Saturday, February 26, 2011

New follower, good morning!

We have a friend staying – I forgot to warn you that posts would be scanty or late or non-existent. Next week my sister and her husband are coming and the situation will continue. I doubt if I'll be here tomorrow.

Knitlass, Alexander and his family are coming over for the match tomorrow – it will be his 51st birthday. One never imagines, when starting out in life, that one will one day have a son of 51. Rachel has already passed that milestone, but somehow it seems more definitive this time.

They hope to call in here. I have got them some of Mr Crombie’s Six Nations sausages, which he sells every year around this time: pork from Scotland, leeks from Wales, Guinness from Ireland, herbs from England, onions from France, tomatoes from Italy. They’re not the best of his sausages. It’s the thought that counts.

Gretchen, yes, it was Barbara Venishnick’s name I was groping for. Bless you. I tried Googling again, knowing her name, and couldn’t find an item with “knitting designer sudden death” in it, so no wonder Google couldn’t help when I didn’t know the name.

A propos the question of attitudes shifting slowly with the decades (yesterday’s post, with comments): we watched “Some Like It Hot” the other evening, funny as ever. But I was struck with the fact that part of the running joke which inspires the final scene rests on the unquestioned assumption that marriage can only be contracted between a man and a woman. Whatever one’s point of view on the issue, that can’t be taken for granted any more.

I was very interested in your absolutely self-authenticating memory, Anonymous, of white and “colored” drinking fountains in Detroit. I don’t remember overt segregation like that there, just in Dallas. You’re right about the word, too: “colored”, of course. I remembered that “black” didn’t come in until later, but “Negro” didn’t sound quite right when I wrote it yesterday. There was a whole separate “colored” waiting room in the Dallas railway station.

I got on fine with RtB last night. Garter stitch is not only ideal for exhaustion, it’s also pretty good for knitting while catching up with an old friend

Friday, February 25, 2011

I have, as hoped, Rounded the next Bend, and am now knitting the back of the right half of the jacket, bottom-up.

Linda, I’m not a fast knitter at all. It’s a question, if anything, of sticking at it. How I envy Annie Modesitt, who taught herself to knit when she was in her 20’s and just happened to work a out a system which was blindingly fast and smooth and even. I drop-and-throw. In my youth, I used to try to teach myself a better system, to no avail. I can knit “continental” with my left hand when I’m doing Fair Isle, but it doesn’t seem to work with a single colour.

I’m happy the way things are.

I went over to Ravelry yesterday and signed up for the Shirley Paden fan club. I hope someone can help here: who was the designer who died very suddenly perhaps five years ago? The connection of thought is just that I admired her, as I do Paden, and her death was a shock.

Googling doesn’t help – you’d be surprised (and depressed) at how common is sudden death.

I’m going to venture out onto thin ice here.

I was taken aback that Paden is described, in the headline for her fan club, as “the lovely and classy African American woman”. Her brilliant designs aren’t ethnic, that I can see. It’s not as if she was Scottish or Japanese. Why mention race, any more than her height or weight or age?

Earlier this week we watched the old film “All the King’s Men”, based on the novel of the same name which is in turn based on the career of Huey Long. It’s good. It’s set in an unnamed Southern state. Every single character, even in the crowd scenes, even on the streets, is white.

And I wondered why I didn’t notice this when I saw the film in the 50’s. It seems very striking now. My mother’s parents and brother lived in Dallas. We often visited. I knew what the South looked like.

There were other things I didn’t notice when I was young. We lived for a while in Detroit, between Seven and Eight Mile Roads. (Or was it Six and Seven?) There were no black children in my primary school. In Detroit.

We moved to New Jersey the year I started high school. There were blacks in Asbury Park High School, much to the fore in our rather feeble basketball and football teams. There were none in the “college preparatory” streams where I was.

Why didn’t I wonder about these things? I was brought up properly “liberal”. I remember the “Negroes only” notice on the back seats in the busses in Dallas. I yearned, as an adolescent, for the courage to go sit in one of them. But the whole two-nations thing seems to have eluded my attention.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

We called on C. yesterday, taking her some snowdrops from K*rkmichael. She’s very frail, not very cheerful, very much herself. Her garden – just outside the window of the room where she spends her days – is looking wonderful: winter aconites, hellebores, abundant snowdrops – and the gnomes. Her namesake granddaughter “little C.”, now on the verge of final exams at Bristol university, turned up unexpectedly while we were there, bringing much joy.

Garter stitch is just the thing for knitting when exhausted – I am, as you see, round the bend of the lower corner of the right side of the (well-named) jacket, and should be able to start up the back this evening.

I have been thinking along the lines you suggest, catdownunder. The next time we go to Strathardle, I may well bring that dusty pink sweater back here to take its place in the queue after Round-the-Bend. It wouldn’t take long to finish it, as you say. That would free up Strathardle for the Japanese shirt and make a general fresh start all round.

The Spring issue of IK turned up here yesterday – not half bad. I like the Swirl Crop Jacket on p. 24. It is embarrassing to think how silly it would look on me, but one of the consolations of old age is the proliferation of descendents to knit for. What would Greek Helen or Chinese Cathy think of it? Not to mention the grown-up granddaughters.

I like Tatiana’s Sweater, p. 56, too, being currently fond of cables and of scoop necks.

I wish I had known about Shirley Paden’s online design class in Ravelry last year – I am an extravagant admirer of hers. (And, yet again, isn’t Ravelry wonderful?) I probably wouldn’t have done anything about it. Life is too short, getting shorter by the day, and I’ve got her book. The article is illustrated with what I take to be six designs which pupils produced as a result of the course. No fewer than four of them appear to be Japanese.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A little more Outdoors, after all, before we get back to knitting.

Beverly, that’s a brilliant idea, to prune only half of the autumn raspberries. I will certainly do that next year. I am a bit disappointed with them, in that I had hoped they would fruit at the end of August when everybody comes up for the Games and when the season’s real raspberries are about finished. But they’re later than that. This way, there will at least be something earlier.

Last Friday we went to Alyth so that my husband could get his hair cut. He insists on Mr Mitchell of Alyth. While there, he met a (rather grand) friend, Paul Ramsay of Bamff, who shares his taste in barbers.

Paul has introduced beavers to his estate and is regarded with unease by local landowners because beavers cut down trees to make their dams. He writes a blog called beaversatbamff. He also sells wild boar – to eat, not as pets.

Knitting, at last

When we went up a week ago, my idea was to take the languishing Araucania project back to the armpits – it had been knit circularly that far – and proceed as in the October chapter of the Knitter’s Almanac, with EZ’s open-collared pullover.

It turned out – a pleasant surprise – that I was further along than I remembered. The back was completely finished, and the front not far short of the neck opening. Too much to take back, but still time to put in EZ’s garter-stitch neck placket and collar with intrinsic i-cord.

I am absolutely delighted with the result, and am sure I now have enough enthusiasm to carry me through the sleeves. I have cast on the first one. Ron in Mexico, I owe it all to you.

There were problems, though. Intrinsic i-cord, as given by EZ, means ending every row yf, slip 3 stitches as if to purl, and beginning the next row, k3. I started with the wearer’s left side, and found after a few rows that I had a nice i-cord on the inside, the k3 side, and something not as nice – certainly different – on the outside. I took it back and reversed the instructions and it was fine.

AND I remembered in the nick of time that the collar was going to fold itself outwards so that inside became outside. I switched the i-cord over at the crucial moment.

There was no such problem with the i-cord bind-off around the outer edge of the collar.

Do I conclude that, in the master’s hands, intrinsic i-cord looks the same on both sides? Or that the instructions for the sweater were already so complicated that she didn’t want to venture on explaining a further difficulty? She says that the project was sidetracked for 15 years anyway “as being too complicated for comprehensible directions”.

There’s a bit of a pucker where the loose end of placket border was tacked down. That is because the garter stitch border is a bit shorter than the st st it is attached to, because of the nature of garter stitch. It would have been a good idea to introduce a few short rows, if EZ or I had thought of it. I hope blocking will subdue the pucker.

I cast this thing on three years ago, in March ’08.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Here we are. We both came home feeling we had been hit by a wrecker’s ball – but there were no disasters, and no feeling of how-long-can-we-go-on.

The January water crisis had left us with a slow, steady drip upstairs by the hot water system. We got in the plumbers – two of them, Mr. Bell and Mr. Bell, father and son. Mr. Bell fils plumbs while Mr. Bell pere tells him what to do and talks to the clients.

(They also grow raspberries. If you should ever happen to leave Blairgowrie on the road to Bridge of Cally, you will find them on the right, not long after Macdonald’s Cheese Shop. Immediately thereafter, on the left, is a huge field of raspberries grown under plastic. Avoid. The Bells’ open-air raspberries are far better.)

They said we had escaped disaster by a narrow margin. The drip was because two pipe-ends had nearly pulled apart – as happened in the kitchen, you will remember. And that, furthermore, we should have drained the copper tank by turning a red tap at its foot which would cause the water to squirt out through a pipe through the wall. How did they know we hadn’t done it?

Undrained as it was, the whole tank should have split, bringing down the bathroom ceiling.

I knew nothing about this. I thought that when we turned the water off at the mains and opened all the taps downstairs, we had drained the tanks upstairs. Either nobody told me about that red tap when the extension was being built and the current system installed, 15 years ago, or I wasn’t paying attention.

I turned it yesterday when we were leaving and sure enough, a prodigious quantity of water spewed out near the back door.

Never mind spring in Drummond Place Gardens – in our garden, the January ice was still there. It had receded, and was less dangerous, but still there:

The snowdrops are a fortnight or so behind what we have seen in other Februaries, but they are trying:

My beloved bunching onions, grown from seed last year and eaten by deer:

I think they’re going to pull through. I have read that red-bulbed bunching onions are even hardier, and I have got some seed for this year.

Then on Thursday night, it snowed. Notice in this, the Friday picture, how I have cut the autumn raspberries down to the ground as the books say to do in February.

I dug some Jerusalem artichokes, from the tubers the Fishwife gave me last year:

Nothing, and I mean nothing, makes one feel so much like a Real Gardener as bringing something in to the kitchen in February, from the snow. The resulting soup was delicious, if I do say so myself.

I also pruned the red current bush – the Summer Pudding bush. Rather lightly, because it fruits heavily and I didn’t want to upset it. My husband believes, contrary to all the cookery books, that Summer Pudding should be made with red currents only. There is no doubt – I’m sure everybody knows this – that birds can see colour. That bush has to be netted when the crop begins to turn very slightly pink, or the pigeons will have the pudding. Whereas they leave the white currents alone, equally delicious.

There’s a good deal to be said about knitting, as well, but that will have to wait for tomorrow.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Off we go. My husband thinks we’ll be able to stick it out until Monday – in which case, I should reappear here on Tuesday. I won’t have that much gardening to do, unless the soil is most unexpectedly workable. But there’s always knitting, and the New Yorker to be caught up with.

Yesterday was a good day, a slight-edge-forward sort of day. I dealt with the day’s small financial events as they occurred, and processed a couple more pieces of paper off the pile. I went to the supermarket and got in supplies. I feel readier to venture into the wilds of Perthshire than I did a day ago.

I haven’t been walking in Drummond Place Gardens since the snow fell in November. Yesterday I did a half-walk, two circuits, half-a-mile. My sister and her husband will be here soon; she wants to join me in walking, so it would be a good idea to get back up to speed before she comes. There are hundreds and hundreds of snowdrops in the Garden: maybe I have never been there in February before. And a fair abundance of aconites, and the daffodils taking up positions for the next act.

Somebody here, a “Scotland Street” fan, asked for a picture. I hope to oblige, at last, next week, if I get a good sunny morning.

I also got the next skein of greenery-yallery wound, rather than continue to worry about having to do it. Here is the present state of play:

Else, thank you for the offer to shop at Lacis for me. I might just take you up on that, one day.

And Flaviaknits and Knitlass, thank you for the hope offered that there might be a miracle at Twickenham on Calcutta Cup day. In 2000, as I’m sure you remember if you’re old enough, the Calcutta Cup match was on the last day of the tournament (as it should be). England had won all their matches and sauntered up to Edinburgh to complete the Grand Slam. A safe assumption, since Scotland had lost all of theirs. Some pundit wrote in the Scotsman that morning that the only hope for Scotland would be if the England team didn’t show up.

But we won. Ever since, when I need an alphanumeric password, I am likely to incorporate the four digits that made up the score that day.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We’re not leaving until tomorrow.

I spent a successful couple of hours yesterday getting to grips with financial paper work. Everything went completely haywire over Christmas, and then January was devoted to the 2009-10 income tax with the result that the current-financial-stuff-to-be-processed pile reached previously unknown heights. It’s still pretty big.

C. gave her two daughters an enduring power of attorney years ago, and it has now been activated. I don’t know how you do that; might be interesting to ask. We have given one to Alexander and the thought of his fastidious horror at the mess in here when I have my stroke is enough to inspire me to carry on with the job.

Mary Lou found Setsuko Torii’s book for me at Knit-Purl, and I have ordered it. She also found it at the mighty Lacis but their website made me feel that California is a long way from the rest of the world; dealing with us seemed difficult for them. So now all I have to do is look forward to receiving it.

RtB progresses. Knitting only one-quarter of the circumference at a time gives a delicious feeling of rapid progress. I finished the top mitred square for the right-hand side, and am nearly finished with the subsequent dark stripe. I completely forgot my own insight, and started it on the wrong side of the jacket, which was where I was when I finished the square. The result of course was a broken line of purl bumps on the right side.

I can’t see any way around this difficulty (which will recur) other than adding or subtracting a row. I’m using a circular needle, but if I push everything along and start the new colour from the other end, I’ll get st st, won’t I?

Matt’s sock yarn is holding up nicely – there’s plenty for one further stripe and then the i-cord edging throughout. I am nearly finished with the second skein of greenery-yallery, however. Winding those babies is tough – the skeins are so big that towards the end of the winding one’s hand aches from stretching to hold the ball. I’m sure you know the experience. But one more wind will finish the job.

Kristie (comment yesterday), I don’t really know who this jacket is for. I think I started it for the challenge of the pattern and to use up some yarn.

The Six Nations rugby season is upon us – this is relevant. Scotland are doing particularly badly. We have lost to France and Wales so far. At some point in March we will play the annual match-of-matches, against England. That one has a trophy of its own, the Calcutta Cup.

We won in 2000, after a 10-year dearth. I knit the cup into Kirsty Miles’s christening shawl. We won again in ’06 (sweater for Alexander) and ’08 (sweater for Ketki), and last year the match ended in a draw (hat for James-the-younger). This year I have promised the Little Boys a sweater each if Scotland wins. It’s a safe bet that I won't be called on to honour the promise.

The game will be played in London and I don’t think Scotland have won there since before the war – you will notice that all the victories just mentioned happened in even-numbered years. But I enjoy thinking about it – will we have the same design in two different yarns? The same yarn but two different designs? Identical sweaters? Two completely different ones? I will buy the yarn from Posh.

But it won’t happen.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Here we are – successfully mirrored, so far. I think I like the striped sleeves better now that there are two of them.

Tamar offered this link to one of Meg’s newsletters, in her comment on Friday’s post. Someone had got all the way around the mirror-image half, and couldn’t get the final shoulder join right. I can’t see how it’s possible to get that far without understanding what one is doing. Meg may have been puzzled too. Or I may be heading for a fall.

(You can't see the cut-out neck on the first half very well, because the back fills the space in the picture. Everything's OK in that respect, believe me.)

Mary Lou, (comment yesterday), I would be very grateful indeed if you would make enquiries about Setsuko Torii’s book at The Yarnery. I gather from the Japanese group on Ravelry as well as other hints that it’s well known in Japanese knitting circles. Two or three years ago, there were confident predictions of an English translation, but so far that seems to have come to nothing.

I suddenly find that I have run out of things to say. We sort of hope to go to Strathardle tomorrow – me revitalised with the thought of turning that Araucania project into EZ’s golf shirt. I’ve finished ordering my seeds, and they are now arriving by every post. It’s far too early to do anything with them, but it’s time to prune the autumn raspberries (cut them down to the ground in February – easiest of prunes) and if the ground isn’t frozen, to harvest some Jerusalem artichokes.

But the weather forecast this morning is a bit gloomy about snow on the hills of central Scotland. We don’t like snow.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Woolly Bits, thank you for the YesAsia link. I tried to buy something from them once before – knit-related, no doubt. They asked me to fax them an image of my credit card. I didn’t at all fancy the idea, and cancelled the order.

This time, ordering the Setsuko Torii book, I saw early on that they now take PayPal. I use PayPal a lot and like and trust them. So I got all the way through the ordering process, logged on to PayPal successfully, got to the final screen – “You’re almost done”, it said – and clicked on “Confirm”. The screen went blank – and then returned to the same screen as before.

It was a confirm-your-details screen. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it. There was certainly no message about anything I had done wrong. I tried twice more with the same result, terrified of course that I would wind up with three copies. I don’t think I could have ordered anything, because there have been no confirming emails from YesAsia or from PayPal. I’m baffled.

But thank you for the link.

And Tamar, for the one to Meg’s newsletter. I must have read it before, but read it anew with delight. Especially the reference to “Jo W*tson's wonderfully organized UK Ravelry”. Jo is the one who made such a spectacular balls-up of last year’s Knit Camp in Stirling – oh, dear, is that libelous?

As for RtB, I had an Insight yesterday as I was walking up Broughton Street to my fishmonger.

The sleeve begins with a few rows of plain-vanilla garter stitch. That means there is a small seam to be dealt with at the end. Meg does it with i-cord and likes the result so much that she suggests putting the open end on top of the sleeve. Whether you do that or not, the sleeve has a back and a front from the beginning, depending on where you put that little opening. Mercifully, I remembered this in time when I was doing the second sleeve.

So – when you’ve finished the sleeve you leave the back half behind and proceed on the front half of the stitches. You then immediately start a mitred square, starting from the top of the sleeve. That means, of course, knitting all but one of the stitches, turning, knitting back, knitting out again taking all but two of the stitches, turning, knitting back, etc.

My insight was that on the second half, which I was now doing, the outward-knitting rows would be on the wrong side of the jacket and the return rows on the right side. And so it has proved.

I think that’s the key to the whole mirror-image problem. And it probably also lies behind the question of why the corners will be slightly different to the first half. I’ll tell you when I get there. I feel much more confident.

I can’t really take a picture now, because I’m half-way through the first half of the first square and that means that there are always stitches on both ends of the needle. So to speak. We’ll see, soon.

As I’ve often said before, this is a lot of fun.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

I thought about circles for a while yesterday. It’s really pretty simple – I think EZ’s paragraph in Knitter’s Almanac rather obfuscates than otherwise. “A circle will double its circumference in infinitely themselves-doubling distances…”

The relationship between the circumference of a circle and its radius is constant. That was obvious to all long before Archimedes. So, in knitting terms, when you double the radius of a centre-outwards shawl, you’ve also got to double the circumference if you want the thing to lie flat. You don’t have to do all the circumference-increases at once, but it’s convenient to do so as it leaves you with a nice blank space between the increase rounds for putting lace patterns in.

Pi is the irrational number which represents the ratio between circumference and radius. It is largely irrelevant here – all a knitter needs to know is that the ratio is constant. Ancient Egyptians and Babylonians and Indians had a go at calculating it. Archimedes was the first European, and the most rigorous of the early team. That’s from Wikipedia.

I feel better for having thought that through.

And the other thing I feel better for having done, is actually to employ Dawn’s wonderful formula for finding things.

Franklin wrote about a new book on entrelac relatively recently, but not just the other day. I was having a look at Knitty earlier this week, as one does, and discovered that there are two new books on entrelac. Which one was Franklin so enthusiastic about? Sure enough, typing “entrelac” (without the quotation marks, and don’t overlook the unexpected full stop after the colon) produced the answer at once. It is Gwen Bortner's Entree to Entrelac .

As for actual knitting, I am well advanced in the garter-stitch gusset at the top of the RtB sleeve. The underarm seam, where one is invited to wrap and turn at the end of every row, looks sort of messy. The one on the first sleeve is much better. It is not an area of the jacket which is going to receive much scrutiny, but it worries me. I have actually switched to purling alternate rounds, rather than wrapping and turning. Helps a bit.

So today, all being well, I will actually embark on mirror-imaging. Meg says, “The appearance of the corners on L and R halves…will not match each other perfectly.” Why not? Will I be bright enough to spot the difference? This is going to be interesting.

I had a great time lunching with Helen C.K.S. yesterday. I gave her back her wonderful book by Setsuko Torii (after scanning the pages about the shirt I aspire to). She says she got it from Japanese Amazon – I tried just now. You can click hither and yon and get a certain amount of it in English. I was surprised at how many knitting books they import and translate from English.

If you search on “knitting books” there’s no Setsuko Torii, but if you ask for it specifically, there it is. The mysterious orient. It’s rather expensive. And Helen says the postage is a good deal worse.

Friday, February 11, 2011

I didn’t mean that I thought talking about funerals in advance was a bad idea – I think it’s great, and much easier on all of us, the sufferer and those who love her, that we can talk about all aspects of death instead of having to pussy-foot around the subject and pretend on both sides that she’s getting better.

But having once arranged every detail of the funeral, I think it’s then time to move on. C. had made a will and given her two daughters an enduring power of attorney before all this happened. I am sure, if necessary, that she has since improved any arrangements that needed improvement. But she wouldn’t dream of talking about such things to us – or to anyone else except her daughters and, as necessary, her lawyer. I think it would be better for her, as well as kinder to us, to put the funeral under the same sort of embargo.

Of course the subject of death will come up. She lives with it daily, and must think of little else. But still wiser not to dwell on detail.

I want as many as possible at my funeral to wear something I knit for them. They all know this (and I am sure will turn themselves out appropriately) and often refer to it with hilarity to a point where I wish they would talk about something else.


VKB No. 16 sold for £13.49 on eBay yesterday. Spring, 1940. The very first one of all went for an equally risible price a few days ago. Towards the end of last year, one of the pre-war ones fetched over £200. I can only conclude that the bottom has suddenly fallen out of the market.

And speaking of VK, the Winter 2010/2011 issue came through my letterbox yesterday. An odd moment, I thought, with Groundhog Day behind us and the snowdrops up and the spring sunshine through the windows – yesterday was a particularly beautiful day here – showing up the winter film of dust. One would have needed to have it at least three months ago if one was to knit anything in time for winter. “With knits this snug and sublime, there’s no need to hibernate. Get outside and enjoy the big chill.”

But that is to carp. There’ll probably be another winter. The designs are good – VK is now way out there ahead of everyone else, just as they used to be 40 years ago. I like a lot of things – the scarf at No. 3; Mari Lynn Patrick’s great big cardigan, no. 14; and especially Tom Scott’s little cardigan, no. 25. And there’s lots else of interest.

I was very grateful to yesterday’s commenters, especially Ron, on the subject of a shawl for our niece. I will take you up on it, and knit a proper shawl. I love Jared, as we all do, so I went to have a look at the Bridgewater, but I think there’s too much st st there for me, however good the result. I’ll get Sharon’s Love Derg book out today and have another look there.

What about the pi shawl? I have always meant to get to grips mentally with EZ’s remarks about the formula “circumference=twice pi times radius” and its effect on a growing shawl. (It would take me all morning to get that into mathematical notation.) If I knit one, I would have plenty of time to think about it.

I got on nicely with the stripey RtB sleeve last night, and am now within about 10 rounds of the end. So I should reach the gusset today.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A strenuous and unsuccessful day yesterday. I got the glasses to the oculist in time, they came back – but my husband says he couldn’t see much of anything through the new ones. They were able to restore the old ones on the spot, fortunately, and he’ll go back on Monday.

Today’s excitement – it is an event-packed week – is that some people are bringing a picture for him to look at which is probably not by his artist. They hope it is a preliminary sketch for one of his famous pictures, the National Gallery thinks it is more likely a copy but interesting enough that my husband should see it. And the owners are happy to consult him as the Court of Final Appeal.

Meanwhile, I am past the half-way point of boring sleeve knitting. The second half of anything always seems to go more briskly (including life itself), so I should be only two or three sessions away from the fun part.

Franklin is brilliant today on the subject of multiple WIP-ery. When is he ever less than brilliant on any topic? And I feel I must have some Blackthorn needles. How could I be unfaithful to my beloved KnitPics? But Franklin’s recommendation is powerful, and blackthorn-the-bush is a big feature of Strathardle life, both as a pernicious near-weed and as an object of great beauty in the spring.

Janet, I don’t entirely approve of book fasts, although I am fairly restrained myself these days due to lack of space. I’m glad you’re making an exception for the Cornish Knit Frocks – that’s another work of serious scholarship, like Lady Gainford’s kilt hose. And it’s small. What I try not to buy these days are books-of-patterns, unless the author’s name is Fassett or Zimmermann or Swansen. But I was tempted yesterday by “What Would Madame Defarge Knit?”, the pre-publication announcement timed to coincide with Dickens’ 199th birthday.

I’ll think about it.

Another thing I am thinking about is a shawl or stole of some sort for our niece as knitterly comfort when her mother dies. Much thought and conversation is going on in Morningside amongst mother and daughters about the funeral, the wake, the grave. Too much, for my taste. C. was depressive enough when in robust health, and shouldn't be encouraged in morbidity now. But I feel that my thinking ahead to a shawl is not excessively morbid, by comparison.

I got the XRX books out last night and started looking: The Best of Knitters’ Shawls and Scarves, A Gathering of Lace, Victorian Lace Today. I wish I could pin down what it is about Mr. X’s photography that so annoys me. Something to do with the models he likes and the way he poses them. His people-less pictures are fine.

The trouble with a proper shawl-shawl is that not everybody wears them; and with a stole, that it gets scrumpled up and used as a scarf. I think maybe I’ve chosen a smallish semi-circular number from Victorian Lace Today.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

I am now transcendently beautiful because of my new haircut. The experience had an energising effect – I spent the rest of yesterday morning attending to things and putting things away. There has been no discernable effect on the state of affairs here, just as knitting has no discernable effect on the stash, but I feel good.

Today’s start must be even earlier – I must take my husband’s spectacles into central Edinburgh to his oculist to be re-glazed (i.e., to have new prescription lenses put in the frame). If I get there in time, he will get them back this afternoon. So, brevity here.

There’s not much to say, anyway. I bundled up the pile of Shetland and put it in a plastic bag and labelled it “Japanese shirt”, the way grown-up people do. I’m glad you approve of the choice.

I put the Knitter’s Almanac in The Box to go to Strathardle next time, when the languishing project there will be, I hope, transformed into EZ’s golf shirt.

I have knit about 1/3 of the stripey bit of the second RtB sleeve. It’s lovely yarn to work with, but this part is pretty boring. The more so because the rest is so exciting. After one reaches that dark gusset, things happen constantly. I was re-reading “Knitting Workshop” yesterday and re-discovered the Rorschach Jacket, clearly the forerunner of Round-the-Bend. The instructions are on the sketchy side. Maybe EZ sensed that there was the germ of something better there.

I was wandering around the Schoolhouse Press the other day, as I often do, hoping for news of the new EZ book (there is none) – and discovered that Lady Gainford’s kilt hose book, which I mentioned here recently, is still available, but on the “Sale” page, presumably going out of print. It is the sort of knitting book which I most admire – serious research, in this case into a small corner of knitting but one which well deserved to be recorded and preserved.

Could it be done for cricket sweaters?

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Here I am, at least for a moment, after all.

The Ur-VKB – the first Vogue Knitting Book of all – sold on eBay yesterday for £21.99, about a fifth of what might have been expected. Why does that never happen when I’m bidding?

Thank you for the help with Posh yarns. I will certainly look with interest when she offers those sweater-sized packages later in the month. But I also dived into stash yesterday, and am very close to your opinion, Dawn. Here is a pile of Shetland jumper weight which I think might stripe rather well, either graduated or just random, fairly broad stripes.

As always, when I seriously engage with the stash cupboard, I came away depressed. I have now been the soul of virtue for a year and a quarter. I have bought yarn three times in that period – for James’s jabot, for Matt’s socks, and for James’s Christmas scarf. All three items were promptly knit. All other knitting in the last 15 months has been from stash. Several bagsful have gone to the charity knitters in Alyth.

There has been no effect at all on the amount of yarn in the cupboard.

So maybe I’ll stick with Shetland stripes for the Japanese shirt.

I finished the left-hand side of RtB. Here is a picture of my grafting, of which I am very proud. That line where the green shoulder joins the stop-of-sleeve stripe is me grafting garter stitch.

I got the second sleeve started, going with Beverly’s judgment and sticking with stripes. I was very nervous as to whether the second skein of “Roadside Gerry” would stripe like the first one, but I am just far enough on to say with some confidence that it will.

I am also nervous about my ability to make the right-hand half a mirror image of what I have just done. The printed instructions – in Meg’s book “Handknitting” – have very little to say on the subject. The DVD is completely silent – it goes straight from the grafting I did yesterday to the i-cord binding at the end, of which there will be yards and yards and of which, I am sure, there is much to be said.

I’ll figure it out in the end. I must simply be prepared to frog. And for now, I have a nice peaceful sleeve to knit.

And now I’m on my way to be beautified.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Bits and pieces, today.

Angel, that sounds like a very good idea, about smoothies. I’ll pass it on in a moment. C. has to restrict fibre intake, I think, because of the stoma, but there ought to be a way around that.

She phoned last night, and then passed the telephone to our niece – there is bad trouble going on connected with our niece’s elder daughter R. (who lives in London, mercifully) and involving the police.

For that brief moment, C.’s voice sounded like old times. One of the drawbacks of dying, it had already occurred to me, is that nobody tells you anything so as not to upset you, and you are thereby cut off from the glittering world before your time. Our niece had concealed her trouble for most of the weekend, but finally decided that C. was closely enough involved that she had to know. I wonder if it might not actually be good for her, to be back in the loop?


A good evening with RtB – I should finish joining the shoulder and at least start the grafting this evening.

Beverly, your kind remark sorely tempts me to leave that stripey sleeve and do another one to match. I have continued to give myself credit for it in the progress bar over there. I’ll have to decide very soon, perhaps even tomorrow.

Mary G., I hope you’ll knit your RtB, it’s really fun, but scratchiness is a big downer. It might not matter so much in a big finished outer jacket – but it spoils the process of knitting.

I had a look at Posh yarns yesterday, thinking of the forthcoming Japanese shirt – they are put up for sale every Sunday evening, and go fast. Fortunately, perhaps, there was no sock yarn colorway to tempt, this time. But could I use the abundant Shetland jumper-weight in my stash cupboard after all, graduating the colours from pale to beige as we ascend? I might try laying out a few skeins on the floor and contemplating them.

I probably won’t be here tomorrow – I have my hair appt at nine, and, groundhog-or-no-groundhog, don’t seem to be very good at crawling out from under the duvet these days.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

We met our niece as we were parking yesterday – she said we would find C. reduced. And so it was – she was thinner, paler, more frail, slightly dishevelled. Her spirits have reverted to their depressive norm. Not comfortable, but not I think in pain. Is this how it will be? No Dunkirk, no morphine, getting weaker and weaker and finally more or less starving to death, like our old cat? She is trying to eat, without much success, and to sip high-calorie supplements which she says taste terrible.

I suggested wine, and she said that the pamphlets she has been given about Living With Your Stoma recommend it (full of pictures in which everybody smiles). But she won’t try because she is terrified of dhiorhea – (I can’t even spell that well enough to persuade the spell-checker to help. I was puzzled, as a child, when people said that you could use a dictionary to find out how a word was spelled. How can you look it up if you don’t know how to spell it? I could walk along the passage and copy the answer from something in the bathroom cupboard, but I think I’ll leave it.)


Good progress yesterday – I am attaching the back of the RtB to the shoulder, and I think I’ve got it right. A 180 degree twist was all too likely. This is the point where the thing really earns its name. I was right to be suspicious of Meg’s numbers (I think) – when she says to knit back up 16 stitches from the corner, and then start the attaching, she doesn’t mean 16 stitches so much as four-inches-worth, 24 stitches in my case.

I think.

Front view:

Back view:

The DVD is not as much help as it might be on some points (including that one), brilliant on others, including the forthcoming grafting of back to sleeve – how to graft garter stitch, how to decide which colour to use when, as here, two are involved.

Both DVD and printed pattern haven’t much to say about knitting the second half mirror-image. We shall see. But it’s fun.

Shandy, thank you for saving me from the shame of commentlessness yesterday. As to projects, large and small, my salvation has been the discovery of the concept of “locational WIPs”. That goes back to my days on the Knitlist, and I don’t remember who to thank for it (“whom” is strictly called for there, but “who” sounds better). A sock on its needles by the telephone, sort-of-thing.

So now I have a sock, always, in an Edinburgh Botanical Gardens carry-bag ready for out-of-house knitting – waiting rooms, trips to London. I left it, one dreadful day, on the 159 bus in Regent Street, but it came back to me intact. And a Strathardle WIP – the idea there is boring, boring, boring, for knitting by the fire after a hard day in the field when I can scarcely stay awake. And something usually slightly more demanding, for here, as we watch our soap and the news in the evening while my husband has his tea.

The Japanese shirt will be a Strathardle project. I’m thinking about yarn. I’ve got lots and lots of Shetland jumper-weight, but not enough of anything. I think this will need a single batch of yarn. I might allow myself a look at the Posh website today.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

And yet another follower! Soon I'll have as many as Joe!

Today is the day we are going to call on C. Before every visit since this dreadful thing started I have been afraid of what we’d find – and every time, even the really scary visit three days after tremendous surgery – every time, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Our children have said the same of their visits. But it can’t last.

Yesterday I began to get grips with 2011, like a newly-emerged groundhog. I made an appt to have my hair cut and heaven-help-me styled. It wasn’t done at Christmas, as chaotic frozen day succeeded chaotic day, and now looks pretty awful. And I got most of my seed order in. I order from lots of different people, to keep them all in business, so it takes time. Some websites are better than others.

I’ve been consuming cider at a holiday level all through January, counting on Lent to put me right. But Lent is late, this year, and I’ve put on three or four pounds, so it’s back to Sundays-only. Pretty soon it’ll be time to get out there walking around Drummond Place Garden in the morning again, too.


Round-the-Bend moves forward nicely. I’m turning the final square of the left back. Despite the relatively fine yarn, and the notorious slowth of garter stitch, it seems to keep going. It’s something about having the work divided into recognisable sections. I’m approaching a tricky bit where front must be joined to back at the shoulders – it’s one of the points where Meg gives instructions in absolute stitch numbers rather than percentages so I approach with caution. Must have another look at the DVD.

However, yesterday’s excitement lay not there but in a message from a cyber-friend, a professional knitwear designer, offering to write me a pattern for the Japanese shirt. I have accepted with alacrity. I’ve still to swatch and measure and think, of course, and I’ll postpone those pleasures until Round-the-Bend is finished. Theresa, you’re right that looseness and fine gauge will be important. But I’m so excited.

Ron, I followed up your lead and looked at EZ’s golf shirt. It’s very like my stalled Strathardle project. That one is knit in the round up to the armpits. I’m somewhere not far beyond that point, and have been stuck there for a long time.

What if I took it back to the armpits, counted the stitches and called the answer “K”, and proceeded from there with EZ? It’s such fun knitting with her hectoring voice in one’s ears (Meg is much gentler), and I greatly admire her i-cord treatment of the placket and collar. This could be just what I need to get started again. I’ll stick with long sleeves.

The difficulty here – you may have spotted it – is that the same yarn, the dusty pink Araucania, is now being used twice. We’ll have to think of a way around that. But it’s great to have the old motivation back.

Beverly, thanks for the tip about the Ravelry group called “Pooled Knits”. I’ll go have a look right now.

Friday, February 04, 2011

And another follower!

Here’s where I am with Round-the-Bend – about to start the top mitred square which will finish off the first half, but for replacing the sleeve. The pattern is certainly a lot of fun. It would be better in a heavier yarn.

This is intended to be a close-up of the false seam which is being created up the side.

Tamar, it was you I think you asked how many stitches there are in the sleeve. My notes say 98, although I wonder is that is a mistake for 96. I started with 48 and was supposed to double the number after the cuff. It would be interesting to know if other Lorna’s Laces sock yarns stripe so neatly on that number of stitches.

(The experience has rekindled my interest in trying to create ikat out of space-dyed yarn. The instructions I earmarked long ago seem to have gone down. Jackie E-S sells a lace pattern that sounds as if it incorporates instructions in the technique. It was something about laying out the yarn in loops on the floor in such a way that the colour-repeats were repeating in the same way in each loop, and then seeing how long the loops were and casting on that many stitches. The knitting had to be done circularly. I wish I had printed the instructions.)

You will have seen Helen C.K.S.’s exquisitely courteous comment yesterday, identifying herself as the owner of the book by Setsuko Torii which turned up here so mysteriously the day before. (Dawn, thank you for that search technique -- it's going to be invaluable.) I am still puzzled and alarmed that the book and its contents were so completely unfamiliar to me, but Helen and I are going to have lunch next week so that is a happy ending.

The Japanese knitting group on Ravelry is very helpful – they say that if I scan some Japanese instructions and put them on my project page, someone will help. Someone has also said that the pattern is written for machine knitting and in reverse st st. I hadn’t grasped either of those points. I had figured out that the yarn used is very fine: I would have to re-write the pattern for my yarn anyway.

The Sally Melville shirt pattern doesn’t help – it’s hourglass-shaped, to begin with. No, no, no. I love the prison-issue straightness of the Japanese one. My Ravelry search on “shirt” brings up a Debbie Bliss one (Ravelry link). It looks very dull to me. If I went to all the trouble of re-casting the Japanese pattern and knitting hems and facings and wretched buttonholes, would my result just be dull, too?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

And another follower!

I phoned C. yesterday and arranged for us to see her on Saturday. I have stayed away all through January because of a lingering cough after my sort-of flu at the New Year, although I’ve driven over there to deliver various people to her doorstep half a dozen times. She didn’t sound very well or very cheerful. I’ll phone our niece today to ask whether wine would be acceptable – she’s not a drinker, but this might be the moment when a good chilled white with a meal might help both mood and appetite, if it doesn’t compromise her reduced digestive system.


I got on nicely with Round-the-Bend yesterday, and have proceeded, as hoped, to the centre section of the back. It is being attached to the front as I go, so far successfully.

But yesterday’s knitting thoughts were in an entirely different direction.

I can’t find the current VK, and in the course of a languid search for it, I rustled about on a stool in the sitting room on which UFO’s and pattern ideas are indiscriminately piled.

I found this book. I have no memory whatsoever of it or its contents. Did someone lend it to me? There are two slightly rumpled till receipts stuck in it – they are in Japanese.

The patterns, and the photography, are very good. I am much taken with this one (for the dusty pink Araucania):

My first thought was that it would be easy for one who had knit a Japanese ear-flap hat. But of course it isn’t. The devil lies in the detail – the hems and facings and that wonderful collar. It’s knit separately, but the front button- and buttonhole facings continue – somehow or other -- along its outer edges.

I belong to the Japanese knitting group on Ravelry – I’ve started a new thread, just now, to ask if anyone can help. I gather from what I found there that it might be worth, as a desperate venture, trying to paste the little sections of Japanese text in the pattern into Google Translate.

I searched Ravelry on “shirt” and was reminded of a classic shirt in Sally Melville’s “Mother-Daughter Knits”. I’ll have another look at that today. Lots of Ravellers have attempted and frogged it, but others have succeeded and love the result.

VKB, in the 60’s, had similar patterns. I put my collection to actual use yesterday by looking at some. The instructions may be in English, but they’re worse than Japanese. One all-st-st shirt, for instance, has a “hip band” knitted separately, faced with ribbon, and sewn on.

Looking at those pages again, those pictures of those women, made me feel passionately glad that I have escaped from the 50’s, and from New Jersey where they happened – even if old age is where I have wound up.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Groundhog Day

…and the weather forecast for Britain which I heard just now said cloudy, cloudy, cloudy for the whole island, bottom to top. On the other hand, the current fierce American weather is ominous – so often it crosses the Atlantic and turns up here in 10 days’ time.

Janet, I am flattered that you should ask about the pattern for the rugby-shirt sweaters. I generated it myself with Sweater Wizard. I can’t remember whether the pattern offered the collar and the placket fastening at the neck – I think I got them out of “Vogue Knitting”. That book is very useful for such details, but the other design books probably are just about as good.

And speaking of Vogue – the very first VKB is coming up on eBay. I tried to copy the item number for you, but only succeeded in messing up my formatting. It’s listed as “Vogue’s Book of Knitting & Crochet Patterns 1920/30s” and the seller clearly has no idea what she’s got. Since I started to keep vague track in 2006, it’s come up twice before now. One, of course, is now mine. The other time some foolish soul offered it together with Nos 2 & 3. She got a three-figure sum, but she’d have done better selling them separately.

Mine came from a charity. I like to think that someone donated it to one of their shops, and someone there had the wit to see that it deserved a place on eBay.

I’ll watch this one, out of interest.

Rustling about in the stash cupboard yesterday I found another skein of my greenery-yallery yarn (already wound!) – so now I’m really pretty sure I have enough to make the sleeves green. I’m getting on nicely with the bottom mitered square at the back – I should move on today to the straight bit.

The fun thing there will be joining it to the straight part of the front as I proceed – this is billed as a no-sew pattern. At the moment the whole thing is like a misshapen scarf; that should give it some structure.

Sarah, the stripes in the now-unwanted sleeve were self-generating. The yarn is Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in Annie Modesitt’s “Roadside Gerry” colourway. (They did a series of yarns designed by famous bloggers.) The stripes just happened. I wonder if that many stitches would produce similar stripes from the other yarns in the series?

It’s good to have the Curmudgeon blogging again. It sounds from her account and others as if Vogue Live! was a thorough success.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

A new month in a new year! a new follower! I'm very fond of February.

Back to knitting, today.

We had a good session at the Royal Infirmary breathlessness dept yesterday. I got Joe’s socks well started, despite finding halfway around the first round that I was knitting with the long tail. Happens to us all.

They can’t help my husband, we knew that. They can only tell him to keep active, we knew that. I can’t remember the name for his condition, but I asked yesterday and learned that it’s not a punishment for having smoked long ago, it’s idiopathic – meaning, one of those things that just happens. Isn't that a good word? There is even a related condition, fascinating information, from which smoking seems to protect you – “we don’t advertise that”.

So that’s an argument, if one were needed, for struggling on with Strathardle as long as possible. There, he is active automatically. There’s nothing else to do. Here, we have to think of reasons to totter out in the afternoon, and don't always rise to the challenge.

I am round the bottom corner of Round-the-Bend, and knitting upwards on the first half-back. I think I’m getting the hang of mitred corners. I have nearly finished the first huge greenery-yallery skein, and have three more.

That sleeve won’t do. It was all very well when I thought that the whole was going to be a clamjamfry of miscellaneous stripes, like the ASJ. I think I have decided to go for the nuclear option – snip it off, pick up the stitches, graft to a green sleeve which I have yet to knit. I’ll go ahead and finish this half of the jacket, and think again – but I’m pretty sure that’s the answer. But are three more skeins quite enough for sleeves?

In K*rkmichael I looked again at the dusty pink Araucania for which I have yet to find an entirely satisfactory solution. I do love it. I brought a skein home to contemplate and perhaps even swatch.

What I am actually knitting with it is a rugby shirt on roughly the same pattern as Rachel’s striped Koigu one

and Ketki’s one celebrating Scotland’s victory in the Calcutta Cup of ’08:

And there’s nothing wrong with that. Why not press on?

I keep being drawn to the Anhinga, but it’s a big gamble, even if I knit it for one of Rachel’s small-boned and slender daughters.