Wednesday, November 30, 2011

St Andrew's Day

I spent this morning’s osteoporosis-half-hour (for it is indeed Wednesday again) stuffing the second Christmas tree bauble. It remains to crochet chains for both of them, and close the bottom holes. No photographs, because my camera has taken to demanding a battery change after every half-dozen pics.

So the next thing is to polish off the American Christmas cards – none got done, yesterday – and take them and the baubles to a post office. Not so easy, now that our local one is gone. By next Monday? Should be do-able.

And it is within the bounds of possibility that I will finish the body of the Little Brownstone today. I solved yesterday’s problem (I hope) by putting in three sets of decreases on the purl side. (I have divided the work for the deep shawl-collar-hole.) Looks all right. We shall see.

I used Margaret Stove’s wonderful rule-of-thumb, mentioned here before: the stitch the needle enters first, for any decrease, is the stitch that winds up on top. It works just as well when you’re purling and “on top” refers to the other side – the right side – of the work. So p2tog, when you flip it over, looks like a k2tog, and an SSK on the right side is replaced by that most awkward of manoeuvres on the purl side, p2togtbl.

It’s true.

Sock yarn

What with the sweep of recent events, I forgot to mention that my new sock yarn is here. The Van Gogh, I am afraid, is too full of light shades for my husband’s taste. No loss – I knit for plenty of ladies who will be pleased to wear Van Gogh. Hundertwasser – I am becoming increasingly fond of that man – is more possible, although there are light shades in him, too, and a possibly alarming amount of purple.

It’s never easy for me to guess how a variegated yarn is going to look when knit. The only thing to do is to cast on Hundertwasser and see what happens. Alas, my husband now gets bigger socks than anyone else on the list, so if he doesn’t like the result, it may have to be frogged. Or knit for Alexander, possibly? He’s got quite big feet.

So this morning – it’s still November, right? Life is both depressing and stressful, right? – I ordered some more yarn: Kaffe’s newest additions to the Regia design line – “anthracite” and “moor” in “random stripes”.


We went yesterday to see the “fine pictures” to be sold at Lyon & Turnbull in a few days. And weren’t tempted by anything, I’m glad to say. It was the first time my husband had been out since Friday night’s excitements. I thought he seemed a notch slower and frailer even than before, but that could have been just the gloomy effect of dark, wet, windy November. I was glad, again, that we are here (Edinburgh) and not there (Strathardle) and have begun to entertain the idea of not going at all before Christmas.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Here we are, and for the moment will remain. My husband wants to finish the current task he has assigned himself – I must then translate his files into Word and drop them into Dropbox. I’m not sorry – I’m afraid of the dark, and of sn*w, and, still shaken by Friday’s adventure, glad to be here where help is only seconds away.

The big news on the knitting front is that the Beijing St Andrew’s Night Ball is this coming Saturday. Preparations (and dancing practice) are well advanced, and I hope to be able to show you a picture of the jabot in action soon.

It flickered across my mind that maybe James would like a pair of “Argyle” kilt hose for Christmas – hose knit in his tartan. But they cost £200 on the Kinloch Anderson website (scroll down), and that’s a bit much. I have only seen such things once that I remember, on the calves of the son of a dear (and well-dressed) friend, at his father’s funeral. It was an impressive sight. Kinloch Anderson says that they are hand-knitted. Is that possible, even for £200? I feel there must be an antique hand-operated sock-knitting machine involved somewhere.

I got on well with knitting, and with Christmas, yesterday. A couple more rounds of the current bauble, and much raglan decreasing on the little Brownstone, and the first three Christmas cards written. Barbara, like you I put a message, however brief, in each one, and like you I enjoy reading the duplicated summaries of the year which some card-writers enclose. What I really hate are the cards from people I am seriously interested in and haven’t seen or heard from for a while who just sign their names.

But at our age, the main function of a card is to tell the recipient that the sender is still above ground, so I can’t really even complain of a simple signature.


I see, just now, that I have miscalculated the number of rows in the raglan decreases. “Repeat the above six rows three more times”: I have added that instruction in as 18 rows, when of course it is 24. I’ll have to consider the whole thing, and possibly frog quite a bit. Or speed up the decreases somehow, to absorb the six extra rows.

That is a very interesting remark, Beverly, about elbows sagging in reverse st st. It’s not a stitch I have any experience of. I do remember how surprised I was, long ago, reading Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book, to see how she separated st st and reverse st st into two separate entities. It would indeed be good to hear from someone with experience of this matter.

And thanks for the comments about Malabrigo worsted. It sounds, on the whole, like one to stay away from. I could re-cast the pattern for madelinetosh, I feel sure. Or something else may have presented itself by the time I get to that pattern. The important thing is not to buy any yarn until the Driven jacket is next to be cast on.

My mug turned up yesterday, and I’m drinking coffee from it right now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

We continue to mend, and even hope to go to Strathardle tomorrow. Thank you for your notes of concern and sympathy.

When we finally got into bed on Friday night – by then, in fact, Saturday was well advanced – we turned on the radio and, before unconsciousness overcame us, heard the World Service trailing a program – sometime this week – called “Knitting in Tripoli”. It’s not the one you and I would like to hear. It’s about what non-combatants do in such a situation to keep life moving forward and themselves sane. That’s what I had been doing in the preceding hours in a&e – knitting in Tripoli.

What I Tell You Two Times is True

I have bought and printed the pattern for the Driven jacket to which I linked on Friday. The blogger who wrote about it said that the Malabrigo Worsted for which it is written is incredibly soft. That same morning, the Knitting Daily editor said that she had knit a hat from the Weekend Hats book in that same yarn, and had come to the same conclusion. Do I know this yarn?

That same day, both the Telegraph and the Economist predicted the demise of the Euro and major misery for us all to follow.


I thought the little Brownstone would go faster once the sleeves were attached, and sure enough. I’ll start the raglan shaping today. As we all know, it goes like the wind after that.

I am well advanced with my second bauble. I had better return to it today, somehow. Here’s the first one:


Stash Haus, I keep thinking about your question about UK Christmasses, and coming to different conclusions. It’s much darker here. Maybe that’s the whole problem – maybe I remember that Christmas of 1960 as less stressful just because it was lighter.

We don’t have anything like Black Friday here. Nor did we, in the US, when I was young. There was a general consensus that when Thanksgiving was over, it was time to think about Christmas, but that was all. The push is getting earlier and earlier here. I used to tell myself, keep going steadily towards Christmas after my husband’s birthday (November 19) although I often didn’t do it. Now, Christmas has taken over the shops well before then.

Obviously, if you have to have Thanksgiving dinner on Christmas day, as well as doing presents and cards, it’s going to be tough.

What follows will sound trivial and silly, but it’s part of my problem: my husband’s family insist on sending each other cards, as well as presents. I have always – and still do – regarded cards as one step down, for people one is concerned to keep in touch with and wants to hear from, but doesn’t love quite enough to buy or knit anything for. I will observe this convention, this year as always, and send cards (as well as presents) to his nieces which I wouldn’t dream of sending to our own children or to my sister. But I don’t like it, and the knowledge that I must do it adds to the pressure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

What happened was this:

On Friday evening my husband injected insulin at 8:30 – he was working at his computer, as usual. I called him to his food at 9. (I don’t like eating so late, but it is the schedule he prefers.) When he hadn’t turned up at 9:40 I went to fetch him – it is dangerous to delay food after injecting insulin.

Fifty-four years of marriage should have taught me that the moment when I set forth to call him again, is the moment when he finally comes. But I forgot, and collided with him in the dark just outside his study door. We both fell.

I was all right, but he didn’t seem entirely conscious. I called our nearest neighbour for help. He decided at once that what my husband needed was not to be levered to his feet, but an ambulance. It came promptly. Our neighbour helped me pull myself and the necessary things together – my husband’s medicaments and a repeat prescription form to provide a list for the drs; a telephone; and some knitting. That, at least, was ready to go – the current travel sock is always in its Royal Botanic Gardens hessian bag in the stash cupboard, ready to grab.

I told the ambulance people the story. They tested blood sugar, which was indeed dangerously low, and started dripping glucose into my husband while the ambulance bumped along. At the hospital they examined and x-rayed him and attached him to a machine which monitored various things but low blood sugar remained the only identifiable problem.

And after a while he got to be more conscious again.

The hospital expected to keep him but he wanted to go home. By 2 a.m. he seemed close to normal to me, and proved able to take the few steps necessary. I promised to bring him back if I got worried. We got to bed at 3:30. I wonder if we had ever been so late, even in our raucous youth. We spent most of yesterday in bed and continued to improve.

After all we had read about the Scottish Drink Problem, we were surprised at the calm and peaceful aspect of A&E in Edinburgh’s main hospital on a Friday night. At least 5/8ths of the clientele seemed to be Silly Old Fools like ourselves. No blood, only one brief episode of obscene shouting. We remarked on this, towards the end, to the kind and intelligent nurse in charge of us. “Shhhh,” she said, “we don’t use the q-word.”

I made great progress with the current sock during all this. This is the one being knit of Kaffe’s “hand-dye effect” from Regia, the surprisingly soft and fluffy yarn which is very gently twisted rather than manifesting the firm, crisp ply of other sock yarns. The colour is wonderful, and the resulting fabric deliciously soft. But will it be strong enough? It’s got 25% “polyamide” and 5% acrylic in it, which ought to be plenty, and Regia ought to know their business, but I think I will reinforce heel and toe. I haven’t done that, or needed to, for years.

There is a good deal more to say both about knitting and about the state of the world, but I’ll leave it until tomorrow.

Friday, November 25, 2011

I’ve finished the first bauble, except for closing the top and crocheting a chain for it to hang by. The next one will require me to wind one of the two remaining skeins of madelinetosh scarlet. I’d better get that done. Stuffed with kapok, or whatever that stuff is called, it looks slightly lumpy perhaps but acceptable. I want to do two more, at least. Pic tomorrow, I hope.

Arne and Carlos are in the new VK, although I don’t think we learn anything of interest about them there. They’ve got a new book out about dolls. It seems reasonable to hope that they’ll do a sweater book. I’ll be right there in the queue for that one.

Meanwhile the little Brownstone obstinately refuses to measure 12 ½" no matter how industriously I knit. Surely today.

Zite came up with this seriously tempting jacket this morning. One for the HALFPINT list. It is my practice, you may remember, to make a list at the end of the year of things-I-want-to-knit. Not resolutions, just an attempt  to pin down and record whatever is bubbling on the mental back burners (to mix a metaphor) as the year dies. A year ago I sat there in gloom, scarcely able to think of anything. This year there’s going to be a lot.

I usually get most of it done – or, at least, abandoned for a good reason.


I made the Christmas puddings yesterday and will steam one of them today. That’s something done, but chores spring up hydra-headed this time of year.

I have spent only one Thanksgiving in the US since I married – in 1960. The idea of a Great Big Meal so soon before the annual Great Big Meal is disconcerting, but I think it had the contrarian effect of rendering Christmas slightly less horrible. Perhaps it was just that Christmas is intrinsically slightly less horrible in the US.

I have made a tentative resolution to do more Christmas knitting next year. I avoid it on the whole so as not to add stress to stress. But the sight of all that stuff piled up in the shops, to be bought by people who can't afford it and given to people who don't want it, depresses me more than ordinarily this year. They may not want another hat or scarf, either, but at least it says "I love you" cheaply and efficiently.

I was worrying here recently about how to get books off the Kindle app on my iPad. One of you told me – I am ashamed to say that I have let the comment go, and can’t even thank you by name – that when I archive a book it goes to the Book Depository in the sky, whence I can retrieve it if I change my mind. So that’s fine; I know how to do that. I thought “archive” meant that it was somewhere else on the iPad.

Greek Helen asked when she was last here, whether one was aware of the financial crisis in daily life here, as they are in Greece. I thought not – but now it has come home: Grandson Joe can’t find work. He graduated in the summer and doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Right now, he just wants to earn a bit of money. He had a temporary job for a few weeks gathering statistics about school exam results. That has ended, and now he can’t get anything – the Post Office doesn’t want him as Christmas relief, or Sainsbury’s to stack shelves. The other day his application to be an elf was rejected. He is a sober and personable young man. This is serious.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Y’all have a good Thanksgiving.

I didn’t mean to fish for compliments yesterday, but they were all very much appreciated anyway. Google Analytics – Theo steered me there, long ago; I don’t often visit these days – says that there are about 275 of us, 300 on a really good day. So I knew that the “Follower” count didn’t really count. Still...number 100, most appropriately, is Willkommen!

Thanks for the help with bauble-knitting, Shandy. I agree, they are addictive. I am nearly finished with my first one, but can see that already. I looked up theraineysisters, and am interested in the idea of knitting a polystyrene ball into the bauble as one proceeds. In the old days it would have been at least a day’s hard work, finding one. Now we’ve got Google. And I’ll consider knitting flat and seaming. I loathe purling two colours, but one can do anything for 64 stitches.

So what with that, I didn’t reach the armpits of the little Brownstone yesterday after all, but am now only half a dozen rounds short, if that.

And yesterday brought both the “early winter” VK and “Knits Men Want”. The big news is that VK has a whole half-page about Kate Davies and Textisles. If that’s not glory, I can’t imagine what might be.

I was sorry to hear of Judy Sumner’s death. She was a towering figure in my KnitList days, and a cyber friend.

“Knits Men Want” is a good concept, full of lively text. Jared contributed the photography, a plus. I will certainly find a template there for the gardening sweater I hope to knit for Ed. I am taken aback, however, in the section on sock-knitting, to read, “Sock yarn…just isn’t practical for men’s socks since it’s too light and thin….Men like hand-knitted socks that are thick, warm and comfortable.” My experience doesn’t bear that out. The men I knit socks for in sock yarn, wear them. Nor do the socks seem “light and thin” until they are wearing out, many years later. Poof.

But talking about “thick, warm and comfortable” – Zite, this morning, has both Solitude Wool’s Dorset Boot Sock kits and the Yarn Harlot’s blog post about knitting herself a pair almost instantaneously. I’m sort of tempted. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Two more followers! 99! What exquisite excitement!

Arne and Carlos’ Christmas-bauble-knitting book turned up yesterday – three days later than Amazon predicted, when they told me it had been dispatched. Have Xmas delays started already? It is totally unnecessary, but maintains the charm promised by the cover.

Wednesday is my osteoporosis-pill day, when I have to spend the first half-hour not drinking coffee or eating anything, and not going back to bed. I regard it as my half-hour, for gross self-indulgence, and today I spent it attempting a Christmas tree bauble.

All this stash reduction of late has left me sadly short, but I found a couple of oddballs left over from the Grandson sweater. I have no suitable red except the madelinetosh scarlet itself – surely there will be a few yards at the end for bauble-knitting? But for today, I started a black-and-white one, which Arne and Carlos also allow.

I say that the book is unnecessary because the basic bauble-pattern is simple, and surely to be found on the internet. Cast on 3 stitches for each of 4 needles, increase every other round to 16, knit 12 rounds straight, decrease at the same rate. There, I’ve told you. The colour patterns themselves are to be found in many a Scandinavian book, and locating them on a bauble doesn't require much ingenuity. There is a rather nice pig: I’ll aim at that for the Loch Fyne bobble.

The work is fiddly, dealing with all those needles when you have few stitches on each, and then doing colour-work on short dp’s. I’m not good at fiddly, and don’t enjoy it. On the other hand, the just-one-more-row syndrome never operates so powerfully as on a two-colour pattern on a small project. I overran my half-hour, and will probably sneak in more bauble-knitting later today. I still have a bag of stuffing left over from Sam the Ram in ’07, so that’s all right.

I wound and joined in a new skein for the little Brownstone yesterday – that’s progress, I guess, even if the project itself is obstinately unchanged. And in fact it isn’t – I’m only two inches short of the armpits, and could reach them today. “Armpits” means attaching the sleeves, and I absurdly feel that things will go faster once I’ve done that.

Your point about children’s head sizes is well taken, Tamar. It was a long and painful lesson for me to learn. I remember bitter struggles to pull too-small neck openings over too-large heads, when the children and I were young. In this case, I’m just anxious to avoid gaping. Jared starts the neck opening below the armpits. I mean to begin it when I’ve done maybe four rounds with sleeves attached.

Kristie, I didn’t take much persuading – I ordered both Van Gogh and Hundertwasser yarns yesterday. Only 100 grams of Van Gogh, which is going to mean a fair amount of something-from-the-oddball bag to finish the toes; a whole 200 for Hundertwasser. The latter yarn is merely inspired by the artist’s work (and what fun he sounds, Barbara) whereas, for the former, each colourway is based on a particular picture.

I don’t get as many socks done as I used to, now that we stay so close to home. And, as I’ve remarked, by husband’s stock is low. I’m sort of thinking maybe a sock-blitz for January and February, before I start my Effortless. So much to knit, so little time.

Thinking even further ahead, I’m imaging a gardening sweater for Rachel’s husband Ed. I took careful measurements from a sweater he was wearing last weekend, and perhaps soon will start contemplating the madelintosh page at Jimmy Bean’s again. Or do I want something slightly tougher? Ever a sucker for a book, I've ordered Knits Men Want.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I did enjoy my normal day, and am looking forward to this one.

Thank you for all the help with my Christmas shopping. At the moment, I think I’ll go with “Grandpa’s weeder” – I like the look of that foot-operated lever thing and customers seem enthusiastic. And will probably also get a normal-sized daisy grubber for myself, who can still kneel.

And thank you for the suggestion that I put my place card from Saturday on a mug. I don’t think I would have thought of it. The TShirt Studio makes it (seem) easy. Using the image I showed you yesterday, the mug will have “To Rhinoshambaorsp*” on one side and “*Latin for Grandmother!!!!” on the other. In fact, I ordered two – the other will be a Christmas present for our niece, who has two small grandsons on whom she dotes.

I ordered a couple of other things yesterday, too. I’m coming along nicely with my list. I have done most of Christmas on-line for some years now, and have never been let down or disappointed with the result. Other years, I’ve done a lot by going through all those catalogues that arrive with every tide. This time, I find I can hardly bear to look at them, but I am doing well with thinking about people and then searching on-line for something that resembles my thots.

I refrained from ordering Hundertwasser and Van Gogh yarn for myself, but may well succumb today. My husband has heard of Hundertwasser but doesn’t seem to have a very clear idea of what sort of thing he painted.

And I worked on the small Brownstone. I have reached a point, familiar to us all, when I knit and knit and knit, round and round and round, and make no discernable progress at all. I have discovered that a Small Boy and a Big One are not as different as you might think, when it comes to knitting sweaters for them.

I’ve still got plenty of time, but I felt a frisson of knitter’s-seasonal-anxiety yesterday and will probably take the little Brownstone along – contrary to normal practice – when we go to Strathardle soon.

I spent some time yesterday thinking about the shaping of the top. I hope the hard work is done, on that front. I plan to make the neck opening slightly less deep, proportionately speaking, than it is on the adult original. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

A normal day! To be followed by another, and another! The sky will probably fall in before Tuesday lunchtime, but for the moment, this happy grey morning, I revel in it. And in my two new followers.

The birthday was a great success.

Greek Helen produced the best card:

The Little Boys made place-cards for each of us. I got the best of those:


I only discovered the existence of this tool from Bob Flowerdew’s column (that’s really his name) in last month’s Kitchen Garden magazine. Googling them, I am astonished at the range. Raveller, could you tell me how long your long one is? And what brand it is? – I could, after all, order it from the US if necessary. I’ll now get to work on googling “grabber”. It sounds to me as if the combination might achieve just what I’m aiming at – tools to allow my husband to extirpate dandelions without kneeling. It would (as they say so often of children’s toys) keep him happily occupied for hours.

I love your Ikea stash cupboards.

Art Historical Sock Yarns

Barbara, thank you for the pointer to Opal’s “Hundertwasser” yarns. I had never heard of him. I wonder if my husband has? Modern German is not his favourite territory, art history-wise, but he keeps looking, and indeed makes a practice of going to exhibitions by artists he thinks he doesn’t like. I do agree with your observation that yarn purchased in a museum shop doesn’t count as stash. I wonder if the National Galleries of Scotland know about Opal? – they have an enterprising shop in the Gallery of Modern Art; Van Gogh might do well there.

November is maximum-temptation-month, yarn-buying-wise, and my husband’s sock drawer is not as full as it should be. Should I order a Hundertwasser and a Van Gogh?


The big Brownstone is now in London, and the little one is coming along nicely.

Friday, November 18, 2011

95th Follower, welcome! Encouragement is never more welcome than in the dark of November.

 We had a very nice time with my sister and her husband, now back in CT. Alexander drove over from Loch Fyne on Wednesday and we went out to lunch. So that leaves tomorrow’s birthday, excitement-wise. My husband particularly didn’t want to go out for that, and it’s his birthday, so today must be spent planning with care (7 adults, 2 children); shopping; planning the remaining three weekend meals – that’s a big one; and, I think, setting the table. Plus we’ve got to eat something today. I’ve got the prosecco. 

I am reading an interesting book on my iPad. I can’t name it for you until after Christmas. At the beginning of one chapter, it quotes a 19th century account of a mastectomy in Edinburgh:

“It is over. She is dressed, steps gently and decently down from the table, looks for James; then, turning to the surgeon and the students, she curtsies – and in a low, clear voice, begs their pardon if she has behaved ill. The students – all of us – wept like children; the surgeon happed her up.”

I love those last five words. I am glad the author included them – I wonder if he knew what the surgeon did at that point. My husband didn’t.

Alexander gave us the OED for Christmas, years ago, the whole 12-volume thing on a CD. “Hap” as a verb, now only “Sc. and dial.”, means “to cover for warmth, to wrap” and examples go back as far as the English language itself. Hap as a noun is “a covering of any kind”, with examples from the 18th century onwards. So a “hap shawl” – which the OED doesn’t seem to mention, but what can you expect of an authority which doesn’t include “Kitchener stitch”? – must have taken its name from the action of “happing”, rather than the other way around.

(Tamar, thank you for your Kitchener comment. We mustn’t forget that until very recently, when the internet brought the whole world together, the phrase was unknown in Britain. EZ was puzzled by it when she got to America.)

Actual knitting of the small Brownstone progresses, if slowly. I’ve finished the body ribbing, worked the increases, and am now steaming forwards towards the armpits. Alexander liked the redness of what will be his son’s sweater.

I am worried about the bigness of the big Brownstone. I tried it on my lumpy self – it didn’t seem totally outrageous. I must get it tidied up today, so that Big Thomas’s parents, who will be here tonight, can take it south on Sunday. And we’ll just have to see how it looks, and what, if anything, needs to be done, when we see it in action on the shores of Loch Fyne at Christmas.

My sister brought me the Dried Rose madelinetosh for my Effortless. The colour is fairly dark and subdued, but even so the heap of skeins glows slightly. I can’t wait.

But of course I must, and will. I did a bit of on-line Christmas shopping this morning, on the one-for-them, one-for-me principle. (Does anyone know anything about daisy grubbers? There seems to be quite a variety of designs.) I bought the “55 Christmas Balls to Knit” book for myself, and mean to take a hand-knit bauble to Loch Fyne. If I can get it done, they’ll be taking it out and hanging it on a tree long after I’m dead and their sweaters and hats have mouldered away.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

We had a good day with the Man from the Tate, and there is perhaps some hope that he will be able to prod the Y*le U.P. into a state nearer urgency (or at least action). My sister will be here this afternoon. She can help me, if help proves needed, getting Dropbox into operation and giving the Man from the Tate access to it.

Both my husband and I were near-prostrate with exhaustion last night.

Knitting progressed. I have wound the new skein, joined it in without visible change, and nearly finished the body ribbing of the small Brownstone..

This & That

I have taken out a three-month digital subscription to The Knitter. I continue to enjoy it. The only drawback is that I was told, after the event, that the subscription will be continued automatically. I think there is a way to turn that feature off and I had better apply myself to discovering it.

The Knitter is terrific on pointing out new and interesting yarns. I didn’t know, for instance, about Opal’s line of “Vincent van Gogh” sock yarns, each one based on a different, specific picture. My husband doesn’t rate V. van G. very highly, but I feel that as an art historian he has an actual responsibility to wear a pair of van Gogh socks.

“Native Shetland yarn” has just been granted PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin) by the EU, meaning that you can’t call it that if it isn’t, like champagne and Stilton. It sounds to me as if the terms have been so strictly defined that they can only apply to about four sheep – the breed must be the right one, of course, and the animal must lead a blameless organic life on Shetland, and the wool was be entirely processed there. So Jamieson & Smith won’t be included – their yarn is spun in Scotland, I think.

Knitlass, I didn’t thank you for your astute observation that a big plus of iPad or Kindle is that nobody can see what you’re reading, Henry James or a knitting magazine or a trashy thriller – I think I’ll indulge in “The Fear Index” soon. I still need to figure out how to get rid of things I’ve finished with or abandoned. I could, I think, uninstall the whole Kindle app.

When I first started reading this way, I felt a sense of disappointment that everything looked the same. No difference in size or weight or typeface or paper. But I’ve got past that.

Theo's wife Jenni had to go to Hawaii recently (poor woman) for an APEC summit -- whatever that is -- with Secretary Geithner. Theo couldn't go, but sent a doppelganger.

 I have tried everything I can think of to make this picture stand up (such as rotating it and saving the result, repeatedly). You'll just have to upend your computer. 

I should be back here on Friday, insh’Allah.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Here we are, the Week of November 13. Nor is the week's menu plan complete. Blogging may be patchy, but I should be here tomorrow at least. Today is the Man from the Tate (an old acquaintance). My husband is edgy.

Knitting continues to soothe and progress. I have cast on the body of the little Brownstone. Today’s television-time will have to be devoted mostly to winding the next skein. I will surely have enough (two more skeins) of this peculiar un-plyed madelinetosh “merino DK” to finish the body.

Thanks for the comments on Norbury. (Liz Lovick herself left one, next to my comment on her blog post. It’s nice the way a blog-author can do that in Wordpress.) I share the general doubt about historic authenticity. Maybe it was just one grandmother, talking about the practice in her own family. Norbury may have transported her, so to speak, to Fair Isle itself.

But my point was not authenticity, but to offer Norbury as the source of subsequent references to the “well-known practice”. My pursuit of the origin of “Kitchener stitch” offers an example of a similar repetition, except that in that case the source is maddeningly unknown. “Everybody knows” that Kitchener – who was indeed in charge of equipping and outfitting the British army in 1914 – wanted knitters to finish the toes of socks with grafting instead of just threading the yarn through the last few stitches and pulling, which creates a sort of knot, uncomfortable in boots.

But when did he say it? Where?

Some years ago an intelligent author offered the plausible hypothesis that Ruskin’s marital difficulties – look it up – stemmed from the fact that he didn’t know until his wedding night that women had pubic hair. This idea – it may be true, but again that’s not the point – instantly became an “everybody knows”, repeated by journalists.

As for the patterns themselves, they could indeed be easily recovered from the pram blankets, as you say, Tamar. You young 'un’s simply cannot imagine how few charts for colour knitting were available in the 60’s. There are some in Odham’s Encyclopedia, mentioned yesterday, and Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book has the Crown of Glory and the Tree of Life, and that was about it.

I was interested to note that the crown pattern on the pram blanket Liz illustrates is not quite the same as the one Odham’s and Mary Thomas provide. There are five thingummies sticking up from the base of the crown – I am sure there is a proper technical name for them, but I don’t know it. In Odham’s and Mary Thomas, the middle one is higher than the others. On the pram blanket, they’re all the same.

Mary Lou – forgive the lack of link; I’m now in a hurry – I can remember taking Odham’s Encyclopaedia out of the library again and again when we were in Leicester in the late 60’s; can’t remember when I acquired it. But I’ve just tried Abebooks, and there it is, pretty cheap. Go for it, I’d say. Norbury and Agutter, that’s the one you want.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

We had a good time with Greek Helen, all too brief. She is now in London, about to celebrate a faux Thanksgiving this afternoon with my sister and her husband and Rachel’s family.


All well with the little Brownstone. I should finish the second sleeve and cast on the body today.

P.D. James

Granddaughter Hellie (on the left of the back row of the Grandchildren in the sidebar: today is her birthday) works for the London literary agency which represents P.D. James, or “Phyllis” as we call her in the office. Hellie told us when we were in London recently about the new book, a sequel to “Pride and Prejudice”. She said that James submitted it diffidently, as an old woman’s jeu d’esprit – she’s 90, or nearly – and suggested perhaps half her usual advance.

The publisher read it and paid her twice her usual advance.

I’m not a great fan of pastiche, but I enjoyed it hugely. It was getting a bit hard to believe in Adam Dalgleish’s adventures as police procedural anyway. Mr. Darcy makes an admirable substitute, and James’s calm, intelligent style is perfectly suited to the attempt.

“The Robe of Glory”

Liz Lovick has an interesting blog post about the idea of the “Robe of Glory”. Apparently there was a pattern for a pram blanket in Good Housekeeping in the 80’s, claiming that it represented an old Shetland tradition. Liz has yet to meet a native Shetlander who has heard of it, and wonders about the origin of the story. I think I can help.

It’s in James Norbury’s introduction to the Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting, undated but probably about 1950 or a year or two earlier. I discovered the book in the late 60’s and used it extensively for my early adventures in Fair Isle and Shetland knitting.

In that introduction, Norbury recounts a visit he claims to have made to a knitter on Fair Isle in the mid-thirties. “I simply asked her what she was knitting. To my surprise, her answer was, ‘A Robe of Glory.’….She spread out her knitting across my knee and told me its story.

“The common practice on Fair Isle was for the grandmother of the family to knit the first Fair Isle sweater for her grandson to wear when he reached adolescence. Looking down at the patterns and pointing to them with her finger, the Fair Isle knitter said to me:

“’I start with the ‘Water of Life’ and then I knit the ‘Seed of Life’ which is nurtured by the water into the ‘Flower of Life’ which forms my next pattern. I shall give him an ‘Anchor of Hope’ and a ‘Star’ to guide him on his way.’ And then, pointing to the shoulder, she continued, ‘I knit a ‘Crown of Glory’ which will be his reward if he has lived a good life.’”

You young people cannot imagine how few knitting books there were Before Kaffe. I am sure the Good Housekeeping designer was inspired by that passage. As was I: I knit wedding sweaters for my daughters and daughters-in-law something along those lines. Each is different, but they all have the Crown of Glory on the shoulder. Here is Helen’s. The crown is purple. All the colours in this sweater were either natural-sheep, or dyed by me from Strathardle lichens. I saved the best for the last. The next pattern down seems to be the Anchor of Hope.

I could show you a pattern idea that P*tricia R*berts took from Odham’s Encyclopedia if I bestirred myself.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yesterday’s hair was a great success. Sanity apparently restored, for the moment I  resemble a superannuated politician, think Hillary Clinton or Theresa May. Not Mrs Merkel – no bangs. I shall sail confidently forward into next week’s excitements. I think I would feel even more confident if I sat down today or tomorrow and planned all the week’s food.

That’s good news about your sleeves, Mary Lou.

That is an interesting question you raised, Roobeedoo – do we actually knit patterns from magazines? I had a quick look back through sketchy notes.

-- I knit a VK scarf last year;

--a dinosaur sweater in ’09 from an old VK – I had knit it for Big Thomas back when he was Little Thomas. I hit it lucky with yarn on that one, and it was handed down through Rachel’s children. In ’09 it was my Games entry – “sweater with motif”, I think, was the challenge. It was unplaced.

--There was something in Knitter’s in ’04  called the “Mexicali Babe Ole”. I meant to knit it for Little Thomas when he was really little – but did I?

-- 2004 was apparently the Year of the Magazines. I knit a wonderful striped scarf from IK. It was knit lengthwise, the stripes formed from separate balls of Louet Gems Merino, intarsia-fashion. At either end, the stripes detached themselves from each other and formed a kind of fringe. My sister brought the yarn over for me and asked, mildly, why she had had to import something spun in Britain. Sure enough, it is, or was, when you read the small print. I wrote to them to ask if there was any way to buy the yarn in this country. They answered: no. I gave that one to our niece, on my husband's suggestion. I think he was afraid I was going to wear it myself.

-- And also in ’04, the Round-the-Bend jacket from Knitter’s in Kureyon, for James’s wife Cathy.

It’s not much, over seven years.

I think maybe buying directly from designers is the way it’s going, just now. Certainly for me – the Brownstone finished, the Effortless to come. I had another browse through the Twist Collective just now. Some seriously nice things, you don’t need me to tell you (although I have yet to buy anything from them). Good articles on seaming in the current issue, too.

And I knit a certain amount from books, one way and another. It stands to reason that patterns are likely to be better there than in magazines, just as cookery writers, on the whole, put their best stuff in their books.

I think I may venture on a trial iPad subscription to The Knitter. The lack of clutter is indeed wonderful. The same thing applies to books – the paperback thrillers I used to buy, an embarrassment once read, are now tidily out of sight in the iPad. I’m greatly enjoying P.D. James’ “Death Comes to Pemberley”.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I am about to have my hair done, so as to look sane and collected during all next week’s excitements. The man from the Tate on Monday is only the beginning. So I shall have to be brisk and un-collected here. No time for links.

I had an email last night from someone who had found me by Googling “shawl knitter Edinburgh”. Golly! Me! She wants a shawl for a forthcoming grandchild and I realised (since I have no intention of producing one for her myself) that the best bet was to send her on to that place on Castle Street which we Mileses call the Indignant Gentlewomen.

How to find the address? But I underestimated Google. It’s the Royal Edinburgh Repository and Self-Aid Society. For those furth of Edinburgh: it is a simple and brilliant Victorian charity still in operation in pleasantly old-fashioned premises in the city centre. The idea is that the charitable trust pays all the overheads, and the craftspeople who display and sell their goods there take home the whole purchase price.

I’ve seen quite reasonable shawls in their window, and there might still be time for one to be commissioned. Although not from me.


Anna, I read your comment as an email, and didn’t recognise the few initial words of the blog you attached it to. No time to search. If you were asking about my current knitting, it’s Jared Flood’s “Brownstone” pattern available from his website which is something like An excellent, detailed and accurate pattern.

Thanks for the comments on it. Big Thomas’s mother Rachel said once – being brave about something I had produced, I think – that there’s no such thing as a too-big sweater. Well, maybe. In this case, it’s not a Christmas present. Rachel and Ed will be here next week (see “excitements”, above) for my husband’s 86th birthday, and they can take it south to Big Thomas.

So that by the time we see it on him on the shores of Loch Fyne, he and it will have had a couple of weeks to adjust to each other.

Mary Lou, furthering Tamar’s comment, have at look at Eunny’s video about lengthening and shortening. It must be somewhere on the Interweave website. Even if your sleeve is patterned, you could calculate the spot where you want the cuff to begin, apply Eunny’s technique, cut off the rest, and knit the cuff downwards. The sleeve might wind up somewhat more bloused than it is at present, but that is a small price to pay for not having to re-knit the whole thing. That’s essentially what I plan to do with the Brownstone sleeves if they really are too long.

All well here, knitting-wise. Which is more than can be said for the state of the world. When they told Churchill that Coventry had been obliterated, he said “Well, let’s have lunch. Everything looks better after lunch”. That’s how I feel about the winter solstice. The Second Great Depression may not seem so bad when the snowdrops are out. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Nine Eleven

I've just looked back -- today is, as I thought, the anniversary of my sister-in-law's operation for colon cancer.

I made a good start yesterday on the conversion of my husband’s files. He wants me to concentrate on the ones he has recently revised, so I’m doing that. Holly, I don’t think the old Word Perfect can help – although at least I understand what you’re suggesting. It’s more than 20 years old, pre-Windows, and as I remember from my own days of using it, will save files only in its own format and as DOS text.

What I need is a macro in Word Perfect 12 which would invite me to type in the name of the next file I want loaded, and would then convert it to Word and invite me to put it away in its new place. It could save a lot of clicking.

Thank you, too, for the suggestion of Dropbox for cloud computing. As it happens, my sister wrote to me yesterday suggesting the same thing. I’ve signed up and made a start with it – and I'm sure it's going to work fine.


Stash temptation comes crowding in. Thanks for yesterday’s suggestions, most of which I’d never even heard of. I’ve recently bought an on-line copy of The Knitter, and also downloaded a free one they had on offer. It is distinctly good, and distinctly pricy. Should I cancel “Knitting” and go for it? Reading it in bed last night with the subject on my mind, I found it absolutely full of pointers to wonderful-sounding yarns I don't know about.


I seized an available half-hour yesterday and blocked the Brownstone – without even pausing to deal with loose ends, as you see. I can't give it its final percentage point in the sidebar until I've done that.

It looks enormous. Taking a tape measure to it, I find that the width is about right. Somehow both body and sleeves are a couple of inches longer than the measurements I was aiming at.

BUT – isn’t it wonderful how life sometimes fits together? – this morning’s edition of Knitting Daily, to which I subscribe, is devoted to the subject of shortening or lengthening a sweater! With a video demonstration from Eunny! I will see Big Thomas in the sweater on the shores of Loch Fyne at Christmas, insh'Allah, and will judge then what, if anything, needs to be done.

And here’s the little one, superimposed on the Strachur Primary School sweatshirt which is its template. So far so good.

Both Zite and an email from I Knit London tempt me with “55 Christmas Balls to Knit”. If that sounds like a title you could skip, have a look at Arne and Carlos on the cover. I could knit a bauble (our family word for them) to take along to Loch Fyne. 

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The man from the Tate is coming on Monday. So my job this week – I’ve done it several times before, in the last few years – is to translate the absolutely latest version of my husband’s work into a 21st century form, so that the man can take it away with him if he wants to.

My husband works on a DOS-based machine in an old version of Word Perfect. There are hundreds of separate files, one for each picture ??????? painted, and some extras. I feel, like Winnie-the-Pooh coming downstairs with Christopher Robin, that there must be an easier way to do this, but what I do is load each file separately one-by-one into a modern Word Perfect on my machine – thank goodness that is still possible -- and then save it as a Microsoft Word file.

On my husband’s old machine, I can write little macros (in DOS, or Word Perfect itself) to help with repetitive jobs. But I think modern macro-writing is beyond me.

And then what? My desktop machine is pretty antique, and for some years has refused to write CD-ROM’s, although it can still read them. Will there be room for the whole thing on a memory stick? Cloud storage, which James has been pressing on me, is another possible solution.

And the other thing is that I had better get Big Thomas’s Brownstone blocked today, if possible. It goes on the dining room floor, you will remember. It’s got to be dry and up and away by Monday (at the latest) so that they can work in there without stepping on it.

I finished the first sleeve of the little Brownstone last night, and am well forward with the ribbing on the second. I think we’ll achieve Christmas without stress. I’m going to leave out the two short-row passages with which Jared lifts the back. The shaping from the point where sleeves are joined to body may involve an uncomfortable amount of thinking – the very point at which, on the big sweater, I could stop thinking and leave everything to Jared.

Maybe it won’t be as bad as I anticipate.

Miscellaneous, knit- and non-

Little Thomas is seven today.

Queer Joe has posted a most interesting video about that hexi-puff quilt which appears to be the pattern-du-jour. I always knew he was handsome, and am now struck with how nice he is.

Roobeedoo, thanks – your blog – for the pointer to Skein Queen and the push towards Weekend Hats. There’s something about it in Zite this very morning. I don’t really need another hat book (just another few hours in the day) – but I’m tempted.

I was interested in your remark (comment, Saturday) about not buying yarn from the US because one lives in Scotland. The awfulness of having to pay for it a second time on the doorstep is disincentive enough, but my feeling is that too many (from a knitter’s point of view) Scottish sheep are there to provide (delicious) lamb chops, and stand about with coarse wool on their backs which is scarcely worth sheering. Merino sheep, I believe, won’t even “do” in England; it’s too much for their delicate chests. I’m going to go on gathering yarn from everywhere. If I can tempt you to buy some of Jared's "Loft" I won't have written in vain.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Kate, I’m a long-time fan, and feel honoured that you should stop by here. I’ve now got the Warriston pattern and the first issue of Textisles. Nor was it difficult, once I applied myself.

And you’re right about Warriston-the-place – it’s a delightful walk. We don’t get down there any more because my husband isn’t spry enough. We used to enjoy it, and if there were solitary gents lurking in the bushes (as there occasionally were) they were doing no harm and weren’t interested in us anyway. I shop on Broughton Street every day, the Rainbow Centre of Edinburgh.

But the double association with death remains, crematorium and cemetery.


Little Thomas’s sleeve progresses well. The place where the new skein of yarn begins can be detected, but you have to know what you’re looking for. The colour-match is extraordinarily good. I’m not going to worry. Little Thomas is the youngest grandchild, and almost certain to remain so, so there’s no one for him to hand the sweater on to. I’m not knitting for posterity.

The only possible conclusion is that “Tosh DK (formerly known as tosh worsted)” and “Tosh Merino DK” are two different yarns, although both consist entirely of superwash merino wool. Confusing. I wonder which I’ll be getting next week for my Effortless, when my sister delivers the Jimmy Bean order I had sent to her. I hope (and expect) that I’m getting the plyed version, Tosh DK.


I’m sorry to hear about your flu, Angel. That’s thoroughly bad news. We have an appointment for our shots next week, on Wednesday the 16th. I was in Boots the other day, picking up a prescription as so often, and looked to see whether I could just have the shot there and then for a modest payment, as you did, Jean. But the leaflets made it clear that it has to be done through one’s doctor around here.

I at last got a look at Rowan’s lace book that day. Hesitated, but didn’t buy it. The accompanying yarn, “Fine Lace”, is awfully nice – alpaca and merino wool in a small range of gentle colours. I may go back.

We have the prospect of a nice calm week ahead, the only external event being the briefest of visits from Greek Helen on Friday. She’ll hardly be here long enough to fill us in on news from Athens. Then all sorts of excitements next week. A new one has been added in the last few days, in the form of a man from the Tate who is going to sit down with my husband’s magnum opus and consider how it can be reduced to a scale that the Y*le University Press can cope with. We’ve been waiting for him for nearly two years.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Mary, thank you tremendously for the offer of “Knitting on the Axis”. I misunderstood your first comment, as you suspected, and was going to say, Thanks, but I’ll take your word for it. But – second comment – if you really don’t want the book, I’d be very happy to have it. Write to me at the address in the sidebar and we’ll work out the postage.


I am 11"  into the sleeve of the small Brownstone, with a target of 16".  I may shorten it a bit – the last thing a boy wants is sleeves dragging in his soup.

Last night I wound the first skein of the three from Happy Knits. As I did so, I became uneasy – not about colour, but is this yarn finer than what I have been knitting with? That wasn’t it. I soon defined the problem – it doesn’t seem to be plyed. I wish I were a spinner and understood these things. I have knit with yarn like this at sometime or other – what was it? when? Manos?

The labels are singularly unhelpful. The skeins in the original order, now constituting Big Thomas’s sweater, were labelled “Tosh DK (formerly known as tosh worsted) 100% superwash merino wool”. The three from Happy Knits, one of which I wound last night, are “Tosh merino DK 100% superwash merino wool”. The yardage, gauge, needle suggestions, on the two labels are identical.

I also have two skeins from Jimmy Bean – “Tosh DK”. Nothing about “formerly known as…” Everything else the same – but the Jimmy Bean skeins are plyed.

Buyer beware.

I have joined in the unplyed skein and knit three or four rounds. The colour match is really quite remarkably good, even by this morning’s dim contribution of natural light. There is a change – the unplyed yarn makes a shiner, silkier fabric.

I think it’s probably best to go on like this – the three Happy Knits skeins might even be enough to finish, or at least to finish minus the collar. I am less confident about the colour-match of the Jimmy Bean skeins. Life is frot with problems.

If there is still something left at the end, I’ll go for a watchcap. Maybe for me.


I must press on – Sundays are hard work. But I want to say:

I have eliminated Gardening and Cooking from my Zite magazine (iPad app) and switched to World News. (Knitting is still there, of course.) The American slant is fascinating. It’s not that the news is different -- the emphasis is. Over here, we’re mostly concerned at the moment with the collapse of civilisation as we know it in the form of Greece, the Euro, and the implications for the world economy of what seems to be about to happen. Zite is anxious about the potential zapping of Iran. So are we, of course, but we lack that American sense of Israel as the 53rd state or whatever the total is by now. The Zite selections are by no means uncritical of Israel, but there is still that sense that Israel-is-us which is lacking here.

I wonder if I have expressed that clearly enough.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Thanks, Jean. I had meant to start yesterday’s post with: Now! On your newsstand! But I forgot. I’m on page 90 of the current, “December”, issue of Kitchen Garden, in my Free to Stitch, Free to Bitch tee-shirt. The pictures must be four or five years old. C. took them.

Miscellaneous knit-related thots:

Jared’s new Loft yarn looks wonderful. I wonder if perhaps young people now accumulate stash more slowly, knowing that the world is full of wonderful yarn wherever you turn, whereas I –- especially in the 90’s, when I first got on-line – bought it desperately, as I had all my life only now there was more of it, on the principle that it might not be there when I got back.

I followed the link on your blog, Kristie to Kate Davies’ website. I had been there recently before, prompted by an item in Zite magazine. I cannot figure out how to subscribe to her “Textisles” digital magazine. Whatever I click, I just get that wonderful pic of the gent in his smock. Commentators grumble that they want to read the magazine without paying for the “Warriston” pattern. I wouldn’t mind that, if I could figure out how to do it.

(Why “Warriston”? In this part of town the word suggests either a) the crematorium or b) the picturesque overgrown cemetery famous for homosexuals looking for friendship. I hope that isn’t offensive. It’s true, and I can’t think how to re-phrase it.)


I’m about six inches forward with the first sleeve of the little Brownstone. The slight difference in stitch numbers (see yesterday) makes a big difference in speed. Perhaps that’s what they call “leverage” in the financial world.

Today I will probably finish the last skein which figured in the big Brownstone, which is also the last skein of my original order of madelinetosh scarlet DK from Amsterdam. It will be interesting indeed to see how the subsequent lots blend in. Madelinetosh is supposed not to have dye lots.


We had a nice lunch with our friend yesterday. She was most interested in our find. It’s not a question of authenticating it – if my husband says it’s a ???????, it is. Short of summoning up ??????? himself in a séance, there is no other authority. She thinks that when we give it to the Gallery, it could be displayed in one of those glass case thingys in the middle of the floor, with letters from the artist to his mother, that sort of thing. That is an exciting thought. I wouldn’t mind parting with it if I could walk up the hill and see it again.

First we’d have to fix the hole.

When I first saw the image on the auctioneer’s website, I thought I detected some quality painting around the eyes. What interests my husband – he pointed it out again yesterday – is the foreshortening of the first joint of the subject’s middle finger. Clumsy but ambitious, he says. Sitting here writing this, I have tried to strike the same pose. I can’t do it. I can bend that finger at the first joint, but can’t keep it straight while bending the second joint. Maybe men are jointed differently.

Friday, November 04, 2011

I’ve almost dispatched the Brownstone. I grafted the underarms last night – I do love grafting – and tidied the inevitable little holes left and right, and sewed the collar down. That leaves the dangling ends from the cast-ons, and the ones from the joining-in of new skeins.

It looks great, and I had sort of hoped that a pass with the steam iron might suffice at this point, but Jared writes so passionately about the need for full-scale, total-immersion blocking that I will go ahead and do it. Meg is keen, too. And that can’t be today, for today our friend from the NGofS is coming to have lunch and see the new picture by ???????, and the dining-room floor is where things get blocked.

(My husband says the thing to do with the new picture is give it to the Gallery, as a document. It’ll never merit wallspace. Well, perhaps, conceivably, as a curiosity, in an exhibition devoted to ???????. He’s right, I guess, but I’d still rather like to have it in the dining-room at Burnside. He rejoices in keeping Strathardle a ???????-free zone.)

This would be the moment to spend a couple of days on two-colour brioche-stitch, challenge-wise, but Christmas looms, so yesterday I did the arithmetic for the sleeves of Little Thomas’s Brownstone and cast on. The primary school sweatshirt I have been sent has raglan sleeves, like the Brownstone itself – a big plus. I can be confident, thus, that the top-of-sleeve measurement is right.

I was a bit taken aback to find how high a proportion of Big Thomas’s stitch numbers Little Thomas required. Have I got enough yarn? Yes, surely. The big sweater used six-and-three-quarters skeins. That leaves five-and-one-quarter for the little one.

 I took a designing-for-children class from Kristin Nicholas once (Stitches East ’02, I think) in which I remember her saying that children didn’t change much in circumference, they just got longer. Little Thomas is not nearly as tall as Big Thomas – the body section when I get there will use much less yarn this time.

I’d better begin the day. It’s Jamie Oliver’s salmon with beans, tomatoes, olives and anchovies again. Our friend has probably had it before; it’s my party-piece. Easy to cook, easy to eat.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

We had a grand time. The weather was perfectly usable on Monday, glorious winter sunshine on Tuesday. It comes straight in the window, this time of year, and wonderfully reveals the complex colours in one’s madelinetosh yarn. Big Thomas toiled valiantly with my husband, leaving me to doze by the fire or knit, as preferred.

Here they are having a bonfire.

And here, toiling down among the larches.

My own gardening was slightly a disappointment – I haven’t spread manure and compost yet. I was diverted, this time, into planting some tulipa sylvestris and winter aconites. I regard flowers as a distraction from the main business of gardening, but it had to be done. I unearthed some daffodils in the process. It is touching to find them hard at work on 2012 when all the rest of nature is closing down.

The gentlemen sheep have already joined the ladies, too – we’ll have lambs as well as daffodils next year. It’s good to know, as Europe totters.

I lived extravagantly, eating bacon and eggs for breakfast and drinking cider. This morning’s weigh-in, back in Edinburgh, was the best for months. I shall revert to a strict regime of porridge and sugar-free bitter lemon, rather regretfully.

I haven’t reached the second buttonhole on the Japanese shirt yet, but it’s not far off, and so is the end of the first (of six) skeins of yarn. I sort of wish I had a seventh.

Here is the Dan Webster Memorial Trophy. We got it out of the cornbin for the occasion. You get it by winning races. Big Thomas won it in his day, as did his father – but he wasn’t here at the Games this year to see his brother Joe bring it back home. He rightly says that we must take a picture of all three of them with the cup before we hand it back.

That's the Japanese shirt, too.

Here at base, I cast off the Brownstone last night. Today I hope to finish it – there’s not much to do, tacking down the collar-ends and grafting the underarms. Alexander has sent a Strachur Primary School sweatshirt of little Thomas’ to use as a template for his reduced Brownstone. I wonder if I can do it by drawing a schematic and continuing to use Jared as a guide to shaping. I’ve certainly got a big enough swatch.

Alasdair Post-Quinn’s (got to love that name) “Extreme Double-Knitting” has turned up. It goes straight onto the Challenge Pile. Would I have the strength and patience? I’d like to try the “Compass” hat on the cover.

I’m interested, too, in the rest of the Cooperative Press' list. And then there’s the question of whether to get Mathew Gagny’s “Knitting Off the Axis”. Lots to think about.