Saturday, December 31, 2011

Thank you for all the wonderful comments.

Donice, it is grand to know that you were listening to Kings College, too, on Christmas Eve – it’s part of the emotion of the moment, the link it provides to absent friends. I’m glad you agree about this year’s boy.

Philhellene, I’m with you on socks. I always do 50 rounds of ribbing for gents’ socks. I don’t greatly dislike doing it, but I’m always glad when it’s over – and I couldn’t possibly contemplate toe-up, with that much ribbing coming last.

I did cast on in anthracite last night, for the next pair, and am nearly half-way through the ribbing. I was astonished to rediscover how much I prefer conventionally spun and twisted sock yarn, after recent weeks with KF’s hand-dyed-effect. The jury will have to stay out on that yarn until we see how it wears. The finished socks are certainly lovely and soft. I did reinforce the heels – can’t hurt. And they look fine. But the gentle twist and the constant threat of splitting certainly diminished the pleasure.

“Anthracite” is a KF random-striped yarn. The fun of those, as you know, is the way they entice you to knit on and on to see what the next stripe is going to be, and the next after that.  But in my non-OTT-lit sitting room I find, so far, that I can scarcely detect the stripes. I discovered, by peering, that I had knit a couple without even noticing them. The effect is just anthracite, and that’s fine.

But I will try to arrange life, next winter, to have something brighter on the needles from mid-November to mid-January. Like madelinetosh scarlet. It does make a difference.


There was a program on Radio Four this morning, from 6 to 6:30, about the Moray Firth Gansey Project. The general title was Open Country, I think. You could probably track it down on the BBC website, but I doubt if it is worth your while. The point of the Gansey Project is to preserve patterns and memories. Much was made of that. But there was no mention of the fact that Gladys Thompson did it 40 years ago. I suppose if you’re applying for Heritage Lottery Fund money, as the Gansey Project did, it is more prudent to keep Mrs Thompson in the shadows.

The program could at least have said a bit more about colour. The word “mustard” did come in once. And they mentioned the herring girls and the fact that they, too, wore ganseys. I was alert to colour-references at that point, but none came.

One of the speakers mentioned “the book” – I wondered which one she meant.

Zite found me a hat-knitting app this morning – and seems to have taken the article down, an hour later. It cost $2.99 and had a simple and obvious name, so a search of the App Shop should find it. I was tempted.

And while we’re on the subject of the iPad, have a look at Flipboard if you haven’t already. It’s free. James introduced me to it, and I had the great pleasure of showing Thomas-the-Elder, barrister and iPad-owner, who needed to be told by his granny because he hadn’t discovered it yet. I still need Zite to cruise the web for me in search of knitting news, but Flipboard is good too.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Here we are. We’ve survived the solstice. Can we entirely trust them to have thrown the switch Up There? But they’ve never failed us before.

We had a grand time at Loch Fyne, although my husband still hasn’t recovered much oomph since he came down with that cold three weeks ago. Rachel and her family are safely back in London – it’s a long drive – and we are here. Alexander delivered us to the door yesterday, whence he had collected us on the 23rd.

Yesterday morning we were blasted from sleep at about a quarter to eight by a flash of light which filled the room and the dull, popping sound, much magnified, of a fuse blowing. My first thought was that the power point on the far wall opposite the window (into which my beloved iPad was plugged, charging overnight) had exploded.

It was, in fact, lightening. The house lost almost all power, a phenomenon none of us had ever seen before. Electricity, in our previous experience, is either on or off. But yesterday the Loch Fyne Mileses had lights which glowed dimly –so the lines weren’t down? – and nothing much else. They also lost their telephone (so no internet). Ketki phoned from her mobile while we were being driven home, to say that power had been restored. When I last heard, BT was promising reconnection for sometime next week.

The iPad is fine.

Much to catch up on, but knitting is most important.

Here is Arne & Carlos’ bauble being hung on the tree by James-the-Younger, shortly after the start of the King’s College Carol Service on Christmas Eve. This year’s soloist – the boy who sings the first verse of “Once in Royal David’s City”, unaccompanied, to a listening world -- was particularly glorious. That’s the moment when it’s all over; that’s when it starts.

Here are the two Brownstones, a few days later, on Big Thomas and Little Thomas. Fit is not entirely successful, in either case.

Here is almost the last of the yarn, as a beanie on the head of Alistair Miles, James’ and Cathy’s son. The fit is perfect, if I do say so.

Except for a sunless lull on the 27th, serious gales blew incessantly. My husband couldn't attempt little walks about the garden, as we had hoped.  I got lots of knitting done. Those KF hand-dyed-effect socks are within perhaps 20 minutes, perhaps less, of completion.

I used to knit socks on 64 stitches for all the gents on my best-beloved list, until my husband found a pair too tight and I switched to 72. This time, I finished and Kitchener’d the first sock sometime last week. He tried it on and found the foot too big – “like a duck-billed platypus”. So I took it back to the gusset – the worst part of that is deciding to do it – and knit the foot on 64. It seems fine.

When KF’s random-striped Regia, colorway “anthracite”, arrived here some weeks ago, we thought it too blue. My husband is anti-blue. But now, in the solstice light even at midday, it looks like anthracite, and I think I will cast it on today, at least tentatively, for the next pair of socks.

And when they are finished – roll on, 2012!

Friday, December 16, 2011

I think this is the moment when I will bow out for awhile, perhaps to reappear in the last week of the year.

Our plans seem to be in more than ordinary disarray.

n      My husband’s illness puts a question mark over our journey to Loch Fyne next Friday. And I’m not altogether sure I feel entirely hunky dory myself. We have long believed that there is a sort of sub-flu one can get when one has had the injection, and I think that may be where I am.
n      Rachel’s husband’s dearly loved Aunt Frances had a cerebral haemorrhage last weekend. Drs decided yesterday to withdraw ventilation and let her die. Rachel and her family couldn’t possibly come to Loch Fyne – they are expected on the 26th – if it meant missing Aunt Frances’ funeral. No one knows, of course, how long the dying will take. I am fond of Aunt Frances myself, although knowing her but little.
n      Alexander cooks on an Aga, which came with the house. Agas are generally regarded as the ne plus ultra of cooking apparatus, although Alexander himself – a fussy cook – is not entirely pleased with it. Be that as it may, something has recently gone wrong. A Man is meant to come next week and put it right. If he doesn’t come or can’t fix it, roast goose on the 25th is out of the question. I’m not much bothered with this one, although Alexander is – baked beans on toast washed down with champagne would do very nicely.

Amongst my own right-now problems is the question of what to feed people today. James and his daughters will be here at the end of the afternoon – the middle of the night, for them, freshly arrived from China. James thinks the girls will just want to go to bed, but I can’t meet them on the doorstep with the immortal line, “You’ll have had your tea”. I’ve got to offer something, and one of the girls is vegetarian.

And James himself (a Type 1 diabetic) has adopted a regime of no-carbohydrate-in-the-evening. And my husband continues to protest that in his current delicate state he doesn’t want anything “cooked”, he just wants food.

Lying awake last night, wondering if I was ill, I figured out today’s program. I’ll have a large pot of water near the boil when they arrive. If the girls want food, I’ll make them spaghetti aglio e olio, a delicious dish of utmost simplicity often consumed by young Italians in the middle of the night. And vegetarian. And then the rest of us can have Gino d’Acampo’s version of spag bol a little later and James can leave out the spag.

And tomorrow will have to look after itself.

As for knitting, I’ve passed the halfway point with the Pig Bauble and progressed with the current sock. I am much struck with the emotional difference between madelinetosh scarlet and KF hand-dyed-effect rhubarb, a dark purple. I am pleased enough with the sock which is emerging, but the process of knitting it completely lacks that scarlet boost.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Today’s first hurdle is a dental hygeine appt. Fortunately the dentist’s office is near and time-keeping good.

My husband continues to improve, but is very weak. Apart from the illness, he has had no exercise since Saturday morning when we went to a book fair at the Radisson Hotel. The halest of us is quickly enervated by lying about. James will be here tomorrow and Alexander and Ketki on Saturday. I will welcome their support and advice.

Little to report, knitting-wise. On the sock, I’ve picked up the stitches for the gusset and started decreasing and Oliver’ing. Thank you for the link, Sarah. I am two or three rounds short of the centre point of the new bauble. It’s tough going, consisting as it does of areas of pig and areas of not-pig, so that the colours have to be stranded, or rather woven, over considerable distances. It’s very tight, which I think will be a positive asset, and the red tends to peek through the white, which isn’t too much of a downer in this context, either.

I’ll leave it there and go make today’s list.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Let’s keep calm, and make a list.

There really needs to be a name for these last few days before the solstice, of darkness, fear, and hope. “Advent” is too mild. And I love your idea, Gretchen, of a “slow Christmas” movement. But I suspect we haven’t a hope.

My husband had a much better day yesterday, cough subdued, out of bed for much of the day. Antibiotics are clearly working. But he is still weak, and looks drawn, and has expressed doubt about whether he will be able to go to Loch Fyne for Christmas. James and his daughters (not, alas, Cathy and their eldest, Alistair) will be here on Friday. Alexander and his family will come over on Saturday, the brothers’ only chance to see each other this holiday.

(We have a good local delicatessen and, if energy serves, a great one, Valvona and Crolla, not all that much further away. That takes care of lunch except for clearing the Christmas card operation off the dining room table and I wonder if I have washed the tablecloth since my husband’s birthday.)

And I must wrap the presents for Alexander’s family and for Rachel’s (who are expected at Loch Fyne on Boxing Day) so that they can go back with him on Saturday, just in case we don’t make it. I’ve done the James-Mileses.

I am pretty sure each one of you has a similar list. It doesn't sound so bad, anyway, when you write it down.

Knitting (a much more manageable subject)

I did spend my osteoporosis-half-hour this morning with Arne & Carlos. I’m doing Pattern 43, the Christmas Pig, which is interesting because there are only two pigs, not four – that is, the four sections of the bauble are not identical this time. I’ve got up to 12 stitches per needle, 4 more to go, and have established the feet of the pigs.

And last night I turned the heel of the first KF hand-dyed-effect sock. I did reinforce it, which was irritatingly fiddly. My husband has one pair of Oliver’d socks, and likes them – I’m late, and won’t look up the link. So I’ll do that again.

We have ordered a couple of things from in our day, the most recent a work on the control of moles which had been recommended in the FT. This morning I had a message from them, all in French, about some knitting books I might be interested in. That’s what I call an algorithm! I’m afraid I ordered Tricot- Modèles originaux et variants” simply because I felt so flattered. I’ll tell you about it when it turns up.

Mark Lou, thanks for the tip about “strikkegarn”. I’ve google’d that, and sources seem to be plentiful. Maybe Dale has decided to concentrate on selling ready-made sweaters and sort of abandoned Heilo. Doesn’t “strikkegarn” just mean “knitting yarn”? I remember Candace Eisner at Camp Stitches on Lake George in ’99 telling us that she had scoured the world for a man whose name meant “knitting” and when she found him, married him. Candace Eisner Strick. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It sounds as if they’re going to announce in Switzerland today that they may have spotted the Higgs boson. It will be a feather in the cap of Drummond Place, if so, as Professor Higgs used to live here. It was quite a while ago, and he wasn’t here long, maybe 18 months, but still, here. Drummond-Place-in-history runs rather to poets and artists – a Nobel Prize for Physics would be a bracing change.

My husband is better. I consulted a dr by telephone yesterday, a facility our practice now offers as standard. I hope they all do. He agreed that the markers I mentioned yesterday were significant, and said that my husband must be seen if any of them regressed. He also thought that an antibiotic might help, and he seems to have been right. At any rate, we’ve had a nearly cough-free night. It took all the rest of yesterday morning for me to get across town to the surgery to pick up the prescription – paper, with an actual dr’s signature, is still required – and then to get up to Boots to activate it.

But I got my pensum of Christmas cards written in the afternoon.

On the subject of Christmas: the pedant in me has noticed (Zite, again) that a significant minority of people seem to believe that “the twelve days of Christmas” refers to the period we are currently enduring. It does not. The 12-day count begins on 25 December and ends on – wait for it – Twelfth Night. The first time I spotted that error, I assumed it was an individual’s idiosyncratic mistake, but it keeps cropping up.

I finished knitting the second hat. My list of the year’s FO’s positively sparkles for December. There is still Arne & Carlos’ pig ornament to knit and take to Loch Fyne next week, but knitting, especially in December, is required to sooth as well as entertain. Christmas-tree-bauble-knitting is a lot of fun, and indeed addictive, but not soothing.

So, after tidying up the hat, I reverted last night to the KF hand-dyed-effect sock. Tomorrow is Wednesday. I’ll cast on the ornament during my osteoporosis half-hour and trust it to knit itself thereafter.

The sock yarn still slightly worries and slightly irritates me. The sock which is emerging is fine, wonderfully soft, and the sloooooooow colour changes are splendid. But the ball keeps falling apart and the yarn keeps splitting. We’ll see. I think when I was knitting in a&e the other night, I got into the swing of it and it sped forward like any sock. I hope that will happen again.

Zite found me an interesting hat pattern yesterday: the Regina. Here is a link to the one Zite illustrated which I think looks better than the designer’s colour scheme. It sounds fun, and madelinetosh DK is actually mentioned. What if I dipped into the delicious pile of yarn my sister recently brought me for my Effortless (or Vitamin D, as the case may prove)? I mustn’t, but I'm tempted.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Well, Greek Helen got here through the storm and whizzed through a remarkable amount of accomplishment in her 64 hours in GB – including visiting a potential school for one of her boys in York, halfway from here to London. Rumplestiltskin himself would have stood amazed at the amount of ironing she got done. It was wonderful to have a shoulder to lean on, instead of being ever the lean-ee.

The storm was fully as bad as forecast, but kept strictly to the script. The Edinburgh airport website has what purports to be an arrivals board (maybe they all do). Nothing landed during the afternoon but Helen’s flight, timetabled for 8:30 p.m., was shewn all day as “scheduled 21:30” – which was a good deal better than “cancelled”. The storm died down in the early evening, as predicted, and she landed at 21:40. From her point of view, the delay was all spent in Athens airport. Her trip home yesterday was utterly smooth.

And here we are with the solstice looming. I’m doing well with Christmas cards – five or six a day, and I’ll finish by the weekend. Miss a day, and I’m in trouble.

Knitting is well in hand. I finished the first hat and thought it, simply, perfect. (It’s from Vicki Square’s “Knit Great Basics”, a book of schematics for various basic shapes in a good range of gauges. There are other such books out there. This was the first one I stumbled across, and I use it a lot.) So I didn’t try to translate Jared’s Wanderer cap from “Weekend Hats” after all. Apart from gauge considerations, it involves a lot of purling which is less than soothing on a short circular.

I had a rare burst of common sense, and weighed the finished hat on the digital kitchen scales, followed by weighing the remaining madelinetosh yarn. Not enough. So the second hat is striped, with Paton’s “Tapestry”, wool and soybean, from stash. Do they still make it? I should finish this evening.

The only serious source of gloom just at the moment is that my husband has a cold and cough, which came upon him suddenly on Saturday afternoon. He has had his flu injection and isn’t feverish and is alert and able to eat and read and express opinions. I don’t, so far, think we need a doctor, and there’s not much doctors can do for colds anyway. But anything is serious at 86 and I am concerned.

There is a bright side even to that: we don’t have to go out for exercise-walks.

Miscellaneous knitting-related

Thinking of the sweater I am going to design when Scotland wins the Calcutta Cup in ’12, I am surprised to find that Dale Heilo yarn doesn’t seem to be available in the UK. So far, I have failed to find the words which would prompt Google to come up with continental suppliers, and the Dale website itself isn’t much use. I’m sure, with the help of a Ravelry group, a solution can be found. I have used the yarn, and I want it for this imaginary sweater, but I think I got it from Patternworks and paid duty to re-import it into Europe. I’m not going to do that again.

Kate D. has a super new pattern called Boreal, ideal for country walks this time of year. I don’t know the yarn she uses, Artesano Aran, 50/50 wool-alpaca, but mean to find out. 

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Greek Helen is meant to be with us this evening. And central Scotland (=us) is meant to be having a serious storm, indeed is pretty wet and windy already. My considerable experience of life suggests that forecast storms rarely turn out to be quite as bad as forecast, and anyway this one seems to be forecast to be worse in the west (=Glasgow & Loch Fyne). Helen’s husband David is a worrier after my own heart, and will keep me informed through the day.

If I’m not here tomorrow, it ought to mean that Helen is here. She emailed yesterday to say that she would do the ironing, as long as she was allowed to cross it off the list. Alas, she would have to enlist Rumpelstiltskin to get her through that pile, and it isn’t on the list anyway – it seems like cheating to include normal, non-December things that have to be done all the time. Cook lunch. Wash up. But it was a kind thought. We are greatly blessed in all four of our children.

Little to report on the knitting front. I’ve started the crown decreases for the red beanie – finish this evening, perhaps. Zite showed me a red scarf pattern this morning – never mind the pattern, a scarf in madelinetosh scarlet would light up the winter all right. Thot for next year.

And I meant to say, a propos the little Brownstone, that mixing madelinetosh yarn from various sources seems to work fine. Dye lot really doesn’t matter. That sweater has all three of my purchases – the first sleeve gets about to the elbow with the yarn originally ordered from Amsterdam for Thomas-the-Elder’s sweater. Then it switches to that odd, unplyed yarn from Happy Knits, and finally back to the original sort, this time from Jimmy Bean. The Knitting Police could find the demarcation lines, but I am perfectly happy with the result. Irregularities are all subsumed, to my eye, in the delicious not-quite-uniformity of the dye.

Zite also led me this morning to a video of Arne & Carlos at home. You can see it on their website. They are older than they might at first appear, I am sorry to have to tell you. I went there hoping for some hint of sweater designs from them, but there is nothing. I have formed the tentative intention of a funky Norwegian design for the 2012 Calcutta Cup sweater. I ought to be able to do it myself, anyway. First win your rugby match.


When I was distinctly young, I remember (I think) that Civil War veterans, one or two, still turned out for Memorial Day parades. Now Pearl Harbor survivors are getting pretty rare. Three whole separate centuries are involved here, counting me, the observer, in the 21st. 

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

List-making is clearly the Secret of Life. I had another productive day yesterday and have reached the stage where there are only a couple of things to be tweaked – as ever – on the main job, and the cards to be written. The dust and the ironing are accumulating at a dispiriting rate, but you can’t have everything.

I got the Little Brownstone blocked (it was on the list). I’m pleased with it, perhaps more than with the big one.

Here it is with the target shirt from Strachur Primary School superimposed. I’ve done pretty well.

I figured out how to suppress the flash on my camera when we were talking about colour before, but yesterday, despite much button-pressing, I couldn’t do it. In fact, however, the top picture isn't too bad.

I spoke to Rachel on the phone at the weekend. She took the big Brownstone to London after my husband’s birthday, and I had been mildly worried about not having heard from her son Thomas-the-Elder about it. Was it so ill-fitting that he could find no words? But barristers are surely highly trained in suppressio veri & suggestio falsi. It turns out that he has been in the Maldives, wherever they may be, and hasn’t seen it yet.

The hat is coming on well. Hats are fun. I bought “Weekend Hats”, another pretty unnecessary book. The world is full of free hat patterns. I like Jared’s “Wanderer Cap”, however, and may try to adapt it to madelinetosh gauge for the next hat. I think I’ve got plenty to time to finish two before The Day.

And I might mention that I’m sort of proud of myself for using up the excess madelinetosh so thoroughly, instead of stashing five skeins for the moths when I finished the big Brownstone.

Well, it’s time to get on with today’s list. Here is a picture of my sister on her recent birthday, wearing the shawl I knit for her 70th

It’s Amedro’s cobweb lace wrap, with lace patterns from Heirloom Knitting substituted. It occurred to me yesterday that I have knit that shawl for all three Helens. I knit it first for Rachel, for her 40th birthday. Then her daughter Hellie asked for one. Then my sister Helen. Finally, last year, my daughter Greek Helen.

Who will be here tomorrow, I think.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The list went well yesterday. I have adopted a variation of your suggestion, catdownunder. One of the items on today’s list is, make tomorrow’s list.

The baubles 

and cards are on their way to the US. (I don't know why the red one should have come out bigger. Same needle size. Same white yarn.) The application for the new parking permit is in the mail. Once when my mother was moving house, and in a frantic state similar to my current one, a neighbour advised her, start with the job that bugs you the most. That’s sound advice, except that it soon teaches you what Hercules had to put up with, with the Hydra. No sooner is one gone, than you remember two more. I have no hope of getting through today’s list.

I had a Fly Lady phase, some years ago. Her first instruction is, polish your sink. That’s a good one, too.

Thank you for the suggestions about easing the burden of cooking. We lived off Marks and Spencer’s ready meals when I broke my arms (one arm at a time, some years apart, but the same Marks and Spencer). The result is that such meals come (for me) with a permanent penumbra of pain and discomfort. I will investigate, anyway. Waitrose, where I shop, has a whole wall of ready-meals, and another cabinet of ready-to-cook. I tend to sweep past. I’ll look at Wiltshire Foods, too, Shandy. And thanks.

I think Meals-on-Wheels is just for people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to live independently. C. had them a year ago in the weeks between coming out of hospital after her operation, and going into the hospice to die. I don’t think she was very good at eating them, but the visits were welcome.

I finished the Little Brownstone, as hoped. Blocking it is on today’s list, and I hope to have a pic for you tomorrow. I’ve cast on a plain-vanilla beanie after a certain amount of agonizing over how many stitches to go for. It’s looking good.

Zite has, curiously, taken down the item about Vitamin D. Things usually linger there for three or four days. Today’s interesting suggestion is Setsuko, named, surely, for the designer of my Japanese shirt in distant Strathardle, but not actually designed by her. It’s distinctly OTT and doesn’t quite qualify for the HALFPINT list, but I’m glad to have seen it. It makes a positive virtue of the stretchiness and droopiness of alpaca.

I was glad to read your enthusiastic reports about Vitamin D. I’ll wander through the projects in Ravelry when an idle moment looms – there are lots (of people knitting Vitamin D, not, alas, of idle moments).


We’ve got them, as you must know. I have been wondering what Darwin would make of them. I have never heard of such a mal-adapted animal. Reluctant to breed – the female is fertile for only two or three days a year. Twins are often born, but the mother then usually abandons one of them. The cubs are tiny, the smallest, in proportion to adult size, of anybody in the animal kingdom except marsupials. Then there’s all that insistence on bamboo – but they have unusually short intestines and so don’t absorb nourishment readily and so have to spend all day eating. (Our newspapers are full of Facts about Pandas.)

Now, in late 2011, their cuddliness pretty well guarantees that they won’t be allowed to go extinct. But cuddliness would have been no use to them through the evolutionary millennia. 

Monday, December 05, 2011

I cast off the Little Brownstone and finished writing and addressing the American-bound Christmas cards yesterday and am rewarded this morning by a really bad attack of Seasonal Panic/Fear of the Dark. The only possible thing to do is make a list and starting striking things off it. (The important thing about a list, if it is to allay panic, is that it contain a few quickly-done items, such as ‘iron handkerchief’. Striking them off then soothes. The first thing to do today is to fill out, write a cheque for and send off my residents’ parking permit application. I got in a real mess over that one last year, when the reminder got lost in the post.)

Knitting-wise, the ambition is to finish the Little Brownstone and cast on a hat.

I would also like to finish off those baubles, including crocheting little chains for them, so that they can be dispatched to the US along with the cards. It will require a post office visit. So the baubles had better be promoted from the Knitting category (self-indulgence, leave until evening) to that of Christmas (action urgently required).

There are then three presents still to be dealt with, and disks-full of my husband’s files to be converted into Word and dropped into Dropbox. Then perhaps a brief lull – no, that’s rash -- before domestic Christmas cards and present-wrapping.

It doesn’t sound quite so bad when you break it down like that.

Or maybe it does, against a remorseless background of cooking and dishwashing and darkness.

Zite found me another interesting-looking swirling, droopy cardigan pattern yesterday, bizarrely named Vitamin D. I have just bought and printed it as a possible alternative to the Effortless for my new madelinetosh yarn.  One would want it slightly longer, perhaps.

Maureen in Fargo, I think maybe I need a lesson in getting things into my iPad, and maybe I need to look at GoodReader. For the moment, I think I prefer paper that I can write on and spill coffee on. But with the price of printer ink being what it is…

The Sunday Times mentioned yesterday that Mr Salmond had been to the ball, but said nothing about James's jabot.


Don’t miss the link China Doll provided yesterday to unexpected goings-on in Edinburgh libraries. I am a fairly assiduous reader of the Scotsman. I knew nothing about this. Absolutely magical.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The ball in Beijing

James says Mr Salmond was there, but left before the dancing.

It almost gives me hope that one day someone will get married, and I will see the Princess shawl in action.

We had a grand time at the Portrait Gallery yesterday, and I greatly look forward to going back soon and seeing some art. The impression is splendid. Our niece and I had coffee in the large & excellent café and then did some small but useful shopping in the equally excellent shop. And looked at only the tiniest corner of ground-floor art including a resident Vetriano (private collection on long-term loan) which may at last silence the critics who complain that he isn’t represented in any national collection.

But the main thing so far is that that wonderful first space, which we have loved and missed for so long, is even better than before, with an additional fresco’d gallery open above.


The Little Brownstone ought to be finish-able in another two sessions, even allowing for underarm grafting and loose ends.

Thanks for the help with hats. Daisy, I’ve downloaded and printed “Strib”. It looks just what I’m after. I watched people’s heads yesterday in the Portrait Gallery, John Lewis, & the street – that is very much the favoured shape. Watchcaps can be too hot, even in quite cold weather, and the double layer of ribbing can roll down over the eyes if not secured.

Ruth and Hat, I will explore Knitspot & WoolleyWormhead. Now I’d like a couple of months for uninterrupted hat-knitting.

While we are recommending websites to each other – Zite came up with this one for me the other day, Yarnista’s “17 things I do not want to knit”. I do miss “You Knit That?”

Grannypurple, I thought that was an interesting remark of yours, that downloadable patterns may be affecting the quality of patterns in magazines. You can see why designers would prefer that path. Annie Modesitt often writes eloquently about magazines and copyright, with me not paying too much attention. But I think the gist is that when magazines re-sell patterns for download, as they often do, the designer doesn’t get much, if anything. Whereas when they sell themselves from their own websites, they get everything. We even pay for ink and printing!

In olden times, women’s magazines printed quantities of patterns every week or month, Woman, Woman’s Own, She, doubtless others. The indomitable Woman’s Weekly maintains the tradition. But in the 50’s and 60’s, I used to wonder whether the patterns were not often fed to the magazines from the spinners, and sometimes represented ideas which were slightly too adventurous to be produced as one of the spinner’s own leaflets. 

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Today is my sister Helen’s birthday. She is 75, which seems absurd – far more absurd than my own even greater age. Happy Birthday Helen, anyway.

Today is also the day of the Beijing St Andrew's Night Ball. 

Yesterday was a little bit better around here, progress-wise. I advanced the Christmas cards slightly, and finished the short-rowing at the back of the neck of the shawl collar on the Little Brownstone and began knitting back and forth around the whole collar. There’s lots of that to do, but I think I can now say that the further shore is in sight.

The thing about Christmas knitting, apart from stress, is that it makes you feel you are getting-on-with-Christmas when all you are doing is knitting and ignoring more urgent chores..

There will be enough scarlet yarn, and enough time, to turn out a hat for one of those obstinately empty squares on my Christmas-list spreadsheet. (I am not organised in many ways, but I find that that helps a lot, once one’s total of grandchildren moves into double figures. It is useful to be reminded what one gave each of one’s loved ones last year and the year before – and sometimes one spots a good present idea which can be transferred from the past into a different branch of the family. If nothing else, just sitting there and staring at the list is often productive of thought. You’ve got to “hide” the rows when people die.)

A watchcap? A beanie would be quicker. I’ll have a wander round Ravelry. I’m thinking boy, so nothing too fancy. There might even be time and yarn for a second hat, with stripes to eke out the remaining scarlet if necessary. Or even if not.

Woolly Bits, I don’t know the magazine “Knit” (and don’t like the sound of what Vivienne says about it). Maybe I ought to look, just once.  I think IK started out to be the magazine you are looking for – “Beyond the Basics!” was the slogan. But they soon abandoned that approach. (Do follow the link to Vivienne’s blog – lovely baby, lovely sweater.)

Kristie, my subscription to the Knitter is not Zinio, but an app of its own. If I ever find anything there that I Must Knit Right Now, I’ll get back to you to work out a strategy to get it on paper. At the moment, my immediate mental project list is at least six months long (finish Christmas; have a sock-blitz to fill up my husband’s drawer a bit; knit him a v-necked vest; my Effortless; a gardening sweater for Rachel’s husband Ed). It would have to be a pretty good magazine pattern to insinuate itself into that plan.

And then of course Scotland will win the Calcutta Cup in 2012, how could they not? and I will want to knit a sweater to commemorate that. And it will have to be done in '12 -- that's the rule.

I am going to meet our niece this morning in the newly-reopened Portrait Gallery for coffee and maybe some art and maybe some Christmas shopping, so I had better press on now with my porridge.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Miscellaneous, again.

Yesterday was remarkably unproductive – I musn’t allow many more like that, if we are to get anywhere this month. I was reading Robert Harris’ “The Fear Index”, which was part of the reason. It’s depressing, because none of the characters is sympathetic, but brilliantly well constructed and utterly up-to-the-minute.

-- I did finish the body of the little Brownstone, and picked up stitches for the shawl collar, and established the rib. That’s something.

-- Thank you, as so often, for your help. “Alazarin” on Jimmy Bean’s website doesn’t look scarlet at all, just sort of interestingly red-y along with brown. But the bits of pink and yellow you report, Tricia, don’t sound to my husband’s taste. Maybe I’d better eschew it. “Kale” is another possibility, to add to yesterday’s list. One of my recent madelinetosh orders came with a little twist of that, to tempt me, and it did.

-- The sock yarn I ordered on Wednesday turned up on Thursday, Kaffe’s “Random Stripes” for Regia. “Anthracite” turns out to have a disappointing amount of blue in it – my husband is permanently anti-blue. But he likes “Moor” although ostensibly more colourful.

-- Barbara, you will be able to buy individual copies of “The Knitter” for your Kindle/iPad, so it should be easy enough to try it out. I feel I’ve been awfully slow to get here. It’s wonderful that Britain has a proper, serious knitting magazine of its own. I don’t know what I’ll do if I ever actually want to knit a pattern (when one wants paper), but for the time being am very happy with an electronic subscription (and no clutter).

-- I guess I’ve got to have a go at Emily Ocker, when I start the third bauble. That one doesn’t have to be ready until 3:05p.m. on the 24th – when the boy in Cambridge starts singing Once in Royal David’s City and we start decorating the tree. I could finish it off that morning, if need be, although that would mean taking stuffing to Loch Fyne. So it can wait at the end of the Christmas queue, for the moment.

Alexander phoned yesterday to say that Rest and Be Thankful has been blocked by a landslide again. A lot of money has been spent recently on landslide-defences which are meant to prevent this from happening. “God thought otherwise”, Alexander said. I am sure we will all manage to get there somehow. It is easier to stay calm when one isn’t “doing” Christmas oneself.

-- I am glad you are finding Margaret Stove’s decrease trick useful (=the stitch the needle enters first, for any decrease, winds up on top). It has certainly saved me many hours toiling through the books trying to find the effect I want. I heard it from the woman herself, here in Drummond Place. She produced it with a touching, scientific diffidence, wondering whether there might not still be a decrease out there which would prove her wrong.

-- Phyllis wrote to me yesterday with this link to a video on the Philosopher’s Wool site about how to knit two-handed Fair Isle. I have watched it with interest. The general technique is perfectly familiar. But I have forgotten, or never knew, how to wind the yarn around left-hand fingers for proper control and tension. I must work on that.

Thursday, December 01, 2011


-- The Scotsman newspaper said yesterday that our First Minister, Mr. Salmond, is going to China “at the end of this week”. What more natural than that he should drop in on the Beijing St Andrews Night Ball, on Saturday, and have his eye caught by a particularly fine jabot?

Not many of the men will be wearing jabot-and-Montrose-jacket, although it is by no means an eccentric or OTT way to appear. Long, long ago when I was young and going to a ball myself, I was standing at a haberdashery counter in Glasgow buying a yard or so of inch-wide black velvet ribbon to wear around my neck, lacking jewelry as I did. (I  learned something useful at Oberlin.) A young man was there, buying a jabot. (Is this possible? Could they be had over the counter like that, even in the 1950’s?)

And I thought at the time, there is no country in Europe in which a man can turn himself out so well without joining the army. It’s still true.

--  My husband said yesterday that he would like me to knit him a v-neck sleeveless, to replace one I knit long ago. So long ago, that I have no recollection of doing it. It would be as quick and easy to knit as a sock, he said, and is probably right. The prototype appears to be roughly DK, and has lots of holes in it. The biggest and worst is over the right bosom (so to speak) – not moths, in that case, although they appear elsewhere, but the things men carry in an inside jacket pocket.

I had a look at Jimmy Bean this morning. I think there are some madelinetosh colours which could get by the censor – Alizarin, Bark, Moccasin, Twig. What does “Alizarin” mean? The spell-check here in Word surprises me but not being surprised by it.

So I’m thinking about that. And it shows the importance of not buying yarn too far in advance. My Effortless (for which the yarn is here) is receding, although I am confident of finishing it in 2012, if I’m spared.

--  The new Knitter whizzed down from out-there onto my iPad yesterday. It is a seriously good magazine, no doubt. Maybe I'll stop worrying about the fact that I seem to have subscribed in perpetuity when I thought I was buying three months.

 Cotton and Cloud is one of the blogs I follow. Her delight is touching this morning, at being on the cover. And I mean to have a look at the videos she offers. I have been aware, knitting these baubles, that my two-colour, two-hand technique could do with some tweaking.

Actual knitting

I didn’t quite finish the body of the Little Brownstone yesterday. That should happen today. Nor did I do anything about the nearly-finished baubles. I did write a couple of Christmas cards for the USofA. Angel, I note with interest your system of bauble-knitting – and I still want to do one more for Loch Fyne. Could I bear Emily Ocker’s cast-on, fiddliness-wise? I’ve never actually tried it.