Saturday, September 25, 2010

Connectivity a bit skittish this morning.

A good knitting day yesterday, with every second that could be sequestered for the purpose devoted to the Amedro shawl. I am now – since starting on the main patterns – decreasing each side of each side panel on every pattern row. The centre 71 stitches stay the same until the end. That’s four decreases every other row, and, like the years of one’s life, one doesn’t notice at first and eventually one does.

A bad moment yesterday when the stitch count was out for the centre panel, the “complex” spider pattern from the Love Darg book. This is the one I’m doing sight unseen, no swatch, no photograph in the book even. But I think all’s well. Everything seems to line up. Maybe I missed a decrease or added a YO at the end of a row.

It’s clearly going to be very open and spidery, and would of course be even more so if I were patterning on every row, as the pattern is written. I’ll photograph it as soon as feasible.

I’ve made up a package of yarn for the charity knitters in Alyth – the stash-buster’s equivalent of leaving courgettes on the neighbours’ porch under cover of darkness. I don’t think I could sell yarn. I would worry too much about disappointed customers, and the trudge to the post office. I could, however, find out if local branches of Oxfam would take any.

It was sobering to reflect as I compiled this bag-full, how long it would take to knit it even as a wide garter-stitch scarf. A substantial number of weeks. I’m in serious SABLE territory. (Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy)

I scored points for tidiness yesterday, though. I have six plastic bins for yarn at the back of the stash cupboard. Three are full of Shetland jumper-weight. One is now chock-a-block with the lace yarn collection you saw here recently. But the fifth was only about 1/3rd full with Shetland odd-balls, and the 6th, devoted to heavier yarn, was nearly empty after the Alyth donation above was compiled. So I amalgamated those two, and created a Koigu bin, and that reduced by two the number of plastic bags of yarn on the stash cupboard floor.

Oh, dear.

Anyway, Strathardle. Off we go. Back sometime next week. The weather is fine, but cold. Mary Lou, I don’t grow horseradish, although I have thought about it. And it would fit in with my scheme of putting in more permanent things, to reduce labour. What about a wild garlic patch? Alexander is no help on horseradish; he and Ketki don’t eat beef because of Hinduism.

I am going to try globe artichokes next year. One of my hopes for the next few days is to get a patch ready for them and cover it. The Jerusalem artichokes the Fishwife gave me have done splendidly, above ground. It’s too soon to peek at the product.

I do agree, Jean, that one’s seed-buying is a way of supporting small firms, and a bit of extra postage is worth the expense. I couldn’t operate without Real Seeds, for instance, but they don’t even have a complete list – no broad beans, to begin with.

Friday, September 24, 2010

I’m in one of those frenzies about the Amedro shawl, impossible to keep my hands off it. I finished the preliminary row of roundels. Then came a frustrating number of long, plain rows before I could start the real excitement. I pressed on through them with determination.

I am slightly concerned about the way those edging scallops curl. I trust Chinese yarn understands what's expected of it, when it comes to blocking. I like the feel of the fabric a lot. It's spring-y, almost crunchy.

I set the roundels without any trouble. But the main patterns – which I now have reached – don’t relate to them, so the setting had to be done all over again. This time, I got it wrong – found myself three stitches short at the end of the row.

I got up early this morning to have some quiet time with it while the mind was fresh. I found the mistake and have, I think, corrected it. I added the three missing stitches at the end with some M1's. When I found the spot where I had done too much plain knitting between motifs, I K2tog’d until the count was right. It’ll pass the galloping horse test with flying colours.

This pattern was the first fine lace I ever knit, for Rachel’s 40th birthday, which dates it to ’98. At the time, I thought it was the cat’s pyjamas, as difficult as lace could get. It is, in fact, easy peasy, but this time through I am struggling without a chart. I should think the recent second edition of Amedro’s book will suffer from not having them.

When I get to the 71-stitch centre panel, however, into which I am inserting the “Spider pattern for shawls” which Sharon Miller gives on page 29 of the Love Darg book, I cling to the printed text. This is the pattern Sharon calls “one of the most complex”. It’s only a six-stitch repeat, and Sharon reproduces photographically the line-by-line text from the old book, as well as her own modern chart.

I’ve only done two pattern rows so far, and so far the technique has been to learn the pattern verbally – “knit, over, take, knit, take, over”, for the second row – and then just grit my teeth and do it. “Take” means “k2tog”. I came out right at the end, always a good sign. There is no photograph of this pattern, so I don’t know what to expect. And the chart isn’t really much help there. Exciting.


The plan now is to go to Strathardle tomorrow – at last. I expect to find a mess; lots of growing is done in September. There are potatoes still to be dug, and possibly some beans can be rescued, at least for soup. Too soon to dig the rather promising-looking parsnips. If the autumn raspberries are ever going to be of any use, it would be now. And the apple crop should be ready.
Otherwise, it’s a matter of getting ready for winter. The “walking onions” are in temporary accommodation. They’ll need a permanent home.

The 2011 seed catalogues are beginning to rattle through the letter box – more exciting even than knitting magazines. Alexander said over lunch on Tuesday, rather primly I thought, that he orders from only one source so as not to squander money on postage. He has a point, but I consider the money well spent for the pleasure it gives in catalogue-browsing by the fire on Long Winter Evenings.

I have put some skeins of lace yarn in The Box to take along. Much winding will be necessary before I can even swatch my notion of knitting three strands together. It seems just the chore for a Long Winter Evening.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Feeling somewhat restored from the ordeal of Glasgow.

Janet, yes, our picture is in the “Glasgow Boys” show at Kelvingrove. Now I want to see the reduced show at the Royal Academy later in the year, to find out if we made the cut. It would also be nice to look at the pictures in somewhat less of a crowd. And you’re right, my husband had to act as he did, in offering the picture to the H*nterian, but his boss didn’t have to take advantage of his scrupulosity. He – the boss – was the man who eventually dropped dead at a Turner exhibition, as mentioned here some weeks ago.

I said to my husband on Tuesday evening that if Andrew had rejected the offer – “You found it, you must keep it” – we would now, at the end of life, be making arrangements for it to go to the H*nterian. But he said no, he would rather see it somewhere less rich in the Glasgow Boys. And indeed, on some recent visits to the H*nterian, we have not even found it on the walls.

Cat, I think you might email Heirloom Knitting to ask how the Love Darg book was sent. Their service is so very good, that they would want to know you are concerned. I got my copy out yesterday, looking for a pattern for the centre of the Amedro shawl. It really is an important contribution to the history of Shetland lace knitting. It deserves reading and re-reading.

I have chosen “spider pattern for shawls”, p. 29, for my centre. It fits perfectly – “repeats of 6 stitches plus 5 extra” goes into 71. Sharon says, ominously, that it is “one of the most complex of lace patterns”. It is printed as knitted lace – action on every row. But she suggests doing it as lace knitting, with plain rows in between, “to learn”. [I hope I’ve got those terms the right way around.]

I would have done it with plain rows anyway, because that is the way the rest of the Amedro patterns work. It doesn’t look terribly difficult – certainly not to one who has survived the Princess edging. We shall see.

Why don’t any of these endless magazines do an article about Sharon Miller? The answer probably is, because she never advertises and never teaches. That’s not sufficient.

Currently, I’m whizzing along with the early rows of the entire Amedro shawl. The edging, now complete, is in garter st., and there are a couple more rows of it once all 509 stitches are settled on the needle – but the main body of the shawl is in st st. This is a splendid opportunity, on those long purl rows returning, to practise the Portuguese method of looping the yarn around the back of one’s neck and flicking the stitches.

Maybe I’ll try it.


Fishwife, your suggestion of p/hop as a deserving charity for my lace stash, is an interesting one. The charity is certainly worthy – the acronym means “pennies per hours of pleasure”, and the beneficiary is Medecins Sans Frontieres. But the site seems to be offering patterns, for which you pay as you wish. I can’t see anything about wanting yarn.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hard work, Glasgow.

I lived there from 1954 until 1966, with a year out in Northampton, MA, 1960-61. I loved it, and was sad to leave. Now it sort of frightens me. The exhibition was in an airless dungeon and probably the most crowded I have ever experienced. I think, even so, my husband was glad to be there, which was the point of the exercise. He remarked, rightly, that people were looking at the pictures, and talking to each other about them. Unlike a lot of people at Royal Academy expos in London, where they talk about what a stressful trip they had, coming up from Cheltenham.

And we had a pleasant lunch with Alexander beforehand.

We wondered to each other, as we queued to get in, whether our picture would be there. It was: George H*nry’s "Sundown, or River Landscape by Moonlight", from the H*nterian. It was one of my husband’s 'finds' in his early Glasgow-auction-room days. One of his moral beliefs, a sound one, I am sure, is that people who work for an art gallery shouldn't collect on their own behalf things which are worthy of its walls. At least, not without coming clean to their superiors.

He didn’t exactly work for the H*nterian -- the art gallery attached to the University of Glasgow. He was a lecturer in the History of Art department. But there was a close relationship between the department and the gallery – closer, I am sure, than there is nowadays, with the H*nterian housed in a grand building of its own.

Whatever, he felt he ought to offer it to them. He didn’t even bring it home. His boss took it, and reimbursed him the full five pounds he had paid for it. I have always felt slightly sore about this story – not that we would have wanted money, although we lived on lentils in those days, but that it would have been nice to have the picture and that perhaps the head of department took an unfair advantage of my husband’s scrupulousness.

I doubt if this tale is even recorded in the H*nterian archives.


I made good progress with Matt’s sock on the train journeys, as hoped.

And finished the Amedro edging in the evening. I’ve now got the stitches picked up, counted and re-counted and adjusted – 509 of them. I’m ready to roll. We start with a row of roundels, before the panels are established. Helen wants the original Amedro patterns in the wings, you will remember. But that leaves a 71 stitch panel in the centre – the structure is vaguely Faroese – where I can improvise.

It would be nice to put in something from the “Love Darg” book. I had better start looking.

There is a backlog, now, of comments I want to comment on

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I phoned a pious friend in Birmingham. Fr Gregory Winterton is indeed alive and reasonably well (at nearly 90), and hard at work just as when we knew him. It is wonderful news. He has served the Birmingham Oratory faithfully for many years, including some as Provost, and has seen some hard times. Sunday’s affair will have meant more to him, perhaps, than to anyone else on earth. I am so very glad he was there to enjoy it – and the Telegraph reported yesterday that the Pope went to lunch at the Oratory afterwards.

My friend is nearly 90 herself, and now housebound. She said that it is Fr Gregory who brings her communion. I wonder if that means he still rides a bicycle?

We are going to Glasgow today – more art, appropriately enough the “Glasgow Boys” show at Kelvingrove. It is about to close, and soon to move to the Royal Academy. I am pretty tired of art, and have been trying to persuade my husband to wait and see it in London. We hope to go down again towards the end of the year.

But then we found out that as many as 1/3rd of the pictures on show in Glasgow are not going to make the journey south, so I decided to bite the bullet. We’ll take a day or two to recover, and then, at last, Strathardle.

Alexander says he has lots of business in Glasgow. So I am to phone him when I know what train we’re on – they go every 15 minutes, and catching a particular one with my husband is more than my nerves can stand. Alexander will meet us and convey us to Kelvingrove (and, I hope, have lunch with us). That will do much to lift the day from duty to delight.

And it means (two 45- minute train journeys) that I will advance Matt’s first sock. I have turned the heel, and am about to start Oliver’ing. The mesh pattern for the scallops of the Amedro shawl is so easy that I am afraid to do it at the end of the evening when I’m tired – so tempting to decrease when I should be increasing, or to start the pattern at the wrong end of the row.

So I’ve been putting in a bit of sock-knitting from time to time. I love the Artist’s Palette Smoothie Sock yarn I bought at the I Knit Weekender. If I was to fall from grace by buying yarn, it was a good choice. Wonderfully soft and a splendid colour.

Which makes a smooth transition to the subject of stash…

That’s the lace yarn. There are some odds and ends of white in the cupboard as well.

At my age (77) that is undoubtedly more than I could finish before the end, if I knit it as lace. (And that would mean never tackling the Koigu!) I presume the charity knitters in Alyth aren’t interested in lace, although I might ask. Destashing through Ravelry is an interesting idea, Kristieinbc. Can I face the trips to the Post office?

Kristie – your blog has sent me off on a tangent.

James, as a child, thought he fancied learning Chinese. He had a book on the subject. One grim November afternoon, I took the children to the transport museum in Birmingham. There used to be – maybe still is – an irrelevant room devoted to writing. It included a rubbing of a Chinese inscription. James said, from across the room, “That word says middle. That word says kingdom.”

His future was set. I found him a tutor the following week.

Even before that day, we had had a holiday in Leningrad with our four small children. Like you, I knew a few words. Like Korea, the lavatories were pretty bad. But one day, in one of them, I spotted the word for “children” on a door leading from the Ladies. Voila!

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Pope has finished and gone. His sermon at Newman’s Mass yesterday was exemplary –nothing about orthodoxy, just prayer and education and Newman’s work as a parish priest. He (Newman) must have been pretty exceptional, for Leo XIII to sweep in and make him a cardinal like that.

After the bit yesterday where Newman was declared to be “beatus”, and before the Mass got seriously under way, various people, two by two, went forward to speak briefly to the Pope. First lay people, then clergymen – and when the commentator said that the Fathers of the Birmingham Oratory were being presented, I feel sure I recognised a very, very, very old Fr Gregory Winterton.

Fr Gregory was Provost of the Oratory in our day. Amongst much else, he officiated at Rachel and Ed’s wedding. Google is able to tell me only that until recently, he was alive and well, the oldest living English Oratorian. That is remarkable enough in itself. Who else could it have been? I had hoped to find confirmation in this morning’s Birmingham Post – no luck.

My husband said that the old man I thought I recognised was the “wrong shape” to be Fr Gregory, and my husband is not often wrong. But I will remain convinced until it is proven otherwise.

Fuzarrelly, don’t believe public radio. Newman’s remains were dug up – disgusting, as I said yesterday – because, apparently, saints have to furnish relics. Fr Ambrose St John, with whom he was buried, as he wished, was a fellow Oratorian and they undoubtedly loved each other. The church has never said that there is anything wrong with loving someone, of the same sex or of any other. Love is a good thing.

Before I get on to knitting: Daisy Waugh, in yesterday’s Sunday Times Magazine, writes about the Games. Not ours, not Braemar, not Glen Isla – but there is a recognisable sameness. And Mungo, in case you haven’t read him yet, is brilliant on the Strathardle Gathering, as on most topics.


Catdownunder, thank you for the shrug pattern. (On her blog – follow the link.) I have copied and saved it.

In thinking about the future, and all this stash, and what is going to happen, I am also mightily taken with the first pattern in the new VK, an Aran cardigan by a designer with a Japanese-sounding name. If I used that as a frame, and put Starmore’s panel from her “Cromarty” pattern in “The Celtic Collection” as the centre back, and flanked it with something from the Japanese stitch pattern book…
A half-drop of the pattern would make it mirror itself on either side of the centre panel, wouldn't it?

There’s such a thing as over-egging the pudding, and if a long life has taught me anything, it’s that less is usually more. I will continue to move these ideas around in my head. It would be a way of gathering together the things I want to carry forward from 2010, without buying too much more yarn.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Lots of thanks for yesterday’s comments.

The link to Lucy Neatby’s account of Knit Camp, to begin with. I hadn’t been paying much attention, since my own failure to turn up. Clearly the story isn’t over. This is appalling – the workman is worthy of his hire, and it seems especially appalling when transatlantic transportation is included in what is not being paid. I hate the thought that even the money I forfeited by not showing has not gone to the teachers who earned it.

Donna Druchunas (whose class I didn’t go to) seems to have stopped blogging altogether. Is she Twittering elsewhere? Liz Lovick – she was a teacher, too, wasn’t she? – has written only of her utterly wonderful-sounding tour of Shetland. Annie M. hasn’t mentioned Knit Camp since she left Stirling, I don’t think. She’s recently back from teaching in Frascati, full of enthusiasm. Annie is almost always full of enthusiasm, with an undercurrent of terror.

I wonder if Lucy’s going-public will unleash the hounds?

Catdownunder, I would very much like to see your lace-yarn-stash-busting shrug pattern. I am pro-shrug. And I might add, in answer to the question on your blog, that here in the northern hemisphere where the whole thing got started, we are celebrating the winter solstice at Christmas. When religion (in Russia) and Catholicism (in Scotland) were ruled out by the authorities, the populations just switched their festivities to the New Year. The end of darkness and beginning of light is a big thing when one lives in proximity to the North Pole. The whole affair must be very odd indeed, for you.

Fuzzarelly, thank you for the wonderful link to Angus McDairmid’s book. The very thing, I thought, for a Christmas present for my husband. My geography is vague, but I’m pretty sure we’re talking about Perthshire. However, Abebooks doesn’t have it, and it would probably be very expensive if I did find a copy. I will try to hold the thought, however.

And before I get back to the topic of knitting – I think the Pope is doing pretty well. I have set the machine to record his Mass this morning, beatifying Cardinal Newman. Then, when we get back from Mass ourselves, I can fast-forward through the boring bits and hear the sermon.

When we lived in Birmingham, Newman’s Oratory was our parish church. His personality filled it still. I have read a fair amount of him, in the days when I was more mentally active. Pundits are saying that the Pope is trying to highjack him for ultra-orthodoxy. I wonder, having some respect for the Pope as a theologian.

I don’t know much about decomposition, but the story of the recent digging up of Newman -- a disgusting idea -- in order to use his bones as relics if he did be declared a saint, is very odd. There was nothing there except the brass plate from the coffin. Is that normal for Birmingham? It seems as miraculous to me as if they had found his body intact.

I have seen that little graveyard. Rachel and Ed were married at the Oratory. And I have left myself no space to write about knitting

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Grannypurple, I’ve ordered the book. (“When They Are Up…”). I think even the youngest grandchild may be too old for it, but the combination of the Grand Old Duke (a family favourite), knitting, and possibly inspired silliness, is irresistible. I’ll say more when it arrives. Thanks.

Enid, thanks for the tip on the GOD’s idenity. If he was James II, he was a Scotsman, wasn’t he?

An irrelevance – I took this picture from the kitchen window yesterday. That is a fox, resting on a flat roof projecting from a neighbour’s garage. We had heard that there were urban foxes about, but hadn’t seen one in the 16 years we’ve lived here. We used to have them in the garden in Birmingham, and once in London, dining with Alexander and Ketki when they lived on Lavender Hill, I saw one walk across their kitchen. We were all in the adjacent dining room – I was the only one with a view of the kitchen. He walked back a moment or two later.


I’ve finished 22 of 29 scallops for the edging of the Amedro shawl. Will I polish it off this weekend? Probably not. I’m also ready to do the heel flap of Matt’s 1st sock.

However, today’s topic is


I have been abstemious about yarn-buying for nine months now. Only a single ball of lace-weight for James’s jabot (knit) and two skeins of sock wool for Matt’s socks (being knit). I have knit virtually every day. I have given yarn away to charity knitters in Alyth. I have set my grandsons Fergus and Mungo up in life (as knitters).

The stash is totally unaffected.

That's not all, either. It's not as chaotic as it appears. I know which bag and which basket contains what, and can find what I want quickly.

I am beginning to grasp the outlines of the problem, and to re-think my strategy for November when the not-quite-fast is supposed to be over. I had planned to buy some KF sock yarn, and two sweater’s-worths of yarn – something from Posh to knit the Jali cardigan from the Summer 2010 IK, and some Rowan Extra-Fine Merino DK for a Bavarian travelling-stitch jacket.

That’s too much, in the circumstances.

The sock yarn, yes. It occurs to me that I’ve got a sweater’s-worth of yarn, in the form of that dusty-pink Araucania in Strathardle which I seem to keep finding excuses not to proceed with. I’m knitting a Sweater Wizard pattern with it, meant to come out something like Ketki’s sweater,

only without the Calcutta Cup. I think when we get back to Strathardle (next week, hoffentlich) I will try swatching it for the Jali. There may well be enough yarn for both – I certainly won’t frog for a while.

At the I-Knit Weekender, I saw people knitting as much as eight strands of yarn together on huge needles. Making carpets and things. The process looked awkward and the result fairly unpleasant, but it was a way of hoovering through the stash, all right. One of my big problems is that a lot of my stash is lace-weight. What about combining (say) three strands of that….?

I will have to return to this topic.

Friday, September 17, 2010

No Popemobile here, alas.

My husband wanted to come too. That meant leaving the house later than I had planned, and climbing the hill much more slowly. Even so, we got there on time – but the Pope got there early. We missed the whole thing. A bitter disappointment.

Mary Lou, the best I can do for the Grand Old Duke of York is the Wikipedia entry. I thought we knew who he was (George III’s second son Frederick, I guess) but apparently there are rival candidates.

Before getting back to the happier topic of knitting, I had better run through the rest of our London adventures, for the sake of completeness.

The Fakes show at the National Gallery was a bit of a disappointment, with slightly patronising labels. “Can you spot the difference?” sort of thing. We also saw the annual Portrait competition that day, around the corner at the Portrait Gallery; and – an unexpected treat – a little show of Frederick Cayley Robinson, upstairs at the National Gallery. Recommended.

The next day we polished off Sargent and the Sea at the Royal Academy. We expected to be bored, and were. They also have a little show of Flaxman’s illustrations to Homer. T’riffic. We skipped Tracey Emin. Then we wandered around the commercial galleries, which I always enjoy doing. Agnew’s new premises are a real come-down, as if they had moved into a council house; but the stock is still high-quality.

Friday was the V&A for the Raphael cartoons and tapestries, and that was exhilarating. The tapestries were interesting enough; it was the chance to look closely at those cartoons again which transformed the day. Then we went on to the latest Saatchi gallery, not far away. It is located in the old “Duke of York’s Headquarters” off Sloan Square. We thought of the 10,000 men – but I couldn’t even tell you which Duke of York had his headquarters there.

On Saturday Rachel took my husband to Postman’s Park while I had my Starmore day.

And on Sunday we went to see the dinosaurs at Crystal Palace. Wow! I was expecting a lone Tyrannosaurus in a field of patchy grass. What I got was this:

They were the first dinosaur sculptures in the world, and pre-date Darwin by several years. Modern scholars sneer at the reconstructions, needless to say. Three Wikipedia links in one post is unusual, but they deserve one. Here is Rachel with my husband:

The new VK arrived yesterday, brightening an otherwise rather sour day, and knitting proceeds well. I am past the half-way point on the Amedro shawl border, and near the first heel of Matt’s socks. Tomorrow I’ll talk about knitting.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

I mean to walk up into central Edinburgh a bit later this morning, to see the Pope ride by in his Popemobile. If the crowds are intolerable, I’ll just come home again (like the Grand Old Duke of York) – I have no intention of climbing a sycamore tree. Even so, it will be interesting to see the numbers and mood of the people who are there.

The Pope (the old boy must be airborne as I write) will be in progress between Holyrood, where he will have been saying howdy do to the Queen, and Morningside, where he will have lunch with our local Cardinal Archbishop. I imagine that will be a low-key affair – rest stops have been built in to the itinerary, given the Pope’s age, and I suspect that is one of them. What would I give him for lunch, if I were the Cardinal’s housekeeper? I think I’d stick with Jamie Oliver’s tray-baked salmon with green beans, olives, anchovies & tomatoes.

As I composed myself for sleep on Sunday evening in London, thinking of various aspects of the following day’s journey to Edinburgh, it was pleasant to reflect that the Pope himself, way off there in Rome, was lying down with not entirely dissimilar thoughts.


To begin with, read Shandy’s account of her Starmore class the day before mine.

And thank you, Shandy, for the reference to Starmore’s “Aran Knitting” which I have been re-perusing. In it, she specifically claims priority for unventing Celtic knitting – “Until its publication [“The Celtic Collection”, 1992] infinite Celtic cabling was not seen in knitting.” She said something of the sort in our lesson.

Lavold’s copyright is 1998 for "Viking Patterns for Knitting". She says something in the introduction about 15 years of toying with and working on the idea. As you say, Shandy, there was a lot of that sort of thing around at that time. Starmore clearly got into print first. There is no bibliography in Lavold, and no reference to Starmore that I can see.

Alice’s book – for those new to the subject – is a collection of sweater patterns, some of which have infinite Celtic cabling on them. Lavold’s book has some sweater patterns – good ones – and a lot more swatches and charts. She mentions in her introduction the identity of many Celtic interlaced patterns with Viking ones, and seems to imply that she thinks the Vikings may have picked up the idea from the Celts.

What is the source for your glorious throw, Shandy? I could scroll back and remind myself – I’ve admired it before.

I had thought already (before yesterday’s comments) that I must now have a go at the Lavold technique for starting a Celtic knot. She was very excited about having unvented it. I strongly suspect that you’re right, Maureen, and there isn’t much difference between the two. I feel sure, incidentally, that Lavold was working independently of Starmore, quite likely without any knowledge of “The Celtic Collection”, especially given the difference of language.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Start at the top – Starmore’s class was terrific.

I had got the impression from the internet, long ago, that she was bad-tempered and suspicious of the world. None of that was in evidence. The class was perfectly planned, prepared, presented. Alice Starmore doesn’t tell her pupils to stop talking (a problem of Annie M.’s) – we are all busy with our swatches, listening and looking and talking, occasionally, to her.

I even finished my swatch the next day. I wouldn’t do that for just any teacher. I wonder if I have photographed it upside down.

The lesson ended smartly 15 minutes before it was scheduled to. I was briefly miffed, but then realised that what she was doing was allowing time for us to talk to her one-to-one. As several people wanted to do. The next session followed very shortly – if she had gone on to the scheduled end, she would have had to shoo us unceremoniously out of the door. I took a picture of her during that period – this is the best of a not-very-good bunch.

I would have liked to ask her my question, but it was completely irrelevant to the topic of the day and probably unanswerable anyway, even by her. It is this: I extravagantly admire her Stillwater pattern. I tried to knit it, and gave up after several inches because the usual rhythm of Fair Isle patterns is completely absent -- I couldn’t get my head around the 18-stitch repeats. Is there a technique?

Getting it out to scan it just now has rekindled my enthusiasm. Maybe I should try the pattern on a hat.
I then had a nice (but slightly lonely) time wandering around the market. I bought Lily Chin’s cable book, which seemed appropriate to the theme of the day and which looks very thorough. And some yarn – well, I almost had to:

I had already decided that I would proceed next (sock-wise) to Matt’s socks, and that I would need to buy yarn. I had only 100 grams of the yarn I intended for the purpose, and that’s not enough for a full-sized gent. So instead of seeking out another ball – wrong dye-lot – of the yarn I already had, I bought 200 grams of a different yarn – expensive socks – and have made a good start, as you see, on the actual thing.

(Alas, I can't seem to make Tickerfactory work any more. Does anyone know an alternative?)

(Hellie came round on the Saturday evening. I told her what I was up to, and explained about the Curse of Knitting for the Boy Friend and how I had taken expert advice and was completely reassured. She thought it was all rather funny, and that Matt will like the socks.)

The yarn is Artist’s Palette “Smoothie Sock”. My one is very like the top illustration, except browner rather than greener. It’s a good deal darker than it appears in my own snapshot. Wonderfully soft. I had sort of hoped that Posh might be there, but she wasn’t.

I’ve finished Helen’s KF socks, except for ten minutes of actual finishing, which I had better put in this evening. Kaffe’s stripes and Oliver shaping and Knit Pic needles bring us as close as we’re likely to get to the self-knitting sock.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

All set, I hope, with a nice long list of things to see. The first thing I packed was the stuff required for Starmore’s class. I’m really looking forward to this. How do her Celtic knots compare with Lavold’s? Much to be learned here.

The computer is being odd this morning, just when I particularly don’t want to waste time. I’ll have to wing it, rather than checking links.

Woollybits – I hope it was her – made a most kind comment about Helen’s wedding jacket, couple of days back. Yes, I could be said to have designed it. It didn’t involve much except charting the different motifs I wanted to include and interspersing them with smaller ones from the books and calculating the total length somewhat so as to leave room for the Crown of Glory on the shoulder.

I knew my gauge well from my Fair Isle phase. I often think of how traditional knitters, working in one genre again and again, would learn their own parameters, so to speak, and be free to rearrange or even redesign the traditions. Whereas we hop nervously from one thing to another and have to start from scratch every time.

But it’s the natural colours that really hold that jacket together.

And there is a comment somewhere from Sulkycat about my link to her over the Annie Modesitt business. I have often wondered how people know when someone links to them – clearly there is a way.

Thank you, especially Angel, for the information about Icelandic names. I mean to pursue it more calmly when we get back. Or even in London, if Rachel has got internet access. The last I heard, there was trouble.

Here is the current state of the Amedro shawl edging, nearly half-way through Scallop 13. The big fish-tailed scallop for the centre is No. 15, so we’re making progress. No -- the uploading process isn't working.

But for the next week, it will be nothing but industrious sock-knitting.

And now for a couple of hours of skittering nervously about, before we catch the noon train.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Bless you, Shandy.

I knew nothing of the I Knit Weekender. I’ve now booked myself in for Starmore’s Saturday morning session of Celtic knottery at 10 a.m. I also paid £8 for the day itself, although I have no idea of what that entails. Starmore has another session at 11:45 which should mean that the first one will end promptly, and I’ll have time (sigh) for some subsequent art.

But it is the weekend, and maybe patient Rachel will come up with a scheme for entertaining my husband thus allowing me to linger. He is perfectly compos mentis, but breathless and very slow and pretty dependant these days. He doesn’t like wandering about alone, although he survived several days of it last summer when I was in CT at Theo’s wedding. He carries identification – he would eventually be Returned to Sender if anything happened, but I would not be happy sending him off alone. His first academic boss and dear friend, the head of the Art History Dept at Glasgow in the 50’s and 60’s, dropped dead at a London art exhibition, so it does happen. Turner, I think.

Should I take along my first-edition-with-dust-jacket of The Celtic Collection to have her sign it? No, that’s a bit girly and the weight of a needless book is what we don’t need. We always come back with a great load of exhibition catalogues. I just looked it up on Abebooks with the vague feeling that Starmore sometimes fetches silly prices, but there are plenty of copies and even the first editions aren’t very dear.

I was tempted by Ragga Eirikdottir’s class on Lopi knitting, scheduled for the same time on Saturday morning. But it lasts longer, and doesn’t sound as if it includes much that I don’t know. I would love to meet a genuine Faroese with a matronymic (if there is such a word). Do they have patronymics as well – people named Eirikson? I could look that up, I suppose.

As for actual knitting, I’m on the declining slope of the 9th scallop. There has been more trouble, but again I think I have redeemed myself fairly successfully. Perhaps a goodbye picture tomorrow.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


Lisa, (comment yesterday), the Games are awfully boring; the Queen is as old as my husband, although apparently in slightly better nick; and all the things that make the day fun for us, are denied to Royals – seeing old friends, and having a drink with them from the back of their car or ours; running a race or joining in Tilt the Bucket or the Pillow Fight, or cheering on a relative who’s doing it; having a look at the Home Industries Tent in the hopes that Neighbour G. hasn’t won anything for baking this year; trying, once more, to come top at Musical Cars.

Braemar comes right after us – they must be down for the First Saturday in September. We saw the Queen arriving there on the news last night. The commentator said that Queen Victoria started the tradition, and the family is now stuck with it.

I don’t know anything about the Queen in 3-D. I don’t think I’ve heard any mention of such a thing. I went to a 3-D movie in NY close to 60 years ago and was sick afterwards and have stayed well clear since.

Maureen and Theresa, I am happy to be corrected on the matter of Meg’s teaching. I remember Amy Detjen from Camp Stitches on Lake George in ’99. I don’t think she was teaching, more like Head Counsellor. A tower of strength and good cheer. Amy is very tall, and strongly built, but that praise is meant without irony, metaphorically.

I think she later parted from the X’s rather acrimoniously – I must have read that on the Internet somewhere – and I am happy that her subsequent history has turned out so well. A tower of strength for Meg.


We’re going to London this week. On Tuesday. I’m not looking forward to it, although it will be grand to be with Rachel and her family. My husband is not really up to it, and my role as facilitator gets progressively harder. The effort is no doubt good for him. Rachel, despite working full time and hosting language students at home, does all she can and much more than could be expected, in the way of driving us about.

We’re going right now in order not to miss the “Fakes” show at the National Gallery, which is about to go off. I’ll enjoy that myself, once we get there. And the Vatican tapestries at the V&A are about to go on, so we’ll see those too.

And I will press on with vigour at Helen’s second sock. I got an inch or so done yesterday, sitting in Waverley Station waiting to buy our tickets. I have even presumed to put the ball of Lang Jawoll I showed you the other day in my knitting bag, in the hopes of starting Matt’s socks.


I have passed the half-way point of the 8th scallop on Helen’s Amedro shawl. The 8th is one of the big ones – the full 48 rows. There was a mini-crisis yesterday when a dropped stitch involved frogging, but all is well. I not only got the stitches back on the needle, but seem to have succeeded in figuring out where I was in the pattern, to proceed.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

One of the routines of Games Day is the group picture taken at the end of the afternoon, back at the house. Alexander, the photographer, has now sent me this year’s version. It’s a particularly good one, with most of us looking unwontedly cheerful. Alexander himself is in the back row, framed by Rachel and Ed in the row in front, with the tense, anxious look which invariably identifies the person who has just set the delayed shutter action and run around to join the group.

Two of our guests are missing – my husband’s great-niece (his sister’s granddaughter, putting it another way) and her boyfriend. They had sloped off somewhere. I don’t think the group picture has ever been incomplete before, and it distresses me. The great-niece/granddaughter has been with us before, and appears in the appropriate photograph(s). She should have known.

They turned up again much later in the evening. Perhaps it was all just too boring…

(That picture could only have been taken at the Braemar Games, not all that far from us.)

Before I leave the subject of the Games, Helen’s sweater deserves mention. Here it is on the Games field.

I knit each of my daughters and daughters-in-law a Wedding Sweater when they married. Helen’s, here, was far and away the best – but the marriage failed. She decided this summer that 15 years was long enough, and got it out again. Mercifully, it seems to have escaped the attention of the moths.

All the colours are natural. It dates from my lichen phase. The pinks and almost-reds derive from ochrolechia tartarea which I found somewhere above the Croft of Cultalonie. When I Google’d just now, to check the spelling, I found a reference to my own blog of January 27 this year – and that blog entry includes a picture of the left-over yarns from stash.

I think the rich brown may have been logwood, bought in. The other variations in colour were contributed by sheep. The motifs refer to various things in both the families involved. Helen’s dear horse Milligan (long dead, even then) appears at the top of the sleeve. All the wedding sweaters have the Crown of Glory on the shoulder, meant to be the reward of a life well lived.


Little to report. I’m half-way through the 6th scallop (of 29) of Helen’s Amedro shawl. As you can see from yesterday’s pic, it is lace knitting of the most simple. The problem is to stay awake and remember where you are. The scallops are of different sizes, with a fish-tailed double one in the centre. That helps a bit, I think.

I read Woolgathering through to the end, and discover that Meg is going to teach at Vogue Knitting Live in Manhattan in January. Has she ever done such a thing before? I had already had an email from Vogue about it. Franklin will be there. I can dream.

Friday, September 03, 2010

I am particularly grateful to Mary Lou, Gerri and especially Kristen for addressing seriously my anxiety about knitting socks for Hellie’s boyfriend Matt. (Comments, Sept 1) I am reassured by your arguments, and I think he’s next on the sock list. This is the yarn I have in mind. It's 100 grams: I’ll need either to add wild toes, or to buy another ball.

I bought it at I Knit London, if memory serves. I nipped over for a link just now, and got a most alarming “Account Suspended” page. Their website was up a fortnight ago.

Here is a rather sweet picture of Matt and Hellie at the Games. I asked him his foot size when he asked for the socks, so I’ve got that.

I am also grateful to yesterday’s commenters for filling me in on what Annie Modesitt was upset about. It doesn’t sound good. If people are saying what Sulky Cat says – and obviously, they are – it’s Annie’s job to stop complaining about "lies" and ask herself why. I follow her blog pretty closely, in appalled sympathy for what her family is going through and admiration for her determination to use knitting to pay the mortgage. The class that the Fishwife and I went to here in Edinburgh – Helen CKS had booked it, too, but wasn’t feeling well enough – was well-prepared and interesting enough.

I spent a lot of time over on Ravellry the weekend before Knit Camp, following with interest and horror the unravelling saga of the US teachers’ work permits. I haven’t been back since. I must have a look.

Back at the ranch…

I dispatched the preemie jacket yesterday, and started Helen’s Amedro shawl. She wants me to keep Amedro’s patterns in the wings, but there’s a centre rectangular section 71 stitches wide which I can “improve” with a pattern from Heirloom Knitting, so everybody’s happy. Here’s what I’ve done so far. There's an irritating error in the big second scallop, but I'm not going back.

It's yesterday’s darg, in fact. For Sharon Miller’s book did arrive, and I learn that “darg” is a Scots term for the product of a day’s work. Most useful word.

And a terrific book. Sharon is a scholar who operates on many levels, collecting Shetland shawls and studying their construction; examining museum examples; tracking down printed patterns; reading pretty obscure sources (e.g., Arthur Laurenson & Co., Lerwick, ‘Truck Report’, 1872); and above all, knitting. The point of this book is her belief, well substantiated, that “Aunt Kate’s Home Knitter” of 1910 contains the first patterns ever published for fine Shetland lace and that the patterns actually come from Shetland, probably from Unst.

Sharon reproduces Aunt Kate’s patterns photographically as well as providing modern charts and abundant advice on construction. A “love darg” is a darg done for love.

Yesterday’s post also brought the new Woolgathering. Never rains but it pours. I reflected during the course of the day that I don’t need to grumble about the postponement of the new book. If I want to knit some EZ stash-gobbling garter stitch, I’ve got the Bog Jacket and/or the Round the Bend to look forward to.

I must tell you how my vegetables are getting on. Tomorrow, perhaps.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Back to the coal-face for a moment.

I finished the little preemie jacket last night. I’ll send it off to an appropriate charity today, unblocked.

I then knit a row of Green Granite Blocks and felt an overwhelming lack of what I believe is called mojo. I retreated to Helen’s KF socks, which I had done enough work on over the exciting last few days to be able to try the first one on her before she left. It’s fine.

I think maybe this evening I’ll start her Amedro lace stole. It’s an edging-first design, like most or perhaps all of Amedro. I like it that way. A couple of days of that and I may be able to see my way forward with the GGB. My beloved Princess shawl took four years, all told. Most of its laying-asides were for specific reasons, including my broken arm in September ’06, but there was a whole year’s intermission for reasons unrecorded from September ’07 to September ’08. But as I remember it, each resumption was with enthusiasm. Maybe I'm just tired.

Back to Strathardle

Here are the preemie things on the table in the Home Industries Tent. Design-wise, my little jacket would have stood up all right. Knitting-wise, I don’t think so. And knitting is what is judged.

Here are the Knitted Toys:

That is the category I won with Sam the Ram in ’07. It seems a bit soon to have it again. The entries this year were terrific, I thought. Much better than Sam’s competition.

Both Fergus and Mungo started knitting this summer:

I had my husband’s sister, who was with us for the Games weekend, show Mungo how to knit continental (like EZ). My own technique is so clumsy that it is no use as a model for anyone. I thought he might as well acquire good habits from the beginning. Helen says that both boys knit their way home to Greece on Tuesday.

Wider world

Annie Modesitt has a sad, unspecific blog entry (August 27) about being bad-mouthed somewhere. The trouble with writing in such terms is that it awakens prurient curiosity in people like me who know nothing about it and who think of her with unbridled admiration. Can anyone tell me what’s going on, and where?

I’m hoping my copy of Sharon Miller’s new book will turn up today. She is a national treasure, that woman.

The other thing I’m panting for is the “new” EZ, “Knit One Knit All”. However, when I popped over there for the link just now, I found that publication has retreated from autumn to January.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Helen left at first light yesterday, and phoned from Athens in the early evening to report a safe arrival. Her energy, intelligence and good cheer are sorely missed already.

Where to start? It will take several days, at least, to tell you about everything. And meanwhile the future is starting up – Sharon Miller’s new book is out.

The Games

I didn’t finish the preemie jacket. On Wednesday evening, when we got to Strathardle, I remember thinking, well, maybe it doesn’t have to be blocked. And that’s more or less the last practical thought I gave it. And the peas, for which I had such high hopes, had fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf in the ten days we had been away. No luck there.

I entered the Three Potato class, though, and came fourth out of four.

On the field, Rachel’s son Joe did us proud, and almost did us prouder. He competed in all three of the running races (100 yards, 440, 880) and came within a whisker of winning the Jock Webster Trophy for the best overall performance. His father and his brother Thomas-the-Elder have their names on that cup.

And then at the end, in Musical Cars (which we’ve never won), he was in with a real chance. Cars circle the field, and their passengers run to grab flags from the centre when the music stops. The tension mounted. But Helen, driving, made a fatal miscalculation when only two flags remained, speeding up when she should have slowed down. So she and Joe came third.

It was cold, and rained occasionally.

I wanted to repeat the picture in my sidebar – all the characters were there, and I had memorised their relative positions. But it never happened –everyone always seemed to be somewhere else. This is the best I could get, all the Ogdens and two out of three Drakes:

As a weekend-long party, we had a splendid time. People are always very good about wearing their knitting, which gives me such pleasure. Here is Joe in the Grandson Sweater:

(those steeks seem to be holding up so far) and Ketki in her Calcutta Cup ’08 one:

Various people (including Ketki, notice) were also wearing socks. Hellie’s boyfriend Matt, whom I love, said he’d like a pair of socks. I am much minded to knit them. Does anyone know whether the Curse of Knitting for the Boyfriend applies to one’s granddaughter’s boyfriend?

The sweater pictures above were taken at one of our supper parties in the big flat at the old Kirkmichael Hotel. This is my favourite picture from the weekend, taken (slightly askew) as my husband and I approached on Sunday evening to join the remnants of the party for a feast of left-overs. That’s our light.