Thursday, August 31, 2006

I think I made some very slight headway with Clearing Up Life yesterday, but it didn’t include blocking the Long Shawl.


Thank you for yesterday’s sympathy about the fate of my shrug. I enjoyed the link to Polly's blog, too, and her pictures of the truly amazing work entered in the Kew show.

I retain some sympathy for the Strathardle judges. I am sure they are looking for actual quality-of-knitting more than for dazzling-pattern. The winning shrug (see yesterday) looked as if it had been cut out of a bath mat – but very well and neatly cut. Anyway, here is granddaughter Hellie wearing the despised shrug in the kitchen when we got home, and making it look good. It's hers, now.

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And Alexander says there was a fourth one, whose outraged owner must have snatched it away before I got into the Home Industries Tent. If so, I wasn’t last!

We always try to take a group picture when we get back to the house. Here is last year's:


I am in white, an unfortunate choice, wearing the Fair Isle beret which came first in "A Hat: Any Craft" which is not the same as winning a first in Knitting.

And here’s this one. I had been looking forward to the display of my new stone-and-a-half lighter form. Alas, I’m not sure it shows up, under my beloved Panopticon sweatshirt – from under which, the equally beloved New Yoga teeshirt is peeping out. My husband’s sister was with us, and it is she standing with him in the centre of the picture, looking matriarchal. I am the one on the right, looking demented.



I reached row 74 of the Princess last night. By the time I have exhausted the delights of the Games, it will be time to take another picture of it. It’s reeely fun. The current passage is extremely easy, and yet absorbingly interesting. Every row is different and the repeats are 78 stitches, but it is very easy to learn each one as you go along, and each row grows logically from the previous one in the proper Shetland fashion. And even in the few rows I’ve knit since the latest resumption, motifs get finished off and others introduced. ‘Swonderful.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Life Resumes after the Games

It’s all over for another year. We had a grand time. I hope to gather in some pictures in the next few days – I didn’t do very many, myself.

I’ll begin, however, in elegiac mode: that’s what the driveway looks like when the last car has gone, and my husband and I are alone again.

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Games Day

Here is a picture of our entries, early in the morning, gathered on the table ready for the trip up to the Home Industries Tent. The Decorated Flower Pots are missing. Alistair and Rachel each did one, and they had gone up the night before when we took cars up to get a good place for our tailgate picnic.

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In the back row, the basket contains my Collection of Four Vegetables (Swiss chard, courgettes, purple French beans, and broad beans, in the end); next to it, the shrug. Then, further forward, Three Potatoes, Two Muesli Slices (Rachel’s daughter Lizzie Ogden), a Vegetable Animal (cucumber-turned-lizard by Kirsty Miles, James’ and Cathy’s youngest) and Three Oatmeal Biscuits (Lizzie again).

How did we fare? Poor Lizzie’s baking, my four vegetables, and Alistair’s Decorated Flower Pot were unplaced. I got a Third, out of three, for the shrug, and another Third, out of six, for the potatoes. Kirsty got a Second for her Vegetable Animal, in a strong field, and Rachel a First for her Decorated Flower Pot.

Here is a show bench view of the shrugs, and the potatoes. My loyal followers claim I was robbed. We’ve heard that before. What I want is to win.

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More Games news in the days to follow.


I finished row 69, did 70, and started 71 of the Princess border last night. There are 220 rows in the border, so the next big landmark will be somewhere in row 74, when I’ll be 1/3rd of the way through. I hope that the present Princess-knitting period will carry me all the way up to 110. Every job seems more manageable when it’s half done.

I hope to block the Long Shawl today, but there’s an awful lot of life to catch up on.

I won VKB’s 24 and 34 on eBay while we were away, with Alistair’s enthusiastic help as previously mentioned. 34 was pretty cheap. That’s a very good idea, Kate, about buying duplicates when they’re cheap (and eBay seems very unpredictable, on that point) and using them to fund my habit, but I don’t think I have the strength.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Eve of Games Day

...and all's well. Alistair and I are going to Blairgowrie and Alyth soon, for the Big Shopping Trip.

One of the imponderables of this week has been grandson Joe's exam results (GCSE) which came out yesterday. In the worst case scenario, Rachel and most of her family would have had to stay in London to comfort Joe and re-think his future. But he has done well, and is free to go forward to the A-level course he had hoped for. He even got an A in mathematics -- emphatically not one of the subjects he wants to take further -- thanks to the coaching of his uncle Alexander. So we're in celebration mode even before the bagpipes start skirling, if that's what they do.

Another little problem yesterday was the non-arrival of the vital tags which need to be attached to each of our entries for the Home Industries Tent. Our house is through a couple of gates and down a winding driveway, and sometimes the postman doesn't bother. But Cathy straightened that one out, and we've got the tags.

James has taken his daughter Rachel camping up Glen Derby, a trek of several miles into something approaching wilderness, with lots of deer. They've had good weather for it.


No serious bidding yet on VKB 34 (which closes this evening).

I found a moment yesterday to teach Alistair to purl and to cast off. No problem.

I'm ready to divide the Malabrigo vest for front and back. Progress is slow.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Games Day Minus 2

Nothing much to do today except fret and make lists and beds. The sun is shining: that helps. And I found a whole runner bean this morning, previously unsuspected and at least seven inches long.

Helen and her tribe have gone back to Thessaloniki, much missed. It is against the course of nature to have to say goodbye to anyone before the Games. And I need her here, calm and energetic and ruthlessly efficient, to have someone to whom I can say, what are we going to do about lunch, then?

She phoned from Thessaloniki on Tuesday evening to say that their journey was delayed in Frankfurt, where they had to change planes. A clutch of monks from Mt Athos, in full fig I gather, were also waiting for the ongoing plane, and eased the interval by befriending Helen's little boys (who are bilingual in Greek). She wished she had had a camera handy.

I taught James' and Cathy's son Alistair to knit the other day -- he took to it like a duck to water, as they say. Like Kaffe on that famous train journey. I hope we'll have time to get on to purling in the next two days. Their aiyi back home in Beijing is a great knitter, and will be able to keep the ball rolling unless the Chinese have strong feelings about gender roles. One never knows -- even James hesitates to pronounce.


I got no. 24 the other evening, so I now own three of the twelve wartime ones. The bidding was the precise reverse of last time, although the final price was almost identical. This time, nothing happened until the last few minutes. I didn't entirely trust my new rustic roadband, and put in my unbeatable bid with fully 90 seconds to go. It gave the underbidder time to raise her bid twice, costing me a bit.

Alistair, with the aptitude for such things of a third millennium 10-year-old, hugely enjoyed the whole process (his parents don't eBay) and did a lot of screen-refreshing while I fluffed about in the kitchen during the last ten minutes. Happily, there's another one tomorrow evening, no. 34. I don't have my dating scheme with me here in the country, but since ten issues means five years, it must be from the late 40's. By the time it closes at 7:15 pm, the party will be complete (except of course for Helen) with everybody laughing and shouting and complaining about their accommodation. I am sure I can trust Alistair to keep his eye on the ball.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Games Week -- Day 2

Still no bidding on those VKB's -- two I'm after, and one choice oldie I've already got. My recent purchase had attracted lots of interest when its close was as near as this.

Yesterday's big excitement was that we were without water for several hours in the afternoon and evening. We don't know yet whether all of Kirkmichael was affected, or just those of us out the Bumpy Road. It is a serious inconvenience, with 10 people in the house. We Mileses are hardened to it, as we did a year without water recently while carrying on a dispute with our neighbour about the route the supply pipe should take through a field owned by him. It was a considerable alleviation of our sufferings yesterday to know that he was without water, too, this time, up there in his castle. had news of how teams of skilled engineers were working flat out to restore water to Cumbernauld, a suburb of Glasgow, but no mention whatsoever of the Bumpy Road.

I'm now confident that my French beans will be ready to include in my Collection of Four Vegetables entry on Saturday. They're purple, and should impress. The runner beans are trying -- but will they get there?

Not much knitting yesterday. Round and round in big yarn is very soothing, when I got to it.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Games Week -- Day 1

All well here, if a bit crowded. Cathy has gone off to London to talk to her publishers. Her husband James took five children camping down by the Ardle last night. The sixth, his daughter Kirsty, is sleeping here.

I'm getting on fine with the Malabrigo vest. Division for armholes soon.


No significant bidding yet no. No. 24. It closes on Tuesday evening and I must concentrate hard on not forgetting about it amidst all the excitement.

No 34 has just appeared. I'm lacking that one, too.

And so has No. 17 (just pre-war). I've got that one, and was amused to see that the seller claims that "one of these" sold recently on eBay for £22. Hey, guys! That was me!

Kitchener stitch

Kim Salazar is indeed the name I was groping for. I'll write to her as soon as we get back to civilisation. Many thanks to commenters.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We’re going back to Strathardle today. Everybody else is going out for Drinks (dress: smart casual) this evening while my husband and I entertain six children. We’ll be there through the Games weekend, the fourth Saturday in August as ever, and for a couple of days thereafter, when everyone has gone, making the kitchen mouse-proof again. It’s full of Ready-Brek and packets of chick peas, at the moment.

Now that we’ve got a connection up there, I’ll report in from time to time, but not daily.

Kitchener Stitch

Thank you for the information about how Kitchener, Ont., got its name, Katherine. I had long wondered.

Jayne suggested that I get in touch with Shirl the Purl, historian of Canadian knitting. I couldn’t find a contact point on Google, so I have written to theYarn Harlot, asking if she can help, on the theory that all Canadian knitters must be in touch with each other. I haven’t yet written to the Canadian Red Cross, but am mentally drafting something. Their website is resolutely Now, with no reference to archives.

Can anyone help: I have in the past corresponded with a woman who regards herself as the doyenne of the Kitchener Stitch Question, just as I regard myself. Now I can’t remember her name. Double-barrelled, possibly. She used to – maybe still does – maintain a website of yarn comparisons and reviews. Her address was left behind on my old computer. Memory keeps promising to come up with it, but produces only “Annie Modesitt”, and it’s not her.


Guess what? I finished knitting the Long Shawl last night – it doesn’t count as an FO, of course, until it’s been blocked – and picked up the Princess again.

It was an exciting moment. I had laid it aside five months ago, to knit a birthday shawl for my sister and then a shrug to enter in the Home Industries Tent at the Games next week. I meant to resume it after that, but was swept forward into the Long Shawl. I was sort of afraid I had abandoned the Princess for too long, and that it might have segue’d from a WIP to a UFO.

But no! I knit border rows 67 and 68 last night, and made a start on 69. (I told you it would make riveting blog material.) It’s easy. It’s fun. I love it. I plan to go on for a couple of months at least, before I lay it aside again for Alexander’s Fair Isle sweater, which must be started in Ought Six for reasons which will become clear. I’m intermittently at work on the design in my new, improved copy of the Sweater Wizard.

I found this amusing blog about the Wedding Ring Shawl, which I plan to follow, since the Princess bloggers seem stalled.


No. 24, spring 1944, turned up on eBay yesterday. Now that we’re wired up to the nostrils in Strathardle, I’ll have to do the bidding myself.


Here are some country pictures from last week.
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On the left, James and his daughters working on the Annual Bonfire. My husband saves combustible materials for them. Sausages were subsequently cooked, and marshmallows roasted. On the right, Rachel and Kirsty climbing the gate into the Stubble Field.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Kitchener Stitch

The Negatives

Webster’s New International Dictionary of the English Language, 2nd Edition, 1935, unabridged, doesn’t include it. Webster’s is very good on phrases. That’s why I tend to believe that the phrase wasn’t in anything like the general use it is now, between the wars. And yes, I know, that’s the Argument from Silence again.

It’s not in the big Oxford English Dictionary of 1989. (I’ve got it on CD-ROM, Alexander’s gift.)

I wrote to Bishop Rutt in ’97. He wrote back at once, most helpfully, but he doesn’t know the answer. He says, “’Kitchener’ almost certainly comes from Lord Kitchener, and may have to do with knitting socks for soldiers – but why?” etc.

I wrote to Lord Kitchener in 1998. He replied, over a year later: “I must apologise for not having answered your letter about the ‘Kitchener stitch’. I have not heard of it before…”

The Positives

I don’t have the source for EZ’s statement that somebody wrote to her and explained that the phrase derives from a pattern Kitchener submitted to a Red Cross leaflet. I believe it appeared in Woolgathering, and if so could easily be tracked down through Meg. I know that EZ didn’t press the issue, or try to find the leaflet.

This brings us to the treasures Jayne sent me this week:

-- A scan of a Canadian Red Cross leaflet of 1940, with instructions for the “Kitchener toe”. An interesting and rather alarming aspect of this item is that the phrase could well apply to the method of decreasing for the toe, not to the finishing. You have 56 stitches for the foot. You knit a round consisting of k6, k2tog. You knit 5 plain rounds. You knit a round of k5, k2tog. You knit 4 plain rounds. And so forth, until 10 stitches remain. Then you graft them together. “For grafting, see page 28.” So a “Kitchener toe” might not refer to a grafted toe at all. Jayne, I don’t suppose “Kitchener” is mentioned on Page 28?

-- Jayne also searched the archives of the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail. She found this, in a question-and-answer column of the Star for January 28, 1930:

“Dear Esther Roberts:

Can you please tell me how to knit a Kitchener toe for sox ? C.D.

I am sorry, but I haven’t the directions for knitting a Kitchener toe. Perhaps one of the readers will be able to give it to us. We all used to have it during the war, didn’t we ?”

That seems to me interesting on a couple of fronts. The date, to begin with. The fact that the “Kitchener toe” is not well-known (assuming, for the moment, that we are talking about grafting). And most of all, the reference to “the war”.


Mundi, I was delighted to have your first-hand memory of being taught the “Kitchener toe”. Your aunt was probably born around the end of the Great War (given that she is in her 80’s now), and must have learned the technique herself from someone whose experience of knitting went back before the war.

Tamar, yes, my Paton’s book, “Collection of Knitting and Crochet Receipts”, is dated 1908. It says of “grafting” on the Rules and Explanations page: “This stitch, the knowledge and practical use of which is invaluable, is taught in every elementary school…”

Taken together with “Esther Roberts’” ignorance, see above, this could well imply that grafting was in wider use on this side of the Atlantic. Maybe Lord Kitchener’s pattern was something of a revelation in Canada when it appeared.

I have heard the idea you mention, that the phrase comes from the town of Kitchener, Ontario. I am less attracted to the idea, but it must be kept in mind.

We’re getting close! I hope to draft a note to the Canadian Red Cross soon. (I am miles dot jean at googlemail dot com.)

Monday, August 14, 2006

We’re here in Edinburgh until Wednesday. Where to start?

Jayne has sent me some extremely interesting things – if you can imagine being even remotely interested in such a subject – about “Kitchener stitch”, and there have been some good comments as well, including Franklin's scholarly contribution, which throws a whole new light on the matter. I think maybe I’ll devote the whole blog to Kitchener tomorrow.

I got VKB No. 17. The friend who did the bidding has actually, physically got it, and I won’t see it until life calms down and we can meet. I certainly don’t fancy trusting it to the Royal Mail a second time.

When I got up last Wednesday morning, the day the bidding closed, it stood at £16. By the time we left for Strathardle, it was up to £21. My friend and I expected major sniping, and she has promised never, ever to reveal the amount I authorised her to bid in our eleventh-hour telephone conference. But we got it for £22. That's bad enough, but I'm delighted.


There was a New Yorker cartoon long ago whose caption has passed into our family vocabulary: man-slumped-over-bar, to bartender: “The trouble is, either you’re married or you’re not.”

Grandchildren are like that. Either they’re here, or they’re not. You wouldn’t believe how quiet this house seems, or – even with all that mess (see August 8) still piled in the hall – how orderly.

So here are some grandchildren pictures. Carlarey, I’ve given up on Blogger. Pictures now come to you via Flickr, an achievement I could not have reached without the help of several commenters.

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That is a picture of James' and Cathy's children, Alistair, Kirsty, and Rachel, with the 2006 Summer Pudding. I hadn't made one for years, but James had fond memories from his own childhood, and he insisted. The children picked a lot of the berries. It was a huge success.

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On the left, Mungo Drake of Thessaloniki, with his knitting, and Rachel Miles of Beijing, with hers. On the right, Rachel, Fergus Drake, and Mungo in front of the new Mega Tent on the west lawn.

My birthday

Yesterday was my birthday, a date shared with Fidel Castro, Maddhur Jaffrey, and Helen’s husband David. (And others, no doubt.) Maddhur Jaffrey was in fact born on the very same day as I was – there’s a factoid for you.

My sister had commissioned, and yesterday presented, a drawing by Franklin of an elderly sheep just finishing off a nice piece of lace knitting. I cannot even attempt to express how delighted I am and how much it means to me.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Live from Strathardle

Here we are, wi-fi'd to the hilt. But I don't intend to attempt a daily bulletin from the depths of rusticity.

James's daughter Rachel has brought her knitting, and now her brother Alistair wants to learn. Helen and her family are coming back today -- mercifully, James has erected a huge tent on the west lawn for overflow children -- and so we will have Mungo knitting again. I'll try to get a picture of all three. I continue forward with my Malabrigo vest.

The weather is pleasant, but distinctly cool. Will my beans, runner and French, ripen in time to be entered in the Collection of Four Vegetables class at the Games a fortnight from today? I water them assiduously, but can do nothing about warmth.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

We’re going to join James and his family in Strathardle today. Back on Sunday, as my husband has a (routine) doctor’s appointment on Monday – when a blog entry will appear, DV. Indeed, we are hoping to establish a slow, rustic broadband connection up there on Friday, day after tomorrow, for James’s sake. If we succeed, you may even hear from me sooner.


Today’s big excitement: the eBay auction for No 17 will soon end. My team has gone into a huddle on the price. Helen (not sister) and I plan to confer by telephone this evening half an hour before the close. I will be long in her debt not only for her willingness to put her coolness under fire at my service, but also for the lack of the slightest hint, in her attitude, that I am not to be trusted out of the house with a chequebook.

No. 38, Spring ’51, sold yesterday for £12.65. (No. 17 has already reached £16.) So much for my hopes that everyone might have gone away for the summer. I keep a little database of the ones I bid on, and a few others, in which I record sellers and bidders with their top bids. There is a singular lack of pattern to it all. Some names recur a couple of times, but that’s about it. (I’ve got No. 38. I would have happily paid four or five pounds for this one, because mine lacks a cover, but it was not to be.)

The most expensive, so far, was No. 6 at £37.66. I didn’t even scrape in as the underbidder that time, and it all happened in the last minute. Next was 28, Spring ’46, at £26.15 – I was the underbidder there.

But I got no. 23, my precious wartime one, for £3.53, admittedly without its cover.


I’m absolutely sure you’re right, Jean in Cornwall, that “Kitchener stitch” is an American expression (in the broadest sense). If it relates to Lord Kitchener, it is obviously WWI in origin. But my hunch is that the phrase is not used anywhere between the wars. That’s why it seems particularly interesting that the WWII knitting-for-the-boys booklet my sister found and bought for me, doesn’t use it. Although all scholars know to beware of the argumentum a silentio.

That woman at Sussex University – was it? – who confidently “explains” Kitchener stitch on her website, never answered my email.

My theory remains that EZ’s informant was right, and Kitchener contributed a sock pattern with grafted toes to a Red Cross leaflet. And that the phrase got going when that leaflet resurfaced, probably in Canada, as knitting-for-the-boys itself resurfaced in 1939 and 1940.

Kitchener didn’t invent the technique, needless to say. I have a Paton’s book from the turn of the 19th-into-20th century which employs it. That book uses grafting for some socks, and on others, threads the yarn through the remaining stitches and pulls tight. Perhaps Lord K. even praised grafting for the smooth toe it yields.

But there are lots of suppositions here, and few facts.

Carol, thanks for your nice note. You’re right. There’s something fiendish about the Long Shawl. I think it’s because most of the motifs are asymmetrical, but I’m just finishing off the hexagons which are perfectly symmetrical, and I’m having trouble just as you describe. I still don’t think it’s the sort of difficulty which would amuse Ted, but I was wrong to recommend it for a beginning lace knitter.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Much excitement yesterday, some of it involving knitting.

James and his family are now safely established in Strathardle, and my husband and I have a quiet day to regroup before we join them.

Much needed. My sister-in-law has conceived a desire for a particular item among the family papers which have travelled with us in cases and boxes from house to house in the 49 years we have been married, but have never before been otherwise disturbed. I have been putting her off with the legitimate excuse that we needed a strong man to help us get them down. Yesterday we had James.

The walk-in cupboard hadn't been turned out -- why should it be? -- in the 11 years we have been here. Yesterday, it was. I have scrubbed the shelves and floors, and today will replace some of this stuff. The rest will have to wait until the item required has been found or despaired of. That's a long time to have a mess like this around. She owes me.

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On the brighter (=knitting) side:

-- My sister recently bought me, on eBay, a WWII “Hand Knits for Men in the Service” booklet. It arrived yesterday, in prime condition (I suspect it has never been knit from). And it’s fascinating. The socks are finished by “weaving” which I take to mean Kitchener’ing although the word is not used. For once, the non-appearance of the word is interesting. The book is dated 1942. I suspect all the more strongly that when we finally track “Kitchener stitch” to its source, we’ll find ourselves in Canada.

The patterns are basic and useful-looking, and all illustrated on men dressed as civilians. Why? A sudden re-packaging, perhaps, of a Men's Knits booklet of 1941?

--IK turned up. I have no doubt at all that it’s the best of the mags at the moment. There are several things to tempt. Old ladies can’t wear the wide, low necks they suddenly seem to favour, and long, narrow sleeves on several of the exemplars make adaptation difficult. But I am strangely tempted by “Glasgow Lace” – why Glasgow? – whose sleeves could be widened for wearing over a shirt.

-- I’m half-way through the Hexagon panel on the Long Shawl, the last major panel.

-- That VKB is up to £12.60, with more than 24 hours to go. An early bidder came back in, at 20 past midnight today. Does that suggest an American with bottomless pockets? The price is now, I think, about as high as a dealer could go with any hope of a profit, so the field is open for us loonies. I added a bit to the already preposterous sum I have authorised my friend to bid for me. Maybe there won’t be any other snipers. Maybe we’ll get it for 50p more than the then-high-price. Maybe.


I suddenly bought myself a skirt yesterday – size 14! It fits, but there’s no slack. I trust the thought of it will keep me on the straight and narrow – an appropriate metaphor.

Obligatory grandchild photos below. From left to right, Alistair Miles with his Gameboy, and his sisters Kirsty and Rachel, watching television.

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Monday, August 07, 2006

Most of yesterday was devoted to tasks associated with eating, but I did get a few more rows done on the Long Shawl.

VKB no. 17 has already been bid up to £10.50, with more than 48 hours to go. I’m tempted to bid £11, just to see whether the top bidder’s bid would automatically increase – that is, whether she has bid more than £10.50 and eBay is holding the rest of the bid in reserve in the clever way it does. But I think both Alexander and my friend Helen who is going to do the actual bidding for me on Wednesday, would have me hold my hand. Someone else may do it, anyway.

The Beijing Mileses had a pleasant day yesterday watching as much as they could discern through the crowd, of the Festival Fringe Opening Day Parade. They plan to go on north today. We’ll follow on Wednesday. I have begun to worry about how we are going to fit six children into that house, once Helen and David come back.

I didn’t take any pictures yesterday after all, so here instead are pictures of Rachel’s family taken during their recent holiday in France.

Ogdens in France (1)

From left to right, Thomas-the-elder (our eldest grandchild, who turned 22 last Saturday); his younger brother Joe, with his clever and beautiful girlfriend Francesca; Lizzie, the youngest; our son-in-law Ed; and Hellie.

Ogdens in France (2)

Lizzie, Joe, Hellie.


All day long on Saturday I was besieged by a Trojan Horse called “Deep Throat”. Norton kept claiming to have batted one of them away every minute or two. The siege has stopped, I am glad to say. I had never had anything like that before.

Visits from James, like those from my sister, involve a lot of unnerving episodes in which wires are pulled out of the back of my computer and then eventually re-inserted with the visitor saying, I put it back in the same place; I can’t think why it isn’t responding.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A semi-sleepless night.

I got in touch with James and Cathy (the Beijing Mileses) and found them, thanks to the miracle of mobile telephones, in Morecambe Bay, where they had spent the afternoon walking – with a guide – over the sands where those Chinese cockle pickers were drowned a couple of years ago. Plans were sort of vague, as often with the Mileses.

I heard from them again later in the evening. They could not find a bed and breakfast anywhere in Cheshire. So, what if they came straight on to us?

Helen had left things in order after her departure last week. All I had to do was make up one more bed, in the form of another mattress on another floor, and put a key under the geranium on the front step, and go to bed to worry. They seem to be here, all right. You can expect pictures of a whole different set of grandchildren tomorrow.

The Great High Holiday of the English summer used to be the August Bank Holiday of the first weekend of August. The bank holiday itself got moved decades ago, for reasons I have long forgotten if indeed there were any, to the end of the month, where it often coincides with the Games. But the ghost of the old one lingers in the land, and I think that’s why there were no beds in Cheshire yesterday.


My friend Helen is going to do the bidding (“sniping” – she’s got nerves of steel) on Wednesday, as we’ll be back in Strathardle by then. I’ve authorised her to go for bust on the price.

VKB’s are largely numbered but undated. There must be a code up on the Internet somewhere, giving the dates, because some vendors seem to know. Most, including this one, don’t. I used to do it working forward and back from Spring, 1953, which dates itself by advertisements referring to the Coronation. But to my surprise a recent purchase, Autumn ’47, has the date on the cover, unlike anything I’ve seen before or since.

Anyway, the one currently on offer is Number 17 and I worked it out yesterday: not pre-war at all. Autumn, 1940. Knitting to take to the bomb shelters. Knitting for what must have been the darkest months of all, after the fall of France, when invasion was feared with every full moon and the Battle of Britain was going on overhead, its outcome by no means as certain as it seems in retrospect.

I am sure the VKB is resolutely upbeat. The photographs on eBay are all distinctly cheerful and sunlit.

My husband was 15 in November, 1940. We were talking of those months not long ago, and he expressed his remembered fear of invasion by saying something about the possibility of “…those people walking in our fields.”

I want that magazine.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Here we are again, however briefly.

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We had a nice time in the country. Here is a picture of part of the 2006 heroin crop, with potatoes and broad beans also visible. Helen and David and the boys left yesterday morning, for a week with his mother. I tidied the kitchen and then we left, too. The next thing is to get in touch with the Beijing Mileses, currently in Cheltenham, and pin them down as to plans.

I bought Mungo some children’s knitting needles – his mother had rejected them when she originally laid in supplies for him, as “too girly” – and chose a variegated yarn from my well-padded stash. We started again from scratch, and things went swimmingly. The new needles are shorter and lighter than the ones we were struggling with before. Lorna's advice, to tell him specifically to hold both needles with his left thumb while wrapping the yarn, was particularly helpful. I’ll take a picture of Mungo knitting, when I see him again.

I cast on my Malabrigo for a plain sleeveless vest, and that went well too.

earlyAug 008

The size looks OK so far, and as you can see, I have hoovered through almost all of the first skein so fast that the amount of yarn I have no longer seems absurd. Just lavish. I have knit with both Manos and Debbie Bliss “Maya” in my day – the Malabrigo isn’t quite as silky, but it’s nice, and I’m enjoying this.

Non-knit in Strathardle

We have planted some specimen trees down the commonty, one for each family. Every year, ideally on Games Day, I take a picture of each tree, with children, and put them in my Tree Book. Helen and David aren’t going to be here for the Games this year, so I have already taken their picture. The tree is a Black Pine, pinus nigra. It was planted ten years ago to mark the brief life of their first child, Oliver.

earlyAug 004

From left to right, Fergus, Archie, Mungo. The cage around the tree is to protect it from Dolores and her friends, who graze the commonty. They have nibbled the lower branches, as a careful inspection will reveal.

Meanwhile, in Edinburgh…

My updated Sweater Wizard arrived just as we were leaving. I installed it yesterday when we got back, and at first glance can’t see how to slope a shoulder or knit in the round, but I’ll keep at it. I gather that there are new issues of both VK and IK out there somewhere – not to mention the monthly “Knitting” – so I await the postman with more than ordinary anticipation.

I am within a row or two of the end of the Small Paisley Pattern on the Long Shawl, and should move on to the Large Paisley Pattern today.

A pre-war VKB has turned up on eBay!


I am reading John Le Carre’s “The Little Drummer Girl”. It’s terrific. It’s also very odd to be reading it now, with the news from the Middle East as a background. I have never in my life read so eloquent an exposition of the emotional case for both sides. Don’t tell me how it ends. I have just reached the point where the central characters arrive in Thessaloniki.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Another pound apparently gone, readership up, and we’re going to Kirkmichael today. A good start to August 2. We’ll probably come back on Friday – blogging should resume on Saturday. And I should have lots of pictures of grandchildren and vegetables with which to demonstrate my new skills.

Technicalities of Blogging

Why can’t I see anything in the sidebar of Franklin's blog these days? Other people can. I know because some of my readers come here from there. (I have a hidden hit-counter which Alexander wrote and installed for me. It will show referrer information if I ask it to.)

No one would suspect, Karen, to look at your blog, that you have the slightest difficulty with pictures.

I don’t think I expressed proper thanks to my commenters, especially Holly and Lorna, for bringing me to my present state of competence with picture-posting. Now I think I want what I think is called a “Zeitgeist” – one of those grids with pictures that get larger and smaller, that lots of folks have in their sidebars. It’s a Flickr feature, but it would mean tinkering with the template. I should face up to that anyway. I need an email address over there (miles dot jean at googlemail dot com), and an up-to-date list of blogs-to-read.


When I joined, a month or so ago, old Vogue Knitting Books were thick on the ground as autumn leaves. I bought some, I failed to buy others, I thought this would go on forever. But the supply has dried up; there has been nothing for weeks – I mean, there are plenty, including a good crop yesterday, but they’re all ones I’ve already got. Patience.


I’m bowling along. I’ve done Spacer Chart 1 and am half-way through the Small Paisley chart. I think maybe I can get this done in August after all.

And when we get back from the country, I should have a few rows of a plain-vanilla Malabrigo vest to show you (the time-filler until I can try the gansey – my current country knitting – on its intended wearer). I’ve got a new fashion theory to the effect that long pullovers aren’t flattering on anyone except maybe waifs. Stop at the hipbones.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I finished the centre of the bloody shawl last night, and registered a big PB in my weight this morning. I can do anything: HTML, here I come. I will grow Brussels sprouts next year and the deer will fall back in awe.

British weight is measured in stones, as all are aware, and a stone is 14 pounds. It is a curiously easy and harmonious way to do things, when you get into the swing of it. When I bought my digital scales in the early part of May, I was about x stone 11 pounds. The preceding loss, during Lent, which started all this enthusiasm for the Healthy Life, must have been five pounds at the very least, but is undocumented.

Well, this morning I clocked in at x-1 stone, 13 ¾ pounds.

Another five or six pounds, if they can be achieved, and I will have gone down a dress size, from the one where I have lived for the last couple of decades, to the one I inhabited in earlier and more energetic years. Since my intake is a regime which I can live with, I don’t need to worry about a bounce when the “diet” is over. I do need to be careful about relaxing on cider-consumption during August with all these dear people about.

A blogger I occasionally read called The Knitting Doctor is trying to lose 50 pounds, which well exceeds my ambitions. I’ll look in from time to time to see how she’s getting on.

Helen and David are still here, returning to Strathardle this morning. We’ll follow tomorrow, for a couple of days. Next week, insh’Allah, James and his family.

So the shawl, although I have reached the interesting bit and have less than ¼ of the whole to finish, probably won’t get done in August. Who cares? Whoop-de-do.

Here it is. You'll have to disregard the way the kitchen floor pattern shows through. Someone is asleep in the dining room, where otherwise I could spread out a sheet and take a better picture.

Paisley Long Shawl

That was achieved through Flickr, after a struggle to find the right screen, by copying and pasting HTML. So multiple pictures in any old size (my sister tells me she likes the bigger ones) are now within my grasp. I told you I could do anything.