Sunday, June 30, 2013

A stands for Archibald who told no lies,
And got this lovely volume for a prize.

The Upper School had combed and oiled their hair,
And all the Parents of the boys were there.
In words that ring like thunder through the hall,
Draw tears from some and loud applause from all, --
The Pedagogue, with Pardonable Joy,
Bestows the Gift upon the Radiant Boy: --

“Accept the noblest work produced as yet”
(Says he) “upon the English Alphabet;
“Next term I shall examine you, to find
“If you have read it thoroughly. So mind!”
And while the Boys and Parents cheered so loud,
That out of doors a large and anxious crowd
Had gathered and was blocking up the street,
The admirable child resumed his seat.

Learn from this justly irritating Youth,
To brush your Hair and Teeth and tell the Truth.

It was just like that, except that our Archibald got no prize.

I had a camera with me, but took no pictures. The mental pictures that remain were un-photograph-able. We got there early (Archie and his father are Worriers) and had an hour to wander about. The school was full of kilted boys on purposeful errands or arguing with their aunties, one in forty of them flame-capped like Achilles.

We took our places early to get good seats, and I had time to cast on the Mind the Bend socks before things started. I was sorely tempted to add a few more rounds during the speech by the Distinguished Old Boy, but resisted. The proceedings began with a stirring number from the Pipe Band (much to be preferred to having the school orchestra scrape through Mendelssohn). The Beak said when they finished that Mr. Djokovic might well tremble, but I saw a bit of his match later in the day and there was not the slightest sign either that he was afraid of a pipe band or that he was having any trouble with his shoelaces.

I went on with the sock in the evening. It starts with the Northern Line, then Piccadilly, Central, Victoria, and at the moment I’m employed on the Bakerloo. The stripes are about six rounds wide. I’ll hope to finish the ribbing on this first sock today (leaving the back of Relax2 suspended in mid-shoulder shaping). Pic tomorrow.

Archie and his father are now, insh’Allah, winging their way towards Athens. My husband and I will regroup before the next instalment of this trying summer.

Friday, June 28, 2013


It is a leaden morning, in more senses than one. It’s raining. We needed rain.

I harvested sorrel from the doorstep yesterday and made soup. Delicious, if I do say so. Alexander refuses to grow sorrel because his garden is overrun with the closely-related weed of the same name. “It would be like planting Japanese knotweed,” he says.

But if we abstained from planting anything that was related to a weed, we wouldn’t have much to eat. Delicious soup can be made from the leaves of the weed sorrel, but they are much smaller and would take a lot of picking. The plan is to augment my sorrel-patch in Strathardle with the plants from the pot on the doorstep, come September. 

An honour has been conferred on grandson Thomas-the-Elder (middle of the back row, above), all the more wonderful for being totally Gilbertian:

"Blue bags are those with which barristers provide themselves when first called, and it is a breach of etiquette to let this bag be visible in court. The only brief-bag allowed to be placed on the desks is the red bag, which by English legal etiquette is given by a leading counsel to a junior who has been useful to him in some important case."

"As well as wigs and gowns, Ede & Ravenscroft also produces a traditional accessory: colour-coded bags for holding a barrister's wig and gown which, etiquette dictates, may only be ordered by those of a certain status within the legal system. The rarest is a green bag, which is only for judges, followed by the red bag, which is for junior barristers, but should only be ordered by a QC. The QC may present the bag, embroidered with the junior's initials, at the end of a case, with a piece of parchment on which the QC can write a special message."

Thomas has been given a red bag. His message was “Virtue is the reward for services to Queen and country” which sounds a bit meaningless.

A quiet day at Wimbledon yesterday. Djokovic looks unbeatable.

Today will largely be spent getting ready for prize-day-at-school tomorrow, costume chosen and inspected for moth-holes, meals planned and shopped-for. I am becoming increasingly leaden-footed.

On the other hand, I keep turning up on Zite these days. The knitting content of individual blog-entries seems irrelevant, and readership numbers seem unaffected.


Franklin liked my early reference to gauge.

I finished the straight underarm-to-shoulder part of the back of Relax2, and now have but to shape the shoulders and neck.

I also cast on a Mind the Gap sock, but twisted the stiches or something – there was a hole in the top edge, so I frogged and we’ll start again. I think I’ll look out a London tube map – after Northern-Line-black I’m not sure I can identify any of the colours for certain.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Well. This is clearly Murray’s now-or-never year. A month ago, I thought there was no hope, with Nadal back in business and in French-Open-winning form. A week ago we were worried about the draw – would Murray have to play Nadal and Federer and Djokovic in successive matches?

In fact, the draw wasn’t like that. Federer and Nadal were seeded to deal with each other. The possibility that it would be neither-of-the-above didn’t occur to anyone.

The leaves Mr Djokovic and his shoelaces. And four other matches for each of them – five, I think, for Djokovic, who plays today -- in which, as Nadal and Federer have learned, anything can happen.


Someone has whispered to the big jalapeno that the summer solstice has passed. It’s fine, lots of fruit, reddening nicely – I harvested six this morning. But it’s not branching and flowering as it was. The two Apaches and the new Scotch Bonnet progress well, with lots of (unreddened) fruit on the Apaches. The Scotch Bonnet has bifurcated; I hope flowers will follow soon.


I was able to push gauge-references back nearly 20 years for Franklin (see yesterday). He said he had never found any before the 1930’s. Paton’s “Collection of Knitting and Crochet Receipts”, 1908, by M. Elliot Scrivenor ( no less), lays some emphasis on “Mrs. Scrivenor’s system…of knitting to measure”. She explains how to knit (what we would call) a gauge swatch, and specifies both stitch gauge and row gauge for some of her sweater patterns.

Lizzie responded promptly and with enthusiasm to the idea of Mind the Gap socks for Denver wear. She leaves in late August, I think, before Labor Day. And I wouldn’t mind having the Pakokku socks finished by then as well, to give to my sister when I see her at my birthday jamboree in mid-August. So we need a plan of action.

Stephen West goes to the bottom of the pile.

I will finish the back of Relax2 first of all. There’s not far to go.

Then Lizzie’s socks, including taking them to Strathardle if, as I hope, we go next week. I sat down to wind the skein as I watched the tennis yesterday – and found that it was already wound. That’s why it wouldn’t go through the letterbox. The first colour is good old Northern Line Black.

And then the Pakokku socks. There may well be time for both. The great thing is not to stress about it.


Notice catdownunder’s comment yesterday. You read it here first. I must say, I wasn’t impressed with the Australian ex-Prime Minister’s performance on our news last night. No one ever accused Mrs Thatcher of being a woman, nor would she have dreamt of playing that card herself when she was knifed by her own party.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hair successful, and I found the hat. I stopped by Kathy’s Knits on the way back, for some stitch markers for the SW shawl, but she had only fancies that looked too small. So that one will have to wait – it won’t be long – until I next go up the hill to John Lewis.

It is interesting what you (comments yesterday) say about hat-wearing. I would have said that in the 50’s women in the US (older-type women, not the youthful me) wore hats. To church, for instance. To town, for shopping? There must be contemporary photographs which would answer the question. (I frequently remind myself, when I grumble about the discomforts of old age, that at least they mean I don’t have to live in the 50’s any more, or in New Jersey.) 

I remember my husband’s Great Aunt Barrie complaining once that “nowadays” people would almost think of going to town without wearing gloves. I loved that “almost”. Her “nowadays” was probably the late 50’s, and town, of course, was Edinburgh. Aunt Barrie lived in Leith.

I have resolutely laid aside the SW shawl and returned to Relax2. Goodness, it’s a beautiful fabric. I think I was ever so slightly disappointed when I first opened the package and saw madelinetosh Grey Garden. I can’t imagine why. It’s perfection.

Franklin continues to write about his bathing costume. It’s an interesting post, not least for the meticulous care he brings to historical knitting. I am interested in his remark that the first reference he has ever found to gauge dates from the 1930’s. I’ll have to have a look at my small collection of older books.

I’ve emailed Lizzie with a link to Mind the Gap sock yarn to find out what she thinks (and whether she actually wears socks). It seems very wicked to think of abandoning the current Pakokku’s, but perhaps forgiveable: we’ve got a deadline – Lizzie’s departure for Kansas; and I can trust myself to return to the Pakokku’s, I think.

From Zite: the Prime Minister of Australia is knitting something for the forthcoming royal baby, and you would think from the number of references to this fact on Zite that no Commonwealth Prime Minister had ever knit anything before. But, hey! that could be true.


There was no sign yesterday of Mr Djokovic having any trouble with his shoelaces. The excitement over Laura Robson’s first-round win trembles on the edge of  ignoring Mr. Murray’s. The girl is English – although nobody quite dares phrase it like that. Maybe it’s just that Murray has passed beyond being a British Player into being a World-Class Player.

But I remember when Lee Trevino won the US Open. “Yesterday, I was a poor Mexican,” he said. “Today I am a rich Spaniard.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An early appointment with my hairdresser enforces promptness this morning. Archie’s father David, our son-in-law (obviously), will be here tomorrow for the end-of-term festivities. He will fit in a quick visit to his mother in Cheshire. He and I will go to prize-giving at the school on Saturday.

“Dress for parents tends to be smart, with hats optional”, it says in the instructions. “Better you than me”, adds Greek Helen.  I will have to give some thought as to what is to be worn beneath my newly-smartened hair. On top of it I will put the little cloche hat I wore at Theo and Jenni’s wedding, if I can find it. Greek Helen and I were the only two people present that day wearing hats. Things are clearly done differently in CT.

I am less worried about smartness than about the fact that we have to be there by 10:40 if we hope to sit down, and it won’t end until “approximately 1 pm”.  After which, the Pipe Band and refreshments in the marquee. Substantial refreshments, I should hope.

The boys will be wearing their kilts. I’ll take my camera.


The annual distraction from the fact that daylight is being withdrawn, is with us again. It started with a bang yesterday. I got the fourth skein wound for Relax2 during passages that were too exciting even for garter stitch stripes. Now if only Mr Djokovic would trip over his shoelaces, this could be Andy Murray’s year.


I’m ready to lay the West scarf aside. I’ve done 30 rows of the 84-row striped section – but as each row is longer than the last, that doesn’t mean much.

Yesterday’s knitting excitement was unexpected.

Roobeedoo emailed me some time ago to say that she was going to send me a skein of Mind the Gap sock yarn – they are otherwise not to be had for love or money. I was thrilled and, needless to say, very grateful. But it didn’t arrive. For understandable reasons, each of us was hesitant about emailing the other.

Yesterday, she finally plucked up courage, and even as I read her email, I knew where the yarn was.

When we got back from Strathardle last week, I found one of those dread “Something For You” cards from the post office. Assuming it referred to the Pakokku, I arranged on-line for it to be delivered to a local post office. But the next day the Pakokku turned up at the door, with a sticker clearly showing that this was a re-delivery. The GPO has got its wires crossed, I assumed (two assumptions by now, notice).

Yesterday I grasped that the Mind the Gap yarn must be at the local post office – and so it was. I wonder if granddaughter Lizzie would like some socks to remind her of her native London, as she sets out for her academic year in Kansas soon.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I think I’ll give the Stephen West shawl one more day, to get those slip-stitch cables moving.

A mildly interesting experience yesterday. The cables are two slip-stitches wide. One such, which doesn’t move, runs up the spine of the shawl. In the recent excitement, new cables have been created on either side of it – they are about to move away.

But for one row, one has to slip all six stitches in succession. I can’t remember my thinking now, but I was firmly convinced that the pattern had it wrong. I had done it my way, and knit on for several stitches, when I had to leave the work for one of the other obligations which press in on me.

It was perhaps when I was washing up after lunch – I find that washing-up, otherwise tedious, is often productive of good thinking. And my thought this time was, this pattern is meticulously written, row-by-row, stitch-by-stitch. Perhaps I should go back and try again – maybe it was right this time, too.

And I did, and it was. So perhaps it’s just as well that my day is broken up. If I were free to sit and knit and knit, there might be many more follies.


Kristie, I am interested (and astonished) to learn that it is possible to grow chillis out-of-doors “north of 49”. But they do grow very fast, and if the plants were started under glass...

My British book, “Growing Chillis”, lists “jalapeno” as a single variety with a fairly low heat rating, 6-8000 SHU.  My American book, “The Complete Chilli Pepper Book”, lists the authors’ “five favourite” jalapenos --  two distinctly hot, two distinctly mild, one, “NuMex Jalmundo”, unspecified. And we must also remember that chillis cross-pollinate readily and that supermarket Customer Services counters, even in Waitrose, can’t be trusted implicitly.

It will be very interesting to see what my Apaches are like when they redden. The British book puts them at 60,000 SHU. The American book doesn’t seem to include them.


Plans are intensifying for my birthday party. I am delighted to see that “local wild venison” is one of the menu options, and have suggested adding rabbit terrine.

Part of an email from Greek Helen this morning. Wonderful!

I forgot to mention the really exciting news of yesterday which is that we stopped by the side of the road for a swim on our return from a trip to Mycenae and Epidavros to find ourselves, quite by chance, swimming over the half submerged harbour of Kechries where St. Paul landed and had his hair cut before heading off to Corinth. 

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rachel’s 55th birthday.

We had been out to supper with friends, on the 22nd of June, 1958, and walked home along the tram tracks (on Great Western Road? where was the traffic?) talking about a scheme which, alas, we never executed, to buy a record of a popular song once a year. I think if we had done it, we would have started with Debbie Reynolds singing “Tammy’s in Love”.

We got to bed, but not to sleep. The light of a midsummer morning was beginning to illuminate Glasgow as my husband drove me to the hospital. I had an easy time of it, and was in the ward with my baby girl in time for breakfast – a large bowl of unsweetened porridge, completely inedible to me then.

I wondered that day if the newly dead sit about on the further shore, like new mothers, telling each other what sort of time they had. “Fell under a bus? You were lucky!” 


Kristieinbc, I harvest the jalapenos as they ripen and freeze them in a little plastic poke, to be used one-by-one when needed. I put a couple yesterday in a fish soup for lunch. Jamie Oliver often adds a chilli as an accent to all sorts of recipes. The jalapenos aren’t very strong – their nature? or because they are being grown in less-then-ideal conditions? But that suits us.

The Apaches should be much hotter, according to my books. And the Scotch Bonnets, if I get any, very much hotter again.

It is irritating when a recipe – and it often happens – specifies a “red” chilli with no other information, as if degrees-of-hotness were irrelevant.


Not much happened yesterday, and presumably there won’t be much today. I reached the row in the West shawl in which a whole new set of slipped-stitch stripes are introduced, to go off at angles to the first set. This operation requires (as well as considerable concentration) more stitch markers than I’ve got (and Kathy’s Knits isn’t open on Mondays). So I had to confect them out of little lengths of yarn, like Stephen himself, and that took time.

I had a session in the stash cupboard in the morning, though, and have set aside a substantial amount to go to the knitters of Strathardle. Don’t worry – an unconscionable amount remains. A lot of what is going out are the just-in-case skeins. I can’t bear worrying about whether I’ve got enough yarn, absolutely can’t stand it, so I always order too much – especially when it’s coming from abroad.

That’s another nice thing about sock-knitting: one 100-gram skein is enough. If I’m knitting for a gent, he might need to have the toes finished off with something from the sock odd-ball bag. But I don’t need to order extra, just-in-case.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The late, much-lamented Judy Sumner, when overwhelmed with WIPs, used to assign a day of the week to each one. I think I’ll follow her lead, somewhat, and spend this weekend’s knitting time on the Stephen West shawl. We hope to go back to Strathardle not next week (the one that begins tomorrow) but the one after that – I’ll take it along and leave it there at least for the summer.

I feel really rather pleased with myself for having finished a Craftsy class, although there are some points I want to have another look at, in lesson four… I think they have a button one can award oneself, but that’s too much trouble.

The whole Craftsy thing is utterly commendable. In one respect, even better than an actual class with the Great Person because you get close-ups, where needed, of those exquisitely-manicured hands executing a tricky manoeuvre.


When we got back from Strathardle on Monday, we found the big jalapeno in some distress. I had left all the chillis, you will remember, in a south-facing window standing in a roasting tin with some water in it. The water was gone. The other plants were fine, although the surface of their pots felt dry.

An anxious few hours ensued, but the jalapeno eventually recovered. I suppose it really needs to be re-potted again, but a bigger pot might not fit on the kitchen windowsill.  Several chillis had reddened while we were away – I wonder if shortage of water accelerates that process? I have a little plastic poke in the freezer in which the crop is stored. 

The stronger Apache has set a good crop – no reddening yet. The weaker one is setting its first fruits. The little Scotch Bonnet I bought at the Botanic Gardens on June 2 is growing prodigiously but has no flower buds yet.


Here is the house in its glory days, from our Strathardle Postcard Collection. The surviving wing will be to the far right. I was never there, but Greek Helen in her adolescence was matey with Mrs R. through a mutual love of horses. My husband took tea there once, I can’t imagine why.

When I met Mr R. in the village shop some time after the fire, I offered my condolences and he said something sad about “…all I ever collected”.

The house faced south, and this picture was taken from the east. Nowadays, one drives up that driveway, which is in a parlous state, turns right and along what would have been the west front of the house to the surviving fragment. The ruined stables are beyond. The pleasant view to the west begins with a ruinous tennis court and an even more ruinous swimming pool.

It was an odd experience, being there.

The last time I saw Mr R. (now a widower) in Tesco’s, Blairgowrie, he thought I was somebody else and after a bit of difficult conversation I began to wonder whether he was somebody else and we weren’t both talking at cross purposes. But, no, it was Mr. R. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

So, here are the WIPs, as promised.  Maybe I should take the Craftsy class on photography.


The Pakokku socks, now within hailing distance of the first heel. The diabetic appt earlier this week moved things forward a bit, and the dentist yesterday contributed a round or two. You see why I want to abandon all else and spend all day knitting Pakokku socks.

It will be interesting to discover, when I move on to my recent purchases from the Loopy Ewe, whether I have to stick to 64 stitches to get results like this. I cast these socks on on 56, you will remember, and soon saw that nothing worth having was happening.

The Stephen West shawl:

The good thing about starting from nothing, is that one makes great progress at the beginning. The bad thing, is that it gets slower and slower. Every right-side row adds four stitches, and the wrong side contributes another two. They add up fast.

The darker yarn is one of the skeins from my recent purchase of Rowan Art Yarn. Unfortunately, they don’t have colour-names on the ball band. The lighter yarn is madelinetosh sock.

Oddly, and irritatingly, the photographed prototype is different: it starts with a dark triangle, like the printed pattern, but then inserts about ¾ of an inch of a stripe in the lighter yarn, with the result that the slipped stitches across the striped part I’m doing at the moment -- you can just see them --  are light rather than dark. It doesn’t matter a bit. I’m happy with the way it looks. But the discrepancy irritates.

The answer to the question I never got around to posting to Craftsy, is that the slipped stitches are moved by being cabled.

Sue, I’m sure you will hugely enjoy your class with SW. Hug him for me. And he won’t make you sit in the corner if you haven’t mastered K1L and K1R. At least you are aware that the distinction exists. I have found his mnemonic – I’m sure you’ll hear it from the man himself – enormously useful: I LEFT the FRONT door open; I’ll be RIGHT BACK. That is, for a M1L, insert the left-hand needle under the loop from front-to-back, and vice versa for M1R.

Linda, I enjoyed your comment on last Tuesday’s post, and almost envy you, starting out on the adventure of knitting. I have become a tremendous Craftsy enthusiast – consider the Knit Lab course with Stephanie Japel?

They could hire me as a publicist.

That leaves a certain amount to be said about chilli-growing, and if I run out of material in the next few days, I will write about Balnakilly. What you see, if you follow the link, is the surviving wing – presumably, servants’ quarters – of Kirkmichael’s Great House. It burnt down perhaps 10 years ago. I went and had a look last week – a real last-night-I-drempt-I-went-to-Manderley experience. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

In considerable haste, today – the excuse this time is an early (routine) dental appt. No time for photography. Promised for tomorrow, Lisa.

I divided Relax2 at the underarm yesterday. Oddly, the bamboo needle on which I had been cruising round and round for weeks, refused point-blank to purl. Stitches couldn’t be persuaded over the cable-to-needle join. I’ve substituted one of those KnitPro things, and all proceeds well. Mercifully, I made a note the first time of how many rows I want for this section. That shouldn’t have changed, between Relax1 and Relax2.

And GrannyPurple, I’m very glad to hear your praise of the Relax. (She was wearing one, the happy day when we met on Broughton Street recently.) An awful lot of knitting goes into this thing – a very loosely-fitting tee-shirt in sock yarn. It would be good to get something at the other end. (My first attempt wasn’t anywhere near sufficiently “loosely-fitting” on me. I handed it on to a fragile-appearing granddaughter – she’s tough as nails, really. Second from the right in the front row, above.)

The other big knitting news here is the arrival of the package from the Loopy Ewe – FOUR different skeins of Into the Whirled Pakokku, each more beautiful than the last. Two of them don’t involve a light-coloured section and might even, therefore, do as socks for an adventurous gent.

I’d better get on up to the dentist.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Word-recognition seems to have done the trick. Please let me know if you’re having trouble. I’m always a bit scared when confronted with one, and sometimes they’re not at all easy. The example Blogger showed me was perfectly straightforward – I hope they’re like that in practice.

I couldn’t exclude Anonymous because Ron often logs in like that.

Well, here we are back. We had a good time, if an anxious one. I am mostly afraid that my husband will fall while pottering about in the garden. I did, twice, gentle falls onto soft grass, no harm done. He wouldn’t be able to get up again. But it didn’t happen. I can’t even assuage anxiety with cider while we’re there – a crisis might require me to drive. In Edinburgh, I could just dial 999 for an ambulance and have the vapours.

I was taken aback at my own decline – I’m used to his. How stiff I have become, and how exhausting are previously routine tasks. I devoted most of my limited time and strength to arboriculture – weeding, manuring, and watering the two trees we planted last year – the pinus bungeana, a Chinese temple tree put in to replace the Golden Scots Pine our children gave us as a Golden Wedding present (eaten by neighbour’s horses); and pinus sylvestris, the Scots pine itself, planted in memory of my husband’s sister.

I don’t know what she would think of it. She was never entirely reconciled to Scotland. But the tree is doing well.

And I netted the Summer Pudding Bush, which has set a good crop despite neglect; and hoed the potatoes; and did some weeding. Hat, the Babington leeks are hanging in there – i.e., alive, but not growing on their own yet.


A new blog post from Franklin – they’re rare, these days. He promises us an e-book – that's something to look forward to.

I stumbled, this morning, via Zite, on the fact that I can watch Craftsy classes on the iPad although Archie and I have so far failed to upgrade the operating system so I can’t have full access to class material and so forth. So I watched Stephen West’s final lesson, on blocking. It contains a marvellous passage in which he has rolled a newly-washed shawl into a towel (as I do myself) and then stands on it on his head (as doesn’t happen here) while continuing to deliver the lesson.

While we were away, I started his Barndom shawl, from his newest collection, Westknits Book 4, “Made for Movement”. And have made good progress with it. I probably should have left it behind to be a Strathardle WIP but life seemed so uncertain that I brought it back. It’s a fun knit. I’m using one of the recently-purchased skeins of Rowan Art Yarns, and some not-quite-white madelinetosh sock that I bought when I thought I wanted to stripe the Relax.

Relax2 reached the divide-for-front-and-back point yesterday. It’s looking good.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Safely home, alive and well, with a certain amount to report --  I started a Stephen West shawl, for instance.

But my husband has a routine diabetic appt this morning at what constitutes for us the crack of dawn. Blogging will have to wait another day.

Have a look at the comments on Thursday's post. Something is going to have to be done about spam -- I'm not sure what.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

This is blog post no. 2499.

The view from our dining room window at 11:30 last night. The light is truly magical, this time of year. I'd love to experience the "simmer dim" on Shetland.

That bright circle isn't the moon, which won't be full until the end of next week, but the church clock-face.


Waitrose came up trumps. My Big Nameless chilli plant is a Jalapeno. There are possible further refinements of that definition, but "Jalapeno" is all, and indeed rather more than all, that could be asked of a supermarket Customer Services desk.

The last time we went to Strathardle it flagged somewhat for lack of watering. This time, I’ll put all the chillis in a roasting tin with some water at the bottom, and stand them in a south-facing window. It’s too cold at night on the doorstep.


“Westknits Book 4 Made for Movement” turned up from Loop yesterday. Signed, “Happy Knitting! Stephen”. I think the first item in it, a shawl called Barndom, is the one he showed us in the Craftsy class with what seem to be travelling slip stitches. I might just spend the next couple of days in Strathardle playing around with it.

Especially because, on my way to Boots to pick up yet another prescription yesterday, I stopped in at the John Lewis yarn dept, and sure enough, there was Rowan Art Yarn. Reader, I bought some.

And I could use one of those skeins in combination with an off-white madelinetosh.

Meanwhile, Relax2 progresses well. Three more underarm increases to do, I think, out of 12. I faced up to counting stitches the other day and found, to my considerable surprise, that I was four short. Careful inspection located one dropped stitch. I have secured it. I suppose there’s no guarantee that I cast on the right number in the first place. I’ve added them in unobtrusively.

So, off we go. Back by Tuesday, maybe sooner. A possible complication that could keep us here today is a Chinese brush pot, such as a calligrapher might rest his brush in. We saw it in a sale at our local auction house on Tuesday but, after some deliberation, left a bid on a different one. We were outbid, but our first choice was unsold. I’ll ring the auctioneer at 9 and make an offer. And if it should be accepted, the resulting kerfuffle – paying for it and collecting it – would be enough excitement for one day.

I had one of those dread custom charge cards from the post office yesterday – that’ll be the Pakokku. Taxing the car on-line was a doddle, but trying to pay the post office defeated me. I’ll have to return to that problem, obviously.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Jean from Cornwall, I accidentally discovered how to achieve the coveted “This comment has been removed…” notice. The secret is, don’t tick the box that says “Remove forever?” Just click on “Remove comment”. I like it better this way, to let you all know how I suffer.

I think Blogger’s own software catches about half of the junk posted to current posts. (And if their algorithm included suspicion of any anonymous comment which ends in an URL, they’d do even better.) (Or do you pronounce it, “a U.R.L.?”) And every day there are at least two dozen more, attaching to old posts, automatically moderated, individually deleted.

And, Kristie, gosh! thanks. Sure enough, there I am in Zite, along with Helen’s Greek chilli plants. But it was so much better, hearing it from you first.

Dawn, I was grateful for the link to Craftivore, which I enjoyed very much. Beautiful knitting – and what a beautiful woman! But I didn’t see anything about knitting alphabets. What have I missed?

And, Marian, thank you for the link to Stray Cat socks. Although I could wish she included a couple of pics of how the yarn knits up.

If you follow the link provided with Marian’s name in the paragraph above, you’ll see a wonderful Stephen West shawl. Talk about karma…


Grandson Alistair turned 17 on Monday. That’s his mother looking distressed because her baby has grown up.

Rachel is our eldest child, and all four of her children are older than 17. They are all present in the photograph at the head of the blog. Alistair is the eldest surviving grandchild of what might be called the second tranche. Archie is next. The youngest two, James and Thomas of Cairndow, are also in the picture above. I want a shirt like Alistair's.


I’ve watched all of Stephen West’s Craftsy class by now except for the final lesson on blocking. His youthful diffidence is very engaging. I’ve laid out some yarn to take to Strathardle tomorrow – tomorrow! – with the thought of improvising a West of my own. I’d better take the socks to knit as well, just in case.

With any luck, the book (see yesterday) from Loop will turn up today, and I’ve already got SW's Daybreak pattern. I won’t need to improvise if I don’t want to, but I am inspired.

The latter half of his Craftsy course fizzes with ideas, but is short on detail. For instance, he uses slipped stitches in a striped shawl to divide a stripe into boxes, by carrying up stitches from the stripe below. I think I could just about do that. But in one example, the vertical stripe of the slipped stitch shifts backwards and forwards like the stem of a vine. Because of M1’s, pushing it this way and that? Because the stitches are actually lifted over other stitches? I could post a question to Craftsy. I might do that.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

I’m sorry about the interruption – it sort of breaks the flow of conversation. But the car is MOT’d, and today I can tax it on-line. A great improvement on the days when one had to queue in the post office (after getting to an appropriate post office, not just any old one) with a sheaf of documents and a chequebook in hand.


Greek Helen wrote yesterday to say that her cleaner brought her some excess-to-requirement chilli plants. They will grow like Jack’s beanstalk in Greek heat. I wrote back with a paragraph of grandmotherly advice (=keep well watered). Variety unknown, of course, but chillis are great at cross-pollinating, so maybe they aren’t any particular variety.

And here, there is now no doubt that first Apache flowers have set fruit. So exciting! And reddening is going forward at an increased pace (?because of doorstep days in the sun) on Big Nameless. I can’t see on what principle the plant selects the next chilli to redden.


I now have the bit between my teeth about  Mind the Gap sock yarn. TrailingCloud seems to be the only source (she dyes it), and she’s on holiday.

Marilyn, thanks for the reference to EZ on double knitting: it’s February in the Almanac, as you say, and of course she doesn’t go off into Post-Quinn-like explorations of colour patterns. She is knitting a baby blanket, and says that she would rather do it in the round.

Looking up the passage, my eye was caught by the instructions for a centre-out square shawl on the facing page, nothing to do with double knitting: “Some people even like to work the first six to eight rows on two needles, and sew the seam later and fairly invisibly. Suit yourself: I like to do the job properly.”

That sounds uncannily like the voice of my late sister-in-law.

I have gone happily on with Stephen West. He hasn’t actually set any work since we mastered the yo, so I feel no compunction about watching the next lesson. (I don’t dare face Franklin until I’ve done some mattress stitch, and Herzog wants me to have made some embarrassing measurements.) I’ve ordered Westknits Four (Made for Movement) from Loop.

We’re hoping to go to Strathardle on Thursday – this is relevant. I have pretty well decided to abandon the practice of a separate Strathardle WIP. We are fading; we’ll be there less often. I am scared to be there alone with my husband in our mutual states of frailty. This time, I thought, I’ll just take along the Pakokku socks.

But then I thought, what about reserving Strathardle knitting time for wild experiments –  for improvising a Stephen West of my own, for example? It’s a thot.

I’m well into the underarm increases for Relax2, and I think my conscientious M1R’s and M1L’s are the next best thing to completely undetectable. But I’m doing them.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

The news is that John Lewis in St James Centre now has Rowan Art Yarn. Lindsay, their Rowan lady, emailed me yesterday. I have yet another prescription to collect from Boots this week, so I can finally have a look.

Yesterday was sunshine all the way, so the chillis had many hours on the doorstep. There is a great difference between the two Apaches – one has darker leaves and a much more positive attitude towards life. It was always the stronger plant, but I can’t see why they should be so very different. The faded flowers continue to adhere. I should know soon whether a crop is forming. It doesn't look as though they'll get out on the step today.


I went on with Stephen West yesterday. I knit his Garter Stitch Tab cast-on (Lesson One). Lesson Two was about directional increases. He offered two brilliant mnemonics: I LEFT the FRONT door open, and I’ll be RIGHT BACK. I did a few rows with four increases in each of the right-side rows, and went on to Lesson Three.

That concerns yo’s. The dullest of us could master the yo in less than the 15 minutes of the lesson, but it took me quite a while to grasp that he was not just substituting yo’s for the directional increases of Lesson Two, but also adding two more in each wrong-side row, extending the wingspan.

I have now also grasped that I am not knitting a Stephen West shawl (at least, not yet) – only a swatch. I’d like to do a Craftsy class that had a tangible result, like your Artemisia sweater, Elizabeth. This class doesn’t seem terribly meaty, compared to some, but Stephen’s ebullient charm makes up for a lot, and there may be fireworks to come.

And it has little perks like a real classroom class – he told us in Lesson Three about how he switched to continental knitting when he had a Christmas present project that had to be finished fast. He has rather an interesting way of holding the yarn when he purls – purling is the real downer, for continental knitting. I wind the yarn around the fingers of my left hand like a cat’s cradle (or dog’s dinner) and hate the process. I might have another try.

I was interested in your remark, Foggy Knitter, about EZ and double knitting. (The connection of thought between this paragraph and the last being Craftsy classes, of course.) Does anyone remember where the passage occurs?

And reading your blog sent me off in pursuit of London Underground socks. Do you mean this yarn from TrailingClouds? I fear it is going to go on my must-have list. The great thing about socks is that one actually finishes a pair from time to time, and goes on to the next. That Pakokku I ordered should turn up soon.

Queer Joe (who is engaged on a Blogathon, I think) had a post recently (June 7) about his WIPs. It made me glad of the relative good discipline of my later years. It is bad enough, being torn by all the patterns one wants to try next, without having them actually lying about. I used to have a lot. One day, in her adolescence, Greek Helen said, “What’s that going to be, if you finish it?” I was cured.

And, oh yes, Relax2. Two and a bit more rounds to go, before the underarm increases.

I won't be here tomorrow. I'll be taking the car to the garage for its MOT.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

I was wrong about the weather yesterday – the rest of the country (Scotland, GB, take your pick) had another glorious day, but the clouds over Drummond Place didn’t burn away until late in the afternoon, so the chillis stayed in the kitchen all day. Today will clearly be better.

The first flowers on the better Apache plant have faded. The excitement now is to see whether they have set fruit. On Big Nameless, an unfertilised flower falls at the slightest touch of a fingernail. That’s not happening on the Apache, so maybe…


One of the things one learns in a long life is that, no matter how outré a vice one adopts, there are other people out there who practice it, too. Kristieinbc, and perhaps you, too, Karen, are fellow stashers of Craftsy classes!

Yesterday I not only signed up for Stephen West’s class, I actually watched the first lesson (despite having two unfinished courses to my credit, and two other unwatched ones). He is young, good-looking, rather camp. (Am I allowed to say that?) Maybe he was just camping it up for Craftsy. I’m not complaining; camp is fun. It is not a word, incidentally, that I would apply to Franklin. He’s fun in a different way.

We’re knitting a shawl. In the first lesson we started off with a very interesting little garter stitch square. Perhaps I’ll just dip into the madelinetosh sock bag and have a go. And then watch Lesson Two! What wickedness!

Karen, I was interested in what you said about double knitting. I wondered why Craftsy offered two classes, especially when one of them was by Alasdair P-Q himself. I’ve got his book (somewhere – things are getting out of hand) and will never knit from it, I am sure. It all sounds too difficult and tight. But I am willing to be persuaded by the man himself. And now I know that if it still sounds too difficult, I can try Lucy Neatby. I love her, anyway.

And then there’s Brioche Knitting, and Designing with Cables, and…

I must get back to Herzog (saving Franklin, like the best chocolate in the collection, to be savoured at the end). I have sort of decided that I don’t like Fitted, when it means knitting that defines female ins and outs. I prefer to relax in a Relax. On the other hand, a well-fitting sweater, such as Herzog wears as she teaches, is a fine thing. I must press on.

As for what is going on here, I measured Relax2 this morning. It comes to 36cm and for a moment I thot, hey! but then I consulted the pattern, and it turns out, for the size I am aiming at, that I need 38. I don’t think I’ll measure again. I’ll count eight rounds – I’m counting anyway, for the placement of the eyelets – and then start increasing.

Stephen W promises directional increases in Lesson Two. Karma, wouldn’t you say?

Anonymous, I was most interested to learn that the absence of Rowen Art Yarn from John Lewis, St James’ Centre, Edinburgh, isn’t just a local eccentricity.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Yesterday was a day of a certain amount of achievement.

To begin with, it turned out, despite the forecast, to be a grand day for setting one’s chilli plants out on the doorstep. My husband didn't get dressed, again, but definitely seems better. Maybe today. And two tasks which had been looming over me, resolved themselves with the morning post.

I knew I had to book the car in for its annual health check, if I was to be allowed to keep it on the road after the end of the month. The mail brought the formal letter from the Ministry of Transport, saying just that – so it is booked in for Monday.

And it also brought a letter from Barclays Bank about a savings account – I can’t remember how we acquired it. The interest has long been ludicrous even by today’s standards, and I have long intended to do something about it. Yesterday Barclays wrote to say that they were going to close the account and put the money somewhere safe (presumably earning no interest at all) since I didn’t seem to be interested. I stomped along George Street in the heat and closed the account. That’ll larn 'em.


Fuzzarelly, you have plunged me back into Epaminondas mode. I must and will have eyelet increases on the current socks! – especially since I am knitting top-down. As far as I can figure out, a Fleegle-Strong heel can be knit in either direction in exactly the same way. But eyelets would be wasted on a toe-up sock.

Relax2 continues well. Tomorrow morning’s measuring should see us somewhere very near the end. I got that third skein wound, although not yet attached. That should happen today. And in the course of rustling around in the stash to find it, discovered that, as I thought, there’s plenty of madelinetosh sock for a Daybreak shawl.

And I also learned yesterday that Stephen West has done a Craftsy class on shawl-making. I’m very tempted. I’m getting more than a bit like Silas Marner, when it comes to Craftsy. I’ve signed up for the one on button bands and buttonholes, and also for Alasdair Post-Quinn on double knitting. I have still to finish Herzog on fit and Franklin on lace edgings, in Franklin’s case because I have a bit of undone homework.

(It has long seemed appropriate to me that our grandson Alistair, in Beijing, should be the son of a Catherine – are there any other two names which allow such a variety of spellings?)

I have had to make several trips to the top of the hill lately, including yesterday’s one. I always call in at John Lewis’ yarn dept, and lately always look for Rowan Art Yarn. It’s everywhere on the internet, but I haven’t spotted it yet.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

My husband spent yesterday in his dressing gown, eating sloppy food. But he’s getting better.

Here’s a picture of Relax2 at its morning measuring session. You get some impression of the wonderful drape of the fabric. You can also see the ironing-board cover peeping through some of the eyelets. I’ve got to wind a third skein today: that feels like progress. (Relax1 used less than four.)

I’ve bought the Daybreak pattern – my first Stephen West, I think. I’m trying to print it as we speak – I always print downloaded patterns right away; otherwise they could languish forever in the bowels of the computer. The instructions for M1R and M1L come right at the beginning, and are admirably lucid, just as you say, Beverly in Yosemite.

Another place where I can use them, and soon, is in a Fleegle-Strong heel for the current Pakokku sock.


It sounds from the weather forecast this morning as though the only part of the entire United Kingdom where you can’t put your chilli plants out on the doorstep today, is Eastern Scotland. We shall see.

I was in Waitrose yesterday, where they are still selling chillis, and I thot, what the hell? this is Waitrose, and went to the Customer Services desk and asked what variety of chilli it was. The plants were within sight – the man went and looked at the label, a sensible first step. (“It’s clearly labelled capsicum frutescens aureo-variegatum, you silly old fool.” I wonder how he would have phrased it if that had been the case?) Then he plunged deeper into Fruit&Vegetables to see if anyone knew, and then came back and told me that he would email head office. So maybe I’ll find out when I go next week.


“webinar”: Alexander said once, a propos of formations like “blogathon”, that one day soon we would hear of a “long-distance runathon”. (So far, it hasn’t happened, and I innocently believe that the length of the modern race roughly corresponds to the distance between the eponymous battlefield and the centre of Athens. But the point was well made.)

Southern Gal, thank you for your enthusiasm about Evernote. Perhaps I had even better get “…for Dummies” out again and zero in on this.

Spam continues to plague me, as many will have noticed. I’ve set Blogger to submit everything for moderation if it attaches to a post older than a week. I get a couple of dozen of those a day, all junk. But increasingly, of late, the bad guys try to muscle in on today’s or yesterday’s post. Blogger’s own filter eliminates some, but a lot get through. I hope I’m catching them all. In the old days, there used to appear a little note to the effect that “This comment has been removed by a blog administrator”, which made me feel very grown-up, but now they just disappear.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Oh, Beverly in NJ! Your comment on Queer Joe’s blog! I shall go about six inches above the floor all day long.

My husband survived his dentistry. Shaken but not stirred, might be the phrase. The root of the broken tooth was extracted, another one filled. Quiet is on order for today. I finished the ribbing of the 1st Pakokku sock, and was having such a nice time swirling that I went on for a while when we got home:

 before returning to Relax2. Yet another row of eyelets should be inserted today. We’re getting there.

Many thanks for the help with left- and right-leaning increases. Sue, I like the idea of learning by knitting Stephen West’s Daybreak Shawl. Who’d like one of those for Christmas? I might well have enough madelinetosh sock left over from recent projects. And it is enormously satisfying to internalise a technique which previously had, as you say, to be looked up every time. I’ve done that with plain-vanilla (= st st) Kitchenering, and with left- and right-leaning and centered 3-stitch decreases thanks to Margaret Stove’s observation about the stitch the needle enters first being the one that winds up on top.

It would be rather nice to add another technique to this embarrassingly short list.

Mary Lou and Karen, I’ve added your suggestions to Evernote, of which I am beginning to get the hang. And I am seriously tempted by Gail Zucker’s photography class, Mary Lou. Thank you for that. Although I am distressed by the word “webinar” which is new to me.


Big Nameless and the lesser of the two Apaches had a nice time in the sunshine yesterday, although the Apache was a bit overcome by the time it got to be afternoon. I am afraid it is somewhat weak and etiolated.

All these plants live on a north-facing window in the cosy kitchen. Big Nameless doesn’t seem to mind a bit. I carry the better Apache through to a south-facing window whenever the sun is shining, as yesterday. I’ll now have to start doing that with both. The first Apache flower is fading and my pollinating brush hasn’t even arrived yet.

Big Nameless is really getting awfully big. The books don’t recommend pruning chillis, except perhaps in the winter. 

Tuesday, June 04, 2013


We seem to be having a settled spell of fine weather at the moment, for the first time since last May. I am thinking of setting the chillis out on the doorstep today, once the sun reaches it. It’s still too cold, at the moment.

I am embarrassed to have to tell you that I ordered a pollination brush yesterday (they’re very cheap). A chilli flower can pollinate itself, I have learned. Such a flower is said to be “complete”. But lots don’t; they just fall off.  More than half, I should say, do that on Big Nameless. So I thought I’d help a bit, especially with the precious Apache flower.

The Big Nameless chillis seem to be reluctant to redden. That’s where I thought a few hours in the sunshine might help.


Continued progress with Relax2. I have decided that the only way to measure with any hope of accuracy is over the end of the ironing board, so I’ve just done that. I won’t want to do that every morning.

I am determined, this time, to master M1R and M1L when I get to the underarm increases (fairly soon, now). It is a refinement I usually ignore, and have never mastered, in a long life. It came up in the swatching I was doing for the lacy capelet recently, and I don’t think I was getting it right.

But the design of the Relax is so meticulous and Japanese, I feel I ought to try. Meg says somewhere that she always religiously does it. The instructions aren’t included with the pattern – there is a reference to, and when you get there you find yourself referred to an admirable YouTube video by the Knit Purl Hunter.

I could never make an instructional video, or teach a Craftsy class – it would take  months to get my fingernails up to the required standard.

Queer Joe is pleased, as well he might be, to find himself listed among the Top Ten Knitting Blogs by Liberty’s Yarn. There are some blogs there I don’t know about – it might be time to broaden my horizons. One notices that there’s no sign of Franklin. His remains the best knitting blog in the universe, so that can only be because he doesn’t blog as often, these days.

I tried googling Best Knitting Blogs UK (for it is by googling that the Top Ten list is said to have been compiled). I appear, eventually, on Page 4. A long way to go before I qualify as the Queer Joe of Drummond Place.

Today’s excitement – it’s all go, here – is a dental appt for my husband. He hasn’t got many teeth left, and one of them has broken. The dentist is very close, but steeply uphill. We’ll drive up and then I’ll park if I can, or come home and then walk up myself. We may be able to walk back. But the point here is, that I’ll get in some more work on the Pakokku sock. 

Monday, June 03, 2013

Monday is plant food day. Very exciting.

We had a good lunch. The Botanic Garden restaurant is a pleasant place: open, airy, not noisy even when full,  fresh food well presented, not absurdly expensive. We’ve done this each year on her birthday, since C. died. For her 79th birthday, her last earthly one, her daughters took her there. This year, she seemed further away, perhaps not surprisingly. Other times, I have been aware of her in the mannerisms of her daughters. This time, they seemed like separate people.

I have reached the point – I’m not going to calculate the exact day, but it’s somewhere around here – where I have had more life than C. I’m nearer my 80th birthday than she ever was. It spooks me a bit. She was five and a half years younger than my husband and in childhood felt left-behind. She was made to feel stupid, somewhere by someone, and the resentment lingered. My husband did a reading at the funeral, and was described in the programme as “C’s elder brother”. I wondered then, and still do, whether that unnecessary word meant that she resented his having more life.

And, guess what? I bought a chilli plant! I was looking for thyme, for the herb trough on the doorstep. I redid the trough when we were in Strathardle recently, but the thyme was too feeble to bring back. B&Q doesn’t have any, and now I discover that the Botanics don’t either – golden variegated thyme, yes; woolly thyme. But I just want thyme-thyme. I have in fact bought one of those living-plants from a supermarket herb section and planted out a few (you always get a million, jammed together). I think they’re going to work fine.

So, no thyme, but they did have little chilli plants – Scotch Bonnet, one of the very hot ones. My plant is cheerful but very small, and the solstice is nearly upon us. We’ll see. The book says that Scotch Bonnet is one of the hard ones to grow and that will be interesting too. Apache is said to be easy, and so, clearly, is Big Nameless from Waitrose. The first Apache flower is open this morning.

The Apaches are at either end. The new little Scotch Bonnet is second from the left.

Archie, by the way, stayed at school. It turned out that paintball wasn’t compulsory and it was too soon after half-term for weekend leave anyway. I was sorry not to see him.

Relax continues well. Here’s a feeble attempt at a first picture. Imagine, beautiful, and you’ll get the general idea.

Sharon Miller says she has posted some of her research to the Heirloom Knitting group on Yahoo, about “the invention of making lace with knitting needles”. I am going to have to set my teeth and figure out how to get back into Yahoo. It’s been ages.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

I don’t remember this much fuss about the anniversary of the Coronation ten years ago. Let alone any other year. My sister-in-law, whose birthday we will celebrate in her absence today, was one of the ones who slept out on a London pavement in order to see the Queen go past. I had always believed that that happened on her 21st birthday, but elementary arithmetic reveals that it must have been the 22nd.

This sad birthday has brought memories of the last week of her life sharply back to the surface. She went into the Hospice on a Thursday or Friday. On Monday, we visited, and learned that C. had just been told that she had only a week or so to live, and could abandon her attempts to eat. She was weak, that day, but in good form. “And then..exit” I can hear her saying.

On Tuesday, Alexander came over from the west. It was a tearful farewell on both sides, he says. On Wednesday, we went again. My husband sat with her for a while. “See you later”, he said when he left. And she replied, “Alligator”. I then looked in, and found her surprised and rather agitated to see me. “I don’t understand,” she said. They were the last words she ever spoke to me.

On Thursday, our niece kept callers away in the hopes of rallying her mother’s strength for the family invasion at the weekend. On Friday, Greek Helen was there. She read some T.S. Eliot to her aunt, and left the room in tears. By then, C. was past speech, although conscious and aware. Again, I went in briefly before Helen and I left. Again, C. was agitated and even perhaps distressed to see me.

By the next day she was comatose. She died on Monday afternoon.

I looked back yesterday both at blog entries and at the emails I sent absent family at the time. The Wednesday visit is described, but there's nothing about my appearance at the bedside on Friday. Memory may distort. I will always wonder.

On her last substantial visit to us in Strathardle (in the spring of ’09, it must have been) she and I were talking about 1953 – Coronation year – as we drove back from Tesco’s in Blairgowrie one day.

I made an authoritative statement. She said, sharply, “Well, pardon me, I was there.” I said, “So was I”.

She didn't reply, and remained silent. I stumbled on for a few more sentences explaining my presence in GB in the summer of ’53 and my qualifications for saying what I had just said about the prevalence of television sets at that time. It’s one of those memories which attaches itself to the scene – I could show you, pretty closely, I think, where we were. Past Bridge of Cally, but we hadn’t yet reached Ballintuim.

Knitting: Relax2 continues well. My memory of Relax1 is that once I reach the underarm increases, the rest will knit itself. I doubt if that’s true, but separating front from back will certainly create an illusion of speed.