Friday, September 30, 2005

It's a start! Posted by Picasa

That's where I'm leaving the Princess, for the time being. Six rows done. And I could clearly hear Sherazade whisper to me yesterday, Just one more; row seven looks interesting. But Providence delivered a nudge in the form of a meeting with the neighbour whose wife is expecting the baby (with a bad cleft palate) for whom the Baby Surprise is destined.

"How is your wife keeping?" I asked. "Four more weeks!" he said. Four? There we stood, in September, and it's not due until November. Maybe four and a half. Anyway, I knit Surprise last night, and it shouldn't really take much longer. I think all the previous knitting of it was done the day of, and the day after, my second cataract operation. All went well, and I was perfectly comfortable throughout, but the piece has medical connotations for me now which make it hard to love.

I forgot to thank Lorna yesterday for sending me this link: I know the site, although I've never ordered yarn from it. And she's right, this is probably just what I want for the long cardigan which is bobbing around in my head, so to speak. And the suggestion of Guernsey wool has put me in mind of a couple more books on my shelves which I'll have a look at for pattern ideas. So, thanks.


I continue to be plagued by the Mytob virus. The persecution has gone on much longer than usual. I get about a dozen of them every day. I'm sure Norton is holding it at bay; it's a nuisance, though. I looked it up this morning, and it doesn't seem to want to do much more than lodge itself in one's computer and replicate itself. Maybe the owner of the machine which is persecuting me doesn't even know it's there.


Thursday, September 29, 2005

ANOTHER picture from Games Day Posted by Picasa

A third knitter who has finished the first chart of the Princess Shawl border turned up in the Heirloom Knitting Group yesterday. And I know that someone has finished it, and is winning prizes at fairs all over Australia with it. And there are other laggards like me, struggling with the edging or just beyond.

Given how many patterns we all own, and how formidable a project this is, and the fact that it was issued in a limited edition, it seems remarkable how many of us are actually doing it. Jean, the knitter who knits Princess while commuting, posted a comment here yesterday. Read it and marvel.

As for me, I'm doing row six. And yes, I know I said I'd stop after four. This will have to be it. I'll knock off and go back to the two smaller projects (perhaps with a few rows of Princess in between). And by the time they're finished I will know whether a First Holy Communion veil for granddaughter Rachel is on the cards, or whether daughter Rachel has been able to find the one I knit for granddaughter Lizzie. An initial search has failed to reveal it. Mail to China is rather chancy -- everything gets there in the end, but often after weeks of delay. Another reason why it would be nice to find Lizzie's veil, so that (little) Rachel's father James could take it back in his own hands in November.

I'll take a picture of the Princess tomorrow, with the little patterns beginning to emerge.

Franklin's blog ( is particularly good today. I'm not the only one who has trouble with necklines.


I've switched to the photo above for my 05-06 computer wallpaper. The ones I took on purpose on Games Day of Rachel, Alexander, James and Helen look funny when stretched to fit the screen. The one I showed you the other day is too gloomy. This has knitting and cheerfulness, but is missing Helen. That's nephew Theo and his girlfriend Kristin on the left, and Alexander's wife Ketki on the right. In between are James, Rachel, and Alexander.

Sure enough, anxiety rises to fill the place left by the income tax. But I made a bit of progress yesterday at taking some of the long-neglected corners of life back into cultivation.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The reading machine Posted by Picasa

There were two posts to the Heirloom Knitting group this morning from people who have finished the first border chart of the Princess Shawl. That is, they're about 1/3rd of the way through. Both said that it is vastly easier than the edging, which coincides with my experience. One of them said that a row a day is about what can be achieved, which also coincides. One of them said she had been taking it with her as commuter knitting -- that I can't imagine.

Today's photograph is of a Reading Machine we bought in an antique shop once. It has been standing unused in the sitting room for a long time. The idea was supposed to be that I could use it to prop up a book for reading while I was knitting. Theoretically that is feasible, but of late I don't seem to be very good at reading while knitting. However, yesterday I decided it would be perfect for holding the border charts. And so it is.

I'm now on Row 4.

I ordered some books from Interweave yesterday -- somehow, that doesn't seem as vicious as buying yarn. Nancy Bush's Vintage Socks, Knitting in Estonia by the same author, and Pam Allan's scarf book. A report will eventually follow.


I got the income tax return into the mail as hoped. More than in other years, I think, I had the most glorious sensation of freedom and renewal, as if I had finished sitting the exam, or the scan had come back negative. Life will, undoubtedly, rear up to overwhelm me again soon.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Spectators at the Strathardle Highland Gathering Posted by Picasa

I've started the Princess Shawl border. There are 219 rows in it. I've done one of them, and begun the second. It's surprisingly easy, astonishing, really, after that edging. I was well more than half-way through the 85 repeats of the edging before I learned the pattern. Whereas I had the first row border pattern in my head after two or three repeats, and was able to knit happily across without looking at the chart. But it still takes quite a long time to knit 865 stitches.

Betty, yesterday's commenter, has been to Stitches, happy woman! (although I gather it wasn't quite as good as usual this year, vendor-wise) and bought a lace sampler scarf kit. This sort of ties in with Obscure's comment of the day before: lace is tempting, lace is fun, but what to do with it? I love knitting cosy shawls in Shetland jumper weight or its equivalent, but then what? If I try wearing one, my husband says it makes me look like a crazed social worker. For cosy, in the cold winter, both he and I prefer a Pakastani shepherd's shawl (rectangular, woven) which our son Alexander brought back for us when he went trekking in the Himalayas once.

Scarves are a perfect solution. Or just give up, like me and the Princess, and knit something which is of no use whatsoever to anyone. If I do finish it, it'll have been lost or eaten by moths before we have a bride in position to wear it.

Knitting and Stitching Show

Our October visit to London (art, "Guys and Dolls", Thomas-the-Elder's belated 21st birthday dinner) coincides, miraculously, with the Knitting and Stitching show at the Alexandra Palace. I'd like to go, and have the happy prospect in addition of meeting Mary Morrison (, one of my favourite Bloggers. I'm not sure I'll make it -- the Ally Pally is a long way north, and Streatham, where we'll be, is a long way south, and the only open day is the one that ends with the birthday dinner; but I'm hoping. Mary has provided herself with a Europe-friendly mobile telephone, and I've got the number. At the worst, we'll talk.


I finished the income tax yesterday, bar a number or two. Today I must decide whether to file on-line, as the government is keen to have me do. Or send it off in the mail as usual. The thing is, I don't want to know immediately what we'll have to pay in January. I want to get that letter from the tax man which says, "I am pleased to agree your figures" and makes me feel as if I'd got a gold star on my homework.

But with that out of the way -- the deadline is September 30 -- I can look forward to the new month and the new magazines, Knitting and Kitchen Garden and the cookery ones. The tax job had been looming as a dreadful barrier between me and the first week of October.

That's another picture from Games Day, above. It's the one I've set as my computer wallpaper for the year. Sort of elegaic.

Monday, September 26, 2005

The "Magyar", from Rowan Book 8, probably 1989, my new KF kit from Ebay Posted by Picasa
That's better Posted by Picasa

My friend in WA got the kit for KF's "Magyar" pattern for me from Ebay! It's on its way.

It appears above -- I hope; I haven't scanned it yet. It is, to my eye, as close as the great man could get to a pattern which would qualify for inclusion in the You Knit What? website ( ) But that's not the point. It's that whole bag of discontinued Rowan yarns in colours he designed himself. Also above (I hope) is the other KF pattern from Rowan 8. That's better. I could use that. I also have all his books, I think, including the one that's just swatches, so there will be no difficulty in finding a pattern. Time to knit it, is the problem.

Meanwhile, I've put the row of holes in the Princess Shawl, and then knit two of the subsequent four plain rows. So that the moment when I actually start knitting the Princess Shawl is not far away. Sharon Miller's Gossamer Merino is utterly amazing, cloud-like and insubstantial and strong. 865 stitches don't crowd the needle at all.

"Obscure" points out, in one of those unanswerable comments, that lace knitting is the perfect fix for the cash-strapped. You can knit and knit and knit, with high-end expensive yarns, and scarcely spend anything. When I was very young and very poor, I knit Rachel a Shetland shawl while I was pregnant with her. The pattern was a Paton's leaflet -- I found it again recently in a charity shop, to my great delight. Edging and the four trapezoids and the centre were knit separately and sewed together. But the point here is that I bought those balls of yarn separately, one at a time, as needed, because I couldn't afford to get them all at once.

James in China reads this Blog sometimes -- the Chinese block it, not because they fear my subversive views on knitting but because everything from Blogger is blocked, just in case. But James knows a work-around, and I wouldn't be surprised if some of the Chinese haven't figured it out as well. He reminds me that his daughter Rachel (it gets confusing) will make her First Holy Communion next April: what about a veil for her? So I have set Rachel-the-Elder to work looking for her daughter Lizzie's veil. If she finds it, I'll bring it back from our October visit to London and wash and dress it for James to take back to China after his November appearance for his father's birthday. If she can't -- and she couldn't find the Shetland shawl just mentioned, the last time anyone wanted it -- I'll do another. 

The plan, you may remember, is to set the Princess Shawl aside once I have established the lace patterns, and finish off the two small projects which linger nearby spreading a miasma of guilt (the Baby Surprise, and Fergus's Wallaby). I'll do that, as planned, and then either return to the Princess or embark on a veil, as the situation requires. 

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The striped Koigu -- latest Posted by Picasa

There's the striped Koigu I'm knitting at Kirkmichael. I had hoped to finish that sleeve, and am in fact within three rows of the end. I'll pick up stitches around the sleevehole and connect it with a three-needle bindoff the next time we're there.

The neck will be finished with a placket and a ribbed collar. I've got the latest Knitter's in position in the Burnside knitting drawer, with what looks like a promising article about collars. And the VK book, for the its bit on plackets. But there's another sleeve to do before the commencement of these delights, of course.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I did count the edging repeats for the Princess Shawl again yesterday, and there are 85. So that's a relief. I counted each section as I knit across, marking the last point counted with a coil-less pin, moving it each time, and writing down the answer. The hardest part was adding up the column of figures at the end, but the majority of attempts came out at the hoped-for answer.

I'm now knitting the row of holes.

Joe mentions, in his comment below somewhere, the difficulty of embarking on a project like this when you want to have something to show in a Blog, day by day. It's a problem all right, but I refuse to let the tail wag the dog. I'll just have to post pictures of grandchildren and saucepans. My real, at least potential, problem with Blogging is the impossibility of knitting something secret for any of the people who read regularly.

People compliment my lace knitting, and I am touched and grateful, but there's really nothing to it. K2tog, yo, and an attitude of mind that doesn't look forward to the finish. The sacrament of the present moment, maybe.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The sad, autumnal vegetable garden, yesterday Posted by Picasa
Our new garden shed, with apple tree, left. Posted by Picasa

New readers start here -- when we get back from Kirkmichael, the next day's Blog begins with a picture of my vegetable garden. There it is, boring as ever. I didn't get much forrader at tidying it up for the winter, as my time and energies were devoted to giving the grass its last cut for '05. I didn't get that finished either, although nearly, before the rains came on Thursday.

The other picture is of our brand new garden shed. The apple is called, I think, Keswick Codlin. We planted it recently, and we are very proud of it.

The reason I anticipate new readers is that when I sat down to the computer last night, stoned with weariness, to check my email and QueerJoe's blog ( I found there a recommendation of this Blog. More than that: there are comments here, see below, from him and from the Curmudgeon ( and from my new hero Franklin ( Talk about cups running over.

Both Joe -- "Lively, articulate" -- and the Curmudgeon -- "A literate Blog by a well-informed knitter" -- are endorsed by no less an authority than the Victoria and Albert Museum ( I think Franklin probably hadn't started writing when they composed the page.

The BBC did a series about Edward and Mrs Simpson many years ago. The theme tune for the programs, surely a genuine song of the period, sings itself forever in my head:

"I'm the happiest of females:

I danced with a man/who danced with a girl/who danced with the Prince of Wales." Well, this morning, that's me.

Time for Knitting

Tomorrow, the Kirkmichael striped Koigu. I made some progress.

The Princess Shawl, being at a stage which the most exhausted knitter could comprehend, moved forward last night. I finished the first row of plain knitting after picking up all those stitches, and found the count seriously short. I sprinkled extra stitches about in the second row, and I think we're now right: 12 right-hand edge stitches, 10 groups of 78 for the main section, and a left-hand edge of 73.

I worried somewhat: the random scattering of extra stitches may mean that the high point of repeat #43 -- half-way through the 85 repeats -- may not fall precisely at the centre. I don't think that will matter. The final triangle has to be centered precisely on the midway stitch of the rectangle I am about to start knitting. I think if I get that right -- and I've got to -- all will be well.

Then I began to entertain a more recondite worry: was the stitch count out because I had not, in fact, knit 85 repeats? I pinned it out on the floor and counted, you may remember, and the count confirmed what the Peg-It board was telling me. It will be almost impossible to count again, now that it's all bunched up on the needle, but I may have to try,to set my mind at rest.







Monday, September 19, 2005

I've picked up 850 stitches! (I hope) Posted by Picasa

Look that that!

Counting stitches while I picked them up, trying to get exactly ten from each repeat, soon proved to be far too difficult, so I just sat back and slid the needle through all the stitches. I now have to do four plain rows, which should give me plenty of time to adjust the count, add the required 15 extra stitches hither and yon, and get the markers in place for the pattern repeats. Then a row of holes, then four more plain, and then the fireworks start.

I can see just from the few plain stitches that I knit last night, that this thing will soon become -- has become -- close to an obsession. I have sort of decided to do the nine rows just described and then perhaps four rows of lace, to get the patterns set, and then STOP and deal with the Wallaby and the Baby Surprise. Otherwise I can see I am on the slippery slope back to multiple wippery.


I mentioned, I think, that Sheila had tipped me off about a KF kit on Ebay which I couldn't bid for since I didn't have an American address. Well, it didn't sell and was re-offered and I wrote to a dear friend in Washington state and asked her to bid for me. Meanwhile Alexander, who trades somewhat on Ebay although not usually in knitting wool (the works of Edward Gorey are his speciality), offered to bid for me. (He's not meant to read the Blog, but sometimes does.) When I hadn't heard from my friend by last night, I told him to go ahead. This morning, an email from Gail -- she's already put in a bid on my behalf. I have visions of them bidding frantically against each other.


I meant to say thank you yesterday to the people who straightened me out on Queer Joe and the Curmudgeon -- they're not brother and sister, after all. I knew they were real-world friends, and indeed my real-world friend Selma of Woodstock is also a friend of theirs, and crops up occasionally in Joe's blog. So I'm glad to have the relationships clear. It is Selma who told me -- I think I've mentioned this -- that in real life Joe is more curmudgeonly, and the Curmudgeon less so, than they appear in their Blogs.


We're going to Kirkmichael today, and will be back on Friday if all goes well. Blogging to be resumed on Saturday.




Sunday, September 18, 2005

85 repeats done! Posted by Picasa

Not Finished, Just Begun

Once, long, long ago I went to some sort of graduation ceremony at a primary (=grammer) school in New Jersey. Those words were written on a  banner across the stage, and they became more and more appropriate as the interminable afternoon wore on. Well, I'm sure that's how I'll soon feel about the Princess Shawl, but for the moment I am bursting with pride. I did it. I knit the edging. I hope to make a good start at picking up the stitches today.

What will follow is not, as it would be for a typical square shawl, a knitting-inwards towards the centre -- that process has the delicious advantage that the work seems to be going faster and faster, as the stitch count decreases. This time, it stays exactly the same. I am about to try to knit a Very Large Rectangle, with my pretty edging along one long edge.

When that's done, things get a bit difficult, as the rectangle is gathered around two sides of a triangular centre. Late next year, maybe.


The next Big Event But One, around here, will be my husband's 80th birthday in November. Nothing more exciting than going out to have lunch in a restaurant, but James will come back from China and Helen from Greece for the occasion, and we have also invited a few choice old friends from hither and yon in GB. I hope we can keep it a semi-surprise: he will know that the London crowd have come up, because they will be sleeping on mattresses on the floors all over the house, and will think we are going out to lunch with them and with his sister in Morningside, and then the other people (including James and Helen) will meet us at the restaurant.

Be that as it may, the replies from the old friends have included snippits of information, and it is very odd not to be able to say to my husband over lunch, "L. has sold Duddingston Farm" or "M. says that the University Organist was killed in a car crash".

The next Big Event will be when we go to London in October. Rachel and her family have given me -- given us -- tickets to "Guys and Dolls" as a birthday present, which utterly suits my lowbrow tastes. We will all go together, even Alexander and Ketki. And then the next day, go out to supper to celebrate, belatedly, Thomas-the-Elder's 21st.


Saturday, September 17, 2005

What a lot of people there are in the world who can write well. Here are two more knitting blogs: and And has a great picture of the President, if you scroll back a day or two.

Not much to report. I had hoped to finish Repeat No 83 of the Princess Shawl edging yesterday, but the Tiredness Thing hit. We're going to Kirkmichael on Monday, insh'Allah. I should have it done by then, and can thus stage the great stitch-picking-up ceremony when we get back. So the ribbing on the second Wallaby sleeve is nearly finished instead, and I also had a peaceful hour at an auction yesterday and made good progress with the current socks.

The Wallaby pattern which the Sweater Wizard generated for me does the top with a few, separate decrease rows, with plain knitting in between, instead of constant decreasing along faux raglan lines. Makes a change. I'm thinking of inserting a simple knit/purl pattern between the decreases. I did that for the bottom of Mungo's striped Koigu, instead of ribbing, and liked the result. We shall see.

Everything seems intensely boring this morning.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Nearly finished! Posted by Picasa
Close-up of a unblocked section Posted by Picasa

Has there ever before in the history of the world been a political cartoon on the cover of the New Yorker (September 19)? A good one, too.

I just discovered, from my early morning blog-cruise, that the Knitting Curmudgeon ( is Queer Joe's ( sister. Or is that a metaphor of some sort?


Not much, yesterday. We live, on the whole, out of the world, but occasionally it intrudes, and did yesterday, in the form of a Drummond Place Civic Society committee meeting, held here. So I had to tidy up the dining room and think about drinks and nibbles all day, and then I had to chair the meeting, which eliminated any surreptitious sock-knitting. I did, however, knock off another Princess Shawl edging repeat during the day.

And, see above, I laid it out for the Big Count. It wasn't as hard as I expected. I used the dressmaking pins I use for blocking, and pinned every 10th point to the floor. I had also inserted a life-line after 50 repeats, which now usefully confirmed the count. The Peg-It board is right. And I've done a bit since -- I'm now nearly finished with #82!

I then celebrated by getting the pattern out. The pages are loose -- I've been on Page 2 for so long that it's beginning to look a bit shabby. But page 3 looks like a real breeze, and then we get on to the fun part. The prospect of picking up 865 stitches holds few terrors. I've got a nice chained edge, I've often done this sort of thing before, with Gladys Amedro's patterns -- and in fact I see that I had to pick up 960 for the Calcutta Cup shawl (

This is so exciting.

Comments and stuff

Heidi, I tried to email you yesterday about the HTML code needed to alert the world to the First Holy Communion veil pattern on my website, but the message bounced. Could you email me again (

Sheila alerted me to the presence of a KF kit on Ebay. I tried to bid (for the first time in my life), but failed, because it was American Ebay and I couldn't enter an American address when I tried to register. There were only a few hours left, too. However, Sheila has written again this morning to say it's still there, and cheaper, too, so I'm going to ask a friend to have a go for me.

It's his "Magyar" pattern from Rowan 8. I've got Rowan 8, and can see at a glance that Magyar is not for me. Amoeba-like shapes in intarsia constitute the Knitting Project Too Far, as far as I am concerned. However, there's no reason I couldn't use the yarns for a more geometric pattern -- there's one, in fact, in the same issue of the Rowan book. I have a big bag of Rowan oddballs from all the kits I've knit, so any deficiences could easily be plugged.

I'll let you know what happens.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Wallaby -- latest Posted by Picasa

Back to real life.

That's a picture of the current Wallaby, with its first sleeve attached. Real life consists not only of boring pictures of knitting instead of interesting pictures of people, but also of the fact that early-morning photography is now bleached-out by the flash, and will remain so for at least six months.

On a brighter note, the first of the 2006 seed catalogues arrived yesterday. Whoopee! Mostly it's for reading at Kirkmichael and slowly, thoughtfully making a list to send in in Jan or Feb, but I had a little peek yesterday and can tell you that there are lots of Interesting Introductions, as we say in the seed business. Making that list is a great consolation in the dark weeks ahead.

Thank you, Heidi, for your help with the problem of how to let the world know, via Google, that my website provides some suggestions for knitting a First Holy Communion veil. I know a wee bit of HTML, and I have a rather simple-minded book on the suibject as well as a simple-minded web-authoring program. I'll have a go, and report what happens.

I'm working on repeat #81 of the Princess Shawl edging. EIGHTY-ONE! I'll stop very soon and spread it out for the Big Count, to see if I really have knit as many repeats as I think I have. It'll be the last time it will be seen, other than in Totally Scrunched-Up form, for many and many a month.

Demon is having problems this morning with its Pop3  (=email) machine. But at least I can connect easily, and thus discover from their website that engineers are working on it. This is too soon after the last time it happened.



Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Sheep Posted by Picasa
Ed and Helllie and the tammie. Posted by Picasa

Six more rows to do of the 79th repeat of the Princess Shawl edging -- only six repeats and those six rows left to go. And I got the Wallaby sleeve finished, but not attached.

Computers and Their  Problems

My connectivity difficulties finally sorted themselves out yesterday afternoon -- I can now, again, log on briskly and cruise around at my normal speed, scornful as my high-tech relatives may be of what that consists of. Even so, I struggled without success all day yesterday to upload the picture of Mungo and his rocket. No trouble at all, this morning -- it's now there, under today's date, below this message.

Heidi, thank you for your suggestion that I might be suffering from spyware, a constant anxiety anyway. I will have a look at the programs you suggest. I am, incidentally, being plagued by a virus called W32.mytob.EA... which can only afflict people with their own domain name. I think Norton is holding it at bay successfully, but it's a bore, because there are lots of them and each one is big and takes a while to download before Norton zaps it.

Judith, thank you very much for the news that if one Googles on "Tessa Lorant" one soon comes to my page with Lizzie Ogden's First Holy Communion veil. ( If one Googles on "knitted First Holy Communion Veil" one does not find it, at least not in the first four pages of results. I tried again yesterday. I feel that anyone -- there won't be many -- who Googles on that phrase would want to see my effort. There are no printed patterns out there that I've ever heard of, for such a thing. I believe there are ways of embedding invisible keywords in a webpage so that search engines will find them easily, and perhaps one day when the work's all done this fall (=never) I might try that. (The connection with Tessa Lorant is that the veil is based somewhat on the knitted wedding veil in her book "Knitted Shawls and Wraps".)

The Games, Again

But I think this is the end.

In the evening, after the group photograph which you've seen, I offered the prize-winning tammie to anyone who wanted it. I didn't really feel it was quite me. Hellie Ogden claimed it -- she's the one who's just gone off to begin her course at Newcastle University. That is a picture of her wearing it, with her father, our son-in-law Ed Ogden.

In the morning of Games day, there is an agricultural show in the adjoining field in which cattle and sheep compete in classes with names like "gimmer" and "stot" whose meanings I still don't know after all these years. I didn't even get over there this year -- see one sheep, you've seen 'em all, I feel. But my brother-in-law Roger did, and I offer his picture of one of the contestants as a farewell to the subject.

Mungo with hia prize-winning rocket Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Halfway through repeat #78 of the Princess Shawl edging -- 6 1/2 to go. And I've done 10 of 12 evenly-spaced increases on the first Wallaby sleeve. I may even finish it and get it attached today.

I'm suffering connectivity problems -- for the last few days, I can dial in to my ISP only slowly and with difficulty. When the connection is finally made, it is at an absurdly low speed. Something wrong with the modem? Demon doesn't report any problems on their webpage.

So it remains to be seen whether I will be able to squirt today's picture into the ether.

It finds us back in the Home Industries Tent. (If anyone were tired of hearing about the 2005 Strathardle Highland Gathering as it affected me, they would long since have ceased visiting this spot.) We didn't fare at all well in the children's sections. Out of four entries, there was only one prize: Mungo Drake got a third (in a large field) for his "junk rocket". That's him, if a picture is there at all, with it.

Lizzie Ogden took on the adults by entering a cake for the Jubilee Rosebowl, where a recipe is provided and everybody has to do the same thing. It would be interesting to have a knitting competition like that. Again there was a large field, and she didn't win. It was a good cake, though.

Non-Knit, Non-Games

My sister found herself cooling her heels yesterday in an interminable airport lounge, waiting for a flight to Washington. She amused herself at least in part by reading this Blog, but had difficulty reaching it through Google. She concluded that Google is country-specific, and that I'm not much read in Africa. Maybe. I wasn't sorry to hear it, though. My husband knows more than anybody else in the world, by quite a large margin, about a particular artist. Scholar friends have occasionally told us how startled they are, Google'ing on his name, to find themselves at my website, which begins with the words "You won't find much here except knitting and bland family news..."

Presumably others with whom we are less acqainted, have had the same experience.

That is why I never mention my husband by name in the blog. We don't want those people here.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Next year we'll WIN. Posted by Picasa

I'm working on Repeat #77 of the Princess Shawl Border -- only 8 to go, when I've finished this one. It's now pretty easy; I can do it when sitting in front of un-gripping television, and even while maintaining some sort of conversational presence. But at a certain point in the early evening, tiredness suddenly grips my throat and I know that it is time, right now, to put it down and switch to the Wallaby sleeve. I've done 9 of 12 evenly-spaced increases on that one. I decided last night that the length is going to be all right. Just.

On with the Games...

The afternoon ends with an event called Musical Cars. The organisers tried to replace it with something else once, but the glen rose up, and that didn't happen again.

Some short stakes with flags attached are fixed in the middle of the field. Cars drive around the outer track. Passengers must keep their hands on the dashboard. When the music stops, the passenger leaps out, runs into the centre, and tries to secure a stake. You get the idea.

We've never won. Some years ago there was a glorious breakthrough when James, driving, and Thomas-the-Elder, running, came second. After a longish interval, we had another good one two or three years ago when nephew Theo, driving, and his girlfriend Kristin, running, came third. And again this year: Theo drove, brilliantly, and grandson Joe ran, rather fast. Another second.

A lot depends on luck, or, to put it more cynically, on how much the organiser likes you. It was sadly obvious to us all, when the music stopped for the last time, that Joe was in a position from which he couldn't win, had he been as nimble as swift-footed Achilles.

But second, needless to say, is pretty good. The picture shows Theo and Joe with their prize envelope. Six whole pounds.

There is a cup for the winners of Musical Cars. We remain determined to get our names on it one day.

I'm sure the Queen doesn't have half as much fun as we do, when she turns out annually for the Braemar Games.


Sunday, September 11, 2005

Take that! Posted by Picasa
Take that! Posted by Picasa
Pillow Fight (2) Posted by Picasa


The dr was pleased with my eye yesterday (as am I), so that's that, except for a couple more weeks of eyedrops. I can see like a hawk. The effect of having so important an organ replaced with plastic is more than a bit Stepford Wives.

I'm still slightly lame in the left foot, but it's much better than it was. The x-ray showed "only minor changes" and there is, apparently, nothing to be done.


I've done repeat no #75 of the Princess Shawl edging. It remains but to count down the last 10. It would be a good idea, I think, to stop after 82 or 83 for the Big Count, just to be on the safe side. Counting isn't easy.

I'm six inches or so into the Wallaby sleeve. I think I had better re-calculate the increase interval today, to make sure it won't come out too long. I am a great believer, as I've said before, in not making children's sleeves too long.

I've decided to do both sleeves and attach them to the body, and then lay the Wallaby aside to finish the Baby Surprise, due in November. As expected, I didn't get very much done at the hospital yesterday.

Strathardle Highland Gathering

We turn at last to events on the field. There are the usual heavyweight things, caber-tossing and the like, big men in kilts, as on Come To Scotland posters. There is a sweet little piping competition, over in a corner. Children compete at Highland Dancing all afternoon. There are also races and things which anyone can enter on the spot -- including the annual Pillow Fight, pictured above.

The competition is savage. We've entered a few times before -- Theo even tried once, and he's tall and strong and young -- but have always exited instantly. This year, my brother-in-law Roger had a go. He watched for a while, and decided that the trick is to sit still and let your opponent unbalance himself with his first swipes, and then whop him. Roger entered, and applied this principle, and came second.

Roger must be in his early sixties, several decades older than any previous contestant in the history of the Pillow Fight. But he is very fit.

Alas, I missed the whole thing, being in the Home Industries Tent at the time.

Current Affairs

I have been surprised all along that collecting the dead has had such a low priority in New Orleans, (a) on grounds of hygeine and (b) on grounds of respect.

The Americans and Iraquis are currently zapping Talafar, near the Syrian border. Before they started, they set up a refugee camp outside the city. That would have been a useful thing to do in New Orleans.



Saturday, September 10, 2005

I have an early appointment this morning to have my eyes checked, so this will be brief and unillustrated. Rather, the illustration is do-it-yourself. Go out and find a newsstand and look at the cover of the current issue of the Economist, September 10-16. Up to now I have been puzzled and appalled by what has been happening in New Orleans, but not much involved emotionally. That photograph has changed how I feel. Send not to ask for whom the bell tolls: it tolls for thee.

I'm half way through Repeat #74 of the Princess Shawl edging, and I've done a couple more inches of Wallaby sleeve. I'll take the Baby Surprise with me to the hospital, I think, rather than a sock. But I don't expect to have to wait long.

Then tomorrow we can get down to what our party actually achieved on the field at the Games.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Us chickens Posted by Picasa

We usually take a group picture when we get back to the house at the end of Games Day. This time, we had to do it in a great hurry, and the result is the best group picture we've ever had. The hurry was because James and his family were leaving at once -- he had to write a "special" for last week's Economist (the issue which goes out of date today) about Mr Hu's visit to Washington, and the magazine wanted a Beijing dateline for it. "Kirkmichael, by Blairgowrie, Perthshire" didn't have quite the same ring, apparently. So James eschewed beer all day, and they drove halfway down, stayed in a TravelLodge somewhere that night, and flew out from Heathrow on Sunday afternoon. And James wrote the special. And Mr Hu had his visit cancelled so that the President would have more time for hugging people.

Anyway, my brother-in-law took charge of the group picture. We usually line up on the front lawn. He turned things around, ranged us in front of my vegetables facing into the evening light, magic'd a tripod out of somewhere, and here is the result. Roger himself is the tall man in the back row, next to his son Theo in the Koigu sweater. I am the fat woman in white towards the left, wearing the prize-winning tammy. Mungo Drake, whose Koigu sweater is sliding off his shoulder (another bad crew neck) is to the right in the foreground, holding a rose to represent his brother Oliver, Helen and David's eldest son, who died at six weeks and is buried in Kirkmichael.

I've had some nice comments lately. Thank you, everyone. One of the "Jean's" asks how rainbows work, and why the colours are reversed when you get a double rainbow. I don't know. There is a famous and rather awful pre-Raphaelite picture, possibly in the Birmingham Art Gallery, called I think "The Blind Girl", in which a vivid double rainbow appears. I read a comment about it somewhere once in which the critic actually complained that the artist had made a mistake in reversing the colours for the second rainbow.


I'm working on repeat #73 of the Princess Shawl edging. I'm really going to miss it when I finish. And I've done a couple of inches above the ribbing of the first Wallaby sleeve. It shouldn't take long now. When I finally finish with the Games and get back to pictures of knitting, you will see some progress.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

James and Alexander with their backs to the Games Posted by Picasa

Back to the Games.

Alexander's sweater, above, is (I think) Kaffe's "Circle Square Crewneck Sweater" from the Family Album book, made from a kit back in the good old days when Rowan kitted their designs. Under the influence of some Roman mosaic or other, I turned the motifs with the result you see, so that the circles are no longer circles. James is wearing a rather nice store-boughten sweater.

At some point that weekend, Alexander noticed Rachel's new Fair Isle jacket and we agreed that the neckline is rubbish, and he said to her, "Mummy isn't very good on necklines" which I think is a fair comment. Kaffe and Starmore have to take some of the blame, perhaps. Maybe it's an over-reaction in my case from the days when I knit them all too tight and had to struggle to pull things on over the heads of my suffering children.

Theo's sweater (which reappears in the background here) has a very successful neckline -- EZ's shirt yoke. And I have high hopes of the placket-and-collar which will eventually appear on Rachel's striped Koigu, the one being laboriously knit in Strathardle. Perhaps the secret is simply to avoid crew-necks.

Of the picture above: the fun of the Games for our four children, is being all together. They see something of each other in one's and two's, from time to time, but only then does the whole party re-convene, RachelAlexanderJamesandHelen.


I'm working on repeat #72 of the Princess Shawl edging. The prospect of actually finishing draws excitingly close. I cast on for the first Wallaby sleeve yesterday, and ribbed about an inch.

After yesterday's Baby Surprise comparison, I did a sort of double-take and went back to EZ's instructions. Sure enough, she says to knit a swatch and determine gauge. Why on earth? Gauge isn't mentioned anywhere else in the instructions, and could hardly be.


I am surprised that the mayor of New Orleans -- or anyone on earth, come to that -- has the authority to order the people of the city to be forceably removed if they don't want to go.

I found myself wondering how hurricane victims get selected to be hugged by the President for the benefit of banks of photographers. I-feel-your-pain. It would have to be carefully established that you weren't likely to blurt out an uncomfortable opinion; and of course security would have to be gone into. Do you suppose you would then be offered a shower? Or does he hug them as they come? The one thing we can be absolutely sure of, is that there is nothing spontaneous about the process.


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Nearly there Posted by Picasa
Hopeful sheep Posted by Picasa

I got these pictures from Beijing yesterday, and shamelessly reproduce them here although they have nothing to do with the Games or with knitting.

A couple of days before the Games we had a splendid rainbow, the full 180 degrees -- for a while it was even partially double. The left-hand leg was right there, in the stubble field. The village is about half a mile away and you could clearly see it through the rainbow. Some of the children took off in a spontaneous run and, as you see, very nearly got that pot of gold. That's Alistair Miles, James's son, in the lead, I think, with his cousin Archie Drake of Thessaloniki behind. I include the lower picture, taken a moment or two previously, for the sake of the sheep, who clearly entertained some woolly thoughts of wealth themselves.


Janis W. commented yesterday that she was surprised to see that another reader of this recondite Blog, Janis F.,  shared her unusual name. It's odder than that -- there is a third: Mrs Yarn of is also named Janis. She occasionally drops in here, and I read her blog regularly. It's odd. I couldn't have more than 30 readers altogether.

Baby Surprise

Janis W. asked what is different about the double-breasted version (DB) which I knit. Not easy. I must have knit it at least half-a-dozen times, and it still comes out as a total -- well, surprise. The EZ version which comes most readily to hand is the one in the Knitting Workshop, which is particularly cryptic and EZ-like. That adds to the difficulty. (It may have been smoothed out for subsequent publications.)  But I'll try.

You cast on more stitches (202 as opposed to 160) for the DB version. For the first bit, when you are creating mitres by decreasing, the no of stitches in the centre portion of the DB is exactly twice that of the outside bits. The first row is k. 49, double decrease, k. 98, double decrease, k. 49. The EZ version starts k. 34, double decrease, k. 86, double decrease, k. 34.

EZ increases for fullness at the cuff after 5 decreases. DB omits that. EZ has 22 decreases in that first part, DB has 23. Both then start increasing at the mitre line. Both increase 10 across the back for fulness: DB does it immediately after the decreases are complete, EZ after six increases.

EZ puts in the neck shaping after another seven increases (13 in all). DB starts shaping the neck at 10 increases, and continues the shaping by decreasing one at the beginning of each of the next eight rows, while continuing to increase at the mitres. EZ doesn't slope the neck like that.

So far, more or less, so good. After the neck shaping, DB puts in a row of buttonholes, then continues increasing another 16 times, puts in another row of buttonholes, two more rows straight, cast off.

I don't understand the final part of the EZ original at all. You work 10 ridges on the centre section only. You pick up 10 sts from each side of that little flap, and meld them with the original side sections, and put in buttonholes after another three increases. There is only one set of buttonholes for EZ, of course. She says to cast off loosely in PURL on the right side. I'll remember that. DB just says, cast off loosely.

In the immortal Knitlist rubric, I hope this helps. I doubt if it will.


Tuesday, September 06, 2005

At the Games Posted by Picasa