Sunday, December 31, 2006

I’m sorry to say goodbye to Ought Six. It’s been a good one, despite the broken arm.

We got to Thessaloniki and back…

We “did” Christmas…

And we won the Calcutta Cup.

Calcutta Cup

Best wishes for Ought Seven to everybody, but it doesn’t have quite the same ring.

This is what I’ve knit this year:

A First Holy Communion veil for granddaughter Rachel, in Beijing. Her sister Kirsty’s initials have been included as well.
A Nudibranch scarf, test-knitting Lorna's fun pattern.
A striped Koigu, rugby-shirt style, for daughter Rachel.
A 70th-birthday shawl for my sister Helen, Gladys Amedro’s “Cobweb Lace Wrap” for shape – an elongated triangle; patterns from Sharon Miller’s “Heirloom Knitting”.
A shrug of Debbie Bliss’ Pure Silk, and her pattern, as my entry in the Home Industries Tent at the Strathardle Highland Games in August. It was unplaced. The object was then bestowed on granddaughter Helen.
The “Paisley Long Shawl”, a Christmas present for my sister-in-law.
A “therapy scarf” – feather-and-fan of Debbie Bliss “Maya” – as I recovered from breaking my left arm in September. It wound up as a Christmas present for daughter-in-law Ketki.
A watchcap, rather small, in brioche stitch, same yarn; a Christmas present for granddaughter Rachel.
A vest for myself of green-y Malabrigo.
ONE pair of socks, for daughter-in-law Cathy.

On the needles:

A sweater celebrating Scotland’s victory in ’06 in the annual Calcutta Cup rugby match against England, for son Alexander; see above.
A gansey for his wife Ketki.
A pair of socks, for some gent.

If my records are accurate, I’ve dispatched – knit, or lost, or given away – 105 balls or skeins of yarn this year, and only welcomed home 85. That’s pretty good. There’s a chance that I may polish off an oddball of charcoal grey Shetland jumper weight this evening, too. That would bring the total to 106, which would be appropriate.

I used to send reports like this, in all their tedium, to the Knitlist. Last year, I didn’t write it down at all. The main usefulness of such an account for myself, is to keep a printout in the file where I also keep untidy and incomplete records of what I have knit, patterns, yarn samples, incomprehensible notes. So this year I’ll print this message. When I am looking back to find the record of a particular project – which happens surprisingly often – it helps to have a summary-of-the-year, now that there are so many years.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Not much knitting today, either. I’ll post a picture of the Calcutta Cup sweater tomorrow, to round off Ought Six in appropriate fashion. It’s inching its way forward.

Current Events

I have always been horrified by the death penalty, but it wasn’t until I read Brendan Behan’s play, “The Quare Fellow”, that I was able to put a finger on what’s wrong: namely, that the normal human conscience is revolted by the taking of a defenceless life. I think the BBC announcer was expressing something of the same idea this morning, when he allowed himself a brief snort of amusement at President Bush’s idea that an execution can be a step on the road to “democracy”.

More Xmas

James sent me some Xmas pictures yesterday. Here I am, pruning an apple tree. I like this one. The pose flatters the figure – and just look at that left arm! Thank you for your concern about it, Lorna. I’m doing fine, I think. It’s still weak and sore, but getting better and more functional, day by day.


The red secateurs add an artistic coup de rouge, don't you think?

And here are two of the ones he stopped to take on the way to Mass on Christmas morning.




Marty52, Grumperina has been on my Favorites list for a while now. She’s good.

Catherine, the Scottish New Year isn’t what it used to be. I’m glad in a way – in the old days, it would have lasted all next week. As late as the 60’s, England scarcely celebrated the New Year and Scotland was pretty casual about Christmas. But now, due no doubt to the forces of commerce, Christmas is big here, and the New Year is big, too, in a party-and-fireworks sense which leaves little time and no strength for the old-style First Footing.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Here we are again. Christmas was wonderful.

By a special dispensation, bordering on the miraculous, the east of Scotland was spared the weather which afflicted the rest of the UK (and nearly closed Heathrow). We had day after day of brilliant sunshine and serious frost. “Everything sparkles,” as Rachel the Younger observed.

This was dawn on the 19th, our first morning there...

Xmas06 001

And it went on like that. James has taken up astronomy in his middle years – he was able to be out there with a whole sky-full of stars every night except one He showed me Saturn and its rings.

James and his children, Alistair, Kirsty and Rachel, plucking pheasants, below. The communal-activity aspect of this task did not last long. We ate the pheasants on Christmas Eve, and very tasty they were. My husband and I finished them off last night in a rather successful risotto.

Xmas06 004

Christmas Day was the coldest and most brilliant of them all. James stopped his car on the way to Mass to photograph the frost effects – I hope I’ll be able to show you the results soon.

And Christmas itself was The Way It Used To Be. We even went on the Christmas Walk – some of us; Cathy and Ketki stayed behind and reduced chaos to order in the kitchen while we were away. You walk upstream a little bit to the Cultalonie Bridge, then across the burn and down through the farmyard and several fields until you get to Balchrochan, then across that bridge and back upstream through our own land. It was tough going, because of the hard frost. It would have been easier to sink into the muddy ridges than to try to balance on top of them. But we did it, me and my husband, James and Alexander, and Alistair, Rachel and James-the-Younger. Although my husband said, as we went to bed, that that was probably his last Christmas Walk.

This is what it looked like on the morning of the 26th -- no more sunshine; they've all gone away.

Xmas06 015

Not much knitting; a few rows of Ketki’s gansey. I’ve done better with the Calcutta Cup sweater since we got back on Wednesday.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


I hope I’m not violating copyright by quoting an eBay description of VKB No. 47. You’ll have to hurry; it closes this afternoon. The current bid is only £40.51:

“This excellent magazine has been well used, and shows it’s age. Sadly the front and back covers are missing (I have not listed the patterns affected by this), the back and front pages are detached and have tears, creases and old sellotape marks down the spine. The centre six pages are loose, but although ‘dog-eared’, the rest of the magazine is in really quite good condition.”

I feel good. That “it’s” was not my idea, either; I’m quoting.

Calcutta Cup Sweater

Julie, I cannot thank you enough for those two references. I spent a bit of time with them yesterday, and got out Woolgathering 72. I really feel I’m making progress.

Meg, in both her sweaters, begins the pattern which is going to run down the sleeves, at the armholes. So she can set her pattern appropriately and doesn’t have to worry about splitting it. Feitelson’s “Ballasound Cropped Jumper”, however, is the real McCoy as far as the Prince of Wales joke is concerned. I had to struggle with her instructions (not because they are not clear, but because I am not good at visualizing knitting when it isn’t in my hands).

I’ve learned two things. She breaks the yarn when she gets to the armholes – so that henceforth the end-of-round new-colour join can come in the middle of one of the armhole steeks. Maybe everybody does that. I hadn’t thought of it.

And she leaves the pattern’s centre stitch behind on a holder at each side, below the centre of the new steek. It will eventually become a “seam stitch” for the sleeve. That's why the yarn has to be broken, I think.

For some reason already forgotten, I have elected to begin each round with the stitch before the centre stitch of the pattern. But I could leave three stitches behind, and I think I probably will.

Both Meg and Feitelson say to join the sleeve one row in, and to match the pattern stitch by stitch as you pick it up, not to try to pick up in the pattern for the next round. That baffled me for a while, but there is a photograph in Woolgathering which makes it clear. Meg says she used to pick up in “the next sequential round”, but now does it this way, implying a fair amount of experience in this sort of thing.

I had been sort of thinking of leaving a whole pattern repeat behind at the armhole, so that the sleeve would be set in. But I think I realized yesterday that that’s absolutely pointless in this situation, since the whole thing is going to flow as if cut from one piece of cloth.


There’s more to say, about the Fair Isle, and about Lorna’s and Jenny’s comments yesterday, but I’ve gone on long enough and a busy day looms. I’ve made all those beds, and dusted a bit, and at least it looks as if we’re expecting someone. The plan is for my husband and me to go back to Strathardle tomorrow, the Beijing Mileses to follow a day later when we’ve got the place warmed up. Once he gets there, James will wi-fi us up to the ears again, and I ought to be able to report in at least occasionally.

In case not, and in case I fail to turn up here tomorrow, Happy Winter Solstice everybody! We made it!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Thank you for the link to Amazon, Lorna. I wrote to them, and I have had an answer: go try the sorting office, they say. Well, maybe after Christmas. I replaced the necessary books all right, although it took two Waterstone’s to do it.

I walked down Howe Street on the way home -- we usually go down Dundas Street, past the commercial art galleries -- and found an LYS whose existence I had heard of but whose precise location was unknown to me. It’s a curious place, called McAree Brothers. Large and brightly-lit with a lot of interesting stuff and a somewhat impersonal feel – nothing to do with the pleasant ladies who staff it. I stayed for a quarter of an hour or so; there was no other customer, although Edinburgh was pullulating yesterday afternoon.

I bought some Regia sock yarn to encourage them, not because I needed it. The shade was the only one that seemed even vaguely possible for a gent. I was horrified at the price -- £3.95 per ball. It may well be that I have never bought it over the counter in Britain before. Is it always like that?

sock yarn 001

They had a pleasant yarn called Sublime, in various qualities and with some nice patterns. I had never heard of it.

It is pleasant to know the shop is there, as long as it lasts.


Here’s the Calcutta Cup sweater, proceeding nicely as you see. I’m putting much thought into sleeve holes and neck. Since I’m going to want to continue the pattern down the sleeves without a break, turning it sideways, I think I’m going to have to add an extra stitch, front or back, at each side when I divide for the armhole steek, so that back and front finish at precisely the same point in the pattern. Maybe I’d better have a look at the recent Woolgathering in which Meg employs the same trick. I think I’m going to have to pick up the sleeve stitches in pattern, too.

sock yarn 002 sock yarn 003

And what about the neck? I’ve cooled off on the idea of attempting EZ’s seamless hybrid. A shawl collar, maybe?


Things have been pretty quiet on the VKB front lately. I looked in on eBay last night and found that No 41 was closing in half an hour (they’re meant to tell me, but don’t always manage it). I already had it, but in rotten condition, so I bought this one for a modest £5.50.

I also noticed that No. 48, which finishes tomorrow, is up to £26 already. (110066880859
if you’re interested.) It lacks its cover, and an ad has been torn out. Wouldn’t touch it, myself. But it makes me feel ever so much better to know that silly prices are paid for VKB’s even when I’m not bidding. I really had begun to think that they could somehow see me coming, and lay in wait.

I lack only one post-war VKB, so we’re moving in to the end game. It would be nice, although highly unlikely, if one would turn up next week. My grandson Alistair enjoyed eBaying with me in the summer, and he will be here again. Indeed, arriving tomorrow. Today must be spent cleaning and making beds, once I’ve posted those two books.

Friday, December 15, 2006

I’ve just been re-reading my entries for December,’05. There’s not much about knitting. Nor is there much on that subject to report here. The Calcutta Cup sweater is moving on nicely. I’ll take another picture of it tomorrow.

I have started taking calcium pills – can’t do any harm. Eventually, when the NHS gets around to it, I will have a bone density scan. Meanwhile, I discovered this week that the calcium pill container, emptied, is perfect for sock needles. I’ve got all the No. 1’s in the first one.

calcium pills


I finished the cards yesterday, and dispatched two more parcels. Parcel-dispatching can't be concluded yet as Amazon has let me down. (More likely, the Royal Mail has let Amazon down, but I can’t find anywhere on their website to send an actual email to an actual human being to say so.) The books were nothing very fancy, and there is every hope that I can buy them on Princes Street today and struggle with Amazon later.

I do so agree with you about Christmas cards, Lene. I enjoy getting in touch with old friends, however briefly. I am irritated by the socially-necessary ones to people I see regularly. What’s the point? There may be a difference between nationalities here, maybe just between families. My husband’s sister would be profoundly hurt if we didn’t send her a card as well as giving her a present. She’s right here in Edinburgh and we see her often, including more than once during the holiday period; there’s no news to exchange. My sister doesn’t expect a card – if she ever did, which I doubt, she certainly doesn’t by now. And I would, I think, be profoundly hurt if I got one from her. Cards, in my book, are for people a little more distant than one’s very nearest and dearest.

But it’s a tricky time of year. Best to go with the flow.

And yes, Sue, the neighbour who took yesterday’s picture is a member, although only by marriage, of the family which has caused us so much grief. Neighbouring is a tough assignment, especially in the country.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

12-14-2006 08;14;10AM

Our Strathardle neighbours’ Christmas card – the dog is running along the Old Driveway. Our property begins behind that gate, which one of them put up to be annoying during the 10-year struggle of wills over the right-of-way question. Our lawyer said at one point that our new driveway cost us as much (in his fees) as an equivalent stretch of the M6. The gate has warped and doesn’t even shut properly, not that there is anything for it to shut either in or out. Still, it’s a nice picture.

I finished the Malabrigo vest – a last FO for Ought Six. I pretty well achieved what I set out to achieve. It fits well, and is deliciously cosy. I think I will wear it.

Malabrigo 001

I don’t like contemplating myself in any mirror, because I am old and fat. The armholes are not cut in enough, so that the vest overlaps the upper arm instead of staying neatly on the shoulder. At least I was successful in short-rowing the shoulder cast-off, so it doesn’t stick out like epaulettes.

Tonight I will return to the Calcutta Cup Fair Isle.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

That went well. Driving was surprisingly comfortable and secure, insofar as driving is ever secure. Everything seems in good order in the house, despite our three months’ absence. A bit of natural light does cheer one up, this time of year. Somehow it doesn’t work as well in the city.

december 005

That is how my vegetable garden looked at breakfast time yesterday. One really does occasionally worry, this time of year, that God has simply forgotton to turn the day on.

We bought a Christmas tree – that’s a big step forward. It’s got to be Norway spruce, they sell all sorts of fir trees these days; and it’s got to be rooted. We have spent the considerable majority of Christmasses in Strathardle, since our first one in 1963, always with such a tree. After three or four years it gets too big, and is put out to pasture somewhere. We wish now we’d kept a diary and map of them all. We both feel sure that they all lived.

My arm is having a great time, released from constriction. I think the orthopod was right, that I don’t need physiotherapy. I can now raise it above my head, stretching almost as far as the other arm. It’s uncomfortable. I do it a couple of times a day, for practice. The behind-the-back element of things is taken care of by fastening bras and tying aprons. I think the answer is that there are fractures and fractures.


I finished the knitting of the Malabrigo vest while we were there, mattress-stitched the shoulders, and brought it home to do the sleeve-hole and neck ribbing. Picture soon.

And resumed Ketki’s gansey. I wanted to get that well going, so that I could knit it when the house party assembles next week without having to abstract myself too much. I got back into the swing of the stitch pattern (“Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern” from Gladys Thompson’s book) easily enough, and there’s no mark where the knitting lay untouched for months, probably because the stitches were on waste yarn rather than a needle.

december 002 december 003

But I haven’t much idea what to do next. I have divided it at the armholes, and am knitting the back. The neckline is rapidly approaching. I have pages and pages of unintelligible notes, and even a couple of sketches, very grown-up. I can't make any sense of them. I read Brown-Reinsel and re-read and re-read again, and made a couple of decisions which I wrote down, with page references. We shall soon see.

december 001

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Knitting Curmudgeon has produced the winning entry for the 2006 Bad Taste in Knitting Prize (scroll down her Blog a bit to see it). We’re not even going to interview any more candidates. I propose to nominate the Curmudgeon for a Lifetime Service Award for finding it.


At my previous orthopedic appt in November, apart from losing my knitting, I was disappointed to be sent away with a come-back-in-four-weeks. Yesterday, to my astonishment, I was discharged. I’m finished; cured. The arm is not as strong or as mobile as it’s going to be (I hope) but it’s doing very nicely. I could see the improvement in the xrays myself. If it were a leg bone, he said, I’d now be walking on it.

For the last eight weeks, after two weeks in plaster, I have been wearing a plastic carapace on my upper arm. Now I’m not. Its removal has increased the comfort and usefulness of the arm no end. He didn’t prescribe physiotherapy – he seemed to think the normal activities of life would gradually take care of things. I’ll make some effort, anyway, to swing the arm around a bit. I can’t comfortably raise it even to shoulder height yet. I can fix up physiotherapy locally if I think I need it, he said – the new Infirmary is a long way away.

So we’ll go to Strathardle tomorrow; the Blog should resume on Tuesday. Discomfort on changing gear, as experienced on the way to the supermarket on Wednesday, is muscular, the nice man said. Gear-changing can’t hurt the bone. My husband was worried about that.


I didn’t get as much sock done yesterday as I might have hoped. I was there a long time, but one keeps getting called to move on, from the Initial Waiting Room to the Xray Waiting Room to the Waiting to See an Actual Doctor Waiting Room, with consequent interruption to the smooth onward flow.

But I’m somewhat forrader with the Calcutta Cup sweater, and satisfied, if not overwhelmed with delight, at the current state of things. I will proceed like this, with the pattern distinctly visible, and only small changes as we go along in the colours of pattern and background.

Before and After

CalcuttaCup 004 CalcuttaCup 006

This is the fun part of knitting a Fair Isle jumper, just going peacefully round and round. The underarm and more Decisions will arrive all too soon.

Kate, thanks for your comment. Meg recommends using sleeves as a sort of swatch – she claims not to do proper swatches, herself, which is rather endearing. I can’t do that here, since the sleeves are going to be done top-down. I’ll keep on worrying about the size. And the neck. Getting that right is rather important.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

I had a lovely time at Waitrose.

The car started first touch (a five-year-old Skoda; we’re fond of it). Driving is perfectly do-able, my grip on the steering wheel more secure than might have been expected. Changing gear is uncomfortable, but the discomfort doesn’t last once the gear-changing is over. This afternoon is to be spent at orthopedics again, trying not to lose my knitting this time. I will tell them what I did and how it felt, and see what they have to say.

I am grateful for all the suggestions yesterday about the Calcutta Cup sweater. I spent the day transfixed by indecision, rabbit-in-headlight fashion.

[I spent the day doing the things that needed doing, while thinking about knitting, as usual. Jane Austen says of Fanny’s mother, in “Mansfield Park”, “Her days were spent in a kind of slow bustle; always busy without getting on, always behindhand and lamenting it, without altering her ways.” That’s me.]

The Sweater Wizard ran me up a new pattern on fewer stitches. I had a serious look back through the archives and discovered that the number of stitches I have actually been using is identical, or nearly, to several successful sweaters in the distant past. When I got it off the needles, it didn’t look too bad, size-wise, although of course it’s still being held in by the ribbing. The gauge seems to be maybe 7.25 sts per inch.

I like several of yesterday’s suggestions, especially yours, Rosesmama, of putting a wee peerie pattern below the cup. But I can’t do that without starting again.

In the end, I removed the orange yarn which was the prime source of distress, apart from size worries, and went on from there. I’ll have to keep watching size closely, though. Alexander is right, that too big is better than too small, and that may be especially true of Fair Isle which is such a tight fabric. The slightest snugness can make the wearer look and feel like a cushion.

I have abandoned attempts at subtle colour shading. It’s just not me. The pattern is 18 rows (and 18 stitches, so that I can turn it sideways when the time comes), in distinct nine-row sections. I’m keeping the notion of using bright red-and-yellow for the centre row of each section. The remaining eight rows will alternate between grey and brown, with the foreground light throughout. There will be a small variety of browns and of lights, and the grey sections will be both charcoal grey and real black.

Picture soon. Most of last night’s knitting time was spent getting the stitches back on the needle, seating them properly, and retrieving – in the right colour – the ones which had chosen to run back a row. But I’m now moving forward again with some confidence.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Today I am going to try driving to the supermarket – a test both for myself and for the car. I’m scared. I like going to the supermarket: that’s something. It’ll be fun, if I get there. Waitrose has recently opened in Edinburgh: a palace of delights. They don’t deliver yet, so we have reverted to Sainsbury’s recently, who deliver promptly and reliably. But an hour in Waitrose, if I achieve it, will be sweet.

We’ve postponed Strathardle for a day, until Saturday, because of a problem involving a leaking lavatory and an overworked plumber. Lorna's tragic story at least includes a plumber who came within ten minutes. That’s unimaginable, in Edinburgh.

Readership and weight both down this morning!


Many, many thanks to everybody who attempted to lighten my darkness on the .pdf file front. I’ve just been to the Traditional Knitting site and downloaded a lot of Liz’s files – all the ones I think I want – by right-clicking on them. Now that I’ve got them, I can face up to Adobe in a calmer week – or, more profitably, investigate Foxit. Thanks a lot. Right-clicking is a technique I still tend to overlook.

Lene, can't you order Shetland yarns from Jamieson & Smith, having first obtained a shade card? They're very efficient.

Calcutta Cup sweater

I’m not happy.

CalcuttaCup 004

I thought last night that maybe I was just suffering from a bad case of the winter glooms (“I’faith, I know not why I am so sad,” as someone once said) but I still don’t like it this morning.

I am grateful for your sympathy on the gauge front, and interested to hear what troubles other people have had, even using familiar yarn and techniques. I often think of a passage I’ve probably quoted before, from Evelyn Waugh’s “Men at Arms”: “Major Erskine…was strangely dishevelled in appearance. His uniform was correct and clean but it never seemed to fit him, not through any fault of the tailor’s, but rather because the major seemed to change shape from time to time during the day.”

Not that it’s Alexander’s fault, in this case. He gallantly wrote yesterday to say that too big is better than too small. I seem to be getting about 7 stitches to the inch, which would produce a circumference of slightly more than 46”. That’s really too much. I was aiming for 43” (7.5 stitches to the inch) and that is already generous, to accommodate the pattern repeats.

And I don’t like the pattern – so easy it’s difficult. And I don’t at all like the way I’ve arranged the colours vis a vis the pattern. This one, in particular:

CalcuttaCup 005

So I think the thing to do is go back to the drawing board in the form of the Sweater Wizard, and try 7 stitches as my gauge and a different pattern (I’ve found another possible). The Calcutta Cup motif can be altered by moving the bits of it closer together. I won't rip out this work, at least for the time being, just lay it aside as a dreadful warning.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Who would have thought cricket could be so exciting?


I’ve had a successful first cider-less day. I always feel much better and more sprightly without it, which is slightly embarrassing. Catherine, I was happy to hear that you agree with my approach: the first line of defence is to eliminate one high-calorie regularly-consumed item from the diet and see what happens. I’m lucky in that my husband’s diabetes eliminated sugar some years ago. He misses it more than I do. And, Kate, I had thought of what you say – that my activity has been limited these last two months, because of the arm, and especially since there have been no trips to the country.

Thanks for much for the help on Adobe Reader, and for the warming that Liz Lovick’s gansey files are going to be removed at the end of the week. But is it possible to download a pdf file without calling Adobe into action? I thought it sprang to life at the first click. Foxit sounds interesting and I will investigate.

Janet, that was tough about missing your birthday flight to Edinburgh. You would have found it pretty stormy here, too. As for airport chaos, we had more than a bit of that on our way to Thessaloniki, and I sympathise.

An early start is always difficult for my husband. We planned to have his first insulin injection of the day, therefore, and breakfast, at Gatwick itself, after we had checked in and done security. It was crowded and pretty awful, but we managed those tedious hurdles and found somewhere that promised a possible breakfast, although crowded, and just as we addressed ourselves to the menu, the entire airport was evacuated because of a fire scare. My husband wound up injecting himself outdoors, and breakfasting on the emergency rations I had provided. The Diabetic Association says always to carry food when you travel, and never let it out of your sight.

All this to postpone talking about knitting…

I had to rip back half-a-round of the Calcutta Cup sweater yesterday. The pattern is so easy that the row-below doesn’t always provide the guidance one expects of a Fair Isle pattern as to whether one is doing the current row right. Off the needle, the circumference of the sweater looked alarmingly large.

And sure enough, spread on my knee, gauge seems substantially off. Why should this be? I have lots of experience, and careful notes.

I think the only thing to do is to finish one pattern repeat and then take quite a few stitches off, perhaps 50 or so, put them on a thread, and try to get a serious idea of what gauge I am achieving. I am mentally adjusting to looking on the whole enterprise so far as a big swatch. It would be sad to have to do the ribbing and the Calcutta Cup again, but it may come to that.

I am forming some notions about simplifying the colour changes. It won’t be entirely time wasted.

Monday, December 04, 2006

So, bonjour sobriety.

In the spring and summer, and in September until I fell down, I started every day by weighing myself, and then booting the computer and looking to see how many hits the blog had had the day before, and then writing both these numbers down in my electronic Filofax.

I’ve stopped both practices since I broke my arm. Today I started again

Compared to September 25, readership is identical and I’m half a stone heavier. That’s seven pounds. No joke.

Odds and ends of knitting…

I finished the Calcutta Cup motif and started in on the actual all-over pattern last night. It’s utter bliss, as hoped. I remain anxious and uncertain about the distribution of colours, and won’t really know how I’m doing for quite a while. I think it will be all right to make minor changes and adjustments as I go along, in fact I think it will make things look livelier. For radical alterations, I’d have to rip.

Picture soon.

Thanks for comments yesterday about my incomplete gansey. I didn’t follow Liz Lovick’s gansey workshop in the Traditional Knitters group, mostly I think because I have an unreasoning dislike of Adobe what’s-its-name. I suspect I’ve been missing something. I did see her article in IK, and it was fascinating. And I extravagantly admire her work. Maybe I had better face up to Adobe.

The good news is that we’ve got a date for the knitting retreat, now re-christened “fibre craft retreat”, that Lorna will be hosting next year: May 11-14. It’s a tough time of year for a girl to be away from her vegetable garden, and I have other domestic entanglements, but I’m desperately hoping I’ll be able to go.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Today is my sister’s 70th birthday. That’s a big one. Happy Birthday, Helen.

A different Helen wrote yesterday saying that it was wonderful to see the Calcutta Cup emerging from the ribbing. So it is – I’m now doing the penultimate row. Gauge seems good, although I’ll keep measuring. I told the Sweater Wizard 7 ½ sts to the inch. Then the total had to be increased slightly to accommodate an 18-stitch pattern repeat. I wouldn’t be entirely sorry to see 7 ¾ stitchs to the inch, and have gone down a needle size from my Fair Isle usual with that thought in mind. 7 ¼ would be bad news.

But that’s not the point.

I knit this sweater for Rachel 30 years ago, when she went up to Cambridge.

12-03-2006 08;39;51AM

It’s from Pam Dawson’s “Knitting Fashion” which was one of the milestone books in my knitting career. Front and back are identical – I put O TEMPORA O MORES on one side, and Archimedes’ “Give me a place to stand…” in Greek on the other. (The reference is to the principle of the fulcrum and lever – “Give me a place to stand and I will move the earth.”)

I don’t think I have ever knit so much text. But much or little, the experience is the same. The knitting seems completely irrational, without system or symmetry, but what emerges, makes sense. It’s sort of exciting.

Kathy, what happened to the gansey was that I got worried about size, and laid it aside until Ketki came for the Games, in late August, so that I could try it on. The picture below, which I’ve posted before, shows it being tried on Helen earlier in the summer– daughter Helen, that is, who is not the same person as either of the two Helen’s mentioned above. I filled in the time with a plain vanilla Malabrigo vest for myself – I seem to have deleted all the pictures of that. And then of course I broke my arm, and both these projects were stranded in Strathardle. The vest is virtually finished. If we get there next weekend, I’ll polish it off.

gansey 005

And then go back to the gansey. At the worst, it will fit Helen, and I can start again on one for Ketki, with more information.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

The Calcutta Cup progresses, and should be finished – the actual motif with its “’06” – this evening. And I’m sort of getting back into the swing of colour knitting.

CalcuttaCup 12-02-2006 09;32;27AM

Thank you for your comment yesterday, Lene. I like the way the colours are looking, too, and am, at least mentally, rejigging my ideas for the all-over patterned bit, soon to begin, in favour of more darkness. Keeping the same colour scheme, but giving the darks a bigger role in it. The picture I’m deriving my colour scheme from, has lots of darkness.


We’re thinking of attempting Strathardle on Friday, the day after my next orthopaedic appt. By then it will be more than 10 weeks since I fell. I’ve made a lot of progress, but the arm is still very weak. I’ll need to try an experimental trip to the supermarket to see whether the car will still start after all this time, and whether I can change gears comfortably. Now that the proposed date is within a week, it’s sort of scary.

But it would be very good to have things squared away somewhat before Christmas, which we plan to spend there with the Beijing Mileses. Alexander and Ketki and their sons will come over from Argyll on Christmas Day, if all goes well, and leave on the 26th. And my husband wants to get this year’s dead leaves out of the gutters and the ditch that runs beside the driveway (and floods it, given half a chance).

And I’d like to recover the sample sweater Alexander gave me as a size-template for both himself and Ketki. He was able to part with it because it’s got an indelible red wine stain down the front. It’s up there serving as a model for Ketki’s gansey, but I’d like to have it here for the crucial period when I discover what gauge I’m actually getting on the Calcutta Cup sweater, and whether the resulting size is going to be acceptable.

I fear it’s time to go back to my Sobriety Routine – cider only on Sundays. Cider has been a great comfort to me throughout my recent ordeal. I sort of thought that suffering might have a refining effect, but apparently not – pounds are creeping back on, and I don’t really think I need the crutch any more now that I can knit. So, Monday…

Friday, December 01, 2006

Well, that’s November out of the way, only three more weeks to the solstice, ‘tis the season to be jolly.

I spent much of yesterday searching in vain on line for a particular object I have acquired this year. I love it, and want to give it as a Christmas present. I will be no more specific – you never know who might be reading this. The website of my American source is no longer available. Much tedious Googling produced no results.

But I knew that the thing I want can be bought in the UK, because I had seen it mentioned in a magazine article in the summer. The sort of magazine people keep back issues of (mine are in Strathardle). I appealed to a relevant newsgroup, this morning someone sent me the answer, I’ve ordered three of the things, Christmas is pretty well sewed up. I’m feeling cheerful.

Back to my knitting…

Here is the Calcutta Cup sweater. Those yellow blobs are the beginnings of the cup itself. A couple more days should make things much clearer.

CalcuttaCup 001

I am interested and surprised that FI is so tiring for you, Lene. Mine is not much fun at the moment, because it’s irregular and has long stretches of the background colour. (“’06” will begin on the next round; that will help.) But I confidently expect that when I reach the actual Fair Isle part and the pattern settles into a rhythm, everything will be as blissful as in the old days. Time will tell.

I ordered a bit more charcoal grey and black from Jamieson & Smith. It arrived yesterday – and look at that! They wind it for you these days! I got a new shade card, too.

CalcuttaCup 003

I still haven’t done anything about mending those little-boy sweaters I brought back from Thessaloniki, and now I have another mending job.

This is a qiviut scarf I knit for my mother, ten years or so ago. Blind follower that I am, I didn’t notice what is probably the only mistake in Gladys Amedro’s book “Shetland Lace” until the scarf was being blocked. It’s the Fine Lace Scarf pattern. At the beginning, she establishes the Ring Stitch pattern and then says, “work as rows 35 to 58 a further three times.” After the centre portion, she says, “continue with the Ring Stitch and Edging Lace, working as rows 35 to 58 three times." You see the difficulty.

CalcuttaCup 002

I wrote to Mrs Amedro, c/o the Shetland Times, and she phoned me within the week, apologising in considerable embarrassment. Accuracy meant a lot to her.

Anyway, my sister now has the scarf, and the CT moths have been at it. I don’t seem to have any more qiviut – I never throw anything away, but I have a dim half-memory of having given it away. However, I have bought some J&S lace-weight which arrived in yesterday’s order and matches surprisingly well. Now all I have to do is get to work. The scarf badly needs blocking, too.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Black Day rolls round again, but I am a bit less glum this year. It is no longer The Anniversary of the Day I Broke My Arm – it is now just The Anniversary of One of the Days I Broke One of My Arms (the right one, just below the shoulder, four years ago). The Spinning Fishwife's account of the sad anniversary she went through last week – and the Chancellor’s news yesterday that his baby son has cystic fibrosis – are sharp reminders, both of them, that I have it pretty good and should stop complaining.

And today is a significant one in the history of Christendom, when the Pope goes to Constantinople to see the Ecumenical Patriarch after a millennium of estrangement and hostility. That’s what this trip to Turkey is all about. And the Greeks still call it “Constantinople”, I am happy to report – I even saw a road sign, the day I went to Philippi.

Little has happened on the knitting front. I should finish the ribbing on the Calcutta Cup sweater this evening, all being well.

I’m grateful for everybody’s support (comments, yesterday) on the subject of book-buying-for-Christmas. I had a happy time with Amazon yesterday; still a couple to do.

Nothing to say, so perhaps the thing is to stop saying it. I read in the Economist yesterday that dooce spends seven hours a day on blog-writing, now that she makes her living by it. I used to read her a lot; don’t any more. She doesn’t seem to knit.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

I’m about an inch and a half into the Calcutta Cup ribbing. It’s interesting to see how the colours like each other when they are actually knit together in stripes. I’ll go on for perhaps three inches altogether – so pretty soon I’ll be knitting the Cup itself.

You’re absolutely right, Pamela, that Alexander wouldn’t thank me if I managed to reproduce that neckline. (See yesterday.) Yet what skill must have been needed to do it! Was it steeked? Or agonizingly knit back and forth? I read somewhere once that Shetland knitters, in extremity, would cut the yarn at the end of each row and slide the stitches back to the other end and re-attach, rather than have to purl. Which is pretty much how I feel about it. I have in my time – including the pheasant-sweater for my husband, mentioned yesterday – simply cut out a v-neck afterwards, no steek, picked up stitches, and done some ribbing. But I couldn’t have cut a scoop like that.

The Drummond Place Civic Society meeting last night saw not much progress, but at least a ball of sock yarn finished. I knit during the business part of the meeting, but thought it ill-mannered to carry on during the talk by the local poet.


Judith, that’s a wonderful ANI story.

And Jennifer, what glory! when Mr Gorey created an art work for your agency! What was it? Who got it? I worked very briefly and very humbly for Life Magazine in the summer of 1954. They did a feature on the Lake Isle of Innisfree or if not that something very similar, and we got a wonderful letter of appreciation from one of those Irish poets we had all heard of and had thought was dead by then. There was much competition in the office as to who would get to keep that letter.

Non-knit (Christmas-related)

I spent a gloomy afternoon yesterday ordering Christmas presents on the internet. I did it last year seriously for the first time, and thought the system wonderful. Everything arrived promptly, quality never disappointed.

This year of course catalogues have been flowing on in every tide, from the companies I ordered from then and from others to whom they have sold my name. There seems to be nothing under £20 and everything at all prices is rubbish, the sort of thing left broken or despised on the bedroom floor when one’s Christmas party disperses three days later.

The one comfort, I feel, is book-giving. It was once the last refuge, the great-aunt’s boring choice, but now that DVD’s and computer games rule the world, the giving of a book seems rather retro and classy. Or so I tell myself.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

I knit peacefully on yesterday– less worried about size, as the ribbing begins to look like ribbing, and begins to seem a plausible amount to go around Alexander. I’m going to have random dark stripes in the ribbing, and have just joined in some charcoal grey.

Tonight is the annual general meeting of the Drummond Place Civic Society, which should advance the current travel sock well towards the toe. I got halfway down the foot at my husband’s diabetic appt last week.

Random, including comments:

Mar, I was overjoyed that you recognised Gorey’s “Fruitcake” in my photograph of yesterday. A dear friend, a college roommate, sent it to us as a Christmas card several years ago, and ever since, I have taken it out and propped it up to inspire me, as the very first stage in the Christmas-card-writing thing. It’s brilliant.


We first encountered Gorey (so to speak) when we were living in Northampton, MA, during the academic year 1960-61. (That was before Webs, alas.) My husband bought The Bug Book for what must have been Rachel’s third birthday, in June. Or maybe Christmas. Anyway. We all know it by heart, and still have that somewhat battered copy, dust jacket and all. And we’ve all loved Gorey ever since.

I mention the dust jacket because Alexander, amongst other activities, now actually deals in Gorey first editions.

Jayne wrote to me yesterday wondering if I could help with this question. I couldn’t, although I remember those Munrospun yarn-and-fabric packs vividly. I followed a link to one of the other commenters, because she lives near Edinburgh, and have added her to my Favourites list.

My search for the illustration of Fruitcake, which I have posted here before, produced the Prince of Wales one as well, so here’s that again.

prince of wales

The "joke", as I think can be discerned even in this poor reproduction, is that the pattern flows unbroken down the sleeves. I suppose it's possible that they were knit separately, carefully calculated, and then joined in, but I feel pretty sure that they were knit downwards from the shoulder after stitches were picked up. And that's what I'm going to try to do for Alexander.

Monday, November 27, 2006

I finished the watchcap yesterday (it’s turned out rather small of circumference)…

November 002

…and cast on the Calcutta Cup Fair Isle (determined to frog if I’m unhappy about size)…

November 003

…and started writing Christmas cards.

November 001

I still feel rather low. As every year, I sail through much of November thinking, this isn’t so bad after all, and then hit this dreadful week. One comfort, however, is that one is under no obligation whatsoever to enjoy oneself, whereas a day in May not enjoyed to the hilt is a pearl lost forever.


Ah, Catriona, you date yourself – as young! After ANI went down, there was, briefly, a really rather classy LYS on Little Clarendon Street. I visited a subsequent Rowan shop near the bus station – is that Gloucester Green? – and was unimpressed. Rowan, I could get in Birmingham. My vague impression (but it’s been a few years now) is that the Oxford Knitwear Shop is still there. And your news that the Munchy Munchy still functions is the best news of the month.

The proprietor of ANI was named Heinz Edgar Kiewe – a refugee from Hitler’s Germany, mentioned both in Rutt’s History of Handknitting and in Mary Thomas, I’ve forgotten which of her books, in connection with the history of Aran knitting. He wrote an utterly loony book called “The Sacred History of Knitting”. He used to advertise in the VKB, so I knew the shop long before I lived near enough Oxford to visit it. He had a terrific range of Shetland wools, amongst much else.

One summer in Strathardle I picked up bits of heather and leaves and things on the hills, and took them to Ship Street and tipped them out on the counter and said, I want to knit a sweater like that. The colours were patiently matched, and the sweater successfully knit. My husband wore it for years. It made him look like a pheasant.

So it was a real tragedy when Art Needlework Industries closed its doors. I am happy to remember that I wrote to Mr Kiewe (instead of just thinking of doing it), saying that an Oxford without ANI was as unthinkable as one without Blackwell’s, or Balliol. I was rather proud of the phrase.

He died not many months later.

Kate, I’m now more worried about your problem. Your knitting will tend to expand when you finish the colour bit, and going down a needle size may accomplish no more than to make the rest the same size as the Fair Isle. I will follow your adventures on your webpage with interest.

Janet, national origins are quite simple. I am American, bred in the bone, a potential DAR I think. I met my husband while I was studying in Glasgow. He is a Scot, as you opine, although one grandmother was German. Three of our four children have spent substantial time abroad, and Alexander has compounded the transatlantic flavour of things by marrying an American. The other three spouses are thoroughly English.

Helen lives in Greece (she remarked to me while we were there last month, that she has spent more than half her life abroad), James in China. Alexander and Ketki are currently in London, but have lived in Hong Kong and Bombay, and spent time in NY. Rachel, our eldest, is a Londoner through and through. She regards “abroad” with deepest suspicion, and is even a bit doubtful about Scotland, where she was born.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

I’ve fed the figures through the Sweater Wizard and now have what might be called a pattern for Alexander’s Fair Isle. I wound another skein yesterday, and will probably finish the watchcap tonight. So I’ll be casting on at any moment. It's sort of scary, after all this preliminary chatter.

Kate (comment yesterday), I had a look at your blog and admired your nascent sweater and envied your summer and left a comment. Fit is a constant anxiety. I tend to make sweaters too big these days, after decades of making ’em too small. Remember that blocking can achieve a certain amount. I used never to do it, and am now devoted to the process. As for my Calcutta Cup, this time it’s not to be lace at all, just colour. I think I’ll probably do it in two colours only, no changes, and with the contrast not too obtrusive.

Julie, I am greatly encouraged by your reported success at getting that EZ saddle shoulder to work with stranded two-colour knitting. I hadn’t thought about the agonies of knitting back and forth in two colours, but perhaps it could be endured for so brief a span.

In the 70’s, or whatever decade it was, they all sort of blur together, when I used to knit Fair Isle sweaters a lot, I used to wonder why I ever knit anything else. One yarn in each hand (I learned that trick, and it was pivotal to my knitting career, from “Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book”), a vertically symmetrical pattern…bliss.

When Alexander and James and Helen were at Oxford, we used to go to see them from time to time, from Birmingham, where we then lived. (Rachel, our eldest, was at Cambridge. We never went to see her. Much too far away.) We would take whoever came to hand to lunch at the Munchy Munchy, not far from the station. Vietnamese? or Thai? Not grand, not expensive, delicious – but one had to remember not to sit down until the Tiger Lady had assigned one to a booth. We made that mistake the first time we went in, and none of us has ever forgotten the experience.

But we kept on going there, because the food was so good. And one day the Tiger Lady said, as she pointed out where we were to sit, “You’ve been here before. I remember the sweaters.” Life has its moments of glory.

Is the Munchy Munchy still there? I doubt it. The LYS of LYS’s, Art Needlework Industries on Ship Street, has been gone for decades, and many a dear Oxford bookshop has followed it into oblivion. “Change and decay in all around I see,” as Uncle Theodore was fond of singing.

Here are some pics from Friday’s Thanksgiving celebrations in London. It was a huge success.


Son-in-law Ed, carving, with his daughter Lizzie behind.


The end of the meal -- a choice of desserts was offered, to the astonishment and delight of the Londoners. That's Alexander; glamourous granddaughter Hellie, who had come down from Newcastle University for the occasion; Rachel; grandson Joe; and Ketki, from behind, in the foreground.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

This is my Calcutta Cup design. I think it’s rather sweet. The idea at present is to repeat it around the sweater, just above the ribbing. I wound another skein yesterday, too. So today’s job is to design the sweater again, shouldn’t take long, and then I’m ready to cast on when the current watchcap is finished. That shouldn’t take long either. You see why I've got to get started -- this much at least must be knit before '06 comes to an end. The Cup itself will almost certainly migrate to its more usual home in London on February 1, when the '07 Calcutta Cup match is played. It would be nice (but unlikely) to have finished the sweater by then.

Calcutta Cup

Last Sunday, as I have mentioned, was my husband’s 81st birthday, and we all went out to lunch down there in London. He and I shot away from the table to take in the last day of the British Art exhibition at the Hayward. When we got home in the evening, I was a little afraid that it was going to be one of those we’ve-had-lots-to-eat-and-don’t-want-any-more situations: my husband never skips a meal; I would have had to make an omelet.

But no: there they all were, or most of them, anyway, planning on pizza.

Theo of course was still wearing his striped Koigu, and as we were all standing around in the kitchen, someone said that I had been unusually successful with the neckline. It's the Seamless Hybrid from EZ's Knitting Without Tears. I've always admired it, but only succeeded when Meg herself told me not to knit it the way her mother specifies, but to take into account the fact that stitch-gauge and row-gauge are different, and occasionally k2 body stitches tog as you progress from sleeve-hole to neck.

Jeans sweater on T Best.

Flattery will get you everywhere, and in this case it got me wondering whether I could do that neckline on Alexander's Fair Isle, compounding the joke of having the pattern flow in all directions. Of course knitting 2tog would spoil a Fair Isle pattern -- but the point here is that Fair Isle knitting is inevitably rather tight, and the stitches are pulled into something much more like a square than a rectangle. So maybe it would work. In any event, it is one decision that doesn't have to be made now.

Friday, November 24, 2006

I wonder if the “insurgents” chose yesterday for slaughter in Baghdad precisely because it was Thanksgiving? Forgive me if this idea is already common currency.

Things are inching forward around here. I wound another skein of yarn for Alexander’s sweater, and plotted its colour arrangement in Stitch and Motif Maker. I had forgotten what fun that program is. I would show you what I have come up with – nothing exciting – except that I don’t know the copyright rules for stitch patterns, and this one comes from AS’ Fa*r Is*e Knitting Handbook, and she is notoriously litigious.

Today’s job is to plot a Calcutta Cup using the same program – it should be a lot easier than doing it in lace.

Meanwhile actual knitting is being done on a brioche stitch watchcap, knit back and forth. I decided that blocking the Therapy Scarf was totally unnecessary.

therapy scarf 004

Yesterday’s commitments took us to Morningside, and I seized the opportunity to call in at Handknit, a first-rate LYS on the Meadows over there. Alas they no longer stock Shetland yarns – I had hoped for a couple of skeins for Alexander’s sweater. I’ll have to ring up Lerwick and order a shade card today. But the shop is pretty wonderful, and the young woman in charge of it, utterly nice. Their website is not for ordering-from, but I am sure email and telephone enquiries would be intelligently fielded.

“Victorian Lace Today”

This book makes rather a good compare-and-contrast to Sharon’s Hap Shawl book. Jane Sowerby has gone to work on English 19th century knitting pattern books and magazines, translated their unfamiliar abbreviations and straightened out their numerous errors. These publications were aimed at ladies in their drawing rooms, in stark contrast to the Shetland knitters who didn’t need books, and who were knitting for life itself.

If you have ever seen an XRX book, you’ll know in advance what this one looks like. If anything, the photography is more lavish than ever. EZ wonderfully calls brioche stitch “fruity” and the word might well be used to describe the way this book looks.

The patterns are many and gorgeous. Some of them are Victorian patterns, translated and updated. In others, Sowerby has used Victorian motifs as the basis of her own designs – the pattern for a baby’s cap, for instance, becomes the centre of a shawl. Any lace knitter will ache to get the needles out. Some of the patterns look very easy, others more challenging.

The chapters of the book are devoted to the sources individually, beginning with Miss Watts and Mrs Hope and their “Knitting Netting and Crochet” book of 1837. There is solid and interesting text in each chapter about the diffeerent sources.

A must for lace knitters.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody. My sister and her family, who have converged on London from CT, DC, and Malawi, are going to cook Thanksgiving dinner – tomorrow, rather than today, for reasons unknown – for the London-based elements of my family. I feel much like Franklin about the whole thing, and am just as glad that ineluctable appointments drew us north before the event.

I had high hopes, while we were in London, of Taking Charge of Life (and Knitting). It’s not so easy, on the ground. But I got a skein wound, for Alexander’s Fair Isle. I’ve got all the yarns here on the floor of the Catalogue Room, where my computer lives, and am giving the matter of their arrangement serious thought. I tidied up the Therapy Scarf, and hope to block it this morning.

That’s not too bad, I guess, as far as Knitting goes.

Lene asked for a review of Sharon Miller’s Hap Shawl book, and I will try to oblige. Victorian Lace tomorrow, if all goes smoothly. This is going to be pretty high-school-style…

The book is 62 pages long, generously and fascinatingly illustrated with pictures, largely old postcards, from the author’s collection.

A “hap shawl” is a serviceable, warm shawl. The essential style is a garter stitch centre square, “Old Shale” borders, and a simple lace edging. Victorian Shetland women knit them for their own use, as they did stockings.

Everything else they knit was for the “company store” (as in, “I owe my soul to the company store”). In 1871, a report on the “truck system” – i.e., barter – was presented to Parliament. At the end of the hap shawl book, Sharon gives ten pages or so of the evidence provided for this report, as concerns knitting. It is fascinating to hear the knitters speaking in their own voices.

The book begins with 16 pages (illustrated) about the history of shawls in general and Shetland hap shawls in particular. There then follow, as you might expect, instructions for knitting hap shawls, both outwards-in and inwards-out, with the wonderful, readable charts we have come to expect from Sharon.

Hap shawls were often knit plain, but many others had shaded borders. The book includes several pages of colour schemes derived from shawls in Sharon’s collection, and others deduced from hand-coloured postcards. There are then variations: a “half-hap” in which the centre square has become a triangle, and “razor shell” scarves. And tips for knitters.

One of my favourite day-dreams is that Sharon may one day lead a group of her fans on a trip to Shetland.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We’re back, desperately tired. It was all a great success – five days hard art-viewing, with a happy background of family visiting. No yarn shops.

I cast on a new travel sock on the train on the way down, and turned the heel yesterday, travelling north. It’s a perfectly grown-up sock: I can knit, and pretty comfortably, too. So, no more therapy needed on those lines. We have a routine diabetic appointment at the Infirmary this afternoon, and I have an orthopaedic one to look forward to in the not too distant future. Both will involve lots of waiting, and longish bus rides to and fro. I should get well down the foot.

London 009

There’s lots of knitterly stuff to report – both Sharon’s Hap Shawl book and the new IK were waiting in the pile of mail behind the door last night. Not a bad week’s haul. Ted, the book is wonderful for its meticulous research and wealth of old photographs. Extraordinary to have this and “Victorian Lace Today” so close together, both scholarly triumphs in a field (knitting books) not particularly heavy on scholarship. I hope you won't have to wait long for yours.

I thought a lot about Alexander’s forthcoming Fair Isle, in the context of art, while we were away. My old system of choosing colours carefully and then throwing them at an all-over Fair Isle pattern, so that colour changes and pattern changes don’t coincide, produces interesting results all right, and I don’t regret it: but it’s lazy.

This time, I want to do what I think of as the Prince of Wales joke (from a portrait of Edward VIII which I illustrated here once), where the pattern seems to flow unbroken down the sleeves although they are knit at right angles to the body (so to speak). Sort of like the Eunny Jang pattern in the new IK, except that she knits both body and sleeves in the same direction and makes the pattern flow by carefully calculating where the sleeve pattern will be when it reaches the body.

So I’ve got to get to work and plan those colours (as well as winding those skeins).

I mostly thought about this the day we went to see the American sculptor David Smith at Tatmo. We had lunch at a rather dreadful pub called I think the Founders Arms, there on the river, crowded and noisy and expensive, and sat looking across at St Paul’s as we ate. David Smith worked in welded steel. Both he and Christopher Wren, in their different ways, had to give a good deal of thought to what they were about to do, before they started doing it. And I resolved to do so too.

That exhibition was the highlight of the week, for me.

Last Sunday was my husband’s 81st birthday. Alexander and Ketki took us all out to a wonderful Chinese restaurant for lunch. The party included Rachel and most of her family, and my sister and most of hers. I photographed the lunch guests who were wearing my knitting. Here is Rachel in a striped Koigu, with my husband beside her.

London 007

And here is my nephew Theo, in a different sort of striped Koigu, with his mother, my sister, beside him, my husband beyond.

London 008

Much more to say, but that’s enough for today.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


To London tomorrow, for art. Blogging should resume next Wednesday, although I’ll try to post an art-update at the weekend.

I had another go at brioche-in-the-round, and failed again, so I’m doing it back-and-forth. Now that I am reacquainted, at least somewhat, with the stitch, I might do better at the new technique. But when we get back, it will be time to move on to other things.

Ted, of course I’ll tell everybody all about Sharon’s hap shawl book when it comes. Meanwhile, I trust you’ve got “Victorian Lace Today”. This isn’t just the usual XRX eye-candy, although there’s plenty of that, and the modern adaptations of the old patterns are eminently knittable. This is a serious book.

We had our flu injections today, so promptly that I didn’t even get the replacement sock cast on. (Replacement for the socks I lost on Thursday, going to my orthopaedic appointment.) There’ll be plenty of time on the train tomorrow, and they won’t fuss about my carrying an extra bag…

Prince Charles is 56 today (or some such age). I remember the radio telling me, in Allenhurst, NJ, that he was about to be born -- "Princess Elizabeth is in labor." I don't suppose the BBC would have said such a thing, at that date. Today they played (not "Happy Birthday" but) the national anthem, before the 7 am radio news. I love that sort of thing, and there's far too little of it these days.
I cast off the Therapy Scarf last night. I haven’t tidied it up yet. In repose, it doesn’t seem as enormously long as it did on the needles. I’ll stretch it a bit in the blocking, I think.

therapy scarf 003

Then I attempted Meg’s brioche-in-the-round hat from the latest VK, but came adrift where one round ends with “wool fwd slip 1 p’wise” and the next round begins with the same instruction. It sounds perfectly straightforward by the cold light of day. Maybe I’ll try again.

Or maybe I’ll knit an old-fashioned back and forth brioche hat, as per the instructions in Knitting Without Tears. I’ve done a couple in years past, and I love them, to knit and to wear. It’ll come in useful for someone on the Xmas list, and postpones the day – which mustn’t be much longer postponed – when I face to up winding all that yarn and starting Alexander’s Fair Isle.


Carlarey, you asked about November anxiety. It’s all to do with the failing of the light, and I try not to complain too much now that Seasonal Affective Disorder has made its way into the list of fashionable diseases. (Nor do the journalists understand. I always feel enormously better by mid-January, and I’m sure a lot of other people do too. And yet January is even darker than dreadful November.)

Anyway, on Sunday morning I was worrying about Christmas, mostly. Who should I order a turkey from, if I’m not sure whether I’m going to be able to drive? How can we get a rooted tree? These problems seem manageable in mid-morning when one is on one’s feet, and don't matter much anyway, in the grand scheme of things. But it all seems insuperable at 5:47 am in the darkness.

Monday, November 13, 2006

I am very grateful to all who took the trouble to help with my question about the African knitting book. I followed the link to the IK website and was really rather seriously tempted, but other remarks and blog reviews cooled me down again, especially what you said about mistakes, Lene, and rudeness. That last shouldn’t weigh all that heavily, but does.

It must be very difficult to produce a knitting book without mistakes (or with insignificantly few), but it can be done. Gladys Amedro and Sharon Miller come to mind. And it was routinely done in the Old Days. I’ve got that Bestway “Traditional Shetland Shawls and Scarves” booklet, very 50’s-looking, which Jamieson & Smith used to sell and maybe still does.

The patterns are elaborate, and there are no charts. Line after grey line of “K. 1, * k. 2, m. 1, sl. 1, k. 2 tog., p.s.s.o., m. 1, k. 2, m. 1, k. 2 tog., m. 1, sl. 1, k. 2 tog., p.s.s.o….” – and so forth, you get the idea. In typing just that much, I made a mistake (left out a “sl. 1”) but there are no mistakes in the booklet. I’ve knit one of the patterns, had to chart it to make any sense of it, and it was faultless.

I wonder how Sowerby is for errors. XRX doesn’t have a terribly good track record.

The big news on the book front is that Sharon's new book about Hap Shawls is ready. I ordered it from the website yesterday in great excitement, and got an error message, please-try-again-later, from WorldPay at the end. So I tried again later, and the same thing happened. When I went back to my inbox, I found I had ordered two copies.

But I think Mike Miller has straightened it out.

Tricia, thank you for the help with surina needles. We’re going to London on Wednesday for some hard work on the art front. I’ll visit Stash in Putney if I have half a chance. I’ve heard good things about it.


The Therapy Scarf has outstripped the tape measure, and it’s getting on for time to bring it to a close. I had a look just now at the work I’ve already done on Alexander’s Fair Isle pattern, and I think the gauge is wrong. I’m going to start again.


Here is a picture of James (behind) and Thomas Miles of London, on Bonfire Night. Thomas was two last week.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Little to say. Sunday mornings are tough because Radio Four alternates unction with bursts of music which make it difficult to drift in and out of sleep as I can on other mornings, listening to the Shipping Forecast and Farming Today and the early bits of the Today program. And this time of year, to lie awake in the morning is to be gripped by dreadful anxiety.

Never mind. It’s over for another week.


Kathy, it always begins with an article by Meg, leading in to the pattern. The pattern itself is never take-it-or-leave-it, but always full of options and techniques. There will also be a discussion of new books – I like that a lot, trust Meg’s choices, and buy quite a few of my knitting books from her.

But now that the website is fully operational, you can read about the book choices there.

The models are always family members or friends, and Meg is a brilliant photographer, amongst her many other talents. That’s a big plus.

Speaking of books, does anybody have any opinions about “Knitting out of Africa”? I had thought it was one I could do without, on the assumption that there aren’t any serious native knitting traditions there (I could be wrong) and that the book was a translation of some of the wonderful African textile designs into knitting patterns. Which might be interesting but, I thought, not interesting enough. Why not just get an African textile book?

However, Meg is very enthusiastic. Should I think again?


I spent yesterday afternoon tidying up papers which have been removed from the dining room cupboard because myhusband wants it for other purposes. The task was immensely depressing, but among the papers I found this:

11-12-2006 09;32;56AM

It’s well observed. Notice that left-hand pocket into which the perennial handkerchief is stuffed. The artist was our second grandchild, Rachel’s daughter Hellie, who will be 20 tomorrow. This was done ten years ago.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Knitting Miscellany

Where to begin?

No disaster befell either of us, this time, and I had a happy afternoon yesterday over coffee with my friend and agent Helen. She had two VKB’s for me – spring, ’45 and autumn, ’53, both pristine. By the spring of 1945 the war was clearly over, as far as the VKB was concerned, despite passing references to coupons and yarn shortages.

Maybe when I’ve found a few more, I’ll attempt an essay about The VKB at War.

Helen had been to k1 yarns in Glasgow on Wednesday. It is a very exciting shop. She bought some wonderful things, including some Japanese Habu Shosenshi linen yarn. I had never seen anything remotely like it. I have the prospect of overnight-visiting-privileges in the West End of Glasgow, so I can look forward to a proper visit to K1 one day, as opposed to a how-long-do-you-think-you’re-going-to-be-dear on one of our day trips.

I’ve heard from QueerJoe. He stopped selling surina needles (that’s the name of the Indian wood) because the quality had become poor, but he still has some which he says he is happy to send me, and I am happy to take the risk. (Google also produces some sources.) It turns out that I do have enough of my original order left to be going on with, too. (See yesterday for the context of this paragraph.)

AND what should this morning’s post bring but a) Woolgathering – how is it possible that it could reach Edinburgh so quickly from Wisconsin, when it took those VKB’s all that time to get here from Bristol?

And b) “Victorian Lace Today”. I haven’t had much time with it yet, but I am tremendously impressed with what I have seen. It is so serious and scholarly a work that I can even overlook the photography (which is beautiful, don’t misunderstand me).

Actual Knitting

The Therapy Scarf continues to advance. I am tempted to knock off a brioche stitch hat in the round from Meg’s pattern in the current VK, but I am also circling around Alexander’s forthcoming Fair Isle.


Kit, I hope you're right that it was his spam protection which kept Franklin out of the Knitlist. But I'm suspicious of those Listmoms. LaurieG, the last time I broke an arm I fell (and remain) hopelessly in love with the Registrar (a grade of hospital doctor) who looked after me. I nearly wept the day I was upgraded to a consultation with a Consultant. I know that he's still around, because I have dropped his name artlessly into the conversation. So maybe, next time...

My physiotherapist last time was a woman, Rhona Bhopal, whom I very much hope to see again.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Not an entirely happy time, yesterday.

To start with the positive, however, I saw a pleasant orthopaedic surgeon – it's a different one each time – who professed himself pleased with my progress. The fractures still look awful on the xray to the untrained eye, but even I can see how new bone is forming around them. (“The way a tree heals,” my husband said.) Yesterday’s man quantified the unstraightness which I have been told about from the beginning – the humerus can be up to 30 degrees off the true without impairing function, he said. I’m about 10 degrees.

The bad news is that the brace has gone back on, and I must return in four weeks (on Pearl Harbor Day, as it happens). No physiotherapy yet. “When do you think I can drive?” “About two months.” “What about Christmas?” “Well, maybe by Christmas.”

We had planned to spend Christmas in Strathardle. The Beijing Mileses are coming, as James apparently wants to introduce his children to the dark, cold, damp Christmas experience of his own youth. He is having driving trouble of his own – he is a Type 1 diabetic, and needs to renew his license every three years with a doctor’s note. The DVLA isn’t terribly keen on issuing one to a man without a British address, and hire car companies are not, in their turn, keen on Chinese driving licences.

So we shall see.

The other bit of bad news is considerably worse. I seem to have lost my knitting.

I thought I took the travel sock along, as I had planned to do. But when I settled down on the bus and intended to take it out, it wasn’t there. I assumed I had left it behind after all (as I had my sandwich) in the last-minute flurry to depart, so I didn't worry, all afternoon. But when I got back I couldn’t find it here, either.

I still have a lingering hope that I will find it here. The worst of the loss is a set of Joe's double-pointed no. 1’s in an Indian wood whose name I forget. They are bliss, stronger and smoother and a nicer colour than Brittany birches. They take sock-knitting to a whole new level. Joe used to sell them, but his Blog doesn’t mention them these days. I have emailed him. I think I have more. I’ll have to nerve myself to look. But I need a reserve.

There was also a Katcha Katcha, and, of course, the current sock – the ribbing of the second one was nearly finished. (The first sock is safely here.) These are trivial losses compared to those needles.


The Therapy Scarf has passed four feet. I finished another skein of wool last night. Each of the three skeins I’ve wound so far had a knot in it – maybe that has something to do with why Debbie Bliss “Maya” is no longer on the market.

Rosane, Franklin himself said he had been rejected (twice, I think) for Knitlist membership. This was some months ago, but less than a year. Is there some way you can search the text of his wonderful Blog?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

That was a good day's work on Tuesday, America. Well done!


Jean, thank you for the comfort about “Victorian Lace Today”. Mine is coming not exactly from Amazon, but from the Marketplace. An email says that they will send it “soon”. It must be out there somewhere, as there have been a couple of enthusiastic reviews on the KBTH list. I will be patient.

I’ll never forget the day I received in the mail the address label for “A Gathering of Lace” – with no book attached. I ran after the postie in my bare feet. I later visited the sorting office. No luck. I sent the label to XRX and got another copy promptly – but “promptly” meant “weeks”, and it was a particularly agonizing wait.

Oh, Laurie! R.c.t.y.! But it sounds from the dates you mention as if you joined the Knitlist a bit too late. The List Nazi’s weren’t quite as bad in the early days. Now, as you know, they won’t even admit Franklin to membership.

Xmasberry, thank you for those kind words about yesterday’s photograph. Sheer luck, I assure you. I hadn’t noticed until I was posting it, how the kittens have dirtied one pane of the otherwise sparking glass, asking to be allowed in for breakfast.


The recently-purchased VKB’s finally turned up yesterday. I hope to meet my agent and friend for coffee tomorrow, and receive them. (She’s visiting Glasgow today, and hopes to report on the new West End LYS there.) The last time I wrote here that I was about to meet her for coffee, was the morning of the day I broke my arm. If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for tomorrow.

Today I have an orthopaedic appt. I think six weeks (which it now is) is the crunch, and I hope to be signed off to physiotherapy. It’s likely to be a long wait – first for x-ray, then for one’s moment with the Great Man. I think I will try taking my travel-sock knitting, as well as a good book.


I promised to transcribe the editor’s note in the Autumn, ’45, issue, when they first went in for multiple-sizing. Here it is:

Vogue knits for you

Knit for your own size! Well, why not? We know – you tell us – how often you yearn to make one of our models but it’s the wrong size and what can you do about it. Not much by yourself. Why? Because our designers are not only expert knitters but also first-class tailors. Each garment is as carefully shaped as a perfect suit. The position of every stitch and row is planned to achieve this “cut”. If you try to adapt a design you will, most certainly, alter not only the measurements but, which is quite as important, the position of the shaping. The result is just a mess. But we aren’t without pity, so, in this book, you will find a number of models which, by following simple alternative instructions, you can make in any one of two, three or four different sizes.
There's much deserving of comment there.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Onwards, with the Therapy Scarf. Knitting isn’t entirely comfortable yet, and this scarf is also boring. But that couldn’t be a genuine emotion, since I would hardly have reached this age and knit this many things, without bursting through the boredom barrier many times. So I must assume that discomfort and boredom are two sides of the same coin, this time.

I can think of no knitting to illustrate today, so here are some Greek pussy cats, from a town called Milies, on Pelion. There used to be centaurs on Pelion – Achilles’ tutor Chiron came from there. But they are now extinct, alas.

thessaloniki 014


Donna, your note yesterday really struck a chord with me. That was my situation exactly, for my first 50 years as a knitter, roughly speaking. There were a few books (Mary Thomas, Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting) and there was the VKB. And suddenly, there was the world.

When I first got online (see yesterday) I joined a newsgroup I had read about in Vogue Knitting: rec.craft.textiles. Nothing happened. After some time – weeks – I figured out somehow or other that it needed to be rec.craft.textiles.yarn, and the door opened an inch or two. After a while, someone responded to one of my posts by suggesting that I join the Knitlist. I can’t, at the moment, remember her name. An Italian name, and she lives in New Jersey. All blessings upon her.

Those were exciting times, ten years ago. I was, for the first time in my life, in touch with people who were as obsessed with knitting as I was. I discovered Patternworks! And Knitter’s! I made flesh-and-blood friends who remain among the dearest. My knitting improved, too, mainly because I fully grasped, at last, that it’s really rather a good idea to rip it out if it’s not right.

Eileen, it was good to hear from another Ridged Raglan fan. Maybe I should dig that pattern out and have another go at it.


I had let Woolgathering expire, inadvertently. I put that right yesterday.

No sign yet of “Victorian Lace Today”, or of those VKB’s.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Two and a half feet of the Therapy Scarf finished.

An email from my brother-in-law yesterday:

“I went to Washington last week to see Theo and got to talking with two women on the platform in Old Saybrook. They were on their way to Stitches East. I told them about your blog. I'm sure that perfect male strangers who are knowledgeable about knitting and knitting gossip don't usually turn up on train platforms.”

So if you’re here, ladies of Old Saybrook, welcome aboard!

My friend and agent Helen says she hasn’t yet received the two VKB’s she bought on my behalf a week ago. In my very limited experience of eBay, everything has arrived in the first possible post after the close of the auction, so this is a bit worrying.

If they turn up, I’ll have all the post-war ones except for fall, 1946; and more than half of the wartime ones. Of the first 14, however, I’m still lacking 12. No. 6 got away from me in my early days on eBay, and remains a matter of keen regret.

Vogue itself is celebrating its 90 years. An article in yesterday’s Waffy mentions David Bailey and Jean Shrimpton (indeed, pictures them – both have weathered rather well). It says that their first photo session was in 1960. I thought her first big break was some advertising pages for the VKB – but, looking back through my archive, I find that they were published in 1962. (A couple of years later, she was on the cover.)

So I may have to have a cautious look at the December issue of Vogue to get this matter straight.


Roseann, you are so right about the Internet. It is amazing not only how it has changed our lives by linking us all together, around the globe, but also how easily we have come to take it for granted. It’s datable in my own life, because I got on-line just after we moved to Edinburgh in 1994. I thought I was pretty savvy, but found myself completely baffled until one of my sons came to visit and lay on his stomach on the sitting-room floor just as he once did when we all lived together, and got things straightened out, as least as far as email went. Internet browsing and the Knitlist took a little bit longer.

Tamar, thanks for your guesstimate on garter stitch, and for your implied encouragement to go ahead and take the plunge. I see, reading back through recent blog entries, that I thought of knitting the Bog Jacket out of something (unspecified but) wonderful, a couple of weeks ago, and couldn’t work up any enthusiasm. I hope this current temptation is somehow mysteriously linked to the healing of the humerus.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Good progress with the Therapy Scarf – I finished a skein of yarn yesterday, the first time I’ve done that in a while. Here’s another pic.

therapy scarf 002

The colours are in fact darker and richer than that.

Tamar, that’s an interesting question, about whether the increases I’m doing are being done a row below the current row.. Thinking about it makes me slightly dizzy. It doesn’t matter, because I’m getting the undulations I want, but it remains interesting to wonder about.

I hope Stitches East was all you expected. Since the fall Knitter’s has only just made it to Drummond Place, I was aware that East was happening last weekend. I hope you got there for Kaffe’s talk, and if so, I hope he was as inspirational as he is capable of being. I think he’s probably said what he has to say by now, as far as knitting is concerned – I mean, I doubt if we’re going to have any more world-shaking patterns. But that needn’t stop him being inspirational.

I was at East four years ago -- then, as now, on the eve of mid-term elections. Much more interesting this time.


Helen sent me home from Thessaloniki with two little-boy sweaters to mend.

therapy scarf 001

The blue one is my own pattern: its merit is that you sort of swatch as you go along. It seems to be coming apart at the shoulders, and the simplest thing will be to rip out the join and do a 3-needle bind-off all over again. I like doing 3-needle bind off’s a lot, anyway.

The other one is a “Ridged Raglan” from Knitter’s Spring ’99 – back in the days when Nancy Thomas was editor, I think. Certainly pre-Rick. I never did understand why that pattern didn’t become, at least briefly, a world-wide favourite. It is both a pullover and a cardigan, and sized from child through to adult. It's a lot of fun to knit. My one seems to have snagged, and a coarse darn will probably be the only solution I’ll attempt.

I have conceived a new yearning this morning: an EZ bog jacket in Malabrigo. That link takes you a UK source with a good colour range. I’ve got a ready-reckoner that Patternworks sent me once, which will estimate how much yarn I need. But how much more do I need to reckon, for garter stitch? Does anybody know?

It’s a ridiculous idea. Apart from Alexander’s Fair Isle, and my beloved Princess, there’s that Jade Sapphire cashmere waiting to be the Hiawatha stole. I find that yarn-buying resistance is at its annual lowest during these dark weeks at the end of the year.


We had a scorpion one evening, in our bathroom on Mt. Pelion. We all admired it for a while, and then somebody crushed it. I remain faintly surprised at how little concerned I was. Even when I subsequently had to get up in the night to pee in that very bathroom.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Here’s the current state of the Therapy Scarf. Maybe I’ll try to get a better pic in the hours of maximum daylight today. But this is enough to let it be seen that I am actually knitting, and that the pattern is working pretty well with the yarn.

therapy scarf

I’m doing Feather and Fan from Walker I, with two changes:

a) I’ve added two extra rows of garter stitch, so – a six-row repeat in all. I was afraid that doing it her way, it might curl at the edges. I think I was wrong about that.

b) Instead of YO, in the pattern row, I’m knitting into the horizontal bit of yarn between the needles. Not picking it up and knitting into the back of it, just slipping the needle under and knitting it on the spot. Easier that way. Hence the little holes through which you can see the kitchen floor. In Real Life, they're not obvious.

I think this scarf is going to want to be long, but at least it’s going briskly. Then I’ll start Alexander’s Fair Isle.


Knitting magazines have been flowing in on every tide. The fall Knitter’s and the December Knitting were waiting in the knee-high pile blocking the door when we fought our way in last Wednesday evening. And yesterday came the winter VK. (No Woolgathering this season that I can remember. Have I let it lapse?)

Zilch in Knitter’s except for Candace Eisner Strick’s travelling-stitch socks. I did a course with her on travelling stitches at Camp Stitches ’99, as I hope I’ve said before. She has become a friend, and I pester her to write the travelling-stitch book which the English language needs. I’ve never done anything with travelling stitches myself, but they remain firmly on my HALFPINT list.

The last pattern in the magazine isn’t too bad, perhaps, although I don’t like the colours. A big stole, in Colinette yarns, which of course one wouldn’t have to use. Sometimes, especially this time of year, one wants something to wrap oneself up in of an evening, and never mind all this poofy lace stuff.

There’s not much that tempts in VK, either, except that I love the cover scarf and must resist. It would be hell to knit. Essentially, you knit a garter st base and then separate it into strips which you knit to a great length and then plait them together loosely and then knit then together into another garter stitch bit.

I knit what might be considered the reverse scarf from an IK pattern a couple of years ago – you start with strips, then join them and knit them intarsia-fashion for the length of the scarf, and then separate them again for the final fringe. The picture doesn’t entirely do the concept justice – there’s about a foot of free-hanging strips at each end.

blog1 001

I ordered “Victorian Lace Today” from Amazon yesterday, which will afford another chance of trying to put into words what it is I can’t stand about the photography.

Haloscan comments aren't showing up for me at the moment -- I'll have to leave any needful replies until tomorrow.