Wednesday, September 30, 2009


The first one fits. My husband didn’t notice the arch-fitting shape, although he spotted that there was something odd about the sock. He has lost a lot of the feeling in his feet, due to diabetes. At least he doesn’t object to arch-fitting.

I’m half-way down the heel flap of the second sock. This speed is little short of exhilarating, especially perhaps to a Princess-knitter. Photographed on the front doorstep, with the tomatoes, for the sake of the feeble morning light.

One of the packages the postman gave me yesterday morning was a big bag of KF sock wool from Modern Knitting. I don’t think I’d ever heard of them. Ordered on Saturday, arrived on Tuesday, and they seem to have the whole KF-Regia range. The bedsocks are going to clean me out of KF oddballs altogether – I had to order more.

The Grandson Sweater

Yes, I know, I know. I mustn’t even think of such a thing.

Looking around for yarn yesterday, I found this site, which I think will do nicely. Norway isn’t in the EU, but they are members of the European Free Trade thingy so knitting wool should be free, except of course for paying for it. Better than ordering from Meg, in that respect. Pagoldh wants a 2-ply wool at 1600 yards to the pound. Nowadays she’d just give a yarn name and a nordic website, but this was 1987. I laboriously did the conversion, starting from the fact that Finulgarn offers 175 meters to 50 grams, and I think it’s about right.

In the course of messing about, I found this very useful site run by Beth Brown-Reinsel, listing sources for all sorts of traditional yarns.

“Reversible Knitting”

Lynn Barr is fiendishly ingenious. She is an engineer. She pushes knitting right up to the edge.

“Reversible” doesn’t just mean same-on-both sides, like garter stitch and simple ribs. It also means, looks-good-on-both sides. She has a section on double-knitting in which the flip side is not just the original pattern with the colours reversed, but Something Completely Different. Talk about magic.

There is a section called Divide and Combine which will sound familiar, even ominously familiar, to anyone who has wrestled with one of her more advanced patterns in “Knitting New Scarves”. This time, she has set herself to create patterns in which each row is complete, with no dp needles dangling anywhere at the end of it; and cutting and re-attaching are not allowed. A relief. The results are still sensational.

The second half of the book offers reversible patterns from various designers, not necessarily using stitch patterns from the first half. I like Eric Robinson’s hat that you can turn inside out, and Wenlan Chia’s sweater that you can turn upside down (how on earth do the sleeves work?), and Veronik Avery’s “lice jacket” would be a fine vehicle for any of the double-knitting patterns. But in general the patterns are Not Me.

In fact, I think my primary use of the book will be as inspiration for future scarves.

Helen C.K.S., do you have your copy yet? Please blog about it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Another day when I wonder if I’ll get through all I have to say. I’ll start with socks.

Here’s the bedsock, now combining different KF colorways and looking rather jolly. I’ve joined in a fourth oddball – soon there will be no yarn left in the house. (Not) And by tomorrow we should know how it fits, and what my husband thinks of a shaped arch.

Here’s the general sock situation, while we’re at it. This is the current travel-and-waiting-room sock, on which progress seems to be very slow. Cast on in May. Taken to CT. I haven’t finished a single pair of socks this year, except for the possum-and-merino Cherry Tree Hill bedsocks, finished in May, worn out in September. Maybe I should press ahead now and finish this pair.

And here’s an abandoned pair, meant for Alexander. The leg is a 6 x 2 rib, which is why it looks so skinny.

Two things went wrong here. One, it’s knit of an Araucania yarn, 20% or 25% polyana-whatsit so I assumed it would wash like a sock yarn. I used the same quality for Ketki’s Calcutta Cup sweater last year, and most uncharacteristically not only made a swatch for that, but washed it, in the cycle I use for socks. Blow me if it didn’t felt. Sweaters can be handwashed or even dry cleaned, so I went ahead. But socks are a different matter.

And, two, these were the travel-and-waiting-room socks on the day (last November?) when I went to the Eye Pavilion and learned that retinal vein occlusion has involved permanent damage to my sight. On previous appointments drs had been a bit economical with that news, and I had assumed that the promised laser treatment would make everything all right again. I was knitting the socks that day as long as I could while the eye drops took effect, and got in a bit of a muddle with the ribbing, and couldn’t see to put it right, and then saw the dr and learned the news, and haven’t touched the socks since.

Maybe I’d better finish them, too. They are intended for Alexander, who can wash them once and then abandon them. And they might be all right after all in a cycle with minimum spin.

Other news

Yesterday morning, I was expecting no fewer than nine knit-related items in the mail – and the Post Office had put itself in sleep mode. On Saturday we got nothing at all but a catalogue of painfully ill-fitting shoes. But yesterday two things came, the Yarn Yard “housebrick” sock yarn, and Lynne Barr’s “Reversible Knitting”.

The book is interesting, and needs more discussion time than now remains, so tomorrow. Meanwhile, I scanned the picture of the Grandson Sweater I mentioned yesterday, from Susanne Pagoldh’s “Nordic Knitting”. Isn’t that something? The body has a seed pattern which doesn't really appear in the scan -- you knit alternate dark and light stitches every third row. I’m sure Meg has some yarn for it.

The doorbell just rang -- two more wonderful packages. Watch this space.

Monday, September 28, 2009

No, well, it doesn’t seem that the Scandinavians shaped the soles of their stockings after all, as far as my books go. Vibeke Lind, McGregor, Pagoldh, and I threw in Nancy Bush on Estonia. These books include photographs of museum specimens. The feet are patently unshaped.

Perhaps slightly surprising, given all those elegantly shaped calves. Calfs?

So for the time being, at least, EZ must have the credit for getting there first.

I was happy to renew my acquaintance with Susanne Pagoldh’s “Nordic Knitting”, definitely my top favourite among the books I own but have never knit from. This time my eye is caught by the Portom sweater (that’s Finland) on page 76. Maybe it’s having grown-up grandsons that makes the difference. I’ll add it to the HALFPINT list – but it’s a long one.

Anyway, here’s the current state of the Oliver bedsock. I’ve finished the gusset, and another oddball. I do the increase-decrease thing every three rounds, and the line of decreases has now curved around to the outer edge of the instep stitches. Great fun.

Back to the Griswold. Here it is: six feet long and about a foot across. I took a picture of the whole thing, but it’s pretty meaningless without a context, so I zoomed in on the middle to show you how smooth and invisible my grafting is. And look at that:

I can assure you there’s no such visible line in real life.

(Next summer, if I get to Knit Camp, I expect the classes I hope to take with Jared and with Donna Druchunas to be inspiring and fun, but I expect to do the serious learning in Franklin’s class on photographing fabric.)

The Griswold may be dry enough to unpick today. I am so glad to have it, as a tangible part of that happy weekend in CT and in particular as a souvenir of the day spent with Cynthia and Sue (who gave me the yarn and pattern) at the Florence Griswold Museum. It is not unlikely to be the last full day I ever spend on my native soil, and it was a good one.

Left-over sock yarn

It is sad to learn that you find yours a life-complicating issue, Ron. Life is bad enough, without further complication. I can’t remember when I passed the point where I realised that I’m not going to finish knitting all the yarn I’ve got. Maybe it was 15 years or so ago, when I got online and learned that it’s called “stash” and that everybody’s got lots of it. It’s not that I don’t still try to stay on top of things.

But specifically, sock yarn. Jean’s suggestion of a mitred blanket is a good one. And, apart from bedsocks, I use oddballs for the toes of gents’ socks, these days. I like to knit them long in the leg, and 50 grams is not quite enough for one sock. So instead of buying three balls, I get only two and finish off the toe with something from the oddball bag, harmonious or outrageous depending on the disposition of the gentleman for whom the sock is intended.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

I’m suddenly full of enthusiasm – too much to say to pack it all in, today. I attribute it to Kaffe’s wonderful sock yarn. Here’s the bedsock, as you see getting on very well with the task of knitting itself:

I did finish an oddball, as hoped – but then attached another from the same colorway, both no doubt left over from a pair of women’s socks which each use slightly less than 50 gr.

Well, yesterday I heard from Cynthia herself, Cynthia of Cynthia’s Formula which tells you what percentage of the Princess centre you’ve knit so far, and the answer always is, rather less than you expected; Cynthia who with Sue gave me the pattern and yarn for the Griswold stole. Yesterday, she pointed me to this invaluable link to Mean Girl’s pattern for arch-shaped (women’s) socks, available as a free download on Ravelry.

Cynthia says that she downloaded it a couple of years ago, and has used it since as her standard sock pattern. Mean Girl thanks Grumperina for the concept of arch-shaping. That’s a blog I used to read, and I think I’d better start again.

Tamar, your comment is very interesting, as ever. Could the idea be something EZ saw in Scandanavia, and later recalled? Have you looked at the basic Scandinavian books? I’ll do that today.

In any case, I think it’s a clear instance of what EZ famously called unvention – different knitters separately hitting on the same idea.

EZ’s is the oldest, of the ones we are considering. She knit the prototype for her daughter Meg in the 1960’s, but she never knit another pair, or wrote about it (because she knew that the idea was Scandinavian?) and Meg says that there is no reference to it in her mother’s notes. Meg published “Knitting” in 1999, with the “Stockings with Form-Fitted Arch” pattern included.

I had a real rabbit-in-headlights time yesterday, deciding which design to go forward with. I’ve settled for Oliver, because that pattern sets out to make a man’s sock on 72 stitches and that was what I was going to do anyway.

The basic idea is a pair of invisible increases running down the centre of the sole of the foot, a couple of stitches apart, and the corresponding decreases which start off fairly near by and are gradually forced outwards by the increases until they meet on the top of the foot.

Oliver and Mean Girl begin this process in the middle of the gusset decreases; you’ve got to keep your wits about you. The Zimmermann version only starts arch-shaping when the gusset is finished. (Yesterday, I thought they all did it that way.) Mean Girl and the Zimmermanns do the arch-shaping every other row throughout; Oliver is more sophisticated, with a slower rate of progress.

Mel, a man who knit the kilt hose you wore on your wedding day ought to be able to knock out a pair of arch-shaped socks from that information.

That leaves a discussion of Ted’s oddball collection for tomorrow, not to mention a picture of the finished Griswold, currently pinned to the dining-room floor. Ted, I remain seriously grateful to you for pointing out the similarity between the Oliver pattern and the Zimmermann one and thereby launching this whole train of thought.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Mel, when you find yourself envying my tomatoes, you can reflect on how much I envy your raised beds, properly constructed with your strong right arm, not cobbled together old-lady-fashion.

Yesterday was a day of achievement.

The Griswold is knit, and Kitchener’d. I can’t enlist it as an FO until it’s blocked. I hope that’ll happen today.

And then I cast on a bed sock, from scraps in the left-over-sock-yarn bag. I had forgotten how wonderful KF sock yarn is – you just cast it on and then sit there. It knits itself.

And one of the pleasures of knitting an odd-ball project in a much-stashed house is the sense of achievement one gets whenever an actual ball of yarn is actually finished, made into something, done. I should pass the first such milestone, bedsock-wise, this very day.

I’ve read through the instructions of both the Oliver and the EZ-Meg shaped arch. Today I’ll compare them side by side. They agree that you just knit Your Standard Sock until you finish the gusset decreases, although they don’t phrase it like that. So I could go ahead and do the upside-down gusset which I think helps fit my husband’s diabetic-swollen feet.

Bed socks don’t require much length in the leg, so I should get the heel turned today. This is exciting!

Odds and ends

The Bluestocking has published an interesting post, deconstructing (I think that’s the mot juste) a television series about polar exploration – “The Last Place on Earth”-- in terms of the sweaters.

I intended to put an end to my mad knitting-spending-spree, but Franklin (or rather, Harry) led me astray and I ordered some Addi Turbo sock needles just now. I think maybe that’s eight separate packages I’m expecting: Herbert Niebling lace from the Schoolhouse press, “Reversible Knitting” and the Melville mother-daughter book and “Custom Knitting” from Amazon, a Japanese package from the Needle Arts bookshop, a Japanese magazine – “Flat-Style of the New Sense” – from Japan, yarn from the Yarn Yard, and now these needles.

And I'm thinking about some more KF sock yarn.

Enough, already.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hey, thanks.

Tricia, I went to Ravelry and bought a download of the Oliver sock pattern, just as you said, no prob. My previous attempt had been at the designer’s own website. If the pattern had been available there, it would have come in the mail. This way seems much simpler. I’ve printed it out.

And, Ted, thank you very much for the pointer to EZ’s form-fitted arch socks. I have long admired them (in Meg’s book “Knitting”), and I’ve got the Schoolhouse Press leaflet. I always thought the socks beyond me – it’s those stripes, as well as the shaping.

Vibeke Lind creates a somewhat similar effect with a cap, p. 91 of my copy of “Knitting in the Nordic Tradition”. (That’s one of my all-time must-have knitting books.) I knit that for my sister once, rather successfully. I don’t know quite why I thought I couldn’t do the socks.

It occurred to me yesterday that I can perfectly well do an Oliver foot on the bedsocks I am about to cast on. It will be an interesting trial run to discover how the shaping suits my husband’s foot. So I’ll do that. (I still have a row and a half of the Griswold to knit, plus the Kitchener’ing. I may not get the bed socks cast on until tomorrow).

Maybe if the Oliver proves as successful as Franklin's enthusiasm suggests, I'll try it one day with the stripes. But for the time being, I went to the Yarn Yard and bought a 100 gram skein of a sock yarn called, I think, Housebrick. It was kind of like a colourway she once had called, I think, Glasgow Tenement, which went so fast that I never got any. In this case, I’ve bought the last skein. The idea is to knit my husband some full-size Olivers, if the pattern works for him.

As if I needed sock yarn.

(I noticed that the Yarn Yard is beginning to sell the new yarn, “Clan”, without saying much about it. It’s listed as “new for September”. Mrs Yarn Yard had some of it with her at Annie Modesitt’s Combination Knitting class recently, along with things that she and a test knitter had been doing with it. It’s awfully nice, and exclusive to her.)

This spending spree of mine has got to stop – it’s something to do with the equinox, I’m sure. As things stand, knitterly materials will be washed ashore here with every tide for some time to come. I added one more this morning, too: "Custom Knits" on your recommendations, Angel and Raveller.


We had most of the doorstep tomato crop for lunch yesterday. Delicious.

I recently bought myself what I believe may be called a USB hub, and I’m still at the stage where it seems a great luxury to be able to connect the camera without first crawling about on the floor to unplug the flash drive.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More wandering about.

I decided to buy the Oliver sock pattern so highly praised by Franklin. Not available. Why can’t she just sell it as a download, like everybody else these days?

I went ahead yesterday and ordered Sally Melville’s book, mentioned yesterday. There are good designs there, and – as you say, Gerri – the pages on fit and body shapes looked interesting.

There seem to be other books, all of a sudden. Wendy Bernard’s Custom Knits, Jane Ellison’s Knits to Fit and Flatter, Pam Allen’s Simple Style, Debbie Bliss’ Design It, Knit It. Fit would appear to be in, this season. Comments very welcome from anybody who knows any of these books. I like Pam Allen, and have a couple of her other “Style” books. Some are better than others.

I decided against Signature needles for the moment. I’m perfectly happy with my Brittany birches, and the danger you mention, FiberQat, of holes in one’s fingers, has to be born in mind.

I should finish knitting the Griswold this evening. The designer offers an interesting way of joining the two halves, similar to the one Donna Druchunas recently included in her blog, derived from “Knits from the North Sea”(which seems to be unique among recent knitting books in that I am definitely not interested in it).

I can’t link to the Druchunas blog this morning. I get a very odd error message, “Page headers already sent out”, which in turn has an even odder effect on the computer. I couldn’t Restart, or even switch off. I had to get down there and pull out the plug. And then turn it on. And then reboot. I now seem to be back in business – but don’t try getting Donna’s blog just yet.

And since I positively enjoy Kitchener’ing, I think I’ll join the stole that way.

There was a men’s fashion article in the Telegraph yesterday with everybody looking a lot like the chap on the front of Erika Knight’s “Men’s Knits”. (The link is to In the UK version, the poor fellow has lost his scarf.) The text in the Telegraph speaks of “oversized chunky details on knitwear…The look is very much hand-knitted, but way beyond anything you could hope to receive from your great-aunt at Christmas.”

Why is everyone always so rude about elderly female relatives and their knitting?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I had a nice, knitterly time yesterday.

Helen C.K.S. had the new Sally Melville book, Mother-Daughter Knits. This morning I see that it hasn’t been published yet. How did she manage that? I clearly wasn’t paying attention. It’s got some very good things in it. Helen thought it didn’t quite cut the mustard. I’ll reserve judgement until I’ve had a chance to spend half-an-hour with it. I’m in the queue. I don’t normally add books which are simply collections of patterns to my groaning shelves these days, but I may make an exception here. I've got, I think, all the rest of Melville's oeuvre, and admire her work a lot, although I'm not sure I've ever actually knit anything of it.

Helen is going to be a stop on a blog-tour to be made by Lynne Barr to promote her new book “Reversible Knitting”. Blog-touring is a new concept for me, although come to think of it, I have probably read a few examples. Publishers must love them, for cheap promotion; and authors, for not having to spend dreary afternoons in bookshops.

The Griswold, meanwhile, is within two or three days of completion. And I did order “Flat-Style of the New Sense”, a Japanese knitting magazine.


Moorecat, I found dozens of thing-finders by Googling on “electronic key-finder”. Mine is a “SmartFinder” made, needless to say, in China. I went ahead yesterday and used up all the parts they sent me – I’ve attached one to dangle from the Filofax, and the two slimmer thingys I stuck on my mobile telephone and Palm.

I find that the slim receivers don’t work as well as the slightly chunkier dangly ones. The one on the telephone often doesn’t answer at all, and when it does, its cry is fainter than the one from the key-ring. This doesn’t worry me, since keys are my problem. But someone prone to mislaying telephone or iPod might want to shop around.

Tamar, I don’t think – famous last words – that there’s any real danger of losing the control center. It stands neatly at the back of a kitchen shelf, and there it can remain.

Moorecat, I wish you’d go back to blogging.

I have added a couple of blogs to my Google Reader list lately, since old friends seem to be posting more and more rarely. A new fave is Nerd Knits who inspires me this morning to covet a set of Signature sock needles. Does anyone know anything about them?

Weight loss

V stone 13 ¾ this morning! (As opposed to X stone 12, when my New Life started.) No doubt I’ll be back up there in the low-W’s tomorrow, but for today it feels good. My weight is now in the upper reaches of the range where it was in youth and middle age, although rather differently distributed. I always used to find January-March the difficult months, weight-wise. We shall see. Or maybe I’ll break my arm this afternoon and abandon the whole project. One never knows.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I have been wandering around eBay, looking for old Vogue Knitting Books -- they’re getting very rare -- and then at Japanese knitting. Little time left for blogging. I am tempted by a book called “Flat Style of the New Sense” direct from Japan.

I found the article about Japanese knitting in the old IK mentioned yesterday. It didn’t add much to the information on the Wool and Wicker website (link yesterday), but was interesting nonetheless. It said in passing that there is no room in Japan to keep stuff, so people throw it away.

I was moved to face up to the problem of Knitting magazine, the British one. I subscribe, and it is not entirely without interest. But it is not worth archiving. Yesterday I threw them all away – I think I have a complete set, until the recycling men come around next week. Helen C.K.S. has valiantly agreed to let me pass on my copies in future. I have laid out the most recent half-dozen to take to her when we meet for coffee today (at a spot not far from John Lewis’s yarn department).

This decision feels good. The space on the shelf where they used to be, looks good.

Dawn, I google’d Habu and remembered why I admire but come away empty handed – all that cotton and stainless steel and tasteful pale colour. It’s not me. However the great thing about Japanese knitting, I now know after three days of obsession, is enablement. I can use any yarn.

I do hope I will finish off a bit of what is currently on my plate in time actually to do something about this.

Completely non-knit

A couple of weeks ago, I mislaid my keys. I had a painful 24 hours, and a restless night in which I kept dreaming of finding them, before my husband actually did. I resolved to get one of those electronic thing-finders, and I did, but it needed a teeny tiny screwdriver to open the battery compartment and I didn’t get around to doing it and then I lost the keys again.

This time for the whole weekend. More misery. I had a thing-finder, there it was -- but no thing for it to find. I found my keys yesterday afternoon, in full view in a room little frequented, and sat down at once to wire them up. I have done it successfully. Push a button on the control unit in the kitchen, and the keys will reply.

I bought a rather more complicated thing-finder than I really need, and am inspired to go on today to connect my Filofax and mobile telephone to the system. Maybe I will give everybody a thing-finder for Christmas, except that my husband thinks nobody but me ever mislays anything.

And I probably never will again, but the sense of security is wonderful. The keys could be replaced, and were obviously somewhere on the premises since I was myself, but I have on the ring a little stag’s horn thingamy which Rachel gave me when she was a child. Utterly irreplaceable, an essential talisman, endlessly reassuring in my hand, whenever I leave the house.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Little to report. A few more rows of the Griswold.

More thinking about Japanese knitting. The trouble with the (otherwise interesting) articles about the history of knitting in Japan on the KnitJapan site is that they stop after the Great War, just when the story gets interesting. There’s nothing to speak of in Rutt – a few paragraphs about Hashimoto Osamu, b. 1948. But it sounds as if his designs are mainly in colour (a Japanese KF?) whereas the excitement seems to be in shape and stitch patterns.

Googling “Hashimoto Osamu” doesn’t readily come up with pictures of his work, alas. There is a site with a Japanese title of which Google warns, “This site may harm your computer”. How is that possible? I didn’t try.

What I did find was this (scroll down): a description of the rigorous course it is possible to follow at Wool and Wicker if you happen to live in or near Vancouver, with a Nihon Vogue certificate at the end of it. And of the much more rigorous training that a Nihon Vogue instructor herself undergoes.

Here’s a blogger who has completed Year One of the course – and signed up for Year Two. I think I’m going to add her to my list.

The Wool and Wicker site mentions an article about knitting in Japan in IK in spring, ’98. I ought to be able to find that among the tottering piles of knitting magazines in our bedroom.

(Change of subject) Maureen, thank you for your remarks about bed socks. As it happens, I had seen and coveted Dream in Color’s “Smooshy” yarn only yesterday. I was thinking about their Tulip jacket which I have coveted ever since Franklin knitted it for his niece. The next time anybody I’m on knitting terms with goes in for a baby, I’m going to knit that, and if he turns out to be a boy he will just have to have a colourful start in life.

Smooshy results in hard-wearing socks despite not having any nylon in it, does it? Tempting.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

My immediate knitting future – not jabot, not jackets, not Japanese, as it turns out -- was determined yesterday by the fact that my husband’s bedsocks collapsed. Both he and I were surprised to learn that I finished them only in May of this year. But it’s true. I may be more than a bit behindhand with balancing bank statements, but the knitting archives are up-to-date.

The bedsocks are knit of Cherry Tree Hill merino-and-possum, in a shade called Spring Frost, which I bought that happy day in March at I Knit in London when I met some blog readers: you know who you are. One of the relatively few impulse buys in my life inspired pretty well entirely by the name of the colour.

I already knew that bedsocks receive surprisingly hard wear, even when restricted entirely to their intended function. I had previously knit a pair from non-sock wool and the same thing happened (large holes very soon). The point of this latest pair was to try out various ideas for diabetic socks which you good people had suggested. But that was no reason not to knit them of proper sock yarn.

But I didn’t, and now I must. I’ll finish the Griswold first, about another week, and then turn out the sock-remnant-bag and see what’s there. I'm nearly three-quarters through the Griswold, and loving every stitch.

Japanese knitting

I remain slightly anxious about YesAsia and that credit card. It is a comfort to know that other people have dealt with them successfully. I wrote cancelling the order, and have heard nothing.

On a brighter note, I also wrote to Needle Arts asking whether they had the magazine in question, inspired by a thought that struck while I was writing yesterday’s blog. They do have it – and including it in the package won’t increase the postage. So that’s good.

Jane-Beth, it wasn’t Japanese embroidery at the Ally Pally. I wandered around a bit on the internet yesterday, looking for Japanese yarn – do they have sheep in Japan? And found this site. Undoubtedly, what we saw was the Fushiginoiroito exhibition of 2001.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Another day of self-indulgence, and, Allison (comment yesterday), what is it they say about Great Minds? I had ordered both of the books you recommend, “Knitting Patterns Book 250” and “New Style of Heirloom Knitting”, from Needle Arts before I read your comment.

I also ordered the fall issue of Keito Dama from YesAsia. I was impressed with their website. I got nearly through the order and then discovered that things could only be sent to the US or Canada. However, there was a helpful line asking if I would like my shopping cart to fly (their word) to YesAsia Global, so I said yes, and off it flew, and I placed the order.

However, this morning I had a message from them saying that “our credit card processor was unable to verify the billing address registered in your shopper profile” and asking for a copy of a credit card statement, or of the card itself. I’m afraid not, chaps. So I’ll have to do without the magazine, at least for the time being. Needle Arts will have it eventually.

In fact, thinks! maybe they have it already, even though it’s not listed on the website. I’ve just emailed Marsha to ask to have it included, if so. I know that she isn't going to take my package to the post office until Monday.

When there could conceivably be time for all this in terms of actual knitting, I can’t imagine.

I can’t remember when Japanese knitting began to impinge on my consciousness, but I do remember that my husband nobly accompanied me a few years ago to a Knitting and Stitching Show of some sort at the Alexandra Palace (the Ally Pally, in north London, a landmark as the train from Edinburgh nears Kings Cross).

It was awful. It was hideously crowded. The day was roasting hot, and were we actually moving about under a glass ceiling? There was no decent or even semi-decent food, and diabetics need lunch even if the rest of us can go without. And there was nothing of the slightest interest to see or do or buy – except for two Japanese stands. I can’t remember what they were, or what they were showing, but I remember that it was breathtaking. “Museum quality”, my husband said, who doesn’t use such phrases lightly.


Catriona, I love the idea of sausages and apple slices braised in cider. I could have it to celebrate the day when I break the W stone barrier (if ever), or as a consolation the weekend when the clocks go back. One way or the other, it’ll be on the menu.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Judith, thanks for the link to the Ravelry discussion of “Knits from the North Sea” (comment yesterday). Definitely no, is my decision.

However, I find myself intrigued by references to Margaret Leask Peterson, the co-author. She lives on Unst and is said (by DCN, a non-knitter, in a review of the book on American Amazon) to be “unquestionably the most respected living knitter”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of her, and can’t find any other information, in a brief session with Google – just endless references to the book. With which, apparently, she had little to do. Some of the contributors to the Ravelry discussion might be able to tell me more.

I continued to feel, yesterday, that I craved self-indulgence. Something to do with entering upon this most depressing quadrant of the year? I hesitated with the pointer over “one-click ordering” on the Amazon page for Isager’s “Japanese Inspired Knits” and then decided, no, much more sensible to get a Japanese book – which? – and do this properly.

I settled for pre-ordering Lynn Barr’s “Reversible Knitting”, due on October 1 so there’s not long to wait; and “Knitted Lace Designs of Herbert Neibling” from Schoolhouse Press.

Actual knitting went well enough, as I pressed forward with the second half of the Griswold stole.


A boring subject, but I don’t want it to drop out of sight altogether as (ahem) seems to have happened with Joe. He lost ten pounds earlier in the year and looked the better for it, at a time when I had lost about that much and looked exactly the same. But he hasn’t mentioned the matter since.

I started at X stone 12, early in March. (Part of the routine is a morning weigh-in, with the result recorded in my electronic Filofax.) I was hovering around W and ½ stone – W stone 7 pounds -- when I went off to Theo’s wedding in July. That did me no harm, and neither did 10 ciderous days leading up to the Games in August.

Then I resumed the Regime (cider only on Sunday, no sugar, careful with fat) and, rather to my surprise, resumed weight-loss. I’m now hovering around W stone 0, keen to break through that barrier.

I lived like this once before, in 2006. On Wednesday, September 27 of that year I weighed in at V stone 11 ¾. And fell and broke my left arm and abandoned sobriety.

So I don’t know whether I will be capable of maintaining the Regime through the three grim months ahead. I can live without chocolate cake indefinitely, I think, but braised sausages, bread and peanut butter and cider are different matters altogether, as darkness closes in.

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The Telegraph gardening section said ten days ago (when I had but one red one) that tomatoes wouldn’t ripen further outdoors this year – and they were talking about the sunny south. I didn’t believe it, but even so was very pleasantly surprised by what I found on the doorstep when we got back from Strathardle on Tuesday.

I don’t think there’ll be much more ripening now, but I will certainly leave them while the current spell of good weather lasts. The light is going, but they are still getting several warm, sunny hours every day.

I agree about chard (and perpetual spinach), Mary Lou – (and I love the Different Every Time blanket). True spinach is (like peas) one of those vegetables which depend on the man-from-Del-Monte moment. Miss it, perhaps because you’re not in Strathardle that week, and the crop is lost.

(This year, the spinach bolted when three inches high, during that freak drought in May. And we missed the moment with the peas, which, however, still made a decent soup.)

What I will eschew is mispoona and rapa senza testa and bianca riccia da taglio and whatever else they can think up for me in the catalogues this winter.

I ordered Nigel Slater’s new vegetable-gardening-cookery book “Tender” from Amazon yesterday – and nearly ordered Peterson & Noble’s “Knits from the North Sea” this morning, inspired by Donna Druchunas’ enthusiasm for it. But printed a reader’s review, so intelligently written and so persuasively negative that I held my hand. I wonder if I would have recognised her name, had it been signed?


I’ve finished the first half of the Griswold stole, and started the second. Tuesday evening, when we got home, I tried to thread the first half onto waste yarn and wound up setting it free altogether. It was a mess. The only thing to do was to recover the stitches roughly and then tink back patiently to solid ground.

When we were packing up to leave last week I had occasion to re-fondle the Fyberspates yarn in dreary olive green which I had laid out to take to Alyth to donate to charity. Not a good colour for a child’s cardigan – but what about the February Lady Sweater for me, if I’m worried about the slightly alarming red of the Araucania wool I have ordered? So I put it back in stash. So much for good intentions.


My husband is doing all right, I think – certainly no worse, which counts as improvement in old age. Mundi, thank you for the recipe. It sounds both delicious and restorative, and I should have time to make it today.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The top line is that my cold got better (and that’s all it was), leaving behind a chesty cough, and that’s getting better too. But my husband now has it, starting straight off with the chesty cough. He’s not feverish, but any illness is worrying at his age and state of health. Blood sugar levels are way up. At least we got back here to Edinburgh in good order.

The weather was wonderful in Strathardle. I was cosseting myself, and didn’t get much of anything done.

Here are some harvest pictures for you, Angel. The courgettes:

We had stuffed marrow last night, using the largest of them. It wasn’t very successful. My fault, not its.

Some runner beans and the beetroot crop and an overgrown perpetual spinach plant on its way to the compost bin, which doesn’t belong in the picture. We’d better eat those beets today. Delicious.

The autumn raspberry crop in its entirety (so far). I have netted the bushes and hope for more ripening in the days to come. I think raspberries can stand up to the first fingers of frost.

The carrot crop, and more runner beans. We’ve eaten the carrots and they were wonderful.

A new miracle vegetable called mispoona, from Real Seeds. It didn’t taste very nice. Memo to self for next year: eschew miracle vegetables. Stick to spinach.

The tout ensemble, looking autumnal. There’ll be lots more beans from that tepee if frost holds off a while.

And the Strathardle knitting, long neglected for some reason. It’s an Araucania sweater for me, almost identical in pattern to Ketki’s Calcutta Cup sweater. I love it, and must knit it more industriously henceforth. Ketki wore hers to the Games and I had the pleasure of pointing out the pattern to a rugby-loving and Scotland-supporting friend.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I think we’ll attempt Strathardle today. I’m somewhat better – and the big thing is, I’m not worse. I really worried a little bit yesterday about the possibility of being seriously, swine-flu-y ill, and stranding my husband in the country. He doesn’t drive any more, and would be hard put to it to walk as far as the village. And Alexander couldn’t get across country to help because a landslide at Rest and Be Thankful has cut him off from the outside world.

I knew that old folks didn’t seem to get swine flu as often or as badly as other people, but I didn’t know that we are supposed to have built up an immunity. Why are most of the people who have died of that truly dreadful thing, new-variant-CJD, so young? That's counter-intuitive. We oldies have been eating hamburger for many more decades.

And thanks for the reminders on dates. Of course the sequences I am so enjoying go on until 10/11/12 and 12/12/12. Then there’ll still be 11/12/13 and 12/13/14 (although we British won’t get that last one).

Angel, I’ll certainly take pictures of my vegetable crop. Don’t expect too much. And congratulations on the PhD -- Dr. Angel.


I did wind a skein and cast on the February Lady Sweater yesterday. Thus are the good habits of the middle years swept aside in old age. I’m not getting gauge, too small, so what I did will have to be regarded as a large swatch. There are holes at either end of the buttonhole, anyway. As far as one can tell at this stage, and allowing for the fact that it's too small, the neckline seems all right.

The yarn is heaven to handle. (Yes, MaryJo – Araucania “Nature Wool”.) I remain uneasy about the colour. It’s a fine episcopal purple -- the spelling checker wants a capital E on “Episcopal”; it’s not often actually silly like that – in artificial light and even dim natural light, but rather alarmingly acid in good light.

It occurred to me that “nearly solid” colours in yarn must, until recently, have been regarded as a failure by the dyers. It was clever of somebody to see the potential. Just as it was clever of someone to realise that people would pay you to allow them to walk around wearing a shirt advertising your product.

I’ve heard from Beijing – James says he and his family can be in Strathardle (as well as Helen and hers) to coax my husband in for lunch during KnitCamp next summer. The organisers really couldn’t have chosen a better date or more convenient spot for me if they had had me in mind from the beginning.


Alexander sent this picture yesterday, with the remark “Count yourself lucky you don’t have to compete at Dalmally”. I suspect those aren’t his vegetables, although those are certainly his sons, James-the-Younger on the left, and his brother Thomas-the-Younger. Their costumes suggest that Strathardle had better weather than Dalmally on Games Day, anyway.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009


I have enjoyed the nine days similarly numbered since the turn of the millennium, even more than I like the 1/2/3's and 3/4/5's. Today is the last one.

The plan had been to go to Strathardle today, to get the harvest in. If I’m lucky, the tepee will be heavy with not-yet-entirely wooden-tasting beans. There are certainly potatoes and (small) carrots and beets, although the mice will have nibbled the beets where they mound up above the soil. Mara des Bois strawberries and autumn-bearing raspberries were poised on the edge a fortnight ago, but the birds have probably had them. Kale should be in good form, but we’ll save that for winter. I’ll net it this time, which should at least annoy the deer.

However, I’ve got a sore throat, and it got worse rather than better overnight. I think it might be wiser to wait a day and see how the cookie crumbles. Strathardle is no place to be ill – can’t phone for a takeaway, to begin with.

I’m not generally nervous about pandemics – we had a grand time in Beijing when SARS was at its worst. But swine flu scares me, probably because of its connection (H1N1) with the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918. Sore throat is on the symptom list, but well down towards the end. I’m not feverish, and not coughing.

I am so used to taking care of my husband, and worrying about his sister – she has had repeated chest infections since May of last year, is constantly weak and breathless and cross at the NHS for being unable to find the underlying cause and cure her – so used to that, that I sometimes forget I’m pretty old myself.

So, knitting. About which there is little to report. I am within nine rows, I think it is, of finishing the first half of the Griswold stole. Yesterday I resisted the temptation to cast on the February Lady Sweater. I might not be so strong-minded today, if I feel I need coddling.

More non-knit

I finally despaired of ever seeing Jenni’s and Theo’s wedding pictures on their wedding website, and have learned that they are available on Facebook, if one can enrol among their friends. I am agitating for a more public display.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Where to begin, for sheer excitement?

Helen writes from Athens, a propos the prospect of looking after her father for a couple of days next summer while I gallivant about: “No prob at all. Anything for Franklin.” So as soon as booking opens for the KnitCamp, I’ll try to book my chosen classes – better to lose the money, if it turns out I can’t go, than to risk losing the chance.

And did you see that Donna Druchunas herself posted a comment here on Saturday? I feel greatly honoured. I know a teeny tiny bit about Japanese knitting (which she is going to teach at KnitCamp) because I went to a class at K1 Yarns not all that long ago with Mrs Habu herself. But I haven’t done anything about it, so the basic ideas need to be refreshed, and there is lots I want to know about what’s going on in Japan, not restricted to Habu.

Meanwhile I’m greatly enjoying Donna’s blog.

Here, I move forward with the Griswold. I may even reach the half-way point today, and cast on the second half. You can see what I mean about the diminishing size of the panels of repeats, and how hard it would be to add a section to increase the length. Unless one did it at the beginning. As it is, it will I think block to the designer’s specified size, 15” by 60”. It doesn’t look nearly as lacy as the prototype, but I think blocking will take care of that.

The yarn for the February Lady Sweater arrived just now. It’s plumier than I expected. (And fancy the spelling checker which so often annoys me, accepting “plumier”.) I submit pictures taken with and without the flash. Will pluminess suit me? It looks wonderful, whatever, and a nice warming colour for the dark days looming ahead.


Here’s my tomato crop on the doorstep. I have never grown tomatoes before, thinking them beyond my capabilities. It’s interesting the way the fruit hangs on the plant for weeks and weeks and then, suddenly, decides to turn red and does it within a few days.

I am told I can ripen the ones which clearly won’t make it, by putting them in a bowl with an overripe banana. I’ll try that, and I’ve got a recipe for a sugarless green tomato chutney/salsa, which I will also try.

The Fishwife herself, who gave me the young plants, says that her own crop failed – the tomatoes caught blight from the potatoes in her allotment and had to be ripped up and thrown away. I think blight is getting worse, year by year. And a sodden summer like this one doesn’t help.

Saturday, September 05, 2009


Will it happen? It might. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying it in prospect, and in fantasy. Dawn and Mel and David, it’ll be great to meet you. Shall we do lunch?

I’ve printed out the schedule, and chosen a programme for myself. On Tuesday morning, it’ll be “Seamless Sweaters” with Jared. I can knit seamless sweaters already, and am brave enough to steek, but I’m sure he knows tricks I’ve never thought of. On Wednesday morning, “Photographing your Fibre” with Franklin. On Thursday, I can’t choose, so I’ll have to stay all day. “The Swedish North Halland Pullover” in the morning with Beth Brown-Reinsel, and “Explore Japanese Knitting” in the afternoon with Donna Druchunas.

Japanese knitting – and Japan is where it’s at, these days, I’m sure we all agree – is not a subject Druchunas has written about. That’s not necessarily a downer. The first such class I ever took was one on the Bavarian Travelling Stitch at Camp Stitches in ’99 with Candace Eisner Strick. She never wrote about that, either, nor even used it very much in her designs, but it was a subject she was (and I hope still is) seriously interested in, and it was a wonderful class.

I’ve added the Druchunas blog to my list of what I think might be called feeds. I’ve also, EJ, fixed that link (I hope) in yesterday’s entry. Sorry about that.

As for knitting, the Griswold stole is within hailing distance of the half-way point, where I start again from the other end. The jabot continues to be neglected. The yarn for the February Lady Sweater hasn’t yet arrived.

And our friends are here, and breakfast calls.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Great day, yesterday, despite unremitting rain.

The big news is that we are to have an American-style KnitCamp next summer right here in Scotland, on the Stirling University campus. Look at that: Franklin! Jared! Nancy Bush! Vivian Hoxbro! Annie herself! And more! Stirling is reachable as a day-trip from either Edinburgh or Strathardle and the dates are during the period when Greek Helen is usually here, who could hold the fort in my absence. Thank goodness I heard about it early enough – thanks to the Fishwife -- to lay long plans.

And the other news is that The Yarn Yard is soon to launch a wonderful new yarn, exclusive to her. I don’t want to tread on commercial toes so will say no more for now, but it’s great stuff (she had some with her). I’ll watch the website and report further when it’s available.

And, oh yes, Combination Knitting.

Annie Modesitt is wonderful, strong and energetic and patient and kind. We all learned a lot. The technique is one she hit upon while teaching herself to knit in an instructor-free void. She was delighted to learn, years later, that instead of being a solitary eccentric, she’s doing Combination Knitting. Shades of M. Jourdain’s discovery that he had been speaking prose all his life.

The technique is easy, and I think in my case it does provide a smoother fabric. The yarn goes under rather than over the needle in the purl rows, thus travelling a shorter distance and making knit and purl rows more harmonious with each other. My Strathardle knitting, long neglected at the moment, is being knit on circular needles up to the armpits. It might be worth switching to Combination Knitting when I divide the work.

The really fascinating part, however, was to watch Annie knit. She anchors the left-hand needle on her knee, and threads the yarn loosely between little finger and ring finger of her left hand. All the manipulation and yarn-feeding is done with the thumb and index finger of that hand. Wrists scarcely move, and fingers not much, and the speed is terrific.

Whereas I, equally self-taught but a good deal less bright, flail about in the clumsiest possible way. And continue to flail when attempting Combination Knitting – I simply couldn’t begin to do it Annie’s way, although I tried. It might be worth while to go on trying.

I bought her book, Confessions of a Knitting Heretic. It promises very well.

Gerry came in at the end, looking well. An unexpected bonus.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

On this day 70 years ago we went swimming in the Great Salt Lake. My father told me to remember – not the swimming, so much, as September 3, 1939. By the time of Pearl Harbor I was eight, and didn’t need to be told.

I don’t think that funny business the other night was a computer virus, and I’m glad in a way to hear of your similar experience, Tamar. The multiple windows that kept popping up didn’t have time to download content, as I clicked frantically to close each one while battling my way down to the Start button. But I got the impression – perhaps they were pink -- that they were multiple copies of Stephanie’s blog which I had been reading.

I’ve got Norton, and it’s up to date. I did have a virus once, Klez H I think it was called, years ago on a different computer. The first thing it did – as you say, Sabrina – was to disable my virus protection, McAfee at the time and not entirely up to date. It then sent itself to all the people in my address book, enabling my sons to tell me I had a virus and to name it. It also sent messages to me from people on the list. I wish I had saved the one from “James Miles” telling me to click on the link provided to get rid of the Klez virus. There was something about the prose style which suggested that it had not been sent by the James Miles I know and love.

My husband’s computer has a virus called Form which I am very fond of. It causes each keystroke to make a hollow, echoing sound on the 18th day of the month. It has no other effect whatsoever. And the effect only operates in DOS, so it doesn’t linger to irritate my husband once he has loaded Word Perfect. But whenever I carry a disk from his computer to mine, Norton makes a great song-and-dance about eliminating it.


Old friends are coming to stay tomorrow, so yesterday was largely devoted to a thorough clean of the spare room and Downstairs Lavatory, much used by itinerant family during the summer. By knitting time I was too tired for anything but the nice, easy, deliciously soft Griswold.

I have formed a new resolution. Every time I yield to the temptation to buy yarn, I will give some away from stash to a charity in Alyth which knits for various good causes. Helen C.K.S. and I have provided it with a lot of material in recent years.

I’ve got more stash than I could possibly knit in my lifetime, even if I’m still knitting at 90, but it’s remarkably hard to find anything I can bear to part with. This time – when I ordered that Araucania for a February Lady Sweater the other day – I chose the Fyberspates Scrumptious DK I bought earlier this year to knit a Child’s Surprise as my Games entry. It’s good stuff, wonderful on the hand, but an unfortunate gloomy colour. An expensive mistake.

Tomorrow I will be able to tell you all about Combination Knitting, after my class with Annie Modesitt. She will certainly mention Edinburgh in her blog. I feel a bit as Alice did when she was told that she was only a figure in the Red King’s dream.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The computer went berserk last night.

I had just finished reading a favourite blog, and was closing the window, when windows started opening everywhere, like a mad new form of computer game. I struggled to regain control, as if with a skidding car or runaway horse, and when I succeeded, rebooted. Everything was then calm – except that I couldn’t connect to the internet at all, and had never before seen the error messages which an attempt produced.

I am still shaking, in retrospect. If I ever think of myself as calm and in control, I need to remember that everything depends on access to the universe. I’m having lunch tomorrow with the Fishwife, before our Combination Knitting class with Annie Modesitt. I don’t even know her – the Fishwife’s – telephone number. It’s been so long since I had serious trouble that I don’t have A Man who could be summoned to help. And what would you think if I wasn't here this morning?

But all was well last night before I went to bed. So it must (I guess) have been the ISP’s fault. I don’t have their telephone number either, but I’ll put that right.


I am greatly encouraged by the number of you who have knit and subsequently worn the February Lady Sweater. If I still read something like the KnitList, I’d have heard of it long ago. And forewarned is forearmed – the great thing about top-down knitting is that I’ll be able to try that neckline right away. Shandy, I looked up “Knitting on Impulse”. What wonderful pictures! What a cheerful mother (wearing the FLS)! What a good colour! Her adjustments sound too complicated for me, but you never know. I don't think I have very good shoulders -- see the sidebar. But you never know about that, either.

As for my own knitting, I finished the ASJ swatch, although I haven’t done anything with it yet, and got this far with the Griswold Stole. It’s a very clever pattern, dead easy. It’s all done with offsets. It’s perfect post-Princess therapy, as you suspected, Cynthia. I think the bulges in the side edges will block out -- my first version had them, too.

I think it’s time for a jabot day, if I can bear to tear myself away.


Every year after the Games we take a group picture of Our Party, although I’ve never done anything with them. Tree pictures are carefully kept in my Tree Book. Here is this year’s. Alexander, second from the right, was the photographer. Everybody was there except Helen’s husband David. I, my husband, and Helen are the three white-haired figures in the back row – premature greyness runs in the family, and Helen has recently stopped dying her hair and given in to it. On her, grey looks like platinum blond. Ketki, towards the right, is wearing her Calcutta Cup sweater. Thomas-the-Younger is the one plahing football in front.

The two very welcome non-family-members are Thomas-the-Elder’s girlfriend Anna, towards the left, next to him and in front of James; and Hellie’s boyfriend Matt, towards the right, the tallest figure in the back row. He and Joe (next to him) entered the hay-bale-rolling competition. They were afraid they would disgrace themselves by not being able to get it moving, but in fact came a very creditable second in their heat.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A busy 24 hours with the credit card.

First of all, I downloaded the February Lady Sweater pattern – that was free. Then I googled around a bit and found that there is an Araucania yarn (which I already loved) called Nature Wool promising precisely the required gauge. I (gulp) ordered some from a place called Stash Fine Yarns which I had never heard of. Efficient website, good prices.

Judith, would I have done it if I had read your comment in time? The neck looks so innocent and easy. I want to pursue the adverse reactions you mention on Ravelry. Can you point me to any? And I will re-read with some care both the original EZ pattern and “Knitting From the Top”.

At some point in the past, I have knit the prototype baby sweater at least once. It’s easy and fun – that was part of the attraction. What I don’t remember is actually putting or even seeing it on a baby. Maybe he/she was dissatisfied with the neck and just didn’t tell me.

Then this morning I finally ordered acid-free tissue paper from Amazon, for putting the Princess away in; a double-ended crochet hook, inspired by your comment, Knitting08816; and finally (non-knit) an electronic key-finder, as I have had a couple of worrying and time-consuming searches recently for that valuable item.

I saw a double-ended hook in action once, wielded by a friend at Camp Stitches. She was demonstrating precisely what you mention, the retrieval of a mistake in garter stitch. It was impressive. I couldn’t find a UK source, except for a very expensive wooden set, so I have ordered one from the US.

As for actual knitting, I couldn’t keep my hands off the Griswold stole. Nothing else was done. I am now more or less back to the point where I gave up on the first version.


It turns out that Rachel herself took yesterday’s picture of her four children and the Ogden tree. Here is another Ogden picture, Rachel and Ed setting out for a Bollywood party last week on their 28th wedding anniversary. How did that happen? I have scarcely been married that long myself. Ketki provided Rachel’s costume -- how easy-to-wear and flattering it looks, as well as beautiful; Ed bought his in Tooting.