Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Not my favourite day in the calendar, and this November 30 promises to be difficult.

Our niece phoned last night to advise against our scheduled hospital visit today, because of the weather. Her account of her day made Edinburgh sound worse than I had grasped, although I knew we had had no rubbish collection

no post and no traffic wardens, down here in Drummond Place. The amount of snow, as you can see, is not all that terrific. It wouldn’t slow us down much in K*rkmichael or CT. I’ll go have a look at the car soon and see how much work would be involved in digging it out.

But the parallel problem is that I now know my new credit card is here in Edinburgh. The courier didn’t deliver it yesterday because of “adverse weather conditions”. Conditions are even more adverse today: some snow fell in the night, and more is forecast. So maybe we are pinned down to the house, waiting for it? or maybe not? There are things that need doing at bank, post office and chemist. I’ll see if I can glean any information from UPS by telephone.

Our niece said there is still no news about C.’s tests. Somehow the impression has been gathered that these matters are discussed by the drs on Thursdays, before dissemination. The majority of people, I think, would come in on foot and receive the news in an outpatient appointment. C. has been in hospital a remarkable length of time, by modern standards – nearly four weeks now. Release is at least being discussed.

Meanwhile she is feeling nauseous again – the symptom that got her into this mess in the first place. She is aware of not being able to consume the food needed to recover strength. She had lost a lot of weight before being diagnosed (not having had all that much to start with), and more, presumably, during the ten days on either side of the operation.

And the stoma is sore.


The scarf is about seven feet long, and I will probably stop soon. I don't like the way the edges pull it in and narrow it, due to weight. What does happen with Big Wool and a 10-foot scarf?

The big news is that VKB #4 – apparently a very nice copy – sold for £260 on eBay yesterday. I am flabbergasted. I don’t seem to have a note of what I paid for mine, but I can tell you that three years ago No.’s 1, 2 and 3 came up together as one lot – I already had them, and wasn’t involved – and went for £112 for all three. (Something of a bargain, I thought at the time.)

My technique when I recently bought #7, you’ll remember, was to wait until the last 45 seconds and then put in a bid which was far more, I thought, than anyone would pay for a Vogue Knitting Book. It worked fine – the price I paid was stiff, but it was less than £100 and far less than I had bid. However, my supposed killer bid was also a lot less than £260. If yesterday’s crazy bidders had been lurking, I would have failed. Fortunately it is difficult to worry in retrospect.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Drummond Place in the snow, midday yesterday…

Looking down Scotland Street…

I opened the front door for a moment last night, before I put up the chain, and found that a neighbour had come and cleared our steps.

This is a particularly grim stretch of the year for me. Dark, and getting darker for nearly another month. It is a time of sad anniversaries, made worse this year by fears for C. The extra light reflected from the snow is an unexpected and most welcome boost.

It’s great fun, but it is only so on the assumption that it will all go away soon and leave us free to zip about the countryside in the days before Christmas, gathering in family members as they arrive and turkeys and Brussels sprouts to feed them on.


Sundays are never very good on the knitting front, as I keep saying, but I did at least finish the third ball of Cocoon last night.

I’m enjoying thinking about Around-the-Bend. You’re absolutely right, Shandy, that it will need a sober base. There isn’t enough of any one dark yarn to serve throughout, but I think by switching back and forth between the two halves I will be able to make good use of what I’ve got. I should polish off Matt’s socks in London next week – they will contribute a substantial amount of beautiful dark left-over yarn to add to the pile.

I can’t imagine where that orange yarn came from. Have I ever knitted anything orange in my life? It will indeed have to appear sparingly, if at all.

JeanfromCornwall, yes, it’s Paton’s leaflet 1085 we’re talking about – from which you and I and Margaret Stove knit shawls for our babies.
My one was (bizarrely) knit in six separate pieces and laboriously sewn together. Your one is much more sensible, starting with the centre and then picking up stitches and knitting outwards.

The leaflet says, of your shawl, (garter stitch centre, feather-and-fan border, wide lacy edge) that “this Shetland design has been in the Patons range for well over sixty years”. That takes it back to the 1890’s or so, perhaps as much as 20 years before the issue of “Aunt Kate’s Home Knitter” (1910) which Sharon Miller reproduces in her recent “Love Darg” book. She says there, in a footnote on page 1, that such patterns – “more elaborate versions of Old Shell bordered shawls” – were published before Aunt Kate, for whom she asserts primacy in the publication of finest Shetland lace patterns.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Much stress, yesterday. The quieter one's daily routine, the more upsetting disruption is.

First came my internet access problems. I could get through to Googlemail and receive and send messages, read the blogs that I subscribe to, look at the headlines. That is the internet: I was connected to it. But I couldn’t reach blogger.com or accuweather.com or jigzone.com. Trying to find something by Googling it produced a slightly funny-looking list from which none of the links worked.

I’ve never known such a state of affairs. Up until yesterday, the internet has either been there, or not.

All seems well this morning. I’ve put up yesterday’s blog. I had written it off-line, as usual.

These problems were rapidly overtaken by the death of my husband’s computer monitor. It had been poorly lately, and yesterday it wouldn’t go on at all. (I think something was loose in the on-off switch.)

He still uses Word Perfect on a machine running DOS. I was afraid that buying a replacement monitor for something so old would be impossible. However, I phoned (what turned out to be) a nice man who advertises in the local free paper. He told me, after some interrogation, that I needed a monitor with a VGA connection (D-sub) and that it would be easy to get one.

So I went to User2 (highly recommended) and bought a monitor. Alas, they had just sold their last really old one, with a foot of case behind the screen like an old television set. The newer one I wound up with is flat, but not distressingly rectangular, and it works fine. It was too bright and my husband said he would be blind by Monday, but I finally figured out how to dim it.

So all was well that ended well. But stressful.

The streets remained icy all day yesterday, and there has been more snow in the night. I can’t let my husband out to go to Mass today – he has trouble with balance at the best of times -- and will have to take care with walking myself.

No more news of C. She was taken to hospital by ambulance on a Thursday and they worked hard on the diagnosis right through the weekend, operating on Tuesday. So it would be no surprise if the test results turned up even today. We are scheduled to visit on Tuesday. I don't want that to be the day. She will want to be with her daughter then, not us.

As for knitting, I buckled down to the scarf. I should finish the third ball of Cocoon (of five) today. The current length is about 4’4”. And I haven’t forgotten that I need to re-do the cords that dangle down from the Japanese hat. Matt’s socks have reached the second heel-flap. Our trip to London next week should see them finished with ease.

I don’t see why I shouldn’t at least swatch for Round-the-Bend in 2010, maybe even cast it on.

Saturday November 27

I’m having trouble reaching the outside world, this morning. If you’re reading this, the situation must have improved. Such episodes in the past have been the fault of the ISP – this would be the first time BT has let me down.

No more news about C. Yesterday’s weather in Edinburgh was slightly less cold – this morning we wake up to a sprinkling of snow. Frozen snow, at that.

I finished the hat, and am rather pleased with it.

I rooted out some possible yarns for Round-the-Bend yesterday. I’ve got more solid colours than I thought. I like the idea of knitting-along-with-Meg, and I plan to order her DVD. It's a famously tricky pattern -- I'm sure you remember that it's called "Round-the-Bend" because it nearly drove Meg and her mother there. Actually seeing how it's done is likely to be helpful.

At the moment my credit card has only three days to go before it runs out. The replacement must come from the US. I rang the issuer early in the month, and I rang up again yesterday, and I’m sure eventually I will get the new one. Not my week for plastic.

The rooting-out process revealed more yarn in that cupboard than seems possible, after a whole year of such austere virtue.

Adding the hat to my list of WIPs-of-the-year, I notice that most of them are pretty small beer – socks and hats and scarves. I knit the Grandson Sweater, early on, with the last yarn to arrive before the Yarn Fast began. I knit the Amedro shawl – but that was only one 100-gram ball. I doubt if I can increase production substantially. More, much more, must be given away.

Margaret Stove’s book “Wrapped in Lace” turned up yesterday. It looks good. At first glance, I was particularly struck by page 24-25 where she shows us the leaflet from which she knit her first shawl, in 1961, when she was expecting her first child. That is the very leaflet from which I knit my first shawl, in 1958, when I was expecting my first child.

There are two shawls in the leaflet, though, and Margaret and I chose differently. That’s where our paths began to diverge, no doubt.

Internet still slow and capricious, although I have been able to receive and send some mail and view some headlines.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I spoke to our niece last night, and booked us in for another hospital visit next week. C. continues to improve, and we are even beginning to talk of arrangements for coming home. No test results yet: that’s the big one. I’ve known about lymph nodes for years from assiduous newspaper-reading, but had no idea it took so long to interrogate them.

Edinburgh remains dry, although bitterly cold, but there is plenty of snow in the rest of the country and we no longer feel foolish for staying put. We couldn’t possibly be in for the second savage winter in a row, in these days of global warming, could we?


I finished wurm-ing that hat, and am now decreasing for the crown. I have simply reverted to the slouch hat pattern and am doing all the decreases in st st. I thought of putting in some purl ridges and decided against it. It looks fine. I might even finish today – surely tomorrow, at the latest. Still time to knock off the scarf before we go to London on the 6th.

So I have been thinking of What Next? And circling around my idea of throwing sock yarn and Koigu at the Round-the-Bend jacket. I don’t think Round-the-Bend has the built-in symmetry of the Surprise jackets. Some care will be needed to avoid its looking like a dog’s dinner.

The two sides are mirror images of each other, knit separately and somehow joined up the back without sewing. It occurred to me that I could have both sides on the go at once as an aid to matching the colour and size of stripes. I don’t have much dark yarn for hold-it-all-together emphasis, but I do have some -- to be carefully deployed.

The pattern is in Meg's "Handknitting" book. There doesn't seem to be a Schoolhouse leaflet devoted to it, but there is a DVD in which I may indulge if this idea goes any further.

This is the Trellis Jacket from Jamieson's Shetland Knitting Book 3. Son of Adult Surprise, sort of. I have long admired it:

It suggests that one needs to take some care, selecting the pile of colours. Most of the yarns I am thinking of are hand-painted. Is that going to complicate the issue?

Fuzzarelly, you suggested a couple of days ago that I bin that dusty pink yarn in Strathardle (=find a good home for it). I have been toying with the thought ever since. I do like the yarn. It’s one of those not-quite-solid dyes that I am particularly fond of these days. And it’s all the same, in a life full of colourful single skeins and odd balls, so a single harmonious garment could be made from it.

Is that enough? Maybe not. I think you may be right. (And I hope you get that house in Montgomery City.)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bank card difficulties

Alltangledup, I appreciated your suggestion that I remove the name of my bank from yesterday’s post – but I didn’t do it, because I wanted to be as rude as possible about the RBofS who have disgraced Scotland. The bad men out there still have far less information than could be gleaned from any cheque I write. The cases of identity theft I have known personally all involved paper cheques and all could most easily have been perpetrated from within the banks involved, although that was strenuously denied.

Angel, I have had a phone call like yours from my credit card company. It was this time of year and they were raising eyebrows about my reckless on-line present-purchasing. But last July when I went to Theo and Jenni’s wedding, it didn’t seem to bother them that I, the permanent Edinburgh stay-at-home, was suddenly paying for hotel rooms and a hire car in CT. (I am glad to be reminded, by your blog, of the Tulip sweater. All I need is a great-grandchild…)

And Tamar, no, it happened at mid-day, at a cash machine inside a branch of another bank. I tried twice, in astonishment. We have a reserve account at that other bank – you see, Alltangledup, I’m being at least reasonably careful here -- so I then used the other card and got the money I needed to continue shopping. The machine certainly seemed to be functioning. Maybe the Royal Bank’s mighty computers had suffered a temporary glitch? I drew £10 later in the day from one of their machines, just to reassure myself. The episode remains odd.

More non-knit

We should hear C.’s test results soon. After these few happy days, becalmed, are we about to find ourselves back on the open seas? I’ll phone our niece this evening for news, and to book ourselves in for another visit…

…since we’re still here. The weather forecasts continue abominable – Accuweather now predicts a total of 8” of snow for Blairgowrie over the next five days. But nothing is actually happening except that it’s very cold, and we feel we’re being a bit wimpish.

Knitting (at last)

Eight wurms done. Not long now.

My 65p copy of Sandy Black’s “Original Knitting” turned up yesterday. I can see why I didn’t snap it up the first time around – sui generis to a fault.

And here is the Winter 2010 issue of IK! All my magazines within a week! I think Eunny is really hitting her stride as editor. As with VK, there’s much of interest. Lodinsky’s “Prism Pullover” would be fun to knit but absurd, I fear, in wear. I learned from this issue of Margaret Stove’s new book, “Wrapped in Lace”, and ordered it at once.

She and her husband were here in Drummond Place a few years ago, leaving very fond memories behind. He is a countryman, and had never been north of the equator before. He said over Sunday lunch how odd it felt to him to find the sun so consistently in the southern sky. I wonder, would I have noticed its displacement had I ever reached New Zealand?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Miscellaneous non-knit

Alexander drove over from the west yesterday to see his aunt. He reported in the evening that she had seemed completely herself, except for being in hospital, and was sipping a glass of milk which sounds like a good idea. She talked about ancestors, wasted on him – James is the ancestor-hunter. At this rate we can hope to have her home soon.

The weather forecasts continue unpleasant. My old friend Accuweather.com predicts 2 ½” of snow for Blairgowrie over the next few days. That might be just on the edge of manageable – but Blairgowrie is lower than we are, and the weather there often milder. Another inch, and we’re doomed. I think it would probably be foolhardy for us to attempt it.

We’re committed to London on the 6th of December. That means we could get back from Strathardle any time up to Thursday the 2nd, and still have time to re-group. The forecast for next week isn’t much better.

My new progress-bar for Christmas cards is based on the assumption that we send about 60. I’ve now actually counted last year’s list: that’s not quite enough. With knitting, I aim to have progress bars slightly understate reality, but I’m going to keep this one set as it is. If I can get 60 done before we go to London – or, if need be, while we’re there – I’ll be well enough placed to finish off.

A cash machine rejected my card yesterday -- the issuer had refused to authorise the withdrawal, it said. I remained curiously calm. I feared an identity thief, of course. And -- in these hard times -- I even wondered for a moment or two whether the Royal Bank of Scotland had gone out of business. I rang them up, and all was well -- they could only suggest that something had been wrong with the machine.


I’m doing the seventh wurm. It’s not unlikely that I’ll wind up with nine. I cautiously tried it on last night. All those wurms make it rather cosy. And it's rather nice, too.

No. 32 in the new Vogue Knitting is a striped turtleneck in “Regia Hand-Dye Effect by Kaffe Fassett”. I didn’t know there was such a yarn. I’ve wasted some pleasant time finding it on-line. Kaffe contributes six shades to the "hand-dye effect" range, and for once I don’t think his six colours are any better than the others. This is a British source for the yarn, lacking Kaffe’s contribution.

I like it. And I like the Vogue idea of striping two shades of it. Perhaps something slightly loose with a boat-neck to be worn over a polo shirt. Perhaps wide stripes for the body and narrow ones for the sleeves, or vice versa – I have a childish fondness for that arrangement.

And such a sweater would be utterly washable. My new Rule of Life means that I can order it any time I like – but only on condition that I’m ready to start knitting it.

Which doesn’t get us any forrad’er with the question of that pink Araucania in Perthshire.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Not madeleines – nothing so Proustian. Macaroons.

We had a very good visit yesterday. Again, I needn’t have worried. C. is making progress. She is tube-free, and told us that her clamps? or clips? were out? or off? They had previously been “holding me together”, she said. Is this something modern surgery uses instead of stitches? She isn’t managing to eat much, but she’s trying, and she knows – and better yet, her doctors know – that she needs to build up strength. She had a visit from a dietician yesterday – that’s very good news.

She was alert, relaxed, cheerful. We didn’t talk about pain, or any medical issues other than the ones just mentioned, but both of us came away with the impression that she is comfortable. My husband is happier, to have seen his sister so. Our niece phoned later, after evening visiting, sounding very happy herself. She said that of the little poke of five macaroons we had taken in, only two remained! And that her mother had actually gotten out of bed and to the bathroom under her own steam.

So that’s good.

Now we must think about Strathardle. I think we’re aiming for Thursday. The forecasts speak depressingly of snow, the one element we really are a bit too old to deal with. Getting the car uphill from the house to the road is the problem. At Christmas time, there'll be folk about to push.


The new VK turned up yesterday. My cup runneth over. At a quick first glance, there are some good things, although nothing that makes me want to fling current knitting aside and cast on.

I had sort of destined that pinky Araucania yarn in K*rkmichael for an IK cardigan whose name I can’t currently think of – begins with J. I even swatched for it. Looked good, fun to do, but adjustment was going to be necessary, and enthusiasm is now waning. Should I return to the half-knit rugby shirt in which the yarn is currently involved? Or what? I like it very much, and it has the considerable distinction of being the only yarn I own of which there is enough to knit a whole sweater in one colour. I need to be gripped by fervour, and it’s not happening.

As for actual knitting, I went on with the hat yesterday, out of sequence – and I think I’ll continue with it. I don’t like switching back and forth. And I need the hat first. The scarf is for someone who will be part of our solstice jollification. It can therefore be done up to the very last moment, although I hope that won’t be necessary.

The hat virtually needs to have two rounds knit for every one round added to its length. What you see are five wurms, each involving five rounds of reversed st st. They are separated from each other by four rounds of st st, but as you see, those are completely submerged. Is it going to end up looking a bit Rastafarian, shape-wise?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hospital visit today. I am again apprehensive. It sounds as if there has been a little progress, but not much. Our niece persuaded her mother to eat a rock bun on Saturday. I’m not sure I could manage that myself. We’ll take along a couple of madeleines from the local epicerie.

Our niece has arranged – she hopes – to be with her mother when news is finally reported later this week of the (in)famous “tests”. She is afraid that if the news is bad, C. will simply give up.

We had planned to go to Strathardle tomorrow to batten down a few hatches before the Christmas invasion. The weather forecast is very bad – we may delay a few days. We are booked for London the week beginning December 6 – we have to get to Strathardle and back, and recover, before then.

That leaves knitting. I made some progress with the hat.

The new Knitter’s has arrived. My resolve to let that subscription lapse is somewhat strengthened by it. What is it that irritates me so about AX's photography?


Jean, I am inclined to agree that yarn thicker than DK wasn’t generally available in the 50’s and early 60’s. Then things changed. There was certainly a “knitwear revolution” in the 60’s – the Aran craze; Bernat Klein's big expensive beautiful yarns with different colours plyed together. I can vaguely date things by remembering where I was when I knit what.

I am interested that you remember wearing cardigans backwards. I thought that was just an American affectation. I remember vividly that when I tried it in Glasgow in the late 50’s, as an undergraduate, I was laughed out of town by the astonished natives.

A huge disappointment yesterday -- there was an interview with Bruce Springsteen in the Sunday Times from which I learned that he went to Freehold High School. For decades I have believed that he, like me and my sister, was a product of Asbury Park HS. Freehold is very near by, we're still in Monmouth County, Springsteen is undoubtedly an Asbury Park boy (he still lives in the vicinity). But he didn't go to APHS, and I am crushed.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I have lost my most recent note of where in the Western Infirmary C. is to be found, now that she has been moved again from High Dependency, so I’ll have to phone our niece today. That will give me some idea of what to expect tomorrow. My husband and I move through our fairly strict daily routine in our usual elderly way, but every so often he says something which shews that his thoughts – probably even more than mine – are fixed in that currently unknown ward.

When my time comes, I wonder – this is really trivial and silly, but it’s what I’ve been thinking about – whether I will be able to recite memorised poetry to myself, when too weak to read and disinclined for my own thoughts. To that end, I have been reinforcing the little I memorised in youth, beginning with Act V Scene 5 of Macbeth. We made a recording of it in our English class during my final year at Asbury Park High School. I couldn’t have been involved, because no woman speaks. But I came away knowing it all, and have brought the memory back to near-word-perfect in the last few days.

It is an eventful scene – Macbeth is told that his wife is dead, delivers himself of “tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow”, and immediately thereafter is informed that Birnam wood is on its way to Dunsinane.

When I think I have got that back to a state of effortless recall, I’ll move on to Horace Odes II, 14. When I was a freshman at Oberlin, Mr Murphy bribed us with a whole extra 5 points on our final exam score if we would learn it and write it out for him. Wise man.


Thank you for the information on interchangeable needles. I think I half-knew that small sizes didn’t work – which makes the bringing-out of an expensive lace set, in a case, rather odd. I was interested to learn from the Japanese blogger that the needles in the lace set are much shorter than non-lace Addi Clicks. Sharon Miller prefers them like that – I’m not going to track down the reference – and will bend the end sections of an otherwise satisfactory circular quite radically to achieve it.

I will have a look at St*rmore’s Fair Isle, Tamar. If you and I were free to walk the streets of Perth today, I would show you the spot where once was the LYS which claimed to have been the first to import coloured Shetland yarns to the mainland. When I knew them, in the ‘60’s, they still sold leaflets like this – alas, undated.

As the handwritten note says, I knit the second one for James when he looked more like the model than he does now. The shop was able to supply the yarns as specified, a miracle I took for granted. I have made a note within that one needs only one ounce of No. 68, Rust, not two as the pattern claims.

I was afraid they wouldn’t like it if I bought in one fell swoop one each of the entire set of patterns– why on earth not? but such are the follies that youth fastens upon us. So I used to buy one every time I went in. I can still remember the thrill of horror and my sharp cry, the day I discovered that the shop was gone. My husband said I mustn’t behave like that in the public streets. I think we had stopped for sustenance on a wintry journey from Leicester to Strathardle, and had had a Chinese somewhere nearby on South Methven Street. I remember that it was dark.

As for my current knitting, I plodded onwards with the scarf yesterday.

I think I can safely say that I’ve passed the half-way point. It now measures 4’ 3”, but the essential measurement is that I am more than half-way through the third ball (of five) of Cocoon. I mean to go on until the last stopping-point before the yarn is used up. I think the-longer-the-better, for this one.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

My sister phoned from CT yesterday. She seemed sure that C.’s test results, expected next week, will involve the familiar question of whether cancer has spread to the lymph nodes. That gets us back to the home territory of newspaper readers’ oncology.

The conversation also reminded me that however tense and anxious I am feeling about Christmas, at least I don’t have to “do” or even to experience Thanksgiving. I started doing Christmas cards yesterday. I wrote three.

Knitting (miscellaneous)

It’s funny about silly book prices on Abebooks, as you say, Raveller. This morning, the one I mentioned yesterday seems to be gone, but there are still Dover reprints of both of Mary Thomas’ books for £112 each, which is silly enough.

However, the point of the enquiry was date-of-publication, which we have now fixed in the late 30’s. So it wasn’t her work that the first Vogue Knitting was referring to, in 1932. I re-skimmed the relevant pages in Rutt. Clearly lots was going on in the 20’s, but I don’t think he says anything specifically about the evolution of yarns available to knitters or the new passion (so very evident in Mary Thomas) for making knits look “tailor-made”.

Maybe Sandy Black’s book will help!

(New topic) The London-based Japanese blogger I chanced upon recently has a review in her latest post of a set of Addi Click interchangeable lace needles. She is very enthusiastic, and they sound good in a number of respects. But the smallest is 3.5 mm. That’s not going to be much use, is it? I’ve just tried Googling and retire confused – Addi does offer much smaller lace needles of course – but the set my blogger friend likes doesn’t seem to include them. Maybe they can't do interchangeable and small-gauge simultaneously.

Knitting (actual)

I had a happy day with the hat yesterday. Wrapping and turning is not undetectable but easily passes the galloping-horse test and makes the knitting much pleasanter. It is easy to get confused – which way am I going? Is this the inside or the outside? But also easy to straighten oneself out if one tries.

You can't really see it very well, but there are a couple of undulating worms above the ribbing.

Friday, November 19, 2010

C. has left High Dependency and is back in a normal ward. Life is quieter there, and both she and her daughter like and trust her nurse. I am beginning to worry that we don’t seem to be making much progress. When my husband and I visited a week ago, I was astonished at how well she seemed, three days after massive surgery. Now it’s been 10 days, and we seem to be at exactly the same point – she can’t walk, can scarcely eat, can’t concentrate enough to read, hasn’t even begun to come to terms with her stoma.

Both she and her daughter have been assured, separately, that she won’t be turned out of hospital until matters have substantially improved. Our niece thinks it may be just as well that she is still in hospital when the results from these famous “tests” turn up next week.

Our niece, having done it for this week, now realises another visiting roster is needed for next week. My husband and I are booked for Monday. I won’t go on pestering with telephone calls – she’ll let us know if anything significant happens.


Steady if unimpressive progress yesterday – the scarf now measures 3 ½ feet. I’ve done 7 twists -- if I were knitting with Big Wool I would be nearly finished with the shorter version, instead of just-about-half-way.

Today, the hat! The pattern starts off with 5 rounds of purl. It’s slightly clumsy – maybe I mean, I’m slightly clumsy – and I have decided to try wrapping and turning. I did a shawl like that once, in order to make it garter stitch throughout without the agony of purling. It showed – the line of wraps along the edge where two of the border trapezoids were mitred together. But it was tolerable – and that was lace.

This would involve fewer turns, and they might well get completely lost from sight in denser yarn. I’ll try, and let you know.


Catdownunder, I have that book, too, “The Knitwear Revolution”, 1983. It still looks distinctly good a quarter of a century later. It’s by Suzy Menkes, and includes a couple of Sandy Black designs. It’s got Kaffe, too, two years before he published “Glorious Knitting.” A couple of years after that (I’ve just learned from an Abebooks search) Black published her own “Original Knitting”. That one seems to have passed me by. Second-hand dealers are practically giving it away, and Librarything assures me I don’t have it, so I’ve just ordered it. Doesn’t mean I’ve got shelf space for it.

The very first Vogue Knitting Book doesn’t actually mention grannies, but it does begin with the words, “We are very far from the days when hand-knitting was only used for warm but inelegant garments”. And then proceeds to a rather interesting discussion of how this evolution – their word – has come about, as spinners produced yarns suitable for the new enthusiasm for knits that looked tailored, and serious studies were made of knitting stitches.

When did Mary Thomas publish her “Knitting Book”? A quick look at Abebooks provides no info about the original date of publication, but shows someone asking £231 for the Dover reprint. Goodness gracious me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another new follower! I am sort of ashamed of myself for having let you know how much I treasure them -- but enormously grateful for the recent influx.

No more news. I’ll phone our niece this morning. She has a part-time job – not through choice; these are hard times – which means she works Monday-Wednesday. I think, despite the loss involved of both income and status, she is not sorry to have the extra free time. Certainly not now that she has been catapulted into the eye of the storm.


I have never tried day-and-day-about before. It’s interesting. One begins each morning longing to carry on from the night before.

I finished the interminable k1b, p1 rib for the wurm-ified hat, did the increase round from 132 to 192 stitches – my arithmetic worked, always gratifying – and the first purl round, the beginning of the Wurm pattern.

To my surprise, neither the Sock Yarn Slouch Hat pattern, which I am essentially using, nor the Wurm itself, gives a measurement from cast-on edge to crown. The slouch hat says to knit 55 rounds. (I must have done exactly that, last Christmas – I am nothing if not a blind follower.) But no gauge is given. I would guess 10 rounds to the inch, but it’s a guess.

The Wurm gives a gauge, but it’s in st st and using a heavier yarn. For the body of the hat, she gives the pattern – purl 5 rounds, knit 4 – and then says “repeat 10 times (or after you reached length)”.

Wurmification will pull the work up, garter-fashion, so "55 rounds" may not be an accurate guide. We'll have to eyeball it -- I’m not seriously worried. I’ll knit happily on, and keep you posted. The decreasing will involve another decision – the Wurm does them fast, in a knit section. The Slouch Hat is more leisurely.

Wider World

I belong to the HistoricKnit group on Yahoo, waiting for news of the origins of the term “Kitchener stitch”. I don’t, otherwise, pay much attention, but I learned this week that “Sandy Black, a professor of fashion and textile design and technology at the London College of Fashion, has completed the manuscript for a new book on the knitting collection at the Victoria and Albert Museum.”

The link is to something called the Fashion Encyclopedia. I was amused to find that “Sandy Black helped lead the knitwear revolution of the 1970s. Out went the cozy image of old ladies making socks around the fire, in came fashion knitwear, and a craft was turned into an art.” It's my favourite knitting cliche -- out go grannies, in comes fashion. Examples can be found through the ages. I’m not at all sure that the very first VKB doesn’t begin on a similar note – I’ll look it up for you, and report tomorrow.

Whatever -- her book on the V&A collection is eagerly awaited.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

My husband and Alexander agree that C. was in good spirits yesterday. She is still in the High Dependency ward, with medical attention concentrated, I think, on the lungs. My husband seemed rather low in spirits yesterday evening after the visit. I’ll phone our niece tomorrow – she works Monday-Wednesday. Alexander would like to come again, if we can persuade the hospital – once C. is back in a regular ward – to let him come half-an-hour before formal visiting hours, in order to escape from Edinburgh before the rush hour.

Angel, in any other circumstances I would have started this post by saying – it was from you that I learned, yesterday, of the royal engagement. I will hold on to that thought in the months to come. Rachel and Ed were married in ’81 amidst general excitement about that year’s royal wedding, Charles and Diana. We had a nice bride’s-side low-key buffet the night before – the British don’t do Rehearsal Dinners, thank goodness. I persuaded the local off-license to let me pinch their notice: “Specially Brewed for the Wedding”, and I propped it up against the beer bottles on offer.

Maybe Thomas-the-Elder will pluck up courage to follow in his parents’ footsteps next year.

My husband pointed out – paying unusual attention, for him, to an item of royal news – that by the time I was Kate Middleton’s present age, I was mother-of-four. I feel mildly unenthusiastic about her, especially because she seems to have spent all the years since graduating from St Andrews doing bugger all. Rather a waste of a decent degree.


Brighter news here. I had a good session with the scarf. The second ball of Cocoon is very near its end and the scarf is three feet long.

And VKB #7 turned up, so heavily packaged that at first I didn’t grasp what it was. It’s a remarkably fresh copy, surely never knit from. Sent Recorded Delivery, although only First Class had been promised. Perhaps the seller was a bit taken aback herself by the price she got. I’m pretty slovenly about leaving feedback on eBay these days, but this time I did, and also sent her a note of thanks.

It’s a rather undistinguished issue, pattern-wise and photography-wise. Lots of what would be called nowadays “little blouses”, despite being an autumn issue with ski-ing and “the country” featured. Is that why it never – until now – turns up in anyone’s attic?

What struck me, as never before, was the range of colours available in some yarns. I think only the J&S Shetland jumper weight palette is anywhere near comparable today – they seem to offer 89 shades. (Jamieson’s of Shetland is pretty good, too, but they don’t make it so easy to count.) Several advertisers in the VKB in ’36 claimed to have 100. The editor’s note at the beginning is all about selecting one’s colours with care.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

C. has weathered the storm – her daughter's phrase. She is back in the High Dependency ward, once again alert, but very tired. She has a lung infection, as you suspected, Shandy. She has been having an uncomfortable series of lung infections since May ’08 – I would like there to be some connection with the cancer, out of my great respect for William of Occam: one explanation is better than two, was his Big Idea. But apparently he’s wide of the mark, this time.

Alexander and my husband are going to visit today. My big worry is that they won’t be able to find her if she has been moved back to a normal ward – the hospital sprawls, rather like a wartime improvisation; visiting hours are short and strictly enforced; my husband is very slow on his feet.

Our niece finally got to talk to a Great Man yesterday, and we are little the wiser. They are waiting for results of tests to know whether they got all of the cancer. What sort of tests? I don’t understand, but I’m no oncologist. She didn’t ask about the prognosis, and perhaps an answer would have been impossible without the test results.


Yesterday was more productive. I remembered that I knit a “Sock Yarn Slouch Hat” (Ravelry link) as one of my Christmas offerings last year. Free Ravelry download. I enjoyed doing it, and liked the result. So yesterday I thought, why not wurm-ify it? That is, once I’ve done the ribbing and increased for the slouch, start alternating five rounds of purl with four rounds of knit, which is the essence of the Wurm? So that’s what I’m going to try.

We’re a long way by now from EZ’s snail hat. I’ll have to go back and try it, one day.

I spent happy time with my collection of Yarn Yard yarns. These were the finalists:

I went with the green, and this is as for as I’ve gotten:

It looks utterly grey in the pictures, but it's not.

Winding took time, and ribbing is slow because all the k1’s are tbl. It makes a nice rib, and I’m enjoying it. Back to the scarf, today. I’d like to finish both this month. It doesn’t seem an impossible aim.

Monday, November 15, 2010

C. seemed very much worse last night – feverish, dopey and unresponsive, heart racing. We weren’t there. The final phone call from an anxious daughter said that she had been moved to a side room, was “sleeping peacefully” and would be closely monitored through the night. Our niece asked the nurses if the side room accommodation meant that they expected C. to die during the night, and was told, no. But they would say that, wouldn’t they?

I haven’t heard anything yet this morning. That means she must still be breathing. I feel this would be a little bit easier to bear in May than in November, but maybe not.

We have all been assuming that she would gradually get better from the surgery, and come home, and then we could face the future, taking it a day at a time. Although we have also been feeling increasingly frustrated at not being able to talk to a doctor. How successful was the operation? What’s the prognosis? I had wondered if this information was being held back from me and my husband but that is not so. Nobody knows.


You needn’t have worried, Janet, although I am touched that you did. Of course I got my VKB – No. 7, Autumn 1935. Nobody outbids Tayside00. With a minute to go, the bidding still stood – seemed to stand – at £23. I intervened when 49 seconds remained, which is pretty intrepid for me. My bid immediately revealed that the ostensible bidder of £23 had in fact bid a great deal more, but not as great a deal as I bid. Users of eBay will understand. There was no more bidding in the last few seconds, so my cowardice in not holding out a few seconds longer was unpunished.

eBay now indicates bidder’s identities with coy codes. The underbidder, for instance, was h***d. Helen C.K.S. assumed that my code would be T***0 for Tayside00, but she says it was 0***y so she missed the fun. On my screen I get to see my own name, Tayside00, so I didn't even know that much.

I don’t seem to be able to enlarge the image this morning – we’ll have a better look when it turns up in the mail.


Sundays are never very productive, and the anxious time spent on the telephone yesterday evening reduced yesterday’s output even further. I’m ready to do the next twist on the scarf. I’ve reached the heel flap of Matt’s second sock. I’ve thought about the Wurm.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Yesterday was the first day since the storm broke, that we had no contact with C. or her daughter. No news is good news, I’m sure, but one feels cut adrift. I’ll touch base with our niece this evening, to check on the visiting roster for this week when she herself is back at work. Maybe I’ll ask whether she has any impression of how successful the doctors are saying the operation may have been. Even my husband wonders out loud, he who usually avoids medical conversation.

Today is Vogue Knitting Book day. The bidding is currently up to £23, with a bit less than 2 ½ hours to go. There are four of us involved. Helen C.K.S., if you're there, I'm currently (at 8:25 a.m.) the underbidder.

I tried two silly low bids, just to see how long it took me to do it. Just under 15 seconds, is the answer. So I ought to be able to hold fire until the final 45 seconds. I doubt if I’ll be brave enough. 90 seconds, maybe. The close comes at what passes around here for a busy time of day, getting my husband up and breakfasted, getting lunch ready to snap on the table the moment we get back from Mass. Early rising and the climb up Broughton Street to the cathedral often deplete his blood sugar, sometimes drastically.


I’ve mastered the trick of the twist, and knitting the scarf has become rather boring as a result. I may start the Wurm today, and then alternate days. I believe there’s comfortable time for both before Christmas. I finished the first ball of Cocoon at 19” of scarf – that means I should achieve 7’ with my five balls without undue stress. I can't stand worrying about whether I have enough yarn. A significant fraction of stash represents enough yarn bought to Be on the Safe Side.

Barbara, I don’t know whether the loops will make it extra bulky around the neck. It’s a good question. I’ll try, as soon as it’s long enough.

Shandy, you’re right, there’s not much difference in the prices of Cocoon and Big Wool, ball for ball, and also right, that Cocoon goes further. My five balls will make (we now know) a seven-foot scarf. If you buy Big Wool as instructed in the Rowan book, you need twelve balls for a ten-foot scarf. £100, if you include the price of the pattern.

And the weight! That ten-foot scarf would weigh 1200 grams, which amounts to two and a half pounds, doesn’t it? My seven feet will weigh 250 grams, not much above half a pound.

The one big drawback of this pattern is that it is totally not reversible. Last year’s Cocoon Christmas scarf-knitting, for Thomas-the-Elder, was one of Lynn Barr’s fiendishly clever reversible patterns. It worked awfully well. I don’t know how irritating non-reversibility will be in wear. Cocoon is 80% merino, 20% mohair, and is at least blissfully comfortable.

I looked up the pattern on Ravelry yesterday. There were only three specimens – I expected far more. One person had done it in a finer wool, like me. She had re-calculated the row numbers so that (I think) the twists were as far apart as they would have been in Big Wool. For a moment I thought, oh dear, should I have done that? Then I thought, no. a) I like the way mine looks; and b) the farther between the twists, the more yarn may have to be wasted at the end.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

I needn’t have worried. C. was very much her old self yesterday, although very weak and pretty uncomfortable. Not in great pain – they’ve taken away her morphine drip. It seemed astonishing, at nearly 80, three days after major surgery. She was still not being given anything to eat, but appetite is returning -- without the feeling of nausea which has been the leading cancer symptom since August.

She likes keeping the cards close to her chest – “there’s lots you don’t know” is one of her favourite lines to me. She soon won’t want her daughter to keep us as well informed as we have been these last few days. I hope we can at least get the report on the daughter’s conversation with the surgeon, when she finally tracks him to his lair.

(Fuzzarelly, I did notice that New Yorker article about cancer. I’ll read it thoroughly when we’re next in Strathardle. That’s where we read the New Yorker, and I often enjoy articles I wouldn’t have bothered with here in real life.)

Meanwhile the daughter’s daughter, “little C.”, her grandmother’s namesake, arrived yesterday for a surprise visit. She is in her final year at Bristol University and has been so distraught all week that her tutor suggested she go home for the weekend. It will be reassuring for Little C. to find her grandmother so well, and a very pleasant surprise for C. herself, but most importantly, a great treat for our niece who has bourn a fearful weight this week more or less alone.


Thank you, firstly, Dawn and Susan and Joan, for saying that I have got to re-do the braids on that ear-flap hat. That’s what friends are for. Joan’s idea of using i-cord is interesting. How to finish it, in that case? Small pompoms?

I will do it, but not right now. I am rushing ahead with the scarf to find out what length I get from the first ball. Do I need more yarn? I bought five balls. I’m now at about 11” and the ball is looking bedraggled. I would like 18”, to guarantee a 7-foot scarf. The pattern is 26 rows, and in order to balance the ends, you can’t stop just anywhere. That may involve a bit of waste yarn.

(I know what you mean about scarves not growing, Susan. It’s often more cheering to observe how much yarn you’re using.)

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed, in yesterday’s picture, that all was not well. There is a six-stitch panel at each edge of the scarf which is not affected by the McGuffin. I had succeeded in twisting each of them through 180 degrees. It wasn’t a question of galloping horses – that’s what we call in computing a Fatal Error, and I have re-done it.

I had a terrible time last night with the second McGuffin. Twice I thought I had done it, and knit on, only to see that it was a total mess. I’m sorry I didn’t take a picture for you. It was pretty easy, this morning, and will probably get easier.

I am delighted with my decision to use Cocoon instead of Big Wool.

The Wurm: I found myself worrying about that hem at the beginning. Apart from the slight awkwardness of a provisional cast-on, it means that fit is crucial. Then I had one of those rare moments of enlightenment: why not side-step the problem entirely and start with a perfectly conventional inch or two of ribbing? I think I’ll try that.

Friday, November 12, 2010

No more news. We may never learn how much of the damned thing the surgeon thinks he got, nor does a layman’s answer to that question necessarily affect the outcome all that much anyway. We are going to visit today. I am apprehensive. On the plus side, our niece’s voice sounded stronger on the phone last night. C. has a morphine drip for the pain, with a button so that she can self-administer it. My doctor-sister points out that she wouldn’t have that if her carers didn’t think she was competent to manage it.

Our previous visit was four days ago. It is not only in politics that a week is a long time.

Thank you for all the comments. Do, everybody, read Barbara’s of yesterday. It’s an extraordinary story – and she’s got the answer, as far as yarn-buying is concerned: buy it – and knit it.

A lot of my stash – and I’m sure this is true of all of us – was acquired because something was too good to leave behind, and might not be there next time. That really isn’t necessary any more, now that the Internet has brought the world home. Even if Rhichard and Taiu and Maie shut up shop this afternoon – to take the Worst Case Scenario – Koigu would still be available on eBay for years.

So there is really not much reason, any more, not to follow Barbara’s sensible advice. That is how I mean to go on – concentrating on stash, but occasionally buying when I want to knit with what I buy, right away.

And yesterday was one of those occasions.

I reflected as I strode up Broughton Street that that scarf (see yesterday) didn’t have to be knit with Big Wool. Sure enough, when I got to John Lewis, it turned out that to buy the amount for the long version of the scarf as specified in the Rowan magazine was so expensive that I might as well just give him a yacht. And I’m not sure I’d enjoy knitting with 10mm needles anyway. I bought five balls of Cocoon, instead.

(The yarn-buying counter is right next to Toys. While actually in the queue, I spotted and siezed a Christmas present for Fergus Drake of Athens.)

Cocoon is turing out fine. The scarf, knit precisely as the pattern says but on needles appropriate to the yarn, measures about 8” across. That’s plenty. I’ve executed the McGuffin once, and I think I’ve got it right. Strips on the scarf, left and right, are not just cabled but actually looped around each other. I met Lindsay the Rowan Lady when I was in the shop (she’s one of us) and she said she wasn’t sure she could do it. (I’m sure she could.) She also said that Cocoon sheds a bit, and to warn the recipient.

I used it for a scarf for Thomas-the Elder last Christmas. I love knitting with it. It doesn’t seem to shed for me.

I finished the Japanese hat, except for application of the steam iron. I’m pleased with it, but the braids look spindly. I should have doubled the yarn.

And I haven’t forgotten the Wurm. It begins with a hem. I know I will fail if I try that simple-sounding manoeuvre of knitting a stitch from the needle together with the equivalent stitch from the cast-on edge. Sounds easy. Comes out squint, for me. Either a provisional cast-on, or of course, hem it afterwards. I’ll try in a couple of days, and then alternate scarf and hat.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yesterday can fairly be called, more than most, the first day of the rest of our lives.

C. is conscious and responsive, and the surgeons are pleased with their work. Our niece hasn’t been able yet to talk to the surgeon who did the operation, so information is a bit vague and generalised. C. has had an iliostomy, a new word to me, but one of the advantages of a classical education turns out to be the way it helps one with the ambushes of medical vocabulary in old age.

Rachel’s father-in-law, not all that long ago, died without recovering consciousness after his cancer operation, and the same thing happened, two generations ago, to my maternal grandmother. Both patients lingered for some weeks in a comatose state. So that’s what I was afraid of, until the telephone call yesterday morning. And we’re successfully over that hurdle.

Our niece, who has had a very tough week, sounded low and tired last night. She had just got home from the hospital. Her mother had seemed fragile and slightly confused. No wonder, after such an ordeal. The plan is that my husband and I will visit tomorrow. Alexander will come over soon.

I got the shawl pinned out, and am rather pleased with it, assuming those scallops stay flat when the pins come out. I see I haven't got that central double-scallop pinned quite straight.

I also finished the knitting of the Japanese hat last night -- again. I think the length I have added has solved the size problem. There’s still the tidying up to do, and the pom-pom, and the braids, and a cautious attack with the steam iron to persuade the earflaps to stop flapping upwards.

I am glad to see earflap hats in the streets again, now that the weather is getting into its stride. Perhaps, of course, the people I see are not the glass of fashion and the mould of form but just prudent souls who have thrust last-year’s protection onto their chilly heads.

All this distress and anxiety has left me feeling (as often, I think, in a crisis) that there is not much point in walking around Drummond Place gardens and refraining from yarn-buying and cider-drinking when death bides on us momentlie. Illogical. But anyway, it is November, and I have been very good for a whole year, and I am much inclined to think I might buy the yarn today for Martin Storey’s “Traveller scarf” in the current Rowan book.

It would fit into my Christmas plans. It would be expensive.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Surgery lasted a long time yesterday, through the afternoon and into the early evening. When I last spoke to my niece, C. was out of theatre and in Recovery at last. Her daughter was about to go to the hospital and try to see her. I am waiting this morning to hear that she is conscious and responding – all we can ask for, for today.

She has been suffering from a totally unrelated series of lung infections for the past two years – finally stabilised with steroids; that has weakened her. And the NHS has been rather slow to pick up on the current symptoms, which has weakened her a lot more.

I’m sure Maggie’s Centre will take a prominent position in the story soon, Fishwife. I’ve even heard of it. Up to now, we haven’t had a moment to think of such things. She was finally – after weeks and weeks and weeks of trying to tell doctors that something was wrong – taken by ambulance to the Western last Thursday. Then after some rehydration they got cracking, at last, with scans and cameras inserted into every available orifice. And here we are.

We all know to treasure the time that’s left; that’s good. And it is better, if she can live with the Knowledge, to die like this, loved and wept for, than to outlive herself and wither away in a care home on the capital she had hoped to leave her daughters.

Everything has changed. One of the three or four times in life. One thinks for a few moments about what-are-we-having-for-lunch or what-would-Thomas-the-Elder-like-for-Christmas, but there is ever the Fact, right there, waiting like a tiger.

Ok, knitting. I finished the Amedro shawl.

I love blocking lace. I hope to have a picture of it in all its glory for you tomorrow. Then on to the Japanese hat – I don’t love braiding and pom-pom-making, but it won’t take long and then I’ll be free to start the Wurm (Ravelry link). I’ve just downloaded the pattern.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

9/11, British-style


My sister-in-law does have cancer. Ovary and bowel. She will have surgery today.

She is a depressive character, sharp-tongued, defensive. She has had a lot to suffer in life, including a rotter for a husband. I don’t think, in the 52 years I have known her, I have ever seen her in such high spirits as yesterday. My husband was worried at how much weight she had lost. I was expecting that, and had feared much worse. She looked well. She likes the hospital, its cleanliness, the doctors, the banter, the food.

She told us that the news was “not good”, and declined to discuss it further until she had had a chance to talk to her daughter, who works a particularly long day on Monday. There were clues, including the fact that something was going to happen today, but no specifics. Her daughter came to see us in the evening, after she left the hospital, where she had been able to talk to a doctor as well as to her mother. A very much appreciated visit, rather than telling us by telephone.

This is an ordeal I had long hoped my husband would be spared. He loves his sister unconditionally. Her love for him is tempered by being younger and made to feel in childhood that he was bigger and cleverer and preferred.

We are five – in descending order of age, my husband, his sister, myself, my sister, and – so young as nearly not to count – her husband. My sister and I have some first cousins, but they are substantially younger and I don’t know them very well anyway. Obviously, one of the horrors of old age is going to be mourning each other and it would be a lot to ask of providence to take us in order. But that’s what one sort of expected.

One has to hope that C. will accept chemotherapy. Some people get a substantial remission.

So, not much knitting. I’m half-way across the long cast-off. I put it aside and knit Matt’s socks for a while last night. Nothing like socks.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Wonderful, grannypurple and Donice, to find the same family relationship to the New Yorker as our own. I struggled mightily with the subscriptions yesterday and in the end, I think, succeeded. The website seemed to offer subscriptions including Gift and International, but no renewals. I tracked it down to Conde Nast in the end.

Last year I didn’t get the annual letter inviting me to renew my gift subscriptions – I think it got swallowed up in some semi-post-office-strike. So I did it on-line, as again yesterday. Apart from not wanting to waste any issues, renewal is essential for James and Alexander who have addresses which are too long for the New Yorker computer. They have to be adroitly shoehorned in. I tried at one point yesterday to enter a new subscription for James, using exactly the wording of his current address label. The computer wouldn’t accept it.

James wants to read the New Yorker on his iPad and is cross (along with a lot of other people) that you have to pay twice, to do that.

We pass our copies on to our admirable neighbours downstairs. Pete is an advocate. He told me recently that the library of the Faculty of Advocates now subscribes to the New Yorker, on his suggestion. I glow with pride. I have made my little mark on Edinburgh life.

Today’s event is a visit to my husband’s sister in the Western Infirmary. She has been suffering from nausea for a couple of months now – we haven’t actually seen her since the Games -- and drs have been slow to do anything about it. She had an out-patient appt three weeks ago at which she was told, in so many words, that she didn’t have cancer, and was then just sent home to get on with the symptoms with a vague promise of further investigations some weeks hence.

By last week she had become so weak and uncomfortable that further delay was impossible.

She and my husband have always been highly important to each other. There are no other sib. Their father died young, their mother in middle age. There are no first cousins. C. is younger than my husband (although not quite as young as I am).

And as for knitting, I have finished the penultimate row of the Amedro shawl. Thank you for your help with lighting, which I shall save, and your admirable suggestion, Anonymous, of “combined” knitting to distinguish knit stitches from purl in a situation like this. I think I’ve got it right – and of course, if I can’t tell, no one else is likely to be able to. I’ve put in several stitch markers as a form of life-line. We’re all right up to here, if the section ends k1.

I don’t see why these final 10 rows couldn’t have been done in garter stitch. Would it have pulled in?

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Kristie, you’re young. I started on lace with a basic hap shawl in Shetland jumper weight for the 5th grandchild -- you haven't got that far yet. The pattern was from Madeline Weston’s “Traditional Sweater Book”. (Great book, recently reprinted, I think; the name keeps morphing.) Tremendous fun. The 6th grandchild got one, too – the pregnancies overlapped. For the 7th, whose pregnancy was particularly anxious, I pushed the boat out a bit and ventured on to an Amedro pattern in lace-weight. Leaflet from Jamieson&Smith, who don’t seem to offer it any more.

Most of the rest of the grandchildren (we’re up to 13, where we will almost certainly remain) had lace-weight shawls of my own design, some more successful than others. The best was Fergus Drake’s – the centre is meant to represent interlocking Greek crosses, for his place of birth. The border alternates the thistle and the rose, representing his mother’s and father’s nationalities.

And I’ve gone on from there. I’ve knit the Princess. (It’s time we had a bride to wear it.)

Your time will come, Kristie, I hope. It’s more fun than anything.

Back at the ranch – I resolved my problem with the Amedro shawl much more easily than I expected. I mean, I had worked out the solution in my head and didn’t expect it to work in real life, but it did.

I moss-stitched all the way back to the edge where I had picked up the wrong 18 stitches. (see yesterday) I dropped them off the needle and ripped, producing a loop of yarn. I then picked up the right 18 stitches, turned and knit back, still using the loop. The last few stitches were a bit tight, but do-able. And there we were. There’ll be a wee bit of tidying to do at the very end, but completely invisible to anyone even ambling by on the back of a cart-horse.

At the moment, about 4 7/8 rows of moss stitch remain to be done, and then the long cost-off. Tomorrow, at the latest, barring disaster.


Christmas presses. When I was younger, I used to think that the secret was to keep-on-going after my husband’s birthday, which looms not this week but next. He will be 85. (I read somewhere once that that is now regarded as the beginning of Real Old Age.) In youth, I rarely did (keep on going from that date). Now, I am hard at it already and already feeling panic.

Yesterday I made the pudding. Today I mean to renew the New Yorker.

All five households have subscriptions – my husband and I, and the four children you see in the sidebar – and all, I think, in our various ways, depend on it. It was part of my growing-up. I remember (in particular) reading John Hersey’s “Hiroshima” – a whole issue, no cartoons; and Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” – could this be saying what it seemed to be? Those are both the sort of burned-in memories where one remembers the setting as well.

And (when fully grown) “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie” and Capote’s “In Cold Blood”. I "discovered" William Trevor and Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri in the New Yorker. Alexander made me an alphabet book for my 70th birthday (some time ago, now). “N” was for “New Yorker”, and the page shows the covers nearest to my birthdays in 1933 and 2003. The two are astonishingly harmonious in colour and design.

Saturday, November 06, 2010


Thank you for all the good wishes. I mean to bid high enough that failure is very unlikely. I know now that I can trust eBay not to take the whole amount unless there is a determined underbidder pushing it up. The secret, of course, is to put in one’s massive bid in the last few seconds, so that rivals don’t have time to push you up. It takes very steady nerves. That’s where Helen C.K.S. excels.

Another pre-war issue (from a different seller) is coming up tomorrow. It will be interesting to see what it fetches.

Back in Ought Six, eBay used to tell you bidders’ code names, at least while the auction was going on. I made myself a spreadsheet showing the bidding histories of VKB’s I was interested in, my few failures as well as many successes. Littlepinksparrow was my most frequent underbidder. Leesonia43 was another formidable opponent. Rosemaryknit kept trying small bids – I hope she got some in the end. How they all must have trembled when Tayside00 entered the lists!

However, eBay decided in its wisdom that revealing even that much was undesirable in some way. One still knows, of course, that rival bids have been placed, but not who placed them. Much less fun.

Amedro shawl

I made a dreadful mistake last night. It will be interesting, today, to see if it can be fudged.

The roundels are finished, and I have proceeded to moss stitch. The first thing to do was to pick up 18 stitches from the cast-on edge of the first scallop in the edging, then turn around and knit back along them and moss stitch across 431 stitches, then pick up another 18 from the cast-off edge of the final scallop.

It was while I was performing that last operation, congratulating myself that the moss stitch seemed to have come out all right – beginning and ending with a k1 – that I began to feel uneasy. I looked back, and sure enough – in picking up the initial 18, I had gone past the cast-on stitches and on up the side of the scallop.

Tinking 431 stitches is unthinkable. Untinkable. Ripping out is a possibility – there is a row of plain knitting after the roundels, where I might be able to recover the stitches without loss. For the moment, I am moss-stitching back, wondering if there is something I can do when I get back to that edge.

I think I said earlier on that I could hardly tell which side of the shawl is which, although it is knit in st st. The problem becomes acute with moss stitch. I really can’t see what I’m doing, whether the stitch I am about to knit was k’d or p’d in the previous row, and whether or not, therefore, I have regressed to k1 p1 rib.

Maybe I really do need an Ott light.

Friday, November 05, 2010


Very, very faithful readers will remember much of what follows.

When I was young, I eagerly bought the Vogue Knitting Book twice a year. It died the death in the late ‘60’s. In later life, I started trying to find old copies to bulk out my collection – the library of the Knitting and Crochet Guild once sold off half a dozen very tatty examples, I remember.

In the summer of ’06 I connected with eBay, and got seriously to work.

It is fairly easy, if you keep an eye on things and have a bottomless pocket, to acquire the ones from the 50’s and 60’s. That is undoubtedly because people like me are currently of an age to be shuffled off to care homes or to their longer rest. Whereas the attics of knitters who bought the early copies, in the 30’s and 40’s, have already been cleared. But there is still a trickle.

Publication began in the autumn of 1932 with a joint British and American edition. Its cover is pictured in the anniversary issue of the current publication, a few years back, with “25 cents” clearly visible. But it must have bombed, because there were no further American ones until late in the war. Whereas the British edition appeared without interruption.

I paid a lot for my copy of No. 1. It came, not as usual from a dealer or an attic-clearing grandchild, but a charity, Feed the Children. I like to think that someone brought it in to a shop and a volunteer worker had the wit to see that it was worth offering on eBay.

It would be interesting to know the precise relationship between the British and American editions in the later years. There is a near-total overlap of patterns and illustrations, but the letterpress of my copies is entirely British. Designs have either been re-knit (on one side of the Atlantic or the other) in a yarn locally available, or else the editors have made the substitution in the text without actually venturing on the experiment. Horrors!

Designers weren’t named, although photographers were (and there are some famous names among them). I wonder, in the 50’s, in the days before the Schoolhouse when EZ was selling to magazines, did she ever appear in the VKB?

During the war, the issues were smaller and things were obviously tough. There are instructions for unravelling old garments and re-using the yarn. But Vogue was stoutly Vogue throughout; unpleasantness was kept at bay. (Although there is a delicious example, in those days when projects had but recently been recommended for golf or apr├Ęs tennis or a cruise, where a sweater is said to be just the thing for wearing in the air raid shelter.) If you actually wanted to knit for someone in the armed services – as I am sure almost all knitters were doing almost all the time – you had to get the separate “Vogue Service Woollies”.

I was buying VKB's hand-over-fist in ’06 and ’07. Things slowed down as I got near the end. There was only one acquisition in ’08. Two in ’09 -- my last purchase was almost exactly a year ago, made as many were with the help of Helen C.K.S.’ steady nerves and eBay expertise.

You’ll have guessed long since where this is tending: the last one I lack has been offered for sale. Bidding closes a week on Sunday. It looks like a splendid copy.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

New followers keep flowing in!

It is terribly exciting, Kristie, to learn that James is quoted in Wikipedia. Yes, he was there for Tiananmen. He was the BBC Peking correspondent at the time, pretty young and new to the job. Somewhere I have a letter from him -- these were the days before email -- wishing that something would happen in China so that he could prove himself to the BBC.

He won a Sony Radio Award for his reporting. He went to London for a week last year and made two programmes about it for the World Service on the occasion of the 20th anniversary. They put it out in a nice plastic box, but I can’t find it on the BBC website now. Must have sold out.

Jeanne, that’s an amazing clip from Lucy Neatby showing how to knit with three stands of yarn, when what you’ve got is one big cone. On a recent visit to Strathardle, I spent quite a while winding lace-weight yarn into separate balls – that stuff goes in for serious yardage; it took a while. So I am ready to roll, without the Neatby trick, but it is one I will remember.

I don’t think knitting with two or three stands together, from separate balls, is all that difficult. I’m not so sure about a number higher than that. This might be an occasion for facing up to some of the tricks in “Knitting Brioche”.

Jennifer, thanks for your encouraging remarks on the subject of knitting multiple strands of lace yarn. I like the Wurm Hat (Ravelry link) you mention – it might be a wiser choice than the EZ Snail, when I move on to hats. EZ is rather fierce, as she can occasionally be, about not attempting yarn substitutions for that pattern. I’ll download the Wurm – it may inspire me to do something about replacing my printer. I notice you used four strands – maybe I’d better do some more winding.

Meanwhile, Amedro moves forward. I finished the second row of roundels yesterday. I have no memory, as I’ve said, of the difficulties of picking up stitches for this final sprint, but I am beginning to think I do remember feeling a surprise which is stealing over me again, at how wide the upper edging is. There will be another 10 rows of moss stitch when the roundels are finished.

Still, the end is in sight.

Judith, thanks very much for the info on dehydrators. Where can I read the not-so-good reviews of the Lakeland one? I love the idea of rose-petal confetti

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Here, in a nutshell, is the lace knitter’s difficulty when it comes to stash busting:

You’ve seen that box before. It’s the Chinese cashmere – more correctly, I think, “cashmere” – James and Cathy gave me for Christmas, ’08. It is now clear that the Amedro shawl is going to use just about exactly one 100 gr ball. Maybe a few yards left over, maybe a few taken from the next ball. I cast on that shawl on the 2nd of September. I’ve got about a week to go. At 2 ½ months per 100 grams, you’re looking at 10 months knitting in the photograph above.

Hopeless, at my age, given the amount of Koigu and sock yarn and Shetland jumper-weight I’ve also got to get through...

I haven’t given up on the idea of knitting three or four strands of lace-weight yarn together. It’s just that the first experiment was unsuccessful colour-wise. I have a big fisherman’s-knit scarf vaguely in mind.

(The weight of the Chinese yarn is not uninteresting. Amedro specifies “7 hanks” of J&S cobweb. 20 grams? 25 grams? In either case, the Chinese yarn is appreciably lighter. Eyeballing it, the shawl appears to be roughly the same size as the earlier exemplars. It’s delicious to handle, no knots, reliably strong. It has even survived a couple of those episodes where I start across the room and find it is wound around one of my shoes. I’ll measure it precisely when blocked, to compare with Amedro’s measurements.)

The knitting continues well. In fact, I’m enjoying this upper edge enormously. No more picking-up-stitches, no more peering at charts, no more counting. Just easy-peasy lace knitting. The first (of three) row of roundels is finished, the second set. Photography is difficult, because 14 stitches at each end were left behind on safety pins after the initial pick-up from the straight edge of the scalloped border. They are now being incorporated into the text a stitch at a time – but it means that the residue are hanging about at the end of each row. I can’t stretch and smooth the thing out to be photographed until this process is done.

Comments & non-knit

Bless you for the sudden influx of followers.

Expense is rather a limiting factor, but I'd love to get Alexander a dehydrator like yours, Kristie. He makes fruit leathers. He has built himself a smoker. It would fit right in.

I can’t think of anything of the slightest interest to say about the American elections. I’m glad Harry Reid held Nevada. These are strange times.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

La Fete des Morts

The 50th follower! O, frabjous day! Welcome aboard.

And today’s offering from my Google Reader consisted of Franklin & Jared. What a way to start the day! Neither needs feeds from me, especially Franklin – but be sure not to miss his dialogue between Einstein and the Queen about Christmas knitting.

And Jared reports that his new yarn, Shelter, is doing well – great news. I am interested in the emphasis he puts on American yarn. I would have expected America to be rich in her own yarn. Surely – apart from anything else – there must be parts of the US where merino sheep will thrive? The damp is too much for their chests, here in Britain.

One thing to be said for Christmas, I reflected yesterday, is that it speeds one forward through the darkest and grimmest weeks of the year. It must be terrible in the Antipodes, when in effect the Christmas panic consumes May and June. I bought the ingredients for my Christmas pudding yesterday, which is not quite the same thing as getting it made.

I finally got those stitches picked up for the top of the Amedro shawl, and am now speeding forward, knitting again. I must do three rows of roundels, that’s 24 rows of knitting, over 431 stitches. Then some moss stitch, then we’re home. I am pleased to report that after considerable fiddle with the stitch count, the row in which the roundels were established came out perfectly, to the stitch.

I am surprised that I have no memory of this difficulty from my three previous efforts. I think if I ever do a fifth, I might just pick up the chain of stitches from the edges and increase the count on the first row.

Angel, I couldn’t agree more about sock-knitting and airplanes. I have been transformed from the most nervous of flyers, dry of mouth and sweaty of palm for days beforehand, into an intrepid birdwoman. It began in ’96 – so recently? – when we went to the US for my mother’s 90th birthday. I had just discovered the Internet and Patternworks and Socka Colors and set out with socks to knit, which I hadn’t done for years.

I found last year when I went to Theo’s wedding, that socks have done their work and I can now fly in the discomfort we all share, but without panic. I had socks along, of course, but got very little done on them. I remember once towards the end of my mother's life, getting a whole pair of gents' socks done during one of my visits -- and it couldn't have lasted much longer than last summer's sojourn.

I gave them to my brother-in-law on the spot.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Remarkably little to report.

The Amedro shawl has nice chained edges, like many a thing from which stitches will later be picked up. Knit the last st of every row, slip the first one purl-wise. I plunged into the picking-up without a moment’s thought, knitting up the links of the chain. But soon grasped that since there are 188 rows or so in the centre of the shawl, there are only going to be 94 links in the chain. That is not enough to produce 177 sts.

After a certain amount of ripping out and starting again, I think I’m on the right track. I put it down altogether last night to watch the first episode of the new series of “Getting On”. It’s funny. I hope for better news today, knitting-wise.


Marilyn, I do like your idea of turning Franklin’s design into a clutch bag – or not, if one adds a handle. I am totally incapable of setting in a zipper neatly, but could always give it one more try. Or add an extra flap, and close with a snap?

I am glad to find I am not alone in my enthusiasm for Bill Gates. I like the fact that his vast wealth is founded on his own wits – as I understand it, he and his pal wrote MS-DOS and licensed rather than sold it to IBM for the first IBM PC. Followed immediately by a great wave of other PC’s, all running MS-DOS.

If I had that sort of money, I might spend it at Herculaneum to speed up the excavation of Piso’s villa. Herculaneum was buried in lava rather than ash as at Pompeii; that makes the going harder. Piso was Julius Caesar’s father-in-law. There are grounds for hope that his library might contain substantial amounts of lost Latin literature. The Dark Ages were darker in western Europe than in the east, and much more of ancient Latin has been lost than ancient Greek.

The Renaissance was correspondingly more wonderful in the west.

But Gates’ own choices for spending his money are doing a good deal more for humanity.

Shandy, I am grateful to you for re-connecting me to Jared. I had lost touch when he migrated to the new site. The new yarn looks wonderful. I am now going back to the bookshelves to re-acquaint myself with the difference between woollen and worsted. The colours are terrific, too. My sister is coming in the spring. I haven’t used her to carry yarn for a long time…