Wednesday, April 30, 2014


I had a nice time yesterday, very pleasant doctor roughly the age of  my grandson Thomas-the-Elder. I had another ECG, and the famous echo test, and an examination and a lot of questions, and have been told that there is nothing wring with my heart. He thought less cider would be a good idea, with which I am inclined to agree, but didn't make a great song and dance about it, and didn't even commit himself to the idea that cider was responsible for recent symptoms.

So what was all that about?


The Beijing Mileses are in the throes of exams, both A Levels for Alistair and AS's for Rachel-the-younger, as well as the excitement of moving back to Britain after what amounts, for the children, to a lifetime in China. The problem (amongst many) that would have me in a cold sweat is their discovery that they will lose James's working visa the moment he hands in his journalist's card, and must acquire tourist visas for their last few hours in Beijing. But the company shipping their furniture, and the one exporting the cat, need the working visas to be in place until the last minute

The cost of the cat's journey will be roughly the same as a business class fare, James says.


Little to report. I still haven't picked up my sister's shawl. It's now or never. And I didn't even finish round 68 – the imaginary half-way point – of the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday, although I am within sight of the end. And I didn't see anything of interest on Zite this mornng.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014


All goes smoothly forward with the borders of the Unst Bridal shawl, more or less. Stitch numbers are pretty consistently right (one counts all the time, with lace, even in the few plain-vanilla garter stitch rounds). The k3tog's are perfectly manageable – or maybe I'm getting better at them.There are few escapees. This newish J&S yarn is particularly good on that front – some fine yarns are absolutely determined to make a getaway, given the slightest chance. Sharon Miller warns that you need point protectors every time you put the work down. I'm not having any such difficulty.

I've embarked on round 67, only one short of the faux halfway point which is round 68. There are 136 rounds in all, but the halfway point about-to-be-achieved is faux because the next 68 rounds will add 272 stitches to those expanding corners.

I shall celebrate anyway, quietly.

What I must do today is absent myself from felicity a while to finish off repairing the top of my sister's Amedro shawl, as I meant to do when we were at Loch Fyne. She is going to be in London tomorrow. I need to dispatch the shawl to Rachel before she leaves. But I can't bear to do it until I've finished round 68.

Zite is a bit disconcerting this morning. Knitspot is having January. Just Be Crafty claims that St Patrick's Day is just around the corner. finds that “autumn is definitely here” (well, she could be in the antipodes – that's not a blog I know). But Berroco comes right out and says “September is here – the school buses are back”. All four were posted yesterday, or more recently. What's going on?


Today's excitement here is my long-awaited NHS cardiology appt. By now, I don't know whether I'm ill or not. I'm a lot better than I was, certainly. My main anxiety is that I will find myself talking to the Great Man whom I paid to see a month ago – he is a consultant at the Western Infirmary where I am due. His name is not on the appt letter but that counts for little, in our experience.

Monday, April 28, 2014

What I forgot to tell you yesterday morning was that Liverpool were playing Chelsea and your support was needed. Too late now: Liverpool lost. They can still win the league but, as I understand it, that result now depends not only on Liverpool winning their two remaining matches, but also on other people losing theirs. So that's sad.

There is not much else to report. We had a nice time with Archie yesterday – he said of lunch that it was “worth missing school lunch for”. He likes eating, and takes an intelligent interest in food. He also said that the world knows an uncomfortable amount about him, thanks to this blog, so perhaps I had better cut back on Archie-news. He is about to start his GCSE exams, and seems in good spirits.

As for knitting, I am halfway around round 63 of the border of the Unst Bridal Shawl. As the motif widens, the right-side, odd-numbered, rounds get slower and more painstaking. I am nearly finished with the current – the fourth – 25 gram ball of yarn. I think I said when I joined it in, that I thought six balls would be enough. I'm not so sure now, as those corners relentlessly expand outwards.

The k3tog's aren't agonising, this time. Just slow. 

One of the aspects of the Queen Ring Shawl to which I am keenly looking forward, is that its border includes the “sprouting seed”, the only asymmetrical Shetland lace pattern, I think. It figures in the Princess, and can be seen on the cover of “Heirloom Knitting” (which is a picture of part of the Princess) towards the top.

This motif turns up a lot in Paisleyshawls, known as the “boteh”. On the Queen Ring, they all nod in the same direction but I think Sharon suggests –  if so, I can't find it, this morning – that it might be interesting to vary that, and I mean to. On each border, the boteh's could nod inwards towards the centre.


I am falling seriously behind on blog-reading, now that Google has deserted me. I went to Feedly this morning and found an unintelligible screen with no hint of how to find my list.

It then occurred to me that my simplest move might be to update the list in my sidebar and spend a few moments in the morning clicking on those links.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

A good day yesterday, on the whole. I knocked off a couple of insignificant chores from the list that looms so large at four in the morning – ordering seeds, very belatedly, for my doorstep garden; writing (with ink, on paper) to the Caliban-figure who has been cutting our grass in Strathardle for the last few years, to tell him we have engaged someone to look after the whole garden, including grass, and therefore don't need him any more.

As Hercules found when dealing with the Hydra, the more you do, the more there is to do.

Archie is coming to lunch today, and will hang out for a couple of hours in the afternoon taking advantage of our unrestricted internet access in the intervals allowed him between chores. His large, cheerful presence will be very welcome. I am astonished and delighted that he wants to come. Visits to grandparents, although dutifully performed, were not sought by me when I was his age.

I remember, in particular, a visit from Oberlin to my paternal grandmother in Constantine, Mich, at Thanksgiving in (probably) 1950. The whole thing was an ordeal, prompted by my mother. The return journey was a long, slow nightmare, because of snow throughout Michigan and Ohio, and perhaps -- who knows? -- elsewhere. I was Archie's present age. I wonder how old my grandmother was? My father had been rather an afterthought, in that family, so she was probably, although not necessarily, older than I am now. Did she enjoy having me?

I might mention that I feel sure that Archie is pursuing advanced gaming on the Internet when he is here, not porn. I think I have come up from behind him too often, when his hearing has been obscured by earphones and the screen visible to me, to be mistaken about that.


We've got to the point where two circuits of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl is a good day's work, and yesterday I managed two and a half. I am just starting circuit 63. I was interrupted at the turning-point by some irritating domestic duty, and when I sat down again, found that I didn't know which direction I was going in.

I marked the right side with a safety pin at the beginning of border-knitting, but I haven't needed it and by now it has worked itself halfway through the fabric and isn't much use as an indicator.

I am embarrassed to admit that it took me several minutes to work out how I would know the answer. the work being perfectly symmetrical. I even asked myself – this is an even more embarrassing admission – whether it would matter if I was wrong for one round.

The answer came to me soon enough – if I hadn't turned, I would be knitting stocking stitch. I think, in fact, that has happened, and I will have to undo 12 or 15 stitches when I get to grips with it today.

Otherwise, all goes well. The new motifs, now nine stitches wide, remain straightforward. There are some k3tog's, not too many – and it all depends, as I have said, how the stitches were formed in the round before, which must now be reduced to one.

But today is Sunday. I must press on.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Yesterday was a stressful and unsatisfactory one, quite apart from the non-arrival of the cleaning woman. Thank God for knitting. I'm now just beyond half-way in the 60th round (that sounds good) of the border of the Unst shawl. Here is an attempt at a photograph. The centre-outward technique makes it harder and harder to smooth out a little bit for the camera. Edging-in means that the piece always has a top and bottom edge, at least until you begin attaching the centre.

But I like the way the undifferentiated cloud of knitting looks by now, just lying there waiting for me to go on. I have established the next round of motifs – easy-peasy, so far.

I forgot to tell you that I did tear myself away from this delightful occupation recently, long enough to attempt to fix the bad patch on the cast-off edge of my sister's shawl, Amedro's Cobweb Lace Wrap. I made a mess of it. I should have done it your way, Mary Lou, and just fixed the raw bit, which was only three or four inches long.

Instead I tried to take out the whole cast-off edge. The yarn stuck to itself. Things didn't go well. I have got as far as recovering the stitches, more or less, and am currently trying to knit across the row before casting off again.

It's not going to look good.

Maybe I'll have to knit her another one.

I've knit that Amedro shawl four times, with different laces. It's an elongated triangle, a good shape for wearing and for showing off lace. The trouble with anything designated as a stole – i.e., a rectangle – is that it tends to get scrunched up and worn as a scarf. At least it does in my family. I'll look around for another show-off shawl (suggestions welcome) but maybe there's nothing better than another Amedro. There's plenty of scope for changing the lace in the centre panels. She's got an interesting edging with points of different sizes which is rather effective, too.


Leslie, it was wonderful to hear from you. She it was who found me in the rec>craft>textiles>yarn mailing list, sometime in the 90's, and suggested that I join the Knitlist. Remembering that happy event reminded me of my excitement, meeting the community of on-line knitters after a lifetime knitting alone. And of all the flesh-and-blood friends and happy days that discovery has led to, including, most recently, Shetland.

And I thought again – I say this every time the subject comes up – of how remarkable it was that EZ was able to achieve all she did without any such community. Determinedly knitting in the round when the editors were equally determined to have everything flat, to begin with.


Here are a couple more Easter pictures. Some of us in the garden after Mass, while Alexander toiled over his lunch:

Skyping Lizzie in Kansas, after lunch. Notice the bottle of Weston's Vintage Cider:

Skyping is better than it was – less of a delay. The means, here, was that Microsoft tablet thing called Surface (I think) which I got for my husband, Christmas '12, and which he completely failed to master. It had other, serious limitations for our purposes, too. I passed it on to grandson Joe (standing behind his brother Thomas) and they are living happily ever after.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Not much knitting yesterday – my husband wanted computer help just when the waters parted and I was about to sit down with it. And it has also become the case that it seems to take a day's work to get halfway around. I am currently embarked on Round 57, third of the four easy rounds between motifs.

It's all rather like the Princess. There, one spends a lifetime knitting the edging – I didn't even manage to memorise the pattern until I'd done about 50 points. Then another several lifetimes doing the border – it's an enormous rectangle, so no circular knitting is involved. One problem the less.

Then the centre, and one feels the end is sort of in sight. One starts in the middle of the border with a few stitches. At the end of every row, one adds another stitch from left or right. One whizzes through the first two or three repeats of the centre pattern in this fashion and then suddenly realises that one has embarked on knitting an area roughly the size of a swimming pool. It's very much like that old puzzle about the chess board with one grain of rice on the first square, two on the second, four on the third, eight...

And the top will still have to be edged, if you ever get there.

It is only the major investment already involved that keeps one going.

The Unst Bridal Shawl isn't nearly as bad as that. If I keep moving steadily forward, I should still finish sometime in the summer. But I prefer -- as I keep saying -- to get the worst over first and knit inwards and enjoy the illusion that I am gradually knitting faster and faster.

Gripped as I am by this thing, I have been looking again at Liz Lovick's recent “The Magic of Shetland Lace Knitting”. I think I rather tended to wave it away as too simple when it first appeared. It's, in fact, good, solid stuff. In the section on designing square shawls she says that the width of the centre is about twice the width of the border. That is a proportion I had often (vaguely) wondered about.

Found on Zite this morning: Jessica Dance's knitted comfort food, “Low in Calories High in Wool”. This sort of thing has been done before, but never better. Brilliant.


Mrs. A. – edging-inwards is the way I learned to knit shawls, in Amedro's book. She seems sort of simple, now that we've got Sharon Miller, but, even so, you might want to have a look.

Cathairinmyknitting, if you are finding cashmere-and-silk “fiddly” for your Princess, I will abandon my brief flirtation with the idea at once. I'd love to hear how you're getting on. Mine took years, literally. I had a moth hole to mend before it was even finished, It is very good to know that Sharon Herself approves my plan for knitting the Queen Ring in one piece, inwards.

Thank you for the paragraph about the .png extension, Anonymous, even though it doesn't explain why yesterday's illustrations were so blurry. I, too, regret the absence of centaurs in any of the pictures. I fear they are almost extinct.


My cleaning woman has unexpectedly failed to turn up, so I must now move forward with an adjusted plan for the day. There is no avoiding a slight feeling of relief, when this happens.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

I've just been looking over Archie's application to be included on the electoral register, not a complicated document. We were in some doubt about whether boarding school constitutes residence, but apparently it's OK. And for the purposes of the Referendum, he's old enough. This is the scariest vote I've ever known. There will be no going back, like voting for Hitler.

I think we may have stumbled on a Great Truth (comments yesterday) – more specifically, Mr. Shandy did. Namely, the tendency of houses to resent the incursion of visitors. Alexander and Ketki were struck by lightening once when we were there for a few days. No wi-fi for a fortnight. And once, during a savage winter, when the Beijing Mileses were here with us, a lump of ice formed at the base of a down pipe so that waste water from the washing machine – which was otherwise working perfectly – backed up into the bathtub.


I am still indulging the fantasy that each round of the Unst Bridal Shawl is the same length as the preceeding one, but it's getting harder to maintain as the stitch count mounts. I've finished the third set of motifs, round 54, and now have four nice easy inter-motif rounds as my reward. The (theoretical) half-way point, round 68, could be said to be within hailing distance. Pic soon.

I spent some time with Sharon's pattern for the Queen Ring Shawl yesterday, and discovered that she includes there a chart for a framed centre as an alternative. I am pretty sure that no such thing has ever been published elsewhere (except, of course, in “Heirloom Knitting”). So that's now high on my wish-list.

The Queen Ring is a copy of an antique shawl in Sharon's own collection, and for that reason she has written the pattern the way the original was knitted, inwards, starting with the edging. The way I like to do it. She, like the original knitter, did the borders separately and spent laborious hours at the end sewing the whole thing together.

I would try to do it in one piece. First the edging, then pick up stitches for all four borders and knit inwards with mitred corners, finally knit the centre as an extension (so to speak) of one of the borders while at the same time attaching it to two others, left and right, by taking in a stitch at the end of every row. At the end, the top of the centre would have to be grafted to the bottom of the fourth border.

I don't see why it couldn't be done that way, given world enough and time.

But I'm going to have to master garter-stitch-in-the-round first. I couldn't think of doing the Queen Ring with a messy corner.

Sharon knit hers in a superfine yarn which is a blend of cashmere and silk. A tempting thought, but I am so utterly enamoured with J&S Shetland Supreme 1-ply Lace Weight that I am inclined to stick with it. I started the Princess in a silk yarn and got about halfway through the first repeat of the edging.


Here are some blurry pictures for you of Easter on Mount Pelion. (.png extension -- what's that?) Archie with his brothers Mungo and Fergus, in the top one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

We're safely back. We had a grand time.

If your heart isn't otherwise engaged, I'd be grateful if you'd root for Liverpool to win the league. They are well placed at the moment, with three matches to go. I'll explain later.

We had a whole weekend of amazing weather – Alexander and Ketki claimed they hadn't seen the sun since October. We enjoyed it al the more because of reports of rain in London. Since then, the normal gloomy damp has resumed service.

On Saturday Alexander had booked most of us in to have lunch (delicious!) at Loch Fyne Oyster. He and Ketki and Rachel stayed home to look after my husband. Afterwards the lunchers walked to a local brewery where some members of the party wanted to buy cases of beer to take home. Here some of us are on the way, on the bridge over the River What's-Its-Name where it flows into the very tip of Loch Fyne. My pace was slow; they were waiting for me to catch up.

And here are Hellie's boyfriend Matt and I, on the road along to the brewery. Crazy old woman:

Later that afternoon, the water back at the house started to fail, and by Easter morning, was completely gone. Alexander and Ketki share a private supply with half a dozen others in the vicinity. It was inconvenient, to say the least, with nine house guests in addition to the basic four members of the household. Ketki's Hindu calm was unaffected. Eventually the water was restored.

Alexander has given me three little chilli plants from the ones he has raised from seed. Two have names I recognise, the third is labelled X-FH and is, he says, “Chinese”. I think that means he has planted seeds from dried chillis purchased there. Exciting. We also came away with some duck eggs -- rather like the dreadful Mrs Norris in "Mansfield Park", "having fidgetted about, and obtained a few pheasant's eggs and a cream cheese from the housekeeper..."


I toiled away on the Unst Bridal Shawl, as addictive as a 1500-piece jigsaw, as I think I've said before. I am now nearly finished (not without a good sprinkling of mistakes) with that motif which is so rich in k3tog's, and I will be glad to see the back of it.  I tried every approach Google could find for me. I was seriously tempted to throw in the sponge and work them as p3tog, which is perfectly easy. Would it have mattered?

I've also handed over the mended Princess to the bride-to-be.

I am thinking about the Queen Ring Shawl, and also that framed one from Heirloom Knitting. Life is too short to be spent on anything except elaborate lace.

But now Jared has published a new edition of Wool People, vaguely Japanese-based and absolutely chock-a-block with delectable things.

What is one to do? Knit on, with confidence and hope.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Here we are – Good Friday. My husband has not counted his pills yet or packed the work he wants to take. He doesn't entirely grasp how slow he has become at everything, and how soon Rachel and Ed might be here.

The weather is chilly-bright and the forecast is good, for Scotland, anyway. I don't know when the party will break up – probably on Monday. I should be back here by the middle of next week.

I've reached round 45 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. It's a stinker – in fact, the current set of motifs is a stinker in general, and they are currently at their widest point. The next Significant Point will be Round 68, half-way if you overlook those steadily-increasing corners. It seems a long way off.

I wrote to Michael and Sharon at Heirloom Knitting about that framed shawl pattern, has it ever been published separately? I haven't heard from them yet. I'm sure the answer is no.

One more mildly interesting thing about it (it's knit centre-out, as I have said): when Sharon finished the borders, she decreased one stitch in six before starting the edging. That seems rather a lot to me, and demonstrates again, if demonstration were needed, that knitting is forgiving stuff, as the Master said.

Happy Weekend, everybody.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Health continues to improve, and the weekend on Loch Fyne is currently “on”. Rachel and Ed will pick us up on their way there from London. We have arranged to communicate by text tomorrow, as they battle their way northwards through the holiday traffic – very 21st century.

Yesterday I re-potted my chilli plants. Today we count pills and pack.

I think I am going to re-cast-off the entire upper edge of my sister's shawl. At first glance, I thought it was garter stitch, but I've had a look at the pattern and (a) it's moss stitch, much less fun; and (b) there is a lot of adroit short-rowing at the end, or rather long-rowing as stitches once left behind are gradually incorporated – only the last two rows involve the entire stitch-count. So I mustn't unravel mindlessly.

Nevertheless, it should prove relatively peaceful kitchen-table knitting. The Bridal Shawl is distinctly anti-social.

I had a look at Liz Lovick's book. Sure enough, she has a section called “designing with frames” but they aren't the sort of frames I was talking about yesterday. On careful re-reading, I think Sharon Miller's magnificent framed shawl could be reconstructed from “Heirloom Knitting”. I wonder why she never published it as a separate pattern? Feeling that no one would want it, since it was already in the book? I think she's wrong, if so.

What Lovick does say, is that island knitters almost invariably use k3togtbl for the double-decreases which are so plaguing me. I had a go yesterday – the current motifs have got a lot of them, and of course the surrounding trellis is composed of nothing else. I think perhaps k3togtbl does work a bit better in the trellis – it's easier and more secure than the centred decreases I've been doing, and easier to retrieve in the unhappy cases where such a decrease has to be unpicked.

In the motif, it doesn't work as well. It all depends on how the stitches to be decreased were formed in the preceding round. I've settled down with slip 1, k2tog, psso for those. Both alternatives produce angled results. I was astonished when I first learned from “Heirloom Knitting” that the angle of a decrease doesn't matter in fine lace knitting. Lovick agrees.

Miller's instructions for the framed shawl (such as they are), are worked centre-outwards. Lovick seems to like to do it that way, too. Not me, if only to avoid that long cast-on along one edge of the centre. I was feeling a bit frustrated about the resulting problem of turning the border pattern on its head, if I insist on knitting edging-inwards. Myrna Stahman says she includes lessons on how to do it, in her lace tutorials.

But then it occurred to me, I know how to do it. I've done it.

I've used Bridget Rorem's lace alphabet several times, and at least once, I had to reverse the letters, and did so successfully. In 2009 (I discover, by googling my own blog) I knit a First Holy Communion veil for James' and Cathy's daughters, incorporating the initials of both girls. It was knit from the top down so the letters had to be reversed. Here are finished pictures of it:

And here is an account of my struggles with the initials. I remember that day well, when I thought I was knitting the mirror-image of the effect I wanted.

Many border patterns wouldn't suffer much – including the one I'm knitting at the moment – if they were simply knit in the other direction. Not by turning the chart upside down, which might present problems, but by fitting the pattern as given (centre-out) into the greater abundance of initial stitches available when knitting edging-in. If you centre the pattern with care, it shouldn't be difficult.

I was rather struck, reading those old blog entries, with how much earlier I used to get up, five years ago.

The current (or about-to-be-current) Economist has a 14-page pullout by James, I am told, although he has unfortunately been pushed off the front cover by the Ukraine.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My husband was markedly better yesterday – hope is revived, for our Easter weekend.

I got the Princess mended. Clumsily done, I fear, but no big deal. The holes (three) were small and the results no worse than a patch where the knitting had gone bad – they are mercifully rare, in the Princess. I was younger then. The results are pretty well unspottable, in that sea of knitting, even after the rider dismounts.

My sister gave me – nearly a year ago! – a shawl of hers to mend. It's Amedro's Cobweb Evening Wrap in a beautiful blue. After I finished and packaged the Princess, I got it out with its original yarn, and may tackle it tomorrow. One of the faults there is a break in the long cast-off row. That's a bit tricky.

And I knit obsessively on, on the Unst Bridal Shawl. I have now reached round 40. It occurred to me that if (as is the case) I have about 100 more rounds to do, I will add another four hundred stitches before the job is done. And I already have plenty of stitches.

I got “Heirloom Knitting” out again yesterday, and was again struck with the idea of a Framed Shawl – essentially the good old edging-border-centre-square arrangement, but with a frame containing a small pattern around the centre square. Sharon knit one, a stunner, which is shewn on page 215. She also illustrates an antique one from the Lerwick museum on the following page. I'm pretty sure that neither she nor – it almost goes without saying – anyone else, has ever published a pattern. Me, I'm a Blind Follower if ever there was one.

The book contains enough information, and partial charts, that Sharon's design could be re-created by a determined knitter.

Googling is no help, especially since “frame” can refer to the structure on which a shawl is dressed and to a “hand frame” on which semi-machine knitting is done. One entry suggested that there might be something in Elizabeth Lovick's new book. I'll look.


Kate Davies has recently returned from Iceland, as we all know. Her recent blog entries are full of beautiful photography and sensitive writing, as always. The one for April 10 mentions a “ a rift valley separating the Continental plates of Europe and America”. That sounds remarkably like Unst. She says that the plates are pulling apart at the rate of an inch a year. On Unst, they seemed to lie peacefully side by side, laced together with finger lakes.

My own blog entry for 30/9/13 has a picture. We must be talking about the same continental plates. Unst is the northernmost land in the British isles. Iceland is much further north, and a bit to the east. There's no land in between.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My post-Strathardle cold is virtually gone, but my husband is suffering, to an extent that puts our Easter weekend in some doubt. He was coughing and sneezing all day yesterday, but is not feverish (so I doubt if a dr could help) and seemed to sleep soundly enough, without coughing. So we shall see. Three days offer time to improve.

I am trying to get some pictures of daffodils for you, and a progress pic of the Unst Bridal Shawl. That involves trotting back and forth to my old, slow desktop computer, and it is taking a long time. The importation of photographs to the new laptop is a problem I have yet to solve.

I've reached round 37, of the borders of the shawl. It seemed a good point to record progress – only 99 rounds to go. Since I'm knitting centre-out, there is no edge except the one on the needle and photography is even more difficult than usual. And this one has come out fuzzy, to boot. But you sort of get the idea.

The messy corner is settling down. The pivot stitch isn't making a nice chain, like the centre stitches at the other three corners. It sort of zigzags. But it's consistent, and beginning to look reasonably tidy. I have stopped doing the right-side-row YO's on either side of the pivot stitch, and instead pick up the bar between stitches at that point on the wrong-side rows. I think the result will be slightly less sloppy-looking.

I do so share your enthusiasm, Marciepooh, for rows that get progressively shorter. I have deprived myself of that pleasure this time, by knitting centre-out, and I don't think I'll do it again.

The job that can no longer be postponed is the mending of two moth holes (I hope it's only two) in the Princess shawl. The bride-to-be will be at Loch Fyne at Easter. This is my chance to hand it over. Margaret Stove herself showed me how to pin out a piece of defective lace on a pillow. I can't remember what she said to do next. She has a certain amount on the subject in the book we mentioned yesterday, but nothing specific.

I trust common sense will help. Secure any live stitches which may be wandering about, reconstruct as appropriate.

Thanks for the pointer to Franklin's new blog entry, FiberQat. I must sign up for his doctor. I don't check Feedly as often as I ought, and have rather fallen behind on blog-reading. I still miss the days when Google did the job of keeping me in touch.

Here are some daffodils from Strathardle, and the "curry dumplings" at the back door, most welcome of weeds. Primula denticulata, in fact.

Monday, April 14, 2014

You're right, Jean – Margaret Stove didn't knit Prince George's shawl. It was her design, but only in the sense that it is included in her 2010 book “Wrapped in Lace”. It says on her website that “through physical limitations [she] is no longer able to complete large project commissions”. (She's 74.)

It's a lovely shawl – but one I'm sure I'll never knit. You begin by making 64 points, either separately or connected, then you line them all up and knit the centre inwards, back and forth with a herringbone stitch seam at the end. The pattern consists of ferns, the emblem of New Zealand and so rather appropriate for a royal gift.

Amedro designed a shawl for one of Prince Andrew's daughters, I seem to remember. I don't know whether it was commissioned. I don't think Sharon Miller has ever knit for a royal baby.

I didn't get much done yesterday. We watched “No Country for Old Men”. It's not conducive to lace knitting. You need to see every frame.

I've embarked on round 34, at least. It's the final round for the second row of motifs, followed by three blissfully simple rounds before the next set of motifs is introduced.

I half-heard someone talking on the radio about Arthur Miller's plays the other evening – “every line has its place”. That's the joy of this sort of knitting. Each of the 136 rounds in the borders is different, each fits in its place.

Our niece was wearing her red Mourning Shawl in Strathardle last week. I wish now I had snatched it from her shoulders and had a critical look at it. I didn't even get a picture of her wearing it. It was “Granny Cheyne's Shetland Shawl” from Margaret Stove's book just mentioned. That was the one where I used Fleegle's system – two balls of yarn, one for each direction – to create garter stitch in the round.

I think when the current shawl is finished, there is going to be no escape from making a serious circular swatch to explore all the ways of achieving garter stitch. The pivot stitch seems to be working reasonably well, but I don't think it's perfect.

The spring edition of the Twist Collective is out. There are some wonderful things, needless to say, including some very tempting lace. Nothing by Franklin, though.

Tamar, you may be sure I will keep you posted about my further experiments with Good King Henry. I got involved with it in the first place because, like you, I love spinach and was tempted by the idea of a perennial source of it.  

I'm sorry there are no daffodils -- tomorrow, I hope.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I'm much better, and my husband somewhat so, but we're not going to attempt Mass this morning.

I'd better start with knitting as there's not going to be much of it here. I have just heard the radio say that Prince William was presented with a shawl yesterday “knitted by a woman in New Zealand”. That's got to be Margaret Stove, who of course designed and knitted one for him when he came to New Zealand aged nine months. I'll have to do some serious googling if the newspapers don't oblige.

Well, we had a grand week in Strathardle, in fine weather with many daffodils. My husband had a low blood sugar crisis on Tuesday as a result of going down the commonty to see our specimen trees, and in particular the Scots pine planted for his sister who died in 2011. It's doing splendidly, and he had never seen it.

It was getting back to the house that proved difficult. We managed that, just, but by then my husband was semi-conscious. We called in the Scottish Ambulance Service, who were brilliant.

I don't think there can be any question, in future, that we need someone else to be there with us. I couldn't have managed that alone. He'd still be down the commonty. This time the "someone else" was our niece, the daughter of the sister for whom the Scots pine was planted. She was brilliant throughout, and it was a good week.

We've engaged a man to look after the garden. Much of my dear vegetable plot has perished of neglect or marauders. He is going to put in a couple of rows of potatoes. Rhubarb is still there, and garlic both cultivated and wild, Welsh onions much eaten by deer but still hanging in there, Babington leeks I think – and Good King Henry.

Some may remember my history with this vegetable. I first heard of it in Dr Hessayon's “Be Your Own Vegetable and Herb Expert”, but the story is the same everywhere – a thoroughly satisfactory spinach substitute, grown for centuries in cottage gardens. Indeed, it has every virtue except one. It's perennial; very hardy; unliked by sheep, deer, and rabbits; doesn't creep underground like mint or seed itself all over the place like everybody else. (It's deep-rooted: stock can be increased by carefully digging up an established plant in the spring and cutting it into two or three with a sharp knife.)

The only trouble is, it tastes terrible.

After tenderly weeding my own little stock, I googled it yet again – and this time, I hit pay dirt: an article in the Guardian by a woman who has actually tasted the stuff and found it bitter. She says that the secret is to soak the leaves in salt water for half an hour before cooking-as-spinach. She also recommends it (presumably unsoaked?) in a salsa verde. I keenly look forward to trying both ideas.

And then it occurred to me, rather belatedly, that this is a classic instance of a common happening: someone authoritative asserts something, everybody else copies without question. The Royal Horticultural Society says it, so it must be true. (I'm guessing – I have no idea about the sequence of publication.) Cue Hessayon, Wikipedia, “Perennial Vegetables”.

As for knitting, I did little, although I have at least established the ribbing for the second sock. Back here, I am engaged on round 33 (of 136) of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl and will have more to say about that tomorrow, along with some pictures of daffodils, perhaps.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Brief touching of base...

We had a good week in Strathardle (thanks to our niece) and are safely home. I have not-much-but-something to tell you, little about knitting but movement on the Good King Henry front. Both of us subsided yesterday evening -- I'm worse, but he's older, so it evens out. It;s wonderful how, so often, the human frame can persevere in the task that needs to be done before bending before nature and infirmity.

I hope to reappear tomorrow, bright as a button.

And meanwhile, I am tremendously excited by your message, SarahSeattle, suggesting that the Pivot Stitch may be the answer to all our problems.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

So, Strathardle tomorrow. I won't try to blog. I spent much of yesterday in such a state of anxiety that I almost hoped our niece would ring up to say that she couldn't come after all. But when she actually got in touch, in the evening, much refreshed herself after a good walk on her first day of Easter holiday, she proved to be infectiously cheerful and energetic. All will be well. Maybe.

Today is the Paris Marathon, with Hellie running. Her boyfriend Matt is there, of course, and her parents Rachel and Ed, and her brother Joe and his girlfriend Becca, and six best friends, and Matt's parents and brother. Matt has organised everybody into teams to be posted at different points on the route. (When you start thinking about the missing brothers and sisters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins, not to mention the rest of the best friends, you wonder indeed whether Hellie and Matt will ever be able to afford to get married.)

Linda (comment yesterday), it was wonderful to hear that you were in Lawrence yesterday, with your grandson, thinking of his 21st and looking out for Lizzie, celebrating hers. What a small world we inhabit, especially since it has been digitally enhanced!


This shawl thing has become compulsive indeed. I'm currently well along with round 30 – the last one on the first of the three “long charts”. That doesn't mean I'm a third of the way through the pattern, by any means. It will be another 15 rounds before I reach that point. The other two charts are denser, especially the final one. I may have to see whether my machine will copy it in magnified form. But it certainly feels like progress to have polished off the first one.

And none of these calculations make allowance for the fact that the work is growing remorselessly at the rate of four stitches per round.

All went well yesterday. I am beginning to entertain the grandiose idea that we may have stumbled on a new way of doing garter stitch in the round – namely the use of a pivot stitch which is worked (or at least slipped) at both ends of every round. Then you just turn around and whizz off in the opposite direction, without further ceremony. Perhaps for very fine lace only. But it's early days yet.

I've been thinking, needless to say, about what knitting to take along tomorrow. Sadly, I must leave the shawl behind. It's not very sociable knitting, and hands get dirty with fire-lighting and gardening in a way that's somewhat incompatible with lace knitting. (Again, I wonder about Unst. No electricity and no hot water or softening lotions for hand-washing – how did they DO it?)

The problem with taking Rams and Yowes is identifying the yarns. I should have labelled the skeins somehow, before I took the ball bands off. But that's not the end of the difficulty – it is not entirely easy to match up the coloured squares on the chart to the yarn-identification list. I'll have to face up to all that next week, in preparation for Loch Fyne and Easter. In the meantime, there's nothing for it but the Pakokku socks, long neglected.

So, see you next weekend, insh'Allah. I'll take some pictures. Maybe the snowdrops will still be out. Maybe I'll have pictures of the Paris Marathon.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Today is Lizzie's 21st birthday, way out there in Kansas. Happy birthday, Lizzie!


It's a separate country, however the referendum goes.

There are two big news stories here this morning. I have been dozing and listening to the Today programme, as every morning – I don't think either item was even mentioned.

One was the death yesterday afternoon of Margo MacDonald, a much-loved member of the Scottish parliament. A nationalist in sentiment, but too cheerful and honest a woman to get along well in any party. Latterly, she sat as an independent, a party of one. The electorate loved and appreciated her, if the politicians didn't – it isn't easy to get elected as an independent. She had Parkinson's and had recently been agitating in favour of assisted suicide.

The other was the announcement by the Pope of an enquiry into the behaviour of Cardinal O'Brien. This is pretty well unprecedented. He is sending a brisk Maltese archbishop to deal with things. O'Brien – you will remember, because I have often written of him – was forced to resign just before the conclave last year when three serving priests and an ex-seminarian accused him of improper behaviour towards them 30 years ago.

Since then, the Cardinal has been living very quietly, apparently in a monastery in the north of England. He wants to come home to Scotland and help out in the parish of Dunbar. The priest there is a friend, and the parish has voted overwhelmingly to welcome him. But he was apparently ordered to stay away, outwith the country. His friend Margo MacDonald remarked, “He has lost everything. Isn't that enough?”

The four accusers remain anonymous – I'm not even absolutely sure the church authorities know who they are. They communicate with the world through a journalist. And the crimes of which they accuse the Cardinal remain unspecified. He said when he resigned the archbishopric of St Andrews and Edinburgh that his conduct had fallen below the standard expected of him. An unwelcome hand on the knee? Homosexual rape?

The journalist appeared on television last night to say that this is too sudden (the Maltese archbishop will be here next week) and the accusers need more time to prepare and don't want to declare themselves to their superiors and this is no way to run an enquiry (so much for the Pope). The BBC said at one point yesterday that it would be a public enquiry – that's hard to believe, but I very much hope we will at last, at least, learn the identities of the accusers and the nature of the crimes. I am sure that half the world believes the Cardinal was systematically abusing altar boys, but there has never been the slightest suggestion of paedophilia, in fact.


All continues well with the Bridal Shawl, except for that troublesome corner. I'm nearly finished with round 27 (of 136). I have reduced the two pivot stitches back down to one, and I'm not wrapping it. Henceforth I will slip it at the beginning of each round, and knit it at the end. All four corners puff outward slightly, presumably because of having frequent YO's on either side of the centre stitch. I assume they will all lie flat once released from the needle and blocked.

So it's hard to say whether the messy fourth corner is worse in that respect because of the previous extra knitting of the pivot stitch or stitches. Or not.

On we go.

Friday, April 04, 2014


Thank you for the link to the Icelandic knitting man, Theresa. Isn't he wonderful?

All went well with the shawl yesterday. I've switched from a 60cm to an 80cm needle, to accommodate all those stitches I keep adding.

The question of what actually happens at the pivot is one to enliven the wakeful hours of the night. Every round begins with knitting those two stitches, and every round ends with them. Does that mean that they get knit more often than other stitches, or not? I keep changing my mind, on that one.

Allison posted a comment yesterday saying that I have to wrap when I turn, or the whole thing will fall apart. What happened to her comment? I've got it as an email, with the others, but it doesn't appear on the blog nor is there any sign of Allison's having deleted it. But I think that the fact that the pivotal stitches are at both ends – like those naughty little boys who used to run from one end to the other at a formal school picture-taking session, and appear twice in the photograph – means that wrapping may not be necessary. Knitting those two stitches first from one direction, then from the other, locks them in. I think.

It's too soon to say for sure. I think, at least, that the last few rounds have beeb tidier at that corner. Progress was slow yesterday, not due to any one of my frequent crises but just because there was lots of lace knitting. The motifs involve action on both sides of the work – and then there are a few peaceful rows with only the lattice frame, on the right side, and nothing but plain garter stitch on the wrong side, as a reward.

And the current motifs are at their widest point at the moment. I've reached round 24.

The puzzle about whether wrapping is necessary, and whether the pivot stitches are knit more frequently than the others, both are connected with the fact that circular knitting forms a spiral. The rounds aren't quite stacked on top of each other like rows in back-and-forth knitting. In this case, not a spiral but more of a zig zag, with each round folded back on the last.

It makes my head hurt to think about it. But it's the sort of thing that EZ revelled in. And Cully.

I'm glad you're enjoying your shawl, Jane. It's addictive, isn't it? [And I'm glad you had hot water when you needed to clean the car!]

We're now getting awfully close to the moment of departure for Strathardle, on Monday. I'm scared – am I strong enough? Is my husband too frail? – but it's got to be faced up to. Our niece is an infant teacher, the school holidays are about to begin, she's willing to come up with us. It's an opportunity which must be snatched.

And I've got Easter and Loch Fyne to look forward to, beyond.


I'm glad it's still there. The instinct, back in '45, must have been to bulldoze it. Sometimes I think we have too much of Holocaust Memorials and Holocaust Days. It can become like looking at the sun, producing blindness. I know people – and I think they are more dangerous than Holocaust-deniers – who think the Final Solution was just another atrocity in mankind's appalling history, to be compared with this or with that.

I'm glad Archie saw it. His history teacher sounds like a good man. Archie was also shown the building in Berlin where they met to plan the Final Solution and arrange the details, he said. I had never heard of it.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

New follower, welcome!

I can't tell you much about World War II. Archie was tired. His days had been full of walking, and nobody gets much sleep on a school trip. And he was worried about getting up at 4 a.m. for today's travel. Dresden was boring, Berlin good, Auschwitz still tells its story. There is a room full of shoes, with a walkway down the middle. “It's as long as from here to that traffic light; they're as high as that tree.”

He seems to have departed, and should be airborne by now. I heard the taxi's double ring on the telephone at 4:30. It's a direct flight.


I've just watched the most engaging video on my iPad called “How To Knit Like an Icelandic Man”. He's not in fact knitting, he's doing Tunisian crochet, and that's interesting too. I'd provide a link if I could. It's on something called Vimeo, new to me and apparently incompatible with my computer. The link came from a website called I can get there, but I can't find her link to the Icelandic man. He's well worth pursuing if you're more adroit in these matters than I am. Maybe it goes better on an iPad.

Things went well with the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday. I'm now doing round 23. There are only 30 rounds on the first of the three “long charts” so I will soon move on to the next one. That's progress. And I have joined in the fourth ball of yarn. Sharon said I'd need nine 25-gram balls, and I've got them, but I'll be surprised if I finish the 6th.

On the other hand, I did some modest counting and multiplication and realised that I've already added more than 100 stitches with all those YO's, and there's a long way to go.

I had a lot of trouble in the early rounds of the border, with the stitch count being slightly out in the garter stitch bits, especially when approaching a corner. I don't know what I was doing wrong. It didn't happen consistently enough to allow me to draw conclusions. It was easy enough to add or subtract stitches unobtrusively in the right places, but it was a bit worrying.

But that seems to have subsided.

As for the big problem, that messy corner where I turn around, I think we're on the right track. I added an extra stitch to pivot on. Cam's idea is to knit the first and wrap the second, every time. But I began to wonder, as I knit my way around to that point again – why wrap? If I knit those two stitches, first from one direction and then from the other, maybe that's all I need do. Wrapping prevents holes in short rows, I understand. In this case, where would the holes appear? Those two stitches form a centre line up the mitred corner, with a ladder of YO's on either side of them.

I think the YO's are going to be tidier, now that I'm doing it this way. That's the big question.

I appreciate all your concerns for my problems. FiberQat, I wonder if the line of wrapped stitches is going to be such a problem in cobweb yarn? (Especially if, see above, I abandon the practice altogether.) I think the shawl in which it was conspicuous, was knit in lace-weight yarn, coloured at that.

I'd better get on with the day.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014


Archie is coming today. It is always good to see him. He has been on a brief tour, with a school party, of sites connected with WW II – Normandy beaches, Berlin, Auschwitz. I'll go pick him up at school at midday and look forward to being the first to hear about it as we drive back for lunch. Then, somewhere in what might be called the middle of the night, he'll get up and get a taxi to the airport (I don't mind early, but this one is ridiculous) to go to Athens for the Easter holiday.

I had occasion yesterday to boot up my husband's old DOS-based computer in search of a file which had somehow got left behind. (I found it.) Do you remember how fast computers were in the old days? It was almost like turning on a light.


Thank you for your help with my struggles.

I've just been watching the YouTube video of the German short-row which you recommend, Judy. It's most impressive. I'll Evernote it for future use. But it won't help here. My rounds are all full-length – it's just that at the end of each one of them, I turn around and go haring off in the other direction. The wrap holds the whole thing together in a circle.

Cam, I was very interested in the very lucid explanation you took the trouble to write out for me (comment yesterday). At first I thought, this won't do, because it involves TWO stitches, with one or the other being wrapped and turned-on in alternate rounds. I've only got one, the centre stitch of the fourth corner, with a lattice ladder on either side of it formed by YO's on alternate rounds. Those YO's are at the heart of my difficulty.

I think what I'm going to try today, when I get back there, is to add another stitch (so that there are a pair of them up the centre of the fourth-corner mitre) and do it Cam's way.

After all that night-time cogitation mentioned yesterday I decided to do each turn by knitting the stitch, when I first arrive on the scene, then turning, then slipping it back and wrapping, then slipping it back again and knitting forward. Observing myself doing this, I discovered that the YO tends to get slack during any subsequent struggles with wrapping and turning. I think that accounts for a great deal of the untidiness in that corner. So I decided that, for that corner only, I will always do the YO after wrapping and turning. With Cam's system, the wrapped stitch will always be one stitch away from the YO (I think) which should work even better.

We'll see.

I flipped through Knit One, Knit All before putting it back on the shelf, but found no help there. It's odd – isn't it odd? – that EZ never seems to have addressed this problem. She was ideally qualified – she loved garter stitch, she loved knitting in the round, she wasn't at all keen on purling, she brought an engineer's intelligence to the problems of knitting, she wasn't afraid to “unvent” a method never used before. There are all manner of ingenious construction methods in that book, as elsewhere in her work, but no garter stitch in the round.

Meanwhile I've reached round 19 of 136. It's a start. The border pattern consists of six rows of lozenge-shaped motifs, each row different, all framed by an all-over lattice formed by k3tog's. I've finished the first row of motifs, started the second – they're bigger, this time, but mercifully light on k3tog – and the lattice has just closed over the head of the first row of motifs.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The knitting lept forward yesterday, but that fourth corner is still untidy. I had a restless night during which I devoted the necessarily wakeful moments to thinking about garter stitch in the round, wrap-and-turn. Without much success. And googling doesn't help.

I've done it before. Why can't I do it again?  My only problem then was a strong line, formed by the wraps, down one of the mitred corners.

One of the places I went on Google said to wrap the stitch every round. But wouldn't that mean that it never gets knit? If I finish a round, wrap the next stitch, turn, that wrapped stitch may be said to be the first stitch of the next round. So when I get back there again, I...what? Knit it, turn, knit it again? That doesn't seem right. Turn just before it, slip it back to the left-hand needle, knit it as the first stitch of the next round? Perhaps.

I really ought to take a few days off and try this on a circular swatch of some sort. It takes so long to circumnavigate the shawl that it is hard to accumulate experience.

Otherwise, however, all goes reasonably well.

I had occasion to write a brief note yesterday, actually using a piece of paper. I was taken aback to find how unsteady my right hand seemed. Could this have something to do with the multiple problems I seem to be having with the Unst Bridal Shawl? I don't feel unsteady when I'm knitting.

Comments (non-knit)

Peggy, the picture went to Maastricht but wasn't offered for sale there. Don't know why. I don't know why she has come to Edinburgh, either -- she will soon go back to London and be put up for sale in the dealer's Bond Street branch. The Edinburgh leg of her travels may have been at least in part in order to show her to my husband. If a captious purchaser should say, But there's no record of the artist ever having painted a picture of this sort, the dealer can now say, Miles likes it. And he has also provided them with evidence that the artist did paint it.

I don't think this would be necessary. It's a stunning thing, surely self-authenticating.

Cat, I'm afraid I still think Alexander McCall Smith should have found time to speak to the Drummond Civic Society. Your happy meeting with him was at a book-signing. That's a thing authors have to do. It's business. We were asking a favour, to turn out on a November evening and speak to a couple of dozen elderly folk. His presence would have boosted attendance, but probably not by all that much. Apathy is a powerful force in Drummond Place.  We are his characters, and I feel he owed it to us.

Magnus Linklater spoke to us, when he first moved to Drummond Place. He hasn't got fully as grand a name as A McC S, but still, he's a name.