Monday, April 30, 2007

While I was in the very act of grumbling about provisional cast-ons yesterday, I began to remember the crochet one, where you crochet the loops directly onto the knitting needle. Not that I needed to remember, since several of you have kindly reminded me.

I learned it while knitting Candace Strick's “Harmony” pattern – which doesn’t seem to be on offer any more. It was my Games entry three years ago, in the “children’s cardigan” class, and was unplaced. My claque thought I had been hard done by, but I believe they were judging the pattern, which is brilliant, not the knitting, which was only so-so. (The model is Rachel Miles of Beijing, three years ago.)

Candace includes several useful techniques, including that one, in the instructions.

I’ve never tried the long-tail method that Ted and Julie mention in their comments yesterday. I think I’m going for that, when I come to cast on the second shoulder strap for Ketki’s gansey – but I’ll have a crochet hook to hand. Or could I do it with my fingers, as Mel suggests? Lots of possibilities, and a great incentive to get the first sleeve finished.

While we’re on comments: knititch, I had heard that men’s urine was preferred for soaking lichen in (before using it as a dye), but I didn’t know that alcoholic men were the preferred source. I’ll make a note in my natural dye book!

Ron, might it not be worth writing to Jamieson’s and asking them to reconsider their policy about shipping to Canada and Mexico, now that they’re alone in the field?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

I’m very pleased with progress on the Little Boy sweater, and especially, at the moment, with the smooth way the yarn incorporated the sleeve stitches without a wrench in the colour sequence. (I left the yarn attached to the body, and knit the sleeves with a different skein.) We’ll see what effect the first big decrease round has.

While I was pursuing sheep around the field last week for the sake of the April calendar picture, I took this one. I was rather struck this morning, as I was deleting them one by one, at the way the uncertain sun on the hills behind makes stripes rather like the Little Boy Sweater.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

I’m somewhere in row 206, Princess-border-wise. I joined in a new ball of yarn the other evening – there now seem to be only five left in the packet. The last one took not much longer than a month to knit, with interruptions for London and Strathardle. The Princess suddenly begins to seem finite. I’m not sure I like it that way.

Still, little-boy-sweater today. It would be nice to get the second sleeve finished and joined.

Provisional Cast-On

I have never mastered it. One was needed for the shoulder strap of Ketki’s gansey last week. Brown-Reinsel’s instructions are for the over-and-under system. I tried, several times – I have a feeling I’ve actually done it, sometime in the distant past. But this time I failed, and eventually resorted to the last refuge of the clumsy, casting on and knitting a row in a different yarn.

I have also tried and failed the other “elegant” system (in the mathematical sense of that word) – crocheting a chain and picking up stitches from the back loop. I got that spectacularly wrong and had to spend hours tweaking out bits of yarn from the active loops.

I mean to try again for the other shoulder, bringing more books into play. My knitting library is here in Edinburgh – I had nothing to back up Brown-Reinsel last week. Watch this space.

Odds and Ends

Thank you for the note about nettles, Deidra. I had a natural-dye phase once, using unbleached yarn from Jamieson & Smith. Mostly I got a not-very-interesting range of browns, but I did succeed in finding some oclorechea tartarea (spelling not guaranteed) – a lichen – in Strathardle, from which came a pretty good red, and purple. You soak it in vinegar for a few weeks, I seem to remember. The natives used urine. Green, from nettles, would be a welcome addition to the range.

Knitterguy had a very interesting post recently, under the headline “Change”, with links hither and yon, not all of them knitterly but all interesting. The big news, and the saddest, is that Jamieson & Smith are discontinuing a long list of Shetland jumper weight colours. I was a tad worried when they were taken over a year or so ago, but people I respect seemed calm about it (notably Myrna Stahman), so I tried to stay calm.

We’ve still got Jamieson’s. We’d better treasure them.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Thank you, everybody, for the welcome-home comments.

The answer is, yes, Stephanie, (that’s the Yarn Harlot herself: I am deeply flattered) – stinging nettles. I have a book that says they can be eaten all summer through. I wouldn’t try it, myself, once April is gone. You pick the tender tops, wearing gloves; pick them over a bit, similarly attired; wash; blanch for maybe two minutes. After that they’re sweet as kittens. The soup involved sweating some onion and potato for a while, adding the nettles, adding some stock, half an hour or so, pureeing the lot. (Admittedly, I wouldn’t do that to kittens.) The result was perhaps slightly gritty because picking-over and cleaning in gloves hadn’t been very efficiently done, but quite tasty.

Thank you, everybody, for encouragement with my clumsy attempt at a raised bed. I’ve looked at squarefootgardening and at Lasagna Gardening with great interest. If my first raised bed works, maybe I’ll do a lasagna for the second.

And you may have an idea there, Ron – I’ve been assuming that I’ll take my 12 pictures to the local Kodak shop for transformation into a calendar, one per page. But maybe I can find someone on the web who’ll let me have two.

Well – you got me started. I wandered around on the web a bit, after writing that paragraph, and found that Kodak themselves will let me make a calendar with one photograph on some pages and more on others. They complain of all my pics that they aren’t sufficiently high-resolution. I will remedy that for the future, but there’s no way to go back and re-do January through April. The moving finger writes, and having writ…


I finished row 203 of the Princess border yesterday. 201 and 202 were hard: hardly any lace, but what there was consisted of establishing new motifs so the whole thing was an agony of counting and peering to make sure everything was in the right place. We seem to be set fair for now.

Thank you, Edinburgh Jean’s (comments April 20), for the suggestion that the Royal Edinburgh Repository might eventually block the Princess for me. I’m afraid it would be rather like putting out a baby to a wet nurse; I couldn’t bear it. If we ever get that far, I’ll have to do it myself.

The Repository is a remarkable charity. I was glad to be reminded of its real name. My husband and I tend to refer to it as the Distressed Gentlefolk, and often shop there. When I knit granddaughter Kirsty her Christening set, I bought a paper pattern and some material and took it to the Repository so that someone could make me a slip for the baby to wear underneath. It was done nicely and promptly.

The trust, whatever it is, pays for the shop (city centre; no joke) and the staff – the craftspeople get every penny they charge for the things they sell. I wonder if Google could explain who was behind it, but I’ve spent enough time already this morning exploring the calendar question.

Here’s the routine homecoming picture of My Vegetable Garden, as of Thursday morning. We ate and much enjoyed the forced rhubarb.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Back again, very tired, but with a healthy-feeling, countrified tiredness much to be preferred to the sort that London engenders.

The potatoes have been safely interred. I had hoped to follow them with the first seeds, but Wednesday – the designated day – was wet. The soil was still cold and clammy yesterday morning, so it was the right decision, although a disappointment. May sowings catch up fast on April ones, anyway.

I whiled away the time on Wednesday by making nettle soup. Our own crop of nettles was inadequate, but our neighbour has lots, so I helped myself. The result was mildly interesting and not unpleasant.

I got the soil largely ready for the unsown seeds. I have always wanted to try raised beds, but I always thought I had to get a Man In to make them, or at least order a kit from the ads in the back of Kitchen Garden magazine. Neither procedure would my husband approve. Then when we were in London last time, I read an excellent vegetable gardening book of Alexander’s – can’t remember the title – the man grows his vegetables in Vermont.

And that gave me the idea that I could cobble together a raised bed by myself, using some of the wood which is piled up in the byre for firewood. If a job is worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.

Here’s the result. The idea is that it can be cultivated without ever stepping on it, so the soil doesn’t get compacted and doesn’t need digging. Also there’s greater depth of soil. If results are good, I’ll cobble together another one in the autumn.

Anyway, knitting…

I finished the body of Ketki’s gansey, as hoped, and the whole project instantly sprang back to life. I have knit the first shoulder strap, not without a struggle, and am cantering down the right arm. The gusset has already been reduced away.

The seven-stitch broken rib pattern from the body appears on the shoulder strap, and will continue down the otherwise-plain sleeve, flanked by the reversed st st pennants from the main pattern. So far so good.

I took a lot of uncharacteristic trouble at the beginning to set the pattern so that the result would be symmetrical. I'm pleased with the result, which you can scarcely discern in these pictures. Thinking sometimes pays off.

It has all become so much fun that I found myself wondering whether I could get Obama elected by knitting Theo a cashmere gansey, instead of a cashmere Koigu sweater. On that subject – there is an interesting article about Maie Landau in the new VK, waiting here when we got back yesterday. She says herself of cashmere Koigu, “The colours are duller, more matte.” So I’m not imagining it.

I like Brown-Reinsel’s snakes-and-ladders pattern. And I like the look of's Mongolian cashmere. Does anyone have any experience of it?

Much more to say, but I can wait. The choice of the April calendar picture is going to be a tough call.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ginny, yes! That’s the link I was hoping someone would provide to the post of Franklin’s about knitting lace. I thought he had been talking about silk rather than cotton, but the effect was precisely the same as my attempt to knit the Princess edging in pure silk.

I finished row 200 of the border last night – a good place to pause.

The weather is grey and cool. I have packed up my potatoes in a box rather than try to carry them up in their sprouting tray, filling the car. Potato sprouts are pretty tough, as we all know from the state of the vegetable rack this time of year.

Bloglines is down this morning, so I spent my usual search-of-inspiration quarter hour wandering around unfamiliar territory. Lorna, I loved Celtic Memory Yarns, and recommend it to lovers of green Ireland. I was interested in her remark about "the traces of earlier habitation, when Ireland's population was larger", with evocative photograph to accompany. (Scroll down a bit.) We have very similar ruins in Kirkmichael. One of Our Walks is to the "ruined village" which sounds a lot better than it is. I always thought everybody left and went to work in Glasgow, when the land no longer needed a lot of labour. We have seen the same thing happening in the 40 years we've been there -- farmers used to employ shepherds and tractor men. Now they do it all themselves.

Ginny, I enjoyed the Black Bunny Hop cooperative, and will try to keep mental hold of the idea of the Scroll Stitch Scarf idea for a forthcoming issue of The Yarn Yard sock club – or even for the beautiful April yarn, so far untouched.

So – off to the West Port and let us gae free. We should be back by next Thursday, the 26th, at the latest. That being the day of Sotheby’s Scottish Sale.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I’ve embarked on row 198 – a landmark, because when I’ve finished it, I’ll have done 90% of the Princess border.

The opening notes of the final movement have already sounded. Row 201 will be the next major landmark, when the top-of-border patterns are set in their place. And at some point, I’m pretty sure, between now and the end, I’ll finish a ball of yarn. That’s always an Event.

Sharon mentions that she used point protectors, and needed them, as her stitches were constantly trying to escape. Mine are singularly well-behaved. I try to be very careful, picking the work up, and I don’t think I’ve had a single escape-attempt yet. Sharon used a cotton yarn – I don’t think, at that stage, she had found the Italian-spun Gossamer Merino which she now sells under her own label, and which I’m using. And loving.

I sent for a trial ball of the cotton she recommended, but I don’t think I even cast it on. I did attempt almost half-a-repeat of the edging in a pure silk yarn which I had intended to use. Franklin drew a picture once of the result – I wish I had bookmarked it.

You would have to use one or other, I think, if you wanted a really stark white, as many brides do. The wool yarn is white, all right, but it looks like white wool. More Christening than wedding, perhaps.


The only knit-related item in the pile of mail holding the door shut when we got back on Monday, was the autumn (!) edition of Yarn, the Australian knitting magazine. I like it more with every issue. This one has a concentration on drop-spindle spinning. I’m really tempted, if only there were more hours in a day or more days in a lifetime. There’s a good pattern for a top-down child’s sweater, with the thought that as the child elongates, you can easily add more stripes at the bottom. And I haven't finished reading.


Hellen, I love your work, and your web design. It is wonderful to think that I introduced you to the Baby Surprise – my colours were all due to Koigu, I think; no credit deserved.

Blocking the Princess – it’ll be too big for any ordinary frame, I fear; and I can’t do it in a Major Traffic Area just before we go somewhere, because the blocking will be a day’s work in itself. Maybe the spare room single beds, pushed together, will be big enough. I’d certainly be happier having it here. But as I said, it’s far from being an immediate problem.


We’ve decided on tomorrow for Strathardle. The weather has turned April-y, very welcome. Some of my potatoes have developed beyond chitting, in a sinister-looking fashion. I’ll be glad to have them safely in the ground. And to see our lambs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A neighbour died violently in Drummond Place yesterday, in a bizarre accident or (much less likely) even more bizarre suicide. We had police and blue tape here for hours. He was a young father, a tennis player, much liked. This was within 24 hours of the news from Virginia, dispiriting reminders both of the utter horror that lives so close under the surface of a peaceful day. Everything is for the best in this best of all possible worlds, eh, Candide?

I’m halfway through row 194 of the Princess shawl border. 193 had no lace elements in it at all – perfectly plain, and so boring it was hard to finish. (I knew it was coming, because I had read about it in Cathy’s blog – see sidebar.) I couldn’t have knit this baby if it had been garter stitch all the way. There will be seven plain rows to do before the border is finished, and it’s not a pleasant thought. 194 is agreeably difficult, I'm glad to report.

Want to feast your eyes on lace? Have a look at this. Laritza, if you’re here today, accept I beg you my astonished congratulations.

I allowed my mind to wander, the other day, over the question of how to block my Princess if I ever finish her. I don’t think there’s enough unencumbered floor space anywhere in this house except in Major Traffic Areas. My only hope is what we call the “box room” in Kirkmichael, the upstairs part of a recently-built extension, used for keeping children in.

However, it’s not a problem for the immediate future.


Thank you all for the kind remarks about the Calcutta Cup sweater. Laurieg, teenagers eventually get to be twenty-somethings, and come home to sweater-wearing, but it takes a while.

And for your remark about the out-of-printness of Amedro, Alice. I often marvel at how pricey various books have become which I bought new because I wanted them (i.e., not for investment purposes). My Starmores are a good example. I even own Principles of Knitting – I swapped an early Rowan magazine for it, with a Knitlist reader. She warned me that I’d never use it, and she was right, whereas the Rowan magazine (No. 4, I think) was stuffed with good things.

I have a signed first edition of Glorious Knitting, but I think it has been so often reprinted that I probably won’t be able to retire on the strength of it.


My Achievable for today is to work out when we can go to Kirkmichael. There are a couple of awkwardly-placed Edinburgh engagements looming -- Sotheby's Scottish Sale, and election day.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

It was hot in London – June. Tee-shirt weather. Irises and lilac and even roses were in bloom. Unnatural. We had a good time, saw a lot of art and family and some old friends, and are profoundly glad to be back. A few days’ R&R, and I hope we’ll be fit to go to Strathardle and start planting seeds.

The Calcutta Cup sweater fits fine and looks great. I think it has to be put down as a success. Only trouble is, given the thermal qualities of Fair Isle and the effects of climate change, he’ll never have a chance to wear it.

I made pretty good progress with the merino-cashmere-bison down bed socks (from Wild Geese Fibres), my current travel project. The finished object feels remarkably soft and cosy, but the experience of knitting isn’t quite the effect of knitting-with-chocolate that you might expect. The yarn twists back on itself; and is inclined to split, so you’ve got to watch

I was far too tired to pick up the Princess last night, so I went on with the Little Boy Sweater, finishing the ribbing for the second sleeve. I think I have succeeded in starting the handpainted yarn at the right point, so that the two sleeves will be close to identical.

But today life-is-real-life-is-earnest must resume. No more cider until Sunday. And Princess-knitting.


Sue in CT, I had no idea that Gladys Amedro’s book “Shetland Knitting” is not to be had – but you seem to be right, alas. I thought we could get anything on Abebooks. It might be worth listing it with them, so that they can send you an email when a copy turns up. Would it be worth writing to the Shetland Times? It certainly deserves to stay in print.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

We’re off this morning. I’ll be brief.

The first little-boy sleeve is finished and attached. I’ve started the ribbing for the second wrist, and will resist taking it along to finish on the train. If there is one thing I have learned from my husband in half a century of married life, it is: travel light.

Thank you for the information about togas, and for that link, Vivienne. I am surprised at myself to realise that I have spent so much of my life in the company of togas, so to speak, without ever knowing or even wondering what shape they were at night.

Tamar, an “orange segment” would be a solid figure, wouldn’t it? And we’re really in plane geometry here – I think your “section of a circle” was better.

Ted, thank you for the endorsement of Sam the Ram. He’d have a certain local appropriateness, too, as there are far more rams than mermaids in Strathardle. I think he’s likely to be the one.

I’m sorry to hear that you’re having eye trouble, and hope the optometrist gets you back to Princess-knitting p.d.q. I’d have thought the Princess border would be easy peasy compared to Hyrna Herbogar. (For which, see Ted's blog.) The last I heard – forgive me if I’ve got this wrong – you had actually mislaid your Princess; I’m glad she’s back within reach.

I’m sure I’ve reported here before that when I had my second (left-eye) cataract operation, at the end of the summer in 2005, I was doing the last third of the edging, and had finally mastered the pattern. While the surgeon toiled on, I recited it to myself in my head, using Amedro’s “cast” and “take” for YO and k2tog. The left eye proved slightly tricky, and I had time to get all the way through at least twice, I remember.

My plastic eyes are holding up splendidly, and I heartily wish you better vision soon.

Blogging should resume a week today, insh’Allah.

Monday, April 09, 2007

London tomorrow, so today will be a breathless course through hair-washing, banking, bill-paying, shirt-ironing and shoe-polishing, all at the last moment as usual. I sometimes wonder how I ever managed at all when I had four children to deal with however imperfectly, and a job. But the essence of the answer is easy: in those days, I didn’t have to cook lunch. It fills the day all by itself.

Thank you, as ever, for yesterday’s comments. Pooch, the bottom edge of the shawls under discussion is something of an arc, but we need a word to include the area within the shape. I think Tamar’s got it, with “a segment of a circle.” What do togas look like, shape-wise, when they’re not being worn? My only experience was at high school, and we used single-bed sheets.

That’s great news, Flavaknits, that k1 yarns is doing lace-knitting classes. It keeps getting better! Classes, and tables to sit at, are American imports which British LYS’s are at last cottoning on to.

I had a happy day yesterday with the little-boy-sweater. I should finish the first sleeve today – little boys (and girls), like trawlermen, do best with shortish sleeves. It is distressing how often one sees sleeves actually rolled up in pictures of designs for children. How long is that going to last in the sandbox?

I’m quite optimistic at the moment, too, about my new system of dividing the week between the Princess and a smallish project. I mean to carry on, not indefinitely but until early June, when I will, with gritted teeth, switch full-time to knitting a toy as my Games entry.

I had been thinking (as I’ve already said) of repeating a mermaid I knit once long ago. But Maureen suggested Sam the Ram, that recent day when we were having our happy yarn crawl. He involves some show-off knitting, she said. I’ve had a look at the pattern on-line, and am seriously considering him.

If anyone might be remotely in the area (central Perthshire) on the fourth Saturday in August, do consider joining us at the Strathardle Highland Gathering. Nearly 80 years will separate the oldest and youngest members of our party, and everybody seems to enjoy it. We plan to drive cars down to the ringside the night before, from which sustenance will be dispensed during the day. Come and have some cider.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Greek greets Greek this morning, I understand, by saying “Christ is risen” (in Greek, of course). To which the reply is “He is risen indeed”. This seems to me to make a lot more sense than “Happy Easter”. I greeted Mr Murtaza in the corner shop this morning by saying “Eid mubarak”, which is more usually said at the Festival at the end of Ramadan. He thanked me, and explained that he was a bit late opening up, because he had been hunting Easter eggs in the garden with his children.

Whether you’re celebrating anything or not, have a good day.

The Princess

Here she is, with the nodding seeds clearly to be discerned on either side of what I devoutly hope is the central “feather”. Never mind row-counts and percentages: the border patterns are clearly reaching a crescendo.

And it’s a good moment to pause, not least because I am becoming obsessive. I’m somewhere in row 192.

Janet, yes, there are 220 rows in the border. Then six plain. Then the 19-row insertion, which reduces the stitch-count from the current 865 to 647. Then the centre. Sharon doesn’t say how many rows that will involve. You start off with five stitches in the middle, and knit back and forth picking up one from the border each row. 647 minus 5 leaves 642 stitches to be picked up row-by-row. And then the top must be finished off with that fiendish edging.

This is ridiculous.
One cheerful thing, though. The current ball of yarn is beginning to look and feel a bit subdued. Here it is, compared to a fresh one.

Kathy took her border off the needles and stretched it out for photographing – the link is in my sidebar. At the moment, mine is just an enormous rectangle. She’s well advanced with the centre.

I have been thinking of the finished object as a big triangle. But getting my lace-knitting webpages straightened out last week took me back to Gladys Amedro’s “Cobweb Lace Wrap”, a favourite pattern. It, too, feels like a triangle while being knit, but the finished object, judging from my photographs, is rather similar in shape to the Princess herself, judging from the Museum of Scotland picture in that huge URL I quoted some entries back.

You can’t call it an oval, because the top edge is straight. You can’t call it a semi-circle, because the top edge is longer than the distance from top to bottom. Does anyone know the geometrical name of the shape? It’s a “)”, rotated. It seems to be a good shape for wearing, in Amedro’s version.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I’ve started row 188 of the Princess border. The Nodding of the Sprouting Seeds is well underway.

It was a wee bit trickier than I anticipated. The nodding bit was more or less OK, but what I hadn’t noticed until the last minute is that some new motifs were introduced in row 184, and asymmetricality is involved there, too. The motifs are perfectly symmetrical, and indeed familiar, but their arrangement, this time, is not: if they are behind a Sprouting Seed which is nodding in the other direction, there are two of them; only one, in front.

So I struggled a bit, and peered at the charts in a way I haven't had to do since I finished the edging, but things have settled down all right now, I think. The secret is simply to start every row, even or odd, from the right-hand side of the chart. In the middle of the central “feather”, turn around and knit back in the other direction. It seems to work.

The nodding will all be over pretty soon – row 192 will see the end of it. I probably won’t have reached it by tomorrow, but I should have done enough that the effect will be apparent in the picture I hope to take of the week’s work.

That’s about it. I didn’t get any more website done yesterday.

Kate (yesterday’s comment), the journey to London by train isn’t too bad: between 4 ½ and 5 hours, plenty of time to knit. We flew a couple of times, one winter when the rail line had been broken by floods, and found that it takes us just about as long, by the time we’ve bussed out to the airport, checked in early as is now required, actually travelled to London, had something to eat at Luton airport (my husband’s diabetes means that regular meals are essential; they’re a good idea anyway); and finally taken a direct but lengthy train ride from Luton to Streatham where Rachel lives. From where we live here in Edinburgh, we can walk to the station.

Night trains still exist. Alexander will be taking one to Glasgow next week, to see to some arrangements connected with moving his family there – to a house not far from k1 Yarns. They must have to slow the train down a bit, to accommodate the sleepers.

(I just wandered around the K1 website for a moment, clicking only on yarns I’ve never heard of. She obviously works hard at seeking out small-scale Scottish suppliers, and has some very exciting stuff. I can’t wait.)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Lace alphabet

The big news is in the first comment yesterday -- susoolu says that that issue of Piecework with Bridget Rorem’s alphabet, is still available from Interweave. If you think that ever, under the most remote imaginable circumstances, you might want a knitted lace alphabet, buy it now.

And I have just spent a pleasant quarter-hour reading susoolu’s blog instead of writing this one.

Knitting etc

I’m nearing the end of row 183 of the Princess border – the asymmetrical fun is about to begin. I have decided to carry on with it not only today but also tomorrow, and then take the “weekend” of little-boy-sweater-knitting on Sunday and Monday, before going to London on Tuesday. It saves a certain amount of backing-and-forthing. Switching projects, in any direction, involves a brief but uncomfortable period of readjustment for both mind and fingers. It might as well be kept to a minimum.

Also, the little-boy-sweater goes better with cider.

Do have a look at Kathy’s blog – link in sidebar. She’s getting on splendidly with the centre of her Princess, and also seems to have time for a hefty amount of other knitting. How is it done?

I think I’ve finished replacing the lace element on my new website. Perhaps I’ll get started on “Other Knitting” today.


Neither of us is much looking forward to London, but there is Art to be Seen. Spring is suddenly here – today is the 3rd day of it – and we’d both rather be in Strathardle. I have tried to assuage the longing by planting Misticanza di Radicchio seeds in a trough on the doorstep, but it doesn’t help much. My potatoes, which have been chitting in the dining room for a month or so, are now rarin’ to go, and I hate to ask them to wait another fortnight. (The labels identify five different varieties, and will probably be misplaced on the journey north.) It’s not just the going to London, it’s the coming back exhausted to a knee-high pile of mail and a week’s laundry.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Toni, I removed yours. I have never done such a thing before. The Knitting Personality you mentioned is an occasional visitor here, and I was very anxious not to cause pain.

Theresa, yours startled me, but on reflection I think you were absolutely right. Some people are always going to irritate us, in face-to-face life, in the virtual world, among the famous. It rarely if ever is a good idea to talk about it, at least where anyone might hear. And especially here, where my job is to write about knitting.

I shall reserve the right to be as rude as I like about irritating politicians, however.

A lace alphabet

I got a plug from Franklin this week, temporarily doubling my readership. It was about a knitted lace alphabet, and I think some people may have come here in search of one, and gone home to the Panopticon disappointed.

I can’t help. What I once did, in gratitude for his direct responsibility for Scotland’s 2006 winning of the Calcutta Cup, was introduce Franklin to Bridget Rorem’s knitted lace alphabet in Piecework magazine, May/June ’98. I did some googling yesterday on both “knitted lace alphabet” and “Bridget Rorem”, and I think I can say with some assurance that the alphabet isn’t out there. Oh dear. “out there”. …isn’t available anywhere.

In this blog -- Feral Knitter: July 2005 – I found a reference to a forthcoming book from Bridget. That’s exciting news, and offers at least slim hope that the alphabet may one day be within our reach again. The Feral Knitter is coming up “unavailable” this morning, but she was fine yesterday.

And from this one, which is working -- Gail's Good Yarn – I learned of a Debbie Bliss eyelet alphabet in “The Baby Knits Book”. I don’t have the book, but the alphabet is illustrated in the blog. Scroll down.

It’s beautiful, but the letters are perforce rather large. The difficulty with lace and the alphabet is that you can’t put two or more yo’s next to each other or directly above each other– and quite a few letters involve vertical or horizontal lines. (Any of us could devise a colour alphabet.) Bridget’s solution is brilliant, and it deserves to be permanently available. There will be a small but steady demand forever. If I knew her email address, I’d write to her. We did correspond once, and I know she is approachable and generous.

And meanwhile…

I have finished row 180 of the Princess border. 181, Sharon says, is where the nodding motifs begin. I can see a major change here, but I cannot detect any actual asymmetry until row 184. Proceed with caution.

I got the First Holy Communion veil onto my website yesterday. The next target is the Amedro Christening set, complete with Bridget Rorem lettering and Calcutta Cup. Angie (comment yesterday) you must never feel guilty about not knitting anything. That’s the whole point. Knitting is the world into which we withdraw and live at peace.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Janet, we will have the primrose as the March picture on the projected Burnside calendar. I am desperately touched that anyone should be interested. Details on my website, link in sidebar.

There’s a new entry on my sister’s family blog (sidebar) – I like multiple-author blogs a lot, I’ve decided. The Knit Sisters is/are another good one.

As for knitting, there is, as usual, little to report. I have made a start on row 178 of the Princess border. Row 176 was the 4/5’s mark, 80%. Somehow, whichever way you put it, it only serves to emphasize how far there is to go. The next landmark, not far away, will be the nodding of the sprouting seeds.

I am devoid of other thoughts, this morning. I got a set of Real Photographs back from the processor yesterday – I hardly ever take any, any more, and the film had been in the camera for more than a year. But I still prefer them for archival purposes, to put away with my knitting notes.

Here – we must have seen it before – is the First Holy Communion veil I knit for James’ and Cathy’s daughters in Beijing a year ago. (Notice the initials: I'm rather proud of them: "RM" for Rachel Miles, who has already worn it; "KM" for her little sister Kirsty.) Maybe my target-for-today can be to add that page to the website: I don’t think there are any patterns for communion veils “out there” (a much-used phrase these days which irritates my husband endlessly) and my notes explain, at least, how to set about it.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I’ve added a bit more lace to the website. Once one gets going, it’s almost as hypnotic as Princess-shawl-knitting – let’s eliminate just one more typing error, and WHY doesn’t the improved version show up on the internet? The shawl herself has reached row 175.

Veil Stitch

Interestinger and interestinger… Even if, like me, you wonder if you’ll ever have time to pursue the matter, do have a look at the Tsarina's blog for the latest twist (sorry).

I’ve now read both Mary Thomas’ Book of Knitting patterns and Barbara Walker I on the subject. They do the stitch the same way (I think) and it sounds hard. If I ever do try it – and I’d love to – I think I would start with Mary Thomas, because the demonstration drawings are excellent, to try to get a grip on what’s going on. And then proceed to the Tsarina’s and her commenter Pam’s improvements. I’m sure there must be an interesting difference, too, between working it back and forth and working it in the round, as the Tsarina says. Back and forth will be a bit twistier, presumably.

Other comments

The new Vogue book does sound interesting, Helen. As it happens, I was re-reading the winter VK in my bath yesterday morning (a life-long practice, resulting in the fact that most of the original VKBs in my collection – the ones I bought off newsstands when they came out – are in deplorable condition) – the winter VK, I say, and discovered, or re-discovered, the paragraph about the book you mention. Of course I must have all the contents somewhere or other in my VK pile, but goodness knows where, and the link you gave offers a tempting price.

On the subject of VKBs – I am trying, but not very hard, to buy an American one from the 50’s to compare patterns. In those days, the American and the British Vogue Knittings were two separate publications, with a considerable overlap of patterns. I want to find out whether all the patterns (and their photographs) were identical, and which side of the pond they appeared on first. I was outbid for something last night. I’m not going to spend big bucks; anything from that period will do.

On Sunday evening, I was the high bidder for one, and the price was low – but eBay wouldn’t accept my bid because the seller was registered as not willing to mail outside the US and there wasn’t time (two minutes) to explain to her that she could send it to my sister in CT. So I’ve learned a valuable lesson: when one comes up that I really want (and British VKBs do continue to appear on the American list) I must get that matter straightened out with the seller in good time.

That’s good news, about the forthcoming Lucy Neatby DVD which will include the Magic Buttonhole. I must confess (shameful!) that we don’t have a DVD player, but that’s not an insuperable obstacle. We’ll be in London next week, insh’Allah, and I will ask Alexander and Ketki about international compatibility, just to make sure. They know everything there is to know about technology, and Ketki is American.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Odds and Ends

I did a bit of work on the website yesterday, and got the Amedro biography up. I’ve completely forgotten the password for my new space, but fortunately my FTP program seems to have retained it.

So, Monday morning. I finished the body of the Wallaby up to the armpits yesterday, cast on the first sleeve, and finished the wretched ribbing. Now I’m so keen to see what the yarn will do in this new situation that it’s going to be hard to lay it aside (according to my new schedule) and re-attach myself to the Princess.

Normally, I let the colours of variegated yarns behave as they please (and positively enjoy “pooling”) but this time I went to the trouble of winding a second skein so that I could leave the first one attached to the body. And I plan to start the second sleeve, when I get there, at the same point in the colour sequence as I did the first.

Beadslut, I don’t think I had ever heard of veil stitch. Wow! I am tremendously impressed with your progress. I started with the link you gave in yesterday’s comment, and got completely bogged down in what was meant to be the new, easy way of doing it. That’s what you’re doing, right? But at bedtime I had a look at Mary Thomas and I wondered if it might not be too bad the old way once (as you say) one had got into the rhythm of it. Whichever way, I love the stitch, and your socks are breathtaking.

Kristie, I had never done a sock club, either, before I signed up with The Yarn Yard that rainy day in January. The only problem now, is keeping up with it. I have the April yarn still lying around where I can see it. I ache to knit it – but when?

Why do I collect VKBs? Dunno, really. They were a most important influence on my Early Knitting Life. Way back then in the 50’s, there was nothing much else. No internet, no other serious magazines that I knew of, very few books, most of them called “Knitting for the Family”. The twice-yearly appearance of the VKB was a big event. I saved ‘em all, and read and re-read them. They were the first to publish a KF pattern. I remember it vividly, the seeing of it for the first time.

When it finally went down, in the late ‘60’s, I wrote to the then editor, Judy Brittain, and asked if I could buy any back copies. She replied kindly, but said no. I could buy expensive photocopies of particular patterns, that was all. Photocopying was cutting-edge technology in those days. But that’s not what I wanted.

The desire to get the old ones was born then, but the following years were lean. The Knitting and Crochet Guild had a clean-out of the library once: I got quite a few tatty old copies then. But it was only when I discovered eBay last year that serious collecting became possible.

I mean at least to study the early ones and make some notes about trends, when I’ve got a few more from the 30’s. When did Vogue first sanction knitwear for the evening, for example? And when was the last bathing suit pattern?

Somehow, yesterday, I stumbled on this blog and am fired with curiosity about Lucy Neatby’s magic buttonhole. Like many, I can’t make a buttonhole for beans. I gather from the Neatby website that it’s not in the public domain: you have to buy a pattern. Might be worth it.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

We’re old, and set in our ways. It was a pleasure, yesterday, to get back into the groove.

I did get the wallaby pouch fused on the little-boy sweater, and am nearly finished with the body-up-to-the-arms. I’ll stick with it for today, perhaps even starting a sleeve. Love those colours, and the way they spiral. It’ll be fun to see what they do on fewer stitches.

I think I’ll try to stick with the Yarn Yard Wallaby at weekends, Princess Mon-Fri.

Meanwhile I’ve made a little progress with the current travel socks, Wild Geese Fibres' cashmere-bison-down-merino being wrought into bed socks for my husband. Not much to look at, delicious to handle. The train rides to and from Glasgow on Thursday advanced things to the first heel flap. I fear I may not have quite enough – I’ll do the toes in the left-over Yarn Yard Sock Club February yarn, if need be. Flame-coloured.

Catching up with comments…

Beadslut, could you point me precisely to the “veil stitch in the Bluestocking pattern”? I’d like to see what the problem is, at least. I wandered around a bit, but didn’t seem to be getting there.

Alice, yes, there’s no reason at all that I shouldn’t get my obituary of Gladys Amedro back onto my webpage. I’ll try to do that soon, and report back. I have neglected the webpages sadly, after finding a new webhost and mastering the problem of how to access it. Life seems to be a constant series of attempts to force a quart into a pint pot, and nothing much, except knitting, actually gets done.

Thanks for the sympathy and advice about my osteoporosis. I will certainly pursue that one. The hospital said to leave a little time for their instructions to my GP to filter through the system (it ought to be instantaneous, these days) so I thought I’d pencil in that job for mid-April. We’re going to London in Easter week; once we’re back, life can move forward. Including getting cracking on the vegetable garden. The drug I am to be prescribed is called alendronate, I believe, and it is said actually to arrest osteoporosis.

I don’t know what I’ll do about approaching the National Museum of Scotland to see the Princess shawl. But why not? Thanks for the encouragement and advice.

And back to knitting…

I’ve been wearing my Malabrigo vest these last few days. It fits nicely, and feels great, and is just the thing for these uncertainly vernal days. But it looks stupid, because the shoulder line is too long and droops down a couple of inches or more over the upper arm. Maybe I’ll knit it again (in a different and even more delicious Malabrigo yarn) and cut the armholes in properly.