Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A magic day.

All well here. 

We took Archie to school on Monday, he anxious but bravely determined to make the best of it. We have heard nothing since, not even a text message, and take that as a good sign. We have been warned on all sides that the big drawback to this particular school is that it is famously sporty. Archie has, I believe, never been exposed to the slightest physical activity in the course of his Greek education, and is not a particularly sporty type by nature. But he was willing on Monday to have a go even at rugby.

But we were surprised as well as pleased to learn that Monday afternoon’s activity was not to be Games but Cookery. Archie didn’t know anything about that, either.

We are having what probably qualifies as a heat wave – the last time such temperatures were recorded in Scotland at this time of year was in the late 19th century, before greenhouse gasses really got going. That should at least make Archie’s introduction to rugby less agonising than it might otherwise have been.

Whereas Greece is enveloped in unprecedented snow. Helen’s husband David took days off work, perforce, and spent them on Mt Pelion with the other two boys. She kept getting text messages from him about the snow, and when her plane landed in Athens yesterday the surrounding hills were snow-capped.


All well there, too.

I allowed myself some pleasant sock-knitting while I watched the match on Sunday, to make up for not having any cider. That was Ketki’s Van Gogh sock, of course, and I love the way it’s coming out. Opal self-patterning sock yarn, colorway Restaurant de la Sirene. That link is to a page with eight colorways, presumably the whole range – I’m down at the bottom.

(They told us about the streaker, Knitlass, but primly didn’t show him. I don’t think they mentioned that he was wrapped in the tricolour.)

It would be nice to finish and be able give her the socks at Easter. It would be nice to have the v-neck vest finished by then, as well. Lent is awfully long; both goals may be possible.

The vest is progressing well, too. I knit the extra length and am now racing up the back, on fewer than half the number of stitches I was dealing with a moment ago, because of the armhole indentation. It seems to be going like the wind.

One of the unknit skeins looked distinctly different from the remaining two, so I have adopted the practice you suggested, Theresa, of alternating skeins as I knit. It’s working. If you know what you’re looking for, you can detect the two-row stripes, but it needs an expert eye. I had read of this technique, but never used it before.

I hope, when I finish the back, I’ll have enough of the darker yarn to do the fronts without alternation. The lighter skein could then come in to play again for the ribbing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Helen and Archie are here. I won't try to write about knitting today or tomorrow.

Scotland lost the rugby match, as usual. We were playing France, and Edinburgh was deliciously full of opposition supporters yesterday morning. We overheard someone say, in Drummond Place, "sont jolis, ces battiments".

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The try-on of the v-neck vest went well. It fits rather snugly over a heavy winter shirt, and my husband prefers not-snug. It’s also still slightly short of the desired length to the underarm. I think both of these problems can be addressed at once by putting all the stitches back on the needle (ugh) and adding about 2”. That will give me enough length that I can block it for width, if you follow. It’s very malleable yarn.


I’ve got everybody’s foot-length, expressed in no.-of-rounds after gusset, in my notes already. I’m ready to move on to the next level, and try to fit socks to the actual measurements of ankle and ball-of-foot.

Fitting my husband’s feet is the real problem. Everybody else professes themselves perfectly happy. I used to have it pat, but a couple of years ago I knit a pair that he really struggled to get into. I gave them to James, and started knitting for my husband with 8 extra stitches in the circumference.

This time I have knit three pairs for him in rapid succession. When he tried on the first, the KF hand-dyed-effect in "rhubarb", he complained that there was too much fabric in the foot, “like a duck-billed platypus”. So I took it back to the heel and knit the foot on fewer stitches – on the number I used to use for the whole sock. That seemed to work reasonably well. I did the same for the “anthracite” and the “outré” (otherwise known as “moor”) socks.

For the latter, he now says the leg is too slouchy. It’s as if I should go back to the original stitch number. But…

But once I get to grips with Gibson-Roberts and Neatby, and start incorporating measurements of circumference, I may be able to knit a custom-fitted sock that will solve the whole problem. It also occurred to me just now, looking at a pattern in Zite, that a broad rib down the leg might help.

I wonder if the fact that I’ve never actually seen Hellie’s boyfriend Matt wearing the socks I knit him, means that they don’t fit?

The swatching problem comes into play here  -- or rather, it doesn’t. Thank you for your comment, Ron, as so often. I have knit many socks on German yarn and 2.5 mm needles. I know exactly what’s going to happen. I have long been sure that traditional knitters in many genres rely on that sort of relationship with their materials. Gauge becomes a given.


Helen and her son Archie will be here late tonight. I must make some beds. Tomorrow Archie will go off to board for the week at an Edinburgh school, to see how he likes it and they him. Helen will go back to Athens on Tuesday. I get to collect Archie on Friday afternoon, spend Saturday with him (he has asked for a visit to Waterstone's), and take him to the airport next Sunday. 

The house has gradually filled with an astonishing number of large packages, with one still to come. Helen’s husband David explains that that is because everything costs twice as much in Greece. I am glad I am not responsible for packing it all and coaxing it onto an airline, but that’s not the point. If everything costs twice as much in Greece, surely that is another strong argument for their getting out of the Euro and devaluing.

Thank you for the GoodReader instructions, Judith. I think I can do that, and will try soon. Not today, however, which belongs to bed-making and rugby-watching.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

It’s not that I’ve frittered the time away this morning – it’s that the computer has been unusually obstructive, even for it. Either way, having at last got this far, I must be brief.

The v-neck vest is still an inch short of the armpits. I hope to reach that point today and thread the stitches on waste yarn for my husband to try on at bedtime. Separate lengths of waste yarn for front and back, as I will proceed separately from here. No steeking this time.

I am pretty confident about size, although I seem to be getting more stitches to the inch than I did in the swatch. (That’s the trouble with swatching.) Both of the electric red Brownstones I knit last year came out large, despite careful attention to sizing. I am hoping for some leeway here.

That may leave time for a few more rounds on Ketki’s Van Gogh socks. Plan for the day.

Miscellaneous from Zite

Simply Sock Yarn wants knitters to test the sock yarns people send her. What a job! She’ll have a million applications, but I just thought I’d mention it.

I kind of like this faintly ridiculous pattern. I’ve had my eye on Kauni for a while. Lower neck, over a white shirt?

Sock knitting

An infinitely kind blog reader in Ohio has sent me Neatby’s “Cool Socks Warm Feet” claiming she doesn’t want it. It promises to make a useful contribution to the Great Sock Project which will start soon, I hope. My husband has been complaining that he doesn’t like the fit of the Outre Socks, just completed. Neatby has what looks like a good section on fit which I will use alongside Gibson-Roberts.

I’ll still be knitting madelinetosh by Easter, but I’ll take a tape measure to Loch Fyne and size everybody’s feet.

Friday, February 24, 2012


We heard yesterday of the death of an old friend. 

It was just about exactly 55 years ago, in late February ’57 therefore, when I met John and my husband. We were having a party and were a bit short of men and one of us knew someone who knew John and knew he had a friend with whom he was often seen, and so we invited them along. They proved to be, in the event, the two lecturers in the Glasgow University Dep’t of Fine Art. I vividly remember opening the door to them – John was standing slightly in front of the man I married six months later – and thinking, This is a bit better than we might have expected, inviting strangers to our party sight unseen.


Another skein has been wound and attached to the v-neck vest, and it matches perfectly. A couple more sessions should get me to the armhole.

I acquired GoodReader yesterday – alas, before I had read your comment, Daisy. It looks terrific. I then bought the first Swing Knitting workshop. I haven’t figured out how to get it in to GoodReader, and I may not bother. It is currently in my Ravelry library which means I can read it on the iPad, and as I feared it goes on and on and on and the sheer weight of words makes it very difficult – for me, so far, impossible – to grasp the central idea.

And when I do get it, it is going to involve attaching a lot of little safety pins.

I haven’t so far got anything into GoodReader, in fact, but I’ve looked at their help topics and I think I see how to proceed. When I’m ready to start my Effortless (currently a PDF on the desktop computer) I’ll move it in.

Snood, yet again

Your story about circular scarves called “gaiters” is an extremely interesting one, Elizabeth (comment yesterday). The OED hasn’t got that meaning for "gaiters" (any more than they’ve got “Kitchener stitch”) but they do have an interesting – and surely relevant – quotation from “Plain Knitting”, 1880: “Gaiters (i.e., legs of stockings without feet)..are very useful to those who are obliged to walk out in all weathers”.

Fiberqat, I am touched that you are concerned for me to get my Games entry right. I really, really don’t care. I’ll enter to support the cause, and to make things more fun for other competitors and for the spectators, and to give the grandchildren a reason to rush into the Home Industries Tent as soon as the door opens. Winning is irrelevant – I’d rather knit what I want and can use, within a broad interpretation of the rules. It’ll probably be a circular scarf.

I’m used to being slightly out of step. I knit this – that’s Thomas-the-Younger, almost certainly photographed on Games Day – when the rubric was “motif sweater” four years ago. It was unplaced. All the other entries had one large motif each.

It's a VK pattern that I had knit a couple of decades previously for one of Rachel's children. 

My sister-in-law, who died a year ago, firmly believed that I was fiercely competitive. Maybe I am, in some respects, but not when it comes to knitting for the Games. 

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Don’t blame me. It’s all the fault of the committee who set the categories for the Strathardle Games Home Industries Tent.

If you try the word in Ravelry, you get pages of suggestions.

a)      A few are what I would call a snood, a mesh sac for the hair, Rita-Hayworth-style.
b)      Many are what Dawn and Theresa would call a snood (comments, yesterday). I think I would call that a “cowl” or a “smoke ring”.
c)      Many more are what I would describe as circular scarves, with or without a moebius twist.

If you try Googling “snood” you’ll soon discover that Marks & Spencer is offering quantities this year of what they call “snood scarves” – essentially c) above.

The OED, for what it’s worth, says we’re all wrong. According to them, a snood is: "A fillet, band, or ribbon, for confining the hair; latterly, in Scotland (and the north of England), the distinctive hair-band worn by young unmarried women." Gratifyingly for me, they go on to add: "More recently, a fashionable bag-like or closed woman's hairnet, usu. worn at the back of the head", for which they cite Janey Ironside's "Fashion Alphabet" of 1968. The word is Old English, "of obscure origin", for what that's worth.

If the committee is prepared to lead us into such confusion, I feel perfectly free to knit something from any one of those three categories, as takes my fancy. I "queued" this one in Ravelry yesterday.

Swing Knitting

Judith, thank you for the reference to Cotton and Cloud’s blog entry, a propos swing knitting. (Comment yesterday) Kristie,  you suggested a few days ago that I get GoodReader for my iPad and then get the first installment of Swing Knitting to read there. Forty pages is presumably nothing for the iPad. That’s a good idea, and I mean to do it – and it had better be soon, before the idea slips away.


The vest is not a million miles away from the underarm, and even closer to the installation of the next skein. I currently think that the colour change may prove to be passable-off as a "design feature", if the next skein matches the current one. Mindless knitting with beautiful yarn is a pleasant way to pass the time.

It was windy outside the door this morning

but I persevered and got a picture of the Sky Scarf for you:

If I take the whole kit along to Loch Fyne at Easter, the Little Boys can help me choose each day’s yarn.


Yes, Mary Lou, (comment yesterday), I read Donald Hall in the New Yorker. We take all New Yorkers to Strathardle and read them there, so I only just got to it last week. Very good indeed. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Back in the saddle…


V-necked vest: The second madelinetosh skein has turned out distinctly different from the first. Really very distinctly darker. I hoped for a while that the irregularities in the dye, as they established themselves with the second skein, would echo the irregularities in the first skein in a way that would bind them together. That sounds fanciful, and it isn’t working.

I think there may be enough of the darker yarn that I can finish the vest without another violent change. I have tentatively decided to go on. When I get a bit nearer the underarm, it would be a good idea anyway to put the whole thing on waste yarn and see how we’re doing for size. That will be a chance to judge the general effect.


Here’s an oddity from this morning’s Zite. Real knitted art.

So I’m in the market for a cowl which I will self-define to be a snood (see previous entry) as my Games entry. The infinitude scarf?

I follow Cotton & Cloud’s blog, and I much liked the sleeveless vest she has designed for the “centenary” edition of Knitting Magazine – her blog entry for February 17. I’ve got the magazine, and had completely failed to notice the vest. So maybe the trouble with Knitting is dud photography rather than dud patterns?

“Knitting With the Color Guys” has turned up. There are some moderately nice things it, agile use of the sock yarns Kaffe has done for Regia as well as his Rowan yarns.


Thank you for the sound advice about the house in Strathardle. Catdownunder, I very much like your idea of keeping the mobile telephone to hand. And charged. And provided with the telephone numbers of our nearest neighbours. I’ll do that.

Kristie, -- follow that link for pictures of the cutest dog on the planet – the problem isn’t exactly that of looking after the house. We now have a man to cut the grass, a huge relief. Helen organises professional cleaners to blitz the place when she’s here in the summer. We made progress last week with finding the names of men who may be able to help with other tasks – we want to plant a tree in memory of my husband’s sister, and that means someone will need to build a cage for it like this one.

That's Archie and Mungo last summer with our metasequoia. I take pictures every year of the specimen trees and the grandchildren, and keep them in my tree book. 

When we’re there, we potter, and I grow my vegetables. What worries and saddens is the sense of not being able to do what we’re used to doing. It’s too early in the year yet for my husband to have tried out the Grandpa’s Weeder thing I got him for Christmas, with which he may be able to extirpate dandelions without bending.  That’ll help, if he can do it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Real Fat Tuesday

I have squandered my blogging time, and now must move forwards towards the day. Apologies. I'll be back tomorrow, keen as a whippet.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Here we are. It was a successful trip. Spring is not far advanced in Strathardle, but it’s on its way and we had two days of perfect outdoor weather.

I pruned the unproductive apple tree, and weeded and manured it like a New Testament parable. That’s a bit harder than it sounds because it means struggling with the wire netting, and extirpating really viscous grass. I should have taken a Before picture.

And I harvested the artichokes, made a very successful soup, and re-planted the little ones. That's their spot, to the left of the tree. I suspect there were lots more unharvested, but I couldn’t find them. Maybe when they all start to grow this year I’ll be able to expand the patch, as is my ambition, by moving some. The books say you can never find all of them. Nigel Slater’s idea in his big vegetable book is to make a virtue of necessity and have a permanent artichoke patch.

I also made contact at one remove with the K*rkmichael Session House knitting group, and handed over quantities of yarn. I’ve got the phone number of the woman in charge, and before we go north again I hope to discuss with her the question of whether they can use lace yarn. When I take yarn to Alyth I just drop it in a corner shop and never get to talk to anybody.

And I’ve got the Games programme – the Knitting categories are (a) a snood and (b) best use of 100 grams of yarn, any ply.

Snood? When I was young (late 40’s) the word meant a mesh sac into which one’s hair could be confined if one were Rita Hayworth. But a bit of Ravelry’ing and Googling reveals that the word is now synonymous with “cowl” and cowls, of course, are everywhere. So I suppose I can do one of those. I might mention that Shandy gave me a cowl pattern a year or so ago when I was in the knitting doldrums, and I knit it in Koigu, and I’ve had a lot of wear from it this winter.

I’ll find something – and it won’t take impossibly long to knit.

I made a little progress with the Japanese shirt, including finishing the first skein and winding the second, no small achievement. It’s unspeakably beautiful – madelinetosh sock yarn “Cosmos” -- and progressing rather slowly. Maybe I’ll bring it back here at some point.

I relied on the camera for the Sky Scarf. In future, I’ll take the whole kit along where feasible. Having to catch up when one gets home – can’t knit today’s row until it’s been done – adds a frisson of anxiety and stress to an otherwise delightful daily obligation.

But it was a sad visit as well. As we shuffle about here in Edinburgh, our gradual decline goes almost unnoticed. There, where visits are relatively rare and where much time is spent out of doors trying to do things, the markers are conspicuous, the things we could do a year ago, six months ago, that we can’t do now.  I worry, too, about how I could cope with an emergency, so far from help. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Don’t miss Helen C.K.S.’s latest.

I knit some blue into the Sky Scarf this morning – the first for awhile. I will be setting off for Strathardle in a good deal better spirit than I did a month ago – although I am glad we made that cold, foreshortened trip. The days are perceptibly longer now – Groundhog Day is the real turning-point, on that one – and I have every reason to hope that we’ll get there in time to dig some artichokes for soup this evening.

And the sleeveless vest progresses well – my husband was right, this won’t take long, despite his girth, and the yarn is heaven to knit. “Georgia O’Keefe” is substantially greener than it looks on Jimmy Bean’s website, if you ever need to know.

I looked just now, to make sure that that statement is true, and was sorry to see that they haven’t got any more in since I cleared them out. The percentages in my progress bar are based on rough but not absurd calculations – if I reach 16% with this first skein, now distinctly diminished, I should have enough. If not, not.

I remain tempted by Swing knitting (text and comments yesterday). Maybe, Beverly-near-Yosemite,  I’ll follow your example and buy the first worksheet. I could run through it and find the pages that need to be printed and print them and delete the rest. Maybe.


Some years ago – you’ve heard this – we gave Ketki a Scotland Rugby Bear for Christmas. He wears a little Scotland shirt and waves a Saltire. She and Alexander decided to name him for the first man to score a try for Scotland in the international season that year. He is, accordingly, named Paterson.

Chris Paterson has now retired, after a distinguished career. Last Christmas, Alexander and Ketki gave their Little Boys a Scotland Rugby Bear each.

Last Sunday, in Wales, Scotland at last scored tries, the first for years. The first was scored by Allister Hogg – I do hate it when people can’t spell their own names. He is 19, and was playing for his country for the first time. The try was disallowed on a technicality. The commentators at the time, and the newspapers the next day, were unanimous in agreeing that the referee was wrong. It was a try.

And the next, by Grieg Laidlaw. I’m not entirely happy with that spelling, either. That one was allowed.

Fortunately, Wales’ winning margin was more than the points awarded to a converted try.

Alexander told me yesterday that both bears are named Hogg. I would have thought it better to call one Hogg and the other Laidlaw – one wouldn’t have to specify which was which.

I should be back by the weekend, or not long after. In time for Carnival -- or, in my case, Cidreval, if the coinage be allowed.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I’m ribbing happily onwards with the vest. I should finish that phase today. Since I’m making this up as I go along, I can stop ribbing whenever I like. Nice feeling.

While I was looking at people’s Sky Scarves on Ravelry yesterday, I found someone who was doing hers in “swing knitting”. I did a bit of Googling, but the inventor of swing knitting seems to have a stranglehold on the system. It comes in three “workshops” costing respectively $11.90, $11.90, and $15.90. That’s a lot.

I don’t begrudge money where knitting is concerned, as you know. The real problem is that I simply don’t want a 40-page PDF, let alone two more. It’s too much (a) for my computer (b) for my printer and (c) for me. I’m sure it could be explained in two pages. That’s more my style.

I knit something roughly along those lines many years ago, a sweater for Thomas the Elder when he was a toddler. In those days, a quarter of a century ago, there was still an abundance of patterns in weekly women’s magazines, often very interesting patterns. My vague theory was that they were supplied to the magazines by the spinners and were patterns that hadn’t made the cut and wouldn’t be published as a leaflet, but were too good to bin.

Most knitting 25-30 years ago was done from the leaflets sold in yarn stores. Goodness, I haven’t bought one for years, nor even looked at the albums in which they are contained. I have a fair collection in my archives.

Anyway, I downsized several interesting ideas that year and knit them for a small boy. The only one I remember, and that but vaguely, is that jazzy short-row effort. I suppose I could work it out for myself, if I put my mind to it.


We’re hoping to go to Strathardle tomorrow. Scottish weather for the last fortnight has been vernal, while England was seized by cold and snow. Not particularly pleasant, but vernal, grey and damp. But I remained too scared-y to attempt Strathardle while the weather forecaster kept referring to sn*w, even if he was talking of areas hundreds of miles south of us.

But now the word is “becoming milder” all round, and it’s time to make a move. All the more so because next week, and the week after, are full of what passes for Event in the lives of the elderly, whereas this one is clear. And I need to harvest the Jerusalem artichokes before they start growing for ’12.

I’ll trust to the camera for the Sky Scarf this time.

My husband’s hand is perhaps slightly better. He hasn’t had a painful night since last Friday. Writer’s Cramp is an interesting thought, Tamar. We will see the dr next Wednesday because the dr wants to talk about whether my husband needs to have oxygen at home. We think not, at least not yet. But then my husband, for his part, has various symptoms to discuss including the hand. I read yesterday that some surgeries have notices up to say that patients are allowed only one symptom per consultation. The writer of the article (in the Telegraph), himself a dr, thought that ridiculous, and so do I. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Sky scarf

I know you’ll enjoy doing it, Kristie. It takes so little time that it is easily fitted into the routine of the day. I think it is well worth while trying to do it at more or less the same time every day – maybe that’s obvious, but I don’t think the designer mentions it. The brief daily experience of standing there and looking upwards and thinking about it is cumulatively very interesting. Maybe one should have studied meteorology.

Greek Helen will be here in a fortnight. Her son Archie is to come to school in Britain next year, as I think I’ve mentioned. One possibility is an Edinburgh boarding school, and he is scheduled for a “taster week” there at the end of February– an excellent idea. She was here in early January when I met the Sky Scarf idea in Zite, and was full of enthusiasm. I look forward to showing it to her.

She will hasten back to Athens once she has dropped Archie at the school gates. I get to collect him at the end of the week and enjoy the first debriefing and deliver him to the airport.

It is fascinating, on Ravelry, to see what different things people are doing with the Sky Scarf idea.

Sleeveless vest

I swatched – the ideal knitting for rugby-watching – and cast on. My husband prodded me into this project by saying it would take no time at all. I think he rather underestimates his circumference. I’ve made a decent start on the ribbing.

I had a bad moment last night, when I discovered that I had managed to pick it up and set off in the wrong direction. I got all the way around and then discovered the gap. That comes under the heading of Fatal Error. It’s not the first time in my life that I’ve done that, but it’s rare, not least because it would seem to be impossible to do it inadvertently.

But I’ve frogged, and picked up the stitches – they are very well-behaved, in madelinetosh – and re-oriented them all and retrieved errant plys. It’s loosely twisted and there was some straying. So now I’m back in the saddle. It’s wonderful stuff to knit – I keep saying that.

And my perennial anxiety – have I got enough yarn? – should be easy to deal with, this time. I’ve got six skeins. I’m knitting in the round. So when the first skein is finished, I should have achieved something like 1/6 of the desired length. The skeins do look very different from each other – Jimmy Bean warned me. It wasn’t a problem with the Scarlet Brownstones – the skeins were certainly different then --  and I  hope it won’t be this time.


The hat is the size it is, Tamar, because the Seamen’s Society was very specific about what they wanted: 10 rounds of ribbing, 32 of st st, in dk. So that’s what I did. Now I’ve got to make and address a package.

Thank you for your comment about my husband’s hand, too. Sort of worrying. He has an appt with the doctor next week, on Ash Wednesday, and is himself inclined to put up with it until then. It’s slightly better – the hand isn’t very useful, but there is little or no pain in repose. He can sleep. It is as if he had taken a blow – which he didn’t – on the back of the hand in that sensitive bit just behind the knuckles. 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sexagesima Sunday

The hat is finished – a third FO for 2012, and February not yet half gone! One sees the attraction of accessories. It fits my husband rather snugly (not that he's getting it), but doesn't cover the ears.

I finally got down to Big Tesco’s yesterday, all hopeful of finding “Knit Now” – I hadn’t forgotten. But they didn’t have it. They didn’t have any Weston’s Vintage Cider, either, and Lent looms.

I wound Georgia O’Keefe – it took a while – and started swatching . It’s pretty wonderful stuff. Sure enough, Fettig wants the Effortless to be knit on 5.5 mm needles, producing 19 stitches to 10 cm. The yarn label suggests that 4mm needles should produce 20-22 stitches to 10 cm. That's how I'm swatching. I don’t like big needles, and, whatever size I used for the Brownstones, certainly not 5.5, the fabric was pleasantly drapey. I wouldn’t want it any looser.

I will look out my Brownstone notes. And I will keep much carefull-er notes this time, with the swatch. But I think I will knit a different size of Effortless, rather than use 5.5mm needles.

Miscellaneous, knit-related

Thank you for the sock notes, Mary Lou. I will do Ketki’s socks exactly like that, with the sweet tomato heel. And thank you for the liberating comment, Gretchen. No, the socks aren’t going to stay up! I knit them pretty long for gents, and for Ketki and Greek Helen. Cathy and Rachel prefer them short, what I think would be classed as “crew”. The longer ones aren’t knee socks, but they come well up the calf. And they slouch. 

I emailed Ketki recently to ask if she wanted any changes to the standard issue socks I had previously knit for her. She asked to have them a bit longer – and they were already long. I think I’ll add the extra to the ribbing.

Kristie, that’s interesting about your edition of Zite not including the interview with Franklin (yesterday for link). One is invited to give the thumbs up to articles particularly enjoyed. Zite is supposed to base future magazines on one's preferences. I always do it when Franklin turns up, and I can only suppose that the system actually works.

(I hope you had a good birthday yesterday. You were born the year I was married -- but your birthday occurs slightly earlier in the year than the anniversary of the day we met.)

I am tempted by the Simplysockyarn sock club. In fact I think it is only because I would have to confess my folly to you people that I have so far refrained.

Miscellaneous, non-knit

My husband’s right hand has suddenly become painful – perhaps slightly swollen, painful enough to make sleep difficult and the hand virtually useless. Is this arthritis? We will have to try to see a doctor tomorrow if it has not improved considerably. I can help with dressing and cutting up food and injecting insulin, but shaving is beyond me and he hates not being able to write.

Thanks for “Cinco de Mayo”, Gretchen. I had never heard of it, and it is exactly what we were looking for.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

All well. The hat lacks but a round or two before the crown shaping. I should be well able to finish this evening. Then – swatch Georgia O’Keefe? (That’s the madelinetosh shade for my husband’s sleeveless v-neck.)  Or have I kept adequate gauge notes from all that Brownstone knitting before Christmas? I have a feeling that the Effortless pattern – written for madelinetosh – uses a larger needle size than I employed on the Brownstones. Maybe kill two birds with one stone by swatching with that.


Zite found an interview with Franklin for us. He is wildly enthusiastic about the designs of Laura Grutzeck. She doesn’t quite hack it for me. Franklin’s is a trim figure, and he’s brilliant at fit – look at his recent lopapeysa (his blog post for January 20) if you haven’t already. I prefer to snuggle into something more  form-concealing. I think his admiration for Grutzeck is sort of like the way IK was full of patterns that would look good on Eunny, when she first took over the editorship.

She has relaxed since and included stuff for the rest of us.

There’s lots about yarn-bombing on Zite these days. And my brother-in-law sent me this one this morning, from Dallas. Alas, I’ve never seen any myself. Edinburgh is full of statues which might benefit.

Mary Lou, thank you for the sock-shaping tip (comment yesterday). What happens when you get to the heel? Specifically, how many stitches for the foot? My memorised Patternworks pattern decreases gusset stitches until you get down to the number you thought of first, and then you proceed to knit the foot on exactly the same number as the leg. All this will become clearer to me when I get to grips with Gibson-Roberts and start measuring feet.

I am desperately sorry about your horse. 


I was thinking specifically yesterday of dates which are referred to, in normal speech, by the date only. “9/11”, “Ides of March”, “Quatorze juillet”, as you say, Mary Lou. I think the French – and the Italians? – go in for it more than we do, and name streets after dates. One might have to add the Glorious Twelfth, here in Britain, to our little list  – August 12, when the grouse-shooting season opens.

There are lots of other important dates which we all remember – Christmas and Groundhog Day and, yes, Pearl Harbor. But we don’t normally refer to them just by number. “Armistice Day” used to puzzle me, as a child – was it not odd to remember a former armistice when the world was convulsed by war? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

I am well started on the seaman’s hat. It’s going to be a three-night job, rather than the hoped-for two, but that can be endured. “Tapestry” – 70% wool, 30% soy – is turning out rather slippery and I’m glad not to be embarking on a major project. But I think it will be cosy and comforting at sea, and the colour is perfectly manly. Pic soon.

And I am increasingly excited about the sock-knitting project I have talked myself into. Daisy (comment yesterday), I have downloaded and printed – seven pages – Yarnissima’s “Brainless” pattern. Thank you. I gather from some of the comments of the many people who have knit it, that it may come into the O-easy-for-Leonardo category – but that’s the whole point here: challenge!

But, Beverly (comment yesterday), I don’t need to relieve the tedium. The tedium is the whole point. I am sure I have told you often before how sock-knitting has entirely relieved me of the Fear of Flying. To the point that, on my most recent flight – which may well remain my last-ever – to my nephew Theo’s wedding in CT three years ago, I didn’t get much knitting done at all.

In my mother’s later years, after she had stopped travelling, I tried to visit her twice a year and usually managed it, in a state of abject terror when aloft. In 1996 we both went, to celebrate her 90th birthday. By that time, I was on-line and had discovered Patternworks and Socka Colors. I hadn’t knit socks for ages but I took some sock knitting along, in the greenish shade often called “teal”, and knit my husband a pair.

That was before 9/11. Knitting in the air was no problem. The relief of anxiety was astonishing.

Ever since then, I have kept socks on the go for travel and waiting rooms. As we recently saw when my husband was carried off to a&e with ominously low blood sugar due to not having come to supper when he was summoned. He was flat on the floor, the house was full of ambulance men and kind neighbours, provision was being made – by the  neighbours – to provide me with a well-charged mobile telephone. All I had to do was pick up the Designated Knitting Bag, and I did it. I got quite a bit done, that night.

Wooden sock needles, and a severe mien, always sufficed me with the airline authorities. I had trouble with a Virgin Atlantic stewardess once, while aloft post 9/11. I had her call the chief steward. He said, “Those are cocktail sticks, madam. Go on knitting.”

Once or twice, I have introduced patterns, but I much prefer round-and-round. Maybe under the influence of Gibson-Roberts I’ll move on to leg-shaping.

I could almost wish away my two madelinetosh projects in order to get started with my sock-year – perish the thought!

[An interesting essay could be written about historical events important enough to be referred to only by their date. It is Shakespeare who has made “the Ides of March” a by-word for us, but the Romans, Cicero at least, used it too, often referring just to “the Ides”, or “the glory of the Ides”. He was anti-Caesar, delighted by the assassination. I sort of think the French have lots of such dates. We Anglophones have got the Fourth of July and the Fifth of November. During the war, December 7th, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, had such a status, temporarily.]

Thursday, February 09, 2012

All went well.

The outré socks are finished:

And Ketki’s Van Gogh socks have been cast on. My hands have got used to Knit Pics over all these weeks – even ribbing now seems to speed forward. I’ll lay it aside with some reluctance.

Here's a very hasty snap of the Sky Scarf, minus today's uniform grey stripe.

Revisiting the Sailors’ Society I find that they specify DK if you insist on using your own yarn for a hat – and will send something called “Feel Good Yarn” if you ask for one of their kits. So I guess Debbie Bliss “Maya” is out. I have put it out for donation. I think I started something with it once – the “February Lady Sweater”, I believe – and found it rather garish, although beautiful in the skein.

For the hat, I have switched my plans to Paton’s “Tapestry” of which I have a couple of balls, and will get started today. They don’t want a folded-up brim. They don’t want garter stitch (as in the Stahman hat). I might as well do as they ask, except for knitting it in the round. It should be very quick.

And I explored the Unknit Sock collection yesterday, with happier results than I expected. I must have had a purge sometime recently which I have forgotten about. There remain 12 pairs of Unknit Socks – not counting Ketki’s, which are now Being Knit. Some of them are suitable for gents. Twelve pairs of socks  could be finished within a year. Kristie gave me a 100 gr ball called “Crazy Zauberball” when we met last summer. That’s one of the 12, and is going to be a pair for myself.

I remain grateful for yesterday’s tips about sock yarns suitable for gents but not too boring, and will save them in my electronic Filofax. I can suggest, from my own recent experience, Regia’s KF Random Stripes in “Anthracite”. I wouldn’t mind doing them again. And a couple of years ago I knit a pair for Granddaughter Hellie’s boyfriend Matt in Artist’s Palette Smoothie Sock Yarn in a very gentlemanly colour. I bought the yarn from the market that day in London when I had a class with Alice Starmore: I have forgotten who organised it.

But when I follow that link myself now, they have no Smoothie in a remotely suitable shade. Nor have I heard from Matt how the socks have worn.  If all goes according to plan, he will be with us again on the shores of Loch Fyne at Easter, and I will ask.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

I’m shaping the toes of the second outré sock – so tonight’s session should see it finished. I mean to cast on Van Gogh for Ketki and get the ribbing established and then relegate socks, for the time being, to their old role as travel-and-waiting-room-and-emergency comfort. On to the sailor’s hat.

I found Gibson-Roberts’ “Simple Socks”. I have no memory of it – it must have gone straight from Amazon box to bookshelf. I also have her “Ethnic Socks and Stockings” which I will revisit today.

Simple Socks is more or less an EPS-for-feet. [=Elizabeth’s Percentage System – the EZ way to plan and knit a sweater.] It produced two reactions in me – one was embarrassment, that I have been knitting socks all these years without shaping the leg (except for kilt hose) and without even measuring the circumference of the foot. And the other was confusion – I think she spins things out a bit, to make a whole book of one system for knitting a sock. I got bogged down in the long-winded explanations. That should go better with an actual foot to measure, and an actual sock in hand being knit.

I am quite taken, at the moment, with the idea of a Sock Year (or however long it takes). Part of the point would be to deal with the sock-yarn element of the stash. Too boring to knit? Out! I’ll buy some more Kaffe. 

Those are good ideas, both, for making collections of heels without knitting entire socks, Marilyn and Tamar. But I think I want to knit entire socks. 

The difficulty is finding yarns boring enough to be worn by gents and interesting enough to be knit by me. Does anybody know anything about the wearing qualities of madelinetosh sock yarn? I notice that it’s 100% wool, which may be a bad start. But that’s the wrong approach – I’ve got plenty of things to knit in the stash and plenty of ladies who don’t mind lively socks, to knit them for.


Zite has been rich in curiosities lately.

This one for a knitted Mona Lisa, President Obama, and much more.

This one for a clock that knits a scarf (really).

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

More about socks

I’ve added “Fleegle’s heel” to the list in my electronic Organiser.  Have I got the link right, Anita? Fleegle is the woman who figured out how to knit garter stitch in the round, a technique I used for the Mourning Shawl I knit for our niece last year. I stand in awe.

And I’ve also made a note there of where to find the advice on stretchy bind-offs (=in the comments for Sunday, 5/2/12). Thanks for that.

Barbara, I had the wit to search LibraryThing just now, before logging on to Amazon – I find I have the Gibson-Roberts “Simple Sock” book, and will certainly look at it today. The scan of my shelves on Sunday clearly wasn’t very thorough. Your very kind remark about the blog has produced a lasting glow, here in Drummond Place.

Janis, I agree utterly about the tedium of knitting the wrap with the wrapped stitch. It’s tolerable for a few rows when one is lifting the back of a sweater, but wouldn’t do in a heel.

But the short-row heel I knit (Patternworks $1 sometime in the ‘90’s) doesn’t involve wrapping:

n      Knit the heel flap.
n      Knit to the centre of it, k2, ssk, k1, turn.
n      Slip 1, p5, p2tog, p1, turn.
n      Knit to 1 st before the gap, ssk, k1, turn.
n      Purl to 1 st before the gap, p2tog, p1, turn

And so forth. Each decrease, ssk and p2tog, takes in that extra k1 or p1 after the decrease from last time, plus the stitch from the other side of the gap which one might have expected to wrap, but didn’t. The unwrapped stitch from beyond the gap winds up on the bottom of the decrease, remembering our useful rule that the stitch the needle enters first, for any decrease, winds up on top. I am not clever enough to figure out if that’s why wrapping is unnecessary, but I wonder.

By now, I could easily devote the rest of 2012 to sock-knitting, to test all these ideas. And it’s a thought, once the two madelinetosh projects are done. People wear socks, there’s no doubt.

Speaking of Amazon, as I did above, we have just received the catalogue for the Leonardo show which we didn’t get to see in London. My husband was a bit cross at me for not holding out for the paperback edition – I don’t think Amazon had it. Whatever: even with postage, it cost less (and it’s a big book) than they are asking for “Cool Socks Warm Feet”. Most peculiar. Thanks for the tip about the Ravelry download of CSWF, Jenny – but I really don’t need it, now that I’ve got the pattern which includes the Neatby heel.

Monday, February 06, 2012


What has happened to Hillary’s hair? I used to offer her as a pattern to my hairdresser – aim for something like that. Now she looks terrible.

I remember this day 60 years ago. I think I’ve said this before. My husband doesn’t – he was 26 at the time, and must have been thinking about art. I don’t remember hearing the news, but I vividly remember (for some reason) leaning forward to the man in front of me in Mr Kennick’s 1:30 philosophy class and asking, “Is it true that the King is dead?” Like that. Not “of England”.


The groundhog may have prudently gone back into hibernation, but the Sky Scarf is definitely getting blue-er! Kristie, I don’t know what I’m going to do with the ends. There they are. I suspect the answer will be (because the easiest) to knot them and cut them neatly to 4” or so and have lots more fringe on one side than on the other.

I should finish the outré socks in another couple of sessions.

If the Sailors’ Society hands out yarn to knitters to knit hats with, maybe they’d like the rest of my Debbie Bliss “Maya” once I’ve knit them a hat? Making a parcel and trudging to the post office is the part I hate – it wouldn’t be any more trouble to put yarn in with the hat.


Clearly, heels are to be a major part of my self-challenging in 2012. Fate has spoken. I have made a page for them in my electronic Filofax.

I’ll start with Cat Bordhi’s Sweet Tomato. I found the video you mention, Catmum, in which she demonstrates it. It’s a bit languid – I kept wanting her to hurry up and get to the point. But when I’m actually engaged with the problem, I may be glad that she takes it slowly. I’ll have my iPad with me on the shores of Loch Fyne where I hope to be attempting it at Easter.

A quick survey of my shelves comes up with Nancy Bush’s “Folk Socks” which has a whole section on heels, one after another. I was a bit surprised to find that the overall books, Vogue and Montse Stanley and Principles of Knitting, don't have sections like that.

I’ve made a note of where to find the “Andersson heel” QueerJoe mentions.

I’ve downloaded and printed the June Sock pattern from Ravelry which you recommend, Daisy.

And I’ve bought from Lucy Neatby and downloaded and printed her “Timberland Toes” pattern which includes the garter stitch heel you mention, Janis. (Hi!) I thought maybe I’d buy her “Cool Socks Warm Feet” book from instead, but it costs £43.27 and reckless as I am with money where knitting books are concerned, that’s too much.

I’ve got all of EZ, so somewhere I must have her detachable-and-replaceable heel.

I’m going to have to work some extra socks into the schedule.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Septuagesima Sunday

Scotland lost, as usual. Takes the pressure off the knitting schedule, anyway. I found it a scrappy, unsatisfactory match. When England beat Scotland in the Rugby World Cup recently – off in the Antipodes somewhere – the match was far more exciting. Or did it just seem so to me because it was played early in the British day? whereas yesterday I was already exhausted by kickoff time.

There were passages of good play, but the England defence held, and Scotland didn’t score a try. As usual.

We had a nice time with the Mileses. They are going to host Easter again, with Rachel and her family coming up from London. That will be something to look forward to, through the tedium of Lent.

Two knitting decisions, a propos:

n      I think it will probably be best to photograph the sky over there every morning and knit the relevant stripes into the Sky Scarf when we get back, rather than travelling with a whole bag of oddballs. Even this morning, six weeks into the year, I needed an entirely new yarn to express a golden glow in the eastern sky. The designer doesn’t discuss the question of moving about, I don’t think. But nobody stays in the same place for 365 consecutive days, do they?

n      When the current socks are finished (soon), I’ll cast on a pair for Ketki, who didn’t get any socks in ’11. If I apply myself industriously while we’re there, I ought to be able to reach the first heel. I will try something different, while I’ve got Ketki on the spot to try it on. It can be part of my vague experiment-in-’12 project.

I’ll have a look at the Flutterby socks (which come with Sockupied, but have to be downloaded separately), as you suggest, Bonnie, for the sake of the Sweet Tomato Heel. Love the name. Queer Joe likes his own version of the “Andersson heel”. I google’d it, but it seems to be exclusively toe-up and there, for the moment at least, I draw the line.

n      The cast-on would be fiddly, and would deprive me of the pleasure of that little bit of Kitchener at the end.
n      The ribbing comes last – a bit like eating the icing first.
n      I am not confident in my ability to achieve a sufficiently elastic bind-off.

And I’ve got nothing if not books – I’ll read up on heels. There is much sensible advice in yesterday’s comments, for which I thank you.


Helen and her eldest son Archie are due in London today, whence they will set off tomorrow to look at a possible school for him. England is suffering badly from snow this morning (none in Edinburgh). I hope they’ll be all right.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Calcutta Cup Day

So here we are. It's not as cold as it was yesterday. Scotland sound dangerously like favourites: has this ever happened before? If time allows this morning, I may even go into a betting shop on Broughton St and find out what the odds are.

A friend and neighbour in Birmingham (who was also an artist of some distinction) taught me how to fill out a form in a betting shop and de-mystified the whole procedure for me.  They are not dens of iniquity, after all; not much more dangerous than pubs, and perfectly respectable. It is an accomplishment I have been grateful to him for.

He was a raconteur of distinction, too. I could flesh out the Wikipedia entry by telling you that his grandfather took the tickets, on the Fife side, for the train which famously plunged into the Tay. Or of the time when Bill was in charge of “Art:Western Europe” (as he put it) after the war.  He once had to deliver a Rembrandt to a general who was living in a railway carriage which had formerly been the luxurious nest of his German counterpart.

Bill handed it over and stood his ground. “I need a receipt, Sir.” And eventually got it.


I’ve reached the heel flap. I wonder if I’ll be able to get around the heel while watching the match this evening?

Zite came up with this interesting blog-entry in which a possessor of multiple WIPs analyses the characteristics of the things she actually finishes. Good reading, although it doesn’t touch my situation: I was effectively cured of multiple-WIPery by Greek Helen when a teenager: “What is that going to be, if you finish it?”

The simple act of keeping a record of FO’s followed (in a manila file labelled “Knitting Actually Finished”) – that concentrated the mind wonderfully. And my discovery, on the KnitList in the 90’s, of the concept of Locational WIPs has been a boon, too. One for Strathardle – that became possible once we moved from Birmingham to Edinburgh and were able to go back and forth regularly; a major one for Edinburgh; and socks constantly to hand for waiting rooms and travel.  


Thanks for the link to the Sailors’ Society, Claire. I was touched to discover that they are willing to provide both yarn and pattern – they really do want knitters to knit. And their photographs suggest that lively colours are welcome. It doesn’t matter which sailor gets the hat I intend to knit next week. Someone certainly will.

Thank you for the pointer to the Sockupied App, Bonnie. I read your message this morning on my iPad as I sat at the kitchen table with that precious first cup of coffee (in my Calcutta Cup mug, of course), and went to the App Store at once. I’ve bought the whole thing, and like it. Should I get Cat Bordhi’s ebook? I have always resisted the fancification of sock-knitting, but I wonder if there might not be something I could usefully learn about heels.

Friday, February 03, 2012

I should reach the heel flap of the 2nd outré sock today.

Since it now looks reasonably certain that I’ll finish it altogether sometime next week, and since next week is Woolly Hat Week (link yesterday), I think the die is cast. I scrambled about in the stash a bit yesterday – the vast majority of it, by now, is Shetland jumper weight or sock weight, and the few heavier yarns tend to be a bit girly.

I think I’ve settled on this Debbie Bliss Maya. Will it do? Not too garish? Or I could hold two strands of sock yarn together.

As always, a few moments with the stash plunge me into the deepest gloom. You people keep making brilliant suggestions, and I keep not doing anything about them. Since my year of Not Buying Yarn, November ’09-November ’10, I’ve been good about not augmenting stash but much less good at nibbling at it.

My position at the moment is not too bad, at least if I’m spared for the rest of Twenty Twelve. The two madelinetosh projects, for which the yarn is already on the premises; three pairs of socks after the current ones; then we’re back to square one. Do-able. But that still leaves the great irreducible stash, and Scotland might win tomorrow necessitating the purchase of yarn for the Twenty Twelve Calcutta Cup sweater, and goodness knows what will be prescribed for the Games.

I had hoped to get started on a big Koigu project this year, but it’s receding.

So a seaman’s hat will at least be a gesture in the right direction. Thanks for the pointer to the Stahman Christmas-at-Sea cap, S (comment yesterday). It’s knit flat, in garter stitch, and first I thought no, no and then I got rather tempted. I’ve got to email the woolly-hats-for-sailors people – there’s no address for sending hats to, on the webpage I pointed to yesterday, and they might want to have something to say about pattern and yarn.

The Sky Scarf is stash, of course.

Dawn, your idea of knitting an odd no. of rows on it every day would solve the fringe problem, but I don’t like changing in midstream. There is some fringe on the far side, because sometimes I need more than two yarns to express the day. As this morning, which required pale blue, pale pink, and grey. I suspect, in the end, I’m going to knot the ends neatly and cut them off and stop fussing, but it’s always possible I’ll weave them in or leave a fringe. Or knot them and leave a short fringe?


I bought the Six Nations sausages yesterday, for tomorrow’s lunch. The young butcher who sold them to me is going to the match. That seemed a good omen. I love the way Edinburgh quietly sizzles during the week preceding a home international. I was right about most of the ingredients for the sausages, but France contributes onions (of course) and that leaves herbs for England.

We’ll have a warming casserole tomorrow for the grown-ups: they are going to have a chilly time of it. And the Little Boys, who prefer their food not to be mucked about, can have their sausages unadorned. A black bean and avocado salad can go in a glass bowl and leave the yarn undisturbed in the real salad bowl.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Feast of the Purification

a.k.a. Groundhog Day. Around here, it’s going to be a day to send the little fellow scurrying for cover, although there wasn’t yet much blue in the sky when I went out for my Sky Scarf reading. Groundhog Day was a puzzlement to me when I was a child – obviously, on February 2nd, winter had a long way to go. (We’re talking Detroit and later NJ.) But in Britain it makes sense, and is indeed an old English folk-belief, rather like St Swithin, associated with this day in the religious calendar. But without groundhogs.

In 2007, I collected pictures from Strathardle month-by-month to make a 2008 calendar. This was the February one -- clearly we had a dull Groundhog Day that year:

Again, little to report. The leg of the second outré sock is progressing nicely.

Yesterday I gathered up the messy heap of Sky Scarf yarns from the floor and put them in the salad bowl. A great improvement, except when we want to eat salad, as we may on Saturday.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with the edge, but I have started breaking the yarns. I tried at first to loop them up the side as the designer suggested, but it doesn’t work and I was spending too much time untangling. Maybe a simpler palette is adequate for the California sky, or maybe I’ve got a bigger stash.

Perhaps my very first Fair Isle, 30 years ago or so, was for Greek Helen (as she has since become) in greys and blues. It turned out too small, but she gamely struggled into it a few times. I think I’m probably using oddballs from that effort now.

As if adding mind-reading to its other features, there is an item about charity knitting in Zite this morning, woolly hats for sailors. I like the idea, and I suspect I ought to do something about it, after all my high-minded talk.


Thank you for Mr. Visser’s name, Knitlass. Rachel rang up the other evening, after Edinburgh’s famous Heineken Cup win, to tell me about a Dutchman who actually scores tries and who would qualify soon, but not yet, to play for Scotland. Visser must be the man.

Kristie, if you want to listen to the match on Saturday, I suspect it could be done from the BBC website. Kickoff at 5 p.m. Greenwich Mean Time, I believe.  I hope all is going well with your mother’s move.

Neither knitting nor rugby

I am reading Helen Dunmore's  "Talking to the Dead" on the Kindle app on my iPad. Very highly recommended. Her new book, "The Greatcoat", is published today and has already come whizzing down to me from the ether.