Sunday, April 30, 2006

Twenty-four hours later, we’re feeling much stronger. My hands even seem to have softened up a bit, although I think I’m sailing through the mid-project doldrums with my sister’s shawl. Land will be in sight very soon now, and the mood should lift.

Ketki’s Gansey

Maureen, I am enormously grateful for your comment of yesterday. Shall I forward it to my sister-in-law? Maybe. I’d love to see that picture of the herring girls in their coloured sweaters. The website of the Buckie Fishing Museum doesn’t seem to include it. Anstruther, on the other hand – where they have the original of the sweater Liz copied for Guernsey Wool – is within our striking-zone. I might contrive to visit that one. I also think I will find out about joining the Traditional Knitting List – Yahoo?

Anyway, here’s the current state of Ketki’s gansey, and I am very pleased with it. I think I’ve now done enough that I can be confident the garter stitch welt is not going to flare out, peplum-fashion. It won’t draw in, of course, like a ribbed welt. It’s meant to hang straight down, and I think it will.

The two welt pieces are overlapped by two stitches, front over back, and those two stitches then travel up the sides in purl as a mock seam. All according to Brown-Reinsel, and all fine. Except, as I think you can infer from the yarns hanging down, it would appear that I managed to reverse the back piece during the struggle. But I can’t see any difference between the two pieces. If I had reversed one, I would have had to knit across it in the same direction as the previous row, and when you do that to garter stitch, you get stocking stitch, and I ought to be able to see a difference. It remains a puzzle.

In the end, I dealt with the centering problem by eliminating one stitch front and back, so that there are an odd number and the spine-stitch could be centered precisely. That kind of thing is tough: if, as was the case, there are 139 stitches in the front of the gansey, and you want to center the stitch which is number 32 on the pattern chart as graphed, where on the chart do you start knitting? I got it in the end.


We have had a remarkably dry winter – global warming? – and the soil is wonderfully friable. [I love that word.] But it is still cool to the touch, and there are no seedling weeds yet. Plenty of grown-up weeds, you understand – but no new 2006 ones. So it’s probably too soon for seeds, and the village vegetable-growers agree. They haven’t even put their tatties in yet. I did that, and I don’t think they’ll come to any harm, even if they choose to wait quietly until the soil warms up before taking further action. I also sowed nasturtiums, swiss chard, and spinach, all tough characters and no harm done if they fail, because I’ve got more seeds.

The nasturtiums are to provide leaves and even flowers for salads, and, especially, seeds to use as capers.

Here is the current state of things. You can even see the red rhubarb, in the foreground. I have also put up the teepee for climbing beans and, to the left in the back, the netting for the peas.

I was interested to hear, Janis, that May 15 is ringed on the calendar in CT for getting started in the garden. It is in fact much the same here. Freak frosts are perfectly possible afterwards, but that’s the point at which one has to disregard the risk and get on with things. My husband threatens to persevere in his work here during much of May. That means I’ll have to leave him on his own once a week or so and go up overnight to commune with nature.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A week of hard work. We’re tired. My hands, hardened by toil, found it difficult to re-adapt to lace knitting last night. But we had a great time and got a lot done. And this is an utterly magical time of year. It’s worth no end of Novembers, to have a day in the country in April.

We spent yesterday driving about on art historical business, establishing whether it is possible to see the sea from Durie, on the road from Cupar to Methill in the Kingdom of Fife. Yes, it is, is the answer. I have pretty well eliminated Raphael as the artist my husband knows about, by that remark.

I made good progress with Ketki’s pink gansey while we were in Strathardle, and had a pleasant visit with my sister-in-law, who doubts, however, whether the Herring Girls actually wore colour. There is an essay to be written about the different natures and degrees of pleasure – tactile, intellectual, visual -- afforded by different types of knitting.

However, for today, the Springtime in Strathardle thing will have to wait, in favour of Rachel Miles of Beijing on her First Holy Communion day. Her father James says that the priest remarked on the veil, all unprompted. Rachel has grown and changed in the year since I’ve seen her.

On the left, the veil. On the right, Rachel wearing it, last Saturday, at the Chateau Regalia (sic) somewhere in Beijing.

Friday, April 21, 2006

80th Birthday of H.M. the Queen

There have been lots of pictures of the Queen in the papers, and I love looking at pictures of the Queen. The only knitting I spotted was in one where she was holding the infant Prince Edward, partially wrapped in what appeared to be a bog-standard white hap shawl, simple edging, feather-and-fan border, presumably garter stitch in the middle. I was hoping for formal Christening pictures – does the Royal Family have anything to rival the Princess shawl?

We’re set to go to Strathardle today. We’ll come back when I’ve got my tatties in, and enough other ground preparation done that I can face May. It may mean staying on for a day or two after my sister-in-law leaves, and I don’t know when that will be. Back next Thursday, maybe?

I continue, I think, to lose weight. Our bathroom scales are very old, and the needle oscillates wildly, so it’s not entirely easy to tell, but I now feel that I’m lugging less around. My diet, apart from cider-drinking, is largely as-recommended, because of my husband’s diabetes. No refined sugar, pretty low-fat. I don’t eat bread. I’ve made no other effort whatsoever, beyond dropping cider. I continue to snack on cheese and smoothies, when I’m desperate.

Here’s a picture of the state in which I’m leaving my sister’s shawl, looking not much different from the last picture of it. I like that centre section. I’ve now passed for a second time the row that’s wrong in the book. The ball of yarn, as you see, is much reduced, but it still has a lot of life in it. I am beginning to be afraid that two balls will see the shawl finished – I bought three. Thus do stashes increase.


Thank you, again, for those interesting remarks, Ted. I’ve got Hazel Carter’s invaluable book, but I had completely forgotton what she says about short rows on either side of the point of a scallop, in a lacy edging, and am now eager to try it. Perhaps in my dreamt-of Jade Sapphire cashmere wrap. I often think that traditional knitters have the jump on us, just by doing the same thing over and over for life, and thinking about it, and refining it. Here I am flinging my unfinished shawl down and cantering off to the country to work on a fisherman’s gansey. They don’t behave like that on Fair Isle, or Unst.

Eleni, I was working with my husband’s Palm yesterday, identifying a last few documents to Documents to Go – that’s the slow part. Once that’s done, Documents to Go will update them automatically of course. And thinking again what a wonderful little machine it is, and how I wished I could think of an excuse to have one of my own. But I don’t think knitting will do. I don’t really do much yarn shopping on the hoof these days. I have my stash more-or-less catalogued in an electronic Filofax, with a section for WIPs and a section for Thots and so forth. I buy most yarn from my computer screen.

Beadslut, thank you for your reflections on the smallness of the world. My sister’s husband has a theory that there are only about 125 people out there; the rest are cardboard cutouts. Sometimes it certainly seems like that. Karin, who has dispatched in my direction an oddball of Jade Sapphire cashmere-and-silk so that I can experience it on the fingers, grew up not far from where I grew up, in Detroit – although, alas! we went to different primary schools – and went to the college where my mother taught. Karin remembers her, although she never actually took a course from her. Small world, as you say. I have made a picture of Franklin sitting before Ruskin’s gravestone into my computer wallpaper, to make it all feel real. It’s a lovely cool image to start and end the day with.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

All seems well with the virtual world this morning.

All day yesterday I couldn’t get my email, i.e., couldn’t connect to, although Demon restored connectivity to the Internet quite soon, and their webpage didn’t report any difficulties. Finally, towards evening, I took matters into my own hands. I turned my broadband modem off and then turned it on again.

It was all rather upsetting. My first thought was that the Direct Debit hadn’t been paid and I had been cast without warning into darkness and silence. Franklin said something the other day, in a comment here, about the connections between us all, who may never meet each other. It has changed my life. I am always astonished when I meet internet-users who don’t have cyber-friends of their own. In my case, I didn’t really know any other knitting-obsessives until the age of about 60 when I met them in space. An experience not unlike falling down the rabbithole – into Wonderland.

Slipping the First Stitch when Knitting Lace

This is interesting.

I was very touched to find a comment from Ted himself. Any, hey – I’m not a very good knitter, either!

Because (at least in part) of the squareness of garter stitch [two rows equal one ridge equals one stitch] , one very often finds oneself attaching two rows of lace edging to two rows of body in one operation. I’m finding it hard to think about this: geometry is not me. But one knits a row of edging inwards, joins the last stitch to a stitch of the body, and then knits the next row of edging outwards without joining. Whereas when you are doing, say, a saddle shoulder in st st, you can’t attach at that rate, or the saddle will puff up.

And so it helps a lot to have a nice chained edge on the body which already represents one nice big fat pick-up-able stitch for every two rows.

I just did the arithmetic for Hazel Carter’s Sampler Shawl in “A Gathering of Lace” and find, I think, that even she (who is anti-slipping) is using this ratio. It was good to hear from Franklin that Galina herself recommends slipping.

On the other hand, Ted’s remark about getting a better edge on scallops by not slipping the first stitch – where the slipped-stitch line is going to remain the outer edge, and not be picked up – is very interesting indeed. I’ll try it if I ever reach the outer edge of the Princess. There aren’t any other scallops that I can think of in my immediate future. Monika’s remark about leaving those slipped stitches loose, is interesting too. I think that’s the way I do it, without giving the matter any thought until now.


Thank you for the suggestion about apple juice, Lorna, although it’s harder to fool someone who is staying in your house and wandering into the kitchen where the bottles are.

At some point in Lent, our daughter Rachel was at a champagne party. She took a glass, and simply didn’t drink it. When they came round offering refills, she showed her brimming glass and said, “I’m fine, thanks.” That’s heroism.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

We had a nice drop of post-holiday mail yesterday, but “Knitting” magazine wasn’t included.

This morning’s problem is that, although I am in some unimagined sense “connected”, I can’t collect my mail or visit any website. I am anxious and distressed, and it is a sharp reminder of how dependent I am on the cyber-world. Trouble down at, I presume; we shall see. I am composing off-line in MS Word, as is my wont.

Slipping the First Stitch in Lace Knitting, and other topics.

Since I can’t visit my own blog, I can’t remind myself who wrote yesterday’s comment on this interesting subject. I have had a very quick look at the early pages of “Heirloom Knitting” – I didn't see anything on the subject. The patterns of Sharon’s which I have looked at, equally quickly, do not say anything about slipping first stitches, and I think we can assume that she would say so, if she wanted it done. Nor does Amedro say anything in general, but she does specify that first stitches are to be slipped in her pattern for the shawl-shape I am actually knitting. I shall certainly continue with them for the time being. And if my contact with the outside world is ever restored, will write to the Heirloom Knitting group on the subject.

Socklady sent me this interesting link yesterday to a site with reviews of yarns. I learned some things about Jade Sapphire.


We are pretty well set to go to Strathardle on Friday. My husband’s sister, who lives in south Edinburgh, is going to join us for the weekend at least. I am worried about being drawn away from my vegetables – this is an important time of year, for vegetable growers. And I also wonder what to do about cider. I don’t want to be diverted from my new-found sobriety, but don’t want to seem inhospitable, either. My sister-in-law is not much of a drinker, but she may be looking forward to it as a rare treat. Nor do I want cider to become a subject of conversation.

I am too distressed by my unexpected isolation from the world, to go on. I will stuff this message into a bottle and go have my bath.

[Well, obviously, here I am, although I still can't get any email nor did "Knitting" arrive with this morning's post. I hope to be calmer and more informative tomorrow.]

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Family pictures today (and I remember I’m meant to be working on a webpage to explain all the relationships).

Rachel is our eldest child, elder daughter. Her son Thomas-the-Elder is our eldest grandchild. He graduated from Cambridge last summer and is currently spending a few months in Leningrad polishing his Russian and generally relaxing. He went straight to university from school, skipping the traditional “gap year”, so we can forgive his idleness. In the fall, he’ll live at home and do a year’s course in law. Years of poverty loom.

His whole immediate family went to see him in Holy Week. Rachel and her husband Ed are great givers-up-of-drink-for-Lent. I doubt if I ever would have done it if not inspired by their example. This is a picture of the whole family, day before yesterday, having a shot of vodka for breakfast.

That’s Rachel at the head of the table. From left to right, Joe, who’s doing his GCSE exams right now; Ed; Lizzie, the youngest; and on Rachel’s left, Thomas-the-Elder himself and finally Hellie, who’s coming to the end of her first year at Newcastle University. Joe and Lizzie are too young to be drinking vodka for breakfast.

Here is a picture of Ed and some ice:

I heard a talk on the radio once, long ago, by a Russian emigree who said that the sound of the ice cracking on the river Neva in the spring fills the whole city. This looks too narrow to be the Neva.


All goes well.

Sue, thank you for that link in yesterday’s comment. Gosh, this stuff looks wonderful. I think for now I will simply wait until the oddball Karin is sending turns up and I can find out for myself what it feels like on the hand. Cashmere-and-silk is a bit cheaper than pure cashmere, although “cheap” is not the word. “A bit less expensive”, let us say. And I feel sure by now, the colour must be a bit more wonderful. But I still need to know about the feel, and the cosiness.

When I was browsing “A Gathering of Lace” the other evening, looking for inspiration for my imagined Jade Sapphire yarn, -- and did I mention? that I am tired of Xenakis photography -- I found this remark in Hazel Carter’s pattern for her beautiful Sampler Stole: “Do not slip stitches at beginning of rows unless specified. The knitting will be subject to considerable stretching during dressing; slipped stitches decrease elasticity.”

I didn’t know that. Is it true? I always slip stitches at the beginning of rows when I’m knitting lace. At the moment, slipped stitches are providing a nice chained edge for my sister’s shawl, to be picked up later to make the side edgings. But I do it even for the outer edge of scallops. I block lace to hell and back without any problem.

But Hazel Carter ought to know.

Monday, April 17, 2006

I decided while we were at Mass yesterday, that when the little bit of Jade Sapphire cashmere-and-silk laceweight that Karin is sending me, arrives, I will use it to swatch the Calcutta Cup which I have decided after all to knit into the Princess Shawl, when I finally get back to it. Thus killing two birds with one stone. Religion has its uses.

Janet, thank you for the link (in yesterday’s comment) to Jody’s enthusiasm for this yarn. I can hardly wait.

Here is the current state of the current shawl. The centre pattern is the Antique Centre Pattern, page 148 of "Heirloom Knitting". On the sides you see the Bead Lozenge Centre Pattern from page 88, and you can also see how it is being eaten away by the decreases. And that double scallop in the middle of the edging actually seems to coincide with the middle of the pattern. So all is well. There will be three more complete repeats of the centre pattern before I’m finished.

I fired up Stitch and Motif Maker yesterday and charted Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern, from Gladys Thompson’s “Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans”, for the sweater for Ketki that I’ve started to knit in Strathardle. Here is the swatch again, for reference. I discovered, making the chart, what should have been clear from knitting the swatch, that the elements of the pattern don’t coincide. The broken rib bar repeats over 4 rows, the diamonds over 12, the tree over 32, so that even when I have charted/knit all 46 rows as provided by Thompson, they haven’t lined themselves up as they were at the beginning.

I own both Sweater Wizard and Stitch and Motif Maker, use them rarely, love them when I do. Maybe I should upgrade.


I made a new start yesterday at scanning my mother’s yellowing mss about Mormons. I did just what I had done a couple of weeks ago, and the printer/ scanner went through all the motions and then produced a message saying, “An OCR application is provided for you on your CD in the OCR directory. Select OK to cancel this scan operation, install your OCR software, and try the scan again.” What CD? What has happened? I tried reinstalling the printer software, to no avail.

However, there is a happy ending. I wandered disconsolately around the computer for a while and discovered that Bill Gates will scan text for me, even if Mr Dell is no longer willing to. Click on the picture of the scanner-printer in the “Scanners and Cameras” section of the “My Computer” screen, and follow instructions. What’s more, the Gates way of doing it is perhaps more accurate, and produces an actual MS Word document, not the Rich Text Format stuff which was making me so cross before. So now I’ll start again – no great loss; not much has been done.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Here we are: Lent is over. Nothing lies before me except a life of self-restraint, so it isn’t like some Easters. I have lost perhaps as much as ten pounds since Lent began, with no effort at all except for laying off the cider. It’s not enough to strike the eye of the beholder, but it’s enough to make me feel more sprightly, and cause waistbands to fasten more readily. Enough to point out the road ahead, I’m afraid.

On the other hand, if I turn out to be in the early stages of a wasting disease, I’ll go straight back on the sauce.

I continue to be enormously grateful to everyone for their help with my new cashmere passion. Karin has written to offer me a “golf-ball sized” oddball of Jade Sapphire cashmere-and-silk, and I have jumped at the chance to try it myself before committing myself to this ridiculous purchase. Silk takes dye so gloriously, as Sean said in his description of unpacking a box of Jade Sapphire. Thereby starting this whole thing.

June, those yarns on the Two Pointy Sticks website are – I’m afraid I’ve used up my superlatives. But they are. (URL in her comment of yesterday – do have a look.) They don’t seem to include any laceweights, so they won’t do for the current dream, but I’ve marked the page and I will often be back. It’s interesting to see, on that page, how different qualities of yarn take the same dye. To my eye, the merino often looks better than the cashmere in the same colourway. Brighter. Cashmere sweaters out here in the real world are so often dull, or dullish, in colour. Argyles for bankers playing golf.

So what’s going on around here?

Thanks to my new friend the MS Word “Select Browse Object” button, I’ve finished a first pass through my husband’s magnum opus already, and can now (a) start doing the files he has revised lately and (b) get to work seriously on scanning my mother’s mss about Brigham Young’s wives.

And I should, today, finish the first pass through the lace pattern in the centre of my sister’s shawl (46 rows) so I will try to smooth it out and photograph it for tomorrow. Thank you for your remark on the colour, Lorna. My sister chose it, although I tried to press on her the selection I could offer from stash. I like it too, and it’s nice to knit with. Heirloom Knitting's merino lace.

Tamar, that’s ridiculous about how much I get done. You should look around here and see what I don’t get done. And that’s an extremely interesting idea, which hadn’t occurred to me – to modify “Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern” in order to achieve an odd number of stitches and thus to be able to centre the spine-stitch precisely (for Ketki’s gansey, the current Strathardle WIP). I hope we’re going to get back there later this week. I’m meant to be charting that pattern before we do, and will consider this new option seriously as I do so.

Sue, it was a comfort to hear that you haven’t got Knitting yet either. I sort of gave up, when mine didn’t appear yesterday. And, Vivienne, I’d start with Suetonius’ “Claudius” when you finally get to a library. He was one for salacious details, I seem to remember. But my money is still on Robert Graves.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I am enormously grateful for everybody’s help on the Jade Sapphire front. Sean turns out to stock only the 4-ply, not the lace weight, in Harvard Square, so that avenue is temporarily closed. Helen rang up yesterday morning – that’s not my daughter, or sister, or granddaughter, or Helen S. who left a helpful comment yesterday, but someone else; there is the potential for confusion here – with the URL for Jade Sapphire itself: the range both of qualities and of colours is breath-taking. Why couldn’t Google have told me so the day before?

The selection of URLs which Lorna offers in her comment yesterday spreads a feast at my feet – although I think I may wind up getting Ruby Slippers from the Yarn Barn, like Maureen (URL in her comment of yesterday). Maureen, how does the cashmere and silk feel on the hand? Have you attempted a swatch? I had a sport-weight cashmere-and-silk from Cherry Tree Hill once and although it was Really Pretty Good, and I actually used it (a shrug which my sister has, and a chemo cap for a dear neighbour in Strathardle who didn’t live very long after receiving it) -- the experience of knitting with it wasn’t quite…. I think because silk, like cotton, doesn’t have much give.

Whereas I knit with pure cashmere once, too – Mountain Colors, I think it was – a shawl that Ketki has, and that was an experience beyond compare. Like knitting the cat.

The Knitting Zone – one of Lorna’s links – has Ruby Slippers lace-weight in pure cashmere. It will do fine as a colourway, despite the lack of gold.

So, we shall see. But I’d really be glad to hear from you, Maureen, about your opinion of how cashmere-and-silk will feel on the hand.


Here is a picture I took yesterday of the current state of my sister’s shawl – not to show progress, that will wait for a few more rows, but to grumble that I don’t seem to be making much progress with that 50-gram ball of yarn. I knit pretty well every day for an hour or more. I haven’t finished a ball of yarn for more than a month. Not a single one.

My new books

We’ll start with Sally Melville’s “Color”. I agree, it isn’t as inspiring as the first two books in the series. It’s good, and sound, and I may learn something about colour theory, and there are some interesting patterns. I weary of Xenakis photography.

There’s an interesting page called “Meditation” – page 163. Not in the index. With Sally’s Top 10 Lessons About Time. One of them is, “Action Precedes Motivation”. I think that means, get on with it; don’t wait until you feel like doing it. That’s probably good advice.


Vivienne, I am a bit depressed to hear that you’ve had the new “Knitting” for a whole week. We had a mail delivery yesterday, which I didn’t expect, and mine still didn’t turn up. And don’t you think that since Messalina’s frequenting of brothels is established by ancient sources, Robert Graves would have felt free to invent the perfectly plausible contest? (We’re talking about Franklin's latest competition.)

Friday, April 14, 2006

I have spent the best part of the last hour trying to find an ancient source for the tale which lies behind Franklin's latest competition. To no avail. When I should have been here writing about yarn.

“Knitting” magazine didn’t turn up yesterday after all, presumably delayed by the holiday. Post-Christian England sets great store by the Easter weekend, affording as it does the opportunity for the first beano of the season. Post-Presbyterian Scotland soldiers resolutely on.

I feel I should be commenting on my recently-arrived books, or on VK, but my mind is still wholly occupied, knitting-wise, with Jade Saphire Exotic Fibres, a package from whom, or which, Franklin’s cyber-friend Sean recently unwrapped at the shop he manages in Harvard Square. I have not encountered so reclusive a commercial enterprise in a while.

Google on Jade Saphire, and even if you hit “I’m feeling lucky” you wind up with this page from Lamb’s Ear Farm in WA: eight colourways of Mongolian cashmere. Eight glorious colourways. I found a blog written by a girl who works for Jade Saphire E.F., somewhere in the east, but not a whisper from the folks themselves. The blogger mentions her employers’ name only in passing – clearly the job is wasted on her.

It even occurred to me to wonder, in the course of the day, whether Jade Saphire could possibly supply the cashmere-and-silk (Sean mentions both cashmere and cashmere-and-silk) which Skaska offers in her vague and unsatisfactory way. (Thank you for your further work on the subject, Esther.) But Skaska says that her pure cashmere is Australian, whereas J.S.’s is known to be Mongolian, so probably not.

Anyway, the shop Sean now manages is Woolcott and Company – I bought my “Circular Solution” there some years ago, the most useful knitting gadget imaginable – and they don’t do mail order. But he was kind enough to answer a comment I left on his blog, and the result is that he is going to send me some photographs of the yarn and I will order by telephone.

What are you going to do with it, my husband would ask, if I discussed this purchase with him. I know the answer to that: I am going to knit myself a large rectangular stole, on the lines of the Faux Russian Stole in A Gathering of Lace, to wrap myself up in, in the evening. I’m thinking red and gold, like a Hindu bride. I can take it with me when they carry me off, and continue to wrap myself up in it in the nursing home, and the grave.

And when am I going to knit it? Ah….


Karen, I think that’s a wonderful idea, tempting Galina over here. She could tie us in with a trip back to Russia—she must go from time to time. Kate, congratulations on the birth of your daughter. The last time I went on an American yarn-crawl, some years ago now, I was disappointed at the choice of washable yarns for children. I think I’d look at Lorna’s Laces: there are some lovely washable qualities in that range. Don’t know if Woolcott stocks them.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I’m grateful for yesterday’s comments. was indeed the yarn source I was looking for – why do you suppose Joe took it out of his blog, if he did? It’s just as well for one’s credit card balance and stash-cupboard-capacity that the page isn’t provided with add-to-basket buttons. Esther, I would be interested to know what response you get from her – jean at milesandmiles dot demon dot co dot uk. Or leave another comment.

Meanwhile, I’ve been bowled over in the last few minutes by another possibility. I followed Franklin's link to Sean's blog, and this morning I am in Harvard Square, contemplating Jade Saphire Mongolian cashmere. (The shop Sean runs there is called Woolcott and Company but their webpage hasn’t been updated recently and Jade Saphire isn’t on it; perhaps he’ll get around to that.) I Google’d on “Jade Saphire” – interestingly, Google corrected the spelling to “Sapphire” and then produced a number of URLs which made it clear that Sean was right in the first place. And, oh! the yarn.

Thanks for commenters’ help on my broken-link problem of yesterday, too. Alexander also weighed in on that one. This is the link to my webpage (I hope), and Helen Ogden’s shawl, if anyone is still interested, can be found among the knitting at the bottom of the page. When I first set up my webpages, I was still working in Windows 3.1 with DOS-type restrictions on file names, and I clearly went a bit wild when I got my new computer and the limits were lifted. As I keep saying, once this footnote business is out of the way…

You’re absolutely right, Dawn, that it’s an utter Forth-Bridge of a job. On the other hand, I am within sight of finishing the first coat. By Whitsun, insh’Allah, my husband’s magnum opus will be in the Palm Pilot, every one of the hundreds of files provided with solid endnotes at the end of the text, and the text itself ornamented with numbers in angle brackets, thus: <54>, where the endnote references should be.

After that, there’ll be an awful lot of files to revise, the ones that my husband has worked on since I started this mamouth undertaking. That’ll go on forever, indeed. But I won’t spend so much time on it, and the Palm will be useful in libraries, as intended, when he’s looking things up, even if the particular file under consideration is in an unrevised state.

So, knitting. Progress on my sister’s shawl went smoothly yesterday, I’m glad to say. I’ll photograph it again when I’ve finished the first repeat of the tricky centre pattern. It – the centre pattern -- is 46 rows long and I’ve knocked off 32 of them, so we’re getting there. Thirty-two rows means that my original 480-odd stitches have been reduced by 64 – it doesn’t, yet, feel as if things are going faster, but that should begin to happen soon.

The joiner who made our kitchen bookcase (see yesterday) mentioned that he was in the middle of a job of drawing, and said how much he disliked drawing, compared to actually making things. Just like me and knitting.

The new Knitting magazine is due out today.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Yesterday’s excitement had nothing to do with knitting. We’ve had these shelves made by a joiner-friend in Bridge of Cally, where the Ardle flows into the Ericht – the end of the Glen, or the beginning, depending on which direction you’re going. They were made for the space -- and note the clever accomodation of the electric point used for radio, iron, and toaster. When the shifting-about is finished, the kitchen should be tidier and there’ll be room for more in the bookcase in the hall.

It was sort of fun, arranging My Life in Cookery Books. On the bottom shelf you see the battered remains of my youth – Julia Child and Elizabeth David, especially. Jamie Oliver, upper left, is the author most often consulted these days. An interesting phenomenon: when we are visiting one or the other of our children, I read cookery books from their shelves while the children themselves get on with the cooking. And I think, this is really good; and I buy the book when we get back to Edinburgh; and I never use it at all.


I tried to post a link to Hellie's shawl the other day, and Ted pointed out that it didn’t work. The URL is's%20shawl.htm. For some reason, it gets truncated after "himo" when you try to use it. Try going to my webpage, moving down to the knitting section at the bottom, and clicking on "Helen Ogden's shawl".

That shawl was done on the same principle as my current effort for my sister – the shape of Amedro’s Lacy Cobweb Wrap, with patterns substituted from Sharon Miller’s “Heirloom Knitting”. I hit a bump yesterday: there’s a mistake in the chart for the “Antique Centre Pattern” which I’m using for the centre panel of the shawl. After much struggle I turned to the Heirloom Knitting Supporters’ Group, and someone promptly referred me to Sharon’s Errata page the existence of which I had not previously suspected. All is now more or less well.


My knitting books arrived from the Schoolhouse Press yesterday. I’ll rev myself to talk about them soon. There’s nothing to make one want to drop the needles and start something new right NOW.

I am grateful to everybody who has tried to help with my problems about arranging the pattern for Ketki’s gansey. It is relatively unusual to knit a gansey with an allover pattern: that may be part of the problem. Jean from Cornwall has introduced a whole new possibility: centre the pattern and fill in the sides with something like seed stitch. I think I’ll probably take a stitch out of the pattern fore and aft, thus producing an odd number of stitches and allowing precise centering. Tamar, I struggled with this all last week and can say with conviction that any combination of full pattern repeats (40 stitches) will result in an even number of stitches not only in the whole circumference, but also front and back separately.

Dawn, the royal couple in yesterday’s picture are wearing the Balmoral tartan. I can’t tell you more than that, although I suppose one could look it up: was it created for Queen Victoria, who was keen on that sort of thing, and loved Balmoral? Or for Prince Charles himself, five years ago? Or for someone somewhere inbetween?

Thanks for the encouragement about my mother’s book (about Brigham Young’s 27 wives – I’m trying to scan it with a view to eventual publication on the internet). I haven’t discovered yet what “rich text format” is, and for the moment have abandoned the project in favour of pressing on hard with typing endnote numbers into their actual position in the text, in my husband’s Magnum Opus, for the sake of the Palm Pilot which suppresses such things. I discovered the MS Word “Select Browse Object” button yesterday, quite by accident – it speeds things up a lot.

Here’s a problem: I followed a link a day or so ago to a glorious page of cashmere and silk lace yarns for Orenburg shawls. I thought the link was in Joe's blog, but if so he’s taken it out. Google has failed me. I remember that it was a slightly confusing page in that there were beautiful heaps of glorious handpainted yarns, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to separate them into specific yarns for ordering. Not that I would dream of doing such a thing. Does anyone know what I’m talking about?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Isn’t that a funny picture? One doesn’t begrudge the old dears their patent happiness, but it’s still a funny picture. [In deference to royalty, no doubt, Blogger has allowed me a scanned image this morning.]

I have a small collection of photographs of gents in kilt hose, in which the pattern in the turnover can be discerned from the photograph. I will add this one (from the front page of yesterday’s Scotsman). I keep them with Lady Gainford’s book. The Prince of Wales figures more than once in my little collection. I’ve got an earlier one of him in a diced pattern like this, but a different colourway. He was visiting a shortbread factory, that time.

Do you suppose there’s a little old lady somewhere, By Appointment Knitter in Ordinary? Or do you think he just gets them from an expensive kilt outfitter?

Anyway, some social history today. My husband found this in some photocopied pages from the Atheneum which he had for other purposes:

The Ladies’ Knitting and Netting Book, 1st and 2nd Series – The Fancy Work Book

There was a time when the motley patchwork held its sway over the work-table; but that was of a piece with hoops, and stately dowagers with lappets and ruffles and powdered and cushioned heads, and they all vanished from the fashionable world together. After that, knitting and netting took the lead; then bead-work was the fashion; and well do we remember the deformed taper-stands with dislocated handles, and tumble-down dropsical pitchers that graced or rather disgraced the rooms of modern time, the consequences of the bead-counting of the fair novices. This too had its day, and of late we have been startled by a battery of worsted frames: the triangular shawl frame, the large standing frame, the table frame, the hand frame, in fact every sort of frame, till the visitor is bewildered how to advance so as to avoid these wooden barriers. Yet who but felt admiration when informed that our economising ladies were about to furnish their own drawing-rooms, and that chairs, sofas, ottomans, screens, all were proofs of the unwearying industry of these self-appointed Gillows. It is then to be wondered at that so few books of the class, now before us, have been published during the late prevailing rage for worsted work, and that at a time when the embroidery frame had usurped the place of every other home amusement, so little instruction was to be obtained through the usual medium of books. Now, however, when we believe, and hope, that the injurious extent to which this species of fancy slavery was carried has decreased, we may recommend these little volumes as containing much that is instructive, without the fear of too many hours being devoted to working out the rules contained in them. The rules in the Knitting and Netting Book are clearly laid down, and each series contains an explanation of the various terms used and the quantity of materials required for the different works. The Fancy Work Book gives several useful hints about shading in embroidery, and also instruction in how to dress the frames. Every kind of fancy-work is satisfactorily explained, and the work will no doubt be a valuable addition to the ladies’ table. But, as the knitters say, we must “cast off”.

Athenaeum, May 29, 1841

Consulting Bishop Rutt, and given the date, I think this must refer to Miss Watts’ book. Not the least extraordinary thing about this passage, is that so august a publication should notice a knitting book at all.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Monday in Holy Week

Claudia, it’s wonderful to hear from you.

A full day back, not without its small achievements, leaving me overwhelmed – as ever, when we get back from anywhere – with the amount there is to do, and my incompetence at doing it. Life always seems so manageable when we are in Strathardle, because we don’t manage it. No mail, no ironing, no cleaning (someone comes in and does it from time to time, unlike here). And a dishwashing machine, also unlike here.

So let’s think about knitting.

You saw this picture yesterday – the swatch for Ketki’s gansey. The issue today is – how to set the pattern on the sweater? The pattern has a 40-stitch repeat, and seven repeats will give me a reasonably-sized sweater.

a) One possibility would be simply to start at the left-hand seam-stitch at the point where Gladys Thompson starts, and let the pattern fall where it will.

b) But it would be nice to centre either the stitch at the centre of that tree-of-life thing (we’ll call it the spine-stitch), or that bit of broken rib. The difficulty there is that you can’t exactly centre one stitch, or seven (the broken rib), in an even number. OK, so centre the spine stitch on one of the two centre stitches of the gansey, and hope no one notices the slight discrepancy.

c) But when you flip through the books, the ganseys all look so meticulously planned. Some one would notice. So perhaps I could stop perhaps four inches short of the top, introduce some definition rows (I think that’s Brown-Reinsel’s phrase for them) and then a panel, perhaps even seed stitch, of something un-centre-able. That would keep the spine-stitch far enough away from the neck to avoid detection. Perhaps.

d) Or what about removing one stitch, front and back, so that I have an odd number, and the spine stitch can be centered precisely. What about the back, in that case? Centre it again? In which case there would be a considerable discrepancy at the (false) seams.

e) Or centre the spine-stitch in the front, and from there, just knit the pattern, leaving out one stitch of it at each seam?

I think I’ll probably go for e), but I was taken aback to discover how many choices there are.

VK is here, not without interest, and Knitting must be about to arrive. There are still comments to comment on, from before we went away. But there I think I’ll leave things for today.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Here we are. It’ll take days to say it all. This morning, I’m not even going to try to answer the kind comments left on my last post.

Here is a picture of the vegetable garden, taken yesterday morning. We had a better week, weather-wise, than the photograph implies. I had taken two dozen chitted potatoes along with us, and I planted them. They’ll probably be all right, too, potatoes being tough little cookies. We got various things done, including the turning of a few more spadesful of earth in preparation for seed-sowing if spring ever comes. No rhubarb yet. If it weren't such absolutely indestructable stuff, I'd be a bit worried.

There are lambs in the glen, in the village indeed, but not yet in our fields.

And I started Ketki’s gansey, using the pink yarn I bought recently from Guernsey Wool. I love it. Firm but not scratchy, very pleasant on the hand, great for stitch definition. When Ketki gets tired of banking and turns to gutting herrings for a living, she’ll find this one a welcome protection from the elements without being in any way burdensome.

Here’s the swatch. It’s unusual for me to make a swatch at all, let alone so elaborate a one. The actual yarn is a gentler pink than the photograph implies, without being sissy.

The pattern is “Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern” from Gladys Thompson’s book, “Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys and Arans.” It is one of the very few in the book which is not charted but just written out line by line. I didn’t know, when I started, how to interpret that, so I began by just doing what it said: 1st row K5, p3, k1 etc; 2nd row K6, p2, k1 etc.

It soon became obvious that I wasn’t getting anywhere. The great thing about a swatch is that you don’t have to rip it out, you can just put in a row or two of garter stitch and try again. The initial mess can be dimly discerned towards the bottom of the swatch. I saw that I had to chart the pattern, and had what I thought a stroke of genius: I began by charting only the odd-numbered rows, leaving blank rows in between. Sure enough, I was able to see almost immediately that the pattern was written for knitting in the round. So, for my swatch, I had to start the even-numbered rows at the wrong end, and change k to p throughout, and vice versa. (And, yes, I know EZ would have had me knit a “swatch-cap” at this point. I didn’t want to, so I didn’t.)

And I got on fine, as you see. I’ve brought the book back here so that I can make a proper chart, perhaps in Stitch and Motif Maker, if I can find it; perhaps in Excel.

I spent a lot of time reading Brown-Reinsel, in the intervals of gardening. I have decided on an overlapped garter-stitch welt. We’re going the Full Monty on authenticity, here. Those rows of garter stitch on the swatch are on B-R’s instructions, to see if it spreads. It does, a bit, but the body of the sweater will have 10% more stitches than the welt, so I should be all right.

I am nearly finished, as you see, with the welts themselves. I am a bit worried about spread, and fully determined, if I don’t like the look of things when I’m four or five inches into the body pattern, to rip mercilessly back and start again. I think I’ve become a slightly better knitter in my old age, and if so, it’s entirely due to an increased willingness to rip things out.

Notice the little row of bumps at the cast-on edge. That’s a Channel Island cast-on, B-R again. I’m not much of one for learning new tricks these days, and I’m terribly pleased with this one.

The Scottish swan with Bird Flu which has been causing such excitement these last few days, was found in an East Coast fishing village close to Anstruther. Alas there don’t seem to be any gansey patterns in the books specifically attributed to Cellardyke.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A comment yesterday from Rabbitch herself! I am honoured.

Lorna sent me that picture of a nudibranch, Cat. She says on the pattern itself that you can go to Google and tell it that you want images and type in “nudibranch” and you’ll get no end of colour combinations.

We’re going to Kirkmichael today. The weather isn’t bad, outside the window; and the forecast is reasonable, if chilly. We should be back by the weekend. Blogging will resume maybe Saturday, maybe Sunday. I think it’s probably too cold to plant potatoes, and I’m worried about taking them up – they’re currently chitting on the dining room floor – if I’m then going to have to leave them behind for the mice to eat.

It’ll be good to get away from computer and TV. I’m getting square-eyed with all those endnotes. I knocked off 26 files yesterday, including some lavishly-noted ones devoted to the artist’s own magnum opus. The pons asinorum of the job, I feel, but there’s still a long way to go.

I had a good evening, too, getting to grips with the two lace patterns in my sister’s shawl. Sharon has graded the one in the wings, I notice, at four stars, and the centre-panel one at five, which is flattering. All goes well. It’ll get more complicated when I finish the first passage through one or the other, because they don’t have the same number of rows in a repeat. If it gets tough, I can always photocopy the pages and cross rows off.

The centre panel remains intact throughout, while the ones which form the wings decrease rapidly, one stitch at either end of each (therefore, four stitches in all) on every right-side row. At first one knits along without noticing or thinking about it, and then one discovers quite suddenly that the decreases have added up and are making themselves felt – rather like the years of one’s life.

Angel, that’s an interesting question about lace yarns. I think my first choice is merino wool. The best I ever used was some I bought in Beijing three years ago and used for Hellie's shawl. I’m knitting my sister’s shawl at the moment – and, indeed, the Princess itself – with two different merino yarns from Heirloom Knitting.

But I’ve never used a fine luxury yarn. The experience must be wonderful – did you enjoy it? And how is the result? I knit a sweater with alpaca once, and it stretched to my knees after a couple of wearings. But lace-weight, obviously, isn't as heavy and shouldn’t have that problem. I bought some completely unlabelled lace-weight yarn in Beijing, four different colours, and I wonder now whether it could even be cashmere. I keep trying to think of some good projects for it.

I’ve used lace-weight Shetland yarn, from Jamieson and Smith’s, and I liked that too. What I didn’t like was Shetland cobweb yarn. That’s what Amedro specifies for her “cobweb lace wrap”, the pattern which provides the shape for my sister’s shawl, and that’s what I used the first time I knit it. The result was perfectly successful, but the yarn is unplyed and tends to break. There are plenty of much stronger, plyed yarns out there – including the ones from Heirloom Knitting.

The Italians seem to be thinking about re-introducing the death penalty. They have had a couple of nasty murders lately. Their present sentence – which I hope they’ll stick with – is ergastolo, a pure Latin word.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

I just counted. There are 245 files of my husband’s Magnum Opus still requiring to have the positions of endnote-numbers entered in the text. It’s something, I suppose, to be near enough the end to be able to face the count. And even 245 will get done, eventually, if I can go on knocking off a dozen or more a day. I had expected something between 100 and 150, however, so the real state of affairs is a bit of a shock.

As for the shawl, Helen (yesterday’s comment), I see from my archives that Hellie's shawl took me three months. If this one goes as fast, I’ll finish it towards the end of June, which would leave time to knock off that shrug for the Games at the end of August. We’ll see how it goes. Don’t count on it.

And Maureen, since I’ve started on comments, I would love to have the address for sending Heirloom Knitting treasure to. I’m jean at milesandmiles dot demon dot co dot uk. That would solve the whole problem. Laritza, while withholding the address, suggests selling the yarn on eBay, and even asking Sharon to take back the duplicate pattern I have succeeded in buying, the Unst Bridal Shawl. But that’s not the point. I don’t want money – I want the glow of happiness and virtue which will attend sending the package to people who will appreciate it – and reducing stash.

Speaking of which, I enjoyed Rabbitch's pictures of her stash this morning. Would I dare? One day, perhaps.

I got the two lace patterns in the body of my sister’s shawl successfully established last night, after the unsuccessful effort of the night before. All promises well – they are complex enough to be fun but not so difficult as to slow things down. I'll post a picture when things are far enough along to be legible.

For the sake of some colour: here is a picture of a real-life nudibranch:

And here is the one I knit from Lorna's pattern as worn in London by Carleen, who helps to look after James- and Thomas-the-Youngers. Remarkable, no? It’s a great pattern, and I look forward to making more. Real life, I gather, ensures no shortage of colour schemes.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


Dawn, I think you’re right – I spent too much time with the computer yesterday. Scanning my mother’s book about Brigham Young’s wives is fascinating, and I want to go on squeezing in as many pages-per-day as possible. But Palm-work continues.

I’ve probably already mentioned that I failed to grasp, for all too long, that Documents to Go not only doesn’t support endnotes but also, reasonably enough from its point of view, strips out the numbers in the text which show where the notes used to be. I was fully three-quarters of the way through the mamouth job of copying all the notes into the actual text, before I grasped that I would also have to go through each document inserting the numbers in the appropriate places.

So I’m still doing that, and there’s much still to do.

I’m nearly finished with the parallel task of identifying files to Document To Go which will thereafter be kept up-to-date automatically on Palm and computer both. That job is slow and tedious – I have to sit there dealing with silly error messages. The actual “hot-sync” is automatic and doesn’t need me.

The Palm will be ever with me, because I am responsible for keeping it up to date with what my husband is doing, and keeping his computer up to date with changes he makes on the Palm. But once those blasted numbers are in place, there’ll be less to do.

One achieves all this, Dawn, by neglecting housework.


Here’s the current state-of-play with my sister’s shawl – the roundels finished, the stitches counted, augmented by four, and equipped with markers in the right place for the lace to come. Today’s work will begin with frogging 50 stitches or so: don’t try to establish a new lace pattern at the end of a long hard day. The preceeding rows are garter stitch. It’s not a disaster.

Last night, last thing, I went into the sitting room to fetch something and found, when I got back to the bedroom – adjacent – that I had the Princess shawl yarn around my ankles. That could well have been a disaster. Miraculously, the yarn didn’t break, and no stitches were pulled off the needle. The episode was too brief to count even as a mauvais quart d’heure but it was in that category.

The Heirloom Knitting Yahoo group to which I belong, has a “treasure chest” from which random blessings are rained on members from time to time. I am trying hard to contribute to it, to relieve my conscience by reducing my stash of lace yarn, but they seem to think that the transatlantic postage which would be involved would be too much for me. So far, I’m stuck, because I don’t know the address to send my stuff to, but I’ll keep trying.

Katherine, I’m delighted to hear that you can listen to Radio Rai, too. I’m not getting much from it, this morning. Part of the trouble is that they talk about their election a lot, and I’m not sure I know the vocabulary for that, even in print. But I’m sure you’re right that the rhythms of the language will help my comprehension in the end.