Saturday, August 31, 2013

We sort of got back in the saddle, yesterday.

Comments & Miscellany

Caitlin and Laura, that is a simply brilliant trick – Ctrl Z to undo the last keystroke. I would never have stumbled upon it, but for you. It is certainly the first thing I will try the next time my husband calls me in to show me a blank screen. On the whole, he’s doing better these days – at least, he calls me in less often.

I wound up yesterday printing out the application form for the electoral register. It has to be signed and sent in on paper. I’ll post it off to Archie today. It will be obvious to the meanest intelligence, given his age and his address, that he is a schoolboy applying from his address at boarding school. If they don’t like that, they can turn him down. At least we’ve tried.

Lesley, I fully meant to go to that Fringe show about the Sweater Curse. I’m glad you were there.

Roobeedoo, I was slightly surprised that the Word spell-check let “dishy” through yesterday! I like your Staccato jacket. Which sort of brings me back to yesterday and the Milano (link provided yesterday).

And I agree, Mary, that 20 inches of ease sounds really rather excessive. When I’ve got Relax2 off the needles – won’t be long, now – I’ll try to calculate how much ease it actually has. What would Herzog say?

I think I have mentioned here before, that thinking about the Next Thing is one of the pleasures of finishing, for me. This time, the situation is a bit different. There is a Constraining Factor which I will tell you about soon. There is Kate Davies’ “Rams and Yowes” blankie which I intend to knit, but not until I have bought the yarns over the counter in Lerwick. But I may be ready for the Next Thing as early as next week. (There are always socks.)

I am well along with the second sleeve of Relax2. Might even finish today. That leaves the neck edging -- and tidying and blocking, of course.

I’m afraid I ordered the Milano kit.

Friday, August 30, 2013


That’s a fascinating trick in Word Perfect, Tamar, undiscovered by us in all these years – but I’m pretty sure Jenny has answered the question of what my husband did to make his text disappear – if you hit Ctrl A (or a) in Word, you Select All. If you next hit an alphanumeric key, it all goes.

With all my grumbling about the Good Old Days, it’s nice to have a solid, specific example of how they were better. Word Perfect would have said “Delete block? Y/N” before proceeding.

I’ve set Auto Save on my husband’s computer to five minutes – but I think I’ll change it back to ten, because I don’t know where the saved file is to be found and I am still having a lot of trouble with the file structure in Windows 8. If there’s a crash or a power failure, Auto Save should produce its latest effort in a dialogue box when you start again, as Word does. But what about an inadvertent deletion? In that case, you need to move fast, before the blank document is itself Auto Saved.

Knitlass, I was glad to hear of your computer sufferings – and deeply sympathetic, as well. My husband believes that he is uniquely afflicted by my ignorance and stupidity, and that if we had a Man In to teach us what to do, all would go swimmingly. We did in fact have a useful session with James and Alistair over the summer – Tools > Zoom is a particularly good one, to increase the on-screen visibility without altering the font size. But I don't think there's an all-purpose easy answer.


Archie seemed in somewhat low spirits. Our niece (his first cousin once removed) and I got him successfully installed in his new room yesterday afternoon. His new house master is what we used to call in the 1950’s, dishy.

I am keen to get Archie on the electoral register so that he can cast my vote (in effect) in the referendum next year. The housemaster didn’t know about such things and I’m not even sure he knew what I meant by, The Referendum (he has just arrived from a school in middle England). But I spent some time on the Scottish Electoral Register website just now, and it doesn’t say anything about schoolboys being disqualified because they really live in Athens. I will press ahead with this.


My sister’s husband – they’re now safely back in CT, alas – sent me this link to an article by Alison Lurie on the New Yorker blog, called “The Sweater Curse”. It is extracted from a forthcoming book called “Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting”. We’ll have to look out for that one.

Not much got done on the knitting front here yesterday, but that skein has been successfully wound, despite the temptation to cut the yarn and throw away the remainder, once I had wound enough to finish Relax2.

I found this on Zite this morning and am totally in love. There’s a kit.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

I'm alive and well. Archie is here. My husband had a blood sugar level episode yesterday and remains cross. FiberQat, I've got my taskbar back -- many thanks. See you tomorrow, insh'Allah.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


I am sunk in gloom.

I have just spent three quarters of an hour formatting something for my husband with a series of hanging indents. Successfully, but with difficulty. It seemed to me as if identical actions on successive paragraphs, produced variable results, quod absurdum est.  Little time or mental strength is left to think about knitting.

 I want at least to comment on recent comments – but my desktop computer is exhibiting a fault it has developed recently, of not – when Google Chrome is loaded -- showing the bar at the bottom of the screen which allows one to skip about. So I have to unload Google Chrome to get to this document (I compose in Word). That slows things down still further, on a slow computer.  And the iPad won't show me the blog and its comments, as it keeps saying it is not connected to the internet, which is a lie.

I had forgotten all about Auto-Save, FiberQat and Southern Gal. I am grateful as ever for your help. My husband is using Open Office rather than Word – supposed to be a bit simpler – but there must still be an Auto-Save feature which I will investigate today. I have tried and tried to teach him about Ctrl-S (F10 in his old, DOS system). He says it interrupts his train of thought. I wondered, as you did, if there was some combination of keys he was hitting which spirited his document away. But what? And why no warning?

Other comments

I like that picture of me and Matt, too, Mary G. He is the one who mentioned, in an off-hand sort of way, at the post-Games party in 2010 when we were all sitting about exhausted and happy, eating left-overs from the weekend catering, that he wouldn’t mind a pair of socks.

I sounded out opinion here as to whether the Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater extended to knitting socks for a granddaughter’s boyfriend, and the consensus was that it was probably safe to go ahead. So I did.

Skeindalous, I was very interested to hear that you share my difficulty – this is with reference to Kate Davies’ “Rams and Yowes” pattern, but it has a general application – in hemming live stitches to corresponding purl bumps. What if one marked, say, every 5th purl bump with a safety pin or something, before the operation started?

I am resolved to knit it, if only for the pleasure of asking for those colours with their wonderful Shetland names, when we are in Lerwick next month. So, eventually, I should engage with the problem and you will hear more.

I have forgotten, now, which of you told me how to buy acetate to stiffen the (silly) Christmas present knitting I have in mind, and because of the problems mentioned above, it would take too long to find that comment. But I am grateful.


I have finished the first sleeve for Relax2, and decided that I needed to wind the next skein for the second, and am having tangle-trouble. Life is frot with problems.

But Archie will be here tonight, and be taken to school for the new term tomorrow. That’s a cheering thought.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


I saw Madhur Jaffrey on one of those cookery programs the other day, while I was recording our evening’s viewing. She shares my birthday – not only the day, but the year. I am glad to report that she’s looking very spry. She’s much smaller than I expected.

Stephen West has posted Part Three of his summer travels – and he still hasn’t reached Scotland. A peripatetic young man. And always full of delight -- he's in Harrisville this time.

I’m nearly finished with the first sleeve on Relax2. I got Herzog’s book out yesterday, and was glad to see that it doesn’t violate all of her rules for flattering the bottom-heavy figure. Its main offence is length – it should be shorter, so as not to terminate at my widest point. But the wide neck and less-than-full-length sleeves are good. And it will always be worn over something with a collar.

I must get back to Craftsy. It’s this feeling that I have to do my homework first, that’s holding me back. With Herzog, I don’t think that applies. I did one important thing, early in the summer. I had Greek Helen photograph me in my petticoat, head-on and sideways. I printed the pictures out and drew lines on them as instructed by Herzog.

Horrible, but informative.

I don’t really need to go on to other measurements, perhaps, until I actually want to knit a Herzog-fit sweater. I can just watch.

With Franklin, I’ve got to practice mattress stitch before I can proceed. But I’m keen to learn mattress stitch and it won’t take more than 20 minutes, so why don’t I just do it?

Some pictures

Some more from the Big Party day.

We’ve had the Three Helens, Two Jameses, and Two Thomases. Here, to complete the set, are the Two Rachels:


Here is one of me, making my speech after lunch. I didn’t clutch myself like that the whole time – I remember some gestures. And I don't think I leaned against the wall the whole time, either. Maybe, here, I'm waiting for them to settle down. The speech was about grandchildren and grandparents.

And Lizzie wrote yesterday to say that they have had a poster sale in Kansas, so that people can brighten up their rooms. She was overjoyed to find this:

Not just a London bus, but a 109, on its way to Brixton and Streatham where she lives. We suspect the picture of being a composite – the bus seems to be going the wrong way around Parliament Square.


My husband took time off the Big Job again yesterday, to write a letter. Twice, while I was out of the room, the document simply vanished. It had never been saved, and couldn’t be retrieved. I need to figure out how that could have happened. We gave up, and he dictated it to me. The computer wouldn’t dare treat me like that, and it didn’t try to.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Willow, thank you for That’s exactly the source I was looking for yesterday – an Icelandic supplier of Icelandic yarn. Oddly, perhaps, Magnusson, whose book I referred to yesterday, doesn’t list it. She has the spinner, Istex – an interesting website, but they don’t seem to sell yarn directly to knitters.

If you visit the Istex website, have a look at the list of Icelandic distributors, including, of course, Nordic Store. The population of Iceland is less than the population of Edinburgh -- I just looked it up. They seem to have ten times as many yarn stores.

It’s ridiculous to go all the way to the Schoolhouse for supplies (which Magnusson does list), when we’re so relatively near Iceland.

It has occurred to me that the Calcutta Cup will be contested in Edinburgh next year, meaning that Scotland’s chances are slightly better than negligible. Perhaps, if we win, I’ll knit Icelandic sweaters to celebrate.

Here is the result of a rather feeble attempt to scan Magnusson’s take on the lopapeysa. I like it. That line of colour at the wrists, as if a lining were showing, is a detail I have often admired but never employed. One could put a row of Calcutta Cups just above the waist ribbing. Could I scale it down for the Little Boys on Loch Fyne? Or would I have to knit it for Archie?

First catch your Calcutta Cup.


The second shoulder has been joined, without mishap. It fits! With the necessary ease, and, better yet, with the neckline not quite falling off the shoulders. Which is not to say that it flatters. All that knitting across the prominent elderly stomach? I’d better get back to Herzog.

But it should be somewhat improved with the addition of sleeves and a neckband and tidying and blocking. The first sleeve is well advanced – after labouring around for weeks on nearly 400 stitches, whizzing around the sleeve on 82 is a doddle. I used to suffer agonies in my younger years, picking up stitches. I could never find as many as the pattern specified. I’m better now, but the process is still the source of some anxiety.

I’m sure you’re right, Grannypurple, that I must have dropped a stitch or two during the joining of the first shoulder. I can’t find them, for the life of me.

For the second shoulder, instead of knitting-two-together off both needles at once, I first arranged the stitches on another needle (four-needle bind-off?), alternating front and back of course. It seemed quicker and more secure.

More knitting

My sister writes that she seems to have snagged her shawl in two places during my recent birthday celebrations. Oh, dear. She is going to send it back for repairs. I hope I can find the yarn. I keep left-over sock yarn in the Sock Odd-Ball Bag, but other remnants are more casually distributed.  I don’t think I would have given it away – that’s for complete skeins.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

It rained in London and in Lerwick yesterday, not in Edinburgh. We'll find out in due course how they got on at the Games.

No more gremlins – I’ve finished the front of Relax2, except for the three-needle-binding-off of the second shoulder. Even allowing for the usual Not Much Gets Done on Sunday, I should manage to pick up stitches for the first sleeve today. And, before that, try it on. It continues to look enormous. That’s good.

I started the first three-needle-bind-off with 72 stitches on each needle, and wound up with a two-stitch discrepancy that had to be fudged. It’s OK. It looks fine. But why do these things always happen? Kate Davies’ “Rames & Yowes” pattern has a bit at the end where you hem it by joining live stitches, one by one, to corresponding purl bumps. It should be easy, and  should come out perfectly straight. For me, it won’t.


I’m rather taken with Stephen West’s “Tripartite” pattern (Ravelry link) and with Mrs Lincoln’s Lace (scroll down to August 21), which looks perfect for it. It’ll never happen.

Icelandic Knitting

I recently bought Helene Magnusson’s “Icelandic Handknits”. I’ve never done any Icelandic lace, although I have owned “Prihyrnur og Langsjol” since before Louise Heite valiantly translated it.

The new book is strong on accessories, light on sweaters. The lace chapter has one triangular shawl and one long scarf (“langsjol”). The author says that the famous “lopapeysa” we all associate with Iceland, is a tradition dating from the 1960’s. There are several knitters still about who claim to have knitted the first one. The book includes an un-traditional-looking and rather striking example. Could it be knit with the Schoolhouse Press unspun Icelandic?

Stash Fine Yarns and Travelling Yarns (a new one for me) stock Icelandic yarn here in Britain, but not unspun.

Forward with Sunday!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Games Day

I wonder if anyone will notice that we’re not there. This is the first miss in a very long time. It’s sort of sad, but the wonderfulness of my birthday party more than makes up for it – all the fun of the Games without the tedium. Sort of like Thanksgiving -- Christmas dinner without the tedium of Christmas.

The weather forecast isn’t good – but it may not be taking account of the Strathardle microclimate.


Well. I finished the straight bit of the front of Relax 2. I knit four short rows, to begin shaping the shoulders. The next instruction was to knit to 19 stitches before the centre marker, turn, and start shaping the neck. I was sailing along. Then it became time to make my husband’s tea, and when I sat down again I found that poltergeists had been hard at work. The working yarn was in an impossible place. Nothing made sense.

I still can’t explain what went wrong – I think it’s clear that when I got to 19 stitches before the centre marker, I didn’t turn, decreased the wrong stitches at the neck, and went on to the farther shore. But that mistake would have required that I frog only 2/3rds of a row. The mess was worse than that. I never did understand it.

I have recovered my footing. It took a while. The stitches on the first shoulder have been re-oriented on the needle, un-split, and where necessary laddered back up. The rest are back on the needle but await further attention when the first shoulder is finished.

What on earth? I might add that cider wasn’t involved. I am nearly as stout as I was at the beginning of Lent, so this week, after a summer of indulgence, was cider-free. To have this happen only the day after I deleted (if I did) my husband’s computer folder, is rather alarming. Am I losing my grip?

I thought as I toiled on of EZ’s remark somewhere, that a split stitch is the one knitting mistake which can’t be redeemed by turning it into a “feature”.


I am very grateful indeed for your help and advice. I didn’t know about cloud back-up services like Carbonite, and it’s useful information. But I think I’ll go with flash drive. Back in DOS, I wrote little programs called macro’s that let my husband do things for himself. I haven’t figured out how to write macro’s in Open Office. But I can back up the whole thing myself and then make it part of my early morning routine, before writing to you, to back up what he did the day before.

Dropbox creates the illusion of multiple copies – there it is on his computer, in the cloud, and on my computer. But it’s only one, really.

Back to knitting, and to Kirkmichael

Here is my sister, on the morning of the Big Party Day, in the shawl I knit for her 70th birthday. It’s Amedro’s Cobweb Lace Wrap, I think, with patterns from Heirloom Knitting substituted, knit in Heirloom Knitting’s merino lace. Which they are discontinuing – sad news, although there is a bargain to be had at the moment. It’s lovely stuff.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Row 46 is done, of the 50 needed for the top front of Relax2. I should be shaping shoulders this very evening.

Stephen West has posted another blog entry about his summer travels, but instead of Scotland we have him teaching on a Mediterranean knitting cruise. I have been thinking a bit about Part I, to which I linked yesterday. What wonderful yarn shops you have in America!

It’s a big country, of course. But, gosh! StevenBe! KnitPurl in Portland where (amongst much else) they have every colour of Shibui in every base! I don’t think shops like that exist in Britain. We have Loop – I wish I had had time to explore it, the day I was there for Franklin’s classes. We have many excellent small shops with specialist yarns carefully chosen by intelligent proprietors. But I think we lack the big showstoppers.

But maybe it’s just that I don’t get about much.


Yesterday’s event was a computer disaster. I’m still trembling.

My husband took some time off in the morning to write to our granddaughter Rachel in Beijing. He saved the note to Dropbox – or rather, I did; he still doesn’t know how to save a new document – so that I could fetch it on my computer and add a photograph before dispatching it.

And when this simple chore was completed, and he wanted to get back to work, we discovered that the entire folder he has been working on for weeks, was gone. With more than a hundred files in it. The system said I had deleted it, and that may be right, although I’m not sure the system can distinguish between us.

But the really terrifying consideration was, how can such a thing happen without so much as an are-you-sure from Dropbox or the operating system?

The missing folder wasn’t to be found in the Recycle Bin of either computer. Fortunately, Dropbox keeps copies. If there is a way to restore an entire folder at once, I didn’t discover it, but I could and did sit there for much of the afternoon restoring the files one at a time.

In the good old days of DOS – fairly recent, for us – my husband saved his work whenever he finished a document, and knew how to make a copy to an external floppy. That system saved our bacon two or three times in the last quarter of a century. A hard disk crash, a new machine, everything restored – he hardly noticed. Now that I can’t trust Dropbox, I’ll have to think out a new system.

It didn’t threaten the end of the world, yesterday’s crisis. My husband is currently making relatively minor verbal improvements in his work, nothing of substance. The earlier, unimproved version is well backed-up and printed-out. But I wouldn’t have cared to break the news to him that his summer’s work was lost. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

One of those days when I fear there’s nothing to say.

I’ve done row 35 of the 50 needed for the straight part of the front of Relax2. If I can keep it up, I should be knitting a sleeve next week.

Stephen West, safely home in Amsterdam, has posted a long blog entry about his summer travels. Alas, I’ll have to wait for Part Two before he gets to Shetland.

I grumbled about AX’s photography the other day. Only fair, therefore, to mention some of the photographers of knitting I really like: Stephen W. just mentioned, the brilliant Jane Heller at the Twist Collective, and Jared of course


The plants seem to be taking on a new, autumnal lease of life. Maybe they’re glad to see me home. Botanically speaking, they are perennial sub-shrubs – usually grown as annuals because they grow so fast from seed, and need heat and coddling to keep them going through the winter. Heat we’ve got in the kitchen, even when there is virtually no light. We shall see. I am trimming off any branches with neither fruit nor buds, to rein them in a bit. There is a splendid crop of Scotch Bonnets, but still no reddening.

My iPad

The attempt to upgrade the operating system was made by plugging into iTunes. We (Archie and I) started off fine – iTunes recognised the problem without being prompted. After a while there was an error message which boiled down to, try-again-later. But later, it was the same.

Archie suggested googling the error message, and sure enough lots of people were getting it. Various fixes were suggested, none of which worked for me. But maybe the problem was Apple’s. It might be worth trying again. I asked at John Lewis yesterday, but the answer wasn’t very encouraging. “Try our technical department” – and when I got there, people were sitting about waiting like refugees.

I hope to be brighter tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Comments &  Miscellany

I’ve done 19 of the 50 straight rows up the front of Relax2 – so I might reach the half-way point today. Grannypurple’s comment yesterday was enormously encouraging. She was wearing her Relax the happy day we met, so she knows what she’s talking about.

Lou, my sister wrote yesterday and made the same suggestion, that I take my iPad to an Apple store to get the OS upgraded. Guess what? There is no Apple store in Edinburgh. I learn that we are about to have a super duper one on Princes Street (which will be good news for Princes Street). There’s a lot of Apple stuff in John Lewis. Maybe they’d do it? But they’d have to do it on the spot, without taking my iPad away from me.

Ruth in Ontario (comment Monday), I don’t really like the idea of ebooks for knitting, and only get them where there is no real-world edition. It’s the same with cookery books (another category which overflows around here). I’ve ordered Anna Dalvi’s “Ancient Egypt in Lace and Colour” from, since doesn’t seem to have it. I’ve also pre-ordered Liz Lovick’s lace book. The inundation is getting worse.

(On the other hand, the iPad is absolutely brilliant at preventing further increase in the piles of paperback novels. I’ve just finished re-reading John LeCarre’s “Little Drummer Girl” and am now half-way through the new Ruth Rendell, “No Man’s Nightingale”. It’s far from her best, but Ruth Rendell in mediocre form still beats most of the rest.)

“Knit Your Own Britain” turned up yesterday. I’ve already got “…Royal Wedding” and “…Scotland”. I ordered this one for the sake of an item I actually mean to knit as a Christmas present. It sounds fiercely fiddly. It involves both embroidery and stiffening with acetate. Where do you go to get that? I’ll have to knit it off-radar, but if I actually do it I’ll tell you all about it in the end. It's mercifully small.

Fancy Tiger (scroll down industriously) has been touring Scotland, in a party which includes Stephen West (a personal friend, I feel, since I did his Craftsy class). Kristie and I have been mining the Shetland sections for suggestions. The latest entry finds them on Skye, visiting the Shilasdair shop. I had some of their yarn once. Mail order? Or a desperate purchase at a craft show where there was nothing else?

In any event, I didn’t like it, and eventually gave it away. The naturally-dyed colour was dull, and the yarn was scratchy. It is obvious that things have improved out of all recognition. Luxury yarns, in rich, wonderful colours.

And I love Fancy Tiger’s Meow Foundation yarns. I’d knit my husband a pair of tortoiseshell socks (= “calico cat”, I think) if there were any acrylic in the yarn. Price and ordering info are hard to determine – maybe the yarn isn’t in the shops yet.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I am thoroughly back in charge of Relax2, and back in love with madelinetosh. One of my ambitions for the relatively near future, when the current queue of must-knits is somewhat subdued, is to try Amy Herzog’s new website – not yet operational, I don’t think – where you can order a custom-fitted pattern. And execute it in madelinetosh DK.

Meanwhile, as you see, I’ve finished the back of Relax2 – and I may tell you, with pardonable pride, that I have the same number of stitches on each shoulder. Currently I am knitting a long arid patch up the front, 50 rows, and then it will be time to start shoulder-shaping again. The front neck is deeper than in back, therefore less knitting.

Maybe I’ll finish in time to wear it to Shetland, still more than a month away. If it fits. It looks huge, which is what is wanted for the Relax. The planning for Shetland is becoming more intense.


I didn’t mean to make it sound as if she is unhappy.She hasn't been there for a full week yet, but I think she is enjoying herself: “Everyone here wears clothes covered in pictures of the Jayhawk so today I bought my first university jumper which I will wear with pride!....All the Americans are so friendly and offer you lifts everywhere!”

She will go to my sister in CT for Thanksgiving, I think, and will surely visit Theo and Jenni in DC at some point, and I can’t believe NYC will get left out. I think Kansas was the perfect choice.


They are thirsty plants as well as heat-loving. I nearly lost the two apaches on the doorstep, so dry has this uncharacteristic summer been. They have been snatched from the edge of the grave and brought in to the kitchen, where they have warmth and water and misting in their north-facing window, but of course less light.

The big jalapeno and the Scotch bonnet are still in a south-facing window in an unheated room. They are standing in a roasting tin. I left it nearly full of water when we went to Strathardle, and various grandchildren who stayed here overnight during all the recent to-ing and fro-ing topped them up, so they are fine. The excitement is that I have a good crop of Scotch bonnets, although none of them are reddening yet.


I mentioned the new issue of Sockupied the other day (except that I wrongly referred to it as Socktopus). I was attracted by a Knitting Daily article on custom fitting. I’ve got several issues of Sockupied on my iPad, but for this one I need to download a new App, and for that I need OS 5 the installation of which has so far eluded both me and Archie. I should try again.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A thoroughly unsatisfactory day yesterday, including not much knitting. I resumed Relax2 – I’m shaping the top of the back with short rows, each one of which is detailed separately in the pattern.  I've figured out where I am and what I’m doing (I think) and it should go more briskly today.

How many temporarily-laid-asides turn into UFO’s because we’re scared of trying to find our place? Or try and fail?

Both IK and VK were on the mat when we got back last week. I preferred IK. This is the new editor’s first real issue – her name was on the last one, but the choices were Eunny’s. And she's good.

As often, VK may look better in five years time. And with the offerings re-imagined in better colours. And what about that intarsia? Galina Carroll’s pussy cat (no. 25) is sufficiently bizarre to be arresting. But could anyone actually wear it? Even in five years time?

The articles are good, though. There’s one on planned pooling – that’s what pointed me to Laura Bryant’s book, mentioned yesterday. The article is about her and Karla Steubing, who wrote the Twistcollective article also mentioned (and linked to) yesterday. So we don’t really need the VK article any more.

And my friend Candace Strick writes about shadow knitting. That is one of many interesting techniques I have never tried. Inspired by her article, I plucked Hoxbro’s book from my shelf and soon discovered that my failure to knit from it was not because the technique seemed daunting but because I didn’t like any of the patterns.

But there are plenty of interesting shadow patterns out there in cyberspace. And one could do worse than to start with Candace’ VK slouch hat. Will a hat stay on without ribbing? That one has a rather neat braided border, but… One could easily change that, if one were nervous.

Meg reprises an old pattern for a sleeveless vest. The book page tempts with “Ancient Egypt in Lace and Color” by Anna Dalvi. Books are getting out of  hand, here.


Lizzie is safely in Kansas, experiencing culture shock but standing up to it. She had a long Skype with her family yesterday, and this morning I’ve got a nice email from her. She is taken aback by the signs on the door of every building saying “Please do not bring your gun in here”.

And she reports – not in the email but in the conversation with her family – that she is offered drugs in a friendly way at every turn. I am as surprised as she is at this news. It is a subject of which I have no personal experience whatsoever. Zilch. But Lizzie grew up in south London, not far from Brixton, and has spent two years at a British university.  My surprise is that Kansas can surprise her, in this respect.

She says she’s found a British shop in Lawrence where she hopes to secure a decent cup of tea.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Elaine, thank you. That’s a brilliant article on pooling in the Twist Collective (now safely stashed in Evernote). It comes at a particularly opportune moment, too, because yesterday dear old Amazon delivered Laura Militzer Bryant’s book, “Artful Color Mindful Knits” on the same subject, which I have been reading with some interest.

Stuebing’s article gets to the point faster – almost always a good thing – and offers an easier way to calculate the Magic Number, i.e. the number of stitches you need (at chosen needle size) to knit around one repeat of the colour sequence of your yarn. But the book has a lot to offer, too, and I would recommend.

AX’s photography continues to grate with me, but I am hard put to figure out why. He’s good. His style is recognisable as his, surely a mark of distinction for a photographer. Maybe it’s that I don’t like his models. Maybe it’s that he hasn’t solved the problem, like many artists before him in the top of the second rank, of what to do with models’ hands.

I finished the ribbing of the new Pakokku socks last night, and hesitated for a moment. The colours are manly. Should I go on ribbing and turn these into gents’ socks? The three ladies on my Sock List who have big feet – Pakokku seems to need 64 stitches to go into its act – are inundated with socks. But decided against, and went on. He’d say thank you (whoever he was) and never wear them.

I also printed out Kate Davies’ birthday present to me, her Rams and Yowes pattern. (Not bragging, or anything) Has there ever been such an evocative paragraph under “Materials”? “The blanket uses all 9 natural sheep-shades of Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme. You will need…black, moorit,…yuglet,…white, gaulmogot, katmollet, mooskit, sholmit, and shaela.”

And in about a month, I should be in a position to buy them over the counter.

Big Party

Rachel sent some pictures yesterday.

Three Helens:

Two Jameses:

Two Thomases:

Lizzie with her Mind the Gap socks – and the unidentified but helpful finger of a Londoner pointing to the stripe of a favourite line.

And this one:

It puzzled me for several minutes. Who were those people? And then I got it: that’s ME with  Hellie’s wonderful boyfriend Matt. I got to sit next to him at lunch, too. We’re down the commonty, having just taken the annual tree picture with Rachel’s children, who didn’t turn up in force until the morning of the party.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Catdownunder, I need your email address so that I can write to you about your contribution to my birthday. Important. I should be able to find it, but I can’t.

Big Party

It wasn’t just my 80th birthday in 2013 -- it was also 50 years since we bought our little house. I had, in the excitement of the day, forgotten all about that aspect of things. But Greek Helen had had a wonderful cake made. It was produced at the end of the meal and set before my husband.

It was a while before we dared cut into it, as you can imagine. It proved to be much tastier than expected. At the end, though, we had to steel our hearts and throw the rest away. The Little Old Man and Little Old Woman on their bench in the front garden have been preserved in a mouse-proof box on the mantelpiece where they look rather spooky.

Greek Helen was terrific throughout. She organised things to keep life as calm and normal for my husband as possible – everybody out of the house at lunchtime, and in the evening she cooked and a rotating, selected group of relatives were allowed to come and eat with us. The rest were forced to roister on their own in the village.

One evening we even sat down as Just Us Chickens, as we used to do every day, long ago. Rachel, Alexander, James and Helen, each in the place he or she used to occupy around the table. It had been a long time, and will certainly never happen again. It’s too late, though. By now it seemed odd and incomplete to have them around without their dear spouses.


I got my sister’s darning done, and cast on a new pair of Pakokku socks last night, colorway Catskill Pines. It’s time to go back to Relax2, but I think maybe one more evening of sock might be allowed. It would be (a) interesting to compare the swirling to that of  the finished socks, before I send them off and (b) nice to have the ribbing done.

The socks I was set to darn seemed to be Zauberballs. They’re rather shrunken and felted. It’s not a yarn I have any experience of washing. I must ask other recipients how they’re getting on.

The news on the sock front was the arrival yesterday of a skein of Qiviut Sock Yarn. It cost a million pounds, as you would expect, and doesn’t seem quite as transcendentally wonderful as one might expect at the price.

There was something in Knitting Daily recently about knitting socks to fit. Toe-up, I think. Elongated heel flap? I’ve let it get away, although I think it might be in a new issue of Socktopus. I mean to do these for my husband, and concentrate on fit.

The colorway is called Chokecherry Leaves and at least he likes it.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The trouble with yesterday’s Found Poem is that it is impossible, now, to frame a sentence in my head without considering it out-of-context.  I would like to submit the poem to the Found Poetry Review, but they don’t seem to be taking submissions at the moment. It made Zite.

So, where to start?

My sister and Kristie confected a wonderful Powerpoint presentation of birthday wishes from many of you.. I’ve downloaded it onto my computer, but don’t yet know how to share it with you. I’ll work on that. Thank you to all who contributed – I haven’t yet written to you individually. And apologies to those who weren’t included. I would have liked to see Hat, and Ron, and… but it would be invidious to go on. You are all loved, even the most silent.

So here are some pictures from The Day.

First, we milled around outside the hotel drinking champagne. It was a fine day. That’s James on the left, Alexander in the light shirt in the middle, Helen in the grey shirt and white hair (a Miles characteristic) on the right.

Then, we had to figure out where to sit for lunch. Alexander’s sons had prepared riddles for each of us to indicate our places, and there was a certain amount of milling about. That’s Helen’s son Mungo in the foreground, my sister’s son Theo to the right, his father Roger further back.

After lunch, we took pictures of all the grandchildren – and they were all there – in birth order, from Thomas to Thomas. Hellie, second from left, is wearing Relax1 which she says is much admired.

I think it was it you, Helen CKS, who told me that younger sons are usually taller than their elder brothers. You can see two – if not three – examples of that principle in this line-up. Alistair Miles, 5th from left, doesn’t have a brother. It's not easy being taller than Archie, but it looks as if Mungo is going to bring it off.

That’s enough of that for today. More to follow.


I finished the Pakokku socks last night – a bit belatedly. But not too late. My sister and her husband are currently touring the highlands, with an emphasis on good eating. They will wind up on the shores of Loch Fyne with Ketki and Alexander (where they will probably eat even better) – there’s still time to send the socks there.

My sister tried on the first sock while she was with us, and it fits rather well. She also left me a pair for darning. I don’t remember the yarn at all, but should be able to find it in the odd-sock-ball bag. So those socks can go off to Loch Fyne too. She likes to pad about the house in socks, she says. Ketki often goes barefoot -- she has beautiful feet. Me, I can't think without shoes on.

I need to cast on another pair, in case of emergency. I may have news for you on that front tomorrow. Then it’s back to Relax2. It’s a pity I didn’t have it ready for the Big Day, but I suspect Hellie would have outshone me.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

It was wonderful. I have much to assimilate, much to tell you, much to thank you for.

But that must wait. For today, I will transcribe a “Found Poem” – that’s the technical term, I discover – which every guest found in a little package at their place, printed on a tea towel. A linen tea towel, at that. There’s no way I can think of to make a photocopy of a tea towel, so I’ll have to copy it out for you:

Edinburgh this morning looks much as Beijing did yesterday
a perfect early spring day, snowdrops, pregnant sheep, clumps of daffodils
pinus sylvestris aurea
Supermarkets are full of dried beans from all over the world.
On a brighter note, tea cosies suddenly seem to be everywhere
Maybe it won’t be as bad as I anticipate

             We had a grand time at Loch Fyne
            We had champagne to drink, which I always enjoy
            Lent or no Lent, cider or no cider
            All I can remember is the name “Joseph”
            My husband thinks that no one will notice, and he could be right

Singapore has fallen and the Japanese are rampaging around the Pacific unchecked
And events in Iceland, of all places, border on the bizarre
These are times such as none of us has ever experienced.
Will Meg’s false seams help?
I think it might be better to get plenty of ammo in, so that we can go to Strathardle and burn wood to keep warm and shoot sheep for food.
Elderly British gamblers will know what I mean.

            My father told me, remember this day, and I have done so.
            A little boy, wearing a kilt, who sang “Bonnie Dundee”
            One of those memories in which I can almost see the room and its furniture
            Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit
            Last night I looked it up and discovered after all these years, that I had it wrong

                        “Vampires of Venice” alas is gone
                        Alan Yentob killed it, and has never been forgiven
                        There is a scheme afoot – I won’t say more at this point
                        Meanwhile, the hat looks perfectly nice

the Troubles of Life
every year we pass through the day, unrecognised, which is to become the day of our death
another day more plus than minus, by a narrow margin
So does one insensibly decline, day by day, week by week
I’m not reeeely worried, but…
I’ve become rather worried about socks
green Zauberball socks
Oh, dear
old age is like that, like snow filling up the crevices, cutting off the options.
Timor Mortis Conturbat Me
Knitting went badly last night
The pattern was a Paton’s leaflet.
We’re off to Kirkmichael today

They’ll find it there when I’m dead

Friday, August 02, 2013

Off we go again.

We had a good breathing session at the Infirmary yesterday, but on the way, when I was waiting at a red light at the top of Leith Street, a bus in the other lane swiped our car while we were still stationary.  I suppose he must have moved left a bit in order to make his right turn into Princes Street, as one does. My husband, who would not spare me if he could find the slightest ground for blame, thought that I was properly positioned.

In the hospital car park, I thought we had got off scot-free, but when we got home and I looked more carefully, that proved not to be the case.

I got someone responsible-sounding at Lothian Busses on the phone very quickly, told the story, emailed him a photograph as requested. Nothing was promised, but I am hopeful. Then I spent much of the rest of the afternoon on the phone to our insurers, first a severe recorded message about the undesirability of insurance fraud, then the listen-carefully-and-choose-from-the-following-options bit, then a girl who took down the details.

Not an Edinburgh girl, however, so L-e-i-t-h and L-o-t-h-i-a-n took quite a while. (Whereas the man at Lothian Busses had understood at once, of course, the turn that a No. 11 to Hyvots Bank would make from the top of Leith Street.) Then she passed me on to someone else – long wait punctuated by assurances that my call was important and would be answered shortly – and finally a man who asked all the questions over again.

We shall see. Meanwhile, I think the car will get us back to Strathardle. That’s all that matters today. But, oh dear.


Not much was done at the hospital, but I had a good session in the evening when I was unfit for anything else. I’m within one more good session of the heel, and can finish this baby in time if I keep at it.

Mr Salmond and I appear on Zite this morning. Oh dear, again. Will they come and arrest me?

Sue mentioned in a comment yesterday that Prince Charles was recently presented with a Christening dress – the link is to Jamieson and Smith’s blog. I knit Amedro’s roughly similar Sheelagh Robe for Kirsty Miles of Beijing in 2000. I got the Indignant Gentlewomen on North Castle Street to make a petticoat for it. I don’t seem to have archived a picture, unfortunately. It was made to go with the Sheelagh Shawl – my first attempt at knitting the Calcutta Cup which Scotland won, most unexpectedly, that year.

Doorstep vegetables

Everything flourishes on the doorstep – there’s nothing to beat rain. There’s enough sorrel for another soup – I’ll harvest it and take it along today. Chillis are ripening steadily, both Apaches and jalapenos. The Scotch Bonnet has plenty of flowers, but no fruit yet. Lots of people will be here next Thursday (not us, however) – they can do some watering.

We’ll be back in the middle of August. Insh’Allah.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

I got some stuff done yesterday, other stuff not, as is the way. I am gradually reducing my ambitions for the Great Party: not having my hair done, not buying new shoes. (No one is going to look under the table, and at least my toes aren’t peeping through the leather. No joke – it happens.)

I’ve looked out some clean clothes, both for the GP and for Monday’s dinner-and-theatre expedition to Pitlochry, eagerly anticipated. We will be swept off in an eight-seater, not quite a mini-bus, and join Rachel and Ed there insh’Allah, they having just driven up from London. James will stay at home with his father. I must think of something for them to eat.

And I need to give a bit of thought to the speech I may get to make at the GP. The outlines are in place.

Today’s event is the hospital appt which has brought us back to Edinburgh. Respiratory, this time. I think the idea is to see whether my husband can recover a bit of oomph by being taught how to breathe.

So that may advance the current sock somewhat. Not much got done in Strathardle – it’s something to do with the lack of television and the presence of so many pleasant people to talk to. I finished the first Pakokku sock while we were there, and cast on the second.

I don’t suffer from Second Sock Syndrome, but my fingers were more than usually reluctant to get back to grips with ribbing, and it went slowly. However, by now – two evenings with television – all is going well. I am halfway from ribbing to heel (70 rounds – longish sock). They are for my sister, who will be here next week along with everyone else in the world. (It wouldn’t entirely surprise me if Barack and Michelle turned up.)

I am slightly concerned about whether the socks might be a bit too long. They’re top-down, so it will be easy enough to shorten them. And my sister will stay on a day or two after the GP – until the actual birthday, in fact – so there will be time to do it. If I can get this one finished in time.

I loved all your comments about Prince George’s shawl. Peggy, that line of Maggie Smith’s is perfect.

The Margaret Stove shawl may turn up at the Christening. It would have been inappropriate for the steps-of-the-maternity-ward scene. I’m sure they won’t use store-boughten for the Christening, and we may hope that the photographs will be sufficiently close-up to give us a good idea of the pattern.

Here’s a less controversial piece of recent knitting news. The Shetland Isles, and the Western ones too, I think, are not too keen about the idea of being part of an independent Scotland. Mr Salmond was up there last week trying to be ingratiating.

That’s not going to fool anyone.


I learn from Zite this morning that there's a one-woman knitting play, "The Sweater Curse", on at the Fringe. Elaine Liner is the name (from Dallas, no less, with which I have connections). It's at Sweet/Grassmarket International 4 (whatever that means) from today until the 26th. We'll be back. Perhaps I'll get there.