Friday, May 28, 2010

Well, we’re all set, I think.

All of my driving these days is done on familiar roads, so this will be something of an adventure. Previous visits to Alexander have been accomplished by public transport, or someone has driven us, or a combination – being picked up in Glasgow. Both Alexander and Rachel (who is driving up today from London) offered a Glasgow pick-up this time, but we plan to take that heavy package under which I recently struggled home from John Lewis – I’m not going to carry it another step. Well, out to the car.

The sun is shining, and the route should be easy. Edinburgh to Glasgow, the motorway sweeps us through the city and across the Clyde, then straight ahead to Dumbarton and on up the west side of Loch Lomond. At the top of the loch, at Tarbet, turn left. That’s about it. I won’t be able to navigate the last mile and a half to the house, over unnumbered roads, but my husband has a faultless memory for geography. And if he fails, which he won’t, I can ring Alexander up on my mobile phone and he will talk us in. I remembered to charge it last night.

So off we go. Back here Tuesday, insh’Allah.

The Green Granite Blocks proceed nicely. I’m about halfway through the first set of blocks, and should soon be far enough along to photograph them. I had a look in Ravelry yesterday and, to my surprise, found no Green Granite Blocks at all. For a website that offers two examples of Pagoldh’s Portom sweater (“the Grandson sweater”), and Joanie Newsome’s jabot pattern, that seemed odd.

I found the Rowan left-over bag easily enough. There’s lots:

Flipping through the Master’s work, I think the fun thing to do would be to take one of his big, basic patterns from “Glorious Knitting” – I've always liked the Carpet one – and divide the yarns into two piles by tone. Maybe one day.

Chevron scarf: You’re right, Jean – blocking was as easy as hoped, pins all around the outside, nothing more was needed. The pattern is essentially feather-and-fan, and I noticed as I was pinning that on one long side, I was sticking the pins into the k3togs, and on the other into the centre stitch of M1, K1, M1. I need to think about that.

I’d better get going.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Gretchen, that is simply the most brilliant thing I have ever heard of (comment yesterday). Shouldn’t your friend patent it and make a fortune and open the door to Kaffe’s patterns to everyone?

I’m coming along nicely. The only way I have ever managed to deal with the yarns as I proceed, is the one The Master recommends – cut off about a yard at a time, so that you can just pull it through the tangle. It can be a slow and wasteful system, especially in a pattern like the Green Granite Blocks where the colour sections are large enough that a yard won’t do. For James’s sweater, I think, I could cut lengths appropriate to the task – and soon learned what they were.

Mary Lou, there is a sort of rhythm in intarsia knitting, at least if the pattern is geometric. I once tried one of Kaffe’s (few) patterns with cloud-like shapes. It might have been “Ancient”, in “Kaffe’s Classics”, and it was a Rowan kit. I hated every stitch, and abandoned it after about six rows – ripping back and using the yarn to knit his “Afghan” pattern in a big jacket for Helen. Very successful.

He says himself in the introduction to “California Patches” that “all of the designs here have a natural rhythm to knit that can quite quickly be committed to memory…” I sort of imagine myself weaving, or doing embroidery, when I’ve got into the swing of one of his patterns.

When “Glorious Knitting” first came out, I thought the same as you – I can’t do that stuff, beautiful as it is, and I’m not going to try. But then the “Crosspatch” vest turned up very cheaply, a Rowan kit in the January sales. And I got hooked. (Rowan kits often used to figure in the January sales, which has probably got something to do with why Rowan doesn’t do kits any more.)

Ron, I’ve found one flaw in the chart so far, a section for which no colour was specified. I’m sorry to hear your friend had such a struggle. I think I’d recommend anyone to start with Tumbling Blocks or one of its variations.

If I finish this one, that leaves one more kit in the stash, that vest based on the Ravenna mosaic. (It’s called “Mosaic”, and it’s in “Kaffe’s Classics” too.) Will that feel rhythmical to knit? Or is it too intricate? I love it, and must find out one day.

Somewhere in all that stash must be a bag of Rowan left-overs, the subtly-coloured fine yarns you can’t get any more. Maybe they could be combined into one last Classic Kaffe. Looking through the books again, I find lots that I admire but have never attempted. I am also inspired, by “California Patches” itself, to think again of his striped patterns.

I wondered for a while yesterday just when it was that I knit “Mini Roman Blocks” for James. The photograph I posted yesterday doesn’t come with a date. But then I remembered – I was knitting one of the sleeves on 9/11. I interrupted the pattern with two rows of purple. You can’t see the stripe in yesterday’s picture, so here is another one, in which it’s just visible, low on the right sleeve. It is supposed to be on the left sleeve but James has put the sweater on backwards.

And, oh yes, here’s the Chevron Scarf. Once wet, it was exactly the right size, no violent blocking necessary. There is no substitute for wool, like the man said. It looks curiously shortened in the picture, but I can assure you, it's the full five feet.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The chevron scarf is knat, and the ends tidied. I’m hoping for time to block it today. Preparations for our weekend in Argyll are assuming the proportions of an ascent of Everest (cf Helen C.K.S.’s friend) but I think I can manage it anyway.

Thrashing about for something to restore my enthusiasm for some aspect of life other than visiting Argyll and vegetable-growing, I decided yesterday to tackle Kaffe’s Green Granite Blocks, from “California Patches”. I think maybe it’s going to work.

The yarns were given me, many years ago now, by a dear friend – not an official Rowan kit, such as they used to put up for many of their patterns, but one assembled by a department store. Let’s not mince words – by Harrod’s. Until yesterday, the yarn was still in a Harrod's bag. My friend had done the initial ribbing.

The first job was to identify the yarns and lay them out. During my early Kaffe Fassett years, my husband gave me a wicker basket-y/tray-y thing, meant for butlers to keep cutlery in. That’s what I use. That’s how I met the friend I just mentioned. She wrote to the Knitlist asking how people kept yarns in order when they were knitting Kaffe, and I wrote in describing my wicker thingy, and we corresponded, and one day not long after that she came to Edinburgh and came round for coffee.

The next job was to get the ribbing back on a needle, and figure out just how far along we were. That proved easy – she had finished ribbing (and tidied the ends) and done the increase row. I ripped that out, as I needed to do one calm row to start off with, and a calm row of st st wasn't allowed.

And this morning, during my osteoporosis-pill-half-hour, I got half way across the first row of actual knitting.

I don't dare move it into a better spot for photography. If you've ever knit Kaffe, you'll understand. The pattern is essentially an easy one, with big blocks defined by three kinds of colour, dark, medium and light. Not unlike the wonderful Tumbling Blocks in some respects. The chart makes it look awfully fiddly, because he keeps introducing gradations of colour within the big blocks. I think I have decided that I will do that, but not necessarily slavishly.

The blocks have to be established de novo six times each for front and back, only three times for the sleeves. Those are the really slow rows. The rest should trot along pleasantly enough.

This one is a classic Kaffe, from the glory days when Rowan produced a large palette of fine yarns – designed by him, I think – which he could use double, thus vastly extending the already generous range of colour. He has to work with a restricted palette and broader brush these days.

The pattern as written starts at the lower back and goes over the shoulder and down the fronts in one sweep. I knit one like that once, the Islamic Stripe Patch sweater from “Kaffe Fassett at the V&A” and I didn’t like the idea so I won’t do it again.

I think my most recent Kaffe was James’s Mini Roman Blocks, also from “California Patches”. Do I still have the patience? My idea is to make it a five-day-a-week project, and do some small and easy ones on the side, like the preemie jacket.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Wonderful day, yesterday. It was breathtaking to see what five days can mean, in May. Seeds have come up, and potatoes have appeared – I was beginning to wonder where they were – and apple blossom. Little plants nurtured on the Edinburgh windowsill have visibly prospered, some more than others. The weeds have gone into high gear.

Actually, I thought the apple tree would have been wiser to wait. The other one is hanging back, prudently. The weather man said on the radio just now that there was frost in the glens last night.

So I watered and weeded and even thinned some things which had come up quickly and thickly. And could have stayed forever.

Why is it such a joy? Like knitting, vegetable growing (at least the way I do it) is a frugal-seeming occupation which in fact represents a net expense. That is, I doubt if we get enough to eat to cover the outlay. So it’s not that. Flavour, yes, very nice, sorrel soup and forced rhubarb and freshly-dug potatoes and lovely broad beans, and peas and spinach in the years when we get it right. Those two depend on the man-from-del-Monte moment, and we’re not always there for it.

But I don’t think it’s that, either, any more than one knits for the sake of something to wear. It’s the quality of the happiness, and for whatever reason, it’s better than growing mere flowers.

For peas, this year (as well as mange tout) I’m growing something called the Victorian Colossal Climbing Pea. The nurseryman’s instructions (scroll down) are to build a tepee for it, as one does for climbing beans. Does that imply that this pea climbs like a bean, by twining? and not like a pea, which clings with little tendrils? I await the result with more than ordinary interest.

I have built a tepee, as instructed. The peas have germinated, perhaps even 100%, and look very cheerful. I figure that if they decline to twine (as I expect they will) I can tie string around the tepee at various levels, and they can hold on to that.

As for knitting, I should finish the Chevron Scarf this evening, and perhaps even get it blocked tomorrow. I’ve lost oomph, for the moment, and am not sure that the projects I have in mind (preemie jacket, KF jacket) are likely to restore it.


Kristen, I keep thinking about what you said about “Let the Right One In”. I wonder if I missed something, at the end. Why was she there, at the swimming pool? Did they plan it? They must have. Is that what you mean?

Tamar, the heavy package from John Lewis wasn’t knitting wool! Honest! It was connected with this weekend’s projected visit to Argyll, during which should also be revealed a mystery knitting project from some weeks ago. Pics next week, with luck.

Here are some for now, knit-free. Nephew Theo and his new wife Jenni were in Beijing recently, accompanying the Treasury Secretary. Jenni is an important member of his team. Here is a picture of a serious-looking conference. James Miles of the Economist is the man with his hand over his mouth. I’m afraid I don’t know which one is Timothy Geithner. That’s Jenni, upper left.

Here are Theo and Jenni and James and his family after what looks like a well-enjoyed dinner. James and Theo in front, with James's daughter Kirsty. The back row is Rachel-the-Younger, James' wife Cathy, Jenni, and Alistair, who's getting tall.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Final stripe of chevron scarf is in the process of being cast on. Last lap.

The weather has eased, slightly. Yesterday was, at least in Edinburgh terms, seriously hot. Princes Street Gdns – we went up to the Royal Academy for their annual show – were pullulating with people, all rather enjoying themselves. Too hot for us. Then I picked up a heavy package, pre-ordered, at John Lewis, and nearly perished carrying it home.

Today is grey, and cooler. I look forward to watering my little plants tomorrow (no blog) when I go to retrieve the pears, especially the plants that haven’t appeared above ground yet. Despite a century of gardening, and much manure, the soil remains essentially light and sandy and quick-draining.

And I find I have nothing else to say this morning.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Kristen, I wish you were here so that we could talk about “Let the Right One In” a quattr’occhi, as I think the Italians say. I envy you having seen it in the cinema. Our television screen isn’t very large, although modern and digital and all that.

I thought the upshot of the film was love – is that just an old woman’s reaction? When the girl first appeared, she told Oskar, “I can’t be your friend”. And he needed a friend badly, not having any and being bullied at school. At the end, they were friends, despite everything. Love had got past horror, on both sides.

I hope I haven’t spoiled it for anyone else by saying too much.

It was awfully good on snow, almost as good as “Fargo”. And on colour, the lack of. And the camera so often moved back and distanced us and itself from the climax of horrific scenes, esp. at the end, in a way that made it seem less terrifying than the events might have been otherwise. But maybe in the cinema they were horrific anyway.

Anyway, that doesn’t get us very far with knitting.

I’m now nearly finished with the fifth stripe of the chevron scarf, and should at least cast that one off today. The total object looks awfully wide and short – I must hope that severe blocking will correct that to some extent.

I got an email from somewhere yesterday saying that a between-season, “early fall” VK is about to appear. It looked promising, and I think in general that VK is where the design is, at the moment. I hope they intend to send it to subscribers. I hope they intend to send it to subscribers in GB, where the magazine is now called “Designer Knitting”. K1 Yarns will have it, if all else fails.

I need to finish my scarf while the description of it in the sidebar is still accurate, with its reference to the “current VK”.


The weather, after being uncharacteristically cold for months, has suddenly become uncharacteristically hot. My little plants will be wanting water, and I’m glad I shall be seeing them on Monday.

One of the treats of next weekend – when we are planning to go to Argyll to celebrate James-the-Younger’s birthday – will be observing Alexander’s vegetables, and even more, his newly-planted cider orchard. (No kidding – maybe his largely unused barn could be converted into a granny flat.) The trees arrived in January when Argyll was frozen solid. More than that, all of GB had been frozen solid for several weeks at that point, so they must have been out of the ground for a while. I don’t know anything about their progress since.

As for vegetables, Alexander has twelve professionally-constructed raised beds. He tends to look at my garden and say, “Anyone could grow vegetables in soil like that” (the area has probably been a kitchen garden, off and on, for more than a century); I tend to look at his and say, “Anyone could grow vegetables on the west coast” (where it’s distinctly warmer).

Friday, May 21, 2010

Stripe Five embarked upon – good progress. Current plan is to knock off the preemie jacket for the Games next.

Jeanne and FiberQat, thanks for the pointers to Maria Erlbacher’s “Twisted-Stitch Knitting”. (The link is to Schoolhouse Press.) I have held back because I’ve got the three German books of which it is a translation. They’re pretty clear, and there was a time when I had German up to reading-knowledge standard, so I think I could puzzle out any passages I wanted to if I set myself to it.

On the other hand, I see – looking it up just now – that Meg claims to have augmented the technique section “a bit”. And it’s not very expensive. Perhaps…


Rosesmama, I am proud to report that I sowed the sorrel myself, a couple of years ago. I didn’t expect much, as perennial seeds tend to be a bit more reluctant to germinate than annual ones (which can be stubborn enough…), but up it came. And up it comes again, first thing each spring. And it’s delicious. Boil some new potatoes you’ve just dug from your plot, toss them with butter and shredded sorrel leaves until they wilt. Ambrosial. That’s from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Who, incidentally, is one of the authors on the list of the agency granddaughter Hellie now works for.

I realised as I unpacked and put everything away yesterday that I have left three pears on the kitchen windowsill in Strathardle. Maybe it was what is called “Freudian”, because I’m going to have to go back and get them. I think I have probably mentioned here before the time I left a banana in that same position. The field mice of Balnald invited their sisters and cousins and aunts from up and down the glen. The mess throughout the house was unbelievable.

I don’t think pears will be as attractive, but I can’t face a fortnight worrying about it. I’ll make a day trip on Monday. And assuming I don’t have to spend the time cleaning up after mice, I can put in a useful couple of hours whispering encouraging words to my little plants and watering and weeding them. The herbs have got themselves in a fair tangle.

Jeanfromcornwall, that’s interesting about the overlapping words for spring onions. Language: I was much struck, watching “Let the Right One In”, at the sound of Swedish. One can recognise quite a few English words, as in German, but unlike German the lift and intonation of a sentence sometimes sounds unexpectedly like the English equivalent.

Tamar, it’s a good film. Well-written, brilliantly directed, “sensitive” would not be an inappropriate epithet. The familiar vampiric elements are all there, but unexpectedly employed.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

THREE new followers!

We are safely back, very tired – and the job is done.
The beans have been planted out, the seeds are in. The plastic bottles will afford some protection, not much, against a touch of frost. And against wind, until they get blown away themselves. There are four different types of beans, two climbing, two dwarf. I put in seeds of all four types, as well.

When we left yesterday morning, they had survived three nights in the wild, and were looking fine. And every day brings us nearer to June. Frost in June is entirely possible, but we won’t think about that.

In the nearer of my “raised beds”, you can just see some baby lettuce and pak choi plants which I fell for in a favourite hardware/garden store in Milnathort on the way up. They, too, have survived several days at large. And since baby lettuce and pak choi are like chocolate to slugs, I have some hope that maybe this year the nematodes are doing the job I paid them for.

We ate some rhubarb – and you should have seen what they were asking for “British field-grown rhubarb” in Waitrose last week – and some sorrel soup and some nettle soup. All were delicious. I can’t claim any glory for the nettles. We don’t have many, and our neighbour has a lot, all in the perfection of spring growth, so I pinched some of his.

Peas and broad beans were coming up nicely. Not much else. This year, as well as being the Year of the Bean, is also the Year of the Spring Onion. It is supposed to be easy-peasy, a beginner’s vegetable, but they will NOT grow for me. This time, I have taken advice of the Fishwife – you can’t do better than that – and also have gone in for multiple varieties and successional sowings. Ishiguro and White Lisbon, a red one, Cipollotto da Mazzi from Seeds of Italy (I don’t know what that means), garlic chives, and Siberian bunching onions from Victoriana nursery.

The Siberians and Ishiguros have come up, at least patchily. So the next question is whether they will now just stand around, 1/2” high and fine as a hair, all summer long.

Not much knitting. I finished the back of the Araucania sweater and attached the yarn to the front (it was circular up to the armpits). I realised after a while that I had far too many stitches, and after an interval of anxious calculating, realised that I should have started the front by casting off 11 at each side. I thought the cast off’s I had done for the back counted for both.

Especially since it happened so long ago, and the pattern (Sweater Wizard) was a bit vague about numbers at that critical point. The mistake has been retrieved, and and all is well. Just not very far forward.

Here in Edinburgh, I am casting off in pattern the fourth semi-detached stripe of the Chevron Scarf. I worked on this last night while watching “Let the Right One In”. It is very good, even if you don’t, in general, go in for vampires.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Ribbing finished, and a few rows of plain sock added. That’s that, for now. We hope to go to Loch Fyne for the Bank Holiday weekend at the end of the month, as I must have said. The sock will go along, and the visit will afford, if all goes according to plan, three no-cook evenings, which should speed things forward a good deal. If that doesn’t finish it off, I’ll have another think.

I continue to enjoy thinking about Travelling Stitch, and looking through the stitch books. I wish there were an Eng lang book on the subject – I used to hope that Candace Strick would write one. I was introduced to the subject (and to Candace) by taking her class at Camp Stitches in ’99.

A book isn’t really needed. We’ve got Meg’s pattern, and her invaluable DVD, and the German stitch books which include illustrations of complete garments (and stunning they are). An English book would have little to add, but it would be a comfort. I suppose part of the problem is that the work is so very slow. Knitting up a bookful would take a while.

I found the hat pattern in Woolgathering – it was last year, so that didn’t take long, in the same issue as Cully’s lattice hat which remains on my HALFPINT list.


Moorecat, thank you for the preemie size chart. Gosh, they’re small, those little people.

I subscribe to Knitter’s Review, and this morning got this interesting discussion of how to purl 2 tog tbl.

The new IK turned up while we were in London. I like the Jali cardigan a lot, both for the lattice pattern and – even more – for that welted front band. Would it really work? Could it be knit in Posh sock yarn, when my fast ends? The article on buttonholes in this issue might be helpful, too. I’ve never felt entirely happy with my buttonholes.


Thank you, those who visited Mungo’s blog (in sidebar). He’s got a new post up today. Commenting is hard work, I agree. I added myself as a Follower and for some mysterious Eastern Mediterranean reason Blogger has chosen a picture of Mungo’s brother Archie to illustrate me.

Well, we’re off to Strathardle today, with the beans. The forecast – that’s a site James recommended – suggests warmer, from tomorrow. Let's hope so. We should be back sometime in the middle of next week.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The big news today is that my grandson Mungo now has his own blog, “Harry in Athens”. “Mungo” doesn’t work as a name in Greek, so he’s “Harry” when he’s there, which is, of course, most of the time.

I found an email from him late yesterday afternoon, asking how to set up a blog. I sent him off to the Blogger home page, and in the twinkling of an eye, it seemed, he had done all that. It is delightful.

He’d love comments, and it’s not entirely easy, because clever Blogger has put all the apparatus of the blog in Greek. My education was classical, and it included occasional references to dimly-understood characters called scholiasts, who wrote commentaries on the ancient authors. Their comments are called “scholia”, hence their name. It is a rare word in English, if not actually obsolete, but it was with one of those little tingles down the spine that I discovered last night that the word for “comments” on a Greek blog is ΣχOλIA. (I did it! I wrote it in Greek!)

Ancient Greek and medieval Greek and modern Greek (what Mungo enchantingly calls “normal Greek”) are all the same language, much altered through the years. Whereas Italian, although clearly derived from Latin, has evolved into a different language. But what are my criteria for those statements? It’s a very interesting question.


Today is my osteoporosis pill day – that dread early half-hour in which I can’t even have a cup of coffee, and am not allowed to go back to bed. I regard the time as mine to dispose of, though, and today I spent it watching the beginning of Meg’s Bavarian Travelling Stitch DVD. It’s chock-a-block with good things, including a large circular swatch which is simply taken for granted.

Interestingly, I thought, she stumbled as anyone might in trying to pronounce "Uberlieferte Strickmuster". But her father was German. He must have turned his back on his native language altogether.

She says there was a Woolgathering with a Travelling Stitch cap. I must try to find it.

And thank you for the comment about Rowan Extra Fine Merino, Vivienne. I regard the matter as settled, although I didn’t get in to John Lewis yesterday to fondle it. Congratulations on that wonderful baby.

Jenny, no, the Games programme doesn’t say anything about the dimensions for a preemie sweater. About 12”-14”, I should guess. The real tinies are presumably kept naked in incubators in conditions as womb-like as possible.

I’ve got fewer than 20 rounds of ribbing left to do on the second sock, and will push hard to finish today so that I won’t have to come back to it, post-Strathardle.


The radio said this morning that last night and this morning were the coldest temperatures recorded for May in 15 years. Those beans have a tough future ahead of them.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The beans survived another couple of hours on the doorstep yesterday. I think I will leave them out there a while longer today, as long as it’s not windy. We have decided to go north on Thursday – the forecast for the weekend promises a slight improvement, warmth-wise.

I finished the first sock, and got ten rounds into the dread ribbing of the second. My husband tried it on – the toe is a bit too long; easily fixed. I used my usual formula for the toe shaping, and thought as I did it that, with 72 stitches instead of my usual 64, it was going to come out long. A 64-stitch sock has 22 rounds in the toe; I’ve done 25 (I think).

The Future

Jenny, thank you for the pointer to the Baby Sachiko Kimono sweater (Ravelry link). I had already seen it in my search of Ravelry, and put it on a mental short list, without grasping the important point you make, namely that it is written for worsted so that I can probably downsize it for a preemie by using a finer yarn. Perhaps some of the sock yarn, I’m afraid there’s lots, left over from last year’s ASJ? Anyway, I’ve downloaded it, and it’s the one -- my 2010 Games entry.

I thought a lot yesterday about that Bavarian Twisted Stitch jacket. Current yarn choice is Rowan Extra-Fine Merino DK. The next time I’m in John Lewis – and there is a prescription from Boots to be picked up this very day – I’ll try to have a look at it. The Rowan website mentions stitch definition specifically. The colour range is very good. “Blood”, I think. Maybe “red wine”.

The pattern – in Meg’s book “Knitting” – has a good paragraph about the importance of swatching and blocking. Bavarian travelling stitch is essentially ribbing writ large, and she points out that you can stretch it out and block it flattish, or not. Unless I've missed something, however, she doesn’t say that the swatch has got to be circular.

Bavarian travelling stitch is hard enough by itself; it’s next to impossible on the flat, because there is action in every row. Maybe this point is covered in the DVD.

I’ve still got my circular swatch from the Grandson Sweater, waiting to be turned into a hat.


This is a most extraordinary situation. Seeing the three party leaders at the Cenotaph the other day, I was reminded of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Gondoliers”. One of them is king – but which?

Emily, my son Alexander has been arguing your very point with me – that there are more Labour voters in England than you might think just to look at all that blue on an electoral map. I believe it is true, however, that if you remove Scotland from the equation and just count the number of constituencies won by each party, England will be found to have chosen a Conservative government, not just this time but in most post-war elections. But I’m not going to do the arithmetic.

David Blunkett was extremely sensible on the radio this morning on the absurdity of the idea of a “progressive alliance” with a Labour Prime Minister, in the present situation. David Blunkett.

Monday, May 10, 2010

It’s still cold – snowing, in fact, in various bits of Scotland this morning. We mean to go to Strathardle this week – but when? It would be nice if the weather would ease a bit, and worth waiting a day or two if the forecast promises improvement.

I put the beans out on the doorstep for a couple of hours yesterday, and they lived to tell the tale.

Compare the picture I took on Thursday and posted on Saturday, and you'll see why I'm anxious about their getting out of hand. The ones in the little coir pots in front are called Cherokee Trail of Tears -- they're supposed to be the beans the Cherokees took along. They're a climbing French-type bean, flat, not pencil-shaped. One or two of them have sent roots through the bottoms of their pots already.

I also reached the toe-shaping of the sock. It feels rather firm – have I been using smaller needles than usual? I should finish today, including Kitchener’ing. Then my husband can try it on and see what he thinks of a shaped instep. I’m glad I chose sober for the auxiliary yarn.

The Future

I am enjoying thinking about what I will buy/do when November comes. Sock-type yarn from Posh Yarn for something loose-fitting and completely simple. And then perhaps attempt Meg’s Bavarian Travelling Stitch cardigan – I’ve got the DVD; I’ve got the books (Bauerliches Stricken in three vols, Omas Strickgeheimnisse in one). That would need a high-twist DK – Ravelry should help.

And I’ve been over there this morning, looking for a preemie pattern for my Games entry. Searching for preemie patterns produces, among them, a few intended as burial gowns. They will be knit and donated, I am sure, with love and sadness, but the idea is also sort of blood-curdling. (A baby can be buried in its best everyday clothes – it doesn’t need a shroud. I think what horrifies and rather frightens me is the idea of planning for a baby’s death.)

I want to do a kimono-style wrap-around thing and will confine myself in future to searching for that with the idea of down-sizing on my own. And I’d better get back to the stash cupboard and start looking for yarn.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Those beans I showed you yesterday are growing with great speed – they’ll have to go out in the cold, cold ground within the next 10 days whether they like it or not, else they’ll start falling over or twining around each other. Every spring, when it comes to sowing beans, I feel a great sympathy with Jack. Who would choose a cow over those beautiful, shiny, astonishing things?

In past years, I have been in the queue at opening time for the Christian Aid Book Sale – it’s the only way to get the gems. By the time we got there yesterday, the dealers had swept in and carried off the Vogue Knitting Books my Friend on the Inside had told me about, and some other choice items. She, Lindsay, was there behind the counter, well padded against the severe cold.

What dealers? Why don’t they deal with me?

I bought a couple of old Rowan winter editions, and my husband came home with a couple of bagfuls from the Art and the Languages tables. I overheard a bored wife tell her husband where she was going, and ask how long he wanted to stay at the sale. “Eight hours?” he said.

There are thousands of books there, donated from this bookish city. The truly astonishing thing is the way they have been lovingly and intelligently sorted. The knitting counter had quantities of those old leaflets from the 60’s, sorted into piles of Babies’, Children’s, Adult’s, Accessories. That’s Lindsay’s job – she’s also got to recognise the treasures and price them appropriately, as well as turning out in the cold to sell them on the day.

It was at the Christian Aid sale, some years ago, that I found the Paton’s leaflet for the shawl I knit Rachel before she was born. Somehow or other, the copy I owned in 1958 had escaped me, and I had been hunting it in charity shops for years.

As for knitting, I press on with the sock. I have opted (without asking) for caution, in my choice of a yarn to finish off the foot, now that the original has run out. Pic tomorrow, perhaps. I am more than halfway between the end of the gusset shaping and the beginning of the toe – it shouldn’t take much longer.

Then the 50 rounds of ribbing for Sock 2, then I will happily lay them aside. There is no doubt that despite Oliver shaping; despite the pleasant variations in the Socka yarn – like an old grey cat; despite Knit Picks, knitting a big grey sock is on the boring side. I was right to press on while I had some momentum going.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

It’s cold here – the action of Evelyn Waugh’s novel Scoop begins on a “biting-cold mid-June morning” in London. This is just the sort of thing he was thinking of. Either that, or the state of the country, or even perhaps the state and prospects of my knitting, have enveloped me in gloom.

The things that are happening and are about to happen are in some ways like the things that opened the door to Hitler. There is no sign of him about that I can detect, but we do need a leader of some sort.

And I wonder, a bit, how strong the union is. All this hung parliament stuff is entirely due to Scotland and Wales. England, as usual, voted Conservative. The Conservatives are a feeble fourth among the parties in Scotland, and it is our reliably Labour seats, especially in the west, which keep Labour in business. Things are much the same in Wales, only less extreme. All very disquieting.


I worried, while we were away, about what would happen to the seeds I had left behind on the dining-room window sill. Those little cells dry out quickly. But they’re fine. I carry them anxiously about from one window to another, looking for sun and turning them to try to keep them straight. They couldn’t possibly spend even an hour on the doorstep, in this cold. They are mostly French beans, some dwarf, some climbing – my big effort for this year, along with spring onions.

We hope to go to Strathardle next week, and now I am worrying about planting them out. Even with individual cloches (made from sawn-off plastic water-bottles) and even waiting until the end of our stay, will it be too cold for them? But on the other hand, when will we be back? – especially if we go to Argyll at the end of the month.


I am moving down the foot of my husband’s sock, Oliver’ing away. (That’s a Ravelry link.) Today’s excitement will be finishing off a ball of yarn, particularly gratifying in my present state of abstinence, and particularly exciting because I started out with only two balls of the grey so the foot will have to be finished in something else. I’ll have to involve my husband in the choice – something sober or something crazy?

Ron, I never got very far with the circular sock needle. It sort of hurt my wrist, as many have found. I felt that it could be mastered, and would certainly speed things up. I meant to return to it – perhaps it would be most useful in the plain bits. But Knit Picks came into my life at that point, and I now can’t bear to put them down to renew the experiment.

Non-knit, non-vegetable, non-political

Today is the opening day of the Christian Aid Book Sale, a famous Edinburgh event. My Friend on the Inside has already told me that there will be a good selection of Vogue Knitting Books – but not the one I’m still looking for. Still, we’ll hobble up there after breakfast, and I will hope for something to cheer me up.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Thank you for the responses about Walpole's poor cat. I can tell you that the lip of that vase is wide enough for a cat to perch on – especially once she knew that there were goldfish in there – but not to “recline” on.

There are a dozen things I want to say in response to your comments – saddest of all was yours, Susan, about “Jabberwocky” not being recognised. I have long thot that the Alice books are the last true bit of common culture left, Shakespeare and the King James Bible having followed Gray into the shadows long ago. Your comment inspired me to look it up in French, Gretchen. Clever.

(James took his son Alistair camping at Xanadu once – and I also know someone – an anthropologist -- who has been to Timbucktoo.)

Enough of this.

London was hard work, but very successful. (And, yes, we saw quite a few elephants.) My husband is pretty breathless these days, and can’t walk very far. Every journey had to be planned with that in mind. Rachel and Ed, despite heavy work schedules, were terrific about driving us about when they could.

And the Transport for London website, despite eccentricities, is good at revealing the possibilities for various journeys, and even pinpointing bus stops. The schematic information posted at bus stops is good, too. (I dread visiting Glasgow these days – a much smaller city, whose centre is a grid, where I find such information extremely hard to come by.)

We got through the shows on our list – it didn’t really include anything much out of the top drawer, for once, although there were a couple of Mondrians in the International Avant-Garde show at Tatmo. I think the show I liked best was Christen Kobke at the National Gallery. We didn’t get to the British Museum for the Kingdom of Ife and may have missed the best thing in London thereby. My husband is rather down on Van Gogh; hence his absence.

As for knitting, I polished off Ketki’s socks, as hoped, and sternly absented myself from Freecell long enough to do the ribbing – 50 rounds of it – for my husband’s new sock. Once that was done, my beloved Knit Picks took over the job. (That’s an American link, but they are available directly from British sellers too. I am eternally grateful to Kate for telling me about them.)

My current notion is to press on to finish this sock and do the ribbing of the second one, before reverting to the VK scarf. We hope to go to Loch Fyne for the next Bank Holiday at the end of the month to see the Loch Fyne Mileses and Alexander’s vegetables, and Rachel and Ed who hope to come up from London for the occasion. With the ribbing already done, a couple of days would be nearly enough to finish the socks.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Not about Politics

We’re back, and it was a great success. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow – today is needed for convalescence.

Do you recognise these lines?

'TWAS on a lofty vase's side,
Where China's gayest art had dyed
The azure flowers that blow;
Demurest of the tabby kind,
The pensive Selima reclined,
Gazed on the lake below.

Her conscious tail her joy declared;
The fair round face, the snowy beard,
The velvet of her paws,
Her coat, that with the tortoise vies,
Her ears of jet, and emerald eyes,
She saw; and purr'd applause.

They are from Thomas Gray’s “On a Favourite Cat, Drowned in a Tub of Gold Fishes." You can read the rest of it here, along with his “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard”, if you like.

I ask because, while we were in London, we saw the very vase on whose rim Selima had perched, and were both deeply moved. It belonged to Horace Walpole, whose cat she was. It’s in a show at the V&A.

When we got back, we asked Rachel, who didn’t know the poem. Later that evening, we spoke to my sister in CT via Skype. She had actually embarked on a PhD in Eng Lit at Yale long ago, before she chucked it in and turned to medicine. She didn’t know the poem. The next evening Rachel’s daughter Hellie came to supper, who read Eng Lit at Newcastle and now works for a literary agency. (Very happy – she’s having a great time.) She didn’t know the poem.

What is the use of a common culture, if no one knows what you’re talking about? Please, someone, tell me you recognise those words.