Friday, June 27, 2008

Look what Elizabeth found! It’s a video of last year’s Games! It captures, amidst much else, the essential tedium of the day. Sam the Ram makes a brief but easily-recognisable appearance. I’m there too, later on, very briefly, in a group of prize-winners. I’m holding the Glen Isla shield, which unfortunately obscures the image of Dolores on my sweatshirt. My granddaughter Rachel is standing in front of me, to my right (the viewer’s left), with the Mandy Duncan Cup which she won for the best entry in the children’s sections.


Although it's a bit disappointing that none of the rest of our party appears. There were dozens of us, literally, as it was our Golden Wedding celebration. The camera must have been deliberately avoiding us. In the opening sequence, as the local baronet leads the pipe band over the bridge, you can see the old Kirkmichael Hotel behind him. It is now self-catering apartments and we filled the entire building, that weekend.

Health-and-safety will no doubt soon forbid baronets to go about with drawn swords.

All went well yesterday on the dusting-and-bed-making front. All that remains to do is the spare room itself, and a quick passage of a mop over the kitchen floor wouldn’t come amiss. Then attention can be turned to food.

Thinking of that reminded me that it would be nice to make Jamie Oliver’s “Pappardelle with wild rabbit, olives and marjoram” one evening. That depends on success in the field. Rabbits should be rather tasty just now, the spring litters grown to rabbit-hood but not yet tough and stringy. I can do all the herbs from my garden, too, but I don’t grow olives or pappardelle.

Renewed thanks for encouragement with the dinosaurs. They went well yesterday, too – I’m halfway up the next pair. If today affords normal knitting time, I might even finish them.

I heard promptly from Get Knitted, and my “Franklin’s Panopticon” yarn is ordered. It won’t be soon, she warned me – they’re not due to send an order to Lorna’s Laces for a while, and Lorna’s Laces are never quick to fill an order. If, as you suggest, Angie, the yarn won’t actually be out for a while, that’s just as well. I’m happy to wait, anyway. I am inspired by the knowledge that it’s on its way probably more than I would be if it were actually coiled around my ankles.

If all goes well, my grandson Alistair will be bedding down here in the computer room tomorrow morning, and then we’re all off to Strathardle. So perhaps no blog for a while. See you soon.

P.S.: I found this in the NY Times yesterday, in my insatiable reading of presidential-campaign stories: “Perhaps the thorniest question — what to do about Bill Clinton, who friends say continues to refight the bitter primary fight — has yet to be raised by either side, advisers said.”

“who friends say” is right; it shouldn't be “whom”. Not many people know that – I’ve seen that construction wrong in the Economist.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I made a good start yesterday at dusting little-used parts of the house and setting up beds. Much remains to be done. They’ll be here tomorrow. I also made a grid on a piece of waste paper and wrote “chicken” in the square representing Sunday lunch. It’s a start. I’ll get some salmon tomorrow and take it to Kirkmichael on Saturday to be smothered in sorrel sauce that evening – that’s another square done. And make some soup to welcome them off the plane from China.

Did you see Karen’s wonderful comment yesterday? – not only did she provide a link to a Jamieson’s page where you can see the Trellis Jacket I have in mind for Franklin’s Panopticon yarn, but she also did the arithmetic and figured out how much I’d need. I ran the problem past Ann Budd’s “The knitter’s handy guide to yarn requirements” this morning – Helen gave it to me as a first-foot present – and got a very similar answer. Karen was calculating weight, Budd works in yardage, which I averaged-up a bit to allow for the fact that garter stitch consumes a lot of yarn. So the coincidence was encouraging.

I added a skein to-be-on-the-safe-side, and emailed Get Knitted to see if they can get it for me. So that’s a step taken.

Having mentioned the Baby Surprise yesterday, I remembered that there is an adult version. I can’t find the Woolgathering offprint which I know I own, but it doesn’t matter because it’s in “The Opinionated Knitter”. I think the Trellis Jacket will be neater.

Thank you for the kind words about the dinosaurs. Yesterday I got the next separator-pattern done, and started in on a new set of legs. I hate the separator-pattern the most. It looks so easy, but three of its seven rows are three-colour and proceed with agonising slowness.


I haven’t mentioned the Vogue Knitting Book for a while, not because I’ve lost interest but because EBay has been most unforthcoming. Number Nine is on offer at the moment – 380039805704. I’ve got it. I’m sure it’ll sell for peanuts since I’m not in the contest. The seller says “probably 1940’s”, forgetting, I suspect, what happened in Britain during that decade. It is in fact autumn, 1936.

I have mentally promised Senator Obama a nice donation when one of the five I’m still missing appears – and now that I’ve made the promise in public, maybe I'll see some action.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Shows what reinvigoration combined with tooth-gritting can do for you: there will be 16 dinosaurs in the end, and I’ve now finished six of them. They go quite fast once feet get merged into bodies.

I don’t think my repugnance for this job has anything to do with the Home Industries Tent judges, Stash Haus. After winning the Glen Isla Shield last summer with Sam the Ram, there are no more heights for me to scale. And I haven’t much hope anyway, this year, because the schedule clearly says “sweater with motif”, not “sweater with 16 motifs”. They tend to stick to the letter of the law.

But one feels one is doing one’s bit for the community by competing – it’s a pretty small affair. At the very, very least, the more entries there are, the more the winner will have the satisfaction of beating. I’ll enter “three potatoes” and “collection of four vegetables” in the same spirit.

Yesterday’s internal monologue, apart from questions of what to feed all these people so soon to be with us, concerned what to do with Franklin’s Panopticon yarn. The Bog jacket? A shawl? (My husband said once, of me in one of my shawls, that it made me look like a crazed social worker.) Socks, no, too small. For a couple of hours I settled on the idea of an EPS sweater in sock-weight yarn, decide about the yoke when I get there.

But I began to worry about how I would look in such a garment. Just because it looks great on Dolores – see link – doesn’t mean it would do the same for me. That’s why these super-models earn so much money.

The current fave is the Trellis Jacket from Jamieson’s Shetland Knitting Book 3. (There is some good design in those books, according to me.) I don’t dare show you for fear the copyright police would come round, but the general idea is mitred garter stitch knit side to side. Think Baby Surprise. I did a day of learning how to use handpainted yarns at Camp Stitches once, with a designer whose name you’d recognise if I could remember it. Ginger Luters? Maybe. And what I remember is, get it off the horizontal. It’s good advice.

The one in the book is striped with lots of different colours. I’d use the shape and let the Panopticon yarn do what it wanted.

Maybe I’ll go ahead and work out quantities and get in touch with Get Knitted. This jacket would required worsted-weight which would get the job done relatively briskly.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I feel newly invigorated. Let’s hope it lasts.

I must! have! some Franklin’s Panopticon yarn, preferably at once. Of the UK stockists, Get Knitted looks promising, and is already on my Yarn Sources list. I’ll write to them today. Sock weight? Lace weight? Or even worsted? I’ll have to decide that question first. But it’s a most exciting proposition.

“Vatid, Troid, Vamsad” has turned up. It looks interesting, although a bit of a slim vol for the price. My husband bought a book last week about public art galleries in 19th century Britain of which the same can be said, and he’s pleased to have it. I’m not worried. I'll report more fully later.


It was odd and very pleasant yesterday to spend the day remembering what I had been doing fifty years ago. Rachel was born quite early in the morning. I was back in the ward in time for a great big plate of sugarless porridge. I eat it every morning these days, but found it entirely unmanageable that day.

Someone came around selling newspapers. I bought the Express, and have it still. This was the horoscope for my new little person, and it still seems to me fully worthy of the Delphic Oracle.

(And perhaps a bit odd – a significant number of Express readers will have had birthdays that day, and some of them will have been memorable birthdays, 21st’s or whatever. The astrologer hadn’t thought it through.)

I was interested to see from the Express, when I got it out yesterday, that the 23rd of June fell on a Monday in 1958, as I thought I remembered. Fifty year intervals couldn’t always work out so neatly.

The Beijing Mileses will be here soon, for a briefish holiday. They can’t come for the Games – the 4th Saturday in August, as always – because they conflict with the wretched Olympics. Ketki is about to take her sons to NY to reacquaint them with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins they haven’t seen for awhile. Alexander, temporarily bereft, plans to join us in Strathardle for a couple of nights to see his brother, and Rachel has happily decided to come too. It’ll be fun. We hope to go out and have a delicious country hotel lunch as a belated birthday party.


I have established the legs of the first pair of dinosaurs without further mishap. I don’t think I can abandon this project, so the gritting of teeth is the only alternative. But perhaps I will cast all caution to the winds and knit something with Franklin’s Panopticon next.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Today is Rachel’s 50th birthday.

We’ve had another contribution (and another match) for our thermometer – you know who you are, and it was much appreciated.

Stash Haus, thank you for your sympathy about my knitting slump. It happened again yesterday – I finished the border pattern and embarked on the first set of dinosaurs. The tyrannosaurus is taller than the other one (stegosaurus?) so it starts three rows in advance. I did those rows, and discovered as I started attaching yarn for the other dinosaur that I had reversed the main colour – started the tyrannosaurus in the colour meant for the other one.

I toyed with the idea of incorporating this switch as a Design Feature, thought better of it, and ripped the three rows out. But I can’t take much more of this.

I think a lot of my current trouble stems from knowing what I’m going to do next, and next after that. One of the pleasures, for me, of one-thing-at-a-time knitting, is turning over in my mind what’s coming next, and in the final days getting yarn out, or ordered, or whatever is necessary. I am always surprised when I read – it often happens – of knitters who finish something and don’t know what to do next.

But at the moment, I’m boxed in.

Whatever. These troubles are minor compared to the horror of moving house. Stash Haus, you have all my sympathy. I like the sound of the place you’re going to. Now that we’ve got the internet, who needs traffic lights?


I actually floated the idea, when I was a more active member of the Heirloom Knitting group than I am now, that Sharon might lead a group to Shetland. She said she wanted to stay home and work on her next book. Would there be some way to apply gentle pressure? The trouble would be, that dozens of people would want to go and she would soon find herself a full-time tour guide. But it’s a dream worth dreaming.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

I think I am sinking deeper and deeper into the Slough of Despond, at least as far as knitting is concerned. But Mel and David are safely married, and the Drummond Place Garden Party was all the jollier for taking place in the rain. I knit only a row or two yesterday – I’m half way through the patterned border at the bottom of the back of the dinosaur sweater. I am of two minds as to whether to continue today, or knock off for some pleasant scarf-time.

Two of the newspapers we read celebrated the solstice yesterday with articles about Unst, the most northerly inhabited point of the British Isles. Neither mentioned knitting, which is roughly like writing about Champagne without mentioning sparkling wine, but one was good enough to cut out and keep anyway. There used to be a radar station there, watching for Russians. When it finally closed, the island lost half its population.

I strongly suspect I’ll never get to Lake Van, or to the Sicilian village which inspired the fictional Donnafugata, but I still cling to the hope of seeing Lerwick one day, and going on to Unst.

We’ve had another donation to our Obama-thermometer, after a long drought, and I’ve matched it.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Longest Day

If I’ve got it right, today is David’s and Mel’s wedding day. I wish them every happiness. And I'm looking forward to dozens of pictures, and news of whether or not that final kilt ho’ went through the ceremony toe-less.

Vegetable- and fruit-growing

No disasters, plenty of disappointment.

Our beloved Keswick Codlin has set a very poor crop of apples – my first thought was bee-less-ness, but I’m sure my husband is right to blame frost. Although the vegetables, a few yards away, are fine, except for four or five decapitated beans. The weather forecast last night, after we got back, mentioned the possibility of frost in highland glens. For a planet in the grip of global warming, it’s rather late in the month.

Some caterpillar has stripped the gooseberries. I love gooseberries, and am useless at growing them. American Gooseberry Mould is the usual enemy. I am also absolutely useless at spring onions, which are meant to be as easy as radishes. They will not grow for me.

Almost everything else is getting on rather nicely. I tasted some orach as I was thinning it, and was pleasantly surprised. Most “unusual” vegetables are somewhat bitter. Orach isn’t, it fact it’s rather interesting.

However, unlike CT, London, – where Rachel’s husband Ed has started bringing artichokes home from the allotment – and Musselburgh, there’s nothing to eat yet except lettuce. We ate some of that.

The greyish leaf behind the lettuce is an opium poppy. They alight on cultivated land as unbidden and as enthusiastic as pussy cats seeking a lavatory. I have pulled up dozens, but I always leave a few because they are so beautiful.

Sorrel is doing splendidly, and I am ready to venture on a sauce. I wondered whether to bring some back here, but the weekend promises to be mildly fraught, so I decided in favour of taking north next time whatever is to be coated with the sauce.


I’m within four or five rounds of finishing the ribbing of the Araucania rugby shirt. I probably said that last time.

Here in Edinburgh, I discovered last night that I had ribbed too far on the front of the dinosaur sweater, on too many stitches. I had cast on the number I was supposed to have after the post-ribbing increase row. This is typical of the slapdash way I have approached this entire project. I ripped it out and started again, and am now starting the pattern band underneath the first set of dinosaurs.

Today's knitting will be severly curtailed by the need to put in an appearance at the annual Dr*mmond Pl*ce Garden Party, unless the Good Lord gets me off with rain again this year.

The need for the swallowtail coat of a beautiful blue has been postponed from early October to a vague Somewhat Later. Maybe I’ll slip in a month of Princess-knitting when these blasted lizards are finished.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

One more day here, after all – my husband wants to finish off a piece of work. The weather is a bit grim this morning, although dry here in Edinburgh – the forecast is slightly better for the rest of the week. Three times in the last few days, the national weather forecaster has mentioned the possibility of ground frost here or there, with the insouciance of a man who does not try to grow tender vegetables in Perthshire.

How many of us seem to be vegetable-growers! I don’t think you have to cost in your labour, Fishwife: the question is, how much can your unpaid efforts ease the family budget? Looking at your inspiring pictures, I’m not surprised that your answer is, quite a bit. And considering that we can give ourselves 50p credit or so every time we sprinkle parsley or chives on something, maybe it adds up to more than I think.

But we all agree that the real point is the sheer happiness of doing it, with the wonderful taste a close second. I heard an “old Chinese saying” once to the effect that if you want to be happy for a day, get drunk; for a week, kill a pig; for a month, get married; for life, make a garden.

Here are my doorstep peas – a good number of pods forming. These are real peas, not mange-tout, so I’ve got to keep them watered and hope they plump up.

(and the picture seems acceptably sharp: a relief.)

Sheep, etc.

I managed to miss all the excitement about Shrek the Sheep, Moorecat. (I am very well informed about the American presidential election – most of the rest passes me by.) Thank you for that.

Donice, it’s good to meet someone who has seen “The Edge of the World”. Sharon Miller agrees with you that it’s a good film – with knitting, I gather, although no lace – and it’s available on DVD, she says. I horrified Helen of Chronic Knitting Syndrome fame the other day by telling her that we don’t have a DVD player.

…and knitting

Tamar, yes, Sharon says a good deal more about the gathers. The point is that instead of mitering the corners of the borders in a traditionally-shaped Shetland shawl, you knit them straight (working in from the edging) and then in the final rows, before starting the centre, you decrease a quarter of the stitches. That way, you don’t need to worry about incomplete patterns and matching motifs (although I always think mitred decreases look nice whatever the pattern is doing). This depends on knowing that your yarn is as “forgiving” as Shetland.

Reading this, and Chronic Knitting Syndrome’s blog, leaves me very impatient with my laceless life. I finished the second dinosaur sleeve yesterday, and cast on the back, but it’s a long way home, and two more non-lace projects loom: the swallowtail coat of a beautiful blue, and Ketki’s Calcutta Cup ’08 sweater.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Good progress with the scarf, which makes splendid, mindless weekend knitting (and the yarn is great on the hands). I return to dinosaurs today with renewed vigour.

(A bit fuzzy, like the most recent dinosaur picture. Something wrong with camera?)

We’re hoping to go to Strathardle tomorrow for a two-nighter. The weather forecast is showery all week, just as for David and Mel, but I can thin my orach in the rain if need be. I also need to make up some beds for the Beijing Mileses who will be with us towards the end of next week. I wonder if James has ever seen the “simmer dim”. It’s wonderful, even in Perthshire.

There was one of those articles about Living Frugally in the Independent on Sunday yesterday; pretty silly. The Royal Horticultural Society, no less, was quoted as saying that you can save £1000 a year by growing your own vegetables. Well, maybe Batman and Robin could, if they gardened a couple of acres in Sussex. I doubt if I “save” £50, and I wonder if even the Fishwife’s wonderful allotment “saves” £500. I garden for the joy of it, and for the taste of a freshly-picked pea.

“The Lerwick Lace Shawl”

Shandy (another vegetable gardener) says in yesterday’s comment that a sheep left unshorn eventually sheds its wool, and would be easy to roo. The difficulty seems to lie in explaining that to the sheep.

Sharon cites a movie by Michael Powell called “The Edge of the World”, made on Foula in 1936. He also wrote a book about the making of it, “200,000 ft: the Edge of the World”, Dutton, ’38. He describes just the sheep Shandy is thinking of: “…some cynical-eyed matron, whose mass of dragging, tangled wool, half on, half off her back and shoulders, gives her a horrible similarity to the leering semi-undress of a mid-Victorian brothel and show that she has avoided rooing for two seasons and will be got into a kro only over your dead body…”

The technique for rounding them up on Foula, apparently, was for the old men and the children and the women, in small, pre-arranged groups, to “feign an aimless sauntering nearer and nearer the sheep who watch this pretence with deep suspicion”.

Sharon says that Foula still has a tiny population today, perhaps as a direct result of the film.

And, yes, Shandy, she says that the wool rooed from the neck is the finest and was reserved for lace.

Tamar, I wonder if you should relax about using a credit card on the Internet – although I agree you’ve got to keep a very close eye on things.

Sharon’s main discovery about technique is on the first page of text. Her antique shawl was knit from the borders inward and “where the border joined the centre there were a lot of erratically spaced groupings of multiple decreasings. I first took this to mean that the knitter hadn’t finally chosen her centre till the last moment and had done this radical reshaping then to allow for the new pattern….But finally I realised that…this gathering was most likely to be…actually pre-planned: demonstrating a rarely-mentioned method of shaping fine lace borders that I now appreciate was used frequently in Shetland….I believe this simple advance could only have been used due to a thorough understanding of the unique nature of their wool’s dressing qualities.”

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A good start on the Tilted Blocks. I have added some stitches to take account of the finer gauge of the yarn I’m using. I think I’ve got it about right. One forgets how dense garter stitch is: this is going to take a while. But the first block is done – the rest of yesterday’s knitting time was devoted to winding a skein. Now if I can master the technique – this book is full of techniques – for adding new stitches at the edge, we’re in business. Pic tomorrow.

“The Lerwick Lace Shawl” is a delight. Sharon has (beautifully) restored an antique Shetland shawl in her collection – she doesn’t give its provenance, and probably doesn’t know it. And then figured out how it was knit, including some discoveries about technique which she modestly says are “rarely mentioned”. I wonder if they have ever been in print before.

She provides a full pattern, or patterns, and an interesting discussion of yarns old and new. There seems to be a new yarn about called “Shetland Supreme” in natural undyed colours from Jamieson & Smith (Sharon stocks it). Maybe we’ll have to forgive J&S, somewhat, for the Shetland Jumper Weight colours I believe they’ve dropped.

There is an interesting “sampler” on page 16 where she shows how to test all your choices for a shawl, centre, border, edging, in quick and comprehensible form, to get an impression of the whole.

There are fascinating historical pages at the end. I knew about “rooing”, where wool is combed from a sheep with the fingers, rather than cut. I hadn’t thought how superior the product would be – the staple up to 2” longer – and hadn’t known what a violent process it was. Sheep don’t care for being roo’ed, and make some effort to be somewhere else while it is going on. There is a good picture of a recently-roo’ed ewe on page 31.

And I loved the picture of the “plantie crubs” on page 29. Sheep can go wherever they like. Vegetables are grown in pens.


The BBC said this morning that Senator Obama has been filling sandbags in Iowa, and added that he is senator for that state. Sort of thing they ought to get right.

There is a picture of Cindy McKean in today’s Sunday Times with a different diamond lapel pin – this time it seems to say “USMO”. She must have a whole box of them.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Late, this morning – I have just retrieved our car from an expensive service and MOT test. Very expensive. At least we passed.

I finished the last sleeve-dinosaur, and would have finished the sleeve but for some frogging due to a mistake somewhere in the final tyrannosaurus’s neck. That’s far enough along to allow myself a weekend of peaceful scarf-knitting.

The whole secret of motif-knitting is the strategy involved in deciding when to carry a colour along so that it’s in the right place for the next row, and when to attach a new ball instead. I am re-acquiring the hang of it.

Sharon Miller’s “The Lerwick Lace Shawls” has arrived, and will obviously repay study. I long to get back to lace knitting.

I’m glad you liked Leekscriadan, Gretchen and Shandy. I kept going back there yesterday and clicking on “Gallery” and revelling in it.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Heartened by your encouragement, I went ahead and wrote to our lawyer yesterday. Alea jacta est, as someone once said. I don’t know how one sets about buying a field, but he’ll know. It is part of an estate, listed in the particulars as a separate item, but if someone wants the whole lot, that’ll trump any offer we might make. I know that agricultural land has shot up in value recently, like houses – I don’t know whether it has shared in the fall. I’ll keep you posted.

(Google’s brilliant software for reading my mail and running appropriate advertisements alongside, came up with this the other day, when I was writing to our children about the field. The stuff of dreams.)

Back to knitting…

This is the link Emily put in her comment yesterday, to a new 50% silk-and-merino version of Koigu. Those colours really ought to glow. I was disappointed with cashmere Koigu last year, you will remember, but the disappointment taught me something about cashmere. Have a look at Emily’s blog for the most dazzling display of multiple-WIP’ery I’ve seen for a while.

I’m nearly finished with the final sleeve-dinosaur. I would hope to polish that off today, and maybe even finish the sleeve. “Tilted Blocks” has worked its way to the top of the mental list for the weekend scarf. I’ll have to decide soon.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Something is wrong with my Internet Service Provider this morning, or else with BT broadband. Terrifying. I will have to print this out and throw it into the Firth of Forth in a bottle.

I’ve embarked on the 4th and final sleeve-dinosaur. I am glad I did it this way: the dinosaurs are getting better and smoother as I proceed. I wish I’d taken more trouble about buying yarn.

I have pretty well -- but not quite -- decided on “Tricorner” for the weekend scarf. Quite a few of the scarves in “Knitting New Scarves” are based on essentially the same technique, forming flanges and then dissolving them back into a tube. I did it, and enjoyed doing it, when I knit the Linked Ribs at the end of last year.


The internal monologue I mentioned the other day, has been concerned, this week, with the possibility of buying a field, the one containing the famous haugh. If I ever get on-line again, I’ll put in a link. (That’s a link to the April archives – if you want to pursue the matter, it’s April 17 and subsequent.)

Our little house and its fields once supported a numerous family. The fields go eastwards from the house towards the river Ardle: the Stubble Field, the Plantation (where my husband grows his trees), the Raspberries, the Island. These family names refer to characteristics long, long out of date. There’s no stubble now, no raspberries, and the Island is dry-land all the way. The haugh would be the next field, after the river, and buying it as a gift for our four children would be an anti-inheritance-tax move. I gather in the US you don’t go in for inheritance tax much, but it’s a big problem here for anyone who owns a house.

I have consulted our children who have reacted with indifference or bewilderment except for Helen in Thessaloniki, who wrote this:

"I think that the more (land) the merrier. The fact that the field in question is an extension (albeit separated by the Ardle) of our land, is a definate plus. We can build a foot bridge and create a Miles dynasty theme park complete with reinactions of the planting of the plantation and banks of fake snow with urchins dressed in tattered Fairisles traipsing back to a bowl of gruel in an Historically Preserved Burnside.
Land is the answer to everything. Greeks, all Greeks, have bits of land here and there all over the place and I think its a great thing to hand on to one's children/grandchildren especially if it adjoins the new Blairgowrie-Kirkmichael expressway."

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I’ve had a busy morning.

I learned yesterday, perhaps in the bulletin of the Knitting and Crochet Guild, that Sharon Miller has published something new – so I’ve just ordered it: “The Lerwick Lace Shawl”. It is a deconstruction, I think, of an actual old shawl in Sharon's collection. While I had the credit card out, I went on to order “Vatid, Troid, Vamsad – Knitted Jackets from West Estonian Islands” from Meg.

Then I proceeded to the American Embassy where I am currently struggling with the absentee voting application form. This involves downloading a new, superior version of Adobe Reader. Nothing is simple. I hate Adobe Reader anyway. Yesterday I ordered a shirt from Cafepress – a golf shirt (I like to have a collar) with a simple “Cats for Obama” logo.

Yesterday in the Scotsman we had an article about the two women one of whom will be First Lady in the foreseeable future. We have a lot of such articles, and there must be a dozen in America for every one here. In this one, Cindy was pictured wearing a lapel pin in which “McKean 2008” was spelled out in what must, surely, be diamonds. I had one of those thrilling moments which I think can be termed a “frisson”: we could actually win this one.

Back to knitting...

There is an interesting article in the bulletin of the Knitting and Crochet Guild about the cataloguing and classification of knitting patterns. (Not easy: I’ve got all my books in LibraryThing, but haven’t even thought about listing the patterns.) The author seems to have worked out a system for herself, and dreams of a “national collection” to which we would each add our patterns – not parting with them, but allowing them to be catalogued and scanned and added to the master system.

It sounds to me an idea worth pursuing, requiring much time and energy. Unfortunately, the article just peters out, with no information even on how to get in touch with the author.

As for actual knitting, I have reached, indeed nearly finished, the first set of dinosaur legs on the second sleeve. Legs are the worst.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One of the relatively rare mornings of complete blankness, probably because yesterday’s internal monologue was about something other than knitting. I’ve finished the first sleeve – left the stitches on hold in case I want to pink up stitches at the shoulder and do a three-needle bindoff – and started the second one. Should reach a dinosaur’s feet today: the legs are the worst.

Photography flatters the work so far. Stitches are uneven. But careful finishing – it will take fully as long to tidy the back as to knit it in the first place – and blocking should help.

I hope to be livelier tomorrow.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Comments & Miscellaneous

Tricia, thank you for the link to the Si se puede socks – they’re far too complicated for me, but I joined the Knitters-for-Obama group on Ravelry while I was there. Maybe I’ll have to bore them with the tale of Theo’s gansey: wait till we get the promised photograph. It was sort of exciting to find that Anna Zilboorg is an Obama-ite too. The pattern is hers, and free after you've made a donation to The Cause.

Now I need to order a tee-shirt and set about arranging my absentee vote. It’ll be cast in NJ.

Helen, we need to talk about lovage. I used to grow it but, as I remember, never used it. I am keen to increase the space given to perennials, and if I’m thinking of the right stuff, lovage is rather large as well. But how does one set about eating it?

There’s an essay about smoking by David Sedaris (a favourite of mine) in the May 5 New Yorker. “Given my reputation as a strident non-smoker, it was funny how quickly I took to cigarettes. It was as if my life were a play, and the prop mistress had finally showed up. Suddenly there were packs to unwrap, matches to strike, ashtrays to fill and then empty. My hands were at one with their labor, the way a cook’s might be, or a knitter’s.”


Here are the dinosaurs – rattling along nicely, as you see. I should cast off this sleeve and start the second today. If things continue at this pace, I will certainly allow myself to start another New Scarf next weekend.

I didn’t take a picture in Kirkmichael, but the knitting proceeds. I’m still doing the ribbing, in the round, for an Araucania shirt-type sweater for myself. Love the yarn, love the colour, and I’m nearly finished with the 2 ½” of ribbing. Picture next time.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

I am full of joy and hope on the political front, and knitting is going well too, but today’s blog is about vegetable-growing.

The ratio of Good News to Disappointment has never been so high at this stage. There is disappointment: something didn’t come up, there are gaps in another row, something came up all right and is now standing there with its hands in its pockets, whistling, instead of moving forward.

But in general, things are looking good. And the rabbits haven’t got into the enclosure (yet) – it was just about this time last year that Peter and his cousin Benjamin tunnelled in and made off with the ’07 pea crop.

Three of the four courgettes I hand-reared in Edinburgh are going great guns. (The fourth has disappeared entirely.) I even think I can detect flower buds forming. The seeds planted in the open ground in mid-May have come up, and are working on their first true leaves. Maybe I’ll have a glut this year, like a real grown-up vegetable gardener! The Fishwife has given me Elaine Borish’s book “What Will I Do with All Those Courgettes?” I took it down from the shelf for some happy moments of anticipation.

My courgettes are called “Striato di Napoli” and will accordingly be striped. They should show up well in the Collection of Four Vegetables I hope to enter in the Games.

And look at the orach!

The packet said to sow thickly as germination was uncertain. I took that as a polite way of warning me that it wouldn’t come up. I don’t expect much in the way of taste – I found a book that says it was much eaten in the Olden Days, but as soon as proper spinach was introduced, everybody switched to that. It’s a big plant: it’ll need more thinning soon. It, too, should show up well in the Collection of Four Vegetables. My brother-in-law has persuaded me that the judges like colour contrasts.

And sorrel! I put in three plants at the end of April, as you remember. They flourish, but they’re delicious – I need more. So I planted some seed, expecting failure because sorrel is perennial and perennial seeds tend not to come up for me. But they have: I’ve got two little rows of sorrel.

Here are the herbs:

And the climbing beans, interspersed with nasturtiums, a salad ingredient and a useful source of mock-capers in their seeds. Last year I couldn't even grow nasturtiums.

Here’s a general view.

There are three possibilities – apart from the absence of rabbits – why things might be going so comparatively well:

1) I tested the soil last autumn and decided we needed lime, so I applied some.

2) Slugs are a mostly unseen and terrible enemy. My notes from previous years are full of references to salad things that never appeared at all. This year, I went at the slugs with nematodes. They are microscopic somethings-or-other which one buys – and they’re rather expensive – in the form of a beige powder to be mixed with water and watered in. The nematodes then burrow into the soil (it is said) and attack the slugs. Sounds awful, but it’s regarded as organic. I did that in mid-May.

3) Maybe we’re just having a good year – so far.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Never mind politics, or even dinosaurs – it’s vegetables! today. The weather isn’t half bad, so far. This is the exciting one – the June visit, with everything in place. What has come up? What has been eaten by whom?

We won’t be there long – I should blog again on Sunday, maybe even Saturday. But it should be long enough to tidy up and weed and decide what to do about the grass.

There might even be enough lettuce to enhance a sandwich.

As for politics, I could wish last night had been more decisive, that Senator Obama had won both states. Still, this will have to do. I enjoyed it the more for knowing that you might have been there, Mary Lou.

It will be interesting indeed to see who turns up as V.P., Stash haus. Trouble with Mrs Clinton, she’s Old Politics and rather obviates the message of change. Also I gather they don’t like each other much. Also she’d bring Bill along.

I am sorry that we’re hearing so much about sexism as the reason for Mrs Clinton’s failure. I would have thought, personalities apart, that racism was a much higher barrier.

The big breakthrough was surely JFK who proved that the President didn’t have to be a WASP. We were in Northampton, MA, for that election, and I can remember people saying how distasteful it was to vote for an Irish Catholic.

And knitting. I’m not happy with the dinosaur – too many loose-looking stitches where colours are added. I’m about at the point where the legs are being joined together in the body and I may be happier after another inch. I will retreat with relief – if there’s time for any knitting – to the Strathardle Project for the next couple of days, a dusty pink Araucania rugby-shirt sort of sweater for me. A couple of rounds of ribbing were done, months ago.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

The last time (for a while) that I’ll start a blog entry by remarking that it’s Primary Day. I hope the rally this evening works; it sounds ambitious. Kathyinjuneau, that’s a wonderful comment you left on Sunday’s blog. I am absolutely sure, from the efficiency with which Obama’s campaign has been run, that he’ll be a great administrator. As for the rest…

The dinosaur sweater has finally started. I realised as I was casting on that I have plunged into this with a reckless lack of preparation, so I changed my mind in mid-cast and started with a sleeve. That has the additional advantage that I can feel my way back into intarsia. The judges – this is to be my Games entry this year – will certainly look inside, but they may not turn the sleeves inside out.

The simple little pattern which you see emerging, is hellish, because there are three colours in a row. Somewhere I’ve got a ring-gadget I can wear with channels for various yarns to go through. I’ve used it on the rare occasions I’ve done Scandinavian knitting, which occasionally strays into three colours, and I’ll need it when I repeat this wretched pattern on the body of the sweater.

Perhaps today I’ll reach the feet of an actual dinosaur. I seem to remember from my previous acquaintance with this pattern that the sleeves are too long if you just follow the instructions as written. Did I leave out an entire dinosaur? Needless to say, the notes I kept are inadequate. I feel strongly, as I’ve said before, that children’s sleeves mustn’t be too long.

Once this thing is well underway, I hope to revert to weekend scarf-knitting. The one I have just dispatched to Denver for Mrs Obama was knit in Manos Silk Blend, and it is heaven on the neck. Plain-vanilla Manos is pretty silky, and the addition of 30% actual silk transports it onto another plane. I’ve got more than a skein left. It would be a shame not to carry on.

I’ve been back through “Knitting New Scarves”. I want a single-colour scarf. I’m still scared of “Drifting Pleats” which “requires your undivided attention”. I haven’t got any undivided attention. I’ve already knit and enjoyed “Linked Rib” which eliminates that one and several similar. I think it comes down to “Shag” “Tilted Blocks” or “Tricorner”.


Laure makes a good point about the distance of Lake Van from Trebizond. If we stay overnight, we wouldn’t want to be too ostentatiously luxurious in that part of the world. The very first thing we will have to do is hire someone to arrange all this – find and charter the yacht, hire the crew including just the right sort of top-flight chef – I wonder if Skye Gyngell would do it – and make the arrangements with various ports. Our stay at Lake Van will be but one of her problems.

Monday, June 02, 2008

The dinosaurs are still not cast on: I went too far with Cathy’s second sock and had to rip out ten rounds. But the socks are finished and Kitchener’d and need but a few moments’ tidying.

An unexpected flaw in the Regia sock yarn can be detected in the right-hand sock, even without the help of circles and arrows which I have never mastered. There is a very discreet knot after an olive-coloured stripe on the foot – the sequence then resumes with the right colour (blue) but the wrong shade of blue, with the result that half-a-repeat is lost.

I don’t care, because I was aiming at fraternal twins anyway, but I’d be irritated if I had been trying to achieve identical ones.

An early dentist’s appointment today may even give me time to cast on the next pair, but for serious knitting it will certainly be dinosaurs.

We spent a happy day yesterday twittering down phone- and email-lines about Theo and Jenni’s happy news. Rachel phoned my sister (Theo’s mother) in CT: the wedding will probably be early next year, in DC or Wisconsin. Theo and Jenni’s mundane future (and therefore perhaps even wedding plans) will depend a good deal on who is president of the US this time next year. It is hard to believe, just now, that the question will ever be settled.


The link Jenny provided yesterday is good on Van cats.

This is a picture of some peas I am growing on the doorstep. I’ve done salad leaves in other years, and then got cold feet about the prospect of eating all those exhaust fumes. I tried a miniature runner bean once, but didn’t get much of a crop. I am seriously hopeful this time that we might get a plateful. It’s a new dwarf variety called “Half Pint”. I planted the rest of the packet in one of the squares of my Square Foot Garden.

We hope to go to Kirkmichael on Wednesday. It would have been tomorrow but that the weather forecast is bad. If time is to be so limited, at least I want to be able to work outdoors.

Now I’d better put on a clean tee-shirt and face up to the dentist.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Stop press

This morning’s big news is that Theo and Tiger are engaged! Much joy and excitement.The picture was taken at the end of Games Day last year – that’s Ketki to the right in a KF Tumbling Blocks.

I am delighted by the interest in the pussy cats who swim in Lake Van. As soon as I’ve got my first billion, we’ll have a blog-readers’ outing: everybody welcome. We’ll charter a jet and fly to Istanbul. Perhaps we’ll spend a couple of nights there. I’d like to see the Mosaic Museum again, and the cisterns. Then we’ll find a yacht – something on the lines of the Royal Yacht Britannia would be about right – and cruise along the south shore of the Black Sea until we get to Trebizond. It’ll be fun.

No – let’s avoid airports and do the whole trip in the yacht, leaving from Leith which will be handy for you, Helen. That way we can tie up at Palermo for a while and Mary Lou and I can make our Leopard-pilgrimage.

I think the cats of Lake Van are a breed of their own, but I don’t know. I don’t know whether they swim for pleasure or for some purpose. We’ll have to find out.

And as for knitting, I should polish off Cathy’s second sock today, and cast on a dinosaur sweater.