Sunday, February 28, 2010

It’s funny, being in Glasgow. I was very happy there, first as a student, then married. All our children were born there including therefore of course Alexander, 50 years ago this weekend. I’m pretty sure February 27 came at a weekend in 1960, perhaps even on a Saturday. Either on that day or maybe more likely the 26th, the engagement was announced between Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones, whom no one had ever heard of. I had lots of delicious newspapers to read in the intervals of getting acquainted with Alexander.

So memories are fond, and Glasgow, as they say, has a lot going for it. But I feel it tugging me back, and it’s uncomfortable. There’s lots wrong with being old, but I don’t want to go through all the horrors of being young again, either. And I’m comfortable here in Drummond Place.

All very odd. Still, Glasgow’s better than New Jersey.


Knitting went well. I finished Rachel’s KF socks, the first FO of ’10, and cast on the next pair, another KF, this time for Ketki. She prefers them a bit longer in the leg. With a new-to-me KF colourway in hand, I found myself knitting as fast as I could – not very fast – just to see how the colours deploy. With the result that the ribbing is done, and I’m ready to canter down the leg. These socks will be laid aside now, of course, to take their place in waiting-room-and-away-from-home moments.

The plan is to spend today on the ear-flap hat. I ought to be able to get it somewhere near the bobble-making moment.

Tomorrow I will return to the Grandson. I mean to leave the first sleeve dangling and start afresh on the second, setting it in from the outside guided by Cynthia’s and Rebecca’s comments. If as successful as I hope, I will then go back and finish unpicking the first attempt and do likewise by it.


Alexander told us a joke.

Two cats set out to swim the Channel, racing against each other. One was an English cat called One Two Three. The other was a French cat called Un Deux Trois.

One Two Three cat won the race.

Un Deux Trois cat sank.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I cut a hole, I kitchener’d a shoulder, I set in a sleeve.

I was working from the inside – the facing makes things awkward. I kept looking at the outside to see how the seam looked – it looked fine – but only when I was completely finished and had embarked on hemming the facing down, did I notice that the mock seam on the sleeve was slightly askew, not pointing straight down as it must do.

So I unpicked perhaps a third of my sewing – putting further strain on those poor sliced stitches? – and pinned the sleeve properly in place. I found myself in a recognisable state of frustration, impatience, and tiredness – just the mood in which an ill-judged tug turns misfortune into disaster.

It looks from the picture as if my seam is swallowing the patterning at the top of the sleeve. Is there a better way to do it? Perhaps just as well I stopped when I did.

For I retreated at that point to the cheerful and calming sock, and have reached the heel flap. I’ve even chosen the next pair of socks, and put the yarn among the things to take to Glasgow today. Nothing would be worse than running out. I should be able to finish the present pair and include them in the package when the Grandson Sweater goes to London, as they are meant for the Grandson’s mother.

(Rachel is part of a team making a long-term study of the development of twins. Her boss the Professor should be fascinated by these socks.)

I don’t know whether Kitchener’ing is allowed, for the shoulder. Will it be firm enough? I could have done a three-needle bind-off but I thought that that pleasant ridge was a design element too far in this case. Finullgarn is firm and robust; I’m reasonably confident. It looks very nice.

Theresa has most kindly sent me the stitch pattern for her beautiful wavy-line sweater. (Scroll down a couple of entries to see a series of pictures of it.) We both hesitate over this, but I’m pretty sure – from my days as a KnitList “mom” when we seemed to discuss nothing but copyright law and knitting-in-airplanes – that you can’t copyright a stitch pattern. The detailed instructions for turning it into that beautiful jacket, would be another matter entirely. Those she rightly didn't send.

I can’t wait to start swatching.


So, we’re off to Glasgow. Back here Sunday, insh’Allah. Perthshire is covered in deep snow, and thousands are without electricity, so perhaps it’s just as well we’re not going there today as had once been adumbrated.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

I got the stitching done last night for the second sleeve-hole, and thought it prudent to stop there. I was tired. My intention is to check and double check this morning – are the sleeve-holes precisely opposite each other? Are they the right depth? -- before I deploy the scissors.

It would be boring to re-do the stitching, but a good deal more boring to ruin two months’ work with an injudicious snip.


Mary Lou, I sort of thought it was you who suggested doing the machine-stitching around the steek-hole by hand. Renewed thanks.

Theresa, your beautiful wavy-line side-to-side jacket would be a most interesting base-idea for my Koigu. I hope you’ll go ahead and take and post a picture of that sweater in the shop window. I can’t figure out quite how those wonderful wavy stripes on your own jacket might be produced. A Google on “short row wavy stripes in knitting” produces a reference to your blog early on, but is short on specific instructions.

I have a niggling feeling at the back of my mind that I did something like that once. Maybe I’ll remember after I’ve had my porridge.

Angel, I didn’t grasp until I read your comment that Lene’s Minni pattern (Ravelry link yesterday) is child-sized. The more I look at it the more wonderful it seems. There would be no reason not to size it up.

The sock progressed well yesterday, at the Royal Infirmary and later in the evening when I was too tired to do anything else. I’m within a few rows of the heel. Perhaps some pics tomorrow of socks and of the Grandson Sweater sliced open. For now, for colour and cheerfulness, here are some just in from Beijing of the Chinese new year and grandchildren (in descending order of age) Alistair, Rachel, and Kirsty.

Kirsty already seems to have an ear-flap hat far more wonderful than the one I am knitting for her sister.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Alexander phoned last night, proposing that we go west at the weekend to help celebrate his half-century. He also told me an unrelated State Secret which you will read more about here in about a month’s time, if it proves to be true.

The current socks should be somewhat advanced today, when we have a routine diabetic appt at the Royal Infirmary. Diabetic appts are made for knitting – blood is drawn early on, and then you sit and wait until the results are on the dr’s desk. And if we go to Glasgow at the weekend, the two train rides and related sitting-about may well see the current sock finished.

After Alexander phoned, I had a moment of wondering if I could finish the Grandson Sweater and take it along – Alexander and Ketki will probably see Joe at Easter. I’d be much happier to trust it to them than to the Post Office. It might just be possible. But a moment’s reflection was enough to crush the idea.

a) Nothing is more dangerous than haste at a delicate moment like this; and
b) I might finish the knitting, but there wouldn’t be time to block it.

Last night I got the first sleeve-hole prepared. Chose the spot, decided the depth, and machine-stitched around the area by hand twice. I can’t remember now who suggested doing the stitching by hand – if you’re there this morning, thank you again. It was still agonizing, but much less agonizing than struggling with the machine. And the result, for all its clumsiness, is dead straight and precisely where I was trying to put it..

I did the tough one first – the hole that will have to be cut in the middle of unmapped acres of knitting. The other one, where the central line is already visible because rounds ended and began there, should be easier this evening. And then…

The whole process was sufficiently nerve-wracking that I spent some time peacefully knitting the ear-flap hat, just to calm down and compose myself for sleep. I’ve reached the crown shaping.

I think the neck-hole is going to be much easier. The distances to be machine-stitched are shorter, because a lot of stitches have been left live, both front and back, at the bottom of the neck-hole. And the lines where the stitching is to go look obvious.

EZ in Knitting Workshop mentions doing a garter stitch band to cover the raw seam. I may try that. The sleeve seams will be covered by the facings at the top of the sleeves. It might be nice to neaten the inside of the neck as well.

I keep thinking about Koigu. Current top mental favourite involves ribbon-stripes, somewhat on the lines of KF’s Simple Stripe side-to-side shape from Glorious Knitting. But probably as a jacket.

Jeanfromcornwall, I followed the link to Lene’s blog in your recent post, thence to her Ravelry store, thence to her Minni pattern (Ravelry link). That’s another striped-side-to-sider, and it is a jacket, and it uses fingering-weight yarn. I think I’ll probably buy it, for guidance. I doubt if I’d use the ridged stitch, but you never know.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A more or less successful day, yesterday.

My smile is restored. Our dentist lives near Perth, about halfway between here and Strathardle, although his practice is a due passi from Drummond Place. He grows vegetables, so I asked about the state of the soil. He said it’s still frozen solid, and the snowdrops are not fully out. I think we may postpone our next visit until next week. The middle of this one and the middle of next are full of small, ineluctable appointments. The rest of March is, for the moment, clear-looking.

He went on to reveal that he keeps sheep, a remarkable and beautiful breed I had never heard of. We have known him for many years and never suspected such a thing – age must be mellowing him, conversation-wise.

He offered me a fleece, but I don’t spin, and don’t want more yarn, and anyway I suspect it’s pretty coarse wool.

And I got on pretty well with the Hydro-Board, who supply our electricity. At least the woman on the phone didn’t try to fob me off with tales of a cold winter. She even made an intelligent suggestion – I told her the number that represents the current metre reading. It begins with a “5” and she suggested that I might have misread a “3”. So I might, but I didn’t – “5” it is.

Someone is coming, by appointment, to read the metre next week. That at least will establish that it’s faulty. Then what? How can we now find out how much electricity has in fact been used? Watch this space. This couldn’t be the first wonky electric metre in the history of human endeavour.


There was a lot of running about yesterday, and somehow I didn’t get much knitting done. Or was I dragging my feet? At any rate, the second sleeve is finished and cast off. I had foolishly dropped the half-way-round marker on the body, so I did some lice-counting and found and marked the place for the right sleeve. There is an unobtrusive jump-line on the left side where rounds end and begin.

Tonight the excitement begins.

Knit-related miscellaneous

Joe has a link in his latest post to a book that looks potentially interesting. Joe made it sound as if Jared had contributed patterns, but that is apparently not so: just the photography. The main effect of my yarn fast is to breed a hankering for boxes and boxes of plain, brown yarn – there’s a stunning example in Jared’s own latest post. Such a book plays to such an interest.

Maureen, thank you very much for the report on DD’s Japanese knitting class. I’ll take along a pattern or two – one would be best – which leaves me particularly breathless with admiration, and hope for help on finding my way into it. I have done an hour of the basics with Mrs Habu in a little class at K1 Yarns but have largely forgotten what I learned.

They are having a trunk show there on Saturday of Ripples yarns. I think I would be wise to stay away.

Monday, February 22, 2010

As soon as I had had my porridge yesterday, I grasped what Pagoldh means: baste the sleeve to the body flat, so that the basting thread goes through three layers of knitting. I’ll certainly do it, and tonight could be the night. Once I’ve got an answer – how deep to cut? – it’ll do for both sides, with the lice as an utterly accurate guide.

Today’s Excitements

I lost a crown from a front tooth on Saturday. Consider yourselves fortunate that I do not have a webcam – I might smile at you. The dentist tends to keep his appointments on time, so I won’t get much knitting out of this, but I must ring up and book myself in.

We got an ugly electricity bill, also on Saturday. Lots of people are getting ugly electricity bills about now – fuel costs have gone up, and January was extraordinarily cold. But this one was bad enough that I went to have a look at the metre. According to it, since it was read in January – the reading on which the bill is based – we have used substantially more electricity than we normally use in a year.

So I’ve got to ring the electricity board, too. Will I get to speak to them, or will it be a call centre? My husband’s niece worked until recently for one such in Glasgow. Among their clients was -- is -- the American Embassy. I feel mildly horrified. It means that you can’t trust anybody.


A good session with the hat yesterday. The Fair Isle star was tough, with the double yarns: grit-the-teeth-and-knit-the-next-stitch, sort of thing. It’s sloppily done, too – there’s a half-star at the back where I haven’t even bothered to find a pattern to fit horizontally. As you can see below. And I ran low on red, but fortunately found a ball of yarn which, used with a strand of the original red, passes the old Galloping Horse test.

But now that the star is done, I think it looks rather jolly, like the ear-flap hats one sees in the streets. Not far, now, to the crown shaping. Next Sunday, or the next trip to Strathardle, whichever comes first, should pretty well finish it off.


Thanks for the pointer to EZ's account in Knitting Around of Carnival Time in Germany, Mary Lou. I thought I knew EZ by heart, but had completely forgotten that passage. And thanks for the pointer on your web page to Needled’s remarkable account of recovery from her stroke. I had already read it. It needs the widest possible circulation.

Angel, I do agree that droopy alpaca seems inappropriate for the Schoolhouse Press Green Sweater. And I note with interest what you say, Gerri, about theraineysisters giving up on it. It certainly doesn’t look easy.

Gerri, my worry about DD is that she couldn’t be all that interested in Japanese knitting if she never mentions it. I’m sure there’ll be a class of some sort, but will it be passionate? And up to date?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I’ve reached the little six-row pattern at the top of the second sleeve. Oh horror, horror.

That will still leave a few rows of facing to do, but there’s little doubt that one more session will finish it off. Pagoldh says to baste the sleeve in place, then mark its position, then remove it and proceed as EZ instructs. I do not see how this is physically possible. But I’m willing to try anything to delay the moment of cutting open the sleeve hole, so I’ll work on it a bit. And next will come your question, Else -- how to deal with the neckline? I don't know, is the answer at the moment; but that one worries me less.

But it’s ear-flap hat, today.

As the End Nears, I have been thrashing about with even more anxiety than usual, thinking about the future. Koigu, in particular. I spent some time yesterday with the Painter's Palette book, but nothing is jelling. Could I contrive vertical stripes, like ribbons? There’s a pattern for something like that, I think they call it a French blouse, in a very old Vogue Knitting Book which I may try to find today.

I think what I will actually do – maybe after turning the Grandson Sweater swatch into a hat, EZ-fashion – is swatch some brioche and maybe knit a sweater for a small boy.

But, Angel, I do particularly like the EZ jacket you mention. (Third pattern from the top – well worth looking at, if you don’t know it already.) I’ve been admiring it for some time – your comment has pushed me nearer the edge. I have some Araucania Multy (actually green) which might just stretch to it. It wants to be 6 sts to the inch. If I loosened it up a bit to get the gauge specified, namely 5 to the inch, it would, of course, go farther. Might try swatching that.

Judy Sumner’s sock book turned up yesterday. It’s great to hear from her, so to speak, and her enthusiasm for Japanese patterns has sent me back to my own little stock. There are indeed some wonderful things there. When Judy got the very books I have, she didn’t just say, oh, that’s nice, and put them on a shelf – she puzzled out how to work the patterns, and then used them for socks. She’s as old as I am, at least, and her eyes are no better.

I’ve signed up for a day of Japanese knitting with D*nna Dr*chanas in July at KnitCamp in Stirling. Has anyone else signed up? I’m a bit worried that I haven’t had anything from them on paper. The payment has appeared on my credit card statement all right. I’ve been following D*nna’s blog in recent months, and I am also worried that she never mentions Japanese knitting.

The things I’d like to try would need yarn purchases – solid colours in sufficient quantity, a recurring problem. But that’s no reason I can’t zero in or two or three particular stunners, add them to the HALFPINT list, do a bit of preliminary figuring-out.

JennyS, your comment yesterday deserves the Commenter’s Gold Medal for blistering speed. I had just posted, and had gone over to GoogleMail while gathering myself together to stand up and cross the square to buy the newspapers, when it appeared. I would very much like the Rorem lace alphabet sampler pattern. Do you have my address? Email for particulars, if not.

I don’t think Sunday without cider is going to be any worse than Sunday with.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Six more rounds of lice needed. The great thing about lice is that they make it utterly easy to ensure that the sleeves are of identical length. Two more sessions should do it comfortably. You may be sure that I’ll return to the ear-flap hat tomorrow. Even so, the Sweater Crisis should come next week. I am tempted to tiptoe in at night and unravel some sleeve, like Penelope.

Janet, I fear you may be right, that I am turning into a character out of Alexander McCall Smith. Scotland Street is just around the corner, as you probably know, and he often mentions Drummond Place. He uses the art galleries on Dundas Street -- why not the auction house in the other direction? And knitting would fit right in.

Here is our little picture. She is somewhat faded, and we have chosen a spot for her which the sun will never reach. We spend a lot of time, this time of year, when the sun is strong and comes in on the near-horizontal, running around closing south-facing curtains and shutters.

(The Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory maintain Cardinal Newman’s room as it was the day he died. It must be rather interesting; women weren’t allowed upstairs, in our day, and so I’ve never seen it. They invited my husband in once to advise on preservation, and the first thing he said was, close the curtains.)


A friend on Ravelry sent me this link, suggesting I try to do the same for Drummond Place. It is a wonderful idea, certainly to be added to the HALFPINT list.

I was there thinking about EZ’s Bog Jacket. It would have to wait until the yarn fast is over, because it definitely looks better in one or two solid colours, and that’s what I don’t have, in adult-garment quantities.

I have recently had a note over in Ravelry from Bridget Rorem herself, knowing how I admire her lacey alphabet – I used it last year to sign and date the Princess, and often before – and reminding me of her Lace Alphabets Scarf Sampler at the Schoolhouse Press. (Scroll down a bit.) It is certainly something one ought to have, if one thinks one might ever want to write anything in lace.

I’m glad I’ve got the Piecework where the alphabet originally appeared, however. If ever a wedding is in prospect at which my Princess could possibly be worn, I plan to send the bride a copy of the photograph of Bridget’s daughter (I presume it’s her) in her wedding dress, wearing the amazing shawl her mother knit, just to give some idea of how the Princess might work out in practice.

(I discovered while wandering around the Schoolhouse Press site looking for the Rorem link that they are soon to produce a Knitting Around DVD which will include the Bog Jacket.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

We got our picture!

I was going to try to grab the auctioneer’s illustration of it for you, or to offer a link, but their whole website seems to be down this morning, and yesterday’s sale will probably have disappeared into the mists by the time it comes back up.

We had learned, after leaving our bid, that a dealer was interested. We assumed that his bottomless purse could easily outbid us. I went along with my knitting yesterday to top up our bid from the floor and at least make him pay a bit more. But when the moment came the auctioneer, bidding on our behalf from our earlier instructions, couldn’t seem to stir up any interest.

She took a couple of bids from the centre of the room – or else she was taking bids from the chandelier to get things started; they do that sometimes – and then knocked it down to me well within the range of our original bid. As I was standing up and gathering my knitting together, the dealer rushed into the room – just too late.

I got the ribbing finished for the second sock, always a major step forward. The woman who wrapped the picture up for me had noticed me knitting, and admired the KF yarn. I had left the finished sock at home so there would be one less thing for me to get tangled up in, and was sorry I didn’t have it to show her.

Lee, I am terribly grateful for the reference to the Knitting Workshop. I have found the passage (and I agree about knitting books as bedtime reading). It will be very useful when the dreaded moment comes for cutting sleeveholes in the body of the Grandson Sweater – better, probably, than the passage on the DVD, although I will eventually revisit that, too.

More sleeve, in the evening. I have just under five inches to go, before the little band of pattern at the top – but of course the stitch count is ever increasing.


Thank you for straightening me out on Wallender. I know about him, of course, just didn’t recognise the author’s name. I’m pretty sure I’ve never read him. We tried the British television series with Kenneth Branagh but didn’t stick with it. (Our tastes in detectives are very square – Jeremy Brett as Sherlock, John Thaw as Morse.) Helen C.K.S. knows everything there is to know about moving pictures, cinematographic and televisual – she much prefers the Swedish television series for Wallender.

But that would mean subtitles, which interfere with my knitting.

But I’ll certainly try reading him.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Today’s excitement is another auction sale.

We left a bid on a little picture in a local saleroom a couple of days ago. Events have unfolded since – I am being deliberately mysterious – which mean that we’re willing to up our bid a bit. Instead of doing it over the telephone, I’m going to go along with my knitting. I don’t expect to win, and I will have to be very careful not to bid against myself in the early stages. The sock should advance by a round or two.

I’ve just ordered Judy Sumner’s “Knitted Socks East and West: 30 Designs Inspired by Japanese Stitch Patterns”. She’s an old cyber-friend from KnitList days. I don’t go in for sock books – I’m happy to leave the design stuff to KF and just knit happily round and round – but there may be something of interest here on the Japanese front, and anyway, for Judy’s sake…

More sleeve last night. I found a dropped stitch, and thought I had retrieved it successfully, but the further I get away from the spot, the worse it looks. A louse has detached itself from its proper position and inserted itself into the row above. Both the gap in one row and the crowd in the other look bad. Still, I’m not going back. Duplicate stitch may be needed in the end.

I bouight PhotoShop Elements once, thinking to learn to draw circles around bits of pictures to which I wanted to draw attention, like a real grown-up Blogger. But I never mastered it. I never even installed it. In this case, a circle isn't necessary. You can see what I mean all too clearly.

The further I progress the more scared I get of setting in the sleeves. There was something in the Knitting Glossary DVD that I must try to find again – I think in the bit where they were talking about a sweater like this, three tubes joined together. Either Meg or EZ herself has a throw-away line about the hole stretching – or is it the sleeve? And what does one do about it?


Thank you for the recommendations of Henning Mankell, of whom I have never heard. I will explore, the next time I’m in Waterstone’s. And I’m pretty sure there’s a new Ruth Rendell which has been out in hardback for a while. Watching for the paperback of that can tide me over until Stieg Larsson Three makes the great leap.

Dawn, thank you for the note about “south of the river”. There was a picture in the Scotsman yesterday of young women identified as “stock traders” being silly in “carnival costumes” in the Frankfurt stock exchange. Who would have thought the Germans to be capable of such frivolity? I heard it from you first.

Tamar and Jean K. – human nature being what it is, your remarks about north and south apply, in a small way, to Kirkmichael. The road from Bridge of Cally to Pitlochry runs through the heart of the village, the church; a row of houses; the shop – there used to be two; the petrol station; the hotel; the dairy, now defunct. A turning to the left takes you southwards over the bridge to a straggle of fields and further houses, including us, and the new cemetery. People in the Village Proper look with some suspicion on the feckless lot “south of the river”.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Little to report. I took my knitting along to our luncheon engagement, but didn’t get much done. We had sherry, and I got in a few rounds, and then left the bag behind in the sitting room when we went to lunch in the kitchen, and after that we sat over the remains and I felt I really couldn’t go back and retrieve it. My husband has a routine appointment with the diabetic people at the Royal Infirmary next week -- that should advance the sock substantially.

The sleeve proceeds.

I found some news about the injured rugby player at last, and it sounds pretty good.

Dawn, your comment about Carnival in Europe yesterday is most interesting. Here in Britain, religious events of all sorts (all faiths) are almost completely ignored unless they can be made to yield profit. Mid-Lent Sunday once involved an old and rather sweet tradition of children giving posies to their mothers of the first spring flowers. It has now become Mother’s Day, with results you can easily imagine. Yom Kippur and Ramadan and Ash Wednesday are very small beer by comparison with Mother's Day.

What do you mean in the Netherlands by “south of the river”? The brilliance of the translator of the Stieg Larsson books is that the idioms never sound wrong or stilted, and that Swedishness is not lost. Yet he must have come across many phrases like “south of the river” which had to be not literally translated but unobtrusively explained for English-speaking readers.

Over Christmas I started reading Arnaldur Indridason’s “Hypothermia”. This time we’re in Iceland. It was interesting enough, but I didn’t bother going on with it once we got back to Edinburgh and real life supervened. I felt in that one that the translation was in my way – but I’d have to back and read it again with attention to illustrate that remark, and I don’t intend to do that.

Go look at Monday’s post from the Fishwife – the one about vegetables, not wool – and rejoice in the springtime. You will find this in the Oxford English Dictionary if you pursue the word “Lent”: “The ecclesiastical sense of the word is peculiar to Eng.; in the other Teut. langs. the only sense is 'spring'."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Fat Tuesday

There was something in the paper the other day about the Carnival in Rio. I am so often irritated by the use of the word to refer to any outdoor jollity that it took me a moment to grasp that this was a reference to the real thing, the pre-Lenten knees-up, Carne-vale, farewell to meat.

There will probably be cider at lunch today in Morningside but not much and not cold and not Weston’s Vintage. I’ll make up for it in the evening.

(Sue, I loved your comment on Sunday’s post, and I want a bag like yours to take along, “I Knit So No One Has to Die” – or maybe a sweatshirt. I tried CafePress, but they offer it only on tee-shirts.)

It will be interesting to see whether Lent’s mild austerities have any further effect on my weight. I started weighing myself (x stone 12) when Lent (no cider) was already a week old last year, in early March. The decision to add the other two legs to the stool (no sugar, careful with fat) was inspired, I think, by beginning to contemplate the problem of what-to-wear-to-Theo’s wedding. And looking at myself sideways in a full-length mirror, not a pleasant sight.

The weight slid away fairly briskly – x stone 7 by Easter, the big breakthrough to w stone 13 in early May. I was about w stone 5 when I went to the wedding in July. Another half-stone eased off in the later months of ’09, and since the new year things have been pretty stable at v stone 10-12. I last saw w stone in mid-December.

The regime is easy enough, but it does involve occasional moments of active self-denial which get slightly more difficult now that there’s no weight loss to reward them.

I have heard no more about the Scotland rugby player, Thom Evans, who was so badly hurt on Saturday. Google can find nothing this morning. The injury was to the neck; he had surgery on Saturday evening; he was reported to be able to move all four limbs before the operation; there hasn’t been a medical bulletin since then, that I’ve found.

Anyway, knitting

I’m poised to take socks to our lunch date today -- sock One is finished, sock Two cast on. I also got a skein of Araucania wound yesterday for the ear-flap hat – Dawn, I couldn’t have pulled the first one from the other end because I don’t wind yarn in so sophisticated a way. Just a great big ball, not too tight. And there was even time yesterday for a bit more sleeve, still at the delicious early stage where there are few enough stitches that it seems to go like the wind.

And back to non-knit

I am so glad to hear that everybody likes Stieg Larsson. How does he do it, exactly? Both of the books I’ve read so far start rather slowly – “Girl Who Played With Fire”, which I expect to finish with my porridge this morning, has fully 200 rather unremarkable pages at the start. Unremarkable, but one keeps turning them. He’s good with names, too. One could so easily get bogged down, with everybody being named Eriksson, yet somehow the characters one needs to remember are distinguished.

Monday, February 15, 2010

I am a bit less lame this morning. I was brought up with the deepest respect for tetanus, Tamar, but I thought I didn’t need to worry this time a) because the wound bled freely and b) because the knitting needles have led a quiet life far from animals. Except for Scandinavian wool, but surely….

Maybe I’d better look it up.

I haven’t done anything yet about the carpet -- a pretty slovenly approach to life. I’d be afraid to try peroxide – a bleached spot there would look far worse than a faded blood stain. I’d better try cold water today. I remember from my nappy-washing days that that is the first line of attack for a serious stain.

Yesterday was rather unsatisfactory. I’ve never been keen on Sunday. Three Scottish rugby players, tip-top ones at that, were injured so badly in that wretched game with Wales that they won’t be playing again this season. One may be crippled – we are waiting anxiously for news.

And knitting didn’t go very well, either.

I’m knitting the ear-flap hat with two strands of wool held together, which produces a nice, firm, cosy fabric. I set off yesterday to incorporate a Fair Isle-type star, using the red I used for the lining, and soon discovered that there wasn’t enough. OK, so the centre of the star will be blue – the “beautiful blue” of the swallowtail coat I knit for Thomas-the-Elder’s teddy bear.

Then I ran out of one strand of the main colour. That was simply poor forward planning. I could cut the yarn and wind off half of the substantial remaining ball. But the sensible and forward-looking thing to do is to wind another skein. They are 100-gram skeins of fingering yarn, not a trivial chore. Perhaps I should do that today, so that at least the hat is ready to resume.

When I was preparing the hat for photography just now, I found all three projects -- sleeve, hat and sock -- to some extent tangled together. A record.

And I’ve still to finish the toe of that sock, to be taken to lunch tomorrow. Marcella, you put the need for it awfully well in yesterday’s comment.


I’ve been reading Stieg Larsson, inspired by a conversation with granddaughter Hellie, the one who works for a London agent and has her finger on the pulse of contemporary literature. I was aware of the books, of course, one could scarcely fail to be, but assumed they would be too violent and kinky and Swedish for me. All three of those elements are present, but the books are brilliant -- and far more like a conventional detective story than I would have imagined.

And brilliantly translated.

I’ve nearly finished the second one. The third will have to wait until it is reduced to paperback. I’m extravagant, as you all know, when it comes to knitting books, but buying a thriller in hardback remains an extravagance too far.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Quinquagesima Sunday

Alexander will be 50 later this month. He and his family have gone to London to celebrate in advance with the Streatham crowd – in order to get it in before Lent. This makes my family sound much more pious than it in fact is. The festivities will have been somewhat diminished by Scotland’s last-minute defeat by Wales in an exciting rugby match yesterday.

Rachel turned 50 quietly and unobtrusively a couple of years ago. If Alexander is now going to follow suit, the next thing you know it will be all four of them.

Knitting paid me back yesterday – I stabbed myself in the heel on the dp’s currently employed for the Grandson Sweater second sleeve. Mercifully, no blood on the actual knitting. I found a surprising patch on the carpet this morning, still damp, which I hope will pass as an extra rose. It’s that sort of pattern. I have half a memory that salt will help remove it.

And I’m lame, this morning.

But today I will pick the dangerous sleeve up off the floor – and remember to wear shoes, henceforth, in its presence – and turn to the ear-flap hat. Another little job: we’re going across to Morningside on Tuesday to have lunch with my husband’s sister. If I am to take my current Portable Project, those jolly KF socks, I’ll need to finish off the first one, which has nearly reached the toe shaping, and start the second before we set out.

My husband disapproves of taking knitting at all, but on this I have finally decided to overrule him. Knitting doesn’t embarrass anybody, or make them feel uncomfortable, which is what good manners are all about. At the worst, I suppose, it might be mildly irritating, and I suspect I am that anyway.

Stash Haus, thank you for the pointer to Chris Bylsma’s designs. Never heard of her, and I like what I see, I think smaller units might be more fun for my imagined Koigu project, but I like the shape of that boxy jacket. I must get down to some serious thinking on this one, as soon as I’ve ordered those seeds..

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I am comforted by your comment yesterday, Angel. My husband wants me to go up and talk to John Lewis’s DVR department anyway – despite the fact that the machine is functioning again. We had a hard disk failure once before. Maybe I will. Meanwhile, the freedom afforded by not having that huge list of things to watch continues to be exhilarating. Interestingly, it remembered a timer I had set before the disaster – to record the second part of Midsomer Murders yesterday afternoon. Which was no use without the first part, swept away in the deluge.

Little to say on the knitting front. I’m nearly done with the longish passage of patterning at the bottom of the second sleeve of the grandson sweater. Then things should start speeding forward again.

Thank you for your comment, Ron – as always. I’m very optimistic about this thing. I like the way the two pieces I’ve finished so far, lying on the sofa beside me, look sometimes like a gent’s sweater, tossed aside. I no longer worry at all about the size – it seems right.

I think one often feels an optimism at this stage which is not always justified by future events.

Tomorrow I will, I reeely will, proceed with putting some pattern into the ear-flap hat, and we can have a picture of that. I thought of using some Grandson Sweater patterning, to link the two objects, but none will fit.

I made progress with my seed order yesterday. I actually bought the current issue of “Gardener’s World” because it has a feature in which famous gardening writers (including the recently deceased John Cushnie) recommend the 100 best vegetable seeds. Almost all turned out to be varieties I use regularly; or varieties of vegetables I wouldn’t bother with; or, worst of all, varieties I have regularly tried and regularly failed with – climbing bean “Cobra”, beetroot “Boltardy”.

Somebody recommended a pink-seeded broad bean from Seeds of Distinction – but the SoD website seems next best to non-existent, without even a form that I can find to order a paper catalogue. So that’s not much use.

In lieu of anything more to say about knitting or vegetables, here is a picture of Thomas-the-Elder standing godfather to his first cousin once removed, his cousin Max’ son or daughter Isaure. When you see Thomas and Max together, they are alarmingly similar, but Max is Belgian. Thomas was struck down by his recurring health problem and couldn’t go to the wedding a couple of years ago – this sort of makes up for it.

I can’t remember, at the moment, the sex of the baby. “Isaure” sort of sounds feminine.

Friday, February 12, 2010

One of those days, it was.

We almost never (we realised yesterday evening) watch television as it is transmitted. Yesterday evening, as we were watching the news, slightly delayed – i.e. watching it on the video recorder – Sally Magnusson suddenly froze. Nothing we could think of made any difference to her. The recorder didn’t respond to its zapper. I even went out to the corner shop and got some batteries for the zapper. Nope. I dug in the drawer and found (to my surprise) the receipt for the machine, and today was planned around an appeal to John Lewis.

But lying in bed this morning, the ravell'd sleeve knit up just as the bard promises, I realised that we hadn’t tried the Sovereign Remedy. I got up and switched the machine off at the wall, and then switched it on again.

It seems fine, except that the hard disk has had to be re-formatted. We’ve lost three precious episodes of Neighbours from earlier this week, as well as much else. A great feeling of liberation.

Earlier in the day I had lost contact with my ISP. The remedy proved similar there: disconnect broadband, and connect it again.

The adventure with the video recorder cut heavily into yesterday’s knitting time, but I finished and cast off the sleeve, and started the next one.
I have high hopes for this project. I don't know quite what has happened to the bottom of the sleeve -- there are eight rounds of ribbing in white which don't appear in the photograph.


Reading Marchant’s text (“Knitting Brioche”) more calmly, I see she says that Fisherman’s Rib and Brioche are the same thing, worked differently. Her photographs make Fisherman’s Rib look a bit tighter, Brioche more fruity. That’s EZ’s wonderful term -- she has a Brioche hat somewhere which I’ve knit a couple of times.

Fisherman’s Rib is sometimes done with alternate purl rows, sometimes with every row ribbed. Does Brioche offer this option? I’m sort of thinking of having a swatching session, when the Grandson Sweater is finished. And maybe even knitting a sweater for a much smaller grandson using one of the variations.

I continue to think about the Harlequin, and about mitred squares in general, as an employment for my Koigu collection. Maybe a simpler, boxier jacket, using the Harlequin idea for the sleeves – i.e., a mitred panel with shaping added at the sides? I could always knit a real Harlequin with yarn of the appropriate weight, when my year’s abstinence is up.

Sandy, I think your idea of devoting a year to EZ’s patterns is brilliant. And I think maybe that green yarn of yours will be OK, in fact rather good, as an unexpected accent, KF-fashion. I would worry a bit more about the dead white which – except in two-colour Scandinavian patterns – can be surprisingly difficult.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Back in the saddle, I think.

I finished the first sleeve of the Grandson Sweater last night, except that a couple more rounds are needed on the facing at the top. The camera is inert -- pic tomorrow, assuming charging the battery puts it right.

Nancy Marchant’s “Knitting Brioche” has turned up. It is not without interest. I think if I were really as interested in knitting as I claim to be, I would get to grips with the whole Waffle Stitch family and figure out exactly what the yarn does and where it goes. How does Brioche differ from Fisherman’s Rib? I flipped through the comparable pages of Walker Volume I. Waffle Brioche (Walker I, p. 158) is a particularly attractive variation. I’m not sure yet whether it’s in Marchant or not.

Non-knit, Family and Garden Division.

Alexander sent me this.

His son James is a quiet, reflective child who doesn’t go in for talking, much, unless he has something to say. He certainly doesn’t seek the limelight. Nor does he hear much Scots spoken at home. I suspect this certificate represents a great triumph. (The Immortal Birthday is at the end of January, when we all eat haggis. This victory must derive from an associated event at school.)

This is a link to a page of pictures showing last summer’s newlyweds, Theo and Jenni, digging themselves out of DC’s recent snow.

Mel, thank you for the comforting words about our clematis (comment yesterday). Nature is indeed resourceful, and I certainly won’t give up on it for many months yet. In fact, it has a tendency, like its kind, to concentrate its flowering too much at the top. My husband keeps wanting me to cut it severely back. I haven’t done it, because I don’t think our sort of clematis likes that sort of thing. But now, perhaps, severe pruning has been forced upon us. I’ll keep you posted.

I made great progress with the seed order, while we were away.

Finally, Rachel recently spent an evening with an old friend. As soon as she opened the door, the friend exclaimed, not Hello, Rachel, how are you? But, That’s Elizabeth Zimmermann’s Surprise Jacket!

Rachel is no knitter, but had the presence of mind to remember the name and to tell her friend how we had driven along Mt Nod Road – not far from where Rachel lives -- looking for No. 21, where EZ spent some months with her aunties towards the end of the Great War. (Knitting Around, p. 27)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

All’s well in Balnald. And we are safely back in cosy Edinburgh.

There was a fresh fall of snow in Strathardle last Wednesday-Thursday, so we left the car at the top and carried everything down. A strenuous afternoon.

The water came on when the main tap was turned. Nothing flowed from the hot water taps for several hours – that had happened before. Water destined to be heated has to go upstairs to a holding tank, thence to the hot water tank itself, thence back down to the taps. Ice can impede the flow, however carefully everything was drained. But it put itself right during the night, with no ill effect.

The mice had been in and eaten the poison we left for them. One had sought and found a watery grave in a plastic pail under the sink positioned to catch the last few drops of water when the pipe is drained. But they hadn’t taken over the house and made themselves comfortable.

Deer had been around in considerable numbers, stripping trees and shrubs of bark. The saddest loss – if it proves to be dead – will be the clematis montana on the front of the house. We put it in a few years ago, and it has become wonderful. This is a picture from '07.

But the deer spared the young apple trees, and other specimen trees were well enough protected to frustrate them.

The fresh snow melted, and we eventually brought the car down to the house, but the ground remained rock hard. I couldn’t get a fork into it, even where I had prepared beds in November and covered them with plastic. But the moles had been very busy, and the molehills (oddly?) weren’t frozen. I filled two big pots with molehill soil and put the sea kale thongs in one and the Fishwife’s Jerusalem artichokes in the other. They looked delicious: it was tempting to take her advice (comment, last time) and just eat them.

That is a picture of my vegetable patch yesterday morning, at the start of a clear, frosty day. The subsequent drive south straight into the low winter sun was no fun.

We’ll have to go back soon, because the snowdrops weren’t yet in their glory. We have been adding to their numbers recently. They are ready to make their move, totally unfazed by artic cold or wild animals.

As for knitting, I swatched and started the ear-flap hat at last. The lining and the earflaps are done, and now I think I’ll put in some pattern, as all the ones I see in the streets about me are patterned. That meant bringing it back to my books.

Last night, I was too tired for anything but a spot of sock-knitting.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

I completely forgot to ask Helen C.K.S. and the Fishwife how they pronounce “often”. An old friend came to stay with us on Tuesday evening – hence no blog yesterday; we were having breakfast – and I noticed an often-with-a-“t” in his speech. I suspect that is the way most educated British people pronounce it. To me, it sounds genteel – you hit the nail on the head, Gretchen. I think we may have an American-British split here, whatever the dictionaries say.

Quite likely, perhaps, given the evidence from the Pirates of Penzance, an instance of American pronunciation retaining an older form. A friend of mine, long ago, reading an essay to an Oxford tutor, was interrupted in delight when she used the word “shone”. “You pronounce it the way Pope did!”

(Kathy, the thing about “z” is not the way the letter is sounded, but its name. “Zed”, here.)

We’re going to attempt Strathardle today. Walking westward in mid-afternoon after Tuesday's pleasant lunch, I was blinded by the sun, and would have been glad to curl up and go back to sleep had I been a groundhog. But the weather on the doorstep this morning feels quite vernal.

One of the characters in Neighbours told one of the others recently that it is no use stressing over things you can’t change, and although I wouldn’t have phrased it like that, it’s a sensible observation, a propos my considerable anxieties about our journey. We should be back early next week. Maybe sooner if, for instance, there’s no water. I’ve phoned a neighbour. The roads are clear, and lumps of snow are lying about. That means there’ll be plenty in our garden, which is something of a frost pocket.

But maybe there’ll be snowdrops, too.

The sea kale thongs I ordered months ago surprised me by turning up on Tuesday, and at lunch the Fishwife gave me a box of deliciously-muddy Jerusalem artichoke tubers. So we’ve got to go. I prepared the ground for the sea kale last time, and I think I covered it, so I may be able to get those in. Artichokes may be more difficult.


That sleeve is within an inch or so of the top pattern band, and I think there are only two increase rounds remaining, so we’re coming out about even. One more session may finish it off.

I’ll take the unstarted hat to Perthshire, which should guarantee commencement.

I’m cooling off about the Harlequin, on the reflection that once I have re-sized the mitred squares to accommodate Koigu, I’ve also got to re-design them. I will have another hard look at Maie’s “Painter’s Palette”, where the patterns are meant for Koigu. Or if I insist on swagger and drape, what about Slicer-Smith’s “miter vee”, where fit is less acute? I’ll go on thinking.

My yarn-not-buying slider has taken a nice lurch forward. I sort of think it also marks the time since we have been to Strathardle – it (the slider) starts from the day the yarn arrived from Sweden for the Grandson sweater, and I have half-a-memory that that was on a departure day.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Feast of the Purification

Today’s excitement is lunch with Helen C.K.S. and the Fishwife. With only a little bit of luck, the former will be wearing Kaari and the latter will have tales, as yet unblogged, of her fibrous weekend in York. I will wear my green suede jacket, unseen since Christmas.

I’m glad to say that February 2, so far, is as dull and overcast as anyone could wish. We’re seriously thinking of going to Strathardle later this week, and I’m sort of scared. Of snow and of how we’ll find the house and of the possible absence of water. Indeed, of driving, which I haven’t done, except for the supermarket run, since November. We’ll want all the help a groundhog can afford.

Tennis: Southern Gal, your sympathetic note was the best possible way to hear the news. I toyed with the idea, when we got back from Mass, of turning the television on again, in case the match had miraculously metamorphosed into a five-set thriller. But I knew in my bones that it hadn’t, so had a quick look at the computer before lunch instead.

“often”: American and British dictionaries agree again, as with “pestle”, that the preferred pronunciation lacks the sound of the “t”. Over many years I have consciously modified my speech in a few respects in deference to the language that now surrounds me – the pronunciation of “tomato” and “shone” and “z” come to mind. I have dropped some vocabulary. I remember startling my hearers with “picayune” when I was an undergraduate in Glasgow, and I doubt if the word has passed my lips since. I’ve picked up some local words.

But I couldn’t possibly bring myself to pronounce the “t” in “often”. My husband does, and the Shorter Oxford even has a rude line about how the pronunciation of the “t” is common in the south of England. I polled our children once, and I think they split 50-50 just as the science of genetics would lead one to expect.

Gilbert has a rather tedious passage in The Pirates of Penzance punning “often” and “orphan” which strongly implies a general t-less pronunciation in late 19th century England, even in the south.

As Crassus was setting out from Rome on the expedition which ended with the loss of his army and his own life at the hands of the Parthians, a fig-seller wandered by shouting “cauneas”. Cicero tells the story, and says that Crassus would have done well to pay attention: “Cave ne eas!” means “Beware! Don’t go!” This anecdote makes better sense if “v” was pronounced as “w” in 1st century BC Rome, and is valuable evidence for that fact. As Gilbert’s pun is, perhaps, for “often”.


I’ve done about 14 inches of the first sleeve, out of the 19 required before finishing off with a brief pattern band. I’m on a circular needle now, and continue to feel that I’m whizzing forward. I found another instance last night of the same mistake I had made in the body – knitting three rounds plain after a round of seeding, instead of the requisite two. It wouldn’t have mattered so much, at elbow height, but I took it out anyway.

Theresa, I will very much welcome any Harlequin measurements you can pass on. That side-to-side cardigan with the wavy stripes is stunning. What is the pattern? Did severe blocking solve the problem? I am sure the cat was what is called in our family A Very Great Help.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Tennis: well, there we are. Murray is not going to be an on-going multiple winner, a McEnroe or Becker or Connors. Those guys get to the top fast. And its his bad luck that the very top is currently and for the forseeable future occupied by a man who may well be the greatest tennis player ever. But stuff happens. Murray may be the best that Great Britain has ever produced, and it would be nice to see him win a big one. It’ll have to be soon, before he’s overtaken by the thundering herd of 18-year-olds.

Southern Gal, it was from your comment that I learned the result. We had to leave for Mass as that tie-break was in progress. I can’t bear tie-breaks anyway, and it was obvious how the match was going to end. If it had turned out to be the five-set humdinger that the first six or seven games seemed to promise, my husband would have had to make his way up the hill alone.

I didn’t do any of the things yesterday that I promised here, such as starting the ear-flap hat and photographing the Grandson Sweater in full daylight. We’ll see what I can achieve on the front step in a moment. I continue to whiz along – so fast that I wondered if there is not something to be said for rigid metal needles. Think of the women of Shetland with their knitting pouches. Think of the eccentric way Annie Modesitt knits, if you’ve ever been lucky enough to witness that.

It’s a nuisance, of course, to have to keep stopping to change needles. But the stitches flow. On a circular – I’ll have to change over today – I have to keep stopping to push them around.

I think I’m going to run out of sleeve just a bit before I have increased all the stitches the pattern specifies. I’m not going to worry (=not going to increase the rate of increasing). There will clearly be plenty of stitches, and the great thing about cutting the armholes open is that the size of the hole can be accommodated to the size of the finished sleeve.

Not bad, for light. That bottom ribbing is up to its old tricks.

Harlequin: alerted by your most recent comment (Friday the 29th), Theresa, I had a closer look at the gauge information. Oof. Four needle sizes are employed – part of the shaping is achieved by using ever smaller ones. The “gauge mitre” and the gauge information in the sidebar are based on the second-largest needle. But the garment starts with the largest size, and it is not at all clear how to extrapolate. How big are the initial mitred squares meant to be? (About six inches, is my current guess.) Whatever the answer, it is a corner-to-corner measurement. Am I actually going to have to calculate the Square on the Hypotenuse, to figure out how many stitches to cast on?

I will in fact take a running jump, and see how the first few squares work out.

That leaves the pronunciation of “often” for subsequent discussion. I haven’t forgotten.

Barbara, thank you for your extraordinarily kind comment yesterday.