Thursday, November 30, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

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

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

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


Judith, that’s a wonderful ANI story.

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

Non-knit (Christmas-related)

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

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

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

Random, including comments:

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


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

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

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

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

prince of wales

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

Monday, November 27, 2006

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

November 002

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

November 003

…and started writing Christmas cards.

November 001

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


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

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

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

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

He died not many months later.

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

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

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

Sunday, November 26, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Saturday, November 25, 2006

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

Calcutta Cup

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

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

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

Jeans sweater on T Best.

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

Friday, November 24, 2006

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

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

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

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

therapy scarf 004

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

“Victorian Lace Today”

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

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

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

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

A must for lace knitters.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

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

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

London 009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

London 007

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

London 008

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

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


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

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

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

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

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

therapy scarf 003

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

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


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

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

Monday, November 13, 2006

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

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

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

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

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

But I think Mike Miller has straightened it out.

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


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


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


Sunday, November 12, 2006

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

Never mind. It’s over for another week.


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

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

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

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

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


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

11-12-2006 09;32;56AM

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

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Knitting Miscellany

Where to begin?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Actual Knitting

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


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

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

Friday, November 10, 2006

Not an entirely happy time, yesterday.

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

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

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

So we shall see.

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

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

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

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


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

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

Thursday, November 09, 2006

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

Vogue knits for you

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

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

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

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

thessaloniki 014


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

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

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

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


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

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

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Two and a half feet of the Therapy Scarf finished.

An email from my brother-in-law yesterday:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, November 06, 2006

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

therapy scarf 002

The colours are in fact darker and richer than that.

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

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

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


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

therapy scarf 001

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, November 05, 2006

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

therapy scarf

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

blog1 001

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

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

Saturday, November 04, 2006


Here we are. Immigration at Gatwick airport was enchanted with my new passport, and carried it off to show to all the other immigration officers. Something about improved security. We had only an hour to make the connecting flight to Edinburgh. There are vast distances to be traversed at Gatwick, and horrible security queues. We could have done without her enthusiasm. But we caught the plane, by the skins of our teeth.

My arm is better. As you see, I can type. I can knit, after a fashion, and cook, after a fashion. I can get completely dressed, including fastening a bra and inserting the arm in necessary sleeves. I can have a full-scale bath. All of these procedures are slow and somewhat painful, and I am gloomy about how far I am from full-scale weight-bearing and car-driving health. But it’s progress.

I’ve started the Therapy Scarf, of Debbie Bliss “Maya” from stash. Report soon.

But for today,

Greek mountains.

Here’s Pelion. We never got a distant profile view of it. We were just on it. This is the view from the terrace, with grandsons Archie and Fergus.

thessaloniki 010

Here’s Ossa, photographed from the car on the way home. I took half a dozen pictures – is that it? Maybe that’s it. But when we finally saw it, we knew.

thessaloniki 031

And here’s Mount Olympus. My husband had never seen it. I had, when I went alone on the occasion of Fergus’ birth, five years ago. We went together at Christmas three years ago (when my other arm was in a sling), even had a delicious lunch one day on the slopes of Olympus, but never saw it.

On clear days, it is visible from Helen and David’s house. The trouble is, there aren’t many clear days. But November 1, the day we left, was one such. Here is a picture from the balcony of the house.

thessaloniki 032

And here is one I took a few minutes later, a few yards downhill from the house.

thessaloniki 035