Thursday, May 31, 2012

Safely back. Not much knitting done, except that last night I advanced the toe-up sock to the point where I should reach the ribbing today.

We had some astonishingly wonderful weather, day after day from Friday when we drove up until it broke on Monday evening. I can remember summer days like those, not many but some. But it is especially magical to have them in May, with the cuckoo shouting  and everything fresh and sparkling and no midges.

My little vegetables are doing surprisingly well. The three crops which I can rely on – potatoes and mange-tout peas and broad beans – are all moving forward nicely. If one paused for a moment and stood there watching, one could see them grow. The beetroots which I bought as plug plants have also settled in well, and are growing. The climbing beans, also bought as plug plants, have entirely perished, as expected. It was too early and too cold for them. I replaced them with seeds. I planted out the courgettes I started on the windowsill here, and they seem happy.


Sure enough – before we left last Friday, I heard from the contractor that the dining room ceiling will come down on June 13. So Joan Schrouder and I will not meet on the 14th (because we will be in Strathardle while Alexander deals with things here). A serious sadness, but I’m glad that something at last is happening.

Theo sent this link.

Rachel rang up yesterday to say that her son Joe has got an internship in September with the sports promotion firm Hellie’s boyfriend Matt works for. They also want to interview him – Joe – right now for a job – temporary? -- in connection with an unspecified project.

He has no idea what he wants to do in life. He read politics at Nottingham, and at least knows that he doesn’t want to work for a political party. He is hesitant about plunging into a job when he doesn’t know where he's going.

I tried to encourage him with Theo’s example (see link above). When Theo was a year out of university, as Joe is now, he had no job and no real idea what to do. (He came to the Games that year; I remember.) I don’t know how he found and developed his really very remarkable ability to manage big projects while remaining cucumber-cool. But he certainly offers hope that Joe will find his niche too, if he just keeps moving forward. And in these hard times, a job of any sort is not to be sneezed at.

Meanwhile, Theo says that his wife Jenni has an ante-natal appointment tomorrow from which I will learn on which side to put the buttons when I knit the Tulip jacket.

Friday, May 25, 2012

A haar again this morning. I suspect it will soon be hot.

I had a fairly productive day yesterday, although not productive of news on the dining-room-ceiling front.

I dispatched Lizzie’s socks to London, had my photograph taken in a booth for use on my new driving license, paid in some cheques to the bank, laid in supplies for Strathardle whither we are going today. I should reappear here next Thursday. I’ll take the whole pile of paper and get to work on the telephone on Monday morning, ceiling-wise.

It will be very interesting to see whether those poor seeds, consigned a fortnight ago to the cold, cold ground, have made the effort to grow. I’ll re-sow, if not.

Joan Schrouder is going to be in Edinburgh for a day next month. She’s teaching on a Holland America cruise which will dock at South Queensferry. We are trying to contrive a meeting – that’ll be the day the ceiling comes down, of course.  I met her at my 2nd Camp Stitches, on Lake George in 2000. That year, we could do three-day classes with one teacher. I and my pals opted for Joan’s shawl course – a day each devoted to Shetland, Orenburg, and Faroese.

The socks are getting on nicely – about half-way from heel to ribbing. Thank you very much indeed for your answers to my question about how to slip stitches. I am particularly taken with the idea of twisting the chain stitches along the edge of a standard heel flap.


I continue to yield to none in my dislike of the Olympics, but I have to confess to a growing enthusiasm for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. It is only the second time this has happened in the history of the monarchy, which encompasses quite a considerable stretch of time – think Aethelred the Unready, and then go on back. The other instance was, of course, Victoria, and it was on that occasion, I learn from Googling, that the phrase “diamond jubilee” was coined.

Victoria was only my age at the time – gosh! – but was too feeble to do other than travel in a carriage for a grand procession in London. Whereas the present incumbent, more my husband’s age, is bounding about hither and yon making public appearances almost daily. The flotilla on the Thames on June 3 will be rather wonderful.

And no one alive on earth today is at all likely to see another such occasion.

I’d better go faff about with preparations for departure.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The sun burnt away the haar fairly early on Tuesday. Yesterday was sun-all-day, and it looks as if today will be the same. Three days of summer, and one is prostrate.

Our 10-year-old car sailed through its MOT test yesterday. Our practice throughout life has been to buy a car new and run it into the ground. “The ground” has usually, if not always, been hit during the annual MOT test. As I remember New Jersey in my distant youth, all a car had to do was start, have lights that went on and off, and brakes that would stop it. The British MOT is more demanding, and my memory is that most if not all of our cars have perished not from mechanical faults but because the floor was rusted through. The motor industry seems to have solved that one. It’s a Skoda Fabia.

On one car we had a Ziebart life-time-guaranteed rust-proof treatment done when the car was new. Ziebart went bankrupt before the car expired from rust. What does one conclude?

I thought I had cracked the dining-room-ceiling problem on Monday and Tuesday. On the latter day, I spoke both to our broker and to the insurance company themselves, both prostrate with apologies for the delay. Since then, silence. There are two firms in the chain of command between the insurance company and the actual ceiling-knockers-down. Should I now phone one of them? Or what? I’m tired.

So the thing is to turn to knitting.

By the time I had frogged my first attempt at (what I shall now call) the Strong-Fleegle heel, and recovered the stitches, and unsplit and reseated them where necessary, I decided I might as well just go ahead and knit it again. The yarn and the needles for Alexander’s socks are now in the knitting bag. I can always cast on in the waiting room.

All went smoothly with the heel turn:

This is certainly one that will go into the repertoire. Probably the one I will use on the next socks I knit for my husband, who has been grumbling about too abrupt a right-turn for the heel. It is also very satisfactory, in the large and jumbled list I now have of sock-techniques-to-try, to reduce two to one. I am very inclined to believe (as we agreed recently must have been the case with IK’s and VK’s very similar sweaters with twisted fronts) …to believe that Strong and Fleegle came up with the idea independently of each other.

I think the two major remaining mountains-to-climb on that sock list, are Candace Strick’s revolutionary technique, and the Andersson heel. I’ve just re-read the latter, and I think it may be a modification of Strong-Fleegle, not very clearly expressed. Both Candace and Andersson are toe-up, oh dear, but maybe that’s just as well because I am eager to try Suzanne’s utterly easy-sounding cast-on (comment Friday, May 18), and eager to master Judy’s Magic cast-on.

Here’s a question for you: when you are turning a heel, how do you slip the first stitch on the right-side rows? On the purl rows, clearly, you slip purlwise with the yarn in front. If I were knitting a complete row, I would do the same on a knit row, and then pass the yarn between the needles. But is that right for a heel?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

We have a haar this morning, which often means that the sun is shining brightly everywhere except in Edinburgh.

Yesterday was a busy day, not unproductive.

The car is booked in for its MOT tomorrow, so I won’t be here.

The contractor who is supposed to be knocking down the dining room ceiling says he hasn’t had authorisation from the insurance company yet. I phoned our broker who spent an energetic day trying to get some sense from the insurer – they said ChemDry had been trying to get in touch with me, quod absurdum est. ChemDry is in touch with me, and anyway made their report -- saying that the ceiling must come down -- weeks ago. I expect to hear more from the broker this morning.

A K*rkmichael postcard, showing the Main Street and not yet in our collection, is on offer on eBay. It was posted in 1902. The message begins “Games tomorrow if fine”. A  spineless attitude!

And I knit that heel.

In the end, I went for Fleegle’s Toe-Up, No Flap, No Hassle heel. It is very like the Strong heel (which was published first) but with some Fleegle-ish variations. It is meant for toe-up knitting -- reassuring for a Blind Follower like me.

Essentially, you divide the stitches in half as usual and then increase the heel-stitch-half every other round until you have all but doubled the number. Then you put in the usual heel-turn, which progressively decreases the stitch number until you are back down to your original count.

During the increase phase, you continue to knit around the entire sock, which feels like an awful lot of knitting.

When I finished, it was obvious that the sock was too long. And here I ran into a problem I should have anticipated.

Normally when a situation like this occurs late in the evening, I lay the work aside and knit a few rounds of the current sock to calm my nerves. What to do when the current project is the sock? And what about medical emergencies? Dentists’ waiting rooms? So I have decided to start a pair of socks for Alexander today – Van Gogh’s Bedroom at Arles, as a complement to his wife’s Restaurant de la Sirene socks. I’ll knit an inch or so of ribbing and then put them away in the knitting bag, ready for grabbing when needed.

And then return to Fleegle’s heel. I took the sock off the needles this morning and tried it on myself. It fits rather well – but my foot is an inch longer than my sister’s. I thought all that knitting might make the sock bunch at the ankle, but it doesn’t. And the turn is completely smooth and hole-less, as Fleegle promises.

I’ll take out yesterday’s work, and another inch, and pick up the stitches so that I am ready to roll, before I cast on for Alexander.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Time to start the Strong heel, I think – 70 rounds done, 7 ½”.

I have exchanged emails with Sophie, who commented here – the snood knitter who is also Grandson Joe’s girlfriend’s mother. She’s just started her own blog. There seems to be only one girl in the family, making it easy to find the lovely Becca in the group picture.

I spoke to Rachel yesterday, a confirmed non-knitter. She says everybody’s wearing snoods, boys and girls alike.

And that’s all there is to say about knitting, this morning. So on to


Archie phoned from Athens yesterday to invite me to a drinks party for New Boys’ parents at his Edinburgh school (Merchiston) in late August. I accepted with alacrity.

Today’s jobs are to pursue the people who are going to knock down the dining room ceiling, to find out when they are going to do it; and to arrange for the car’s annual obligatory fitness test. Also my driving license needs to be renewed. I got into trouble with the insurance last week by leaving things like that in a Guilt Pile instead of attending to them.

The forecast is for slightly warmer weather – at last. So choosing a date for our next trip to Strathardle also belongs on the to-do list.

Annie and Shandy, those are perfect suggestions for Kristie’s Radio 4 listening. I might add, now that you’ve set the ball rolling, anything with Libby Purves or Sue McGregor or Neil McGregor.

Desert Island Disks” is a brilliant programme. Each week the invited guest chooses ten records to take along to a desert island, and is then allowed to choose one book (besides Shakespeare and the Bible – or other religious text, at choice) and one luxury. The interviewer is gentle and utterly non-confrontational, and by the end you know all about the interviewee.

I tried it myself yesterday. The list is so relentlessly low-brow that I am embarrassed to tell you. But by the time I had got done explaining each of the choices, you would know my life story:

Beethoven’s choral symphony
If I can’t have all of Gilbert & Sullivan, I’d go for Bunthorne’s song “If you’re anxious for to shine…” from Patience
“The Spaniard Who Blighted My Life”
“Brush Up Your Shakespeare”, from Kiss Me, Kate
Handel’s “Messiah”
“Take Me Back to Constantinople
 “Get Me to the Church on Time” from My Fair Lady
“Lily the Pink”
That Bob Dylan one with the refrain “But I was so much older then; I’m younger than that now”.
“Flower of Scotland

The book would be Middlemarch or Mansfield Park or Il Gattopardo: very hard to choose. And the luxury, of course, an endless supply of yarn and needles.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunshine. A welcome change. Still cold, cold.

The sock progresses nicely. I should get somewhere near the heel soon. I have no idea yet how many rounds I need for the foot, but I’m keeping careful count. Isn't it nice the way the yarn seemed to know I was going toe-up this time? What will it do for the other sock? Remember, Zauberballs don't repeat.

Here are Lizzie's finished Hundertwasser socks:

Kristie, I can’t really help on what to listen to on Radio 4. So much sounds interesting. I love it for news – that’s no use to you. I love waking up with the Today programme, drifting in and out of sleep with the radio telling me every three or four minutes what the time is, so I know without having to look at my watch or think about it. When I get a chance for a daytime nap, I turn it on and it’s always something good (except when it’s cricket) and always puts me to sleep.

I need to know it’s there, calm and varied. American radio is so excitable.

Pop Knitting

I can’t remember now whether it was Amazon or Interweave who sent me the email that persuaded me to buy “Pop Knitting” by Britt-Marie Christofferson, translated from Swedish. I’ve also got her “Swedish Sweaters”. I’ve never knit from that one, but it’s got some very good things.

It might be mildly interesting, if one had nothing else to do for a week, to categorize the knitting library. Books I Have Knit From would be easy, and so would Books I Have No Intention of Ever Knitting From. Reference Books – Bishop Rutt and Barbara Walker and whatever. The rest would be harder – Books I Would Really Like to Knit From could be one category (“Swedish Sweaters” would be in that class); Designer Books – Starmore, Debbie Bliss, whatever – could be another, pretty well entirely un-knit-from except for Kaffe.

Anyway, “Pop Knitting” is good, full of extremely clever three-dimensional techniques of all sorts – intarsia and appliqué and holes and slipped stitches, to name a few. There is also a section at the back with basic instructions for drawing up a schematic for cardigan or sweater. She recommends making a full-size paper model. She says you can often re-use gift wrap for this purpose. Many of the clever fabric ideas in the book are shown as garments.

It makes me feel old -- I can't pin down quite why. I love Debbie New's "Unexpected Knitting" and often browse there without feeling unusually antique. Pop Knitting is so innovative that I know I'll never get around to it.

But my guess is that the Schoolhouse will stock it soon.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

It is always an event when Helen C.K.S. blogs. I have already sent the link to everyone I am related to, and resist with difficulty the temptation to wake my husband up to see it Right Now.

Many thanks for all of yesterday’s comments, as I embark on a new adventure in life, the toe-up sock.

Lou, I will certainly add the Magic Loop to the list of new experiences I hope to get around to soon. I tried something once – the details are lost in the mists of memory. I gave up because I kept finding myself knitting with the wrong end of the wrong needle. But, clearly, that must have involved two circulars – it could well be that I have never tried the Magic Loop itself.

In the early decades of the last century, I used to knit the sleeves of sweaters as you describe, both at once (on long straight needles). Lots to be said for it.

Gretchen and Roobeedoo, I’m worried by what you say about ill-fitting toe-up heels. I had planned to do a Strong heel – the Sock Knitter’s Handbook gives a toe-up version which I don’t like the sound of, because it involves picking up stitches and so disturbs the elegant simplicity of the original. The book also says, “You of course have the option of knitting a top-down heel on a toe-up sock (the 90 degree turn is still made, the parts are just reversed)".

So I think that’s what I’ll do, knit a Strong heel upside down. You still have time to stop me.

And I can try the result on myself, before knitting the leg. Not the same as trying it on my sister, but better than nothing.

Suzanne, your cast-on method sounds blissfully simple. I’ve got to try it.

One begins to see that this could go on forever, with endless fascination and a steady production of socks which is what people like wearing. Was this how the Socklady got started on her career?

I have taken some pictures for you – Lizzie’s Hundertwasser socks, and the toe of my sister’s first sock – but computer slowness has used up all my time. Now I must embark on Saturday.


Sarah, I’m sorry to hear that Oberlin was rejected. Sometimes I like to think about retiring to Kendal in Oberlin – a totally unreal thought: I could never leave BBC Radio 4, Weston’s Vintage Cider, or my children, in about that order of importance. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Thanks for the hedgehog update, Jean. I hope they’re living happily ever after.

Well, I finished Lizzie’s socks all right, and started a pair for my sister. I took some time in the middle of the day to attempt Judy’s Magic Cast-On, as adapted for the Sock Knitter’s Handbook. I failed. I’m not going to be beaten – next time I’ll do it the unadapted way, and use circular needles, and sit here in front of Cat Bordhi’s YouTube video while I work. I’ll get it in the end.

But yesterday I resorted to the Turkish cast-on, same book, and succeeded. I’ve got a neat little toe.

It turns out that yesterday’s idea won’t work – Candace Strick’s Great Sock Plan, which I don’t understand yet, needs a provisional cast-on. By the time I grasped that, I was so entranced by Judy’s Magic one that I was not to be diverted. I’ll put Strong heels into these socks. That will add up to a more than sufficient learning experience for one pair – toe-up, Turkish cast-on, Strong heel, stretchy bind-off.

I remain utterly baffled by the attraction of toe-up sock knitting. That cast-on was fiddly, and will still be so when I get good at it. It felt especially irritating to do it in the same half-hour as the final rounds of Lizzie’s socks with their pleasantly-decreased ordinary toes. So you can try on a toe-up sock as you proceed? But since the vast majority of the people I knit socks for are not on the premises, that’s not much use. And it’s easy enough to undo the toe and lengthen or shorten a top-down foot if I get it wrong. I’ve often done that.

And there’s also the drawback of ribbing-at-the-end.

Yesterday one of you gave me a gift certificate for the Loopy Ewe, to buy another Crazy Zauberball to cheer me up. Which it did, immeasurably. She didn’t seem to think that this act of extraordinary kindness was blog-worthy so I won’t mention her name. And I managed to do something clumsy on the Loopy Ewe’s exemplary website, and wound up buying a Crazy Zauberball without applying the gift certificate, so there was nothing to do but go back and get another one. Indian Pink and Olive Street. I can’t wait.


I discovered yesterday that I had let our motor insurance lapse. I put it right at once, and saved a surprising amount of money by taking my husband off the policy. That means we were uninsured as we hurtled down the motorway on our return from Strathardle on Tuesday, but as I think I have observed here before, it is impossible to worry retrospectively.

It turns out that Upstairs doesn’t have contents insurance either (see yesterday), so our request for compensation has gone back to his buildings insurers. Which doesn’t entirely make sense. Our building insurers have appointed somebody to try to get their money back from Upstairs. They wrote to me and I answered their questions and they were kind enough to say I had been very helpful. So I wrote to them again yesterday, asking how they were getting on. Surely, as someone has pointed out in a comment, if Upstairs’ insurers are responsible for our ceiling they must also be responsible for our possessions. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Two new followers! Look out, Queer Joe -- here comes Jean!

I should finish Lizzie’s socks today.

I’ve just been reading the instructions for Judy’s magic cast-on. Sounds exciting. (When I typed the word “Judy’s” into Google just now, they suggested, as ever, a list of possible ways I might want to finish the phrase – and “Judy’s Magic Cast-On” was top of the list.) The plan is to knit a pair of Candace’ socks, toe-up which will be a first for me, but to use Judy’s instead of the Channel Island Cast-On Candace recommends.

That’s the plan, anyway.

My sister has been worried by all this talk of plyed and unplyed. She rang up yesterday to suggest that I use a plyed Crazy Zauberball for her socks, instead of the cranberry-coloured non-Crazy, as a bit of insurance if hardwearingness is going to be an issue. A good idea. 

She also said that they have lots of “volunteer” potatoes already. Those are the ones you missed when you were digging in the fall. They survive the harshest winters and put in an unwelcome appearance in the spring. I can be sure that I will have lots, too, but not for weeks and weeks yet. Clearly the Connecticut climate has shot ahead towards steamy summer.

But what she didn’t seem to have, is moles. (Voles, yes.) We didn’t have them in our largish suburban gardens in Leicester and Birmingham, earlier in life, but we live cheek-by-jowl with them in Strathardle. I have never seen one. They were being particularly active and insolent last week – no sooner had we raked a molehill down and picked the stones out of it, thinking of the lawnmower to come, than they threw up another one.

They have never actually disturbed my vegetables, though. Perhaps the soil there is too soft to make a safe roof for their tunnels.

Dining room

Mr ChemDry persuaded me that the ceiling must come down. He’ll look at the “deafening” when that has happened.

What the Upstairs insurance broker actually said was that his buildings insurance won’t pay for our losses, but his contents insurance might. This sounded like a runaround to me, but our solicitor thought it might work. I have applied to Upstairs for details of his contents insurance, in the form of the name of another broker, I hope. They are easier to deal with than actual insurance companies.

The solicitor also said that if we go for the jugular as you suggest, Jean, we would need to sue not Upstairs himself, but the foolish old woman who left the tap running and the plug hole blocked. I was horrified at the thought, but it might be just as well. He might pay up all the faster if it was to spare his granny distress.

I am miserable about the whole idea, and would rather hide under the bed. It occurred to me that if we had proper contents insurance, we would have paid out far more in premiums in the years since we moved to Edinburgh, than the low four-figure sum we are now out-of-pocket. My husband would be unimpressed by that argument, and I won’t advance it to him. It was a horrible day, leading to a pretty horrible spring. He wants vengeance, or at least reimbursement.  

(Jean, tell us the end of the hedgehog story. Has she come back to you?)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

We’re back. As ever, I suppose, we got some things done but not as much as needed doing.

The weather wasn’t too bad, but unconscionably cold for the time of year. I like to work in my vegetable patch first thing in the morning, while my porridge cooks. I would come in after half an hour with my fingers burning with cold. The soil warms up during the day, and is quite comfortable to work in the afternoon. But those poor little seeds have to manage out there 24/7.

My husband had some muscular trouble with his right leg, and was able to do even less than usual. It was fearful to see him so reduced.

But he picked a lot of dandelions, a favourite project this time of year.

And I planted potatoes, broad beans, and peas, and set out my plug plants, beetroot and climbing beans. I expect nothing at all of the latter, in this weather, so the only possible surprise will be a pleasant one.

Greek Helen phoned. She is keeping the car topped up with petrol, and laying in a good supply of lentils and candles. They are just back from a holiday in the Peloponnese

And now we are back to the Dining Room Problem. My husband has begun to wonder – and the notion had flickered across my own mind, but I hadn’t mentioned it to him – whether we could take a chance and leave the ceiling up there. Mr ChemDry is coming this morning. We want him to lift the Upstairs floorboards and tell us what he thinks of things from that viewpoint.

Meanwhile (my husband doesn’t know this yet) Upstairs’ insurers have turned down our request for compensation for damage to our furniture and books. I expected this, and will phone our nice solicitor this morning. His field of expertise is agricultural law. He would be more in his comfort zone if Upstairs had let sheep into the dining room.

So what about knitting?

Snoodknitter, it was wonderful to hear from you. I never did solve the problem of how to leave comments of my own on individual comments – so can only answer you this way. It would be great to meet – and compare snoods! – if we ever get to London again.

While we were away, I made a bit of progress with the Japanese shirt. I’ve put in a third one-row buttonhole. I’m getting better at it. Here, I’m knitting the foot of Lizzie’s second sock. A bit of progress there, too.

This is interesting, about the two sorts of Zauberball being made of two sorts of yarn, plyed and unplyed. An argument against on-line shopping? Except that I didn’t notice the unplyed state of the plain-vanilla Zauberballs when they arrived, and probably wouldn’t have spotted it in a shop. Now I’ll just have to go ahead and knit my sister’s cranberry socks with unplyed yarn and see what I think. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

So, off to Strathardle today. This morning’s weather is not quite as bad as yesterday’s wind and rain, but not inviting, and the forecast mentions snow again. This year, I have embraced the Edward Ogden School of Vegetable Gardening – that’s Rachel’s husband, and the idea is to order plug plants as he and thousands do.

Beetroot arrived 10 days ago – I didn’t know you could transplant root vegetables. They are doing all right in a trough outside the front door which had violas through the winter. We’ll put the whole trough in the car.  Climbing beans arrived yesterday, good timing in one sense, not in another. They won’t like snow (they’re frost-tender) and so the poor things can pretty well be written off before I put up their tepee and plant them. I'll try plastic water bottles for protection.

I feel very low in strength and ambition, and the ground has not been prepared as it should have been. And May should invite. It’s not meant to be yet another month for huddling by the fire with one’s knitting. But this is it, date-wise, and I must at least plant the cheerful, delicious indestructibles who love the Strathardle challenge, peas and broad beans and potatoes.

My sister and her husband are safely home. The journey took more than 24 hours, and the last stretch, where they were driving their own car, was done in pouring rain. But they're there.

Thank you, Catmum, for the link to the old photograph of Drummond Place. For a moment, I wondered if that were our front door. It isn’t: we have more steps, and the slope outside our door is in the other direction. Drummond Place is built on a steep hill – the architectural accommodations are very ingenious. How tidy everyone was then, with those uniform curtains at the various windows! And I agree, the tricycle is wonderful.

Those lampposts caused an awful fuss – and no wonder. In the end (as the notes with the picture do not mention) the residents contributed the money themselves to have the them removed and replaced with what I suppose could be called fake gas lights of pleasanter appearance and much more modest dimensions.


No blocking got done, but we did finish the task we had set ourselves as far as Dropbox was concerned, including a nudge for the Man at the Tate, and I did get around the second Gibson-Roberts heel.

It went a bit better this time. I’m sure I’ll never use it again. I can’t even say, I’m glad to have added it to my repertoire, because I couldn’t possibly do it again without the book. But I am glad to have experienced it, especially if it is a pioneer moment in the evolution of the short-row heel.

The result is very neat, and very right-angled. My husband keeps saying that he thinks he could get socks on more easily if the angle were gentler, and I’m thinking of trying a Sweet Tomato heel for him.

I’ve been corresponding with Kristie about Zauberball. I was confused -- she once knit a "plain" Zauberball, and didn't enjoy it because the yarn is unplyed. Crazy Zauberballs -- like the one she gave me -- are plyed.  I looked again at the Cranberry Zauberball I will soon start knitting for my sister, and sure enough, unplyed. We'll see.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Not much here about knitting, today.

Helen and Roger should be in Old Saybrook by now, but if so they won’t have been there long. At least no Air France plane was blown out of the sky yesterday by explosives in anyone’s underwear.

Lizzie’s socks are ready for their Gibson-Roberts heel. I remember very little of how it is done, but I do remember that it is a good idea to do the whole thing in one sitting.

Will I get that snood blocked today? Let’s try.

I pursued the IK Freia cardigan through Ravelry yesterday, and found someone who claimed to have knit it last year. The designer? The test knitter? I can’t find it this morning. Her photographs were of the same sweater the magazine showed, and included the photographs the magazine lacked, demonstrating how those tucks work at the side seam.

Liz, thank you (comment yesterday), for the reminder that exciting yarns were not in evidence when we were young – even when you were, let alone me. And they are a great blessing.

And AnnP, thank you, for the quotation from Alexander McC*ll Sm*th. That’s pretty good. Scotland Street, as you probably know, leads off Drummond Place. The outer surface of the wall behind me, as I sit here typing, is on Scotland Street. The address of the people who flooded our dining room is 1 Scotland Street. No 44, if there were one, would be down at the other end, a block away. 

I served for many years on the committee of the Drummond Place Civic Society. We struggle to keep the ugliness of the modern world away, and we have an annual general meeting with a speaker and warm wine. Alexander McC*ll Sm*th was invited several times to speak to us, but was always too busy. Other distinguished people who live here, or near here, have managed it.

Even less knit-related

I have been toiling, the last few days, to get a substantial fraction of my husband’s magnum opus into the clouds. He still works in Word Perfect on a DOS computer. I must therefore load each file, of hundreds, into a modern version of Word Perfect on my desktop, and then Save it As a Microsoft Word document and Save it In Dropbox. Lots of clicking is involved. I thought maybe my modern-world-savvy sister or brother-in-law could think of a way to expedite this process, some sort of macro, but they couldn’t, and I found that the job was much simpler and sweeter once I felt I wasn’t being stupid by doing it this way.

Today we’ll associate the Man at the Tate with the files now in the clouds. I don’t think he’s paying much attention.

As for the ceiling, I have been corresponding with Upstairs’ insurance broker, perhaps to some profit, but otherwise we are just waiting for the destruction of the dining room ceiling to be scheduled. We hope to go to Strathardle tomorrow. Snow was mentioned for the Highlands in the weather forecast just now, but my seed potatoes can’t wait.

Why the change of type-face? Not my doing.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A new follower! Hi!

My sister and her husband should be airborne now, between Edinburgh and London. Next will come London-Paris, then, after a longish layover, Paris-NY. Then, by land, NYC-New Haven, where they will finally be reunited with their car for an hour’s drive through the night to Old Saybrook. A hard day’s work.

It was a good visit. We have reached the stage of life where we can only say, as Brutus to Cassius, I think it was, before Philippi, If we should meet again, why, we shall smile; if not, why then this parting was well made.

And I decided that the next socks, when Lizzie’s are finished with their Gibson-Roberts heels, will be my sister’s. She chose the cranberry Zauberball I bought recently. That’ll be fun – something really to look forward to. I had a message from Kristie this morning, from which I learn, to my surprise, that she hadn’t yet knit a Zauberball herself when she gave me mine last year. She’s knitting one now – but I had assumed her gift was to introduce me to an old friend.

I am afraid the Sky Scarf has been abandoned. I think I said some time ago that one would know when it happened, one day neglected, then the next. In the same message, and knowing that I was sagging but not that I had given up, Kristie suggests resuming in the winter. I have marked the months with st st stripes, so such a resumption would be possible. Winter skies are vastly more interesting, beyond doubt. And I am glad to put four months' scarf away with some hope that something will come of it.

 I haven’t blocked the snood yet. Today, I hope.

The Summer IK turned up yesterday. Absolutely the last thing I need now is to fall in love with a new yarn, but I fear it is happening – “Freia Fine Handpaints distributed by KnitWhits” – that cardigan p.80. I am less than totally enthusiastic about the cardigan itself – any suggestion that there is any difficulty in buttoning across the stomach (as in the photograph) is not a look to which I aspire.

And I could wish the photography had been more explicit about the tuck stitch. As seen, it might just be wrinkles in the fabric. But it might be seriously interesting. Buy an armload of the yarn, Jean, and swatch it? Perhaps not today.

Dining room

I am grateful for everybody’s comments. The Fishwife, in particular, may well be right that contents insurance is an essential feature of life in an Edinburgh flat.

But I would say – we have lived above our dear downstairs neighbours for nearly 20 years now, and kept them dry. That includes the birth, brief life, and death of Helen and David’s son Oliver, who had Down’s Syndrome and was born and died here in Edinburgh. Been there, done that, when it comes to keeping neighbours dry through pain.

Last night was sleepless, a rare symptom here, and during it I thought this: our contents insurers have appointed a firm to try to get Upstairs’ insurers to pay for the ceiling. They sent me some questions, and were kind enough to say that my answers were helpful. If they succeed, surely Upstairs’ insurers have also thereby acknowledged their responsibility for our things, a few feet below. Whether they (the things) were insured or not is totally irrelevant. And if Upstairs’ insurance doesn’t extend to our things, then…

Or so it seemed during the night. 

Monday, May 07, 2012

My sister and her husband will soon be airborne, Amsterdam-Edinburgh.

Dining room

I was gravely alarmed by Helen C.K.S.’message yesterday – she may be right, that I musn’t allow myself to tell our neighbours how much they have cost us in uncompensated expense and in misery. Although I was grateful for those of you who thought I should do it – that includes Greek Helen, who wrote privately.

But Helen C.K.S. also thinks that Upstairs (or their insurance) won’t even have to pay for our damaged possessions. That’s what frightened me. Time will tell. Just this morning I have a submitted an estimate for restoring the sideboard and two chairs, to Upstairs’ insurance broker, letting her know that there is more to come.


And as for knitting, Sunday produced little, as usual. I am ribbing Lizzie’s second sock – this is the Gibson-Roberts heel tryout. And thinking about what to do next. I am all  fired up to try Judy’s Magic Cast-on and a toe-up sock.

But that won’t be suitable for the Bedroom-at-Arles socks I want to knit for Alexander. I only have two 50 gram balls of that yarn, not enough for gents’ socks. I’ll finish off the toe with something else – probably with the yarn left over from his wife’s Van Gogh socks, Restaurant de la Sirene. Obviously, not possible toe-up.

So for Judy’s Magic Cast-On I need someone else, Hellie perhaps, and perhaps a Zauberball. Fun to think about.


It’s good. It’s a slim vol by five designers of not-quite-basic patterns. I love the hats and the scarves, and will one day, I hope, knit Mary Lou’s baby sweater for Theo and Jenni’s child. The book suggests variations, and, better yet, has its own website on which the designers mean to develop ideas to extend the patterns.

The one thing missing, perhaps, is a basic sweater. Mary Lou’s “man’s sweater” design has a zip up the front which disqualifies it, for me.

The surprise was Mary Lou herself. I had a vague mental image constructed around Mrs Roosevelt. Mary Lou is actually much younger, chic-er, and prettier. Meaning no disrespect to the memory of Mrs Roosevelt, whom I revere.


No blog tomorrow, while Roger and Helen are here. Later in the week we hope to go to Strathardle and forget our local troubles. The weather is still unseasonably cold. My poor little vegetable seeds will just have to make the best of it. The forecasts include substantial frost, and even snow on high ground. I hope the apple blossom is not too far advanced. 

Sunday, May 06, 2012

The computer at its absolute worst this morning – and time is tight on Sundays.

I am grateful for your sympathy. Things seem a bit better this morning. Time and the hour will get us through even this, as you rightly say, Shandy. My sister and her husband will be here tomorrow. And last night I thought of a delicious revenge.

My mother was a world-class writer of Nasty Letters. The secret is not to overdo it. I have tried throughout life not to emulate her, although I have written one or two in my time. When all this is over, I might send one Upstairs, listing in detail the expense to us all which has not been repaid (Joe’s train fare, storing the furniture unless I can bring the insurance around on that one – and there’s bound to be a lot more), with a sentence or two about old age and mental suffering.

Composing and polishing this document in my head may keep me cheerful for quite a while. I may even have the strength of character not to send it.

And it occurred to me just this morning that wallpaper people can probably be asked to deliver sample books here and take them away. Getting around to their shops is not as easy for my husband as it was when the dining room was decorated in the first place.

We’ve been short of pictures lately.

My brother-in-law sent this one from Amsterdam yesterday. The Latin inscription says, "If God is for us, who can stand against us?"

Alexander went hill-climbing with his family last weekend. We are here looking down on the Rest and Be Thankful.

Here is Lizzie’s first Hundertwasser sock, finished last night. I have embarked on the casting-on of the second. I am excited about all the sock-knitting possibilities that keep opening before me.

And here, finally, is the elegant job my husband and Joe made of stacking boxes from the dining room in the spare room, while I was unloading the bookcase and corner cupboard.

I didn’t get the snood blocked. And I fear the Sky Scarf is slipping away from me. Variations of grey and blue have become a bit tedious.

The big news yesterday was the arrival of “wearwithall” from the Yarnery. But computer sloth and Sunday pressure compel me to leave that for tomorrow.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

I am sorry for yesterday’s silence. I was suddenly hit on Thursday evening by the sort of depression that feels like the wrecker’s ball. Will the dining room story ever end?

The latest man, from HBMDJJ, came yesterday, and inspired confidence. He is drawing up an entirely new specification, including bringing the ceiling down, repairing consequent damage (if any) to the cornice and ceiling rose, putting a new ceiling up, redecorating. The wallpaper is in good condition at the moment, only slightly dusty, and ideal for the prints we hang in there. The need to replace it was sad news.

It will take a week or so, he said, for the insurance company to take all this on board, and then there will be another interval while his company schedules the work.

But have we the strength to see this out?


Still, yesterday went better. I picked up the snood again, and got the grafting done. It’s not too bad – but wouldn’t it have been smarter, Jean, to put the join in the darkest stripe instead of the lightest? The loose ends have been tidied, and there remains but the “light blocking” the pattern recommends.

I was very grateful for Wednesday’s comments about provisional cast-ons. Annie, a machine-knitting friend once recommended the course you suggest, a few rows knit in a waste yarn, and just face up to the subsequent unpicking. That will be at the top of the list the next time I have to do one.

Shelly, I managed the “itsy, bitsy spider” cast-on once, working from some book. It wasn’t called that, but one recognises it at once. It was fun, too, once one got one’s fingers going. I can’t remember the subsequent effort to recover the stitches, which probably means it went smoothly.

FiberQat, I’ll search out Judy’s Magic Cast-On. That sounds promising.

Shelly, again, that was an interesting story about Candace’ sock class. I think I learned the crochet cast-on from her, when doing one of her patterns as a Games entry. Can’t find a pic. Melody? There, it worked fine, and was a revelation. The resulting cardigan was (as usual, for me) unplaced.

But if I ever get to attend the workshop I now dream of, one of the things I want to learn is that one about the crochet chain, where you pick up stitches into the back of it. I did that only once, and it was a total disaster, involving an agony of unpicking. But, surely, if one gets it right….


I met a Strathardle neighbour in Drummond Place yesterday – sort of thing that happens. She said she had heard James on the radio recently. News to me. An email from his wife Cathy says that he has been much involved (not surprisingly) with Ch*n G*********. He (James) has been urging him (Ch*n) not to go off to America with his immediate family and leave his old mother behind at the mercy of the village political thugs. I was rather touched.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

We had a grand time yesterday, and the dining room is virtually clear. The toughest job – after Joe had picked up those tea chests and carried them through to the spare room as if they were armloads of yarn – was getting the corner cupboard down. I had emptied it of china and glass while the tea chests and tin boxes were being carried about. The difficulty stemmed from the fact that the vital screw had been inserted at an angle.

I must now – within the next half-hour – get back on the telephone and try yet again to get a date for the ceiling-knocking-down. I keep getting what amounts to a run-around and my husband keeps saying, go to the top. Sound advice, but where is it?

My dear fishmonger should reappear on the scene today, after a 10-day holiday in Corfu. Seafood linguine for lunch, to send Joe on his homeward journey well-fed.

There was little knitting-time yesterday and what there was, was given to Lizzie’s Hundertwasser sock. Interestingly, Joe knows the word “snood” and believes that it means what I am making, namely an infinity scarf. His girlfriend’s mother knits lots of them, he says. That seems both curious and interesting.

There is lots I want to say a propos provisional cast-ons and yesterday’s comments. I would like to attend a day-course (half a day would be enough) on the structure of knitting. I hope I can keep my mind around the topic for 24 hours, and say more here tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Today should be one to enjoy. Joe is coming, and together we can finish emptying the dining room. I must get in some beer this morning. I’m close to finished boxing the books and I think I’ve thought of a destination for the glass and china in the corner cupboard. There are other problems, none too serious, such as where to put the bookcase once it’s empty. It’ll be fun, with him.

Alexander, it turns out, is seriously worried about managing his father’s diabetes, and would rather be here managing the ceiling-knockers-down while we go to Strathardle. So that’s what we’ll do. I still don’t have a date and there’s no point in nagging the contractor until I hear back from Alexander as to what date he would prefer.

It’ll be good to get my seeds in, and the remaining potatoes – I’m very late, this year.

But there are sad implications for Knit Nation, if we ever have another one. (Nothing this year because of the bloody Olympics. They have a lot to answer for.) I was a signed-on, paid-up participant in the ill-fated Knit Camp at Stirling University in ’10, and for Knit Nation last year. I didn’t get to either.

When it came to the point, it turns out it’s no use just having a reasonably convenient venue and a reasonably convenient time of year. If I am to get away, I must delegate my responsibilities completely. I sort of had Loch Fyne in mind, for the third attempt.

The solution will be to involve James somehow – he’s not afraid of diabetes, because he’s got it. And all this may be pie in the sky – I might not be spry enough myself, by then, for such gadding about. I’ll be 80. What a thought!

I finished knitting the snood yesterday, as hoped. Recovering the stitches from the provisional cast-on didn’t go well. I had crocheted stitches onto the needle, you will remember. I couldn’t unzip the crochet chain. Because I was starting from the wrong end? But I tried both ends. Probably because the waste yarn was embedded in fuzz.

So I unpicked it, stitch by stitch, and I’ve got them all on a needle. They look pretty good, except that I’m one short and can’t see where it should be. Something to do with that curious half-stitch-off effect, I suspect. I am far less confident, now, about my ability to make a good fist of the grafting.

For this project, I’ll just muddle forward. But I feel I’d like to get to grips with the whole issue of a provisional cast-on and the structure of knitting when you’re going in the other direction. Candace Strick does her simple (!) socks toe-up with a provisional cast-on, based on the Channel Island cast-on. My next socks are going to be plain-vanilla with a Strong heel, but the ones after that could well be Strick.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

I thought perhaps I should write about knitting today, for a change: but nothing comes to mind. Nothing on-line seems of any interest. I should finish the snood this evening, and make at least a good start on Kitchener’ing it to itself. I look forward to a bit of sock to follow, before starting the Tulip Cardigan.

I forgot to do yesterday’s Sky Scarf stripe in st st, to mark the change of month. So I’ll have to do it today and tomorrow instead.

I tried to think of a knitting treat I might promise myself, when the dining room is restored to its former glory. But I am so self-indulgent in the normal way of things that I can think of nothing just-out-of-reach I could make an exception and get.

Ah! Not knitting, but what about a Thai takeaway, if I’m here on my own the evening of the day the ceiling comes down?

The furniture was taken off (expensively) into storage yesterday. I tried and failed to establish a date for the Event. Today I’ll leave that one and try to get an estimate from the furniture restorer who visited last week. Then I can pass it on to Upstairs’ insurance people and begin to discover whether we have a fight on our hands.

Upstairs has a distinctive surname. I think he told me once that he is the nephew of the well-known Edinburgh financier of the same name who is =27 on the current list of Scotland’s Richest, if you still have yesterday’s paper. Name begins with G.

Joe will be here tomorrow, to help wrestle the last few things out of the dining room. He can only stay one night, as he has a job interview on Friday. He couldn’t come sooner, because today is his girlfriend’s birthday. One night should be enough. It’ll be great to see him.

I shall tell you about the books I’m reading. Kristie thought there might be a way to knit a scarf based on the type of book one had read in the past week. Wouldn’t work for me, who seem to read nothing but escape these days. I  have three on the go at the moment, an indulgence I wouldn’t countenance in knitting.

First is “Fear in the Sunlight” by Nicola Upson. It is what I think would be called a pastiche, with real characters – Alfred Hitchcock, Josephine Tey – mixed up with presumably fictional ones. I am having some trouble keeping the minor characters straight, and am halfway through without anything much having happened. But I’m not quite ready to abandon it.

Next comes “Tony and Susan” by Austin Wright. This one is good. A woman is sent a mss by her ex-husband from 25 years ago. He always wanted to be a writer. She reads it. So you have a book-within-a-book. The mss turns out to be a thriller, and a gripping one. Every so often she stops reading and we hear about her current life which is uneventful so far. I’m pretty sure I’ll finish this one.

But the actual page-turner, at the moment, is “The White Lie” by Andrea Gillies. It has all I most enjoy for a setting – big house, lots of family, overgrown rhododendrons, faded upholstery. With plenty of love and death and unusualness, well constructed. Amazon suggested it to me a couple of days ago. It is unnerving to think their algorithms are that good.