Tuesday, August 24, 2010

In some haste – life is proceeding at an uncomfortable pace.

Helen and Archie and Fergus have gone to the airport to fetch Mungo, they hope.

We went to the Assembly Rooms yesterday to see Wonderland. Highly recommended. Thought-provoking as well as fun. Our friends’ daughter, Flora Spencer-Longhurst, is terrific. You’ve still got a week, and if you go you can reflect that I knit her a sweater when she was born, saying “Flora” on it. A good-sized audience, although I can’t imagine how anyone succeeds in choosing to see anything at the Fringe amidst such a cacophony.

Knitting – I finished the second sleeve of my little preemie jacket yesterday, and started across the final front. An ugly split stitch appeared. In my ASJ days last year, I got fairly proficient at laddering back in garter stitch with my fancy set of double-headed crochet hooks. The ability has deserted me. The more I tried, the more of a mess I made, until I finally ripped back and started again. A day’s work lost.

I feel better, as one almost always does after frogging. But also a bit scared. Blocking is as important for garter stitch as for anything else. I discovered that from the ASJ experience – and I can scarcely present my entry to the judges on Saturday damp. So it really ought to be blocked tomorrow evening. Yikes!

Knitting to a deadline is what I don’t do – but here I am.

We have now gone all the way around to a front view again. You can see some of the ravelled yarn, as yet un-incorporated. I'm trying very hard not to split it.
Knit Camp – the Shetland sequel

I longed to join Liz Lovick’s post-Knit-Camp Shetland jaunt when I first read of it, and her recent accounts make it sound utterly splendid.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Games Week dawns.

Here’s the current state of the entry – half-way through the second sleeve, and the body suddenly looking too long. No turning back now. Helen will be here this afternoon, with two boys. She’s going Festival’ing with a friend in the early evening -- not conducive to knitting, at this end.

I have been ticking my way pretty industriously through the list of things I wanted to get done this week, and should polish off a couple more today. I hope we’re going to Strathardle on Wednesday where my targets will be to cut the grass around the specimen trees down the commonty, preparing them for their annual photographs with grandchildren, and to shop and shop and shop for food for our picnic lunch on the Games field.

And to cultivate a Zen – or at least bovine – calm in the intervals.

We are to have a rice salad of Jamie Oliver’s, from “Ministry of Food”, and a French bean salad with feta of Gino d’Acampo’s, forget which book, plus sausages and barbequed chicken and crisps and beer and cider. Lots of people drift off and get themselves fish and chips from somewhere anyway.

Oriental knitting

Melanie, I ordered something from YesAsia once, perhaps a Nihon Vogue, and they wrote to say they needed me to fax them pictures of my credit card. I didn’t fancy the idea, and cancelled the order. Perhaps I should try again. But I think I have reached the stage where book-buying has to result in a serious attempt to knit Japanese, before I do much more of it.

Lisa – I’ve said this before, I think – when we were in Beijing, James drove us out into the countryside one day to see sections of the Wall. We wound up at the famous place where kings and presidents are photographed, but before that had seen some interesting and less-known fragments. In one village, where the Wall was marked with a plaque saying it was a national monument, a youth told James that we were the first westerners to have visited.

In that village, some women were sitting by the road knitting. One of them was doing a very interesting all-in-one baby clo’. Stitches had been left behind, I remember, while she finished off an arm or a leg. It was densely knit for cosiness in a desert winter. I asked, through James, if I could take a picture but she wasn’t keen.

That’s what I want to know more about. All I came home with were some magazines of utterly western designs, whether rip-offs or Chinese designers aping the west, I don’t care. I’ve got Judith Gross’ “Patterns from China”, not without interest but still pretty urban.

Maybe I should ask James or Cathy to do a search on whatever passes for Amazon in China (perhaps it’s Amazon) to see if any Chinese writers have tackled the subject.


It has a role in nature, too. I have to net the red currant bush if I don’t want the pigeons to take 85% of the crop. There’s no need to protect the white currants which taste so similar that – we discovered this year – they make a perfectly satisfactory if rather pallid Summer pudding.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Thank you for the kind words about the baby jacket, Lisa. I’m happy too, although beginning to reflect that time presses. The Games are a week today, and today is the last of what might be called tranquillity. On the other hand, I can go ahead and block it while knitting i-cord for the ties.

(Do you ever write about Chinese knitting?)

It occurred to me that if I want a swing jacket, here it is. All I would have to do is re-jig the front, doing away with the cross-over chest pieces, and re-size it. Garter stitch is infinitely slow – as I discovered knitting the ASJ, if I hadn’t known it already – but it’s slow because it’s eating up yarn. That’s a plus.

Back view. I should reach the second sleeve today.

The sight of the stash cupboard after nine months’ abstinence is pretty depressing. The only slip was one (1) ball of Heirloom Knitting merino lace for James’s jabot – and I knit it. I’m going to have to be firmer with myself than I had planned, when the year is up in November. Some KF sock yarn, certainly. But perhaps only one sweater-sized lot of a solid or near-solid colour. I'd been thinking two. And perhaps I could buy yarn specifically for Meg’s travelling-stitch hat in whatever magazine it recently appeared.

Then on with the show.

My new Japanese knitting books have arrived from Needle Arts. I bought two more of the Let’s Knit series. Marvellous stuff, but not as bizarrely wonderful as the first one I bought. Maybe I should ask Needle Arts themselves if that designer has done anything else. I don't even know his name, although there's a rather sweet picture of him included. (That's not him, below.)

I also got “Scandinavian Jacquard Caps” in Japanese – there are a couple of good ear-flaps. I ought to be able to manage one of them as a replacement present for Rachel Miles of Beijing, whose first hat never got there, given especially that I have a vague idea how to knit an ear-flap hat.

I wonder how much red there is in the stash? I seem to remember having to dig deep for the missing hat. It was lined in red, and had a Fair Isle pattern in which red figured. It’s funny how the appeal of that colour seems to transcend culture. Hindu brides wear it, and Chinese dragons. When I was a child in Detroit during the war, we occasionally had “coloring” when crayons were spilled out on a table and we helped ourselves. I vividly remember how red was always highly prized, and in extremely short supply. The big self-confident children got it all.

If need be, then, one ball of red something might be added to that November list.


The new earphones are a great success – they stay in, and the sound and my comprehension of it are transformed. It is as if I had put a BabelFish into my ear. I am less happy with the new shoes.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Helen rang up from Strathardle yesterday to say that she couldn’t close the bonnet (hood) of her hire car. I was sort of impressed with Life’s endless ingenuity at presenting us with problems large and small. She is going to Loch Fyne today, coming to us here in Edinburgh on Sunday. Mungo should arrive at Edinburgh airport from the US on Tuesday.

Let’s talk about knitting today.

I got on nicely with the little jacket again. After I had cast off the sleeve and re-attached the knitting to the abandoned body stitches, I found that the right side had become the wrong side and that I had knit the right sleeve while I thought I was doing the left one.

After more time than it should have taken, I grasped that these problems – if problems they were, in garter stitch – could be solved by turning the little sleeve inside out. But it means that when I come to do the next sleeve, I will need my wits about me lest it wind up on the inside of the jacket, or attached to the bottom edge.
Front view:

Back view:
I continue to enjoy short-rowing. I looked again at the VK swing jacket, No 19 in winter 07-08, where the swinging is achieved with short-row wedges knit side-to-side. It seems a good moment, positively providential, to have met Mary Lou’s “Coquille”, which does the same thing. (See also her web page for variations, and it sounds as if there are more on Ravelry.) It might be a good way to use up some sock yarn/ knock off a Christmas present/ practice short-row wedges -- with the thought of then adapting the VK pattern to my own stash.

Meanwhile Helen and I found a moment at Strathardle in the onward rush of life last week, to consider what she’d like in the way of lace. She opted not for the Emily Dickinson but for the good old Amedro Cobweb Lace Wrap which – furthermore, before I reach for Heirloom Knitting – she’d like with the original lace patterns. She thinks the Diamond Chain Stitch is somehow both Scottish and Greek.

I think I’ve knit that pattern almost as often as the Baby Surprise. It started with Rachel’s 40th birthday, now well in the past. Her daughter Hellie asked for one. I knit one for my mother – a slightly simplified version, by Amedro herself. And one for my sister’s 70th birthday. For both Hellie and my sister I put different lace patterns into Amedro’s useful shape.

Helen has chosen a luscious yarn, so-dark-reddy-brown-it’s-almost-black, which James and Cathy gave me for Christmas ’08. It’s labelled “cashmere” ("Lightness, Softness, Comfort, Conservation") and feels as if it might be, but Cathy suggests skepticism.

So maybe, when the work’s all done this fall (=Games Day behind us), I’ll think of alternating days of that with days of Green Granite Blocks.

Now it is time for my power walk. I read recently that if one pumps one’s arms and walks heel-to-toe, one can use twice as many calories. That means twice as much energy – I don’t think I have that to spare, apart from looking like an absolute dork. Don’t worry about me, kristieinbc. I walk round and round Drummond Place gardens on a dirt path. The traffic is near, but has no access to me.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Games 2010

We’re going to be all right – we’ve got “our” flat at the hotel for all three nights. Auxiliary accommodation is much reduced. I might have done a bit better yesterday if I’d made more of a fuss, given that I was entirely in the right. The main downers are that there will be no room for the Loch Fyne Mileses on the Friday night, and that there will be more people at Burnside itself than will be entirely comfortable for my husband. Nice people, to whom he is closely related in blood, but still a lot of them.

Alexander and Ketki often don’t come on Friday night anyway. This year, I had hoped to lure them by booking a particularly luxurious apartment with two generous-sized rooms. This is probably the last time we will observe the Games on such a scale – my husband really can’t take much more of it.

But having “our” flat is the important thing. For the last three years, at least, we’ve eaten the big communal meals there, Friday night and Saturday night. That room with the bay window is still a lounge, large and comfortable. Without that, the weekend would have been miserable, even if we’d found somewhere for everyone to sleep.


I spent a dizzy morning in town yesterday, polishing off errands and making decisions too fast. I am worried about my new shoes, Ecco as usual, but… And I think I jumped in too fast on a set of earphones at John Lewis. Beadslut, Skull Candy is available here. They look like just what I want. I’ll see how I get on for a few days, but I think I may go that way. Thank you.

Meanwhile, however, the Italian women’s program continues well. They were even talking about knitting, at the point where I left off yesterday. Something about women’s traditional tasks.

I had the instruction book up yesterday – it’s on a disk, of course – to see how to set it to repeat, and find what you techies must have known all along, that I can set it to repeat a small chosen section of the whole. I think that will probably be the way to go. For the time being, I’ll go on listening to the whole program. And this morning, I won’t walk at all, because I’m having my hair done. Games Day has much in common with Christmas, minus the damp and cold and dark and card-sending and present-giving. One wants to look one's best.


Always a relief to get back to knitting, especially in times of stress. I’ve finished the left sleeve of the little Portuguese jacket. Today’s first task will be to cast it off and pick up the abandoned body stitches and carry on across the back.

I think maybe this new camera is better for colour.

Jeanfromcornwell, yes, Portuguese knitters seem to carry yarn around the back of the neck – or over a little, special pin worn on the left shoulder – and flick it around the needle with the thumb. I think I’ve seen it done. I’m going to try, when time presses less urgently. My own technique is a very clumsy self-taught drop-and-throw. But I’m afraid I agree with Mary Lou, that retraining is hopeless at my age. (And by the way, Mary Lou, I love Coquille.)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I start today with what can only be termed a Jo Watson Moment. (Is that her name? Watson?)

The difficulties of Games Weekend in recent years have been greatly relieved by booking a lot of self-catering space in the old Kirkmichael Hotel. I think you can see, towards the left of the first floor of the hotel in that link, a bay window. The room behind used to be the lounge of the hotel. I remember my mother sitting in that window, waiting for us to come walking over the bridge to join her in the morning.

It’s now part of an apartment that sleeps six. At least since ’07 we have had it (plus other, smaller flats) for Games weekend, and, indeed, consider it “ours”. Last year, I booked it for this year (plus other flats) in late August.

Yesterday I began to wonder why I hadn’t yet heard from Angie about paying. I wrote – thank goodness. Sometimes it’s worth being neurotic. I’ve just had a note from her saying she has no booking for us.

I’ve copied for her the whole correspondence from last August, with comforting phrases such as “I shall put your booking in my diary” and concluding with her own “consider it done”. I anxiously await events.

It’s no use being in the right if people have nowhere to sleep.

On the knitting front, at least, things are going well. Changing horses in mid-stream was the right thing to do, and I continue to enjoy my little Portuguese jacket. At the moment, the short rows at the neck edge are on a six-row cycle, those forming the cuff on a four-row one. It’s all rather exciting but I seem to be keeping my head above water.

And maybe learning things about short-rowing that might let me return to the swing-jacket issue and design one for myself.

The Portuguese apparently don’t wrap a stitch when they turn in mid-row. At first I did it their way, but then decided that wrapping was neater. An eagle-eyed judge will see the difference, but I’m not here for the glory. I leave that to my six pea pods. The jacket is just to swell the number of entries, and, with luck, keep some wee soul cosy for a while.

I had a good time with my MP3 player yesterday, although the rush hour traffic swirling around Drummond Place makes listening more difficult than it was on my first such attempt on Sunday. I am going to pursue the advice Mary Lou and Donna gave the other day, about getting some fancy earplugs. Yesterday I listened to a women’s program – still lots of rapid-fire talk, but less laughter, and I think I did a better job of getting the general drift of what they were talking about. On we go. There’s no hurry.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Where to start?

We had a grand time with our friends from Birmingham days – they now grow vegetables on the banks of the Isis, and have to put up with badgers eating the sweetcorn. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

They were here in Edinburgh because their daughter (Flora Spencer-Longhurst) is appearing in a two-man play at the Assembly Rooms, “Wonderland”, about Lewis Carroll. (Edinburgh readers take note.) She’s had a substantial and very favourable (4-star) review in the Times. The Scotsman hasn’t got there yet. Helen and I and her boys hope to go next Monday.

Yesterday most unexpectedly I got a Canon PowerShot camera for my recently-passed birthday from Helen and Rachel. (Madhur Jaffrey and I share the birthday, including the year. She still seems to be bounding about, so why should I worry?) It’s essentially less fancy than the camera whose work you normally see here – but it takes better pictures. Here is the first ever:

If I tried to do that with the other camera – set on “Auto” – it would take the light level from the window and show the room in darkness. Likewise – or do I mean, contrariwise? – landscape shots with bright skies or sparkling frost come out over-exposed. The controls allow me to adjust shutter speed and aperture, and I used to understand those things. But in old age, maybe it’s better to have a camera that knows what to do and just does it.

(That pail contains the potatoes I brought from Strathardle. The idea is to save the soil that comes off them and take it back. My husband is a topsoil nut, but curiously cool on manuring. Manure is topsoil.)

Pixels can’t be adjusted on the new camera, so I’ll have to be careful not to let the computer get gummed up with multi-pixel’d shots of half-knit socks.

Another excitement yesterday was a package from the Schoolhouse – the English translation of “Twisted-Stitch Knitting”, “Norwegian Patterns for Knitting”, and “Portuguese Style of Knitting”.

I started with a last-named, and it’s most interesting. Much of it is concerned with the knitty-gritty – how Portuguese knitters tension yarn and form stitches. I mean to do some serious work with it. “Purling is easier than knitting” – how’s that for a statement that would have made EZ sit up?

There are some patterns at the back, and I was struck with this one: Side-to-side in garter stitch, shaped with short rows.

I admired it for a while, and then I thought, why not? I have found myself increasingly reluctant to get back to fiddling with that kimono. There’s still time. So I started it last night, scaling down to preemie size as I went. So far so good. The pattern is written with every row purl, but I’m not doing that.

Now I’m off to walk around Drummond Place Gardens with my MP3 player. I’ve only done it once so far. The earplugs stayed in. The sound is great. I couldn’t understand much of the Italian – rapid-fire conversation with much laughter. I’ve now downloaded a couple more programs which I hope will be calmer and more didactic. I want something I can nearly understand, to listen to again and again until I get it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

We’ll start with the good news, and work downwards.

A new follower!

And the MP3 player is in action. Archie, as hoped, had no difficulty solving my problem – I was pressing and holding the middle button, when I wanted a menu. What I needed to do was press and release it. Pressing and holding is for on-ing and off-ing, using the button on the side.

Getting podcasts from Italian radio is more challenging. Many buttons saying “MP3” produce only HTML documents. And after I finally succeeded in downloading a couple of real podcasts – right-clicking comes into the process – I tried to send some mail from my Google account and found that it just bounced into my “podcast” folder. That must RAI’s fault, mustn’t it? I re-booted.

Moving the podcasts on from computer to MP3 player is a doddle. The only remaining problem is that the earplug in my right ear tends to fall out. The two podcasts I’ve got should last a while, as listening to them several times will be part of the job.


A frittata incorporating my perpetual spinach and some odd kale leaves:

The “walking onions” are up, and looking good. I’m going to leave the bunching onions to bunch for the future.

I have real hope that my Colossal Victorian Climbing Peas will take a prize in the “Six Pea Pods” class at the Games. You can't really appreciate the size and fatness of the pods, in this picture. We ate some, very tasty, and I hope the remainders, here pictured, will fatten up in the succeeding fortnight.

My main potato crop, Pink Fir Apple, is abundant and delicious. I will also enter the “Three Potatoes” class. They’re knobbly and funny-looking which is why they never turn up in shops. But mine are brilliant, without a slug-hole in sight. In April-May, planting potatoes seems a fearful chore. In August, it’s like unearthing buried treasure. I skimped on the earthing-up this year, and it doesn’t seem to matter. Edwin Oxlade said the same thing in Kitchen Garden magazine recently.

August is for summing up, and thinking of next year. The major failure this year was that I found myself between lettuce crops, the first long gone, the successive ones still too small to feed a crowd. And no rocket! There’s no excuse for that. So we bought lettuce leaves from Tesco and I added “spicy salad leaves” and pea shoots and nasturtium leaves and flowers. And some tiny but tasty onions, not bunching.

But I wonder if it is time to give up on French beans, climbing and otherwise. The plants are fine. I’ve got a few beans, and there’ll be plenty in September. But growing that sort of bean is swimming upstream, in Strathardle. Stick to broad beans, which are easy, and we love them. Grow kale, and figure out how to stop the deer from polishing it off in November. And beets, and carrots.

I’ve run out of space without even mentioning knitting. I didn’t get to Stirling. It hurt, not going. It sounded so easy in Nov-Dec – right on the doorstep, mid-August, Helen or James or both would be here, off I go. But it didn’t work. If Franklin had been there, so would I have been, on the Wednesday, but that didn’t happen.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Knit Camp

No more news, much chatter. The British Yarn website is down. A list of tutors is still available, with all the non-UK names removed. The matter should be resolved today. A long life has taught me that days which ought to bring resolutions often don’t – but it’s hard to see how we could fail to get some news today.

What I want (and lots of others do too) is a solid, informative communication from the organiser – an email to the paying customers, not an oh-my-ears-and-whiskers post to Ravelry. Meanwhile, most of the non-UK tutors must be in the country already. Have they all, like Annie, been economical with the truth on entry? If so, will they be allowed to change their tune and teach? And many campers have begun their journeys, too.

There will be knitters in Stirling this week, whatever happens. Buzzing around perhaps like left-over bees when a hive has been emptied, but it’s likely to be fun. Annie took a picture of a man wearing a kilt.


Just at the moment, I’m sick of this fiddly thing.

I’ll take socks with me to Strathardle today. They are always soothing. There will still be plenty of time to finish the baby jacket in Edinburgh next week.

One of Helen’s very-best-friends is in Kirkmichael with her. They were in the north of England somehow or other for a couple of days last week, children and all, and went into an LYS because the friend, who used to knit, thought she might like to start again.

Helen wouldn’t let her buy any yarn until she consulted me. She told me on the phone to bring the new Rowan book, and anything else I thought useful. I’ve chosen Sally Melville’s “The Knit Stitch” and “The Purl Stitch”. Perhaps I’ll add “Knitting Without Tears”.

Fuzzarelly, thank you for the link to the techknit blog (comment yesterday). It’s brilliant, except for the use of “lay” for “lie”. What it seems to amount to, is that p2togtbl is still p2togtbl, but first you realign the stitches. Maybe I’ll try swatching that.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again, because it is the single most useful piece of knitting lore I know – for any decrease, the stitch the needle enters first, winds up on top.

So anyway, we’re going to Strathardle today, back at the weekend. Have the “walking onions” come up? What is there to eat? Broad beans, surely. Helen says she’s kept picking the mange-touts, so I hope they're still in production. Salad? Spinach? Potatoes? French beans? Peas? It is all very exciting.

It is wonderful to have the Fishwife back on her allotment. It looks better after a month’s neglect than mine ever does.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Knit Camp

Well. Annie Modesitt’s blog says it all – non-EU tutors need work permits, and none have yet been issued. The organiser and a lawyer hope to pick them up tomorrow. “Lorilee” has been turned around and sent home from Glasgow airport – I’m afraid I don’t know who she is, or what she was to have taught. Her posts to Ravelry about the episode are calm and cheerful. Annie herself has apparently been admitted on a tourist visa. The opinion over on Ravelry is that you can’t switch from that to a work permit without leaving the country and coming back.

There is a great cacophony of voices on Ravelry, but as far as I can see, no more information than that. It's worth reading through the comments on Annie's post, however, if you're interested.

Annie sounds cheerful, and confident that she’s not out-of-pocket. That’ll be important for all tutors, but those of us who follow her blog with devotion will be particularly glad that Annie’s OK. I trust she means that travel expenses have been paid on her behalf – not just promised – and that she has somewhere to sleep in Stirling.

The organiser herself has little to say. She has started a thread called “I’ve had enough”. Is that what was heard from Monty before El Alamein, or Wellington before Waterloo, or even Leonidas before Thermopylae? (I say “even” because the Spartans were slaughtered to a man on that occasion.)


Any further remarks seem superfluous, but I suppose I should note that I finished the other front of the little kimono jacket yesterday. The pattern says to join fronts to back at the shoulder with a 3-needle bind-off. I think Kitchener would be preferable – smoother – and will do that.

The pattern has its oddities. A nice little chain of stitches runs up the fronts as you decrease to form diagonals. On one side – the baby’s right side – this is done with K2tog on the right side and P2tog on the back. On the other side, we have SSK on the right side and – bizarrely, to my mind – SSP on the other. What does that mean? How do you do it? What’s wanted is P2tog through-back-loops which is what I did. I think there are fancy ways of doing that manoeuvre, but through-back-loops works well enough for me.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

All this talk of Japanese knitting sent me back to the Needle Arts Book Shop yesterday. I wound up ordering two more in the “Let’s Knit” series – those words being the only ones in the book in English – and the “Clear and Simple Knitting Symbols” book. I think the latter should go a long way towards making Japanese stitch dictionaries accessible.

What I need to do now is apply myself, instead of just oooh-ing and aaah-ing. Thank you very much for the offer of hand-outs, Mary Lou and Maureen. (And, boy! am I impressed that you can teach Japanese knitting, Mary Lou!) I think I’ve got all I need, what with the Knitter’s article and the free pages on “Interpreting Japanese Knitting Patterns” from Needle Arts itself. I downloaded and printed those yesterday.

Going back just now to get titles and links, I noticed for the first time the book on “Scandinavian Jacquard Hats”. In Japanese, of course. That could be IT! I knit an ear-flap hat for Rachel-the-Younger in Beijing earlier this year, at her request, using the plug-in-your-gauge self-generating pattern the Fishwife pointed me towards. It never reached its destination. A Japanese-Scandinavian hat might be just what Rachel would like, and just the incentive I need to get to grips with a Japanese pattern.

An ahah! moment.

Needle Arts is a delight to deal with, up there with the Schoolhouse and Heirloom Knitting.

As for actual knitting yesterday, I finished the first front of my tiny jacket, and started the second.

While I was lining up links yesterday, I noticed that K1 Yarns has some nice classes coming up – one on Shetland lace next weekend, when we will be occupied with a visit from old friends from our Birmingham days, and anyway I know how to knit Shetland lace; and one on Freeform Knitting, which I’d really rather like to attend – on Games weekend. So I won’t be there.

Emily Dickinson

Skeindalous, you posted a comment in late July mentioning the new biography of ED by Lyndall Gordon – the book which posits epilepsy as an explanation for her oddity. There is a full page review of it in the current “Economist” – that’s a lot of space for a book review, for them – in which they call it an “astonishing” book which will “revolutionise the way in which Dickinson is read for years to come.”

That’s the one I tossed aside because it didn’t have my mother in the bibliography, but maybe I should take another look.

I looked at my mother’s book again yesterday. It suggests nothing more than clinical depression as an explanation, but does say that the family were worried about Emily's oddities and reclusiveness when she was in her twenties. I didn’t pursue it – what is the evidence for their concern? But if she was epileptic, those closest to her would have known, and closed ranks, rather than trying to get her out into the world, wouldn’t they?

Friday, August 06, 2010

There’s a new bulletin from CT on Mungo’s blog this morning. My job on Games Weekend is to provide the picnic eaten on the field – clearly it will be impossible to come up to the picnic standards of the Connecticut River. (Helen will do Friday evening, Rachel will take Saturday, and on Sunday we usually manage to get by on leftovers.)

Here’s Mungo in CT shucking corn.

Not much knitting yesterday, but I finished the back of the little kimono jacket, did the maths – with what success, we will soon see – and started one of the front pieces. The pattern is curious in the way it leaves edges unfinished. The lower “skirts”, unattached to each other, are just raw st st at the sides -- I have frogged and started again with garter st borders, you will remember – and the back neck is similarly stark.

I felt yesterday that, whether I go to Stirling on Thursday or not, it sort of behoves me to get to grips with Japanese knitting. Helen CKS and I went to a lesson at K1 Yarns once, taught by Mrs Habu, so I’ve got a vague idea of the basics.

I spent some time yesterday, therefore, in the Japanese Knitting and Crochet group in Ravelry – I’ve been a member for nearly a year, but don’t go there much. In a list of resources, I found a reference to an article by Gayle Roehm in the Spring, ’97 issue of Knitter’s, “Understanding Japanese Patterns”.

And there it was, almost at the bottom of my pile. That was in the great days of Nancy Thomas’ editorship. The article is four pages long, and consists of solid, serious information. All I need now – once I’ve finished the Green Granite Blocks and some lace for Helen – is a KAL. (Interestingly, at the end, when she is listing resources, she gives only addresses and telephone numbers, both in the US and Tokyo – there’s not a website to be seen. How the world has changed in 13 years!)

The experience made me wonder, for a moment, if it is a good idea to go ahead with my plan for phasing out knitting magazines. Some of them, anyway. Starting with Knitter’s.


Angel, I like your idea a lot, of being able to pay the Twist Collective a flat fee for a particular issue that would let you download all of those patterns. Should you suggest it to them?

Reaching yesterday's milestone in my Yarn Fast has made me reflect again on the enormity of the problem. Effectively, there has been no new yarn for nine months now. The stash is totally unaffected. I've thought of some yarn I could take to the charity knitters in Alyth -- I'll look that out today. Short of actually dying, I can't think of what else to do. Well, I can. I must buy very little in November, and resume the fast at once.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Kind of a pivotal day on the yarn-fast front. My only lapse, since November, was a ball of merino lace from Heirloom Knitting, for James's jabot. And I knit the jabot, so stash wasn't enhanced (much).

Today is also Thomas-the-Elder's birthday. He's so old I've forgotten exactly which one.

The Yarn Yard website is back up: good news. Natalie doesn’t always name her colours these days, and I think it’s a pity. It must be very difficult to keep doing it, but Posh Yarn manages. The Posh names are very good, and it’s part of the pleasure of browsing that wonderful site. My very first purchase when the yarn fast is over…

And speaking of websites, I’ve only just discovered that the Fall Twist Collective is up. Who needs magazines on paper?


Better garter stitch edgings have failed to eliminate curling, but have reduced it to a point where I can hope that blocking will do the rest. I should move on to one of the front pieces today. Don’t apologise, kirstieinbc. I should never have entertained the idea of not entering something in the Games, especially this year when it is for a good cause and can be done so quickly.

We sat down last night with the calendar, and although August remains as complicated as ever, coming-and-going-wise, saying it out loud somehow helped. We’ll go back to Strathardle on Monday, insh’Allah. I’ll take my Japanese knitting along – both the things required for the class, and some magazines/books I’d particularly like to be able to knit from. Thursday is the day, and you never know.

Will the walking onions be up?

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Southern Gal, my MP3 player is a 2GB Logik. (It’s worth following that link – Southern Gal’s most recent post is about the sad news that knitting is to be cut from the curriculum in Shetland’s schools.) I have packed it away in its plastic box and put it in The Box to take to Strathardle. I can do no more by myself. But when I tackle the problem again with Archie, I will remember what you say, Theresa, about holding the menu button down for an unconscionably long time. I think I’ve done that, but it’s worth trying even longer.

So yesterday I was forced to do my power walk (four circuits of Drummond Place Gardens which I think add up to about a mile) alone with my thoughts. First I settled yesterday’s meals – mussels for lunch, chicken for supper – and then went on to the question of whether I should knit a Games entry after all.

I decided that I would, and I would do it properly, with a schematic and a swatch.

Kristieinbc, this is your fault, for Sunday’s comment.

After breakfast I printed out the kimono pattern – which lacks a schematic – and chose a yarn from my Yarn Yard collection. (Natalie’s server seems to be down this morning, hence no link.) I had the uncomfortable feeling that I could spend a year knitting exclusively Yarn Yard without running out – Adult Surprise Jackets, anyone?

Winding took a while. The schematic was easy. The back of the kimono is a square – 9 ¼” for the smallest size in the original. All I had to do was knit a 6” square and calculate the other pieces from that. While I was out shopping for the mussels and the chicken later in the morning, I reflected that I might as well take a guess at the gauge. If I got it right, that was the back done. If not, I had my swatch. Solvitur ambulando was the order of the day.

And I did get the gauge right – my piece is about 6 ¼” across. The fabric is lovely.

But it curls appallingly, despite a garter stitch border. Too much so to rely on blocking.

So I’m going to take it out today and start again, with a wider garter stitch border at the beginning and with garter stitch edges of at least four stitches each side. Curiously, the pattern lacks those. The bottom of the little kimono hangs loose – there are no side seams below the armpits. So it won’t even have itself to give it substance.

Mary G., thanks for the vote of confidence on the question of old women and long hair. I was afraid I'd been offensive. The Rowan model has hers in a bun in some of the pictures, and looks terrific.


I thought Mr Clinton looked alarmingly gaunt in the wedding pictures, but dieting often affects men that way. Our former Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nigel Lawson, still looks haggard, a decade or so after he and his wife took his weight in hand.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Vivienne, it was a great comfort yesterday to know for sure that I have ordered the right replacement needles (because Knit-Pick = KnitPro Symphonie). Thank you.

MP3 player

I might as well start here, since we are all now embroiled in my titanic struggle. I am now seriously entertaining the possibility that there is something wrong with the little machine – although, obviously, I must consult Archie before taking any more radical step.

I read the manual again this morning. The idea, repeatedly, seems to be that you scroll through the options – I can do that – and then press the >II/M button – the big one, in the middle – to get a menu, and to do everything else. I cannot get any response out of the >II/M button. I’ve tried re-setting.

Yesterday I downloaded a couple more worthy radio programs from the BBC and moved them to the MP3 player, I think successfully. I thought if I presented it with a choice, it might offer me a menu. No.

So that’s where we are. It’s no use worrying about the Italians until I can play the player.


…provides a more cheerful topic.

The third rank of green granite blocks for the right front is established, and well forward. I should put in the central dots today, and get well on towards the point where the tops of the blocks begin to recede.

And a good stint of GGB’s leaves a little time in the later evening for the sock. I’m not all that far now from the first heel-turning.

I think the stripe-repeat on the yarn is shorter than in some KF yarns, but I may be imagining that. I've got more stitches than usual (64 instead of 56) for a woman's sock because Helen wants them loose. That could explain it.

Knit Camp looks less hopeful, as it looms nearer. August is just too stressful. If I could be picked up and put down without effort in Stirling, if I could be guaranteed a stress-free and preferably kitchen-free day or two afterwards to recover, I’d love to go. None of that is possible. But the option is still open. We’ll see how next week unfolds.

Writing yesterday about the Games and not-knitting has at least prompted me to have another look at the selected pattern – the Sachiko kimono (Ravelry link). It really is rather perfect – simple, elegant, easy to put on a small fragile person. Maybe, after all…

Monday, August 02, 2010

Lots of news.
The big news is that Mungo has posted his first American blog entries. Don’t miss. Here is a picture of him at Boston airport last Tuesday, being signed for by my sister.
Here he is hanging out with the boys after a cycle ride to the beach – Mungo is lower right.

The sad news is that – I can scarcely bring myself to write the words – I broke TWO of my beloved Knit-Pick sock needles. I had laid the knitting on the floor beside my chair, and the chair somehow shifted itself on top of the knitting. Stupid, stupid. I have just ordered a set of 2.5mm KnitPro Symfonie’s from this source to replace them. I was afraid I’d have to get a whole pack of six sizes. Was I right to go for something that looks the same but might turn out not to be?

I finished the second rank of GGB’s for the right front, and should establish the third rank today. As usual, a picture will follow when I’m far enough past the second rank that it shows up properly.

Kristieinbc, my current thought is that I won’t knit anything for the Games this year. That could still change. I’ve got the pattern and there’s plenty of suitable yarn in the stash. Or the new “Knitting” magazine has a neat little garter stitch baby hat, preemie sizes included. It wouldn’t win but it could be useful to a premature baby and the more entries there are, the more the winners can feel justly proud. The entry form doesn’t have to go in until the week beforehand.

I’ll enter some vegetables: Four Potatoes, Six Pea Pods, and Collection of Four Vegetables should all be possible. One year I got a Second for my Collection of Four Vegetables.


Progress, of a sort.

I grabbed a Reith lecture from the BBC, downloaded it, and, I think, transferred it successfully to the MP3 player. When it is plugged in, the computer sees it as a removable storage device, and in that state the Reith lecture is clearly there and indeed the computer even started to play it to me at one point.

But I can’t get the MP3 player, when unplugged, to do the same. I can’t get it to do anything except scroll through the headings. The instruction book doesn’t help. I’ll take it along to Strathardle when next we go and set Archie to work on the problem. I don’t think he’s quite the technology buff his cousin Alistair is, but he’s a Modern Youth, and that should be enough.

Theresa and Linda, I tried a total search of my computer looking for *.mp3 files, after the Italians seemed to say that I had downloaded one, and nothing turned up.

More non-knit

The good news yesterday was that we met the man who very recently bought the flat next-door downstairs – he’s going to live there. This unremarkable-sounding fact is news because for the last ten years or so an absentee landlord has let the flat to students. Although it is next door, it is also, due to the kind of complicated architecture which often prevails behind those orderly Edinburgh facades, directly under part of our house, and in particular directly under our bedroom.

Joy was unconfined.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

August. We got here.

I forged stoutly ahead with the GGB’s yesterday, and have reached the row where colours must be set for the tops of the blocks of the second rank, for the right front. Steady does it, eventually.

With all this heightened excitement and rushing about, I have begun to worry about whether Helen and I will ever have time to sit down here in Edinburgh with lace patterns and stash yarn to consider the future, so I have packed a selection to take to Strathardle.

I haven’t yet worked out a Scheme for the comings and goings this month, and it’s getting fairly urgent, as Knit Camp is next week. We must get back to Strathardle soon, to start bringing in the harvest; and then back again for the Games. And, in relation to that latter event, Helen and I need to sit down and start making LISTS. There will be something like 20 people to be fed for three days.

I found my thoughts about the yarn I currently intend to knit a travelling-stitch something in – found them easily, because I had taken the trouble to label the relevant blog post. I should do that more often. It’s Rowan extra-fine merino DK. Meg’s hat pattern in the new IK will make a perfect swatch.

Otherwise IK leaves me unstirred. Nothing to snuggle into. Maybe they’re saving that for the winter issue, but this is the time of year, with the days already visibly shorter and the occasional leaf drifting downwards, when one begins to contemplate snuggling, albeit from a pleasant distance. The new Rowan offers plenty of snuggle.

(What Rowan also has – this is churlish of me – is a not-uninteresting section in which three models of very varied ages wear the same straightforward garments interchangeably. What I am churlish about is that the oldest model – an attractive woman, distinctly old – wears her white hair loose over her shoulders in some of the pictures. I think that looks awful. Revolting.)

I found myself wondering, how would I know about books, if I forged ahead and gave up some of these ridiculous magazines? New and serious knitting books are certainly not to be found on the shelves at Waterstone’s. The answer is fairly easy: read blogs, and keep watching the Schoolhouse Press website. I am keenly looking forward to the new EZ.


No progress with the MP3. The Italian radio station (link yesterday), under “podcasts”, offers buttons saying “MP3” and when you click on one, no one asks where you want the file to be stored, but there is activity in that bar at the bottom of the screen which says it is being downloaded. I’ve done this two or three times, and have despaired of finding the file, if indeed it’s here.

I thought of going for BBC World Service Italian – but the BBC World Service doesn’t broadcast in Italian.

I think my next step is to go for something easy, maybe Neil MacGregor, and see if I can get him onto the MP3 player, and then return, fortified, to the Italians.