Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A new follower!

So we’re off. If we can stand it, we’ll be away until the end of next week.

As hoped, the dots have been placed on the 5th rank of green granite blocks – it’s a good place to stop.

Our dentist keeps good time, and his office is so near that there’s no need to arrive early, so I didn’t get much sock-knitting done yesterday. I think I’ll take them along to Strathardle, pushing the poor old Araucania sweater which lives there even further down the queue. I’m well along the foot of the second sock, and I’m getting tired of them.

Thanks to yesterday’s commenters, Sister Helen and Meg, for ideas for the expected lettuce-glut. Wilted lettuce salad sounds a very interesting idea – I’m sure I can find a bacon dressing for it in cyber-space, and we’ve got good bacon in Perthshire.

I have a living-in-Italy book for you on the tip of my mind, so to speak -- a reference to a remark in Meg's fascinating blog. I hope I’ll recover enough detail to recommend it specifically – maybe quicker to look for my own copy. Set in the 40’s, decaying castles and, even then, good food. Author’s name begins with K I think.

Got it: “A Tuscan Childhood” by Kinta Beevor. I remembered that I gave it to someone for Christmas once, and found it by digging out my invaluable Excel spreadsheet called “Xmas” and unhiding columns for Christmasses past, and then unhiding rows for loved-ones dead. There it was. Good book.

Yesterday afternoon I went to John Lewis and bought a slow cooker for Strathardle. There isn’t room for one in the kitchen here, and it’ll be more use there anyway. Rachel seems to be having a good time with the one I gave her recently. I got an even bigger one for us, on Greek Helen’s recommendation.

The operation involved parking in a multi-level Stygian car park with lost souls wandering about looking for the way out. Never again, if it can be avoided. But I succeeded.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thank you for the kind comments about the jabot. It was well received – I have every hope that the jacket will be ordered in due course. There’s a specific target – the Beijing St Andrew’s Night Ball. That should help concentrate the mind.

And for the good wishes (rather alarming in tone) about migrating from one ISP to another. I didn’t hear from Alistair yesterday – he was meant to pursue the attempt to get hold of the necessary migration code from the current supplier. At the very worst, I won’t be gone for long. I’ll get a Man In.

Janet, I have already told Cathy that you were reading “Slaughter Pavilion”, and will certainly tell her tomorrow that you enjoyed it. I love your “red” photography project (June 28). It is astonishing how expressive of Ireland it seems. Could I do something like that for Edinburgh?

Here are the Green Granite Blocks, with four ranks complete. I sped forward yesterday, once Rank #5 was established. If progress is as good today, I should reach the mid-block dots.

I maintain an electronic Filofax, largely devoted to knitting but helpful as a birthday-reminder. I also weigh myself every morning and record the result there. (I reached my present level, and stuck there, in January of this year.) I also make a note, on the first day of every month, of where I am with what I’m knitting. June 1 reads “nearing top of first rank of Green Granite Blocks”. It doesn’t seem like much for a month’s work.

Salsola soda

This is rather embarrassing, but you deserve to hear how the story has unfolded.

You may remember that on a recent visit to Strathardle I found two little seedlings in the otherwise-bare salsola soda patch which tasted so wonderful that I was inspired to fill up my Roottrainers with compost and sow the rest of the seeds.

When we were in Strathardle last week, the little seedlings had got bigger, and I decided that their delicious and complex flavour was nothing more or less than self-sown rocket (arugula).

That leaves the Roottrainers, here on the doorstep. They now contain three plants – with a fourth currently unsure whether to live or die – which must be salsola soda. I’ll have to take them up and plant them out when we go tomorrow. So there’s some hope that I will, in the end, find out what they taste like.

I wish I could remember how I got started on this pursuit.

More on vegetables

An overdue blog post from the Fishwife shows how it ought to be done.

I’ve got the books from the famous cooks who claim to grow their own vegetables – Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie at Home” and Nigel Slater’s “Tender”. I find them surprisingly useless. Example: my first crop of lettuce – if it hasn’t bolted already – is going to need serious attention straight away. It happens to anyone who’s ever grown the stuff. Neither man offers a cooked-lettuce recipe. Nigel doesn’t include lettuce at all. Fortunately the ever-fecund Internet is richly productive of the sort of recipe I need.

Monday, June 28, 2010


The Beijing Mileses have gone off to Argyll, hoping to get to play with Alexander’s new boat. They’ll go from there to Strathardle, where we’ll join them on Wednesday. I have a dentist’s appt here tomorrow.

That’s the basic story.


No Montrose jacket. We went to Kinloch Anderson bright and early on Saturday morning. You can’t just buy one, it has to be made. And it can’t even be measured for, without the kilt of the gent who is going to wear it. That is because a Montrose jacket is worn on the sort of occasion on which a gentleman from time to time may THROW his arms into the air. The jacket is anchored to the kilt by subtle means to prevent a midseason gap.

So we came away with detailed forms on which a Beijing tailor is to enter the necessary measurements. But whether James will get this done when he gets back, is another question.

Here is a picture of him wearing the jabot without a Montrose jacket. He looks vaguely Swiss Presbyterian. At least the Velcro fastening arrangement seems to work.

Internet access

With the Mileses here, the house was full of laptops and smaller devices which sadly languished without wi-fi. James got to work. Alistair, suddenly a teen-ager, got to work too. Listening to Alistair’s end of a telephone conversation with my ISP, I felt much as I do listening similarly to his father speaking Mandarin. He’s really doing it.

In the end, the ISP told Alistair (rightly or wrongly) that they don’t support wireless connections, and we decided to switch to BT. They provide a satisfactory service in Strathardle, and they will be cheaper.

We've done it. I'm signed up for BT broadband. But they need a “migration code" from the current ISP, and there was no hope of getting one at the weekend. Alistair is going to try from Argyll this morning.

As the day wore on, James succeeded in getting the present system to work at least partially – some laptops could receive the signal, others couldn’t.

When I disappear, it will be because we have got in such a muddle that I have no access at all to the outside world.

Green Granite Blocks

I have finished the fourth rank of blocks. Today’s assignment is the slow row, setting colours for the new rank. As before, a picture will follow when I am far enough along with #5 that #4 can be seen in its entirety.


We had a pleasant lunch of pasta and cheese, but my radish crop wasn’t big or bushy enough to make an interesting contribution. Maybe next year.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The weather was glorious – very dry, although only a fortnight before it was heavy rain that drove us away a day early. I made the beds upstairs, and got a certain amount of minimal tidying-up done, but most of the time was spent carrying water to my dear vegetables and rescuing them from the encroaching weeds.

Things are looking pretty good.

Except for the white currants, which are being consumed by (I think) gooseberry sawfly.

And the pak choi and spinach have bolted.

This is the year devoted to beans and onions. The climbing beans have started climbing!

And the dwarf ones have started blooming!

Germination of broad beans has been on the disappointing side – or else mice have made off with the seeds. I think my trouble was planting three fancy varieties – one with red beans, which a magazine recommended for deliciousness; one with small pods which can be eaten at the mange-tout size; and one from the Victoriana nursery which had some other merit. The mistake was not to sow a mainstream variety from a mainstream seedsman.

With onions, the result has been exactly the opposite. I have failed, or nearly failed, as usual, with the mainstream easy-peasy varieties, White Lisbon and Ishikura. Poor germination, little progress since. But I think I am getting somewhere with the rarer ones. Germination was best for the Italian Cipollotto da Mazzo,

but I think the Siberian Bunching from Real Seeds are making the most progress.

I have brought in the radish crop, and today for lunch we will have this, from one of Robin Lane Fox’s gardening articles in the FT two years ago:

“Lightly fry an onion, put in about two dozen sliced radishes and the chopped leaves from their tops. Add garlic and cook until the leaves flop. Add the mixture to a big spoon of the water in which you have cooked tagliatelle. Mix in the pasta, grated cheese (strong cheddar does the trick) and top with fresh parsley. The result is remarkably satisfying – a pasta del giardino that is within the competence of us all.”

I even grew the variety of radish he recommends for this purpose, namely Rougette.

We managed this dish once before. It tastes a lot better than it sounds.

As for knitting, I literally didn’t touch it while we were there. Here in Edinburgh, I am posed for the slow row near the top of the fourth rank of Green Granite Blocks, where I set the colours for the tops of the blocks and introduce some space-creating blackness.

But I doubt if I’ll make further progress today, because James and his children must already be airborne. Tomorrow, insh’Allah, we’ll go to Kinloch Anderson and see about that Montrose jacket.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Green Granite Blocks

They continue to progress. I’ve put the dots on the fronts of the Fourth-Tier blocks.

The fourth tier brings two events:

1) Cast off five stitches each side for the underarm. I’ve already done that.
2) Move to the next page for the rest of the chart – that’s only eight rows away.

What excitement!

“California Patches” is a big (?A3) paper-back, essentially a pamphlet. The whole chart is printed sideways, spanning two pages. And in eight rows I will move from page 23 to page 22.

Kristie, you ask about weaving in ends. Gosh, yes. I’ve set aside 10% for that stage in my Progress Bar over there – it may not be enough.

Years ago, back in the second millennium and the glory days of the Knitlist, Selma threw a virtual party for those of us who couldn’t get to Stitches. We sat around her virtual swimming pool, sipping virtual Chardonnay, and indulging in our knitting fantasies. I can’t remember any of the fantasies, even my own, except for one – someone said she’d spotted Kaffe over to the side, darning in ends.

Selma is now a flesh-and-blood friend; ends remain a problem.

Angel, thank you for the link to the Knit Camp vest – I didn’t know about it, and it looks kinda fun. Does this mean that the US VK has different material from the UK “Designer Knitting”? I thot they were the same – maybe I just haven’t received that issue yet. They had a nice plug for Knit Camp in the last one. It sort of makes up for the stony silence of the British “Knitting” magazine.

If I stay away from Camp it will be because of the difficulty of making domestic arrangements, and nervousness about driving unfamiliar routes. But if the organisers inspired more confidence it might spill over into those areas. “You are requested to bring a print out of your order confirmation with you to Camp. This will be e-mailed to you once we have completed entering your details into our database. “ I don’t think I’ve had such an email; I wouldn’t hesitate to turn up without it. But its absence adds to the niggling worries.

We’re going to Strathardle today for two or threee nights, to get things ready for the Beijing Mileses who will be with us any minute now. I haven’t been able to secure the services of the wonderful woman who has cleaned the house and made the beds in preparation for the summer invasion in other years, so I will have to do it myself. It won’t be fun, toiling indoors with my vegetables there just beyond the door.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Art, knitting, salsola soda – where to start?

Roger and Helen left yesterday, for London, then Paris, then London again, then CT, then (for Roger) Africa again. We have reached the stage in life where I found myself thinking of my favourite literary parting, Brutus to Cassius (or perhaps the other way around) before Philippi:

If we should meet again, why, we shall smile.
If not, why then this parting was well made.

Jupiter Artland was – is – terrific. Seize the chance, if you can. The owners, Wilson by name, bought a country house near Edinburgh only last year and have made a sculpture park of the grounds. They have commissioned every living sculptor I have ever heard of (Gormley, Kapoor, Goldsworthy), and people whose work I recognised although I didn’t know their names (Charles Jencks and that man who paints stripes on the floor)

and a good many more. (That's Roger, who sat down to fiddle with his camera.) Almost all the work was made for a specific place chosen by the artist; much of it was made on the site.

One walks through a woodland garden and discovers these remarkable things, unlabelled, unfenced, unguarded but, where appropriate, the grass about them tended if need be with nail scissors.

Helen had a cold and was, I think, exhausted by Africa and travel. She stayed here. This is a picture of Roger and my husband looking at the Kapoor.

There was even knitting. An artist none of us knew, Shane Waltener, had contributed both a temporary installation in the woodshed (originally “commissioned by the Museum of Arts and Design in New York for the touring exhibition 'Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting'”):

and a permanent piece on the edge of the woods:

(Maybe Mrs Wilson is a knitter?)

The remarkable thing is the dimension such art acquires by being experienced like that instead of, bewilderingly, in galleries or even in the courtyard of the Royal Academy.

And it was amusing to think of the contrast with Pollphail (my blog entry, June 3), which was also an occasion when art was experienced directly. Arte povera, in that case; as opposed to arte ricca, here. Mr Wilson is chairman of a company called Nelson Homeopathy which must be rather profitable.

Salsola soda will have to wait. Here are the Green Granite Blocks this morning:

Friday, June 18, 2010

Roger and Helen spent last night on the shore of Loch Fyne, after what I trust proved a happy afternoon messing around in Alexander’s new boat. They’ll be back here soon, I hope with pictures, and today’s plan is to aim for Jupiter Artland with a picnic (and a camera).

Roger and I – Roger, in particular – spent a good whack of time on Wednesday afternoon trying to install the wireless router James bought for us a year ago. It would have been a great triumph to succeed where James had failed, but we didn’t, despite phone calls to the ISP and a re-setting of my password and much fear that I would find myself cut off from the world altogether. James thinks I should abandon my ISP and switch to British Telecom.


I have finished the third rank of Green Granite Blocks, and am most of the way across the next Slow Row, setting colours for Rank # 4. Again, I’ll delay the photograph until I’ve done a few more rows and the three completed ranks can be seen in all their glory. And that probably won’t happen today, after an afternoon of art.

I continue more and more uneasy about Knit Camp, and may decide not to go which would be a great waste of money. The impression one gets on the Ravelry website is of hair-tearing. I learned just now that classes are removed from the website when they are sold out – that doesn’t seem to include either of mine, Franklin on photography and Donna Druchunas on Japanese Knitting. And with their removal goes any reference to preparatory homework.

The chief hair-tearer says that the information will all come back soon in PDF form.

I have been to two Camp Stitches on the shore of Lake George, oh! happy memories, and one Stitches East. Little as one loves “the X’s”, I never felt adrift like this in the anticipatory weeks. I think it was a great mistake on the part of the hair-tearers not to send a single sheet of paper, in the mail, to each camper acknowledging payment, confirming classes and dates, specifying what you needed to bring and do for each class, and perhaps including a map of the Stirling campus. Computers should have been able to do the work: it wouldn’t have taken much of human money or time.

On the other hand, my husband is beginning to talk of another trip to London. I am very keen not to have it happen in July or August, so I am glad to have Knit Camp in position to use as a counterweight if necessary.

Salsola soda

Here’s where we are so far. Seeds keep coming up, in the form of spindly stems, and then collapsing as if damping off before they’ve even started. No cotyleda, even. Perhaps it’s not exactly poor germination salsola soda suffers from, but a lack of life skills. As well as the two little green plants you can see – assuming they’re not passing weeds – there are three spindly stems which haven’t yet collapsed and which seem to be evidencing seed leaves. And it’s only 10 days since the seeds went in – there may be more to come.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Everything is more or less in position. Clean sheets on the spare room beds, at least. My sister and her husband are probably on their way to Kings Cross at this very moment.

Alexander has just got himself a boat.

(He wanted to call it “Drummond Plaice”, Drummond being the name by which he is known to the world – “Alexander” is just for family. His wife is the only person in the world who started out calling him “Drummond” and has stepped across the line. But apparently it is bad luck to change the name of a boat so it is the Puffin Puffin. Those aren’t his sons.)

Everybody likes boats. Helen and Roger plan to go over tomorrow and mess about in it a bit. They have been sailing on the CT River for many years. James and his family, when they arrive next week, will go over for a while, too.

As for knitting, I was closer to that slow row than I thought I was, yesterday morning. So now the tops of the third rank of Green Granite Blocks have been established. Another session, whenever it happens, should polish them off. And I have reached the half-way point of the jacket back, which is sort of exciting.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A new follower! Oh, frabjous day!

Don’t miss Mungo’s post called “Trip to Delphi and Dream Job”.

Yesterday was one of those (rare) days when I Got Some Things Done – mopped the kitchen floor, washed my hair, sent a stamped, self-addressed envelope to the Home Industries Secretary so that she could send me the Games programme, and more. And it just leaves one feeling as Hercules must have felt when he first tackled the Hydra.

There’s definitely some movement in the salsola soda box. I’ll photograph it as soon as there’s anything that would show up in a pic. I had hoped for three or four little plants. Now I have raised my aspirations to half-a-dozen or more.

Slow cookers: You’re right about John Lewis, Judith, and the slow cooker I gave Rachel is just expensive enough to qualify for free delivery. Trouble is, according to the website when I had a look yesterday morning, it’s out of stock.

Perhaps just as well, because soon thereafter I got some emails from Greece saying that we need a six-litre model. The John Lewis one is only 3.5 litres. The Greeks recommend a discount electrical place in Callander which, they claim, amazingly, has delivered slow cookers to them not only in Athens but also on Mount Pelion. (They have two.) So they ought to be able to manage Drummond Place.

I am worried, now, about having given Rachel a smaller one. The only consolation is that hers is fully programmable which means that when she is out of the house for eight or ten hours at a stretch, as must often happen, it doesn’t have to be on the whole time.

Greek Helen says “I will spend all summer training you up and then you should have the idea.” So I suppose I had better go ahead.


Green Granite Blocks forges on. Today I should reach and I hope at least begin the slow row towards the top of the third rank of blocks where I set the colours for the tops of the blocks and introduce blackness. I simply can’t keep my hands off it. I even find myself wondering whether I really have to knit that preemie jacket.

My sister and her husband are coming tomorrow. GGB will have to be laid aside. I could continue knitting it while paying attention to a conversation and occasionally contributing sage remarks, but I couldn’t manage a conversation in which I was a major participant. Maybe I could get the preemie jacket started today – no, can’t bear the thought. Conversation-knitting tomorrow and thereafter will have to be my husband’s sock.

And the end of next week brings the Beijing Mileses. Plenty of non-GGB time looms. All the more reason to revel in them today.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Grannypurple, absolutely not (comment yesterday). Printed matter of all sorts, including downloaded patterns if printed out, counts as potential archival material of interest to the future historian of knitting. Not as stash. I’m not kidding.

Little to report. The third row of dots are installed.

Greek Helen phoned last night with a brisk catalogue of summer plans. She says a slow cooker is now absolutely essential to life. I’m not sure I can face carrying another one home from John Lewis. Maybe they’d deliver.

There are stirrings in the salsola soda tray in the dining room this morning. Some seeds have found their way to the surface and are trying to sprout. I will sprinkle some earth over them shortly. These seeds are notoriously reluctant to germinate, and also are said to deteriorate fairly rapidly. The Italians often sow them as soon as ripe, and nurse the little plants through the winter.

Information from Real Seeds – highly recommended, not just for salsola soda.

So maybe next year I’ll start them on the windowsill in March. What I don’t know is how hardy they are supposed to be. Real Seeds says to sow at about the time you would sow French beans, which sounds as if they are not hardy at all. On the other hand, they don't like great heat, at least when germinating. That is an easy requirement to meet, around here.

Inspiration fails, this morning. In lieu of it, I leave you with three-dimensional pics of the Drummond Place doorstep vegetables – lettuce, which we’re eating, and “mignon” carrots, which promise fairly well. The herb garden on the other side is in daily use. The thyme here is much better than its source plant in Strathardle, which has become woody and entangled with weeds. That’s mint, in the separate pot.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup

A draw. At least we spoiled their party. Or, at any rate, their own goalkeeper did. If I knew a lot more about the game, would it become interesting? Whether or no, that’s the last you’ll hear of the World Cup here, although some years we get sufficiently swept up in it to watch the final.


Donice, I think you may have the answer – to let the knitting magazines lapse, and take up Piecework. I haven’t seen much of it, although I have the famous issue with Bridget Rorem’s lace alphabet, which I have often used. (The alphabet is available from the Schoolhouse Press, now.) In my case, Knitter’s must go, and Knitting. I’ll stick with IK a bit longer, maybe.

My problem will be – life is absolutely full of problems like this, to which inertia is the easy solution – that I pay for both Knitting and VK by direct debit. Cancelling is easy, since I bank on line. But first I’ve got to figure out which is which. Both payees have unexpected and non-knitterly names, and the sums are similar. I’ll get down to it.

I think at the moment VK is pack-leader for design again, after a period in the doldrums. I’ll hold on to it.

I had a look at the Verena website yesterday, recommended by the Curmudgeon. Not entirely bad, I agree. Europe’s most popular knitting magazine, it says. Never heard of it, myself. I had a moment of temptation over the idea of subscribing to the digital edition. Much cheaper, and it wouldn’t contribute to the piles of magazines on the bedroom shelves. I’ll at least have a look on-line at the fall issue when it comes out. But really.

It is hard to remember, now, what knitting life was like before I got online in the mid-90’s. VK International. LYS’s, such as they were. Some books, although nothing like the 3rd-millennium flood, in which one actually has to choose which knitting books to buy. (As opposed to buying them all.) EZ, Sheila McGregor, Sarah Don, Starmore, Barbara Walker, Gladys Thompson, Odham’s Encyclopedia of Knitting – I had all of those when we moved to Edinburgh in ’94. And, come to think of it, have knit from almost all of them.

Whereas now the shelves groan with un-knit-from books. And now I am in touch with the whole world of knitting every day.


I am about to do those dots in the middle of the third rank of blocks. Before this rank is quite finished, I will be half way up the back of the jacket. The other four pieces are much smaller, two fronts and two sleeves, so that’s a significant landmark. The sleeves have only three ranks of blocks. Maybe I’ll even knock off a sleeve next.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

World Cup

We are not interested in football.

At the moment, around here, that feels like being given a whole extra month of life. My sister and her husband will be here next week – I will ask her how it felt actually to be standing on African soil yesterday and not be interested in football.

However, today is an exception. A recent New Yorker article about the “Miracle on Grass” – the day, 60 years ago, when the USofA beat mighty England – has kindled a temporary interest. I think the article said (we left it behind in Perthshire) that the two teams have not played each other from that day to this. The Queen (not personally, I don’t suppose) has added her touch by giving an MBE in this morning’s Birthday Honours List to the 90-year-old sole survivor of that game. And our goalkeeper is a New Jersey man.

So we’ll be watching, and cheering for the underdog.


Here are the Green Granite Blocks. Somehow they look more three-dimensional in photography than they do in real life. I’m very pleased.

Here’s the back – I hope I am leaving enough percentage points, as I advance my Progress Bar, for the clean-up at the end. No joke, with Kaffe. But the point of this picture is to let you see, to some extent, I hope, how the new system – butterflies for the larger patches of colour – has produced somewhat fewer ends, in the second rank of blocks.

I got out Kaffe’s “Pattern Library” yesterday. There are, after all, some things I’d like to do. Divide the left-overs into two piles, and knit the famous Persian Poppies or Earth Carpet? Both from “Glorious Knitting”, I think. Or three, and go for almost anything else? That would have to be far in the future, either way.


I got an awfully nice note from Wendy yesterday, asking what British magazines I would recommend. Golly. I’m not sure, a la fin fine, if I wouldn’t now agree with my friend Helen C.K.S. and choose the Rowan magazine and leave it there. Far and away the best for design; good articles, too. It’s expensive, and of course limited to Rowan yarns, but on the other hand appears only twice a year.

I still subscribe to Knitting – the one the Curmudgeon has said is the best mag on either side of the pond. I’m always glad to see it on the mat, but I’d drop it pretty quickly if I had to cut back. Looking her up for that link, I read the Curmudgeon’s enthusiasm for Verena, of which I’ve never heard. Hmm.

Like Wendy, I read The Knitter once and it was sort of impressive in its expensive way, but not enough to make me yearn for – or even look for – the next issue.

How often do I knit from a magazine? Almost never, with the VK Chevron Scarf as an interesting exception, this year.

When I was young, the Vogue Knitting Book was all there was. Its twice-yearly appearances were Events. These last ten years, I’ve been swamped with knitting magazines. Delicious at first, but I wonder if it’s not time to pull back.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Not much, today – blogging time has had to be diverted to taking the car in for its annual MOT.

As hoped, I’ve finished the second rank of Green Granite Blocks and am working my way across the slowest row of all, the one where all the colours are re-set for a new rank. But I’m getting the hang of it, including butterfly-winding.

Ron spoke at the beginning of the oddities of the chart. There are one or two places where the colours change in the middle of the 15-stitch stretch across the front of a block. (There are lots of places where they change from one row to the next, making subtle stripes on the fronts of the blocks which add a good deal to the Kaffe-ness of it all.) I like to think that these are the places where the Master ran out of his pull-through strand of yarn half-way across a block, and reached for something else. And that the chart-maker came along later and devotedly reproduced his every stitch.

For the great thing about Kaffe is that he really does (or did) knit -- it's not all done on computers and produced by out-workers.

I spent (=wasted) some time yesterday mooning around the American eBay shop where they sell old Rowan kits, with the real yarn. It is worth being reminded that even the Master made mistakes – and it’s his mistakes that get put in the back of stash cupboards ready to be fetched out twenty years later and sold for a nice profit.

I think I’ve probably knit all the Kaffe’s I really want to, through the years, once the GGB’s are finished, and the one more I have in stash, the Mosaic pattern. “Courthouse Steps” is sort of nice, though…

By tomorrow I should have a couple of rows of the third rank done, which will let the first two photograph nicely.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

We’ll start with knitting today.

I’ve reached the point, towards the top of the second rank of Green Granite Blocks, where I stop knitting the fronts of the blocks and start knitting the tops as they recede into 3-D space. That means a slow row, which I have nearly worked my way across – changing colours for each of the five blocks, and also adding black and nearly-black sections to represent Space. Once this row is set, I shall speed forward to the end of the blocks, and take another picture.

The current system is working well – butterflies for the fronts of the blocks, 15 stitches at a time; long pull-through-the-tangle strands for the other colour sections. I had a struggle with the winding of butterflies, due, I now think, to the fact that one of the videos which come up when one Googles the subject, is wrong.

You’re winding a small centre-pull ball. That must mean that the end of yarn you start with winds up being the end of yarn you knit with. The other end is used at the end to wind around the centre of the butterfly and secure it. Now that I’ve grasped that, things are going even better.

Another topic: there was an article in the Scotsman yesterday about something called the Moray Firth Gansey Project. It hunts for old patterns and also encourages local businesses “to use local gansey patterns in new ways, including glass.” They are about to stage their first exhibition, called “Extravagansey”, fortunately far from here.

This would be harmless enough except that they have received grants of ninety thousand pounds to carry them forward. The usual suspects: the Lottery Fund, the Scottish Government, the EU, and a couple of local sources.

And what will they achieve that Gladys Thompson didn’t manage half a century ago – when there were still fishermen about who wore the things? I am sure she never saw ninety thousand pounds in her life. Nor Sharon Miller for her work on Shetland lace, still, precariously, a living tradition. We could all, easily, list a dozen other names of scholars who have done distinguished work on the Scottish knitting traditions, for little or no reward.

A few interesting ganseys may emerge from drawers, for that much money. Nothing wrong with that.

But Extravagansey! Forsooth!


Salsola soda has been sown in the dining room. Results breathlessly awaited.

Thanks for yesterday’s comments. Hat, thank you for the encouraging news that bunching onions may turn out as I anticipate, and for the offer of some garlic chives. Anonymous, if bunching onions deliver the goods, I won’t need to sow more seed, but I will bear your auggestion in mind – sowing in the autumn and over-wintering the little onions.

The opium poppy, papaver somniferum, turns up in my garden as a weed, as it uncannily does wherever there is empty, cultivated ground. I love the flowers, and always leave a few. Last year they were scarce, and I worried. One of you comforted me by saying that there are years, and there are other years. Well, you were right. They are back in super-abundance. I have been pulling them out by the fistful (although of course leaving some). It's Kandahar-sur-Ardle, this time.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Grandson Joe – he of the Grandson Sweater – is about to cycle from John o’Groats to Land’s End to raise money for Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital. More accurately, I think, he and a mate are doing the ride for fun and adventure and the sponsorship has been added as an afterthought.

But Great Ormond Street is definitely a good thing, so here’s the link. I’ve put it in the sidebar for the time being, too.

We had a good time in Perthshire. The weather turned disgusting, however – the sort of remorseless rain that drives even us indoors – so we came back a day early. I did scarcely any knitting; perhaps back-and-forth is just too banal after the intellectual excitement of knitting Kaffe. Today I will write about vegetable-growing.


You must bear in mind that I have never succeeded in growing an onion. They are supposed to be an absolute beginner’s vegetable, like radishes. This year, I am determined to get some onions.

Well, they’ve come up, most especially the Cipollotti da Mazzo, so I put in some more of those. The Siberian Bunching Onions are looking good, too. No garlic chives, alas. The question now is, will they go on? Or will they just stand there, two inches high and gossamer-lace yarn in circumference, for the rest of the summer?

I now see that “mazzo” means “bunch” in Italian. So maybe those are bunching onions, too – i.e., in effect, perennial. I imagine them as something like big chives. You dig up a bunch, and prise off some for use as baby onions, and replant the residue to bunch up again. Chives do brilliantly for me, so I am hopeful.


I have abandoned runner beans, after succeeding with them – I don’t really like them much. 2010 is to be the Year of the French Bean. The ones I grew on the windowsill here in Edinburgh look pretty miserable, although they cling to life. I think we may have had the merest touch of frost. But on the day I set them out, I also planted seeds of all four kinds, two climbing, two dwarf. And those little plants look very happy.


Some pak choi, bought in as plants, and the Victorian Climbing Peas. Sure enough, they don't twine, they climb with little tendrils like any normal pea:

I am trying, as last year, to grow something called salsola soda, or barba di frate. I think it's also called saltwort.Three sowings yielded zilch last year. I thought the first one had produced a similar result this time, but when I got down on my knees on Monday to re-sow, eyeball to eyeball with the soil, I found two little plants that might actually be salsola soda. One was big enough that I could taste a tiny leaf without entirely destroying the plant.

It was sensational – a delicious, complex taste. So, as well as re-sowing out of doors, I have filled my Roottrainers with seed compost and brought them back. We’ll try the dining-room windowsill again. Even one or two little plants would be worth the effort, if they’re going to taste like that.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Strathardle today. Back Thursday or so. Has frost got the apple blossom? Did the salsola soda ever come up? Have caterpillars stripped the current bushes? Many an interesting question. This is the stretch of the year during which it feels a bit frustrating, after all one’s hard work, not to have anything to eat as the result of it. But there’ll be more rhubarb and another sorrel soup and perhaps even an exiguous salad. We shall see.


The compulsiveness of the Green Granite Blocks is something akin to the border of the Princess shawl. Despite the vast expanse of the task ahead, it is exciting – not too strong a word – to accomplish each row because it is unique and it carries the story forward, by however small a step.

In this case (unlike the Princess border) the overall pattern repeats – but the colours are constantly changing.

I’m getting on nicely with the second rank of blocks, and can hardly keep my hands off it. And to think that I felt I was running out of steam, only a couple of weeks ago. There’s much to be said for digging in the stash cupboard.

To move on: the Faculty Meeting Knitter is full of enthusiasm (June 2) for the new Pine-and-Ivy shawl. She says it has created a great stir on Ravelry; I’ll have to have a look.

At Theo and Jenni’s rehearsal dinner last summer, my sister wore the shawl I had knit for her 70th birthday – Amedro’s Cobweb Lace Wrap, with patterns substituted from “Heirloom Lace”. Greek Helen said she’d like such a shawl.

The one aspect of my stash which hasn’t even been touched upon yet, is my vast assemblage of lace yarns. I hope when Helen is here soon to choose a yarn and a pattern. Amedro’s shape is eminently wearable; I’ve knit it several times, with different lace patterns. But Pine-and-Ivy is similar, and might be worth the venture.

It looks difficult.

The Faculty Meeting Knitter has done a Princess. I feel our names ought to be inscribed on a roll of honour somewhere. It is surely the largest and most elaborate lace pattern ever published in English.


To finish off the account of our happy weekend in Argyll: the problem with pig-keeping (in case you’ve ever wondered) is that they are affectionate and intelligent animals to an extent that eventually makes eating them unbearable. So I am told. I am a bit suspicious of them, myself.

Alexander thinks he has solved this problem. The Pig Man on the other side of the loch is raising a litter. Alexander has bought one of them – but he doesn’t know which. Every so often they go over and feed their pig, along with the others which aren’t theirs. This is supposed to make it easier at the end.

So on Sunday we did that, and then Rachel and Ed and my husband and I went on to Inverary to Mass while the others went back and cooked a delicious lunch. This is the scene that met us when we got back – champagne left over from Alexander’s recent 50th birthday. That's Ed with the little boys.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Green Granite Blocks is proving obsessive, as KF patterns often do, and I’m awfully pleased with the way it’s looking. Much of last night’s knitting time was spent on establishing the next rank of blocks. I’m now using a mixture of butterflies and pull-through-the-tangle long ends. Time is needed for untangling as one proceeds along the row, but it’s probably less time than was previously devoted to attaching new yarns, and the smoother back is a big plus. I haven’t yet tried winding two colours together into a big butterfly – that might help. Having two butterflies flapping about for each colour area adds to the tangling, no doubt.

I checked the gauge at last – bang on. It’s not a matter I usually give any thought to, with Kaffe’s patterns, but James’s sweater (May 27) came out too big – a real tragedy.

I must wrench myself away and knit that preemie jacket before Games Day creeps up on me and pounces.


It is a dormitory complex – not exactly a village – built in the 70’s for workers at a near-by oil refinery. As things turned out, there never was a near-by oil refinery, and Pollphail was never occupied.

I am a great lover of romantic ruins, and I can assure you that this is not one of them. It is damp and squalid and muddy with sheep droppings, in a setting of astonishing natural beauty. It is remarkable, in this day and age, as we say, that Health and Safety has not bulldozed it – or at least, insisted on secure fencing – decades ago. Broken glass abounds, great shards of it, and open cellars in which to fall.

The only notice concerns the bats – we didn’t see any – which are a protected species and not to be disturbed.

At the end of last year, with the permission of the landowner, a team of graffiti artists moved in for a weekend. The idea was – as mentioned in the link I have provided above – that demolition would follow almost at once, but it hasn’t happened. The plan is to build holiday chalets – maybe the developer can’t get finance? Maybe the Bat Protection Society intervened? Anyway, it’s still there, and we went to see it on Saturday.

That last one is the little boys' favourite. They were eager to show us "the skeleton" -- I fully expected the decaying remains of a sheep.

By the way

A recent entry in Fleegle’s blog, ever interesting, has an account of a charting program called Intertwined Pattern Studio. She’s a designer, of course – would I find it useful in planning the Bavarian Twisted Stitch sweater-or-jacket which remains high on the Possibles list for the end of the yarn fast?

It’s very reasonably priced.

Or is that just silly?

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Very successful weekend in Argyll. Driving through Glasgow is no fun – they have a hideously crowded motorway on which the slow lane keeps morphing into a slip road. We came back by the Scenic Overland Route, through Stirling.

Alexander’s vegetables aren’t terribly far ahead of mine, just somewhat. His radishes are bigger and bushier (but look at Roger’s), and his parsnips substantially ahead in that mine hadn’t appeared above ground at all, when last viewed. His maiden apple trees – Kingston Black, a traditional cider variety – have all survived the hard winter and are looking well.

There are 25 of them altogether.

Friday was James-the-Younger’s 7th birthday. A Mystery Project mentioned here in recent weeks turned out to be a Calcutta Cup hat. The match this year – the annual rugby match between Scotland and England – ended in a draw, so James’s hat has half a Calcutta Cup, flanked by the year and the score,15-15. It’s a good fit, and I’m beginning to get the hang of pom-pom-making.

The heavy package was a slow cooker for Rachel. She now works full time, and also hosts language students at home from time to time and cooks for them in the evening. We’ll see how she gets on with it.

I knit very industriously and am well down the foot of my husband’s second large grey sock.

The main event of the weekend was a visit to Pollphail. I’ll postpone the report and pictures, but you can Google “Pollphail graffiti” if curiosity overcomes you. It is a most extraordinary place.

Back here, I’m about to finish the first rank of Green Granite Blocks. Things are going pretty well. I’ve found more flaws in the chart, as predicted by Ron. Areas with no colours specified, and one where the colour was so out-of-keeping (but one never quite knows, with the Master) that I didn’t do it. Not a chart for a beginner.

In other KF’s I’ve knit, it has been possible to cut off a length of wool appropriate to the size of the block of colour about to be knit, and use the Master’s technique of just letting it hang, and pulling it through the tangle where necessary.

This time, that doesn’t quite work, because the blocks are big. The front panels are 15 stitches across, on big needles, yarn held double, so even two arms’-lengths are soon exhausted. My friend had wound a lot of the yarn into little “butterflies”. I tried to use them at first, but they got tangled.

Now I wonder if maybe I couldn’t use them at least for the front panels of the blocks, of which there are only five across the width of the sweater. A little googling produced this delightful video illustrating the technique. I could even think of winding two yarns together into one butterfly. If I weren’t quite so constantly joining in new yarn, there would be less waste, fewer ends to deal with finally, and the knitting would go faster.

Report tomorrow.

And watching the video led to the discovery of this eBay shop selling original KF kits with the proper, now discontinued, yarns.