Monday, September 17, 2018

A pretty good day. I have employed Archie to make a start, at least, on sorting through the papers in this house, of which there are an alarming number, many of them unsorted since we left Birmingham a quarter of a century ago. If only we lived in a castle, we could put them all up in the East Tower and they would be of enormous interest in a few hundred years. Archie is taking a year off university, and as soon as we get back from Italy will try to find a real job. Meanwhile he shows some talent as an archivist. He found, today, a popular newspaper, preserved by my husband, announcing that Princess Margaret wasn’t going to marry Group Captain Townsend.

I have finished the yoke chart of the Kirigami sweater. The needle I have been using all along proved adequate for the final number of stitches – it’s a fairly wide neck. But I’ve found a smaller one which I think will do for the ribbing. And I’ve wound the final skein, leaving another one unwound. I could have knit a larger size. I hope that won’t turn out to have been a Fatal Error. We’ll know soon.

Tonight is Jamie Oliver’s Italian cookery programme, which I am enjoying enormously. That should advance things a bit. I still haven’t solved my “Killing Eve” problem – the BBC continues to advertise it on prime-time television, saying that it is to be watched on “BBC Three iPlayer” but I still can’t figure out how to get that on the television set. There doesn’t seem to be a “BBC Three” in the enormous list of available channels.

And watching on the iPad is a good deal less conducive to knitting, But perhaps tonight, when I’m only ribbing…

One of you has written to me with the solution to my Googlemail problem. I’ve now got the option of “more labels” back. But it came with the threat that in a fortnight, I would again be subject to an upgrade…

My cleaning woman came this morning. I needed to absent myself from the kitchen while she brought it back to the gleaming state in which she always leaves it -- so I went back to sorting knitting books. I think I'm nearly finished. I have established a socks-scarves-hats section, and a worldwide-miscellaneous, and one for Shetland. "Marlisle" turned up, but there's still no sign of Lucy Hague.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

I couldn’t be wrong twice – this must be an Andrew-and-Andrea week.

I didn’t achieve much today, suffering from the usual post-Italian-lesson exhaustion. I should have gone for a walk, and didn’t.

I’m doing round 43 of the 48 in the Kirigami yoke. Any minute now. There’s nothing to do after the yoke chart except a few rounds of K2 P2. Next problem: can I find a nice short circular of a slightly smaller gauge?

Then I must get back to the Calcutta Cup vest, before the Cup is contested for again. Fortunately I will soon be having lunch with one of you who is a master Fair Isle knitter, currently in Shetland for Wool Week, maureenfromfargo. I am counting on her to raise my flagging spirits.

An outpost of the V&A Museum has opened this weekend in Dundee as a museum of Scottish design. I wondered if that would include knitting, and apparently it does. There is at least one Fair Isle sweater. Fair Isle sweaters have been produced since the 17th century, according to the Scotsman newspaper last week, and traditionally incorporate four colours. Are those statements true? The sweater illustrated looks as if coloured by plant dyes, which is a good start.

I’ve got two technical problems for you today.

I often label important emails in Googlemail and then archive them. Until recently, there was an option on the left-hand side of the screen to reveal the names of all my labels. I could then click on the one I wanted, and see all the emails archived there. That option has vanished. Emails can be labelled and archived, but not readily retrieved. Something to do with the update that was forced on me last week? I’ve archived all the receipts and e-tickets for Archie’s and my great Italian expedition.

No great disaster – the iPad still preserves the old system. But I’d like to get it back here.

Second:  I watched the opening episode of a rather silly but rather thrilling thriller a couple of days ago, called Killing Eve. The remaining episodes, I was told, are available on BBC iPlayer (presumably meaning they won’t be shown on normal television). That is bad news for nervous old ladies living alone. I can’t figure out how to get BBC iPlayer on my television set (which is fed by Virgin cable). Again, no great disaster – I can easily watch it on the iPad. What would I do without it?

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Progress on all fronts. I’m fairly cantering around the Kirigami yoke now – round  37 of 48, and no more k3togs in the decrease rounds ahead. It won’t be long now.

I bought the Foldlines pattern. Under “gauge” it says to knit one of the pattern squares – a simple and wholly brilliant idea. I’ll do that, might even wash and block it, and then ought to know whether or not to invest in a whole lot more madtosh DK. It’s not cheap, especially if I am to be charged to import it. I'll know not only the size of the square, but whether or not it's any fun to knit.

And I booked some more of our Italian jaunt – successfully but disappointingly. To go by train from Reggio Calabria to Catania, we have to change and wait around somewhere, although when the waiting is over the second train will indeed take us on the ferry. Still, waiting even several hours in is better than waiting in an airport.

I knew that the flight home from Catania would also involve a change. I didn’t know that it would be so expensive. We’ve wound up on Air France, not my fave. Still, the point of the expedition is to spend-the-kids’-inheritance. Might as well do it thoroughly. If I could have done it differently and more economically, perhaps you’d better not tell me.

That leaves a hotel for four nights in Catania, and a car and driver to take us to Piazza Armerina, still to be booked.

Indeed, Mary Lou (comment yesterday), il Gattopardo almost certainly didn’t have any knitting with him, and he also didn’t break his journey at Reggio Calabria to see the Riace bronzes which were still lying peacefully in their bed under the sea.

Jean and Anonymous, yes, I think K3tog may well be harder with a fine lace yarn. There was an Amedro pattern long ago which eventually drove me to use a different decrease, disregarding the matter of which stitch would wind up on top.

Friday, September 14, 2018

A fairly successful day. I’ve reached round 31, of 48, on the Kirigami yoke – that means that I have done the second major decrease round. We’re fairly whizzing along. The decrease rounds involve K3tog’s, a stitch I have had trouble with in my lace-knitting history. The three stitches stand there, yessir, nosir, and then as soon as I move away it turns out that the middle one wasn’t really part of the group and it skips merrily away. That hasn’t happened here, so far.

I’ve allowed myself to browse Jimmy Bean’s madtosh DK page. I haven’t been there for a while. And I’ve found the one I want for “Foldlines” – “Farmhouse White”. I had a moment of thinking that there’s still time to have it sent to my sister to bring to me – but there isn’t. She will set out on her travels any moment now, although not reaching us until the end of the month.

Still, they could send it directly. And I could take it along and knit Italy into it. I’m sure you know what I mean. But it would be a bit bulky for travel knitting. Better to stick with socks.

I got further forward with booking things. We’re now in Reggio Calabria, with a hotel. I even had the presence of mind to make sure that the Archaeological Museum – where the Riace bronzes live – is open on Monday. I feel slightly less anxious – the two days of rail travel (although they killed Il Gattopardo) should be restful interludes, as well as extremely interesting. My first job tomorrow will be to book the second one, Reggio Calabria-Catania by rail. I hope I am right that it’s possible – the former is on the continent, right down in the toe of the Italian boot. The latter is a town on the east coast of Sicily.

I am very grateful for your concern about my health. Yes, oxygen saturation was fine, the last time I saw a doctor. That’s one I know the numbers for, after hovering over my husband for so long. Tamar, sleep apnea is one I hadn’t thought of. My brother-in-law suffers from it. I can discuss the possibility with my sister when she’s here.

And energetic daily walking around the garden is a very good idea. Sometimes I do it, but not often enough.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Well, I’ve done it. Booked EasyJet from Edinburgh to Naples on October 11. The die is cast, as Caesar once remarked. I’ve got a hotel in Naples, too. The rest – two train journeys, two more hotels, a car and driver to take us to Piazza Armerina, a flight home – will have to wait until tomorrow. I’m exhausted.

Alas, Shandy, I am not massively energized. You are misled by my sparkling prose. My sister will be here soon, about a year after her last visit – I wonder if she will see the decline I feel. Today started with the dentist (just a hygiene visit). He’s very near here, but up a very steep incline. I was prostrate by the time I got back.

I phoned Boots – they don’t have my new pills; a letter has gone astray. There was no point in going all the way up to the Apple shop if I was going to have to do it a week later for the pills, so I just set off for the top of Broughton Street. At that very moment Greek Helen came driving past, and gave me a lift up the hill. I got the fish, and the oatmeal, and the wedding-wrapping-paper, and had only to walk back downhill. I was very seriously tired when I got back. Naples is probably crazy.

But I will take your advice, Shandy, and order my Wedding Garment before I sign off tonight. I’ve just heard from Grandson Thomas that his daughter Camilla will be baptised on October 27 in London: so that will be a second outing for it. (Archie and I will be back by then, if we survive.)


Very much less stressful, and less strenuous. I’ve done more than half of the yoke rounds for the Kirigami – which means a good deal more than half the yoke, when the decreases are taken into account. I am tremendously impressed with the pattern, with the way the decreased repeat which I am now doing sits on top of the previous repeat with no hint as to how it was done.

Lots of people on Ravelry have taken better pictures than these.

I grasped today that this pattern, as well as Gaughan’s “Foldlines” which I keep talking about, are both written for Brooklyn Tweed “Arbor”. I’ve never used it; it’s probably wonderful. But that means that, unless the Kirigami turns out a disaster, I could use madtosh DK for Foldlines. I love it above all yarns. I feel that everything is nudging me towards that pattern.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

What I should have been doing today, but wasn’t, was booking my next Italian jaunt. I’m sort of scared. I was all revved up to do it a couple of weeks ago, but held back on Helen’s instructions (in her role as Archie’s mother). He is very keen, and she is reasonably so – for our original dates in about a month’s time. Now all I’ve got to do, is do it. Starting with EasyJet from Edinburgh to Naples. Once I've booked that, I'll have to book the rest -- three hotels, two trains, the flight home.

Tomorrow morning will make serious demands on strength – an early-morning dental appt., and then the ascent to Princes Street to consult Mr Apple about my telephone which will no longer hold a charge; to pick up a new batch of my blood-thinning pills from Boots (my branch doesn’t deliver); to go to John Lewis for wedding-present-wrapping-paper; to buy some tasty fish and some pinhead oatmeal (separate shops, opposite each other) on my grateful way down the hill.

I doubt if that will leave much strength for anything else.

OK: Friday and Saturday.

I must also decide whether I am going to get anything new for the wedding (next Saturday, the 22nd) and, if so, order it right away.

However, this is about knitting. I have done the first serious decrease row in the Kirigami yoke. I have also polished off another skein – now that I’m not worried about running out, that’s good news. The yoke is eating up much more yarn than I expected, but I still think I’ve got plenty.

I looked up “Kirigami”. It is like “Origami” except that you are allowed to cut the paper. Maybe you knew that. The discovery makes me feel all the more strongly that I must knit Gaughan’s/Brooklyn Tweed’s “Foldlines” very soon. Folded paper (remember Alison Watt) is clearly what’s happening on my knitting scene. Maybe I should move it above even Stronachlachar on my to-do list, although I think the latter would be more useful.

Maureen (comment yesterday), that’s a first-rate idea, to get back to Library Thing and to note position with each new arrival. I didn’t get any forrad-er with book arrangement today, either. “Marlisle” remains missing – it’ll be somewhere obvious, under a pile of paper. I’m also missing Lucy Hague’s “Celtic Cable Shawls”. That’s been gone for awhile -- two years? But it must be here somewhere.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Not Andrew and Andrea at all, of course, this week. It was only a week ago that we had that splendid interview with Norah Gaughan and I ordered the collection of her VK patterns and it wasn’t published yet, then it was, and I’ve now got it. A busy week.

The Kirigami progresses well. (Yoke sweaters knit themselves at this stage.) The pattern is a 10-round repeat. I’ve finished the first and started the second, offset by half. There are more than 300 stitches so it’s not really terribly fast. At the end of this second iteration, and every time thereafter, we have a decrease round. Then things will speed up considerably.

The pattern is very pleasing to the eye, but would scarcely show up for a camera, the yarn being so dark. I hope it will be more photograph-able after the offset repeat.

Norah G. advises not reading a pattern through to the end before you start. All will become clear when you get there – and she’s certainly right, in this case. It’s one of those lengthy Brooklyn Tweed patterns and it all seems crystal-clear now that I’ve embarked on the chart.

The only difficulty, of course, is when you are doing a set of increases or decreases and suddenly discover, a couple of paragraphs in, the dread line At the same time…

I did some more book-arranging, today creating the how-to-knit-and-design section. I spent some anxious hours wondering where Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting was – it was an important book in my own evolution as a knitter, first encountered in a library in Leicester in the late 60’s. I wished I had never started re-arranging books; I could have died without knowing it was missing. But then I found it.

So far I haven’t moved Barbara Walker into the stitches-and-techniques section, where she certainly belongs. I thought I’d leave her where she has always been. Now I think I’ll move her tomorrow. (This is fun, all these decisions.) My husband brought the first two volumes back to me from New York at some point, perhaps in the 70’s or early 80’s. I had never heard of her. “Now you will never need to buy a knitting pattern again,” he said.

Monday, September 10, 2018

A good day on the knitting front.

I have embarked on the Kirigami pattern – I’m six rounds in. It’s nice and easy, so far. Knits and purls, increases and decreases. I can do that. There were two decrease rounds before I started on the pattern – 14 stitches eliminated. Not many, but it’s a start. Now it’s straight ahead for quite a while.

I spent some time this morning arranging knitting books. Some of my husband’s books have been dispatched, so there’s new shelf space – and since art books tend to be big, the newly-empty shelves will accommodate knitting. I created a section for stitch-patterns-and-techniques. The Feral Knitter and Felicity Ford are at last shelved side-by-side.

Two embarrassments: (1) I find I already have Gaughan’s “Knitting from Nature”. I put it in the section just described, where it doesn’t really belong, in order to keep Gaughan together. Her cable book undoubtedly has to be there. (2) I can’t find “marlisle” which belongs there, and which I know I have.

Next will be a section for how-to-knit and how-to-design. There’s much potential for overlap. These decisions are surely what makes it fun to be a librarian.

And then, to crown it all, the new VK turned up, with a richness of single-colour yoke sweaters, including a new Gaughan.

Two things worry me

1)    It says very early on that the next issue is “Fall 2018” (this one is “Early Autumn”) – “on sale July 10”.

2)    Page 24 has some nice snaps from their UK tour this spring. It includes a picture of “ruins of an ancient cathedral in York.” I feel sure that if disaster had struck York Minster, I would have heard about it. And you can’t have two cathedrals in one city – that’s the rule. The ruins pictured are very substantial. What are they?

Television is producing a veritable avalanche of possibly-watchable series. I’m hooked on “Bodyguard”, like everybody else in the UK. I’m skipping the one about adultery. I haven’t started “Vanity Fair” yet but I’ve been recording it. I watched the first episode of “Press” and don’t entirely understand it, but I may go on with it anyway. And tonight two more are starting up, and we are promised one very soon involving a psychopathic woman who may even be a surgeon – right up my street. Lots of knitting.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Now that I have reached this exciting stage of the Kirigami, I can scarcely keep my hands off it. I have finished the short rows – there were lots. Here is a pic (I hope):

The colours are false. I took it too late in the day. And the suggestion that I have spilled something on it is also wrong.

There are a lot of stitches crowded onto one needle – probably a 24-incher which EZ says somewhere is all you will ever need. Decreases should start soon. I cannot imagine why anyone would want to knit a yoke sweater top-down. I can see the theoretical advantages, all right, about fit. But not having all this fun at the end would be dreadful.

I have had a good time wallowing in the Norah Gaughan VK book. I don’t care much for her essays into colour-work, but that leaves a remarkable number of cable patterns which I covet. There is even a single-colour yoke sweater. Does anybody have her “Knitting Nature” book? Do I want it?

I meant to say yesterday – there’s a new KD blog post up, still no knitting, but extremely interesting. This time it’s Tom, and he has been making books. Literally, with his hands.

It’s always nice to be embarking on a week that will have Andrew and Andrea in it.

Cat, we in the northern hemisphere will soon be handing over to you this summer of record-breaking hotness. It will be very interesting indeed to see how you fare with it.

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Great news! Joyce, having read last night’s blog, sent me the link to – and I have booked my place for 15-20 May next year. Anybody want to join me? If I were spry-er, I would choose their knitting-and-hiking alternative, but I’m not, and this will do fine.

They offer all that Mucklestone and Johnston offer, except those ladies themselves, and Burrastow. The first is a loss. I would like to be acquainted with both. Burrastow is a loss, too, but it’s way out in the glorious back of beyond, 10 or 12 miles from Lerwick. It will be more convenient to be in town, and good food is specifically promised – the food at Burrastow is splendid.

My next, delightful, problem is how to get there. I want to go by land. Kristie and Kath and I couldn’t spare the time. But it looks easy. Trains from Edinburgh to Aberdeen are a good deal quicker than Edinburgh to Oban (for my cruise last summer) – and the station is near the ferry terminal. And the ferry goes into Lerwick, whereas the airport is some distance away. If I can’t walk to our b&b (Lerwick is compact) there must be taxis of some sort.

The “adventure” includes Unst – I wouldn’t have wanted to go without that. I hope I can persuade them to let us have a glimpse of Muckle Flugga. It may not be possible – I gather that the RAF station on the northern tip of the island, deserted when Kristie and Kath and I were there, has been re-occupied. The splendid lighthouse of Muckle Flugga is on a tiny inhospitable island of its own, beyond. (How on earth did the clever Victorians build it?) Kath is not a knitter, and had been very patient with me and Kristie. I thought I could indulge them in a lighthouse – not a passion I share – for half an hour. The memory is a highlight of that memorable weekend.

And life here at home has not been entirely without excitement, either. I have joined the sleeves to the body of the Kirigami without any egregious mistakes as far as I can see so far. Much counting, and everything is all right on that front. Next come quite a few short rows, all across the back and around the shoulders – “like a hug”, as Amy Detjen engagingly says in her Craftsy class. There are lots of stitches. That will take a while, before the real fun begins.

And on top of all that, Norah Gaughan’s “40 Timeless Knits” has arrived. It is my policy here in later life not to buy books of patterns, with a few exceptions – EZ and daughter Meg; Kaffe; Kate Davies; Starmore (although I’ve never knit a Starmore); Mary Lou Egan. I have added Gaughan to the list. I haven’t had time to wallow in it yet. It looks wonderful. Astonishingly, all the photographs but one, she says, are old. Timeless, indeed.

Friday, September 07, 2018

I’m sorry for yesterday’s silence. I wasn’t entirely well – a sort of sub-flu. No knitting, no Pointless, not much eating or drinking, most of the day in bed. Much better today. I have advanced the second Kirigami sleeve to within two or three rounds of the final increase. There are only five more rounds after that, and I have a couple of promising television programmes salted down – so maybe tonight!

And today, I don’t know how or why, I finally got the Craftsy app to work on my iPad – previously, indeed for years, I had only been able to watch the video. Now I’ve got comments and pattern downloads and all. I celebrated by watching Any Detjen on the subject of joining sleeves to the body of a yoke sweater, with perhaps some profit.

And speaking of Famous Figures in the World of Knitting, I have had an email from Mucklestone-and-Johnston about their 2019 tour of Shetland. Alas, they seem very firm on the subject of fitness. You’ve got to be able to join in the walks. I would particularly like to go back to Burrastow, where the tour group is based and where Kristie and Cath and I stayed when we were there, however many years ago. But I can no longer walk the distances they require.

I’ll give up on trying to show you Alison Watt’s “Octavo” here but I can at least provide a link so that you can see an image of it for yourself. I was entirely deceived -- that’s what they call trompe l’oeil – when I first saw it, and even said to Greek Helen, “If that wasn’t a real piece of paper, it would have to be by Alison Watt”. She replied, “It’s not real. It is Alison Watt.”

This is, of course, a propos Norah Gaughan’s “Foldlines” pattern in the latest Brooklyn Tweed collection. That I have illustrated here, and it didn’t show up very well. The to-do list is embarrassingly long, but I think that one has found a place on it. And at least the Kirigami should be dispatched relatively soon.

There’s a new blog entry from KD, but she’s still thinking about Handywoman, not yet back to knitting. My husband had one of those turners that she is so enthusiastic about, in the last months of his life, for standing up out of his chair and transferring to a wheelchair. And it is, indeed, very ingenious and very good.

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

“Pointless” is certainly serving its purpose – giving structure to that end-of-afternoon period when I sort of tend to fall apart. I’m now on the final stretch of the second Kirigami sleeve – increase every 8th round 4 times. That shouldn’t take long – I’ll be knitting that yoke by the weekend.

Alexander came over today – I hadn’t seen him for quite a while, as he had been at home with his sons during the school holidays. We went round to the Ingleby Gallery, very near, and I’m glad to say that Alison Watt’s folded paper picture was still there. I was very glad to see it again. I’ll try again to show you.

No luck -- I can apparently download the image, but it says "server rejected" when I try to show it to you.

There’s not much to report otherwise.

My portable computer, running Windows something-or-other, has suddenly taken to producing a search engine called “Ask” (possibly by Yahoo) when I type in a random question. If I want Google – which I do; “Ask” is manifestly inferior – I have first to go specifically to, and then ask my question. How did this happen? What can I do to reinstate Google as the norm?

Tuesday, September 04, 2018

Shandy, yes (comment yesterday), we got through Orley Farm, and I have to agree that it’s not his brightest. Have you read “The Three Clerks”? It was recommended in a New Yorker article on Trollope, and is very interesting indeed.

It has been a grand day for knitting. I am whizzing along with the second Kirigami sleeve, and have wound another skein. I’ve got plenty of yarn – should I be regretting that I’m not knitting the next size up? There are lots of slender candidates in the succeeding two generations, if worse comes to worst.

And Andrew and Andrea arrived on schedule. A most interesting episode – I say that every fortnight. I was especially interested in the “Shepherdess” segment, not only because she is not all that far away from Drummond Place, but also because she is producing knitting yarn from Scottish Blackface sheep.

That’s what we’re surrounded with in Strathardle. I had long believed that their wool was virtually worthless nowadays (they’re reared for meat). It was once used for carpet backing, but carpets are now backed with acrylic and anyway are mostly woven in the Netherlands. I thought that sheering Blackface (necessary for their comfort) often cost more than the farmer could get for the wool.

And so today’s shepherdess was told, when she started out. But she persevered, and has produced what sounds like a very interesting line. Most are blends, but she also offers pure Blackface. My first thought was that this might be the yarn for KD’s Stronochlachar. It turns out, on examination, that they are out of several lines, and low on others. But I’ll certainly look back there when I’m ready for Stronochlachar. If Andrea can convert a Jade Starmore into a pullover for Andrew, I ought to be able to switch yarns.

And the big interview is Norah Gaughan – with the plus that you get you find out how to pronounce her name. She is delightful, and extremely interesting. All I want to do, at the moment, is to go on round and round in madtosh DK forever – but a future involving cables and travelling stitches holds much appeal.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Good old Pointless! It’s great to have it back, and I am now 2” or so above the wrist ribbing of the second Kirigami sleeve, with lots of television on tap for this evening.

Shandy,  I read an awful lot of rubbish these days, and can scarcely advise. I know exactly what you mean, about wanting to get back to one’s book. I am currently re-reading Le Carre’s “Drummer Girl” and it’s terribly good. Certainly not rubbish. I don’t even think you’d need to start off with a liking for spy thrillers. There’s always Trollope – life isn’t long enough to finish him, and even the lesser ones are interesting. He’s what my husband and I tended to reach for when we finished one bedtime book and couldn’t think where to turn next. And one can endlessly re-read “Mansfield Park”. I re-read “A Suitable Boy” (Vikram Seth) not long ago – it stands up well. You might have some ideas for me; I would be grateful.

The book that we hadn’t finished reading when my husband died was the Scott-Moncrieff translation of Proust. I’m sure it will remain unfinished. But it’s very good.

I had an email from my sister (a doctor) today. She has just finished reading “Handywoman” and found it very interesting. And Alexander bought himself a copy of the “West Highland Way” recently, although he isn’t interested in knitting patterns. KD should have me in her publicity department.

She’s offering a discount on “Carbeth” kits at the moment – I’m tempted, but must keep my eye on the ball. It’s an attractive pattern, but the next KD I want to knit is Stronachlachar and there are other things in the queue ahead of that one.

I suppose she has been too busy with “Handywoman” to have another knitting book up her sleeve to be released in instalments like the “West Highland Way” or “Book of Haps”. It’s a very nice way to be led on through the dark winter days.

Sunday, September 02, 2018

There’s not much to report this evening, either. But I have an unusually rich crop of television ahead which should last me well into the week, and should certainly advance my knitting this evening. I finished the first Kirigami sleeve last night, distributed the stitches onto waste yarn as instructed,  and am well embarked on the ribbing of the second.

Somehow, the pleasure of speeding around a wrist is not so acute this time.

I had my Italian lesson via Skype from Rome this morning – not quite as stressful as last week, because Skype behaved better, but it still leaves me mentally exhausted for much of the day. I grumbled at one point about verbs, and Federika said that when she was at school they had to write pages and pages of vado, vai, va, andiamo, andate, vanno, present indicative, etc.

I don’t remember that in Detroit we were ever drilled on what would be the English equivalent: I go, I went, I have gone; I see, I saw, I have seen, etc. Although mistakes in this area are common (at least in this country) among highly intelligent people who for that reason (the mistakes) have some avenues in life closed to them.

But I think I need to practice writing out Italian verbs.

Yes, Mary Lou, I watched and enjoyed The Night Manager, and have read it. I think the Drummer Girl is going to be even harder for television to do justice to, and look forward to it with high anticipation.

And the week we have just embarked upon is an Andrew-and-Andrea week!

Saturday, September 01, 2018

I have very little to report. I finished the increases on the first Kirigami sleeve, and am happy to tell you that the stitch count came out right. I’m going to do a couple more rounds and then sign off, leaving the sleeve an inch shorter than specified.

I’ve also finished Neil MacGregor on Living With the Gods. I have located but not yet embarked upon his “100 Object” series. That should keep me going for a while. I remain profoundly grateful to you for the suggestion, Shandy.

And – great news – Blogger has condescended to start sending me your comments as emails again. I didn’t do anything. It just happened.

This morning’s newspaper reports that we are to have a television series of Le Carre’s “Little Drummer Girl” this season. I read it awhile back and thought it remarkable. Today I decided to read it again, and had one of those embarrassing messages from Amazon to say that I already had it. And they were right, of course.

So today the Queen went to the Games, at Braemar. Judging from Edinburgh, we had better weather last week, but at least it wasn’t pouring down. I’ve tried Googl’ing “Highland games in Italian” again to see if Google spotted the answer here, but they don’t seem to have done so. (Giochi delle Highlands)

Friday, August 31, 2018

A fairly industrious day. I even did some doorstep gardening. I’m doing the final cluster of increases on the first Kirigami sleeve – every 8th round 4 times. I should polish that off this evening, and perhaps the sleeve itself if I can find some mindless television. There’s not much to do, when the increases are finished, and I may curtail even that “not much”, preferring sleeves to be on the short side.

I’m no longer worried about not having enough yarn to finish. I was miscalculating, at the beginning, and rather over-prone to worry anyway.

I’ve put my new batch of chilli sauce into containers:

I’m rather proud of that bottle towards the rear. On our way to the Games last Saturday, we found that Blairgowrie was having its monthly farmer’s market. We were in good time, so we stopped for a while, and I bought a bottle of  “Chilli Devil Sauce” from a man from Abernethy. It was his hottest one, he said. It was not at all to my taste – far too sweet, and not nearly hot enough.

What I am proud of is that, instead of leaving it at the back of a kitchen shelf for 4 ½ years and then throwing it out, I tipped it down the lavatory this morning and re-used the bottle for my own purposes.

I had also ordered some “clip-top” Kilner bottles on line – the sort of thing with a plastic plug for the mouth of the bottle, held in place by a metal clip. They arrived this afternoon, too late for the picture, but by now the last of the sauce in the bowl has been decanted into one of them.

I had an enticing email from Toast this morning, followed by an even more enticing look-book (you couldn’t call it a catalogue) in the post. I largely dressed myself in Toast for my cruise, and now I’ve got a wedding coming up. The odd thing is that there are things in the look-book (with price and sizes specified) which I can’t find on the website. And it is from the website that ordering must be done.

Fortunately, perhaps, for those who are going to have to acknowledge a relationship to me on that happy occasion, it is the Mondrian-inspired sweater and seersucker skirt which don’t appear on the website, and the drapey dresses suitable for ladies of advanced years which do.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The first Kirigami sleeve is now 11” long, and I have learned how to do the invisible increases so I no longer have to scrabble for the page on which they are described – this is one of those chapter-long Brooklyn Tweed patterns. Or pore over it syllable by syllable. It’s all looking good.

There’s a new Brooklyn Tweed look-book – you probably know already. Based on the theme of folded paper, and pretty wonderful. I was greatly taken by a picture of folded paper by Alison Watt (whom I greatly admire) when I saw it at the Ingleby Gallery early in the summer. I thought I had downloaded it, but don't seem to be able to post.

It costs rather more than I could afford, anyway. And now I could knit Norah Gaughan’s “Foldline” instead:

Jared is one of the very few photographers who can photograph knitting without being embarrassed by the question of what to do with the model’s hands.


I got up Dublin Street to the Portrait Gallery again today – I’m not going to be able to do that much longer. At least it left me guilt-free for the inactivity of the rest of the day. I met my great-niece C. for coffee. She’s getting married in less than a month, and seems to be bearing up well.

Chloe, that’s good advice about hydration, although my problem is not so much fatigue as weakness. Does cider count? I think it would be a good idea to try to drink a lot more water.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

“Pointless” apparently will take to the air again next week, giving renewed meaning to life.

I made some successful hot sauce today – as before, Jamie Oliver’s YouTube recipe, omitting chillis and chilli powder, stirring in my own fermented chilli mash at the end, blitzing with my blender stick. We’ll never know whether fermentation makes the slightest difference, but it's a good sauce.

I’ve done about 6” of Kirigami sleeve, out of 18 ½. I’m in one of those sections: do a decrease round every 12th round 3 times, then every 10th round 4 times, then… I suddenly began to be afraid that I would wind up with a sleeve of simian length, but I did some measuring and calculating and all seems to be well. My row gauge isn’t quite right, as often; and there is a dire warning in the pattern that if that is so, the yoke will come out wrong. We shall see.

Ann sent me this link to Kristy Glass’ podcast with our own Mary Lou as the featured guest. I was terribly grateful, and would have hated to miss it. Mary Lou and I had lunch together on Broughton Street once – quite a few years ago, by now. The podcast is extremely interesting on a number of fronts.

A lot of it is about “Drop Dead Easy Knits”, the excellent book which ML co-authored. I was glad to be reminded of the Polliwog baby sweater (shewn but not named). I knit it for my second great-granddaughter and it might not be too late to knit it again for the third, born earlier this year. (She had a shawl, but we had so hot a summer that they couldn’t have used it much.) Perhaps even with left-over madtosh DK.

At the second great-granddaughter’s Christening, I had the great pleasure of watching her father pull her polliwog on when we were all in the pub having (a delicious) lunch afterwards, and explaining to a friend – not to me – that he particularly liked this one because it was so easy to put on her. Which is the whole point of Mary Lou’s clever design.

We also saw Mary Lou’s Keynote Pullover, and she said something about the pleasure of a yoke sweater in which the yoke is done with a stitch pattern instead of colour. And I thought – Hey!  Yes! That’s the Kirigami!  There are two such in Kate Davies’ wonderful book “Yokes” – but on one of them the yoke is embellished with more than 1000 beads and I am afraid I draw the line there.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

As hoped, I have embarked on the Kirigami sleeves and am re-experiencing the delight of whipping around the circumference of a wrist after weeks of knitting my way around a body.

I’ve finished the ribbing. The sleeve shaping is done with a very fancy invisible increase which I can only hope I will eventually learn. I wish I had gone for the good old pick-up of the bar between the stitches. It’s not invisible, but makes, to my mind, an attractive little feature. Stephen West – it must be part of his Craftsy class – taught me a neat little mnemonic to determine which way the increases will lean:

I’ll be right back.
I left the front door open.

For a right-leaning increase, insert the left-hand needle under the bar from back to front, and so forth.

But EZ might have had me in mind when she wrote about Blind Followers. If Gudrun wants a fancy invisible increase, that’s what she shalll have.

Non-knit, exactly

I’ll be interested to hear, Kristen and Pattie, what you think of “Handywoman” when you have time to read it. And anyone else, of course. It’s certainly impressive. KD is an impressive woman. She remains anti-stroke, to the end of the book. But when it happened, she was in mental pain, losing weight, and had suffered two psychotic episodes. It is easy to see why her first consultant thought her stroke symptoms were “displacement”, or whatever the word is – he was thoroughgoing in self-reproach when he was proved wrong.

But surely her life now is better is any number of ways than it was pre-stroke, and Tom’s likewise. She’s not “better”, but she can walk two or three miles a day, and regularly does, as well as the other achievements with which we are familiar. The body is a mysterious thing.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Sorry about yesterday. We had a grand day at the Games, and I held out well. But yesterday was exhausting – an early morning Italian lesson, always tiring and this one was via Skype, adding stress. Then Archie came for a late lunch, no stress, grand to see him, but it left me tired in the evening.

And – second apology – no pictures, yet. I carefully charged up my telephone the day before (and was alarmed to find it warm when I unplugged it in the evening). When the baronet began his march across the bridge, eagle feather in cap, drawn sword in hand, the telephone turned out flat as a pancake. It will take a charge, it turns out, but won’t hold it for more than a couple of hours. I’ll have to go see Mr. Apple.

The Games website is rather busy and over-designed, and contains only the briefest glimpse of the baronet, but gives the general idea.

Since we hadn’t been able to take a car to the field the evening before, we had to sit over on the other side, near the heavyweights who put shots and toss cabers. It was rather interesting.

There was a substantial family of Italians picnicking just next to us, with wicker hampers and delicious-looking food. Eventually (and without a drop to drink) I went over and asked them how to say "Highland games" in Italian. They tried to switch into their faultless English but I persevered in execrable Italian for a few more sentences before releasing them and going back to my party. That would have been a silly and bad-mannered way to behave in Palermo, I feel, but in Kirkmichael I can speak any bloody language I want to.

Normally when I don't know something in Italian and can't be bothered to look it up, I Google it. Yesterday morning, in preparation for my Skype lesson from Rome, I tried that. Google doesn't know how to say "highland games" in Italian.   I felt triumphantly vindicated. ("Giochi delle Highlands") 


Tired means tired, so not much has been done. But today I reached the armholes of the Kirigami, much counting of stitches, and divided the work. The instructions said to leave the yarn attached, nearly a full ball, so I did that and wound the next one. That leaves me ready to cast on the first sleeve this evening, when there is lots of interesting television.

Friday, August 24, 2018

A great day for books.

I’m reading Kate Davies’ “Handywoman” at a gallop, and enjoying it very much. It is astonishing how rapidly she has lept from Beginning Knitter to Famous Designer, quite apart from having that trajectory interrupted by her stroke. But for the stroke, she would almost certainly never have attempted it. She is clearly much happier and more fulfilled in her present life than in her pre-stroke one. She understandably resists throughout the slightest suggestion that the stroke was a good thing in any way. I haven’t finished yet – maybe these contradictions will be resolved in the last chapter.

And “Knitting in Antarctica” is here too. I have only flipped through it, and look forward to a leisurely study. Antarctica is a totally inhospitable continent, of course. There is no native population. The knitters are there to work, and the patterns are all hats which they have devised. But there is plenty of information about the place and the experience of living there,  and photographs, and it looks fascinating.

As for me, I’ve now done 14” of Kirigami, and wound and joined in the next skein. And Neil MacGregor has got on to monotheism.

Games Day tomorrow. I almost certainly won’t appear here. If we were in Kirkmichael, we would already have driven down to the field and left our car (well supplied with beer and cider) in a choice spot by the track. Then in the morning we would carry our picnic down in a cold box and be ready to feed the Five Thousand.

Archie is coming to lunch on Sunday and I have an early-morning Italian lesson by Skype from Rome itself. But I should be fit, nevertheless, I hope, to report on the Games later in the day,

I meant to tell you that my toil-up-the-hill yesterday enabled me to have a look, at last, at  our new fancy-schmancy restaurant. I was surprised to note that one of the items on the menu involved wild garlic. That plant appears in the spring and by this time of year has completely disappeared. Can fancy growers coax it forth all year round? Can you freeze it?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The measure now stands at 13 ¼”. That’s better. I should finish the current skein tomorrow, and perhaps even reach the current goal-line, 15” for the underarm.

I got “Ziggurat”. Kathy (of Kathy’s Knits) is actually knitting one of the patterns, and is actually acquainted with Asa Tricosa, who spends part of the year in Scotland.  I feel I ought to make the attempt. I wish she worked in percentages like EZ, but there are plenty of schematics. I could work it out for myself. She has a neat figure (as does Kathy) and goes in for minimal ease. Not me.

I still can’t find that old Vogue Knitting Book. I think the pattern I want is in one of the last – perhaps even the very last – of the old-style VKBs. Mine are all in order in box files, but the latest issue I have is No. 60, which must have been published in the autumn of ’62, since it started up in ’32 and kept resolutely going through the war.

I can’t remember when it subsided, but No. 60 certainly wasn’t the end.

So a box file must be missing, I guess. I have followed my own advice and repeatedly gone back through the box files which are here, without success.

KD says her new book “Handywoman” has been dispatched. Maybe tomorrow? I’m greatly looking forward to it, and she’s clearly very proud of it.


I’m going to the Games on Saturday – the Fourth Saturday in August has come round again. It’s been awhile since any of us have been there, and I’m going just as a day trip. It will be odd. Neil MacGregor was talking today about religious festivals, and I thought how neatly the Games fitted the description, except for not having the slightest element of religion. Everybody is there, gentle and simple, and it celebrates everything we have been doing during the year, knitting and cooking and tending the sheep.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Only 11 ½” – not the Great Leap Forward I had expected. I may have as much as another inch left in this third skein – good news.

I failed to find the old VK pattern I mentioned, the one I have been thinking of for my madtosh stash. I’ll keep looking. The Kirigami, if it achieves nothing else, will provide me with an impeccable swatch.

Thank you for your help with the question of whether to buy the new version of Brown-Reinsel on ganseys.  Jenny – I feel this is an awfully ignorant question – how do I find reviews on Ravelry? She doesn’t even seem to have a group. One of the customer reviews on Amazon – I love that feature – said yes, buy this one even if you have the other one; but for the moment, at least, I’m taking your friend’s advice, Cat, and abstaining.

On the other hand, Beverley, I have ordered “Knitting in Antarctica”. The customer reviews are ecstatic. Thank you for that.

And tomorrow, I may finally close in on “Ziggurat”. I have been past “Kathy’s” a couple of times since one of you told me she had it, but both times I was heavily laden, and books are heavier still. Tomorrow I mean to walk up the hill to the bank and come back down carrying no more than a fillet of haddock at most.


There is still not the slightest sign of activity in my jar of fermenting chillis. I tried a cautious taste yesterday, looking for the characteristic fizz – but the brine was so hot that I couldn’t taste anything else. There are a couple of Carolina Reapers in there, thanks to Tesco. I’ll go ahead and make sauce next week, whatever. (Jamie Oliver’s YouTube recipe, omitting the chillis, and adding my fermented mash at the end.)

Greek Helen and her family were in Kirkmichael over the weekend. She brought me back a few apples from the hitherto unproductive tree. She said they came off in her hand when given a gentle quarter-turn. That’s said to be the test. They taste unripe to me. This morning I made some spicy chutney (unfermented) with them. Unripe chutney is certainly preferable to apples that fall and rot in the grass.

I choked up too, listening to President Obama sing “Amazing Grace” yesterday.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Nearly 11 inches. We’re aiming at 15.

I’m much more hopeful now that I may have enough Penny Loafer for the whole job. When I resumed work – last week, was it? – I had some ribbing and a bit beyond attached to a ball of yarn. I also found an already-wound ball in the bag. That second ball, now consumed, looked oddly small and I’m now sure it was so. Did I knit a substantial swatch? Stranger things have happened.

At any rate, this third skein has some mileage in it yet. I’ll certainly reach the armholes (15”) before the fourth skein is finished. (I had eight.) And if I run short, I think I have decided that Composition Book Grey is the right answer for the yoke.

Neil MacGregor continues well. There was a marvellous moment this morning when, in an episode about hymn-singing, he played a recording of the occasion when President Obama, preaching at the funeral of a black pastor who had been gunned down in a hate crime, flung aside his text and started singing “Amazing Grace”. Gosh.

Today is Andrew-and-Andrea-Tuesday. I can face them, now that I'm knitting again. While flailing about a bit last night, I watched the first few moments of a few knitting blogs. They were very weak, by comparison. “Professional” would be the wrong word for A&A. They represent the very best of what is meant by “amateur”. Today’s guest is an American shepherdess and spinner. Most interesting. I haven’t finished watching it yet.

But I was grateful again for the spinning class I did at the EYF this year. I was the class dunce, as I told you at the time (and as I had expected). But I learned a bit about what it was all about. And the teacher said something which has enabled me to remember the difference between “woollen” and “worsted”.

Looking at that delicious pile of madtosh DK’s, piled up on the chair to be photographed for you yesterday, I felt I really ought to do something with them. And I thought of something I might do – in an ancient VK. I’ll see if I can find it. It would need a certain amount of thinking – but Andrea’s demonstration today of how she knit a child’s cardigan as a pullover for Andrew inspired me to feel that thinking is not impossible.

Apart from the yarns you saw, I’ve also got “Tannehill” from the Sous Sous pattern. Devoted readers will remember – I finished front and back and sewed them together with one piece upside down.

A question for you: the new issue of IK says that Brown-Reinsel’s gansey book has been updated and re-issued. That’s one I actually use (as distinct from just admiring it on my shelf). Do I need the new one?

Monday, August 20, 2018

Thanks to Shandy and Neil MacGregor, the Kirigami is now a shadow under 9” long. Moving forward nicely, in fact.  The stitches slide most deliciously around the needle, unlike the ones for the Calcutta Cup vest which I am constantly having to help over the hasp.

It was good to discover that MacGregor’s 100-Object podcasts are still available, too.

You're right about Radio Four, Shandy. I would like to have heard both of the programmes you describe. In the Good Old Days, classy newspapers had ads all over the front page . The Glasgow Herald continued the practice longer, even, than the Times.

One of the very worst moments of Cuban Missile Crisis week was when the Herald had an emphatic little box in the middle of those front page ads, announcing that all the nuclear submarines in the Holy Loch had put to sea.

Weavinfool, you were right – the left-over madtosh DK was in bags in that cupboard. I looked there yesterday. I looked again this morning, and there it was. It’s a general rule of life – I’m sure you all know it, but there’s no harm in enunciating it anew – that in any search, it’s a good idea to go back from time to time and look again where the thing ought to be.

Here’s what I’ve got:

Colours don't show up very well. The basic Penny Loafer yarn is the group to the left of centre.

As you see, I tend to over-buy. Why didn’t I do that this time? Probably because wherever-it-was didn’t have any more. Thank you, Shandy, for the suggestion that I appeal to Ravelry. I hadn’t thought of that. At the moment, I think I’ve got so much madtosh DK that I had better make do with what I’ve got. That dark brown, Whiskey Barrel, centre right, would go well colour-wise, but would the elegant stitch pattern show up? Composition Book Grey, centre top, which is in fact sort of purple, would pick up the blue notes in Penny Loafer and might be better.

Here is a cat picture for you, taken on Paradox’ recent birthday. She is in the foreground.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

You have hit the jackpot again, Shandy. After only a moderate amount of thrashing about, I found a series of Neil MacGregor podcasts called, I think, “Living with the Gods”. With their help – three episodes so far – I have polished off the second skein. Presumably when I finish this series, I can find others.

Two skeins have yielded 6 ½”, not much. I will therefore need slightly more than half the yarn to get to the underarm. If I run short, the only solution will be to do the whole yoke in a different yarn. Madtosh dk is a fave of mine. I am ransacking stash, but am so far unsuccessful in finding yarn I know is there.

“Fake or Fortune” tonight, in which I gather we get to hear Fiona Bruce speaking French. (I was impressed with Jamie Oliver’s spoken Italian in his new cookery programme last week, too.) I should get the new skein wound and embarked upon.

My Neil MacGregor story is hardly worth telling. My husband and I were at a small exhibition devoted to Sir George Beaumont, an important patron of, among others, my husband’s artist D*vid W*lkie. I don’t remember where we were – maybe Tate Britain. Nobody much was there. Neil MacGregor came in and said “Hello, Hamish” for that was my husband’s name.

I have met one or two famous people who sort of glow with fame. Aren’t-you-lucky-to-be-talking-to-me sort of thing. Neil MacGregor wasn’t like that. He was alone, wearing an undistinguished raincoat. I doubt if I was in fact introduced. I don’t remember what happened next. Probably they exchanged a few words about Sir George Beaumont and went their separate ways.

At least I knew who he was. We were once in a dealer’s showroom when a man came in, with two friends. The dealer cried “Hello, David!” in great excitement. I had all the clues – he was tanned, and I even caught a faint whiff of homosexuality. When we were safely out on the pavement where I couldn’t do anything embarrassing, my husband told me that it was David Hockney we had just seen.