Wednesday, April 15, 2015

One door closes, another opens.

Alexander emailed me yesterday with the suggestion that I knit Alistair a pair of socks with his name on them in binary – Alistair is the grandson who is doing computer science at Glasgow, with ambitions in the direction of Silicon Valley. The idea is that a block of four stitches would be either one colour or another, representing the 0's and 1's of the binary code.

Alexander provides a chart which (he must have done himself, and which) he says represents the name. I whisked it off at once to Evernote. This site provides the basic translation, from “Alistair” into binary. I'm not sure that I yet see exactly how the pattern evolves from there. I'll work on it.

I once knit a pair of patterned socks for an old friend who was getting married in Birmingham to another old friend, widow to widower. She was a French scholar, he a Byzantinist, so the socks combined the fleur de lis with a Greek cross somehow, and included the date of the wedding. This must have been before I started blogging – I have no memory of writing about them.

It was fiddly work. I had to knit them inside out to counteract the tendency of two-colour knitting to pull in.

I don't much want to go through that again. But what if I knit Alistair a whole sweater, with the binary code for his name around the bottom as I have done for the Calcutta Cup in times past?

It would have to be in a relatively fine wool, with the Californian climate in mind. The new madelinetosh sock yarn beckons. And, ideally, Alistair would have to come here for a look at my knitting-for-men books and bearing a well-fitting sweater for me to measure. Not insuperable problems, either of them.

If nothing else, such a garment would be a talking point at my funeral. I want as many as possible to wear something I knit, as I have often mentioned here before. I wish I could have a sneak preview of the group photograph.

The Tokyo shawl continues well. Perhaps I'll attempt a photo tomorrow. Blocking is going to be critical on this one – the alternation of st st and reversed st st pulls it up, and will need to be smoothed somewhat, but not so much as to lose the sculptural effect.

Old Age 

Living as we do, tottering on from day to day, I am much stronger and more agile than my husband, and I can – to some extent – keep the ship afloat. This creates the illusion that I am strong and agile and capable. Living for a week among people under sixty, as I did in Athens, makes it very clear that this is not so.

I am sort of concerned for Hillary. She looks old. Does she really want to spend her last years of health and strength campaigning and then being president? Clearly she does – but oh, dear. I think the Bible is essentially right about three score years and ten – not that there aren't many good years to come, if you're lucky. The Queen is 20 years older than Hillary, and apparently fighting fit.

But strength begins to decline fairly sharply, at 70. And one doesn't necessarily see it coming when one is in one's late 60's.

My husband has a dental appt today – a full day's work.


  1. I agree with your penultimate paragraph. If one is fit and well in ones sixties, one thinks one has old(er) age tamed but then it sneaks up on you from behind. You may not have the physical strength you had Jean, but my goodness you outshine a lot of younger people intellectually and in your enthusiasm for new things.

    My father took up running in his late fifties as friends were dropping dead from heart attacks after a sedentary life in the City. He ran marathons all over the world but by 70 he had trouble running around the block.

  2. I knitted a hat for a mathematician friend of my daughter at Christmas with her initials in binary. It was well received. I used this handy app:
    This was just before a phone factory reset where I lost all my photos :( , and pre-blogging so no record at all.

  3. Evenings can be pretty chilly (although above freezing) in the fog especially in the Bay Area; I wore sturdy sweaters frequently when living there. (Arguably more than I do now in Britain, where most buildings are well-insulated & heated.)

  4. Anonymous12:48 PM

    I love the idea of binary socks, but rather than stranded, you could do them in a textured stitch. For example, your blocks of four could be knits and purls. Or you could do ribbing, and the width of the rib represents 0 or 1. Or cables, where a cross = 1 and no cross = 0. Or, if it must be multicolor, could you use a slip stitch pattern instead of stranded? Fewer gauge problems that way.

    Very interesting project, however you achieve it!

    Beverly in NJ

    1. Ellen1:30 PM

      This was the thought that came to mind for me as well. I immediately thought of the runes that Elsebeth Lavold has translated into traveling stitches in the now out of print book Viking Knits.
      If you would prefer a sweater to a sock, there are lots of yarns that work for California; my daughter and family live there, and they seem to put on and take off sweaters all the time. Blended wool, with silk or cotton makes a nice weight for California climates

  5. Anonymous12:49 PM

    PS. Or stripes!

    B in NJ

  6. Or just a band around the top with his name, and use a larger needle size for that one. I often have to go up a size or two when combining stranded and plain knitting.

  7. I agree with you about Hillary. America today seems to pay attention to young people, not elderly folks. Sad. I don't like her politics so I won't be voting for her.
    Wow! You are the fairy godmother of knitting!

  8. I also agree with you about Hillary. I don't like the politics or dynasty thing. I hope you continue to keep well. Your knitting is fabulous, fabulous!!

  9. Re names in binary: recently there was a compilation of embarrassing tattoos. Several of these featured names or mottoes translated into a different alphabet, and some of them actually read "Will not Translate".
    An advanced search of "Stranded" projects on Ravelry always throws up some fascinating ideas eg a scarf in double knitting with a quotation from "The Lord of the Rings" in Elvish, no less. If only one knew someone who would treasure that.

  10. Anonymous3:59 PM

    Am taking seriously your message about ageing and energy. My husband in his early 70's seems to be losing health and energy pretty rapidly. Newly retired in my mid-60s, I feel full of vim, vigour, and new pursuits - I guess the idea is to enjoy it now and to remember that it may not last? Although I know some amazingly active women in their late 80's, and your intellectual energy, Jean, is an example for us all.
    - Beth in Ontario

  11. I wouldn't worry too much about Hilary. Like The Queen she doesn't have to care for someone else, cook, clean, shop, trudge up hills to collect prescriptions or drive to appointments. It's all done for them which frees up their time and energy.
    I think you do very well and your vitality and enthusiasm are wonderful.