Saturday, December 31, 2016

Catdownunder, you must already be well into 2017. I hope you're enjoying it. I have high hopes. I think I prefer the odd-numbered years (perhaps because I was born in one). Except that there's no hope of winning the Calcutta Cup, because the match is played at Twickenham in odd-numbered years, and Scotland never win down there.

Rachel got a ticket for next year's match as a Christmas present. She is related to enough England supporters that she should be able to suppress her disappointment and have a grand day out for their sake.

But even that is just as well -- a Calcutta Cup win would mean a Calcutta Cup sweater right at the top of the to-do list, and the queue is long enough as it is.

Hellie and Matt came to see us this morning, on their way south after the Loch Fyne house party. She looks very well, and thinks the baby has quickened. She's about half-way through, so that's probably true. Medically, not a significant moment any more, if it ever was, but exciting for the family. 

And we’ve heard this evening that Rachel and Ed are safely restored to south London, despite alarming predictions of freezing fog; and that Hellie and Matt have reached their b&b in Northumberland somewhere, in time to watch Liverpool beat Man City.. So all is well, for the moment. And the moment is all we’ve got.

Susan Crawford (of all people) put me on to Laine magazine, Nordic knit and lifestyle. It looks rather wonderful. It is clever of her to have got hold of a copy -- Loop and Meadow Yarn are sold out. I’ll have to wait until later in January. She is recovering from a double mastectomy only a few days ago, and sounds well enough to look forward to an evening of Thornton's chocolates and the magazine. One could scarcely begrudge her that. 


I finished the edging of Mrs Hunter’s shawl, a splendid end to the year. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will pick up the stitches (there is a good picture of how to do it in Amedro’s “Shetland Lace”). 32 scallops per side x 4 sides x 6 stitches per scallop. I’ll leave you to do the arithmetic.

Income Tax

I have been very grateful for all your comments. And I’m afraid I didn’t get anything done today.

It really isn’t all that difficult. And I do like the clean-slate feeling of starting the year with things in order. In the olden days, I used to file by the end of September (is it?) at which point you are allowed to do it on paper. But then one year something went wrong, and once one misses September, Christmas rises up out of the swamp and overwhelms all else, so there is nothing left but January. And the first time I did that, it felt so right that I have gone on with January ever since.

I think what I need to do is gather up our ragbag of share holdings and get them into a broker’s account. I’ll think about that, once this year’s return is done.

And -- hey -- happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 30, 2016

Not much about knitting. here...

But: my sister’s husband Roger sent me this excellent picture of his Whiskey Barrel socks. He said he didn't write until he had done five miles in them. They have passed the test well. They looked awfully big when I finished them, but on him they look about right, for serious walking socks.

And I have only four scallops to go, before the edging of Mrs Hunter’s shawl is finished. There’s still time to get them done before the bells (as we say around here, and probably elsewhere around the world).

January, however, will have to be devoted to the Income Tax, as November and December were to Christmas. And the difference is, that unsent Christmas cards result in losing touch with old friends, which is bad enough – but unfiled tax returns are regarded rather more severely by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

A dear Oberlin friend writes a private blog, almost daily, greatly treasured, addressed to a few dozen family members and old friends. She is within a year of my own age, on the shady side – but she seems far more energetic than I am. She was struggling with accounts the other day, and wondering how long she was going to be able to carry on doing it.

The trouble is, as far as I can see, having an accountant do it means getting all the info together for him, just as now, and then paying him a very substantial sum to do the easy bit. If I became incompetent, poor Alexander would have to do it – he has our power of attorney.  And I don’t see any halfway house.

So my resolution for ’17 is to keep finances in order day by day. At the moment, there is a considerable pile of money-related papers on a table in the Catalogue Room. I made a good start today at sorting through and filing them:

a)       Papers relating to ISA’s and PEP’s, which HMRC is not interested in.
b)      Papers relating to dividends and interest payments, which HMRC wants to know about
c)       Bank statements
d)      The OhmyGawd pile – did I pay that bill? What shall I do about the building society account which is being “treated as dormant” because I haven’t done anything with it lately? And I haven’t renewed Rachel’s subscription to Delicious magazine.

It doesn’t sound quite so bad, when I spell it out like that. I hope to get a lot more done tomorrow with the other papers on that table, and then – next year! – get started on the tax return itself.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

It was not an entirely successful day, today. My husband was/is sort of dopy, didn't want to be got out of bed this morning. I insisted on that, for the sake of some post-insulin breakfast, but dopiness persisted and he spent much of the day in bed. A dr came, found his Vital Signs in pretty good shape (oxygen saturation and temperature, at least), prescribed a just-in-case antibiotic given his history of chest and urine infections, and given the total shut-down of the country for the next week.

So, some anxiety and not much knitting. However, I have reached the final quarter of the fourth side of the edging of Mrs Hunter's shawl, and, with only seven scallops to go, should have finished easily by the start of next year.

I was grateful, as always, for your comments yesterday. It was good to know that you didn't all think my anecdote about the lovely celery completely absurd. And I was very glad to learn that you had looked up the Torquatus ode, pgknitter. I know it by heart, as well as Eheu fugaces Postume, Postume, and trust they will be comforting to me on my deathbed. Perhaps I should memorise a third.


James' and Cathy's Christmas present to my husband, opened only yesterday, turned out not to be for him at all: it is a wonderful machine in which you can pursue a toy mouse -- if you are a cat. Perdita loves it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

What a lot happens in a week, and doesn't.

We had a very jolly Christmas, as I hope you all did, if celebrating. (Is the tradition of going out for a Chinese on the 25th restricted to American Jews?) But very tiring. Helen’s youngest son Fergus took this picture of Perdita on the dining room table after the detritus of Christmas dinner had been removed to the kitchen.

Such knitting as was done, has consisted of more shawl edging. I'm now on the home stretch, the second half of the fourth side. 

I've joined KD's "Inspired by Islay" club -- good stuff for these dark days. The first pattern was the beautiful cardigan she wore at her wedding to Tom, the second the equally beautiful kilt hose he himself wore on that occasion. I may attempt them one day. And today we had a hap, knit as I am knitting mine, edging-in. And indeed, the edging pattern is the same.

I was taken aback that KD asks for only 84 scallops -- I'm doing 128. Did I fail in my arithmetic somewhere? I think not -- she's knitting with Buachaille, I with a fine lace-weight. 

Two things happened on Christmas Eve.

1) A friend of Greek Helen's, Daniela, has come to Edinburgh to start a new life with her husband and son. She cleans for me two days a week, and she's terrific. We don't have much in the way of common language but Daniela is learning very fast.

On Saturday she made us a lentil soup. I had to run down to the corner shop for some celery.

When I was young, I was much taken with a Greek couplet, No. 126 in the Oxford Book of Greek verse, by our old friend Anonymous: "Where are my roses?  Where are my violets? Where is my lovely celery? / Here are your roses. Here are your violets. Here is the lovely celery."

These lines have stayed with me, in Greek, while much else has fled. And when Daniela dispatched me to the shop, using that very word for "celery", I very nearly burst into tears. Although, on reflection, if you have a perfectly good word for “celery”, why should the passage of a mere 2500 years provoke you to change it?

When I got back from the shop I handed it to her with the last four words of the poem, in Greek, "tadi ta kala selina". Who would have thought, 60 years ago, that I would ever be able to work the phrase into conversation?

 2) The other thing that happened that day was the news of the loss of Zara Phllips' baby. There are many people to feel sad for, most of all the parents, but I felt especially sad for the Queen:  like me, looking forward early next summer to the birth of another great-grandchild, her daughter's daughter's child. She probably wasn't knitting a shawl, but you never know. And not all her wealth and art and furniture and castles, nor her life of often (surely) tedious devotion to duty, could save that baby.

Non, Torquate, genus, non te facundia, non te
     Restituet pietas.

Horace’s idea was not the same, but the echoing sadness of the lines felt appropriate, on that sad day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Here we are, dear friends! We did it again! I don’t understand all this stuff about sunrise and sunset not behaving quite as they ought. Alexander was here yesterday and raised that very point and I was unable to elucidate. Never mind: we’ve held on, darkness has been defeated – or so we hope. Catdownunder and her friends, of course, have had the opposite experience.

I’ll stop writing until (I hope) some time next week, the “back end” of the year. I’ll miss you guys a lot. I hope you’ll all have a jolly time, however you celebrate it, if at all.

I finished knitting the first half of the third side of the edging for Mrs Hunter’s shawl. That leaves 48 scallops to go. Six or seven a day will see it done in a week. Maybe.

Hellie herself rang up today, sounding very buoyant. She and Matt are going to be joining the Loch Fyne house party after Christmas, and propose calling in on us on the 31st, on their way south. I am concerned about the lengthening of their journey, especially on that day, especially if the weather is (as often) unpropitious. But the thought is very welcome.

I got out my notes for my husband’s sleeveless madtosh vest, knit a year ago. They are rather sketchy. I am inclined to take the resulting vest as a great big swatch, and knit the basic v-neck sweater in Bruce Weinstein’s “Knits Men Want”. Maddeningly, my notes don’t mention needle size but I’m pretty sure it’s safe to take them from the ball band.

So, one day soon, maybe even tomorrow, when I’ve done six or seven scallops, I could cast on.


Throughout married life, we have read aloud at bedtime. In the beginning, we alternated, but I regularly fell asleep after listening to two paragraphs at the most, so we soon adopted the practice of having me read every night. Sometimes I fell asleep while reading, an interesting phenomenon. I would start producing nonsense, and my husband would have to wake me up and nudge me forward.

That’s by the way. We have read widely, without a programme. Tonight, we finished “Greengates” by RC Sherriff, the author of “Journey’s End”. (Wow!) We’ve covered an awful lot of 19th century English and American novels, but we’ve also taken in War and Peace and Churchill’s “The Second World War” and, most spectacularly of all, “Ulysses”.

I was very doubtful about that one. It turns out it was made to be read aloud.

The other day, my husband said that he thought we should embark on another big project. I suggested Scott Moncrieff’s translation of Proust. Volume One (1000 pages plus a few) arrived today. The first page is suitably soporific. We shall see.

We don’t often abandon a project, but we don’t mind doing so. “Brighton Rock” was too gloomy for bedtime, Wodehouse too funny. So Proust and Scott Moncrieff have got to be on their best behaviour.

If we succeed, this will, almost certainly, be our Last Book.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

All went really quite well today. Perhaps the secret is to pay but little attention to Christmas.

I finished-finished the second stripey hat, although both it and its predecessor could do with a brief pass of the steam iron because the three rounds of ribbing at the beginning tend to flip upwards.

Then I wound a skein of “Tannehill” – goodness, it’s nice; why on earth discontinued? And then returned to Mrs Hunter’s edging. I’ve now done 10 scallops on the third side – 16 will be halfway. I continue to be surprised and pleased at how attractive this very simple edging looks. But by now “very simple” = “boring” and it’s going to need seriously gritted teeth to get the rest of the way around. Tomorrow’s target is that halfway point.

I thought I had a lot more to say. We watched a television program this evening about Balmoral, from its construction by Victoria and Albert to the present day. Some are horrified by the d├ęcor and bored by the regime – someone was quoted, as an example of the latter, as saying that the Queen spent the evening knitting. I think (given the point in the program at which the remark occurred) that that would have to be Mrs George V, the formidable Queen Mary of my youth, grandmother of the present Queen.

The solstice, I gather, will occur between 10:30 and 11 tomorrow morning – if they remember.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Even less was accomplished today. I did walk down to Coco in Stockbridge to buy some Xmas chocs for all our carers. Now I worry that they would have preferred Ferraro Rocher. The distance is .8 of a mile according to Google Maps -- and back again, of course, and a certain amount of up-hill-down-dale is involved, so that is not too bad a day's walk. 

And I did finish knitting the second stripey hat -- and made some progress with finishing-finishing.

And I had my hair done this morning. At least Charles had heard of High Noon. Alas, Janet, it is no good for knitting. You really have to look at that wonderful movie.

Thank you for your contributions on the burning question of what I am to knit next. I think I will cast on my husband's sweater, for the reasons weavinfool gives (comment, yesterday) and because casting on is fun. I have the notes from the sleeveless vest I knit him recently, so I won't even have to measure and think. But the shawl will take priority until I reach the point where I feel completely comfortable about finishing it on time. I don't remember having any such anxiety when I was knitting it for this baby's grandmother 60 years ago. Well, nearly 60.

But I was young then, and couldn’t afford the yarn for multiple WIPs anyway.

The late, great Judy Sumner used to have a different WIP for every day of the week. I ought to be able to juggle three.


If you Google “winter solstice 2016” and then click on the offering from the Telegraph, you get a nice scientific article explaining rather more than we need to know, and a delicious count-down, second by second, like the closing moments of an eBay sale. Just at the moment there is/are one day, 12 hours, and a diminishing half-hour to go. So, not tomorrow but Wednesday.

That’s assuming that whoever is in charge remembers to throw the switch. That aspect of things always worries me a bit.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Very little knitting, today, but even so the stripey hat should be finished tomorrow, and perhaps even finished-finished by Tuesday. Then what? Immediately, more scallops on the edging of Mrs Hunter’s shawl. Dare I start my husband’s much-needed sweater (madtosh DK “Tannehill”)? Or does that pose too much of a threat to the half-brioche sweater for myself, ¾’s finished?

We watched "High Noon" on our television set after lunch. Goodness gracious me! that's a good film.  Have I seen it since I left Oberlin? My husband's carers came in soon afterwards. I was so full of the experience that I asked them about it. Both are lively-minded and intelligent young women. Neither had heard of "High Noon" nor of Grace Kelly nor of GARY COOPER. One sort of forgets how young it is possible to be.

I am going to cut “Hygge Schmygge” out of the FT and file it, I think, in Vibeke Lind, as the closest I can get to Danish knitting. The article isn’t entirely irrelevant – the author says that “expensive, handcrafted Nordic socks” are essential to hygge and the illustration includes two pairs of such, which one could copy if one were unusually determined. 

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Not much, tonight. And not much of that, about knitting.

I’m very grateful for all comments about the side-effects of drugs, and I will  certainly keep you posted about Eliquis. Shandy, I have been a great fan of Mark Porter for a long time, and that is an interesting story of yours indeed.

Our cleaner was ill and didn’t come today, impressing upon me how much she does and how grateful I must be. I got through the minimum myself (no walk, no Christmas cards) and did rather enjoy putting everything in the kitchen in the place where I wanted it to be. There has never been much about housekeeping which agitates me one way or another, but I do like to keep saucepans within reach, and with their lids.

There is a headline in the Financial Times today: Hygge Schmygge. I was sort of pleased with myself for being able to understand it – knowing enough about 2016, and remembering enough of the New York speech of my youth. Never mind that – the article beneath the headline is very good, and very funny. I laughed aloud. Find it if you can.

I started the crown decreases on the stripey hat, and found the dp’s which will have to be deployed tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Some cards written, no walk, the 2nd stripey hat ready for the crown decreases.

I don’t think we’re recieving as many cards as in previous years, perhaps because everyone assumes that we’re dead. Perhaps because they’re dead themselves. It’s a gloomy time of year.

I am seriously thinking -- although I haven't done it yet -- of laying in a couple more stripey hat kits in case we have another winter solstice next year. It's great Darkness knitting, and I think there are several people on my Xmas list who would welcome such a hat (even though the grandchildren break 8-4 in favour of males). 

Jean: my sister says that the FDA (Federal Drug Authority?) lists "fatigue" among the fairly common side-effects of Eliquis, even if the British haven't noticed it. I have to pick up a new batch from Boots next week, and will read the enclosed instructions again with even more attention. 

For some months last year, while I was taking warfarin, I wasn't allowed alcohol either. I didn't feel particularly sprightly as a result -- but that was immediately after the pulmonary embolism crisis which started me down this path. I remember that I took a bottle of Weston's Vintage along with me to Hellie and Matt's wonderful wedding in September, '15  -- surely I could safely drink one, on such a day -- and the only person who could produce an opener when I needed one, was the bridegroom himself.

Back to Knitting

Interweave has launched something called Wool Studio – think Brooklyn Tweed, think Twist Collective. The patterns are very much the sort of thing I like, loose and easy with some interesting stitch detail hither and yon. I think of my beloved Relax. I can’t get the LookBook to work properly on my iPad, but I’ll keep at it. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Jean (fromcornwall), you can’t imagine how your comment yesterday cheered me. We’ll make medical history, you and I. I don’t take any other medication except Eliquis – unless you count Weston’s Vintage Cider. Doctors here are very severe about drink. But once Lent has removed that factor, we’ll be ready to roll.

And otherwise, it wasn’t a bad day either. I tottered twice around Drummond Place Gardens, reflecting on how much stronger I had been six years ago. In middle life, six years are as nothing. 

And I wrote some Christmas cards.

Kate Davies’ “Inspired by Islay” club has started functioning. What a good idea, to time it for these utterly darkest days! I have entirely forgotten what was promised when I signed up for it. The first goodie has been the pattern for the beautiful cardigan KD designed and knit for her own (extraordinary) wedding. I won’t be knitting it; I’m glad to have it.  I’m keenly looking forward to the next installment.

I have spent some time (as I often do) on the Schoolhouse Press website. There are some interesting things there, notably “Selbuvotter” – all in Norwegian and currently not available and really rather expensive. Never mind. It offers hundreds of pages about Norwegian mittens and Meg seems to be blown away by it.


Rachel rang up the other day. All is well with Hellie’s pregnancy. She is part of the web of auto-immune diseases which certainly don’t derive from my genes: thyroid deficiency (Rachel, Greek Helen, Mungo, Hellie, I may have forgotten others); premature greyness (my husband, his mother, Greek Helen); type one diabetes (James). Rachel says that Hellie is being monitored very closely. She is very slightly built, which adds slightly to anxiety.

As does darkness.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Not much of a day, accomplishment-wise. [Does that turn of phrase derive from Jack Lemmon in "The Apartment"?] A few more rounds on the stripey hat. Alexander came to see us and was rewarded with two wrapped and labelled Christmas presents. That’s about it. No cards. No walk.

Chloe, thank you for your concern. I did see a dr in the summer – she listened to heart and lungs and took “bloods” and apparently I’m fine. My current plan is to wait and see how I feel towards the end of Lent – will I be better off without Weston’s Vintage Cider? That could well be the case. (Ash Wednesday is March 1 next year, I have just discovered: the perfect day.)

And if abstinence does not produce sprightliness, I will then approach a doctor and ask about stopping blood-thinners, currently not rat poison but something called Aliquis. (Debility is not listed among its side-effects.) I feel rather as I felt in the six months after I had pneumonia in my 50’s, only now it goes on and on and then it got better.

One achievement today: I thought of someone who might possibly be willing to live-in and let me get away for a bit of r&r. I emailed him, he phoned promptly back – he’ll do it. It is someone my husband will be happy with and who, in turn, can keep him in line. Getting my husband into a care home for “respite” sounds like a good idea but is in fact next to impossible.

I’m thinking of taking Perdita to Perthshire in May, most glorious of months, and introducing her to the out-of-doors. I feel increasingly that it is cruel to a cat to deny her that. Another time, perhaps, I could go to Glasgow and see Alexander and Ketki’s house there and suss out the Glasgow yarn shops.

We’re all busy and cross and tired – but I hope, as in other years, to totter on here until the solstice and then declare a holiday hiatus.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Not a bad day. I got Xmas pressies wrapped for Alexander to take away with him tomorrow. I did a big supermarket shop. Tomorrow I must get back to card-writing.

And I knit very happily on the stripey hat. It is perfect winter solstice knitting, bright and cheerful and quick and fun -- perhaps I should get in a couple more kits for future solstices. Every bit of it is fun:

1) the 21 mini-skeins are strung on a leather thong (I think would be the word), in no particular order. So the first thing to do is to find the one you want next. The efficient thing to do would be to un-string them and spread them out on the table. I think it's much more fun not to. I find two at a time, and then re-string the others. 

2) then you get to wind the first of the skeins you found.  That's fun too.

3) then knit a stripe -- none are more than three rounds wide.

4) on to the second skein.

Then you get to start again. I've done 21 of the 55 rounds before the crown shaping.

There is a slight complication, in that after a while you find yourself called upon to re-employ a colour which has already appeared. And this evening, as we were peacefully watching television, I got to the first instance -- row 22 -- of that requirement.  And guess who was sleeping on top of the left-overs? So that was the end of the evening’s knitting.

(There is a blanket over the sofa because she often thinks she would like to sharpen claws on it.)


That 's a good idea, commenters yesterday, to walk to retain the strength I've got. Very faithful readers will remember how I used to do a mile around Drummond Place gardens every morning (four circuits). That was five or six years ago. Then we had a hard winter, the one in which my husband’s sister died, and I never got started again.

I will try to re-institute something like that. Although, of course, it probably won't be possible tomorrow… and I hear myself saying that often in the future. But I'll try. The great thing about DP Gardens is that they're more or less level. All other walks around here are fairly steep.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Not a bad day. I walked up through Gayfield Square to a post office (conveniently next to Valvona and Crolla). I dispatched the American Christmas cards and a couple of packages. I bought more than enough stamps for any further cards I may write. That ought to be my last post office queue of 2016.

I went on to John Lewis and bought cartridges for my fountain pen, and ink for my printer. One spends money so irresponsibly in this dark fortnight that it seemed a good moment to buy printer ink, absurdly expensive as it is, when the cost would merge into the general misery.. On to Boots, but it was too soon for them to have my next dose of blood-thinning pills.

I feel I am getting weaker, and sometimes wish I had a marker for how I'm doing. Today might prove to be such a marker. The route just described covers a mile or a bit more, much of it up hill. I got home pretty tired, but still functioning. Now I can remember that In December, 2016, I was able to walk up through Gayfield Square and...

Not much knitting got done, but I did finish the edging of the second side of Mrs Hunter's shawl, and, indeed, did one more scallop for good measure. I weighed the yarn when I reached  the corner point and was gratified to discover that it weighed 83 grams (having started at 100, presumably). I sit and knit and knit and feel I'm not achieving much. But 20 grams of lace weight are not to be sneezed at.

Then I cast on the second stripey hat, with a considerable lifting of the heart, except that the needles haven't arrived. I went back through emails and found one from the excellent Meadow Yarn to say that the sizes I had ordered had been out of stock, but should have been delivered to them today and therefore, since I chose 1st class postage, should be with me tomorrow. It doesn't at all matter. I knit all of the first hat on the smaller size needle (because, mysteriously, I don’t have the larger size in a hat length) and nobody's complaining.

The problem of Ross' hat and the washing of the swatches has been shelved for the moment

Sunday, December 11, 2016

I wrote some Christmas cards today on a card showing the Flight into Egypt in the form of a rather stiff mosaic from “St Virgin Mary's Coptic Orthodox Church in Cairo” – Aid to the Church in Need. I don't know what relationship, if any, that church has with the scene of today's atrocity. Perhaps tomorrow's newspapers will make it clear.

AA Gill's final column wasn't as good as I expected. Perhaps the themes of pain and fear and chemotherapy and the cost of nivolumab have been too thoroughly explored already by other doomed journalists. Perhaps it's hard to sparkle when you're dying. The cancer was already all over the place when it was discovered at the end of the summer. He might -- it's easy to say, in retrospect -- have been more comfortable and more productive with palliative care, and might have had just as much time. But he clearly expected something to be DONE. So perhaps active intervention was palliative, for him, although uncomfortable. He was only 62, scarcely older than my children. At the end, he was taking nivolumab, probably at his own expense.

I finished a second swatch, much pleasanter knitting on slightly larger needles. I haven't yet measured either. Do I really have to wash them? Surely, Ross won't wash his hat.

Then I went back to the shawl, and am now two scallops short of finishing the second-side edging, and feeling calmer and more confident.

I think I’ll start that stripey hat as soon as the package of needles turns up from Meadow Yarns – tomorrow? It's good stuff for these dark days.

And tomorrow I hope to go up to the post office and dispatch the American Christmas cards. Then (maybe) I will feel calmer and more confident about Christmas.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I've just heard that AA Gill is dead. I mentioned him in an earlier post, not all that long ago, along with his cancer diagnosis. I don't think anybody expected the end quite so soon. He will be missed. A final column by him, about “Facing up to Cancer”,  is promised in tomorrow's Sunday Times. I can safely predict that it will be very good.

What else? I knit a swatch for Ross's hat. Weinstein says, engagingly, "Make a stockinette determine approximate gauge." I love that “approximate”. I knit it with two strands held together, as mentioned yesterday. The fabric is distinctly tight with the needle size I more-or-less randomly chose, and slightly uncomfortable to knit. It wouldn’t be quite so bad knit circularly, with no purl rounds. But I may try again tomorrow, up half a centimetre or whatever it is we're talking about, in needle size.  Weinstein wants a tightly-knit fabric, so maybe I’m better where I am.

Swatching is not too bad, once one gets started on it, if one can steel oneself to the fact that nothing will have been accomplished by the end of the day. The great thing is that one is in charge, making a judgment on the fabric rather than the other way around. If one finds oneself thinking, this isn't working -- well, throw it away. It's only a swatch.

Then I did a couple more scallops on the second-side edging of the shawl. Thank you for the algebra, Sara. I'll weigh the ball when I finish this second side and see what conclusions I can draw. The ball appears completely unaffected by all I have knit from it so far.

“Shetland Oo” came today, and is as good as expected. Tom’s photographs are magnificent. 

Friday, December 09, 2016

Here are pictures of my sister in her Uncia, just to prove that everything is all right. It had been there for a couple of days, in fact (but not in time for the birthday). The card saying they had a package had been submerged by junk Christmas mail.

Today I wound a skein of Ross' yarn. It's not DK. It's pretty well exactly Shetland jumper weight, very soft. I fear swatching is going to be inevitable. I found the pattern in Weinstein's book (sometimes I can find things, sometimes I can't). He wants a watch cap to be tightly knit. I think I'm going to start by attempting a swatch with two strands of yarn held together.

One of the things I Do Not Do is deadline-orientated Christmas knitting. And here I am with two unknit hats and a fortnight to go. I won't be panicked. One or both hats won't be finished by the 25th. That's all right. The world will go on turning, and the light will come back anyway.

Indeed, having wound a skein, I went back to the shawl and have now finished half of the edging for the second side. I wish I had some idea what proportion of the whole the edging constitutes. It won't be negligible but I don't want to deceive myself by claiming too much for it. The birth of this child is a deadline I really don't want to miss.
The Uncia turned up in DC. Now my sister is struggling with the problem of how to wear it.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

It begins to look as if the Uncia may have been lost in the post, although we haven’t quite despaired.

I can't remember when I sent it, but I thought I was in plenty of time for my sister's birthday on the 3rd. And there have been several delivery-days since then. I feel quite calm -- I knit it, I wrapped it up, I wrote "Happy Birthday" on it, I addressed it, I got up to the Post Office and posted it. Job done. She's the one who unfortunately has to do without an Uncia.

But I hesitate to consign her husband's Whiskey Barrel socks to the Christmas mails, although their loss would be fairly trivial by comparison.

I got all the socks toe-grafted and finished today -- four pairs. There has also been a pair of Vampires of Venice which I gave Cathy at some point -- those five pairs are probably the whole story for '16, sock-wise. It'll be easier to keep track next year with my projected list in the side bar.

When I knit the first stripey hat, I was surprised to find that I didn't seem to have a 16" 4.5mm circular. Since that Christmas decades ago when I knit hats for everybody, I thought I had short circulars in every imaginable size. So for the first hat I knit the whole thing on the 4mm needle required for the initial rib. ("Knitting is forgiving stuff": EZ). But this time I mean to do it properly, so I sent an order to Meadow Yarns this morning.

And as for Ross' hat, Ravelry would seem to suggest that  Bruce Weinstein has the answer in "Knits Men Want" -- which I've got, and have, indeed, knit from. I haven't looked it up yet. For today, I went back to the shawl. I’ve now done slightly more than ¼ of the scallops for the second side.I love the way it's looking.

Carol, you were right -- I found Paton’s leaflet 893 while I was tidying things away after finishing off those socks. I'm trying to knit the shawl edging-inwards because that's the way I learned to do it from Amedro in her book "Shetland Lace". The yarn is Melanie Berg's Portland Lace in the shade Morning Rain, from the Yarn Collective. I am increasingly delighted with it. 

And I got the first Christmas cards written today. We're edging forward.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Pearl Harbor Day

Not much knitting, although I’ve finished  the toe shaping for the 2nd Kaffe Fassett sock. Tomorrow, tidying and toe-grafting all round. But there has also been a certain amount of knitterly event:

-- The package arrived from Deramores. So, whoever they are, they're really here. I must investigate the website(s) with care.

--A neighbour and dear friend came to call on my husband yesterday and mentioned that he had some yarn, no use to him, would I like it? I bravely said yes, expecting some vintage '50's Patons or Sirdar from his late granny's stash. Not a bit of it. I found on the doorstep this morning two beautiful skeins of a dusty blue, with a note explaining that they come from the now-defunct Brora Woollen Mill to which his father used to supply Cheviot wool from their farm. More or less DK, I think. I have put it in the freezer for the time being, just in case. Ross must have a hat.

It might be interesting to add another item to the sidebar next year (as well as the planned FO list) in which I list what the next three projects are going to be. There will be months and months when the list doesn't change, and times like these when excitement lies around every corner. Currently hat, hat, shawl. And you never know, Scotland might win the Calcutta Cup next year.

I wrote the rest of this before reading your second comment, Carol, and also Judith’s:

Carol. Yes, Paton's 893 is the shawl I'm knitting. Except that a recent oddity of life is that I put it carefully aside when I had mastered the edging pattern, which didn't take long, and now I can't find it. It must be here amidst the detritus in this room, not far from where I sit. Fortunately, I also have 1085 which is identical while including a second shawl. I would be worried about the disappearance of 893 except that I've got too much else to worry about.

For the pattern, Kate Davies says that members of the UK Knitting and Crochet Guild can access it. You could join? She says that she first saw it in the archives of the Shetland Museum. And what about Bishop Rutt's digitalised archives at -- I believe -- Southampton University? Is it in copyright? Could I scan it and send it to you? 

I never throw away a knitting pattern, especially one I have actually knit, but for many years I couldn't find that one. I sought it high and low, and eventually found it in a loose pile of patterns at the now-famous Christian Aid book sale here in Edinburgh in the spring. That was a very happy day. And now I can't remember why I have two. Or used to have.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

I watched the second instalment of the Fair Isle documentary today. I had slightly the feeling that they were avoiding talking about knitting on purpose, and that they lingered too long on matters which could have been dispatched more briskly. Still well worth watching, and there is lots of good knitting to be glimpsed when they’re talking about something else.

The Financial Times had an excellent "Books of 2016" feature last weekend, absolutely chock-a-block with Boring Books for David's Christmas. The previous front-runner had been "Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary at War 1914-1918". But I discarded that idea, and also decided against "The Rise and Fall of American Growth", Princeton University Press, 784 pages, "the most important book on economics in many years", as perhaps too boring. I won't tell you any more just now.

There were lots in the FT, including that one, which I might have enjoyed reading while I still had the mental strength.

I'm whizzing on down the foot of the second Kaffe Fassett sock, eager to get back to the shawl. When Archie was gestating, i knit an Amedro lace-weight pattern, a departure for me at the time, and felt I was doing my bit, knitting the shawl while nature was knitting the baby. I would like -- absurdly -- to help in that way again. I think I should be able to finish the sock tomorrow. Grafting the toes of it and the others in the sidebar won't take all that long. Back to the shawl by Friday -- depending on Delamores.

I had a bit of difficulty when I finished the Kaffe Fassett yarn (always a moment of achievement, to finish a ball of yarn) and couldn't find the Madtosh Whiskey Barrel sock-weight which I had used to finish off the toe of the first sock. Searched in vain. Then I thought, it's probably in that Cairndow Childcare bag, on which each of the children has drawn a picture of himself or herself. Thomas’ self-portrait is there, the younger of the Little Boys. James must have moved on to primary school by that time. I often carried knitting in it, back and forth to the hospital. 

And sure enough, once I started looking for that bag instead of looking for the yarn, I found it almost at once, with the yarn inside. It was very gratifying to have solved a problem by thinking about it. 

Monday, December 05, 2016

I've finished the edging for the first side of the shawl. It measures about 42", stretched out on the carpet firmly but not excessively so. Blocked, it won't be far off the 47" the pattern hopes for. 

I wish I had some sense of what proportion of the finished shawl, the edging constitutes. I hate knitting to a deadline -- but that's what a baby amounts to. I'm sure I've got plenty of time,  but I worry a bit, here in the dark. Perhaps it's worth concentrating on the thought that it won't be born -- insh'Allah -- until not long before the summer solstice. 

But in any event, I have laid the shawl aside and am now finishing off that sock, with the intention of then grafting the toes of the others which languish in the sidebar. Then the second stripey hat -- if Deramores proves as good as its word. I should be knitting shawl again before Christmas.

Mary Lou, I had never heard of Deramores either -- but if they can supply you with British yarn, and me with American, without customs charges, it's a name worth remembering. 


Cat, I'm not organised. I'm just terrified.  I pretty well know when it's time-to-get-up these days, not by traffic sounds beyond the dark window, but by my mounting sense of panic as I struggle towards another day of consciousness.  I can't really imagine Christmas in midsummer -- but surely it can't be quite as scary. 

I went to visit a neighbour today, who lives directly above us, way, way up -- but her address is around the corner, actually on Scotland Street. We had a nice time talking about our local murder. She has been interviewed by the police three times, although her windows allow no view of the scene and she is far too old and arthritic to be much about in the street. Nobody interviewed us. We didn't see anything either. 

I failed to take the promised picture of my swift, but here is our local crime scene, at midday today. I asked the policewoman' s permission before I took it. It's not very interesting.