Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday morning.

There will be little to report on the knitting front, while this sock thing lasts. I am approaching the second heel of Ketki’s KF socks. Cathy in Beijing has been added to the list, which now numbers 10. The Fishwife asks mischievously whether if I knit each of them seven pairs, it would use up my sock-yarn stash. I wonder. Maybe I’ll count.

The gansey has been blocked. I fear it’s slightly too large – whose fault is that? – and comfort myself with the thought that that’s a good deal better than being slightly too small. Specifically, it’s a couple of inches longer than the target length. Blocking modified things a bit.


I’ve added the website for Helen’s mosaics to the list over there on the right. She says it’s not finished yet.

I’ve booked myself in to have lunch with a friend and neighbour in Kirkmichael tomorrow, on a bring-my-own-sandwich basis. It’ll save opening and closing the house, restoring and draining the water, for so few hours. I am aching to get started on the garden, but Duncan’s is not a funeral to turn up at with dirty fingernails, and afterwards I will be wearied by emotion and facing the drive home.

James rang up from Beijing the other day and I heard my husband say to him, of Duncan, that he was a true Christian soldier. My husband does not, as a general rule, go in for that sort of language.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Tomato, apple and celery cream soup is in Delia Smith’s basic “Complete Illustrated Cookery Course”. It doesn’t seem to be among the soups on her website. “Scotch broth” is basically neck of lamb and pearl barley with sturdy Scottish winter-type vegetables, carrot, onion, turnip, leeks, cabbage.

My poor husband meanwhile, who continues to improve, is crying out for Heinz Cream of Tomato and Campbell’s Chicken Noodle.

and Knitting

Jayne, thanks for the tip about Mirasol Hacho. Gorgeous, indeed. I’d worry about pure wool for socks, though, even with reinforced heels – my loved ones aren’t strong on tender, loving care. Maybe I can think of something else to use it for.

Helen quotes an interesting remark of Dufy’s in her latest post, about a conflict between form and colour. I think perhaps socks are a peculiarly good way to show off beautiful yarn.

Hannahknits asked about the pattern for the First Holy Communion veil I illustrated a couple of days ago. I just tried Googling, and was pleased to see that it came top of the list – I don’t think there’s another pattern out there. You’d still need the Kinzel book for the actual stitch pattern for the cross. I’d be very happy to provide any additional help I could.

The gansey

It’s finished. I’ll postpone the picture until I have it anesthetised upon a table (=blocked).

Saturday, March 29, 2008

A pathetic appeal for socks arrived from Thessaloniki yesterday, in the form of a comment on Thursday’s post.

I am re-thinking the immediate knitting future. I finished the right arm of Theo’s gansey last night – husband appreciably better, sat up for television all evening. I’ve ripped out the neck and started again. I had 32 stitches too many, if the neck was to be 40% of the original body number – this time I abandoned fancy thoughts of mitering and took Meg’s advice to decrease them all at once in the first round of ribbing, by purling two together as often as necessary.

It’s looking pretty good. And I may finish today!

It does seem rather perverse not to devote a few weeks to sock-knitting. I used to get six or seven pairs done a year, when my mother was alive and I made twice-yearly trips to the US to see her. Now it’s down to three or four. Not enough for all these people.

I had supposed that there wasn’t all that much demand from the ladies – Rachel wears socks a lot, I know, but I thought maybe the others didn’t. Ketki often goes barefoot around the house in the evening. She’s got beautiful feet. But the holes in the socks of hers which I have brought back from Loch Fyne to darn, testify to hard use.

If I were to sit down and knit socks for a while, I could actually use some of the beautiful yarn which is piling up around here from my membership in the Yarn Yard Sock Club. I could knit some more KF’s – ladies offer real scope for fun sock-knitting, as well as having smaller feet. I’ll do it!

I figure I’ll need to start the dinosaur sweater for my Games entry someone around the beginning of June – I hate to hurry. Thomas-the-Elder, for whom the original was knit, remembers it fondly and is pleased to hear that it is going to be reconstructed.

I appreciate the comments from people who have actually knit with the new Noro sock yarn. For the moment, I’m going to hold off.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Husband definitely better. His diet advanced as far as scrambled eggs last night. I have been enjoying myself making interesting soups. The best so far was an apple-and-celery number which he was too ill to attempt on Wednesday. Watercress today, I think, and perhaps a vegetarian Scotch broth. And I want to pursue on-line recipes for beetroot soup. The ones I've got are too complicated.


Jayne, the Noro sock yarn is very tempting, for Thomas or anyone else, but I am held back by something I read in Knitter’s Review to the effect that a) the soft twist means that the yarn isn’t terribly strong, despite the admixture of acrylic; and b) it doesn’t feel quite right on the hands as one knits, and stitches are hard to pick up for the gusset. Maybe I’d better look around on Google and see if I can find some more first-hand reports. Fishwife, weren't you going to try it?

I knit him a pair of socks when he reached man’s estate. It must have been one of the German yarns, Regia or Socka. He’s 23 now, and was wearing them last weekend on Loch Fyne. They looked well-used, but they were hanging in there.

Barbara, how I envy you a two-month-old granddaughter and another on the way! The Dream in Color Tulip jacket or the Rocketry Baby Cardigan! I wish I’d known that Lorna was going to get a girl.

(And, Lorna, I wish I could think of the gansey workshop – but Monday will be devoted either to getting my husband ready to be left behind, if I go to Tuesday's funeral alone, or packing up both of us for the journey north.)


Now that I have identified the problem – the need to have people about when I knit – I think I may be able to transcend it. In any event, I finished the B,H,O and got as far as the wrist ribbing on the second sleeve of Theo’s gansey, so the end is firmly in sight. The neck is too big and has to be re-done, but that’s it.

When the day comes for the Great Photograph, I hope Theo will be able to tell his photographer to keep clicking, so that we can have a picture of Barack inspecting the initials as well as the statutory mutual-grin one.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I made an unexpected discovery about myself and knitting yesterday – I’ll save it for the end.

We’re moving on. My husband’s trouble is not flu but an abscess in his mouth. [Vindicating yet again that fine fellow, William of Occam, whose approach to life’s problems was, Don’t look for two explanations where one will do. My husband had mentioned toothache at the beginning, but wasn’t in the sort of agony I associate with abscesses so I sort of forgot about that in the face of his general debility.]

The dr prescribed so fierce a dose of antibiotics that it completely flattened him, insofar as he wasn’t completely flattened already. I reported developments to our dentist by telephone, and was astonished when the junior partner came to see us. He has smoothed out the antibiotic dose and recommended rinsing the mouth often with salty water. By evening blood sugars were down – they go haywire in times of illness – and I think the worst is probably over.

Meanwhile Julian phoned again and we talked about his father. It was about as good a death as one could ask for, except that one would have preferred it some other time, not just now, thanks. Duncan was my age. The funeral is on Tuesday (the anniversary of my mother’s death, as it happens) at a convenient time in the early afternoon. If my husband isn’t up to it, I can make a day trip. It will be at the little wooden Episcopal church where his first wife’s funeral was, and his second wedding.

As for knitting, I did virtually none yesterday, except for a round or two of jolly sock in the dr’s waiting room. What I discovered was, knitting is for me a social activity. Me, the least social of souls. I abandoned the Princess last November when my husband was briefly in hospital. I thought it was because stress didn’t allow that sort of concentration, but now I wonder whether I just didn’t feel like knitting because he wasn’t sitting there. When he was restored to me, I proceeded to Christmas knitting, thence to the gansey.

Sure enough, I did those initials wrong. Not only with the letters in the wrong order, but on the back of the sleeve. I think I’ve got it right this time.

I wondered a bit, over the weekend, why I bother to knit anything except socks. Thomas-the-Elder wants another pair; Rachel says her collection is going into holes [I’ll take darning equipment when we next go to London]; Ketki likes the look of the KF socks which will be hers. I tried to persuade Thomas to let me knit a pair like that for him, but no. They might do for a commodity dealer, but are a bit startling for a lawyer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

That picture is 25 years old. It shows a shooting party about to depart from the back door of our house in Kirkmichael: James, Alexander (in the moustache), Ed (in a Fair Isle sweater of my manufacture belonging, I think, to his wife Rachel), our tried and trusted friend Captain Duncan Ellin, R.N., and Duncan’s son Julian.

If memory serves, they didn’t hit anything.

Julian phoned on Monday, just after we got back from Loch Fyne, to say that his father is dead.

My husband isn’t very well – the kind of sub-flu, we think, which can afflict old people who have had their precautionary injection. We’ll get medical help today. I hope at the very least he will be well enough for me to leave him behind for a day and go up for the funeral.

It hasn’t been a good month.

We had a grand time over Easter, though.

Here are Alexander and Ketki’s sons, James in the Wallaby adaptation I knit for his birthday last year, Thomas in the new Araucania sweater which has turned out not as big as it should be. Their parents say that the boys are tall for their ages. I’ll have to aim higher next time.

Ketki, in her gansey.

Rachel, in her striped Koigu, roughly the design I mean to imitate, without stripes, in the pink Araucania sweater I have just cast on for myself in Kirkmichael.

And here’s what I got done – KF socks for Ketki. I cast the first one on, on the train to Glasgow on Friday. It shows what can be achieved, even by a slow knitter, in an idle and irresponsible weekend.

Friday, March 21, 2008


Great excitement.

I belong to “igoogle”. It is set up so that my Home Page, as well as offering me my mail, has boxes called “BBC News” (three headlines) and another called “Top Stories” (another three) before one goes on to “Word of the Day” (an appropriate ‘arduous’ this morning).

When I sat down at about half-past seven yesterday evening, this is what Top Stories looked like:

Top Stories

Jumping eagle ray kills boater off Florida Keys
Reuters - all 183 related »
John Edwards to appear on Leno
Washington Times - all 746 related »
Transcript: James Miles interview on Tibet
CNN - all 5699 related »

We’ve printed out the thing itself, for the archives. It was introduced with a picture of our hero from one of those modern-type hyper-rectangular television screens. His face was stretched so far sideways that, to coin a phrase, his own mother didn’t recognise him. The link still works, this morning. Compare with picture in sidebar.

Later in the evening, I got an email from Helen in Thessaloniki, on another topic altogether. It concludes: "In the middle of this when boys called me...James Miles is on GREEK television. Or rather on the BBC dubbed into Greek. So, so exciting."

I believe that when a Greek wants to say, “It’s Greek to me,” he says, “Chinese”, but I can’t verify that.


I’m within a round or two of the point where I plan to start knitting the initials BHO in seed stitch into the right sleeve of Theo’s gansey, and I am in something of a sweat about it.

My original thought was that I could do the chart and then turn the page upside down. I now see that that won’t work. Upside down or right side up, I must knit the initials in the order O,H,B because I am knitting from right to left and they will be read from left to right.

So can I just knit the chart from the left? That might work for O and H, which are symmetrical (both vertically and horizontally, but not bilaterally – thank you, you clever commenters). But what about B? That’s got to be facing one way or the other.

I remember being tortured by this problem when I was knitting a First Holy Communion veil, top-down, for Rachel and Kirsty Miles, James’ and Cathy’s daughters, with their initials on it. I went to bed one night convinced I had it wrong, and woke up the next morning to find that the Knitting Fairies had put it right in the night.

I’ve knit text into shawls several times, but I think that counts as bottom-up, as I’m knitting from the outer edge inwards and the lettering appears as it will be read.

I am glad to have a weekend off from this problem, and am looking forward to starting those new KF socks on the train to Glasgow this morning. Happy spring solstice weekend to all – snow is forecast here. Autumn solstice, for people in Kate's hemisphere. Back Tuesday, insh’Allah.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

James is back in Beijing with his family.

Another slow-witted morning.

I finished the patterning on Theo’s second sleeve and have started on the garter stitch band. Hey – barring disaster, and even allowing for re-doing the neck, I’m actually going to finish this puppy fairly soon. A picture tomorrow, before we go off for our Easter weekend on Loch Fyne. The forecast is for cold and rain and wind. I look forward to a log fire, my grandchildren, my knitting, my book (Ian McEwan, “Saturday”) and good food not cooked by me.

We’re going to Glasgow tomorrow, where the party will try to assemble at the Good Friday liturgy at Glasgow Cathedral in the afternoon.

I’ve been reading about mulesing on Ravelry. Jen, thank you for the link. For what it’s worth as a side-issue, the wool which grows on the sheep (Scottish blackface) which surround us in Kirkmichael is heavy and coarse and of little use for anything except carpet-backing. Now that carpets have gone acrylic and their manufacture has moved away from Scotland anyway, it’s of little use for anything, full stop. The sheep are reared for lamb chops.

But shearing is still necessary, as an animal-welfare measure; and has become a net expense rather than a source of income to many farmers.

I think I’ve got the Autumn Rose pattern ready for Ketki’s sweater, when I get to it. The requirement is not just that it be both vertically and horizontally symmetrical, but that it be unchanged when rotated 90 degrees, when rows become stitches and stitches become rows. There’s probably a word for that, but I don’t know it.

Beverly, thank you for untangling HALFPINT for me. (Have a Lovely Fantasy Project – I’ve No Time). I’ve thought of a safe place to keep it, too, in my electronic knitting Filofax.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Look at our thermometer! It moved!

We had a contribution yesterday – which I’ve matched – from blog-reader E.D. And she lives in Pennsylvania!

It was an particularly appropriate day, because of Obama’s speech about race. I thought it was remarkable. I'm glad you agree, Stash Haus. I feel thoroughly inspired and hopeful again.


This from his wife Cathy yesterday:

"The police came to move J*mes out of his hotel this morning, to a hotel outside the Tibetan quarter. Presumably so he doesn't get to witness the roundup of Tibetans following the Monday night deadline…. He says he's in a cavernous hotel in the middle of nowhere, with only the China Central Television crew for company. But he's glad to have some vegetables! Not something one would expect to hear from J*mes, but he's lived on fried rice and tsampa all week."

Elizabeth, the original point of all those asterisks – which have now become rather silly – was to prevent a Chinese official from Googling on “J*mes M*les Lh*sa” and learning from me that he was broadcasting all over the world whereas he had applied for permission to be in Tibet as the correspondent of a weekly magazine. Once he started appearing in print with a by-line, my caution was useless.


I’ve charted the initials BHO for the right sleeve of Theo’s gansey. I’ve done 13 of the 15 cross-overs on that sleeve: can’t really call them cables, when the columns of stitches never actually twist around each other. So I may finish the patterned part of the sleeve today.

The other thing I did yesterday was copy out the pattern for Eunny’s “Autumn Rose” circles in Simply Shetland 4 into Stitch and Motif Maker. This is the pattern I mean to use for the sweater which will carry it down the sleeves, knit sideways. But I find it’s not quite identical both ways – there are a few more stitches in the pattern than there are rows. I’m using S&MM to tweak it, clumsily, and I think it's working.

Thanks for the comments and links on mulesing. I’ll pursue them

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Fr David Gemmell

It was a good funeral. I got there nearly an hour early, and found the Cathedral nearly full. I got a seat behind a large pillar. Pretty soon they were standing in the side aisles and three-or-four-deep at the back. Then the stewards stopped letting people in, and the ones who had merely come on time had to listen (via loudspeakers) in the porch or the café or outside on the steps. Priests went out to them with communion in due course.

Someone, towards the end, had the wit to mention Christopher Wren’s epitaph, on his tomb in St Paul’s: si monumentum requiris, circumspice. If you want to see his memorial, look around you.

But – rather like President Kennedy’s death – it’s still hard to believe, now that all the fuss is over, that Fr David won’t be there next Sunday.

Miscellany, partly knitting-related

It’s one of those mornings when inspiration suddenly fails. This is the day when J*mes must leave Lh*sa; his permission expires. I’m sure I’m miles behind with commenting on interesting comments.

The new Knitty is up. I’ve provided a link to the pattern I like best. I won’t even think of knitting it, though, because the gauge is too heavy and the needles too big for my comfort. However, I hope somebody can explain the line in the introduction, “For those who prefer not to use wool due to the mulesing controversy…”

I just looked up “mulesing” in the OED, confident that I wouldn’t find it, but I did. I think essentially I’m probably on Mr Mules’ side, a fly-struck sheep being a pretty unhappy creature. I think I gather from the OED citations that merino sheep in particular have the sort of bottoms which can benefit (if that’s the word) from mulesing. (Merino sheep won't "do" in Britain.) I’d still like to know where the controversy rages. I could always google it…

Theo’s gansey progresses nicely. I must stop soon and chart the initials BHO in seed stitch. I think this is the moment to think and think again about knitting them top-down, and then chart them upside down, so that I can knit the chart from right to left and have it come out right.

Dorie, the thought of those chocolate crosses, as mentioned in your blog, will enrich my Easter no end. There’s no stopping the secularisation of Christian festivals – even Groundhog Day and Mother’s Day are examples – so it’s best not to worry about it. Does it happen to other religions?

I loved GW Bush’s green necktie on television last night, as he tried to reassure us about the collapse of the world’s financial systems. Nobody told him, then, that St Patrick’s Day had been transferred for this year to last Saturday, as it is never celebrated in Holy Week.

[Later: I was wrong about this, and the President was right. I knew that the feast had been transferred, and that Mrs Clinton had marched in a St Patrick's Day parade on the Saturday, so I assumed everybody had observed the transference. But no. It was celebrated yesterday in Ireland as well as the US -- and bugger Holy Week.]

Shandy, you’re right, I was thinking of knitting a child’s sweater of KF sock yarn, tempest-style for the body, stripes in the same colourway for sleeves. With the line-up for ’08 standing as it does, it’ll have to go onto the HALFPINT list. (Have A Lovely… Project…No Time: I can’t remember what the F or the I stand for.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

I will go to Fr David’s funeral today. The coffin was there at Mass yesterday. The Cardinal looked shattered. We went forward afterwards, with many others, to touch it, and came home in that state of extra-tiredness which is recognisably grief-induced.

No more J*mes on the radio. But I’m sure I heard his name as I was drifting in and out of sleep earlier this morning, I think with the news that he is on the front page of some newspaper, presumably the Times. I’ll investigate. [Later: he has a by-line on the front pages of both the Times and the Telegraph. There's glory!]

(Barbara M., thanks for your lovely comment. I so understand. When Helen and I get together, we sometimes find ourselves gossiping about the blog-writers we both read as if we actually knew the knitters involved.)

Stash Haus, I forwarded the link for the National Public Radio interview to Cathy in Beijing, just in case she didn’t have that one. Everybody, it’s worth following the link I’ve just provided to the Stash Haus blog, a) for a detailed discussion of what’s wrong with the character the Yarn Harlot calls the “Tiny Diva”; and b) for a picture of Hazel Carter herself. I suggested to Meg once that she re-publish that book in a solider format, but she said that Hazel prefers it this way.

Do you remember when Franklin offered a list of knit-related horror film titles, such as “Sorry, Wrong Dye Lot”? One of the very best was, “It Came from Lily Chin”.

Shandy, that is simply amazing news, that KF doesn’t see why anyone would knit socks. A tidbit to treasure. (Follow that link for a fuller account, with pics, of Shandy’s encounter with the great man.) I’m sure Tamar is essentially right, that sock-knitting doesn’t provide a proper canvas for the kind of thing he wants to achieve with knitting. I suppose it’s entirely possible that he’s never mastered four-needle knitting. It’s a slightly different pleasure.

But has he never worn a pair of hand-knit socks? Poor man!

I finished the pair I was working on last night, and have added them to my husband’s sock drawer which was beginning to look slightly depleted. Alexander, for whom they were originally intended, will have to wait.

I use slightly more than 100 grams for a pair of gent's socks, and have learned to buy only two balls and finish off the toes with something from the sock-odd-ball bag. In this case, you see the same colourway in stripey mode, left over from some socks I knit for Rachel when I first got hold of this yarn.

I didn’t get the next pair cast on last night, but that can be done on public transport on the way to Loch Fyne this weekend, if need be. They are to be another stripey pair in a bright colourway with lots of red in it, for Ketki. KF stripes are more fun than anything. The other mode, perhaps called “tempest”, as above, is fine, but less fun.

(You may have noticed that I have deleted two comments recently, on successive days. They were advertising – just in case you suspected salacious knitting-related items.)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The BB* has broadcast nothing at all directly from Lh*sa in the last 24 hours, so I was very glad indeed to get an email this morning from Cathy to say that she’s spoken to J*mes, and he’s still there, holed up in his hotel room, in high spirits. He’ll stay until Tuesday as originally scheduled – he’s there in some sort of perfectly above-board, approved-in-advance capacity but I dare say he chose his dates to coincide with the anniversary of the old uprising. She says that he says that the streets are empty except for the military.

It was wonderful, and sort of funny, to hear in the comments from people who have heard him on their radios.


Today’s Sunday-respite-from-the-gansey will be devoted, not to scarf, but to finishing the sock – a second sock – which I was knitting at the conference, and embarking on a new pair for Ketki. The pair I’m just finishing is, I think, the only colourway in Kaffe’s new range which is at all suitable for a man. The effect is sort of like camouflage. So it’s nice to have a woman next in the queue, and I’ll cast on a pair for her in Kaffe’s stripe-y mode and jolly colours.

We’re going to see them on Loch Fyne in the west next weekend. Rachel and her family are coming up. It’ll be fun, and I’ll need a sock to knit.

Now for a look at the rest of 2008 in view of recent events. (“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans for tomorrow.”)

Theo’s gansey: needs only another fortnight at the most, insh’Allah; it must be finished in time for the Democratic Convention in Denver in August

VK dinosaur sweater: I am fully persuaded to go ahead with that, thanks to your enthusiastic comments. The dinosaurs themselves stay the same size in all sizes, so I might as well aim for an eight-year-old, thinking of Fergus in Thessaloniki. It gets cold enough on Mt Pelion where they have a little house. I was very grateful for yarn suggestions, which I have bookmarked. And now that I’ve got almost everything photographed in Ravelry, I can browse stash without physical effort. But I don’t think there’s anything there. Must be finished by the fourth Saturday of August, Games Day.

Ketki’s Calcutta Cup sweater: must, at the very least, be started while the cup is still here in Edinburgh, and preferably started in Ought Eight itself. Ideally, finished then, too.

A swallowtail coat of a beautiful blue” (the Poet’s Coat from “Boho Baby Knits”): due late October-early November. I may swatch for that before I go on to anything else.

Princess shawl: I had hoped to do a lot more this year, and maybe even finish. That now looks unlikely, but I think I’ll put in a couple of weeks on it as soon as the gansey is on its way to Denver. I was greatly encouraged by your encouragement, Stash Haus, and I think I will incorporate the Calcutta Cup there, too. I thought of it two years ago, but then it was feared that Rachel’s daughters and prospective daughters-in-law would be put off wearing it at their weddings. So I worked for a while on a way to incorporate an elephant as a sort of nod to the cup, but couldn’t figure out a way to make one small enough, even at Princess-shawl gauge.

Now I think, what the hell. They don’t have to wear it if they don’t want to. They can knit their own Princesses if they prefer, with a commemoration of all the dozens of English Calcutta Cup victories.

(Tamar, I didn’t know the Pasold people had done any publishing. I’ll investigate.)

Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Ides of March

J*mes is I believe the only British or American journalist in Lh*sa at the moment, and we had an exciting time yesterday emailing and phoning each other to say we’d just heard or seen him on the BB*. He expects to be expelled at any moment, and telephone connections are pretty precarious today, but I heard him an hour ago, still there.

(Rachel just phoned to say he has an article on page 2 of today’s Times. I hope they haven’t cut it out of the Scottish edition.)

One of those family stories which dog his adult life concerns the time during our first or second summer in K*rkmichael when I lost track of him for a while, until a voice from the middle of the raspberry patch replied to my anxious calls, “I’m not here.”

Pasold knitting conference

I had a grand time yesterday. I spent time with Lindsay, the John Lewis Rowan lady, and met Natalie of the Yarn Yard at last. Liz Lovick was there, according to the participants’ list. I had a couple of unsuccessful shots at identifying her but ultimately failed.

As for the conference itself, the high point was undoubtedly Anne Sinclair from Fair Isle, talking about the history of Fair Isle and its knitting. Linda Newington from the Winchester School of Art, nervous because she had never made such a presentation before, gave a most interesting talk about the knitting material under her care.

Both Richard Rutt and Montse Stanley have donated substantial collections. Bishop Rutt’s donation (he’s still alive and well) includes an impressive shelf of Victorian knitting books. Montse Stanley (who sadly died young) collected fascinating knitted objects as well as books and patterns.

I gather that much of the material – although not the knitted objects or pattern leaflets – is included in the Special Collections section of the University of Southampton on-line library catalogue. I haven’t explored that avenue yet – I’d like to see the list of the Bishop’s books.

We agreed over lunch that the excellent collection belonging to the Knitting and Crochet Guild needs that kind of professional care.

The weakest part of the conference, to my taste, was the Women’s-Studies element. Lindsay’s husband, surveying the list of papers in advance, suggested a couple of other titles for us – “The Semiotics of Socks”, for example. It was a bit like that, at times.

The difference between contributors who did and didn’t themselves knit, was striking. Anne Sinclair, needless to say, was a knitter. So is her mother, now in her 80’s – the presentation concluded with a wonderful picture of a barrow-load of her grandchildren, all in wonderfully different Fair Isle sweaters.

As for knitting, all well here. I must be about half-way down the patterned part of Theo’s gansey’s second sleeve. Enough has been decreased that it’s speeding up. I nearly finished a sock at the conference yesterday. I hope for an over-view of the scene tomorrow, and some catching up with recent most helpful comments.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Scotland’s Calcutta Cup victory last Saturday has complicated my knitting schedule.

England and Scotland play for the Calcutta Cup once a year, and England usually win. It was made in Calcutta in the 19th century, and has an elephant on top, and cobras for handles. It is one of the oldest sporting trophies in the world. Scotland won in 2000. One of our grandchildren was born in that year – I knitted the cup into her Christening shawl.

Scotland won again in Ought Six, and that time I knit a sweater for Alexander.

It is more than a bit unexpected to have another victory so soon, especially as Scotland had been rubbish in their previous three matches in the '08 tournament (against France, Wales, and Ireland). I must certainly knit something this time. The alternatives, not exclusive, are to include a panel in the Princess shawl with both dates, ’06 and ’08 -- I was already working on it two years ago.

Or to knit a Fair Isle sweater for Ketki on the lines of her husband’s one. She’s the only possible candidate – Rachel lives in a nest of Englishmen of her own making, who wouldn’t like to see her wear such a thing. James and Helen and their spouses don’t know (or care) what the Calcutta Cup is. It would give me a chance to try what I think of as the Prince of Wales joke, where you choose a pattern which is symmetrical both horizontally and vertically. Then you can pick up the sleeve stitches at the shoulder and knit the pattern sideways (so to speak) down the sleeve, so that it looks as if it were cut from a single piece of cloth.

I meant to do that with Alexander’s sweater, and only realised when the knitting was fairly well advanced that it won’t work if you use more than two colours in the pattern.

A reference in Helen’s blog has sent me to Eunny Jang’s Autumn Rose pullover in “Simply Shetland 4”. I think that pattern could be tweaked into symmetricality, and like Helen, I like the idea of knitting something that looks circular. I wouldn’t attempt Eunny’s shape; I think you’d have to be 19, or seriously underweight, to wear that.

Today’s excitement, however, is the long-awaited knitting conference at the National Gallery, so I had better give some attention to breakfast now.

Fr David Gemmell

Thank you, commentators yesterday, for reading about Fr David on his webpage – it’s now back up. I was especially glad to hear from you, Mogs, who knew him. We will try to go to the funeral on Monday, but it won’t be easy to get in to the cathedral.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A week is a long time, full stop.

Fr David Gemmell died, a week ago today.

On Saturday, Scotland won the Calcutta Cup (=beat England at rugby).

I finished one Araucania sweater

and started another.

Fr David was a good priest, a good man, a good friend. He was of our children’s generation, young for dying. It took everyone by surprise, including David himself, who had gone to Barcelona with Fr Hugh to see a football match. (Celtic lost.) It was a great shock, as well as a great sadness.

You can learn something of the man here when the page goes back up. For now, the cathedral has exceeded its bandwidth limit, whatever that means. Skip the Cardinal, and read the recollections of the Man in the Pew.

I think I’ll leave it there, for today.

Friday, March 07, 2008

We’re going to K*rkmichael today, hoping to catch the snowdrops at Cambo with some old friends tomorrow. Back by Thursday at the latest – earlier if the weather is as awful as forecast.


Laure, I couldn’t figure out a way to email you privately, so here is an invitation to Helen’s show for everybody:

It ends on what is, in the Western church, Easter Monday. I don’t know how the Orthodox Easter falls this year. The three lines above the word "mosaics" are the address.

Countrymouse, here’s the dinosaur sweater, from VK Holiday ’87. I did a quick Google and couldn't find it -- maybe it's not famous after all. It deserves to be.

I was in John Lewis on Wednesday, refreshing my soul by looking at yarn, and wondered a bit where one would turn these days for a good range of washable DK yarn. Everything was fancy. That issue of VK is chock full of “superwash” pure wool. Does “superwash” exist any more?

Thanks to everybody for their comforting political comments. Mel must have posted his before he went to bed the night before. It is a link to this article. Theo said some of the same things in a private email later in the day – he’s not allowed to comment publicly, now that he’s working for the Democrats, but I don’t think an aunt-ly summary of the less contentious points will hurt. He thinks the testing by fire of the candidates can only be good, and points to some interesting examples, on both sides, of failed candidates who weren’t put through enough at the primary stage. He thinks the party will rally behind the winner all right.

And Mel’s link reminds us that, if one thing is more true than another in this vale of tears, it is that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

And a knitter made a contribution to our thermometer in the sidebar. I’ve matched it. She didn’t tell me, but the Obama people outed her by sending her email address to Theo, who “owns” the thermometer.

Another cheering thing about yesterday, unrelated to comments, is that Helen and I decided to sign up for a Rowan workshop on “finishing” at John Lewis at the end of May. I have long resolved to get to grips with mattress stitch – this could be it!

See you next week.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Anything I can say has presumably been said better by hundreds of pundits in the last 24 hours. I am profoundly depressed. I still think Barack Obama may well win the nomination; it’s not that. I’m with Kate and Kathy and Mary Lou (comments yesterday) – it’s the prospect of weeks of increasingly savage campaigning, an acrimonious convention in Denver in August, and a party going forward into the big election bitter and divided. I don’t see how this scenario can be avoided. Southern Gal, you should worry too.

Senator McKean and the POTUS – I gather he likes to use that excruciating acronym of himself – will have had much to smile about over lunch in the White House yesterday.

Just to complete the gloom, Justin Webb floats the idea of Obama for VP, after he loses Pennsylvania. It would be to betray everything he has been campaigning for so far.

I even bought myself some chocolate yesterday. I never buy chocolate.

Thank God for Knitting...


Country Mouse, I’ll try to scan the picture of the dinosaur sweater today and post it for you tomorrow. I have a vague feeling that it’s one of VK’s famous ones.

Our daughter Helen in Thessaloniki has taken up mosaics. She recognizes that it’s a form of sublimated knitting. She’s got a show on at the moment, if anyone happens to be in northern Greece.

I’ve been thinking about the new Noro sock yarn. So have most of us, I suspect. When I went back to K1 Yarns on Tuesday, I asked the lovely proprietress about it, since she’s got lots of Noro. She doesn’t know whether she’s going to stock it – her supplier doesn’t have it yet. She said she’s heard bad things about its durability.

This morning, I got this from the Knitter’s Review, which would seem to confirm Katherine’s caution. But oh! beautiful.

I knit on yesterday, on Theo’s second sleeve. After whizzing round and round the cuff of the first one, it is hard to revert to the circumnavigation of a sleeve top, vaster than empires and more slow. However, I’ve got rid of the gusset. Future decreases will eat into the actual sleeve, and soon it will seem to go faster. One thing to be cheerful about, anyway.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


That was a disappointment. My feeling this morning is not, I could murder a glass of cider; but, I’d reely reely like to spend ten minutes at (Both sources of restoration currently embargo-d by Lent.) Aristotle, in the “Politics”, never claimed that democracy was ideal, just that “the principle that the multitude ought to be supreme rather than the few best,…though not free from difficulty, yet seems to contain an element of truth.”

Back to the real world...

...of knitting. Theo’s second sleeve has progressed, and the whole garment, lying casually about between sessions, has assumed a rather satisfactory aspect. Of course when it’s finished I’ll block it meticulously with tape measure in hand, but for now it looks like a sweater that might fit Theo, neither, “oh, dear, far too big”; nor “are you sure that’s going to be big enough?”

Yesterday, restored to full vigour, I went back to K1 Yarns. When dear old HK Handknits was going down, I bought a bagful of a dusty pink Araucania in the closing sale, all they had. My current thought for the Next K*rkmichael Sweater is something like this one on the left, which I knit for Rachel two years ago.

That’s Koigu, but I think the Araucania gauge will be close enough. (Famous last words.) I like K*rkmichael knitting to be easy, to sooth the weary spirit and make few demands on the intelligence, after a day toiling in the fields. My reference books agreed that the amount of yarn I had bought was not quite enough.

K1 has the yarn. The shade looks identical – Araucania doesn’t go in for dye lots. It’s said to be a “solid” colour -- the skeins of the earlier purchase are deliciously blotched, this new one less so. (Old on left, new on right, in the picture.) But if I use the new one for the ribbing, all should be well. I had thought to use for that purpose left-over browny Araucania from the child’s sweater now drawing to a close, but feared that it would look too much like the expedient it was.

I’ve hauled out the old VK’s and contemplated possible patterns for this year’s Games – “pair of slippers” and “sweater with motif”. The Turkish slippers are simply too fiddly – back-and-forth colour knitting over too few stitches. I’ve searched Ravelry for “Turkish slippers” with the same result. I’ve searched Ravelry for “slippers” and found a possibility.

The dinosaur sweater knit for Thomas-the-Elder decades ago, on the other hand, still looks sensational, if I have the patience to tackle it again.

This topic will recur.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Remember the Alamo

Here we are at the OK Corral, to mix metaphors.

I posted this comment on Joe’s blog the other day, anent some conversation about how hard the press can be on Mrs. Clinton:

“The English magazine "The Economist" has been covering the primary campaigns in detail from the start. I remember a piece from Nowheresville, Iowa, way back then.

Mrs. Clinton's headquarters were under orders not to talk to the press -- they wouldn't even tell the poor Englishman where he could get some lunch.

The Obama headquarters smiled, sat him down, gave him coffee, and provided him with the address of a local bank manager, an Obama supporter, whom he could interview for his story.

Journalists are human. Treat them like that -- and win a few primaries -- and you'll find them speaking kindly of your candidate.

This is a small example of the meticulous attention to detail that Obama's campaign has shown throughout. I think it augurs well for his ability to run an administration.”

I mentioned the anecdote from the Economist to my sister at the time. She said the Clintons are notoriously suspicious of the press.

We’ll have plenty of politics tomorrow. Enough for now.


The visit to K1 Yarns was a great success, marred only by my feeling not-well which was due, I fear, to an excess of Joy on Laetare Sunday. I’ll have to remember to be careful on Easter day.

Helen and I expected to find the Fishwife good company. She exceeded expectations. I keenly look forward to meeting her again soon. She is a serious vegetable gardener, amongst other accomplishments. I bounced some questions off her and got some interesting tips.

And the shop is great – highly recommended. A great collection of yarns, assembled by one who knows and loves and knits them. (She was there.) No Rowan in sight. She makes a specialty of yarns produced in Scotland. Forget scratchy Harris tweed in a selection of earth colours – I bought these two skeins of lace-weight cashmere and silk from “old maiden aunt”.

(Theoretically, ownership of “Knitting New Scarves” justifies expenditure on two skeins of any beautiful yarn: “I’ll knit a scarf.” In fact, the book doesn’t have any lace weight patterns. I’ll have to fall back on Victorian Lace Today.)

And there’s a table, and comfortable chairs. British LYS’s were very slow to add that feature.

I was still feeling a bit fragile last night, and was tempted to retreat to sock-knitting. But Senator Obama needs me, I feel, in this moment of crisis, so I picked up the rest of the stitches for the second sleeve of Theo’s gansey and started downwards.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The weekend newspapers we read were full of Senator Obama’s glories and of threnodies for Senator Clinton’s career as a presidential candidate, much as they were in the few happy days between Iowa and New Hampshire. The British press love Obama, as they did Adlai Stevenson in ’52, and much good it did him.

The pundits, including her husband, mostly seem to think that Mrs Clinton has to win both Ohio and Texas in order to go on. I disagree, for what it’s worth – she’s already won a lot of major states, and she’s way ahead in the polls in PA. I think a win for her in either Texas or Ohio will be enough to prolong the agony.

But that’s tomorrow. Today’s excitement is that a hand-picked team of key Edinburgh knitting bloggers – me and Helen and the Fishwife – are going to check out the new LYS, K1 Yarns, in the Grassmarket.

So I’d probably better be brief here, and get on with the morning.

I finished the first sleeve of Theo’s gansey last night, and flunked the sewn cast-off. I got as far as Step Four: “With the yarn needle, slip the first knit stitch knitwise. Insert the yarn needle purlwise into the next knit stitch. Drop the first purl stitch from the left needle. Pull the yarn through.” I did an ordinary cast-off and am now carefully picking up stitches for the second sleeve.

I found this time-waster on Mel’s blog this morning. He can take on 29.


Sunday, March 02, 2008

Laetare Sunday

This is the point in mid-Lent when we sit down beside the road and relax. My liver is in for a surprise, after three and a half weeks – it seems longer – of idling about in there. ("Laetare" means "Rejoice". It is an imperative form, despite its infinitive appearance. It was the first word of today's liturgy, in the Good Old Days.)

The gansey sleeve is now within an inch or less of the finish. I’m going to attempt a sewn cast-off. The sudden declivity at the end looks a bit odd, but I think is within the range of the permissible. I was pleased with the way the remaining stitches gather in to the cuff – I had to decrease from 94 to 64 stitches in the first round of ribbing, yet it doesn’t seem to look strangled or lumpy.

I was interested in your remark, Mary Lou, about how the sleeves often come out too long for you when you knit a dropped-shoulder design.

And yes, Kate, I will undo the whole neck – an evening’s work, two at worst.

Helen in Thessaloniki, my daughter and severest critic, said of my knitting at some point in the last decade, “You’re getting better.” I think that’s true to a slight extent, and the reason is that I rip things out more frequently, and the reason for that is that I am in touch with a whole world of knitters on the internet.

I have said before, but it can’t be said too often, that the really astonishing thing about Elizabeth Zimmermann is that she taught all those things about knitting which we now take for granted, in the face of an unbelieving world and without the support of the network which we, by now, also take for granted. In the early days, she seems to have worked without the support of any knitting friends who could reassure her that she was right. A truly remarkable woman.

And on a related theme – I looked in on Meg’s Kliban hat knitalong the other day (you have to scroll down). It’s too complicated for me just now, with the weight of Tuesday’s primaries on my shoulders, but I think I’ll print it out to keep. There’s lots of good advice there, and I’d like such a hat. I wandered away from that page and bought some books – I’ll tell you about them when they turn up.

I’d like gloves like Jared’s, too, especially if they’re as quick to knit as he says. Once, long ago, one of the knitting categories for the Games was “men’s gloves”. I laboriously knit a pair in a droopy brown wool, and resolved, never again. I won first prize, too – because no one else entered. They furnished me with a Christmas present for my father that year (I very much doubt if he ever wore them) and I haven’t thought of knitting gloves since, true to my vow. But I love Kureyon, and I have some in the stash, and if Jared can do it in a weekend…

MaryJoO, I have neglected your question about cotton. Spring or no spring, I prefer wool. Cotton always seems heavy and inert by comparison.

Saturday, March 01, 2008


Janet, I’ll try to tell you about how to get Google Analytics code into your blog, although what I know really only applies to Blogger. I’ll put it at the end, because it’s pretty boring.

Cazzab, where in Scotland are you thinking of coming back to? Anywhere but Cowdenbeath, is my view. I love Scotland, as you will have gathered, and would live nowhere else. House-prices are scary, but except in Edinburgh they’re sagging a bit at the moment. Where did you live before? Where’s your mother?


The big excitement on the gansey-knitting front yesterday was not neck-hole-size but sleeve length. On the former topic, though, I consulted Meg on Elizabeth’s Percentage System (a bit late in the day, you may feel) and found, as you say, Ron, that she recommends 40%. She also says that if you have too many stitches at that point, you can get rid of them in the first round of ribbing by purling two together from time to time.

So eventually I’ll take the whole neck out and start again on those lines.

I have been worrying increasingly of late that the sleeve seemed to be getting too long. I let Theo get away after the Games last summer without measuring him, so he had to take the dimensions of a favourite sweater himself. 25”, he said, for the sleeve seam.

Yesterday – again, a bit late in the day – I got out Vicki Square’s “Knit Great Basics”, an invaluable book entirely devoted to schematics and basic text in which you slot the numbers provided into the blanks according to your gauge and desired size.

And sure enough, she said 25” for the sleeve seam of an XL gent’s sweater.

BUT, on the preceding page she had one with a dropped shoulder – that is, where the sleeve increases from the cuff to its maximum width and then is cast off in a straight line. That is effectively what the gansey has, although the sleeve is being knit from the top down. And for that style, Square says 20” for the sleeve seam.

Meg was useless. “Desired sleeve length.” I got out a sweater of my husband’s – he has nothing like Theo’s breadth of chest, but at least both of them have a man’s long simian arms. His sweater was a size L. I measured not the sleeve seam but the entire distance from mid-neck to cuff, and decided, after a bit of agonising, on 21” for Theo’s seam.

Which, of course, solves the is-there-enough-yarn anxiety at a stroke.

So I’ve finished the patterning of the first sleeve, knit the separator band, and embarked on the plain st st. I’m whizzing round, decreasing every other round – there will still be some extra stitches to be bloused into the cuff – and having a grand time. The weekend, barring disaster, should see the sleeve finished.

I will persevere tomorrow, and not switch to Sunday-scarf. I don’t hear any fat ladies singing. I think Ohio is going to be the crux of the whole thing. But if my judgment on Obama is to be measured by my judgment on Knitting New Scarves (Donna’s comment yesterday), we’re in with a chance.

An Old Woman's Advice on HTML

Janet, in Blogger these days you can click on “Layout” in the opening screen. That takes you to a page where you can “Add and Arrange Page Elements”. Click on “Add a Page Element” and, from the choices offered there, choose “HTML/JavaScript”. Just paste the code provided by Google Analytics into the box there. You don’t need a title, since this won’t show up for your readers.

None of this probably applies to Typepad. The worst-case-scenario is that you have to get hold of the HTML code for your entire blog-layout, that’s probably possible, and figure out for yourself where to paste the new code. It will go somewhere in the sidebar section. In Blogger’s previous incarnation, before things got so easy, I had to get Alexander to do it for me.