Sunday, November 30, 2014

Dies Atra

I've dispatched a couple of emails and dealt with the first of the day's crop of pop-ups – I can't stand this much longer. There's not much time left for blogging. Panic is bad this morning.

We had a grand walk yesterday – through the Hermitage and up the Braid Hills, two famous Edinburgh landmarks neither of which I had experienced before. The Hermitage was fine, lots of nice people walking their dogs. On the Hills, we lost the track and got submerged in golf courses. We kept thinking we had spotted the path again, and kept finding that it led only from the green to the next tee.

Golfers were many and on the whole friendly. There was only one cry of “Oi! We're playing golf here!” But we didn't want to disturb their game, nor get killed by a golf ball, so we soon headed back downhill. But we got to the top, and I took a picture for you of Edinburgh below, shrouded in mist. I hope to show you soon.

We walked for about 2 ½ hours, enough to work up a sweat. It felt good.

I wondered if I would be too tired for scallop-knitting in the evening, but in fact managed another two without disaster. I've reached the lovely bit where I can see the third corner getting closer and closer with every return row. I think there are 50 scallops per side – if so, I should reach the fourth corner near the end of the year if I can maintain the present pace.

And I did some more of Archie's sweater. I suppose I'll never know whether alternating skeins as I am doing, was necessary – but it seems to be working. There is no line.

Now I'd better get on with Sunday. Zite doesn't seem to have updated itself this morning.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Oh, Skeindalous! Oh, Ron! I think you have probably sold me the Tokyo Shawl. After all, if I keep on knitting steadily forward as at present, I will (I think) be clear of present responsibilities by the end of February or so. That's not too far away. I do want to attempt a Fair Isle vest, and start the Queen Ring, but...

A substantial number of the Tokyo-shawl-knitters on Ravelry, write about it in Japanese. That's an added inducement, if one were needed.

But there's also the annual danger that Scotland might win the Calcutta Cup and I'd have to knit a commemorative sweater – or two, this time, for the little boys. It's not terribly likely to happen, as the match will be played in London, and Scotland haven't won there since Late Forty-Eight (not an historical statement, you can look it up if you're interested, but a quotation from Guys and Dolls). But Scotland have been playing with a new spring in their step recently, and England haven't been all that sharp, so it's possible.

The match is on March 11 – too late, I hope, to incorporate the cup in either of my current projects. Hellie, an Englishwoman, wouldn't want it in her bridal veil anyway, but Archie, at a rugby-loving school, might not mind having it in a very inconspicuous place such as one of those reverse-side hems.

Yesterday went well – another two scallops on the edging of the Bridal Shawl, without further disaster. That hole from Thursday evening is still there, still mysterious, and still, apparently, secure. I finished the third skein (of 12) on Archie's sweater. I did wind another – the fifth – and will continue to alternate it with the fourth. The trouble with the fourth is that, although the colour is fine, there isn't as much undyed near-white as elsewhere, the quality that gives a madelinetosh fabric such wonderful life.


I did get my order in yesterday for a new Resident's Parking Permit – I'm sure I wouldn't have done it if I hadn't promised you guys. The to-do list is every bit as long, but for a moment or two, less terrifying. If we get the Disabled Parking Badge we applied for earlier this week, we will no longer need to pay the hefty annual fee for Resident's Parking.

But today I leave the to-do list behind and go walking. I got a letter from the dr yesterday saying that my bone density isn't too bad, I don't need to go back to taking those weekly pills, but I should eat calcium and go in for “weight-bearing exercise”. Does that mean walking? I bought myself some Dunsyre Blue cheese, for the calcium.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Well, that's Thanksgiving done.

I ran into two instances yesterday of unstinting praise for the NHS. Mrs Hussain in the corner shop told me about the treatment her elderly mother is getting for diabetes and numerous other complicated age-related infirmities – an old Pakistani woman with imperfect English. Then, later, I ran into an old friend on Broughton Street, a man of my children's generation, whose sister had just died of cancer in a Glasgow hospital. He spoke with great feeling of the care they had received, the dying woman and her daughters and himself.

Newspapers are full of stories about the overburdened NHS. Our own experience – and that of my brother-in-law, when he had a stroke in Yorkshire last month – corresponds much more closely with yesterday's conversations.


After a nice run on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, my foot slipped yesterday, metaphorically speaking, and there's an unwanted hole at the point where the edging connects to the shawl. I can't think how this is possible without a dropped stitch which is going to unzip, but everything seems secure. I can correct it with a needle at the blocking stage – or would it be better to do it now?

I wound the next skein for Archie's sweater. It seemed a bit different from the three I've used so far (a danger, with madelinetosh) so I am alternating rounds of it with the last few yards of the old skein. And I could wind another one and go on alternating if that seems a good idea.


Thank you for your long, thoughtful comment on Wednesday, Melfina, about different sorts of intelligence and the possible male-female imbalance at the extreme end of geekiness. (And then there's Bill Gates, who seems to have it all, including even common sense. I suspect he had good parents.)

A few decades ago, an explanation often offered for the difference was that boys were tougher and pushier than girls and were thus able to monopolise the classroom computers. Now that every child has its own computer from infancy, that one won't wash any more.

I think I got the weekend meals lined up well enough yesterday to allow an early start tomorrow on my walk with our niece. It will be very welcome. The darkness is oppressive, and I'm always afraid at this point in the year that Someone Up There will forget to throw the switch and it'll just go on getting darker. Added to which, the two saddest anniversaries (of death) in our family calendar, occur within a week of each other just about now.

And then there's Christmas and the Income Tax to look forward to. And today I must renew our resident's parking permit, a job I keep postponing because it means looking up the engine capacity of our car and I have again forgotten how to do that.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving.

The man on Prayer for the Day today – to which I often wake up, at 5:42 – mentioned the practice of going around the table  and having everybody declare something they were thankful for in the last year. For me, it would have to be James' coming here for the wedding weekend, so that I could go.

Mary Schiffmann (as in, The Lacy Knitting of Mary Schiffmann) used to write to a person or organisation every year, thanking them for something they had done. “One year I wrote to the Portuguese embassy in New York thanking them for Portugal's boneless and skinless sardines. The ambassador sent an enormous basket filled with every kind of sardine imaginable. The family had sardines for a very long time.”

I've never encountered a boneless and skinless sardine, and would like to. Schiffmann was deeply involved with Mount Holyoke, going back nearly to its foundation – grandmother, mother, four aunts, as well as herself.

All went well with knitting again yesterday. I've now got quite a nice little run of disaster-free scallops on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and the third corner is enticingly close. But again, I stopped after two. I counted Archie's stitches last night – they're all there. I've done about 6” since the sleeves were abandoned – 17” is the goal. The third skein is still not finished, but should expire tonight.

On Saturday I am going for a walk with our niece. We're confining ourselves to Edinburgh this time – the Braid Hills, where I've never been. So tomorrow I must gather in the weekend shopping, including a sandwich lunch for my husband, and today I had better plan it all out. Both days are unencumbered otherwise, thank goodness.

I'm in a bit of an end-of-year panic about Christmas, even thus truncated, and the income tax in January. I may have to get used to spending less delicious early-morning time with you guys.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

I shouldn't have been so rude about Thanksgiving. I'm still glad I don't have to eat a big meal tomorrow (let alone cook one) but I wish a very happy day to all of you who will be doing so. I have only spent one Thanksgiving in the UsofA since I married. That was in 1960, and there was no doubt that it drained some of the horror from Christmas. Here, in effect, we eat Thanksgiving dinner on Christmas Day – as well as doing all the rest of the stuff.

Alexander was surprised, and indeed delighted, with Thanksgiving when he discovered it. A whole day devoted to getting together and eating a good meal, with no religious or other obligations to be carried out.

I was grateful for your explanation of what “Black Friday” means, Tamar. (Comment yesterday) I didn't know that, and it makes the day seem much more cheerful.

It's time I got started on the Christmas cards.


All went well again yesterday. Two more scallops, on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Again I thought of going on a bit, again decided against it. Archie's stitches are now fully back in action, untwisted and unsplit.

Ellen, I was very grateful for your comment on Monday, suggesting that I have already knt 40% of Archie's sweater, now that I have done the raglan shapings down to the underarm. Does that take in to account the fact that the sleeves are still unknit? Looking at the lump of knitting on the floor, 40% seems plausible. Looking at it on Archie, less so. I may well finish the third skein today.

There's a new Twist Collective out. I haven't been through it yet. Franklin's there – indeed, I heard the news from his Facebook page. When I loaded the T.C. and saw the list of articles, my first hope was that he was the author of “Lessons in Goat Rearing: Part Three”. No, alas – that one seems to be about goat-rearing. Franklin is writing about EZ.

My eye (and heart) were caught by the ad for Marianne Isager's Tokyo Shawl, on the title page of the “Road Less Travelled” section. November is my most dangerous month for ill-advised stash acquisition. I'm not sure which screen I've given you the link to (if any) – I intended it to be the dark version, the one (I think) in the Twist Collective ad. It's alpaca. Oh, dear.


I've hardly written anything, and time is up. G. and I got the Disabled Parking Badge application in on Monday – 14 pages or so of boxes to tick, plus some essay questions about how far the sufferer can walk and with what support. They simply can't turn us down again.

Since we've been talking about feminism: the current New Yorker, the Tech Issue, has an interesting article about a brilliant girl computer-games player. She can beat most of the Koreans, and that's something. But it turns out, well into the article, that she is “transgender”. I have no difficulty with that, she is welcome to live as she likes and the New Yorker to use any pronouns it chooses. But I don't think she can quite be counted on the female side of the ledger, if she's got a Y chromosome.

My view, for what it's worth: we're talking about bell-curves, which largely overlap. But I think that at the very high end of technological skill and intelligence, the mega-geeks, let us call them, there are more males than females, and always will be.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All of Archie's stitches are now back on the needle, and I am feeling my way cautiously around he first circuit. Some stitches are sitting backwards, of course, and others are split. Madelinetosh is rather loosely twisted – in my next incarnation, I am going to take up spinning early in life and come out with a real understanding of yarn. It would be just my luck to reappear as a sheep.

Everything is being patiently corrected, and there will be no Messy Line to mark the spot. EZ says somewhere that a split stitch is the one mistake in knitting which cannot be passed off as a Feature. But I don't think we'll have another try-on unless there is real cause for alarm.

And I did another two scallops on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, without mishap. By the time I had done them, fully conscious of my resolution to try to do a bit more, I felt that it would be wiser to stop. I was perilously near the point where familiarity becomes confusion. (Which row am I knitting? Which direction am I going?)


James rang up last night to say that he has been conferring with his sib, and it has been decided that no one over eighty has to give Christmas presents to anyone any more. With two exceptions: everybody wants to go on getting the New Yorker; and it's all right to give presents to the Little Boys at Loch Fyne.

The previous reduction, agreed last summer, was that we would only give presents to the people we actually saw over Christmas. Tough on those in Athens, Sydenham, and CT, in my case, but it still left me with a hefty list. This new decision will help a lot.

I've already bought two copies of a book which I will give to Rachel and Greek Helen. (I'll tell you about it after the solstice. I suspect all four should have it.) And some Sugru. And a delicious calendar – I'll tell you about that, too. But now I can stop! Except for the Little Boys.

Sometimes I think, had I but world enough and time, that I would like to design and knit a Truly Hideous Christmas Sweater. When did they come in? I was thoroughly alarmed to see several references to Black Friday in yesterday's newspapers. I had to explain it to my husband. They'll have us cooking a bloody turkey next, and expecting our children to turn up to eat it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

A good day. I knit a scallop or so of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl – Sunday is never very productive. Archie came to lunch. He seemed well. His sweater fits fine – now I can relax and start worrying about whether I have enough yarn. I am not far off finishing the third skein of twelve. There's an awful lot of Archie yet to cover.

He carried two boxes of knitting books down to the cellar. I was going to ask him to fiddle with our simple DVD player to find out why it wasn't working, but when I turned it on, it worked fine. So now I can get the new Coen Bros film – the one with the endlessly forgettable name. I think we've seen close to their entire oeuvre, most of it in the cinema. “True Grit”, indeed, may be the last movie we ever properly saw.

Then Archie went back to school – he had made a whole tedious trip across town (buses are rather rare on Sunday) just to be obliging. It was much appreciated.

I spent much of the evening getting half of his sweater back on the needle. It's on a smooth, heavy embroidery thread and the operation is going well, but I think it would be going a lot better if I had used ribbon as you told me to.

Today's job is going to be applying for a Disability Badge so that we can park on yellow lines and, theoretically, get out a bit more. I've applied twice before and been refused – once because they held that my husband could walk too far to qualify, the second time, when I appealed that decision, when they said I had left it too long and could no longer appeal, I had to start from scratch again.

Friends keep nagging me about this. Today one of them, with whom I went out drinking on Saturday, is coming round to take things in hand. Much of yesterday was spent downloading and printing the application form. It has got even worse since I first applied – I must submit, for instance, a “certified” copy of my husband's passport, to guard against identity fraud. Disability Badges are highly covetable and often misused – so, fair enough, but how am I to manage that?

But then I reflected: my printer is also a copier. And the friend who is coming is a lawyer – she can “certify” the copy herself. All I've got to do is find the passport.


A propos your comment yesterday, Melfina, about colleges.

When my sister was a big shot in Washington, she was in conversation once with the Secretary of Health, Donna Shalala, and somehow or other the fact came up that the chemistry building at Mouth Holyoke is named after our great aunt Emma.

Shalala said, “I didn't know your family had that kind of money”.

Helen said, “We don't. We have that kind of brain.”

It's the sort of riposte you usually only think of  the following Wednesday.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Even less to report this morning.

I got one more scallop done, on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl – and without mishap. Then I went out on the razzle-dazzle (= for cider in a local pub) and it seemed safest, when I got back, to restrict activity to threading Archie's sweater onto waste yarn for today's try-on. I did that. Lying on top of the sweater of his which was left behind here, the fit looks very good. We shall see.

I counted stitches on the Bridal Shawl, from here to the next corner. I think the answer was, 17 scallops to go, just over a week at the rate of two scallops per evening. Maybe I had better try to up the pace a little bit. When I get there, one full side will remain, then the messy corner, then a few inches of the fourth side until I reach the point where I started. A long way, yet.


And that's about it. November darkness presses. Panic is bad. I read all those pages in the newspapers of Present Suggestions and don't even see anything I might want for myself (usually easy, that one).

On feminism: Mount Holyoke disputes with Oberlin the claim to be the first to give degrees to women. They were pretty well simultaneous. I have forgotten the ins and outs of the argument. My sister and I grew up on Mount Holyoke, our mother's college and the one where our Great Aunt Emma served for many years as a distinguished professor of chemistry. The new lab is named for her. But neither my sister nor I went there.

And I am inclined nowadays to give the prize to Oberlin, for being co-educational from the beginning.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Not much to report, I'm glad to say. No disasters last night. I did 2 1/3 scallops on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I haven't yet threaded Archie's sweater onto waste yarn – that's this morning's second job. The first was to sort my husband's pills into those little plastic boxes for the coming week, and I must say I found it a rather entertaining task. No doubt it will become less appealing as the novelty wears off. It has the additional advantage of keeping me closely in touch with the level of supplies.

Sister Helen, I tried to pursue your link to the NY Times recipe – indeed, got a brief glimpse of it and was interested in the title, “slow-cooked albicore and...” in connection with what I said yesterday – but then it disappeared in an absolute thunderstorm of pop-up ads. It looked perhaps a bit complicated for my purposes. I failed to find the recipe I wanted among my books, but all I really need is a bean-salad recipe since the tuna requires only slapping in a pan. And I did remember to put beans on to soak.


Knitlass, I think you and I are in the same place on feminism and differ only on technique. I think the long, slow climb from the horrors of the fifties has been best served by women achieving their positions on merit and then getting on with the job. I think of the surgeon who saved Thomas' life with a lengthy night-time operation on his gut when he was three days old – and that was 30 years ago. I think of the first time I saw a woman driving a bus. Just do the job.

I haven't spent much time in the world, really, but what time I did spend never made me feel (even though it was the fifties) that sex was against me. Oberlin was the first institution in the world to give degrees to women – that is, it was fully co-educational from its foundation – and the spirit lingers on. Maybe that was a factor.

(There was a delicious moment during my early days in Glasgow when I made the claim in the paragraph above, about the world's first degrees for women, to somebody at one of those embarrassing academic parties, and she said, “Are you sure? We were giving degrees to women before the Great War.” And I said, “1833”.)

Mrs Thatcher never claimed to be a woman, and – love her or hate her – nobody has ever accused her of it, any more than commentators feel it necessary to point out now that David Cameron is a man. She was Leader of the Opposition, and after that she was Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I still think Nicola Sturgeon is letting the side down, very slightly, by making such a fuss about being a woman. She was at it again yesterday.

Valerie, I love your idea that we might have a Mr. Trout or Miss Tuna waiting in the wings as First Minister of Scotland. It hadn't occurred to me.

Non-knit. non-feminism

Since I started writing this, Archie has phoned to say he doesn't feel well and will come to lunch tomorrow instead. Can I keep the tuna another day? I don't like the idea. But that makes it very good news that his sweater is still on the needles, and I won't have to push myself beyond the prudent limit on edging-knitting tonight.

Sometimes (not often) things work out for the best.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Not a very good day, yesterday. I was peacefully knitting along, even beginning to wonder if I had produced a perfect scallop, when I found that a stitch or stitches had slipped off between the needles, without my even being aware that I was in any danger, and all was unzipping.

I had to take back a whole scallop before I got things right. The damage is not too bad, but it's visible – yet another muddle that wouldn't have happened if I had stuck with my original plan and knit the shawl inwards. There's not much scope for muddle when you are slipping a fine needle through a nicely-made edging chain. And, hell! If I had done it that way, I'd be finished by now, since I had knit the entire edging before changing plan.

I was very tired last night – some minor events which constitute a stressful day, in old age, and no nap. Maybe the moral is to leave lace alone on such evenings.

But Archie's sweater continues to progress nicely, producing a beautiful smooth smart-looking fabric. And tomorrow I get to see it on Archie!

I made him tuna and beans for lunch once (tuna has a mysterious affinity with beans) and he was mightily impressed. He eats anything, like most boys his size and age, but also takes a serious and discriminating interest in food.

I'm not sure he had ever had fresh tuna before. His mother, Greek Helen, is seriously concerned about sustainability, and anyway is virtually a vegetarian, or maybe it is just that they don't sell fresh tuna in Greece. I don't think I had ever cooked it before we moved to Edinburgh. The first time, since it looked like a slice of old boot, I stewed it carefully for a long time. It's a wonder I ever went back to try again.

But I can't remember which of my books produced Archie's lunch. I remember that the beans were the real thing, soaked overnight. And there memory stops. Like the Lost Chord. I'll have another look through the books this morning.

Knitsofacto has a brilliant blog post up about autumn dyeing. She promises more detail in future posts about how her wonderful colours were achieved. She was meant to come to Shetland with us, but an ineluctable family event supervened. It was she who found beloved Burrastow for us to stay at. I would love to have talked to her about dyes.

I couldn't do it now – one can scarcely fill the kitchen with dye pots when one has got to produce breakfast-lunch-tea-and-supper daily. But I've done some dyeing in my day – I even  found ochrolechia tartarea on a stone in Strathardle, and got a pretty good red out of it after macerating (I think that's the word) with vinegar in lieu of urine. Red is not an easy colour to achieve with natural dyes, and I would have enjoyed boasting of it to Knitsofacto. It is extraordinary that peasant dyers persevered, who had a good deal of occupation to fill their days, and no electricity to help.


Southern Gal, you're right that CT has been spared snow, so far. Roger and Helen have suffered lashings of rain, and ugly cold, but that's all. Roger seems to be making good progress with his MacBook.

Nicola Sturgeon has taken over from Mr Salmond as First Minister. She is making what seems to me a great and undignified song and dance about glass ceilings and being a role model to little girls. In a world which has already produced Golda Meir and Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher and Angela Merkel (not to mention Hillary Clinton and a few others), it seems to me very unremarkable that a woman should be First Minister of Scotland. Better just get on with the job.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Again, very little to report. My two-scallops-and-then-Archie plan for the evening's knitting continues to work well. I've now done about 4” of sweater cylinder since I abandoned the sleeve stitches and joined the body below the placket (knitting top-down, remember). And there are still two more knit-evenings before I see Archie himself. There will be a lot to unravel if the fit is wrong.

But, on the other hand, the more I've done, the easier it will be to judge whether the fit is really right.

There has been yet another (minor) contretemps with the Bridal Shawl edging – I dropped a couple of stitches at that vital point between the needles where the edging is attached and where a dropped stitch threatens to unzip the entire work. It has been recovered without total disaster, but there is (yet again) a bit of mess left behind.

And it occurs to me that quite a few of the difficulties I've had with this shawl, stem from abandoning my long-held preference for knitting the edging first, picking up all the stitches, and knitting inwards. I started out to do just that, you may remember – I knit the entire edging, and then decided to do it Sharon Miller's way after all (I can't, now, imagine why) – knitting the centre square and then working outwards.

There was difficulty picking up stitches around the centre square before establishing the borders. And there have been these little problems with the knitted-on edging. If I had done it my way (Amedro's way), edging first, pick up stitches, knit inwards, both of those sources of mess would have been obviated. That would still have left the Messy Corner, caused by plunging in before I had solved the problem of knitting garter stitch in the round.

Well, we'll see. But I'll certainly plan to do the Queen Ring edging-inwards (it's a mighty square, I think). And I'll master the Fleegle garter-stitch-in-the-round system before I start the borders.

The Princess is a huge triangle, so garter-stitch-in-the-round, at least, wasn't an issue. It started with a wonderfully difficult edging – it took me 50 repeats to learn it. I was, most fortuitously, able to recite the pattern to myself while having my cataract operations that summer, using the Shetland “take” and “cast” for k2tog and yo. I have forgotten how I represented plain knit stitches to myself, or k3tog, come to that. Then you pick up stitches for the border, sliding the needle through. Then you knit the border, hundreds of rows, and then you think, well, that's it, nearly finished, and you start on the central triangle.

Beginning in the middle with a few stitches, and adding one stitch at each side at the end of every row. It was just like that famous puzzle about the chess board with one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, then four, then sixteen...

And when you finally, finally, finally stagger home – there's still more edging to be knit, all along the top.

It was fun.

Kristin Nicholas tempts me this morning, via Zite, with “To Knit or Not to Knit” (not by her, by Elvira Woodruff). The pictures she shows us of the pages of the book, sprinkled with art, are most engaging. On the other hand, the experience of packing up knitting books in boxes to go to the cellar, rather deters.


And now, weather. The US experience sounds truly extraordinary. I have emailed CT for a local report. Sister Helen and Roger are near Long Island Sound, there at the mouth of the CT River, but it doesn't seem to do much good as far as temperature-mitigation is concerned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

All went well with my simple system yesterday – another two scallops done, of the edging of the Unst Bridal shawl. The third corner is not a million miles away. And now that I am a few inches on from the spot where I resumed work last week, the mess doesn't look quite as bad as I at first thought . But mess it still is. I hope I will follow my own advice, and not lay it aside again.

I don't remember having this difficulty when I picked the Princess up again. She was done in fits and starts over four or five years. I suspect I'm getting older. I think I had better start the Queen Ring at once, if I am to have any hope of finishing it. And, at that, I don't have much.

At any rate, after the two scallops I retreated happily to Archie's sweater. Archie himself phoned to say that he is coming to lunch on Saturday – I will have to think of something tasty – and will be available to try on the sweater and do any little chores we have in mind, before going off to see a family friend nearby and then back to school. This all has somewhat the sound of a nudge from Athens, but it will be good to see him on any terms.

And I know to spend Friday evening threading the sweater onto waste yarn. I won't stop knitting in the interim – if it has to be ripped back, so be it.

I can't think that we have any pictures that need hanging at the moment, a truly horrible job in which Archie and I specialise. He can certainly make himself useful by carrying boxes of knitting books down to the cellar.

That was an inspired idea, Knitalot, that I might negotiate some more shelf space. Obvious, once it's mentioned, like so many inspired ideas. There is a shelf nearby of paperback thrillers – the sort of things which nowadays reside in the cloud above the Kindle app on my iPad – much tidier. I could sweep them away. The difficulty (there's always one of those) is that the knitting books are in a bookcase built for the purpose to fill an awkward corner, with shelves deep enough to accommodate knitting books. Using the thriller shelf would mean plucking small knitting books away from their proper context – The Knitter's Almanac would fit there, for instance, but Knit One, Knit All wouldn't.

I'll give it some thought.

The indefatigable Jared has a new collection out, Wool People 8. There are several things there that make me want to fling aside everything that is going on here and cast on anew. I especially like the stripey one on the cover but there are several others almost equally delectable, and the photography, as always, is breathtaking.

I'm not sure whether or not I've seen the current Twist Collective collection. I need to spend more time with it.


Sister Helen sent out a general bulletin yesterday about her husband Roger's recovery from his stroke. He needs less sleep now; they can sit and watch television in the evening again. They have got a new speech therapist with whom both are happy. Roger has acquired a MacBook Air – Helen thinks his struggles to get to grips with it have been generally beneficial. He is the latest of so many to go over to the Dark Side – I will write to him soon on the subject. Archie remains a stubborn holdout.

But the big news is that Ted can walk, only a few days after his first birthday.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

I got to the chemist, and sure enough! a service is available to obtain and sort one's pills and dole them out in day-by-day capsules. Even deliver them, weekly. One's GP has to put one on the Silly Old Fools track – fair enough, since the process must be fairly labour-intensive. I don't think we'll have any difficulty about that. Tomorrow is my husband's 89th birthday.

Can one trust them to get it all right, after all these years of anxiously supervising everything oneself? Try it and you may, I say, as someone once famously remarked.

Knitlass, don't worry about our “getting out”. (In fact, the weather improved markedly yesterday, after a poor start.) We are great believers in the merits of it. We try to go out together for a half-hour walk before lunch (which consumes any disposable time I might have had in the morning). There are obvious benefits for my husband's blood sugars, and he thinks it's good for what's left of his muscle tone. It's a bit scary. Getting up and down to/from a curbstone is a perilous occupation for him these days.

This morning I must get up to the top of the hill to buy the birthday present. I know what I want, and where it's to be had, and could perfectly well have bought it last week when I was up there pursuing prescriptions. And get back in time to get lunch ready and then go for the walk – you get the idea.

Mary Lou took this picture after our happy lunch last week. She called it “relaxed”, because of the sweater I'm wearing, but I think you can discern in my face a certain anxiety about getting back down the hill to Drummond Place and resuming the responsibilities adumbrated above. That's the electric blue jacket I bought for my trip to Shetland last year.

While on the subject of old age and infirmity, the news from CT is much-as-before. My sister is not entirely happy with the speech therapy Roger is getting (after his small stroke in Yorkshire, while they were here for the wedding). They have paid the deposit to get on the waiting list for the retirement community in DC they had already sussed out (refundable if they don't go, applicable to the capital payment if they do). I am very glad the NHS performed well, the day/night of the crisis. My sister can be a severe critic, and she seemed satisfied. We have always found them brilliant in crises.


Thank you for the advice about the length of tip I need for my forthcoming set of small-gauge Hiya Hiya bamboo circulars. Nothing was done about that yesterday, but 5” it will be. Nothing is worse – well, in fact, a lot is – than clutching a too-short tip.

Actual domestic knitting went well yesterday. I think the system I have adopted may carry me through. Two scallops of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl are enough to maintain forward progress, if steadily pursued. And that's about as much as I can do before late-evening-tiredness and the dangers involved in repeating an easy pattern, make it hazardous to go on. And at that point, the round-and-roundness of Archie's sweater – I know; I should have stopped; he needs to try it on – are the perfect retreat.

Madeline Tosh makes everybody's knitting look like gold. The fabric is marvellous.

The other knitting-related thing I did yesterday was to spend a little more time (before the walk supervened) in sorting out my knitting books with the thought of relegating some of them to the cellar (perfectly warm and dry) and thus creating more shelf-space and reducing the piles on the floor.

It's grand to spend time with the books. And it's not as if I were going to consign the B-list to a bonfire. But the process was still about as difficult as culling kittens. Single-designer books are going downstairs – “The Best of Annabel Fox” – except for Kaffe and Kate Davies and Starmore (although I've never knit anything of hers) and EZ and Meg who are in a category of their own. That still leaves a lot of difficult decisions.

Monday, November 17, 2014

I felt that yesterday's post was rather short and unsatisfactory – but it has yielded two big bonuses.

I shall make my way through wind and rain as soon as possible to discuss with the chemist at the foot of Broughton St, the possibility of their packaging my husband's pills for him by the day. It would mean their taking over the whole business of his prescriptions, something all chemists are keen to do for the multi-ailment elderly. My husband has long been urging me to switch to the near-by chemist anyway. I have stuck with Boots a) because I now regard their “pharmacy team” as old friends; and b) because the occasional hike to the top of the hill is good for me, aerobically, and it's also nice to spend a moment in John Lewis' yarn department. I don't get out much. But I think they're much less likely at Boots to want to sort pills.

My husband is intensely irritated by those bubble packs and we have tried to get pills in bottles, but of course have failed. I don't mind them much, and can certainly take over that part of the job.

And the other bonus was Mary Lou's suggestion of a Hiya Hiya circular needle interchangeable pack in small gauges, in bamboo. Meadow Yarns have got it – they've got everything. It remains to decide whether I want the tips to be 5” or 4”. Any ideas? Left to myself, I think I'd go for 5”

And I inched forward yesterday in another respect. I always read those pages of Present Suggestions in the papers this time of year, almost always without profit but you never know. Yesterday I found Sugru. I leave you to look it up. I've ordered some.

A funny thing about those present-suggestion pages is the way Christmas remains ever out of reach. The suggestions have precisely the same quality of being far-too-expensive now that we are old and prosperous, as they did when we were young and poor.

I got my database out and wrote “2014” at the top of a new column and filled in a few squares. It's a start.

And I resumed knitting the Bridal Shawl. As I had been warning myself, it proved a bit difficult at first. I'm back in the saddle now, but not before leaving behind a little bit more mess. I dread what I'll see when I block this one. I'm a little more than halfway around with the edging. It's nice to have Archie's sweater to sink back into when it all gets too much at the end of the evening.

Rachel sent this nice picture of her four chickies -- Thomas, Hellie, Joe and Lizzie, from left to right in descending order of age, taken (obviously) towards the end of the wedding party.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

New Zealand won, as widely predicted, but we gave them a match. It was on a knife-edge until the last 10 minutes. I will be interested to see what the experts say.

And beyond that, I have very little to say, after yesterday's effusions. I couldn't knit lace and watch rugby, I doubt if anyone could, so I did a bit more on Archie's sweater, but not much. We then got thoroughly bogged down in a task my husband has to do occasionally, and always grumbles about, when he pops his various pills out of their packaging and puts them into little plastic, stacking boxes, one box for each day's pills.

I don't see why this should be so difficult, but he got in a thorough tangle last night. I think I must have him explain the task carefully to me and then take it over.

I looked again at the Synfonie exchangeable-needle package when I was in John lewis on Friday, but held off for the same reason that stopped me the last time I considered this solution, namely the fact that the package doesn't include the smaller needle sizes which are mostly the ones I use. (No wonder I never finish anything.) And, thanks to Archie, I've now got 4mm pretty thoroughly covered anyway.

Zite produced an interesting reference the other day to Caterpillar Green Yarns, who make a self-striping shawl yarn. That is, you can knit one of those triangular shawls that starts with a few stitches and gets bigger and bigger, and Caterpillar Green will ensure that your stripes are all the same size, with interesting gradations in colour. The Harlot has been knitting one. Surely the difficulty is (if it be a difficulty) that Caterpillar Green decides how big your shawl is to be – it would all have to be done with one ball of wool. But that's no worse than following a pattern.

Most of the colourways seem to be sold out at the moment, but they're taking pre-orders.

Franklin has a new blog entry up with Lion Brand. The eccentricities of this computer are now beyond imagining, and I have been unable to get the link for you. Googling will produce it easily. It's about the horrors of a Chicago winter, nd his own inability to look good in a hat.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


Scotland play New Zealand here in Edinburgh today. New Zealand are the best rugby team in the world, so they will probably win, but if Scotland play with the oomph they suddenly seemed to have last weekend, it could be fun to watch.

The All Blacks always begin a match by dancing the Haka, a Maori war-dance, while the opposing team stand there trembling. It's fun to watch. Somebody tried throwing rose petals at them once, but I don't think they had much effect.


I had to be up at St James Centre again yesterday to get the insulin which was mis-prescribed the week before, so I went into John Lewis and recklessly bought an 80cm 4mm Symfonie circular, since I couldn't find the one I think I must have had already. I was right – it's exactly what I want at this stage. I whizzed around blissfully last night.

And now I must return to the Unst Bridal Shawl. My current, tentative plan is to do two scallops a day and then allow myself to do some more whizzing. That's how I got Rams & Yowes finished. I really should pause the sweater altogether until I've got Archie to try it on, but I don't think I can bear to.

The postie was kind again yesterday – Centenary Stitches arrived. (and I've still got Kate Davies' Yokes to look forward to!) It's terrific – very highly recommended.

It is an absolute triumph of intelligent amateurism – although that word isn't quite accurate, since many of those involved are professionals. Intelligent enthusiasm, then. The focus is the film “Tell Them of Us” made by a group called WAG Screen, “a community filmmaking group who make films about Lincolnshire's history and heritage”. (“WAG” probably doesn't stand for “Wives and Girlfriends” in this context.) The film is part of the WWI centenary, and concerns a particular Lincolnshire family in a particular village.

The costumier, although no knitter herself, realised early on that the film wouldn't look right unless the characters wore a lot of knitting. She put out tentative feelers on the internet, and was overwhelmed by the response. Much was translated from contemporary patterns, other things derived from old photographs, a few designed anew. The book is a collection of the patterns (in modern form), illustrated both by stills from the film and by engravings from the old pattern books.

Each pattern is attributed to its translator or designer, and, if different, its knitter. Liz Lovick did a prodigious amount. She also edited the book. How does anyone manage to get so much done? Not having to cook lunch won't entirely account for it.

Mary Lou was involved – her Sports Sweater is on the cover, both “translated” and “knitted by”, and had caught my eye before I discovered that it was her work. Knitsofacto is also thanked in the credits, and I may well have overlooked other familiar names.

The book begins with essays about WAG, about the Lincolnshire village and family the film is based on, about the process of costuming. There are also fascinating essays about the history of British domestic knitting (Liz Lovick), the process and the considerable difficulties of translating vintage knitting patterns (Lovick again), and about the way old patterns were shaped, from Judith Brodnicki. Some surprises there, at least for me.

How easily I might have missed this book -- how glad I am to have found it!

Friday, November 14, 2014

I've just ordered some Christmas cards -- one thing done, in a world where evety day adds a couple of ominous items to the list of Jobs Undone.

Yesterday was fairly exciting on the knitting front. I finished Archie's raglan increases and, a couple of rows later, the plackets. The sleeves have been left behind, the whole joined into a tube. Such fun! Laying it out as best I can on top of the sweater he left behind here, the size looks very good. But that's no real substitute for trying-on.

Now that I've embarked on the (rather lengthy) home stretch, I think I want a 80cm circular. I feel sure that that's what I started with, but if so I can't find it. Or at least, can't find it in Symfonie. Odd, because one thing that is fairly orderly amidst all the disorder here, is knitting-needle-storage.

And the postman was kind yesterday, too: Magnusson's “Icelandic Knitting Using Rose Patterns” turned up, and the new IK

The book isn't quite what I expected. The first third is the result of academic work the author has done, studying and classifying the insoles traditionally knit for Icelandic slippers. They are no longer knit, she says, but well-preserved in museums. There are lots of illustrations.The slippers themselves were made of sheepskin or fishskin, simple ovals gathered into a boat-shape.

I had a wild moment of thinking that there was a wonderful Christmas present I could at least parly knit – but no. All the sheepskin slippers I could find on-line were the usual sort (like my husband's dearly-loved pair from L.L. Bean) with woolly insides. And although fishskin belts and bracelets are available, I could find no slippers.

The colourful insoles would have been completely invisible in wear, of course. (Somewhere amongst all the books in this house is a picture of the top of an Amish stocking, brightly decorated and also completely invisible in wear. But I can't, for the moment, think what book it could be in.)

In the rest of the book, the author uses designs from the insoles on sweaters and things, not very successfully to my taste.

IK is full of delicious, snuggly winter things, both in the text and the ads. I wonder if the Fall River Cowl on the cover could be adapted for the skeins of Jared's Shelter yarn which I was given this week? There is a great deal to be said for knitting something red during these most trying weeks of the year.

There's an article by Donna Druchunas about a musk ox farm, which set me off thinking about qiviut. I knit with it once, an Amedro stole for my mother. It's pretty wonderful. The trouble with qiviut, if it could be said to have a trouble, is that it is the colour of musk oxen. They are more closely related to sheep than to oxen, Druchunas says, but their hair clearly lacks wool's wonderful capacity to take dye.

The best solution is probably the mixtures. Things seem to have moved on in that respect since my qiviut phase. The best I found, with a little mild Googling, was the Royal Blend, 50% qiviut, 50% silk, at Windy Valley Muskox.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The package from Meadow Yarns arrived. The house is awash with knitting needles, my husband said, why did you buy another one? Not understanding that if one wants a 100cm 4mm circular Symfonie, that's what one has to have.

The Sirka counter is a delight. Thank goodness I got it in time to handle the last few rows of buttonhole-every-12-rows, sleeve-increases every four, back-and-front-increases every other. I over-estimated progress yesterday – I've still got four more rows of yoke to do, and six more of placket. Maybe today?

I used to have a peg-board that handled the same sort of multiple reckoning -- until one lost too many of the pegs, as eventually happened with me. 

Today's excitement is another trip to the dentist. I might take Archie's sweater along. I'm nearly finished with the second skein of yarn; still too early to guess whether I have enough.

Knitalot, I think willy warmers might do rather well, in the right sort of Christmas Fair (comment yesterday). Quick and easy to knit, too. I remember a fair amount of giggling on the subject in the dear old days of the Knitlist, and I am sure that Google could produce all the patterns you might need. Let us know how you get on.


Wedding panic is being replaced by Christmas panic, which is, if anything, worse. I really don't like November. At least I am spared Thanksgiving. The family decided last summer to stop giving each other Christmas presents. That sounded good, but it turns out that it's all right to give presents to the people you actually see at Christmas – eliminating those horrible queues in the post office, at least, but still leaving a fair amount of Thinking and Doing.

What about knitting? Last year I knit a Marmite jar for James and a KU beanie for Lizzie at Kansas University. I am apprehensive of Christmas knitting in general – absurd to add stress to one's only refuge, and at such a stressful time of year. But I might cast an eye about for a quick and easy and wonderful idea.

At least the horror of Christmas helps speed one through the worst weeks of the year. Goodness! Could November be half-gone already? I worry about you, Catdownunder, having to assign a portion of glorious summer to it.


I wonder if I can express this both safely and comprehensibly.

My husband was for many years director of the B^rb*r Institute, a small and very distinguished art gallery attached to the University of Birmingham. It had – has – its own endowment and could hold the university at arm's length if it kept its nerve. At some point in the 80's or early 90's the university got a new vice chancellor who thought he spotted an opportunity, and the B*rb*r trustees capitulated. My husband was eased out to be replaced by a go-getter. Subsequent appointments have been even more go-getting and briefer. For the first fifty years after it was established, B*rb*r directors stayed until retirement. The provisions of Lady B*rb*r's trust deed have been in several respects disregarded.

Please tell me if you think I should take that paragraph down.

But what provokes it, is a page in yesterday's Telegraph about how to spend a weekend in Birmingham. The City Art Gallery is mentioned – strong on pre-Raphaelites. And the Ikon Gallery, an old friend. But there is no suggestion that you might want to hike out to the university campus and take in the B*rb*r. Twenty years of go-getting, and they've got nowhere! We were very happy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A picture for you, Rams & Yowes in action in England. My guess is that they're safely back in DC by now:

I had fun copying that one into both my Family14>Ted folder and also into Knitting.  It is only the second thing I have finished this year, the other being the Milano/Relax3 for Greek Helen. Maybe I'd better polish off those Pakokku socks before the bells ring on December 31.

And I'd also better get back to the Unst Bridal Shawl. The wedding planners need to know how big it is. I hope it's not going to be too much of a disappointment, after the Princess and her successful outing. It's pretty minor, by comparison. Rachel is moving into mother-of-the-bride mode – Hellie and Matt are to be married on September 19, 2015 (insh'Allah) – that's any moment now.

Meanwhile Archie's sweater moves laboriously forward. I think I'm in position to finish off the raglan increases today. There's still one more buttonhole to add to the placket. I wonder whether something will have to be done to emphasize the buttonholes? They are formed with simple yo, k2tog's and they totally disappear into the ribbing. But on the other hand, they aren't going to be much used. The sweater will presumably be worn with (say) four buttons buttoned and the other two open at the top. Maybe emphasis won't be needed.

The Meadow Yarn order didn't turn up yesterday, although it was dispatched first class on Monday. My husband always says that first class is a waste of money. It's a lot of money, too – I could have cooked a delicious and nourishing meal for two, in my early married years, for what a first class stamp costs now.

Archie himself has an exeat this weekend – they seem constant. As I am fond of remarking, the more you pay for education, the less of it you get. But he is going south to his other grandmother where he will have aunts and uncles and cousins about, preferable to bad-tempered gloom in Drummond Place. I hope we will see him soon, and at the worst I ought to be able to drive him to the airport for the Christmas holiday in December, and squeeze in a fitting before we set out.

Carol Sunday has a wonderful new pattern called “Shakespeare in Love” – cables all over the place, as they seem to be this season, and an uneven hemline to boot. Alas, life is too short to allow one to knit more than about 1/10th (at a generous estimate) of the things one would like to knit.

Zite – the Mail Online has a video clip (in Serbian) in which a journalist visits some farmers who are knitting willy warmers for themselves. The journalist models one. The video is very modest, and even pixilated at the vital moment so you don't need to worry.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yesterday's excitement was lunch with one of you in a sushi restaurant on Broughton Street – we had a grand time, and scarcely talked about knitting at all. We'll get around to that next time, which may not be for awhile, alas, as she lives several thousand miles away from Broughton Street. She brought me three skeins of Jared's Shelter yarn in a wonderful dark red. I follow his designs with attention, and have bought and knit one of them (for Thomas the Elder, this month's bridegroom, and then there was enough yarn left over to allow me to scale the pattern down and knit it again for Thomas the Younger, this month's birthday boy). But I've never had the yarn in my hands before. There's enough for a serious scarf.

She also gave me “Coats and Caps for Children”, a hand-out included with the Centenary Stitches exhibition in Lincoln. I'd like to see that one. The patterns have been taken from an old Paton's publication and updated by Judith Brodnicki.

The exhibition is connected with the opening of a film called “Tell Them Of Us”, about the Great War losses of a particular Lincolnshire family. Many knitters worked to construct authentic period sweaters and shawls for the film, including my lunch companion of yesterday, and a book called “Centenary Stitches” with 70 of the patterns they used, updated, is about to be released upon the world. I've just pre-ordered mine.

“Tell Them of Us”, the title of the film, derives from a famous WWI epitaph written by John Maxwell Edmonds deriving, of course, from the even more famous epitaph to the dead of Thermopylae by Simonides. It's one of the few things I can still quote in the original Greek – I'd write it out for you if I were more adroit with this computer. The point of the battle was to hold the Persians back for a bit while the main Greek forces got ready to beat them at Marathon, further south.

Tell the Lacedaemonians, passer-by,
That we lie here, doing what they told us to do.

The site of the battle must be somewhere proximate to the road from Thessaloniki to Pelion which we drove along one happy day with Greek Helen and her family. There is only one way south to Athens – that was the point of the battle.

And while we're on this elegaic WWI theme, appropriate to 11/11, there was an interesting article in the FT last weekend about the death of Lord Kitchener. (Nothing was said about knitting.) I knew he had died on a voyage to Russia, and had always assumed that death struck somewhere off the coasts of northern Europe, as it did for so many British merchant seamen taking supplies to Russia in WWII. And not being terribly hospitably received when they got there (if they did)– Churchill is interesting on this subject in his account of WWII.

But,no, in Kitchener's case. His ship had just left Scapa Flow and was still within sight of the west coast of Orkney. It doesn't make much difference. Everybody is just as dead. But it's interesting to know.

As for actual knitting, it progressed well yesterday. Archie's sweater is difficult to photograph because it begins abruptly, and therefore curls – an edging will be added later. The rows are very long and slow now – and I am a clumsy knitter. But yesterday I counted the fronts and the back – and they came out right! The fronts are exactly half the back, as they should be, allowing for the fact that one of the packets will be suppressed when everything is joined into a tube.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Onward. I'm about halfway through the current section of Archie's sweater, where the sleeves are increased every fourth row and the fronts and back every other row. I counted the sleeves last night, and they're right.

I also read through to the end of the pattern, rather belatedly. The sleeves and bottom are finished with hems. I thought it might be nice to do the inside, doesn't-show bit using the nice green madtosh yarn I used for the vest my husband wears all the time. I had a little go at the stash cupboard, much needed, and, alas, couldn't find it. What I could and did find was a bag of madtosh sock yarn leftovers – more than I remembered.

I could use one of them, doubled. Or single, thus drawing in the sleeves and body slightly, in the absence of ribbing. I'll think about it.

I am grateful for Mary Lou's reminder that a try-on soon – when the sleeves have been abandoned and the body joined in a tube – will be valuable for verifying sleeve-hole-depth as well as chest size. Row gauge has never been a strength of mine.


Knitlass, I envy your family – I'd love to see the All Blacks. And of course they'll slaughter Scotland. But I thought we played with a new spring in our step on Saturday – maybe it won't be as one-sided as all that. Once when a lot of us were staying with Alexander at Christmas time, we all went off to Glasgow to see the Warriors play Edinburgh (while James stayed at home with my husband). That was where we first saw Richie Gray – this was before he played for Scotland. We all thought he was rubbish. We learned later that the Scotland coach was there that evening. The rest, as they say, is history. And now we've got Jonny, too.

Jean, the dr's mistake about the insulin wasn't as bad as all that. My husband mixes two different kinds for the morning injection, and uses a pre-mixed pen for the evening one. The dr sent a prescription for a wrong one of those three, i.e., not the one I had ordered. It was long-dated so I took it and we now have enough of that one to float a small boat. And I'll have to toil back up the hill to Boots and the horrible Christmas crowds soon, to get the right one, which is running low.

Lynne, I'd love those 4mm Symphonie dpn's – I'm going to need them for the lower stretches of Archie's sleeves and my own collection doesn't go up to that size. I'll write to you. I'm very grateful.

The computer is worse than ever this morning. Will I be able to post this? I've made one useful discovery, though. I'm getting those constant messages from McAfee – “Potentially Unwanted Program Blocked”. It's no use responding, I just get another one, 10 seconds later. But what I accidentally discovered, is that I can move the message window down to the corner where it is mostly off the screen and just leave it there. McAfee van't send another one until I've responded to that one.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Yesterday was Thomas Miles' birthday – the younger of the Little Boys who live on the shores of Loch Fyne. He was offered the choice of a birthday party, or another family trip to Murrayfield to watch Scotland lose to Argentina in the cold and damp and dark of a November afternoon. He chose the party. But Scotland didn't lose! The Little Boys have often been to Murrayfield, but have never seen Scotland win.  (I, on the contrary, have been there four times and have seen Scotland win twice.)

Sister Helen phoned from CT yesterday, sounding reasonably cheerful although hard-pressed. Roger can still play the saxophone – that's a big plus. His facial muscles are somewhat affected by the stroke, and the scales are not all that easy to remember. But he's fine with it.

They had already started, earlier this year, investigating the possibility of moving to a particular retirement community in DC, and now I think they will press ahead. My father said once that he thought provision for life-in-old-age was better in England. (His third and final wife was an Englishwoman, so he knew something about how things are done here.) I disagree, I think. In a parallel universe, I could retire happily to Kendal in Oberlin. I have yet to hear of a retirement community here that I would care to join – that may simply reflect a failure to look around.

I went up to the shopping centre yesterday to collect a prescription for my husband. (The dr has sent the wrong insulin again.) It was ghastly. Something is really going to have to be done about Christmas. I was briefly in John Lewis' yarn dept where I briefly saw my friend Lindsay, the Rowan lady. She is one of us, and pointed me to a rack of KnitPro Symfonie needles which I had never previously noticed.

They've got the whole interchangeable-needle kit, if I ever do decide to go down that path, and the set of beautiful sock needles in five sizes for when I have lost and broken too many of mine. For now, I bought a 120cm circular in size 3.75 – I would have preferred a 4, but it was not to be found. I think EZ says somewhere that she once knit a pair of socks using needles of four different sizes. (Not strictly comparable.) I used the new needle last night, and got on fine. It'll certainly do until the package comes from Meadow Yarns.

Saturday, November 08, 2014

I went to Waitrose yesterday and had a happy time buying ready and nearly-ready meals that will save me from doing much cooking for several days. (If Tesco is worried about profits, one thing they could do right away would be to improve their offerings in that category. Cheapness isn't everything.) One of you recognised and spoke to me! How is that possible? I felt, briefly, like a movie star.

Archie's sweater progressed well. I counted all five sections at the beginning of the session, and then just knit on, leaving it to its own devices. And I got the order in to Meadow Yarns for a Sirka Counter and a Knit Pro Symfonie wood circular needle in what I hope is the right gauge and length. I asked for First Class delivery – might even get them on Monday. As well as the complicated instructions about the raglan increases, I am also putting buttonholes in the placket every 12 rows. The Sirka will have plenty to do if it gets here in time.

The big news is that Kate Davies' Yoke book is ready for pre-order and will ship soon. I've put in my order.

It sounds from Zite as if a new IK might soon be here. Greek Helen says that Mungo has settled back into his Greek school with a new zest for life. Otherwise I can't think of anything to talk about.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Sister Helen and Roger are safely back in CT. I had a brief message from them only 12 hours after the one from Heathrow, so things must have gone well. Helen didn't enjoy doing the driving home from the airport, but managed it perfectly well.

My computer, after a few halcyon days of impeccable behaviour, has now gone completely crazy – every click takes me somewhere I don't want to go. Will I be able to post this?

I made a bit more progress with Archie's sweater yesterday. Skeindalous, the Sirka Counter looks both simple and wonderful – and Meadow Yarns has it. So what I need to do is figure out what length and size and brand of beautiful wood circular needle I want, and order both. I've moved the knitting to a long metal needle and am getting on all right, but it is a shame to deprive oneself of the pleasure of knitting with absolutely the right needle.

I am spending all my time counting – the front, the sleeve, the back, the other sleeve, the other front. I don't think even the Sirka is going to help all that much with that problem. Once I've got it right, or more or less right, and have abandoned the sleeves and joined everything up into a cylinder, things should be much easier.

Ellen, I am sure you're right about trying-on. I've looked at the Yarn Harlot's blog – interesting, indeed. (This computer wouldn't even let me stay on the page when I was sitting there calmly reading it -- I had to retreat to the iPad.) Perhaps the thing to do here is to stop at the point where I have just abandoned the sleeves and wait until Archie can try it on. The book – “Knits Men Want” – is keen on this. It doesn't specify exactly when to do it, but the first try-on should be to check the chest size, it says, so it makes sense to do it when the chest circumference has just been fully established.

Zite has a quiz this morning, What Sort of Knitter Are You? But it's pretty useless because you can only choose one answer per question, and on most pages one wants more. I'm a raccoon, for what that's worth.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

My sister and Roger are already at Heathrow (8:15 a.m.). It's going to be a long day for them – and they must by now have been on the go for three hours or so. They're travelling business class which will make the flight much more comfortable and allow some repose en route. But on arrival – I don't know whether it's Boston or NYC this time – they'll have to drive home. No limo this time. At least it will still be daylight, Sister Helen thinks. She says Roger is doing well.

We have an easy day ahead, insh'Allah, with a podiatry appt in the afternoon. (No nap, no cider with lunch.) Yesterday, therefore, was foot-and-lower-leg washing, not a trifling occupation.

Archie's sweater is moving nicely forward. I mustn't forget my resolution not to leave the Bridal Shawl for too long, for fear of needing to re-learn the edging pattern yet again. But I am approaching the most complicated bit of the sweater, and am currently inclined to press ahead.

I'm knitting back and forth, making a ribbed placket for a front opening, increasing at each of the four raglan points on every right-side row. BUT, any moment now, I am to slow the sleeve increases down to once-every-four-rows while continuing to increase the fronts and the back every other row. Am I up to it? After six more sleeve increases – that'll be 24 rows, right? – the sleeve stitches will be left behind and the body subsequently knit in the round – if the placket is finished. The pattern seems to think it might not be.

Good news on sizing, though. You'll remember that I threw a tape measure around the boy when we were in Strathardle recently – probably the very day I lost my keys – and the answer was 48”. So I have chosen the XL size from the pattern offerings, which promises 52” – four inches of positive ease. I made a big swatch and measured carefully. Archie seems to have left a sweater here – yesterday I spread it out and measured from side to side. Exactly 26 inches!

So the only thing left to worry about is whether the pattern-writer has done the arithmetic correctly. I was more than a bit alarmed to discover yesterday that the Knowledgeable Knitter suggests one checks that very point, before starting – see how many stitches the pattern requires at the widest moment, and compare that to your swatch and desired width.


I ordered “Icelandic Knitting Using Rose Patterns” yesterday, as recommended by Kate Davies in her latest blog post about her yoke book. No wonder books pile up on the floor, but this sounds absolutely like my sort of book.

My computer has recently denied me access to my Pictures Library, although assuring me that the pictures themselves were still there. Where? I don't think I understand file structure in Windows well enough (if at all). But yesterday I let it upgrade me to Windows 8.1, as it had been trying to do for days. Everything is a bit alarming and different-looking this morning, but the Picture Library has come back. I think I'll copy them all to Dropbox anyway.

One of you has kindly instructed me in how to abstract individual pics from a Flickr album, so I may be able to show you more wedding photographs soon. And I haven't yet downloaded the few from my own camera.

You asked about tartans. I don't think it's a subject to take terribly seriously – it was all invented by Sir Walter Scott for the State Visit of George IV to Edinburgh. But the answer is that we are Robertsons, and my husband does take it seriously. The Robertson tartan allows a lot of variation, and I think Mungo chose with care. His is Ancient Hunting Robertson, or something like that. I don't know about Archie – he could possibly be wearing a Merchiston school tartan. I'll try to remember to ask.

Once we were at a New Year's party in Strathardle and I overheard an arrogant neighbour say to James, “I see you claim to be a Robertson”. “Robertson” is one of James's names – he's JAR Miles. His son Alistair is AJR Miles. James replied politely.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

A couple more wedding photographs, from Alexander's Facebook page:

Here is the bridegroom's party, about to set out for the pub:

And here, at last, a picture of the bride and bridegroom:

I've heard a bit more from London – Roger is still very tired. Sister Helen is a bit worried, amongst much else, about having to do all the driving for a month, I was taken aback, as I have been doing all the driving around here for the last 30 years. This may have something to do, tangentially, with why I find that retirement provides so little in the way of free time. It's different in CT, of course, where you need the car every time you step outside the front door unless you are actually walking the dog.

The Princess and the wedding: I was in the V&A once with an old friend, an Oberlin friend, a highbrow academic. When we had seen what she came to see, we drifted about a bit and found some amazing ecclesiastical embroidery. I said it must be rather satisfying for a nun who had devoted years to creating such a thing, to kneel at Mass and admire it being worn by the Bishop. My friend was doubtful, perhaps feeling that this was not entirely a worthwhile way for a woman to spend her life.

But I think I was right. I am assuming the nuns enjoyed the patient creation of a thing of such beauty, as I enjoyed knitting the Princess. Seeing it in action was an unnecessary Extra, but a thoroughly satisfying one.

It was wonderful of Lucy to wear it, and so to allow it to dictate her whole costume. I am permanently grateful.

I am knitting forward on Archie's sweater. So far, no Unst Bridal Shawl since I got back. I joined in a second ball of yarn last night, but haven't got far enough to begin to calculate whether 12 skeins will in fact be enough. Picture soon.


The Panopticon has posted a new blog post. That doesn't happen often these days.

Kate Davies is regularly posting teasers about her about-to-be-forthcoming book about yokes. I can't wait.

I've looked through “Brioche Chic”. There are some nice things there, including some two-colour hats where the ribs travel. I might even attempt one, one day. I haven't made much headway with “The Knowledgeable Knitter”.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

I've just been looking at a whole Flickr album of wedding pictures that Alexander sent. He's got some good ones. It is disconcerting to glimpse one's awkward, ill-sorted, elderly self amongst the jollity.

This is one of Helen's, though, Thomas and Lucy leaving the church as we all threw rose petals. There were no photographs during the ceremony. This is probably the best we'll get of the Princess in action.

I also like this one, of Helen's three sons. Fergus, on the left, will probably go to Merchiston too, but only after Archie, on the right, has left. That's Mungo in the middle. They are probably waiting around outside the church in Richmond before the ceremony, There were lots of kilts that day.

And I like this one of Alexander's, showing the bridegroom's younger brother Joe, who looked enormously smart and did a brilliant job as chief usher. The other chap was the best man, and this must have been taken as the bridegroom's party was setting out for the pub two hours before the wedding. They were all in the church, sober as coots, an hour before the ceremony, you will be glad to hear. 

I'll leave that, but oh, dear, Flickr is not going to cooperate.

I had a brief message from my sister yesterday – they reached London safely, Roger very tired. They still have today and tomorrow to recover before the flight to CT. One of the difficulties of life in Old Saybrook is that it is a long way from any international airport – a substantial amount of travel remains after touchdown.


Not much to tell you. Archie has approved Composition Book Grey for his sweater with a wave of the hand, that's fine, despite its purpleness. I was all set to start again with El Greco. I wrote to Eat, Sleep, Knit asking if it is really grey, but haven't heard back. I must have used the wrong email address. It would be an appropriately named shade for a man who lives in Athens.

Not much got done over the weekend, but a bit. It's top-down, this sweater, and the increases for the raglan seams are piling on the stitches rather briskly. I will soon need a longer needle, and don't have a beautiful wooden one in the right size. The soon-to-be-too-short one I am knitting with is beautiful and wooden. I will be sorry to give it up. I think another order to Meadow Yarns looms.

The Knowledgeable Knitter and Brioche Style are both here, as well as Hazel Tindall's DVD's (you get two) about Fair Isle Knitting. (The return address on the jiffy bag, I am sure in her own hand, was, in effect, “Burnside, Shetland”. “Burnside” is the name of our house in Strathardle – see sidebar – but it takes a couple more lines of address to describe it fully. It is very pleasant to live beside a burn. The ancient Romans regarded the sound of water as a highly desirable adjunct to a country house – and so it is.)

But I haven't looked at the books, still less the DVD's. Some people, I gather, find that time hangs heavy in retirement. Not me. Capacity diminishes as duties do, and I find myself fully as far behind with everything as ever I was.