Sunday, August 31, 2014

You're right, Mary Lou, that something will have to be done about this computer. Defenistration would be too good for it. I don't know why I'm not using Norton Antivirus. I'll see if I can switch.

We had a good walk. It was a tough one. One walks downstream along the Rver Esk through the Roslin Glen, then back along farm tracks and finally tarmac'd roads to the village of Roslin itself. The distance wasn't all that far, but the going proved very hard for the first half. It is a beautiful glen, steeply wooded. The path went up and it went down and it went up again. There were seriously muddy patches where slips and falls threatened. There were fallen trees across the path. There were bits I did on my hands and knees. At the moments when we were tempted to turn back, we could only reflect, with Macbeth, that returning were as tedious as go o'er.

It was disheartening to reflect, too, that when we finally emerged from the glen, the walk would be only half over – we would be at the furthest point from the car. But in fact the second part was so easy that we floated back. We then had soup and sandwiches at a thoroughly pleasant and welcoming hotel in the village of Roslin itself. (Is it cheating to stop for nourishment before one has finished the Walk as specified in the book?) And then cantered the last half-mile or so, past the famous chapel.

It's looking very prosperous these days, with multiple car parks and a visitor centre.

I took only one picture, of the moment when we spotted Hawthornden Castle on the other side of the river – and knew where we were! The link is to a Wikipedia entry which, alas, doesn't include a picture. I'll organise some pictures for you soon -- you haven't seen the ones from Games Day yet.

It was a good day.


Not much. I did 1 ½ circuits of the Rams and Yowes border, and am just at the point where it's time to join in the yarn for the eighth stripe – of nine!

I probably won't be here tomorrow, because Mungo will, with his father, on their way to Glenalmond School.  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I'm having a terrible time with this computer this morning – a constant stream of pop-ups from McAfee saying that a potentially unwanted program has been blocked. I have to keep stopping to click on Yes, Do Block It. Pop-up ads everywhere. "Java" wanting me to download a new version. Chaos.

There's not much time anyway, as I am about to go on a walk with our niece. (3 1/2 miles -- am I strong enough?) We're going to Roslin Glen, the site of the famous chapel. Indeed, I think the much-misused word “infamous” might be appropriate here, ever since Dan Brown catapulted that architectural curiosity into world fame. We'll view it from the outside this time.

I think I forgot to tell you that Archie says that the dog that bit his mother is fine – i.e., not rabid. Tomorrow his father David and brother Mungo will be here and I'll hear more details.


I got around Rams and Yowes a full three times yesterday, thanks to half an hour in the dentist's waiting room. I doubt if I'll do as well today but at least should finish the seventh stripe, of nine. I think this border must resemble the which-square-is-bigger? puzzles one sees from time to time. That is, looking at pictures of the finished article, the border seems relatively trivial compared to the knitting which must have gone into the centre. But – even setting aside the fact that it is knit double – that doesn't seem to be true. I might even do the arithmetic in an idle moment – how many actual stitches?

Helen (comment yesterday), I like the idea of grey-on-grey stripes for Archie. Indeed, I wonder why I didn't think of it. I think this sweater may actually happen.

Friday, August 29, 2014

I had a grand time delivering Archie to school yesterday. I do like that place (Merchiston Castle). The sun was shining and there was a sense of friendly familiarity all around, and at the same time a sense of authority on the one side and of respect for it, on Archie's. The VIth form building is a modern one whose existence I had never previously suspected. It could almost serve as a Premier Inn, with private rooms and en suite facilities for all. Maybe they do conferences in the summer.


I am making progress with the Rams and Yowes border, but rather glumly. The circumference seems huge. There are nine stripes, each of four rounds. I counted up the other evening and easily discovered that I have 13 more stripes to do, four more going outwards, then a fold round and all nine again, going back inwards. At my present rate of about two rounds per evening – that is, two evenings per stripe – it will take me 26 days to finish the border. That's nearly a month.

Then those many, many stitches have to be sewn down on the inside. Then a bit of tidying and loose-end securing. Then blocking. Then a final applied i-cord around the periphery. That could be omitted if I'm desperate, but it makes a very nice finish. Add it all up and we're getting perilously near the baby's first birthday on October 30.

(Kate D. says to do the i-cord by picking up 924 stitches around the blanket and then doing an i-cord bind off. No thanks. I've done applied i-cord before – it's not as tedious as it sounds – and I know it's easier than that. I can't remember exactly how it's done, but I know where to look to find out.)

So from now on:

a) I will try hard to do more than two rounds every evening, I achieved it yesterday.

b) I will not even think about the Unst Bridal Shawl. My husband has another dental appt today, because his new falsies are proving very uncomfortable. I will grit my teeth and take Rams and Yowes along.

c) But if I should suddenly be diagnosed with a life-threatening illness, I will throw those sheep aside and finish the shawl.

I had a good time looking at patterns with Archie. We have tentatively chosen a simple one with a tab opening at the neck, from the book called Sweaters Men Want. I had a few hours of thinking seriously about the Swedish one in Pagoldh's book – Archie didn't like the neck, but that could be changed. But then I decided that what I don't want right now is another Major Project. I have finished only one thing in 2014 – the Milano-striped Relax, for Helen. I want action.

I could always stripe the pattern we have chosen, perhaps dark green on grey. Two rows green and then four grey?

Tamar, thank you for your archive work on the Grandson Sweater. A little googling produced abundant sources for Norwegian yarn in a most tempting range of qualities and colours.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Nothing today. Archie is here and wants us to leave for school early, which suits me well. We made some progress with pattern-choosing for him yesterday. And it can be any colour, so long as it"s grey.

We"ll get caught up tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The radio says that there is a letter in the Scotsman today, signed by more than 100 Scottish businesses large and small, recommending a No vote. I will be interested to see whether Jamieson & Smith is there. I think Shetland doesn't regard itself as particularly “Scotland” anyway and would much prefer that its vote could be kept separate – that is, that Shetland couldn't be forced to leave the United Kingdom unless Shetland votes to leave.

The young man who sells me my milk and newspapers every morning is Pakistani. His English isn't terribly good and I don't suppose he has a vote. He said the other day, “All over the world there are separate countries. Here there is the United Kingdom. This is better.” I nearly burst into tears.

(Mr Hussain who owns the shop is British, and will vote No. His 16-year-old son, however, is leaning in the other direction.)


Two more bumps were added to the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday. I'm now very near the second corner. That's not half-way, though, because I started somewhere along the first side so that the final join won't be conspicuous.

And I started the fifth stripe (of nine) on the outward section of the border of Rams & Yowes. Meadow Yarns has come home from its holiday and emails to say that my needles have been dispatched. So, maybe today.

And I did some research on Archie's behalf. I was much taken with a pattern called Streak in Britt-Marie Christoffersson's “Swedish Sweaters”. I love that book, although I have never knit from it. Brilliant photography, apart from anything else. On reflection, I don't think the pattern will do as it stands. It's  garter stitch in worsted weight yarn. That's going to be awfully heavy. What caught my eye was simple and cheerful two-colour striping.

I could knit an EPS in DK with stripes. I like stripes.

And over in Susanne Pagoldh's “Nordic Knitting” – the source of the Grandson Sweater – I like the Spjall (Gusset) Sweater on p. 60, a small all-over pattern shown in two colours rather close to each other. When I knit the Grandson for Joe I ordered the yarn from somewhere Scandinavian. What yarn? And who did I order it from? I might be able to find out from blog archives. I knit a circular swatch, I remember, and took measurements from a sweater he already had.

I'll look at Starmore's Sweaters for Men before Archie gets here this afternoon.  

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

We watched the Great Debate last night. I set myself to get all the way through without commenting or responding to my husband's outrageous remarks, and I succeeded.

It's all pretty scary. It's not something we can undo in four years time. This is forever. We saw an old friend at the Games, a distinguished advocate, now retired. He's a Yes. I would like to spend an hour with him, talking about the things that worry me, currency and university pensions among them. I know other Yes's but none of them (including my husband) much given to thinking about such thungs.

Generally speaking, the Range-Rover-Country-Casuals crowd are No's and seeing them out in force at the Games with their perfect picnics was enough to drive anybody into Alec Salmond's arms.

If Scotland votes Yes, England will never have a Labour government again (they don't seem to have realised this yet) nor Scotland a conservative one. I fear talent will leave, as Ireland has lost the Protestant Ascendency. Good riddance, you may think, but with it have gone Yeats and Shaw and Joyce and William Trevor.

Cathy's new book is out, “Splintered Light”, another young-adult title like her last one, Carnaby. I'll tell you about it when I've read it. She's good. She is full of gloom, however, about the business of writing.


Again, not much. Meadow Yarns have been on holiday so I'm still using a 150cm needle on the border of Rams and Yowes. I should get the new needles this week, maybe even tomorrow – I've ordered both 100 and 120 cms. The corners are sort of reluctant to be pushed along. I think it will go better on a shorter needle. I am about to finish the fourth of the nine stripes on the outward-going side.

Sue sent me this interesting link to a YouTube video of garter-stitch-in-the-round done by wrapping and turning. The turn-line is obvious but very neat. For now, I'll carry on purling alternate rounds, but once I have extricated myself from these eternal sheep I'm going to do some serious swatching of both that system and Fleegle's brilliant one.

Archie will be here tomrrow. I must assemble a little portfolio of gents' sweaters for him to contemplate. Rachel's son Joe appeared at the Games in his Grandson Sweater, surely a candidate for the title of the most successful sweater I've ever knit. I will consider something Scandinavian for Archie.

My husband has another dentist's appt today – another bump should be added to the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Here we are, safely back. We had a good time. My husband and I were bundled out yesterday so that Rachel and Cathy could close the house. They will leave this morning.  I was glad to be relieved of the house-closing, needless to say.

We had a good time at the Games. They now have their own very slick-looking website so you can get the general idea. My husband was persuaded, after all, to go, and is glad he did. I suspect that means he must be pressed harder to go to the wedding on November 1.

The experience was – how to put it? – pleasantly diminished, elegaic. Nobody ran a race, no knitting or vegetables or children's craft had been entered in the Home Industries Tent, nobody entered for the Pillow Fight or Musical Cars. We were a large party and mostly stood about talking to each other. Our niece came – the one I go walking with – and her daughter, and her sister F. from Glasgow who has been having cancer, with her family. Alexander and Ketki and their boys turned up unannounced. They didn't come back to the house with us, however, so there is no group picture, Alexander being the Official Photographer.

I'll have a few pics for you soon, the baronet leading the pipe band over the bridge to the Bannerfield, for instance. I love that bit.

F.'s treatment is finished, except for estrogen-suppressing pills which she has to go on taking. Her hair is growing back. Her face is fuzzy – a side-effect I didn't know about. She seems cheerful and energetic. She and her family have lost most of a year to suffering and anxiety – and all the suffering has been caused by the treatment, none by the disease. Long may it remain so, but it's bizarre.

Meanwhile, back on Mt Pelion, Mungo got A*'s for every single one of his GCSE's. Helen doesn't think Archie will worry about comparisons. I hope not. They get on well together. I'll see them soon – Archie will be here mid-week and I'll take him to school for the new term on Thursday. Then Mungo and his father David will arrive at the weekend, on their way to Mungo's new school. I will question all three about Helen's dog bite. I hope they have at least phoned the dog's owners again to ask how it is. If it was rabid on Tuesday, it won't be feeling at all well by now.

As for knitting, virtually none. I think I did one further stripe on the Carol Sunday scarf while we were away, and less than a complete round of the Rams&Yowes border back here last night.

But look at the link Kristie sent me! Oh, Shetland! What a happy memory that is! Burrastow is where we stayed -- Knitofacto found it for us, and then, at the last moment, cruelly, couldn't come along. I was worried about being based so far from Lerwick. I was wrong.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

This has proved so very exciting a week, by our geriatric standards, that I couldn't leave you out of it altogether.

Today we should have Archie's and Mungo's GCSE results.

Today, too, my husband and Lizzie and I will go to Strathardle. The weather is glum.

That's nothing. On Tuesday, or some such day, Helen, on the slopes of Mount Pelion, recently returned from a family holiday in the Balkans, was badly bitten by a dog, plunging me, at least, into a maelstrom of worry about rabies. There is some in northern Greece, not much.

...Here are Archie's results: an A* in English Literature, three A's, in his A-Level subjects, History, Spanish and English; the rest B's except for Chemistry which was a C. Everybody is delighted. Mungo's results, from a different board, are unknown as yet.

Anyway, rabies. The dog's owners were somehow located and visited. Its documentation including rabies vaccine looked good, and Helen stopped worrying, or professed to. The owners said it had never behaved like that before, which was distinctly worrying rather than otherwise, as “unprovoked aggression” is often the first symptom of rabies a dog presents. I keep begging her, by email and telephone, to go back and SEE the dog at the weekend. If it was rabid on Tuesday, it's not going to get better any time soon. My husband fears that Helen is being fobbed off by Greek peasants anxious about liability. Helen says they're really nice.

An awful fuss about a very slim possibility of danger. But rabies can be stopped if treated with a series of injections before symptoms develop (=before the virus reaches the central nervous system). After that, there is little or no hope and death is extremely unpleasant.

Knitting: I took the Unst Bridal Shawl along to my husband's dental appt yesterday. I've left it at the end of an edging repeat, so easy to resume, and will now put it away altogether until Rames&Yowes are finished. Lace knitting is infinitely soothing, and I think the reason may be that there is so much of it that you simply can't worry about finishing. You just sit there and knit.

Rams&Yowes progresses well, more or less. But garter stitch is the knitter's absolute test, and I'm not really terribly good at it. More than that, I have never mastered the art of recovering a dropped stitch, or laddering back to a split one. I've got one of those two-headed crochet hooks. I know what the problem is. But I can't do it.

So, off we go into the Scottish gloom. See you on Monday, insh'Allah.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

It's no use -- the capacity to multi-task is diminishing rapidly with age. Lizzie and her friend Cleo are here for a couple of days of Festival and I think this is the moment for me to abandon blogging until after the Games. The plan is for Rachel an d Cathy to send us off home on Sunday and close the house behind us, a delicious treat. So I should be back here next Monday, insh'Allah.

I'll miss you.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Again, little to report. I stuck with Rams & Yowes. I've finished the gaulmogot stripe and proceeded to katmollet – they'll all have to be done again in reverse, remember. I'm almost finished straightening out the stitch counts and will be very glad to stop counting.

I did the arithmetic. The original pattern has the same number of rows as stitches. That means Kate was counting on the tendency of “Fair Isle” knitting to pull the stitches in and make them square instead of the familiar little rectangles. If it worked, the blankie would be square. She has you pick up that number of stitches on each of the four sides.

But it doesn't work, and people were having trouble with wavy edges – that is, picking up too many stitches.

Artemiswolf found (after the event) that her gauge over the centre pattern was 28 stitches and 32 rows to 4”. My own gauge was very similar – it's quicker to go back to her excellent blog than try to remember where my note is. She then made a garter stitch swatch – we both did – and calculated the pick-up rate from that. And that must mean that she, like me, has more border stitches top and bottom than on the sides. Not square.

I was comforted by your comment yesterday, JeanfromCornwall, that blankets aren't meant to be square. I could wish, in this case, that it was the other way around, and the sides were longer than the ends, since the pattern is so emphatically longitudinal. But it's not so and I shall give it no further thought.

I was interested in your observation, too, that bugs like yellow. (Follow the link, for that one.) I've got a lot of what I think might be black fly on the courgette flowers on the doorstep but hadn't associated their unwelcome presence with the colour of the flowers.


I finished the new Ruth Rendell and can now get back to my life. It's uneven. It's not her best. But I enjoyed every page.

I continue to worry about the Games. How on earth do we get the picnic to the field? The car has to go down the night before, in order to secure a good place. It'll be full of beer and cider and plates and plastic tumblers and napkins and forks. But the actual food will have to be refrigerated overnight. Then what? We didn't go to the Games last year because of having had my 80th birthday celebrations (wonderful!) instead – and I simply can't remember how it's done.

I'll ring up the butcher in Alyth today and make sure he makes lots of his pork and leek and apricot sausages this week. Essential.

Poor Annie Modesitt is having a dreadful time with (apparently) shingles. Alexander had it a couple of years ago and by comparison, got off lightly.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Again, not much. I'm halfway through the gaulmogot stripe on the Rams and Yowes border, still busily counting and adjusting stitches. I have appreciably more stitches top-and-bottom than I do on the sides. I didn't block the centre before I took a gauge reading from it – just a bit of the steam iron on a quarter of it or so. So I don't know how square (or not) it is.

My guide and mentor for the gauge-calculating-and-picking-up process was Artemiswolf, to whose excellent blog entry on the subject I have linked before. She doesn't mention that phenomenon, although her text doesn't exclude the possibility. Too late to worry about it now. Square isn't essential, is it? Finishing is.

Maybe I'll lay it aside today and get on with the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Nothing much gets done on Sunday anyway.

So, here we are at the dawn of Games Week. I tremble slightly. Lizzie – the granddaughter recently returned from her year at the University of Kansas – will be here on Tuesday for a bit of Festival, having travelled up overnight on one of those superior buses where you can stretch out and sleep. We'll proceed to Strathardle with her on Thursday. The rest – Rachel and Ed and the Sydenham Mileses minus Alistair – will arrive on Friday by train and hire car.  Joe (Lizzie's brother) will come up late on Friday and stay overnight here in Drummnd Place before proceeding north. No Thomas & Lucy, no Hellie & Matt. A depleted party, compared to some years.

You didn't really need to know all that.

The Festival passes us by, these days, which is really rather sad. But I did notice on a lamppost yesterday a poster advertising a show called The Sweater Curse. It clearly referred to what we know as the Boyfriend Curse. I'd like to see that one. It is being done by a woman from Texas.


The weather has turned – our lovely summer is no more. Whether in response to slightly chill winds, or (more likely) because they recognise the change in the light, the plants on the doorstep are slowing down. The lollo rosso lettuces have perished. The courgettes are still flowering, and little courgettes are growing, but there don't seem to be very many buds to come. The carrots and beetroot are more or less all right.

It hasn't been a very good year for the chillis indoors – but there's still time. My Mysterious Plant, bucking the trend, continues to grow briskly – surely too fast for a tree? It now overtops that stick I put in on which to measure its progress.


I have fled from high culture – I'm halfway through a re-reading of Middlemarch – and have embraced the new Ruth Rendell, out last week. The Girl Next Door, it's called. That woman is good – and she's older than I am. This one is about old age, and it's good enough to cut seriously into knitting time. There is also (wonderful how life fits together sometimes) a new BBC sitcom on the subject of old age, called Boomers I think. Very well written, very well acted. (" Shut up! This is a funeral. We're meant to enjoy ourselves.") I'm not sure it quite gels (jells?) but we'll go on with it.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Not much to report.

Knitting moves forward well on Rams&Yowes, however. I've finished the first border stripe, white, and moved on to gaulmogot. Attention is currently concentrated on getting the stitch count identical on opposite sides. This is being recklessly done with judicious k2togs on the side with more stitches. Recklessly: maybe I should be adding stitches to the other side, but I feel we've got an awful lot of stitches – although fewer than Kate Davies specified – and reduction is to be preferred.

All the while increasing at the corners, of course.

I'm working on the sides first. When I'm sure that they are perfectly equal, I'll turn my attention to top-and-bottom. This is all a bit sloppy.

I was right, that the knitting is much pleasanter now that only one colour is involved at a time. Purling is not quite as much fun as knitting, but not too bad. I do need another needle, though. I have nothing between 80cm (not long enough) and the new, super-long 150cm one. I'm using that one after all and pushing the stitches resolutely around. Attempts to use two needles failed as (predictably) point protectors fell off and stitches disappeared off the far end of the needle as fast as I knit them onto the other end.

I'll order a 100cm number and see how I get on with that.

So, another day with no Unst Bridal Shawl. I'll have to give some thought as to how to integrate it into my new life.

Kate Davies has written an interesting article, both historical and practical, on steeking. Brilliantly illustrated, of course.

I had a bit more to say, about Stephen West's new collection and the autumn edition of Twist Collective (too much negative ease for my taste) but the computer keeps freezing and I'm tired of it all. I heard the man who invented pop-up ads on the radio this morning, He apologised.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Yes, great news about Alistair. He didn't quite get the grades the university had asked for in its formal offer so there was half an hour, at least, of despair in Sydenham yesterday before they got onto the UCAS website and discovered that Glasgow (his first choice) had accepted him anyway. They won't be sorry. He is going to do computer science of which (at least in the view of his awestruck grandmother) he is already a keen amateur. Robotics and 3-D printing. I don't think he was well served by the school in Beijing.

I think Hellie had a similar experience – grades not quite good enough – before Newcastle accepted her. In her case, there were at least a couple of days of agonised waiting.

Alistair's younger sister Rachel, meanwhile, had been doing some AS-levels – she was a year behind him. She got two A's and two B's and it doesn't matter much anyway, as she has decided to start the Sixth Form again (two years) at her London school. One of the B's was for Critical Thinking. We are all curious to know what that subject consists of, and how Rachel could possibly have failed to get full marks in it. She's an ace at Critical Thinking. One of the A's was for Mandarin.

So the next excitement will be Archie's and Mungo's GCSE results, next week. Mungo (Archie's younger brother) is a bit of a nerd, in the nicest possible way – his results are likely to be stellar, and I am anxious that Archie shouldn't be too entirely eclipsed, to mix my astronomical metaphors.

Hellie and Matt's engagement was announced in the Times yesterday. We hadn't read it for a while, and enjoyed it a surprising amount,


Well, I did count the stitches I had picked up, top and bottom, around the centre of the Rams & Yowes blankie, and, sure enough, there was a considerable discrepancy. After a bit of a mental tussle – couldn't I just make some corrections on the first round?– I undid the top (“when in doubt, take it out”), slid my finest lace needle through the stitches to be picked up, and knit them (not without difficulty) from that. The count is now a near-perfect match, top and bottom.

I haven't checked the count on the sides, the steeked edges. I'll do a lot of counting in the early rounds. But I expect the sides to match, or nearly.

I have embarked on the first round, which is purled. That's not arduous at all, it turns out. I'll go on doing garter stitch in the round the basic way. But the super-long needle has suddenly become a burden, too much time needs to be spent pushing stitches around, so I'm transferring to a shorter one, which may prove to be too short. Meadow Yarns again, if so.

No Unst Bridal Shawl at all while all this was going on yesterday.

I had a considered look at the new Rowan magazine while I was up in St James' Centre yesterday. (Boots didn't have the prescription yet, so I'll have to go again.) I didn't care for it. I hope Rowan hasn't lost its momentum. John Lewis had the cover sweater on display, that one with the cabled body and Fair Isle sleeves. In real life, it's much more attractive than I expected. The yarn (Cocoon) is sort of fuzzy and the pleasant haze smooths over the differences between the two elements. I've knit Cocoon into big scarves a couple of times. It's yummy stuff. But this sweater is not for Archie.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Today is Alistair's A-Level day, as I thought. He hopes to do computer science at Glasgow University, my own alma mater, or one of them. No news yet.

Alexander agrees with you, JeanfromCornwall, that my mysterious plant isn't knotweed. He says that knotweed has pretty well finished growing for '14 so it was hard for him to find anything like a young shoot to compare, but he doesn't think the leaf shape is right. He suggests an alder, an idea my husband pooh-pooh's. It must, if not knotweed, be a little tree of some sort, however. We will nurture it carefully. We like trees.

Thank you for the birthday wishes (and more on Facebook). My dears, BRANDON MABLY wished me Happy Birthday! Now I'm 81. It's just like being 51, inside, but one is weaker, weaker. I'm also two years older than my husband's sister got to be. She died of cancer in March, 2011. All through our long acquaintance, she was two years older than I was and now the position is reversed and it seems odd.

I got my replies to the wedding invitation written, both formal and informal. Mary Lou, I nearly added the words “There'll always be an England” yesterday when I mentioned the 5:30 wedding breakfast, but then I wondered if enough of you were hardened old-time New Yorker readers to understand. It's obviously a throwback to the Old Days, religiously, when bride and groom and wedding party would have had to be fasting in order to receive communion at the wedding Mass. Some prompt food at the party would have been essential.

And, thinking it through, I decided to eschew this one, although it's a shame to miss the speeches. If my husband can be persuaded to go, we have promised him he doesn't have to eat in public. His hands are swollen with rheumatism and he is clumsy. He can skulk in his room and be brought delicious tidbits. So it seemed easiest -- certainly for the organisers -- if I planned to leave at that point myself, if I am alone, and head for the station.


I picked up the stitches from the top of the Rams & Yowes centre, the cast-off edge. It was tough going and I stopped when I got to the corner. It was sufficiently tough that I think it would be prudent to count stitches, top and bottom, before I go on, just to see how close I got. If all is well, I should finish the picking up today. The new needle, 150cm long, is a great help.

And I did a little more Unst Bridal Shawl edging. The dental appt was so promptly kept and so brief that not much was achieved there.

Today is a pick-up-pills-at-Boots day. I think I will allow myself the new Rowan book, at least I will if there is something better inside than that alarming cover picture.

There are some good links in the Knitty Blog – news of the Glasgow University Knitter-in-Residence; the huge Abertiefi Cardigan; and a race between a sheep and a cyclist.

Breaking news: Alistair got his place at Glasgow!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

I learned from the radio this morning that Shimon Peres and Lauren Bacall are/were first cousins.

I've got two female courgette flowers this morning – things are hotting up a bit out there. The boys had all gone away – courgette flowers are truly ephemeral. I tore apart a couple of recently faded ones to get at some pollen.

Here are my first attempts to photograph the Mysterious Plant (pressing the envelope the wedding invitation came in into service). I am not at all sure of my diagnosis of Japanese knotweed. It doesn't seem to be growing fast enough – about 1/4” per day. And the leaves, now unfolding, don't seem to have the characteristic shape I mentioned yesterday. I would be very grateful for any comment.


The long, long needle from Meadow Yarns turned up. My experience is that they (MY) are not to be faulted for prompt service. And their selection of needles is superb. I haven't ordered yarn from them.

So I worked out a formula for my pickup rate for the border of Rams & Yowes, and set to. For bottom and top, pick up 6, skip 1; for the edges, pick up 3, skip 1. What I didn't do was work out how many stitches that will give me for each side, nor am I counting, yet. That will be an interesting discovery on the first round. Despite the skipping, there are still an awful lot of stitches. I did the bottom and the first side, and left it at that for yesterday.

IK turned up yesterday, always welcome. The one design shown on a man is out of the question, but I like the Hitch Pullover in the Horse Country section and don't see why it couldn't be re-shaped a bit. I also mean to engage with the article about Fisherman's Rib and Brioche and really try to understand what's going on. I love that stuff. EZ's word for it, I think, is “fruity” and that's perfect.


Hellie sent me a book yesterday in .pdf format. Top secret; it's something that hasn't been published yet – but I hope it is all right to tell you that it is not the next work by the author of Eeny Meeny, due out next month. She has done this twice before, so I knew that there was an easy way to get it into the Kindle app on the iPad in book-reading form but yesterday I had a titanic struggle to recall the simple steps. My Kindle address is (who'd'a thot it?) and I had to put Convert in the subject line and then attach the pdf packet and mail it to myself at that address. So now you know. It seemed to take me hours. I haven't started reading the book.

Today's event is a dentist's appt for my husband. The quiet, well-lit waiting room is perfect for Unst Bridal Shawl edging-knitting.

And I must answer that wedding invitation, both formally, accept with pleasure, and informally, explaining what will probably actually happen. It all sounds quite straightforward but I am consumed with anxiety about how to manage the end of my day. There are lots of trains to Edinburgh; Darlington station is about six miles away from where we'll be. It is a good idea to book a taxi well in advance and it would be most unreasonable to expect anyone to stay sober enough to drive me there. Should I plan to sit down for the Wedding Breakfast at 5:30, or not? I'll be pretty tired by then.

And it's sort of tough on Lucy's mother, such a reply. Nothing is worse, when you're trying to stage a big event, than guests who don't know quite what they're going to do – except, perhaps, guests who don't reply at all.

We're in Exam Result season. I think we should know this week whether Alistair got the results he needs to take up his university place in Glasgow. Next week will be Archie's and his brother Mungo's GCSE's – and I think maybe Alistair's sister Rachel is expecting some AS-levels. A big year.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The suicide at the end of Dead Poet's Society distressed me. I can't remember the story at all, the setting only dimly. But that distress clung to my feelings about Robin Williams ever after and gives this morning's news – what? a sharper sadness; a dreadful appropriateness.

Deep breath.

I got the swatch done. 50 stitches, but I realised (I think) that I only needed stitch gauge so I only knit an inch and a half or so, Today, arithmetic. I've been back to the passage in Artemiswolf's blog. It would be nice if my gauge should resemble hers closely enough that I can just use her figures. Meadow Yarns said yesterday that my great long needle is on its way, but I can always start picking up without it, using more than one needle.

I'll start off knitting grater stitch in the round the “proper” way, purling alternate rounds. It may not be too bad.

All that refers to the border of the Rams & Yowes blankie, of course.

I'm knitting the 70th bump on the Unst Bridal Shawl. A long way to go.

Kathleen Dames (herself!) left a comment suggesting her Honest Woodman's sweater for Archie. I like it a lot – and it's got everything I particularly like: that delicious EZ bottom's-up seamless construction, saddle shoulders – and it's actually written for a madelinetosh yarn. It makes the list.

Life and horticulture

Our wedding invitation is here. Don't worry, I'll be there (insh'Allah) to see the Princess in action, although that is the least of my thoughts. The only issue is whether, if my husband persists in his reluctance to make the attempt, we can go to next year's wedding without hurting Thomas' and Lucy's feelings. Unlike this year (and assuming our states of health are substantially the same in a year's time) I couldn't possibly go to Loch Fyne without him.

But, hey! It's not at all like what happened a generation ago. Nobody is being kept away from a wedding by deceit. Nobody is staying away from one to make a point. The history of Europe begins with a wedding invitation not sent, to the marriage of Peleus and Thetis with results that led directly to the Trojan war. The subject has always been fraught, clearly.

As for horticulture, it hadn't occurred to me to wonder how to get rid of my Strange Plant if it does turn out to be Japanese knotweed (Jean's comment yesterday). Except for thinking that I might chop it up and give it to my next door neighbour in Strathardle. That would be a crime, literally, and Alexander thinks it would be unwise to have it so near our house.

He's got some, about which he seems remarkably calm. There is a dirt road below their house, and beyond it a bit of rough foreshore before Loch Fyne itself begins. That's where the knotweed is. Alexander says that in Argyll it confines itself to hugging the coastline, of which there's plenty. Occasionally it tries to cross the road, he says, and when that happens he cuts it down and keeps on cutting and eventually it gives up.

I've been reading about it, in the hopes that I've got some in my pot. Do google it if you are unacquainted with Japanese knotweed. The leaves are sort of leaf-shaped (there must be a technical term for that) with a characteristic flat edge where the stem attaches. I am watching my little leaves closely as they unfold.

If that's what it turns out to be, I'll have fun writing to B&Q who sold me the compost. They ought to be told.

Monday, August 11, 2014

I got not a single one of those three simple chores done yesterday. I have at least started out this morning by ordering a super-long (150cm) 3mm needle from Meadow Yarns for the border of the Rams and Yowes. I will be able to go up to 100cm for lace knitting – I'm struggling along with 80cm at the moment. But there's no hurry on that one as the job (the Queen Ring shawl, if I really do it) will start with months of edging during which I can make absolutely sure which brand of needle I want to order.

So, today, apply the steam iron to the Rams and Yowes, and cast on a swatch. Come on, Jean.

I gather wedding invitations (to this year's affair on November 1) have begun to circulate, although nothing has reached us. The unpleasant thought has been raised that if my husband continues to maintain – with a good deal of justice – that he can't get to Northumberland for this one, he can't very well go to Loch Fyne next summer for Hellie and Matt for fear of offending this year's couple. And in that case, neither could I.

Weddings are fraught, and we have a history, or at least I have. Funerals are more fun because you don't have so long to think about them in advance. My mother stayed away from Rachel and Ed's wedding. That was because she had been kept away from my sister's wedding. She was punishing me, although I was in fact blameless (as she suspected). I had thought that my presence in Northumberland – which will be difficult, even leaving my husband behind – would wipe away all that.

A year's further decline is likely to settle the matter anyway.

Two things from Zite:

I love this “Thanks, Piet!” scarf and have just bought the pattern, I am an extravagant admirer of Mondrian and I think he is well interpreted here. So when, exactly, do I plan to knit it?

This is just for looking at – more Japanese brilliance.


Courgettes are the main centre of interest on the doorstep. I am sure they are lagging behind the pace once set by the ones I grew in the open ground in Strathardle. Here we are in the middle of August and I have only one (small) actual courgette and an awful lot of male flowers. I now rush out with my little soft brush whenever a girl-flower opens – there's one this morning.

Indoors, the chillis don't seem to be doing as well as last year, either. I am much interested in a mysterious plant which has appeared in one of the chilli pots. It's not a chilli. I am wondering if it could possibly be Japanese knotweed, growing from a minuscule fragment in the commercial compost I used to pot it on? The plant comes from Alexander, who started it off in a similar compost.

It's growing briskly although not exactly at Japanese knotweed speed. I'll give it a few more days and then try to photograph it for you. It's got a straight reddish-brown stem with a little tuft of leaves at the top, and a couple more leaves in nodes further down. It's currently about 6” high.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I polished off the central square of the Rams & Yowes yesterday, and cut the steek this morning. On the needles, it seemed a long, narrow-ish tube but the result is a fairly satisfactory square. So today's jobs are (a) to apply a bit of steam; (b) knit a garter stitch swatch; and (c) determine whether the longest needle I have in the appropriate size is the longest available and if not, order from dear Meadow Yarns.

I might as well ask the same question of the needle needed for the Queen Ring Shawl, which I hope to knit edging-inwards.

So, not much Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday but I did finish one bump. I must keep picking away at it – it saves a tremendous amount of time and stress to have the edging pattern memorised, no peering at charts. If I don't use it, I'll lose it.

Ellen, thank you for the pointer to the Rene pattern. I like it, and will certainly include it on Archie's short list.

Laura, thank you for confirming my memory (in most respects) of that lunch scene in Busman's Honeymoon. And congratulations on getting to Iceland, and on setting in that zipper. That's one of the things I can't do. Yours looks perfect.

Sunday presses. Not my favourite day.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Here's the ring:

There's a scene in “Busman's Honeymoon”, I think – I can't find the book, so this is all from memory – where Harriet Vane, newly engaged to Lord Peter Wimsey, is having lunch with his brother the duke and his sister-in-law the duchess and his mother the dowager duchess. Peter himself is missing, off on one of his diplomatic missions to save Europe perhaps.

When she sees the ring, the duchess (an unpleasant character – I believe she was named Helen) says “Goodness! I hope it's insured.” That's a bit how I feel about this one.

I don't know the setting for the proposal. Perhaps Matt just brought the subject up after supper while pulling the ring out of his pocket. Pret a Manger was just the meeting place where Hellie's mother Rachel delivered it into his keeping.

We saw Ketki briefly yesterday. She says the current idea is to get Hellie and Matt to Loch Fyne now, to suss out the August midges. It sounds as if they're really bad over there. I'll remember what you say about mosquito-repellent, Pat B – but you can't very well spray the guests with citronella.


I have finished the rams and yowes per se. There follow two plain (=single-colour) rounds, so I went ahead and knit them to test my idea that border-knitting is going to be easier and pleasanter, involving as it does only one colour at a time. That seems to be true, more or less. There now comes a little motif to finish off, and then another plain round, and that's it. Five more rounds in all. At the worst, I should bind off tomorrow. We're making progress.

I've done 65 ½ bumps on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, out of about 200. I showed it to the Hungarian girl who cleans for me yesterday. She thought it was a tablecloth.

Archie: my own blog might contradict me here, but I think the idea of knitting for him was mine, so that he will have something to wear to my funeral. He was doubtful – it would have to be thoroughly sub fusc and restrained in pattern. I flipped through a couple of men's books and then let the idea subside – until he brought it up again himself. Now I must go through the books again and choose a short list.

I might allow myself to buy the new Rowan book although the man on the cover is wearing the very epitome of what Archie and I abhor – a sweater with a cabled body and Fair Isle sleeves fully worthy, to my mind, of the late lamented You Knit What?? website. Now that I want it, I can't find the comment suggesting that I knit Archie a Fair Isle vest. That's certainly an idea worth discussing with him.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Great excitement here – Matt and Hellie are engaged!

He phoned last night, within the first 15 minutes of his new status. That was sweet. He said he had decided that waiting for Liverpool to win the League might take too long after all. Plans, insofar as they exist, are for next summer and Loch Fyne, but we've got to think about the midges.

Hellie's mother Rachel phoned a bit later for a wee shriek. Matt had spoken to her husband on the subject a week before – the young sometimes turn out to be touchingly old-fashioned. His parents also knew, but no one else. Hellie had long admired a ring of her (other) grandmother's which Rachel had inherited. A clandestine meeting was arranged in a Pret a Manger so that Rachel could hand it over to Matt.

It was slightly odd, to pick up the Unst Bridal Shawl after receiving this news. I knit the Princess with the vague intention that it was for granddaughters and granddaughters-in-law to wear on their wedding days. That left any particular bride free to say no, thanks, I'd rather be married in jodhpurs. Or so I felt. I am overjoyed that Thomas's bride will wear it on November 1 but she didn't have to.

But the Unst shawl is different, with all its imperfections. It is being knit for Hellie. It must be made clear to her that she's not stuck with it. There are plenty more weddings to come, insh'Allah.

As for other knitting, I did my Rams and Yowes stint and have started the legs of the final rank of yowes. I should finish them today. Thank you for your help with the border. I am much taken with your idea, Knitting08816, of picking up stitches for two borders, one on each side of the steek stitches; joining them with a 3-needle bind-off when they're big enough, and then proceeding with some ribbing with double yarn. We'll see.

As for Kitchener stitch, I feel like you, Jean from Cornwall, that the existence of the leaflet in yesterday's link is enough to explain the phrase “Kitchener stitch”. I feel like whoever it was, when he discovered the source of the Nile. When I got started on this, 15 years or so ago, the OED didn't have it – and I mean the great big multi-volumned OED as supplied on CD-ROM. I'm glad to hear they've moved on, and I think they've got earlier quotations (by a bit) than any I had mustered.

But the issue wasn't just early citations, it was also why. And now we know.

My own theory is that despite occasional references to the “Kitchener toe” in the interbellum period, the phrase didn't really get going until patriotic knitting started up again in WWII. I was very interested to hear that your mother didn't know of it, Lou.

Devoted readers will remember, for I'm sure I've mentioned it before, that I wrote on the subject both to Msgr Rutt and to the then-current Lord Kitchener. Rutt replied at once, a kind letter – he was interested, and of course had tracked down early appearances of many a knitting term unknown to dictionaries. But he couldn't help with “Kitchener stitch”. Lord Kitchener took a year to reply, and was much briefer. He had never heard of it. I treasure both letters.

I am doubtful about whether ungrafted sock toes were really that bad for the wearer, although grafted ones were probably better. And I agree, of course, Tamar, that Kitchener had nothing to do with the invention of grafting or of grafted sock toes. I have an early (pre WWI) book myself in which sock toes are grafted.

I'll return to the subject of Archie's sweater tomorrow.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Another satisfactory day. If the current rank of yowes, on the Rams and Yowes blankie, were just normal yowes, I'd finish them off today. But since they're the last ones, they have legs, and won't be completed until tomorrow. (They are being knit upside down, also because of being the last ones.) And that still leaves a little six-round finishing-off motif to be done.

Once I am through the agony of swatching, calculating numbers, and picking up stitches for the border, I'll have to switch to full-time blankie-knitting, I think – instead of sinking back into blissful Unst Bridal Shawl time after doing three rounds. The border, done properly in full, is nine four-round stripes outwards followed by a turning-round and then nine more stripes, inwards, on lots of stitches. Plus finishing, including applied i-cord around the outer edges. Two months may scarcely be enough.

Archie asked the other day, when was I going to knit him a sweater. That's the sure-fire way to get one. I'll get my knitting-for-men books together and pick out a couple of possibilities. I'll have a look at the new Rowan book the next time I have to go up to fill a prescription (and probably buy it). And then present Archie with a short list of possibilities when he's next here.

Once Rams and Yowes have been put out to pasture – will it ever happen? – I should be able to work out a peaceful routine which will combine Archie-knitting and Shetland lace. Do I see some more madelinetosh in my future?

It occurred to me during the peaceful UnstBridalShawl period last night, that I may have acquired enough yarn that happy day in Jamieson and Smith last September, to last, literally, for the rest of my life. I bought the lace yarn I'm currently knitting – admittedly, I've had to supplement it with a further order. I was given the Rams and Yowes blankie. I bought some of their newish Shetland Heritage yarn with a Fair Isle vest in mind – that's when I mean to get back to work learning to use a Shetland knitting belt. And more or less at the last moment, Kristie persuaded me – it wasn't difficult – to get the yarn for Kate Davies' Northmavine Hap as well. The pattern is in “Colours of Shetland”.

The yarn is still stowed in the supplementary carry-on bag I had to buy in Lerwick to accommodate it.

Add Archie to that, and my yearning for the Queen Ring shawl, and I might as well clear out the stash cupboard this morning. Retaining a few sock yarns, perhaps.

And here is a further excitement: I have long been interested in finding the source of the phrase “Kitchener stitch”. This morning, I've seen it. (Scroll down a bit, until you see Lord Kitchener.) It remains to be discovered exactly what the pictured publication is. Until the internet made us all one, the phrase was strictly an American and Canadian one, not in use in the UK. EZ was puzzled by it in her early American knitting days. It would be nice to discover that that leaflet was (say) a Canadian Red Cross one.

There are sources listed at the end of the article. I will pursue them.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

It's raining. It has been a long time since we w9ke up to a day like this. When we got back from Strathardle last week, my poor doorstep plants were at death's door. They have recovered, on the whole, with no actual losses except a few nasturtiums, but what they really needed was a day like this one.

Another good day's knitting, yesterday. The last rank of Rams and Yowes now have faces, and the last colour change has been joined in. I fretted a bit more about the border, and tried Googling “Rams and Yowes border”. One forgets how very clever Google is – top of the list was this extremely useful blog post. As if some ghost in the machine had read all the hits – including a couple of my own – and had arranged them in order of usefulness.

The blogger, Artemiswolf, steam-blocked the centre when she finished it, and took the gauge. Then she knit a garter stitch swatch and took that one. Then she figured out how to put them together. The result was a different pick-up rate for the cast-on and cast-off edges and for the sides. She even goes on to tell you how to do it – to pick up 13 in every 16 stitches, it's pu 4, skip 1, pu 5, skip 1, pu 4.

She sounds to me like a woman whose knitting comes out nicely.

The result was considerably fewer stitches in the border than the pattern specified. She then knit it with wraps and turns, to avoid purling. If there's a Messy Corner somewhere, I can't see it.

So I think that's the way to go, perhaps without the wrapping and turning.

And the Unst Bridal Shawl border continues to advance. I'm knitting the 60th bump, out of about 200. I broke a little cubic needle last night, which was sad but involved no loss of stitches.


We watched a bit of the Great Debate last night. I gather ITV decided it wasn't worth broadcasting to the entire United Kingdom – unbelievable. This morning's radio seems to think that Alistair Darling, speaking for the No campaign, did better than our beloved First Minister, arguing for independence. Thank God.

It's really going to happen, this referendum. It's terrifying. Someone in the audience last night asked what if we vote for independence and it goes wrong? Good question, I thought.

An article in the Scotsman recently suggested setting up an account in an English bank now, so that if you decide you want to move your savings away from Scotland, you can do it quickly. That seems like good advice.

Rachel sent some nice family pics yesterday. Her younger son Joe did a triathlon on Sunday – swim, bike ride, run. Afterwards they all went to Hellie and Matt's new flat to celebrate that and all the family birthdays that fall around now, four of them.


Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Welcome, new follower!

I posted a picture yesterday of myself and some blackthorn. That wasn't me, it was Helen. It did occur to me that I was looking unusually well but I didn't follow through on the thought. Poor Helen went to a dress shop she likes, here in Edinburgh, the other day – thinking ahead to The Wedding – and was told that one of the things she fancied was “very Judy Dench”. She doesn't deserve this treatment.

(It's not that we don't extravagantly admire Judy Dench. It's just that she's a full generation older than Helen.)


Among the trees we have planted in our 50 years in Strathardle, are four family commemorative ones down the commonty. The Rachel-and-Ed tree, an abies koreana, was put in to mark their 40th birthdays, now some time in the past. Its party trick is blue fir cones.

But according to my Tree Book, it has only put on a full-scale show once before, in 2004. Taken together with the sunshine and general sense of wellbeing and keen awareness of an accelerating decline, I wondered if God was trying to tell me something. There won't be many more such weeks. Helen says I have been saying that for the last 20 years.

Every year, ideally during the Games weekend, I take pictures of those trees with the children from the corresponding family. It doesn't always work. Often the available children have to be spread around at random among the trees. But last week I did remember that Helen's family won't be here for the Games this year, so I took their picture early.

Their tree is a pinus nigra, planted to commemorate the little life of the oldest boy, Oliver, who died in infancy. It developed ominous brown patches last year, but seems a bit better this.


Yesterday was a Normal Day, the first in a while, and I got back in the saddle. The final rank of Yowes now have faces. If I can maintain this pace, three rounds a day, I'll finish the centre of the Rams and Yowes blankie in another week and still have two months for the edging. I am assuming, as I have said before, that knitting with one colour will be quicker and much pleasanter. If not, I'll have to finish off with a brief edging like the one Kristie found for me on Ravelry. The centre is looking very good, despite my grumbles.

And three rounds leaves time at the end of the evening for a bit of Unst Bridal Shawl edging.

Back to Strathardle

Helen sent some of her pictures yesterday. She aspires to be as good as Kate Davies. I think she's pretty well got it. I didn't go on any of the expeditions.

Monday, August 04, 2014

They're gone. Am I capable of running my life without them? Helen did 3/4s of the shopping and cooking while they were here, and all of everything else. 

We had a grand time, in grand weather except for a brief, apocalyptic thunder storm. The boys were on their way up to Whitefield at the time. While they were sheltering as best they could under a tree, Archie saw lightening strike, a few yards away. A flash of flame in the grass. The other two were looking in the other direction and missed it. They heard it, all right. Fergus threw himself to the ground. I have never seen such a thing in a long life.

But otherwise, the sun shone. I got a bit of gardening done, rescuing rhubarb and some unproductive fruit bushes from the weeds and mulching them. How rapidly nature reclaims a neglected garden! It was sad to see. However, the Good King Henry flourishes, we even ate some, and I had had our new gardener put in a few potatoes. They look very tidy. I've now dug about half of them. They taste delicious, too.

Alas, the birds got the summer pudding again this year. Helen had seen it the week before, and decided that it was securely netted and that the fruit would hold for a week. But no. The bush was bare. I bought some red currents at the supermarket and we had a pudding, but it wasn't the same.

Not much knitting. I did finish the first full pattern repeat of Carol Sunday's Oak Park scarf. That means that all the yarn is at last wound into balls. Things should go faster henceforth. We will be back fairly soon, for the Games. I suppose after that I'd better bring it back here to add to the Guilt Pile.

...That much I wrote yesterday morning, and then Sunday took over as it tends to do. Helen and the boys are now safely back in Athens, and James Miles of Cairndow (who has been in the UsofA) restored to Loch Fyne. Nothing to do now except wait for A-Level and GCSE results – most of my grandchildren seem to be involved, this year – and look forward to the Games.

We've been back here in Edinburgh for three evenings by now, and I have weakly allowed myself to knit Unst Bridal Shawl edging. But today I will Take Hold of Life and get back to Rams and Yowes.

I hope to have some better pictures for you when Helen and Alexander send me theirs. Here are some to start off with.

My husband wanted the blackthorn subdued. It flourishes in the wild bit just beyond our garden fence and is rather lovely when it blooms but he is implacably opposed to it. Helen kept her boys hard at it. Here am I, next to a pile of subdued blackthorn.

Mungo and Archie, pausing in their labours.

There weren't enough clippers for all three, so Fergus was put to work scything the grass between the front lawn and the burn. He did brilliantly.

You can see what I mean about the weather.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Back here safely. I hope to blog properly in a day or two. At the moment, I am fully occupied with getting Helen and her family off to Athens tomorrow. We had a great time, great weather, little knitting.