Monday, January 31, 2011

We’re back. It was tough. No knitting content today.

It was spring in Edinburgh when we left on Tuesday (colder now) –but still deep midwinter in Strathardle. We got there in good order, with some light to spare.

We couldn’t open first one and then the other of the gates across our driveway – they were held shut by frozen lumps of mud. We vaulted over the gates (=I climbed heavily over) and chipped away at the ice with the trowel we carry in the car for such purposes.

We got down to the house eventually, and I turned the water on. I came back from doing that pleased to hear the sound of water running. The ends of two pipes had separated from each other in the kitchen, unnoticed until too late. Water was pumping out onto the kitchen floor. We turned it off again, mopped up, and called for help. If you have any problem requiring emergency out-of-hours assistance, you’re far better off in the back of beyond.

Eric Ogilvie came at once from the village and stuck the pipes back together. We turned the water on and all seemed well. Then Mr Ogilvie and I went upstairs to look at the hot water system and when we got back to the kitchen another leak had sprung from a totally different source and was haemorrhaging water all over everywhere, far worse than before. So we turned the water off again and he fixed that one and my husband and I spent the rest of the evening mopping and wiping and rescuing things from the floor-level cupboards and trying to dry the cupboards themselves.

It was all rather dreadful, the more so because my husband can never employ the gallows humour which could make a disaster, if not exactly fun, at least an adventure. He just gets crosser. I think I remarked something of the same after the recent power cut in our bit of Edinburgh.

The experience took a lot out of both of us. The weather was too inhospitable for much serious outdoor activity anyway. The ground was frozen solid – no hope of lifting Jerusalem artichokes. There were patches of ice everywhere, and larger patches of snow which had started to thaw and then frozen again, fully as dangerous as ice. I fell twice, going out to look at my vegetables the next morning. No ill effects – maybe my once-a-week osteoporosis pills are working, maybe it’s safer to fall backwards onto one’s well-padded bottom, as I did, rather than forwards or sideways.

The deer have had the kale, alas, and also have eaten my beloved bunching onions, although I think they will recover. I did get my fruit hedge pruned (blackcurrents, redcurrents, gooseberries).

Then we found that the byre door was frozen shut. The same sort of problem as previously with the gates, except that this time there was no way to get behind the door to see what was wrong. And our firewood is kept in the byre.

We solved that one, just as light was fading and hope almost extinguished, by using a funnel to pour kettles-full of boiling water through fissures in the door. My husband’s inspiration, my execution.

I worried, for the first time ever, about how much longer we are going to be able to go on Strathardle’ing. All will seem better when the weather eases.

I didn’t even cast on Joe’s socks. I’ll do that this afternoon, when I accompany my husband to a boring routine appt at the Royal Infirmary respiratory dept where they are unable to help relieve his breathlessness.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sorry chaps. All is well. Our friends from Birmingham were here over the weekend, and although they weren’t required to sleep on the floor of my computer room, they did deserve some breakfast. Once that blogging hour is gone, the day dissolves.

R., the husband, has Parkinson’s. They told us when they were last here, perhaps a year and a half ago. There was nothing to notice, if they hadn’t mentioned it. Now, his life-long fitness has tipped slightly towards too-thin, speech is slightly slow, hands tremble. It’s a bugger. Sunday was his 70th birthday – they had come to celebrate with their son and his family, who live in a tiny house with no spare bedroom. I hadn’t known in advance, but got him a silly birthday card and a lottery scratch card in Tesco’s. He won £20.

Alexander is coming over from Loch Fyne today to see his Aunt C. Telephone reports from our niece last week were at least, no-worse.

Today we are going to Strathardle. We should we back by Sunday. I am a bit apprehensive – can I do it? have I fully recovered my pre-solstice pep, such as it was? And, did the severe cold affect our water supply? I’ll be fine this evening, with the water on and the fire lit and knitting in hand – I think I’ll start Joe’s 21st-birthday socks. But just at the moment it seems a long way from here to there.


Here’s the cowl, being blocked. It’s not as severely stretched as I usually do lace – I was working with the pattern to get the dimensions more or less right. The bottom edge and the overall height are fine. The top edge is a bit longer than specified.

And here’s Round-the-Bend. I am, as you see, turning the bottom front corner. I find the mitred squares puzzling, even as I sit there doing them. The next one must be started as soon as this is finished. But started from which end of the row? I think I’ve worked it out (I got it wrong on the current square, and had to rip a few rows) and should be fluent by the time I finish. The fact that I am knitting top-down and will soon be knitting bottom-up does nothing to relieve confusion.

It’s going to be a very peculiar-looking object, especially with those sleeves.

My sister wrote to say that the Wurm Hat, her Christmas present, has stretched after being out in a blizzard. It shouldn’t – it’s trustworthy sock wool. I think that essentially means that it’s too big; I’ll make a note on the pattern.

And she sent me this link to inspire me to knit her one of those. I thought I knew it all, but that’s a revelation. There are plenty of patterns on Ravelry, although none I liked as well as the cover pattern on the book. We shall see.

Alexander has contributed a recipe for Thai scallops – this is about knitting, in the end; hang on – to a local recipe book called “Mother’s Messages”. We’ve tried it, and it’s good. There are some other nice things in the book, too. You can order a copy from their website.

There is a reference on page 36 to “Lady Gainford”, indeed an old recipe of hers. I am sure that must be Lady Veronica Gainford of Lochgilphead, who wrote “Designs for Knitting Kilt Hose and Knickerbocker Stockings”, reprinted by the Schoolhouse although I don’t know if it’s still current.

I got my copy out to check details. I keep cuttings there of gents in kilt hose, mostly Prince Charles, but among them is this gem, with which I’ll leave you.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Frangipani, of course. Thank you, Tamar. I knit Ketki a gansey of it a couple of years ago, in Herring Girl Pink:
I had lots left over, I could therefore even swatch, except that I’ve given it away to the charity knitters in Alyth as part of the current stash-purging exercise. Goes to show. I’ve got a kind of dark-red idea hanging over this project, and they do a “claret” which fits the dream nicely. Although “damson” is also tempting.


JeanfromCornwall, I vividly remember Readicut. I am the Blind Follower par excellence, and I loved the idea of the printed canvas and the bits of yarn ready-cut into the right lengths. I gave Rachel a kit for Christmas once, when she was about 12, therefore in about 1970. On New Year’s Eve, in whatever year it was, my husband was off somewhere and I and the children remained at Burnside, the house pictured in the sidebar. (I can’t imagine where he could have been – he was never a reveller, and in those days Scotland closed down for four or five days at the New Year. But he was absent, with the car.)

We sat around the fire, and Rachel worked on the Readicut kit. She gave a vigorous tug and got the latch stuck up her nose. It sounds funny. It could have been rather serious.

We walked along the Bumpy Road (in pitch darkness, of course) to the nurse’s house. She was getting ready for her night out, but fortunately was still at home, and even more fortunately was able to dislodge the latch without damage.

But that was the end of rug-making forever, as far as we were concerned.


Meanwhile I’ve finished the cowl – pic as soon as I’ve got it blocked.

And resumed Round-the-Bend. Here it is, superimposed on a favourite (store-boughten) jacket. The current instruction is to knit until I am 11” short of the desired length – so there’s quite a way to go. I thought of adding a few rows of something else, after the dark stripe and even though I hadn’t done a corresponding something-else on the sleeve. But decided not to. “When in doubt, leave it out”, is a sound principle of design.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I heard no more from Morningside yesterday. Emily, yes, my sister-in-law is somehow or other signed up for the Marie Curie hospice in the south of the city, and a hospice nurse visits regularly. I have urged my niece to draw her aside, this week, and try to talk about the Larger Picture, and the possibility of respite care. But my hopes, for the moment, are pinned on domestic help. C. will surely be happier and more comfortable at home, close to her daughter.

The other daughter, F., the energetic Glasgow businesswoman, said in a message to me yesterday “I am very concerned that rather than getting the best out of what time she has with Mum [my sister] is taking on too much”. Taking on too much, perhaps, but she’s there on the spot, and somebody’s got to do it. But with F. on the job, I hope help will soon be arranged.

I have embarrassingly little knitting to report. I’m still a couple of rows short of finishing the cowl. Part of the trouble has been “Wait for Me”, the dowager Duchess of Devonshire’s autobiography, which I have just acquired as a belated Christmas present. It sparkles on every page. She is the youngest, and now the only survivor, of the famous Mitford sisters, a very remarkable crew.

When she was a debutant, in the late 30’s: “Wool shops selling a kaleidoscope of coloured skeins from Sirdar and Paton & Baldwin were a feature of every London street; there were patterns and wool for rug-making and darning, and for knitting everything under the sun, including dogs’ coats, which I knitted for my whippet Studley.”

I remember wool shops, much like that, from the 50’s. Not the modern palaces of pleasure, but small, functional shops serving a firm, useful purpose – baby clothes and socks and cardigans. Every serious shopping street would have at least one such place. Whatever you wanted to knit, you could be sure of finding a leaflet for it, as she says. “Rug-making” puzzles me – maybe in London. Books and magazines were nowhere to be seen, in such shops, and indeed few existed, except for my beloved VKB.

I did a wee bit of googling this morning in furtherance of my vague travelling-stitch ideas. Rowan “Calmer” turns out to be cotton and acrylic – no wool. It makes Wendy’s Aran even more extraordinary – link yesterday – but completely rules it out, for me. And Rowan’s Extra-Fine Merino DK shows every sign of having been discontinued.

I will not panic. That’s how stashes get too big. I’m sure I can find it somewhere on eBay, if I decide to go on down that path. I am sure I can find something with lots of wool in it and good stitch definition, if I decide to look elsewhere.

Of course I can.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thanks for the suggestions yesterday. I am pressing our niece hard to get in touch with a domestic agency to see if they have Mary Poppins on their books – someone who would, exactly as you say, Beverly, shop and cook and do some laundry as well as clean. C.’s diet is very limited – the cooking isn’t demanding. Someone to be there to serve it attractively and coax C. to eat and maybe to laugh.

I can’t do much about this myself, except offer to fund it. I have involved another niece, though – F., who lives in Glasgow. She has a stern, practical bent and agrees that her sister needs help.

I wonder if the authorities are congratulating themselves on enabling C. to live alone – technically, that’s what she’s doing, although it entirely depends on her daughter.


Nearly there – the cowl has seven rows to go. The new skein has been wound and joined in.

Meg, I do have “Twisted-Stitch Knitting” – and the same thing over again, in German. When I went to Camp Stitches in ’99 – just the other day – I did a class with Candace Strick on the subject, and she told us about those books. That was before there was a translation, when you needed the three little volumes in German. She said that one of her sons was going to Europe that summer, with strict instructions to come back with them.

She didn’t look old enough to have a son who could be allowed to go to Europe on his own, but apart from that – how fast things have changed! Now one has but to sit in one’s untidy study and click! and the world comes.

Shandy, thanks for the pointer to Wendy’s twisted-stitch Aran. Wow! I have at least added Rowan “Calmer” to my brief notes on this topic. The other contender is Rowan Extra-Fine Merino DK. And Wendy’s wonderful sweater rather confirms my impression that the way to go is to choose a shape, choose a yarn, find some stitches, and swatch.


Fishwife, I’m sure you’re right that those bricks in yesterday’s pictures are to house beneficial insects. C. is a passionate gardener, and very concerned about hedgehogs and toads and frogs and such. I tend to regard nature with a more sceptical eye – it’s out to get me, and my job is to beat it back.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

As so often in life, the Big Day came and went with no change. The dr came and decided that things can go on as they are, with a bit of additional input from the current carers. The trouble is, it’s our niece who needs the “respite”. It is she who is dealing with her mother’s depression and fear, as well as cleaning and shopping and cooking. And she has a job and a house of her own.

I got the tax done and filed on-line. It was great, waking up this morning and hearing the radio tell me the date, and not thinking, oh-my-God, so-much-of-January-gone-already.

We were promised a nice rebate, which figures, because income from savings-and-investments was markedly down in 2009-10. I spoke to Alexander later in the morning – he says he hasn’t done their tax yet, and always leaves it until now. “There’s nothing else to do in January.” I have never been able to persuade him, or Rachel’s husband Ed, either, come to that, of the delights of spending January with the seed catalogues. Both grow much better vegetables than I do.

Maybe that rebate, when it arrives, should be the occasion for buying the yarn for the stitch-pattern-something which keeps bubbling on a mental back burner. But first I need to settle on a pattern and be filled with enthusiasm. I did a search on “Bavarian travelling stitch” on Ravelry just now, and found some nice things – but they’re all socks. My new self-rule on yarn is that I can buy as much as I want, whenever – but only when I know what I want to do with it, and am pretty well ready to cast on.

Meg's approach in "Knitting" must be the way to proceed -- choose a shape first, and a yarn, then decorate with stitches.

Meanwhile the cowl progresses – two more sessions should finish it off, slightly delayed by the need to wind another skein of Koigu. It is extraordinary how rarely I have actually finished off a ball of yarn during this whole virtuous 14 months of nibbling at the stash.

And better yet, perhaps, I like the Round-the-Bend jacket better and better as I see it out of the corner of the eye, lying neglected. The stripey sleeves are still a bit much, but they’ll probably do.

My niece sent me these pictures of the gnomes yesterday:

I don't know what that thing is with the bricks.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our niece phoned yesterday to say that C. has had a ropey few days – no exciting new symptom, just tremendous fatigue, no appetite, some nausea, some abdominal discomfort. They called on NHS 24 – the nights-and-weekends emergency service. A nice young dr came who thought “respite care” in a hospice was now necessary, so today’s energies will be devoted to achieving that. It has to be done through the GP. We should hear more this evening.

So not much knitting, somehow. I’ve moved on to the smaller-needle section of the cowl and it is going smoothly.

Today I hope to file the income tax.

Fuzzarelly, thank you for the tips (comment yesterday) about the language blogs – I haven’t been reading anything like that. Could be the spring tonic I need. I’ve now subscribed to both.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Rachel has sent an explanation of the Miliband picture which appeared here yesterday: Joe had just finished some exams, and since everybody else was still sitting them, and not much else was happening in Nottingham, he came home for a few days. Ketki was working in London last week, and Alexander and the boys came along – it gave him a chance to see the London Art Fair, which he doesn’t like to miss.

And as for Mr. Miliband, he happened to be passing through Victoria Station as Joe and the Little Boys were on their way to the Natural History Museum. Rachel says that Joe says he was very nice, and particularly nice with the Little Boys. It is good to know that our leaders are still so accessible. Joe refers to him as "Ed".

A good evening with the cowl yesterday. Lisa, I am using #3 needles (conveniently, 3mm) as recommended on the Koigu label. I am just about at the point where the pattern says to go down a needle size. I’ll try 2.5mm and see if it’s comfortable – otherwise go on as I am. Yes, I did add an extra pattern repeat width-wise, as Shandy suggested. She says that she has done the cowl at least once leaving out the final section with the smaller needles which I am about to embark on. I’m going to keep it in, at least this time.

Hot Cross Buns

Gretchen, I was so sorry to hear that you had a bad, or dull, Hot Cross Bun. They are delicious, and if you were in Britain I would say, try Tesco’s or Marks and Spencer. Eat slightly warm, with butter melting in. But – at least in this house – only in Holy Week.

Suzanne, I was interested to hear that Carnival is already underway in New Orleans. You’ll have a nice long one, this year. I hate – this is absurd, but I do – the generalised use of the word, as in “Notting Hill Carnival”. What’s wrong with “Festival”? “Carnival” means goodbye-to-meat and according to me should only be used of a pre-Lenten beano, however prolonged. I am glad to know about "Le Mardi", too.


A week ago today I had to leave my husband at home when I went to Mass because we were encased in ice. There has been a prodigious thaw, and we are beginning to think of Strathardle, the more so as I at last feel that my New Year’s flu has finally fled the field. I am making great strides with the seed order, but there are one or two decisions that must be postponed until I read my notes again – and see whether the kale has survived. My pathetic netting will have collapsed under the weight of snow, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still some kale underneath.

I have ambitious hopes for brassica-growing if it can be got through the deer season.

The weather forecast is better for this week than for next, but old friends are coming to see us here next weekend, and I’ve got to file the income tax, so it looks as if we’ll have to wait.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I got my brain-age down to 29 yesterday – achieved a six’er by good luck as much as good management. Practice does help. There I think I’ll leave it.

Rachel forwarded this picture to me yesterday, without comment. The man on the right with the slightly glassy-eyed smile is her son Joe, the grandson who will turn 21 in the summer and therefore needs a pair of socks to mark the occasion. The little boys are the Little Boys – Ketki’s and Alexander’s sons, James-the-Younger and Thomas-the-Younger. The man on the left is Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party.

Joe is supposed to be in Nottingham, in his penultimate term at the university there. The Little Boys are supposed to be in school at Strachur, on the shore of Loch Fyne. Mr. Miliband is supposed to be leading the Labour Party. Where on earth are they? A London tube station under reconstruction? Is Mr. Miliband really that much taller than Joe? Many questions remain to be answered.

I got my husband to his appt yesterday, but the excitement pretty well finished both of us for the day. Apart from anything else, the sun came out just as we were leaving. A friend in K*rkmichael told me once that a baseball cap helps a lot with low winter sun, and I now always keep one to hand in the car. It does help, but it’s still a nightmare. This year, I will try to pay enough attention to decide when in the year the sun is high enough that one can cheerfully drive south on a bright day. Somewhere around Groundhog Day?

On the way back, I stopped at Tesco where I found the first daffodils of the year:

and also the first Hot Cross Buns, which I eschewed. Easter is late this year – Lent doesn’t even start until March. You can tell, because the February issues of the food magazines, now on sale, don’t mention pancakes.


I thought I had mastered the cowl, and was smugly composing a little paragraph in my head for today’s blog all about EZ’s brilliant injunction, Look at your knitting.

And then I found I had completely messed up a row, by omitting the series of decreases which should have brought the latest ribbed scallop to a close. I came within inches of abandoning the whole thing – I had gone back through the whole wrong-side row without noticing the mistakes, so there was nothing for it but to pull the needle out and take out two rows and then try to recover.

But I’ve done it, and the crisis now seems invisible, at least to my fond eye. I’m about to start the next offset shell pattern.


Thank you for your congratulations on my printer-installation. I’ve always had to forge forward without help – I am my husband’s technical support. In a real crisis – getting on-line for the first time, in the mid-90’s, completely defeated me – I have to wait until a son comes to visit.

Tamar, that’s a simple and brilliant idea, finding someone who can use the old ink cartridges. I’ll do it.

Friday, January 14, 2011 is useless on left-over haggis, but a straightforward Google search on that phrase produced several promising ideas.

Shan, I am seriously impressed by your 23-year-old brain. You have every right to be proud. I can do three numbers or four, and sometimes five. You must be able to do six, at least sometimes. Gosh. (Rules and link in yesterday’s post.)

The printer arrived in good time yesterday. I spent the rest of the morning installing it – not that there was any difficulty, nor that the instructions were less than pellucid, just that I am slow and clumsy and, in this case, desperately anxious not to break off any Little Plastic Bits. It is a very grand, updated model of the one I had before, and I think they have redesigned the ink-carriage so that there is less danger of breaking off bits when you insert a cartridge. And so that the expensive cartridges saved from the old printer, won’t fit.

I bought the Christopher hat pattern, as planned. I feel ever so much better for having a printer, as if re-connected to the world.

The cowl progresses. I have moved on to a near-repeat, offset, and can now, at least sometimes, learn a row at the beginning and then not have to peer at the pattern as I knit. I could regularly do that with the Princess border, where the pattern repeats were something like 48 stitches but everything was logical and geometrical.

I am at that dreary stage where the more I knit, the more it stays the same size.

Today’s excitement is getting my husband across the city to the Royal Infirmary to what amounts, for him, to an early appointment with the Respiratory department. At least I won’t have to drive due south into the low winter sun as I did when taking him to see C. on Tuesday. (Because today is grey.) I had better go get on with that.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Two from Helen:


Procedure of this Game:
1. Touch 'start'
2. Wait for 3, 2, 1.
3. Memorize the numbers’ position on the screen, then click the circle from the smallest number to the biggest number.
4. At the end of game, computer will tell you how old your brain is.

I’m somewhere in my 30’s. Helen says her early-teenaged, computer-savvy sons are about the same. Perhaps you have to be Bill Gates to have a 25-year-old brain.

2) It’s supposed to produce recipes for leftovers. It’s down for maintenance, it says, until later this morning, when I will try it on haggis.


I’m getting on with the cowl, and enjoying it, but still finding it tough going. The decreases and increases are not always paired, to begin with – sometimes to the extent that the stitch count has changed by the end of the row. And one is not just lace-ing on a garter stitch or st st background: knits and purls have also to be considered.

(It looks much nicer than that -- early-morning flash photography doesn't come anywhere near doing it justice.)

At least I’m grown-up enough now to take hold of a problem in lace and shake it like a dog with a rat. I can remember – embarrassingly recently in the history of things – when I would realize I had gone wrong and think, well, OK, it’ll be right from here on. Now I can at least discover a missing YO, which is easily replaced in the next row, or a stitch-too-many, which can be inconspicuously decreased if you do it in the right place.

And knitting with Koigu is wonderful.

The printer is meant to be delivered today – pinning me to the spot, until it turns up. If all goes well, perhaps I’ll initiate it into its new responsibilities by downloading the Christopher hat pattern.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My husband had a good visit with C. yesterday, although he was clearly distressed by her frailness.

When we saw her in hospital, three days after surgery, still attached to the NHS by more tubes than one would have thought possible, the conversation turned to Christmas and I said, for a reason completely forgotten, “We’ll give you a garden gnome, then". She said, with what sounded like real enthusiasm, that she would love a gnome.

So I got her one – a pair, in fact. Yesterday they were finally delivered. She rang up, shortly after my husband got back, to see if he was safely home – he is not often allowed to wander around the city by himself these days – and to thank me. She has never been any good at sounding enthusiastic about something she doesn’t like, and is far too weak to attempt it now. She was clearly delighted.

(James and – especially – Cathy had pre-empted the obvious present by giving her an unbelievably beautiful yak’s-wool-and-silk wrap of a deep, saturated blue.)

I discovered in the course of my research that gnomes are available in much greater variety in the US, including presidential gnomes. If I were Theo and Jenni, I might think it fun to start collecting all the presidential gnomes of one’s married life.


The plumber (we love him) has solved the problem. He thinks the cold loosened the debris of ages from the inside of the down-pipe which then all fell down to the bottom.

I’ve got the income tax pretty well ready to file, AND I have finally ordered a new printer. Alexander is right – it cost scarcely more than it would have cost to get a Man In to shake his head at the old one. It should be here by Monday and meanwhile, I think, I’ll let the income tax marinate, which is often good for it.


I’ve started the cowl, and am enjoying it as expected. There should be enough for a pic tomorrow. I was very tired last night and made heavy weather of it. I should pick up speed today.

Once I have a printer, I can give real thought to the Christopher hat.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thanks for the Koolhaas info, Mel. It fits – in the FT article, the Seattle Public Library was top of the list of his achievements. He sounded like a much less relaxed and congenial lunch guest than Bill Gates, although his food choices were equally abstemious.

Barbara, HALFPINT is something like Have a Lovely Future Project – I’ve No Time. I probably have a bit of that wrong, but there’s the general idea.

On-going sagas

The bathtub didn’t empty quite as normal yesterday, but exited altogether much more promptly than it has in recent days. However, some hours later, my husband put his head out of the bathroom window and discovered water pouring down the side of the building – more water, it seemed, than we had used during the morning. Our dear downstairs neighbours had placed a basin to catch it which was overflowing helplessly.

So today a plumber is coming.

And today I must get my husband across the city to see his sister. She tends to flag in the afternoon, and he is not an easy man to get started in the morning. If they are ever to meet at all, fairly strenuous measures are necessary from me.

I got a letter from the Income Tax yesterday, reminding me of the approaching deadline, as if I could forget. I have never been late enough before to qualify for one of those.

Our soap opera is back on television and yesterday I went to Waitrose (still somewhat under-stocked) and our fishmonger will re-open this week, today or tomorrow. (Little is landed the first week of the year, and it’s very expensive – he says it pays him to stay home.) Life is gradually resuming.


The cowl pattern is here!

My first decision this morning, once on my feet and before I was dressed, was to knit a Koigu cowl. This is the collection:

There’s enough there for half-a-dozen Toreadors with perhaps an Oriental Jacket for the leftovers. I can spare a skein or two.

And here is the current state of Round-the-Bend. There now follows a lengthy passage of garter st before the lower square. The dark stripes are Matt’s socks – I bought two 100 gr skeins that day, because normally I use slightly more than 100 gr on a full-scale pair of men’s socks, and I didn’t feel I knew Matt well enough for dizzy toes out of the odd-ball bag, which is what I’ll do for Joe.

But the yarn, in fact, must go slightly further than my usual sock yarns, because I had a full skein and a tiny oddball left over. I can't, at the moment, remember its name -- it's wonderful stuff. (Notice those its's.)

Monday, January 10, 2011

We had a power cut yesterday evening, for an hour and a half. Great fun, except for my husband’s bad temper – WHY don’t we have any baked beans? It was just our bit of Drummond Place, and not all of that, but enough that a little bunch of neighbours congregated on the icy pavement, each happy to discover that they weren’t the only ones affected.

It cut badly into knitting time, however. I think I’ll probably go ahead and finish the current square, and perhaps even start the dark stripe, even if the cowl pattern turns up as expected today.

It made me wonder what domestic work must have been like in the centuries, nay millennia, before houses were lit by gas or electricity. Reality TV can’t begin to address the question because they need so much electricity for their cameras. It’s all very well nearer the equator, but up here there are lots and lots of hours of darkness from November through February, too many to spend them all in inactivity.

I sort of get the impression in Jane Austin that people ate a very substantial breakfast and then another big meal towards the end of the afternoon and finally a modest supper, easier to throw together in the dark, towards bedtime.


“Lunch with the FT” at the weekend was with the architect Koolhaas. I had never heard the name, except as a knitting pattern. Why did Jared call it that? do we know? Helen C.K.S. has been attempting it lately. I knit it for Rachel once, in cashmere Koigu, and remember it as toilsome. Helen also has a link to a hat named Christopher (Ravelry link) by which I – like her – am immediately and totally captivated.

I have added the Koigu Toreador Jacket to my wish list – definitely, at least for the moment. I don’t have much of any one colourway, but I think I’ll be fine, arranging things into colour groups. Is there an acronym for a project at that stage? It’s better than a HALFPINT, but less than a UFO.

I’m off to have a bath. Report tomorrow, insh’Allah.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

No more snow, but it has turned colder and is now icy underfoot – just when the city people have finished sweeping up all the grit from last time. When I opened the door to go out shopping yesterday, I found a neighbour on the doorstep, shovelling away our snow.

My husband is going to see his sister on Tuesday. She sounds weak, and is suffering badly from fatigue. She has been in bed for a few days with a chest infection, which doesn’t help. Our niece phoned in the afternoon and brought me up to date, but there is little to add. C. isn’t gaining strength as we had all hoped, but she’s not losing much ground either. She says herself that it’s like the Phoney War – those months between September, 1939, and May, 1940, when Britain was at war with Germany but nothing much seemed to be happening.

She’s old enough to remember it. It seemed to me rather a good analogy.

As for knitting, the cowl pattern didn’t arrive, although Shandy had it in the post before midday on Friday. She has posted some pics on her own blog of completed cowls, to make me all the more impatient.
But there was nothing to do but press on with Round-the-Bend.

I got to the point where I had short-rowed the first square down to three inches-worth of stitches. The next instruction was to cast off those three inches, then cast on four inches-worth to replace them, and then “complete the corner”. Did that mean, go on short-rowing on the new stitches to the end? Or turn around now and go back?

It wasn’t convenient to have another look at the DVD just then, so I trial’d-and-error’d. The first hypothesis soon proved to be wrong. The second is working fine. There is a little hole in the corner between the cast-off stitches and the new ones – it looks almost like an intentional completion of the row of little holes on my unwrapped short rows.

I spent a little time yesterday with the books that might suggest the next project, in my current fairly desperate stage of stash-busting: “Swing, Swagger, Drape”; Sally Melville’s “Styles”; and the Koigu “Painter’s Palette” book. Am I brave enough to tackle the Koigu toreador jacket? I really ought to do something with that treasure chest of beautiful yarn.

I made a bit more progress with the income tax. The great thing is to keep at it. I’m going to need a printer before the end of the month, so I might as well get cracking on that.


What my mother taught me to do, in examples like the ones I gave the other day, was remove the who-or-whom clause from its context and turn it into a sentence on its own. “I knew he was in charge…” “He”, not “him”, therefore “who” not “whom” in “The man who I knew was in charge…” Likewise “him”, not “he”, in “I suspected him to be in charge…” therefore “whom” not “who” in “The man whom I suspected to be in charge…”

I think one could construct a rule if one exerted oneself, in fact I think Tamar has pretty well done so, but meanwhile one has a fairly straightforward and useful tool to apply.

Saturday, January 08, 2011


Not very cold snow, I don’t think. Footprints on the pavement look slushy. But Edinburgh airport is closed. We’ve had a pleasant thaw since the night of Boxing Day, and had begun to regard that state as the norm.

I felt a bit better yesterday, both knitting-wise and health-wise. I’m pretty sure you’re right, Beverly, that the two are related. I went on with Round-the-Bend and am now mitering the first big square. I’s going to be a very colourful object, and even in the garter stitch passages remains rather flabby for a jacket – but it’s fun again.

I'm doing the mitre without wrapping -- there'll be a little line of holes, just visible at the lower end of the active knitting. I've also included an unwound skein of the Araucania Multi I find I have so much of. I haven't decided whether to make the body of the jacket entirely of it, or to add even more excitement with stripes of this and that.

Meanwhile, however, kind Shandy has sent me the pattern for the Eleanor cowl. If our intrepid postwoman manages to struggle through the drifts with it today, I will switch WIPs at once. I am sure it is just the tonic I need.

And I poured another bottle of Mr. Muscle down the bathtub drain, with results unknown. There’s still a hamper-full of left-over Christmas bed linen, but we’ve got clean clothes (our requirements are modest) and can manage without baths for a day or two longer. Fishwife, my husband has been poking down the drain with one of those flexible things you put through the hem of a lace curtain, bringing up black gritty detritus. I wonder if I have a crochet hook long enough to emulate your procedure?

But our bathroom is two storeys up, and I have reason to think that the obstruction is about halfway down, so it might not help.

I am working on our Income Tax for 2009-10, which must be filed by the end of the month. I have never, ever, ever left it so late before, and have resolved never to do so again. At least I learned this year that if it isn’t done by the end of October, it won’t be done until January. Christmas takes over. On the other hand, I saw a note in the paper the other day to the effect that 3000 people filed on-line on Christmas Day. What a depressing thought!

I am going to phone C. this morning to see if I can book my husband in for a visit next week. We haven’t had any news since Rachel and Ed called on her on the 27th. I must stay away until my lungs are completely sound.

Friday, January 07, 2011


I’m still not well, and getting rather tired of it. I spent some of yesterday back in bed, this time with the knitting magazines.

Yesterday’s washing machine experiment went better – there was a bit of back-up into the bath when the final rinse water was expelled, but it soon drained away. Whereas the day before, the bath had been about one-third full, and it didn’t drain. I think I may venture on one more bottle of Mr Muscle.

I fear you may be right about hair, Tamar. Dreadful stuff. Our granddaughter Rachel-the-Younger washes her hair every day (in the bath). We have a little sieve thing to fit over the drain, an obsession of my husband’s, but I’m not at all sure it was in use. Hair has a dreadful permanence.

No luck with knitting. I can’t remember being in such a state before. Your suggestion is perfect, Shandy – the Eleanor cowl. The trouble is, I haven’t done anything in all this time about replacing the printer which I have rendered unusable by breaking off a Little Plastic Piece. I really must. Why not today, Jean?

The cowl is so perfect, I might even try to copy out the first part of the chart for the lace. Those frost patterns are such fun to knit.

Last night I went back through my little collection of ideas for swing jackets, and cast on one designed for sock yarn. Trouble is, it was designed for heavy sock yarn. As always, when you need one, there was no schematic. I knit enough to figure out how it worked; probably enough to re-size for finer yarn, but I’m not much inspired to go on.

In fact, I think I’ll probably go back to Round-the-Bend, at least long enough to see whether I like it better once I get started on the garter st parts. They will be solider and more jacket-like.

Joan, thank you for your very kind comment. I reflected, as I walked about basking in it, that my husband has a justifiably low opinion of me in almost every aspect of life, but he defers absolutely on English usage. I learned most of it from my mother, who taught me to distinguish “who” and “whom”, for instance, in such phrases as “The man who I knew was in charge…” as distinct from “The man whom I suspected to be in charge….” Quite educated writers in this country often get that one wrong – putting “whom” for “who” in the first example. I’ve even seen it wrong in the Economist.

I’m good on relationships, too, and can spot a second cousin once removed without difficulty.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Ongoing sagas

I spent all day yesterday on my feet – as opposed to, in bed with the seed catalogues. And lived to tell the tale. But still not entirely well.

Mr. Muscle has not solved the bathtub problem – the washing machine did back up into it. As hoped, however, I wound up with one more load of clean wash. We bought another bottle of something similar to Mr. M. at Poundland (a favourite haunt of my husband’s), baled the bath out this time, and poured it down. Results as yet unknown.

I reached the gusset of the Round-the-Bend sleeve – and have hit the buffers, mentally.

The pattern is essentially eight large mitred squares, four front and four back, with a garter stitch passage in the middle to add length. And sleeves. I realised yesterday that I’ve got enough (I think) of an Araucania Multi in greens and browns to knit the whole body. We’d have a picture of the yarn, if I weren’t short of time this morning.

In that case, it would be best to have the sleeves uniformly dark. Do I have enough darks for that?

Having got that far, I have sort of fallen apart. Perhaps I will have to cast on Joe’s socks tonight, to provide some thinking space. Forget the whole thing and make another ASJ? I’ve even trawled back through my January 1 Project Lists for earlier years, to see if I could find any unknit ideas that grab me now. Could the February Lady Sweater be translated into lighter yarns (it’s meant for worsted)?

I am in the grip of despair, knitting-wise.

And a new one

The President has nominated my niece-in-law Jenni as Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, Department of the Treasury. That’s Theo’s wife, ever since the wedding I went to last July. Now she’ll have to have a hearing.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

I continue to improve, health-wise.


See Kristie’s blog post of January 2 for an account of a happy Christmas party in which “major bonus points were awarded because not a single appliance complained or died during the festivities.” She had previously posted an hilarious series of accounts of the disasters of Christmas Past.

Our appliances held up, more or less, but the bath stopped emptying, and then the washing machine and the bathroom basin starting backing up into it.

We thought, at first, that the down pipe must be frozen. But by yesterday the thaw had lasted for a week and the bathtub was, if anything, worse. The prospect of calling in an expensive Man loomed near. I went all the way to the supermarket yesterday – not much use; they haven’t had any deliveries to speak of, and it’s like shopping in one’s own larder. But I bought something called Mr. Muscle, for clearing drains.

My husband was sceptical, and cross. That was for clearing kitchen drains, he said, blocked by congealed fat. I poured it in anyway – it’s a sort of heavy gel which sank through the standing water and down the drain.

By the time we had finished lunch, the bathtub was empty. I am hopeful. We left it untouched for the rest of the day. This morning, I have flushed it with hot water, as instructed. I mean to test it by running the washing machine. Even if it’s still blocked, that’ll give me one more load of clean clothes.


I think I’ve finished the st st part of the first Round-the-Bend sleeve, and am ready to begin the garter stitch gusset. I’ve had another look at that passage in the DVD, and have learned a thing or two.

And I got out some possible sock yarns for Joe’s coming-of-age pair. Depressing, after a year of such yarnly virtue, to see how much of it there is. This isn't all, of course -- just the ones I thought possible for Joe. I think I will go for something pretty sober, perhaps the brown, lower left. It's called "Trekking XXL" for some reason.

Every year around this time I make a list of what I might knit in the year to come – not resolutions, by any means, or even ambitions – just a list of HALFPINTS from the back of my mind. Usually the list is too long for any year to encompass, but this time it’s embarrassingly short: finish Round-the-Bend, Joe’s socks, and something with a stitch pattern in purpose-bought yarn: travelling stitch or Celtic knots (for Starmore) or something from the Japanese stitch dictionary or even good old Aran.

I am hoping that the new EZ book when it appears will help settle the matter. The picture they are showing as the mock cover (second item down) is really rather tempting. I like that neck.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

I am somewhat better, but a chesty cough remains. I had pneumonia once, decades ago, and remain wary and respectful of lungs. I am well enough for essential shopping and cooking, and am otherwise spending as much time as possible in bed with the seed catalogues. Delicious! I am determined, this year: (a) to have salad stuff in production in August, when people are there to eat it; and (b) to try a number of beetroots, to see if I can find one that suits.

Meanwhile, C. is living at home. My husband and all of our children, separately, have been to see her, and all report that they were surprised how well she seems. We are sure she is comfortable, and not taking anything for pain. She is very frail (and the well-ness will be, in part at least, a conscious effort for the sake of the visitor). She has no enthusiasm for food, but is making an effort to eat.

So we still don’t know whether she is likely to regain any strength as the days lengthen, or whether this is the final downward slope. She has already had more time than some I have known, between diagnosis-and-operation and the end.


I was sorry to hear you say, Janet, that you rarely got to see people wearing things you knit for them. It is a great pleasure, and all of my people know it and try to do it – so that I am never entirely sure they haven’t fished the things out from the back of the drawer when they hear me coming. That’s why I was glad to see the Grandson Sweater showing signs of wear, and am always happy when socks are returned to source for darning.

I’ve finished Cathy’s KF socks, but I don’t dare put them in the mail after losing that earflap hat last year. Joe (the Grandson) will be 21 in July and should have a pair of socks to mark his attainment of man’s estate. So now I must look to see what there might be for him in the potential-sock bag.

I have resumed Round-the-Bend. I’m still not sure that sock-yarns-and-Koigu suit the pattern; nor at all sure that the dog’s-dinner approach to blending yarns will work, either. For the moment, I press on. And I have now brought Meg’s DVD onto the scene, and am very glad to have it.

I am somewhere near the gusset phase of the first sleeve. I like those unexpected stripes a lot. The yarn is, I think, Annie’s colorway for Lorna’s Laces Famous Blog series, “Roadside Gerry”. I had two whole skeins and a bit left over from the Adult Surprise Jacket and thus can safely knit on until the first skein is consumed.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

My dears – and especially Gail – Franklin wrote to me personally to tell me about that podcast.

I have been having flu since Thursday – the New Year wouldn’t be complete without it. My husband and I have had our protective injections, and I guess it was fairly mild as a result. I am now better, but not well. Fortunately the house party in Strathardle broke up that day, and Greek Helen was here to cook and run errands. I often fret about how little I get done in a day, but the difference between that and being able to do nothing turns out to be profound.

When my turn comes for colon cancer, our children will be fully employed looking after their father.

But at least this morning I have replied to Franklin in terms of extravagant affection; listened to the podcast; and downloaded it for transfer to my MP3 player, for use when I resume my morning walks in Drummond Place Gardens. I don’t remember warning Franklin against sheep-keeping, but I can say, as a Perthshire vegetable gardener, that sheep are more destructive than rabbits and deer combined, and as insolent as cabbage white caterpillars. So I might have done.

We continue to struggle back towards the surface.

The Greeks left for Athens yesterday.

I have finished Cathy’s socks except for Kitchener’ing the second of them. I have watched the beginning of Meg’s Round-the-Bend DVD and am ready to resume work on that.