Wednesday, December 12, 2018


Well, here we are. They’ve all gone away. We had a good time. The little girls, two of my three great-granddaughters, are unspeakably delightful. I didn’t take any pictures, but other people did, and I hope I’ll have some to show you soon. It was odd to have the frequent conversational references to “grandmother” refer to Rachel – who is brilliant in that role.

I tidied up the socks and gave them to Rachel. And Alexander and Ketki came over to see his sisters and his cousins (no aunts) and went away in the Calcutta Cup vest – so that’s two end-of-year FO’s. And today I finished knitting the stripey hat, although it remains to be seen how easy it will be to block out that tendency of the lower edge to curl.

I already can’t remember why I bought two stripey-hat-kits, but I did, and I went straight on to cast on the second – there’s still time to finish it before Christmas. (I’m not really doing Christmas this year, but there’s no getting away from its presence.) This time I persevered with the cable cast-on. I didn’t recognise the interesting-sounding variation you mentioned in your comments: I hope to explore that avenue before it is forgotten. And I hope I’ll knit a stripe or two on the second hat while watching this evening’s political news.

And on top of all this, the package has arrived from Kate Davies with the yarn for the Stronachlachar – needless to say, it’s the right colour, and very tempting. It will be a great inducement to get the second stripey hat out of the way as soon as possible.

Non-knit

I feel I ought to have something to say about the political situation, but I don’t. It’s bizarre. A few days ago I watched a video of a talk given recently in Baltimore by a man I knew well at Oberlin – he and I were successive editors of the Oberlin Review and indeed, for a while, co-editors. He went on to a distinguished career in journalism.

His talk was about Britain Today, and he is well-informed although I don’t think I gleaned any illuminating insights. The disconcerting thing was that I didn’t recognise him, even sitting there watching for half an hour or so.  

Saturday, December 08, 2018


Nothing to report.

I forgot all about Kate Davies’ club launch yesterday, until 8 p.m., three hours after the crucial moment. (What was I doing?) The expensive version was all sold out by then. I signed up for the lesser one, which is much more suitable for me anyway. She’s a brilliant saleswoman.

Italian went fairly well this morning, Skype-wise, but was, as always,  a tremendous mental strain. Archie came to lunch (“Tagliata” from “Nigelissima”) which was soothing. Then after my nap, Helen and David – he’s here from Thessaloniki for the weekend, as often – turned up and that was pleasant, too. But no knitting. And tomorrow I must prepare for Monday’s invasion. Helen will come and help in the afternoon, not that there’s much to do except worry.

Tomorrow launches a pretty fraught week, what with relatives and a dr’s appt and new spectacles at the oculist’s shop and a new cleaning woman who will replace beloved Daniela when she leaves soon to wait for her baby. Even with all that, not nearly as fraught as Theresa May’s week is going to be. I wish her well.

Friday, December 07, 2018


I have come to a mini-skein I don’t have, for the stripey hat. If they were threaded on a leather thong, like last time, I would know for sure that it was missing to begin with. This way, I strongly suspect it was mislaid by the furry Rumpelstiltskins who sometimes come to help in the night. There are various available work-arounds. No panic. 

The lower edge is curling badly. One can only hope that blocking will help. The instructions asked for a cable cast-on but I found I wasn’t enjoying that and reverted to the good old long-tail. Now I learn from KD’s “Heids” that the cable cast-on is employed specifically to avoid curling. Live and learn. Learn and forget, more likely, in my case.

The new VK tuned up today, and is a winner, in my opinion. I’m keen on brioche anyway, and it’s a major feature of this issue. I hadn’t known that Nancy Marchant actually unvented increasing and decreasing in mid-brioche, allowing it to swirl. I’ve got a substantial Koigu stash, if the moths haven’t eaten it away from below. Could I divide it into light and dark and knit Unjung Yun’s wrap?

I’m also very keen on Norah Gaughan’s cardigan (no surprise there) although I think I would liven up the colour a bit.

And there’s much else, and interesting articles. I hadn’t known that textiles were such a bone of contention between the American colonies and the crown.

Non-knit

As I was last Friday, I am confronted with an early Italian lesson tomorrow. I think instead of doing much homework tonight, I will work on how-to-explain, in Italian, that I am wearing temporary glasses while the lenses (including the one badly scratched when I fell in Reggio Calabria) are replaced in my proper ones, and reading isn’t easy. Lots of useful vocabulary in the explanation, not to mention moods and tenses.

If Wikipedia is right, Tom Lehrer is still alive, only five years older than I am. Back in ’54, he was grown-up and I was only Jean. That’s good news, anyway.

Thursday, December 06, 2018


Not much knitting – a few more rows on the stripey hat.

I’m enormously grateful for all your kind comments on the Calcutta Cup vest. I don’t think I’m going to block it, in the full crawling-about-on-the-floor sense of the word. The fit is so good, that I’ll try first to see what can be achieved with a damp tea-towel and a cautious steam iron.

Long ago, Ketki posted what must have been the image above to Instagram or some such, and the Scottish Rugby Union responded by saying, do let us know when the vest is finished. I’m sure she’ll follow that up. We have at hand all the knitting I’ve done on this theme since 2000 except for 2010 which was a draw: I knit a hat for Alexander and Ketki’s elder son that time, shewing half the Cup: but he lost it. A photograph exists.

I entertain occasional mild elderly daydreams of being photographed with Chris Paterson or Greig Laidlaw and Alexander in the vest, but on the whole, as with any other FO, I’m just looking forward to the future. The Stronachlachar package isn’t here yet. Rachel said it was a good thing Scotland won while I was still able to knit such a thing – an uncomfortable reminder of the nearness of the grave, but she’s right.

A draw would require some thought, should it happen in 2019. It would be a substantial moral victory, since it would happen in London; and it would mean that the Cup would stay in Edinburgh for another year. It won’t happen, but it’s worth thinking about.

When I come to add up the achievements of ’18, as I will soon, high among them will be the facts that I met the Duke of Palma, the model for “Tancred” in “Il Gattopardo”; and that I’ve seen the Calcutta Cup.

Non-knit

I’m delighted to learn that so many remember Tom Lehrer. I heard him sing in the flesh, in the winter of ’53-’54, when I was with some Oberlin friends in NYC. Indeed, until that evening, I had never heard of him. I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve had “Wernher von Braun” playing in my head all day. “That’s not my department, says Wernher von Braun”.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018


Howzat!? As they say on the cricket field:



Perfect fit. Gregor Townsend’s triumph (Scotland’s newish coach), and mine as well.

Kate Davies’ “Heids” is here, full of good things. And I’ve read her blog post about the new club. I agree, Southern Gal, that the price of the fancy subscription is daunting. Also, I still have all the colours of Milarrochy Tweed from last year’s club, in their special bag, so it would be extravagant to sign up for them again. “Heids” is of course ideal for their employment. But I’m tempted…

Mary Lou, I do like your knit bud’s hat

We’ve all got a couple of days to think about it. I like the notion of the Guide to Creativity which is called “Do Nothing” – but we get that with either subscription.

Non-knit

Greek Helen came around this afternoon, full of gloom about global warming. I don’t think I am capable of worrying about it as much as she does, having survived those years of worrying about nuclear annihilation. That could happen at any moment (still could). I was heavily pregnant with her, the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Global warming advances slowly, and ours is a most ingenious species.

I told her to find Tom Lehrer on Youtube, and listen to “We’ll All Go Together When We Go”, to understand that fear. I also recommended “Werner von Braun” and “National Brotherhood Week”. He was (is) a funny man.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018


Today’s ordeal was an eye appt., at the extreme outer edge of my walking-range and also just at the time when I like to sink into bed for a nap. But I did it, and even got back in time for a brief snooze before Pointless. When I fell in Reggio Calabria, the left lens flew out of my glasses and was seriously scratched. I hope I will be able to retain it as a souvenir. It’s plastic, thank goodness.

Knitting-time was happily devoted to the stripey hat. I’m slightly more than halfway through the initial, slouch section. What follows are the crown decreases. It is ideal solstice knitting, as I thought.

I must get Rachel’s socks moved from the WIP section to FO. The toes have been kitchener’d – all I have to do is to tidy the cast-on ends, and turn the socks inside out to make sure no horrors lurk within. She is coming up next week, with her daughter Hellie (everybody is named Helen around here) and her daughter Orla. Now it turns out that Thomas, Rachel’s elder son and my eldest grandchild, is coming too, with his daughter Juliet. I will have to take to my bed for the duration.

KD says that the “Heid” book has been dispatched – good news. She has posted a long blog entry about a journal which will be part of next year’s club. It sounds attractive, but I can’t think how it could fit into my life. I’m not a designer. I don’t have ideas.

It’s time to begin thinking about the page in Lotus Organizer on which I list my hopes for the year to come. I don’t seem to have done it last year – the first gap in a long while. This time it will be Stronachlachar and Foldlines and, if we win the Calcutta Cup, some splendid Gaughan cables, probably for one of Alexander and Ketki’s sons. We won’t win, because the match is in London and we never win there, so I don’t need to plan the sweater in too much detail.

Monday, December 03, 2018


Full speed ahead.

I’ve finished the Calcutta Cup vest, except for blocking. I was tempted to do that this afternoon, in the hopes of having it dry and ready for Alexander if he comes on Wednesday. But it would be foolish to block before a try-on, in case the size needs tweaking. He says, a propos the weekend FT, that nobody in Cairndow will know whether it’s cool or not.

And I’ve cast on a stripey hat, which is clearly going to be compulsive knitting of the just-one-more-stripe variety. Last time -- ?two years ago – the mini-skeins were all threaded on a leather thong. I sort of liked that. This time, they are bunched like a bouquet of flowers. This has the advantage that, once you’ve found the one you want, you can pull it out and off you go. With the thong, you had to keep threading them off and then threading them back again.

I emailed the Kate Davies shop yesterday about my desire to buy a Stronachlachar kit in the Macallum colourway. I had a very prompt reply – late on a Sunday afternoon – from Melanie, who said to go ahead and order and then to email her and she would mark my order to be Macallum and not the colour I had ordered. I did that this morning – asking for “Highland Coo” which wouldn’t be a total disaster – and she acknowledged my email promptly, again, saying that I’ll get Macallum. That’s service, if it works.

Today is my sister’s birthday. She’s almost as old as I am (although much stronger), and catching up fast. Happy Birthday, Helen.

Sunday, December 02, 2018


I am sorry about yesterday’s silence. Manaba and I much enjoyed the Open Day at Helen’s studio, but the experience involved a lot of upstairs-downstairs both indoors and out, and I was flattened thereafter. I think Archie must be right that I am continuing to lose strength.

I have finished knitting the Calcutta Cup vest, and am now diligently employed on tidying it up within. You may have noticed that nothing was done for those steeks except for clipping them open. I am confident, as I’ve said, about the tendency of proper Shetland yarn to stick to itself, but am nevertheless overcasting the cut edges and tucking them in. Slow work, but I’m nearly finished. They certainly look much tidier this way, and are possibly more secure.

Neither Kate Davies nor Andrea would be satisfied with such an expedient, I feel sure.

That still leaves a million loose ends, where colours were joined and abandoned. I hope to have the tidying finished by Wednesday, when I may see Alexander again and we might have a try-on before I go on to blocking.

The Weekend Financial Times – my only newspaper, these days – often has a supplement called “How To Spend It”. It is hard to believe that a certain element of tongue-in-cheek isn’t involved in its production, but it is undoubtedly a splendid and stylish display of expensive things for rich people to buy.

Today’s issue is about clothes, and includes an article about “Fair Isle” for men, which is apparently “cool” this season. I would confidently toss Alexander’s vest onto a pile with the Balenciagas and Ralph Polo Laurens illustrated. But he won’t want to appear “cool”.

I have been toying with the idea of going straight on to KD’s Stronachlachar, and find to my horror that her “West Highland Way” (where the pattern is) is not where it belongs on the shelf. I can’t buy a kit from her website because the yarn-colour I want doesn’t seem to be on offer in a kit, although there’s plenty of it on the “yarn” page. But I can buy the pattern separately; that’s something.

And meanwhile, I’ve got stripey hats to knit.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Dies atra


I’ve finished kniting the Calcutta Cup vest – although the bind-off remains to be done. Thank you for it, Mary Lou. Reading it through, I think I have done it at some forgotten point in the past. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow.

I had an unusually exhausting session with my Personal Trainer this morning (this is ridiculous) – and then was reminded that this week’s Italian lesson has been shifted to tomorrow at 8 a.m. So what remains of breath and strength this evening will have to be devoted to my homework – that’s too early even to hope to get much done in the morning.

However, once that’s done tomorrow – and time and the hour run through the darkest day – the world is my oyster. The studio where Greek Helen works on her mosaics is having an open day – far too strenuous for me, I thought, and anyway I don’t know quite where it is.

But this morning Manaba rang up – this year’s bridegroom. He proposed coming to get me and taking me there. I accepted with alacrity. I will have time between the Italian lesson and his arrival to do the bind off, and what better man to be the first to see the finished vest? (Except, of course, for finishing.) He was with us the day we went to Murrayfield and saw the Cup, as in my header-picture above. He’s a rugby enthusiast, and he isn’t an Englishman.

He and his bride were also at Murrayfield recently when South Africa beat Scotland in a rather good match. He said on the phone this morning that having seen the stadium empty and silent on the day of our tour made the experience of being there for an international match all the more exciting.

Cats

In early life, Perdita always slept with me. There was even an interval when I moved out of the marital bedroom onto a camp bed in the hall. (I needed to be able to hear my husband, if he needed me in the night – the spare room was too far away.) Perdita came too. It was not an entirely comfortable arrangement for either of us, but I appreciated the gesture of solidarity.

But once Paradox came, she took over as the Bed Cat. I feel rather sad about this. When I got back from Italy last month, Perdita joined us for two or three nights – to reassure herself that I was there? But has now gone back to sleeping by the Aga.

Thursday, November 29, 2018


Thank you for your kind words about the Calcutta Cup vest. I’m rather pleased with it myself. I have picked up the stitches for the v-neck – it took the full 45 minutes of Pointless to do it – and have corrugated-ribbed around for the first time, during the earlier part of the news. Maybe this will be the evening when I get myself back in there to watch those bloody lions and go on knitting.

Mary Lou, I don’t recognise that bind-off, but I’ll figure it out. Try it and you may, I say. And I’ve got that little book called “Cast On Bind Off” which ought to help. And I ought to be able to find it, after recent reorganisations.

Cats

I don’t understand the relationship between my cats. Sometimes I think the younger one, Paradox/Persia, is a bully. Sometimes I think it is just that she has never spent a day of her life separate from other cats, and thinks it is all right to jump on poor Perdita as she used to jump on her brothers and sisters.

But it’s Perdita who is my cat. My husband used to say so, rather bitterly, but it’s true.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Ah, you are a temptress, Mary Lou. I have polished off the second armhole ribbing exactly as I did the first – and they don’t look so bad, now that there are two of them. This whole process is agonisingly slow – and may become more so, if I have to unpick the cast-offs and try again. But for now, I will forge ahead. Tomorrow, I should begin the v-neck ribbing.

Finishing will take a while, all those ends, but I think I will set at it with a fresh heart and perhaps it won’t be as painfully slow. And I have the great comfort of having heard from Hazel Tindall herself—when I took her class at the EYF in 2017 – that when she finishes a sweater for domestic consumption, she ties knots. With a competition sweater, she weaves in ends.

Here is the promised picture of the swatch-scarf. I meant to send it back to Ketki with Alexander this morning, but forgot:


Observe the slight flare.

And here is the vest:



Shandy, I think that even if someone, perhaps a non-knitter, doesn’t perceive that the OXO’s are different, there is a kind of dissonant harmony among them that pleases the eye. I held it up to Alexander this morning – the first time he has been here since the steeks were cut – and I think the fit will be good.

Non-knit

And here is a cat picture for you. Their professed enmity often results in paw-to-paw combat. This is the first time I have ever succeeded in taking a picture of it – not a very good one.



Archie and his friend Nathaniel, a cat-lover, came to lunch today and we had a nice time, although I don’t think I really produced enough for them to eat. What there was, was tasty.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018


I am moving slowly forward with the corrugated ribbing around the armholes of the Calcutta Cup vest. Slowly, because it’s not much fun. I remember that I knit the Kirigami in good order, and hope that when this is finished (and I turn to stripey hats) I will again be able to make brisk progress.

If I pulled myself together and finished the second armhole this evening, Alexander could try it on tomorrow, even with the v-neck ribbing unknit. We could see how it fits across the shoulders. Well, maybe. It's about half-done at the moment.

With the first armhole, I cast off in k2, p2 rib, in a single colour of course, and am not enamoured of the ripple-y edging this produces. Steam iron? Blocking? But first I will try, for this second armhole, knitting a single-colour round when the corrugated rib is finished, and then casting that off, as Meg seems to suggest. If that works better, it will be easy enough to rip out the first cast-off.

I must take some pictures for you tomorrow – the flare at the end of the swatch-scarf, and the vest. I am terribly pleased with the general scheme. The picture I chose to base the colours on, offered a rather restricted palate, and I think that’s a good thing. I tend to go overboard on colour. The contrast between the restricted palate and the way the OXO’s change every time is rather successful. You will see.

Monday, November 26, 2018


Thank you for comments and tips. Mary, I read yours carelessly, and thereafter decreased two stitches at the underarm on every round, not every other as you (and Meg) recommend. But at that point I had already done three rounds, and there are only six altogether, so maybe it evened out.

I have finished the corrugated rib for the first armhole of the Calcutta Cup vest, as above, and hope to start the second this evening. I think it’s all right. My first experiment with corrugated rib, at the beginning of the Swatch Scarf, does flare but doesn’t matter. The ribbing at the bottom of the vest looks fine – but I think in that case I added another 10% of stitches when the ribbing was finished.

The process remains agonisingly slow, but at least an armhole has a smaller circumference than a waist, and anything can be endured for six rounds. It looks pretty good.

Non-knit

Thanks for the book suggestions, which I will investigate.

Beth, there are more Golden Oldies in “Unforgotten” than I have yet mentioned. The first series also has Tom Courtney – easy to spot, and brilliant – and Trevor Eve. I’ve been a fan of his since his days as Eddie Shoestring. He’s hard to spot. Spoiler alert: he plays a rather disagreeable character, rare for him, and he has some new facial hair. I got it in the end. Good acting goes a fair way towards smoothing out an improbable script.

I went off to bed early last night, feeling even less well than usual. I hope I’ll stay up to watch those lions tonight, as I get a bit forrader with that ribbing.

Mary Lou, I didn’t know about not putting book titles in quotation marks. I suspect Sr Mary Jean was a more demanding mentor than any we had at Asbury Park High School.

Sunday, November 25, 2018


The Italian lesson went better with Skype on the iPad, but still left me prostrate with nervous exhaustion. I’m beginning to come round now. Leopardi is depressing, at least as much as I have seen of him so far.

I consulted a couple of authorities on stitch-picking-up, and decided that I didn’t have too many after all. I am now embarked on corrugated ribbing around one of the sleeve-holes and may even finish that one tonight, if I can stay awake for a promising-sounding documentary about lions.

I’ve finished with “Unforgotten”. Just as well. It’s a terrific time-waster. I spotted another actor beloved from the Olden Days, Bill Paterson, in what I think would be called a “cameo” role. “Paterson” with one “T”, like the great Scottish rugby player.

Saturday, November 24, 2018


I haven’t time to write much this evening – I have an Italian lesson tomorrow, concerning the poetry of Leopardi, about which I know nothing. Lessons by Skype --  my tutor is in Rome – have proved unsatisfactory lately. She suggested last week that I load it onto my iPad, a slightly more up-to-date machine than my computer.

This morning I did that. It was not entirely easy, because I had to venture into the Apple shop to get it and had forgotten not only my password but also the answers to my security questions. (How is that possible? Surely the first movie I saw was…? And my parents must have met in…?)  But Apple said I was wrong and thus launched us into a fresh and even more complicated scenario – you’d think I was applying to be a spy. But eventually I succeeded.

However, that left me in a successful but exhausted state in which I have not applied myself to Italian. Scotland won a rather scrappy and unsatisfactory rugby match this afternoon – better than losing! -- while I finished the three-needle bind-off for the shoulders of the Calcutta Cup vest, cut the first armhole steek – I’m used to steeks; they hold no terrors – and started picking up stitches for the armband.

Meg seems to say, pick one up on every round. That seems like an awful lot. I think, tomorrow, freed of other responsibilities, I’ll consult other authorities. I’ve got them all.

Both stripey hat kits turned up today. Now all I’ve got to do is to knit them.

Non-knit

For time-wasting and not-going-to-bed,  I have recently discovered “Unforgotten” on Netflix. It is not really a good idea for a SAD sufferer like myself, being both dark and wet. The first series was full of improbabilities, but deliciously full, as well, of British television and theatre luminaries of 30 years ago. There’s Gemma Jones! And Hannah Gordon! For the second series, we are offered – of names I know– only Douglas Hodge. Would I recognise him?

But, yes – he was easy to spot.

Friday, November 23, 2018


Thank you for your continued good advice. Tonight I changed for bed immediately upon finishing my early supper. That’s a very good idea, at least during these dark, huddle-inducing days.

I used to read in bed a lot, when I was young. Now, I can’t seem to manage it. I keep slipping down the pillows. Maybe I should get one of those pillows with arms?

I heard from an old friend this morning that “Tribe” had one stripey hat kit, so I bought it. Now I’ve got to knit stripey hats. Tribe Yarns was completely new to me, I think – so that was another plus. They’ve got some interesting things. Thank you for your offer to look for the kit, Mary Lou. Blue Sky Fibers who produce it are American, as the spelling of “Fibers” implies.

I did finish the basic knitting of the Calcutta Cup vest last night, and am rather pleased with it. I decided that it didn’t, after all, need the extra half-OXO, but I remain very grateful to Maureen for the idea. I didn’t do much this evening, because Perdita came to sit on my lap, which is a rare honour. I’m nearly finished, though, with joining the shoulders in a three-needle bind-off which I thought would be stronger than grafting. Tomorrow I hope to embark on corrugated rib.

I’ve got enough yarn left over for another vest and a half. That always happens, with me and Fair Isle.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


I’m two and a half rounds away – and one of those is single-colour – from finishing the Calcutta Cup vest, at least, if I don’t add the half-OXO that Maureen so brilliantly suggested, and if I don’t count the finishing and the knitting of armhole and v-neck ribbing. Corrugated ribbing, at that. Still, it will be a milestone. I can surely get myself back in there to finish that much off tonight.

Thank you for your intelligent and helpful comments about kitchen-huddle. I was talking to Alexander about it when he was here yesterday. I think I stay up too late, sometimes, because I am too tired to go to bed. Walking along the corridor! Getting undressed! Brushing my teeth! It all seems too much, so I go on huddling.

The kitchen and the sitting room are both well-lit and warm. Perhaps I huddle in the kitchen because it is my room, unencumbered by furniture and pictures acquired during my long years of married life.

But everything will seem better once we pass the solstice.

I logged on to Loop, London, this morning (link in yesterday’s blog) to order two stripey hat kits, and they seemed to be saying that they were out of stock. I tried again just now, and they seemed to be saying that they had one. So I ordered it. I wouldn’t have time to knit two before Christmas anyway. But I am  much inclined, as well, to go ahead and order KD’s Stronachlachar kit in whatever that cheerful colour was we agreed on the other day. “Foldlines” can wait until the light comes back.

I hope you all enjoyed your turkey.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018


Happy Thanksgiving, you guys. We seem of late to have “Black Friday” firmly established over here, like so many other American holidays, but without any turkey and pumpkin pie to precede it

Alexander came to see me this morning, and I held the Calcutta Cup vest up against him. It looks perfectly long enough as-is, but of course we all know that a sweater with a human being inside isn’t quite the same. And, anyway, it wasn’t the overall length I was worrying about, but the sleeve-hole depth. He professed to some anxiety as to whether he could get his arms through the holes, until I explained about steeks.

I watched Part Three of “The Little Drummer Girl” last night and indeed got some knitting done – I’m now well-embarked on the final peerie. I’m ready to give up on the Drummer Girl – the book is just too good, and too complex, for television. But after that productive start to the evening, I huddled in the kitchen until nearly midnight which sort of defeats the purpose.

Greek Helen dropped in this evening, and says she left her stripey hat on a bus recently. She is unhappy about the loss. There might just be time to replace it before Christmas if I pulled myself together. (The vest must come first.) And Rachel has never had one. It might not be a bad idea – and a cheering one, in these dark days – to order the kit again, maybe twice. They’re not going to abolish Christmas.

Comments

Mary Lou, yes and no. I’ve got Rebanks’ book, “The Shepherd’s Life”, and haven’t read it. I will repair that omission – it’s just the thing to huddle over in the kitchen. And many, many thanks for the link to the NYTimes article about Wool Week. I was especially taken with it since it began with Muckle Flugga, the sight of which remains a high point of my own Shetland experience.

I had a nice email from the Shetland Wool Adventure this morning, listing the first names and places-of-origin of the 11 of us booked for next May. I am the only one resident in Scotland. That was also true among the 12 of us on my Outer Hebridean cruise last summer. I don’t know what conclusion, if any, is to be drawn.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018


There was an enchanting clip on the BBC 6 p.m.  news this evening in which we saw the policeman on duty outside 10 Downing Street step forward and open the august door to let the cat in. The animal was seen only very briefly from behind, but had very much the air of a person who expected this simple service to be provided on demand.

Today was the every-second-Tuesday which brings Andrew and Andrea back. And, goodness! they are good. An endless stream of interesting designers showing off their new work would soon have become tedious, as they realised early on. This time, we have an interview with Carol Christiansen of the Shetland Museum – and the news that she is working on a Lace Book, with the help of sponsorship from the Museums and Galleries Commission. That is news.

And an utterly delightful interview (this time, conducted by Andrew) with Ronnie Eunson of Uradale Farm. [I want to buy some of his yarn – and in that case, Jean, you’ll have to spend more time knitting!] Ronnie left Shetland in his youth to study Old Norse and other obsolete languages at Edinburgh University but decided that he wanted something more exciting in life than academia – so chose sheep farming.

There are some wonderful drone-taken pictures of his sheep dogs at work. Which was the Russian leader – Khruschev? – who was enthralled by his first sight of British sheep dogs. “When I was a boy, I had to do that.”

They looked just like the dogs who used to work our fields in Strathardle with our neighbour Ian Duncan. I would meet him sometimes on the Bumpy Road and he would stop the tractor to talk to me, with the dogs sitting beside him. They were far too polite to say anything, but you could see what they were thinking – “Why are you wasting time with this silly woman? Ian, we have work to do.”

I have sort of given up on “The Little Drummer Girl” but maybe this evening I’ll go back to it. That should get me very nearly to the end of the final OXO on the Calcutta Cup vest.

Monday, November 19, 2018


Amy, no, I wouldn’t have been horrified if your knitting had been inspired by Marie Curie and you didn’t mention Pierre. Hers is the more famous name. And at least in that case I couldn’t have accused you of political correctness. But in this case, Crick and Watson are by far the more famous and I remain very surprised that Franklin could be mentioned without a nod in their direction.

Otherwise, little to report. I had occasion today to look back to blog entries of a few years ago (2013, to be precise) and was astonished at how much I seemed to be able to get through in a day – how much knitting, and how much else.  It wasn’t all that long ago. I was 80. Whatever, it’s not like that now.

Let’s hold on to what we’ve got. I passed the halfway point today of the current OXO on the Calcutta Cup vest. That means that, whether I add an extra half-OXO at the end or not, I am on the home stretch, knitting the final pattern-repeat. Back in ’13, I sat with my husband after supper watching (or not watching) television. These days, I tend to huddle in the kitchen with my cats, reading books.

Sunday, November 18, 2018


There is little to report. My personal trainer has set me to keeping an exercise diary for her inspection, and at least, today, I can say that I walked down to the weekly farmers’ market in Stockbridge with Helen and David. Rachel and her daughter Hellie and (I think) her daughter Orla are coming to see me in December. I bought some mutton to slow-cook for them. And some rather luscious-looking French garlic.

But no knitting. And I’m not sure I’m strong enough for any this evening. Maybe I’ll retreat to the kitchen and a book, as so often – on with Fuschia Dunlop’s food autobiography mentioned yesterday. She writes awfully well.

Chris (comment yesterday), “outraged” because I thought that the white men had been airbrushed from the story of the discovery of the double helix for being men, and white. If you are right that the cables on the IK sweater represent Franklin’s guess, then I’m altogether wrong. I thought her remarkable photographs were as far as she got. Watson and Crick got it wrong on their first attempt to model it, as I remember. (And some Americans were pressing on their heels. Who? If it hadn’t been Watson and Crick, someone would have got to the double helix soon. It was the big 20th century discovery waiting to happen.)

Saturday, November 17, 2018


Scotland lost an exciting rugby match to South Africa. They are perhaps the world’s best, at the moment, and we didn’t disgrace ourselves. I got a bit forrader with the final complete OXO on the Calcutta Cup vest.

I also, today, initiated my project of working my way through Fuschia Dunlop’s book “Every Grain of Rice”. The first recipe is for “Smacked Cucumber in Garlicky Sauce” and I wasn’t entirely pleased with the result. Did I not smack the cucumber hard enough at the beginning? Was it too wintery a cucumber? I will make a note and press on. The next recipe also involves cucumber, but this time cooked. The Chinese don’t go in much for raw food, I have learned from FD’s delightful autobiography, “Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper”.

The new Interweave Knits turned up today. I’m not entirely impressed with the overall gimmick, “The Science Issue”, but there are patterns that interest me. The one I like best, I think, is the one called “DNA pullover” but I was absolutely horrified by the caption which said that it was inspired by “Rosalind Franklin’s work to decipher the elusive structure”.

Watson? Crick? Wilkins? They were all, of course, men, and white. Clearly, two categories to avoid. They all got Nobel prizes, and she didn’t –  not because the Nobel committee had anything against women, but because of their prejudice against an even larger group of people, the dead. The Prize is never awarded posthumously, and Franklin died appallingly early of ovarian cancer.

Perhaps the caption-writer would have done better if she or he had had more space. But as it stands, I am outraged.

Today's Kate Davies' hat greatly resembles the stripey hat sold by Loop of London in kit form. I ought to have enough Milarrochy to do it. I am not quite clear (because I haven't been paying attention) whether the pattern is available or whether we have to wait for the book.

Friday, November 16, 2018


You’re right, Joan – Kate Davies’ new hat book has been announced on schedule – on Instagram, which is not one of my usual haunts. Fortunately I am on Ella Gordon’s mailing list, and her design is the First Hat, so I got wind of it. I’ve ordered the book, and will watch for successive hats with pleasure. I got the sample kit of Milarrochy tweed when it came out -- I may well have enough for a hat.

And while I was clicking away in pursuit of all this, I discovered a tutorial of Kate’s on precisely the subject we were talking about yesterday: grafting a two-colour pattern using two separate needles-ful of yarn. It’s funny how life sometimes coalesces like that.

I forgot to mention: Meg said during the Patrons’ conversation with Andrew and Andrea, that she is working on a book. That’s good news.

As for the Calcutta Cup vest, I am well along with the last complete OXO and have discovered another reason why a final half-OXO might be a good idea: namely that the v-neck (being done with a steek) is so deep and wide that the patterns on either side of it, on the front, are X’s but not O’s. It might look better to finish off with a pattern band which made a bolder statement. The OXO’s are offset with each new appearance.

Non-knit

The national story has calmed down a bit today, but we’re not out of the woods.

Woolly Bits and Knitlass: my impression is that it is the European Commission which wields the power, meeting entirely behind closed doors and consisting of Commissioners appointed by the different governments. I think the European Parliament is largely for rubber-stamping, and I don’t know what the Council of Ministers does. I’ve never known anyone who took any interest in a European election. There is certainly no elected body comparable to the British parliament or the American Congress, at the heart of things.

This would be an entirely suitable arrangement if we were just talking about a common market. But it feels unwieldy (and undemocratic) to me as it creeps towards greater integration.

Thursday, November 15, 2018


Maureen, thank you. That’s what I’ll do – or at least, when I’ve finished the next peerie and viewed the situation, that’s what I’ll consider doing: knitting half of the following OXO and joining everybody at the shoulder in the way you suggest. The idea even wove its way into my dreams last night: could I kitchener the shoulders using two needles with two colours of yarn?

No, I think is the answer.

It has been a strange day, politically. Is the United Kingdom going to fall apart? It is all Mr Cameron’s fault, of course, for initiating that referendum. I suspect, if you could go back to the beginning, we were all pretty well in favour of free trade. And obviously there have to be rules: British pigs and Danish pigs have to live under similar conditions, or the nation who cuts the most corners will have an advantage in the bacon market.

But then there got to be so many rules, all issuing from behind closed doors in an un-elected Brussels. And ideas about greater integration, next to impossible on a continent with so many languages and so much history. I would have voted Remain, had I had a vote. But I wasn’t entirely sorry that the electorate chose Leave.

And now look where we are.

As for knitting, I have finished the penultimate peerie of the Calcutta Cup vest and embarked upon the last full OXO.

Andrew and Andrea offered a question-and-answer session with Meg as a perk for patrons. I have never bothered with patrons’ perks before, but I listened to that one, all the way through, for the sake of her voice.

I must have misunderstood Kate Davies: there was nothing new today. Thank you for your lovely comment yesterday, Joan.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018


The good news is that the zapper is back with me. It was under the chair I mainly sit in, and I can only suppose that a cat knocked it off the low table where it belongs, and then pushed it there. You were right, Tamar – as ever. Amelia, I tried to reply to you but my reply doesn't seem to have been published: my cleaner speaks mainly Romanian. When we need to communicate about anything precise or complicated, we do it through Helen: both of them speak Greek. That didn’t help, in this case.

Alexander came over this morning. He failed to find the zapper but showed me how to turn the television on with a button on its back.

And then a dear friend came, who can do anything, and found the zapper.

It does encourage me to knit, to have the television wittering on in its corner.

I measured the depth of Alexander’s armhole when he was here, and continue to worry. My feeling is that if I had a bit more positive ease, it wouldn’t matter so much if the armholes were half an inch short. At this point, however, there is nowhere to go but on. I am a couple of rounds further into the current peerie.

It sounds as if Kate Davies is going to have some more knitting for us tomorrow --  and another club in the new year. That’s something to look forward to. And Jared’s new “Holiday 18” collection is cheering. One does rather clutch at straws, this time of year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


You win some, you lose some…

I can’t find the zapper thing to turn on my television. I think it must have been Maureen’d, to use my sister’s eloquent expression – tidied away by my dear cleaner while I was out shopping this morning. The other one, the channel-changer, is in its place. I always keep them together.

There ought to be a way to turn the machine on at source, but I can’t find it. I don’t watch much television; it doesn’t really matter, except for “Pointless”.  But it’s maddening, nevertheless.

I calculated how far I’ve got to go with the Calcutta Cup vest. A peerie (already embarked upon), an OXO, another peerie, is the answer. That will leave me with an armhole slightly less deep than I would prefer, but another OXO on top would be absolutely too much. I should have started the armhole steeks half an inch sooner.

We shall see. Alexander will probably be here tomorrow, and I will measure him for armhole depth.

Several of you have written to me (in comments and out) urging me to knit next summer’s bride a shawl of her own. I may do it. I’ll certainly put the options to her. But I’ve got to finish that vest – I owe it to Scottish Rugby. We may not win the cup again in my lifetime – 2018 was the first for 10 years.

Non-knit

The Sunday Times has a weekly feature called “A Life in the Day”. Last week it was Hugh Skinner, the actor who played the totally clueless intern in “W1A”. British readers should know, and if not, they have a treat in store. Just to look at his face in the picture accompanying the article is to start laughing again.

But the point is elsewhere – Mr. Skinner enjoys cooking, and likes working his way through a cookbook. I started to do that once, with Madhur Jaffrey’s “Curry Easy”, but didn’t get very far.

I am going to try again, with Fuschia Dunlop’s “Every Grain of Rice”.  I’m a great fan of hers – the doyenne of Chinese cooking, as far as GB is concerned. And individual Chinese dishes are usually only part of a meal – that should help. I will date and annotate each recipe as I proceed. The only rule is that if (when) I skip one, I will have to make a note of why.

Well, we shall see.

Monday, November 12, 2018


That was a more productive day.

My dear cleaner was here, so it behoved me to keep out of the way. And knitting in the morning is an especial pleasure this time of the year. I’ve finished another OXO on the Calcutta Cup vest. The decreases are making themselves felt. It is time to go back through my (largely unintelligible) notes and to consult patterns and tape measures and decide precisely where I’m going to stop.

I had help:



I thought of the famous photograph in the Museum in Lerwick. I hope that cat’s gene pool is being carefully preserved.



Thank you for your comments, as ever. I think you could be right, Beverly, that I could block even the Princess with Archie’s help. I will write to Becca and say so. Shandy, you can’t imagine how slow and dopey I have become. I think the attempt to knit another shawl would just lead to unimaginable stress and the possibility that I would still be removing blocking pins as all stood up to welcome the bride.

(On the other hand, Rachel has another daughter, and there are two more granddaughters behind that one. It might well be worth attempting a third shawl, at leisure – even if I don’t live to finish it.)

Mary Lou, I had another look at the Tomten. Do you include the hood? It looks too complicated for me, with or without. I then went on to re-read Knitting Without Tears. EZ really did have to re-invent the wheel, without the help of the Internet. It is no wonder she sounds a bit bossy sometimes.

Non-knit

And I got quite a bit of Christmas shopping done, thanks to the Internet. I’m sure I have passed the age at which my mother regularly launched this trying season with a letter saying that she wasn’t going to do anything about Christmas this year. She didn’t have the Internet either, and it’s probably just as well in that case.

Sunday, November 11, 2018


I promised you a proper blog entry, and will attempt it, but there is shamefully little to report.

We have had a very sombre day, 11/11. What can it mean to young people, all this fuss for a war that ended a century ago? I went this morning with Greek Helen and our niece C. to an exhibition of very modern art at the Gallery of Just That. We got there a few moments before eleven, and sat in the car to listen to the Silence on the car radio. Helen said that when she was walking her dog on Carlton Hill this morning, there was a lone piper up there. I think that was part of the programme.

The knitting of the Calcutta Cup vest can scarcely be said to be even inching forward, but I am doing a few rounds from time to time.  It is progressing.

I have ordered the Schoolhouse Press’ “Complete Surprise” book, thinking of my cleaner’s forthcoming baby. Up until now, I have knit the pattern supplied on a mimeographed sheet by the Sunday Times many years ago – you had to send in a(n) sae. That dates it.

It’s a double-breasted version which I don’t think I’ve seen elsewhere. The trouble with it is that when you pull it across the chest to button the double-breast, the side seams are pulled forward out of line. I’ve got EZ’s original, in whichever of her books it appears, but I thought it would be interesting to see all the modern options. Or I could knit a Polliwog.

But the big news on the knitting front is that next year’s bride thinks she might want to wear one of my veils. The wedding is next July – Rachel’s younger son Joe to his Becca. There would scarcely be time to knit her one of her own, but I would be terribly happy to see her in one of the others. Lucy, who married Rachel’s elder son Thomas, wore Sharon Miller’s Princess shawl, the work of years. Rachel’s daughter Hellie had another Miller shawl, substantially smaller. If Becca goes for that one, I could block it again. Blocking the Princess requires clearing the dining room of furniture and crawling around on the floor for quite a while. I’m not sure I’m up to it these days.

Non-knit

I’m glad you’re interested in my cats, especially Ron. They are remarkably different people despite being half-sisters and having been brought up similarly (=same furry mother, same human family, translation to Drummond Place and to me at the same age). They both came to bed again last night. I go to bed alone. When I get up to pee in the night, I find Paradox/Persia on her blanket. And this morning, when I woke up at dawn and stretched out my right hand, I felt fur. Perdita had joined us,

Saturday, November 10, 2018

I trust you all realised that I have reached the stage in life where all excitement is too much for me. It was grand to have James here. Yesterday, his son Alistair (now a graduate, gainfully employed in Glasgow) came over and we all(=Helen, Archie, Helen's youngest son Fergus)  shared a delicious take-away. Alistair and Archie are first cousins, and seem to be good friends as well. Alistair told me that Archie said that our recent Italian trip would have been impossible but for my knowledge of the language.

This isn't true -- although it is true that I used Italian a lot more this time than I had in Palermo in January. But it was enormously gratifying to hear that Archie thought so.

I will try to write properly tomorrow.

The two nights James was here, I have had both cats in bed with me. Paradox -- we are trying to change her name to Persia, but I don't think it's going to work -- always sleeps on a folded blanket at the foot of the bed.  Perdita, on the rare occasions when she joins us, curls up next to me. The trouble with that arrangement is that when I get up for a nocturnal pee, as I often do, and then try to snuggle up against her again without disturbing her, I find there is a gap in the duvet which allows an icy blast down my spine.


Wednesday, November 07, 2018


I’m sorry about yesterday. Archie and our niece C. came to lunch – we ate augmented Mindful Chef – and we had a good time, I think. But then I actually fell asleep during Pointless, and went to bed shortly thereafter, for a restless night of American elections.

Two bits of news yesterday: James is coming tomorrow to talk to a man at the Royal Botanic Gardens here about Chinese plants. This is in pursuit of a news story of some sort, but should also be interesting – James has become a passionate gardener since retiring to suburbia. I wouldn’t mind going along to listen.

And I learned that my dear cleaning woman Daniella is not only pregnant, but six months pregnant. So  maybe I’ll be knitting a red Baby Surprise. And oh dear, as far as cleaning is concerned.

Here is the present state of the Calcutta Cup vest. 


At least it has advanced since the photograph in my header was taken. A rough measurement, taken as it was lying there on the chair for photography, shows it to be exactly the measurement of Alexander’s chest, namely 39”. Can blocking produce another 2” for ease? Worst case scenario is that his wife Ketki will have to wear it.

Fruity Knitting this week. Even Andrea can’t interest me in button-making, I’m afraid, but it was wonderful to “meet” Carol Sunday, a great heroine of mine. And I haven’t even finished with the episode yet.

Monday, November 05, 2018


I continue to steam forward with the Calcutta Cup vest, as long as you understand by “steam forward” the achievement of perhaps five rounds on a really good day. Little and often, however, gets the job done. It’s looking good, although I don’t know that I don’t prefer the Swatch Scarf, where the arrangement of each motif was chosen simply because I hadn’t tried it yet.

I got out an old (moth-eaten) sweater of my husband’s this morning. The vest stands up to it pretty well, size-wise. Alexander is coming over to see me on Wednesday, I think. I’ll measure again from shoulder-socket to shoulder-socket.

The Autumn VK turned up today (with the promise that the Holiday issue, containing various interesting-sounding goodies, will be published tomorrow). This one doesn’t offer much. If you sat me down with a pistol to my head, I’d knit Amy Gunderson’s yoke sweater, but I’d rather not.

There is an affecting introductory article by the editor bemoaning the end of Classic Elite. She almost has me rushing to order madtosh for the Foldlines sweater and KD’s Stronachlachar, both, to support the knitting yarn industry. I may yet do it.

Jenny (comment yesterday), you’re right about colour. KD’s Buachaille in “Highland Coo” looks distinctly orange (as does a highland cow). I find the website a bit difficult to manage, colour-wise. The page with the kits gives colour-names without examples, and by no means all the names are as expressive as “Highland Coo”.  You have to go to the yarn page to find out what’s what, and even there it isn’t entirely easy.

But I now know that I want “Macallum” – a “raspberry red”.

Non-knit

“The Little Drummer Girl” is one of my favourite books. I made the mistake of re-reading it recently (good as ever) in preparation for the television series --  which seems, after two episodes, flat and rather boring. Any adaptation is likely to be thinner than the source, I guess, but then, remember the BBC "Pride and Prejudice".  I still remember my keen disappointment, as a child, going to see “My Friend Flicka”. I really thought I was going to see on the screen the images of that dear book as they lived in my head. Not so.

Sunday, November 04, 2018


I have done no knitting yet today, but hope soon to hunker down with some. I should soon -- perhaps even this evening – finish the underarm decreases for the Calcutta Cup vest, and be in position to see pretty clearly how wide the shoulders will be. Moment of truth.

I’m sure you’ve noticed the storms in Italy. The newspapers here have concentrated on the usual flooding of Venice, but it’s far worse than that. The excavations at Pompeii closed, people swept to their deaths by flood waters in Sicily. Archie and I were very, very lucky in our timing.

The clocks have gone back, and I have begun to think of the Cheerful Knitting which becomes essential as darkness closes in. (First, I must finish the vest.) “Foldlines” in an off-white doesn’t qualify. I think the next thing in my mental queue is Kate Davies’ Stronachlachar. The yarn is her Buachaille, which I have used and liked. There are two possible reddish colourways – red, I think, is what Cheerful Knitting depends on – and of those, I think I’d go for Highland Coo.

Another, or an additional, possibility is the Slouch Hat Kit that Loop of London sells. I knit two of them, three or four Christmasses ago, and can testify that it does fine as Cheerful Knitting and also results in a well-received gift. So that’s a possibility, too.