Thursday, April 28, 2011

Off to Strathardle. Back here probably on Wednesday. I could do with another couple of days for recuperation and ironing, but we have engagements in Edinburgh next week, including the exercising of my husband’s franchise. If we don’t go to Perthshire now, it will be more than a week before I can get the seeds in. It means we’ll miss The Wedding, as we don’t have television there – but some things are more important than others, and broad beans come into the former category.

In fact, I have an old laptop computer there, of glacial slowness. That’s the one I’m thinking of replacing with something new and wonderful, now that I know our rustic broadband access is not password-protected. I ought to be able to coax it to show me the dress, at least. And I’ll need to have it fired up on Sunday evening – KnitNation is going live! You mustn’t use that link until 8:10 pm BST that evening, by which time I should have secured my place in Franklin’s classes.

I spent a little time yesterday designing (grand word) my Aran sweater for the Games. My idea is to use Starmore’s Killeany pattern (“Aran Knitting”) in the 7-8 year old size for the general idea, with the Celtic pattern from St. Brigid, same book, as the central pattern flanked by EZ’s Sheepfold and Ribbon Cable from the Aran pattern in “The Opinionated Knitter”. We’ll worry about sleeves when we get there.

I’m puzzled about size. Starmore uses 106 stitches for a front or back in that size, using her Bainin Aran wool (which I will use) on 5mm needles. Gauge is 19 sts to 10cm measured over “sand stitch” and results in a 27”-28” sweater, she says. EZ uses 108 stitches in her 2-ply Sheepswool on “No. 5” needles with a gauge of 5 stitches to the inch measured over st st to get a 42” sweater.

Do I foresee a swatch? Size doesn’t matter a bit, it’ll fit somebody, but I’m curious. And, of course, a child's-sweater amount of yarn will not be enough for a 42-incher. My design as constituted at the moment has 109 stitches.

The next question will concern circularity. Do I dare steek-and-cut, EZ-fashion, with such relatively heavy wool? Why doesn’t Starmore do it that way? Now that I’ve written my size question out, above, it sounds as if EZ’s wool must be even heavier than Starmore’s, an argument for going ahead with steeking. I’ll start off in the round and see what I think.

Try it and you may, I say.

As for colour, Starmore’s Bainin yarns are named after mountains and I’ll have to have Schiehallion, a dark green, whether I like it or not. It’s a relatively local mountain when you’re in Strathardle, and connected (in some way I have never entirely grasped, no doubt because of not paying attention) with my husband’s family, the Robertsons – his mother’s maiden name.

I’ve reached row 34 of the Mourning Shawl border, and discover a major mistake in row 33. I should have done a k2tog,YO,YO, k2tog in the middle of each pattern repeat, and I didn’t. I’m putting them in now in row 34 and I don’t think it will make any difference at all to the overall effect. But this may well be a sign that it is time to lay it aside and knit an Aran sweater for the Games.


Thanks, Theo, for the offer to convert docx’s. I’ll take you up on that the next time I get one.

Jeanfromcornwall and Kristieinbc, thank you for the kind words about Sam the Ram. He is good. He lives on the shores of Loch Fyne now. I saw him last weekend, and was rather impressed myself.

Stash haus, I had already read your blog post about the memorial service for your father-in-law, who donated his body to science. It was well worth reading again.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I have just spent a weary hour struggling to print a response from St Andrews to some queries of my husband’s. “Docx” is not a format my computer enjoys. I have succeeded, although the ill-formatted nature of my success will irritate him when he sees it. And I have used up all my blogging time on the project.

Rachel phoned last night and said, among other things, that she has a virus, despite being fully protected, as she thought, by McAfee. It took out first her computer and then internet access for the whole house. She blames Joe, still home from university and visiting recondite websites. I’ve got Norton, whom I trust implicitly. But this is rather scary.


Here’s the Wikipedia link to Rest and be Thankful. It’s not a road or a village, Kristie – more a concept. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen the words on a road sign, although they are constantly used in speech. Wikipedia says there’s a stone, and I will try to remember to ask to have it pointed out, the next time we’re there.

Ketki had done some investigating about why the road was closed, Mary Lou, and I think she said it was because of a fatal accident. You’re absolutely right, of course, that driving an extra 50 miles on top of an already-long day is a good deal to be preferred to being involved in one of those.


I’m half-way around row 31 of the Mourning Shawl border, and beginning to catch at straws. There’s a big decrease round coming at 39! The first chart ends at 54! Onward!

I had a bad stitch-drop yesterday. I thought I had secured things, albeit untidily, but when I got around there again, I found several stitches still errant. The problem remains to be resolved. In general, it’s going well.

My current plan is to knit on through May, hoping to get near the end of the border, and then lay it aside to do an Aran sweater for the Games. C. used to maintain that I am fiercely competitive. (She had the misfortune to be with us in ’07 when Sam the Ram won the Glenisla Shield for the best entry in any of the handicraft sections.) I honestly don’t think so. I feel I ought to enter something to support the Games – the more entries, the more fun for everybody. Victory is rare. We were celebrating our Golden Wedding in ’07 and the Glenisla Shield was God’s present.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

We had a grand time.

It’s no use trying to take pictures of happiness, though. It gets away.

Here are a lot of us, on Good Friday in the evening. I’ll explain in a moment why we had unanimously decided that Lent was already over. That's Hellie's boyfriend Matt, Hellie herself, Thomas-the-Elder, his brother Joe, standing behind Lizzie, and Rachel, having a little something to drink.

Here are Matt, Rachel’s husband Ed, and Joe, I think, skipping stones on Loch Fyne during our Easter Sunday walk.

My husband and Alexander, same occasion.

We were in the one part of Great Britain that didn't have blazing sunshine on Easter Sunday. It didn't matter. It didn't rain, and the year was at its moment of greatest beauty, as I think you can sort of see.

The way you get to Alexander’s house is to drive up the west side of Loch Lomond until you get to Tarbet, and then turn left through Arrochar and over Rest and be Thankful to Loch Fyne. When we got to Tarbet we found a police road block. Rest and be Thankful was closed. This often happens – in the winter because of snow drifts or mudslides; in the summer it’s fatal road accidents.

We were dispatched on a 50-mile detour, on up to the very top of Loch Lomond, across country skirting Rannoch Moor, down to Inverary on the far side of Loch Fyne, 12 or 15 miles beyond Alexander’s house. There we found another police road block. That was a bad moment. But they cheerfully let us through when we said we only wanted to go around to see Alexander and Ketki, not on to Rest and be Thankful.

Fortunately I had my largely-unused mobile telephone along, fully charged and accessible. I had armed it with Alexander’s land line number only that morning. So I could phone Ketki and let her know we would be late, and she – who until then didn’t know the road was closed – could phone Alexander and Rachel’s party in Glasgow and divert them. They took the ferry to Dunoon, not super-speedy but better than our detour.

So that was exciting.

I got lots of sock-knitting done, more than I had set myself to accomplish. The diabetic appt next week should add another inch or two. Then I’ll just have to take some time out of the larger schedule. I got Joe to try on the first sock, and it fits fine.

Matt wasn’t wearing his. I hope that doesn’t mean they have let me down in the wash – the yarn was the usual 75-25 blend of wool and acrylic, but it was an unfamiliar brand.

Helen phoned from Pelion on Easter Sunday in the morning, so I was able to say -- I had it in Greek in Word, but it hasn't come through here to Blogger. “Christ is risen” “He is risen indeed”, is what it amounted to. That is what Greeks say to each other on Easter Sunday.

The drive home yesterday was uneventful -- fraught with holiday traffic, but it kept moving.

Friday, April 22, 2011

All set, once I’ve done some ironing and watered the plants and made some sandwiches for the journey and got my husband up and breakfasted. I am feeling cheerful and confident about the driving, for what that’s worth. We’ll double back to Arrochar this evening for Stations of the Cross, having missed the Good Friday liturgy.

We hung the picture, no small task but not as bad as the last one. It’s not hung as high, and the wall is sounder.

It is a watercolour by Ian Fleming – not the progenitor of James Bond, and not the contemporary artist (who paints pictures of nothing and remarkably like, to borrow Thackeray’s comment on Turner). “Our” Ian Fleming was born in 1906 and died in ’94. We have another picture by him. There are three in the national collection.

And they had plenty of Weston’s Vintage Cider at Tesco’s.

I’ve reached row 25 of the border of the Mourning Shawl. I started just over a month ago; I’ve done roughly a quarter of it – so I couldn’t possibly finish before July, even if I neglect my vegetables. That will mean I must decide whether or not to lay it aside to do an Aran sweater for the Games. At least I know how things stand.

(The computer has been very bolshie this morning, and while I was sitting here waiting for it to pull itself together I clicked on a previously-unnoticed icon at the bottom of the Word screen called “Reading view”. It produced the current text in a format which is precisely the way I want “27 Wives” to look on-screen. How to persuade Word to do it?)

It’s no use wishing you all a happy equinox, with it nearly a month behind us. So – have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Somewhere in row 22. Things seemed a bit slower yesterday, not exactly hard, but it took me a bit longer to get the hang of each successive row. An additional motive, if one were needed, to knit all the borders at once. Once the pattern is mastered, I can whiz through the rest of the round. There’s a sort of lattice-work going on at the moment, which will soon subside.

Lent and general non-knit

We are poised, more or less, for the drive to Loch Fyne tomorrow. There are two ways to do it – drive to Glasgow, and then turn north up the west side of Loch Lomond; or go to Stirling, and then across country, and then up Loch Lomond as before. I’m going for the latter, this time.

There’s a tricky passage in Stirling itself because (oddly, to my mind) the cross-country road, the A811, doesn’t have its own exit from the M9. I am told that the secret, on the outward journey, is to leave the motorway at exit 10 and at the ensuing roundabout take the third exit, at 3 o’clock, and set off eastwards, with your back to Loch Lomond. The Red Queen would approve.

Alexander phoned last night about my husband’s dietary requirements (there aren’t many) and mentioned that they hadn’t been able to get any Weston’s Vintage Cider for me. I’ll go down to Tesco this morning, where they should have it. BYOB. There’s not much point in Lent if I can’t have Weston’s Vintage on Easter Sunday.

I broke my Lenten resolutions a couple of times, most notably when C was dying, and a week later at the time of the funeral. But mostly I’ve stuck to it, and lost about five pounds, so that’s good.

We bought a picture yesterday. It’s nice, but it seems at least twice as big and heavy as it did in the auction room. My feeling is that we are past our picture-hanging days, and need to wait until we can get help, but my husband seems to think we can do it. Maundy Thursday will be as penitential as anyone could wish, if we go ahead with the attempt.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I’ve started row 18 of the Mourning Shawl border – slightly more difficult than its predecessors. The great fun of border knitting is that every row is different but proceeds so naturally from the one before that chart-peering is largely eliminated. This was true even of the vastly intricate border of the Princess.

I’m getting on a bit faster than I anticipated, even without the bonus of stitches reduced at the corners. That doesn’t happen until row 39 – and even then, only 10 stitches per side disappear whereas the standard system – one stitch each end of each border every other row – would have got through twice that number by that time.

But I can’t count on continuing at this pace, what with the most delicious months of the year beckoning us to Strathardle. And this isn’t a project to take along – not at all the thing for grubby, rough hands to attempt after a day in the fields.

I will not worry about the calendar. At least, not too much.


Enid, thank you for the crib to the royal wedding video (comment yesterday). I’ve watched it again, and it all seems perfectly obvious now that you’ve explained it. I think I was confused by that scene just before the bride appears, when the minor royals reassemble and I felt that they couldn’t all be Beatrice and Eugenie. The Camilla lookalike is so good it’s hard to believe it’s not her. I didn’t recognise Princess Anne, on the other hand – I’m a great fan of hers.

And I’ve watched Jill and Kevin. A real wedding, I gather. It’s delightful.

27 Wives

Meg, thank you for your expression of interest. I finished scanning the second wife yesterday. My plan is to start publishing right away – I’ve now got two wives, and my mother’s substantial introduction. I figure I can re-edit the early chapters as life unfolds if I feel the need, as well as adding more. Doing it that way should be a valuable incentive to me to keep going.

So we’ll see what Alexander advises at the weekend. And I’ll have to write a brief introduction of my own.

My current printer will let me scan a set of pages into a single document, which speeds things along. (Maybe the old one did that too, but if so I never grasped the fact.) Every so often, a page comes out as complete gibberish, without a single recognisable word. Attempts to re-scan just that one produce the same result. This has happened twice. In both cases, the page in question was a nice clean one, not full of writings-in and crossings-out. Baffling. I gave up and typed them in.


Page breaks continue to disappear when I post. I’m getting used to calling the text back and re-inserting them, but I find this baffling too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Very successful hair-do: it came out looking as I had imagined.

And another good day with the Mourning Shawl. I’m now in the early stages of row 14. Here are some pics:

This early passage begins with chevrons on a bed of mesh which they gradually consume. Where I am now, the mesh is gone and some additional mild excitements are about to be introduced. Disregard the colour, as usual.

Here’s the Fleegle’d bit. It works.

I finally spent a few minutes yesterday with Alice Starmore’s Aran book. Some grand things, which left me wondering, I don’t have to knit back-and-forth, do I? Which sent me to EZ, of course, and at the moment I am greatly enamoured with the Hand-to-Hand Aran in Knitting Workshop.

There are no instructions. That sent me to Google, and I am comforted to find that there is a Spin-Off. I’m pretty sure it’s not in any of the Woolgatherings I’ve got on my shelf, but I then took down “The Opinionated Knitter” just in case it was there.

It isn’t, but Woolgathering No.6, which is, has some very brisk and useful instructions for designing an Aran. Get a gauge, thence a stitch-number, work out a sequence of Aran patterns to fit ¼ of it. That’s not entirely going to work, is it? if you want a wide tour-de-force pattern centre front-and-back. But it gets things started.

This is all still pretty tentative, depending on how the Mourning Shawl proceeds. I’d have to start Aran knitting somewhere in June, to do it comfortably. Will I have finished the borders by then? Could be.


Thanks, Angel. The YouTube version of the T-Mobile royal wedding loads and plays briskly for me. It’s brilliant. They’ve got some very convincing look-alikes, and some I can’t identify.

I looked around a bit yesterday. There are plenty of places where I could hire web space for "27 Wives" for £3 or £4 a month. Wait and see what Alexander says.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I have an early hair appt this morning – Look Tidy for Easter – so not much time here.

I’ve advanced to row 10 of the mourning shawl border. A bit of stitch-count trouble yesterday, nothing serious. I hope to have pictures soon, including the Fleegle part which is currently somewhat untidy. In all the anxiety at the very beginning I wasn’t as careful as I might have been about tugging the ends when I introduced the new ball and subsequently changed yarns. There was every danger, too, in those first few rows, of introducing a Moebius twist even if there wasn’t one in the first place.


Angel, I can’t get your T-mobile video to load [comment yesterday]. It seems to be trying, but doesn't get anywhere. I’ll try again later. It sounds to me, in general, as if the USofA is keener on the forthcoming wedding than we are, at least we here in Scotland. St Andrews, understandably, is full of it.

I had a good session with “27 Wives” yesterday. I have nearly finished scanning the second wife. The first one died young, leaving a couple of children who passed to the care of her capable successor, a formidable pioneer woman named Mary Ann Angell. I am nearly up to the page on which, “on June 15, 1842, aged 39, again big with child, she stood before Joseph Smith and placed in her husband’s hand the hand of a girl of 20, saying clearly and steadily that she freely gave this woman to be married to her husband”.

I looked at publishing options a bit, and rescued your valuable comment from Google’s spam collection, Gail: they do make mistakes sometimes. Kristie, my browser turns out to be too primitive for publishing in Kindle format (or even finding out much about doing it that way). I’ll keep that one in mind. And talk it over with Alexander at the weekend.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Here we are back. We had a grand time, and the driving went well. If I can do the East Neuk last week, I ought to be able to manage Loch Fyne this. It’s further, but there are fewer critical junctions at which decisions must be made, and fewer opportunities for my husband to suggest we stop and get out and look at something – as long as I can get him through Stirling.

Our friend really doesn’t remember Miss Middleton – I’m sure he wasn’t just being discrete. She was one of the many Home County Gels who pitch up in the St Andrews art history department, indistinguishable from the pack. He remembers the terrible security surrounding the Prince – CCTV cameras everywhere, which the city had never had before; ominous vans with blacked-out windows lurking in the streets. There was a rumour that the poor young man had a microchip implanted, as your pet poodle might, so that Security would always know where he was.

You’ve probably seen this already, half the world has; it’s charming, very St Andrews. At the end she walks towards the camera down a narrow street with a bookshop visible on the left – we were there on Friday. It’s the only decent one left in St Andrews. I bought an Alice Thomas Ellis, very bad, and a Le Carre, “The Russia House”, which starts sensationally well. I didn’t know there were any good ones left I hadn’t read.

One thing, though. The few ill-lit mirrors in this house know their trade and reflect me back as, perhaps, a faded 60. In other people’s houses I look old. It’s scary.


I hit my target, namely finishing Joe’s first sock and getting halfway through the 50 rounds of ribbing on the second. OK: so this weekend the goal will be to reach the heel. Ten days or so after Easter a routine diabetic hospital appt looms – that always affords plenty of scope for knitting. After that, I fear what’s left of the second sock will have to displace the mourning shawl for as long as is necessary.

The shawl itself is fine. There are 106 rows in the border. I’m working on No. 6. I am allowing myself one percentage point in the sidebar for every two of them. I’ve started Fleegle’ing. It’s too soon to say much. I’m sure it’s going to work. The second ball of yarn is a nuisance. It can be tricky, at the end of a round, turning and deciding which ball to use and then wondering a bit and finally I wind up wondering which side is which – since they are perfectly symmetrical, both ends start off the same. I’ve got it right this time, for row 6 (i.e., it’s not turning into st st) and will mark the wrong side with a safety pin in a moment.

No news from Loop about the April Madeleine Tosh shipment. The new EZ book has receded a little bit further over at Schoolhouse – “spring” (or was it originally even “early spring”?) became “May” and now it’s expected back from the printer by “June 1 or sooner”. They are clearly trying.

Thanks for the help on websites. I hope to explore your suggestions this afternoon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Jenny, thanks for the early tip-off yesterday that my links weren’t working – and just when I thought Blogger had given me an easy ride, for once. I went in and fixed them right away, but when I called yesterday’s post back for editing, it came without most of the last two paragraphs – it broke off in mid-sentence. Something’s wrong at Blogger. (I had, as usual, already saved the thing here on my desktop, so that was no problem.)

A good day with the shawl yesterday. I picked up all the stitches, knit back, and did the first pattern row. It was so easy that it was fiendishly difficult – an endless series of k1, YO, k2tog. Except of course that it wasn’t endless, it was interspersed with occasional k3tog’s and the special treatment of the corners. But I got it, after an agony of stitch-counting and marker-placing, and all seems to be well. I’m now halfway back across Row 2, on which virtually nothing happens. It’ll get easier yet as the pattern begins to be visible. When I finish this row, I’ll attach a second ball of yarn and start Fleegle’ing.

For a while, I couldn’t think how the work would ever be connected into a circle. In Fleegle’s demonstration, she uses a tiny shawl knit centre-outwards, so she is already knitting in the round when she starts her wonder-working. The answer is (I think), that when I get to the end of the row I’m going to knit with the second ball of yarn, I’ll need to reach across to the beginning to get the other ball to knit back with. Fleegle herself will join the thing into a circle.

This is such an exciting juncture that I hate to abandon it, but we’re off to St Andrews today, there’s no help for it. Back here Sunday, DV.

I’m worrying about time. Now that I have taken this major step forward, it seems safe to estimate that the borders will take the better part of two months. I can’t possibly finish the whole thing in time to knit an Aran sweater in time for the Games (4th Saturday in August, as always). I hate knitting against the calendar. What to do? If I lay the shawl aside to knit the sweater, will it then languish like poor Kaffe whose jacket suffered the same fate last year? And never be resumed? Surely not.


I have resumed work on a project mentioned here long, long ago – scanning the yellowed pages of an unpublished manuscript of my mother’s so that I can publish it on-line. My new printer seems better at character recognition than the old one, and I am moving forward steadily. The book is called “27 Wives” and is about Brigham Young, the early Mormon leader who married that many. My mother started work on the book when we lived in Salt Lake City in the ‘30’s. She had a successful career as an academic and writer of both fiction and non-fiction, but she never found a publisher for that one.

I’ve never read it before, and am finding it rather interesting – not so much for religious history or Women’s History as for an unvarnished account of settling the west, so familiar from so many preposterous movies.

The original plan was to use some space on Alexander’s server, and I may go with that. But free or near-free webspace seems to abound these days. Can anyone recommend a site? I don’t want to profit from this enterprise in any way, just to make the book available.

Something completely different….

As we watch the waxing – at last! – of the Paschal Moon, here’s a tip I recently acquired for determining which direction any given moon is headed in. I’ve learned various ways of remembering that in my lifetime, and have forgotten all of them. I think this one is a keeper.

Hold your right hand out in front of you, palm forward, thumb extended, rather as if you were trying to stop traffic. If the moon fits roughly into the shape between your index-finger and thumb, it’s waxing. Do the same with your left hand. The moon that fits there, is waning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The edging is finished. It’s an exciting moment.

First, I thought it would be prudent to spend half-an-hour counting scallops, just in case. Then I thought, no, just start picking up stitches – from the other end, and even that doesn’t matter if I use a dp. If the count comes out wrong, a scallop or two can easily be frogged or added. So that’s what I’m doing.

If you count from the right-hand edge, I think you can just see the mess in the ninth scallop, the one I tried to knit one of the evenings after a day spent in the hospice when C. was dying -- the mess I left to show our niece when I give her the shawl.

Stove says to “pick up and knit”. That’s what one does normally, of course, but I’ve never applied it to lace, because Amedro doesn’t. There’s a little picture in her book showing clearly a needle sliding through edge stitches. It’s easy because (in all modesty) I have a lovely chained selvedge. In fact, if I did it Stove’s way, I’d come out the wrong way around, not that that matters much in garter stitch lace.

Stove says to pick up and knit with the right side facing, and then launch into the pattern. That means the pattern would start off on the wrong side. Her pattern charts are intended for back-and-forth knitting, with the decreases meticulously distinguished according to which side they’re done on. And clearly the pattern is meant to start on the right side.

I don’t have to worry about all that. I’ll pick up my stitches, and knit back, and there I’ll be in the right place. I’m going to knit a few rows back and forth before joining, just to make it that little bit easier to avoid the dread Moebius loop. It happened to me once, on one of my pre-natal shawls for a grandchild. I knew the danger and thought I had avoided the trap. When I found that it was twisted, I’m afraid I took my scissors to it and just knit on. As I remember, there was no problem with ravelling and the scar, in the end, didn’t look as bad as you might expect. I don’t want it to happen this time, though.

The Loop website is fine this morning but they haven’t had their Tosh shipment yet. Donice, thanks for the tip about Jimmy Bean. I was introduced to Madeleine Tosh by Knit-Purl. -– I bought that Japanese pattern book from them, and since then they have me on their list for enticing e-mails. But I prefer a British source, not necessarily because it works out cheaper, but because I know from the start what the cost will be and can look forward to the package without dreading the knock at the door demanding more money. And Loop carries a good range.

I don’t know what I’m going to do about Aran. I have at least taken Starmore off the shelf. I like St. Enda – the one you recommend, Theresa. I am also rather taken with Killeany which has a few more judge-impressing twists to it. And I notice that she includes travelling stitches (“Irish Moss” and maybe others) under the heading of “Classic Aran Designs”. If Starmore can do it, who is a Strathardle judge to demur? Had I but world enough and time, this would be my chance to do the travelling stitch sweater I have been talking about for the last couple of years. Perhaps if I aimed at one of the Little Boys…

The first thing is to spend a serious 20 minutes with the book.


Theo’s wife Jenni has been been confirmed as Assistant Secretary to the Treasury. If you follow the link, you will find a senator from NY who sits on the Finance Committee grumbling that he preferred her maiden name, Engebretsen. She has used her married name since the wedding day. Rachel’s husband Ed, in a speech at the reception, made a nice little joke about its being a change for the better. Senator Schumer wasn’t there to disagree.

I expect to have news about Theo himself soon.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I might even finish the edging of the mourning shawl today.

Otherwise, little to report. I phoned our local B&Q, hoping that a gnome or two might linger. The nice young man who answered sounded surprised, and said that they had never sold any such thing. Perhaps the higher-ups at B&Q consider Royal Naff as not-quite-Edinburgh.

On the Japanese shirt front, I am waiting for news from Loop – they are expecting more Madeleine Tosh yarn “in April”. They have promised to phone, but I look at the website most days anyway. This morning, when I tried to go there to include a link, the website seems to be down -- maybe they are updating it.

I haven’t yet got Starmore out to address the question of an Aran sweater for my Games entry.

And that’s about it.


We are having an election to the Scottish parliament next month, even more tedium-inducing than the royal wedding. The Big News yesterday was a survey on the subject of issues which people felt were important, or didn't: with prompt access to a specialist when cancer was suspected, coming out near the top of the list.

C. had that, and a fat lot of good it did her. The specialist – at the Western Infirmary, which is Edinburgh’s leading cancer hospital – did an inadequate examination and sent her away with the assurance that she didn’t have cancer. He suggested that a colonoscopy might be a good idea in six weeks time or so, when someone or other got back from holiday. That was in early October. She was diagnosed a month later when she was taken in by ambulance as an emergency. Cancer was all over the shop, by then. The operation was on 9/11, British style.

Oddly, to my mind, no blame seems to have attached to that silly man in all the anger which has swirled around since, directed at God and at the blameless GP. I don’t suppose the outcome would have been much different, but she would have been spared the suffering she went through in October, which was considerable. When someone brings my husband a picture to consider, the first thing he does is look at it. C. had lost a lot of weight by early October. She was skilful at dressing to conceal the fact, but a cancer specialist is meant to be able to look, just as my husband is in his different way. And weight-loss is a major symptom, I gather, of almost all cancers.

I’ve probably said all this. By now, I am as cross at C. and her daughters for not being cross at that specialist, as I am at the man himself.

Today I composed a web page in MS Word and then, here on Blogger, worked on the "Edit HTML" page. So far, I haven't had to replace any paragraph breaks -- but the final "Publish Post" hurdle remains.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What happened yesterday was that I composed at home in Microsoft Word as usual, pasted the result into Blogger as usual, and it looked fine. Then I added some pictures and when I got back from that occupation to the Blogger “Compose” screen, the paragraph breaks were gone. Later, when they had been re-instated, I published the day’s work – and found it stripped of paragraph breaks again.

As far as I know, I’m using the most up-to-date version of Blogger. Could this have anything to do with my out-of-date browser?

I've spotted a typo in yesterday's work. Do I dare retrieve and correct it?

It’s irritating, all this, but it has nothing to do with knitting. I have passed the half-way point on the fourth side of the mourning shawl edging. Things should get exciting this very week.

A curious thing about this pattern is that the border decreases don’t begin until the 39th row, and when they do, they are distributed through the work rather than forming a mitre-line at the corners. The result is that the border pattern flows around the corners, rather attractively – a strong argument for doing the whole thing in the round, the Fleegle way.

It’s a new technique to me. The pattern is from Margaret Stove’s new book, “Wrapped in Lace”. It is based on an antique Shetland shawl whose owners asked Stove to restore it. It was full of what appear to be m**h holes. The original was knit in the late 19th century by an √©migr√© from Shetland, of New Zealand wool.

Later this week – on Thursday, in fact – we hope to go visit an old friend who lives near St Andrews. He is younger than we are, recently retired from the Art History department there. Can he be tempted into some indiscretions about Miss Middleton? (She did a full Art History course; the Prince started Art History, but switched to Geography after the first year.) Our friend’s partner is a passionate gardener, and we want to take them a Royal Wedding gnome, but the B&Q website this morning [scroll down] says that they are sold out, and Google strongly suggests that they are a B&Q exclusive.

We’ll stay two nights, and my plan is to finish Joe’s first sock and get well started on the ribbing of the second. Then the very next week is Holy Week when I will press the project forward on the shores of Loch Fyne.


Ruth (yesterday) that sounds like a good tip, about slip-stitching the sleeves of that pink Strathardle sweater into place. I will try it. It also occurred to me that if the seam looks bad, and maybe even if it doesn’t, I could cover it with applied i-cord since the collar and neck placket are already edged with i-cord, and I mean to use an i-cord bind-off for the shoulders.

Ted, thanks for the background on EZ’s “New Zealand sweater”. That sounds rather likely. One of the most frustrating tidbits of knitting history that I know is that EZ was puzzled by the phrase “Kitchener stitch” when she first came to America. (Until quite recently, when the internet made us all one, it was used by North American knitters only.) She enquired, and was told that it derives from a pattern Kitchener submitted to a Red Cross leaflet in WWI. Did she press her informant for the details which would get “Kitchener stitch” into the OED today? No.

KristieinBC (Saturday), thanks for the suggestion that I get a Macbook. Alexander made the big switch a year or so ago – I’ll ask him about it over Easter. Also, he and Ketki can tell me what one does with a new computer these days. The last time I bought one, all one had to do was walk across the room with a fistful of disks and re-install them. Now, one’s entire life has to be transferred.

Janet, what is WSD? Please come to Scotland, whatever it is!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Five scallops (of 21) done on the fourth side of the mourning shawl edging.

Yesterday’s knitting news, however, such as it was, related to one of those dread cards from the post office which was on the mat when we got back from Strathardle – they had failed to deliver a package, and removed it to a fairly remote local post office for collection. I trudged westward yesterday for no little distance and got it – and it was my order from the Schoolhouse, as I had hoped.

The New Zealand sweater is very interesting – but with no explanation, alas, of why it is so-called. I wonder how it escaped becoming famous? Round-the-Bend has given me a taste for EZ’s engineering; this one is a real contender for Thomas-the-Elder’s electric red sweater. Especially if England don’t win the Rugby World Cup – an appropriate logo would be more successfully incorporated in Jared’s “Brownstone”, I think.

Also in the package were Aino Praakli’s two books, mittens and socks. I discovered to my very considerable embarrassment that I already had the mitten book. There’s no excuse. One of the few things I do right, these days, is enter new knitting books in LibraryThing as soon as they cross the threshold. All I have to do is look there before ordering a new one. The sock book, with a wonderful cross Estonian cat on the cover, sort of makes up for my confusion.

What a curious language Estonian appears to be.

Strathardle and general vegetable-growing

We are famous for our daffodils. If 50 maids with 50 mops were to toil for half a year dividing them, we would have even more.

Here are the bunching onions. They don’t seem to have made much progress in the last six weeks, but they’re clearly alive. I have since read that red-bulbed bunching onions are even hardier and stronger-tasting (I have probably told you that already). I’ve got some seed of that, ready to go for this year.

And some of the walking onions have re-appeared! I didn’t have much hope for them – they went in rather late in the season, and were rather wispy, and then had to contend with what proved to be one of the famous winters. But there they are.

Here you see my dear sorrel, upper right; the Mara des Bois strawberries, looking well; and, lower left, three Good King Henry plants. From memory, chenopodium bonus henricus. It is nearly the perfect vegetable – perennial, hardy, tidy. It used to be very common in cottage gardens. The only drawback is that it doesn’t taste very nice.

My favourite gardening writer, Robin Lane Fox, doesn’t often get around to vegetables in his Saturday column in the Financial Times, but he did yesterday. He gardens near Oxford and has badgers as well as rabbits to contend with. It was from him, long ago, that I learned that rabbits won’t eat courgettes. It is absolutely true. In yesterday’s column he says that runner beans “are of no interest to wildlife”. Sensational news, if true – I shall certainly try.

So far this morning I have replaced paragraph breaks three times -- I will try posting again and see if they can make the leap.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

I’ll revert to my original system of composition, and hope Blogger has pulled itself together in the intervening week.

We had a grand time in Strathardle, with lovely spring weather except for one day. Our niece joined us on Thursday evening – it wasn’t so bad, leaving yesterday, with someone there to enjoy it, as she was clearly doing.

A happier picture of her and my husband than the last one you saw. Here they are discussing possible walks.

Little C. will come up today – she (like Joe Ogden) is in the last weeks of her university career, and hesitated to come if we couldn’t offer internet access. We have wi-fi, in fact – but I was afraid it might be protected by a password known only to the man in Beijing who installed the system.

But it isn’t. Our niece’s computer found the “Burnside network” at once, and happily connected to it when encouraged by a couple of clicks. That means that I could use our recent income tax rebate to get myself a brand-new laptop, and it would be as wonderful as hers, and I wouldn't need James's help to get it going.

And I wasn’t too late to start on this year’s gardening.



I got a lot done – not nearly as much as I would have liked to do, that goes without saying. The soil was surprisingly warm and workable. I planted ten potatoes at the end, and a small square of radishes. It is particularly gratifying, gardening in April, because jobs stay done at least for a little while.


I fell upon the Araucania sweater with my newly-rekindled enthusiasm intact, and have nearly finished the first sleeve. It has been a long time since I set a shaped sleeve top into a shaped sleeve hole and I am not entirely looking forward to the experience.

The Games programme is out – the knitting classes are “A Dressed Doll” [absolutely not] and “Aran Sweater – any size”. I’ll go for that – I’m thinking vaguely Mungo. I’m a bit worried about time – Joe’s 21st birthday socks have to be finished for his 21st birthday, in July, and I don’t want the mourning shawl to drag on for too long. I’ll be better able to judge the progress of that when the edging is finished and I get down to business. I rounded the third corner last night.

More to follow -- but I must get on with Saturday. The paragraph breaks were here when I first pasted today's production into Blogger, but soon disappeared. I have reinstated them. Now they are excessive, but I am not going to meddle further.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

So today I'm going to do it Blogger's way -- compose directly here in Blogger, and then copy the result back into Word for my archives. The main drawback will be the lack of any sense of how much I've written. Word-counting is not on offer.

I've now done 16 scallops (out of 21) on the third side of the Mourning Shawl edging.

And we're all set for K*rkmichael. The weather is vernal, if sometimes chilly and windy. We probably won't be back there until the end of the month, after Easter (which is to be spent on the shores of Loch Fyne, happiest of prospects). Should I take the seed potatoes? They are happily chitting on the dining room windowsill. I think I'll compromise and take the most advanced of them. Likewise I've got a box of nematodes in the refrigerator -- the Green answer to slugs -- due to expire on the 26th, the Tuesday in Easter week. They'll have to come, and be applied at the last possible moment. I'd better take the herb trough from the doorstep -- it needs to be untangled and re-planted.

Will the sorrel be ready for soup-making? The nettles? I put the forcing-pot over some rhubarb before we left in February. What will I find there? It's all rather exciting, although I know that my first sight of the battlefield will fill my heart with gloom.

Our niece and her daughter Little C. are coming up to stay at some point next week. If we can get it right, we'll overlap by a day or so -- meaning they won't have to open the house, and I won't have to close it. A great luxury, both ways.

I went up to John Lewis yesterday (despite the non-arrival of the desired prescription at Boots) and looked at yarn for awhile, to no effect. Rowan yarns don't seem to be labelled with the colour name, so I didn't know whether I was looking at "Kiss" or not. There were several good reds, but I am not quite sure I know what "electric red" means, although my husband thinks he does. I have told him about Thomas-the-Elder's request and maybe the only way forward now is to let him take me yarn-shopping. He tends to get the bit between his teeth when it comes to a purchase -- it could be anything -- and pursue the matter remorselessly to its conclusion. "That will have to do" and "Let's just forget about it" are not in his vocabulary.

This is slightly dangerous, stash-wise. If I went and bought yarn for everything on the HALFPINT list -- the swing jacket I've been prattling about, the Bavarian travelling-stitch one -- the stash situation would be much worse than it is. I couldn't have anticipated the need for the Mourning Shawl -- the diagnosis was in early November, just the other day in knitting terms. Or falling for that Japanese shirt.

In Strathardle the pink Araucania sweater will be waiting for me, sleeves remaining to be done and my enthusiasm re-kindled.


Grandson Joe has contributed an article on "South Sudan's Road to Independence" to the Nottingham Economic Review, an on-line student publication. He was worried about it when he was here last weekend -- would it be published? Was it rubbish? But it's up. Even if you're not interested in African politics -- they could be counting hits.

Blogger: I posted this a moment ago, and then remembered that I wanted to tell you about Joe's article, and called it back. The paragraph breaks have disappeared. What is one to do?

Friday, April 01, 2011

Half-way along the third side of the shawl edging. A quarter of a side – a bit over five scallops – seems to be the most I can hope for in a day. So, six more knitting days of edging. Then it gets fun.

I’m at the stage where the real danger now is that thoughts will wander and I’ll re-surface with no knowledge of what I’m doing or where I am in the pattern. So far, OK, and the pattern may be just demanding enough that that is unlikely to happen.

I’ve just bought Jared’s “Brownstone” pattern; the printer is working on it. At first glance, I would agree with you utterly, Kristie – it looks the very model of what a pattern should be. (My new printer reads through the assignment and prints the last page first, so that when the job is finished the pages are in order. Perhaps they all do that these days. What fun!)

Kristie says in her latest blog entry (follow link) that there are two things she hates about knitting: sleeves, and sewing. That set me considering my own chest of horrors, but I find it close to empty. I don’t like doing all that ribbing at the start of a sock – I do a full 50 rounds for men’s socks. But ribbing is the only way to get to the fun bit, so it gets done. I don’t like making-up – who does? – but it’s the only way to get to the FO, so it usually gets done. I never thought about sleeves. The Brownstone is a true son-of-EZ, with no seams. The more I look, the more I like. It’s the depth of the neck opening that makes the difference.

I hate bobbles and solve that problem by never doing them.

FiberQat, Dale of Norway is a splendid idea for an electric red yarn. I would trust them sight-unseen. It’s just possible that Boots will have a prescription for us this afternoon (I email the request to the dr, he sends the paper document to the chemist by post – so far, Britian requires that a prescription be on a physical piece of paper.) If so, I can drop in to John Lewis and see if they carry “Kiss” in any Rowan quality. I was startled yesterday to find how many different yarns Rowan do.


Today, at long last, my husband will keep the podiatry appt which has nailed us to Edinburgh all week. Tomorrow, Strathardle. Our niece and Little C. will join us next week and probably stay on after we leave. I am keenly looking forward to it, although I fear my vegetable plot when seen tomorrow will look as if it had gone out of cultivation some years ago, and I doubt the limits of my strength. Also I have lost the address and telephone number of the man who now cuts our grass and does the heavy work – my first job will be to track him down.

Bereavement (or something) is now a great leaden weight at the pit of my stomach although at the same time death remains hard to believe in. C. must be here somewhere, ready to tell me to spread compost, and that earthworms are beneficial. My husband seems to have aged five years, slower-witted and worse-tempered.

In today’s attempt to outwit Blogger, I have composed a Web page in Word. The shape and appearance of the screen is disconcerting. In the old system, I knew that when my Word document started a second page, I had said enough and should stop.Now the screen is a different size and shape, and holds more.

And it worked, up to a point: Blogger has preserved my paragraph breaks but continues to strip out the hyperlinks. So henceforth I'll insert them in situ as I do illustrations. But why should the system have changed? Cui bono?