Friday, March 31, 2006

Twenty-Seven Wives

Much encouraged by your expressions of interest, I pressed on with a few pages of my mother’s book last night, finishing the brief introduction and starting to scan the First Wife, Miriam Works, whom Brigham Young married (I now know) in his youth, in New York state, before even Joseph Smith had discovered and translated and published the Book of Mormon. I think she’s going to die young.

I had expected a tidy package of typescript, as rejected by the latest publisher. On the contrary, some of the mss is messy, with crossings-out and underlinings (which the OCR software particularly dislikes) and a clear switch of typewriters at least once. So there’s editing to be done, as well as scanning and formatting. I caught my mother in a misspelling last night, which was a real shock. Tamar, I’m sure you’re right that I should keep a print-out when the job is finished. The idea is to give the actual fragile typescript to Mt Holyoke College, of which my mother was an alumna. I wonder if they’ll want it.

MamaLu, I need your email address so that I can discuss your kind offer. Mine is jean at milesandmiles dot demon dot co dot uk. That’s one of the tidbits of information that I will incorporate in my sidebar when the Work’s All Done This Fall.

Italian Radio

I’m listening to Radio Rai. That link takes you to an introductory page which includes a summary of the day’s news – a useful crib. There’s a line halfway down which invites one to “ascolta Radio One live”. If you click on that, you get not just Rai Radio One, but a choice of stations. I found all this by Googling on “radio station in Italian”.

But I must emphasize that I do not understand what I am listening to, I really don’t. Except that I learned this morning that Bologna is going to introduce a congestion charge for traffic in the city centre, just like London.


I ought to include some reference to the subject. No VK yet. We’ve decided to wait until Monday for the next departure to Strathardle – who knows? The weather might improve. That gives the magazine two or even three more chances to turn up before we leave. It sounds as if the current Knitter’s, which should also be on the way, is a real bummer.

I’m knitting the row that finishes off the introductory roundels on my sister’s shawl. Tonight I should reach the stage of establishing the real lace patterns for the main body of the shawl – that will liven things up. Perhaps there will be enough for a photograph tomorrow.

The phrase which Dolores shouted when the the Bad Girls beat the Good Girls at hockey in Franklin’s latest competition, must be the French translation of Pheidippides’ last words, when the Good Guys won the battle of Marathon. They appeared here recently, in English translation, when we won the Calcutta Cup. I found (like many, I suspect) that I had heard of almost all of Franklin’s Bad Girls, but only about half of the Good ones. I voted for the latter, anyway – the ones I did know were a tough crew.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Dawn, your System Administrator was right – our humble printer is capable of OCR. I was astonished, and delighted, and am rarin’ to go. I did two pages last night as an experiment – the pages of the typescript are yellowed and fragile, but perfectly clear, and the necessary post-scan proofreading was minimal. There’s much I must now learn about formatting and such – I’m much happier helping my husband with Word Perfect 4.2 for DOS than struggling with margins and indentations in a modern word processor, but I’ll get it in the end. I don’t even know what “rich text format” is, yet – that’s what those two scanned pages seem to have wound up as.

I’ve got web authoring software for my now-neglected webpages. It may be I can simply import it into that and format it in HTML.

MamaLu, thank you for the offer of help. I am very touched, and may well get back to you on that as things unfold.

And Holly, yes, the subject of the book (Brigham Young’s wives) ought to be interesting, but my mother never succeeded with it, even when she was a published author and Women became a fashionable subject. My sister says that’s because the book is poor quality, and boring. Could be. I read some of it, maybe all, in early adolescence, and remember it as mildly interesting. I look forward to re-visiting it. Meanwhile, I have wrapped the fragile pages carefully away from the killer sunlight for the time being.


I gather that new issues of both VK and Knitter’s are on their way. Knitter’s is always the slowest of all, but VK is distributed from London and is usually pretty prompt. I’ve started rushing to the door when I hear the daily thump of junk mail on the mat.

I’m knitting those roundels into my sister’s shawl. The picked-up stitches turned out to be short by four, a perfectly acceptable margin of error.

I discover that the Amedro pattern is written in st st, apart from the edging. I must have knit it that way twice. But when I substituted patterns from the book “Heirloom Lace” for Hellie's shawl, I used one which is “knitted lace” rather than “lace knitting” – I think I’ve got those terms the right way around, but who knows. At any rate, if I had done that one in st st I would have had to do lacey things on the purl rows, and that I’m sure I didn’t do. So I’ve committed myself to garter stitch from the beginning on this one, and this time I’ll make myself some adequate notes on the subject.


Katherine, thank you for the help with my Italian radio project. My husband found a small paragraph in the Scotsman which confirms what you say about Berlusconi and Chinese babies, although it didn’t mention what the bambini bolliti were supposed to be used for. I don’t know what they’re talking about this morning.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I finished the edging.

I learned from “Stahman’s Shawls and Scarves” that when a pattern says “Slip the first stitch purlwise”, it means, “Slip the first stich purlwise with the yarn in front, and then bring the yarn to the back between the points of the needles.” This makes a lovely chain along the edge, and for shawl purposes all you do is slip the needle through each stitch in the chain. I’ve done that.

The next row consists of knitting into the back of each stitch. That’s slightly awkward, but produces a nice row of openwork with the legs of each stitch crossed – just the sort of thing one tries hard to avoid when picking up stitches around the neckline of a sweater. That’s the row I’m doing at the moment. It consists of only about 500 stitches, nothing to us Princess-knitters.

Concern for the precise number of stitches seemed inappropriate either for the picking-up, so clear was that chain, or for the knitting-in-the-back row where it would be unwise to interrupt the openwork. I’m counting carefully, and putting in markers every 50 stitches. There follow three rows of garter stitch during which the stitch count can be adjusted. We shall see.

Then we have some roundels, which will reappear at the top – and then finally the lace patterns I have chosen can be established.


The weather has declined into Much Rain, and the forecast promises more. The people who have been fussing about the dry winter might have thought of Chaucer. We went out for our first serious walk yesterday since my husband’s cold started, splashing our way down to the glorious Botanic Gardens. It doesn’t seem to have done him any harm.

Can anyone help: I am now very near the end of the task of getting my husband’s Magnum Opus into his Palm. The problem, you will remember, was 1) to translate his hundreds of files from the antique DOS-based Word Perfect system he uses into a modern version of MS Word, which is all the Palm can understand; and 2) to copy the numerous endnotes into the text of each file, since Documents to Go, the bridge to the Palm, doesn’t do notes.

Well, I’ve done that. There’s lots of tidying-up to follow, not to mention updating the files my husband has been working on while I’ve been sitting here doing all this, but the end is in sight.

The next big job is Something Completely Different. My mother wrote several books during her lifetime, thrillers when she was young and scholarly books later. But she left behind unpublished the manuscript of her first book, called “27 Wives”, an account one-by-one of the wives of the Mormon leader Brigham Young. She wrote it when we were living in Salt Lake City in the '30's.

My plan is to publish it on the internet. Alexander has offered space on his server. So what I need now is advice on software which can translate a scanned image into text. My sister thinks it would be fine just to put up the images of the scanned pages one by one, but I want it in a form that can be searched. I know that such software exists. Does anyone have any experience of it? Or recommendations?

And when that’s done, I’ll get to work on HTML and revolutionise this blog.

[Italian radio seems to be talking about Berlusconi in connection with the killing of babies in China. Not just killing – I can understand enough to grasp that it is being suggested that the Chinese boil and eat them, although if there was a reference to Jonathan Swift and his Modest Proposal, I failed to catch it. How does Berlusconi come into this? Alas, a veil of incomprehension descends just at this interesting point.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Largely non-knit today, I suspect.

But I’m doing scallop 28 (of 29) on my sister’s shawl edging, so tonight should see the job done. We have postponed the next departure to Strathardle until Thursday or Friday.

We had a nice lunch yesterday (“tender and crisp chicken legs with sweet tomatoes” from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s Dinners”) with our old neighbours from Birmingham. Their house is on a lower level than our former one. The gardens, in the back, are separated by a brick wall – the level of their garden is six feet or more below ours. I used to worry about the weight of soil which must press on that old wall, and sure enough, a year ago, it came down. I’m glad I wasn’t there.

The ex-neighbour reminded me that 25 years ago, when Rachel and Ed got married, I planted a climbing rose called “Wedding Day”. It’s still there, and it flourishes, visible in all its glory over the wall. Roger is going to take a picture of it for me when it blooms this summer.


Inspired by the Italian knitting blogs which Urraca intoruduced me to a few days ago, and by my success at listening to James on my computer, I have progressed through Franklin's podcast to listening to Italian radio while I “work”. I learned Italian in late middle life, in order to help escort groups of schoolgirls on expeditions to Pompeii e dintorni. I can read it fairly easily, and speak it slowly and laboriously. But I can’t understand much, when Italians are speaking at speed, and I thought I might gradually pick it up by listening to the radio.

I can tell what they’re talking about, and catch occasional phrases. Rather like a noisy cocktail party. And I find that when they’re talking about anything remotely interesting – I just learned that there’s going to be an eclipse of the sun in Italy in the near future, for example – comprehension shoots up. Rather like a noisy cocktail party. But they talk about soccer an awful lot of the time.


Dawn, Judith – now that you mention it, I remember that buying yarn ball-by-ball was common in the 50’s, although I never did it myself except for that once. There were notices in the LYS’s saying that yarn could be “laid by” for a month. I think it probably benefitted the shop by encouraging people who couldn’t really afford the whole lot at once, rather like hire purchase. And benefitted the knitter who would have had to stick at it, before the shop put the rest of the yarn back in stock.

And, Judith, I gave Rachel her shawl eventually. Thomas-the-Elder was baptised in it. Since then (he’s 21) it hasn’t been seen, although Rachel is pretty sure it’s around somewhere. So maybe yours is safer with your mother. But it would be nice to see it.

Aarlene, I don’t know whether cider has any nutritional virtues. 1000 calories a day is indeed an alarming figure, and I think that may be an underestimate. I could achieve the same measure of befuddlement with fewer calories, probably, if I went down the Chardonnay path, but it seems daft to make an effort to acquire a new vice when I’ve already got so many. I think sobriety is the only sensible road ahead.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Thank you, commenters, for the kind wishes about Mother’s Day. I had a nice time. My children know me well enough to give me a wide berth, but my butcher gave me a bouquet of daffodils by which I was secretly rather pleased. Good ones, too, not the florist’s leavings: nine or ten tight buds.

I was grateful, too, for your uncensorious remarks about my yarn indulgence, Debbie Bliss’ “Pure Silk”. I think the question, Mandella, is not whether you’ll like the look of it; you will. But whether it will be pleasant to knit – I have no idea about that, yet. Silk is unyielding, like cotton. I’ve now got to do it, and the fancy stitch pattern is just the sort of thing that judges like. So we’ll find out. John Lewis didn’t have the rich purple shade that the prototype shrug is knit in, in the book. I would probably have gone for it, if they had. Silk takes dye brilliantly, of course.

Angel, I hope your life will have some sunlit financial uplands towards the end, like mine. When I was pregnant with Rachel, our eldest child, I knit a Shetland shawl for her from a Paton’s leaflet. “Patons Beehive 2-ply, Patonised” was the yarn specified, and I bought one ball at a time from my local LYS on the Byres Road in Glasgow because I couldn’t afford the outlay involved in getting the whole eight oz. at once.


I’ve finished scallop 25 of my sister’s shawl edging. There are only 29 altogether. My husband still isn’t in sparkling health so departure for Strathardle may well be postponed long enough for me to get this part of the job finished. Everything is much more fun, post edging. I like getting edgings out of the way first, as Amedro always does.

I was reading ahead in the Princess pattern the other day, and discovered, with a chill at the heart, that when everything else is done, I’m going to have to knit edging across the top, working off the live stitches as I go. The pattern begins, you may remember, with 85 repeats of what was the most difficult lace knitting I’ve ever done. The Princess Diarists are still struggling with it. How long will it take me to re-learn it? By the time I get there, the original edging may be two years or more in the past.


I was a model of sobriety yesterday, Laetare Sunday. I’m still struggling with the main problem, and am glad to have three more weeks of guaranteed abstinence before I have to address it again. I’ve been Googling on Weston’s Special Vintage Cider Reserve without being able to find out precisely how many calories there are in a bottle, but what I found out about vinage cider generically is enough to make me realise I’ve been drinking well more than 1000 calories a day of the stuff. This can’t go on, any more than if my vice were boxes of chocolates in the desk drawer.

Rachel’s husband Ed is in somewhat the same position, except that he’s not carrying extra weight around: he puts away a good deal of sauce, normally, and is enjoying, like me, the benefits of Lent. He suggests perhaps drinking only at weekends. It’s a thought. But I look forward keenly, Lorna, whatever I decide, to propping up your bar one day and trying that draft Weston’s.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Here's the shrug pattern mentioned below, from a Debbie Bliss book devoted to her yarn "Pure Silk". Posted by Picasa
Here I am, unconscionably early.

This morning’s news, fresh from the ether, is that James’s wife Catherine Sampson has signed a contract with Macmillan for two further thrillers (“Falling Off Air” and “Out of Mind” being already in print). No #3 is tentatively to be called “Pool of Unease” and set in China. Watch this space. She’s good, and the earlier books are available in the US.


I’ve reached scallop 21 of my sister’s shawl border. The scallops are uneven in size, as I’ve mentioned, and I had a nice run of little ‘uns last night.

Helen wants to see the yarn I bought on Friday. Here it is: Debbie Bliss “Pure Silk”. (I can’t find ‘Country of Origin’ on the label. Wannabet it’s China?) The girl in Lewis’s said it was fresh in the day before. And the reason I bought it, which is even more shameful, is the pattern for a shrug in the accompanying book. You can’t see it very well, but the stitch pattern looks fun.

Blogger has declined the pattern, perhaps because it's scanned rather than photographed. How do they know?

And the model looks not entirely unlike granddaughter Hellie, who can have it when it’s finished.

Shameful, because I already have two lots of yarn purchased specifically for shrug-knitting, and there’s only going to be one shrug, at the most. My feeble fall-back is that I can knit plain vanilla v-neck vests with the “Maya” and the Malabrigo.

I ordered some books from Schoolhouse Press yesterday. One of them is “Color” by Sally Melville, to go with “The Knit Stitch” and “The Purl Stitch” which I have and like. I think I read somewhere that “Color” isn’t as good, but I feel I want it for completeness. The others were more recondite. I’ll report when they arrive.


Spring is suddenly upon us, damp and warm and the birdies shouting their fool heads off. I long for Strathardle. Is it too early to plant potatoes? My husband took a short walk yesterday, the first time he has been out of the house since we got back from London. Blood sugars are much improved. He's still coughing, but it's now a "dry" cough. There’s a view on at a very local auction house (of antique furniture) – that’ll make an easy and purposeful outing for today.

I’ll report tomorrow as to how I get on today with Moderate Cider-Drinking. When I was at the supermarket this week, I bought all necessary supplies for a day of Normal Cider-Drinking, since there’s no virtue in moderation if the stuff isn’t in the house, and the local off-licenses don’t carry Weston’s.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Urraca, thank you for those Italian URLs. I have added them to my Favorites list. I was amused to see in the first one, the word “Franklin” appearing, early on. It must be one of those words like “bank” and “taxi” to be found in all European languages.

There is a survey on China in the current, March 25th-31st, issue of the Economist. What’s more, you can listen to an interview with its author, sounding very Economist-ical, at I am normally terrified of asking my computer to do things like that, but motherly something-or-other overcame fear yesterday. So maybe I’ll be brave enough to go on and listen to Franklin’s Podcast.


I’m up to scallop 17. Yes, I guess the colour is pleasant after Princess-knitting, Jean, but this edging is also terribly boring. I chose the patterns for the body of the shawl yesterday, in the intervals of cooking: “Bead Loznge”, Heirloom Knitting p. 88, for the side panels, and “Antique Centre”, p. 147-8, for the centre.

The centre panel, over 71 stitches in Amedro, remains constant throughout. I wanted something vertical-looking. The side panels, which start out on 202 stitches, are gradually decreased to nothing.

This is effectively the fourth time I’ve knit this shawl – the shape is wonderfully wearable, I think. The last time I did it, for granddaughter Hellie, I also substituted HK patterns, Mirrored Fern and Fern Lace, for the original Amedro ones.

“Mother’s Day”

Tomorrow is Laetare Sunday. I wonder how many people are left in the world who know what that means, and why it is celebrated as “Mother’s Day”. The celebrfation has become utterly Americanised, like Halowe’en and Valentine’s Day, but at least – unlike the American Mother’s Day – has been left in its place in the liturgical calendar. I was in the corner grocer’s yesterday when he took delivery of his normal Friday quota of flowers, and complained with some vigour at the sudden hike in the price. I hate forced and commercialised displays of affection with a passion bordering on the maniacal.

But Laetare Sunday is also observed as a mid-Lent relaxation. I have, as you may remember, eschewed cider for the duration, and have reluctantly decided that when Lent is over I’m going to have to go on abstaining to a considerable extent. I feel better this way, and what’s more – the clincher – I’ve lost weight. Perhaps a cautious sip tomorrow.

Yesterday I had a miniscule glass of sherry before lunch, and we divided a bottle of white wine among three – and lots was left over -- during the meal. I’ve given up cider, not drink, so that was all right. Then in the afternoon I walked up to Boots to pick up a prescription, and cruised the yarn department at John Lewis as I usually do when I’m up there, and bought some yarn. I am so ashamed of this ridiculous purchase that I won’t even describe it until perhaps tomorrow, and I am sure that if I had lunched on bitter lemon, I wouldn’t have done it.

Friday, March 24, 2006

My husband continues to mend, although not with the elasticity of a younger man. Still no exercise, and high blood sugars. I had hoped we might bound off to Strathardle next week, but I wonder. The weather, on the other hand, is still fairly nasty. If March is going to go out like a lamb, it’s time it got started. So postponement isn’t utter disaster.

An art historian is coming to lunch today. My husband should be up to that, and enjoy it. Another pair of friends are expected on Monday. Lunch is the way we prefer to interact with the world, in old age. There’s a recipe for a sort of curried shepherd’s pie in one of the current foodie magazines – I think that’ll be about right for today. I haven’t given thought yet to Monday.


Oh, MamaLu, have a wonderful time in China, and tell us all about the yarn when you get back. Watch out for KIPer’s, too. I saw quite a few.

Laurie, thanks for the tip on pics – at least for the days when Blogger consents to upload them. I’ve got HTML high on my Round Tuit list. For now, I find I can right-click on pictures, if they’re there, and drag them around the Blog entry. I came late in life to right-clicking, and am ever surprised at its capabilities.

Swapna, that’s really interesting about how Blogger will email a copy of each post to one. My current system works well – I gather up the saved posts into a single folder at the end of the month, and move them to a CD. But I will explore the other as well.

Alice, yes, I miss the Princess desperately. I’m glad my sister’s shawl is going so briskly – I ought to be able to fit in a couple of weeks, at least, of Princess-ing in the early summer, before I hunker down to the Games Entry Shrug. Here’s – or maybe, here isn’t – the current state of my sister’s shawl edging. I reached the half-way point last night. And measured it – you may remember, I was worried a couple of days ago that it would be too small. But all is well --it measures 41”, against the 46” Amedro specifies. Blocking should accomplish the rest easily.

And -- Hallelujah! -- the picture is here!

It'll be a lot more fun when I move into the body of the shawl and start knitting interesting lace patterns, still to be selected.

Janis, the problem is, we haven’t got enough lives. Have you ever read about Sheila McGregor’s love affair with (what must be) a Bohus sweater, at the beginning of her introduction to Traditional Scandanavian Knitting? I’ve wanted one ever since I read that, but have Never Had Time.

A propos nothing at all: I think I discovered yesterday that there is no such thing out there as a knitting blog in Italian. Who'd have thought it? There are lots in French and German, and a few in Scandanavian languages.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The current state of the Princess shawl border Posted by Picasa
My husband was much better yesterday. Tuesday night must have been the crisis point. The sun is shining brightly today, although it’s still cold – maybe we will go for a little walk in Drummond Place Gardens.

Rachel, thanks for the tip about your struggles with the problem of illustrating a Blog this week. My own procedure is very similar: I compose in MS Word, usually without pics but sometimes with, and save the result for archival purposes (rather like keeping carbon copies of one’s letters, back when one wrote letters). Then copy, and paste into Blogger, and try to import a picture or two. The first day of the trouble, I went back several times, like you, and tried to get the pictures in, figuring they’d have to fix this right away. Since then, as Blogger fails to play ball day after dayI’ve just use “Hello”, the program I used to use before Blogger supported pics at all.


We took it to London with us, and my husband used it to edit a few of his catalogue entries on the train. He’s perfectly happy tapping with the stylus on the little on-screen keyboard. Happier, in fact, than he is struggling with Windows XP and mouses on our new laptop in Strathardle (he still works with a DOS-based word procesor at home). And the work he did on the train has come flowing back into my desktop computer with no difficulty. Whence it can be translated downwards for his.

I love the Palm, and wish my own life were complicated enough to justify one. I know there are people with knitting software on theirs, but I can’t think of any way I’d benefit. Alas. I don’t want a mobile telephone or a camera or bluetooth, just a Palm with bottomless memory and a life’s work to put in it.


I’m up to the 14th scallop of my sister’s shawl edging. I should reach the fish-tail central scallop, no. 15, this evening. I’ve spent some time with Heirloom Knitting, but haven’t yet chosen my patterns for the centre bit.

Here (perhaps) is where I left the Princess for the time being: 64 rows of border.

Nope -- no image. What happens is that you click on the little picture icon, select the pic you want from the list on your own computer, click Upload Images, wait while a screen says it is being done, and then either see a completely empty screen (today), or a screen saying "Done" but when you click on that and go back to your deathless prose, there's no pic. Phooey.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ketki and Rachel, with two rather glum little boys.  Posted by Picasa
My husband was less well yesterday, and towards evening, slightly feverish. I decided it was time to involve the medical profession, and see if antibiotics can zap this thing. But in the night the fever subsided, and his breathing became much quieter. So we shall see. He’s still asleep, at the moment.

Here’s the promised picture of the striped Koigu’s, plus Alexander’s wife Ketki. Thomas-the-Younger is looking uncharacteristically disagreeable. (Thank you for your comment yesterday, Swapna. He’s a treasure, all right.) I was sort of glad to see that You Knit What?? is having trouble uploading photos, too, although I never really thought the difficulties were my fault

[Alas, Blogger's difficulties picture-wise continue. Zilch, this morning. I'll post the striped Koigu's above, and leave the nudibranches, referred to below, for another day.]

It was Alexander, of course, who sent the picture, having extracted it from his sister Rachel’s camera. He also sent one of Carleen (who looks after the boys) modelling the Nudibranch. And while I was pottering around just now, I found one of a real nudibranch, which Lorna must have sent me. The resemblance is uncanny, but you'll have to take my word for it until Blogger pulls itself together.

Franklin's comment yesterday was spot on – “Monarch of the Glen” is exactly what we look like, in that group photograph. Furthermore, our new stair carpet in Perthshire was supplied and fitted by the very firm that carpeted the house for the latest series of MoftheG.

My sister’s shawl has reached Scallop Ten (of 29). We’re cantering along. They are different sizes, which is mildly fun.

Tomorrow, I think, a picture of the Princess at the point where I laid it aside. For now, loquacity fails me.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Thomas-the-Younger in his striped Koigu, last week: see below. Posted by Picasa

My husband is much better, thanks. Still pretty grouchy, and I think it would be a good idea to stay indoors for another day, but definitely better.

Kate, I forgot to say yesterday, that’s a good idea about adding a simple family tree to this blog. I’m working on it.

I’ve just found out that fully half the people in this happy picture – taken on Games Day, ’05 – won’t be there for the Strathardle Highland Gathering this year. A great sadness descends. Is it even worth knitting a shrug? [But, hey! Blogger uploaded the picture!]

Rachel phoned last night to say that they’ve had an email from Thomas-the-Elder in Leningrad (sent from an internet cafĂ© on the Nevsky Prospect, one must assume). All sounds well – the family he’s staying with are very nice, food is good, and they don’t speak a word of English, which is what’s wanted. Great relief all round, compared to the sadness and anxiety of last Friday evening.

Thomas-the-Elder is in the back row of the group picture, between my white-haired husband and my tall brother-in-law. Ketki is on the left, holding Thomas-the-Younger (next to a kilted Alexander, holding James). Thomas has grown in the last six months.

Lorna has a good summary of the result of the Six Nations rugby tournament, which (you may even be glad to hear) is now over. No less an authority than the Sunday Times claimed two days ago that England had finished third. I didn’t see how that could be true, and it isn’t. We did. England were fourth.


I’m up to Scallop No. 7 on my sister’s shawl edging. The difficulties multiply, of keeping my mind on what I’m doing, so I’ve set up a little system of reminders. Alice, the yarn is Heirloom Knitting's Merino Lace, which comes in a delicious range of colours. It’s heavier than their Gossamer Merino, which I’m using for the Princess.

Tamar, I read back through a couple of days of my blog-entries, and found, belatedly, your very interesting suggestion that the Aran-coloured Koigu I used as the main colour in Thomas-the-Younger’s sweater, and in the Baby Surprise for our neighbour, might be weak when wet. The main trouble with both sweaters was indeed in the seams, but Thomas also had a hole right in the middle of one of the Aran-coloured stripes, which I simply darned. Here, I hope, if Blogger has pulled itself together, is a picture of him in it, taken last week. [Nope: the new rule seems to be, one-picture-a-day. See above -- I hope.]

I knit the prototype for his brother James-the-Younger for his first birthday. He’ll be three in May. It has been worn and worn, and machine-washed, and is now somewhat faded but otherwise perfect. It will be very interesting indeed to see what happens to Thomas’s one (also a first birthday present) when it next goes into the washing machine.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Blogger continues to have picture-posting problems. Here are the socks I finished in London (but for Kitchener'ing), and the completed ribbing for another one.  Posted by Picasa
My husband came back from the metropolis with an ugly cold, and spent yesterday in bed. I think he’s marginally better, and that we can probably see this out without medical intervention, but any such thing is a tad scary at our great ages. We’ve had our flu shots.

Rachel phoned last night. Her son Thomas-the-elder had made contact with “Yuri” at the last moment and so was able to set off to Leningrad in the hope of being expected somewhere, and even of being met at the airport.

The promised picture of her and her nephews Thomas-the-Younger and James-the-Younger, all in their striped Koigus, was duly taken yesterday, and she had even succeeded in transferring it to her computer, but could get no further. Alexander will have to lend a hand.


Tamar, it was good to have your question yesterday.

I knit a few socks when I was young, and enjoyed them, and then moved on to other things. Ten years ago, when I first got started on the Internet and therefore the Knitlist and therefore the Patternworks catalogue, I decided to try again. We were flying to the US for my mother’s ninetieth birthday in the fall of ’96. I hated flying passionately. I ordered some Brittany birches and some Socka multicoloured and a Patternworks sock pattern.

Ever since, I have knit socks when we travel, and in waiting rooms. I am now an intrepid birdwoman, no nerves at all. Sock production has dropped since my mother died three years ago – no more transatlantic hops – but I still notch up three or four pairs a year. Socka isn’t as good as it used to be, either, since they merged with Regia or whoever. I don’t entirely like the self-patterning yarns, the ones that produce stripes and phony Fair Isle.

Anyway: I now know that Patternworks leaflet by heart. I never knit fancy-schmancy socks, but leave it to the yarn to do the work. For gents, I cast on 64 stitches on 1’s; for ladies, 56. The gents I knit for are for the most part pretty well interchangeable, sock-wise: my husband, my sons, Helen’s husband David. Thomas-the-Elder and his father Ed, Rachel’s husband, need slight adjustments. Whereas the ladies are different each from each. Helen is the most dramatic – her left foot is a whole shoe-size bigger than her right. I put in a half-inch stripe of a different yarn near the toe on one of her socks, each time.

I knit the ribbing on four needles – Maureen, it’s nice to meet someone else who doesn’t like ribbing on dp’s – and switch to five thereafter. Couldn’t say why.


I’m up to the fourth scallop, of 29, of the edging for my sister’s shawl. I’m knitting Amedro’s edging as given, for her Cobweb Lace Wrap. It’s so easy that it’s hard not to make mistakes, but I like the result, and especially like the central double-scallop with its fish-tails. I had to go down (from Amedro’s specification) a couple of needle sizes before I felt comfortable. I think Sharon M. says that the yarn I’m using is slightly finer than cobweb: the result may be a slightly smaller shawl, which is in turn a slightly worrying consideration.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Here we are again, after a pleasant family visit and a hard week of art. Where to start?

Even as I write, Thomas-the-Elder must be at Heathrow about to board a flight for Leningrad. A measure of gloom and anxiety hung over the household when we were there for supper on Friday night. Thomas had a life-saving bowel operation when he was 48 hours old, and another – also an all-night emergency job – when he was 14 or 15. Since then he has been subject to severe, disabling bouts of abdominal pain. Surgery can do no more, for fear of causing more adhesions. I think I’ve got that right. He knows how to take care of himself, but his devoted mother fears that borscht and boiled cabbage and irregular meals will be too much for him. In addition, he had, at that point, failed to make any contact with the family he is supposed to stay with for the first fortnight.

And the general mood in the household won’t have been improved by Ireland’s defeat of England (at rugby) yesterday. In London, to make it worse. In a thriller, but that’s small consolation to Englishmen. (Scotland beat Italy by a whisker, in Rome, our first away win for four years.)


I finished the socks I was knitting for James’ wife Cathy (who has very small feet) and cast on the yarn I bought at the Ally Pally last summer, to make a gents’-sized pair. Perhaps for Alexander. I pressed forward remorselessly on the train yesterday, and finished the 50 rounds of rib for the first sock. I don’t much like ribbing on dp’s.

A sock-picture will appear soon, but here for now is something more interesting and cheerful – Rachel in her striped Koigu and Thomas-the-Younger in his.

Upload problems today -- here's Rachel, but Blogger refuses to show us Thomas.

The Lavender Hill Mileses are going round to lunch with the Ogdens today, figuring that a replacement Thomas is just what Rachel needs to cheer her up. It is hoped that a joint picture will be taken of Rachel and Thomas and James-the-Younger, all in their striped Koigu’s.

And last night I started my sister’s shawl.

Monday, March 13, 2006

France beat England yesterday, rather thoroughly, thus redeeming the weekend somewhat for me and Alexander, and miring poor Rachel and her family, no doubt, even deeper in the Slough of Despond. At the moment of writing, it looks as if the England cricket team will lose a test match in India today, too.

Maureen, it’s always fun when the Welsh come up for the rugby. They come days in advance, the whole nation, with their grandmothers and their babies in pushchairs, and fill all the B&B’s, as you discovered.

We’re off to London this morning, returning on Saturday. Blogging should resume on Sunday.

I finished row 66 of the Princess border last night – the pre-determined cut-off point. I’ll photograph it when we get back. This morning must be devoted to train-catching.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Ireland beat us, I’m afraid.

And since I’ve started in non-knit mode, I’ll go on.

Yesterday’s computer problem was the Palm. When I tried to access any of the nearly-300 files I have already equipped with permanent endnotes and squirted in, I got an error message about a previous version of Documents to Go having been detected. I was referred to a website, I went there, and attempted to carry out the alarming instructions I found. Unlike my adventures with Norton’s instructions the day before, I failed.

A visit loomed to the nice young men on Tottenham Court Road who sold us the thing in the first place.

But then I discovered that all I had to do was click “Re-install Handheld Applications” from the Tools menu of Documents to Go. So all is well. My husband wants to take the Palm along to London tomorrow, so I will have to spend today squirting in as many as possible of the 123 additional files I have prepared.

Look! what arrived yesterday. I meant it for Strathardle wear, but it was so luscious that I have had it on ever since I opened the package. CafePress are very nice to deal with, quite apart from the wonderfulness of Franklin's designs. Good quality stuff, speedy service, and, for some reason, no customs duty to pay. This was my 5th order from them.

The other non-knit item this morning is the weather. I think we were lucky in our choice of days for Strathardle last week. I am grateful to the passer-by for providing that coup de rouge.

OKC (Obligatory Knit Content)

The soothing qualities of the Princess were much in evidence last night, as I recovered from Scotland’s defeat. I’m doing row 64.

The other thing I did last night was repair Thomas-the-Younger’s striped Koigu (same design as Rachel’s, shewn yesterday, only smaller and with a sort of Aran-coloured yarn for the constant stripes). It fell apart in its first wash. The odd thing is, that the same thing happened to the Baby Surprise I knit last year for a neighbour’s baby – which used that same Aran-coloured yarn as its main colour. I can’t find anything wrong with the yarn, so I have to blame faulty workmanship in both cases, but it’s an odd coincidence.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Some interesting rugby, this weekend. Scotland play Ireland in Dublin today. England play France in Paris tomorrow. Both are likely to be exciting matches. “Home advantage” is worth a 16th man on the field, in rugby (perhaps in all sports). Watch this space.

The Irish, incidentally, play rugby as one nation – there’s no separate team for the North.

The knitting knews is that I finished Rachel’s striped Koigu. I started it 13 months ago. Looking back through the archives, I discover that Nephew Theo’s striped Koigu only took 11 months, and he’s a good deal larger than Rachel. But he didn’t have a collar or a neck placket or buttons. That may be the difference. [Both were Strathardle projects.]

I’m really rather pleased with it. The collar is out of the VK book and is called a “shaped collar”. Every row is K1, P1 rib, as on the toddler version. But this time, every row begins, “Rib 3, M1”. I like the effect. I hope I’ll get my act together to the extent of writing up the pattern for my website sometime soon. I’ve kept careful notes.

Maybe next week when we’re in London, I can get a picture of Rachel wearing it.

I got it finished in time to pick up the Princess – and I finished row 62. That means, I have finished page 4 of the pattern. Really exciting. I will have to put it away somewhere firmly out of sight, when I start my sister’s shawl soon. It is absolutely irresistible, otherwise.

Miscellaneous Non-Knit

Franklin says that the new character in his Blog was inspired by my feelings about sheep. I feel extravagantly flattered. While you’re there, scroll down to the previous entry, his account of the ice-skating race between Gertrude Stein and Dorothy Parker. He has out-Franklin’d Franklin, and the standard was set pretty high to begin with.

I had a thorough panic last night when I sat down to my computer and found a box in the middle of the screen saying that Norton AntiVirus had encountered an “internal program error” and I had to un-install and reinstall it. What? Was this a “phishing” message from a sinister virus, like the ones you get purportedly from your bank inviting you to send your password and other details to a bad man? And anyway, how could I reinstall it without a disk? I bought it on-line. I have recently moved up to Norton AntiVirus 2006.

All went smoothly, and I’ll know what to do next time. I’ve done a live update and a full scan and everything seems fine. But it’s a sad world when the one unstable program on one’s computer is one’s virus protection.

Friday, March 10, 2006


We got there, we got back. Tuesday was a grim day, grudging thaw, dirty snow. We were there for several hours before I got the kitchen warm enough (10 degrees centigrade) for the refrigerator to switch itself on. But Wednesday was a fine spring day, unforecast, unexpected. I see that it was the same in Jedburgh. We got a lot done, mostly in the way of putting things into our new hut. But I also humped another load of manure back over the field, and limed the couple of square yards of garden which I had managed to turn over during that balmy spell in January.

Soil chemistry is not a subject in which I excel, so the lime was a bit of an experiment.

The pink noses of rhubarb are now showing under that pot. Otherwise no progress. The ground is still frozen hard.

Observe the newly-dug rabbit hole, next to the snowdrops.


I have finished knitting Rachel’s striped Koigu. I brought it back here. Stripes Meanz Endz, and I am now hard at work on them. I wove in each new colour as I added it, but I don’t entirely trust Koigu (or any yarn) so I am now securing each one as well. Then there will be buttons, and the sleeve seams. The body was knit in the round, and the sleeves set in and shoulders joined with a three-needle bind-off as I went along, so things could be worse.

It looks rather large. Which is better, at this stage, than looking rather small.


The new magazine, the so-called April issue, was waiting for me when we got back.

And what should it contain but a shrug: simple – two long sleeves and a back piece; and knit of a Noro yarn I had never heard of, “Blossom”. I Googled for it last night, and needless to say….

Knitting-wise, the trick would be to get the back piece exactly right, so that the shoulder sections would stay on the shoulders. The pattern suggests constantly trying it on oneself as one goes along, which rather militates against knitting it for an absent granddaughter. And I think it might backfire, strategically, at the Games. The judges would be likely to have seen the pattern and to feel that I was trying to buy victory with an expensive yarn.

But I’m tempted – I who have recently bought two lots of yarn for the one shrug pattern I have already determined on – an EZ ribwarmer with sleeves.

There is also, in this issue, a pattern for a child’s sweater in something called “Garnstudio Inka” . Interestingly variegated, and I found a British source for that, too.

My current Yarn Score for Ought Six (no. of balls of yarn acquired subtracted from no. disposed of, by knitting or otherwise) is minus 41. So I must keep hold of myself. But I feel that “Knitting” has arrived.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

We’ve decided to make a dash for Strathardle today. The roads will be open, anyway, even if, at the worst, we have to abandon the car in the driveway and walk down to the house. Blogging will resume on Friday, insh’Allah. I’ll be able to bring Rachel’s striped Koigu back and finish it here over the weekend, before we go to London on Monday. At the moment, it lacks about half of its collar. Beyond that, it needs the sleeve seams done, general tidying, and buttons for the placket.

I’ve packed the Guernsey yarn and Brown-Reinsel and Thompson and a selection of needles. I’m going to knit at the tightest gauge that isn’t a strain on my hands. But I doubt if I’ll get even as far as swatching on this brief visit. We’ll be staying with Alexander and Ketki next week (the latter being the intended recipient) and I can get issues of size settled definitively.

Guess what: the doorbell just rang, since I sat down at the computer ten minutes ago. My Malabrigo yarn is here! I like it a lot. It's slightly rougher and more artisan-y than either "Maya" or Manos. I went to the HipKnits website yesterday and discovered that they had had a grand opening of the new shop over the weekend, which no doubt explains the delay. But she might have taken 30 seconds to explain by email. After all this waiting, we deserve a picture. It's pretty bleached-out. This morning’s light isn’t good yet.

I’m within two repeats of the end of row SIXTY-ONE of the Princess border, and hope I’ll be able to steal ten minutes at some point this morning, before we leave, to polish them off. Row 62 will see this page of the pattern finished. Row 66 is where I plan to stop for now. Alice, I was very touched by your comment. I’m going to miss the Princess like mad, but I would have thought paragraphs like this one made the dullest imaginable blog.


Thank you yet again for your comment, MamaLu. I am as distressed as you are about the loss of the eyelet-elephant notes. Could one outline an elephant in eyelets?

As for notes, again, thank you. My husband’s ones are in fact endnotes already. In the antique DOS-based system he uses, it is impossible to view them en masse until a document is actually printed. It hadn’t occurred to me that things are otherwise now. I’ll fiddle around (both with WordPerfect and with MS Word, if need be) and see if I can figure out how to copy them as a bunch. That could speed things up materially, especially with the documents which have a lot.

I did hundreds and hundreds of notes, at the beginning of this task, in the modern way, with a mouse. Then I accidentally stumbled on the fact that it can all be done from the keyboard, and I have increased productivity by a factor of three, at least. You’ve got to keep your wits about you: Alt,I,F; type in the next number; Alt-E; Shift-End plus down-arrow if it’s a long one; Alt,F,C; Alt,E,P – and there you are. Much quicker than clicking.

I've heard from Documents to Go, to my surprise. They don't support footnotes, and suggest that I leave a suggestion on their suggestion page. I may do it, as I would have thought a lot of academics might like to press a Palm into the service my husband intends: storing a substantial work-in-progress so that it's all accessible when you are looking up small points of detail in various libraries.

Monday, March 06, 2006

A day of progress, yesterday. I’m doing row 59 of the Princess Shawl border – we’ll have a photograph when I lay it aside, which will be soon. I bought a serviceable-looking brown corduroy skirt at John Lewis, much needed. I hate shopping for clothes. My husband cleaned the bathroom, also much needed. I got back to grips with the Palm Pilot, and emailed the Documents to Go people about footnotes. I should have done that a long time ago.

The pleasant task looms of choosing lace patterns for my sister’s forthcoming shawl. I’m going to knit Amedro’s “cobweb lace wrap” from her book “Shetland Lace”, as far as shape and edging go, but I’ll choose different patterns from Sharon’s “Heirloom Knitting” for the major panels. I did that for Hellie's shawl three years ago, with great success.

The happy thing that time was that the two patterns I chose appeared on facing pages of the book. At that time my long hair was not far in the past – it went when I broke my arm in late ’02 – and there were still kirby grips (bobby pins) hither and yon about the house which served splendidly, as Amedro recommends, to keep my places in the two charts. This time I’ll have to go out and buy some.

Alexander was puzzled at the time, I remember, about why breaking your arm means you have to get your hair cut.

So I must start browsing through HK, pleasantest of tasks. It is sort of depressing, looking at the finished photograph of the Princess, to see what little progress I have made. The book uses a portion of the Princess border on the cover, and measured by that, I’m getting along rather well – nearly up to that inset blue panel with title and author and a full picture of a different shawl.

I re-read the introduction to the Princess just now. The original on which Sharon has based this pattern, was much finer. Presumably not much larger, but knit of finer yarn on more stitches. The mind boggles.

We hope to go to Strathardle for two nights this week if the weather allows and if we can get our plumber back to solve a problem which he failed to crack on Friday. But more snow is forecast. I’ll have to ring some neighbours to find out how much is lying – one thing the best of weather forecasts never mention. Our house is in something of a frost pocket, down by the burn. If there’s any snow in the village at all, we’ll have quite a bit.

Next week we’re going to London, and we’ll need all our strength for that.

Daisy (and probably others), the Waffy is the Telegraph, a newspaper indeed. I use the word as a quite unnecessary obfuscation. Googlers who search on knitting topics, or on “President Bush”, are welcome here: I’d like to keep others away.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Sunday at least affords me a day off from wondering whether my Malabrigio yarn will turn up. I emailed her again. Here, to cheer us all, is a picture of the Debbie Bliss “Maya” which did arrive, and promptly at that, from GetKnitted, and which will do nicely for the Prize-Attempt Shrug if nothing else offers.

Yesterday’s achievements were mostly in the non-knit sphere. My accounts have been in a shaky state since Christmas, partly because of Christmas, partly because of the January push to get my husband’s magnum opus onto a CD and on its way to his publisher, partly because I tend to spend this valuable half-hour in the morning polishing my prose instead of cashing-up. Things are now tidy, at the cost of some large dumps of money both in and out, to match what the bank claims is the situation. It’s the only thing you can do when you get in a mess.

So I am ready to resume an even more thankless task: getting the afore-mentioned opus onto a Palm Pilot. I may have mentioned this problem before. I can get my husband’s DOS-based files into a modern version of Word Perfect. I can save them as Word Documents. A program called Documents to Go will then grab them and squirt them into the Palm.

But Documents to Go doesn’t do notes, and my husband’s work has lots. So I am going through the whole thing, copying the notes from the virtual reality in which they live into the text itself. And also adding the note numbers, at the appropriate spots. Anyone know a better way? A better squirting-program than Documents to Go, or an add-on, to be precise? Even so, one day that job will be done, and I’ll face up to improving my sidebar.


I’m near the end of row 56. Only six more, when that one is done, and I’ll be finished with Page Four. It continues to be glorious fun, and I approach with sadness the near-day when I must lay it aside again for awhile. With 865 stitches (or whatever it is), one doesn’t exactly snatch an opportunity to knit just-one-more-row. But with 78 stitches in a repeat, and the repeats easily learned, row by row, I often sit down and knock off a repeat or two.

What follows only makes sense in the context of the posts of the last few days:

During the first half of yesterday, my internal monologue as I moved about doing housework ineffectively, suggested that I just go with the flow and knit a big elephant into the shawl. Especially if it is as auspicious a creature as MamaLu says. I re-read Mary Thomas on how to do filet lace, and I think I understand.

But then I sized that little creature horizontally, at four stitches to the square. I’ve forgotton the precise answer – but he would be bigger than the 78 stitch repeat. That’s right out.

I have decided to shelve the problem for the moment. Maybe a small lacy elephant will turn up in the next few weeks. Otherwise, I’ll knit the Catcutta Cup itself when I resume work. Mar, it’s not quite like the Yankees. Them, you have always with you, and what’s more they tend to win. I can only knit the Cup when it’s here in Scotland, and that doesn’t happen often, even though there’s only one team to beat, namely England. Scotland tends to lose. We won it in 1990, in 2000 (when it made its appearance on Kirsty's shawl) and in 2006, and I think it deserves a place on the Princess.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Still no Malibrigio, and no reply to Thursday’s email. I’m sure I’ll get it in the end, but I am faintly cross, and much frustrated, at the delay.


There was a picture in Thursday’s Waffy captioned, “President Bush greets Afghans in the streets of Kabul yesterday…”

This is the man who refused to make the traditional progress in a horse-drawn vehicle down the Mall to Buckingham Palace, during his state visit to Britain. Even when they offered him a bullet-proof landau. He had his own very bullet-proof car flown in, and came sidling round the corner and into the Palace forecourt in it.

So the picture in Thursday’s Waffy was not what it seemed. You can bet the store. Or the farm.

Non-politics but still non-knit

All day Wednesday, when we decided not to go to Strathardle, and Thursday, when we actually didn’t go, I felt we had been wimpish and feeble. Yesterday this happened, and I was glad we were here and not there.


Discussion has been raging in the circles in which I move [The Curmudgeon and The Princess Diaries, to be specific] about whether it is necessary in fine lace knitting to pair decreases (k2tog & SSK), or can you just do k2tog every time? I was surprised as many were when Sharon’s great book “Heirloom Knitting” was published and she said that it didn’t matter, with fine Shetland yarns.

I notice that in the instructions for the Princess Shawl, she implies that it does matter, and gives the instructions the traditional way. But she knit the prototype Princess in cotton. That may make a difference.

I’m pairing them, from force of habit.

The Princess and Elephants

I’m no forrad’er. MamaLu, thank you for yesterday’s links. I’d show a copy of this little sweetie:, if I weren’t afraid of violating a copyright. I had found him myself the day before. He’d make a lovely Fair Isle elephant.

The only instructions for filet lace I can find on my shelves is a brief chapter I don’t entirely understand in “Mary Thomas’s Book of Knitting Patterns”. She says that every block in a filet lace pattern must be made of three stitches and four rows. So that little elephant becomes 56 rows high – and remember, we also need some spacer rows, and 14 for “2006”, and two for a frame. The elephant also, on Mary Thomas’s reckoning, becomes wider than “2006”. This is absurd.

I spent some time trying to simplify the pattern – no tail, feet together, trunk straight down – to see if I could get a recognisably elephant-looking block shape which could float in mesh for fewer than 56 rows. I didn’t like what I produced. Although it might be a path I should continue to pursue.

There’s a cute little Hobbyhorse on page 179 of Barbara Walker’s “Charted Knitting Designs” (her Third Treasury). It works the other way around – the figure is in mesh, on a solid background. Maybe, with ingenuity, it could be converted into an elephant. But it, too, is 56 rows high.

When Margaret Stove was here six years ago, I told her I was going to knit the Calcutta Cup into Kirsty’s Christening shawl, as a way of ensuring that I did it. She is a native New Zealander – probably the world’s greatest rugby-playing nation – and was, I think, mildly amused at my excitement over a minor regional trophy. She suggested knitting it on super-fine needles and then grafting the result into the larger-gauge shawl, like a petit point passage in gros point embroidery. I could explore that idea, but since this thing is going to take more than the rest of my life as it is, I don’t think I will.

I still incline towards going ahead with the Cup. I am knitting this thing to please myself, after all, and for the greater glory of God. Assuming always that I finish it, by the time anyone gets married, the chances are high that the wedding won’t be of an appropriate formality; or the shawl will have been lost, or eaten by moths, or simply forgotton.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Still no yarn. I wrote to her yesterday.

I got a wonderful message from Mary Morrison this morning, about a Virtual Lace Week which Knitting Beyond the Hebrides is holding in April. I can hardly wait. I used to be a member, but it is one of the many things in life that has drifted away from me. I made haste to sign up again.


Mary, on her website, worries about whether she can hold out for a Yarn Fast in Lent this year. The secret, my dears, is to drink steadily during the other weeks of the year (cider is my choice, Henry Weston’s Vintage Special Cider Reserve, to be specific) – then you’ve got something to give up which won’t affect your knitting. Might even improve it.

I was wandering idly about Cyberspace yesterday, following a link or two in the sidebar of a Blog I enjoy – can’t remember which – and found some thoughts about Lent on the Blog of a young man. At the top was a picture of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the caption “Towards the Crucifiction”. I assumed, until I had read a fair amount, that what followed was going to be wittily blasphemous, or at any rate, sceptical. I’m afraid it was an honest misspelling. Positively Joycean.


I’m doing row 52 of the Princess Shawl Border. How’s that for rattling along? I have decided to lay it aside after row 66. That marks a natural small climax in the pattern although, of course, Shetland lace being Shetland lace, other motifs will have introduced themselves and be building towards other climaxes. It also means that I will have finished the first of three pages of border charts, although, alas! I won’t be one-third of the way home. Not that finishing the border will be anything like home, when the whole shawl is considered.

Crikey! What are the chances of ever finishing this? But I love the way it looks now, when it's lying about in a weightless heap, waiting for our next session.

Much thought was devoted yesterday to what might be called by now the Calcutta Cup Problem. Encouraged, especially, by Mama Lu’s comment, I put in a bit of work on elephants, and despaired. An elephant, in order to be intelligible in lace, would have to be so big as to be absurd. I’d love to be proved wrong on that. Does anyone know how to knit a lacey elephant in, say, 30 rows or so?

I’ve nothing against elephants. I have even knit some. It’s lacey elephants that pose a problem.

Whereas the Cup itself, being tankard-shaped with handles, is fairly easy at least to suggest.

Well, I’ll keep you posted.

Lorna, I heard from the Scottish Rugby Union. The Cup will be on public display – indeed, it is going to be taken on a tour of Scotland. Watch their website.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

It’s still very cold. We’ve decided against Strathardle for today, on various grounds: my husband doesn’t want to risk tracking snow into his new garden shed and leaving it to form puddles on the floor. And I’m scared of getting bogged down in snow, and begrudge the effort of getting there if I can’t do anything in my garden.

Maybe a couple of nights next week if things improve. Lorna sent me an absolutely brilliant weather-forecasting link in a comment yesterday. The long-term prospects don’t look very good either.

That yarn still hasn’t turned up.

Calcutta Cup knitting

My sister has been staying with Rachel and her family, en route from Africa to CT. She may even have been there on Saturday itself. She wrote this yesterday: “I wanted to let you know that it really does sound as though Ogdens and Ogdens-to-be would be very actively discouraged from (? forbidden) wearing a wedding shawl with the Calcutta cup and the year 2006 in it.” I tried to reply, but has declared me non grata.

We’re taking this a bit too seriously. Nobody’s engaged, and the shawl won’t be finished for quite a while. I suspect that once the first paroxysms of grief are over, and the Cup has been won by England for seven or eight straight years, its presence on the shawl will be regarded as a harmless eccentricity on Grandmother’s part. The shawl is in garter stitch and will be completely reversable, except for “2006”. Ogden ladies could wear it inside out.

But I am hugely taken with Kate’s suggestion, in another comment yesterday, that I just knit “2006” and an elephant, and leave the cup itself out. I spent some time a moment ago Googling on “lacey knit elephant” with very little success. But I did find a pattern for crocheting one in filet lace. Something might be done with that. Filet lace is like the cross on the recently-completed First Holy Communion veil, where a solid image floats on a net background. I’ve printed it out.

And if the worst happens and the shawl is spurned, I’ve got plenty of other grandchildren. Here, reproduced verbatim, is an exchange of emails which took place in February, 2002, between me and my two younger children:

“The Calcutta Cup is being contested again this Saturday, here in Edinburgh.

“The Scotsman ran one of those lottery things, twice this week, where you ring up an expensive telephone number and answer an idiotically easy question. (“Who scored all of Scotland’s points in their Calcutta Cup victory in 2000?”) The prize was two tickets to Saturday’s match. I entered. I won.

“It is the sort of thing that makes one wonder whether there might not actually be a God in heaven after all, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

“Daddy is happy enough to come along, but asked over lunch, Who will be playing whom? How many of you could answer that question?”

Son-in-law David replied from Thessaloniki:

“Congratulations. Who is playing whom? I assume we are talking about rugby.”

And James, from Beijing:

“At least Daddy knows it involves players. When I saw the subject of your message, I thought, is she interested in yachting as well?”

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Here we are in Lent. No one would expect me to give up knitting, so that’s all right.

Not much knitting yesterday. We went to an inaugural lecture because the new Professor of Spanish was billed to talk about Velasquez. It cut across our normal end-of-afternoon insulin-injection-soap-opera-and-tea routine and necessitated therefore a lot of forward planning, even after all of which had been carried out, my husband wouldn’t go alone. I didn’t find it very interesting (nothing about knitting) and the seats weren’t comfortable enough to sleep in, but he enjoyed it so it was all probably worth while.

I’ve nearly finished row 46 of the Princess Shawl border.

The exciting thing on the knitting front, however, is that I figured out that horizontal stitch I was asking about yesterday. I don’t like thinking, and I’m not clever at figuring out knitting, so I was terribly proud of myself.

If you ever want to draw a horizontal line in monochrome knitting (it could conceivably be useful in a fisherman’s gansey design, perhaps, as well as for rendering the Calcutta Cup in lace), proceed as follows:

Having arrived at the point in the row where you want your line to start, M1.

Return the newly-created stitch to the left-hand needle.

*Creep around behind it, knit the second stitch on the left-hand needle tbl, knit the first stitch in the usual way, slide both off needle.

Return the first stitch on the right-hand needle to the left-hand needle.*

Repeat from * to * as long as necessary. Then eliminate your travelling stitch with an SSK.

I’m taken aback somewhat to discover how big this insert is going to be. Apart from the frame, I’ll need four plain rows at the top and bottom, and another four between the date and the Cup. Or would two be enough? Maybe. ‘2006’ will take 13 rows, and the cup itself seems to be 31. That’s 55 or so – plus the frame. There’s plenty of room (the border is 220 rows deep). The main difficulty is that I had planned to lay the Princess aside again at roughly the end of March, to start my sister’s birthday shawl. I can’t possibly get the Cup done in the time.

The only thing to do is to swatch it, chart it very carefully this time, and get started.

The Malabrigio yarn (I think I spell it differently every time) still hasn’t turned up. I feel twinges of anxiety. She said on Friday that it was going in the mail straight away.

The weather is savagely cold, but there’s no snow here. The weather forecast speaks of lots of snow up north. How north is Strathardle? Decision on that issue – shall we go tomorrow? – has been postponed.