Friday, November 30, 2012

Dies Atra

…comes around again. I’m in unusually cheerful form this year.

I had a grand time at Kaffe’s talk yesterday (didn’t buy the book, though). There was a big turnout despite the £10 charge for what amounted to a book-signing with extra talk. He is nearly as old as I am, and beginning to look it.

I met Sir Steven Runciman once, another supremely handsome man and one whose History of the Crusades and Sicilian Vespers I had read all the way through, in my more mentally active years. The line that sprang to mind when I saw him was, Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

This link, to a YouTube video, will show you what I mean.

(The same, of course, could be said of me except that I was never much to gladden the eye in youth, so the loss is considerably less.)

Kaffe is fading, but, like Runciman, remains as fit and sharp and entertaining as ever. He took us through the familiar story, Bill Gibbs, learning to knit on train. I hadn’t known, though, that he went to work for Missoni after that famous first effort was published in VK. (I was much struck with it myself, at the time, and remembered his name.) He made a funny story of the visit of two supremely elegant Missonis to his cold-water flat. He had to begin by learning the colour words in Italian.

It was good to see Helen C.K.S. too. We have been promising each other lunch for a long time now – “After the Festival”, “When this trying holiday season is over”. The year seems to contain little else. We’re aiming for January.

Miscellaneous more

-- A friend of Shandy’s sent me a link to this website in which are offered natural-coloured sheep-specific wools. Oh! for another lifetime, to knit it all. As far as I can remember, the only sheep-specific yarns I have actually knit were Shetland and Wensleydale. The latter was acquired at one of those workshop-and-talk days somewhere, and it was heaven to knit. I made a sweater with broad stripes for Helen’s husband David when he was new to the family.

Wensleydale are those sheep with dreadlocks.

-- Franklin is home, and posting about his English adventure. You don’t need me to tell you that. (All I had to do was type www.t and Google Chrome knew where I wanted to go.)

And as for actual knitting, I’m getting on fine. See sidebar. The brioche scarf, which I took to Strathardle earlier in the week, doesn’t entirely please. The colour seems sort of dull, and the knitting is not flawless partly because I am terrified even to attempt ripping back.

Barring disaster, I’ll finish both scarves with time to spare for a hat. But none of the few blanks on my Christmas list will want a hat,or if they do, they had one last year, so the plan is to go straight on to Ed’s Gardening Sweater.

Christmas shopping is nearly done – all on-line or by telephone except for the knitting. One of those articles in the paper the other day by a smart 30-year-old suggested giving fewer presents. They just embarrass people. But what if you have four children and four sons- and daughters-in law and twelve living grandchildren. Where do you prune the list?

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Safely back – and we had a good time, saw to a few little things that needed seeing to, enjoyed good weather. The horrors of darkness and Christmas press hard, this morning.

Have you heard of Loes Veemstra? I found her on Zite. A Dutchwoman who has been knitting sweaters since 1955, hundreds of them by now, and stowing them away unused. Now for some reason they have emerged into the light. The link is to a video – not YouTube, however – showing a street party with the sweaters in use and Veemstra on a throne amidst them.

Lots of intarsia. No evidence of moths. Bizarre.

The video plays only shakily on my tired old computer. While I was waiting I pondered on the fact that “knitting” seems to be “breiwerk” in Dutch (“breide” for the verb). It’s “tricot” of course in French, “maglia” in Italian, “strikke” in German, “binde” in Norwegian. Is it odd, or not, that none of those words appears to be related to any other?

I have spent so long struggling with Veemstra and my computer that I had better leave it there. I will try to get up the hill to hear Kaffe this evening, if I am spared. I will try to write a proper post tomorrow.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I had thought there was nothing to say about knitting this morning, but James just sent this pic of the jabot in action again at the Beijing St Andrew’s Ball.

The grizzled facial hair was a surprise.

And Helen C.K.S. writes that she’ll be at Kaffe’s do this coming Thursday. I think that’s probably the day we’ll come back from Strathardle and I think I’ll be too tired.  I’m sorrier to miss seeing her than Kaffe himself.

Not much progress with the scarf yesterday – the dread Sunday Syndrome. I grasped, this morning, that if I want to put in a safety pin and thereafter measure only from it, I’ve got to put it in at the business end of the scarf, where the knitting is going on. I am appalled that that obvious fact escaped me for 48 hours.

So we’re all set for Strathardle. The Good Lord refrained from intervention. Back here Friday, I hope.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hoarding/cleaning – Hat, Judith, Shandy: this relates to all three of yesterday’s comments.

I cleaned another tranche of the sitting room. No discoveries, same glow of virtue.

My husband always carries a slim engagement diary, and tucks it away in a drawer when the new year and new diary supplant the last one. Recently, I replaced a drawer-ful of them in the dining-room sideboard, now back from the furniture restorer with a beautiful smooth top. I found myself with 1957 in my hands, and looked up the day we met – February 23. Sure enough: it says “party”.

I went on to the day of Rachel’s advent into the world, the following year. That day says “RMM” in big letters. I didn’t look up anything in between, or beyond.

This is relevant to your comment, Judith, because he has mislaid the current one. Perhaps left behind in Strathardle? It must be somewhere.

I liked your phrase about the dining room being thoroughly “bottomed”, Shandy. The problem there – not yet anywhere near solution – is a number of tin boxes containing older Miles family documents. They were in the cellar in Birmingham. When we moved here, we managed to store them on a top shelf in the capacious cupboard off the hall.

One day years ago – I wasn’t even present – my husband said something to his sister about a torn-up letter that might or might not have been in one of those boxes. She wanted to look for it, and try to piece it together. She kept on at me about the subject in the months that followed. Eventually we had a son-in-law here; he got the tin boxes down and ranged them around the dining room.

Nothing more was ever done. My husband wasn’t willing (even he) to let his sister rummage in those boxes unsupervised, and we never got around to doing it. She has been dead for nearly two years. The top shelf in the cupboard off the hall has filled up with other things. The tin boxes are very neatly stowed in the spare room (in which one can, as a consequence, scarcely move) since the day earlier this year when Rachel’s son Joe came up from London and cleared the dining room for us.

My husband and I are equally resolved that they mustn’t go back into the dining room. They can’t stay where they are. Watch this space.


The Reversible Cables are moving forward, although not much was done yesterday.

We’re hoping – no, that’s not the word – to go to Strathardle tomorrow. I’ll take the brioche scarf, as the Cables are too near completion. And this morning I stumbled across this potentially useful  free gauge-less hat pattern. Gauge-less because you start at the top and see how it goes. That could fill one of the awkward gaps in my Christmas list, if there's time.

I’m scared of going tomorrow, of darkness and my husband’s frailty, and wouldn’t mind at all if the Good Lord cared to intervene with (say) a storm or the discovery that we’re short of Lisinopril. 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Not much was achieved yesterday on the Christmas front.

But something domestically. In the afternoon, my husband and I put up those two plates. Meaning, I did, under his instruction. No geometry was involved this time, but much measuring as they had to be centred over the doors (and the door frames are slightly curved, which makes measuring that bit more difficult) and they had to be roughly at the same height as each other.

So that's the dining room "hang" complete".

In the morning, I had one of those Moments. Our sitting room is rarely (if ever) cleaned thoroughly. It’s a big room, full of stuff. I decided to start at one wall and do a strip at a time. Yesterday’s strip was rewarding: I found last year’s incoming Christmas cards, whose loss I had lamented the day before; and I found a book we have been looking for, literally, for years.

It is a shabby old copy of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, a collection of his newspaper pieces, with those old cartoons. If you’re my age, and American, you probably remember. I don’t know where we got it. We’ve always had it, and it has always been at Burnside (see sidebar), in the Boys’ Room. When they were 14 and 15 or so, James and Alexander added captions to the cartoons. Some of them are very funny.

I think it was Alexander who provoked the search. He and Helen and I have been through every bookcase in that little house, again and again.

Here, in the sitting room, stands the Glass-Fronted Bookcase, whose contents are family-related, one way or another. And underneath it – it stands up on legs – are piles of books worthy to be included but for which there is no room. That’s where Ripley was. A perfectly appropriate place. I'll give it to Alexander when we next see him.

I hope to get another yard or so of the sitting room cleaned today. What treasures await?


Another landmark on the “Reversible Cables”: I’ve passed five feet – i.e., exceeded the length of the tape measure. I put in a safety pin, so now I have only to measure from there.

That was an interesting comment of yours, Knitter007ca, about magazines. And thank you for mentioning Patternfish. I don’t think I knew about it.

I’m sure you’re right that magazines are in decline as we increasingly get our patterns directly from designers. Magazines have declined before – after the death of VK in the late 60’s, there was nothing or virtually nothing on British newsstands for some years. Even when Vogue came back to life, it was hard to find. Now, for the moment, they abound.

I keep a little list of FO’s in my electronic Filofax. It’s been a while since I knit anything from a magazine – a VK scarf in ’10 was the most recent. This year, I looked up the original article about the Strong heel (Knitter's) during my Sock Blitz, and I got out those old Knitter’s with Meg’s EPS articles only this week. That’s it, for magazines.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Odds and ends

Christmas: I got the cards out. Can’t find the package of the ones we received last year – a nuisance. I did some virtual shopping – at IWOOT, an old friend; Liberty, useless; and Divertimenti, some possibilities there. Shandy, I didn’t know about Persephone Books, and will investigate today. Thanks for the tip. I think today I’ll start actually ordering things.

Kate Davies, my near neighbour, has a new book coming out next week, at first available only from her website. It looks good.

While in London last weekend, I showed Ed the madelinetosh yarn for his forthcoming Gardening Sweater and measured a well-fitting garment of his of just the right sort. He doesn’t mind a highish neck, so I’ll go for EZ’s Seamless Hybrid (KWT).

I used to keep notes in my electronic Filofax (Lotus Organizer) of what patterns were in what issues of what magazines – patterns I might want to go back to. By means of those pages, I found that Meg’s four articles updating EZ’s Percentage System were in the four issues of Knitter’s for 2000. And I found the issues just where they should be, in the pile. So that’s that sorted.

I was surprised to see how enthusiastic I was about Knitter’s, issue after issue, in the late 90’s. I’ve been unsubscribed for a couple of years now and don’t miss it a bit.

There is an interesting article in the new IK (by the editor herself) about “infinite cables” or knotwork – the sort of thing Starmore does in “The Celtic Collection” although Starmore doesn’t seem to be mentioned in the article. The article shows how to design your own closed-loop motifs, and it looks fun.

I’m getting on fine with the Reversible Cables. I’m aiming for seven feet. I can’t remember why I chose that target. Mary Lou just says, sensibly, to knit until it’s long enough. I joined in the third skein (of four) last night. That felt like progress.

Franklin and his partner are currently on the high seas, returning to the US on the Queen Mary as they have done three times before. The dates were chosen to enable them to avoid Thanksgiving.

Another point at which I discovered that our tastes coincide, is his dislike of bobbles. That was mentioned when he showed us some nupps while discussing Haapsalu in the class about lace traditions. Although slightly raised, nupps are much less bobble-like than I thought. Maybe I’ll have a go. Shandy says it is not entirely easy to make sure you have hold of all the nupp stitches on the return row. And I can believe it.

Archie has just emailed to say that school may close early for Christmas because of an outbreak of the norovirus. It’s a nasty one. I was stricken at the New Year, two years ago, and would prefer not be there again.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

I got to Franklin and back in pretty good order by writing down all the things I had to do, and assigning them to be done on specific days. Maybe I’ll now try the same approach to Christmas. I feel I have done terrifyingly little so far. Today, get out the left-over Christmas cards, and the list, and spread them around on the dining room table. Order more cards as necessary.

The Reversible Cable scarf continues well. I didn’t get as much done as I hoped on the long train journeys, but I knit industriously as I travelled across London, north to south, south to north, four journeys in all. I’ve passed the half-way mark and continue very pleased with the result.

We’re planning to attempt Strathardle next week. The weather is wild and wet, but so far open. I’ll take the scarf along. Those long winter evenings by the fire…

I had a brief look at my antique knitting books yesterday, and came away more impressed than ever with Franklin’s abilities. So often one does not even know what the finished object would be. “Gentleman’s Comforter”, for instance. What aspect of the gentleman is to be comforted? Franklin tried to help us past that fear by setting us to knit something in class from an old pattern, without telling us what it was.

I think I might begin by going back systematically through his articles in Knitty, maybe even printing them. You can get a list of them by searching Knitty for “Franklin Habit”. Here’s the “neckerchief” my partner and I were assigned to deconstruct in class. The articles are fascinating, Franklin’s curiosity and tenacity truly wonderful. Maybe one day a book?

Which reminds me – Arne & Carlos now have a book of Easter knits. That’s three books within a year, by my count – I was knitting Christmas tree ornaments from their first one just 12 months ago, and we’ve had a book of dolls in between. Come on, boys – it’s sweaters we’re waiting for.

While I was there, Amazon led me on to this. I had to have it.

The new IK has turned up – nice enough, but nothing I want to knit except perhaps some hats.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thank you for your kind comments.

The next question is, how to commemorate the day? During the lace session in the morning, Franklin gave us a pattern of his own to work on while he talked. I made a mess of mine, but Shandy finished hers and includes it in her blog entry. My first thot was to buy some madelinetosh Prairie from the selection upstairs and knit it as a scarf.

[The class, when one stops to think about it, started with how-to-knit-lace, covered the major European traditions – Shetland, Orenburg, and Haapsalu – and included some interesting tips on designing, with beautifully-executed samples of his own work. Franklin is an accomplished and many-faceted man.]

But then, over lunch, Shandy astonished and delighted me with the gift of a skein of Susan Heath yarn. A new name to me. I won’t try to photograph it – follow the link. (I think this page, of “autumnal, sun-kissed colours”, must include mine.)

The afternoon class was about knitting from old patterns – the sort of thing he does in his regular columns in Knitty. A book to come? We began, unexpectedly, when some actual Victorian knitting – done by Franklin, of course – was distributed to the class. We were set to deconstruct it. Where did it start? How was it done? Where did it finish? (Ours looked simple, a little triangular garter stitch shawl in two colours. My partner got it – cast on the entire lower edge, add the centre colour intarsia-wise. I was thinking about knitting strips and picking up stitches.)

The class went on to talk about Victorian needles and yarn – the man is a serious and meticulous historian of knitting – before we were set to knit a mystery item from an antique set of instructions. I did better on that than I had with the lace in the morning.

So might the beautiful skein Shandy gave me become something from an old pattern? Something usable. A hat? I have one antique book myself, an 1843 edition of Mrs Gaugain. But there is lots of digitized material on-line – Franklin gave us the major URLs. It had never really occurred to me before that I might actually knit from such a source. But now I feel empowered.

I might also mention that I discovered, right at the beginning of the day, that I have been doing the long-tail cast on wrong all these years. More years than Franklin has been alive. Well, not wrong. Nothing is wrong in knitting except splitting a stitch. But not optimally. I make a slip knot and, thereafter, wrap the long tail around my left thumb, stitch by stitch,  and knit it on to the needle.

Franklin did something cat’s-cradle-like. Other people in the class seemed to regard this as normal. I’m sure I can find it on YouTube. This is the irreplaceable gain of an actual day with actual people, knitting. One sees and learns things.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

All went well.

Start with the big one: Franklin is a brilliant teacher, as several of you had told me. Not for him (although he might so easily have adopted it) the role he describes in his wonderful essay for Knitty, “The Ten Knitters You Meet in Hell”:

“The Divine Presence: She considers eighty dollars a bargain price for the opportunity to spend three hours just being in the same room with her. Offering actual instruction would be overkill. Instead, she may proffer extempore, colorful anecdotes from her fabulous life; or perhaps an “inspirational” slide show of her immortal designs—the patterns for which are (of course) for sale from her booth in the marketplace.”

The lessons were meticulously planned and timed. I learned a lot. It was a small class – seven of us, and Franklin. Interesting women, with things to say. He was brilliant at contributing to the conversation without being overbearing, and then getting back to the point.

I had my camera with me – I had even put in new batteries that morning, although the camera hadn’t asked for them. It’s heavy on batteries, and I didn’t want to take any chances. But when the moment came, at the end of the day, it was too embarrassing, I couldn’t ask.

But then Franklin said he wanted to have his picture taken with me – leaving everyone else to wonder, for an instant, whether perhaps I were Jane Sowerby. I think the picture on his great big camera is perhaps slightly better than mine, seen above, taken a few seconds later, in which I look hysterical.

Other aspects of the weekend were equally successful. I managed London on my own, although it was scary. One particularly sweet moment occurred on Sunday morning, when I emerged from the tube station at the Angel, Islington, wondering somewhat whether I would in fact be able to find the venue.

And there, just beyond the barrier, miraculously, was Shandy. “Are you Jean?” We had a grand time together, including our lunch at The Elk in the Woods which would have gone on all afternoon, if I hadn’t had to get back for the afternoon class.

Shandy did only the morning session with Franklin, so she had time to have a serious look at Loop later on. I missed out on that – they didn’t let us in until just before the lesson, and were closed when it was all over. It’s a seriously wonderful shop, that much was clear. Maybe one day I’ll get back there. (On-line is great, but there’s nothing like an actual fondle.)

And all went well at this end. Indeed, it suddenly began to seem easy as soon as Rachel turned up on the doorstep on Friday evening. My husband has clearly very much enjoyed the company of his nearest and dearest other-than-me. The dining room pictures are hanging, and look good. The food from Cook was distinctly successful. My husband had a nap on Saturday afternoon while everyone else went off to watch the rugby in a pub.

Scotland lost. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Franklin’s most recent Facebook entry, 9 hours ago, was from a First Class International Departure Lounge. So he should be here by now!

A nice lady phoned from Loop yesterday – fortunately I didn’t grasp who she was until I had heard the whole message; otherwise I might have had a heart attack and dropped dead – to remind me that I had booked classes this coming Sunday with Franklin Habit and that I must bring needles.  I told her, politely of course, that she could have saved her breath to cool her porridge.

The only minor hitch at this end is that Alexander realised only late yesterday that his plans to spend tomorrow afternoon hanging pictures in our dining room, and his plans to spend the afternoon in a pub watching the rugby (Scotland v. South Africa), were basically incompatible.

The food from Cook arrived bang on time -- lunch for three on Saturday and for five + Little Boys on Sunday. If it turns out to be good, they might be pressed into service to lend a hand with the end-of-year cookery horrors. Shredded Brussels sprouts with bacon and chestnuts, for instance, on the Christmas table? Alexander, who will be doing Christmas, will also be in charge of defrosting Sunday lunch day after tomorrow -- he can judge. 

The hair is washed, the clothes for tomorrow’s departure ironed. I still haven’t wrapped the birthday present. Today’s chores largely concern cooking – the red currents for the summer pudding do need to be picked over, and they are all mushy because they have been frozen so it won’t be entirely easy. And I mean to make a casserole – Delia Smith’s Spanish pork stew with potatoes & chorizo, from “How to Cheat at Cooking” – for the picture-hangers or, as the case may prove, rugby-watchers, to eat tomorrow evening.

And this evening, Rachel will be here.

I reverted to the reversible cables yesterday. Progress is steady but slow, results delightful. Here are the first pictures. I photographed both sides, to illustrate reversibility. In real life, “Vatican Pie” is brighter than that.

It might not be a bad idea to wind the next skein today, if time allows, although such an activity ought not to be impossible in my First Class seat on the train.

So, I’ll see you next week, insh'Allah. (A good many insh'Allah's  need to be inserted into the text above.) And I won’t forget to take the camera.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Stalking isn’t getting me much of anywhere. Franklin posted four hours ago to say that the winter issue of the Twist Collective has gone live. Four hours ago would be 3:30 a.m. in Britain. More likely, it was evening in Chicago. It’s time he got moving. Catmum, I think it indeed quite likely that he’ll be signed up for one of those deals where you fly one way and sail the other. By now, we’ll have to hope that the airborne element is the eastward journey.

He said that the Twist Collective has an article by him on ripping.

Yesterday, an old friend and colleague from our Birmingham days came to call. It was wonderful to see him, and good for my husband to be able, as so rarely, to talk about things I don’t understand. He’s never been clubbable. It’s his own fault.

While our friend was here, I knit somewhat onward on the brioche scarf. At some point, either then or later, I dropped a stitch. Brioche stitch is next best thing to irretrievable. One can neither frog nor rip without the danger of making things a whole lot worse. I fiddled about a bit, and decided that it would pass the Galloping Horse test, especially if there are no similar flaws in a final seven feet. But I was cross at myself.

I’ve flipped through the rest of the Twist Collective, and I don’t think there’s anything there for me, although I’ll look again. A remarkably high percentage of the sweaters are cardigans, and the ones that aren’t, are close-fitting and bulgy. Not what I want, just now.

I downloaded movies into the iPad without difficulty yesterday – “Slumdog Millionaire” and Truffaut’s “Day for Night”, an old friend. (And  I put the earphones into my knitting bag.) I can’t even peek, because the films are rented and will swiftly and silently vanish away 48 hours after I start watching (or in a month, if I never watch them). An ideal arrangement.

I don’t anticipate any difficulty, but if it happens, I’ve still got the iPad with some good reading on it and the ability to whistle more down from the ether. I continue to enjoy Susan Hill’s Simon Serailler – she seems to have written seven books about him; I’m nearly finished with the second. Plenty ahead.

Today’s Targeted Event is to wash my hair. There are lots of little, unrecorded jobs piling up: to wrap my husband’s birthday present, for instance. Write in his card. The food from Cook is scheduled to arrive this morning and there probably won’t be room for it in the freezer.

I am planning to make my husband a summer pudding for his birthday. Today I will take the red currants out of the freezer (that will help). I can’t even remember whether they have been picked over – berries removed from the little soft twigs to which they cling when plucked from the bush. If that hasn’t been done, it will take time. Otherwise, summer-pudding-making is simplicity itself. I am awfully afraid that the bread I have been carefully stale-ing for the last two days, will be too stale.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Stalker’s report: No, I’m afraid Franklin was still in Chicago yesterday evening. He was packing. That’s something. He warns that we won’t hear much from him in the next fortnight. That’s something. If he flies tomorrow, he’ll still have a moment to catch his breath before Sunday.

He posted something yesterday about the student who insists on knitting with black Kid Silk Haze when he has specified white or near-white worsted.  Sending me into a bit of a tizzy (not really) about whether I will show up as Ethel the Unready. In fact, all I have to take is needles of the right size and gauge. I have bought new KnitPics – my husband says that is pretentious, everybody will see that I’ve got brand new needles. But I didn’t have KnitPics in the sizes required, and I love them, and I thought, OK, this is the moment.

But if you think I am extravagant when it comes to knitting – and you would be right – you should try buying underwear at Marks & Spencer. How do people afford it? I thought everybody from duchess to dustman bought underwear at Marks & Spencer. Clearly I am at least 40 years out of date. Cost was not the only surprise.

The Ladies’ Lingerie Department had rack after rack of brassieres (or “bras” as we must now call them). Each rack had, at its lowest level, knickers to harmonize with the bras above. It was easy enough from a standing position to spot the sort of thing one wanted, but in order to secure one’s purchase, if one was at all uncertain about one’s flexibility or balance, there was nothing for it but to get down on the floor and sort through the available knickers.

I can’t see 80-year-old duchesses crawling around on the floor of Marks & Spencer. I won’t again. My husband’s underwear is ordered on-line from Sunspel. There must be some such solution for women.

And, yes, I complained. I got the impression – it was all perfectly pleasant -- that knickers-at-floor-level is simply the Way Things Are Done.

Still, that’s over, and ticked off the list.  Next week, when life resumes its normal course, I will rather miss flipping open the iPad to see what I’ve got to do today. Today’s job, in fact, is to try to download a movie onto the iPad (and I mustn’t forget to pack the earphones, if successful). Things hot up a bit tomorrow and Friday.

As for actual knitting – I’ve done 15 inches of Mary Lou’s Reversible Cables. Only 5 ¾ feet to go. It’s looking great. The red element in Colinette’s Vatican Pie varies in intensity from time to time. It is plyed with something silvery – is that the 20% bamboo? I’ll attempt a pic soon. It is of heavenly softness.

And the pattern is great, too. One has an odd number of 6-stitch ribs. They are cabled alternately on one side and the other. Simple, brilliant.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I’m stalking Franklin. I am one of his 1,000,005 friends on Facebook, and I can tell you that yesterday evening he was complaining about the lavatorial facilities (lack of) in the Admirals Club/British Airways lounge in Philadelphia airport. Does that mean he’s on his way? Does that mean he travels Business Class? Watch this space.

Yesterday was rather successful. Life moves forward, as you know, on various tracks. I cook, wash up, make the bed, clean a little if the house is lucky; Track One. I get ready to go to London, Track Two. I push at the boundaries of chaos a bit, some days, Track Three.

Yesterday, Track Two, I ordered two meals from Cook and agreed a delivery slot; and decided on my costume, although some modest ironing is still needed.

And, Track Three, I phoned the furniture restorer who has the things that were damaged in the April Dining Room Flood. A picture-hanging session is planned for Saturday afternoon, in my absence, and we needed the sideboard back to judge the position of the pictures in relation to the whole room. Alexander will be here. He’s good at that sort of thing.

The sideboard arrived yesterday evening, sooner even than hoped, and it looks splendid. 

The nice man also put our corner cupboard back up for us.

In the inevitable way of life, where one success spawns three more chores, my husband started pressing at once for me to replace the contents of the sideboard and corner cupboard. For the last few months they have been dispersed hither and yon.

So that’s Track Three for today. On Track Two, I hope to get to Marks & Spencer to renew my underwear. It is all very well to walk around Edinburgh with one’s invisible layers in tatters, but I don’t feel it’s appropriate for London.

But the Really Big News about yesterday is that the madelinetosh yarn for Ed’s gardening sweater arrived, and it is beyond beautiful. It is no use trying to show you a picture because you’d do better to go to Jimmy Bean (or any madelinetosh site) and look up Firewood. It will be such fun to show it to Ed on Saturday.

I’m thinking the Saddle-Shoulder or the Seamless-Hybrid from KWT, if Ed approves the neckline. My husband will wear nothing but v-neck. I have a vague-ish feeling that the original EPS has been judged to be tight at the underarm, and that there have been modifications. Not all that long ago, Meg walked us through the EPS over a whole year in Knitter’s. I’ve used those issues to knit a sweater, and it shouldn’t be beyond my capacities to find them again.

Daisy, thank you for the pointer to Veronik Avery’s Crosscut Pullover. I like it a lot, except that the hem is level and I have an unsatisfied longing for accidental-looking unevenness. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

List-making is a great comfort. Today’s London-related tasks are to order food from Cook and to choose what I am going to wear. Is it clean? Ironed? Fit to be seen in public? I’ve just looked Loop up on Google maps and moseyed virtually around the neighbourhood. That bit looks easy.

Mary Lou’s scarf is now about 7” long. It’s looking good. I weighed the current ball this morning on my digital kitchen scales and find that 74 grams remain out of 100. That ought to mean that the scarf will be about 28” long when I’ve finished this ball, and there are three further skeins, so that’s fine. Or ought to be.

I have given more thought to the ideas I mooted yesterday. Does Boxy have too much fabric at the sides (=under the arms)? If you follow that Ravelry link, contemplate the model with her arm outstretched. I went back to Helen C.K.S.’ blog (entry for 1 November) and looked at her other idea, Kim Hargreaves’ Cerulean. Might it suit my purposes better? The neck wouldn’t have to be quite so low. It would be worn over a shirt anyway. I added it to the queue.

Soon Christmas will have to be added to the anxiety-queue. Perhaps it should be there already.

And that that point, I find I have run out of thots.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

We had a good walk around the perimeter of the grounds of a National Trust house in Musselburgh. Glorious weather, but it was not quite a long enough or sufficiently taxing walk. Next time we’ll pick a tough one. The house itself was closed for the season. We’ll have to go back.

The big news is that the yarn from Jimmy Bean has reached Edinburgh. I got the tax-letter on Friday, and paid at once. Delivery promised for tomorrow. So I can take a skein to London next weekend to show Ed.

I’ve embarked on Mary Lou’s Reversible Cable scarf in the Colinette yarn. I thought the first attempt looked a bit narrow – the yarn may not be quite as Aran as Mary Lou intended. I didn’t bother with swatching and gauge calculations, given that it was a scarf. I ripped it and added another two columns of ribbing – 12 stitches – and like the look much better. The yarn is super-soft and will make a wonderful scarf.

But do I have enough yarn? Perhaps I’d better press on until the first skein is used, to find out. And I’ll take it along for train-knitting next weekend. It’s fun to be doing something slightly challenging. The down side is that progress is much slower than on the brioche stitch plain-vanilla scarf.

New topic. I think I may have made something of a discovery.

I had occasion the other day to empty a drawer and put its contents in another drawer. So the target drawer had first to be emptied. Its contents consisted of Little-Worn Clothes, among which I found these:

There’s a lot of knitting there, a lot of good yarn, Nothing exactly wrong with any of them. Totally unworn. What they have in common is that they’re jackets. Plus there’s the Round-the-Bend, which I do very occasionally wear; and now the Mitered Jacket. What I do wear – but I’ve knit many fewer, by comparison – is sweaters (and a vest) that go all the way around.

I went back to Helen C.K.S.’ recent blog entry and added the Boxy pullover to my Ravelry queue, so that it wouldn’t get away. What I’m wondering – and it’s a very alarming thought for a number of reasons – is whether I should abandon the Japanese shirt and use the beautiful madelinetosh yarn for a Boxy.

Or for the Anhinga, another pattern I learned about from Helen C.K.S. She knit that one, and wasn’t desperately pleased with the result. Looking at the finished projects in Ravelry, I think it especially suits really skinny wearers and neither Helen nor I entirely qualify. Still, it has its tempting aspects.

I’ll leave these heretical thots on a back burner while pressing ahead with Xmas scarves.

Friday, November 09, 2012

The Colinette order arrived. “Vatican Pie” is not quite as College-of-Cardinals as one might expect from Colinette’s wonderful red page, but it’s good enough. I finished the hat last night – lots of ends, remember, because I was using up the oddballs the moths had made for me; and the Wingspan, easy; and mended the socks.

When I got to that point I thought it better just to go ahead with half-an-hour of brioche stitch. Today I’ll wind a skein of the Colinette yarn and begin to play with it.

No news from Jimmy Bean.


A good deal of the rising tension I feel about next weekend’s little jaunt is because it is really rather a long time since I have done anything at all (well, other than a trip to the supermarket) independently.

And some of it is wanting to make things easy for Rachel. She carries a heavy load with cheerfulness and style. I don’t want to weigh her down with my own burdens when she is heroically coming all this way so that I can go to a knitting class. Ridiculous, really. And it will be a busy weekend because it coincides with my husband’s birthday and Alexander and Ketki and the Little Boys are coming and pictures will be hung on Saturday afternoon, we hope. And my husband doesn't really like take-aways (or carry-oots, as they are known locally).

Today’s task is to tidy a shelf of the larder-cupboard so as not to horrify Rachel. Throw away everything whose use-by date is more than five years in the past. Yesterday I looked up and wrote down the suburban train times which I will need to know to get to Loop on Sunday and Kings Cross rather early on Monday morning. I couldn’t persuade the computer to tell me how much money I’ve got in my Oyster card. I can deal with that in London.

Another thing that happened yesterday is that declined my card. I was trying to buy a book for my husband’s birthday present. Horror. If this is going to happen every ten days, I am not going to get very far with Christmas shopping. (And there is always the fear that this time, I really have been hacked.)

However, all seems to be well. I learned last time that a digital download is the acid test. I have only recently discovered Susan Hill’s Simon Serrailler books. I am reading the first on my iPad at the moment with great pleasure, so I ordered the second as my experiment.  It arrived instanter. I think the trouble was that the French were trying to use the number of my former card for “acheter en 1-click” and I think I’ve straightened it out. We’ll see.

Tomorrow I am going for a walk with our niece. (She will be around for the birthday weekend, too, and should be a considerable help.) So I won’t be here. It takes all my strength to scurry around in the morning having breakfast and leaving breakfast and lunch for my husband. 

Thursday, November 08, 2012

I’m beginning to get more than a bit scared about London next week. Not to mention Christmas, looming ever larger. The to-do list gets longer by the moment, and nothing much gets done. I have tried assigning days to the items on the list. We’ll see what happens today (three items assigned). Shandy, with whom I will be lunching a week on Sunday, has sussed out the geography. That helps.

Meanwhile Franklin has a new post up this morning, cool as a cucumber. Nothing at all about making sure his passport is in date, or washing his socks. But he needs to get here in time to have recovered from the flight before the weekend…

The flu-injection thing went smoothly yesterday. Today there is no excuse for not laying that scarf aside and darning in some loose ends. Also, I knit our niece a pair of bright red Zauberball socks as part of my big Sock Project earlier this year. I gave them to her when she came for the Games, but there was a mildly worrying gusset hole and she returned them to me to have it closed up.

And I haven’t done it, although I’ve retrieved the right yarn from the odd-ball sock-bag. But she and I are going for one of our walks on Saturday – much needed – so I’ll do that today, too. It shouldn’t take as much as five minutes.

No yarn in the post yesterday, neither Jimmy Bean nor Colinette. (Actually, the madelinetosh for Ed’s gardening sweater won’t arrive from Jimmy Bean until I have first had a card from the Queen telling me how much it is going to cost me in duty and VAT.) I find I don’t have a tracking number from Jimmy Bean, although I can find such numbers for earlier purchases. Did I inadvertently delete it?

I’m not seriously worried. I’ll give it another week. One of the great things about Jimmy Bean is that they answer emails promptly.

But Colinette should surely turn up today. I mean to use it to cast on Mary Lou’s Reversible Cable scarf right away (right away after I’ve dealt with those ends) and then knit the two scarves on alternate evenings. The basic brioche stitch scarf  is now beyond 2 ½ feet and there’s still plenty of yarn in the second ball. I’m going to have lots left over.

Back in the great days of the Knit List, Selma Kaplan once threw an Imaginary Pool Party for those of us who couldn’t get to Stitches. We sat around the pool – she had had it put in that year when she won the Nobel Prize – and sipped virtual white wine and indulged in knitting fantasies. One of us spotted Kaffe, over in a corner, darning in ends.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

It’s all right for you guys – you were tucked up peacefully in bed by midnight.

Three good things: there’s no work for the lawyers this morning, discussing hanging chads; Theo and Jenni can stay in Washington, where they’re happy; and the American president isn’t beholden to a foreign power. I am thinking of Mr Adelson – his vast wealth and tremendous contributions to the Republican party will have put even a man as rich as Mr Romney under an obligation, and an obligation to Mr Adelson is an obligation to Israel, and that isn’t the best position for the President to find himself in as he approaches the problems of that troubled region.

Something will have to be done about campaign contributions one day soon.

It is noteworthy that no one of the four men most closely involved yesterday, is a WASP. Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis, as someone once said. (“Times change, and we change with them.”)


I knit peacefully on yesterday. I’m going to have too much yarn – I haven’t actually measured, but I’m well into the second foot and haven’t quite finished the first ball of yarn. Presumably I’ll want about seven feet in all. I’ve just spent a moment on Ravelry to see what to do with leftovers. A hat, is an obvious possibility.  And I am much struck with Jared’s “Cinder”, but I probably wouldn’t have enough for that.

I didn’t do anything about finishing the Wingspan or the hat. Tomorrow is the 8th birthday of our youngest grandchild. I wrapped and addressed his present. I love giving, but I hate wrapping. (Just as I love knitting, but much prefer starting to finishing.) In the afternoon we walked down to the Brandon Street post office (since we have nothing more local any more) and dispatched the package and took a bus back. We have often done that little outing before, but yesterday it was almost too much for my husband.

So I thought I’d let myself off finishing, when knitting time finally came. Similarly, today’s objective is our flu injections. The appointment coincides rather awkwardly with lunch time. I think that’ll be enough for today.

Tomorrow, maybe, for the loose ends.

Still no news from Jimmy Bean. I think I could track the package if I applied myself. I was interested to read that Helen C.K.S. recently experienced a delayed transatlantic package. Hers was travelling westwards. I had blamed Sandy, but her dates don’t fit that hypothesis. Maybe they’ve just slowed down.

She also inspires me – same link – to think again about going to hear Kaffe on the 29th.

Dawn, I’m glad you said what you did yesterday about the comments here. They’re the best bit of the blogging experience for me, by far.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Who would have thought we’d ever actually get here, to November 6, 2012? It will be an odd morning to wake up to tomorrow, no campaigning and no election. It’s a funny way to run a country, all that vast expenditure of money and energy and time. One thing, perhaps it’s valuable for the president to have seen and experienced the whole country, even from within his bullet-proof security bubble. And for the electorate, to be reminded of how important they are.

We watched an interesting (contemporary) documentary the other evening about Kennedy’s primary battle with Hubert Humphrey in (I think) Wisconsin. How different it all seemed! Jackie was there, no sign of a Mrs Humphrey. She (Jackie) must have been the first of the now-pretty-well-obligatory Ornamental Wives.

In 1952 I cycled 10 miles or so with some friends to experience an Eisenhower whistle-stop. Remember whistle-stops? I wonder if that was the last election in which they figured.


Well. The Wingspan is done. I hope I’ll polish off one or two loose ends and block it today. It is time I got back to the loose ends on that hat, too.

The new KnitPic needles arrived. I still don’t find brioche stitch entirely comfortable – the stitches don’t slip quite freely enough along the needle. Can’t see why.

I tried a few rows of fisherman’s rib (using a second ball of yarn). That felt much better. I did it in what I regard as the classic way – k1, k1b throughout. Barbara Walker in the 1st Treasury gives it as p1, k1b which would be much fiddlier. Nancy Marchant in “Knitting Brioche” says that the resulting fabric, using k1, k1b, is the same as brioche stitch but “I personally find that I work the brioche stitch much faster and much more evenly than fisherman’s rib”.

Much faster, no, not for me – fisherman’s rib is the real Cocoon Experience, for me. But after a couple of inches, it was absolutely clear that brioche stitch was producing a tidier and nicer-looking fabric, so I’ll go on with that.

EZ rather avoids the issue of whether the two fabrics are the same – I think Marchant is right about that, myself. EZ says: “This stitch is sometimes mistaken for Fisherman’s Rib, where you knit into the stitch of the row below, but if you try them both on the same swatch, you will see that Prime Rib [=Brioche Stitch] is well worth the trouble of learning, as it makes a much richer and fruitier rib.”


L, yes, I saw your earlier comments about the Colinette website. (Blogger sends them all to me as emails.) And you’re quite right, “Vatican Pie” is on the colour list. There seem to be a number of unalphabetised colours at the top of the list – I had just scrolled straight down to the “v’s”. I suspect you are a rather good librarian. 

I heard from them yesterday that my yarn has been dispatched!

Catriona, thank you for the link to the article in the Guardian about the Shetland Craft Trail. I think maybe I’d better download and print the map for my archives, despite the cost of ink jet cartridges.

FiberQat, that’s interesting, and rather comforting, that you have had rotation problems with pictures taken with an iPod touch. My one is right side up on my computer – but persistently sideways in Blogger.

Monday, November 05, 2012

We enjoyed having Archie here – and even put him to work hanging a picture. He seems to be happy at school. Merchiston is sporty, and we had all been afraid that rugby would make his life a misery. But it sounds as if he may be enjoying it. He is in the Hopeless group, but of course he is not the only one. They turn out for training several afternoons a week without (apparently) any serious pressure, and it’s all rather fun.

Knitting not so good: the long rows to finish off the top of the Wingspan are taking longer than I calculated, and I made things a good deal worse last night by stepping on and breaking one of my beloved KnitPic circulars. I’ve done that sort of thing before. Will I never learn?

I’ve not yet finished recovering the stitches and transferring them to a metal needle. When that’s done, there will be some errant stitches to repair, always slow work in garter stitch. But surely I will finish today.

I’ve been thinking about books – I’ve got too many.

I have more knitting shelves in the bedroom, but there too the books have escaped and are piled on the floor. Could I do some pruning? I fear not: even the most useless -- "Knit Your Own Royal Wedding" -- are of sentimental or archival interest, and I not infrequently find myself searching for an long-unused one which has suddenly become relevant.

I could, on the other hand, fairly easily, I think, pick 20 to take with me into the Old Folks’ Home when the day comes. KwT, “Knitting Around”, “Knitting Workshop”, Sharon Miller’s “Heirloom Lace”, a cable book, a Fair Isle book, some Bavarian travelling stitches, Vibeke Lind’s “Knitting in the Nordic Tradition”, maybe Brown-Reinsel’s “Knitting Ganseys”, Mary Thomas’s Knitting Book, Debbie New's "Unexpected Knitting", a stitch dictionary? A sock book?

It might be amusing to firm up the list. It’s easier to leave books behind these days, when we can take the internet with us.

Here’s the picture we hung:

I don't understand why the photograph insists on remaining sideways. I easily rotated the one above, as usual. I rotated this one, too, several times, but Blogger goes on loading it like this. 

The hanging wasn’t entirely easy. You will notice that the steps are turned the wrong way around. When they were facing the right way, there wasn’t room for the picture between the top of the steps and the wall. So we had to turn them like this, and the picture-hanger had to stand on them backwards, facing outward.

My job was to measure and calculate the necessary length of string across the back of the picture so that it would be in the right position when the string went over the hook (which was already in place). I got it right, and am proud of myself. Geometry is not my forte. My husband actually secured the string – wire, in fact – to the picture and then went away and left me and Archie to wrestle it up the steps.

Archie took the snapshot with his telephone.(Does the rotation problem stem from that fact?) The sweater is Shaefer yarn, I’m pretty sure, now of some antiquity. I was glad to see, when I looked up that link just now, that they’re still naming yarns after famous women.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

The teeth stayed gritted, and I am well along with the final Wingspan triangle. Unless Archie’s visit cuts into knitting time more than I expect, I should finish today. Whoopee!

(The MS Word spelling-check accepts “whoopee”. So does Blogger's.)

And it is possible that my new KnitPics may arrive today, just in time to resume knitting brioche stitch in Cocoon. They were dispatched the day I ordered them, namely Thursday. Nothing, yet, from Jimmy Bean, but it is very likely that Sandy has disrupted transatlantic mail.

(My sister has got her electricity back, although some of her neighbours haven’t. Jared posted a lovely essay this morning about his days without power.)

I spent some time on Colinette’s website yesterday. It doesn’t deserve my pausing to look up the link. Did you find it as frustrating as I did, L? (L was the one who sent us the link to the Vatican Pie page.)

There are loads of different qualities of yarn, each with a non-revealing name. There is nothing for it but to click on each. Sometimes, that produces useful ball-band-type information. Sometimes, not. The individual yarn pages have a box called “description” which in some cases is empty. You are invited, in the sidebar on the first page, to "Choose a Yarn" and "Choose a Colour" -- dropdown lists are provided. The "colour" list doesn't include Vatican Pie. 

I chose a yarn called Art, after a struggle. It is 70-30 wool-bamboo. It looks nice, and it comes in “Vatican Pie”, and it’s described as Aran which is what Mary Lou specifies for her Reversible Cables Scarf.

Yardage? Recommended needle size? Gauge? For that, I had to go out into Google and find an on-line supplier, who of course had the necessary information up-front.

It was something of a relief to find that Colinette accepts PayPal. I wouldn’t have been entirely happy typing a card number into so dopey a site.

Still, the point is that I have ordered a scarf’s-worth of Colinette’s “Art” yarn in her “Vatican Pie” colorway. I have also, I think, figured out how to watch a movie on my iPad the way everyone else does. (It is rarely very difficult to figure anything out related to the iPad, if you apply yourself.) So when I go to London, a fortnight from today, I picture myself (after my delicious lunch from the Marks & Spencer shelves in the station) knitting Vatican Pie into a scarf and sipping white wine and watching, perhaps, Slumdog Millionaire, which I have never seen.

I’ll be travelling First, so I’ll have space for all this. With an Advance ticket and an Old Folks’ Rail card, it’s an affordable luxury, and it does make a difference to the condition in which one arrives.

Who needs Franklin?

I won’t be here tomorrow, what with getting to Mass and talking to Archie.

Friday, November 02, 2012

All well. I gritted my teeth and did an evening of Wingspan – I must be halfway through the penultimate triangle. Three more sessions?

Mary Lou has sent me the pattern for her “Reversible Cables” scarf – No. 31 on her Ravelry page (on which you will find a number of other good things). I am fired with enthusiasm. Would there be time to knit both that and the Brioche Rib by Christmas? Why not? And a big, cosy scarf is easier to find a happy home for than another Wingspan.

And, O! L! that Vatican Pie page!

I have sort of lost touch with Colinette. I was a big fan nearly 20 years ago. Then what happened? The Internet, I guess. I’ll have to do some work on that website. Do they do mail order, or do I have to find a stockist? They seem to list one in Edinburgh called Ragamuffin which I have never heard of and can’t find through Google. Loop stocks her but not in qualities I’d want to use. The range of yarns is so huge – before we start on colours – that mail order from source would seem the only way.

I’ll persevere. The thought of knitting Mary Lou’s scarf in Vatican Pie is enough, of itself, to light up November.

Helen C.K.S. has posted, always a treat, with links to some good sweaters. I am essentially in a sweater mood, greatly looking forward to Ed's Gardening Sweater -- that yarn should turn up any minute now. And Helen may be pointing the way forward from there. I haven’t felt so cheerful in November for years. It won’t last.


James’ son Alistair wrote from Beijing yesterday, of the Microsoft Surface: “It's super simple to use, fast and as you say Microsoft office is implemented into it so it is very easy to use, read and edit files on.” He seems to think the latest Kindle offers almost as much, without colour. I will certainly look into that, although I think we really need that USB port.

How I wish I could see a Surface at John Lewis where they’ve got lots of other things. At a dedicated Microsoft shop – even if there is one in Edinburgh – they obviously won’t have the same motive to compare. 

Thursday, November 01, 2012


My sister says they are managing well enough – Old Saybrook provides hot showers, free wi-fi, water and ice in the high school, at least until the pupils are let back in. She says they can see the downed power lines and as of yesterday morning, no one was working on them, so this could last a while. She and her husband are seriously thinking of buying a generator. Powerless-ness has happened before, fairly recently, and it's not much fun.


I even considered not telling you this, at least at first.

I went back to John Lewis and bought some Cocoon, inspired by my own writing, yesterday morning, of the Cocoon Experience. I got the reddish one – it’s called “Quarry Tile” rather than “Terra Cotta”, but it comes to much the same thing.

Worse is to follow: I cast on.

I started with Lynn Barr’s “Folded Scarf” from “Reversible Knitting”. But I found it fiddly, and anyway I’ve been there, done that, very successfully. So I ripped, and started again with brioche stitch, using EZ’s instructions from KWT, always a pleasure to revisit. It’s looking good.

I don’t often knit in the upper reaches of needle size. All I seem to have in 7mm is a huge, cumbersome circular – what did I use for Cocoon scarves in other years? It’s very uncomfortable – maybe I’m just getting fussier with age.  I have seized the opportunity to order some more KnitPros from Meadow Yarn: the two smallest sizes of circulars in 7mm, and some short straights.

And until they come, I’ll revert to the Wingspan and see it through.

Mary Lou, I would love to see your reversible cable scarf pattern. I’m not so far along that what I’ve done couldn’t be considered a swatch. Maybe I’ll have a scarf phase. Thinking of you sent me back to “wearwithall”. Theresa Gaffey’s stole is awfully nice, and could be scarf-ified by knitting it narrower. The rugby scarf (also nice) worries by being 14” wide. My brioche stitch is only about 9”. I ripped out the first start because it seemed too wide – but maybe it’s now too narrow?

Life is frot with problems.

I went back through John Lewis’s computers on my way up to haberdashery yesterday. Somehow the laptops seemed more expensive than they had they day before. You still get more bang for your buck with a desktop; I wouldn't need to buy either monitor or keyboard;  a man could come and get all the stuff off Old Faithful into a new one; and we have an external disk drive for use when my husband’s files need to be transferred. That's probably the way to go.

Archie is about to have a “leaveout” weekend from school and is coming to us on Saturday. I will discuss this matter with him.