Tuesday, May 31, 2005


The 31st of May always comes as a slight surprise to me -- I expect this most delicious of months to have only 30 days, like its ugly sister November. And every year, this wonderful bonus day.

Knitting-wise, there's little to report. The Clapotis is now more laddering than knitting, as stitches are dropped for ladders at both ends of the row, and the rows themselves are getting shorter. The whole object has reached the stage where my husband asked what it was last night, clearly about to think of someone it could be whisked away to, in case I threatened to wear it myself. I told him it was for (Rachel's daughter) Hellie, who looked at the pattern and pictures in Knitty and pronounced it OK before I started. He was comforted.

A bit more winding of "Pioneer" was accomplished, too. The skein is so big that it doesn't flow easily on the swift, and I am considering trying to lift it off onto the back of a chair. If I get it wrong, of course, I'm left with the mother of all tangles.

We went to see an Italian film called "The Consequences of Love" yesterday. Cool, strange, very interesting. It is hard to know, about my eyes -- are they getting worse? How fast? Or am I just worrying because I have been told to worry? But there was an objective test -- things are undoubtedly worse than they were the last time we saw a movie. When was that? Probably Farenheit 9/11. I was sort of scared for a while.

The rocket and lettuce on the doorstep are growing so fast that I think we will have another photograph this weekend.

Monday, May 30, 2005

The Princess Shawl Posted by Hello

Vive La France!

...and you don't often catch me saying that.


TWO, from Friday the 27th of May.

Barbara, I tried to write to you. I still haven't got this comment thing straight -- the system seemed to be offering my own email address (jean@jeanmile.demon.co.uk) for me to reply to. Yes, I've got the Princess Shawl pattern and, as I said yesterday, I am utterly mystified as to why it shouldn't be available now. It is published in loose sheets (beautifully and meticulously presented) -- I would assume that all that is needed is to crank up a rather superior computer printer and run off another copy. It must have cost Sharon months of work. Why withdraw it? As I said yesterday, I have emailed her to ask.

Judith, thank you for your advice on the Clapotis. Anyone who is thinking of ever knitting this rather fun project should read Judith's remarks. They came just after I had done the first repeat of decrease rows. I have enough yarn, I think, to add at least one repeat to the centre section and seriously considered frogging and doing it. In the end, I didn't. Laziness, eagerness to finish, whatever. I ought to be able to do some fiddling at the blocking stage (the last refuge of the lazy knitter).

That's about it. There was a good article on blogging in the Independent on Sunday yesterday, about posting pictures. The nub of the problem is that Blogger itself, a free service, doesn't host pictures, so they have to go somewhere else with a link. The article may have the answer. Once current commitments abate, I'm really going to take blogging in hand.

Good progress on the Clapotis yesterday.


Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lettuce and rocket Posted by Hello

The great thing about blogging is that it is a major incentive to do the things I say I'll do: I ordered one ball of lace merino yarn (white) from Sharon Miller yesterday, and we shall see. I'm not going to attempt this (the Princess Shawl) unless the knitting is going to be -- well, "fun" is the best word I can think of. Tough, you understand, but fun. I love knitting with merino, in various forms -- including, of course, Koigu -- so I am hopeful. If a sample proves to be too big, I think I could probably figure out how to remove one of the "feathers" from the pattern. Sharon gives the dressed tension per edging point, which will be useful, as the edging is the obvious thing to swatch.

Janis was thinking of doing a knit-along with me on this project, so I tried to get a copy of the pattern for her and couldn't find it. I emailed SM on the subject. Janis has a pretty daughter who might be getting married in 20 or 30 years.

Meanwhile the Clapotis has reached the decrease rows. I should be able to polish it off this week.


My favourite blogs seem largely static this morning, presumably because of Memorial Day. England is having a holiday weekend too, for Whitsun, oblivious of the fact that Whitsun (=Pentecost) happened a fortnight ago. Scotland, although much prone to taking mysterious holidays on Mondays in the early summer, is functioning more or less as normal. I'm not a great fan of holiday Mondays. Scotland actually celebrates Queen Victoria's Birthday on one of those Mondays -- I forget whether we've had that one yet, this year.

Today's picture is the trough of lettuce and rocket on our doorstep. The bold seedlings at either end are the rocket (arugula); lettuce can perhaps been discerned in between.





Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wedding Veils

My sister joined Janis in approving the idea, so I went back to thinking seriously about it yesterday. What follows may suffer from bad arithmetic.

Sharon Miller did the Princess shawl in "DMC Crochet cotton #70". I think I found a source for that -- she doesn't sell it herself, and I couldn't find the little twist of cotton she sent me once for swatching. If arithmetic serves, the finished shawl would weigh 260 grams. She says that that is a "thicker and more durable" thread than the one used in the original shawl presented to Alexandra, Princess of Wales and that her pattern would benefit from being done in even finer yarn. Ouch.

SM sells an Italian-spun fine merino in which the finished shawl would weigh 300 grams. Since cotton is intrinsically heavier than wool, the wool yarn is almost certainly coarser.

Janis suggested a yarn called "soy infinity" which I had never heard of, and which is very tempting. Three cones of that would probably be enough, and would bring the shawl in again at 300 grams.

I have some suri alpaca which I bought from Cherry Tree Hill at Stitches East in, I think, '02. It's wonderful, and feels weightless. I looked that up, just for comparison (I don't think it's available in white) -- the shawl would weigh 500 grams. (I mean to make an Orenberg with mine, but haven't got around to it.)

I suppose the next step is to order one ball of SM's merino and see how I get on with it, playing around a bit with needles and needle sizes. There remains the very serious question: can I do this?

Meanwhile the Clapotis is very near the decreases, but not quite there yet after all. Today, surely. Nor have I made much of any progress towards clearing the swift so I can use it to wind all those Merging Colours.



Friday, May 27, 2005

Rabbit in Headlights

I'm currently working the 12th of the 13 pattern repeats for the centre section of the Clapotis. I may even get to start decreasing this evening.

I spent yesterday in a great tizzy of rapidly-changing decisions about that wedding shawl idea. The Japanese silk is out -- I can't handle it. The first decision was to lower my sights from the Princess Shawl to the Unst Bridal Shawl and to knit it in Sharon Miller's own merino wool. Then I got to wondering whether the whole project isn't a bit ridiculous. I am also worried about needle size and colour. Gladys Amedro, my cicerone in the world of fine lace knitting, never uses a needle smaller than 3 mm. The 2.25 mm Sharon Miller recommends for these fancy projects definately feels small, and to me uncomfortable. And the white-on-white effect -- white yarn on pale grey metallic needles -- is certainly part of the problem. There's no fun in knitting if it's no fun.

But then this morning I got a wonderful email from my cyberfriend Janis. We met (so to speak) over a Christening shawl, and it was she who introduced me (so to speak) to Queer Joe. She makes some interesting suggestions about both yarn and needles, and my spirits have revived. I said yesterday that I wasn't interested in trying cotton. which is what SM used. But Janis recommends a cotton yarn, and I think I have a little twist of something somewhere that Sharon herself sent me. Perhaps the next thing to do is to find it and to (choke) make another swatch perhaps using 3mm needles just to see what happens.

My sister recommended the Knitting Doctor's blog (http://mousepotato.typepad.com); I have added her to my list of favourites, although slightly annoyed at her yes-I-am-a-doctor-and-I-knit tone. She's not Perri Klass. Queer Joe doesn't have a headline saying Yes-I-am-a-software-consultant-and-I-knit. But once you're past that, the content is pretty interesting.


I have planted lettuce and rocket in a trough on the doorstep and they have come up! Less than a week. The lettuce is a loose-leaf red-leaved one which should be pretty as well as edible. I'll take a picture as soon as there is anything to see.


Thursday, May 26, 2005

Here's the Clapotis.  Posted by Hello

99,999.99 miles to go

No, not on the Clapotis, which progresses well. There it is above, with the current half-laddered ladder clearly visible. I'm now knitting the 11th of the 13 repeats needed for the centre section.

Yesterday -- something to do with spring, perhaps -- I thought of a project I have long cherished, namely to knit a bridal veil for the use of my granddaughters (and granddaughters-in-law, perhaps, too). My eldest granddaughter is 18 -- in My Day, we might have hoped for a wedding within the quinquennium. But nowadays no one gets married until they're 40, if then. It might be better to knit the veil calmly now while I still can, and while there's no deadline. I've had some fine Japanese silk on hand for the purpose for a while now, and yesterday, with half an hour to spare at the end of the afternoon, I got it out and cast on for Sharon Miller's Princess Shawl (www.heirloom-knitting.com).

I knit seven rows of the first scallop of the edging -- only 85 scallops are needed -- and I thought, I can't do this. It was a grim moment, as if Death Himself had sat down opposite to watch me work.

Calm down. The trouble may be the yarn, which is pure silk. My previous Maximum Opus used a wool & silk mixture -- it's Kirsty's Christening dress and shawl, and can be seen on my website (www.jeanmile.demon.co.uk) somewhere. It came from the Knitter's Underground and I don't think they do it anymore. Anyway, it's sort of ivory coloured. A bride needs pure white.

But there must be an oddball lying around. Today, fortified by a night's sleep, I will try a couple more rows of the silk. If I still can't hack it, I'll face the fact that I have not after all taken the first step on a ten thousand mile journey, but am swatching. I'll try a bit in Kirsty's yarn, and then some in Margaret Stove's Artisan merino. I only have that in rather lurid colours, but it's pure wool, and the point of the experiment would be to see if I like that any better. Sharon has very fine pure wool merino on her website, so it would be easy enough to acquire some.

Sharon's own prototype Princess shawl is knit in cotton, but I'm not tempted down that path.

Can you get ebony needles in small sizes? The trouble may also be my poor old eyes. White yarn on metallic needles is not easy.

More on this subject will follow, no doubt. Meanwhile Rachel says the Fair Isle jacket arrived safely in London. She is brave about the neckline, and says it will do with the bottons open. It is very warm just now, so she won't have much chance to try. And it will be some time before we see her again.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

James-the-Younger and Thomas-the-Younger Posted by Hello

A rest from knitting, today. This is the picture which Alexander sent out recently to mark Thomas's six-month-ness. That is the way Thomas looks the instant before he realises that it's YOU, the very person he was waiting to see, and breaks out into a smile which will take him far in life.

The Clapotis advances. I'm supposed to do 13 repeats of the 12-row pattern for the centre section, and I've polished off nine of them, all but one row. Picture tomorrow, probably. It's comical how reluctant a stitch is to unravel, when you want it to, given the enthusiasm with which it bounds away when it escapes unnoticed. I keep picking away at the ladders, aiming to have each one done before it's time to drop the next stitch.

I also began thinking of future design yesterday, a pleasant mental exercise. I don't really mind thinking, I've decided,  except where it slows down actual knitting. The Merging Color sweater will be an EPS-type raglan. I've done that sort of thing in Fair Isle -- before ever I heard of EPS, indeed -- and what I would do there is calculate the sleeve length, after knitting the body to the armpits, and start the sleeve pattern so that it would be on the same row as the body, pattern-wise and colour-wise, when they got joined up.

Would I do it that way for MC? Or take the sleeve through the whole color sequence, speeded up if need be? (I'm assuming for the mo that sleeves are shorter than bodies -- maybe they aren't.) The former, I think, but it does need thought. Meanwhile I didn't get much Pioneer wound (see yesterday).


I spent yesterday afternoon dealing with the pile of mail which accumulated while we were away recently. How on earth does anyone manage the details of life if they've got anything else to do, such as children or a job or both? By not justifying bank statements, is one way. I had spent the morning, similarly, preparing an armload of mail for dispatch -- including the Fair Isle jacket, now on its way to Rachel in London. They've closed our local; post office, a great loss, so whenever anything needs over-the-counter attention it's worth worth wrapping up everything in sight and making one trip up the hill for everything.

Rachel doesn't have a digital camera, so we'll have to wait awhile to see how bad the neckline looks on her.


Tuesday, May 24, 2005

My swift in use Posted by Hello

My swift

I can't start knitting the Marging Colors for awhile, but I took a couple of baby steps yesterday in that direction. First of all, I need access to the swift, which has been occupied for fully a year by a half-wound ball of Helen's Lace in a beautiful shade called Pioneer. I bought it for Thomas the Younger's shawl, and decided it was too dark for a baby and so knit the shawl of something else. Winding a skein of Helen's Lace is no joke, and I had no incentive until now to finish the job. (Such winding as I've had to do in the interim, has been done on my knee.)

I got the swift from an antique shop a few years ago -- my husband likes that kind of shopping, I do not, but there it was. I admired it, but it was only as I thought about it afterwards that I decided I wanted it, and went back. It's been very useful, and it looks kinda nice too, I feel. It's certainly nice to have a swift that can serve as part of the furniture and doesn't have to be dismantled.

So now I'm winding Helen's Lace. It'll take a while. My major design books -- Vicki Square's Knitting Great Basics and the Vogue Knitting book -- are in the country assisting with Rachel's striped Koigu, but I think I can start to make some tentative notes about the Merging Colors sweater anyway. Hoffentlich, by the time the decks are clear and I'm ready to start knitting, I'll have something to knit.


... but sort of following on with the theme of shopping. Alexander (father of Jamie and Thomas-the-Younger) rang up yesterday to tell us he had recently seen a picture in a charity shop window which looked to him like Graham Sutherland (major British 20th century). He went by a couple of days later and it was still there so he went in for a closer look, and found that it was signed "GS '58". It was priced at a tenner, and Alexander tried to buy it, but the man turned it over and found "Graham Sutherland" written on the back, and withdrew it from sale.

I passed the telephone to my husband at the point where "GS '58" was mentioned, and heard the end of the story from him. He was sorry Alexander failed to get the picture, but since Alexander (who collects modern art) didn't want it for his own walls, my husband really wasn't much agitated by the near miss. Evincing thereby, I think, a genuine simplicity of spirit. If the picture is by Sutherland -- the anecdote I have related is suggestive, but proves nothing -- Alexander could have sold it for a five-figure sum, maybe six, I don't really know. My husband is not senile, nor utterly unworldly, but art is much more important to him than money.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Rachel's striped Koigu -- latest Posted by Hello

The weather is miserable, and promises to be so for the rest of the week, so I don't have to feel too sad at being separated from my vegetables. And wet and warm is just what they need. I planted some lettuce and rocket seed yesterday in a trough on the doorstep here, just to keep me company. I already have a herb trough, much used (parsley, thyme, chives, and mint).

Today's illustration is Rachel's striped Koigu, in the country. I finished the back while we were there, and the left front, joined it at the shoulder with a three-needle bind off, and am nearly finished with the right front. After the near-disaster of the Fair Isle jacket neckline, I put a lot of effort into thinking about this one. Which is not to say I got it right, just that I did try. How deep and wide to make the placket, how to shape the neck. I have probably gone to the opposite extreme and made it so high that it will strangle her. She can leave the top button open.

It occurred to me at Mass yesterday that this sweater will make an excellent large-scale swatch for the Merging Colors, which knit to Koigu gauge, Candace says. Since the current sweater is five-row stripes, it is simplicity itself to count exactly how many rows there are in the whole thing.

As for actual knitting, I forge on with the Clapottis, which has turned in to a rather clenched-teeth affair. But I couldn't start the Merging Colors if I wanted to, until I have done an awful lot of ball-winding first.



Sunday, May 22, 2005

Merging Colors -- here's the yarn! Posted by Hello

Merging Colors

That's what the package was, all right -- and there's a (washed-out) pic of the contents. The Adagio shawl on Candace' website will provide an idea of the effect (www.strickwear.com), but I want to do a sweater. That's going to involve -- as well as a lot of ball-winding -- working out pretty closely in advance how many rows there will be in the finished item. But I've done that in my day for Fair Isle patterns; it's not impossible, and will indeed impose a certain attention to detail before I start.

That won't be until I've done the Clapotis (we're roughly half-way), the hat for my Games entry, and the negative-image striped Koigu for grandson Thomas-the-Younger's first birthday. All relatively quick projects.

The sweater will be for me, unless my husband deems it Unsuitable. He has become very adroit recently at whisking away FO's which he deems to fall into that category. I did the Round Trip jacket (Knitters', Fall '03) for example, for the simple love of the pattern and of Noro Kureyon. Just the thing for Cathy, he said, and off it went to Beijing. That would have been too small for me anyway. Then there was the Striped Fringe scarf from IK -- I don't have a note of the issue to hand -- where the vertical stripes disconnected from each other to form a fringe at either end. That went to a neice.


I've been re-reading my mother's thrillers. The first, A Talent for Murder, is really rather good, even after all these years. The second,. Murderer's Choice, begins with a brilliant McGuffin -- I hope I'm using that technical term correctly -- but is rather dull thereafter, and the ending, which turns on a confusion between woody nightshade and deadly nightshade, is simply bad botany. Mother was fully as confused on the subject as her characters. (The McGuffin is this: the book begins with a meeting between two cousins, who hate each other. The rich one tells the poor one that he has made him his heir, and also taken out a huge insurance policy on his life with his cousin as beneficiary. He means to commit suicide, he says, in a way that will look as if his poor cousin had murdered him. So far so good, but the real brilliance is to follow: when the serious action of the book begins, the rich cousin has been dead for six months, apparently of natural causes, and not the slightest suspicion falls on the poor cousin. He can't stand the suspense, and consults a private detective.)

I've gone on to the third, Sin of Angels, which starts reasonably well. My mother's name was Anna Mary Wells, and her books are available on Abebooks.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

My garden, yesterday Posted by Hello
A potato (Lady Balfour, by name) -- coming up! Posted by Hello


Here we are back in Edinburgh again. For the moment, sans illustration, as the camera battery was warning of flatness as I took the farewell pictures yesterday. I'll charge it and post them soon.

Starting with the usual garden one. Still not much to see, except rhubarb. But the eight water bottles which currently protect the newly-planted courgette (zucchini) seeds should be visible, and the runner bean teepee. I am sure it was runner bean seeds that Jack swapped the cow for. They are big and shiny and beautiful and under ideal conditions grow with something like fairy-tale speed.

The garden is planted. The first week we were there, the weather was as lovely as May can be. Pretty amazing. It passed for me in a sort of frenzy of anxiety -- would I get everything done before either the weather or my strength gave out? I did, and the rain came this week just as I was beginning to get more than a bit worried about dustiness. In the last 24 hours before we left, three different things appeared above ground: Indian mustard and mizuma among the saladings, and some cabbage elsewhere. And the potatoes planted in April are showing. The seedlings are too miniscule for photography, but I have tried to represent a potato. I had thought that rocket (arugula) would be the first to show, but there was no sign of it yesterday morning.

The pleasure in vegetable-growing, as in knitting, is largely but not entirely in the process. One of the happiest by-products of the former, for me, is the view. The grounds around our house look loved, I think, and to a degree, tended, but by no means manicured. I love the sense of order in the vegetable patch, those nearly-straight green rows, those few square yards of wilderness tamed.

The 2005 weeds haven't really hit their stride yet -- I was still able to make headway against them. This happy state fosters every year the illusion that this year I will tweak out every weed as it appears, so that in 2006 it will require no effort at all to get the ground ready for seeds. Not so, I am afraid.

All that, and the glorious light, and, best of all, no midges yet. The rest of the year is just there to lead up to and away from May.

I got quite a bit of knitting done on Rachel's Koigu sweater -- picture tomorrow, I hope -- due to coming in paralyzed with exhaustion and capable of nothing else for half an hour. Koigu is heaven on the fingers. The Clapotis was a bit hard to resume yesterday -- the 50% silk in the beautiful yarn seems very harsh and unyielding by comparison.

Amongst the knee-high pile of mail behind the door was a card from the Post Office about a package they couldn't deliver. That'll be my Merging Colors yarn, I hope. I'll go collect it today.


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

It's Done! Posted by Hello

There It Is

Finished. If I have another go at reducing the Shetland jumper-weight stash next winter, I'll knit a pullover, and pay more attention to detail.

I had a pleasant evening knitting more Clapotis -- I even finished a skein of yarn. I keep track on a spreadsheet of yarn-in and yarn-out, a meaningless statistic especially for one who knits as many stripes as I do and thus rarely finishes a ball of yarn. The current score for '05 stands at a rather unsatisfactory 14 out, 32 in, with a custom-dyed order of Candace Strick's Merging Colors on its way to me as we speak (www.strickwear.com).

So, we're off to the country today, and the weather forecast is good. We may be away as long as a fortnight: no blog. Yesterday went well on the worm front until late afternoon, when another batch of 50 or so arrived. (None this morning, which is very encouraging.) I wrote to Demon but they entirely failed to grasp the problem, and wrote back telling me not to open attachments and to keep my virus software up to date, when what I am worried about is an overflowing mailbox. Would I know the name of the worm if my software wasn't up to date?

Knitting magazine put in an appearance yesterday. I think I was wrong to worry -- it comes out in the second week of the month, whereas my cookery and gardening magazines turn up the week before. It -- Knitting -- seems to be going from strength to strength, although there's still nothing there I want to knit.

Mary Morrison makes the current Rowan magazine sound interesting, including something from Sharon Miller who wrote Heirloom Knitting.  



Monday, May 09, 2005

I did it!

There's something to be said for blogging. I was peacefully knitting away on the Clapotis last night, watching an episode of the Simpsons, when I realised that the night was no longer young and that I had PROMISED to sew those buttons on. So I did. I'll hold off on the final photograph until I've got it blocked. It looks pretty good, until you try it on and see how awful the neckline is. I'll take a picture of it with the terrestrial camera, too, for archive purposes. I've become sloppy about the paper archives since I started blogging. I know I could beam digital photographs into the ether and get them back through the letterbox as prints, but I never get around to doing it.

I haven't heard from W32.sober.O for 24 hours. I hope that means the infected machine is cured -- or maybe it just isn't switched on on Sunday? If I was getting hundreds, that computer, wherever it is, must have been sending many, many thousands. I'll keep fingers crossed through today, just in case.

The excitement of the promotion of Cathy's book sent me back, yesterday, to my mother's first and best, A Talent For Murder. (Her name was Anna Mary Wells and there are lots of cheap copies on Abebooks.) It's not half bad. I wonder if I have ever before re-read it? I was ten when it came out in 1943 (no secrets here). I certainly read it then, and remember it vividly, including whodunnit.

The celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe are raging. I only really grasped when we went through this ten years ago for the 50th, that this anniversary is far more meaningful to people here than the real end of the war, in August. My husband was serving in the Far East so he, like all Americans, regards the real end as the significant date.

We are reading Churchill's "The Second World War" as our bedtime book at the moment. There's some good stuff there. I'm learning a lot. He paid meticulous attention to detail, a characteristic I hadn't entirely expected. Had he been a knitter, he would have got that neckline right. A little paragraph in one of the Sunday papers yesterday recalled that, the day before the German surrender, he wrote to the Ministry of Food ordering them to make sure that there was enoigh beer in London.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The Clapotis in progress Posted by Hello

I didn't sew those buttons on. (I will this evening, I really will.) I got to the first ladder in the Clapotis and it was such fun that I pressed on to the second. The yarn doesn't want to ladder; it has to be helped -- but that's fun, too. The ladders are on the corner to the right, and you can't really see them in the picture.

We've decided to take an extra day here, and go back to the country on Tuesday. It was an exciting week, one way and another, and I feel I didn;t get much forrad'er with the business of life, such as ironing and paying bills.

I am being beseiged by a virus -- a worm, strictly -- called W32.sober.O. It's one of those ones that sends copies of itself to all the addresses it finds on the infected computer. This sort of thing is perhaps slightly worse for people like me with their own domain name -- the wretched thing can make up addresses and I have to receive anything sent to Anyname@jeanmile.demon.co.uk.

I'm not infected myself. At the moment, Norton is set to tell me every time it finds an incoming virus. I can probably change that if I exert myself. The trouble with this one is that I'm getting batches of 50 or more, several times a day. While we're here, it's just irritating. But when we go away on Tuesday. my mailbox will soon get stuffed full. I'll try writing to demon, but I doubt if there's anything they can do. I used to get quite a few viruses in my Knitlist moderating days, addressed to Knitlist-owner. Life has been peaceful since then -- until this.

Still no Knitting magazine. Something must be wrong. I can't imagine there's much I want to see in a summer issue, but I've got every copy since they started and I'd be sorry to break the chain.


Saturday, May 07, 2005

FOA Posted by Hello

How's that for an unexpected picture?

Catherine Sampson is my daughter-in-law, wife of James-the-Elder in Beijing. FOA is her first book, published last year. (Hand on heart: it's good. It's published by Macmillan, and it's available in the States too.) Yesterday morning we got a message from China (from James, not Cathy) to say that the cheap edition was being launched so in the afternoon after our lunch party I sent my husband up to the bookstores on George Street with the camera. I used to think that three-for-two was the bookstore's way of offloading books they couldn't otherwise get rid of, but that is apparently not so. It is a great boost to sales if you are selected.

She has delivered book two to the publishers, but I know no more -- neither what it is called or when it will be out or whether she has a further contract.

My mother had a modest success writing thrillers ("detective stories", they were called in those days) in the 40's and early 50's. Hers was a difficult, depressive, mistrusting character and she missed out thereby on a lot of the joy family life might have brought her. I so wish she had lived to see this. She would have been delighted by Cathy's success, without complication or reservation.

James has bought the domain name catherinesampson.com for future use.

We had a nice lunch. Our recent purchase occupies a lot of space, at the moment, in boxes in the dining room (well away from the leaky part of the ceiling). Our guest, a publisher, said "Ah! Cook & Wedderburn!", although those words do not appear on the spines.

I spoke to Mrs Carson yesterday, and can only hope that things are in hand upstairs. I want to get back to my vegetables (and grass-cutting) next week. We can't sit around forever waiting for water to come through the ceiling.

Anyway, knitting.

I did a bit more Clapotis, and reached the first ladder. Great fun. Tonight I'll have to sew those buttons on.

I had a nice note from Marilyn, in the form however of one of those comments that I can't reply to. Hi! Marilyn, and thanks.


Friday, May 06, 2005

Rocking-horse Posted by Hello

Mrs Carson

Truly devoted readers will remember the name.

I didn't sew the wretched buttons on last night, because someone is coming to lunch today and therefore the dining-room floor is not available for blocking purposes. No use finishing the jacket if I can't block it.

I have been keeping a close eye on the state of the dining room since our little difficulty in January when water came through the ceiling. Yesterday, I even thought we could go all gracious and remove the newspaper which covers the oak chest under the Fatal Spot. But when I went to do it, the paper, although absolutely dry, looked suspiciously pock-marked. So I replaced it with fresh paper and checked every half-hour and sure enough, just before we went to bed, a fresh, wet spot. I phoned the girls upstairs, who promised to have no more baths (they can shower without inundating us, oddly) and left a message for Mrs Carson who lives in North Berwick and owns the flat on Scotland Street from which bath water emanates.


I knit more of the Clapotis, but still havn't reached the first ladder. I was sort of worried about the large wodge of solid fabric I was accumulating and, reading ahead, worried also about how few stitches I would soon be asked to drop. But then I got it, I think. The diagonality of the thing means that I will have plenty of ladders (which will run back into the present solid wodge) if I stop fretting and follow instructions. This is the first time I have knit anything from an on-line knitting magazine, for what that's worth.

Still no sign of Knitting magazine.

So today's picture is neither jacket nor Clapotis but a rocking horse which was in the auction sale I went to this week. It cost somebody nearly six thousand pounds. I have never seen anything like it. Those two little wicker seats, front and back, of DIFFERENT SIZES, mean that the rider could keep two of her younger sib happy as she rode along. And I say "her" not from a misplaced wish to use it as the generic pronoun, but because the horse is fitted for riding sidesaddle.


Thursday, May 05, 2005

Some of my new yarn Posted by Hello

Polling Day

...and it's bliss. The early-morning BBC radio programme claimed not to be allowed to discuss candidates or issues, so we had a lovely mixture of salamanders and dinosaurs and violence in Baghdad and lay-offs at IBM just the way it used to be. The campaign has been intensely boring from the beginning. The only interest tomorrow will be the question of how well the Liberal Democrats have done.

The Auction

...went as I expected. There was "interest" in the Gents' Seats, the auctioneer announced, before starting the bidding above our upper limit, and way above his own upper estimate, and it went on up from there, so I didn't have to intervene at all.

My husband had feared that libraries around the world would want Cook & Wedderburn's Ruskin (only 2000 were printed) but no. There seemed to be no external or telephone bids, it was only me and someone on the other side of the room whom I never saw. We had a brisk ding-dong, starting from quite a low point, and then the other bidder suddenly stopped when I still had at least three bids left in my quiver, so that was nice. It's an absolutely pristine set, uncut. We looked it up in Abebooks the night before the sale, and found only one -- one book, that is, not a set. It was pricey.

I haven't often bid in person at an auction. Usually we leave bids if we want anything. It's pretty stressful but knitting helps a lot -- I had never tried that before. I was at an ideal point on Thomas-the-elder's sock, just past the heel, so I could knit on and on without having to think.


The picture shows the new order of Koigu I got this week. The off-white is to be the background for a "Jamie" for Thomas-the-Younger's birthday in November. At the last moment, because I had heard that supplies are getting harder to come by, I asked Mary (www.foxyknits.com) to add six variegated colours to the package, her choice.. There aren't many yarns you could do that with, even with a good friend picking.

Soon I will knit the Cranberry Squares hat from Knitters' Winter '04 as my Games entry for this year. (The knitting classes are "A poncho" -- that would be against my religion -- and "best use of 100 grams of yarn" -- I could do a pair of socks, but the judges probably want something sillier. But in the Handicraft section they ask for "A Hat -- any craft", and that's what I'm going for.)

Janis Witkins who designed Cranberry Squares is a friend. She told me in her Christmas card that it was designed for Koigu, but the magazine wanted a different yarn, so I hope I can just knit it in Koigu without adjustment. I will use the black which forms the background for Rachel's "Jamie", seen yesterday, as the main colour, and I have been trying one after another of Mary's choices as the contrast, and like each one better than the last.

I bought the buttons for the Fair Isle jacket yesterday, but that's all. The Clapotis proceeds -- soon I get to start dropping stitches and making ladders.



Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Rachel's striped Koigu, approaching the neck Posted by Hello


...was more than ordinarily eventful.

1) After two months of faffing about, I phoned my oculist and asked him to refer me to the NHS for my eye replacement operation(s). I should be called for assessment in about three months, he said, and for the operation itself in about six. That's fine, since I have already decided to live on the edge and continue driving right now for the sake of this year's vegetable-growing. If the winter looks like wearing on with no action, I can always go private in January, but the politicians make so much fuss about "waiting lists" these days that I suspect even old-age pensioners in Drummond Place will be dealt with in reasonable course.

2) I decided to take the Coward's Way Out with the Fair Isle jacket, and leave the unsatisfactory neckline as it is. If Rachel really can't stand it, I can always re-do it later. I think that would be less painful psychologically than another fortnight with the damn thing now. It still needs buttons to be bought and sewed on, a much-loathed chore; and blocking.

3) In the afternoon we went to an auction view, a frequent entertainment. This time, it was the contents of a country house somewhere, removed to Edinburgh for sale. It included -- to stray from the point -- a number of costume items, nineteenth century, beautifully kept. I hoped to see a Shetland shawl -- they became high fashion in the mid-century. But no.

However, there were also lots of books. I'm not sure I've ever had a copy of Bentley's Horace in my hands before. It's boring -- we don't have to buy it. But there are two items my husband wants, and I am going back this morning to bid for them. I'll take my knitting, in the hope it will keep me calm, but it won't. I will have to lie down with a cold compress this afternoon. One of his items is six volumes of Neale on Gentlemen's Seats. (Pray, don't misunderstand me, as the dreadful Mary Crawford might have said in Mansfield Park.) We think that lot has been estimated rather low. The books are nicely leather-bound, and contain lots of nice engravings, so I'm not too optimistic, although we're prepared to go well over the auctioneer's estimate.

The other is the complete Cook & Wedderburn edition of the works of Ruskin, all 39 volumes. We counted. Sets the pulses racing, no? My husband says he has seen it only once before in his life. Then, it cost £20 which was far more than he could afford. Now, it will cost about what one eye-replacement would cost privately. But, hey! we saved that much yesterday morning. The bindings aren't particularly attractive, and there are no pictures; I have high hopes on this one. But of course the Internet means that everyone else in the world who knows about the Cook & Wedderburn edition of Ruskin, will know that it's coming up.

I'll tell you the results tomorrow.

Meanwhile, above is a pic of the current state of Rachel's striped Koigu sweater, in the country.


Tuesday, May 03, 2005

The garden, yesterday Posted by Hello
Rhubarb Posted by Hello

Safely home.

We were unlucky with the weather. Less was done than might have been hoped, but still something. Most of the tatties are in, anyway. The "Picasso's", I thought, still weren't sufficiently sprouted. And seed beds prepared for some of the seeds. And a pea-support put up. And the forced rhubarb consumed. It was ambrosial. May is a month of unbelievable beauty here, even in bad weather, and of great happiness in the garden.


Take it in order --

1) The country knitting, Rachel's striped Koigu , progresses, although I didn't get very much done on that, either. Still, I arrived at the armpits and divided for front and back and proceeded, therefore, on only half the stitches, which created an illusion of progress. Picture tomorrow.

2) Here, last night, I finished tidying the steeks of the Fair Isle jacket and tossed it aside and started the Clapotis. On a third attempt, I think I've got it. But I've also got to face up to the question of what to do with the jacket. I was terribly tired last night (not much better this morning) but will, today, try it on again and contemplate the result. If the neckline is too low, as I am sure is the case (Starmore's fault), I could take out just the front band and raise the neck with a clever use of short rows, yet to be devised. Or, as I said before, take out the whole thing and make a single continuous band. Watch this space.

3) The new issue of Knitting magazine, now monthly, hasn't turned up as I expected.

4) But an order of Koigu from Foxyknits (www.foxyknits.com) has appeared, just now, and is gorgeous. Picture soon.