Tuesday, January 31, 2012

I got worried yesterday about the Sky Scarf – it looks so small, and a whole month done. But it measures 5 ½” and if you multiply that by 12 (for months) you get 5 ½ feet. That seems too neat, and must have something to do with there being 12 inches in a foot as well as 12 months in a year. Or have I slipped a gear, multiplication-wise?

I did today’s two dull grey rows in st st as planned, to mark the end of the month. I’ll probably do it again tomorrow, to make the point emphatic. I am assuming, like you, Annie, that as the year progresses and 8:15 a.m. becomes longer and longer after sunrise, there’ll be lots more blue. (And, oh! that’s wonderful news about your dog!)

As for the sock, ribbing isn’t so much “dread” as “tedious” for me. But I’m now within striking distance of the end of it – tonight should see it done.

There was a note in our church newsletter on Sunday soliciting knitted donations to Oxfam. In particular, they would like 6ft by 4ft blankets which they will sell for "anything up to £35" at a music festival. Here is a link to the "Knitting for Oxfam" page which includes patterns and things.

I feel a vague disquiet, although why should I? Nobody is making me knit a blanket. But I don’t like the idea that, if I do, Oxfam will sell my work for less than the cost of the materials, let alone adding a little something for skill and Man’s Time.

I think I’d rather knit a woolly hat for St Mungo’s and just give Oxfam £35. 

On a brighter note, tea cosies suddenly seem to be everywhere. There is a book on its way – April 12 – called “How Tea Cosies Changed the World” which looks so preposterous it could be fun. And it turns out that the author, Loani Prior, has written an earlier book, “Really Wild Tea Cosies”, of which the same can be said. Wouldn’t it be fun if “Tea Cosy” turned up as one of the Games categories under “Knitting” this year?

We've also got a new book to look forward to from Kaffe and Brandon Mably, "Knitting with the Color Guys", due in March. I'll have to get it, because I think I've got all of Kaffe. (My copy of "Glorious Knitting" is a signed first edition.) What Kaffe contributed to knitting was, and remains, wonderful -- but I think he has long since said all he has to say. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Another plain-vanilla Monday. Too much to do, but at least there’s some hope of getting some of it done.

I will be very interested to hear what you think of the new VK, Mary Lou. You’ve got a different cover – our model is standing up straight, hands on hips, in No. 15 whereas yours is huddling cosily in No. 8, but that shouldn’t make much difference.

Here is the first Outre sock, and the beginnings of the second. Note the anthracite toe. 

My husband has now started saying that legs knit on 72 stitches are too big. I always used to do 64 for him, until the time when he couldn’t get a pair of them on. Maybe his feet have shrunk back down. Maybe that too-small pair was because of unexpectedly fine yarn. I’ll try 68 next time, although that means an odd number, 17, on each of the four needles. That never works quite as well.

He was talking about the Anthracite socks, which haven't been washed yet. That may pull them in a bit.

And here is the sky scarf, minus today’s stripe. I’ll get a better picture of it soon. 

One of the happy aspects of this fairly absurd project, is the interest afforded by standing on the doorstep every morning and taking the sighting. I was a bit late getting out there this morning. Perhaps for that reason, the sky was Raphael:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

We had a grand day.

I had been afraid that January was too early in the year, too dark,  for a big walk; that Kincardine was too far away; that I wouldn’t be able to hack it; that it would be too cold. None of the above. It was a brilliantly cold day, ice on the puddles, the weeds rimed with frost and sparkling in the sun. But no wind – that’s the clincher -- and Devilla Forest is great for walking in. I’d like to go back. It suffered very badly in the storm earlier this month – some of the footpaths were hard to find, but we managed a successful circuit without getting too lost.

We walked five or six miles, and I was flagging seriously at the end. A pretty pathetic performance.

In the newspaper article which had directed us there, the instruction was to recuperate at the Biscuit Café in Culross, so we did. Perfect! Big bowls of homemade soup with homemade cheese scones and seriously hot lattes.


In the evening I finished (including Kitchener’ing) the first Outre sock. Eight days. So I ought to be able to bring the second one in sometime next week and then get cracking with 2012. And by then I’ll know whether a Calcutta Cup 2012 sweater need be added to the schedule – the match is on Saturday.

I have continued to enjoy the new VK. It has been a long time since I have liked a magazine so much. As well as the Twisted Pullover (12) mentioned yesterday, I like the big, easy cabled cardigan (9);  the turtleneck pullover (11) – I love the funnel neck,  and elbow-length sleeves are a good idea; and, above all, Vladimir Teriokhin’s (I’ve heard of him) cabled cardigan (14) with a wide cabled neckband that goes on and on and winds up as a scarf with which the cardigan is held loosely closed. Very lady-like.

And there are lots of other things I wouldn’t mind knitting. But it would be tough to do it from stash, Grannypurple. I think we need to contract with the fairy godmother who is going to sponsor us, that we be supplied with the original yarns in colours of our own choosing.

(I remember when I was in high school, reading the VKB and aspiring to knit things and being completely baffled by yarn names that I had never heard of and which certainly weren’t available in West Allenhurst, NJ. I still haven’t heard of most of the yarns in the current issue, but at least these days I know that my faithful computer could find them for me.)

I think I might try inviting one or two stylish granddaughters to flip through this issue and see if there’s anything they’d like. Lizzie, for instance, -- Rachel’s younger daughter, now at Birmingham University – doesn’t have anything except an ear-flap hat to wear to my funeral. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Yesterday I went shopping with my husband on George Street, in search of grey flannel trousers. We failed. It was hard work. Today’s walk with our niece through the Devilla Forest is bound to be easier, however rough the terrain.

Murray lost, in five sets. It was so exciting I couldn’t bear to watch much of it. I don’t remember that ever happening to me before – even with Scotland ahead by a whisker in the final moments of the Calcutta Cup, I’ve always managed to peep from behind the sofa. Not yesterday.

It can’t be claimed as a moral victory for Murray -- I doubt if there are such things in top-level sport -- but it was certainly a quantum leap forward (to switch clichés). Previously, at the end of Grand Slam tournaments when he came up against the big boys, he was swept aside in straight sets. Not yesterday.

And isn’t it odd, for one with a memory as long as mine for such things, to find a British player at No. 4 in the world and none of the three above him either American or Australian?

The yarn is here – madelinetosh DK “Georgia O’Keefe”, a good deal greener than I expected, but at least not blue and my husband seems rather taken with it. It didn’t come in the 7:30-9 a.m. slot when packages often arrive. It didn’t turn up with the normal mail delivery. So I gave up and started forming cross remarks in my head, since the PO had contracted to deliver it yesterday on the consideration of all that money the day before.

But then it did turn up, just before lunch. Pics soon – today I must hurry.

The other thing that turned up yesterday was the new VK. If somebody wanted to take a couple of years and knit straight through a magazine, blogging about it and then publishing a book – that’s what people do – this would be the magazine to go for. If you were thinking of engaging me for the job, I might ask to be let off the home furnishings – cushions and an ottoman cover; I don’t have an ottoman. I might also beg to be excused the gloves (hate knitting fingers) and the beaded shawl (beads are against my religion).

But the point of the exercise would be to do everything, so that might be considered cheating. And the shawl is by my friend Candace Strick.

More seriously, the one that really grabs, at first glance, is No. 12, the twisted pullover by Roberta Rosenfeld whom I have never heard of. Alpaca, and apart from other considerations a brilliant use of that droopy yarn.

I’d better go make some sandwiches to leave behind for my husband.

Friday, January 27, 2012

I heard from the PO as hoped, paid the charge (you don’t want to know), arranged delivery for today, and now can only sit here breathless, waiting for my madelinetosh yarn. I don’t dare go across the square to get the newspaper. They’re just waiting around the corner for the chance to put one of those Dread Cards through the letterbox.

I can while away the time watching the tennis. I am a great Andy Murray fan, unlike anyone else I know. If he wins this morning (Djokovic) he’ll win the tournament, I think – but that’s about as big as “if’s” get.

Tomorrow our niece and I are going for a walk, as we occasionally do. This is a more ambitious one than usual, in Devilla Forest near Kincardine. (TERRAIN: track & path; HEIGHT: negligible – that’s the kind of walk I like.) We will see a standing stone marking the site of the Battle of Bordie in 1038, when King Duncan and Macbeth defeated the Danes. When I read that I wondered for a moment if that was the battle at the beginning of the play – would we be able to find the ashes from the witches’ bonfire? But no – Shakespeare says that battle was at Forres, against Noroway.

If we get lost, as is all too likely since the forest is criss-crossed with paths and neither of us is very bright, we can find ourselves by walking south. That will eventually bring us out on the main road on which we arrived. We could probably do that by remembering that the sun is in the southern sky, but I also recalled that there is a way to use one’s watch as a crude compass. I looked it up on Google – how did we live? before Google – and today mean to practice, since I know how Edinburgh is oriented. I may have acquired a Survival Skill.


Stuffed pig’s stomach sounds just like haggis, Charlotte.

It’s the “Moor” colorway which my husband finds “outré” for a gent’s sock, Mary Lou. We had feared that “Anthracite” would be too blue – he doesn’t like blue – but it’s fine. I’d knit “Sizzle” for a female, so he wouldn’t be called on to judge it. I am steaming away down the foot, and should finish a ball of yarn today – that always feels like progress.

I bought only two 50 gram balls this time. That’s not enough, I knew it wasn’t.  I’ll  finish off with something from the odd-ball bag. “Anthracite”, in this case, will do nicely. The demarcation comes well down within the shoe. It has proved acceptable in the past to do this, and it reduces the cost of the socks quite a bit.

Here’s today’s oddity from Zite, stash haus. I’m glad you like them.

I got spammed today -- it doesn't often happen. All comments on posts older than a fortnight are automatically presented to me for moderation -- they are 99% spam. Comments on new posts go through Blogger's system, which is pretty good at spotting junk. But today I got seven or eight long identical junk-comments from India on recent posts of mine, I had to delete them one by one. I hope I've got them all. Boring and -- as far as I could see -- pointless, rather than malicious or obscene.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

We enjoyed our haggis, yes, thank you, Kristie. One gets used to it.

I have been having connectivity problems this morning. BT Broadband Desktop Help  popped up of its own accord and sorted the problem, whatever it was, by re-starting the router. But things remain very sluggish. 

I’m still decreasing gusset stitches on the Outre sock, and have started Oliver’ing. Thanks for the colour-names of the KF "random stripes" range, MetroRebecca (comment yesterday). The one I want next is “Sizzle”, a sizzling red. But three pairs of socks, at least, after the Outre, stand between me and that goal.

I tracked the Jimmy Bean package. It’s been in Britain for a whole week. The latest note, yesterday morning, says “Payment of charges – item being held, addressee being notified”. So I should hear from it today, I would hope.

I have decided to do a st st stripe for the Sky Scarf on the last day of each month, to mark the passage of time and the seasons. Maybe on the first day of the next month, as well. I like the way it's looking. The secret, I suspect, is a big stash of greys and blues. Pic soon.

I was going to share some tidbits from Zite, but the link process is so slow this morning that I may have to leave it and go eat my porridge.

        -- A cleaner at Paignton Zoo has knitted the gardeners, one by one.

-- Knitters are being urged to knit cushions, using British wool, to be presented to Olympic athletes as souvenirs. I won’t bother with the link. I hope all British readers have seen the brilliant BBC series “Twenty Twelve”. It’s a mock documentary about planning for the Olympics, currently being rebroadcast on BBC Four on Wednesdays and we’re enjoying it every bit as much as we did the first time. This sounds like an idea straight out of one of their brainstorming sessions.

-- The “Swiss Cheese Scarf”, free on Ravelry, looks fun. It’s rather like that VK one I knit last year. I gather from theraineysisters that this one is done with a myriad of one-row buttonholes. I felt myself a bit shaky on that front when I was putting the second one into the Japanese shirt in Strathardle last week. This scarf would certainly allow one to perfect the technique. It looks terrific in its Kauni yarn, too.

-- I subscribe to Knitting Daily which is mostly Interweave trying to sell me things. I am mildly interested in “Sockupied” and may have a look at the latest one when they perfect it for the iPad. At the moment they say it’s available, but I can’t find it in the App store.

This is a funny one: Becca seems to think – she can’t be serious – that the trouble with learning to knit is that one soon has too many sweaters. And that the solution might be miniature knitting. Whatever – the miniature sweater shown is breathtaking.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012


 -- I forgot to wish us all a Happy Year of the Dragon on Monday. Happy Burns Night, at least.

 -- Dawn found the link to the New Yorker piece about President Romney at the G8. Tamara and Sally (comments yesterday), I have read the New Yorker for most of my life and now give subscriptions to my four children as well. Thomas-the-Elder reads it on his iPad, somehow floating on his mother’s subscription. I could do that, but prefer paper.

Alexander made me an alphabet book for my 70th birthday, now well in the past. N was for “New Yorker”. He reproduced the two covers nearest the date of my birth in 193x and 200x – they were remarkably similar in palette and tone.

I’ll have to have a look at the jigsaw puzzles, Sally. That’s a time-waster I particularly enjoy.

 -- The Historic Knitting Group produced a link yesterday to the Richard Rutt collection at Southampton University. The 19th century British knitting books have been digitised and are available free to download. An amazing resource. There is a tantalising note at the beginning saying that Msgr. Rutt’s interest in Korean knitting is reflected in his collection – alas, for that, apparently, one has to go to Southampton.

 -- The branch of Waitrose I patronise doesn’t have any craft magazines, so my search for Knit Now continues.


You may deduce from this preamble that I have little to say today. I have turned the heel of the 1st outré sock. Gretchen, it’s the “Moor” colorway from the new “Random Stripes” set. There are six. “Anthracite” and “Moor” are the darkish ones – the rest are more spectacular. I’m having such fun that I want more.  If one were to venture on knitting a necktie -- not me, thanks -- "Moor" would be a rather good choice.   

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I enjoyed my Monday, just as hoped. I did a Sudoku and shopped and cooked and washed and ironed and cleaned a bit and knitted a lot and went to bed feeling that the edges of the chaos which surround me had been pushed back just a little bit.

The first outré sock is within hailing distance of the heel flap. I hope to reach it today. I love what's happening.

I think the Jimmy Bean package is somehow trackable, and I may try that if it doesn’t declare itself today or tomorrow.


I learn from the Historic Knitting Group this morning that Laurie Kynaston (good Greek name) is spending a year knitting her way through “Weldon’s Practical Needlework” as re-published by Interweave. She must be young, to have a year to spare!

Victorian knitting patterns seem suddenly to be everywhere. Perhaps Franklin started it with his articles in Knitty. Sharon Miller’s “Love Darg” book is a brilliant example. Donna Druchunas is at it in the current issue of Piecework. I’m not seriously tempted, but it’s interesting reading. Interesting, too, to think about the other women knitting serious sweaters for fishermen and farmers at the same time, unknown to Weldon.

Don’t worry about me and Knit Now, Roobeedoo. I had a look at the website, but they didn’t seem to offer a single copy, or a digital version for my dear iPad. I don’t think Waitrose, where I shop, is on their distribution list, either, although I’ll look when I go today. I’m often in Tesco – eventually I’ll track it down.

Your day in Edinburgh sounds enormously jolly!


I’d be inclined to bet that the president will be re-elected, and I’ll be glad when it happens. But things are grimmer than they were four years ago. His presidency has been a disappointment in a lot of ways, although I think his critics underestimate the effect of the world’s economic problems and of the extraordinary polarisation of American politics. As you say, Woollybits.

And the money they spend on getting elected is terrifying, as you say, Catdownunder. I think both of these factors (polarisation and spending) have become exponentially worse since I was young and lived there and experienced presidential elections first-hand.

No, all I meant was that if Romney is the candidate I can sit back and watch the goings-on without undue anxiety. President Gingrich might be paralysed at home, but what would he do to the world?

The Shouts and Murmers page in (I believe) the last New Yorker but one imagined President Romney working a meeting of the G8 in the style he apparently applies at political rallies. It’s very funny.

Monday, January 23, 2012

It seems a long time since we have had a Plain Vanilla Day-day around here, but now one looms. No extra people (dear as they are), no income tax, no piercing cold, no snow to fear. Just Monday. Very welcome.

And a Monday that begins with good news – Joan Schrouder emailed me to say she is going to be teaching on this cruise and will have a day free in Edinburgh in June. (Trouble is, I have archived her note before noting the date – and now I can’t figure out how to retrieve archived items in googlemail.) This may be the same cruise and the same free day on which I failed to meet Myrna Stahman last year.

Joan and I met when I did a three-day shawl course with her at Camp Stitches on the shores of Lake George in what must have been 2000 – a day each on Shetland shawls, Faroese, and Orenburg. It would be wonderful to see her again. Her husband will be along – they have never been to Europe before.

(Ahah! I haven’t found the archives, but Joan’s note and my reply are there in Sent Mail.)

Sky Scarf

Skeindalous, I don’t think the Sky Scarf needs any transition to the colours of Friday morning. I was able to use scraps that I had dyed myself of Strathardle lichens during my Lichen Phase, and I used three yarns in that day’s bump, as I have done before. A sky-colour back and forth, teamed with russet in one direction and red in the other.

The three bumps since, here in Edinburgh, have been dullsville itself. (Fancy! The spell check accepts that word!) Are morning skies better in the country?

I get a new percentage point tomorrow.

Moor socks

I finished the ribbing of the first sock, as hoped, and am steaming down the leg. I showed it to my husband, who was taken aback. “A bit outré.”  (The system put the accent on for me.) He cheered himself with the thought that the socks will be almost entirely concealed by trouser and shoe, and I am going ahead. It will be interesting to see how often they get chosen from the drawer.

I have pretty well decided to press on and finish. The package from Jimmy Bean with the yarn for the sleeveless vest should arrive this week, heralded no doubt by a card from H.M. Customs & Excise about how much I have to pay. But it can wait for a fortnight.

That will leave Van Gogh and Hundertwasser and a bonny skein that Kristie gave me before I am back to where I was last summer, sock-yarn-wise.


I am a bit disconcerted by the South Carolina primary result. Me and a lot of other people. I don’t think President Romney would be an entirely bad idea – how long since we’ve had a businessman? Truman? But President Gingrich would be truly terrifying.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

We chickened out. The trip was a success, really – the house is fine, water, electricity. No tiles seem to have come off the roof, no trees are down in the garden. I think January’s storm was worse in Edinburgh than there. It was extremely cold, but we stood up to it. However, on Thursday afternoon it snowed, and again that evening, after an intermission. We got scared and came home.

Our house is down by the burn, some metres below the level of the road to the village. The driveway curves up through the paddock, then runs straight across the edge of a neighbour’s field, and finally, after the last gate, reaches the road in a short, sharp upward burst. So, too much snow, we’re stuck.

In fact, there wasn’t more than two inches of snow and we got out without difficulty. I have been left feeling embarrassed, to be defeated by a wee bit of weather, and also shaken by good old timor-mortis-conturbat-me. One declines so gently, and one continues to go about shopping and cooking and ironing and occasionally pushing the vacuum cleaner around, and scarcely feels the gradual diminution.

But there, we were up against it. Our last big struggle with snow was four years ago – I know because it was the day after the Iowa caucus where Obama beat Clinton, and all through the struggle I promised myself I would think about that happy outcome when we were finally on the road to Blairgowrie. That time, we got all the way to the last gate by ourselves – it took all morning. Then some angels came along that scarcely-used road, thinly disguised as winter sports enthusiasts, and pushed us up the last little bit.

My husband certainly couldn’t do now what he did that day, and I doubt if I could. Never mind: here we are, safe and warm in Edinburgh.


The sky on Thursday morning was “Look! The morn, in russet mantle clad/ walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill”. I didn’t have any russet with me, and had to settle for some of the other colours in the sky. But on Friday morning I saw this:

which couldn’t be overlooked. So I took the pictures and knit the day’s stripe when I had been reunited with my stash.

I am nearly finished, all but a couple of yards, with the first skein of the madelinetosh sock yarn which is turning in to the Japanese shirt. That lets me calculate how I’m doing, and I don’t think I have enough. The initial calculations were based on st st. I’m knitting garter stitch, which is hungrier. So I’ll order some more. I’ll enjoy that.

Back here, I’ve started the “moor” socks, and should finish the ribbing tonight. They are more colourful than “anthracite” and I’m not absolutely sure they will be acceptable. I’ll go down the leg a bit and let the yarn settle into its act before I ask my husband to pronounce. If he says no, I’ll have to rip – no one else among my sock-recipients has so much circumference in the leg.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow showers forecast, adding to anxiety. But I think we’re going to attempt Strathardle anyway. If we live to tell the tale, I should be back here at the weekend. Here in Edinburgh, this morning, it is warm, for January, and damp. Today’s stripe in the Sky Scarf is grey again. The scarf so far, indeed, is a rather pleasant study in greys. Blue scarcely figures.

I finished the anthracite socks, polishing off the last few stitches, the Kitchener’ing and the tidying, during this morning’s osteoporosis half-hour. So at least I will have one evening with “moor” when we get back.

You have persuaded me to keep the income tax rebate for something other than Vintage Knits. And Roobeedoo, your blog entry has sent me off on a quest for Knit Now magazine. I was thinking just yesterday how it is the knitted accessories (hats, mitts, scarves, socks) that get used the most – but I didn’t know there was a whole magazine devoted to them.

I don’t always buy books with much expectation of actually knitting from them. Sometimes it is just a vague thought of enhancing my “library”. But there is no doubt that the ones which actually get used are the ones which become part of the family. It was particularly nice, knitting those Christmas tree baubles, to add Arne & Carlos to the party. And a significant part of the pleasure of knitting the Grandson Sweater in ’10 was moving Susanne Pagoldh’s “Nordic Knitting”, which I have long enjoyed, into the “used” category.

What are the books I use, or have used?

Off the top of my head:

Mary Thomas, Barbara Walker, Vicki Square’s book of schematics for basic shapes [there are other such books that would do as well, I think], the Zimmermanns, mother & daughter; Kaffe; Sheila McGregor, Gladys Thompson, Beth Brown-Reinsel, Margaret Stove, Sharon Miller, Gladys Amedro, Lynne Barr. Quite a few, in fact, and I must have missed out several.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never knit a Starmore or a Debbie Bliss, although they occupy quite a bit of shelf space between them.

And I realise that’s not true, as soon as written. My failed entry in last year’s Games, “Aran sweater, any size” is Starmore-based.

And then there are the books of techniques I might get around to – double knitting, brioche knitting, shadow knitting.  I have had “Knit Swirl” down from the shelf the last few days, trying to think ahead to the day when I finally tackle a big Koigu project. It would be hard work to adapt one of those to Koigu, but probably worth the effort.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Well, the tax is filed, and so large a refund promised that for a while I wondered if I had done something wrong. I think it’s OK – income was pretty flat-line for that year, but for some reason they deducted a lot more tax than previously.  Last year was the first time I left the job as late as January, as most of the population apparently does. Getting it done then gave me such a lift into the new year that I sort of drifted in to doing it late again. No lift this time, at least, not yet.

We’re planning to go to Strathardle tomorrow, for the first time in quite a while. Both are apprehensive, fearing our frailty. But the forecasts are pretty good (=no snow) and we’re not afraid of cold. It’s time to try. If we have water and power, we can manage. And if we don’t, we can turn around and come back.

It will be good to be reunited with the Japanese shirt. It’s got one buttonhole so far. I hope I can remember how I did it.

Thinking of the shirt, and Stella’s kindness in writing the pattern for me, reminds me that there is a not-uninteresting article in the current Knitting magazine about the craft of pattern-writing. Am I slightly horrified to learn that some designers not only don’t knit what they design, but don’t even have time to write the patterns?

I shall have to take the Sky Scarf along to the country. The designer doesn’t mention that aspect of things – but few us will spend all 366 days of 2012 (it’s Leap Year) under the same sky. A dull, uniform grey this morning, with the faintest hint of pink.

The socks are within two evenings of completion. My current plan is to start the next pair, KF’s random stripes in “Moor”, and get the slight tedium of the deep ribbing out of the way, before relegating socks to their normal role of travel-and-waiting and starting the sleeveless vest my husband wants. Which depends on the arrival of the Jimmy Bean package, but I’m sure it won’t be long. Or if the Moor socks are utterly wonderful, and my husband likes the effect, I might just carry on -- that would take care of his sock drawer for a good long time.


Fizz, it’s grand to have you blogging again, and the Norwegian hat is beyond cute. So is the daughter.

Catmum and KateCrafts, many thanks for the list of podcasts. I hope to get started during the long winter evenings in Strathardle (with no television and no newspapers).

Should I spend the income tax refund – I feel I’ve earned it – on Vintage Knits?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Again, very little to report.

Here is a first pic of the Sky Scarf – and I get to award myself another percentage point today! I introduced a new refinement this morning – the sky was essentially a pale blue, another cold, fine day in the making. But translucent in the east, and with a few pink clouds in the west. What one knits every day is in fact two rows, one garter stitch bump, using two yarns together.  This time, I changed translucence for pink at the halfway point.

That dark blue at the beginning is a pre-dawn reading, made while Helen was here. She wanted me to do it at 8 a.m. every day. I am sliding towards 8:30. Presumably as the light strengthens and spring approaches, there will be more and stronger blues.

As for the sock, the gusset decreases are finished and I am Oliver’ing along.

Zite came up with a couple of knitting podcasts this morning. Both were a quarter of an hour long, “The Pauly Knits” and “Knitting Samurai”. Both were episodes in on-going series, and both started so slowly, with the presenters hard-pressed (it seemed to me) to fill up the time they had allowed themselves, that I never got to the knitting in either of them. I think I prefer prose, but I am willing to be confounded. Can anyone recommend a podcast?

Zite’s other contribution this morning was an interesting post from knittingyarn.com about vintage patterns, including a link to the Vintage Purls website where choice out-of-copyright patterns can be downloaded free.  Knittingyarn.com goes on to recommend the new second volume of “A Stitch in Time”. I am tempted.

Were people really all that much smaller 70 years ago? Or did designers just design for the Duchess of Windsor and expect everyone else to be able to adapt the patterns? Extreme slimness is very conspicuous in early Vogue Knitting Books.


The tax is ready to roll, I hope. I logged on to the government Gateway site yesterday, just to make sure I still could. “Tayside00” and the name of one’s cat won’t do as UserID and Password when one is dealing with the government.

The operation with the car went smoothly yesterday. The cathedral is not far away, it’s just that it’s uphill. We left 20 minutes before the off, and that was time to drive my husband up, bring the car back, and walk up myself.

Shandy, you are right that it would be sensible to call a taxi, but it goes against the grain. All our prosperity in old age is owed to the fact that we never take taxis. (Follow that link for a fascinating post from Shandy about samplers, and an account of as bizarre an accident as you are ever likely to hear of.)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sundays are even more fraught than they used to be – the new drill is that I am to drive my husband up the hill to Mass, then bring the car back and walk up myself. That means what constitutes for him a very early start, and for me, less time to cook lunch -- which must be ready as soon as we get back. We are going to apply for a Disabled Parking Permit which will simplify things considerably but so far, after nearly a week, we haven’t even got the application form.

I enjoyed knitsofacto’s sky photographs and also, although they have nothing to do with knitting, the “From Where I Stand” project on Flickr to which she links. Thanks, Robin. I’ve also had a look at Sky Scarves on Ravelry. I was abashed at how simple-minded mine is, compared to what I found there. People are coding the daily temperature, choosing a significant number of stitches, incorporating patterns. What I like about this project is that it is so simple and do-able. Ten minutes at most, most of which is spent untangling skeins.

Another good thing is that if I get bored and stop doing it, I'll know right away that the project has been abandoned. It's impossible to kid oneself this time with the idea that one will get back to it soon.

I am around the heel of the second anthracite sock, and starting to Oliver it. I remember the first time I turned a heel, at the age of about 12. I had formed a vague impression somehow (from books) that heel-turning was a supremely difficult thing to do. I was astonished to find that all you have to do is follow directions.

When I discovered the Internet and thereby Patternworks and thereby Socka sock yarns, nearly 20 years ago now, I bought a $1 plain-vanilla sock pattern along with the first order of yarn. I have internalised it by now. There were one or two slightly fancy pairs of socks in those 20 years, but I prefer to drift along letting the yarn do the fancy stuff.

I had a moment last night, approaching the heel, when I wondered if I could remember. The first two rows involve some simple numbers. What were they? After that it’s automatic. I remember once driving along a motorway and wondering if I knew how to drive. Which pedal is the clutch? Which the brake? Which foot do I use on which pedal? Fortunately my feet remembered. And I got the numbers right for the heel, last night.

Miscellaneous non-knit

A big Hockney exhibition is about to open at the Royal Academy, or else it already has. The newspapers are full of interviews with him which contain some interesting and amusing stuff. The line I liked best was when he reported his mother saying, when she first came to visit him in LA, “Why doesn’t anybody have their washing out on such a nice day?”

The income tax went swimmingly yesterday – I think I’m finished. I’ll let it marinate for today, and then hope to file it tomorrow morning.

One of the aspects of this so-far easy winter which I am particularly enjoying, is the fact that it really can't be blamed on Global Warming. The previous two winters, here in Scotland, have been of record-breaking savagery. An easy one now can only be One of Those Things -- and very welcome. 

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What a satisfactory object a sock is! Just the right size, scarcely any finishing needed (especially for one like me who loves grafting), always welcome. I often suspect my loved ones of getting their hand knits out specially when I’m around, and if so it’s sweet of them, but socks get worn out. I know because sometimes they come home to Mummy for darning.

I’m in mid-heel flap of the second anthracite sock at the moment.

A nearly-uniform dull grey for the Sky Scarf today. Now that I’m a couple of inches into the project, the overall effect is becoming more pleasant by the day. And I look forward keenly to the season when we start getting some blues involved. 

I bought Carol Feller’s “Spoked Cardigan” pattern from Interweave yesterday – yet another sideways cardigan for my Koigu stash, although top of the Ideas List on that front remains something from Knit Swirl. I’m reading a lot just now about the Vogue knitting jamboree in NYC, and saw a pic somewhere in the process, of a Knit Swirl jacket. Yes!

Never such a year for a superabundance of projects. And there will be something, still unknown, to knit for the Games. It’s enough to make me entertain the hope that Scotland doesn’t win the Calcutta Cup.


I can’t prove this, but it’s true.

Yesterday my husband wanted to go to Marks and Spencer to get himself some grey flannel trousers in the sale. In the event, there was no sale and they didn’t have any grey flannel trousers, but that’s not the story.

There used to be two if not three branches of M&S on Princes Street and we disagreed about which one survived. So I Google’d it and found a Google map which clearly showed M&S on Leith Street at the foot of Carlton Hill, opposite the St James’s Centre, perhaps as much as half a mile from the real M&S. But I can’t prove it, because I Google’d again just now and it has been restored to its real location.

We saw a wonderful evening sky from the bus on the way home. Perhaps after I finish the present scarf, I could start another with sightings taken in the late afternoon.

I had a tough time with the Income Tax yesterday. It all went swimmingly on Thursday, but yesterday I ran into some missing vouchers, if that isn’t too much of an oxymoron, and had to reconstruct events from bank statements. I think I’m still on target to file on-line on Monday leaving the rest of the week for Strathardle. I am encouraged to read in American blogs that winter is easy, so far, on the east coast. Weather often travels west to east across the Atlantic.

Friday, January 13, 2012

And yet another day when inspiration lacks.

But also another day with pink in the Sky Scarf stripe.

Here are the socks – photography has done better than expected at conveying the nature of the wonderful yarn (KF Random Stripes). In most circumstances, they don’t look as stripey as that. In real life they come across as a dark, solid colour with slight variation.

I should reach the second heel flap today. The “Georgia O’Keefe” yarn is on its way – I hope there will be time to get the next Random Striped socks started (“Moor”) before the package arrives, just to see how the brighter stripes work.

I was in John Lewis yesterday – not picking up a prescription, this time, but buying sheets in the sale – and looked at the sale yarn. I knew I could trust myself to resist. Quite a lot of Rowan’s KF Colorscape Chunky yarn in different colorways is available in big skeins marked down from about £12 to about £9. I wasn’t tempted, nor was anybody else, much – the sale was nearly over and there it all was. The price, and the thought of how quickly one of those big skeins could be knitted, made me feel I wasn’t quite as absurdly extravagant as I often seem to myself to be.

Non-knit misellaneous

I’m hard at work on our income tax, and hope to file it this weekend and so leave us free for a trip to Strathardle next week if the weather holds. At the moment, January is at its most ideal. I need to start working on the seed-and-potato order, and I need the actual garden to inspire me. Also, it’s time for some (Jerusalem) artichoke soup. And there might be some Brussels sprouts in my new vegetable cage – that would be exciting. And there’s compost and manure to spread which should have been done months ago.

Archie rang up from Athens last night in a state of some anxiety about SOPA – the Stop Online Piracy Act. I looked it up, briefly, and it sounds to me like a not unreasonable idea. A lot of intellectual property is being stolen out there. But will this be the end of the Internet As We Know It? Archie is not an online pirate that I know of, but he clearly reads websites which have got him worried.

Helen and Mungo went over to Glasgow last week to see the Loch Fyne Mileses. Here is a picture of James, Alexander, Thomas and Mungo standing in front of the tenement where Alexander and Helen were born. We were one up on the left. Our dining room bay window was therefore just above the window you see partially obscured by that tree. The window of the room in which the actual births took place was next to the left after that.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A ragbag, this morning.

Sky scarf

Today the sky was uniform in texture, cloudless? Glowing opalescence to the east on my left, darkening across the dome. This is a fun project, not least for that moment of standing on the doorstep at 8:15 and looking. I have decided to allow myself one percentage point in the sidebar for every four garter stitch bumps, so I get another one today.

I am toying with the idea – if you can’t disguise it, make a feature of it – of knotting the ends and letting them form a fringe on one side of the scarf only. Too weird? Twisted in wear, perhaps it wouldn’t look so odd?

Anthracite socks

The hospital visit finished off the ribbing, as hoped. I did the last couple of rounds on the bus on the way home, and whizzed ahead with the leg later in the evening. Otherwise, not much. My husband put into words the sense of his decline in the last few weeks, since the night in a&e and the subsequent chesty cough. There is nothing they can do about it.

Sleeveless vest to come

Jimmy Bean wrote to say that the six skeins of Georgia O’Keefe in stock don’t match. Should they wait until the next delivery, or send something else? I told them to go ahead. They had similar anxieties when they were sending me the scarlet yarn some time ago, and I found that the differences between skeins disappeared into the delicious slight irregularities of the dye. I could of course wait and knit my Effortless (or Vitamin D) next after socks, but I’d prefer to press ahead.


I’ve been buying books (and scarcely looking at them). One is Meg’s & Amy Detjen’s “Knitting With Two Colours” which I would highly recommend. (I looked at it this morning. It’s full of useful tips.) I thought, as I did so, about the perhaps-forthcoming 2012 Calcutta Cup Victory Sweater. Top of the idea-pile had been something Norwegian, but I wonder if this would be the moment for the Prince of Wales joke: an all-over rotate-able design in two colours which would seem to flow unbroken down the sleeves, taking advantage of the fact that two-colour knitting tightens up the stitches into little squares.

The match is any moment now, in early February. It doesn’t belong there. In the very recent past, the Calcutta Cup was always contested on the last day of the Five Nations tournament (Six Nations, now, which spoils the symmetry). Now they slot it into the schedule any old where. The Loch Fyne family are coming over to Murrayfield for the occasion. Scotland has a reasonable chance of victory this year – surely a recipe for disaster. We only win when the odds are hopeless.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The wonderful anthracite sock fits beautifully. I am now halfway through the ribbing of the second sock and hope to finish that aspect of it today during the tedium of hospital waiting. After that, pure pleasure.

I have stuck to the sizing stumbled upon for the previous pair – leg on 72 stitches, foot on 64. I go round the heel on 72 and then slip in some extra decreases with the gusset shaping. Knitting is forgiving stuff, as EZ memorably said.

And I ordered those six skeins of madelinetosh DK in “Georgia O’Keefe” from Jimmy Bean. Artist-wise, my husband doesn’t think any more of her than he does of Van Gogh or Hundertwasser but this time he’ll just have to make the best of it.

An exciting day on the Sky Scarf front: there was some pink in the sky when I stood on the doorstep at 8:15. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that it is being knit with two strands held together, compounding the problem of ends but increasing the chances of echoing the sky.


…and speaking of socks: The Socklady has been making herself socks with left-over Kaffe Fassett bits. The results are simply stunning.

Judith sent me this link to a batch of choice post-war Vogue Knitting Books being sold this very day by the Knitting and Crochet Guild. Duplicates, I hope.

The history of the Vogue Knitting Book is roughly this (I hope somewhere in the organisation the true story is recoverable): The first issue was published in the fall of 1932, simultaneously in the US and GB. The US then fell by the wayside, but GB went on, twice a year without interruption, right through the war and up until the mid 60’s. The Americans joined in again in the late war years. From then until the ultimate demise, issues were very similar but not identical. The British ones had patterns for British yarn, and exclusively British ads.

(Jean Shrimpton’s first big break was an advertising spread in the VKB, over several pages. I don’t know whether Bailey was the photographer; it seems very likely. In subsequent years, she appeared regularly as a model for the magazine itself. We are about to have a television series about her and Bailey, or is it a movie? My guess is that the VKB will have been airbrushed out, but I may watch long enough to find out.)

After the demise, a spin-off British-only magazine called “Vogue Knitting” was published for four more years.

My own collection of the Vogue Knitting Book, acquired expensively from eBay, is now complete. But I think the last time I looked, I found that one of my “Vogue Knitting”’s is missing. I can’t imagine why – I have never failed to buy an issue, nor thrown one away, in my whole life. The KCG is selling five of the eight issues from that series, and so I had better check this very morning to see whether my missing one is on offer.

Here's a little gem from Youtube for you.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Little to report.


I finished the first anthracite sock, and it’s an absolutely super sock – although it hasn’t been tried on yet. I started the second one, and didn’t get very far. I start a sock (perhaps everyone does) by casting on all the stitches over two needles held together. Then slip out one of the needles and knit the stitches, in pattern, onto three needles. (I like doing the body of the sock on four needles, knitting with a fifth, but for some reason prefer one fewer when ribbing.)

And finally, on what amounts to the second round, I join the dangling confusion into a circle. And this time I found, half way around the first circuit, that I was knitting with the long tail of the long-tail cast on. We’ve all done it. I was able to tink back, so didn’t have to start again.

We have a routine diabetic appt at the Royal Infirmary tomorrow. Those appts always involve a lot of sitting about, waiting for the results of blood tests. I’d like to finish the ribbing.

Sky scarf

I stood for a moment on the doorstep just now with a handful of possible oddballs, looking at the sky. None of the yarns looked anything like the sky. I wonder if artists embarking on landscape have this problem – the sky doesn’t look anything like oil paint? The scarf, in greys and a bit of blue, is looking rather well.

You’re right, Kristie, that the skeins tangle around each other, compounding the problem of all the ends. And I’m sure you’re right, Tricia, that spit-splicing is the answer. I am using mostly Shetland jumper-weight yarns which are fuzzy and adhesive and should work splendidly. It would be good to be able to use half-a-width of colour, too – white for high-flying clouds, if 2012 ever gets that far. But I have never mastered spit-splicing. Perhaps that can be one of my challenges for the year. At the moment, I am just bashing ahead despite confusion which is how I deal with much of life.

Sleeveless sweater

I took the sleeveless sweater I’m meant to replace to the computer screen yesterday. “Bark”, as I thought, is the nearest madelinetosh colour to the original. Jimmy Bean doesn’t have any at the moment, but Webs does. But at bedtime my husband said that maybe he’d like something more like the just-finished sock, dark, perhaps purple.

Applying myself again to the madelinetosh colours this morning, I am fired with the idea of Georgia O’Keefe. Appropriate for an art historian. Her pictures are colourful but she worked in charcoal at the beginning and end of her career and that is presumably what the colour-name alludes to. Jimmy Bean has only six skeins. I think that would be enough but will try to do the actual measuring-and-calculating today.

It would be especially gratifying to use it since I have failed to interest him in Van Gogh or Hundertwasser as an inspiration for socks.

Monday, January 09, 2012

And here we are. Helen and her family are safely back in Athens, much missed. The tales she and David tell of Greek life sound like a society in terminal decline – professional salaries unpaid, addicts lying about in the streets injecting themselves in full view. Everyone in a position to do so is making plans to leave.

Mungo solved my computer problem – we didn’t need to wait for Archie. Right-click on the top margin of the Google Chrome window and choose “maximize” from the drop-down menu. When it comes to right-clicking, I’m still in the second millennium. You got it, FiberQat.


I should polish off the toe of the first anthracite sock today. It would probably be a good idea to Kitchener it and try it on, as last time (when I had to take back the whole foot). I am beginning to think of What Next? I have some more KF random-striped yarn in a colourway called Moor. One possibility would be to forge ahead and knit my husband another pair of socks, in that. His sock drawer would then be in a state to last for a good while, and I love this yarn.

He wants me to knit a plain-vanilla sleeveless vest to replace one which has been worn to death. I had been thinking madelinetosh “kale” but he says he wants the same colour as before. That would be “bark”, more or less, but Jimmy Bean is out of it. I’ll enjoy thinking about that one.

And I’m having a nice time with my sky scarf. You’re right about the problem of the ends, FiberQat. The designer seems to have limited herself to six colours and demonstrates in her video how to loop them up the side, but I’ve got my whole ex-Fair-Isle stash and can’t bear to impose limitations. It’s a lot of fun looking at the sky and choosing yarn for it. Helen has suggested that I stick to the same time each day, a good idea, I think.

Potential for anxiety, however. I am doing my looking between eight and eight:thirty -- there is no way that I have thought of to represent that magical dawn opalescence in yarn. I have to keep reminding myself that neither the Knit Police nor the Meteorological Office are going to object to my decisions.

Here is a picture of James and Alistair in Beijing, James in the big scarf of Rowan Cocoon I knit him for Christmas ’10.

We had another present-opening session on Saturday. Here is Fergus in his beanie.

And here – no knitting content – is Archie with the iPad.  

Friday, January 06, 2012

Where were we?

Knitting, first

There’s little to report. I’m sailing along with the anthracite socks, loving the colour, loving the yarn. My husband is wearing the KF hand-dyed-effect as his first socks of 2012, and seems happy with them. But my delight in having returned to proper, firmly-spun sock yarn is such that I won’t repeat the experiment.

I stumbled across Leafcutter Designs’ “Sky scarf” somehow, and started one yesterday. You cast on some stitches and knit two rows – one garter stitch bump – every day, the colour of that day’s sky. That’s it.


Helen and her family are still here in GB, and we’ve had a lovely week. We didn’t go to Strathardle – we meant to leave on Tuesday, but there was a storm that day. I phoned a friend in Kirkmichael and learned that snow was lying.  So we stayed home, and it was just as well, I suspect. It was an epic storm. We probably couldn’t have reached Strathardle anyway as the Forth Road Bridge was closed for much of the day. The Botanic Gardens near here lost 40 trees, I have been told.

Alexander and Ketki still have no land line, unless BT fixed it yesterday. What happened was that that lightening strike, described in an earlier post, fried the telephone line. I have heard of lightening doing that to the electricity supply, destroying available televisions and computers – indeed, I’ve known people to whom it happened. But I had never heard of lightening taking out the telephone. Now I have.

They have been told they were lucky the house didn’t burn down.

Since Tuesday’s storm, they have also lost the signals for their mobile telephones.

They have a flat in Glasgow, not much used except in emergencies such as this. Ketki had arranged with her bank to work from home in December and Jamuary, but can’t very well do that with all communication severed. So they are based in Glasgow at the moment, with Alexander going back to Loch Fyne by day to entertain the man from BT. Helen and Mungo went over last night to see them.

She will be back today, and the rest of her family – currently in Cheshire with David’s mother – will rejoin us on Saturday. Then they’ll all go back to Greece.

I am having trouble with Google Chrome, in that it opens in a window offset to the right, denying me access to the vital right-hand controls. All I can think of to do is drag it left – it won’t budge; and reboot – that doesn’t help. Archie will be here tomorrow. I am pinning my hopes on him.

He took this picture of me (coughing), with the iPad.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Here we are – 2012. New years acquire a certain piquancy in old age.

Yesterday I made the list of knitting-I’d-like to-get-done, and this time there’s plenty there. Today it is my practice to write down the first two headlines of the first news broadcast I hear; even the most boring examples, of which this year provides two, acquire some interest as time goes by. And I note what I have achieved/what has happened in the year just past, and what I hope to achieve in the new one.

Some years I also try to notice and write down the main topics of my internal monologue today.

We don’t stay up for “the bells” – rarely have. But I like the idea of eating 12 grapes, Angel, and will put it into practice if I’m ever there again.

As for 2012: the Greeks will arrive late this evening, so today I must wrap their Christmas presents and make ready their beds. Helen wrote yesterday:

We'll put the boys in the spare room and sleep in the dining room ourselves - if you leave the stuff out we can make up the beds when we get there. Remember it will be two hours earlier for us so we'll be pretty sprightly.

But it wont be two hours earlier: itll be two hours later.  They won’t be sprightly at all. The whole subject remains intensely confusing. The Chinese flew home to Beijing yesterday. I asked Cathy (over the phone, the evening before) whether that meant they would be flying towards or away from the New Year and we were hard put to work it out.

So I probably won’t be here for the next week. The weather is remarkably open for the time of year, and Helen is game, and we’re thinking of going to Strathardle. If I can find anyone awake at the insurance company, I can put her on our policy for three days, she says, and she’ll even drive. Barring a typhoon or the dreaded snow, even one full day would let me get some serious things done for my poor vegetables. And a few rows knit on the Japanese shirt.

As for knitting here, I pressed on with the anthracite ribbing. Nearly done. At midday, at a south-facing window, the stripes are wonderful; still barely perceptible in the evening.

Miscellaneous, knitting-related

Diana, thank you for probing deeper into the Moray Firth Gansey Project. You’re quite right, the pictures of the Ganseyfest show lots of colour. I would very much welcome some serious comment on this subject.

I meant to tell you yesterday: Lord Kitchener is dead. He was the great-nephew, I believe, of the original title-holder, the eponymous inspirer (presumably) of grafted toes on socks. He was in his 90’s. This will be the man I wrote to a decade or so ago, who replied eventually that he had never heard of “Kitchener stitch”. He had no heir, so I think the title lapses.