Friday, February 28, 2014

I reluctantly put the Bridal Shawl away – even made a note on the pattern to say where I had got to. And resumed the Milano. I'll try to take a pic for you.

All is well. I might even finish the first sleeve today. I had forgotten that I have to finish the neck as well as the sleeves – pick up quite a few stitches, knit around for awhile to make a nice little stockinette roll. But I think it can all be accomplished in the fortnight I have sort of allowed myself.

I think I might read up on jogless joins today, if I've got a moment. I know that a trick exists for knitting stripes round and round without a visible jog where you change colours, but I've never employed it. 


I couldn't get an appointment before Greek Helen's visit. I will see the dr three weeks from today. I'm sure I could have had an emergency appt sooner, and perhaps have switched drs, but I didn't want to do that. And the delay has its advantages – I've got time to get better or worse, and to find out what happens in Lent. I fear there will be nothing left for him to do but to refer me to a hospital to be prodded and not improved – but before he can do that, he has to decide what bit of me is primarily at fault.

We have arranged to go to Strathardle with our niece in early April, thus obviating my anxieties of being there alone with my husband now that he is so frail. Trouble is, at the moment I'm not sure I could manage the opening and closing of the house, even with her to hand. I'm weak and breathless. The news this morning says that there was an unusual display of the aurora last night, all over GB. It is sad to have missed it.

The closest I ever got was on an airplane New York > London, when the pilot said it was to be seen on the right-hand side of the plane. I was sitting on the left, in crowded economy.


There's not much in Zite this morning. There's an advertisement for Franklin's steek-and-zip class at some fortunate yarn shop: that's the one I'd love to take next. The world would open out if I could trust myself to put a zip in. The ad says that he writes regularly for PLY magazine – but, alas, you have to subscribe. It is good to be old enough to remember when he wrote exclusively for us at The Panopticon, but I think he's happier now.

There's a new post from Ella Gordon, a favourite blogger – she works for Jamieson & Smith in Lerwick. Gosh, I may even have spoken to her!

The worst of the pop-up ad plague (another unsolved problem, another head on the Hydra) is when I click on one thing and get something completely different. That happens a lot.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Today is Alexander's birthday. I probably tell you every time that he was born in a leap year, and his official Due Date was March 3. He has never been entirely forgiven for not being the leap year baby I hoped for – I was especially cross when Princess Alexandra achieved it four years later (or perhaps it was eight).

So as far as I am concerned, he's 13 ½ today.

Well, I finished the tenth repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl – I went a few rows beyond, in fact, because I was too tired to think. Resuming the Milano – today's project – will require at least a few moments of figuring out where I am and what I'm up to. Somewhere in the middle of the first sleeve. I'll try to get the thinking done early in the day while the synapses are still firing.


Here's more mathematical knitting – torus links by sarah-marie belcastro (love that name!) which, with a bit of tweaking, become beautiful cowls. Apparently it's done by tying a knot in a circular needle before you start. The mind boggles.

The Panopticon has posted a blog post – Franklin is learning to tat, if that's the verbal form required. I can imagine knitting torus links, but I'm not tempted by tatting.

Greek Helen wrote in excitement yesterday to say she had just cooked courgette (=zucchini) flowers stuffed with feta, mint and pecorino. Spring must have arrived in the Mediterranean. I thought you had to deep-fry them, but she says not.


I sort of figured things out yesterday, and today will ring up and make an appt with the dr not for next week but for the early days of the week after, if possible. By then I will have finished the course of pills he gave me, and Lent will have started, and Greek Helen will be arriving at the end of that week for conferences with Archie's teachers. If health needs to be discussed, it's best done a quattr'occhi, in the wonderful Italian phrase, and the dr's contribution might be relevant.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

This morning, Blogger consents to load the pictures. So here they are.

The shawl:

You see what I mean -- it doesn't look like half of a square.

The bag:

At present writing, the shawl lacks four rows of the completion of the tenth repeat, and I didn't get Milano out yesterday.

Two little bits of excitement, however. I have mentioned that one end of the Inox needle I am using has been bent into a curve, as Sharon Miller recommends somewhere. And, if nothing else, it means I can always tell which side I'm knitting on. Curved needle = right-side row. Except that last night I looked down at my hands and saw that the position was reversed. I was knitting a right-side row with the straight end of the needle.

The pattern is an 18-row repeat. The first 12 rows alternate lace and plain garter stitch, the last six are lace only. I think I must have left out a garter stitch row somewhere. The other hypothesis – two successive garter-stitch rows – seems very unlikely. I can't see anything wrong, looking at the knitting, but the evidence of that needle is irrefutable. And it means I must be careful when I get to the borders and try Fleegle'ing them. I was relying on those needle-ends to keep me in order, but it clearly won't work if I don't pay attention.

The other bit of excitement concerns the pattern itself. The chart for the centre, as one would expect, shows the repeat with a few extra rows to put it in context. Sharon's charts are brilliant. But it was only the other day that I finally noticed that Row 19 – the next one after the box delimiting the repeat – is slightly different from Row 1. And it shouldn't be.

The difference is at the edges, and is just a question of which side of a k2tog to put the YO on. But nothing is entirely trivial in an enterprise of such pith and moment. Row 19 makes more sense, and I'll do it that way henceforth.


Shandy, I hope Barbara vine doesn't disappoint. It's not great. And, yes, I've read The Stranger's Child, and enjoyed. It sounded familiar but I couldn't remember and looked it up on Amazon where |I was told that I had bought it in 2011. They would double their profits if they didn't include such useful warnings for Silly Old Fools like me, but I was grateful. I found it in the Cloud and remembered as soon as I had re-read the first sentence.

Other Comments

Susan, that is exciting about your trip to Scotland. St Andrews is a great place, and picturesque. Glasgow is good too, and relatively tourist-free unless you coincide with the Commonwealth Games. You must come across to Edinburgh – an hour's train journey, and they leave every 15 minutes – especially at the end of the month when the Festival will be raging.

But if you can manage a few days in Shetland, that would be the icing on the cake.

Gerri, what do you mean by the reference to your “mathematical knitting book”? Is this something I should know about.

Thank you for your concerns for my health. It's not something that is going to be soothed away by a few crocuses, I'm afraid. I'll make another appt with the nice dr next week, as I get to the end of his course of pills. I'll time the actual appointment to be a few days (or longer, as necessary) into Lent. I often feel more sprightly without cider, but haven't the strength of character to abstain now, with Ash Wednesday looming.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

I feel perhaps a bit brighter this morning. I am deeply grateful to the commenters who stick gamely with me on the dullest days.

I've started the 10th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I had to fire up Old Slowcoach the Desktop Computer yesterday to do some formatting for my husband in Microsoft Word, and I seized the opportunity to deal with some pictures over there and post them to myself. Here, then, it is:

No, it isn't. Blogger is struggling to upload a perfectly simple snapshot. Maybe we can have it tomorrow, when it will be well out-of-date. Poof.

It doesn't look anything like nearly-halfway-to-a-square. It looks like about a third, if that. I anxiously did some arithmetic, but everything seems to be all right. We're aiming for the old twice-as-many-rows-as-stitches formula for a garter stitch square. Or, as many ridges as there are stitches, to put it another way. And I have undoubtedly knit nearly half of the required number of rows. So I guess it'll all depend on the blocking.

But my first job today must be to get the Milano out of hiding so that it can plead for itself.

And while I was taking pictures: here's the bag where I'm stowing the reserves of Jamieson & Smith's Shetland Supreme lace yarn. [Only, of course, it isn't here either.] The longer I go on not-feeling-quite-well and wondering if it will ever end, the more extravagantly grateful I am to Kristie and Kath and my daughters who made that trip to Shetland possible for me.

Of formatting for my husband, mentioned above: life is an interesting to-and-fro, these days, between the list of things my husband nags me to do and the parallel list of things that have got to be done, that he wouldn't think of. Such as getting a Man In to transfer programs – if that proves possible – from Old Slowcoach to the new laptop, so that I can retire it altogether and appropriate the monitor and mouse and desk space for my own purposes.

I can sympathise with Hercules in his struggle with the Hydra.

Zite came up with this, this morning, an article in Scientific American called “The Stunning Symbiosis between Math and Knitting”. It's worth following the links in the article to see the whole exhibition of the knitting (and crochet). I love that sort of thing, I who struggle to knit a Marmite jar. You'll notice that Norah Gaughan was there, among a lot of unfamiliar mathematical names. I think that's one for Evernote.


Waitrose produced a slice of veal shin last week, so yesterday I went in search of Marcella Hazan's “Classic Italian Cookery” for an osso buco recipe. I found a nice, simple one – onion, anchovies, white wine – and the result was enjoyed. Books I have to go in search of are in a cupboard in the spare room; the ones supposed to be in active use are in the kitchen.

Yesterday's experience made me think I might embark on the cookery equivalent of shopping the stash – switch a few of the interesting members of the reserve for a few of the long-unopened ones in the kitchen.  

Monday, February 24, 2014

The ninth repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl is not quite finished after all – but nearly. My resolution remains firm, to lay it aside in favour of the Milano after the tenth repeat.

I enjoyed the Amirisu online magazine, and must go back to read the earlier issues. Those Mondrian socks!

Our clever television set found an episode of Yes, Minister for us the other day, on a channel called Gold. We watched it last night, and it knocked the knitting right out of my hands. Thirty years old and fresh as a daisy. I think it could be argued that it's even funnier than Fawlty Towers. Mrs Thatcher is said to have enjoyed it. The writers are careful never to use a gender-specific pronoun when referring to the Prime Minister.

So, Nana Go Go, we haven't watched the Bonnie Prince Charlie program yet, but it's salted down ready for us.

Discovered on Zite:

I seem to have run out of steam again.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Stormy, this morning. I watched some entertaining rugby yesterday, but got some knitting done, too. I should finish the ninth repeat on the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl today.

Thank you very much, Catmum, for that Wikipedia link to Andre Raffalovich. I was so sure he was an architect that I hadn't read beyond the words “French poet”. So much for my scholarship. I thought, specifically, that he had designed St Peter's RC church in Morningside. It turns out to be by Lorimer. It's very nice. Raffalovich' contribution was money. My sister-in-law, his goddaughter, felt hard done by that she wasn't mentioned in his will.

The picture we failed to buy in NY a couple of weeks ago belonged to a similar-sounding family – wealthy Jews, in that case of Alexandria, one of whom became a Catholic convert and moved in arty-literary British society. Much younger than Raffalovich, but they might still have known each other.

While on the subject of Barbara Vine's “the child's child” – for it was she who started the Raffalovich hare – my reading of it has now advanced to the early years of WW2. In the part about the Battle of Britain  – I can't find the passage this morning – she mentions Churchill's famous line, that never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few. She says that a fighter pilot, on hearing that, remarked, He must be referring to the mess bills.

That's so good that I shall believe it henceforth. For several years in adolescence I thot that the word “apocryphal” meant something that ought to be true, whether it actually was or not. I still feel that the language needs such a word.

But we're supposed to be here to talk about knitting. Zite directed me this morning to the Amirisu on-line magazine. That's the designer the Relax came from, which is in fact the pattern I am knitting Milano to. I'll try to re-clarify that next week when I resume it. Meanwhile the magazine looks very promising, and I hope to report further tomorrow.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Sorry about that.

Yesterday's job was to get my husband up out of bed earlier than his wont, and across Edinburgh to a routine diabetic appt at the Royal Infirmary. All went well, but it was hard work. The dr we finally saw was brisker – brusque-er – than usual. You're 88, bloods are good, blood-sugar control is good, eyesight is good, feet don't require amputation [a frequent side-effect of long-term diabetes], is there anything you want to ask? All very well, but the drs we see there are usually slower and more patient.

I finally finished off the first Pakokku sock while we were there, but haven't cast on the second.

The trouble with Jane Austen is that she spoils you for everybody else. My Kindle is filling up with UFO's. On Thursday in the supermarket I bought Barbara Vine's “the child's child”, actually on paper, and am quite enjoying it. I think she (Barbara Vine = Ruth Rendell) is nearly as old as me and John Le Carre and P.D. James, and of the four it might be said that she's wearing the best.

This one is on the theme of homosexuals and unmarried mothers, and how profoundly attitudes to both – and in the case of the former group, not just attitudes but the law – have changed since the middle of the last century.

I was startled, on page 26, to find a reference to “Raffaelovich and Gray”, in terms which suggest that they may reappear. I do hope so. The former was an Edinburgh architect, my husband's sister's godfather as it happens, and the latter, the Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh. I asked my husband about them as we drove home yesterday – he said they were certainly a “pair”.

Google is no help with “Raffaelovich” (or “Rafaelovich”) but I don't entirely trust the new Google. They're terribly keen to sell me a firm of architects. There's plenty about Cardinal Gray, but with no mention that I can find of Raffaelovich.

As for knitting, I am well embarked on the ninth repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl, still resolved to return to Milano after the tenth.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I changed both light bulbs all by myself, and haven't seen another mouse. That''s progress, although every venture into the kitchen is now an unwelcome ordeal.

FiberQat, yarn bra's are a brilliant idea, for distinguishing the two balls if I proceed with the Fleegle system for knitting the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I did some Googling just now – they would seem to be exclusively American. I have ordered some through an dealer, but they'll be coming from the US. The pop-up ad plague was so bad that I couldn't order from Jimmy Bean, rather to my sorrow.

And, don't worry, the Milano will get done by mid-March.

Googling produced this from Franklin, on the subject of yarn bra's.

Jared got to the knitted-horticulture show at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, at the last minute, and needless to say his photographs of it are wonderful.

And that seems to be as far as I can get, this morning.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

No mouse yesterday. My sister thinks the electric deterrent may have worn out. I have ordered a replacement – can't do any harm. Or maybe Sunday's mouse was hard of hearing.

Yesterday's prob was two light bulb failures, at opposite ends of the house, one in my computer room – I have been forced to move uncomfortably into the dining room; and one in the master bathroom. Both are the sort of lights that hang down from the ceiling on a string (so to speak). Both failures happened last thing at night. I may or may not be able to deal with them myself once I've had my porridge.


As well as giving advice on mice, my sister also asks, gently, what about the Rams & Yowes blankie for her grandson Ted? Good question. I think I have formulated a Plan of Action, if strength and health permit:

I have now embarked on the 8th repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I'll carry on until I've done 10 – that's slightly over half-way, and should happen early next week.

Then I'll stop, I really will, and finish the Milano.

Then I'll go back to the Unst Bridal Shawl, finish the centre, and establish the borders.

Then I'll resume Rams & Yowes, in parallel with the shawl, just as I was working it with the Milano at the end of last year. Maybe designated days of the week for each, maybe a designated number of rows of R&Y every day before turning to lace.

I keep thinking about how to do the borders. I even had a few moments yesterday of thinking, well, why not just purl alternate rounds? But I had a look at the pattern charts – some of the alternate rounds are plain garter stitch, others involve action. Purling is one thing, working lace from behind is quite another. So that's out.

My thinking at the moment is that Fleegle's brilliant system is the future. Maybe I should have another go at it. Kate Davies' tutorial on the subject turns out to be the link I have just given you. Reading it again, I notice that Fleegle recommends marking not just the front and back of the work, but also the balls of yarn.

Zite produced this interesting article yesterday (far more intelligent than many) about knitting used as code in WW2.


We watched a program last night about the anatomy of the hand. What a wonderful thing it is! And what a wonderful thing is human evolution, to get all these systems going at once so that we could take over the planet. It's no use evolving to be intelligent enough to speak Mandarin or Swahili, if you haven't got the tongue and jaw structure to do it. And it's no use having big ideas for shawl knitting or building the Taj Mahal, if you haven't got the right sort of hand. Our fingers are shorter than an ape's, and our thumbs longer, and it makes all the difference.

My view of Intelligent Design, for what it's worth, is that Hashem set it all going very much like a snooker player gently tapping that ball that hits the next ball that eventually results in everything else.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

No mouse, yesterday.

My new heading-picture shows the main desk at the Lerwick Museum, as you;ve probably guessed.

I'm well into the seventh repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and, incidentally, nearly finished with the second 25 gr ball of yarn. All the yarn is bundled together now, in a bag called “Mousa Broch” I bought at Sandwick on Shetland. I reflected, too late, that that means I can no longer distinguish the balls I bought myself, over the counter in Lerwick, and the ones Jamieson & Smith later supplied by mail, same lot number.

But I know, at least, that the edging and the first third of the centre were knit with the original purchase.

For I am fully a third of the way through the centre – that's a respectable-sounding percentage. The total is not really 19 repeats, as I keep saying, but 18 ½, and I've now knit slightly more than 6 ½.

I have been thinking about the borders and the problem of producing garter stitch in the round. I tried without success to find Jackie Erickson-Schweitzer's account of wrapping-and-turning. I did find a video on the subject, not by her, but in it  the yarn was so thick, the stitches so few, and the magic-loop method involved so much pulling-through-of-cable that I didn't learn much.

I did stumble past somebody's remark that it's better, in this case, not to knit the wrap with the wrapped stitch.

But I can't quite, in the modern phrase, get my head around the idea. You start out, you knit around, you get back to the beginning and wrap the first stitch of the next round, and then turn the work and knit the other way. When you get back, a fortnight later, you need to knit the wrapped stitch. Is it possible also at the same time to wrap it again? (Well, yes, I suppose it is.) Or do you just wrap it every other round?

I've done a shawl this way. Maybe it'll be obvious once I get going. At each corner there will be a corner stitch with yo's on either side. I mean to wrap them all, so that there will be strong lines at each corner, although of course I'll only turn on the fourth one.

The other possibility is Fleegle's brilliant invention using two balls of yarn. Kate Davies has posted a tutorial in which she recommends that one. As I've said, I had a bit of trouble with it the one time I tried. I think the trouble was connected with remembering which direction I was going, despite marking the right side. This time, I have an unexpected ally in my needle – I have bent one end into a curve that fits the palm of my hand, as recommended somewhere by Sharon Miller. And that means I always know which direction I'm going in. Curved needle = right side of work.

Why did I do it? The Princess is knit entirely back and forth. I don't remember having any right-side-wrong-side difficulties with her. The needle itself is brilliant, easy to knit with, easy to see – and the stitches slip over the hasp (if that's the word) with ease. It is presumably one of the Inox needles Sharon sells.

Cats and Mice

MaureeninFargo, I agree with you that cats are not entirely consistent on this point. My happiest memory is the time – must have been in the late 60's – when our cat decided that her kittens were the right age for the Mouse Lesson, about five weeks She found one for them– I don't remember ever seeing a mouse in that house; she must have brought it in from the garden – and gave it to them. The kittens were delighted. They got the idea at once. They growled. The mouse enjoyed itself rather less.

Bur the best was the cat herself, sitting with her tail around her toes, fully alert, ready to intervene in an instant if the mouse made a dash for freedom, but otherwise suppressing her natural instincts in the interests of motherhood.

Monday, February 17, 2014

If it's not one thing, it's another.

My husband and I were sitting peacefully over the remains of Sunday lunch yesterday, reading each our separate sections of the Sunday Times, when a mouse skittered across the kitchen floor. I saw it again (or one of its friends and relations) at bedtime.

We live in a tenement. There are bound to be mice. Some years ago we were rather troubled by their skittering. Then Greek Helen gave us one of those things you plug in which is said to make a noise inaudible to humans but distressing to mice. We haven't seen any mice for a long time. She gave us two or maybe even four mouse-repellers, but somewhere in the intervening years Rachel had mouse trouble in London and I passed the others on to her.

Do the electrical things wear out? Do mice get used to them?

Edinburgh mice have never done anything to us except skitter – no mess or damage. But I hate it. Kirkmichael mice, on the other hand, Timmy Willie rather than Johnny Town Mouse (literary reference), don't skitter at all but can do quite a bit of damage and make quite a bit of mess when they have the house to themselves. Everything in the kitchen must be well secured against them. They like eating the insulation off water pipes.

We leave little plastic trays of poison down for them (sorry, mouse lovers) and are always pleased when we get back if we discover that they haven't eaten it – meaning that they weren't there. The reserve supply of poison used to be under the sink in a heavy plastic drum, until the time we found they had gnawed through the lid and helped themselves. We can't have that sort of thing, so now even mouse poison is kept in an old biscuit tin.


I now lack only one row of finishing the sixth repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

Somebody's blog on Zite took me just now to this page on the V&A website, about regional knitting in the British Isles. I must have seen it before. But this time I was struck by the remark that “knitting probably came to Shetland from England, as English words were used for the earliest knitting terms”. I'd like to see the evidence for that in detail.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Archie got home to Athens safely, only an hour late. It was half-past two by the time he got to bed – but I think (if I've got it the right way around) that that's only half-past midnight in Edinburgh, not too bad for a day with a long wait for a connection, and bad weather.

I'm well advanced with the sixth repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

And enormously grateful for your suggestions for a Huddling Shawl.

Fishwife, we think alike. I am Carol Sunday's devoted slave, and had already looked on her website. I think I'd probably go for the Sonoma rather than the Pueblo, because it looks as if there's more of it. My link is to the whole list of shawls and scarves, so you can contemplate both.

And Jared! is not loading for me this morning, but here's Girasole in Ravelry, and here's the Hemlock Ring. Both sensational. And the idea of EZ's Stonington and the J&S jumper-weight stash, as suggested by Ron and Judith, is also enormously attractive. World enough and time, that's what I need. The ill'er I feel – and some days recently have been not very good, despite pronouncing myself cured last week – the more important it seems to get the Bridal Shawl finished.

Zite came up with this, this morning – someone who's finished the Effortless, and looks good in it. It took me a moment to remember why the name was familiar – but the answer is that I've bought the pattern, and it's been on my HALFPINT list for a long time. I'll probably never get there.

Here's a recent picture of great-nephew Ted, Theo and Jenni's son. Aren't four months wonderful!

Today is (I think) Septuagesima Sunday. In the olden days, it was the moment when vestments switched to purple and you knew Lent was coming. I read about it in an old missal the other day and found the explanation next to unintelligible. They were right to drop it. I miss the warning that Lent is near, but in fact pay more attention now that I've got to work it out for myself.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The fifth repeat of the 19 needed for the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl is finished, and Archie was safely and easily delivered to the airport. Edinburgh was calm when I left him at about 1pm (Edinburgh has got off very lightly in this extraordinary winter) but he had a long wait for the plane – he was fortified with a well-stocked Kindle, he said. Edinburgh got stormy in the afternoon. He was flying to Heathrow where he had another long wait for the plane to Athens – and London got very stormy in the night.

So I'll be glad to have news of his journey.

And I gather the east coast of the US is covered in snow from Georgia northwards. The last time I spoke to my sister, she was dreading loss of electricity. A couple of winters ago, they were seriously thinking of getting a generator, but summer came and proper air conditioning became a priority.

I have been thinking about shawls – Edinburgh is getting off lightly, but even so, sometimes one wants to huddle. I'm sure I've said before that Alexander went wandering when he and Ketki lived in India, and came back with a Pakistani shepherd's shawl (woven) for me. My husband has appropriated it, so that's out. Something heavy-ish, simple but not too simple to knit. A motif blankie like no 25 in the new VK?

That particular one takes 54 balls of Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky, which would presumably cost more than the mortgage, and involves purled garter stitch, which doesn't sound very nice. But I've got the book – Mary Walker Phillip's “Knitting Counterpanes” and might have a look.

Not that I don't have plenty of knitting on hand.

Lynn, thank you for your help with my recondite computer problem. I've wandered about a bit myself, guided by you Tools>Footnotes/Endnotes will replace Roman numeral numbering with Arabic, and Insert>Section may help to get rid of “sections” which is the last thing we want. My husband hit another such file last night, and got pretty cross. He also found half of it missing, and was rescued by CTRL-Z. I have, inexcusably, forgotten who of you it was who taught me that one. It has been absolutely invaluable. I got to him just as he was about to re-load the file, which would have cost him all the work he had just been doing.


Last night I made the World's Easiest Recipe – Delia Smith's Greek lamb, from How to Cheat at Cooking. You take a neck fillet of lamb and cut it into chunks. You insert a fragment of garlic into each chunk, You season with salt, pepper and generous lemon juice. You encase in foil and bake at a very low temperature for about 2 ½ hours.

I use a double casing of foil – nothing must escape. Timing is also important, and slightly difficult. The meat must be meltingly tender, but it mustn't dry out.

I wondered if a similar technique would work for tough chunks of beef, perhaps – at this time of year – with the juice of a marmalade orange instead of lemon. Trouble is, if it proved a flop, you're left without any supper.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The idea of plugging the camera in and then accessing it as a device, didn't work – when I tried to copy or move pics, I got an error message somewhat to the effect that the device named was in use; totally unintelligible. I'll keep at it. Meanwhile, I had to fire up old Slowcoach yesterday – I'll explain the problem in a moment; it would be wonderful if you could help with that one – so I mailed the picture to myself, and here it is:

That's the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl, with the fifth repeat (of 19, I think I said) in process. Not a very good picture. I'm pleased with the effect. The pattern offers a couple of alternative centres, but I didn't linger over them. The repeat is 18 rows, 6 of which are plain-vanilla garter stitch. You wouldn't think so to look at it.

Cup Runneth Over Dep't

IK turned up yesterday – the spring issue, which seems more appropriate to the season than VK's winter one. I haven't finished taking it in yet, but I like what I see so far. I think I'm in favour of the new, post-Eunny editor. Shirley Paden's shawl is nice – I'm a fan of hers.

Computer Problem

(This is going to be totally boring for almost all – but the few who read on, may be able to help with a serious recurring problem.)

My husband and I are both using Open Office, and I'm getting pretty good at it. But I'm stuck on this one,

He has several hundred files, each concerning a different picture by his artist, each with its own footnotes. Endnotes, actually. I have had to translate each file from DOS-based Word Perfect to modern Word Perfect to Microsoft Word, and sometimes this process has thrown up mild formatting issues – they tend to come out right & left justified; he prefers left only. Sometimes the indentation is odd, usually because he's put it in with the space bar. I can deal with that sort of thing.

But sometimes we find the endnotes, not together at the end where they belong, but broken up, a bunch here, a bunch there. My husband flies into a rage, thinking that half the notes are lost. The only thing I can do about that is fire up Old Slowcoach, load the file into Word, go to Insert>Reference>Footnote, change to Endnote, and tell the program that I want the notes at the end of the document, not at the end of a “section”. In this situation, I always find that the note numbering has been changed to Roman numerals; I switch back to Arabic.

The equivalent Insert>Reference>Footnote process in Open Office doesn't have any options about end of section/end of document, nor about the style of numbering. These options must exist somewhere. When I re-load the file into Open Office after the process just described, the program obeys – the notes are at the end, the numbering is Arabic.

Pretty recondite problem. All suggestions very gratefully received. Computers are funny beasts.


I started feeling much better yesterday evening, after a grim week in which I thought there was nothing to look forward to but endoscopy and death. It would be wonderful if that nice young dr is right, and the trouble was those osteoporosis pills. Wednesday was my day for pill-taking and I much enjoyed not doing it – maybe that's relevant. He has referred me for a bone scan which will no doubt take place in the fullness of time.

Gratuitous Picture of Grandchild 

Rachel's son Joe got to interview the former England rugby great Jonny Wilkinson this week. That's Joe on the right. "He was very nice, not very tall and completely normal", was Joe's verdict. What I want to know is whether Joe told Wilkinson that he (Jonny) once signed a souvenir half-sized rugby ball for him (Joe) after a match at Twickenham. I think he was kind enough to add a couple of words of greeting to the signature. Joe and that ball were inseparable for many months. If memory serves (not entirely reliable) he was clutching it at his cousin Kirsty's Christening in Cornwall -- hundreds of miles from Twickenham -- early in 2001.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

This would be as good a moment as any, to tell you that I was once invited to Shirley Temple's birthday party. '35? '36? My mother thought I was too young to go. I wish she'd kept the invitation, though. My father was a Hollywood reporter at the time. They used to get a lot of Christmas cards from movie stars. My mother bundled those up and sent them to her younger brother, then in college.

I've finished the fourth repeat of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl, but haven't re-addressed myself to the problem of uploading photographs to this new computer. On Old Slowcoach, plugging the camera in automatically calls up the camera software. Maybe I'll have to do it that way. Another thing I haven't got around to yet is getting a Man In to transfer programs across to the new laptop. It's not one of the things my husband nags me to do, and thus tends to slide down the list.

Franklin has a new blog up on the Lion Brand site – always an event. It addresses the question of how long it takes to knit something, and is thus rather relevant to the Unst shawl. Poor Franklin hankers after such knitting, but as a designer who has to keep producing things, can't allow himself such a luxury. (He doesn't actually say that, but it is strongly implied.)

I don't think I worry too much, when contemplating a project, about the question of how long it's going to take. But of course, such considerations do arise. Can I finish this shawl before Hellie might reasonably want to get married (which won't be before her brother Thomas-the-Elder's wedding day in November of this year)? When should I start work on a knitted Marmite jar, if I want to have it ready for Christmas? That sort of thing.

Franklin's latest for Knitty, incidentally, is an interesting essay on choosing colours – he says it's going to be the subject of a new class.

The other big news on the knitting front is that the Winter 2013/14 VK has turned up. I think I have expressed surprise before that they bring it out just as the snowdrops bloom, a bit late for launching a major winter project. Nor is there much that attracts me – VK's are better when they have ripened for a couple of years. But I awfully like no. 25, one of those blankies made up of motifs. It's an area into which I have never strayed, but the appeal is there.


My sister says she always cuts peppers in half and cleans them, before roasting. American cookery books must be stronger on sensible advice.

I can't import pictures, at the moment, but I can download them. Here is a scene from Mount Pelion, last weekend. Spring has come to the Mediterranean. Those are Archie's younger brothers, Mungo and Fergus.

I will see Archie tomorrow, insh'Allah. I'm going to drive him from school to the airport, for the sake of half-an-hour's conversation.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I'm sure you're right, Cat. I've got Just One More Row syndrome – and that nice young man has probably never heard of it, for all his modern medical education.

Here's the current state of the Unst Bridal Shawl centre, now half-way through repeat no. 4. Or maybe not. The simplest thing seems to defeat me – I can't figure out how to download it. I'll have to work on that.

Unfond as I am of Olympics, I am tempted by this Dale book of their official Olympic sweater patterns, '56 – '10. I'll probably resist – but then again it might make a nice addition to the Norwegian Sweater section.

And here's a funny one for you, still Olympic-themed, from Esquire. They don't know the difference between knitting and crochet, but that's common enough. It's still funny.


I remember the New Yorker with the Pope making a snow angel on the cover – it ought still to be here, and I ought to be able to find it (and read the story). Thanks.

The only other thing I can think to tell you about is a cookery tip.

I made a nice little sauce the other day where you roast some peppers and some garlic, peel them, process them together, add oil and vinegar. Roasting and peeling peppers is easy – when you take them out of the oven or out from under the grill, put them in a bowl and cover with cling film They collapse, and the skin lifts off effortlessly once they're cool. If you're new to this, I would suggest leaving them in the oven or under the grill a little bit longer than you might think necessary, so that they have quite a few black spots.

The difficulty is then getting rid of the seeds. You're not allowed to hold them under the tap, because that would wash away all the delicious roast pepper juice. It's a slow and messy job.

My tip, which I tried yesterday, is to remove the seeds first. I cut out the stem (leaving the peppers whole) and removed the seed plug and then cleaned inside. There didn't seem to be any reason not to hold them under the tap at that point, before they'd been roasted, so I did. It worked a treat Pretty obvious, but I've never seen a recipe-writer suggest it. Now will Claudia Roden come along and tell me that roasting peppers with the seeds inside is essential for subtlety of flavour?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Another follower!


I had a nice time with my young dr yesterday. I got there terribly early, due to anxiety about parking – and left the building shortly before my own appt time. Someone must have failed to show. So, not much sock-knitting.

My bloods are fine, as I expected. No diabetes, no anaemia, etc. I thot that would leave him with no alternative but to refer me forward for uncomfortable hospital tests, but no, he has thought of something. I take a weekly osteoporosis pill – my only medication; and nausea is a very common (10%) side effect. I have been taking it for years and thought I was out of side-effect territory, but he says it can be cumulative. So I am to stop taking it and he has prescribed a month's course of a “proton pump inhibitor” which reduces stomach acid and is used, among other things, to treat stomach ulcers.

 I am feeling cheerful. The osteoporosis-pill routine is that you have to take it first thing in the morning and then it's nil-by-mouth for half-an-hour BUT you are not allowed to dive back into bed. You must remain upright. So I am delighted to be relieved of that beginning to my Wednesdays. And hope is inspiriting, too. I don't feel any better this morning, but I wouldn't expect signs of that for at least a fortnight.

Calcutta Cup

The newspapers, yesterday, at least some of them, said that Scotland didn't deserve to stay in the Six Nations tournament, since we don't have a team fit to play or a pitch fit to play on. We're “Italy without the excuses,” according to the Telegraph (which also complained about the tawdry pre-match entertainment). What would happen to the Calcutta Cup if they threw us out? It can only be contested in a rugby match between Scotland and England. They'd have to retire it to Twickenham.


I am within a row or two of finishing the third (of 19) pattern repeats for the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and I am repenting of my promise to stop. I need the Milano for a specific date in March. I'm about halfway down the first sleeve – they're short, since the shoulder hangs down so far. I would think another week would suffice to polish it off – so if I allow it a fortnight, I can safely go on with the shawl for now, until sometime near the end of this month.

It's something about the way each row of lace builds on the last that keeps one knitting on as if turning the pages. I've achieved only about 3” of the centre (much more, of course, when blocked) but that doesn't matter compared to the exhilaration of stacking row 17 carefully on top of row 16.

Looking at the picture of the finished thing just now, I realise how much knitting there will be in the borders, when the centre is finished. Like the centre of the Princess, which lures one in with easy, short rows at the point of the triangle and then stretches out to the end of time. That's OK, I think, in this case. I've allowed the borders 48% in my calculations for the sidebar – that may be about right.


I'm enjoying Persuasion. That was a good tip.

Mary Lou, do you remember where and what was the spooky New Yorker story you read recently? I like spooky. Stephen King had two (at least) stories in the New Yorker, quite a while ago now. I gave the issues away to a neighbour – clearly, many of us do that; James, in Beijing, passes his on to the Financial Times. And then regretted not having them, and sought for years, and found them in the collection “Everything's Eventual”. They are called “The Man in the Black Suit” and “That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French”. I think perhaps New Yorker editing is good for Stephen King, not that he's not pretty good on his own.  

Sunday, February 09, 2014

What to say? It's all there in Knitlass' comment yesterday. Scotland were dreadful, and deservedly beaten, 20-0. Alexander and Mark (his old friend, my date for the day) agreed afterwards that England weren't as good as they should have been, given Scotland's awfulness. They felt the score would have been 40-0 if England had been up to scratch.

And the famous Murrayfield pitch was appalling. We had been hearing that they are afflicted with nematodes eating the roots of the grass. There are million-pound plans afoot to replace it with plastic. Meanwhile you might as well imagine the Calcutta Cup being contested in your own back yard. And this was the first international match of the season.

I suffered, too, from the noise (grumble, grumble). We were on the lower level, under the overhang from the upper tier. That may have made it worse. Mark thought we were near a loudspeaker. The hour of pre-match entertainment, and the quarter-hour at half time, were hideous with the magnified shouting of some sort of master-of-ceremonies chappie somewhere. Conversation – even elementary exchanges – totally impossible. I didn't quite like to chat to Mark during the actual action – he knows the game well and was observing it acutely and also enjoying England's victory.

On the bright side: I didn't really want to take time off the Unst shawl to knit a Calcutta Cup '14 sweater, and now I don't have to.

We stayed for the presentation. (Alas, Princess Anne is in Sochi.) But it was way over on the other side – a rugby pitch is much wider than you might think on television – and I didn't actually see the cup, only its image on the big television screen.

We had a nice evening subsequently with our niece. Cook (see yesterday) provided a thoroughly satisfactory supper. She expresses herself willing to come to Strathardle with us in the Easter break, early April. That's something to look forward to. Apart from worrying about my husband's frailty, I am currently too weak to take it on alone.

No knitting yesterday, as feared. And I won't be here tomorrow, because of my early dr's appt.

What a thoroughly disspirited post! Now, if we'd only sung Scots Wha Hae..

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Calcutta Cup day

It looks somewhat unpleasant out there, but not exactly stormy yet.

I have addressed myself to Flower of Scotland. It's a terrible song, the general tenor of which seems to be, we're beaten already. Why not sing Scots Wha Hae? It's equally un-singable, no contest there, but much more inspiriting. Written by an actual poet, to begin with, and the general idea is, Death or Victory! “Now's the day and now's the hour/ see the front o' battle lour.” What's wrong with that?

Kick-off is at five, awfully late. I disapprove, as you know. The Loch Fyne party will pick me up at a out 3:30. Our niece is coming in mid-afternoon to keep my husband company. “Do I have to watch it?” he asks. When I get back we will have a tasty supper from Cook, if it is delivered this afternoon as it should be. They did us very well on Christmas Eve, Helen and her family here, when we got home from the Christmas Vigil Mass.

I have also bought some of Mr Crombie's Six Nation Sausages, a package for Alexander to take back to Loch Fyne, another, smaller one for our niece, a couple for us. Pork from Scotland, herbs from England, leeks from Wales, Guinness from Ireland, onions from France, tomatoes from Italy – that's the recipe. They appear on the slab only at this time of year.

I mean to treat myself as tenderly during the day as if I were starting at scrum half, but I will have, at least, to leave the kitchen in a respectable state for our niece to make my husband's tea.

There is ittle else to report. I have finished the second repeat on the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and I PROMISE to stop when I've done the third, and polish off the Milano. I doubt if much will be done today, but perhaps I might get in a row or two this morning, under the treating-myself-tenderly heading.


Tricia, thank you. Mr Branson seems to hsve brought us back to Scotland, for the early evening news, so all is well. I use Google several times every day, like all of us, but it wouldn't have occurred to me to Google “Virgin Media wrong local news” and it is a great comfort to know that there are so many fellow-sufferers. The odd thing is, I discovered that if I recorded “Reporting Scotland” we could then watch it – so both signals must have been flowing in through the cable at the same time.

And, Peggy, yes, I've “always” had the New Yorker, since childhood. I give it to all four of our children, and I'm glad to say that at least some of the grandchildren read it. Thomas-the-Elder reads the digital version on his iPad, a spin-off from his mother's subscription. For my 70th birthday, now well in the past, Alexander made me an alphabet book. N was for New Yorker, and the page shows the two covers nearest to my birthdays in 1933 and 2003 – they are miraculously similar in colour and tone.

R was for, not Rugby, but Rob and Romaine. The Wainwrights, by then already retired to Coll, signed a snapshot of themselves for me. Knitlass, you'll understand.

Friday, February 07, 2014

A new follower! You are very welcome!

Again, there is little to report. I'm halfway through the second repeat (of 19) on the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Soon there will be enough to spread out for a picture. It's looking good.

The dr was running very late yesterday – I am well along with the toe-shaping of that eternal Pakokku sock, as a consequence.

Something useful from Zite: this website has a run-down of all there is to know about knitted buttonholes, a subject I have never mastered. Makes a change from endless articles about a Chinese woman who knit a coat with her own hair.

Calcutta Cup

That's tomorrow. Alexander says the weather forecast is dire – does that offer Scotland a glimmer of hope? I doubt it. I think our case is even more dire. What I must do today is learn the words to “Flower of Scotland”. It will be printed in the programme, but it would be too embarrassing for words to have to read it.   I plan to sing both anthems, like Princess Anne.

Anyway, I haven't time for another knitting project. It would be just as well if Scotland lost.


Normally, we read the New Yorker when we are in Strathardle, free from the distractions of television and newspapers. And, under those circumstances, discover many an interesting article on topics one might have skipped past in the more pressured atmosphere of Edinburgh.

But we haven't been there for a long time, for fear of snow and our own frailty, so I've been catching up lately on a winter's-worth of New Yorkers. America seems stranger and stranger.

I don't always read the short story; in fact, more often than not, I don't. I give a story about a paragraph and a half to take me by the throat. The ones I do read are sometimes remarkably good, and I found one such yesterday in the January 20 issue: “A Mistake” by Akhil Sharma. The first two sentences are: “As far back as I can remember, my parents have bothered each other. [new paragraph] In India, we lived in two concrete rooms on the roof of a house.”

When I finished it, I rushed to His novel “Family Life” is soon to be published. The New Yorker story would appear to be an excerpt from it. They often do that – Ian McEwan is a particular favourite of the New Yorker's, and I first met Vikram Seth's “A Suitable Boy” in the form of a long excerpt there. The days of their publishing entire books (Silent Spring, Hiroshima, Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, In Cold Blood) seem to be over.

Anyway, recommended.

More non-knit, indeed completely irrelevant

A few months ago, we had some serious trouble with television reception. The choice was to send someone up to the roof of the tenement far above us, to fiddle with or replace the aerial, or to go for cable. We chose the latter, Virgin, and it has worked well on the whole.

It is our wont to spend the hour from six to seven watching the news, me knitting, my husband injecting insulin and then waiting half-an-hour for his tea. First the BBC News at Six, then Reporting Scotland.

Last Friday, we found ourselves transported to |Northern Ireland when we expected Reporting Scotland, and the situation has persisted. It must be Richard Branson's fault. Northern Ireland is a strange and interesting place, with a good deal more low-level argie bargie going on than you might suspect from the newspapers. But we miss Reporting Scotland.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Today's excitement is getting my husband to a GP's appt, hard work on the get-me-to-the-church-on-time front but otherwise not too stressful. Fortunately the appt is in the morning, leaving time for a good nap after lunch. My own appt is on Monday, early, when we hope to discover that there is something in the “bloods” to explain my continued malaise, preferably something easily treatable with a pill.

Thank you for all your sympathetic comments. Daisy, I tried some chocolate when I read yours – after all that fuss and expense, I still have a substantial number of chocolate brussels sprouts in the cupboard. No harm was done. Ellen, you're right that a lot of the comfort in Austen-reading lies in the sense that everything is under control, and will work out for the best (so unlike real life).

Peggy, that was an interesting remark of yours (comment, Monday) that Austen is hard on older women. I finished Mansfield yesterday and started on Persuasion (thanks to you, Ellen): I might nominate Lady Russell, Anne Elliot's godmother and good friend – but I don't suppose she was anything approaching old, by modern standards. Some presumably-good ones must have died young, Emma's mother and Lady Elliot, but that hardly counts. The irritating spinster in Emma – Miss Bates? I'm not going to look it up – is essentially a good guy, and Emma is rightly faulted for mocking her.


I've finished the first repeat (of 19, I fear) of the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. It doesn't look like anything much. I haven't put the edging away yet – it's still on the floor beside my knitting chair, and it looks like a real achievement. When I sit down to knit, I can scarcely see the centre – a tiny scrap beside it.

However, spread out on my knee, it looks fine, and it's not very difficult knitting. On we go, at least for a couple more repeats, before I turn to the Milano.


We need some illustration. Here are some pictures (they came in a strip) that my friend Sylvia sent yesterday. At some point in some past decade, she and Ann turned up in Birmingham. I have known them both since my very early days at Oberlin. Ann and Sylvia were friends before that, in high school.

My husband was away, I remember, and I think it was at the point in life when all the children had (just) fled the nest. So we were free. We went to Chatsworth (centre picture) and on to Oxford and then Stratford. By a brilliant stroke of luck, they were doing Henry V which had been such a great thing in our Oberlin days because of Olivier's movie. At Stratford that day it was Kenneth Branagh – possibly his first big role? Very memorable, anyway.

The point of he third picture is obscured by its being cropped. It was taken in our garden in Birmingham (left to right: Sylvia, me, Ann) and we were all standing, as we had learned to do in the 50's, with one foot in front, turned sideways, to make our ankles look slimmer.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

I am low in health and spirits this morning, fit for nothing but to curl up with the denouement of Mansfield Park while the rain lashes the windows.

I made a good start on the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday, indeed, have nearly reached the row where I will award myself a percentage point.

There are an awful lot of k3togs in the design. I discovered long ago, knitting an Amedro, that actually knitting three stitches together isn't a good idea, at least in lace, at least for me. It looks fine, and then, three rows later, I notice that the middle stitch has escaped and is wandering off on its own.

I now  usually centre the decrease (if anyone's looking) by slipping the first two stitches – not SSK-style, but by putting the right-hand needle through both at once as if to knit them together – and then knitting the third and passing the slipped stitches over. There were two such decreases in the 12 rows of the edging pattern, and it worked fine.

But now they're all over the place and I'm finding it slow to work them as just described. I've switched to slip 1, k2tog, psso – easy and secure. Not centred, but Miller herself doesn't think directional decreases matter in fine lace.

I hope to be brighter tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Real progress – the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl has been launched.

KarenE, your comment about the knitted cast-on was received just at the point yesterday where I had executed ten stitches of the crochet cast-on, very awkwardly. So I tried it and it's smooth and easy all right, and there were the little loops below – but I wasn't quite sure that I could identify five loops for five cast-on stitches, if that makes sense, so I went back to the crochet hook and awkwardness and eventually got the job done. 165 stitches, not a great number but undoubtedly more than the 23 I cast on for the edging.

The next instruction was one row to settle things down, and then eight rows of plain-vanilla garter stitch. That's done – I'm ready to start knitting the centre! I might mention that I found it virtually impossible to keep my place in garter stitch by counting ridges, with the yarn being so fine. But I've got my Katcha Katcha so that's all right.

The other, more serious, problem is that my new wonderful needle produced the old difficulty – stitches had to be coaxed painfully from the cable to the needle point. After a month of knitting that edging on lovely KnitPro sock needles, it was a shock.

I finally retreated to a metal needle. It's very long, and one of the needle-ends is bent into an arc. Somewhere, dimly, memory suggests that Sharon Miller likes to do it that way. Did I even, perhaps, order this needle from her? Did I knit the Princess with it? At any rate, all went well with the last rows of garter stitch – the stitches flowed smoothly, and were perfectly visible, white on gunmetal grey. The cord is purple.

At some point soon I've got to lay this aside and polish off the Milano. Maybe when I've established the centre with a complete pattern repeat.

Mansfield Park

How right you are, Ellen, that we can rejoice in there being enough Austen that each can be a favourite! You have convinced me to go back to Persuasion next. I often re-read its first page, surely one of the very best in all Eng Lit, but it's been a long time since I read the book.

Shandy, I think Fanny Price and Elizabeth Bennet would get on fine. Although not lively herself, Fanny had no objection to liveliness. Her judgements were moral. At the end of that pivotal scene with the necklaces, Fanny reflects: “Miss Crawford, complaisant as a sister, was careless as a woman and a friend”. She couldn't think that of Elizabeth B.

You may have invented a whole new literary game – moving a character from one Austen novel to another.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Mansfield Park

Oh, Mary Lou, what a treat you have in store!Or so I hope. There are those who don't like it. They probably prefer Emma.

My first encounter with it was in Leicester (we lived there) in the late '60's. My husband was away. The children were all still in primary school and thus could be sent to bed at a respectable hour and not worried about. I liked, in those circumstances, to spend the last hour of my day in the bath with a thriller. But the local post office to which I resorted, had nothing that suited my taste. They did have Mansfield Park, so I bought it, rather dubiously.

And have been reading it ever since.

Beware of notes: I had the Penguin Classic edition, and I like notes. I read one, early on, which betrayed a major Event to Come. I'm still sorry not to have been able to read it the first time without knowing. But Kindle can be trusted not to give anything away.

Scifiknitter, it is interesting what you say about the slave trade. I am finding new things in my current reading, as always – and one that really surprised me was when Fanny asked Sir Thomas about the slave trade, specifically, in those words. It was just after he returned from his long trip to the West Indies, when no one else in the house seemed very interested in what he had been doing. I mustn't say any more now for fear of spoiling Mary Lou's fun.

Donna, I can guarantee you'll enjoy Colin Frith as Mr. Darcy, but there's much more than that in the BBC adaptation. Again and again, I found myself thinking, no, that can't be, and going back to the text and finding, there it was. I think what I mostly gained from watching it was the realisation that Mr Bennet was not just a slightly comic character, to be pitied for his awful wife, but a weak man, to be blamed for not exercising control over his household. See what you think.


I finished the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, as hoped. I've looked up the crochet-on technique for a provisional cast-on in Bestor's “Cast on, Bind Off” and it sounds as straightforward as I remembered. I'll have a quick look at the Neatby video before I plunge in. I have still to dig around in the cupboard to find a crochet hook, and to select a waste yarn.

But this is a rather exciting moment.

Peggy (comment, Friday): I beg you to try lace knitting again. I had a real struggle with that edging at the beginning, but once I was firmly back in the saddle I recovered the old excitement. Get “A Legacy of Shetland Lace” by the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers, if you don't already have it, or look at it again if you do, and think about one of those scarves.


The groundhog will have gone gratefully back under the duvet yesterday, here in Edinburgh. Lots of sunshine,

Scotland lost in Dublin rather thoroughly, and I found it a dull match from the beginning, even during the first hour when Scotland were still in contention. They ran here, they ran there, there were lots of scrums. Whereas France-England in Paris the day before had been an absolute thriller from kick-off. Is that because I understand so little of the finer points of the game?

Lynne (comment Friday): that would make good sense, for the meaning of “redacted”. I thought it meant something fancy often involved in biblical criticism. One or the other of us should look it up.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

I'll have to be quick again this morning – Sunday looms.

45 scallops done, despite the rugby. I watched only one of yesterday's matches, France-England. It was a thriller, not at all conducive to lace-knitting. Even that sock proved too much. France snatched victory with a last-minute try and conversion. That word sounds so inconclusive to American ears – with a last-minute success.

I think I've decided to crochet-on the stitches for the centre of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I don't have the right sort of relatively heavy-weight shiny mercerised cotton for a crocheted chain, and don't want to wait until I can get myself up to John Lewis. I'm concerned about elasticity – Miller warns to be careful  to keep things even but loose when knitting-on. I think crocheting-on would be safer.

So today, if rugby allows (Ireland-Scotland), I'll hope to finish those last five scallops, count all 200 to make sure I've got it right (if not, they will be easier to fix now when I know the pattern than in six months time), find a crochet hook and the right waste yarn, remind myself how this is actually done, and leave the operation itself for tomorrow. Even that programme sounds a bit ambitious for a Sunday.

Scifiknitter, I was glad to have your back-up for my enthusiasm for Mansfield Park. It does indeed have dark currents. Henry and Mary Crawford are both masterful studies of characters not-all-of-a-piece, weak, self-indulgent, intelligent, perceptive, capable of good, if things had turned out differently. I've never cared much for Emma. There is much to admire and enjoy in the others, but nowhere the same profundity.

There. Now I had better tackle last night's washing-up.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

I like February – nothing is expected of it; every spring day (and there are usually a good few) is a bonus. The light is coming back. The groundhog shouldn't have much to disturb it tomorrow – the weather has been blustery and overcast. And next Saturday I'm going to the Calcutta Cup.

41 scallops done – I could even finish the edging this weekend.

I am now completely bewildered about how to cast on for the centre. Like Epaminondas, mind how you step on them pies. And there's a German folk story, isn't there? about a father-and-son pair (perhaps) who keep trying to act on successive pieces of advice, Not Clever Elsa – her problem was creative worry. Anybody?

  • Sharon Miller's “knitting on” technique leaves a nice little row of loops for picking up later, she says. It's sort of like the cable cast-on, but not quite. She says that the line is more visible than using waste wool, which is the only alternative she suggests. I had thought I was going to try that.
  • But Purl Bee's tutorial yesterday inspired me to try the crocheted chain again – I have been humiliated by that one in the past, and now I think I could do it. I am sure you are right, Ellen: the chain should be made with a slippery-smooth mercerised cotton.
  • On the other hand, the crochet-the-provisional-loops-straight-on-to-the-needle approach which you mention, Mary Lou and Ivy, is a sure-fire way to do it. I learned that from Candace Strick, in one of her mitered garter stitch jacket patterns.

Other suggestions yesterday, Judy's Magic and so on, sound to me more appropriate for a circular shawl knit centre-out. But the Unst Bridal is Shetland-type, with a centre square. I've got to cast on 120 stitches or so, and later pick up the stitches to knit the border outwards.

So, goodness knows.


Thank you for comments about the picture sale, and for not mentioning the artist's name. Rachel sent a note of commiseration yesterday with this picture to cheer us up:

That's Hellie's lovely boyfriend Matt, on the right. The other man is Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the greatest batsman cricket has ever known, worshipped as a god in India. Rachel doesn't mention where they met, or how.

Northof49 has posted an interesting article about some super technology which allows you to switch back and forth between audio-book and reading for yourself, depending on whether or not you are knitting Fair Isle. She says it is disconcerting, because the characters you see in your head when you are reading the page yourself are not the ones the actor creates.

I vividly remember going to see My Friend Flicka when I was a child, expecting that the movie would make visible for me my mental construction of that well-loved book. It was All Wrong, from beginning to end. On the other hand, I would put in a rare vote for the BBC's Pride and Prejudice a few years ago – the one that left us all in love with Colin Firth. That was good. It was even illuminating.

Nothing suits me for reading just now. I've got half-a-dozen books on the go, each of which I mean to go back to, but not just now. So I am re-reading Mansfield Park for the 37th time. Goodness, it's good. She is as good as the 19th century Realists, as Evelyn Waugh himself, at absolutely skewering a character with a bit of quoted speech. No comment needed.