Monday, May 29, 2006

Off to London. Blogging should resume on Saturday, when the day’s excitement will be formed by those VKB’s on eBay. Thanks to all for the help and advice to the novice bidder. Through the years, we’ve bought quite a few pictures and books at auction. More often than not, we leave a bid with the auctioneer in advance. When we reeeely reeeely want something, we tend to go along and wave our own paddle. I don’t think there is any significant difference in the outcome.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Well, the cupboard is tidy, the New Yorker clippings have been found somewhere else entirely, two VKB’s not in my collection have turned up on eBay, and I am making progress towards finding good homes for my oddballs. I am going to count every single one of them as they leave the house, and give myself credit on my yarn-in/yarn-out spreadsheet. This’ll be the best year ever.

eBay is sort of scary for a novice. The end of the auction is next Saturday, when we’ll be back here after our sojourn in London. I gather one sits at one’s keyboard with one’s finger poised as the seconds tick down. Or something. I have entered a bid which is about half of a reasonable price (judging from Abebooks) and perhaps one-third of what I would be willing to pay.

Ketki’s Gansey

I discovered just now that the Yarn Harlot is about to launch herself into the knitting of a gansey without thorough preparation. I will have to follow her progress. Up to now she has been only an occasional read for me.

Brown-Reinsel recommends charting every single stitch before you start. Bugger that, thought I, but I’m now far enough along that I see what she means. I put a lot of effort into getting the spine-stitch of one of those trees dead-centre on the front. What I didn’t do, was think hard enough about where I would be in the pattern when I hit the neckline. I am now afraid that I might have to cut off a tree in the middle, if the sweater is not to be too short or too long. I am thinking again about having a shoulder section perhaps of moss stitch which could begin after the last complete tree.

I have a pattern which I think I bought in the Kirkcaldy Art Museum, of something called the Buckhaven Gansey, pretty plain but with a shoulder treatment as I describe.

I’m not all that far off the point where I’ll have to start the underarm gusset – and from there, I have pretty well committed myself to the overall length.

I made a big swatch for this one, remember. But the trouble with swatching, I have always found, is the element of uncertainty which remains. I think often of the “strangely dishevelled” Major Erskine in Evelyn Waugh’s “Men at Arms” – “His uniform was correct and clean but it never seemed to fit him, not through any fault of the tailor’s, but rather because the major seemed to change shape from time to time during the day. One moment his tunic seemed too long, the next, too short…”

Meanwhile the knitting of the shrug proceeds here in the metropolis. Granddaughter Hellie, for whom it is ultimately destined, is coming to see us today, from Newcastle where she is at university.

I ask myself how I got into this. By buying the yarn and pattern over-hastily is the answer. I will soon come to an instruction which reads, “Increase and work into pattern one stitch at beginning of next row and 23 following alternate rows and at the same time increase one stitch at end of next row and 7 following 8th rows.” I haven’t done that sort of thing for years. I thought it went out with the VKB of late ’48.

Ted, you’re not far wrong about the eggbox. It was for chitting potatoes in.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Yesterday my husband tried to find a box of New Yorker clippings which he believed was in the cupboard off the sitting-room, where my stash lives. We’re pretty sure, by now, that it isn’t, but in the course of the search we turned the cupboard out. Much of the result remains to be dealt with today.

The astonishing thing was that it wasn’t bursting with stash – although there is a lot of that – but with packing materials: boxes, padded bags, wrapping paper of all sorts, bubble wrap, corrugated paper. All items perfectly worthy of preservation – could-be-useful-some-time – but the collection was completely out of hand. So we’re throwing a lot of it away. The Flylady would be proud of us.

The stash had to come out for a while, to allow access to the empty boxes behind it. I resolved to get rid of the bags of unappealing oddballs. Shetland oddballs are with Shetland yarn, and might always be incorporated in a Fair Isle. Rowan oddballs are in a Rowan bag for use when next the KF bug bites. That leaves a lot of real junk that even the Oxfam shop would disdain. I’ll look for a charity, and failing that, I’m going to have to harden my heart and throw it away.

There are two big grey US mailbags, just there to the right of the television. We’ll never use them again, but wouldn’t dream of throwing them away.


Here’s the finished shawl. I’m pleased with it. I had worried about size: I thought I translated Amedro’s specification of x balls of Shetland cobweb-weight into an appropriate amount of Sharon's merino lace, but something must have been gained in the translation from ounces to yards to metres to grams. I bought twice as much as I needed. Since Sharon’s yarn is said to be slightly finer than Shetland cobweb, as soon as I grasped that I wasn’t going to use all of the yarn, I was afraid the shawl would be smaller than I wanted. But it measures exactly what Amedro says it should.

I also worried that the simple Amedro roundels around the edge and across the top, would look silly so near Sharon’s more elegant ones in the wings of the shawl. But that’s all right, too: they just look different.

So that’s done. I cast on the shrug in Debbie Bliss pure silk yesterday and am knitting away.

In glancing at Sharon’s site just now, to get the URL for the link above, I discovered her new gossamer mohair, for Orenburg shawls. I think I can hold out – there isn’t time – but oh, dear! The text is interesting, too.


What fun! “Mitigate against” and “advocate my responsibility” are new to me, Mama Lu, and delicious indeed. I have pretty well given up over “decimate”, although it continues to grate every time it goes past. Sherri, you’re too good for me. Whenever I launch myself into a sentence which turns out to require the past tense of “lead” I have to stop and re-phrase, because I don’t know what to do.

I can add two more of my betes noires: “disinterested” for “uninterested” and “beg the question” meaning “demand that the question be put”. The Prime Minister’s son recently left his Washington internship, perhaps because he had been assigned to an anti-Iraq-war senator, but his American superiors said that he had been “uninterested” in his work, and my heart leapt up. Almost universally, here, he would have been said to be “disinterested”.

The spelling checker caught me up on my first attempt at the past tense of “leap”, in that paragraph. That was a close one!

Friday, May 26, 2006


Here are Ketki’s gansey, standing on its own in traditional fashion; and my sister’s shawl, finished but untidied and unblocked. More on both in days to come.

May in Strathardle -- the good news

May is astounding, even when you’ve seen it 72 times before. All those fresh and separate greens. On the left, blackthorn blooming down the den, artistically photographed through the branches of an abies grandis. Blackthorn is a given, indeed something of a weed, the rest of the year. We planted the tree. On the right, my vegetables, yesterday.

The weather wasn’t terribly helpful, but I got almost all the grass cut, between showers, and will enjoy art in London next week all the more for knowing it has been done.

Lots of the seeds I planted, have come up.

-- and the bad

We had frost, on Monday night. This is a picture of a frosted potato, taken Tuesday morning, but it doesn’t give much idea of the extent of the damage. Frost damage is like a burn – indeed, it is a burn – and goes on for quite a while revealing itself to be worse than you thought at first.

The little nasturtiums which were to have grown up that tepee with the runner beans, finally to provide seeds to use as capers, are completely done for. I hoped on both Tuesday and Wednesday that they might pull through. By yesterday, though, there was clearly no hope. And nasturtiums are listed in my books as a Hardy Annual – poof to that.

I earthed the potatoes up on Tuesday, which may or may not have been the right thing to do. That first earthing is meant to protect the foliage from spring frosts, not to inter the mushy results after the angel of death has passed by. I have some hope, however. The loss of the entire potato crop is too dreadful to contemplate, so I won’t contemplate it.

It’s been wet, and there are lots of slugs about. They may account for the non-appearance of the lettuce I’ve put in, and one or two other absentees. I planted more lettuce, and more nasturtiums, and courgettes under those plastic bottles, and runner beans with the nasturtiums, and some other things. The sooner we put art behind us and get back there, the better.


There’s more to say on that score, too, but for now I will only remark on how glad I was to meet a fellow pedant as revealed by your comment, Joe. The one that really used to bug me was a similar mistake in some ways, the constant misuse of “infamous” on the old Knitlist to mean something like “very famous”.

Non-knit, non-vegetable

There is an ad in a recent New Yorker for a book in the Barnes and Noble "classics" series -- "You always meant to read it", or some such slogan. The book is "Vanity Fair" and on the cover is the chef d'oeuvre of the artist my husband knows all about -- printed in reverse. It's not a simple matter of someone appearing to be left-handed when you know he's right-handed, either. It's a complicated picture with many figures, very carefully composed, and meant, like most art if not all, to be read from left to right.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Strathardle today. Blogging should resume (briefly) on Friday, or Thursday if the weather is really appalling. The forecast is not very good. It’s kind of depressing, this sort of weather, as Sean was saying in his blog recently. I think perhaps it’s less depressing in the country. The lambs will be adolescent by now.

I have reached the penultimate row of the shawl. Then there are 450 stitches to cast off. Finishing won’t take long – only two balls of yarn have been involved; there are few loose ends. Then blocking, which I love. I’m still on target to take it to London on the 29th.

At some point soon thereafter, I mean to have a look at the lace-weight section of my stash in the light of realistic life-expectancy.

The spring issue of Knitter’s turned up here last week, not before time. Nothing I would dream of knitting, much XRX photography to dislike. IK is much better. So why is it that my heart lifts to see Knitter’s on the mat, ahead of all the others? It can’t just be down to Perri Klass.


Donna, thank you for the link to VintageCat. I have read through their current list. It is full of good things (most of which I have) at good prices. I will keep an eye on it. Both Ebay and Abebooks wrote to me with news of Vogue Knitting Books this morning; nothing of interest. I hope they don’t think the job is done.

Lorna, I know it’s better to weigh oneself less often, but at the moment I am too enthralled with my new toy to abstain. I have certainly lost some weight since Ash Wednesday. Clothes are looser, step is sprightlier; although the change of scales makes it difficult to guess how much. Ten pounds, maybe?

But am I still losing? Has the Cider Effect fully worked through yet? I have settled down to a regime of cider-only-on-Sundays, so far fairly successfully, although I’m making no promises. I have porridge for breakfast: no more sausages. My old friend with the oscillating needle has been retired to the country. It will be interesting to see what it thinks I weigh.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Thank you, Helen and Anonymous. I have told eBay and Abebooks to look out for Vogue Knitting Books for me, and will report results. It turned out I already had an Abebooks account, which simplified the procedure.

I am knitting away on the final rows of moss stitch at the top of my sister’s shawl. It’s easy, of course, except that I have to keep stopping every few inches to make sure that the work hasn’t mysteriously morphed into rib. My new plastic eyes (since cataract surgery last summer), superior in every other respect, aren’t as good as my old ones at focussing right-up-close. The seriously nearsighted will know what I mean. The yarn is dark, and of course fine, and I am having some difficulty in seeing whether the next stitch in the row below was knitted or purled.

However, all is well. I might even finish the knitting of this thing today. And will certainly, bar disasters, be able to have it blocked and ready to take to London with us when we go down on the 29th. I’ll leave it with Rachel to hand on to my sister. Then forward! to the shrug.


My husband suddenly came up with the idea that we should go to Strathardle today, mid-afternoon. (After Mass and lunch, we’re going to an auction view of a picture sale – that’s why we’re here in Edinburgh at all.) That sounds far too much like hard work to me, and fortunately the weather forecast is on my side. “Rain” for tomorrow, only “chance of showers” for Tuesday and Wednesday.

I weigh myself every morning on my new digital scales, mentioned here a fortnight ago. I no longer struggle with an oscillating needle, as on the old ones, but the answer differs quite a bit from day to day. There was a 4 ½ pound difference between the best and worst reading in the past week, in which I neither fasted nor binged. Life must be very trying for jockeys.

There's a good article about the Cultural Revolution in the current Economist, May 20-26. I assume it's by James. He has obeyed the famous schoolmaster's dictum, Be specific. I just spent a few idle moments clicking on interesting-sounding blog titles on that rotating list on the main Blogger page -- pretty uniformly, they turn out not to be interesting -- and happened on one which started off with a link to.........the Cultural Revolution article in the current Economist. My bosom swelled with pride.

The Economist is the only item in the considerable quantity of journalism we receive which arrives in a proper envelope, not in plastic.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


My husband is given to remark, from time to time, that I don’t look at things, or read them, thoroughly. That’s certainly what happened here – I am deeply grateful to Marcella and Judith, yesterday, for putting me on the right track with Sandy Terps’s filet lace system. I had read the symbol-list at the beginning of her shawl pattern in “Gathering of Lace”. I had flipped through the book to see whether there was an omnium gatherum symbol-list for all patterns. But it didn’t occur to me that there might be a second list for the shawl in question, on the next page. There it was!

I spent some happy time yesterday charting that little elephant. I used Stitch and Motif Maker again. It let me define the whole 2-stitch 3-row thing and then paste it en bloc into each desired spot. No more than you would expect of a modern computer, indeed. My first attempt ended in failure when I realised I was charting the elephant instead of the silence surrounding it – which is what you need to do with filet lace. I got it, the second time.

He’s still very big – 60 rows and 72 stitches. I can take off 12 rows and 8 stitches by omitting the checkerboard border. Better. My sister had wanted an elephant on the shawl I’m just finishing off, to commemorate her time in Africa, but even borderless he would have been far too big. I’ll contemplate the Princess shawl anew, elephant-wise, as soon as I can get back to it. I think it’s a possibility, there, the shawl being much bigger and the stitch-count, even more so.

The chart, as I said, was done in Stitch and Motif Maker, the sister pattern to the Sweater Wizard. I can export it, apparently, to “Paint” – that’s a utility which lurks somewhere in the computer, right? So if anyone wants a chart for a large filet lace elephant, either in Stitch and Motif Maker, or Paint, you have but to ask. Jean at milesandmiles dot demon dot uk.

Disappointment: I heard yesterday evening that the two Vogue Knitting Books I thought I had added to my collection yesterday morning, weren’t available. It is not often that something is wrongly listed on Abebooks. I felt sad and cross. I’ve checked both Abebooks and eBay this morning: zilch. I’ll try to get into the habit of doing that regularly.


It’s high time we had a picture. Here are some beans which are growing on the doorstep. They are a dwarf bean called “Hestia” which is meant to have pretty flowers as well as beans. “Ideal for the patio.” It’s easy to see why Jack swapped the cow for those beans: they are so pretty, in one’s hand, and when planted, they come up.

I’ve decided on Monday for Strathardle. The forecast is not promising. Maybe I could find a Man to come in and cut the grass.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Lacy Elephants

While I wait to hear from Sandy Terp, I’ve made a bit of progress by the sheer power of thought. The object is to knit this little fellow, designed for filet crochet. The Mary Thomas system for knitting filet lace – I was wrong; it’s in Mary Thomas’ Book of Knitting Patterns, not her Knitting Book – takes three stitches and four rows to render each little square. The Terp system takes two stitches and three rows.

That’s still pretty big, but it does mean that an elephant could now be contained within the space of one 78-stitch pattern repeat of the Princess shawl. (I think he is 30 squares across, plus border.) I would be grateful if anyone who has “A Gathering of Lace” would have a look at the filet lace unicorn on Sandy’s shawl and give me an opinion about that symbol which looks like the moon coming up over the left shoulder of a mountain. Knit twice in the YO of the row before? I cannot find it anywhere in the book. I could, of course, always just try.


I was wandering disconsolately around the Internet just now – disconsolate because there were no comments here yesterday – and found two of my missing Vogue Knitting Books listed on Abebooks. I’ve ordered them. The seller also lists one for “Spring 1947”, without a number. I’ve written to him – but I bet it’ll turn out to be her – about that one. In my experience, they are numbered but undated.


Otherwise, little to report. I’m getting on fine with the top border of my sister’s shawl, three ranks of simple Amedro roundels. I’m doing the third at the moment. There then follow a whole ten or eleven rows of moss stitch and garter stitch. And that’s it.


I’m worried about my weed-choked vegetables up north, and about the rampant grass. We are going to London on Monday the 29th – any day now. That knocks a good fortnight out of life, by the time we have revved up for the ordeal, and recovered from it. We have been pinned in Edinburgh this week by a series of trivial but ineluctable appointments, and by hideous weather. You can’t cut the grass when it’s raining. My husband wants to view a picture sale on Sunday. So I guess the only thing is to go to Strathardle on Monday, for three nights if he’ll come, for one, if I must go alone again. Three nights – we’d get back on Thursday, obviously – doesn’t leave much time for revving up for London.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

I took a timid step into the Third Millennium yesterday: I registered with eBay. Several old Vogue Knitting Books are currently listed – they’re all ones I’ve already got, but I wrote to the seller with the most, and have heard back from her. She’ll look. And I’ll keep watching eBay. This is a hopeful new avenue.

Yvonne, that’s the answer to your question of yesterday – I’m looking for British Vogue Knitting Books from the 30’s and 40’s. Where are you writing from? They’re not likely to figure in a collection other than a British or Commonwealth-Other-Than-Canada one. I’ll send you the list of the numbers I’m missing, if there’s any hope. But nineteen pages of books! What is your friend going to do with that list? I’d really like to see it, wherever on earth she is.

I have left all my knitting stuff to a friend in my Will, for fear that otherwise it would be shovelled out the door to the Oxfam shop while my husband was in too much a state of shock to notice.

Someone posted to the KBTH list the other day about – of all things – knitting elephants in lace. I responded, somebody else mentioned Sandy Terp’s shawl pattern in “Gathering of Lace” which includes a filet lace unicorn. The only instructions I have for filet lace – that’s where the motif is in solid st st, floating on a background of mesh – are those in Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book, and the trouble with that is, in a nutshell, that the technique takes up too much space for my purposes. They being, to knit an elephant into the Princess Shawl to represent the Calcutta Cup, which Scotland unexpectedly and gloriously won this year.

But I can’t understand the instructions in the book for Sandy’s technique. So I emailed her yesterday, and blow me! if there isn’t a reply from her this morning, agreeing that the book is unintelligible, and offering to send me a print-out of how to do it her way. What was I saying the other day about how the Internet has changed the world? And beyond that, lies the kindness of knitters.

I’ve got started on Comments, so I might as well go on. Mar, you said yesterday: “[Asbury Park] had only one thing to recommend it and that was The Stone Pony, Springsteen's alma mater.” Mar, it’s not just Springsteen. I, too, am a graduate of Asbury Park High School, and I won’t have a kind word said for it. There is a scene in The Sopranos, where Tony is seen standing on the boardwalk in Asbury Park, with the Convention Hall clearly visible behind him. That’s where my high school graduation took place. It was literally in ruins when my mother and I were last there. It turned out the scene in the Sopranos was a nightmare Tony was having, and that is just how I feel about Asbury Park.

Eleni, to turn to pleasanter matters: no, there was no special technique for charting Chinese characters. Fair Isle knitting tends to draw in, as the colour being carried behind tightens the fabric. The happy result, for the chart-er, is that a Fair Isle knitting stitch is square; you don’t have to take any account of the normal rectangularity of a knitting stitch. The great thing about Chinese, from my point of view, is that I have no way of knowing what I have achieved, if anything. James’s first Chinese teacher gave him his Chinese name; I don’t know how his wife Cathy got hers. (We’re talking about the wedding sweaters I knit for my daughters and daughters-in-law.)

Ted, I always feel honoured when you appear among my commenters. This whole fisherman’s-rib/brioche stitch thing is great fun, and I long this morning to throw away my lace and knit myself a nice cosy sweater. I have knit the hat you mention (from EZ’s “Knitting Without Tears”) a couple of times. But I had completely forgotten that sweater in “The Opinionated Knitter”. I’ve just looked it up. Yes! I think in KWT, EZ calls the stitch “fruity”. That’s absolutely it.

Polly, I’m not evading your question, I’ve just run out of space. I’ll reveal all, on the question of how I got from Asbury Park to Drummond Place, the next time I hit a slow day. (“Wafted by a favouring gale/ As one sometimes is in trances…”)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Three of us went to Oberlin! (me and Eleni and Alice, comments yesterday.) That seems to border on the remarkable. (My daily readership is about 200.) Alice, I don’t know what “EXCO” means although perhaps I can sort of guess. There was knitting at Oberlin in my day all right – I remember Mr Murphy who taught me Latin and Greek beginning a session once by announcing that there was a special circle of hell reserved for people who knit in his classes. But I think the main reason it didn’t occur to me to knit, then, was that it was mainly if not exclusively done by nice Ohio girls and didn’t suit the malcontented persona I had espoused.

Everything was different in Glasgow. There were no malcontents that I could see, just Glaswegians. Might as well knit.

The VKB from the spring of 1955 (yesterday's post) is off to a good home. The two things I knit from it were a big, boxy cardigan in fine yarn on teeny tiny needles (as everything tended to be, in those days) and a sweater dress, no less, in DK in a stitch they call “Norwegian rib”.

It is simplicity itself: K1, k. into loop below next stitch on needle. Repeat. It is done over an even number of stitches, but there are two knit stitches at the end of every row, which means that the k1b’s of one row are done into the stitches that were knit on the previous row.

Barbara Walker doesn’t offer anything under the name of “Norwegian rib”. Her version of Fisherman’s Rib is very similar, though, except that the alternate stitches are purled, not knit. Every row is patterned. Whereas the commoner version of Fisherman’s Rib, in my experience, has a plain purl row for the wrong side.

It’s enough to make one want to knit some swatches, if there weren’t so much else to do. I remember that dress as easy and fun. I think it stretched out of shape on the first wearing, or maybe it was just that it looked ridiculous.

I am afraid I ordered that shawl pattern yesterday. Worse – far worse – I ordered the yarn, too. Mama Lu, our hearts beat as one on colour: I chose “mahogany”, which is described as “a dark reddish-plum”. I can’t wait.

I’m having a lovely time with the top border of my sister’s shawl. It’s pleasant to be doing easy lace, so that I can whiz along enjoying the yarn. I should finish soon, earlier than expected. My sister is going to pass through London at the end of June, on her way from Africa to CT. We won’t be there, but I’m now pretty sure the shawl will be, saving a lot on DHL and anxiety.


Eleni, what a treasure, those patterns of your grandmother’s! What I’m looking for, though, is, very specifically, early issues of the British edition of the Vogue Knitting Book: there was a parallel American edition, but I mustn’t get started on that. Maybe I should look on Ebay.

Linda, that’s remarkable that you grew up near Asbury Park. Where, exactly? We were in West Allenhurst. What a day for coincidences! And that’s remarkable news, that the boardwalk is gone. I went back once with my mother, oh, maybe 15 years ago, when she was living in a retirement community in Hightstown. The boardwalk was near-derelict then, unpopulated on a brilliant spring morning except for a few lonely and alarming-looking characters. We had lunch in a cavernous, empty cafĂ©. There was one of those carousel things on the table with condiments in little metal pots. There was a thick layer of green mould on the ketchup.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

4-ply pullover, ca. 1968 Posted by Picasa
The VKB, spring, 1955. What fun it used to be, to see the new one on a newsstand! Posted by Picasa
Yesterday I put the newly-acquired VKB in its place in my collection. Does anybody want the old one? Jean at milesandmiles dot demon dot co dot uk? Free, of course. It’s really in pretty good condition – I could have saved my money.

Nope -- Blogger's not doing scanned images, again. See above, I hope.

My notes say that it is the issue for Spring, 1955: I was an undergraduate in Glasgow, getting seriously into knitting. I had knit in high school, in Asbury Park New Jersey, miserable lumpy objects (as I was); not at all during my four years at Oberlin; and then in Glasgow I started again, because everybody was doing it. I knit two whole things (“whole” == “I finished them”) from this issue of the VKB. How on earth did I have time? Both patterns still seem pretty nice.

This issue also beautifully illustrates one of my big grudges against life – any woman of nearly-73 will know what I mean. When I was young, the Object of the Game was to be 30 and to look like Barbara Goalen. When I got to be 30, the rules suddenly changed: now you had to be 17, and look like Twiggy or Jean Shrimpton.

Since I’ve got the scanner going, I also offer a pattern from the near side of that great gulf. I didn’t, alas, date it when I bought it, but the price is marked as “6d”, and the change to decimal currency happened in the late 60’s, so it must be nearly 40 years old. It’s been somewhere towards the top of my HALFPINT list ever since, but I've never knit it. It would be fun even now, and not too difficult. I was already too old for it when I bought the pattern, and teen-agers nowadays don’t wear sweaters much. That doesn’t explain why I didn't knit it for one of my daughters.

The KBTH list came up with this pattern yesterday. Oh dear, oh dear. But if I order just the pattern and not the very tempting yarn, I can think of using some of my stash. The designer must have Sharon's book: those Paisley motifs could have no other source. But it’s still wonderful.

My sister’s shawl

Thank you for the help with my stitch-count problem. I have solved it in the simplest and clumsiest way: I picked up stitches up slipping the pick-up needle through the links in the chain, one by one; and then increased up to the desired count by an utterly primitive knit-front-and-back in the necessary number of stitches in the succeeding garter stitch rows. I’m now launched into the first tier of Amedro’s edging roundels, and I think all is well. The pick-up line looks neat, and the increases are lost (I tell myself) in the ensuing garter stitch.

But I wish I’d read your comment before I did it, Sherry. I think your method of picking up the thread between stitches was better. I feared that I might get a nudibranch-type ruffle, by any method, but I think that’s not happening.

And I wondered all day why I have no memory of this problem – I’ve knit this shape to Amedro’s instructions no fewer than three times before – and she says to slip the first stitch of each row, so she, too, must have only half as many links in the edge-chain as she requires stitches to be picked up. But when I read your comment, Ted, memory stirred. I think in the past I have picked up two stitches from each link in the chain, probably by knitting the front and back threads separately instead of doing it your very neat way.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Rain, at last.

I finished off the patterning of my sister’s sweater last night, and started picking up stitches for the edging. Trouble, here. I’ve been slipping the first stitch of each row, as per a previous discussion, and now have a nice chain edge – but there aren’t nearly enough stitches in it. Amedro essentially wants me to pick up one stitch from every row (not, every other row) and then reduce the number by roughly 5%. Whereas I am going to need to increase my total by roughly 50% (not, 100% as you might expect). Some creative fudging needed here. I don’t remember this problem when I was doing granddaughter Hellie’s shawl. Amedro’s prototype is in st st whereas mine is garter stitch. That may not be entirely irrelevant.

A more cheerful note: here is a picture (the one on the right, below) which arrived yesterday of Helen’s son the inimitable Fergus, wearing his wallaby.

The yarn is Rowan 4 ply soft, distinctly Louet Gems Merino-like in weight and twist. I knit Fergus a wallaby for Christmas, ’04, which immediately shrank. This is the replacement, none too large itself, finished at the end of last October. The pattern was generated by the Sweater Wizard. It’s one of those where you join body and sleeves and then have decrease rounds interspersed with plain ones until you get to the neck. The yoke has a sort of brocade knit-and-purl pattern which I got from a Woolgathering about the EPS. And the wallaby pouch comes from the Wonderful Wallaby pattern.

I was interested to learn from the interview with her in the recent Lace Symposium, that Meg has never knit anything from a pattern, except her mother’s.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Vogue Knitting Book

The Christian Aid Book Sale was something of a disappointment. I got there ten minutes before the time, but a queue already reached around the corner into St Andrew’s Square, and there must have been two knitting fanatics in it, because they were rifling the table when I finally got there. No books of any interest. Old pattern leaflets were a pound apiece, so there was no question of buying the whole pile. I got an old Vogue Knitting Book – I already had it, but this was a cleaner copy – one of those offprint pamphlets they used to do in the old days, this one on blouses and dresses; and a children’s pattern with elephants on it, which won’t be any help at all in the Lacy Elephant Quest.

Old Vogue Knitting Books are an obsession of mine. In the Good Old Days, it was a separate publication from the American one, with some overlap of patterns I assume, but the ads and editorial matter and specified yarns were entirely British. It came out twice a year, and the issues are numbered but undated.

The one event in the outside world which actually got nodded to in the Vogue Knitting Book, was the Coronation, and I thus can date all the others forward and back from Spring, ’53. [The only subsequent such real-world reference, I believe, was to 9/11.] The numbering suggests that it was published throughout the war. I’d love to get my hands on one of those. Publication stopped in the late 60’s.

When I got home from the sale, it occurred to me for the first time to try Abebooks. Several VKB’s are there, but none of them are ones I am missing. Perhaps it would be worth writing to the booksellers who offer more than one.

The ones I’m missing, if anyone wants to brighten my day, are numbers 1 through 13, 16 through 35, 40, 43, and 45. I pay well.

My Sister’s Shawl

The last bit of patterning has gone faster than I expected. I should finish today, and pick up the stitches for the top edging. I remember thinking when I was at this stage of Helen Ogden’s shawl – same shape, different lace patterns – that that was nearly that, only a couple long rows of moss stitch to go. Not so – there’s a lot of top edging. Still, I’m about to pass a landmark.

I can’t provide a direct link to Hellie’s shawl, because I have named the page badly, but I think you can see it if you go to my website and follow the link to “Helen Ogden’s shawl” in the list of knitting at the bottom of the first page. If you do, you will see what I mean about the top edging.


I have enjoyed reading about NH Sheep and Wool in Sean’s blog and elsewhere. We never seem to have any rain here in Scotland.

Lorna, alas, football has never grabbed me. I rejoiced for Gretna, of course, but tepidly and at a distance. My husband is totally oblivious to all sport; it is not easy to persuade him even to let me watch international rugby matches. I had resolved to make this the year I got to grips with cricket, as the last remaining sport played in daylight – but they don’t seem to be showing test matches this year on the sort of television we can receive on our little set.

I heard on the radio just now that Tony Blair has signed a petition about the use of animals in medical research. Who is it addressed to, I wonder? His left foot? L’etat, c’est lui.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Today’s excitement – second only to the fact that I am to have my polo shirt with Dolores on it (comments, yesterday) – is the annual Christian Aid Book Sale in the church of St Stephen and St George qui vicino.

It is something of an Edinburgh institution, and, I believe, the largest single money-earner for Christian Aid in the country. Thousands of books -- and this is a book-y city -- intelligently sorted. The point here is that the knitting table is usually good. I know exactly where to look, and this year I’m going to be there for the off. Other times, I’ve turned up later in the morning, and have had the feeling that the dealers have been in and taken the cream. (You can spot knitting-book dealers by their big cigars and sheepskin coats.)

I don’t think I’ve ever found anything really exciting there, although I’ve upgraded a couple of Dover reprints to the real thing. My big find – well, that was exciting – was the Patons leaflet for the Shetland shawl I knit for Rachel, our eldest, before she was born. I can’t imagine how I ever lost it in the first place, and I had been looking for it through piles of leaflets in charity shops for years.

If they have leaflets this time, I plan to buy the whole pile (after all, it’s for a good cause) and sort through them at my leisure. That time, I stuffed some money into the woman’s hand and didn’t even go on through the rest of the pile.


I’ve now reached the point where there are comparatively few stitches in the wings of my sister’s shawl – 43 in each, to be precise, just at the moment. It’s a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: I am tempted, now – and I yield, from time to time – to sit down and knock off a couple of rows while I should be doing something else. And thus the stitch count is reduced still further, and the rows go even faster at the next sit-down. I should finish the patterning easily during this coming week, barring incidents and even if I do another one-nighter in Strathardle to get started on the grass-cutting.


Who would have thought that Ted and K. would learn of their appearance in IK here, from me? The Internet has crept so quietly into our lives, day by day over the past decade or so; it’s easy to forget what an extraordinary thing it is.

Sherri, that is interesting news indeed about the “baby elephants”. I have Walker’s books here, and will have a look myself, but if you can find it faster, I would be delighted to hear. What with my sister’s shawl speeding forward, and my hopes that the shrug for the Games won’t take all that long, I should be able to put in a couple of months on the Princess before the end of the year: that’s where elephants are wanted.

Lorna, that’s a very good idea, to look for short-sleeved shirts in the men’s shop. Maybe CafePress keeps polo/golf shirts with men’s wear, and that’s why Dolores hadn’t done one up until now. But with such a garment, there shouldn’t be much difference. One could put up with funny buttoning, since one wouldn’t have to struggle with the problem of men’s long, simian arms.

Friday, May 12, 2006


Anne found it! (comment, yesterday) In the famous graveyard scene – “Alas, poor Yorick…” -- Laertes jumps into his sister Ophelia’s grave to embrace her body for the last time, after which he starts ranting and includes a reference to Pelion and to Olympus in his rant. A few moments later, Hamlet rants in his turn, and mentions Ossa, so that we may understand that the reference has not passed him by.

The New Yorker

The situation becomes clearer. The May 15 issue turned up here yesterday, with the Mother’s Day cover. I was glad to have had that explained in advance, but the one I was asking about, the one with the horrors-of-air-travel cover, was the one before, May 8. Mundi, I will certainly read Jhumpa Lahiri’s story. Thank you. My husband conscientiously reads them in date order, the oldest first, whenever we are in the country, but I allow myself more latitude.


And the other thing that turned up here yesterday was the Summer IK. I’m tempted by Kate Gilbert’s “Pea Pod Baby Set”, p. 37 – but how does Debbie Bliss’ Cotton Cashmere wash? – and admirous of the “Icarus Shawl”, p. 75. Why Icarus? One of the great losers of history, I should have thought. And I’m sure he never made a gauge swatch.

There’s a plug for The Princess Diaries on page 8. I long to get back to my own Princess.

I do admire Kate Gilbert: a name to watch. This game is much more fun now that we can watch names. The VK’s of my youth were very unforthcoming with designer’s names.

And I must move my own suri alpaca up the HALFPINT list. Wonderful stuff.


Here is a left-over picture from my dash to Strathardle earlier in the week – the first potatoes are up. This one is called “Smile”, because the potatoes have markings which suggest a smile. That should be fun for the grandchildren, I think, who enjoy digging potatoes anyway. As do I. It’s like a treasure hunt.

Don't worry about the weeds. They will be obliterated when I earth up the potatoes.

I have been seized, in this good weather, by a wish for a polo shirt. A collar is so much more flattering to the elderly face than the plain, round neck of a tee-shirt. All the ones I have found so far have brief, silly sleeves, clearly a design-feature of ’06 which must save the manufacturers millions but which doesn’t flatter the elderly upper arm.

I had a look at the CafePress selection last night: they’ve got a super polo shirt, sleeves and all, calling it a golf shirt. But Franklin has yet to include one in his collection. So I have left a comment on his blog, and my fingers are crossed. A polo shirt with Dolores on it would make my wardrobe perfect.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Thanks for the help with the New Yorker. Helen, the link to the “standing room” seats story seems very plausible. I hadn’t known about that. And Elizabeth, I’ll look again sharply with Mother’s Day in mind, when I’m reunited with the magazine.

Could there have been a recent episode when the economy-class lavatories were out of bounds?

[We read the New Yorker only when we’re in the country; I took that issue up and left it there, on Monday. I often find that with newspapers, computers and television denied me, I read articles that I would otherwise skim or skip, and profit greatly thereby.]

One of the unsung privileges of old age is not having to travel. Except that we hope to go to Greece – perhaps even to Pelion – in the autumn.

Having got on to that topic yet again: I tried the Oxford English Dictionary yesterday for “Pelion”, following up Anne’s comment of Monday. [We’ve got the whole big thing, on CD-ROM, a present from Alexander one Christmas when we didn’t even have a computer capable of running it.] There is no citation for Shakespeare – which doesn’t mean that he doesn’t use the phrase, just that I’m no further forward in finding it. I particularly liked this one:

"1976 Times 28 Apr. 14/8 Piling Pelion upon Ossa (a nasty habit that foreigners are much given to) they calculate the rate of inflation in Britain. "


It’s time I got back to business.

I finished the third repeat of the centre pattern of my sister’s shawl yesterday. Here’s where we are:

There will be one more full repeat, and a bit.

I had occasion to toil up to the Post Office yesterday, and soothed my ruffled spirits, as often on such occasions, by a visit to John Lewis’ yarn department, hard by. Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze now comes in a small range of – “variegated” isn’t the word – colours that vary slightly within themselves. That is, each yarn is a single colour, but it varies in intensity. They had a few inches of a scarf-width knit in Old Shale. It looked seriously nice, to my eye. And Sharon has several patterns for that yarn in her "Simply Stunning" section...

I have always been obsessed with multi-coloured yarns, since childhood. I was greatly struck with Sean’s maiden efforts at dyeing, in his post yesterday. And he says it’s easy. I wish I could go to his forthcoming workshop – even if it would involve travel.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

It’s kind of fun, picking dandelions, once you get into the swing of it. It was the last thing my husband said, as I left on Monday: that I must bring them back so that he could see them.

I had a good time. The year was – is – poised at the absolutely magical moment, and the sun shone. I got my seeds in, except for some space left for successional sowings and the shrinking violets (runner beans, courgettes) which have to go in after the danger of frost. There is no such moment in the Strathardle year, so I wait until mid-May, and put the seeds in under cloches made of sawn-off water bottles. Sometimes we don’t have a frost in June, and it works. The season and the sunshine and the fact of being on one’s knees with one’s hands in one’s own soil, combine to create a state of inexpressible happiness.

I stopped at Sainsbury’s on my way out of Edinburgh, to get some things to eat. Who can doubt the operation of a benevolent providence, when English asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes come into the supermarket on the same day? I bought both, and after a hard afternoon’s work, steamed them and grilled a lamb chop and supped like Lucullus. Then I walked out in the early evening, and tried to take a picture of happiness. It can’t be done.

Those hooded crows are still hanging around the chimney. And there was, mysteriously, a dead one in the yard. I disposed of it warily. (“Bird Flu Victim Was Perthshire Pensioner”)

This is a picture of blossom on our damson tree. We put it in five years ago, along with two apples. One of the apples, a Keswick Codling by name, has proved a sensational success. The other clings to life. And the damson has grown mightily, it’s really too big for its position – but has never, until now, had a single flower. So that was exciting.

I didn’t get any knitting done at all. I didn’t even take it out of the drawer. I worked in the garden, I ate, I slept. While I ate, I read The Constant Gardener.

There is currently an odd piece of news, about elderly shareholders in SmithKlineBeecham getting letters from animal rights activists threatening to put their details on the Internet if they don’t sell their shares. I was terribly disappointed to get back and find that we hadn’t had one. Maybe it will come today. I can’t imagine any shareholders more suitable than us, and it all fits in rather well with the theme of The Constant Gardener.

The May issue of “Knitting” finally arrived. It’s not very good.


Sue, thank you for that tip about right-clicking and adding words to the spelling-checker dictionary. I thought there must be a way to do it – I could add words to spelling-checkers 20 years ago. But I tend to overlook right-clicking. I’ve added “Strathardle” this morning.

Anne, your remark about Pelion and Ossa and Hamlet sounds not only plausible but half-familiar, but I can’t find it in the passage you mention, “Speak the speech, I pray you,….trippingly on the tongue.” (Interestingly, the spelling-checker accepts “Pelion” and queries “Ossa”.)


We are completely and utterly baffled by the cover of the current, May 8, issue of the New Yorker. Can anyone explain?

Monday, May 08, 2006

I am going to Strathardle today to plant my seeds – the weather outside the window here is not too bad, and the forecast on the excellent weather site Lorna told me about, is not bad either. So no blog tomorrow.

Dandelions: It occurred to me at Mass yesterday – I hope I have remarked before on the usefulness of religious observance in clearing the mind and allowing its occupation by constructive ideas – it occurred to me that bone meal, which I use regularly as a garden fertiliser, must contain calcium. I will try some in the worst dandelion areas, following up Aarlene’s idea of a couple of days ago. My sister-in-law, who is very Green, suggested when she was with us a fortnight ago that we might not have so many dandelions if we weren’t so beastly to rabbits. We were able to assure her that we have plenty of rabbits despite our unkindness to them, and they don’t seem to have any interest in dandelions.

The Constant Gardener: Donna, my sister, who knows Africa and who has seen the film, says that the book is “infinitely better”. She has read it twice. She admires the firmness of character with which I was able to leave it behind.

Knitting progresses, and so do negotiations for the Jade Sapphire cashmere. I don’t expect to do much on Ketki’s gansey this evening, but I’ll do a bit.

I turned on the MS Word spelling checker just now, because I was uneasy about “infinitely” – and indeed I had it wrong. But the checker doesn’t recognise “blog” or “gansey” – not a good start. I’ll probably turn it off again soon.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Action on various fronts. The problem with my group mail, I gather, is that a virus has got hold of Yahoo, and Demon is blocking incoming messages, so Yahoo has me down as bouncing.

The print-out of Liz Lovick’s article for the Lace Symposium which Sue had offered to send me, arrived yesterday. It really is an impressive piece of work, and Sue has gone to the trouble of putting it in a binder for me, so that after a certain amount of reading and re-reading, it can go straight on the shelf.

The June “Knitting” turned up, too – still no sign of the May issue. There’s a feature on the Edinburgh LYS, HK handknit. I must have another look. They’re over on the south side of the city – we pass the door on our way to visit my husband’s sister, but it’s not near anywhere else, and we never seem to have time to get off the bus. When I did visit them, a couple of years ago now, they stocked Rowan, Jaeger, Jamieson’s, and Paton’s, as offered on the rather inadequate website, and it really didn’t seem worth the trip. I could do as well with John Lewis and mail order to Shetland, and save myself the bus ride. But the magazine article says they now have Noro, South West Trading Co., Lana Grossa and Opal as well. That could be another story. Their founder and original owner, Julie Marchington, died suddenly (DVT?) within the past year, but the future of the shop seems assured.

My sister’s shawl continues to advance. At the beginning, there were 75 stitches in the centre panel, and 205 or so in each of the wings. The centre is unchanged, but the wings are down to something in the 80’s. It would be nice to get the patterning finished and the long final edge picked up, before I put it aside in favour of shrug-knitting around the beginning of June.

And I plucked up courage at last to order some Jade Sapphire lace-weight cashmere. The plan was to have it sent to a cyber-friend who will be in Edinburgh in July and has kindly offered to bring it in for me, circumventing what could be quite a lot of customs duty. But the shop website wouldn’t process the order because my address and the recipient’s address were in different countries. I have emailed them to ask if there is workaround available. But I am beginning to wonder if it is Kismet.


Donna, “The Constant Gardener” is by John Le Carre, who has a distinguished career as a thriller-writer and must be getting on a bit by now. Run don’t walk to the nearest library.

Thank you to all for the dandelion comments.. Your remarks about calcium/eggshells are very interesting, Aarlene, although I have a residual and probably unwarrented fear of attracting vermin. You make dandelions sound formidable and fearful enemies, Lorna. We have an old gardening book by the appropriately-named Mr. Weathers. He is very thorough, and discusses dandelions with other salad crops. I quote from memory, as the book is in Kirkmichael: “There is no difficulty in growing fine dandelions until you try, and then they won’t grow.” The sunshine has gone away: there won’t be quite so many of them to pick.


We plow through what seems like a lot of newsprint on Saturdays. Everybody seems to think that the appointment of Margaret Beckett as Foreign Secretary – the Mrs Meirs of GB? – is pretty funny, but only the Telegraph mentioned the balls-up in the Rural Payments Agency. Apparently she was adroit in fielding a junior minister to answer questions on that subject in the House of Commons, while turning up herself when Green Issues were discussed. The Telegraph thinks she was lucky to get out before the farmers start baying for blood.

There was an item on the radio news on Friday morning, a couple of hours before her elevation was announced, to say that GB will be fined 20 million pounds by the EU if the farmers aren’t paid by the end of June – and no one really seems to think they will be.

She is clearly the spiritual descendent of Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B.:

I always voted at the party’s call.
I never thought of thinking for myself at all.
I thought so little, they rewarded me
By making me the ruler of the Queen’s Nav-ee.

Mr Ahmadinejad doesn’t have much to worry about in that quarter. Except that he does, because stupidity in high places is dangerous.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The big excitement on the knitting front is that I finished that ball of yarn – and attached the next one, and knit across a whole row with it. My score for ’06 is actually in credit: 57 balls of yarn out, 55 in, due to some truly industrious giving-away. I’ve only consumed five by actually knitting them. But pretty soon now, I will lay my sister’s shawl aside in order to knit the shrug which will be my entry in the Home Industries Tent of the Strathardle Highland Gathering this summer (4th Saturday in August, all welcome). I’ve got six skeins waiting for that, and will presumably knock off five of them.

Otherwise all quiet. This morning’s computer problem is that the system claims I have no new mail. That’s impossible, with the groups I belong to. From time to time in the past, I’ve had days when I couldn’t connect to the Demon mail server, and the system has told me so. But never this.


I hoped as I was writing yesterday’s message, that someone would write to tell me they already knew about piling Pelion on Ossa. You were the only one, Vivienne, but there you were, and you made my day, not least because of your youth.

Printing large files: I forgot to say, yesterday, that your idea about taking a disk to the print shop is an excellent one, Lorna, which I will remember for future use. And your test, Tamar – would I buy the 43-page pamplet if I found it in a shop? – is also excellent. In this case – Liz Lovick on European lace traditions as they relate to Shetland lace – of course I would. And just because an ink cartridge costs $43 (I use a US-based credit card), which is alarming enough, doesn’t mean that the print-out costs $43. I will remember that, too. But my heart will continue to sink when that Adobe screen comes up.


May has suddenly exploded, and it is frustrating to be here in Edinburgh when my vegetables need me, 60 miles to the north. My husband is rooted to the spot, however, and I plan to leave him overnight on Monday and dash up to get most of the seeds in. There will be two distractions:

1) He is a dandelion fanatic, and expects me to pick all that are in flower, so that they don’t seed. We have made some slow progress against the Dandelion Menace, through the years, but there will still be a lot. And I’m not allowed to throw them in the burn, for fear they will just seed downstream. I will have to keep them in a plastic bag, and he will be able to see how many I got.

2) I have a Strathardle Book, just as I have Strathardle Knitting. Just before we left last time, I started reading The Constant Gardener. I’m glad I haven’t seen the movie yet. When a book is as good as this one, the film is bound to be thinner, while at the same time providing unwelcome information about what is going to happen next. It was hard to leave it behind, and there will be a temptation to lie in the sun and read it while the seeds plant themselves. Not really.

Friday, May 05, 2006

I am enormously grateful to Sue (comment, yesterday) for her offer to send me a print-out of Liz Lovick’s contribution to the Lace Symposium. I printed out Faina’s more manageable six pages myself yesterday, and will keep it with my copy of Bush on Estonian Knitting. I doubt if I will ever use the technique – how often have I thought that phrase, and been wrong?—because “nupps” look uncomfortably like bobbles, against which I have a deep and unreasoning prejudice.

Franklin's contribution on Orenburg Lace appeared yesterday. That’s one I’ve never tried, but will, as soon as I get a Round Tuit. I’ve got the yarn, some Cherry Tree Hill suri alpaca that I bought at Stitches East in ’02.

Again, what a brilliant idea this symposium is, and how well executed!


My sister’s shawl progresses. Today’s picture is meant to demonstrate that I’m winning the battle with that ball of yarn.


I was in Thessaloniki with my daughter Helen and her family four years ago, when her youngest son Fergus was born. The day I was about to leave, mother and baby doing well, they remarked that they were going to Pelion for the Easter holiday. “Is that the Pelion that was piled on Ossa?” I asked.

[In a well-known episode in Greek mythology, the Giants piled Pelion on Ossa in a attempt to reach the Gods on top of Olympus. They failed. Jupiter smote them with a thunderbolt, and imprisoned them under various mountains hither and yon around the world. They occasionally still rumble and even roar – those mountains being known as volcanos.

The episode is rather reminiscent of the Towel of Babel, but the phrase, “piling Pelion on Ossa”, is used nowadays by old-fashioned writers of English such as me, to mean an excessive and unnecessary action, “adding insult to injury”, like sending coals to Newcastle, or tea to China.]

Neither David nor Helen knew what I was talking about. Helen read English at Oxford, David did Classics at Cambridge. Thus are educations wasted. They got out a map and showed me where Pelion is, and sure enough, not all that far away, is Mt. Ossa. Tears sprang to my eyes.

When I got back to England I found that none of my other children knew the phrase either, although of course my husband did.

I mention all this now because, in the last year, Helen and David have bought a derelict shepherd’s cottage on Pelion which they have restored and where they spend a lot of time. She sent me some pictures yesterday. That’s the house, and here are my grandsons Mungo, Fergus himself, and Archie, resting in the course of a healthy mountain walk.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


I have enjoyed, ever since the early years of the new millenium, observing the passage of the days like this one, year by year: 1-2-3, 3-4-5, and now 4-5-6. 1-1-1, 2-2-2, etc., are fun, too.

Not much today. The Thursday Lace Symposium isn’t up yet. I’ve heard from “Knitting”, who promise a replacement magazine. I’ve spent a happy few moments entering my favourite Blogs in Bloglines. Now what will happen? One day soon I’ll get them in my sidebar.

Elizabeth Lovick’ s “The Same But Different: Shetland Lace in a European Context”, in the Lace Symposium yesterday, is, in the handy modern usage, a keeper. But can I afford printer ink for 43 pages?

Yesterday we bought some bathroom scales, replacing 30-year-old ones with an oscillating needle. I thought old scales would weigh heavy, and am disconcerted to discover that the new ones have added half a stone to my weight of yesterday.

I got the first of the so-called “June” foodie magazines yesterday, namely “Good Food”. It is full of recipes for summer vegetables – e.g., broad beans, peas – which I haven’t even got in the ground yet.

Dawn, have a great time in Edinburgh tomorrow. I think it’s getting warmer. Katherine, thank you for the Dorothy Parker. I used to be a tremendous fan.

It’s no use struggling: I simply have nothing to say today.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


I was called upon at the Knitting Beyond the Hebrides - Lace Symposium yesterday! And I can confirm that Dolores is as gracious and glamourous in the wool as she appears when she allows herself to be sketched by her favourite artist.

The Symposium is a brilliant idea, brilliantly executed. I hope the site will stay up for a while, but it’s especially fun to log in day-by-day, right now.

It’s great to have Mary Morrison's blog back, after a long hiatus.

We watched on television last night – very much faute de mieux – is that spelled right? – an old colour film of travels in Britain, shot in the 1920’s. What should it include, but herring girls at work! They were filmed in Oban, on the west coast, well outside of traditional gansey territory. I could not make out that any of them were wearing coloured ganseys, but they were certainly colourfully dressed. One was wearing Fair Isle, and the commentator opined that she had knitted it herself. If the girls did knit coloured ganseys for themselves in other towns – and I don’t doubt it – there must have been records of the colours supplied in the archives of the traditional spinners. But that’s just the sort of thing which is first into the skip, when the firm goes down.

I looked up this website -- National Farmers' Union - RPA SPS Payment Progress a propos the remarks I made yesterday about Margaret Beckett’s balls-up. It’s pretty arid, intended for busy farmers rather than point-making, but the statistics are there.

I am a bit worried by this article, which Lorna links to in her current Blog entry. I think it makes its point, as polemecists so often do, by representing the opposition views in extreme and therefore absurd form. Anyone who takes however vague a religious view of the universe, must believe that the Hand of God nudged the evolutionary process – or that the result was pre-calculated, like a brilliant shot at snooker. It wasn’t just blind chance, in other words, which moved things on from pond weed to giraffes. That’s all I mean by “intelligent design”. It's fully as unproveable as the "blind chance" option, but it is an option.

I’m getting well outside my brief, here.


Here’s the current state of my sister’s shawl. The rows are definitely shorter now, and I’m flying along. I have included in the picture the ball-of-yarn-which-refuses-to-die. I worry slightly sometimes that its prolonged demise implies that the finished shawl will be too small. The stitch numbers and shape were determined by Gladys Amedro’s pattern, designed for Shetland cobweb yarn. Sharon Miller’s merino lace, which I’m using, is slightly finer. But the result looks OK. Currently, I’m a bit less than half-way through the patterned part, length-wise. Then there will be a considerable top edging, with more Amedro roundels in it. Then savage blocking.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Franklin says that his application to join the Knitlist has been rejected without explanation three times. This is shocking news: roughly equivalent to Monet’s rejection at the Salon. I am embarrassed, in retrospect, ever to have been a member (let alone a ListMom). The excitement of those early Knitlist years is not to be recaptured, though.

The Lace Festival of the Knitting Beyond the Hebrides group has started – you don’t have to be a member. I think I will figure as a contributor, although I’m not absolutely sure. I’m looking forward to hovering towards the back of the adoring circle around Dolores in the late-night bar, if so.

All quiet here. There are still six more rows to do before I finish the second pattern-repeat in the centre of my sister’s shawl, and get the camera out again. Tonight should see it done – it’s definitely getting faster. But that first ball of yarn obstinately refuses to come to an end. Since Ketki’s gansey in the country is being knit from cones, and two will probably suffice – as with the shawl, I’ve got three – my chances of ever diminishing stash by even one item seem very slim at the moment.


That’s all I’ve got to say about knitting, and I haven’t got a picture, so I will write about current affairs.

Our government is in trouble, and the newspapers are having a lot of fun on the subject of their incompetence. Alas this is having the effect of concealing a major instance of incompetence, relating to the change in the rules for farm subsidies which I mentioned yesterday. I’m on shaky ground here, because I don’t understand the new rules any more than Margaret Beckett does, the incompetent cabinet member involved.

The rules emanate from the EU, and in Scotland, Wales, and I believe Northern Ireland, a simple formula was adopted and farmers were paid long ago. Not so in England. Most of them still haven’t been paid what they were due early in the year, and many are in serious trouble with their banks as a result. The EU will soon impose a large fine on the UK – which will have to be paid by the taxpayers of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, as well as English ones -- if it doesn’t get done, as it clearly won’t. Furthermore, English farmers have to submit their application for next year’s payment by May 15, without knowing how their previous application fared.

Margaret Beckett would be history if the Home Secretary and the odious Deputy Prime Minister hadn’t got her off the hook by furnishing the journalists with more entertaining and comprehensible material.

Monday, May 01, 2006

I’ve joined the Traditional Knitting Group – thanks again, Maureen.

I never did get the May issue of “Knitting”. Direct Debit trouble? I’ll email them today.

Today or tomorrow I should finish the second pass through the 46-row repeat of the pattern I’m using in the centre of my sister’s shawl. (There are about 200 rows in all, but since we’re decreasing stitches at the rate of two-per-row, I suspect I’m more than half way through.) I’ll photograph it again when I reach that point.

Karin has kindly sent me an oddball of Jade Sapphire lace-weight cashmere-and-silk, to test the experience. It’s pretty wonderful. The yarn is a little bit thicker than you might expect from the description, which is a good thing in this case. I have cast on the edging of the Faux Russian Stole I have my eye on in “Gathering of Lace”, so that what I am doing amounts to a gauge swatch. And although the pattern is written for Jamieson and Smith jumper-weight, I think the Jade Sapphire is going to do fine. The only trouble – with the pattern, not the yarn – is that it is so easy, it is hard not to make mistakes. Now I’ve got to nerve myself for the actual purchase.

Springtime in Strathardle

It’s hard to look a sheep in the face without giggling, now that I’ve met Dolores. Here are a few of the local ones, with their children, in a picture taken from our kitchen garden looking across the stubble field towards the village. The farming subsidy system has changed, so that the amount of the subsidy is now arrived at by a mysterious method which no longer depends on simply counting woolly heads. And the sheep, miraculously, have stopped producing twins, for the most part. Were they on something?

A pair of hooded crows seem to want to nest in our chimney, which has been protected with chicken wire against just such an eventuality. They have been at it since we were there in early April, one or the other or both of them sitting up there all day long, cawing as if they were rehearsing to be the raven in Macbeth. They have very much the air of people who are waiting for something. My husband suggests that perhaps they were reared in the chimney themselves, and are expecting mummy and daddy to come and solve the problem of the chicken wire for them.

Our house is famous for its daffodils. I probably posted a picture rather like this one, last year.

Non-knit, Non-Strathardle

James confirms that he wrote the article on China and the Internet, in the current Economist.