Thursday, May 31, 2007

Here’s Sam, looking a good deal more three-dimensional. I’m now about half-way down his flanks. The tail-shaping is done; all I have to do is keep straight on with the Aran patterns – which are getting easier – until I get to the feet. He has turned out to be more fun than I expected.

And the Yahoo group, very quiet since I joined, has sprung into life with posts from people who shared my problems. That’s always a comfort.

I have started giving some thought to the filling. The designer used “polyester fibrefill”. I am on completely unfamiliar ground here. My Google search on this term, restricted to UK websites, took me into areas I didn't want to know about.
I could use roving, maybe.

Red (and grey) Squirrels

Thanks for the link to the article in the Scotsman, Dawn, and for the classification, yet-another-Ann.

I accidentally saw a television programme once about grey squirrels – they are astonishingly clever, just like rats. In one scene, two of them were operating a bird feeder that had to be opened from behind. They took turns, one of them holding it open so the other could feed, and then changing places.

I’m going to have my hair cut this morning, just like Annie Modesitt. High time, too.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I’ve just read Annie Modesitt's latest blog entry. I am appalled, yet again, by the precariousness of life and the capriciousness of fate. It’s nice to have an insurance company that insists on the Mayo Clinic, I suppose.

Today is sit-still-for-half-an-hour-after-taking-osteoporosis-pill day. I finished off Sam’s tail, and he’s looking rather well. Ted has pictures of his Sam in his latest post – he (Sam) can’t stand up and he (Ted) thinks it’s impossible without “some kind of armature”. So that’s something to think about. The designer says that fierce stuffing will do it. Ted's Sam looks rather comfortable, sitting down, but I want mine to stand.

Sarah, don’t worry, he’s getting more three-dimensional by the moment. I bought the whole kit from Blackberry Ridge. The yarns are their own, and I am delighted with them. The dark yarn is flecked, so that if a little bit of the (necessarily light) stuffing shows through, it won’t matter.

Ted’s Sam looks depressingly well-knit, in my present mood. I’m sure fierce stuffing is going to show up all sorts of flaws in mine.

Natural history

Sarah, I will pursue the Handbook of British Mammals. We need it for the flora and fauna shelves at Burnside. We’ve got a Collins hardback of roughly that title from the 60’s. I doubt if it was ever cutting edge.

That’s very interesting about the squirrels of Fargo, Maureen. (And thanks again for putting me on to Sam.) Here – I’m writing off the top of my head, without reference to Google – the grey squirrel was deliberately introduced, I believe, and has gradually pushed the red to the edge of extinction. I think strenuous steps are now being taken to try to protect the last few all-red habitats. I don’t remember why they can’t co-exist. The big greys get all the food? Or carry a virus harmless to them but fatal to reds? Something.

It is depressing that the people you asked didn’t know even that much. You’re unlikely to have seen a red; they’re very shy, unlike their rat-like cousins. They have big bushy eyebrows like Dennis Healey, a former Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would like to know whether the red squirrels you have at home are the same. I suspect they’re a different species – but maybe all that we need do is round up some Scottish red squirrels and send them off to Fargo for assertiveness training.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

More Non-knit

Rachel rang up yesterday towards the end of what sounded, from background noise, like a fairly hilarious family Whit-Monday lunch. They were all making lists of five books. Is it all right to include children’s books, she asked? What about non-fiction? the gents wanted to know. I don’t know, I said – ask Hellie, she started it (and was the one family member who wasn’t there, being still in Newcastle).

But I told her to make sure that everybody wrote their lists down. Rachel would include “The Little Princess” on hers. I don’t think I’ve ever read it. I have glowing memories of “The Secret Garden”, although I can’t have looked it for 60 years, but Rachel finds it dull.

Thank you for being so forgiving about my non-performance on the thinking-blogger front, Mar, and for your endorsement of Middlemarch. For me, though, the first three books I listed yesterday – Brideshead, Mansfield Park, and The Leopard – are the ones that burst on the scene like fireworks, each in a different decade of my life. Middlemarch and A Suitable Boy, although richly enjoyed, and re-read, are there to make up five. I almost replaced one of them with Allingham’s “Tiger in the Smoke”.

Back to business…

Here’s Sam, coming along nicely. (Sorry about the loose end of yarn around his neck.) He remains difficult – there are so many different Aran panels. The sequence is KLNMEFGHFGENLKM, referring to charts in the back of the book, and then there are J and I to be worked in the tail area. Much anxious flipping back and forth. And things will get worse soon, as the charts are not all the same length and some will start repeating while others are still working themselves out for the first time.

And I suspect, looking at that middle bobble, that I may have lost count and done two extra rows there, before I closed the circle around it. Maybe they won’t notice.

Liz, thank you for your new comment on Saturday’s post. It’s good to meet another Sam-knitter. I did all right with the neck instruction that threw you, but had trouble on my first two or three attempts at the neck with “P then K TBL of next stitch”. It means to work the P and the K TBL in the same stitch; I did them, at first, in successive stitches.

The genius of this pattern is that it avoids the horror of toy-knitting, namely the knitting of a lot of little tiny oddly-shaped pieces and then laboriously sewing them together. There will be a bit of that, I think, when I get to Sam’s feet, but so far it’s entirely organic.
Thank you again for the scientific comments. Sarah, my husband had observed the behaviour-change you mention. Our local rabbits no longer seem to live in big warrens, interconnected underground, as they did 40 years ago, but to dig shallow separate holes for themselves. An example of a Darwinian adaptation?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Largely non-knit

I made good progress with Sam yesterday. I finished the back panel, and am half-way around picking up the stitches from it and adding them to the remaining neck stitches. After spending all that time on the Princess border, where 15 rows was a good week’s work, this sense of moving on from one thing to another is really rather welcome.

Our granddaughter Helen came up from Newcastle for the afternoon yesterday (or I might have knit even more), and we had a pleasant time lunching Italian and walking on Calton Hill. She has just finished her second year at Newcastle University, reading English and Classics. She and a friend have just written down their five favourite books and exchanged lists – each has got to read the others’ books.

The Curmudgeon nominated me recently for the Thinking Bloggers Award. I was deeply touched, but I find I can’t go on, as I am supposed to, and nominate five of my own. It would be like choosing among my friends, or my children. I read a good many more than the ones listed in the sidebar; each, obviously, has something to say to me, and I like and respect them all.

I think I promised Lorna once that I’d do a meme where I listed five things about myself that couldn’t be deduced from the blog (and which I didn’t mind having bruited about). I got stuck on that one, too, for different reasons.

But I can, easily, list my five book-of-books, my desert island choices, the novels that create worlds I can, and often do, live in:

1) Prince Tomasi di Lampedusa, Il Gattopardo
2) Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited
3) Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
4) Vikram Seth, A Suitable Boy
5) George Eliot, Middlemarch

The MS Word spelling-checker has never heard of “Tomasi” “Lampedusa” “Gattopardo” “Brideshead” or “Vikram”, but somebody must have told them about Middlemarch.

Rabbits reprised

Helen, I remember those Chinese rabbits at the supermarket. I think they are probably the only rabbits I’ve ever eaten, and that’s when I discovered that my husband doesn’t like eating rabbit.

Moorecat, I read with interest the information in the link you provided about calicivirus. What I don’t understand is why it killed almost all the rabbits in Australia and yet seems to be having almost no effect here.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I feel another Rabbit Post coming on in response to yesterday’s wonderful comments, but again I had better put Sam first.

He went much better yesterday. The fourth attempt at the neck, or however many it was, finally clicked. It wasn’t exactly soothing, but he proved just as compulsive a just-one-more-row’er as any other project. Now I’ve progressed to a really easy section, a 12-stitch-wide Aran panel which will form his back. (I'll photograph him on a light-coloured background next time.)

The construction really is most ingenious, and should impress any judge who knows anything at all about knitting, if I can pull it off. And the Aran panels are there to impress a slightly less knowledgeable judge.

Phyllis, I really don’t think he’ll need dressing up. I remember one year when the category was “a 6-inch knitted square, to be donated”. (They were all going to be sewn together for an afghan for some charitable object.) I did something that looked not unlike a knitted wedding cake, based on Leigh Witchell’s square for the Great American Afghan in Knitter’s. It was unplaced – the winners were all plain garter stitch which in retrospect I think may have been implied in the word “knitted”.

Rabbits Reprised

Ann (yet another) – there are recipes for squirrel in my old copy of Joy of Cooking. We were plagued with them in Birmingham, and had a very effective live trap in which we then drowned them. Our neighbours were aghast, but approving. But we were never tempted to try eating them – although I am sure Parisians during the War exchanged recipes for rat. They are absent in Strathardle – we have beloved red squirrels, very rarely sighted. That trap is ready and waiting for the first sight of a grey.

Kate, we need to know more about the colesi virus. Miximatosis was I think imported deliberately from Australia as a form of rabbit control some decades ago. For a while it worked. They died unpleasantly and it wasn’t very nice. But then they developed immunity and they’re more abundant than ever and feeling fine, thanks. I wonder why colesi hasn’t been tried here?

Jamie Oliver agrees that farmed rabbit isn’t nearly as good. Simon Hopkinson says that French farmed rabbits are pretty tasty. They would be.

Sarah, I’ll look out that Grigson recipe. Funny that you and Kate, among yesterday’s commenters, should both be blocking lace in your own blog entries.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Sam the Ram

I don't have much to say about knitting, so I’ll get it out of the way before moving on to rabbits.

I finished Sam’s head, rather successfully if I do say so. I couldn’t figure out how to unzip my provisional cast-on, but that may have been my fault, and it unpicked easily.

Once he was grafted together under the chin, the next step was to pick up 63 stitches around the neck opening. That took me three go’s. At least I don’t have to worry about whether they’re evenly spaced, since they’re jammed in so tight.

The next task is to knit a sort of short-row’d wedge for the neck, Aran-patterned. I’ve got as far as row 7 of that. It has been ripped out twice, and it will have to go a third time. I forgave myself a couple of mistakes, but have just discovered a cable crossed the wrong way three rows back. Cumulatively, that’s too many errors.

For anything less than the Strathardle Highland Gathering, I’d give up.

Needless to say, this sort of knitting, even when successful, is far from soothing. Perhaps when Sam is well established – but will that ever happen? – I’ll add an ikat-effect hat (as previously discussed) for weekend knitting. Not a hat for Sam, of course: knitting to sooth and sustain me. Meanwhile I struggle on.


The sharp-eyed will have noticed that the picture I posted a couple of days ago, is gone.

Alexander spotted it yesterday, and feared that his father was using a gin trap. They have been illegal for more than half a century. I took the picture down, but then asked my husband about it. The traps he uses are perfectly humane and perfectly legal (in case anyone else was worried). Although they look like heirlooms which have been in the family since, well, Ought Six, they were in fact bought from a reputable local ironmonger well after the anti-gin-trap legislation was passed.

My husband was apprenticed to a poacher in Sussex as a lad (Alexander may not know that) and learned to distinguish a hawk from a handsaw when it comes to country matters.

I was overcome to find a comment yesterday from Rabbitch herself. (As Franklin said recently – “You don’t read Rabbitch? What the hell’s wrong with you?”) Her suggestion for rabbit-disposal should perhaps be considered. Nettle wine, maybe?

But I continue to look forward to Jamie Oliver’s “Pappardelle with wild rabbit, olives and marjoram” and Simon Hopkinson’s “Stewed rabbit with balsamic vinegar and parsnip puree”. Served, as you so splendidly say, Deidra, with “the lingering aftertaste of vengeance”.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The Little Boy sweater is finished: maybe one day soon we can have a picture of it with a little boy inside.

And I’ve started Sam the Ram.

When it came to a provisional cast-on for the second shoulder strap for the gansey at Kirkmichael earlier in the week, I used the idea Ted suggested: tie two yarns together, put the knot under the tip of the needle, then do an ordinary long-tail cast-on with the waste yarn as the one that goes round the thumb. Easy, quick. I did it again last night for Sam.

We won’t send for the champagne, though, until we find out how easy it is to undo. Both cast-on’s were brief, so there’s no great harm done if I wind up as usual laboriously unpicking.

Gansey comments

Thank you, Vivienne – I’ll look up that pattern today. I agree about the need for charting, and the tedium of pencil and paper. I have the program Stitch & Motif Maker. I use it rarely, but when I do, it’s invaluable. “Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern”, the basis for my gansey, isn’t charted in Gladys Thompson’s book, although lesser patterns are. I made a chart with that program – it’s quicker than paper and pencil, I think, and certainly more fun. But I was alarmed, as I checked the link just now, to see how expensive the current version is.

Donna, I’m glad to have a reason for mentioning the source of the gansey wool again: it came from Jan at Frangipani. Mine is “Herring Girl’s Pink”. Jan couldn’t have been more helpful, and the yarn is wonderful. Firm, brilliant on stitch definition.

Mary Lou, it was exciting to “meet” someone else who has knit Mrs Laidlaw’s pattern. How did you do the sleeves, exactly? As you see, mine are plain except for the broken rib panel and its attendant reverse-st-st pennants. I found the body tough going in patches, especially the part after I had divided for the sleeve holes and had to keep flipping the pattern over in my mind to knit the wrong-side rows. But at the moment, I am very happy with the result.

Rabbit comments

Does “Liquid Fence” work, Sister Helen? I think I have established via Google that it isn’t available in the UK. Even in concentrate, a liquid is going to be expensive to ship. And it’s expensive to begin with. But if it works, it’s worth anything.

Rabbits have been getting in to the inadequately-fenced portion of my garden. That hasn’t happened before, and I don’t see how they’re doing it. So far they have just eaten the chives and – feeling rather ill? – the parsley. But soon there will be all sorts of delicious things for them in there.

We have never eaten them before, but I am tired of this. I have quite a few tasty recipes lined up, but they will have to wait until James comes in the summer. My husband won’t clean his successes for me, as he doesn’t much care for eating rabbit. Too much like the War, perhaps. James is less squeamish.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

While we were in Kirkmichael, we heard James Naughtie’s interview with President Carter on the “Today” programme. I was much impressed with what he had to say, and with the coherence of his thought and language. The interview can still be heard here.

So, here’s the vegetable garden. My husband said the other day that it has rarely looked so tidy. That could be attributed to what might be called the Japanese approach to kitchen gardening – no plants. That’s not entirely true. The potatoes are growing vigorously, and have been earthed up against freak late frosts. Other things – not all, but some – are coming up but are too small to be obvious to the naked eye.

There had been a frost in the week we were away, but a slight one, and damage was minimal.

And here’s the gansey. I achieved what I had hoped, finished the first sleeve (but for the cuff) and have done most of the second shoulder strap. (I took it outdoors to photograph it yesterday morning -- the results are good. This is the view from what is meant to be the back. Back and front are indentical in shaping, and differ only in the placing of the pattern.)

Tamar, I took your advice and recalculated and spaced the remaining sleeve decreases so that they came out even with the desired length. The worry at the moment is that the broken rib panel down the top of the sleeve wants to recede into the fabric, as if it were simply a panel of purl stitches. (I have pulled it out to have its picture taken.) I will have to be very firm with it at the blocking stage. And of course it won’t entirely be able to recede, when there is an arm in the sleeve.

The weather continued wet and windy, but I got my May calendar pictures.

It must have been a considerable comfort for old folks during the War to spend time as we were doing, and to know that their activities – growing vegetables, knitting, trapping rabbits – were all directly and specifically useful. Except that in my case, vegetable-growing demands a considerable expenditure of time and strength in return for very little food.


Thank you, everybody, for the kind words about the Princess. She’s not finished yet! I regard the forthcoming insertion, however, as the pons asinorum. Once I am across it, finishing is by no means guaranteed, but the end will be, however dimly, in sight.

Vivienne, I don’t suppose you remember which issue of “Knitting” your husband’s gansey was in? I have subscribed from the beginning, so I must have it.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Now the Princess border really is finished. I even knit a few stitches of the Little Boy neckband last night, after it was done. We’re going to Strathardle today. When we get back, I’ll hope to polish that off and then tackle Sam the Ram – with a swirly hat for light relief once I’ve got him established, perhaps.

I know what you mean, Judith, (new comment for Wednesday) about grandchildren and fleece. Mine span 20 years in age. I find that their parents are willing enough to dress them in wool, and the small children willing enough to wear it, until about the age of seven. Then fleece takes over. Eventually the grandchildren emerge at the other end of the process as normal human beings, and begin to appreciate sweaters again – but by that time they’re big.

My overall Plan of Life, at the moment, is to tackle Theo’s cashmere gansey in the autumn. My sister will bring the yarn when she comes for the Games in August. I hope Theo will be there too, to approve plans. I’d like to do the neck like the one on my friend’s father’s gansey from Eriskay, illustrated here previously. It looks as simple as knitting the neckband back and forth with a modest overlap, and buttonholes.

This project is obscurely bound up with the wish to see Barack Obama president. We subscribe to the New Yorker but only read it when we are in Kirkmichael, undistracted by television and daily newspapers. This time I have the profile of Obama to look forward to.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A bit less than three rows of garter stitch to go, and the Princess border will be ready for the insertion. Garter stitch knitting of hundreds of gossamer stitches is a lot more fun, and a little bit quicker, than I expected. All through the border I’ve had trouble easing the stitches over the join between cord and needle. Without all those blasted yo’s, they glide like silk. So, barring disaster, I should finish today. I’ll polish off the Little Boy sweater and then start Sam. We’re going back to Strathardle tomorrow, anyway.

Mary Lou, I was delighted to hear that Sam’s designer knows he is going to compete at the Strathardle Highland Gathering. I can presumably get news of the result to her through Blackberry Ridge. Bear in mind that I never win.

The weather is disgusting, and so is the forecast, so the May calendar pictures are going to have to be artistic. I took one of the apple tree in bloom last time, but it isn’t very good. Yesterday, guided by your advice and specifically by my friend Helen, I bought a cheap copy of Photoshop Elements on eBay (buy-it-now), so I’ll have help.


There’s a comment, much appreciated, from Natalie yesterday – Mrs. Yarn Yard herself. She thinks I’m thinking on the right lines, swirl-wise. Yesterday it occurred to me that I could try a hat. 210 stitches is obviously too many, but 105 would produce a hat that would fit somebody. I’ll use the May Yarn Yard club offering, with the cuff of the hat in the plain yarn. You’ve got to knit round and round to get the ikat effect.

One of the great comforts of old age is having all those differently-sized and –styled people to knit for.

I’m rather taken with my new system of having some easy weekend knitting on the go. It seems to be working. I started the Little Boy sweater in March, and here it is virtually finished, and the Princess has advanced too: neither, in other words, has shewn any tendency to slide down the slippery slope from WIP to UFO. So once Sam is up and running, I’ll maybe start a swirly hat.


The summer issue delighted me by turning up yesterday. As usual with summer issues, there’s nothing much there that I actually want to knit. Perhaps only Candace Strick's “Merging Colors” scarf on page 10. I love the concept of Merging Colors, and I’ve got a sweater’s-worth of the yarn in the Caribbean Sunset colorway, but I haven’t done anything with it.

I went to the IK website yesterday, to renew my subscription, and clicked on the option to read about Eunny Jang, the new editor. I learned that she is going to “tele-commute” or some such phrase, from the East Coast to Ohio. I’m not sure I approve, and await results with some anxiety. An editor needs to be there, quite a bit of the time, to take part in scenes such as Pam Allen describes in her valedictory editor’s letter.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Ce l’ho fatta! – at least, up to a point.

I finished row 219 of the Princess border. Row 220 is plain knitting, not a single yo or k2tog. It is followed by six more rows of garter stitch – then the insertion.

So, in a sense, I’ve finished the border. I shall spend the following rows counting and re-counting, moving the markers to points more helpful for the insertion (which has a modest 4-stitch repeat, with six stitches at each end of the row), and counting again, and identifying and marking the absolute centre stitch, on which the centre must be centred. So to speak.

And I have decided to launch myself straight into Sam the Ram, when the seven plain rows are done. It seems more sensible to have the interruption at that point, and then to return, practice the insertion, and tackle the knitting of it straight away. I don’t understand the instructions. There is nothing for it but to remember Sam-I-Am and his immortal advice: Try it and you may, I say.

Back to thoughts of swirliness (see yesterday). The relevant portion of the Little Boy sweater was knit on 210 stitches. At seven to the inch, that gives a circumference of 30” (and blocking could probably produce another) which should suffice for several of the grandchildren in the picture on my sidebar, even though it’s a bit out of date.

I took a class in designing for the very young with Kristin Nicholas at Stitches East in ’00, and I remember her remark that children don’t increase all that much in circumference as time passes, they just get taller. There’s truth in it.

And I am excited, not too strong a word, by your remark, laurieg, that it might be possible to do the sleeves on half the number of stitches and get the same effect.

The famous article about the ikat process -- to be found here – has you “recreate the skein”, mark the points where one round ends and the next begins, and then cast on two rounds’-worth. Having got this far in thought, it might be interesting at least to try it and see how close that process brings me to 210 stitches.


Thank you, commenters, for the help with photography. I don’t have a Mac, Ann – I begin to see, from your note, why people are so enthusiastic about them. I think it will have to be Photoshop Elements, as you suggest, Pat. I had toyed with the idea before, and Alexander poured scorn on it. He is a serious photographer, and uses the big grownup Photoshop.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Here’s the current state of the Little Boy sweater. When its turn comes up again, I’ll press on to the finish, but today I want to get back to pressing on towards the finish of the Princess border.

One of the things I’d like to figure out how to do, is to add labels and little arrows to photographs, and to draw borders around particular parts. Here, I’d like to point out – although I guess it’s pretty obvious, if you peer – where the sleeves were joined in, and where the first big decrease round occurs.

There is a distinct change when the sleeves are added. I like the round-and-round stripes of the lower body better. But it’s the way the colours swoop about between the first and second decrease rounds that especially delights me.

Maybe I don’t need to take any further trouble over achieving ikat: just knit one of the The Yarn Yard skeins on 200 stitches, which is the number I think I had at that point. One could knit a tube all the way up, then cut for sleeves and a dropped-shoulder. That would yield a sweater of very nearly the same size as this: the lower body was worked on 196 stitches. The sleeves would inevitably be different. I'll think about it.


Annie Modesitt is back up.

Lee, thank you for the reference to the Baghdad diary of the Library director. There’s a lot of solid prose there. I got a bit bogged down, and then decided to earmark it with the intention of reading, every few days, the entries for exactly a month ago. It is truly extraordinary to read of the semi-familiar frustrations of a man in his position, dealing with beauocracy, dealing with government ministers, amidst the unfamiliar setting of death and inconvenience-by-terrorism and helicopters overhead.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Little to report. Another day, another dollar.

I did the first big decrease in the yoke of the Little Boy sweater – ¼ of the stitches gone – and the colours started swirling gloriously instead of striping as before. I’ll carry on for today, through a decrease which will remove another third of the stitches, in the hopes of being able to illustrate what’s happening. The Princess had Saturday, so it’s all right.

I mustn’t forget my intention of attempting ikat patterning with one of Natalie's yarns. I may be getting near the end of the Little Boy, the March club offering, but I still haven’t even wound April or May.


You’ll enjoy the pictures in Lorna's latest blog entry.

Another one that I read when I can is Baghdad Burning – entries are rare, at least in part because electricity is rare, where she is. I think she’s won prizes for it; there may even be a book. I have no idea who she is. Young. Iraqi. Perfect idiomatic English. She doesn’t seem to knit. Google has nothing to add -- she's anonymous for her own protection.

She and her family have finally decided to leave. I hope the blog continues, not least because the process of leaving and the story of what happens next will be extremely interesting.

Another one I’m following keenly at the moment is Annie Modesitt. Her life has taken one of those jogs – the family have moved west, and her husband is seriously ill. There’s no use giving you a link, though, because I’m getting only a blank screen this morning. I think she’s been messing around with the arrangements

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Sorry about yesterday. It was Christian Aid Booksale Day, a big Edinburgh event. And it rained, which is not usually the case. So the knitting stall was not in its usual spot, but stuffed inside somewhere. It took some finding, and the women in charge didn’t know where most of their stock was, and it was so crowded you couldn’t breathe. Nothing of interest that I could see.

I bought Starmore’s Celtic Knitting cheap, remembering the sort of prices her books fetch and believing I could make my fortune and retire. Turns out that one’s in print.

By the time all that was over, and the Saturday shopping done, I was too tired to breathe, let alone blog.


I’ve finished row 216 of the Princess border. The end-game, indeed. This last bit has been a bit tough – because it was too easy. Ted would understand. It was an alternation of two very similar motifs, and I was constantly wondering which one came next, or even which one I was doing at the moment. Now one of them has dropped out and the rest should be straightforward although even easier.

I think my current plan is to finish the border, practice the insertion (but not attempt it in real life), and then tackle Sam the Ram. Judith, I did join the Yahoo Sam group, on your suggestion. There doesn’t seem to be much happening there at the moment, but I can always read the archives or ask specific questions. Thanks for that.

I must here confess that I’ve ordered some “Glasgow Tenement” yarn from The Yarn Yard. The original skein had sold before I got there – although I burst through the doors of the virtual shop on the day it went on the shelves. But Natalie is going to dye some more for me. There’ll never be another yarn called “Glasgow Tenement”. I have in mind something like the “big easy” sweater in the new issue of Knitting magazine – a pattern I had admired but not bought in a “Sublime” pattern book. And a boy something like Fergus Drake of Thessaloniki.

The current Little Boy Sweater progresses well, and since today is its day, and maybe tomorrow, the end isn’t far away.


Tamar, you’re right about the gansey sleeve. (You’re often right, I notice!) If I simply decrease to 60 stitches and then knit to the required length, the lower bit may be too tight. I was given a sweater to use as a template for both the gansey and the Calcutta Cup sweater – i.e., it fits both Alexander and his wife Ketki. I’ll take it to Strathardle next time. It's the one Alexander spilled red wine down the front of. Maybe it would be more prudent, and more attractive, to space out those last decreases anyway.

Esther, it’s not me you have to thank for Lasagna gardening, but kristieinbc, who left a comment back in April when I first introduced my clumsy raised bed. Here’s the ritual how-the-garden-looked-when-we-left picture from last week. The grass needs cutting again already.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The weather was squally – rough winds did shake the darling buds, in fact. But we got a fair amount done. I gave the grass its first cut, and got the basic seeds in. Some random potatoes have appeared – I earthed them all over, remembering last year’s alarming May frost. It remains to plant the seeds which should only be put in when-all-danger-of-frost is past. There is no such date in Strathardle; I usually declare it to be May 15.

I am enchanted with the concept of Square Foot Gardening. The very day we left last week, I got the new issue of Kitchen Garden – and found an article about it. My primitive attempt is fully sown – I’ll spare you a map of the contents, at least for the time being. I have, as always, bought more seed than I have room for – so, it’s not just yarn. This was a good way of giving each at least a square foot of trial.

I am already looking forward to building myself a better, second raised bed this autumn, in which I will apply the Lasagna Gardening principles.

This is really my kind of gardening, where I can kneel or sit on the ground and attend to things without worrying about what I’m kneeling or sitting on.

Further reports to follow.

And, knitting…

The gansey progresses. It seems to be turning out that I will get down to the wanted number of end-of-sleeve stitches, namely 60, before I get to the end of the sleeve. That’s the trouble, I find, with swatching or with arithmetic or perhaps it’s the two in combination. The plan is to reduce to 48 stitches all at once at the cuff, for a slightly bloused effect. The only thing to do is to keep on remorselessly knitting on 60 until the length is right. I should finish this sleeve the next time we go north.

“Finishing” of any Kirkmichael project is done here in Edinburgh, and I have decided that in this case, the wrist ribbing will be classified as “finishing”. So I’ll put the stitches on some waste yarn and cast on the second shoulder strap at once.

Meanwhile, here in the big city, Sam the Ram has turned up – with no duty to pay! He looks challenging, to put it mildly. He’s obviously a Scottish Blackface, appropriately enough.

And The Yarn Yard May offering is also here, as hoped. And it’s wonderful, as usual. Don’t trust those colours on the screen. The real ones are even better.

Having a quick look at the Yarn Yard site just now, I find there’s a new yarn called “Glasgow tenement.” Again, can I resist? Our first house was a Glasgow tenement, much as the National Trust describes it, in the link the Yarn Yard provides. Alexander, James and Helen were born on the premises – the boys, before we even had a telephone of our own.

Thanks, as ever, for all the comments last time. There are several I want to reply to, but I think that’s enough for today.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

It was aw’fy hot in Glasgow. The picture is backed with new board from which nothing was to be learned. It’s a nice picture, though. It was good to see it, and my husband was able to interrogate it in various ways that can only be done when he is standing in front of the actual object. We went to a second-hand bookstore and a couple of commercial art galleries and the Glasgow Modern Art Gallery – oh dear! – and came home.

We’re going back to Strathardle today, as soon as my husband has voted, to stay about a week. Maybe I can even plant some seeds this evening. I have been studying the Square Foot Gardening website and will report on my success or lack of it, in adapting its principles.

So we’ll be away when the May yarn arrives from The Yarn Yard sock club. We’ve got a nice big letter box – the package will get through all right. I’m guaranteed some knitting excitement to come home to.

Here’s a last progress shot of the Princess border. I have embarked on row 212. “Last” because I won’t take another picture until I’ve finished the border.

Things are going fairly briskly, except that the last motifs involve a good many double decreases, and they’re slow. When I knit Amedro’s “Fine Lace Stole” I had a lot of trouble with the Ring Stitch section, which is full of double decreases. She gives them as k 3 tog and I kept finding – too late – that the middle stitch had escaped and was wandering off by itself. I switched to some other system.

This time, in order to centre the decreases, as seems appropriate, I am inserting the right-hand needle in the next two stitches as if to knit them together, slipping them both, knitting the following stitch, and passing the slipped stitches over. Having learned from Margaret Stove that the stitch the needle enters first in any decrease, is the one that winds up on top. The most valuable piece of knitting lore I know.

But I also pause each time to tug and make sure all three are secure.


Thanks for the upbeat reports on I did some Googling yesterday and found others. I hadn’t realised they were Canadian – I hope that doesn’t involve my sister in paying duty when the yarn arrives.

And for the references to zolendronic acid, which I gather is the lead story in the Times today. I’ll keep an eye on that one.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I have just taken my first osteoporosis pill and am sitting here waiting to explode. I am to take it once a week, before any food has been consumed, with water, and remain upright for half an hour afterwards. Computing and knitting are allowed, but I can’t go out and hoe the vegetable garden. If I get away with it without side effects, it will prevent any further loss of bone mass. So I am now a genuine Oldie with a pill all my own.

We are going to Glasgow today; I could do without Glasgow.

Christie’s is selling some Scottish art in London later this month. My husband discovered only yesterday, in a pile of paper in his study, a flyer from them saying that “highlights” from the sale would be shown in Glasgow today and tomorrow. He rang them up, and they confirmed that the picture by His Artist is among the highlights. It is a late one, one of the last the artist painted, and my husband has seen it in the past – but he has never seen the back of it, and hopes to do so today. That is what art historians are really interested in.

So off we go. Theoretically he could go by himself, but I don’t entirely trust him out alone. I said that to him, and he agreed. I’ll take the bed socks to knit – I’m advancing nicely down the second foot. I did take the Little Boy Sweater to the meeting last night, and made some progress.

And I have reached row 210 of the Princess border. Since the final row, 220, is unpatterned, I can now be considered to have embarked on a count-down of the last ten rows. A certain amount of “mirroring” is going on – the arrangement of the motifs pivots on the central “feather”. But the motifs themselves are vertically symmetrical, unlike those sprouting seeds which nod to right and left earlier on. And things seem to be progressing smoothly.

I did order Sam the Ram from Blackberry Ridge yesterday, and some 4-ply sport weight cashmere from Blackberry Ridge is an old friend; that’ll be OK. is a plunge into the unknown and it will be interesting to see what happens. Nobody responded to my appeal for information about them. The business has recently changed hands, and there are worrying notes on the website about delays in filling orders. But the website works smoothly and seems secure and professional, and there’s no hurry.

I went for the shade called “Blueberry”. Theo himself had a look, and put that one on a short list. I liked it for its sort of faded-denim-y appearance. is meant to send it to my sister, who will bring it when she comes for the Games. We’re going to have a splendid party this year.

The half-hour is up, and here I still am.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Not much, today.

I have embarked on row 209 of the Princess border. The trouble with the current situation is that I keep thinking ahead – whereas the joy of Princess knitting, up until now, has been timelessness. This will last forever – sit still and enjoy the moment.

But the big question now, on the contrary, is whether I can get the centre started before I have to knock off and knit Sam the Bloody Ram as my Games entry.

The Games are on the Fourth Saturday in August (as always) so I could postpone ram-knitting until mid June, perhaps. I hate knitting to a deadline; there’s got to be plenty of time. I will soon finish the Princess border, insh’Allah (220 rows). But then there are some rows of plain garter stitch, not difficult but not instantaneous over 850 stitches.

Then the insertion. That’s obviously tricky, and will have to be practised before I attempt it in real life. And when I’m ready, it’s 20 rows long.

Is that achievable in May? much of which I hope will be spent in Strathardle cooing over my vegetables.

We’ll see.

Not much will be achieved today, either, because I must go to a Drummond Place committee meeting this evening. Maybe I’ll take the Little Boy Sweater, which is a manageable size and at a particularly easy stage just now, instead of my usual Committee Sock.

I’m circling round the question of the Barak-electing sweater for nephew Theo, and may even nerve myself to order some cashmere from soon.