Monday, April 30, 2012

I hope I didn’t sound too gloomy yesterday, but somebody must have thought so, because we were suddenly overwhelmed with offers of help from Rachel and her family. She is keen to move me and my husband out altogether – to London, Loch Fyne, or Strathardle – and have one of them take over during the worst of the ceiling-fall.

When it comes to the point, I am reluctant to move. My husband must go somewhere for the sake of his lungs. Going somewhere, anywhere, with him involves a considerable element of hard work, and I don’t feel I’m up to that plus the inevitable return to the post-apocalyptic scene. Normally, we come home from London or Strathardle or anywhere, and go straight to bed for a nap.

Rachel even suggested on the phone yesterday that we could leave “men” to deal with the dining room pictures. (The ones in there are prints, and there are quite a few of them.) She has known my husband almost as long as I have, and, what’s more, is actually related to him. She should know that care of pictures is never delegated.

We got them all down yesterday and fairly securely stashed. I also got the knick-knacks off the mantelpiece.

The happy result of yesterday’s fuss is that Rachel’s younger son Joe (now back from Thailand) is coming up to lend a hand on Wednesday. His youth and strength and cheerfulness will be invaluable. We should be able to get the dining room completely empty while he is here. There are a number of tea chests and tin document boxes around the periphery – don’t ask – which will have to be crammed into the spare room along with Joe himself.

Today’s job is to try to get a date for the ceiling to come down. This week’s job is to forward the furniture-repair estimate – as yet I don’t have it – to Upstairs’ insurers, and begin to get an idea of how much of a fight we’re going to have to get compensation. They haven’t replied to my email about how their floorboards will have to be lifted to inspect the “deafening” layer. That seems ominous.


It was particularly welcome yesterday, a fairly grim day,  to find two commentators familiar with scenes familiar to me. Isn’t the internet wonderful? Mary G., my maternal grandparents lived in Dallas. We often visited. My Aunt Louise, my mother’s brother’s widow, is still vigorously alive in her 90’s, living in the house I remember, next door to my grandparents’ one. She is the one (mentioned here before, I think) who was waiting at the luncheon President Kennedy’s motorcade never reached. I hope she saved the menu. She and Uncle Nat had planned to go to Fort Worth for his rally in the evening.

So it’s good to know madelinetosh is there, too.

And, rosesmama, you obviously know the hardware store I mean, where I bought our Princess Diana matroyshka doll. Way over there on 9th, is it? The man said that they were painted back in the Old Country by his mother or granny or aunt, which fits with your recollection of the phenomenal selection. He didn’t grasp the iconology of our one, tried to tell me that Carling and Hewitt were Princes William and Harry. (See yesterday’s blog post, if this is unintelligible.) But Will Carling has a distinctive cleft chin, like Kirk Douglas. I made that identification right there on 23rd St, and told him so. Hewitt took a bit of subsequent thought, but not much.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

We advance.

For furniture to depart for storage tomorrow, we needed to:
a)      clear out and pack the contents of the sideboard;
b)      get everything off the table, where refugees from the deluge were piled high;
c)      clear knick-knacks off the mantel-piece to allow access to the huge mirror above, a legacy from a previous occupant.

a)      and b) are done. A destination for the knick-knacks has been selected, and their removal shouldn’t take long.

The process is rather alarmingly like what will have to be done when we die. The contents of the sideboard vary interestingly from absolute-rubbish to high-sentimental-value to some-commercial-value. In the last category I would put a Russian doll – there’s a name for them; I can’t think of it – of which the outer shell is Diana, Princess of Wales.

We bought it at a hardware store on West 23rd St – corner of 7th Avenue, maybe? – sometime in the 90’s. We should be able to figure out the date from the stamps in our passports. She died in ’97, but was she still alive when we bought it? The next doll is Prince Charles, then Will Carling (a former captain of English rugby), Captain James Hewitt, and finally, the homunculus in the middle, Dodi. It cost something like $40 which is a lot for a Russian doll. We left it there and went away and then thought, no – must have it; and went back.

The images have the slightly “off” look of English faces rendered from photographs by an alien artist. It would be fun to try it on the Antiques Road Show.

Once the furniture is gone, there will still be a good deal more to do, but it’s a start. The whole process has something of the appeal of a jigsaw puzzle. The one that stumps me at the moment is the hanging corner cupboard, holding china and glass. There’s no room anywhere else, that I can so far think of, for more china and glass.

There is a sense in which I am enjoying this. I said yesterday that I hate dealing with the world, but that’s not entirely true. My husband is not up to keeping track of all the various firms we are dealing with, and accepts with uncharacteristic docility my announcements about removal men and furniture restorers. I had always assumed that at this stage of life his sister (older than me, younger than him) would be hovering in the wings, letting me know what I was doing wrong. But she is dead. I’m on my own.

Tomorrow I will try to get a date for the ceiling-demolition from the demolishers, a new name on the list.

Anyway, we’re meant to be talking about knitting. I have reached the antepenultimate stripe of the snood, BBA. And it’s time to go look at the sky. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Of course you can post a quotation from me on Facebook, FiberQat. I am honoured that you should want to.

Life moves forward. The insurance company is going to arrange for the dismantlement of the ceiling, and pay the contractor directly. I hope we’ll see some action next week. Then David from ChemDry will come back and see what state the timbers are in. He also wants to inspect a layer of “deafening” which (even with the ceiling down) is best seen from above, by taking up the neighbours’ floorboards, I am happy to tell you.

The man Helen C.K.S. recommended is going to remove three large pieces of furniture on Monday, and keep them in store somewhere. We've got to spend the rest of the weekend moving as much as possible out of the room. My husband is not strong enough to do much, but he is well capable of thinking about it and organising it and getting cross about any decision of a what-could-go-where nature which I might make on my own.

A furniture restorer came yesterday and will soon let us have an estimate. Then begins the struggle to get Upstairs to pay.

Kristie is engulfed by chaos too, and has been good enough to include a cross reference to me. I don't mind chaos, really. But I hate crossness, and dealing with the world.

I was overtaken by a sudden, dreadful depression yesterday. On top of all this, the iPad lost contact with the internet. I rebooted it several times to no effect. This morning I tried re-starting the BT Hub which radiates wi-fi over a small area at this end of the house. That did the trick, and things seem better in general, as often in the morning. There doesn’t even seem to be as much stuff in the dining room as there was yesterday.


Not much of that, but some. I put a strong, irrelevant stripe into the Sky Scarf for the missed days, and we’re now back on course. For the moment. Today’s stripe is done, a nice blue one. And I reached stripe BBB on the snood. So that’s colour C finished – only tiny fragments remain, but that was the idea. And if C can do it, so can B.  There should be no more need to knit fast in order to finish the stripe before the yarn runs out.

Friday, April 27, 2012

I got out of bed this morning to find sunshine beyond the windows, for the first time in a very long while. The forecasts are still appalling, but how a moment of cheerfulness does lift the spirits!

And as I contemplated my computer and struggled with its slownesses, the doorbell rang and I was handed a large, light-weight package from Amazon. Do they do Welsh onions? Had I ordered some and forgotten? But when I got down to the very bottom of the box, there was Candace Strick’s sock book, “Strick-ly Socks”,  from Packed more conventionally it would easily have gone through the letter box.

Further struggles with the computer have given me time to spend a few moments with it. I think the “revolutionary” bit is based in the discovery that toes and heels are the same thing, both hourglass shapes if flattened out. The “amazingly simple” bit will prove itself in action.  A two-hour class with Candace would make all clear. Explaining it in written words is harder.

But the text is very easy to follow, and the explanatory photographs excellent. The photograph of Candace shows a woman 10 or 12 years older than the one I remember. Oh, dear.

When I have polished off the snood, I think I will allow myself to polish off the current socks, Lizzie’s Hundertwasser ones with the Gibson-Roberts heel, and go on to somebody else with a Strong heel, before addressing the Tulip Cardigan.

The snood has reached stripe CBB on the return journey, with no balls of yarn running short. Only three stripes to go after this one. That will bring us back to AAA, already knit except that I will lengthen it with a few more rows at this end.

Knitting is a most satisfactory craft in the way that it can accompany one through life’s difficulties (such as the dining room ceiling) and also through the good bits, there ready to pick up and get going on without having to dedicate half a room or half a day to the project.

No progress yesterday on the ceiling front. I need to talk to David at ChemDry, the man who said we need a new ceiling. A promise that he would phone wasn’t realised yesterday. I will continue to pursue him today.


Barbara M, in NH, before life sweeps on too far, I want to say how much I like “going to Cedar Rapids” (comment, Sunday, April 22). One to remember.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

I finally heard from Imperial Consultants. After a brief telephone consultation, they said they are awarding us what sounds like a large sum of money to take the ceiling down and replace it. It is a curiously specific sum, down to the penny, like a previous payment for redecorating only. They must feed data through a computer program.

I was plunged into deep gloom for some reason, but, as always, things seem better this morning. I will phone ChemDry. We can plan it all out. (How long with the ceiling down, to dry the timbers and a layer above  called the Deafening? How long to let the new ceiling dry?) Maybe we can forget about Van Dyke at Dulwich and plan a week in Strathardle in the middle of May to get my seeds in.

HelenC.K.S. says this morning that we can go stay in Inspector Montalbano’s house. Never mind Montalbano. Just wait until you see il Commissario Manara, girls.

I subscribe to an on-line “Italian immersion” site where I get to watch bits of him over and over, with the Italian text printed beneath. They all talk fast and elliptically and I can understand very little, even after repeated watchings. The story I am painfully pursuing bit by bit is pretty silly, and extravagantly acted, so it will probably never make it to British television. But I love Manara.


Lou, I think you’ve saved the Sky Scarf.

I’ve reached stripe CCC of the snood, on the return journey. I am widening the stripes slightly, as projected yesterday. I fear the smallest ball is going to give out before I finish CCC. Yarn can be supplied from the other balls, but it will be a nuisance. Bad management on my part.

Last night I got into a muddle. I am a skilled and patient untangler, but it was too much for me. Everything was fuzzed together and finally I cut it. It was like getting chewing gum out of a child’s hair. All well now.


Mary Lou, I think my “Perennial Vegetable” book might well be useful in the northern US. Many British gardening books assume we all live in Sussex. This one has a chart at the beginning giving minimum winter temperatures and assigning a number to each, like the “zones” in American gardening books. Then every plant listed later in the book is shown with its “hardiness zone” number.

That leaves other climatic differences. Many things grow more vigorously in steamy American summers, after surviving the same or worse winter temperatures. Some things, like the primulas, prefer life cold and damp, and do better here. But there is very considerable overlap. The author of my book is Martin Crawford, for what that’s worth.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Silence from Imperial Consultants. I shall have to get back on the phone this morning and Be Cross. It is now 10 days since Mr ChemDry said we needed a new ceiling. I’m sure he wrote his report promptly. We can’t go on living in this state of suspense and chaos, I will tell them. I don’t have to mention that the chaos, at least, is permanent.


Snood: I have turned at the far post, enlarging the DDD stripe as planned, and am now heading towards home. It has occurred to me that I might slightly enlarge each of the stripes on the inward journey, to make the snood a bit bigger and so as not to waste this beautiful yarn. 18 rows per stripe instead of 16? I don’t see that the difference, even if noticeable, will count as a fault.

I’ll have to decide soon.

I’ve fallen slightly into arrears with the Sky Scarf – fatal, or nearly so. I didn’t take it to Strathardle last week. On Thursday, I even forgot to photograph the sky. And of course, once back here, I couldn’t go on until I had knit the Strathardle days. I’m now up to Sunday, and nothing much has happened except a variety of greys, and the Knitting Police will never hear about it.

But it’s a big responsibility, this project. Something of a burden, sometimes.


The fun part of yesterday was the arrival of a book called “How to Grow Perennial Vegetables”. I ordered it on the basis of a good review in the Scotsman, without really expecting too much. I have been thinking along these lines for the last couple of years, and didn’t think I had much to learn.

But it’s first-rate, and opens up some new possibilities. A hardneck garlic patch? Treating it as what the author calls a “replant perennial”, like Jerusalem artichokes, where you dig some up and leave some. A goji berry bush? Apparently you can eat the leaves as well as the goji berries. Horseradish? Again, the leaves seem to be edible. Nodding onions? Some skirret? Wild rocket? I didn’t even know it was perennial.

Many possibilities. The author grades each plant for hardiness; very useful.

More Easter on Pelion: I found this on Helen’s Facebook wall. Isn’t it nice? That’s her on the right. I don't know the other woman. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Today’s news is that the Dream in Color yarn for the Tulip Cardigan has arrived – tax free! Maybe that was because Coldwater didn’t enclose an invoice (sent it by email instead), or because the customs declaration was so faint as to be illegible, or just because the cost was less than that for the Shibui yarn and it got in under the HMCE radar (Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise).  I emailed Carri at Coldwater.

Whatever, it’s nice to have it. Wonderful, supersaturated colours. The yarn is heavier than I expected. It’ll have to serve (in Washington, DC) as a winter coat for ’13-’14.

As for actual knitting, I’ve reached the DDD stripe. The way the yarns are going, I could have put another two rows in every stripe. Too late now. I will extend this one, and also the equivalent AAA when I get back to it.

It's currently 22" long. The pattern expects 45" at the end, so I will be able to exceed that by a couple of inches and all should be well. 

Ceiling news

The current state of affairs is that we are waiting for a second visit from the preposterously-named Imperial Consultants, whose job is to inspect damaged premises and advise insurance companies as to whether to pay out. They came in the first week and agreed that the ceiling must be re-decorated. Now they must adjudicate as to whether we need a new ceiling.

Rachel came up with the idea yesterday that we should go to London while it’s happening, and Alexander should be asked to come over from Loch Fyne to supervise. It’s a delicious prospect. She could take some days off work, she says, to ferry us about. It would almost certainly be my husband’s last trip south. Alas, almost all the expo’s this year are British, in honour of the bloody Olympics, so there is little of major interest to see.

But there is VanDyke at Dulwich, through May, and an interesting early Titian on loan to the National Gallery from the Hermitage (the first time it has been seen outside Russia since the 18th century), and it’s always nice to see Rachel.

(On the other hand, I need to get my seeds in.)

The insurance broker said that our insurance won’t pay either for storing furniture or for moving out – I stressed our great age and breathing problems. JennyS, that’s an interesting idea – covering the ceiling with sheets of prepared modern plaster. I think the difficulty might be that if the original ceiling decides to fall – as nice Mr ChemDry fears it may – it would be so heavy as to carry all before it. I will mention the possibility to Imperial Consultants.

Monday, April 23, 2012

I found Knitter’s for Fall ’03 without difficulty, among the magazines stacked on the bedroom shelves (and beginning to colonise the floor). That’s the issue with Kay Dalquist’s “Round Trip” jacket – almost certainly the last thing I actually knit from Knitter’s. This is James' wife Cathy, photographed on Boxing Day '05, which explains the festive glass. The setting is clearly London.

That jacket had a tendency to slip backwards off the shoulders -- I remember other knitters grumbling.

It seemed so much better than the magazine I gave up recently – for one thing, it’s got articles to read. For another, it’s got knittable patterns.

And the Strong Heel sounds as good as it did in The Sock Knitter’s Handbook. Simple and brilliant – I think I could read it through once more and then do it without consulting the text. It’s certainly the one I am going to try next, when I get back to my Sock Project.

Not much else to report. The snood has reached stripe CDD. I should achieve DDD today, the turning point. Time for a picture.

My husband left his hat at Mass a month ago. I have braved the sacristy twice without recovering it. So we are looking at watch cap patterns. And – who knows? – the Tulip Cardigan could turn up this week. And Archie’s kilt hose are still on the horizon. Plenty to do. Perhaps the kilt hose could incorporate an interesting heel.

A tea cosy for Mt Pelion is somewhere there at the end of the list. Our Greek family are now back in position, after a happy Easter week on Pelion. The Orthodox Easter was a week later than the Western one,this year.

From the left, Helen's husband David, Mungo, a Greek neighbour, Fergus, I guess that must be Archie, and another Greek neighbour. In the centre, the unfortunate Paschal lamb. 

And meanwhile, back at the ranch, I have heard nothing more about the dining room ceiling, so today I must ring up the insurance broker. When the water was actually raining down on Palm Sunday, we alerted the downstairs neighbours, fearing it would go on through.

It didn’t, thank goodness, but they came up and helped, and contributed excellent advice. (a) hire a dehumidifier – they supplied an address; and (b) deal with the insurance broker, not directly with the insurer.

I’ve been in touch with Helen C.K.S. about the Man She Knows who could remove and store at least the larger pieces of furniture (comment, last time). I like the idea a lot. And my doctor-sister sensibly warns that a houseful of plaster dust won’t be good for my husband’s breathing. I’ll have to take some thought about that. It won’t be any good for mine, either.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Safely back. The weather was fairly unpleasant, but not nearly as bad as forecast. Too cold and wet for seeds, but I risked putting some potatoes in. And weeded and manured the fruit hedge. It’s looking well, and 2012 is the year in which there will be no caterpillars or pigeons or American gooseberry mould.

We ate a few stalks of our own forced rhubarb. Utterly delicious.

Wood anemonies ("wooden enemies") along the burn on the way to the commonty:

I was taken aback at how tired we got. A bit of mild faffing about in the morning, a late lunch, and we were ready to sleep by the fire.


The Japanese shirt (which is being knit in one piece) is almost half-way from cast-on to armhole, and very near the third buttonhole. Both these landmarks should easily be passed next time. It’s sock-weight yarn on a small needle with lots of stitches. Progress is slow. I’d like to bring it back here to be the major Edinburgh WIP at least for a while, but there’s too much going on in the form of Games-entry snood, Tulip cardigan, and the Sock Project.

As for the snood, I’ve nearly finished stripe CCC. All is well. It occurs to me that I do have one chance to show off for the judges – everybody is going to have to join their snoods into a loop, and I’m confident I can do a row of grafting that they will have to search for pretty hard. Off the top of my head, st st grafting is all I can manage. But I've got books. I did some neat garter stitch grafting in the Round the Bend jacket, and Sam the Ram, five years ago, has some grafted ribbing on his stomach. I’m not afraid of seed stitch.

I seem to have ordered “The Sock Knitter’s Handbook” by Charlene Schurch and Beth Parrott from Amazon. At any rate, it has turned up. It’s good – and it’s spiral-bound. Everything imaginable is briskly set forth, with excellent illustrations.

The authors seem particularly keen on the “Strong Heel”, first expounded by Gerdine Crawford-Strong in Knitter’s in Fall, ’03. “Easy and lovely”, they call it. I ought to have that issue in my archives and might try to find it. Will that be my next heel?

Candace Strick’s “revolutionary” sock book should surely turn up from the US before long.


You don’t need a recommendation from me to read the Panopticon’s latest blog entry. It’s just that that lace insertion, towards the end, reminds us, if reminding were needed, that Franklin is a demon knitter. We love him for wit and cartoons and photography at all of which he is so brilliant that it is easy to forget that he isn’t just kidding, when it comes to knitting itself.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I saw a heron just now, standing on the wall between two of our neighbours’ gardens. Not entirely uncommon, even in Edinburgh, but I’ve never seen one in Drummond Place before. It stood there quite a long time, long enough for me to discover that the camera needed new batteries, before elongating itself and taking off calmly on a flight path over the Milligans’.

Google was helpful with symbolic meanings. Everything good, is the answer  -- strength, wisdom, purity, long life. Making it a good morning to announce that I am to be a great aunt: Jenni and Theo are expecting a child in October.

(I pinched that picture from Theo's Facebook wall. I don't know where they got that baby.)

I’ve known about this for a few days, but the news embargo was only lifted this morning. In fact, it is for their baby that I plan to knit the Tulip Cardigan. (Modern pregnancy being what it is, I should be told which side to put the buttons on pretty soon.) I now feel rather mean about the subterfuge, and may have to do something for Iona G. upstairs as well.

I heard from Coldwater this morning, too, to say that the kit is on its way.

The bad news is that Mr ChemDry came back yesterday, spent a desultory half-hour picking at the ceiling paper in the dining room, and announced that we need a new ceiling. Even before we get to the stage where everything in the house is covered with plaster, we have to move all the furniture out of the dining room. It’s a big room. There are some big things in there (and lots of smaller things). There is not a great deal of space to spare elsewhere in the house.

I could wish myself back in that care home, with nothing to worry about except the date of the next Occupational Therapy session.

So we will go to Strathardle today to get away from it all. Back at the weekend. The weather forecast is fairly horrendous, but I will take along a few potatoes to plant in case there is a window of opportunity. They have been quietly chitting in the dining room all this time.

As for actual knitting, the snood progresses nicely. Yarn B has nearly finished its first appearance – the next stripe after the current one is three strands of C. That’s far enough along for me to feel happy about yarn quantities, always an anxiety, including enough for those extra inches I mentioned yesterday.

And I finished my first Gibson Roberts heel. It’s not very good. I hope I’ll do better on the other one. It’s not a heel I’ll ever use again, because of those double decreases. They are awkward and difficult; there’s always the danger of losing a stitch – and, indeed, of breaking a needle. I’ve done a better job, as it happens, with the p3togtbl’s than with the k3togs on the other side.

(When I have to do a double decrease in lace, as often, I almost always centre it: insert the right-hand needle in the first two stitches as if to knit them together, slip them both at once like that, knit the next stitch, pass the two slipped stitches over, both together still. Since the needle entered the middle stitch of the decrease first, that’s the one that winds up on top, on Margaret Stove’s Principle, enunciated here often before. But in the case of the heel, the centre stitch is a slip stitch already, and I don’t know whether I’d be allowed that approach.)

Monday, April 16, 2012

A new Twist Collective! Always a happy event.

Little to report. (Sundays tend to be unproductive.) I am a bit further on with the snood. It is very much like Occupational Therapy Day at the care home – me knitting a simple stitch slowly and patiently with my big wooden needles. But 45 stitches isn’t very many, and 16 rows per stripe isn’t very many either, and I’m edging forwards.

I think it will be safe to elongate it somewhat by increasing the width of the pivot-stripes (see yesterday). Four colours, and the thing is an oval, so two of the colours appear only once. A-B-C-D-C-B-(A). With the larger size, you must order extra yarn for the two colours which reappear.

That should mean that I have plenty of yarn to widen the stripes where three strands of A, and later on three of D, are being used together. I have already knit the opening stripe of A, but I can do an extra inch at the end, before grafting end to beginning.

I needed a refresher for the provisional cast-on. My books weren’t as much use as I would have expected, but the internet is all one needs these days, and Google works fine when money isn’t at stake. I wound up with Lucy Neatby on YouTube, crocheting temporary stitches onto the needle – the simplest and safest way. What a nice voice she has!

The retreat to seed stitch leaves nothing very much for the judges to award me a prize for, even if they wanted to. They’re not going to be impressed by fancy-schmancy yarn, and dyers are so clever these days that the merging of colours may look automatic. Still, winning isn’t the point. There are never very many entries in the knitting classes – five or six would be a big field. I’m there to swell the number.

I have resumed the Gibson-Roberts heel – I should never have abandoned it, because now I can’t identify YO’s (or are some of them missing?). I expect some waiting-room time this afternoon. I’ll have to take the book along and go on struggling.

Catdownunder, I don’t think PGR deliberately over-complicated things. Explaining is difficult. A brief overview is often the best way to get one’s mind around a problem, and that’s not easy to do in this case. When you sit down with the book and a sock and start in on it, stitch by stitch, it’s fairly straightforward. Fairly.

Sarah JS, thank you for the hard work, comparing this heel to the Sweet Tomato. The result is interesting – that ST has substantially more rows. Maybe it’s what my husband needs for easy access.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

So much for swatching.

Two and a half rows of the lace pattern I mentioned yesterday, and I saw I couldn’t go on. The fat nose of the 5mm needle made double-decreasing unpleasant, with the constant danger of losing one of the three strands. That pattern is nothing but a series of double-decreases, close together. (I’d have spotted the difficulty all right if I had swatched with the Shibui yarn itself.)

So, guess what? I’m knitting the pattern as written, in seed stitch. It’s not as bad as I would have thought, and the resulting fabric – because of those big needles – is really rather nice. I’m chugging along. I’ll get it done.

The colour sequence in the pattern as written baffled me last night. We’re knitting with three strands held together, changing one strand after each 2 ½” stripe. I started with a stripe of pure A, and have now got as far as the stripe with 2B and 1A. After the forthcoming pure B stripe, the pattern would have me re-introduce A.

I was puzzled. I would expect C. But viewing the problem with synapses firing this morning, I think the pattern and I will achieve the same end. They are perhaps expressing it in a Japanese way.

There is no guidance as to which colours are to be assigned to which letters of the alphabet. In such a circle, with such a system, using four colours, there will be two pivot colours which occur only once, and two that repeat, coming and going. I use A and D as the pivots, they use B and D. We all get there in the end.

There was a while, as I struggled with that lace pattern, when I asked myself whether there may not have been a reason why I resolved never to touch KidSilk Haze again.  But now that things have settled down, I’m enjoying myself. It’s like knitting the cat. I think I may have said that before.


I never got back to the sock yesterday, but now I must finish off that heel so that it can go in the waiting-room-and-emergencies bag, ready for snatching up.

Maureen, I must look at the Sweet Tomato again. It was easy when I was doing it – I didn’t need text at all for the second heel. Now I’m wondering how she manages three wedges stacked on top of each other, when Gibson-Roberts gets around with one? By starting with a smaller percentage of the circumference? I’d like to have it clear in my head.

My husband has been complaining recently about the sharp angle of a standard heel. One or the other of these short-rows may be the answer. I look forward to discovering Sherman.


We haven’t had much from Zite lately, but here’s a gem.


We’re hoping to go to Strathardle this week, Tuesday or Wednesday, far from the dining room and its problems. According to the calendar, it should be time to plant potatoes and peas and beans. But the weather forecasts keep going on about “snow on high ground” (that’s us) and it’s a good general rule of gardening life that it rarely hurts to wait.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

A certain amount of forward movement, yesterday.


Annie, I did the things you said (comment yesterday) and got as far as being offered “Comment Form Message” which I have Added. Nothing about Placement, or “embedded below post”. We’ll see what happens, if anything.

Tulip cardigan

I ordered the kit from Coldwater. They have already sent the pattern, including the variation with buttonholes, as an email attachment. I think I want buttons – the basic pattern is tied at the neck with i-cord and looks very sweet, but I feel an Edinburgh baby needs at least the option of cosiness across the chest.

I was very touched by your offers yesterday to pick up the kit from Coldwater and mail it to me – more than a little bother and fuss. You guys are the best. I had already done the PayPal bit and set everything in motion. I remain grateful.

Actual knitting

The computer is being capricious again this morning, so I’m not going to look at your Roman Stripe scarf just now, Donice, although I hope to see it later on today. (I have taken the first shaky step towards a new computer, and may pursue that matter today.) I didn’t get on very well with the pattern.

To begin with, I snatched the top oddball from the sock bag, and it wasn’t a good choice. I needed a solid colour. Secondly, I didn’t like knitting with a 5.5mm needle. I’m going to go down one size. And thirdly, I didn’t trust myself to keep hold of the pattern. It consists of 7 rows, so that alternate repeats face in opposite directions. And only 2 of those 7 rows repeat anything done before. Even after I’d done it twice, I wasn’t able to relax and remember where I was, and wasn’t at all sure that I could keep it up for an entire snood.

So I went on to swatch the Small Leaf Pattern, p. 57 of Heirloom Knitting, and that’s the one I’m going with. Easy, memorable, no purling.

Is this the spirit that won the Glenisla Shield with Sam the Ram only five years ago? No, I’m afraid not. But it’ll get the job done.

Gibson-Roberts heel

I got to the point last night where the heel needed to be turned, on the one hand, and the swatching was done and decisions made, on the other. There was nothing for it but to go forward, if I didn’t want to sit there idle.

And I’m getting on fine. It works, if you take it line by line. There is a YO at the beginning of every heel row – both the ones that are going to be short, and the subsequent ones where you are moving outwards again. That’s a bit fiddly. And what might be called the recovery rows are even fiddlier, including a repeated P3togTBL. But it works. Don’t miss Sarah JS’ comment yesterday about the history of short-row heels.

Friday, April 13, 2012

It was the Tulip Cardigan, of course – I stand by my claim that it was an impossible assignment, but I was pretty confident that you could crack it.

I google’d it confidently as soon as Jenny’s comment arrived yesterday – and found, top of the list – did they slip Google a fiver? – a website selling the kits for £103. Pounds. I stepped back. I returned to the problem a bit later, and found Coldwater Yarns. Forty-two dollars (dollars!) for the 12-18 month size. You can’t order directly from the website, but I’ve emailed them. The “Joseph’s Coat” colorway.

What I need – perhaps the answer would be to form a Subsidiary To-Do List, If-There’s-Time – is a system like Kristie’s where comments can be specifically, publicly replied to as they come in.

However, I must also keep my eye on the ball. I wound the fourth skein for the snood last night, again successfully. Today I will swatch the Roman Stripe pattern (to begin with), p. 219 of Walker II. I wish I had kept back some KidSilk Haze to swatch in – I can’t venture any of the precious Shibui. This is the first time I have felt the slightest regret for any of the stuff I have shovelled out the door.

Still, a swatch in sock yarn will give me some idea of how easy it is to knit. And I must refresh my mind about provisional casting-on. And I must consider the question of the edge. The pattern that comes with the yarn (seed stitch) has no edging. Jared’s “Convoy” pattern has knit-on i-cord. Is anything necessary? If so, will 2 or 3 garter stitch stitches suffice? The Shibui doesn’t come across to me as very curly. And does it matter if it does curl a bit?

Lots of questions.

And with all of that, I am now within shouting distance of the Hundertwasser heel – not only is Lizzie’s foot deliciously small, but she preferred a sock short in the leg. I think, after all the recent talk here, that I should go ahead and attempt the Gibson-Roberts heel and see what happens.

Sarah (comment yesterday), I have added the “Sherman heel” to my electronic Filofax “heel” page – thank goodness there are so many wonderful yarns, that I will run out of heels (and the list is long) before I get through them all. And also the link you sent for the Gibson-Roberts video, which I may need before the end of the day. And I will remember your promise to talk us through the Gibson-Roberts heel, if necessary. 


No advance on the dining room yesterday, except for a generous cheque from the insurance company for re-decorating. I will phone ChemDry today. Kristie, you’re probably right that replacing the ceiling is what we should do. But it’s a very big ceiling, and I am increasingly aware of our age. Plaster from one end of this already-dusty house to the other?

And Cynthia – hi! – I almost envy your situation. I would prefer to pay for the damage to our furniture and books – I think the pictures are OK – rather than deal with my husband’s furious insistence that Upstairs bear every penny of the cost. (We have no contents insurance.) Old Age is the anxiety that doesn’t go away.

But there's blue in the Sky Scarf today, after an unusually broad dull-grey passage. It does lift the spirits. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

I liked Mr ChemDry – he seemed to know his subject, and was tall and good looking into the bargain. Next, he said, someone will come and strip the paper off the ceiling, so that the plaster can dry. And an electrician will take down the central rose and see how things are in there. We haven’t dared turn it on, except briefly by mistake on the evening of the disaster. It sizzled in a most unsettling way.

He confirmed Alexander’s gloom about the possibility of a subsequent fall. And seemed to be saying that, although there are various indicators as to whether the plaster is safe, in the end it comes down to expert opinion, and experts will differ.

Knitting, Miscellaneous

I did better with skein-winding last night. The Shibui skeins are labelled 25 gram and in fact weigh in at 26. Last night I achieved 8-9-9 with my three balls. One more to do.

I am most gratified (comments yesterday) to learn that others have had trouble understanding the Gibson-Roberts heel. If we take it slowly, maybe we can work it out. I am determined to try.

Look what Fleegle’s done. I am as profoundly anti-bead (actually, I’ve never tried) as I am anti-bobble. I could never do that. But I am breathless with admiration. And one can easily imagine that the weight of the beads makes it drape wonderfully, as she says.

Here’s an impossible assignment for you. When we last had a downpour from upstairs – minor, compared to this one – it was during the brief lifetime of their son Alexander, as I said here recently. I resolved to knit something for their next child, if there was one. In the event, I didn’t even know one was expected. (Her name is Iona.)

Now, the question is, what was I going to knit? It involved several colours, came as a kit I think, was distinctly expensive. A jacket, I think. Does the word “Angel” come into it? Kauni? I mentioned it here, but can’t think how to begin looking. Find the date of that flood, and work outwards from there, perhaps. I took photographs, and they will be dated – but where are they? I can’t even remember what season of the year it was.

A BSJ in Kauni Effekt would do the trick – but it’s not what I said back then.


Sarah, I found your father in the ’51 and ’52 Oberlin yearbooks. I don’t remember him, but we must often have cycled past each other. It is always slightly unsettling to look at those pages. There are the ‘50’s, preserved in amber, still fresh. Not recreated by people who weren't there, as in Mad Men, but actually happening.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A firm called Castle ChemDry (if I’ve got it right) is due to call this morning to advise on drying out the dining room – the 5th organisation to be involved, starting with our insurers. No wonder insurance costs so much. I will confide my anxieties about whether the ceiling will stay in place. And the room still smells, although not as badly.

I wound another skein of Shibui, trying to concentrate on the thought that three eights are 24. I still haven’t done very well.

And finished the ribbing for the first Hundertwasser sock. I had never heard of Hundertwasser until I met him in the form of a sock yarn. Alexander, who knows a thing or two about art, was equally ignorant, and my husband, whose knowledge is pretty encyclopaedic, claims only a dim awareness of the name. So we don’t know why Opal has so honoured him. (Van Gogh, yes, I’ve heard of him.) But he’s turning into a good sock.

I took Gibson-Roberts “Simple Socks” along to Loch Fyne and tried to read it calmly. The core of the book is her idea for turning the heel, which I don’t understand at all. Yarn overs come into it. I sort of felt that she was spinning things out to make a book of it and that the instructions were hard to understand precisely because they were so prolonged and detailed.

We’ll see. If I get to the heel of these socks in the right circumstances, I’ll have a go. If, on the other hand, I arrive at the heel while in some waiting room, I’ll put in an Afterthought Heel.

The computer is marginally more cooperative this morning. Here are some pics from Loch Fyne.

We had a Skype conversation with Rachel’s son Joe in northern Thailand. I’m not much of a Skype fan, but with a big group like that, it worked pretty well. Rachel is wearing her Adult Surprise.

Easter lunch. My husband at the head of the table, Lizzie on his right, Hellie on his left.

The Easter Egg Hunt. The adults are Rachel’s husband Ed and Hellie’s boyfriend Matt. Alexander and Ketki do not have a horse. They are hoping to tear the stable down and build a guest annex. The struggle for planning permission has taken years.

After lunch and Easter eggs I went for a walk with Hellie and Matt and the little boys.

Comment, yesterday

Sarah JS, what is your father's name? I was Jean Smits, '54. If he really was '52, he will be in one or more of my yearbooks, even if we don't remember each other. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Safely back. We had a good time, ate well and laughed much. Pics soon -- the computer is being intolerably slow just now.

Alexander, assuming the role of Job’s Comforter, had tales to tell of ceilings coming down well after the day of the inundation. I had been worrying about that possibility somewhat. At least, had been aware that it is a possibility. Now I am worrying about it a lot. How long before we are more or less in the clear?

I drove home yesterday convinced we would find the house covered in plaster – we had deliberately left the dining room door open, for air. But the ceiling is still up there.

I finished the Zauberball socks for myself. I cannot remember ever before having, in knitting, the experience one sometimes has with a really good book, of being sorry that it is coming to an end. Counting the pages that remain, in the one case; seeing the coming colour bands and realising that you’re not going to reach them, in the other. A Zauberball is wound so that you can do that.

Both Hellie and Lizzie, Rachel’s daughters, say that they would welcome socks. And both have very small feet, like their mother! So I cast on the Opal Hundertwasser yarn for Lizzie.

We watched a rather interesting documentary about the history of plastic last night, being too tired to try follow anything more sequential. The time line was more or less that of our lives, starting somewhere in the early 20th century. And there I was, knitting my sock with yarn that is 25% polyamid. Whatever that means – but it certainly means that the yarn feels like wool and washes like cotton and won't need darning soon.

Next, of course, that snood.

I asked Lizzie and Hellie what they understood by the word (as Young People). They instantly answered that it was something like the object I am going to knit, an “infinity scarf”. So that’s all right.

I wound the first skein last night, before reverting to sock-knitting. I was tired (see above) and did the elementary arithmetic wrongly in my head and wound up with four little balls where I wanted three. Not a fatal error. The Shibui yarn is wonderful; it glows. I plan to continue in this way, winding a skein per evening and then picking up the sock. When all four skeins are done, it will be time to swatch some openwork stitches.

Ketki was pleased with her Van Gogh socks, and they look good. Alexander seems to think that he could wear a pair on the same lines, so I’ll knit the Bedroom at Arles for him. 

Thursday, April 05, 2012

He did a good job on my hair. Today will be largely devoted to polishing shoes and deciding on clothes.

The yarn for the snood arrived. It’s pretty wonderful, although all I want in life is to go on knitting Zauberball socks forever. I also had a slightly confused email from the Royal Mail, strongly implying that something is wrong with the Fee2Pay website. So why not close it down for a while?

I made good progress with the current sock, and should get to a point somewhere near the heel today.

When we get back and the current socks are finished,  I will face up to winding each of the Shibui skeins into three equal balls, and swatching (on other yarn) some possible stitches for the snood, starting perhaps with the one Jared uses for his Convoy scarf, which I have bought, although I don’t entirely like the sound of that triple tuck.

Flipping through Walker I just now, I am rather taken with the veil stitch, p. 165.  I want something open and simple. The instructions sound totally impossible, but a couple of YouTube instructional videos later, it seems as if it might be do-able. Bird’s Eye mesh, p. 197, is another possibility. Big needles.

Dining room

The insurance company rang up to promise a specialist drying-out company. I hope I hear from them today., and I hope their services will include the manoeuvre you describe, Tamar, or something equivalent. The ceiling is very high. We couldn’t reach it. The dehumidifier seems to be having some effect. That awful smell of dampness is much diminished, and the carpets are no longer sodden.

Our main job now is to finish making a catalogue of damage to things.

It occurred to me last night to marvel that the ceiling has not only stayed up, and not even bulged, through the wetness of all that water but has also sustained the weight of it.


The Paschal moon will be full tomorrow. Have a good weekend, everybody, with or without Weston’s Vintage Cider. I should be back here Tuesday, insh’Allah

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Briefly, this morning – I have an early appt to have my hair done, so as to be beautiful for Easter, nor is there much to say.

The man from Imperial Consultants seemed to think we were thoroughly wet. Next, he said, will be a Ceiling Man from the insurance company who will advise on drying the ceiling and, eventually, will pronounce it safe to redecorate. Apparently if bits don’t fall off, and it doesn’t bulge, it will be all right to redecorate it as-is, without replastering, once it is thoroughly dry.

We spent a useful afternoon sorting things in the dining room, separating books into piles of Wet and Not-Wet. My husband is determined to be recompensed for every book with buckled pages, whether “usable” or not. I don’t know if that is going to work, what with us having no contents insurance. Nor, of course, do we yet know Upstairs’ attitude to reimbursing us. Lots to worry about.

As for knitting, I’ve done 36 of the 40 rounds of the ribbing on the second Zauberball sock. So I should get to the good bit today, without difficulty. And should be very close to finishing, if I don’t actually do it, at Loch Fyne at the weekend.

Mary Lou, your kind words about my explanation of the Dutch heel made me feel as if I’d got a gold star on my homework. You’ll find lots of tutorials on-line, of course.

Two Lent-related remarks, both rather boastful:

On Sunday evening, reeling from the after-effects of the Disaster in the Dining Room, I thought of having a glass of the white wine I keep for cooking. The bottle was open. After all, Sundays aren’t strictly included in Lent, as I have explained here previously, and anyway nobody said anything about giving up alcohol. I’ve given up cider.

But I didn’t. I stayed with bitter lemon. Another jewel in my heavenly crown.

What I did do was knit that sock, and as I did so, I reflected yet again on how very soothing an activity that is. Not just knitting – sock-knitting. It has turned me from a whimpering coward into an intrepid birdman, when long-distance travel is called for. And it helped a lot on Sunday evening.

And the other thing is: I’ve lost 10 pounds since Ash Wednesday, according to this morning’s weigh-in, with no further effort at all except for not allowing myself to replace the missing cider with sugar. And that’s routine, by now.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Thank you for your sympathy. We’re still on our feet. I got in touch with the insurance company – we don’t have contents insurance (for various reasons) but we do insure the fabric of the house, and the main expense here is going to be the ceiling. I hired a big dehumidifier, on the advice of the downstairs neighbour who helped with the inundation. As he rightly predicted, emptying it twice a day makes one feel one is doing something.

A man from Imperial Consultants (sounds very sinister) will come this morning to see if we are wet enough to satisfy the insurance company. I was told not to get the dehumidifier until he had approved the expense but I thought, bugger that.

I didn’t know about freezing books (and there wouldn’t be room in our little freezer drawers) but that is an interesting fact to file away. There is only one bookcase in that room, and it was out of the line of fire. There were art books piled on the unfortunate sideboard. My husband says that sort of paper sticks irretrievably together when wet.

The top of the sideboard will need to be re-French-polished. Damage to pictures is slight, and retrievable. I will put my husband to work making some sort of list, hoping that the offenders’ insurance will help.  


I have finished the first Zauberball sock. It was only towards the end that it occurred to me that perhaps the colour sequence will never repeat. Zauberisch, indeed!

Fit is snug. Sunday's try-on revealed that fact, so I didn’t add any additional negative ease for length. I am knitting 64 stitches on 2mm needles (because these square ones don’t come in my usual 2.25mm size), and getting 8 stitches to the inch. The circumference of my foot is something like 10 inches. Part of the point of the Sock Project is to get seriously to grips with size. I think I’ve learned something here.

And I paid the customs charge for the Japanese snood yarn by buying expensive stamps over the counter. Anna Livia, that is an interesting idea, that the Royal Mail website is scrambling my address. The only other time I’ve had trouble with that credit card was at the Apple App Store – the card is basically American, and I live in Edinburgh. That’s too much for Apple. But at least they explain.

Dutch Heel

Mary Lou, it was when Judy Gibson said that one does not knit 1 stitch beyond the decrease that I suddenly saw how to do a Dutch heel. But the difference is more than that. There is a centre panel of 1/3 of the heel stitches which stays unchanged, instead of the widening wedge of the standard heel. The decreases are done on either side of it, in a vertical column.

So instead of gradually widening out to the edge of the heel stitches, one gradually brings the edges in to oneself, so to speak. I hope the Zauberball chooses a bright colour for the second heel, so that I can have a better look at it. 

Monday, April 02, 2012

I’m not quite sure which end to start with, on this one.

Yesterday we had a flood. It came down through the dining room ceiling. Lots and lots of water, from various points. I went haring upstairs as soon as I discovered it, of course, and found an incompetent grandmother and a small child who had just finished – they thought! – mopping up a flood in their bathroom, caused by leaving a tap running and the plughole blocked while they went out for a walk.

When our downpour hadn’t diminished after a few more minutes, I went haring back up again and lifted their bathroom linoleum with my own hands. There was some water underneath, but not much. Nothing to do but wait it out. My husband kept telling me to make them turn it off at the mains, but that wouldn’t have helped. a) The grandmother didn’t know how to do that and b) the water had already escaped and was lying there under their floorboards, above our ceiling.

It fell hard for perhaps ¾ of an hour, then tapered off. The ceiling has stayed up, although a strip of its paper has fallen. But presumably it’ll have to be replastered after suffering a deluge like that. There is damage to furniture, pictures, and books, although it doesn’t seem quite as bad this morning as feared last night. I’ll start phoning insurers soon.

We alerted our nice neighbours downstairs, for fear water would find its way on down to them. They came up and helped for a while.

So what is the other end of this story, where I might have started?

Very devoted readers might remember that something like this happened – when? Three years ago, perhaps. That time there was a torrential fall in our subsidiary lavatory, from their subsidiary lavatory. Their household was in a disturbed state because they had just had a baby named Alexander who was in a critical condition in hospital. He died a few weeks later.

Well, they’ve just had another. A girl, six weeks premature and with Down’s Syndrome. She’s in hospital (hence the grandmother) but doing well. When her father eventually got home and came to view the scene, he seemed cheerful and optimistic about his daughter. Helen and David’s eldest son Oliver, who died at 6 ½ weeks, also had Downs. Will this baby turn out to be named Rachel or Helen, when I get around to asking?

If one is forced to look on the bright side, it was just as well it happened yesterday and not next Sunday, when we hope to be away. And there was no yarn in the room.


You won’t be surprised to hear that I ordered some more Zauberballs, although in fact I did it before disaster struck. I was quite wrong to say yesterday that they aren’t widely available in the UK. I ordered from my new friend Meadow Yarn. The difference between Crazy Zauberball and not-crazy, I learned, is that the former has two differently-coloured strands plyed together part of the time.

Time to stop. No luck with Royal Mail – it gets through to the verification screen, and then says “Payment unsuccessful. Please try again.” Mary Lou, I want to say more about the Dutch heel.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

That's the best quarter of the year gone already.

Sorry about yesterday. I used up all the blogging time struggling (successfully, in the end) with an on-line task set by my husband. He is that most dangerous of spouses – and they must be a rather rare breed, by now – who fully appreciate the wonders of the internet but can’t do it themselves.

This morning, I have expended almost as much time trying to pay a customs charge to Royal Mail. The card came yesterday, and that’ll be the yarn for the snood. I have several reasons for feeling pretty sure that the trouble lies with Royal Mail and not with my credit card. That’s not much comfort, as the weekend ticks away. I will have to go to a post office tomorrow and buy stamps to the value of the charge – thus losing two days, at least.

But I’m having a wonderful time with the Zauberball sock. Isn't that grand?

The first job today will be to put the stitches on some waste yarn and try it on. How much foot protrudes? How much further do I have to go, allowing for a bit of negative ease?

I did a Dutch heel, in the end. As you see, the yarn elected, rather stylishly, to turn very dark just as I got to the heel, so it’s impossible to see the details. But all seems to have gone well. I did “eye of the partridge” (if that’s the right game bird) for the heel flap and extended it under the foot. The result looks neat.

The Dutch heel is very like the heel flap-heel-gusset number we’re all used to. It seems superior in doing away with that maddening little hole between gusset and instep.

And I think I am beginning to get the lay of the land. Basically, there are two types of heel: this one, and the sort where the heel is a pouch formed by short rows. The Sweet Tomato would fall into the latter category, and its claim to fame is that you don’t have to wrap when you turn.

But then, the Afterthought Heel doesn’t quite fit into either of those categories. And toe-up, when I get there, will add a whole new dimension.

I had a bit of a struggle, despite (or because of) all my books, in figuring out exactly how to do the Dutch heel. The penny finally dropped, as they say, when I read Judy Gibson’s concise explanation on-line. An interesting side-issue to this project is the attention it focusses on the subject of instruction-writing.

I love the Zauberball, and allowed myself a wee Google on the subject yesterday. There are lots and lots and lots of Zauberballs, not widely available in the UK but someone has an shop with a good range. I couldn’t possibly buy Zauberballs when I have only recently bought four pairs of unknit socks and won’t even start on them until I have knit Hundertwasser from last year. Could I?

But if I am at all worried (see above) about whether a Bad Man has cleaned out my credit card, that might be a pleasant way to find out for sure.