Friday, August 31, 2012

First day of the rest of my life, and life presses. I'll say it with pictures, for today.

We took Archie to Merchiston yesterday. I liked the feel of the place, relaxed and organised. Helen is unpacking, Archie is admiring his wonderful new telephone.

The Games were good -- the weather less than perfect, but better than forecast. This is how it always begins, as the baronet marches across the bridge with drawn sword. The Once-in-Royal-David's-City moment on Games Day.

My snood took third place

But the red socks, entered in "Best Use of 100 grams of wool", were unplaced.

Here is the Webster Cup, awarded annually to the Best Light Athlete, photographed in our garden on the morning of Games Day with three previous holders, my son-in-law Ed in the middle, his son Thomas-the-Elder on the left, and his other son Joe (the 2011 winner) on the right.

Joe defended the cup. It was so close they had to run an extra race to settle it -- I don't remember that ever happening before. But Joe lost.

 The big news of the day, however, is that we came JOINT FIRST in Tilt-the-Bucket. You have to throw the stick through that hole in the apparatus while being pushed rapidly forward in a wheelbarrow. If you fail, you get wet because there is a bucket of water above. Alexander pushed, Joe threw.

Monday, August 20, 2012

A brief log-in before we disappear for another week.

The second Candace-Strick-toe went very well. There were fewer stitches than there should have been when I got to the point of retrieving them from the provisional cast-on, but they were easily replaced and the join looks neater than I could have hoped. Will I now have to knit another pair of Candace’ socks to perfect the technique? I suppose what a Real Knitter would do would be just to practice, with no particular end in view. Sort of like swatching.

I re-read the instructions for a k2p2 tubular bind-off. I still don’t understand them (=they still sound too complicated to tempt me to try), but I think I can conclude that there is something better than treating k2p2 exactly the same as k1p1. Never mind: the result is acceptable.

We half-watched a television programme last night about Osborne, Queen Victoria’s beloved house on the Isle of Wight. In the “family room” where royal children were said to tumble on the floor while Victoria and Albert admired them, was a spinning wheel. Did the Queen spin? Or have the present curators put in it because it looks “Victorian”?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

In lieu of the pictures you might have hoped for, of weeds and grandchildren, here at least is a picture of a sock:

Wren, your comment yesterday came at just the right moment. I google’d “tubular bind-off” and discovered that there is a description of a k2p2 bind off in “Knitting Tips and Trade Secrets” which I own and which, remarkably, I was able to find quickly.

(Knitting books have reached the stage where many are piled on the floor next to the shelves which no longer have room to deploy them. It makes retrieval difficult.)

But I couldn’t understand the instructions.

I went on google’ing and found this blogger and her utterly successful jacket. She says that the k2p2 bind-off is exactly the same – she italicizes the words – as the k1p1 one. So I just did that. I am not wholly persuaded, but the result is tidy and stretchy, if not very tubular.

I then cast on for the next sock…

…and I have achieved something, perhaps not quite what was intended. But the provisional stitches, such as they are, are undoubtedly on the circular needle. Candace starts at the point where toes join the foot, rather than at the very tip of the sock – if it turns out a bit untidy, I think it will be easier to fudge, there.

My conclusions, so far, are

(a)    that if I need a real provisional cast-on my only reliable resource is the crochet one – where you crochet the stitches onto the needle, not the crochet-chain one which I have yet to master. I learned it from Candace herself, in a mitered child’s-cardigan pattern which failed at the Games one year when “Child’s Cardigan” was one of the categories. My claque was indignant, but I think they were admiring Candace’ pattern whereas the judges were looking at the knitting.

(b)   that I must master Judy’s Magic cast-on. Magic it really is.


We’ll go back to Strathardle tomorrow, insh’Allah. Helen and I have conferred on the cooking of tomorrow night’s supper. Her presence and support are beyond price.

I am grateful for your comments, Tamar, Anonymous and Shandy.  I don’t think my husband’s failure to sparkle in group conversation is related to hearing. So far, although we have accumulated a fair number of the possible afflictions of old age, we have both been spared significant hearing loss. That must be a very hard one to bear.
I think it is more that he can’t keep up (never having been very good at it) when thoughts and ideas are ping-pong’ing about. We plan to keep away from the group festivities in the village next weekend, and dine by ourselves at home. It may make the weekend less exhausting for him.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

My hair looks much better, for the moment.


I am nearly finished with the first Italian sock – a few more rounds of ribbing.

Candace recommends a tubular bind-off. I am perfectly happy with the Surprisingly Stretchy, which in addition I can now do without consulting a text. But the purpose of this project is to learn things, so perhaps I had better try. It sounds sort of like one-handed Kitchener stitch.

The drawback is that it is done on k1,p1 ribbing, not my style for a sock. My new “Cast On, Bind Off” book agrees. So I’ll have to do a round or two of k1,p1 at the top of the sock, on top of my usual k2,p2. How will that look?

And then the immediately-following excitement will be an attempt to do a provisional cast-on using the cord of a fine, short circular as the waste yarn. It will be a noteworthy achievement if I can master that.

If both of these procedures go smoothly, I should embark on the 2nd sock today. I mustn’t try to rush it. I mustn’t settle for the tubular bind-off if the k1,p1 rib looks silly on top of k2,p2. There’s no hurry.

I think perhaps I had better cast on a plain-vanilla, top-down pair of socks to keep in the emergency bag. I wouldn’t like to spend the night in a&e trying to do a provisional cast-on.

I heard from Knit Purl this morning, as I do from time to time, singing the praises of Olgajazzy. I should have recognised the name – she’s been in IK, and the Twist Collective. Some very nice Japanese-y things, no one of which quite makes me want to fling away the current sock and start this afternoon.


I didn’t take any pictures for you. I'll do better next week.

We all went to a matinee of J.M. Barrie’s “Dear Brutus” at the Pitlochry Festival Theatre on Wednesday, and enjoyed it very much. We used to go often when our children were young – 40 years ago, indeed, we saw “Dear Brutus” which I remember fondly. In those days the theatre was in a tent, and of necessity simpler and smaller than it is now. The programme included more high-brow elements then, and the audience was younger and poorer than the third millennium crowd. 

Amazon let me download the text free, so I did, and was interested to see that Pitlochry had sweetened the ending. Or is it always played like that? Perhaps in 1917, when it was first produced, too many people had lost too many sons to believe in happy endings. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Here we successfully are, re-grouping and enjoying a brief respite from the mud. I’ll have my hair done today. No chance for a new clo.

The garden is so bad that the only thing to do is to concentrate on the few successes. I had thought the potatoes would be one of them. But foliage has begun to die – blight? And when I start digging, it turns out very few potatoes are to be found. The foliage of the Picasso's still looks good—maybe I’ll do better there.

The vegetable cage has been a distinct success – no rabbits or deer in there. I shall hope to use its protection to better effect next year. Sorrel soup continues to please, and Good King Henry has figured as saag in another curry. I still haven’t decided whether it actually adds a useful piquant note – or is it just that the spices conceal the bitterness of the vegetable? At least it gets from garden to table.

Bunching onions are looking very good, especially the ones Harriet gave me recently. I have cautiously divided a couple of the bunches. We should be in business seriously next year if the deer don’t pull them all up in the winter. The mange tout peas, all of eight inches high, have bravely come into flower. We may get a plateful after all. Usually in August I can’t keep up with them.

And there will be a late crop of broad beans.

Oddly, the parsley is ebullient. I would have thought the deer would enjoy that.

And the gooseberry bushes, in other years stripped bare by caterpillars, are looking quite cheerful. We had no crop at all this year, presumably because potential flower-buds were stripped along with leaves last year. So I entertain some hope there.

My husband’s frailty continues to be a cause of anxiety. Helen has alerted a neighbour whom we may call on for help – some comfort. I remember that my mother, perfectly alert into her 90’s, dropped out of group conversation long before then. My husband seems to be at an equivalent stage, drooping silently over the supper table but fine in one-to-one conversation.

Helen’s eldest son Archie is about to start life as a schoolboy at Merchiston, here in Edinburgh. The plan is that Helen will come back from Greece at the end of September to be here for his first exeat – when he is allowed out on leave for a long weekend. We can all go to Strathardle then.

(Her husband David, a worrier after my own heart, is afraid that Marchiston’s emphasis on rugby will make Archie’s life hell, and equally worried that Archie will love rugby and spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair.)


I took the Italian socks along, but didn’t get much done. My fingers don’t seem to work as well without a television set droning on in the corner. I have nearly reached the ribbing of the first sock. It would be nice if I could press on and get the second one finished next week, when the recipient will be with us for the Games.

Speaking of which, I am entering those red socks in the “Best Use of 100gr Wool” class, as well as the snood in the Snood class.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Here we go – although we’ll be back some time next week to touch base and regroup before the Games. I must have my hair done – can’t go to the Games looking like this – and would like a wander through M&S in search of a new shirt, if circumstances allow. And five young Ogdens and their followers will be sleeping here the night before. I must lay out beds and bedding for them.

Rachel says that her son Joe will not be defending the Webster Cup – he has been injured in some unspecified way. He and his brother Thomas, a former holder, are two of the five who will be in Edinburgh on the Friday night, so I had despaired of taking a picture of the cup with its three Ogden winners. (Rachel’s husband Ed also won it once.)

But Rachel says the cup is ours until the baronet (with drawn sword) leads the pipe band over the bridge at 12:45 on Games Day, so we will take the picture mid-morning when the Edinburgh contingent arrives, and only then go down to the field and hand it back. One of the things I must do is polish it.

Lisa, you shall have pictures of children’s entries and vegetables. We probably won’t be competing in either category this year although who knows? perhaps I will find a cornucopia of vegetables when we arrive this afternoon. “Selection of four vegetables” is one of the possible categories, and the entries aren’t in yet.

The 2007 video of the Games (beginning with the baronet and his sword and the pipe band) is still available on YouTube. We were there in vast quantity that year and did brilliantly in a number of respects, none of which appear in the video except for a brief appearance from Sam the Ram, winner of the Glenisla Shield.


The Italian yarn is producing a very jolly little sock. You must be right about it, Anonymous (comment yesterday). I thought I bought it from a flags-of-all-the-nations selection, but it includes both grey and a dark green, neither of which figure, I think, in the Italian flag. I am very tempted to take it along. Sock-knitting is peculiarly comforting in times of stress. And its wearer will be there and I could check for size…

Until next week.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

A new follower! You can't imagine how the heart leaps!

I finished the red socks – the 8th pair this year, so we’re proceeding at the fairly leisurely pace of one-a-month. There was time off, of course, for the madelinetosh sleeveless for my husband, and for the Games-entry snood.

I’ll wash them, or at least soak them in warm water, a couple of times to ensure, if possible, that they won’t turn our niece's underwear pink.

And I started some Italian flag socks (Regia) for Rachel’s daughter Hellie, using Candace Strick’s system. As I suspected, I didn’t like snipping the Channel Island cast-on out stitch by stitch. Not one bit. The result is satisfactory enough, after a bit of fudging, but the process was not satisfying.

I had a look at my new “Cast On Bind Off” book, mentioned here recently (Leslie Ann Bestor, Storey Publishing, spiral-bound). She includes the standard provisional cast-on’s, of course – with the sensational idea (I think) of using the cable of a circular needle as the “waste yarn” in that cast-on that is sort of like a cat’s cradle.

It’s also sort of like Judy’s Magic Cast-On, in fact, except that only one needle is involved – a similar up-down movement, first one yarn and then the other. I have done it successfully once, in the distant past. It was fun. Now I am determined to do it again. I have a very short, fine-gauge circular which will be perfect for the purpose. If I can master this one, I will have made a great leap forward.

Essentially what Candace has done here is start at the point where toes join foot, with a provisional cast-on of half the final number of stitches. You then knit down, decreasing as you go, to the point of the sock, and then back up again, increasing by picking up a stitch at the end of each row from the initial wedge, forming a nice little pocket. Then re-claim the provisional stitches and on you go.

(I can’t quite visualise it myself, even though I did it yesterday. Three-dimensional geometry is where mathematics and I parted company.)

It’s a good deal less fiddly – except for the Channel-Island-cast-on business – than other toe-up’s. Even when a Turkish cast-on, or a Judy’s Magic if I’m lucky, has been executed successfully, the succeeding few rounds are pretty agonising.

Real Life

I got most of the books into the dining-room bookcase yesterday. They are mostly mine, a motley collection from the enthusiasms of my middle years, a bit disconcerting now. Today’s ambition is to do a bit of hoovering and then replace the three rugs, between dining-room door and front door, which were removed to facilitate the tramping back and forth of workmen.

Alexander turned up on the doorstep yesterday, a totally unexpected treat. He had come to Edinburgh to see an old friend and had an hour to spare. We’ll see him next at the Games.

Our plan is to go to Strathardle tomorrow – Helen and family will join us on Thursday. We need to be there in advance to get the beds made. Ten days ago, we and the Beijing Mileses left on the same morning, stripping the beds as we went.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Thanks, guys! Of course I was watching tennis yesterday, and I can tell you that k2p2 rib is a pretty difficult stitch to execute while Murray is playing Federer.

I am sure Mr Murray would have preferred it to happen a month ago, and win him the Wimbledon trophy. But winning an Olympic gold medal is a good deal better than not winning an Olympic gold medal, and defeating Mr Djokovic and Mr Federer in successive matches without losing a set is something, too. Surely Murray will win one of the big titles? But it has to be soon – he is 25 and the clock is ticking.

I learned in my on-line magazine reading this morning that the American Olympic Committee pays $25,000 for a gold, and pro rata for other medals. Presumably many other nations do the same. And here I thought the one thing to be said for this whole rather tedious business was that the athletes were competing for glory (and future sponsorship money), not for cash on the barrel-head.

In 1948 my father was Sports Editor of the Associated Press. He met the woman for whom he left us, while he was covering the Olympics in London that year. She was married, too. I assumed when I was young that she was already divorced when she and my father met, but I don’t know that. Her husband may have been equally betrayed. She and my father lived happilyeverafter for many years.

So I start out with a bias against the London Olympics.

Little to report, as far as actual knitting is concerned. The red socks are now within a few rounds of completion – due less to tennis-knitting than to subsequent peaceful television-watching.  I hope to cast on for Candace Strick’s socks today.

Dining-room: the bookcase has all its shelves, and I think it has been shored up from below to my husband’s satisfaction, although I am not quite sure about that. He is always very cross during any such operation – it occurred to me years ago that that ensures a flow of adrenalin. One does not err through inattention while hanging a picture or shoring up a bookcase with my husband. I hope today to start filling it with books.

Miscellaneous: while they were in Strathardle recently, the Beijing Mileses went camping in Glenderby (pronounced "Glen-DAR-by"). There is a ruined bothy there, perhaps an hour’s walk from our village. They all went up for a campfire supper, then Cathy and Alistair came home to sleep in beds, the cowards, while James and the girls remained.

The elder daughter, Rachel-the-Younger, is a keen and skilful photographer. She was eager to have a chance to photograph deer, and succeeded. I downloaded this from her Facebook page just now: 

Two points of interest.

Notice the albino deer. I have never seen such a thing.

Notice the quantity. I have not been up Glenderby myself for a good many years, but when I used to go, I never saw deer in anything like that number. Half a dozen would have been a lot, in my day. What chance have my vegetables got? 

Sunday, August 05, 2012

We moved the bookcase back into the dining room yesterday – there is only one. We are well advanced with bracing it from beneath, for levelness and security; and replacing the shelves. Neither task entirely easy, both underlining yet again how weak we have become.

Still, with a favouring wind, that job may be finished today and I may be able to start replacing the books – which will have the highly-desirable result of reducing the number of boxes piled elsewhere in the house.

Rachel phoned last night. She’s having a wonderful time in Olympic London. It does sound as if the whole thing was, after all, rather well organised.

She was making sure I knew that five young people – three of them her children – will be here in Drummond Place the night before the Games, having their annual quick look at the Festival. Two of them, Joe and Thomas, have, in their day, won the Dan Webster Cup for the Best Light Athlete. Rachel’s husband Ed won it once, too, and I had hoped to take a picture of all three of them with the cup before handing it back to the organisers on Games Day.

Joe is the current holder. Thomas wasn’t at the Games last year so the picture couldn’t be taken then.

It looks as if our only hope for that picture is for Joe to win it again.


I am well advanced with the final ribbing. I broke one of my beloved Cubic needles last night. Never, never, ever leave knitting on the floor. When will I learn?

I mentioned that I have been buying knitting books. One of them is Arne and Carlos’ “Knitted Dolls”. I can’t imagine knitting a doll. But a year ago, would I have imagined knitting a Christmas tree ornament? I love Arne and Carlos, that’s the thing. Surely their next book will be Scandinavian sweaters. That’s the one we’re waiting for.

I’ve also got “Cast on Bind Off” which seems to have lots of good things, including some good pages on Judy’s Magic Cast-On.

Sue, I did go back to the article in Knitty the last time I was struggling. It didn’t click. What happens with me again and again is that I think I’m sailing along, wrapping the top yarn around the bottom needle and vice versa, getting up a nice rhythm – and then discover that the two needles are unattached to each other. I have cast on a hole. And I still don’t know what I do differently, when I finally get it right. This needs more work.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

The dining room furniture has been successfully retrieved. It was a stressful morning. The furniture-store men were not particularly skilled or respectful furniture-handlers. I feared both for the objects and for my husband’s temper. We had a bad passage about getting the carpet reasonably straight – it is ferociously heavy; my husband and I couldn’t have managed on our own, and anyway it couldn’t be done once the table was in the room.

Trampling on the uneven parts was not the way to set about things, as my husband told them with some asperity.

They declined to attempt to put the mirror back in place, and I was very happy to let them off. It is fragile. We have contracted with a nice man to restore the top of the sideboard, badly water damaged, and two chairs, likewise. He is tall and strong and pleasant and not at all limp-wristed and will have to bring someone with him to get the sideboard. I figure they can put the mirror up and add it to the bill.

As soon as yesterday’s men were out the door, I rang up the restorer. He is on holiday for the next fortnight. That means he will be back at work the week of the Games. So it drags on.

We got some other little things done yesterday, too – sending  a cheque to the man who cuts the grass for us in Strathardle and a birthday card to someone else; requesting repeat prescriptions to get us through August; getting some pages photocopied from the 14th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica. Better than some days.


Here is a picture from the Scotsman I have been meaning to show you. From Shetland.

AnnP, yes, I’ve done a couple of Turkish cast-ons, when I started toe-up knitting and failed at my first attempt with Judy’s Magic. Someone famous – Fleegle? – says that’s the one she uses all the time. It’s slightly loose, compared to Judy’s, but otherwise simple and good. I think I would classify Judy’s Magic as a brilliant variation of it.

I was horrified, looking at my notes just now, to see that I haven’t kept a complete record of which cast-on and which heel were employed for which sock, among the ones I have done this year. I know which of each I’ve done, but haven’t entirely recorded which socks they were employed in. Careless.

I should reach the final ribbing of the current pair today. Next will be Candace Strick’s “revolutionary” socks, for another small-footed grandchild. I’ve got to return to Judy’s Magic Cast-On until I have thoroughly mastered it. I’m thinking of knitting my husband a pair of toe-ups, trying them as we go the way the books suggest, to see if  I can achieve socks for him that really fit. This sock-knitting project looks endless.

Friday, August 03, 2012

This morning our dining room furniture is due to come back from storage. It’s lovely to have the room like this, all clean and empty. I am reluctant to resume responsibility for all those things.

Both VK and IK turned up in yesterday’s post. I don’t think anything stirs the blood in either, although I need to spend more time with them.

I liked Mary Kaiser’s article in IK. I had a hopeful look at her blog but she writes rarely and briefly. She says in the article that she thought of having a Year of Old Shale but then remembered a tax collector in Flaubert “whose hobby is churning out thousands of napkin rings in his little home workshop ‘in one of those states of utter bliss…which divert the mind with easy challenges and gratify it with the most utter and complete success.’”

So Kaiser eschewed the too-easy challenge.

And I thought, oh dear, what about me and all these socks? But then I cheered up. Judy’s Magic Cast-On, at the very least, is not an easy challenge. And I have no doubt that (unlike thousands of napkin rings) people really do like socks. It’s not just that they wear them when I am around – they do that, and they know I like to see it. But they also bring them to me from time to time for darning – you can’t fake that.

I am progressing nicely up the leg of the second sock of the current pair.

Franklin has an article in VK about knitting resources in Iceland. Interesting, but I’m sorry he didn’t include the picture he posted in his blog, of the yarn section in the supermarket.


Thank you for the link to the discovery of the Hittite statue in SE Turkey, Lisa. What a lot of interesting things there are in the world! I especially love the remains of the later Roman Empire which litter the west and south coasts of Turkey, all rather irrelevant to the Turks who came from further east. Rose Macaulay’s “The Towers of Trebizond” is the book to read, if you haven’t.

I Google’d her just now, to check the spelling, and found her wearing this rather choice sweater.

Thursday, August 02, 2012

I’ve done the second Sweet Tomato Heel, and very nice it is.

The heel consists of three wedges, stacked on top of each other. Each is done, knitting back and forth, by stopping two stitches short of where you stopped last time, turning, slipping the first stitch, and knitting or purling back. No tedious wrapping.

When you come to knit across the whole row, the stitches will present themselves in little bunches of two. One of the two you just knit; for the other, you lift the stitch from the row below onto the left-hand needle, and knit it together with the stitch already there.

Watching the video again yesterday, I finally made explicit to myself the fact that the stitch on which you perform the operation just described, is the one that was slipped. I don’t think Cat Bordhi ever says so, in so many words. Her video suffers a bit from cuteness, talking of mother stitches and daughter stitches and horseback-riding. Her attempt to teach me Judy’s Magic Cast-On had the same fault – never mind “tick tock”, I need to knew exactly how the yarns wrap around the needles.

Which is not to detract in the slightest from the brilliance of the Sweet Tomato Heel.

So I’ve done my best one yet. I had failed to write down, however, the numbers which I deemed to be two-thirds and one-third of 56 on the first sock; or how many stitches I left undone in the middle of the wedge. So this heel is slightly different, I feel, from its friend. Not a fatal error.

I have been buying knitting books as if they were hog futures, and I should tell you about them, but instead I will write about

My husband’s sister – C., who died last year – and I went to Turkey together, oh, perhaps 30 years ago. Part of the holiday took place on the south coast. Excursions were offered, including one to Termessos, but no one was interested except me. So the only way to get there would have been to hire a car and driver. The exchange was absurdly in our favour in those days – it would have cost very little. But C. didn’t want to go. She said she’d go along, but would insist on paying half.

An Offer I Couldn’t Accept, as she knew. (We were better off than she was.)

So I have never been there. But just lately, Greek Helen and her family have been touring western Turkey. Go to Termessos, I kept telling them. I recently had this email from her:

 "I never made it. Something terrible had happened to my back and I could scarcely move, Fergus was fraught with exhaustion and Archie refused to move, so David and Mungo went alone. They said it was like coming across an Inca city in the jungle. Astonishing and silent. Next time I'll go on a stretcher if need be."

Here is a picture of Mungo in Termessos:

It is wonderful to know that it is as wonderful as I have always imagined, and that it still doesn’t have a car park full of tour busses.

We’ve got on dining room back. I’ll show you tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The papering of the dining room went well yesterday – will they actually finish today? The paper is somewhat understated compared to our expectations, but it looks fine, and goes well with the old paper at the points where they abut. See yesterday’s pic.

And I’m ready to start the next sweet tomato heel. I watched the video again this morning, which seemed a slow way of acquiring information by now but was perhaps useful. I should have these socks finished to give to our niece when we see her at the Games.

My husband had a podiatry appt yesterday. I took the current sock along, of course, for my waiting time, and also Candace Strick’s book. I’m not entirely looking forward to attempting her system – to begin with, the cast-on (Channel Island) is not what I would call “provisional” in that it can’t be unzipped but must be snipped and picked out stitch by stitch. But it is no use buying a book and then complaining about it before I even try.

I also paid my first visit to the new local LYS, Kathy’s Knits. I liked what I saw. She is concentrating on Scottish yarns. I hadn’t even known that wool was spun at New Lanark. Kathy has also got Jeanette Sloan’s yarns, she who used to have her own shop in Bruntsfield and now writes for Knitting magazine.

And I left without buying anything, without feel embarrassed. Do drop in if you get a chance.

Another thing I found out about yesterday (from The Knitter) is Shetland Wool Week. One to dream about. Kate Davies is going to be there.

This is beginning to sound like one of those chatty advertising columns (I love them!) in the local free newspaper.