Friday, March 16, 2018

The weather has turned vicious again. 

Yarn-buying: I have betrayed my own pieties of yesterday.

I thought about madelinetosh as I was tottering about the EYF market.  It wasn’t represented, but when I got home I went to Jimmy Beans’ website, where I have spent many a happy hour in the past.

And I found this: A “onesies” yarn, a JB exclusive, of which, if I understand rightly, the last few skeins were being sold at a discount. There was enough for a sweater. The colourway is called “Penny Loafers” and it spoke to me. And not just a discount on the sale price: no postal charge within the US. And my sister is coming to see us next month. That also means, no customs charge.

I did a careful comparison this morning, of gauge and wpi and yards per gram, and decided that it would, indeed, “do”. The total price, in dollars, was about the same figure as I almost spent in pounds at the EYF yesterday.

I didn’t do any knitting today, but I did finish and close the other end of the swatch-scarf:

It, too, like the Soutache, would benefit from a pass of the steam iron. I hope I’ll do that over the weekend. If so, everything in the collection above will be finished except poor Archie’s socks. I must get on with those. Tomorrow is another rugby day, the last of the present season. That should advance the socks somewhat.

It does look to me as if corrugated ribbing is trying to flare out a bit, there at the end of the swatch-scarf. So I will follow Meg’s and Maureen’s advice and reduce the stitch count a bit, perhaps 5%, and drop down one needle size. Today I did the last calculations for Alexander’s vest: there are going to be a full number (nine) of pattern repeats – but that doesn’t mean I can start at the beginning of a repeat. I will be starting at a side seam, and I want the pattern to be centred in front. I hope I’ve got it right.

Will I have the strength of character to rip and start again if any of these thoughts and calculations prove faulty?

My main interest in the rugby tomorrow will be England-Ireland in London. Ireland has won every match so far, and are eager to complete the grand slam. England have lost their last two and are keen to avenge the humiliation. (France beat them and so, of course, did we.) But the game is at Twickenham, where England are almost invincible. Scotland are playing Italy in Rome (lucky men) where we often do badly. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I had a fine day at the EYF, and am very tired. Several of you spoke to me, which was wonderful. I met Christine by arrangement in the Podcast Lounge after my morning class – she was waiting for me with a sandwich and a bottle of water. Life-saving!

We admired Andrew and Andrea from afar, and then Christine went off to her afternoon class and I actually spoke to them, briefly, when they had finished talking to Nancy Marchant. They are taller than I expected, and every bit as good-looking and pleasant as we had all concluded some time ago.

I had my valuable Pupil’s Hour in the marketplace first thing in the morning, before the hoi polloi are admitted. I got the colours I needed for Alexander’s vest, and looked around a bit.

I was the dunce of my drop-spinning class, as I fully expected, but I enjoyed it very much and learned something, as I had hoped, about how yarn works. It is interesting to think of Primitive Man, eyeing a sheep, and thinking, now, if we just sheer this stuff off and wash and comb it, we could perhaps figure out how to add some twist which would make it strong enough to weave or even knit…It's almost as magical as wine-making.

I didn’t buy any other yarn. Tiredness was beginning to pile in by the time I got back to the market in the afternoon. I was hoist by my own petard on the yards-per-gram thing. The Brooklyn Tweed website gives its Arbor yarn, on the page about Gudrun’s Kirigami pattern, as 145 yards to 50 grams, and that’s what I had written down.

Loop was there, but hadn’t brought Arbor, which they stock in abundance. I wandered around looking at other possibilities. They were all identified as metres per 50 or 100 grams. And I didn’t even have my telephone with me, which could presumably have translated.

But then common sense kicked in, augmented by exhaustion. Did I really want to spend more than £100 on wool I might never get around to knitting, which “would do” for this pattern? When I’m ready to knit, I can order the wool, from Loop. So I called a taxi and went home.

The kitchen is progressing well. It’s got lots of units now, but still lacks water. The cats had bullied or charmed a tradesman into letting them out of the dining room, and were enjoying their day in charge. I've finished tying off the ends on the inside of Ketki's scarf, and have picked up stitches at the other end and started to knit some ribbing to finish it off. Picture tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

That was even worse. The fuse box had to be changed, which meant that the electricity was off all afternoon, until nearly seven. Not too bad at first, but at the end – no heat, no light, no television, no computer, and if there had been, no wi-fi. And the iPad was low on battery. I sat there wrapped in a blanket feeling sorry for myself.

Shandy, I am sure I am not going to work my way around the house with renovations, when this is over. The central heating boiler was condemned and sealed off yesterday by a zealous young gas fitter. Something will have to be done about that.

The cats are bearing up well, although agitated (as am I). They don't have to be confined to the dining room except when quantities of things are being carried in or out. I'll leave them there tomorrow when I go to the EYF. They are puzzled by the banging and sounds of men's voices, and rush into the kitchen at the end of the day to assess progress.

And progress there is, although I am still without water. And Ketki’s Calcutta Cup scarf is progressing, too. I decided I had done enough corrugated rib, and have finished off one end, as planned. It is now inside out, having the loose ends tightened and knotted and cut. I think I remember hearing from Hazel Tindall herself that she ties and cuts the ends on the inside of a Fair Isle sweater, unless she is actually preparing it for an exhibition.

And in this case, the knots will be sealed inside. I am about 5/8ths of the way through the job.

The Soutache, by the way, is waiting for a final, gentle steaming before I sign it off.

Fortunately I prepared for the EYF first thing this morning, while still feeling in high spirits. I’m all set, except for not know how much of each colour to buy for Alexander’s vest. It doesn’t matter – Jamieson & Smith will send any necessary augmentation promptly.

Has the endearing hybrid “yards per 100 grams” established itself on both sides of the Atlantic as the way to describe yarn? I have noted those figures against the names of yarns specified by my fancied patterns, in case I want to attempt substitutions.

Elizabeth, I am sorry not to have seen you at Kathy’s Knits. Please say hello if you see me tomorrow. I’ll be at the market, I hope, for that preliminary hour before my morning lesson, and in the afternoon while strength suffices. I’ll carry my New Yorker tote bag, which has the advantage of being printed on both sides.

I’ll wear my “Never Underestimate an Old Woman Who Went to Oberlin” sweat shirt. Last year there was another Oberlin woman (not as old) in Hazel Tindall’s class, an extraordinary coincidence.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

So much suddenly happens.

This was the kitchen yesterday.

It’s worse now, as they have removed the sink so I can’t even boil a kettle. The contents of the kitchen are spread all over the rest of the house. Here is some of it, in the spare room.

The men are very good, and are working very hard. Maybe it won't be too long.

The Vintage Shetland Project has arrived! And I think it probably has to be classed as a triumph.

And the EYF is this week – day after tomorrow, for me. I must print out my Thursday class ticket again – the first attempt, several moons ago, came out a bit blurry – and I must make careful notes about yarn. How much of which colours do I think I need for Alexander’s vest? And Gudrun’s sweater? And the KD vest from the West Highland Way, just in case her yarn turns out to be there?

I spent some of the stressful sitting-around time yesterday re-plotting the Calcutta Cup chart and making it match the motifs stitch-count-wise. I have now knit it on to the end of the swatch-scarf and have gone on to practicing corrugated rib. I'll post a picture soon. I think I’m ready to finish it off with some ribbing and a three-needle bind off, then turn it inside out and secure the ends a bit before picking up stitches and repeating the process at the other end.

I like the effect of corrugated rib, but it’s odd. The purl ribs come more prominently forward than I expected. Of the various systems, I think two-handed with the purl yarn in the right hand is the least tedious for me. Doing it in two passes would be unendurably slow. It is extraordinary how right the books are, that it is hard to remember to move the yarn to the back after purling. Every time I think I’m beginning to settle into the rhythm, I find that I left it in front again.

And the new Fruity Knitting has appeared! For a while I thought there wasn’t any fruit, but it turned out to be concealed behind Madeleine’s head.

Franklin is in Italy, sending wonderful pictures back to Facebook.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

All well here, more or less, but no knitting.

The full horrors of kitchen reconstruction will burst upon me tomorrow. All that I  know is that the prefabricated units will be delivered at a time presently unknown, but at some point to be revealed to me.  My very dear cleaner was to have come this afternoon to help move the last few things out of the present kitchen, but she didn’t. I hope everything is all right there. And Helen will be back tomorrow.

So if you don’t hear from me, that’s why.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

You’re quite right, Mary Lou – the Calcutta Cup is what matters.

In 2000 – I fear I tell you this every year – it was the last match of the season. Scotland had lost every preceding game; England had won all of its games. Someone was quoted in the Scotsman that morning as saying that Scotland’s only hope was if the English team didn’t turn up. But turn up they did, and lost.

That was my first Calcutta Cup knitting – I put it in Kirsty Miles’ Christening shawl, under the year date. ( She is James’ and Cathy’s younger daughter). I pointed it out to the priest after the ceremony some months later, and, far from thinking it an irreligious intrusion, he said, “Maybe we’ll beat them this year”. By “we” he clearly meant Ireland, and, bugger me! they did. I sent him a congratulatory postcard when it happened.

In 2000, after the event, our coach said, “They won the Six Nations Championship. We won the Calcutta Cup. Everybody’s happy.” (not)

Today, Scotland were soundly beaten by Ireland, and France, to everybody’s surprise, in a breathtakingly exciting match, beat England. I went on knitting Archie’s first sock – rugby is far too exciting for Fair Isle. I think I’m ready for the toe shaping – and there’s plenty of time for him to come and try it on, before I get to that point on the second sock. And it will be easy to take the toe back and change the length, if need be.

The Harlot has a good blog post today about the remark, “I have nothing on the needles” and its possible meanings. It was of particular interest to me, who am in just that situation – and who fits into one of her possible meanings.

Susan Crawford has sent me a pdf of the Vintage Shetland book. I hope that doesn’t mean I crowdfunded for that reward, and not the printed version. I don’t buy knitting books electronically, in the normal way of things. I gave in, though, and downloaded this one. There’s lots there, certainly. I felt a certain regret for the much more concise book which would have been published two and a half years ago, pre-cancer, if we crowdfunders hadn’t been so generous.

Elginknitter, my electric Aga doesn’t have much in the way of controls, just a thermostat as on yours. There are fancy electric models on which you can turn off the top plates until you want them, but mine, being an older, reconditioned model, doesn’t offer that. I cooked with it today, and love it. Its colour is “hunter green” – on my computer screen, it looks black in the picture I showed you yesterday.

Friday, March 09, 2018

It has been a stressful day

for man and beast – why are we shut in the dining room?

But with a highly successful ending:

While it was all going on, I could only sit about feeling stressed. I spent the time doing the arithmetic for Alexander’s vest, so successfully that I all but cast on before remembering that I had to include the Calcutta Cup.

Then I decided that the best thing to do would be to add an OXO to the swatch-scarf (for which, see above) to get my hand and eye back in. I will go ahead, when I finish that, and add the Cup, and it will be a scarf for Ketki. I can take it along when I go to them for Easter, and she can decide whether she wants it straight, and/or fringed, or joined into a cowl, or twisted into a moebius.

I checked and re-checked the gauge, but thought, as often, of Evelyn Waugh’s Major Erskine (“Men at Arms”) who was “…strangely dishevelled in appearance. His uniform was correct and clean, but it never seemed to fit him, not through any fault of the tailor’s, but rather because the major seemed to change shape from time to time during the day.” I’ll thread it onto a lifeline at least once and try it on Alexander as we proceed.

I read about corrugated rib. I was delighted to find these two passages:

1.     The Feral Knitter: “If you hold one color in each hand, corrugated rib is a snap – just hold the purl color in your left hand – it is much easier than bringing the yarn forward from your right hand to purl.”

2.     Starmore: “Corrugated rib is much easier to work if the knit stitches are produced with the Continental method and the purl stitches with the English method. Remember to take the yarn to the back of the piece after working the purl stitches.”

In other words, whichever feels more comfortable. And the possibility of doing it in two passes remains.

Rugby tomorrow – Scotland play Ireland in Dublin. It’s going to be very tough. Ireland always win when they’re at home, and we always lose when we’re away from home. And after that, England play France in Paris. England will probably win, but you never know – and France will have home advantage.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

I’m all ready for the new Aga tomorrow. Well, more or less ready.

Jean, tomorrow’s reconditioned one will be electric. An Aga service man told me once that most of the ones they install these days are electric. I was surprised that I could get a reconditioned one – I thought it was so new an idea that nobody would have discarded one yet.

Old Faithful is gas-fired. It’s very old, probably 50 or 60 years. I suspect it was solid-fuel to begin with. The man who last serviced it, two or three years ago, said that he really ought to condemn it. Then he didn’t turn up for the next annual service, which was even more alarming.

I have two gas burners to totter on with, if for some reason tomorrow’s installation isn’t successful. And two cats, to keep me warm. And the weather has turned into springtime.

Let’s think about knitting…

I didn’t get on as far as I hoped, with the Soutache. I’ve done the fancy bind-off, however, and started on the loose ends. All I’ve done for Alexander is re-read the Techknitter’s piece about corrugated rib. I decided to store it in Evernote. I knew I had an account somewhere, with some interesting items in it, although I haven’t used it for a while.

I found it and logged in – mercifully, the computer remembered my password; I certainly don’t – and discovered, to my surprise and delight, that the Techknitter’s essay was already there., and had been for about a year. I had no memory of having read it before.

Shandy, I meant to answer your question about the new KD pattern (comment, Tuesday) but forgot. I like it, but… I hadn’t thought about its old-fashioned air, but you’re right, of course. KD herself, in the essay accompanying the pattern, says that it reminds her of pieces she has seen in the Shetland Museum, and that such sweaters were “popular in Scotland in the middle of the last century”.

The “but…” above concerns the yarn. This pattern is written for Fyberspates’ “Cumulus”, silk and suri alpaca, which sounds wonderful. But it looks awfully like Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze. I once knit a big, beautiful striped scarf in that yarn – a Kaffe Fasset pattern, I think; on the cover of a Rowan magazine, I think. The result was very successful. I gave it to granddaughter Hellie. And resolved never, ever to knit with Kidsilk Haze again.

It sounds as if all the rest of the West Highland Way patterns are going to be in “Cumulus”.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

I trust you all noticed that we had a comment from Carol Sunday herself. I feel hugely flattered, like the day we heard from Hazel Tindall. It is very good news indeed that she is working on a two-colour brioche design which is somewhat, at least, garment-like.

As for me, I have finished knitting the Soutache. A fancy bind-off remains to be done, and end-tidying, and steam-blocking – but I’m getting there.

And I’ve decided on my EYF extravagance. (I don’t actually have to buy it.) It’s Gudrun’s Johnston’s “Kirigami” in Jared’s “Winter 18” collection. I will at least go armed with the yarn requirements. The pattern is written for Jared’s “Arbor” yarn; Loop will be there, and they may bring “Arbor” along. They stock it in a good range of colours. I had some pattern of his in mind last year, when Jared himself was there, but found the yarn too expensive even for my extravagant self.

And there’s much to be said for just walking the marketplace with nothing in mind, discovering yarns and feeling them.

Meanwhile Alexander came over and has been measured for his Calcutta Cup vest. He wants the whole family kitted out – Ketki to have the swatch-scarf, and hats for the boys. Why not? The first thing to do is to establish a number of stitches – the number EZ calls “K” – bearing in mind Alexander’s circumference, the need for some positive ease, and the desirability of having the number of pattern-repeats divide evenly into “K”.

Then decide where to start in order to have the pattern centred centre-front so that the v of the v-neck can fit into the X of an OXO, as Meg likes to do. I’ll hope to get these calculations done in the next couple of days.

As horror descends on me. The reconditioned Aga is arriving on Friday, so tomorrow, after cooking my Mindful lunch, I will turn Old Faithful off again. Then (if all goes well) I will have a weekend without hot water in the kitchen, but with an Aga, and then on Monday all hell breaks loose. But Helen will get back from Greece that day. She can take over.

Dead cat (not): 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

I got my food, mid-morning today. I don’t know what would have happened if it had been spoiled, but it wasn’t. I’d have got my money back, I think, and the Mindful Chef would have had to fight it out with Yodel, a completely separate delivery company.

My wonderful cleaning woman has got the kitchen largely clear of Things, including shelffuls of cookery books, all ready for next Monday’s horror, namely the installation of my new kitchen. She’ll come back on Sunday afternoon for the last few things. The cats are enchanted by empty cupboards and shelves for them to sit on, or in. I’ve now got to make arrangements for a 30-foot lorry to park at the door while the units are delivered.

Fortunately next week is Frot with Event, to take my mind off what will be happening here. The Yale University Press is coming on Tuesday, in connection with my husband’s life work, and taking me out to lunch. And after that, the EYF! I don’t think they provide lunch, but who cares?

What I urgently need is some target yarn. Alas, Kate Davies won’t be there in yarn form this year, as she is lecturing on her new book about having a stroke. I’m quite keen on knitting the Stronachlachar tee in the West Highland Way collection. The yarn is Buachaille, which I know I like from knitting Miss Rachel’s Yoke in it. I could devote EYF time to looking for a substitute, but that seems sort of pointless.

I’ll need a bit more of a couple of colours for Alexander’s vest, and Jamieson & Smith will be there. That’s something. But I also want something more extravagant.

The Soutache has advanced to the final stretch of plain ribbing. Even that is peppered with mistakes. Brioche remains hypnotically fun to do. I wish there were garment patterns in it that I liked. I’m well provided with books; that isn’t the problem.

I hope Carol Sunday will design something in two-colour brioche again. I will write and tell her so when I finish, thanking her again for the Soutache yarn which was her gift. I much prefer her charting system to Marchant’s – clearer and simpler.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Edinburgh is back to winter-normal, slushy, still, but largely thawed. I got out to a supermarket. There were lots of gaps on the shelves, but enough food to keep us all going.

I've had nothing from the Mindful Chef. I had completely given up when I had an email in the late afternoon from the usual delivery people, Yodel, saying that my package was out for delivery.  But it’s not here, an hour and a half after the time they specified, and I can’t track the package, as on other Mondays. When I first saw the email, it said that there were 15 deliveries ahead of mine – that’s not much more than half an hour. But 15 it has remained.

I am making myself an interesting-sounding roast tomato soup, from this morning’s Times.

I got on well with the Soutache. Odd things continue to happen from time to time, but I’m closing in on the darkest of the gradient colours, smaller needles, and the final 5” of rib.

One of you told me recently about a group – a Ravelry group? – devoted to knitting things one has knit before. I’ve let it get away from me, and would be very grateful to be reminded. Those are the patterns worthy of notice.

What has brought the thought to mind, is my half-brioche sweater from last year. It has kept me wonderfully warm these last few days. Would I like another one? And – would it be possible to introduce some picturesque swirls into half-brioche? I don’t see why not. Every row, in both real- and half-brioche, has to be knit twice. But all the fancy patterning is done with the first pass. Then you have three plain-vanilla rows. Then you start again. It might be worth a tentative swatch.

I think full brioche is too much, for a sweater.

I looked at the end of Nancy Marchant’s Craftsy class today. She recommends full-scale, get-it-wet-and-pin-it-out blocking for large projects in which she wants the two colours to have equal importance, but only careful steaming for projects in which bounce is important. Like a scarf. So that’s nice.

I’ve now finished making the soup, and it’s good. Yodel says that their van broke down. 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The weather eased a bit more today. I wonder if the Mindful Chef will deliver my week’s food tomorrow. I haven’t had any mail since Wednesday. Much longer, and bad weather will threaten to overlap the EYF.

I am toying with the idea of cutting Nancy Marchant’s class on the Sunday – a fortnight from today. It’s about tuck stitches, and involves knitting a cowl. There’s lots to be brought along – two colours of DK wool, three sizes of needle, and a lot of stitches to be cast on with both colours in a manner I don’t entirely understand.

I suppose I could turn up in the role of Ethel the Unready.

The Marchant classes I wanted, about brioche, were the ones I missed by sitting there poised at the required moment and not realising, for a full, fatal 90 seconds, that I had to refresh the screen. They were sold out.

I’ve got a Thursday class on drop spinning – NO preparation, nothing to bring – which will get me into the market early and also will let me admire Andrew and Andrea from afar in the podcast lounge, where they hope to be from 12 until 2 that day. Maybe that’s enough. I’m greatly looking forward to it.

Today’s session with the Soutache was fraught with difficulties. Marchant’s Craftsy class has a whole lesson on troubleshooting, but the troubles she deals with are obvious, conspicuous ones, not my Messy Places which mysteriously involve the disappearance of some stitches. But I’ve reached Chart 2 and will soon join in the penultimate gradient shade.


Roger Bannister is dead; you’ll have heard. I am old enough to remember articles in the press speculating about whether it was physiologically possible for a man to run a mile in four minutes. It was a goal much discussed at the time.

My father was sports editor of the Associated Press then. For some reason long forgotten he had me visit the AP office in London when I got here (late summer, ’54) to start my studies in Glasgow. A man in the office told me about being there, that day in May, when Roger Bannister ran the mile in four minutes.

It was known in advance that he was making a serious attempt at it. The AP man took the trouble to locate the nearest phone booth before the race. Afterwards, he sprinted there and found, to his dismay, that a woman was occupying it who seemed determined to go on talking.

A few minutes later the United Press man sauntered up, thanked his wife for securing the phone, and called in the scoop.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

The cats were probably looking at birds, yesterday. Today Paradox, who likes sitting in the pot with that tree, knocked it to the floor and broke the pot. Bad cat.

Fergus has gone back to school. He is on the threshold of important national exams, and said he has work to do. My niece C. and I took him to lunch at Dishoom today (local Indian, very good) which I think he enjoyed. I had completely forgotten how draining it is to worry about an adolescent. Is my solitary life calcifying my character?

The weather has calmed down. Edinburgh got off lightly, snow-wise, compared to many other places but the city is full of slushy snow. It will be lethal if it isn’t removed before it freezes.

The forecast is for a certain amount of unpleasantness to persist into next week. And the EYF is only the week after that. Spring will have to get a move on.

Miscellaneous knitting

All the designs from the Vintage Shetland Project are visible on the Vintage Shetland website. I like that blousy, lacy number, far left in the second full row from the bottom. It is hard to be patient.

I’ve done a little more Soutache. The current pattern repeat will be the last before the switch to Chart 2. The length is rather worrying, but there’s no going back now. The gradient yarns fix the size, 8” for each appearance – going and coming – of each one; 16” for the central panel with the lightest colour. I should have added up all those inches before I started.

Friday, March 02, 2018

More snow today?

In fact, there wasn’t any more, and the air felt slightly warmer. I still haven’t been out. Fergus is here, in a sense. He has gone out to see a friend. I forgot, in welcoming him, how much I would worry if this happened. Not like his brother Archie, who would spend the whole time in his room playing video games. I’ll text him soon, and try to lure him home for supper.

I’ve heard from the Replacement Aga People. They’re coming a week today. I have benefited, therefore, by a whole extra 8 days of hot water in the kitchen. The present Aga heats it. The replacement one won’t – I’ll have to rely on one of those magic taps when my new kitchen is installed, beginning on the 12th.

Miscellaneous knitting

Susan Crawford has got her book back from the printers, Copies are being packaged up by her assistants, distant crowdfunders first.

Kate Davies has posted her usual Friday essay about this week’s West Highland Way pattern – but I can’t summon it up to get a link for you. I think the Ben Dobhrain she writes about is the mountain visible from Alexander and Ketki’s house. I’ll find out when I go there at Easter.

I have made good progress with the Soutache:

I took that picture in order to illustrate a difficulty I had been having, but now I can’t find it myself. Something is wrong two or three pattern repeats down from the top – but not very wrong. I have now joined in the next gradient colour after the one you see here, and this is the one during which I will switch to Chart 2. Since time immemorial, I have been knitting the last 12 rows of Chart 1, over and over. Chart 2 is virgin territory, untrodden snow – a welcome change. The beginning of the end.

It's an awfully long scarf.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

The Aga people phoned at 8:30 last night to say that they wouldn’t be coming, after all – a prudent decision. I can’t remember weather like this. Big snows, yes. Days and days of rain, yes. But this is a STORM, and it goes on and on.

Drummond place, from my doorstep, early afternoon. I was trying to photograph the air being full of small snowflakes, blizzard-fashion, but didn’t really succeed. You'll have to take my word for it. The wind is roaring out there tonight, and whining in the window frames. I don’t know whether it’s snowing or not. It’s very cold.

I was afraid that something like this would prevent us getting to Palermo, travelling as we were during the first week of January when things have been known to turn nasty. But we were fine.

And, good news: I was able to turn my poor old Aga back on (it had been extinguished prior to removal). Sometimes that’s hard to do, but latterly – most recently on my return from Palermo – its behaviour has been exemplary. And, don’t worry, I have other heat, hither and yon – but none in the kitchen except for the Aga. So today I was able to make myself porridge for breakfast and sit there idly and warmly with my cats. And again tomorrow, I hope. The forecast is for more of the same.

I have just heard from Helen, wherever she is – Jordan? Israel? Greece? – that her youngest son Fergus’s boarding school here in Edinburgh has given all the boys weekend leave because of the weather. He will be very welcome here if he can get here. There have been no buses today. He can go out and get cat litter, which I am running seriously short of.

I’m well provided with food – with my new kitchen looming, I need to empty the freezer anyway.

I went successfully on with the Soutache. Pattie, I love your friend’s advice: “Admire your work often”. EZ said the same thing, more brutally: “Look at your knitting”. Alas, this approach doesn’t help with my brioche problems. If a stitch or two slide off the needle right there where I am, I can’t see how to get them back up, and a Messy Spot ensues.

I’m getting better, though, and the overall effect is OK as long as I keep the ribs intact.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

The weather continues extremely unpleasant. I phoned the Aga people this morning, somewhere in the north of England, and they seemed confident of getting here tomorrow. So I have turned off the old one and am preparing to freeze to death. I have plenty of food, though, including cat food, and good neighbours and a good friend around the corner. I’ll be fine, although I’m running low on cat litter.

It’s a good thing this didn’t happen last week, to spoil both the funeral and perhaps the Calcutta Cup. This weather is well beyond the reach even of electrically-heated trousers. No international matches are scheduled for this coming weekend.

Alexander didn’t come to be measured this morning: that gives me another week before casting on his vest. Perhaps almost time to finish the Soutache. I am finding it compelling. Brioche is a double fabric, and I don’t, yet, understand it. The slightest slip is likely to leave a Messy Spot because I don’t really see how everything fits together.

But I’m enjoying it a lot. I have finished the central bit with the lightest of the gradient yarns, and have started down the second side, using the second-lightest.

So I haven’t done any more thinking about corrugated ribbing, but am very grateful for your comment, Maureen – there speaks the master.

Wednesday is Kate Davies Day. This week’s pattern is a neat little cropped cardigan with travelling-stitch detail and interesting shaping at the shoulders. Travelling stitch is another thing I greatly like the look of and should do more of.

Stronachlachar remains, however, the West Highland Way pattern I am most likely to knit. It’s got travelling stitches, too.

I forgot to mention yesterday that the new VK has turned up. It’s all about yokes. There are some interesting sweaters, but none that quite tempts me. The patterns I am tempted by are the extremes – Maie Landra’s Viking Poncho (could I make some sort of coherent  colour scheme out of my Koigu collection?) and Laura Bryant’s Ikat (but that would mean buying yarn, as it doesn’t sound as if it would work with anything but Prism Yarn’s “Madison” as specified).

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Edinburgh’s weather hasn’t been too bad today, but worse is forecast and it sounds as if it’s blowing up a storm out there. Alexander may not be able to get here tomorrow to be measured, and my reconditioned Aga may not reach me on Thursday. We shall see. This is far and away the worst weather we’ve had all winter, and here we are two weeks into Lent, with March on the horizon.

Today, however, was the Alternate Tuesday – Fruity Knitting Episode 48 is up, and it’s all about Susan Crawford! The book will be officially published tomorrow. She has restricted her examples to the decades in which she is expert, ‘20’s through ‘50’s. Everything we saw looked slightly Stitch-in-Time-y. Fruity Knitting is about to launch a Vintage Shetland KAL. There was no reference to crowdfunding.

I am a Fruity Knitting Patron and proud to be so, but (like Knitty) it’s completely free. Just go to YouTube.

The Soutache continues well. I wound and joined in the second skein of the main colour. I’m distinctly past the halfway point, so that’s fine. The background contrast is a set of gradients. I will soon finish the double-length centre-of-scarf section and start down the far side.

Continues well: but I was distressed to discover a fairly inconspicuous mistake which must have happened yesterday, when I thought I was sailing along. Some dots of the wrong colour show through. I think I must have been knitting when I should have been purling. I am cross at myself, but am certainly not going to attempt to frog.

Thanks for the pointer to Maggie’s Rags, Chloe, for tips on corrugated ribbing, and for yours, Else, to the Techknitter. Both suggest that it may be wiser not to knit the ribbing on 10% fewer stitches, if the ribbing is corrugated. Meg does, however.

Maggie recommends Feitelson and Starmore on the subject. I’ve got both, and will take them to bed with me soon. Also the Feral Knitter’s more recent work – corrugated ribbing makes several appearances in her index. One thing I must face up to doing in the weeks ahead is disposing of some of my husband’s art books, concentrating on the big ones which occupy the extra-tall shelves so necessary for many knitting books. I’ve got far too many knitting books in piles on the floor. If I’m going to stay here, and it looks as if I am, they should be shelved.

Monday, February 26, 2018

It’s bitter cold, with the forecast of worse, including snow, to come. Our weather generally tends to move from west to east, but this time, all of a sudden, it’s blowing in from Siberia, picking up strength in Scandinavia. It’s a very good thing Ian’s funeral was last week and not this one.

It was fairly cold on Saturday. The English rugby team came equipped with battery-heated trousers (no kidding) for their substitutes to wear as they sat on the bench waiting to see if they were wanted. Had England won, as all expected, this would have been hailed as a triumph of 21st century technology. In the event, there has been a certain amount of disrespectful laughter.

The Soutache continues to advance. I have lost the ballbands and can’t remember which of Carol Sunday’s yarns I am knitting with. It is heavenly soft.

And I have thought some more about Alexander’s vest. You will notice that the OXO bands shift with each repeat, so that the centre line runs alternately between and through the O’s. Meg points out that it’s nice to start the v-neck at a point where the V fits into the top of an X. I wouldn’t have thought of it, but I believe she’s right.

It is a great luxury to have a huge swatch. All I had to do was put the tape measure at that point, decide on a length for the vest, subtract 3” for ribbing, and see where the tape measure led me. The answer is, start with a peerie and knit, in all, three peeries and three OXO’s to the underarm-neck.

I downloaded KD’s Machrihanish pattern – I own it but have never printed it – and was surprised to see both that she doesn’t bother with this refinement, and that her patterns aren’t centered. So the point of the v-neck just falls where it happens to be, not at a mid-point, and from there on up the pattern is not balanced on either side of the neck.

It’s a very nice sweater, nonetheless.

My next problem is to learn how to cast on. Meg says that the long-tailed cast-on tends to curl with corrugated ribbing. She demonstrates an alternative, but it is beyond me. I do a long-tailed cast-on by knitting into a loop on my left thumb – I think a friend at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit taught me how.

So first I need to learn the cat’s-cradle method that the grown-ups use, and then modify it as Meg demonstrates. I need to cast on a lot of stitches in a funny way with two colours for Nancy Marchant’s EYF class; cat’s-cradle may get me started on that, as well.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

It has been a busy and happy day. I have retrieved from the archives my record of the sweater I knit for Ketki ten years ago:

which includes the chart for the cup and the date. If it was ten years, of course I’ve already got an “eight”:

I find I have kept in the archives a picture cut out from the newspaper of our happy captain holding the cup. I’ll do that again – perhaps this one:

I have discovered to my horror, however, that the cup in that picture is a fake. The real Calcutta Cup is now deemed too fragile to be used for public displays of  joy. It resides -- at least, it has for the past decade -- in the Rugby Museum at Twickenham (English rugby headquarters). Presumably, now, it’ll move north.

I have also discovered that Scottish Rugby now offers tours of the premises – the dressing rooms, the television studio, and the fake (or real) Calcutta Cup. Once I’m sure I can see the real one, I’ll book myself in for that.

I started watching Meg’s “Fair Isle Vest” video. It’s good, and begins with calm, useful, Meg-like advice about charting one’s design. The OXO patterns I will be using are a full 36 stitches across, which makes it difficult to fine-tune the size. One could, of course, centre the design and have it start and stop at the imaginary side seams. I’d rather have a number of stitches perfectly divisible by 36. I won’t commit myself on that question until I have had a chance to run a tape measure around Alexander.

The Calcutta Cup chart, above, is exactly the same size. Providential! one thinks – and then remembers that a “1” will have to be substituted for “0” which will spoil the whole thing.  

I’ve also retrieved the yarns from stash. I’ll need more of some of them – I can stock up at the EYF. Jamieson & Smith are going to be there themselves this year, as well as Jamieson’s of Shetland.

As for actual knitting, I forged ahead with the Soutache. It continues to be peppered with small errors. I’ve got to get this right before I go to my class with Nancy Marchant.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Calcutta Cup 2018

It was a Sign. We won we won WE WON WE WON.  For the first time in 10 years.  It is the oldest rugby trophy anywhere, and one of the oldest sporting trophies. I will have to contrive to see it, this year. 

I’ll measure Alexander for the vest when I see him next week, but I may be tempted to cast on before then, just to practice corrugated rib. I’ve got enough Fair Isle vest patterns to let me make a pretty good guess. I’ll have to dig out my Calcutta Cup chart, and also make a chart for “8” which I don’t think I’ve ever needed before.

There is little else to report. I managed a few rounds of Archie’s sock during the match, and beforehand I got to grips with the Soutache. I think I’m back in the saddle.

Thanks for the blocking help. I’ll find out about foam core board, Mary Lou. Pom Pom, my cat trouble is that I use those pins with round coloured heads, and Perdita likes to pull them out, and I am terrified that she will try to swallow one. Paradox has never seen a blocking before – and hasn’t seen this one, since both cats are strictly shut out of the dining room. I ought to be able to unpin the shawl tomorrow.

Southern Gal, I’m sure you’re right, that the problem is resolution. The computer in question is a laptop. The way Perdita set it, resolution was so low that I couldn’t even play Freecell. I found the screen I needed, and moved the resolution up to its highest point, as recommended by the computer. That allowed me to play Freecell, but created the elongation problem. The advantage is that my children, in the sidebar, look less dumpy than previouly.

Did I mention that Scotland won the Calcutta Cup?

Friday, February 23, 2018

I blocked the shawl, not altogether straight. Now that I'm on my own, I could block on the double bed and spend a couple of nights in the spare room. I think, if I live to knit any more lace, I'll have to do that, although I'd be sorry to lose my comfortable bed, even for two nights. But crawling around on the floor is getting a bit difficult.



It’ll have to do.

I have resumed the Soutache scarf, not altogether successfully. And brioche is not very frog-able. My comfort is that I am knitting the centre part which will largely disappear behind the wearer’s neck. By the time I emerge out the other side, I should have remembered how to do it.


Here is a perfect illustration of the difference between the sisters’ tails. The floor looks like that because Paradox has been savaging a roll of kitchen paper. Perdita still growls and hisses, but without much conviction. As you see, they have reached a modus vivendi.

And here is Perdita taking her turn on the computer. She has made some changes to the settings which I don’t approve of, but can’t figure out how to change. Things are sort of elongated. She is a very clever cat.

Non-knit, non-cat

When I sit down here tomorrow evening, I’ll know who won the Calcutta Cup. The friends who drove me to the funeral will be at the match, but not Alexander, who failed to get tickets.

I have bought myself a spiralizer. A friend points out that I could probably have had it for a quarter the price at a charity shop: spiralisers were big a few years ago. Still, it’s fun, and works well. There is more spiralizing coming up in next week’s Mindful Chef meals.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I guess you’d have to say that the funeral was a great success, although the phrase sounds inappropriate. It was a beautiful day, clear blue sky, pretty cold but absolutely still. The dreadful wind turbines on the moor above Alyth weren’t turning. (Wind turbines need their own Hitchcock to make a North-by-Northwest-type movie about them.) There was a good turnout – even the local baronet came, the man who leads the pipe band onto the Bannerfield, with drawn sword, on Games day.

The metrical psalm “The Lord’s My Shepherd” is pretty well obligatory at Scottish funerals. There is a special poignancy about singing it for a shepherd.

The burial ground is a short distance from the church, along the road towards our house. When we first came to Kirkmichael, 53 years ago, there were only two or three graves. Now, a lot of our friends are there, and our grandson, and my husband, and, sooner or later, me. If you know Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town” you’ll remember the village graveyard. It’s like that. They did that play in Pitlochry decades ago and had me in tears. Even James, aged about seven, said “It makes my eyes prickle”.

We’ll have a good time on the Day of Judgment, standing around talking to each other.

No knitting yesterday, but today I have finished tidying the baby shawl and sewing the open corner. I’m rather pleased with it, and hope I’ll get it blocked tomorrow. I’ll take before-and-after pictures for you. It’s too dark for photography just now.

So I’ll be available for a new WIP just in time for the Calcutta Cup match on Saturday. Perhaps it’s a Sign.

This week’s West Highland Way pattern is a cowl, pleasant enough but not one for my list. Meanwhile the indefatigable KD has turned her “Carbeth” pattern into a cardigan. It’s a short, easy-fitting, cosy number which has become instantly popular in its original, pullover form. The cardigan, especially, is seriously tempting. Two strands of Buachaille held together.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I think tomorrow’s funeral is casting a gloomy shadow over this evening. I have still to make sure I can lay my hands on some decent clothes in the morning before an early departure, and to do some washing up.

It was very good to see Archie, who seems in good form, and the Mindful Chef produced one of his better efforts. I’ve still got two vegan meals to get through this week, but there’s nothing in either so perishable that it can’t wait, if I’m too feeble to cook tomorrow evening. I am likely to be too tired to post here, as well.

AND I’ve not only finished knitting that shawl, I’ve also grafted the top border to the centre. There remains at least a day’s work before blocking: I knit the borders in garter stitch by knitting them back and forth, which means that the fourth corner is still to be sewn up. And then there are the loose ends – not only the ones where new yarn was joined in, but also the ones where cats intervened.

You can scarcely move in this house for knitting books, but when I wanted to be reminded of how to graft garter stitch (it’s very easy), I google’d a YouTube video. The world moves on.


Judith, I was overjoyed to discover that my estimate of ¼ mile for the circuit of Drummond Place Gardens was not entirely wide of the mark, and I am sure the knowledge will help keep me walking. (Today I walked to the top of Broughton Street to get some things for lunch – that’s further than twice around the gardens, I’m sure, and also up hill.) Thank you very much indeed for your map-geek-ery.

Archie introduced me to Thomas Ligoti. Horror is something of a speciality of his (Archie’s). It was he who introduced me to Lovecraft, some years ago. Poe I knew, but I had never heard of Lovecraft. I bought Ligoti for my Kindle – he’s a Penguin Classic, no less. I read a couple of stories with my supper, and I think that’s enough for tonight. I’ve started re-reading Persuasion, a much safer harbour for a gloomy evening.

Ligoti is ¾ Sicilian. That island seems to be following me around.

Monday, February 19, 2018

It has been another quiet day. Helen is gone, and will be away for three weeks. The installation of my new kitchen looms, and inspires dread. Still, it won’t happen this week.

I find I have reached the final pattern repeat for the centre of the baby shawl, rather to my own surprise. I might be grafting tomorrow – when the knitting is finished, the stitches are grafted to the live stitches of the fourth border. Fortunately, I love grafting, although I’ll have to look up how to do it in garter stitch. And I could be blocking by the end of the week.

Archie is coming to lunch tomorrow. Today’s Mindful Chef – smoked trout and quinoa in a sort of kedgeree – would have been plenty for two. Broccoli cropped up again. Tomorrow is a monkfish curry. I think I’ll see if I can get a bit more monkfish, just in case; and perhaps some more black rice from Health Food opposite the fishmonger there at the top of Broughton Street.

That will do for tomorrow’s walking. Today, inspired by (or, under pressure from) Mary Lou, I walked twice around Drummond Place Gardens. I tell myself that it’s a quarter of a mile per circuit, but I am probably flattering myself. It was sad to remember how recently I used to speed-walk four circuits in the morning before going to get the papers.  

No, I haven’t seen your French detective series, Shandy (comment yesterday). My Italian one is called “Maltese” and is all about the Mafia. The first episode was on Channel Four one Sunday, but since then it is not being broadcast anywhere and one has to summon it up from somewhere in the bowels of the television set. One of Alexander’s sons showed me how to do it. It’s good, but rather unpleasantly violent.

Half-asleep, I heard a Syrian girl from Aleppo on the radio this morning. She has cerebral palsy and could not get out at all, therefore no school. She had learned English by watching American television, and spoke it brilliantly. I don’t think Maltese (or anything else) is likely to have such an effect on me. The girl is now in Germany and somehow or other, there, manages to get to school, where she is doing well.