Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Safely home, just in time to escape the World Leaders. My husband is old enough – so am I – that weeks in London are really getting to be pretty tough. But it went well. Rachel did a tremendous amount to smooth our path. We saw a lot of art.

The big news is that the Amsterdam-Hartford CT flight which granddaughter Lizzie and I have booked and paid for, to go to Theo’s wedding in July, won’t be flying this year. So today’s job is to ring the travel agent (Trailfinders, in whom I have much confidence) and see what my options are. Will they insist that I fly to Hartford, via Minneapolis if need be?

Greek Helen was briefly in London while we were, providing a useful opportunity to talk things through. She is flying from Edinburgh (of all places) to Newark NJ and my object today will be to get Lizzie and me onto that flight.


The big event on this front was meeting Judith and Jean and Christine at I Knit last Thursday. Not exactly to be compared to Franklin’s appearance, when the place was packed out, but we had a grand time -- at least I did. The shop itself is an Aladdin’s cave for knitters (to coin a cliché) – no Rowan or Paton’s or Sirdar in sight, just wonderful yarn and interesting books and magazines in an abundance which seems impossible in so small a space. It’s easy to get to, too, just around the corner from Waterloo Station.

They had some very tempting Habu yarn in a gossamer-fine mohair-and-silk in gentle and subtle colours. The Queen Ring shawl? But I think maybe when I renounced Kidsilk Haze for what remains of life after knitting that Rowan stole (very successful) in Kidsilk Haze a year or so ago, I was really renouncing mohair. I bought some sock yarn, and a skein of red Noro Silk Garden for the Adult Surprise…

…which I cast on last Monday on the train south. After weeks of my dear Princess, it was delightful to knit something on which progress was actually detectable.

The two shades of Fyberspares “Scrumptious”, however, used together, seemed to me either muddy or sophisticated, depending on the charitable inclinations of the critic – but not very appropriate for a Child’s Cardigan (which I am supposed to be knitting as my ’09 Games entry). I like the way the red looks – it will reappear in the binding and the cuffs, and it helps relieve the gloom, I think. Garter stitch is tough, and there are imperfections. I haven’t much hope of winning, but quite a bit of hope to producing a useful jacket for a granddaughter.

And the Adult Surprise is a lot of fun. Maybe I will dig through the stash and make myself a kit or two.

When I saw the Princess last night I thought, I am too tired, I can’t possibly do that, but in fact I knit nearly two whole rows.

There's more, but that's enough for now.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Well, here we go London-wards. Blogging should resume on the last day of the month, all being well. The weather has been lovely recently, prompting longings to go in the other direction. It is predicted to deteriorate this week: that’s good, on the whole. Greek Helen will be briefly in London this week on an unknown mission – we’ll see her at Rachel’s house on Sunday. It will be a great treat to have a couple of hours with her out of season.

Many, many thanks for all the help and advice about socks for diabetics. I’ve read the article in Knitty, which was most interesting. I shall certainly go for 72 stitches, probably keeping to the No 1 needles of which I am rather fond. I will cast on with double yarn – that’s an easy change which can only help.

I was most interested in your suggestions, Ted, particularly the alterations to the gussets. The problem with the last socks I knit for my husband was too-tight-in-general, but the heel seemed to pose particular problems. I had been thinking of going through a sock book to look for alternatives, but I will try this first. And you credit me with too much sense – it hadn’t occurred to me to measure the circumferences of my husband’s leg and foot and compare the results. I will do that.

Other comments suggested other interesting ideas. Perhaps the thing is to knit a small (=short in the leg) sample sock and see how it goes. Not even finish the foot, maybe. Just something to try on.

I will look at sock yarn in I Knit on Thursday. Anyone who suddenly finds him/herself at loose ends in London that day will be more than welcome to join our little party. About half-past two in the afternoon.

Meanwhile I have decided to take the Adult Surprise along today, not socks.

I’ve reached row 31 of the Princess centre. When I get to my signature box in the middle of the row I’ll do a series of YO, k3tog,YO,K3 to make a border for the lettering. I advance in a constant state of anxiety that I have miscalculated and will reach the end of the centre before I’ve done all my letters. Counting and re-counting continues to suggest that I’ve got it right.

My Calcutta Cup mug is back on its hook on the kitchen wall. I drank my morning coffee from it all last week, but for the other 51 weeks of the year it is out of bounds. No mugs were issued in '06 or '08, or I'd have a set.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Laetare Sunday

But there is no joy in Mudville. We lost. We didn’t entirely disgrace ourselves. There were flickers of hope, even in the second half. But that’s not the same thing as winning. Subsequently, Ireland beat Wales by two points in what must have been a thriller, and won the Grand Slam. But I was weary and sad, and didn’t watch.

I got my Adult Surprise swatch done during the match, and during the second half, as hope waned, I read and re-read the pattern as given in The Opinionated Knitter, and decided that it contained serious errors. This is a bold statement, Mrs Miles of Drummond Place vs. the Schoolhouse Press. EZ, the great enabler, the scorner of Blind Following, becomes positively Delphic when it comes to the Surprises. She delights, there, in baffling us, and demands blind following. Maybe I had it wrong?

Last night, knitting away at the Princess, I decided in one of those blinding flashes of the obvious, that the solution was not to take the Adult Surprise to London after all, but to revert to socks as usual and order a better version of the pattern. The Games are still four months away.

This morning, just now, I went to the Schoolhouse Press and did a search on Adult Surprise. And what to my – surprise! – should I find, but an erratum sheet which addresses the very points that puzzled me. So most of what I had intended to write this morning is now unnecessary, but I can take the Surprise with me after all. I don’t know what I’ll do.

Thinking about socks: maybe someone can advise. For a long time now, more than a decade, I have knit Plain Vanilla socks for all. For gents, I knit them with 64 stitches on 1’s, on the one-size-fits-all principle, and no one complained until recently, when my husband had such trouble getting into his latest pair that I passed them on to James. He wears with perfect comfort socks knitted in earlier years which have adjusted themselves to his feet, slightly swollen by diabetic narcolepsy or whatever it’s called.

But what should be my next move? 64 stitches on larger needles? 72 stitches? 72 stitches on larger needles? Socks represent a sufficient investment in time – especially gents’ socks – that I want to get it right first time. And whatever I do will render the result too big for anyone else. Please advise if you can.

I have embarked on row 29 of the 13th repeat of the Princess centre. I mean to finish with row 38 of the 14th repeat, so pretty soon I will be doing each row for the last time, an encouraging thought. I have laid two rows now of the garter stitch foundation for my signature box, so the Die is Cast. I may reach the foothills of the actual lettering today.

Laritza has recently finished the centre – she’s not the one who knits at faculty meetings – and is worried about the corner. I think she’ll be fine. I think people who worry about the Princess pattern – Ted, you used to be one – are making needless trouble for themselves. Sharon knows what she’s doing – and she knit the prototype in cotton, which is presumably a bit less accommodating in the blocking than wool. Relax.

I spread my Princess out yesterday, to cheer myself during the match. (That's the television, in the upper left-hand corner.) No wonder a row takes a long time.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Calcutta Cup Day

There’s not much hope. But you never know.

Stash Haus, kilt hose were specified for the Games once – perhaps it’s time they showed up again. I knit a pair for Alexander; didn’t win. I’ve also knit James some. I don’t feel it’s a genre I have mastered, and would like to have another go.


That’s dreadful, Cynthia, to have to take out two rows, including the hated No.9. I suspect I would have fudged it somehow. How virtuous you must feel! I’m glad you have recovered the ground.

Someone has posted to the Heirloom Knitting Yahoo group that she finished her Princess centre the other day at a faculty meeting. That’s what I call knitting.

I have finished row 26 of the 13th centre repeat, including the placing of markers in the middle for the signature box. And I have figured out at least a reasonable hypothesis for why I thought I had to start it on row 23, rather than row 27. That’s a comfort. I may have been allowing for four garter stitch rows at the top, not having fully grasped that the entire centre has four garter stitch rows at the top so I don’t need to do them twice.


I played the interview with Meg about her mother on the Knitting Workshop DVD, and it was interesting. It got me thinking about the whole Schoolhouse Press thing. At the time it was seriously launched (I gather), EZ was a published designer, and had written “Knitting Without Tears”, and taught a week-long summer school at a near-by university – from which evolved the Knitting Camp.

But that doesn’t add up to a living for a family. There is a picture in one of the books of EZ and her “knitted car”. That’s more the level of income I would expect from such a degree of success. Was it perhaps Meg and Chris who saw the potential for something more, and created that unique business? When EZ’s biography comes to be written -- soon, I hope -- we’ll know all.

I wasted valuable time yesterday -- this is obliquely relevant --playing with Google Map’s new Street View. I doubt if I was alone. I began by admiring my own front door, and wandering the familiar local streets. (But where is our car? We like to have it parked directly outside, as it is at the moment and where it will remain all next week when we are in London. I must go back and look for it. Is it somewhere down Scotland Street? It could be in Strathardle, of course.)

After a happy time doing that, I went looking for No. 21 Mt. Nod Road in Streatham where EZ spent some months with her aunts towards the end of the Great War, to get away from the Zeppelins (Knitting Around, p. 27). I found it, after a bit of difficulty. Don’t search for “Mount Nod” – Google won’t understand. And when you find the road, Google will first show you a semi-detached house which is not No. 21, and will then try to keep you on the wrong side of the road, with the even-numbered houses. Persevere!

It looks much as EZ describes it, except that there is no longer a monkey-puzzle tree. I even saw her bedroom window! The house appears well-maintained. I think it must be at the better end of Mt Nod Road. There is a cheap-looking modern horror of some sort next door, where No. 23 should be; perhaps Hitler’s bombs had a wider range than the Zeppelins.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Sure enough, a good day yesterday.

Helen and I had a merry lunch, then went to John Lewis where I didn’t buy any yarn, or anything else, always a good feeling, and where Lindsay loaned me the EZ DVD’s. The idea was to test my new machine to see whether it would play Zone 1 (American) DVD’s although it claimed it wouldn’t.

The answer is emphatically yes.

It was an odd experience to see EZ and hear her talking after decades of knitting her patterns and reading and re-reading her words. She’s school-mistressy, Lindsay’s accurate verdict, and her voice is very English. I can detect no hint of the many years spent in Wisconsin. I look forward – maybe today! – to “meeting” Meg. Lindsay rightly said that it was impossible to watch and knit, but I found I could (and did) get the first skeins wound for my Adult Surprise (appropriately).

And I’ve also had a delicious time this morning scrolling through the Schoolhouse Press DVD list. The Saddle-Sleeved Bavarian Twisted Stitch Jacket and the Russian Prime are my current choices for disposing of the money I didn’t spend yesterday.

I’ve finished row 22 of the 13th repeat of the Princess centre. However, I also went back over my calculations last night and decided that I need to start the garter stitch base for my signature box on row 27, not row 23 as I thought yesterday. I have reviewed the calculations this morning, with my synapses in better order, and agree with myself about row 27. I think I’ll go through the whole thing again, however, before actually beginning row 23.

Calcutta Cup

It’s tomorrow!

I had been worrying about whether Ketki ever got her Calcutta Cup '08 sweater – one of the best I’ve ever knit, I modestly think. Yesterday I asked, and the answer is yes. My anti-spam software must have elected to chew up this picture, which was originally sent weeks ago. That’s James-the-Younger on the left, and his brother Thomas-the-Younger, in their Scotland rugby shirts.

Alexander suggests knitting Calcutta Cup kilt hose if Scotland win again during my knitting lifetime. Not a bad idea.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A Potpourri, today

Please watch this, from Tamar’s comment yesterday – you must watch with the sound on. I wondered, as I did so, whether it had been made in Scotland, but the cast list at the end made it clear that it’s Welsh. Apart from all other considerations, I always enjoy watching dogs work, because they enjoy it so much themselves, and are so good at it.

I’ve reached the middle of row 18 of the 13th repeat of the Princess centre. I have decided to put four rows of garter stitch beneath my signature box – that should prevent its merging into the Princess pattern, and will balance the four plain rows which are to be knit across the entire centre at the end. So all I have to do is reach row 23. I should easily achieve that before the weekend – during which the prime task will be winding and swatching for the Adult Surprise sweater.

The Historic Knit Yahoo group has taken to being rude about Rutt, of all things. I really should post there, but I am afraid they would tear me limb from limb. I am sure there are defects in his book; it would be a rare book that lacked them. But he is the only writer in English to have attempted a history of handknitting, and he made a pretty good fist of it.

It has been suggested over there that Mary Thomas’ Knitting Book would qualify, if she had been allowed to publish her sources. Rubbish, say I. Her book is an invaluable resource, but it’s not a scholarly history and couldn’t be turned into one. For one thing, she has a lofty disdain for “peasant shape” (dropped shoulders, essentially) which would make it difficult for her to treat with sympathy a number of important knitting traditions. For another, she is far too authoritarian: this is the way it’s done; shut up and listen. For a third, she’s credulous. She lists, for instance, what she was told are the 10 authentic Shetland lace patterns. Alice Korach mentions the list sceptically in an article in Threads in 1987 – since Sharon Miller started publishing, no more has been heard of it.

It is hard to detach oneself mentally from those awful drawings, but I think my criticisms can stand on their own.

The Historic Knitters fault Rutt for being a bishop, and an Englishman (as if Mary Thomas weren’t flesh-creepingly English). But all of us have to start from somewhere.

When Galina's book came out, I thought I hadn't heard of Orenburg knitting. So I looked it up in Rutt, and there it was. And so I have found, through the years: whatever his faults, he tried to cover the subject, and largely succeeded. Subsequent historians can work from there.

I am going to have lunch with Helen Chronic-Knitting-Syndrome today; then we’re going on to John Lewis’ yarn department. What excitement! It should provide some knitterly news for tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Brief, this morning. I have an appointment to have my hair cut, so as not to frighten the passers-by in London.

I’ve finished row 14 of the 13th repeat of the Princess centre – so the opening motif is done, and on I sweep into the easy parts. Although each repeat is now very slow, they don’t feel progressively slower, although they are so, because of the ever-increasing stitch number.


Janet from Cape Cod: I cannot express how happy I was to get your message. Thank you for the book list, which I shall carefully note. I think “The Reluctant Mr Darwin” was one of the ones I saw and passed over on Monday.

Your son should have a grand time with the rugby this coming weekend, while my attention is diverted by the Calcutta Cup. Ireland have won every match so far – against Italy, England, Scotland, and France. If they now can beat Wales, they will have a Grand Slam, for the first time since just after the war. (Scotland did it in 1990.) But Wales are pretty good. They have lost only to France, and the match is being played in Wales. The sound of a great stadium full of Welshmen singing to their team is unforgettable.

Thanks to others for book suggestions, too. (Matthew, I’m glad you’ve resumed blogging.) I need to know more about evolution, in a popular-science sort of way. How, on a DNA-level, can a species change into another species which can no longer inter-breed with it? Why do some single-celled animals stay behind in the slime – I gather there are some which are believed not to have changed since the beginning – while others set off on the path that leads to becoming a giraffe?

Books about evolution still often sound cross and argumentative are rude about sceptics (I’m thinking Dawkins). I’ve read a few pages of Schrodinger’s Cat: it’s going to be fine. The author doesn’t seem to mind whether you believe in quantum physics or not. Shandy, I am worried by your verdict on the new Kate Atkinson, but will press ahead. (And jealous of your allotment-time. The weather is suddenly all-systems-go, and here am I about to head away from Perthshire.) I think the safe thing is to read Nicci French on the trip to London, and get another one if I like it.

I’ve got my pedometer going – and this morning my weight registered one of those pleasant lurches downwards.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St Patrick's Day

One of the great things about moving away from the United States, is leaving St Patrick behind. One doesn't hear much about him, here.

Princess, etc.

Yesterday evening was a series of interruptions: even so, I’m half-way across the 11th row of the 13th repeat of the Princess centre. The 13th row, which I should surely reach today, is the end of the opening motif, and the last row in the pattern with double decreases involving the markers. I’m getting fairly adroit at the necessary manoeuvre, holding the marker between index and middle fingers of left hand until it can be replaced, but I’ll be glad to dispense with it.

The box with the date and signature begins on row 27. I think it had better be preceded with two or perhaps four rows of garter stitch – not across the whole row, of course, just the stitches where the signature box is about to be formed. So I might get to the preliminaries of that undertaking this week.

I’ll have to pause at the weekend to wind skeins and knit a swatch for the Adult Surprise sweater which I am hoping a) to take along next week as train-and-London knitting and b) to submit as “child’s cardigan” in the Home Industries Tent of the Strathardle Highland Games this summer. EZ’s percentage system can hardly be expected to work without a decent swatch.

Thank you for your comment, Ted (attached to the Ides of March post). (Any hope that you might find and resume your own Princess? Believe me, it’s fun.) I’ll have a look at the Shetland Museum photo archives, and at the Amedro stole you mention. My current plan for knitting the Queen Ring pattern as a stole – I think I’ll have to go ahead with this – involves nothing more complicated than garter stitch grafting, which I think I can manage. The Queen Ring pattern gives 6 plain rows at start and finish of the centre: the ideal point to stop and start again from the other end, and eventually graft.

I Knit

Our numbers are now up to four, counting me: we’re meeting at I Knit near Waterloo Station in London at about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday the 26th – anyone else who happens to be around would be most welcome. Bring your knitting. Email me at the address in the sidebar to be sure of receiving news of last-minute changes.


I have been thinking, as you know, of getting a Kindle or similar for my trip to CT for Theo’s wedding. I am cooling down on the idea, because of cost. It would be wonderful for those six days, but I wouldn’t use it here. Three well-chosen paperbacks should do the trick, and I can always abandon the ones I’ve finished.

I went to Waterstone’s yesterday with this thought in mind. (I went to the one at the east end of Princes Street, mid-afternoon, on my way to the station to book the tickets for next week. Were you there, Wren?) I got Kate Atkinson’s “When Will There Be Good News?” – that’s a certainty, and it’s 480 pages long. And “Until It’s Over” by Nicci French. I read about them in a Sunday paper this week, and they sounded like my kind of thriller writers. (They’re a husband-and-wife team.) That’s a gamble. And “In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat”, about quantum physics, for something meaty. That’s another gamble. I would have liked something about Darwin and speciation, but nothing looked quite right.

Monday, March 16, 2009

England beat France rather decisively in yesterday’s rugby match. There would seem to be no hope at all of Scotland’s retaining the Calcutta Cup next weekend, except that Calcutta Cup matches sometimes don’t go according to script.

Princess etc

I’m somewhere in row 8 of the 13th centre repeat. Row 9 is the slowest one of all, row 13 finishes off the motif and opens the door to the easy bit. I should reach that happy plateau by mid-week.

Here are the current pics. The middle one is included to show what a little, little bit of border still needs to be claimed although a whole quarter of the centre is still to be knit.

If you peer very, very carefully, you can see that the 7th repeat from the bottom is offset. I don't think it matters a bit.

Someone in the Yahoo Heirloom Knitting group is knitting it in black, and worried about the shape. I tried to reassure her. It will look spectacular – but would one need to be a widow, or a Spanish Queen, to wear it?

I read through the instructions for the Unst stole before I put Heirloom Knitting back on the shelf yesterday. That one is done by knitting the centre first and then outwards through the borders, attaching the edging last of all. The technique in the Bestway leaflet that I mentioned a day or two ago, is to start at one end and stop when the centre is finished and start again from the other end, grafting the results together.

The Queen Ring border includes the “sprouting seed” motif which also appears in the Princess. In the latter case, all the sprouts nod inwards towards the centre – that is, the knitter has to change their direction in mid-row. Exciting. In the QR, one would have to think rather seriously about direction, but it seems to me at first glance that it – one’s projected stole – would look fine if the borders were knit identically, and the seeds nodded to the right whichever end of the stole one regarded.

I couldn’t agree more, Maureen, that the prospect of lace grafting is terrifying. But a couple of break rows of garter stitch can easily be included at the crucial point (and at the other end of the centre, to balance). When the Princess is finished (!), the end of the top edging will have to be lace-grafted to the beginning. There’s a picture in the pattern of how it looked when Sharon did it. We shall see.


It sounds as if Thursday the 26th is our day. Frustrating: on the 25th we could have Wren and on the 27th, Jenny. Judith and Christine, you had better send me brief notes at the email address in the sidebar, so that I have your email addresses. Comments don’t allow me to reply directly – or if they do, I haven’t figured out how. Telephone numbers would be a good idea, too. I’ll send you Rachel’s number – and I can access Googlemail from her computer in London, for last-minute messaging. I agree that I should phone the shop to let them know we’ll be there: three people! Gosh! (More welcome, of course.)

This page of the I Knit website gives first rate directions for how to get there. This is going to be fun – thank you for your reassuring message, Stash Haus.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Ides of March

Princess etc

The 12th centre repeat is finished. I can’t offer a picture this morning because I am in the middle of Row Four, no less, of the 13th repeat, the final complete one. I’ll try to find an inter-row moment today for photography.

This means that I ought to be able to polish off the tedious early rows of this repeat before we light out again – to London, a week tomorrow.

I try not to think ahead except in small snatches, like that, but the concept of Finishing looms larger and larger. According to Cynthia’s Formula, I have now knit 75.7% of the centre. That means I have knit about 25% of it since I resumed in early February. Does that mean I’ll finish the centre by the end of April? Answer: no. Too much time away from Edinburgh in the near future.

The Calcutta Cup ’09 will be fought for on Saturday, I think, so there’s plenty of time to incorporate it in the unlikely event of Scotland’s winning.

That is a picture of the Scottish captain and the Cup in (I think) 2000. I knit it into a Christening shawl that year.

I am more and more taken with the idea of a stole, and very grateful, Maureen, for being pointed in the direction of the Unst stole in Sharon’s “Heirloom Knitting”. It is interesting that you say yours is too short – it looks enormous in the photograph. How long do you think would be about right? It’s a delicate and important question.

But one that doesn’t have to be settled in advance. One can plunge in, and elongate the centre when one gets there.

Couldn’t one start with the edging for one end, Orenburg-fashion, pick up stitches and knit on? Less provisional casting-on, which I have never entirely mastered. Then one would have to do it again at the other end, and knit the edging for the two long sides attaching as one proceeded and making it come out even for the corner joins.

Cynthia, thanks for the pointer to your Scandinavian Queen shawl, which is beautiful. I had thought of knitting the borders by turning around at the end – I think I got the idea from Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer, long ago; I used it once for a baby shawl. The turning-point was conspicuous, but less so than my sewing would have been. However, it hadn’t occurred to me to knit the borders one by one and have four joins – that’s an elegant refinement of a brilliant idea.

Now, London

We talked once of trying to arrange a little knit-in at….I’ve forgotten the name of the shop; near Vauxhall, wasn’t it? Now that the opportunity looms, I feel a bit scared a) at the idea of letting my husband wander about alone (he’s 83) and b) for fear I would be boring and tongue-tied at my own party.

However, we’re going to be in London for a whole week, so maybe this is our chance. Thursday or Friday the 26th or 27th would be best for me. Is anyone interested?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Safely back. Where to start? There were some good Lolcats waiting for me.

Princess etc

I reached row 45 of the 12th centre repeat for my Princess last night – I should finish the repeat today. I’ve printed out my signature square, as charted by Stitch and Motif Maker – here’s a scan of it, enough to convey the general idea. Now I must add in the alternate plain rows in the letters and numbers, and figure out exactly where to put it.

The pattern for the Queen Ring shawl turned up in Tuesday’s post (I ordered it on Sunday afternoon), just before we hit the road. It’s pretty wonderful. This limited first edition is numbered and signed, as the Millers have done before. I ordered on Day One, and mine is no. 19, so I think it safe to assume that initial sales have been brisk.

Sharon was trying to recreate an antique shawl she had found, using the original technique. The result is rather a lot of sewing-up at the end. Sewing-up is not my style, so I have been forced to think, and have concluded that I may attempt a stole, using the Queen’s edging and border and centre patterns. There are prototypes in this excellent leaflet which Jamieson & Smith used to sell. I hope they still do.

One would have to start at opposite ends and graft the results together in a convenient garter stitch section. That’s do-able: I rather enjoy grafting. The truly happy aspect of this conclusion is that I can revert to thinking of the deep colours in Hairloom Knitting’s “cash silk”. A sample came with the Queen Ring pattern, and it’s pretty amazing.


The Strathardle weather was on the grim side, compared to a fortnight previously. The soil was workable, but wet and bitter cold, very hard on one’s poor knitting fingers. I thrust the strawberries in rather unceremoniously the evening of our arrival. They look reasonably happy so far. I took greater care with the rasps the next morning, wrapping their toes in some nice warm, dry compost.

I found this website recently. It’s too diffuse – I won’t be spending much time there. But I bought his book, because it was cheap and because I hoped it would bring me up to speed on soil chemistry. It hasn’t, but it contains the astonishing statement that rabbits don’t like lettuce. I certainly won’t venture the whole crop, but I’ve got to test that. (Some of my garden is fenced, some not.) I might as well see what rabbits think of salsola soda while I’m at it.

(I don’t know anything about its cultivation – how did I get started on this? – so I looked it up. The Royal Horticultural Society says that it prefers poor soil and a cool, wet summer. I would suspect a lesser source of trying to be funny.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

We’re all set to go to Strathardle today – we’ve decided to overlook the possibility of snow, and just plunge ahead. I should be back here Saturday morning, D.V.


I took an hour yesterday to chart my signature (JMM/2009/AMDG). It was only this morning, pondering a problem, that I realised Bridget Rorem intends you to knit alternate rows plain. I think I can do that all right without re-writing the chart – but it means quite a few more rows than I thought at first. I must start pretty soon.

I’ve reached row 41 of the 12th repeat. That means, barring disaster, that I should finish the repeat (46 rows) next week. I’ll then stop, as usual, to take stock – but this time I’ll figure out exactly where the centre is going to end, and what adjustments I’ll need to make to get there. And where to start the signature box. If Scotland win the Calcutta Cup this year, per impossibile, it’ll have to go off to the side in a little box of its own.

I’ve heard from Mike Miller – my Queen Ring pattern is on its way. Cottage industry it may be, but the Millers are extremely pleasant and efficient to deal with. My friend with Chronic Knitting Syndrome, who knows more about the ins and outs of the Internet than anyone I’ve never met, sent me this link to a better picture of the museum Princess.

K1 Yarns

When I got there on Saturday, I was thinking Aran cardigan as a possible "child's cardigan" entry for this year's Games. But Mrs Fyberspate – who sounds American – had brought a Baby Surprise with her, which she had ingeniously altered to make it double-breasted. And I thought, why not? My triangle idea, only easier. I’m not clever enough to size up a Baby Surprise, but I thought I could size the Adult Surprise down. So I bought some Scrumptious (she must be American) DK, 45% silk 55% merino, half solid, half hand-painted.

The solid seems much more lustrous than the hand-painted, but the proprietress said all I had to do was treat the hand-painted skeins roughly and they would begin to glow.

The Adult Surprise is in The Opinionated Knitter (I thought I had the Spin Off leaflet, but I can’t find it.) And it’s done on the famous Percentage System, so there’s my scaling done for me. There are even suggestions for alterations to make it more cardigan-like, less jacket-y.

I don’t understand the pattern; blind following will be necessary. Meg says, in a note, that it’s a good idea to knit a Baby one first, to get the general idea. I must have knit half a dozen Babies through the years, and I still haven’t the faintest notion how it works.

I think maybe I’ll take this along when we go to London for some art at the end of the month. I’ve sort of gone off socks. They can’t take knitting away from me on a train.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Sharon has a new pattern ready! I take it as a sign. I decided at Mass yesterday – I find that religious observance often sets the mind free with productive results – that the solution to my problem is to knit another wedding veil, when I finish my Princess. I’ve got 12 living grandchildren. There’s no need to restrict them to one veil.

That rules out gold and red as colours, alas (unless the Miles boys of Loch Fyne have Hindu weddings, as their parents did), but otherwise opens the door. I ordered the new pattern, and another ball of gossamer merino while I was at it. I’m still not sure I’ve got enough yarn to finish the Princess, and now I can stop worrying. The obvious place to join in a slightly-different shade, if it proves necessary, will be at the beginning of the top edging.

I think Sharon and her husband Mike do the whole thing as a cottage industry. She said in the message to the Heirloom Knitting Yahoo group yesterday, “I'm really proud of it and I can say that the new printer is making a wonderful job on the pages, so Mike's really happy too….We've now got to print it in the office - only two completed as I type.”

I got the new “SlipKnot” last week, the journal of the Knitting and Crochet Guild. I learn from it that someone has secured £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the Moray Firth Gansey Project. (Admittedly, part of the objective is to “use gansey knitting as a way to get people of all ages and backgrounds more interested and involved in their local coastal and fishing heritage.” That sounds good on a grant application.)

I wonder if Sharon has ever seen £50,000 in one place in her life. But she is single-handed carrying out an utterly astonishing “Shetland Lace Project”, with meticulous scholarship. As well as working in libraries, she has a collection of her own Shetland shawls and of early printed material. She can study a piece of lace and deduce a good deal about the working methods of the knitter. And she has published her remarkable patterns, making Shetland lace knitting of the very highest standard available to ambitious modern knitters.

The original Princess shawl was duplicated at the time (the 1860’s) by a copy, presented to Miss Mary Campbell of Jura. That one is on display in the National Museum of Scotland. I wondered whether Sharon had worked from it, or from the original in the Royal Collection, when she was devising the pattern for her Princess, and put that question last week to the Yahoo group. The answer is, she used the Museum piece.

There’s a thumbnail picture of it here. I think we’ve had this before, but it is interesting for me to see it again so near the end of my own shawl. As I knit the centre, it feels like a triangle. But in the picture it is closer to a half-oval (squashed half-circle).

I’m on row 36 of the 12th pattern repeat – rattling along. I made another mistake, offsetting a couple of rows. The result is a bit odd if you peer at it, but so symmetrical and consistent that I don’t think it will attract attention. The secret, which I won’t forget again, is to start every row – especially the easy ones, where I think I don’t need to look – by examining the chart to see what role the central stitch plays. It’s clearly marked, and whatever it is meant to do in a given row will be the same at all the points where my many markers are. It’s that easy.

Maybe I’ll leave it there for today. Saturday’s yarn purchase and my current thoughts about knitting a child’s cardigan promised for tomorrow.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Brief, this morning – but not for lack of cheerfulness or determination. Just Sunday, demands of hospitality, need-to-get-to-Mass. (I find I am thinking of Lent this year much as I think of the Princess centre – 25% finished.)

I had a good time yesterday both at the Farmer’s Market (I bought mutton, rare-breed pork – I’m ever searching for some that doesn’t taste like cardboard – and venison sausages from a stall where I knew that the farmer’s wife is the daughter of a man who used to teach me Greek in Glasgow, oh! many years ago) and at K1 Yarns. Both were crowded, I’m happy to report. At the latter I bought yarn (surprise!) which I will report on tomorrow, along with my current thoughts on what to do with it.

Kristieinbc, I subscribe to something called Google Analytics (free). It provides statistics, many of which I don’t understand – but it shows clearly enough how many “hits” the blog gets every day. The current gentle downward trend is unmistakable. It also shows “hits” geographically; that’s a lot of fun. I knew there was someone checking in from Alexandria before Cynthia introduced herself and said hello.

There’s Princess news-and-musings to report, too. All that tomorrow, I hope. Tuesday, at the worst.

It’s snowing in Edinburgh this morning. Didn’t expect that, and it may upset Strathardle plans.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

I am sorry for my moment of gloom yesterday, and deeply touched by all your messages. Even if there were only ten of us, that was enough to save Sodom. In fact, there are still slightly more than 200. It may not equal Franklin’s readership, or Joe’s, but it would fill the sitting room.

I’ve been casting around for new blogs to read, and have added this one, which you pointed me to, Tricia. More medical than knitting at the moment, but knitting is there, and she writes well.

Angel, that is a good question, what will I do when the Princess is finished? I love this kind of knitting with a great love. I sneak into the sitting room and knock off a few pattern repeats mid-morning as I might sneak in for a chocolate. There are two other tempting Sharon Miller patterns: the Unst wedding shawl, and the Wedding Ring. And she’s got a super-fine cashmere/silk yarn which I ache to wind around my fingers.

But why? I can’t knit just for the fun of it, like doing a 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle. (Perhaps that’s why I don’t like swatching, useful though it often proves to be.) The Princess has a goal, however theoretical: to serve as a wedding veil for granddaughters and granddaughters-in-law. The Unst or the Wedding Ring in Bordeaux or gold…too big for any occasion or any person I can think of.

But a future without complicated Shetland lace is bleak.

(Angel, congratulations on finishing the dissertation. And thanks for the by-the-way news that there is a Noro-stocking LYS in Oberlin. My four years there, and the one in Northampton, MA, six years later, were the only ones in my adult life when I didn’t knit.)

I’m presently cantering along row 28 (of 46) of the 12th centre repeat of the Princess. Even with a week out for London, and a near-week for Strathardle, finishing (the repeat, not the shawl) in March seems plausible.

Our friends left at the crack of dawn this morning without even orange juice, to take their son to a bicycle event of some sort, so I am all set for Fyberspates to be followed by the Farmer’s Market. My pattern idea for a child’s cardigan was one of those triangle affairs. A kind woman gave me this pattern when I was at Camp Stitches on Lake George in ’99. I knit it for Helen, here seen with me in Strathardle when I was the shape to which I now aspire to return.

I devised a triangle pattern of my own (not a cardigan, though) – here it is on Alistair Miles of Beijing. There are a couple of such patterns in the Jamieson books.

But I decided that that’s too much trouble, and currently fancy an Aran. A nice pattern by Melinda Goodfellow comes up if you search Ravelry for “child’s cardigan”. Yankee Knitter #19. But there’s no hint of how to buy it (LYS, perhaps?) and I could perfectly well devise an Aran for myself, as the Curmudgeon is doing for her sweetie. (Her blog is down this morning. I hope it comes back.) (It has.)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Another not-much day. I’m somewhere in row 23 of the 12th repeat of the Princess centre.

Thank you for the news about K1 Yarns and their forthcoming Selkie range, Fizz. (I wish you’d resume blogging.) If I get there tomorrow, I think maybe it is my duty to the world economy to buy some yarn. I’ll try to think about children’s cardigans today – a possible entry for the Home Industries Tent at the Games this year – and perhaps buy supplies for that. As if I needed supplies. I feel I thought of the Perfect Pattern as I was lying in bed this morning, and now can’t remember. Maybe it was a dream. No! I do remember. More soon, perhaps.

I am sort of worried about the Future of Blogging, at least as far as knitting is concerned. Many of my faves seem to have given up, or to be posting rarely. Even Franklin is pretty quiet these days. (My computer is behaving oddly this morning, slow at best and occasionally freezing up entirely. I have wasted enough time already that I’m not going to supply links. You all know where to find Franklin, certainly.) Readership here is gently declining.

On the other hand, the Reliable Prolifics seem to be at it still. I just had a peek at the Harlot and Crazy Aunt Purl, and there they are, right up to date. Joe is pretty faithful, and always worth reading.

But are we perhaps ready to disappear into Ravelry and pull up the bridge?

Thursday, March 05, 2009

I bounded about yesterday with the exuberance of one who has isolated a problem and taken steps to deal with it. If, as I expect and as has happened before, Lenten abstinence gets rid of a few pounds on its own, I will revert, sadly, to my old cider-only-on-Sundays routine. The last attempt to live like that ended abruptly when I fell (mid-week) and broke my left arm.

After three months or so of Clean Living, purposeful undergarments will come in to play. I had thought of the idea and was groping for a suitable phrase. You’ve found it, Shandy.

I ordered a pedometer yesterday. I used to have one, but it started reporting absurd results (like the scales, on carpeting).


I happened to open my Virtual Filofax (Lotus Organiser) this morning, devoted almost entirely to knitting, and noticed that I resumed the Princess exactly a month ago today – a short month, at that. I have knit two complete repeats of the centre pattern, and a row or two more. That’s rather encouraging. I am currently slogging across row 20 of the 12th repeat.

The current ball of yarn has begun to appear seriously depleted – that’s an event, in Princess-knitting. I still feel slightly concerned about whether I’ve got enough, despite Cynthia’s reassurances: there are two more balls. I joined in the current one some time shortly after resuming, so I have knit nearly a whole ball of yarn in the last month.

So if I do have enough yarn, and if I can knit on at my current pace [which I can’t, as gardening increases with better weather], I could finish the whole thing before high summer. Thought for the day.


Thanks for the thumbs up on Fyberspates, Stash Haus. I will certainly try to get there on Saturday. The friends who are coming for the weekend are really in Edinburgh to see their son and grandchildren. That means we’ll get to enjoy their company without having to provide wall-to-wall food and entertainment. Sloping off to K1 Yarns on Saturday morning ought to be perfectly feasible.

I wonder what she means by “Selkie…Coming Soon”. Google offers no help.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The raspberries are here. And I think they’ll be happy enough, waiting a week. Their roots are in a little polythene bag with some soil, and they look pretty dormant. The weather, further north, continues to feature snow and sleet. We’re just as well waiting.


Thank you for the encouragement about my plans to sign and date the Princess, Stash Haus (and Cynthia, in a private message). I’d better get started on that chart. I think every other time I’ve signed and dated a shawl, it’s been one knit on what I think of as the Amedro System – knit the edging first, pick up stitches, knit the shawl inwards. This creates the delicious illusion that the work is going faster and faster – the very opposite of the Princess centre.

However, Bridget Rorem, understandably, gives her lacy alphabet right-way-up, and turning lace upside down is not as simple as, say, doing the same for a Fair Isle pattern. This time I’ll be knitting the letters right-way-up, which will simplify things considerably. She doesn’t venture on digits, but I have not found them difficult. The letter “O” will serve for “0” which is a good start.

I’ve reached row 15 of the 12th centre repeat. A productive day yesterday.

A random thought: there are dozens of small mistakes in the centre – fewer, I think, in the edging and border. They disappear, I fondly tell myself, in a project as huge as this. Whereas in something knit in larger wool, like Stash Haus’ beautiful Girasole, you can’t get away with that kind of sloppiness. Every stitch counts.


Fyberspates is coming to Edinburgh this weekend for a trunk show at K1 Yarns. They have gorgeous yarn. The centre of Edinburgh is a nightmare these days, due to an extraordinary ambition on the part of the city fathers to install a tram system, but I am tempted…


…the more so because of that alarming vision of myself in the mirror on Monday evening. I have digital bathroom scales which of late have been giving what is manifestly a falsely flattering result. Last night I picked them up and carried them from the bathroom, which is carpeted, to what we call the downstairs lavatory, which is not. I think they may now be telling the truth, and if so the answer is horrifying.

I can ask our friends to calibrate them, so to speak, when they are here at the weekend.

My diet is sensible, thanks to my husband’s diabetes. I hope the Lenten elimination of cider will have an effect without further effort. But energetic movement can’t hurt, either. No wonder I get breathless, trying to carry such a weight around in old age.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A mildly eventful day yesterday, in an old-folks sort of way. The upshot of which is, that we’re not going to Strathardle until next week. The snowdrops look very happy – I’ve put some water into their little polythene bag, and they’ve actually perked up, although they looked very well to begin with. I am less sanguine about the strawberries.

I pursued the raspberries which the Post Office tried not-very-hard to deliver yesterday. They are promised for today. Tamar, it’s all right, I know about raspberries. We’re in the middle of raspberry country, and they grow as weeds all around us. Mine are autumn-fruiting, recommended a year ago by the Fishwife. They are said not to need support. They fruit on this-year’s growth, so the only pruning necessary is to cut them down to the ground in February.

There was a fall of snow in the night. None in Edinburgh, of course, but the radio this morning mentioned Perth and Kinross. Next week’s forecast doesn’t sound very pleasant, but at least it’s snow-free. We don’t need pleasant.

The clincher, decision-wise, was that some old friends, our next door neighbours in Birmingham, are coming for the weekend. I’ll need to spend the rest of the week cleaning and sprucing-up.

I’ve found a dress in my wardrobe which will do as well for Theo and Jenni’s wedding as anything I could buy. That’ll free up money for my Kindle, if I get one, and for accessories. I try to avoid mirrors as much as possible, and was horrified last night, trying this thing on, at how shapeless I have become. That’s a euphemism. I’ve got a shape all right, and it is not a nice one.


I’ve finished row 9 of the 12th centre repeat. That’s the slowest row of all. The pesky initial motif finishes entirely at row 13. It’ll be good to have that done when we go off to our planting session. The possibility of finishing Repeat Twelve this month suddenly seems more likely.

I’ve looked out Piecework for May/June ’98 with Bridget Rorem’s daughter’s wedding veil. There is no pattern for it, although she published an altered reprise in Gathering of Lace. I was interested in the dimensions – it’s 76” square. The Princess is a triangle, 64” from top to tip and 108” across. The picture in Piecework of (presumably) Ingrid Rorem wearing the veil shows her in a really simple dress, as you suggest, Catriona.

If I sign and date it:

I’ll need about 34 rows. The lace letters are seven rows high, space will be needed in between the rows, and top and bottom, and the whole might as well be enclosed in a box of YO, k2tog with some vertical equivalent at the sides. That means I’ll have to start during the next repeat. I’m nearly finished!

[AMDG is ad maiorem Dei gloriam, "for the greater glory of God".]

Tamar, the pattern doesn’t actually say “fudge and block”, but Sharon does use the word “adjust” three times in the final instructions for the centre. Comes to the same thing.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A certain sense of fed-up-ness here. The weather, after ten days or so of vernal, has turned nasty. Snow is forecast. And the postman managed to drop a sorry-you-weren’t-here card through the letterbox although we were here (in bed; it was early). I have never failed to hear the doorbell before, often from bed. I don’t think he tried.

The package he failed to deliver is almost certainly my raspberries. The sorting office – where one goes to present one’s lucky-dip failed-to-deliver card -- has in the last few weeks been moved from nearby to the other side of town.

We are planning to go to Strathardle tomorrow for snowdrop-and-strawberry planting. Snow could make that awkward. And the raspberries, obviously, have to go along. Decisions are necessary.

I have been looking, on-line, for clothes to wear at the wedding. A depressing business. The difficulty being not so much the clothes, as me.

Still, I knit resolutely on. I have finished the sixth row of the 12th repeat of the Princess centre. I try to stop myself making long-term projections: will I finish this repeat this month? for example. We are planning to go to London for more art pretty soon (more cause for gloom), so maybe not. It is better to think small: I should manage rows 7 and 8 today (I’m engaged in the Slow Movement at the beginning of the repeat). And, if I really want long-term, I think I’m still well on course to finish the Princess this year.

Let’s leave it at that.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Hello, March. Here we are 1/6th of the way through 2009 and I have not bought a single yard of yarn.


Real progress. The 11th centre repeat is finished. I’m halfway across the third row of the 12th.

I had a moment of real gloom, seeing it spread out like that. It's bigger than the picture suggests. It’s too elaborate. No bride is going to want to be submerged in it. But then I remembered Cynthia’s remark, that we are knitting it (she and I) like Everest, because it’s there. It must be the largest and most complicated piece of lace ever published in English; quite possibly, anywhere.

According to Cynthia’s formula, I’ve now knit 63.3% of the centre. That begins to seem about right. The 11th repeat was 10% of the whole. The 12th should take me near 75%. There are nearly 14 repeats in all. I’ve now got 517 stitches on the needle – no wonder the rows are slow.

I seem to have five more stitches on each side than I should, still to be picked up (and five fewer on the needle – I am astonished that the numbers coincide). If I had exactly the right number, I would end, I think, in an inappropriate place – another four rows would round things off nicely. But I’m in a position where another ten rows would be required, so I think a couple of k2togs would be in order.


Perhaps it is time to confess my lapse.

I keep my precious Vogue Knitting Books in box files. I have one box that ends with No. 62, and another that encloses the eight issues of the New Series that appeared after the original disappeared. The New Series is very British, and very good. I presume the British tried to go it alone, after the American VKB went down.

But that’s by the way.

I am spending time on eBay these days trying to replace the shabbiest of the ones in my collection, and also ever searching for numbers Six, Seven and Eight which I have only in bound-volume form, without their covers. I spotted a Number 63. Wha?

It turns out 62 was not the end. The series went on at least until 69. (That would be autumn, ’66.) The covers and contents are very familiar. I have never thrown away a knitting magazine in my life, I don’t think – certainly not a VKB. They must be here somewhere, unless they got lost in the move from Birmingham to Edinburgh 15 years ago.

But I am buying them again. They’re relatively recent, and relatively cheap, compared to the rare and expensive pearls of 20 and 30 years earlier. They turn up regularly, and I am close to having them all. But it was an embarrassment to discover the gap.