the places for the picture hooks – we used two, of the double sort, two little holes for little nails supporting each hook. That was because the poster was heavy, as I've said, and the plaster behind rather suspect. The hooks have to be positioned at the same distance either side of the chosen centre line. And, of course, must be placed so that a cord stretched between them is parallel to the floor.

Then screws with little eyes have to be screwed into the frame of the poster – fortunately there were holes where some had been previously. That saved a bit of measuring. Then picture wire, which tends to kink and must be discouraged from doing so. You attach the wire at one side, threading it through the eye and securing it, and heave the picture into position with the other side running free, to determine exactly how much wire is required.

Then you cut it and secure it through the other eye and heave the picture back up and find out whether you have calculated everything correctly, and whether the plaster will hold. Straightening the picture is the final step, easy peasy compared to what has preceded.

In all the rooms we have had decorated since we moved in here, we have re-installed picture rails. Why do people take them down?

So knitting came as light relief, after all that. I think another row of the centre pattern has gone awry.

What about “Brave New Knits”? I normally eschew books which are merely collecions of patterns these days (as opposed to technique books) unless there is a special reason. This one tempts.

Fishwife, I am tremendously impressed with your brassica cage. I will start looking for alkathene piping right away. My husband loves scavenging in skips; it will add purpose to afternoon walks.

Angel, I have a trough of herbs on the doorstep – thyme, chives, parsley in the summer. The cat downstairs comes up to sleep on our doorstep, because it gets more sun than hers does, and is particularly fond of sleeping on the parsley.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Thank you for the thoughts on kale. Oddly (for Strathardle), I don’t think cold is the problem. Just deer. I was especially glad to hear from you, Beverly, remembering winters in NJ as I do – although mine didn’t involve kale-growing.

You’ll have noticed the lack of frizziness in yesterday’s pic. I grow Sutherland kale from the Real Seed Company (scroll down a bit). It has never lasted past January, and last year the deer polished it off in November. I put sawn-off plastic water bottles over the stumps, hoping it might regenerate, but it didn’t. If netting works, we could have not only kale but sprouting broccoli in the cheerful, windy weeks of March. An enticing thought.

I don’t know how cold we get – a serious omission. I’d be surprised at much less than -10 C though. I know that it’s often less than +10 C in the kitchen when we arrive – which means that the refrigerator doesn’t work (and doesn’t really need to). But that’s irrelevant to the survival of kale.


The Amedro shawl progresses. I did some arithmetic at the beginning and decided that I would allow myself one percentage point for the sidebar for every three rows of pattern, in the main part. That’s a delicious cheat, because the rows are getting shorter as I progress. I think that should leave enough percentage points to deal with the top edging. We’ll see.

I also think – look again at that last picture yesterday – that I went wrong in the first half of the first pattern repeat of the centre section. It’s a pattern of little circles, suspended in netting, every other row of them offset. And the first row of little circles sort of isn’t there.

Shandy, Sharon Miller’s “Love Darg Shetland Shawls” book is extremely interesting. She had begun to notice near-identical designs in several Shetland shawls in her collection from widely differing dates – interesting, because knitters usually did something different every time, unless they were reproducing a presentation piece. (Like the Princess shawl in the Museum of Scotland, which is a repeat of the one presented to the Princess.)

Then she got hold of an edition of “Aunt Kate’s Home Knitter” which she collects as I do Vogue Knitting Books. It is full of lace patterns, including the one Sharon had noticed being replicated, and she thinks – with good reason, I believe – that it may be the first appearance in print of true gossamer lace Shetland shawl patterns.

Sharon’s book reproduces all the patterns from Aunt Kate, with Sharon’s own charts. The one I’m using is sort of a throw-away at the bottom of page 29, un-illustrated as I have said. But if Sharon is right about “Aunt Kate’s Home Knitter”, the answer would be yes, the pattern comes from Shetland. I’m not absolutely clear about the date of the Aunt Kate book, but it’s clearly 1910 give or take a year or two.

“Diagonal Knitting” has turned up from the Schoolhouse. I’ll have to think about it. It’s very artistic, not patterns but techniques. I doubt if there’s anything there for me.

The author is a bit of a feminist. “Women wear slacks, still a man in a dress is either clowning or a transvestite.” Or, of course, a Scotsman. In the Great War, some Scottish regiments wore the kilt in battle. The Germans called them The Ladies from Hell.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Home again, very tired. Hello, October.

We got some things done, failed to achieve others, as ush. We planted a photinia, to replace one which perished in last winter’s savage cold.

And I netted the kale. I’ve never tried that before. It won’t stop a hungry deer, but a merely idle and inquisitive one might sneeze and pass on. If I can get brassicas through the winter, a whole new window of vegetable-growing will open before me. One well-suited to the local climate, too.

Thank you for the notes on horseradish-growing. I could put it outside the vegetable patch itself, up against that stone dyke at the back. The whole area was once intensively cultivated, so all I really have to do, to make a home for horseradish, is lift off the turf. That’s what I did for the Jerusalem artichokes, and they seem very happy.

Such a procedure wouldn’t, of course, serve my purpose of making more of the vegetable patch permanent.

On the knitting front, I was industrious. To begin with, I wound two enormous skeins of lace yarn and tried knitting them together. Two strands of one colour, one of another. It worked fine, and produced a soft and delicious fabric. But I didn’t like the result – I liked each colour separately, and I liked them side by side, but I didn’t care for the tweedy effect of knitting them together. Still, it’s a start.

And I swatched for the IK Jali cardigan in the Araucania yarn which has been part of the current Strathardle project for too long. I made a big swatch, to determine not just gauge/tension, but also whether the yarn and the pattern liked each other – the prototype in the magazine is knit of cotton – and how I liked knitting the pattern. Everything came out splendidly on all counts.

At the end, the stitch count was nearly perfect. But the row count was way out – 28 rows have given me about 3” where there are supposed to be 4”. No amount of fiddling with needle size is going to get anywhere with a problem like that.

I think the only thing to do is to start the sweater and see how it goes. Solvitur ambulando. The pattern has got to finish neatly at the shoulder.

For actual knitting, I pressed on a bit with Matt’s 1st sock. Several sock-knitting opportunities loom – a routine diabetes appt at the Royal Infirmary next week will involve a lot of sitting; and we may be going to visit Loch Fyne soon, too.

Back here, I have pressed on with the Amedro shawl. So far, so good.
The only worry is that I don’t really understand the little pattern from the Love Darg book which I’m using in the centre. I can see that I’m getting it right, but I don’t have the feeling, yet, when I’m knitting a pattern row, that I can tell how this row should fit with the one below. So if anything should go slightly wrong, I would be lost.