Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here we go. I am sorry not to be here tomorrow to wish everybody a Happy New Year on the darkest day. I don’t know when we’ll be back; in time, I hope, for the Iowa Caucus on January 3. At that point I’ll start knitting hard on the gansey, and hope to carry on right through New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Which should get me to the point where I put it on waste yarn and consider with care my options for how to proceed. Much as Clinton and Obama and Edwards will be doing, in a different sphere.

Apart from politics, I am always surprised by how good January feels. Most of it is every bit as dark as December, but the darkness feels different, right away. Pretty soon now!

I finished the Linked Ribs all right, and should have no difficulty polishing off the little hat tonight or tomorrow in the country.


Fishwife, funny to think of your being in D. Place yesterday and we wouldn’t have known each other if we’d passed on the pavement. I hope we’ll meet in ’08. It’ll be on my list of “achievables”.

Shandy, that is interesting news indeed about EZ’s neice. There were three sisters, EZ the eldest. The middle one was epileptic and, for whatever reason, died in her early teens. So this must be the daughter or granddaughter of the remaining one, Pringle. I would like to have the details, although I would never have the courage to get in touch.

I suppose EZ is getting better known on this side of the Atlantic in recent years, thanks to the Internet. But she is undoubtedly an American phenomenon. Like the phrase “Kitchener stitch”, once completely restricted to North American knitters. I first heard of her in an article in the Sunday Times more than 20 years ago – you could send for a copy of the Baby Surprise pattern, slightly modified to make it double-breasted. I did, and have knit that mimeographed sheet almost to death. I have noted all of the recipients on the pattern – I think the first one was my granddaughter Hellie, under her pregnancy-code-name of Bernadette. She has just turned 21.

Calantha, how nice to hear from you. I’m sure you’re right that I’ll feel happier in the country, in the natural light. It is good to get away from television- and computer-screen. Sort of soothes the mind. Life always seems more manageable there, too, largely because we don’t get much mail so it’s all piling up here to be managed when we get back.

An old friend of Alexander's was with us at the Games this year. He sent me this picture the other day, and Sam seems a very suitable image to close out 2007:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The last day. Scary. I’ve done the final, perfunctory Christmas cards (a bit late, according to the official post office deadline); I’ve got another session to face in a post office queue this afternoon after all; and an appointment to have my hair done. I haven’t measured the linked ribs in the last 24 hours, but feel pretty confident that I can cast them off today.

I didn’t need much more than the yarn I originally started out with, after all; but it was worth getting more rather than leaving the scarf slightly-too-short. Tying in a new ball (as I did last night) is fun. Half of the knitting, although it may not appear so, is a simple st st tube. All you have to do is arrange for the new ball to be joined while that is going on; knit one stitch with two yarns together, and tie a tidy knot on the inside of the tube.

In a trice, the knot will have disappeared forever – I hope you tied it properly – inside the next set of flanges.

I think it looks rather nice.

So what to do with the nearly-two-balls left over of Silk Garden? (Just add them to stash.) Sean has been knitting dickeys lately, from EZ’s “Knitting Around”, and I’m tempted. A dickey would certainly be cosy, and should be almost instantaneous to knit.

So I got the book out, and read about dickeys, and then wandered about the pages for a while. It suddenly occurred to me – I’m pretty slow on the uptake – that “Stretham” where EZ was sent to live with some aunties during the Great War, might be “Streatham” (pronounced “Stretham”) where my daughter Rachel lives.

I got out my London street guide and, sure enough, found “Mount Nod Road” on Streatham Hill. It’s in a classier part of town than Rachel’s bit, but it would not be impossible to make a pilgrimage if I ever felt inclined.

There are things about that book that make me uneasy, most especially her treatment (or non-treatment) of the Second World War. Why did they emigrate to America, with no money and no job, a land EZ “hated and feared”? She says that the winter of Pearl Harbor was a cold one; otherwise, the war is scarcely mentioned. Did she feel guilty about abandoning the old country? There must have been Lloyd Joneses in London and Zimmermanns in Munich who occupied their thoughts. The Old Man says, in his own stirring account of his escape on foot from Hitler’s Germany, that he never saw his uncle or father or brother again.

It’s none of my business, but I feel she made it my business by writing an autobiography.


Knititch, where exactly did you bump into an Enid Blyton who wrote stitch dictionaries? I can’t find anything to back this up on Google on in the Wikipedia entry on her, but it’s very hard to believe that there were two Enid Blytons.

I will remember what you and Vivienne say about the Book Depository.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lunch with the sister-in-law was OK, the hat progresses, I did some more scarf in the evening. I’m nicely on target to finish both hat and scarf in time. I think. I’ll try to take a scarf picture today if it ever gets light.

One very distinct advantage of having all those people in K*rkmichael next week is that I have largely been spared both the trouble and the expense of posting packages this year. I went down to the post office after we got back yesterday to dispatch the only one on the list. The queue filled the little shop. I see I’ve missed the last-posting-day for second class Christmas cards (yesterday) so I’d better get back on that job.

I think I am getting some interesting colour-swirls on 110 stitches with Yarn Yard yarn, as hoped, and really do mean to return to thoughts of ikat knitting in the New Year. She’s got some gorgeous yarns in the shop, including a lace yarn named after ME.

Comments: Knititch, I just ordered the Charlene Schurch book from Amazon on your recommendation. (It’s currently out of stock in the UK, but they promise not to charge the credit card until it comes in.) Tamar, thank you for the specifics on hat-knitting.

Today’s Event is a long dental appointment while he makes a crown for one of my few remaining teeth. It should be something of a stress-reliever, and I may get some more hat knit in the waiting room.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another day of modest achievement. I got the serious Christmas cards stamped and into the mail box and within an hour had a phone call from the stepdaughter of one of the addressees, to say he was dead. Not a close friend, but an old one. That’s the fifth member of our not-very-extensive Christmas card list to fall off the perch this year, and we’ve scarcely started on incoming messages yet.

In the afternoon, weary of Christmas cards, I went up to Princes Street. It was awful, and I didn’t achieve much, and everybody looked as miserable as I felt. What a curious annual ritual this is!

Things were brighter on the knitting front. I started the little hat, to plug that gap on the present-list. (Princes Street reinforced my decision to do it: better a hat he doesn’t want but at least keeps his ears warm, than expensive junk that occupies him for a moment or two.)

It is to be a simple stocking cap, using my favourite (although it’s not easy to choose) of my unknit Yarn Yard club yarns. How many stitches to cast on? No time for elaborate calculations here, nor do I have the recipient’s head measurement to hand. A cap like this is so simple that most books don’t bother. Even EZ wasn’t much help – she suggests 110 stitches for a watchcap in an authoritative but unspecific way (in Knitting Without Tears) and then proceeds to give a pattern using 36.

My usual resource in such matters is Vicki Square’s “Knit Great Basics” – no text to speak of, just schematics and charts where you slot in stitch and row numbers according to gauge. She gives three sizes – small, medium, and large. OK – but is that small adult? or small child?

But children’s heads are nearer adult size than you might think. And the finest gauge she gives is six stitches to the inch, and I would expect to get something more like seven with this yarn on 1’s.

So I wound up back where I started and cast on 108, Square’s recommendation for a small hat. And I think I’ve got it. It looks, if anything, too small in the picture, but the cast-on is stretchy, and seemed too big until I started ribbing: I think we’re all right. I’ll switch to the handpainted yarn, and increase to 110 stitches, before we go out to lunch.

110, because I think that’s the number which will produce interesting swirls of an ikat-y nature in a Yarn Yard yarn. No time to go back and look at notes on that subject, either. We’ll see.

Moorecat, that’s an interesting and useful tip, about making a scarf its wearer’s height. No great problem here. It’s aimed at a young teenager from a shortish family – she couldn’t be more than 5’3” which is about what I had planned for the Linked Ribs anyway.

So at least, among the horrors of this pre-solstice week, I think I’m on target to finish both knitted presents. We now hope to go to Strathardle on Thursday – a firm who were supposed to deliver some new chairs that day phoned late yesterday evening to say they can’t do it, what about Friday or Saturday? Not on your nellie, said I. I have just begun to realise that our entire family will be in K*rkmichael next week and will want feeding – not just on the 25th.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A better day yesterday. The serious Christmas cards are done, the notes to old friends – what remains is just to write the token ones saying howdy-do to the people one sees anyway and says howdy-do to on a regular basis and to my husband’s family, mercifully small in number, who would be mortally offended not to get cards as well as presents.

I got a bit more than my assigned length of Linked Ribs done yesterday. MaryJo0, I wouldn’t dream of setting myself a daily knitting assignment were it not for the pressures of the season. My Principle of Life has always been not to allow Christmas stress to intrude into knitting, but this year things have run away with me.

[MaryJo’s blog, if you follow the link above, contains a link to Ann from Norway's blog (in Norwegian) which in turn contains a link to a pattern (in English) for Latvian mittens which Ann says are “min første egendesigna” – surely, “my first own design”. Isn’t language wonderful? – and isn’t the Internet so, too?]

Part of seasonal gloom could be dispelled by being outdoors more, in the brief hours of daylight. But that’s hard to achieve when there are all those Christmas cards to write. I did try to observe scarf-wearers when I was out shopping for food yesterday. Some of them wear the scarves on top of their coats and of course wrapped generously around the neck. I think the Linked Ribs would look rather well like that, two layers of links around the neck and not much tail.

It’s perhaps slightly odd, when one stops to think about it, that there are no pictures in “Knitting New Scarves” of the scarves being worn by human beings. My husband intervened again last night to say to be sure to make it long enough. The pattern specifies five feet; I might add an inch or two.

So today I probably ought to work on the gansey – this could be my last chance before the Iowa primary. But instead I will think of the small hat which I have added to the schedule just to increase stress – I hope to wind the yarn and cast it on. We are going to lunch with my husband’s sister tomorrow to exchange presents. I’ll take the hat to knit. I am not normally allowed to take knitting when we go to see her, it is ill-mannered, my husband says, but needs must, this time.

Bletchley Park (yesterday’s blog, plus comments)

They’re said to be very clever there. They took the money right at the end of November, and maybe they did it because they saw that the card I had paid with was about to expire. I’m sure I’ll get the stuff in the end. I’ll go out on Tuesday or Wednesday, if nothing has turned up, and get some make-weight presents, with the thought of sending the real ones on to Thessaloniki and Beijing in due course.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blog Post No. 1111

A frustrating day yesterday, a running-to-stay-in-the-same-place day. Let’s see if we can do better today.

I did achieve my Linked Rib target, although only just – 6”. Not much for 30 stitches of Silk Garden on biggish needles, but endless time is spent separating and re-combining the rib, with what seems like very little knitting in between. It remains fun. Three more six-inch days to go.

Lee, you have persuaded me (comment yesterday) to try the Drifting Pleats – but I attach no guarantee of perseverance. For me, too, learning two-handed stranding was the Great Leap Forward in my knitting history. It happened in Leicester in the late 60’s, when I had Mary Thomas’ Knitting book out of the library. That was the beginning of my Fair Isle Phase. So if this experience can be compared to that, I’ll give it a go.

I can’t imagine what a j-shaped cable needle is, but good old Google will tell me.

Koolhaas: the stitch definition is better than you might think from yesterday’s picture, but nothing to compare to the beauties shewn elsewhere. Maybe I can get a picture of the Wearer Wearing, over the hols.

Mary Lou, thank you for the hat patterns. That’s another thing I’m definitely going to do – for me – once the solstice is behind us.


Knititch, I suspect you’re right that seasonal gloom and fear-of-darkness increases with age.
That’s why we’re celebrating, of course – all this fuss is designed to bring the light back. Up to now, it’s always worked.

Here is my Seasonal Crossness story: on November 3, I ordered two boy-presents from Bletchley Park, a scaled-down Enigma machine and a build-your-own-rocket-and-watch-it-fly kit.

My credit card expired at the end of November, and I had some trouble getting the new one. Nothing wrong with my credit, which is impeccable: inefficiency on the part of the issuer. At least one supplier from whom I ordered in mid-November (Museum Selection) didn’t getting around to filling the order until December, and then couldn’t get their money. (The new card has the same number but a different security code.) They sent me an email and invited me to phone. I tried and got Mozart and a recorded message saying repeatedly how busy and sorry they were. I decided those two presents weren’t very important.

I assumed the same thing had happened to Bletchley Park. But yesterday I got a credit card statement – they’ve got their money. I visited the website. It was still not too late to order for Christmas, they said. And what had happened to my order? “Waiting for stock”

Those are two important little boys.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thank you for all the comments yesterday. I didn’t deserve them, for such a short and grumpy note, and I love comments.

I will track down all the hat patterns suggested. I’ve looked at your Noro one on Ravelry, Pie, and I agree, it’s good. I’ve added it to my “Faves”. I think I’ve ordered one more ball of Silk Garden than I’m going to need for the Linked Ribs: so maybe with that…

But on the hat front, it has occurred to me that there is one I could knit for a small head which would fill another gap on the Christmas list. (I didn’t do very well with internet shopping this year.) I have painted myself, I fear, into the very corner which in previous years I have loftily eschewed: counting the remaining days, reckoning the amount of Linked Ribs I need to knit every day (yesterday’s target easily achieved), and now trying to factor in a little hat.

At my stage of life, now that I don’t have to turn out for end-of-term school productions, the things to be done at this time of year aren’t too many, aren’t difficult, aren’t unpleasant. But the sense of stress is just the same, the pressure increasing with the darkness.

I enjoyed myself yesterday thinking what New Scarf I will knit with my Manos Silk Blend. My husband – who is much better, thanks – looked over at me and the Linked Ribs last night and said he hoped it was for a child. He does occasionally intervene like that towards the end of the project when he fears I might be thinking of appearing in public in it.

His remark rather coincided with one by my friend Lindsay. She was wondering, the last time I saw her, just how wearable some of the scarves in the book would be. I think almost all of them are great, and very much what the shops are showing – although not, I have to agree, much like what I see around people’s necks as I walk about. A lofty rib is the commonest there, I would say.

So for the Manos, wearable must be high on the list of desirable qualities. I like the Drifting Pleats, and am inspired by Grumperina’s enthusiasm. But: five dp’s, a pair of single-pointed needles the same size, and a j-shaped cable needle – that sounds daunting. I like the idea of the Tricorner – but do I want to knit any more flanges just now? At the moment, the choice is between a single-colour Stacked Wedges or some Tilted Blocks, like Chronic Knitting Syndrome.

Here’s the Koolhaas, looking more Koigu than Kool.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My husband’s cold was perhaps slightly worse yesterday. In old age we are almost as frightened by this common ailment as an Austen heroine. We’ve had our flu injections, on the other hand, and he’s not feverish.


Koolhaas finished, camera battery flat.

I feel gripped by a wish to knit hats. This one has come out exactly as Jared would wish, 7” in height, and is perhaps slightly small for me: the tips of the ears are covered, not the entirety. It may do a bit better on Rachel. What about a nice Yarn Yard hat, deep ribbing in the plain colour, the rest hand-painted?

But what I really fancy is a beanie, with swirls. Grumperina’s Odessa, perhaps, without the pearls?

But I must press on with the Ribbed Links, and return to the gansey.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My husband coddled himself yesterday and his cold is, at least, no worse. I wrote a few Christmas cards.

I also finished the fifth repeat of the Koolhaas pattern, and am ready to close off the top. I tried it on my own large head yesterday, and was delighted with look and feel and fit. I can’t face all those cables again soon, but will keep careful notes of needle sizes and how-many-stitches with the thought of dipping into the Koigu bag one day in the future. Jared has got a wonderful new blue one on his website – I’m sure he cables without a cable needle.

A gap has opened on the Christmas list which the Ribbed Links might fill, so I shall turn back to that. It’s about half done. The extra Noro Silk Garden in the hard-to-get Shade 34 has turned up from the States – with no duty to pay.

And the Manos Silk Blend is here, too – not quite the shade I expected, but one I might have chosen anyway. It’ll make a fine Knitting-New Scarves scarf: the only problem will lie in the choosing.

Early morning in Drummond Place has produced a rather excessively dramatic image.

Thank you for all the comments and Ann, especially, for the analysis of New Hampshire. I see why they say that a win in Iowa could sweep things forward there. It’s nice, in a way, having all this excitement to look forward to so soon after the midnight chimes on New Year’s Eve. Hogmanay can go on for a week in Scotland (not so much, though, now that we’ve got Christmas) and can seem rather flat towards the end.

I will seriously try to write about Vogue-Knitting-at-War once we’ve got all this festivity out of the way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here we are again. We had a good time, but my husband has returned with a chesty cough, and it’s cold, and atra cura in the form of seasonal panic waited for us at the door.

Less than a fortnight until the solstice, though.

While we were away, I read an article in a newspaper by A.S. Byatt saying how good Marjorie Allingham was. I don’t need to be reminded, but it sent me to the bookshelf to re-read “Traitor’s Purse” in a gulp. It starts with the most brilliant of McGuffins. (I’m not giving anything away, for those happy souls whose first reading is still in the future: it’s right there in the first pages.) Our hero wakes up in hospital and finds he has lost his memory. He can’t even remember his name. But he knows he has something very important to do, urgently.

It moves fast, and the final McGuffin is equally brilliant. (I don’t think I am giving anything serious away by saying that Albert Campion – for it was he – recovered his memory in time to save England.) I think I have read that critics at the time said that the denouement was preposterous, and then it turned out after the war that the Germans had tried to do just that.

My point here, is that it was published in 1941, when things were bad and Pearl Harbour hadn’t happened yet and events might have gone either way. The mood is exuberant. Like Evelyn Waugh’s “Put Out More Flags”, published in ’42 but surely written before Pearl Harbour. And like, in its small way, the spring ’41 issue of the Vogue Knitting Book, my recent eBay purchase, which turned up while we were away. Come the four quarters of the world in arms, and we shall shock them, is the general idea: Allingham actually quotes the lines.

Clothes rationing doesn’t seem to have started yet – in the very next VKB issue, the number of coupons needed is specified for each pattern, but there is no mention of such things in No. 18. Yarn is in short supply. The issue begins with a wonderful Editor’s question-and-answer about wartime knitting.

“'I wanted 12 ounces – they only had 8.' Where are your brains, dear lady?” [What a way for an editor to talk to a knitter!]

“'Where are those nice thick wools?’ There are none, so don’t waste your time looking for them….Finer threads give far better fit. Fine wool makes the perfect fabric, firm yet pliable.”


I had a nice time, while away, knitting with Araucania Multi. I’m within a couple of rounds of the armholes. Nor need I worry about size, as I do with Theo’s gansey. If it doesn’t fit one grandson, it’ll fit another. I am not so well endowed with nephews.

SisterHelen, that’s good news about Obama in South Carolina. But what about New Hampshire? There are lots of sane, thoughtful people there. We should be winning hands down in New Hampshire.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

To Strathardle today – blogging should resume on Tuesday.

I was gripped with a sudden and dreadful case of the Seasonal Heebie-Jeebies yesterday: not anxiety about Christmas, which is in fairly good case here, more a timor-mortis-conturbat-me sort of thing. Fresh air should help. January, when it comes, will help more.

I bought Vogue Knitting Book No. 18 on eBay last night – spring, 1941. I now lack only five of them: one from the war (spring, 1940) and four from the mid to the late 30’s.

Last night’s price was very reasonable for an early VKB. The cover is torn, as you see; that might have been it. I had the same opponents as in my recent purchase of No. 19, but they bid less.

I hope I will now (well, in blessed January) spread the wartime issues out on the floor and try to construct an essay around them. The missing one is part of the “phoney war” and can be treated separately if I ever get it.

I wound another skein for the gansey. It got sort of tangled somehow, and took a fair while, so I spent what knitting time was left on the Koolhaas. It’s coming along rather well – I think the pattern is going to hold its own against the yarn after all, although you can't see much of it here. I’m doing the third repeat – I’ll probably need five altogether.

Goodbye for now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Oh, Theo! (yesterday’s comment)

Since I’ve started on politics –

There’s an interesting article in a recent New Yorker about Obama and Iowa. Normally we only read the New Yorker when we’re in the country, but I was suffering so much from last week’s Affliction that I allowed myself an exception. I think the New Yorker is on his side, and will no doubt be a more valuable ally than me and my knitting.

It is appalling to think what all this costs, the teams of people, before you get anywhere near paying for advertising.

But it occurred to me yesterday that Obama’s teams, no matter how acutely they may analyse interest groups, couldn’t have got as far as the Yarn Harlot. And yet by pausing for a moment, acceding to an eccentric request for a photograph, smiling that smile, he has created (at no expense to campaign funds) a website whose address must be passing from hand to hand among thousands of knitters. It just goes to show (although what, I’m not sure).

The Harlot herself mentions it, with a link; I had a peek. Everybody reads her except me.

Anyway, knitting. I got on nicely with the sock during the business part of yesterday’s meeting, and then fell asleep during the lecture.

Earlier, I discovered that I had lapsed into reversed st st instead of garter stitch for the separator-band of the gansey, and had to take out half a circuit. That involved sliding the needle out and frogging, and that in turn gave me another, better chance to assess the gauge.

And the answer this time seems to be that I am working towards a finished circumference of 55”. That’s too much.

The swatch, however, suggests that the cables on the stitch pattern will pull things in. (But will that leave the bottom to billow out??) I have decided to press on to somewhere near the point where I would start the underarm gussets, and then thread the whole thing onto some waste yarn and take a very hard, cold look at it. It’s worth getting this thing right, even if we have to wait until somewhere in President Obama’s second term for the photograph Theo promises.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This link was in Kathy's comment yesterday. The Fishwife sent it to me privately. Everybody, have a look. SisterHelen, you’ll miss a bit of the fun, for never having read the Yarn Harlot, but you’ll get the idea. I don’t even enjoy the Harlot all that much (heresy, I know) and so I read down through the first third of the post-at-the-end-of-the-link in bewilderment: why does she think I’d be interested in this?

But all became clear.

SisterHelen and FriendHelen and I exchanged other, soberer, encouraging links on the subject yesterday. See SisterHelen’s comment. All this must be related to the fact that I’m working on Theo’s gansey – post hoc ergo propter hoc, whaddid I tell ya? One can only imagine what will happen when I finish the Christmas knitting and engage with the gansey full-time.

SisterHelen, that’s the word to look for: “gansey”.

I got on fine with it yesterday. It turned out I had done more thinking than I gave myself credit for, before I started. Sure enough, I had forgotten to take account of the four seam stitches in my calculations, but that’s easily remedied (I think). I measured, holding my breath, to try to get an idea of what gauge was actually being achieved, and got one that, if true, would produce a circumference of 48” whereas we’re aiming for 50”.

That’s well within the allowable margin of error (like Obama’s lead in Iowa), especially as the initial ribbing may still be pulling it in a bit, so I pressed happily on. I finished the plain part where the initials are and embarked on the garter-stitch divider. Knitting in the round, that has to be achieved by purling every other round, which is a bit of a nuisance but not much. This is very pleasant knitting – Theo’s cashmere feels much more cashmere-like than does cashmere Koigu, for whatever reason. Has the dye process subdued the Koigu in some way?

So I think I’ll press on for a day or two, and get the body pattern established. Not much will happen today, as I must attend the AGM of the Drummond Place Civic Society which means sock-knitting at best.

Miscellaneous including non-knit

I showed my husband the Kirkmichael postcard that’s coming up on eBay (see yesterday). He was baffled, to the point of wondering whether it was mislabeled and actually showed some other village. I’m sure not. I’m sure it’s us – the relationship of the bridge and the church and the hotel are perfect. Maybe I’ll print it out and take it with us when we go up (insh’Allah) on Thursday and see if I can identify the buildings on our side of the river.

Mary Lou, that pack of Brittany cable needles sounds very tempting. Lemme have a look around here before you take any action: Hk Handknit might even have them. And thanks.

You make Malabrigo Silky Merino sound utterly delectable. Interesting that they should be doing it, just as Manos comes up with the silk blend I ordered last week.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The other thing I buy on eBay, besides old Vogue Knitting Books, is postcards of Kirkmichael, Perthshire. This gem is coming up later in the week – I must trust you all not to rush forth and try to outbid me. The picture was taken from our side of the river, which is unusual for postcards. I haven’t figured out the vantage-point yet. It is interesting to see crops in the fields, and not a sheep in sight. The date is 1905, the seller says. I hope that means there’s a message on the other side. We prefer them with messages.

I had a good day with the Koolhaas, but I’ve flunked cabling-without-a-cable-needle. Mel, I knew you could do it, without being told, but I went back and had another try yesterday after I read your comment. Then I gave up.

I can do it, but it feels awkward, and the danger of losing a stitch induces anxiety, and I’m not sure the manoeuvres involved save time anyway. I am a slow and awkward knitter at the best of times. I’m using a darning needle, because it’s shorter than a cable needle, and now that I’ve given up, things are progressing nicely. I’m occupied with the second full pattern repeat.

I am afraid that Koigu sort of swallows the beautiful pattern, but it may emerge triumphantly at the end, and meanwhile the hat looks perfectly nice.

Today, back to the gansey.


Julie, that was an interesting remark, about Vogue expecting you to be able to figure out how to change sizes for yourself. I think I’ve read two contradictory editor’s-notes on this subject, in different issues: one saying that every stitch planned by our brilliant designers is sacrosanct, so face up to it and get gauge and don’t try to change anything; and another, nearer in date to the time they gave up and introduced multiple-sizing, suggesting ways of making alterations.

I hope to go through the wartime issues systematically soon, looking for things like that.

Thank you for the kind remarks about the Earth Stripe. The Fishwife got it right, I’m sure, about why I didn’t bond with it: the horror of knitting with Kidsilk Haze. It certainly wasn’t a question of pride recoiling from st st.

Cal, you misunderstand me and Kate on museum entrance: the idea was to check out the shop first, and proceed to pay the entrance fee if things look interesting. Although the idea of sneaking in through the shop has crossed minds occasionally…

You’re right that the way to proceed is to complain to politicians. My husband believes ardently that national and civic collections should be free, just as we take it for granted that access to education and libraries is free.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So here’s the Earth Stripe. I’m perfectly pleased it, but never have I felt so detached from a piece of freshly-done knitting. That’s it. Done. Fine. So what? It’ll be a Christmas present, and since we are expecting a confluence of people in Strathardle over the hols, I may be able to produce a picture of the new owner modelling it.

The darkness at the top is a failure of photography.
Here is a (more successful) close-up of the i-cord edging:

Now, on with life. I very happily cast on the Koolhaas last night. I’ve finished the ribbing and have just started the first pattern row. This morning I have been reading Grumperina's excellent tutorial on cabling without a cable needle. I’ve done it in the past, most memorably during a day-long class on Bavarian Travelling Stitches with Candace Strick. I think I’ll go on with the hat today, and leave the gansey for tomorrow.

I’m not much of a hat knitter, scared of getting the size wrong I think. They’re very useful little things, quick to knit, no thumbs or fingers, and they need replacing when they get lost. I ought to do more. I’ve started the Koolhaas on 120 stitches and it looks plausible.

Comments & Miscellany

Kate, your idea of approaching a museum through the gift shop is a good one. My husband profoundly disapproves of entrance fees for public museums. We cough up happily enough for special exhibitions. But I fear Britain is off by itself with free entry.

You’d all enjoy the remarkable story of the Stashhaus cats, I think. The girl has got that authentic, sweet tortoise-shell-and-white face. And, yes, Stashhaus, rationing went on for a long time after the war. I had a meat ration book when I first came here, in 1953. By then the ration was pretty generous and price was the stronger disincentive. By the following year, when I came back (as it proved) to stay, rationing was over.

Shandy, you’re right about lisle stockings. I had completely forgotten them. Can you still get them? I can remember them on the spindly legs of unattractive maiden ladies.

My husband has been reading the recently-published letters of the remarkable Mitford sisters. I got it for him when he was in hospital a while ago. Yesterday he showed me this, from Diana in Holloway Prison in September, 1940, to her sister Pamela. (Diana was a fascist and I think her incarceration was to do with her politics. Her letters are wonderfully British-upper-class throughout the ordeal.) “Have you seen the dress I knitted for myself? Would you like me to make you one?"

I wonder if one was allowed to have the Vogue Knitting Book in prison? They’re strong on knitted dresses at that date. Everything, in those days, was one-size-only. You had to be shaped like the Duchess of Windsor, or bad luck. But the Mitford girls were shaped like that. Multiple-sizing came in just after the war.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

OK, the knots on the Earth Stripe are tied, the decision not to fringe the ends is firm, and today I hope I will proceed to pinning-out-and-spritzing. Photograph tomorrow, if so. Then on to the happy task of re-casting the Koolhaus pattern for cashmere Koigu. It’s written for a heavier yarn. (Jared’s pattern in the IK holiday issue)

“Knitting New Scarves”

The same problem, not serious, will apply when I get my silk blend Manos and proceed to choose a scarf for it – most of the patterns in the book are written for heavier yarns. Grumperina has finished knitting “Drifting Pleats” (which the author says is “the most challenging pattern in the book”) – it’s gorgeous. She used this yarn. I sort of have my eye on “Easy Wave”, which could be widened, but the Drifting Pleats are tempting.

Finishing the i-cording meant that the dp’s therein employed were freed to go back to the Linked Rib, and I added a bit to it yesterday.

Odds and Ends

Stashhaus, that’s a good idea, to visit the Churchill War Rooms. We often go past on our bus, on the way to the National Gallery. I’d love to see them, but your idea that I could visit the shop without paying the distinctly stiff entrance fee is an excellent one. We go occasionally to the Imperial War Museum – a great place to take children; their gift shop is interesting, too.

Emily, I shared your disappointment at finding that cream-and-grey-and-red colourway of Manos Silk Blend out of stock. And there were a couple of others – oh! that green-y one – which I strongly fancied and which weren’t there. I consoled myself, in the end, with the yellow-y one at the bottom of the page. They couldn’t have sold out of so many shades already – the initial shipment must have been short. Have a nice time in Australia.