Friday, September 30, 2016

Another successful day, knitting-wise.

I’m decreasing for the toe of the second Whiskey Barrel sock – nearly done. The new skein makes a distinct break from the old one, but fortunately the line will be hidden well within the wearer’s shoe. Such breaks are a danger, with madtosh.

I got my five rows of Uncia done. I would have liked to add a sixth, so as to start today with a wrong-side row. They’re easier. But it’s wiser not to press on when tired (which I am, most of the time).

And I added another point to the edging of the Hansel Hap. I would have liked to get a bit further forward with that, too, but bedtime beckoned. Prince Albert has still not appeared, although much discussed. The Queen has offered her heart and hand to Lord Melborne but he has sensibly declined them.


The big knitting news of the last two days has been the arrival of two books – “A Shetlander’s Fair Isle Graph Book”, from Jamieson & Smith; and the Feral Knitter’s “The Joy of Color”.

The Shetland Guild of Spinners etc set about to publish a book of members’ Fair Isle designs, a companion to their brilliant lace book. Then one of the group remembered that she had two Fair Isle graph books, given her by the son of the knitwear manager for Anderson & Co (a broker, still there in Lerwick, which bought knitters’ work and sold it on). She was a lace knitter herself, and had forgotten about them.

They are enchanting. Page after page of Fair Isle patterns, broad and narrow, carefully coloured in on graph paper. There is an introduction by Carol Christiansen, the revered curator of textiles at the Shetland Museum.

Interestingly, on an early page there is a row of swastikas. It is a Hindu symbol of good fortune. I have used it myself, in lace, knitting shawls for the Little Boys. But I have never seen it before on Shetland. Christiansen says in the introduction that it doesn’t appear in Shetland knitwear after 1934 – which probably helps date the pattern book. (My father’s mother had a little silver spoon with good-luck symbols: a rabbit’s foot, a four-leafed clover, a swastika. Striking, to a child – me – seeing it during the war.)

The Guild is still working on that book of members' Fair Isle patterns, you'll be glad to hear.

“The Joy of Color” is another self-published book, and another triumph. It’s not a pattern book, but a distillation of the workshops Janine Bajus – the Feral Knitter -- teaches on how to design your own Fair Isle. Meg herself contributes a forward.

I haven’t yet progressed beyond the chapter on colour, and am, as usual, feeling bogged down in shades and tones and colour wheels, as I do even when Franklin tries to help in his Craftsy class. I’ll report further.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

An industrious day, and I got it all done. The Whiskey Barrel sock must be within two or three hospital-visits of completion. I did five rows of the Uncia, a struggle, and am now ready for row 264 in Chart E. The chart ends with row 284 – that's four more days at this pace, if I can keep it up. Chart F really does look easier – considerable stretches of either knits or purls, instead of struggling with every stitch.

But that leaves Charts G and H. G, at least, is small – not many rows, shorter repeats.

And then, later on, I added another point to the Hansel Hap edging, and watched to the end of Part 2 of “Victoria”. No sign of Prince Albert yet, but he couldn’t be far away.

Shandy, what can I say? I’m not the one to turn to for advice. There must be far more competent Uncia-knitters than I. I’m finding the charts difficult, needless to say. Many of the symbols are familiar, others aren’t. I haven’t yet tried using my printer to enlarge the charts, but that might help.

One thing: a common manoeuvre turns out to be the crossing of a knit stitch either left or right, when the purl stitches which started out on either side of it, are purled together. The symbol looks like an ordinary cross-1-right or cross-1-left, with whiskers on it. I’m now used to it.

Otherwise, just the ordinary. I attach a card to the book with a paper clip, either above or below the row to be knit. I read through the right side rows before beginning, in case any fancy symbols loom.

Keep at it. Someone once said something on the lines of, It’s wonderful what we can do, if we be ever doing.

Kathy of Kathy's Knits is going -- or has gone -- to Shetland Wool Week. Will Lucy Hague be filling in behind the counter?


What’s wrong with “Oriental”, Peggy, when applied to a gardening tool? How else can you say, “of Eastern origin”? What a minefield is language! I remember how surprised I was when James told me not to say “Chinaman”.  I no longer do.

One of you wrote to me yesterday with this excellent link for an American source for the OGT.

I also remember during or just after the little lifetime of David and Helen’s eldest son, Oliver, when an old-fashioned friend referred to him as a “Mongol”. He had Down’s Syndrome, and died of various organ failures related to that syndrome, after a valiant struggle on the part of the NHS and his loving parents to keep him going. I wouldn’t have used the word myself, but it was the only available term when I was young. I wasn’t offended, and didn’t begrudge it to my friend.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Very little, today.

I didn’t feel entirely up to snuff yesterday, and accomplished little as a result. Today looks like a normal day – according to the New Norm – and I hope for better. Starting with some Uncia-knitting this morning.

I progressed down the foot of the second Whiskey Barrel sock yesterday, during the hospital visit. I’ve already forgotten how many rounds there are in the foot, and will soon be reduced to counting the first sock. I wound the second skein of the yarn during the presidential debate, so I’m ready to join it in today.

Karen, thank you for spotting that the Vintage Shetland Project is now to be published in December – just in time for Christmas! Gosh! That’s not worth much, without estimates of how much work remains to be done and how much poor Susan thinks she’ll be capable of, and when. There’s no news in the Vintage Shetland Project thread of the Susan Crawford Vintage Designs group on Ravelry.

I hope “pre-order” on the website doesn’t mean that she’s still taking money.


What you people need – anyone who’s interested in potatoes – is an Oriental Gardening Tool. The link is to a blog from some years ago. From it, you ought to be able to find a source. It’s a tool that puts you in touch with tillers of the soil through the millennia, the way it fits into your hand. I gave one to Alexander for Christmas once, and he said thank you but he didn’t think it would be much use because he didn’t do much gardening on his knees. Three or four months later, he asked where I’d bought it: Ketki wanted one of her own.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Here I am back. We had a good time. No apples – the tree has come down. Wind? Deer? It’s not dead, but all of this year’s apples are gone and many of the lower branches stripped bare. I think the problem may essentially have been a shallow soil. It might be worth our nice gardener’s time to move it into a better place.

I dug all the potatoes, and they are delicious. I was taken aback at how much effort I needed to expend on the job, and how tired I was thereafter.

I got up and watched the debate last night, as planned. I think it leaves us much where we were before, with the balance tipped slightly towards Hillary. Neither candidate disgraced him/herself.

My big problem was that the television picture was stuck in the upper right-hand corner of the screen and no amount of button-pushing could enlarge it. That didn't really matter for the debate, but the problem persisted this morning. I tried googling, and the only suggestion was to push the keys I was already pushing. I tried changing the batteries in the zapper, since that technique had recently worked so well with the mouse. In despair, I applied the ultimate sanction – I switched the whole kit-and-caboodle off at the wall, and on again. That did the trick.

No knitting to speak of – none, in Strathardle. I got my five rows of Uncia done on Saturday. I think Chart E is perhaps slightly easier than its predecessors. I’ll return to the fray today. The Whiskey Barrel sock is slightly advanced – the gusset decreases are finished, and I am steaming down the foot of the second sock. Now that I have got my television back, I can look forward to some "Victoria" and some hap-edging this evening. I’m keenly looking forward to Prince Albert.


You’re all of you right. I must have her spayed. My reasons for holding back are these:

a)       We believe, on slight but not negligible evidence, that a cat who has had kittens remains more engaged with the world thereafter.
b)      Perdita never purrs, except when she is nuzzling into my neck and pretending to be my kitten, kneading and sucking. I think, with kittens of her own, she might purr, and they would purr, their little bodies vibrating with the experience. And maybe the lesson would last, for her.

c)       That time she fell off a high shelf, and I took her to the vet several days later because she was still limping, and she was anaesthetised and x-rayed, and I tried to comfort her in the evening when I brought her home -- she hissed and spat at me. It was dreadful. Can I face it again?

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Well, the secret of life – but we already knew that – is to set oneself goals.

 -- Yesterday I finished the heel flap of the second Whiskey Barrel sock, turned the heel, and have nearly finished picking up the gusset stitches.

 --  I did five rows of the Uncia, not without struggle. That is only going to be possible on days when I can do a couple of rows in the morning. Today should qualify.

 -- And at the end, I turned “Victoria” on again and added another edging point to the Hansel hap. I still don’t believe a word of it, but it’s wonderful wallpaper. Yesterday we had a "cameo" from the Duke of Wellington, whom I love more than most historical figures. Even in old age, I don't think he was like that. 

More knitting news – someone in the “Vintage Shetland” thread of the “Stitches in Time” group on Ravelry has actually had the temerity to ask for news, given that the website still promises publication for August 15. And we have been told that a new projected schedule will follow soon. Susan has finished chemotherapy for the moment, and now faces surgery.

Happier knitting news: I plod on with Flipboard, and today they came up trumps. Mason-Dixon knitting (I should read them much more often) recommend “Drop Down Easy Knits” by Gale Zucker, Kristen Kapur – and our own Mary Lou! Just the thing for one struggling with the Uncia, which surely qualifies as drop-down difficult. I ordered the book at once. Here in GB, it hasn’t been published yet.

The blog illustrates a log-cabin-type blankie which I will keep in mind for Hellie and Matt’s baby, when they get around to one. They used to say they hoped for a dozen. I’d better add it to a Ravelry list.


Helen and I hope to go to Strathardle tomorrow, returning early Monday. So, silence here for two days. No Uncia, either.

There is a basement-level flat on Cumberland Street inhabited by what we think of, on no evidence whatsoever, as the Mad Cat Lady. (It’s probably a male High Court Judge.) There is a cat flap, and a doormat in the shape of a cat, and a ceramic plaque saying “Attenti al gatto!”, and a lovely stone cat with flowers on it. Archie and I walked past it on our way home from the Gallery of Modern Art the other day, and I pointed it out and said, “I can hardly knock on the door and ask if she knows a tom cat.”

And Archie said, “Why not?”

Poor Perdita is in heat again. My husband remains very reluctant to having her spayed before she’s had one litter, as indeed do I. Yesterday I went twice to the door of the Mad Cat Lady, but no one answered. I’ll try again this morning. Courts don’t sit on Saturday.  

Friday, September 23, 2016

Here I still am, not in Strathardle – and the sun is shining, contrary to yesterday’s forecast.

Whoever-it-was rang up yesterday morning to say that they will deliver my husband’s hospital bed at some time today, between 8am and 3pm, I think it was. I told my husband, at the end of yesterday’s visit, that my appearance at his side today was somewhat uncertain for that reason. And he said that we have a perfectly good bed and that he won’t use a hospital bed.

That’s what he used to say. It was his agreement to give a hospital bed a try which has inaugurated these strenuous efforts on the part of the hospital to get him home. Sinking of heart.


On the other hand, it was a very good day for knitting. I started the heel flap of the second Whiskey Barrel sock. I’m going to need to wind the second 100 gram ball of yarn pretty soon now – that really feels like progress.

And I finished Chart D of the Uncia. I am impressed with the speed with which you have reached Chart A, Shandy. If it’s any comfort, I think A is the most difficult of the ones I have so far surmounted. But I agree with you, that the problem is, one expects to be able to anticipate YO’s and cable crossings, as in one’s previous experience of lace and cable knitting, and, on the whole, it’s not happening.

I have about 150 rows to go. That sounds like a lot. That is a lot. But it occurred to me in the night – a good time for thinking – that five rows a day will polish it off in a month, so that’s my goal.

Sharon, you’re right not to start the Haps Book with the Uncia. I had a reason to do so, eventually to be revealed. But I didn’t expect it to be as difficult as this. (Now that you’ve got a television, Sharon, you can watch the presidential debate. That’s going to be worthwhile, whatever; and my husband won’t be home yet, surely, so I can wrap myself in my dressing gown and watch, whenever.)

Later on yesterday, I did another edging point on the hap shawl while watching the end of the first episode of “Victoria”. Much better knitting-television than "National Treasure". I think I’ll persevere with it.

AND the morning mail brought me the latest issue of Amirisu. It was an indulgence (=expensive). It’s wonderful. I am particularly taken with a sleeveless vest which has a diagonal zipper, like a biking jacket. Now if only Franklin would come to the EYF and teach his zipper class…

(The class list will be up in a week or two, with registration a week later. Oh, the excitement!) 

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Happy equinox, everybody! I often think of the calendar year in terms of the Musical Cars competition which ends the Strathardle Highland Games every year. Cars drive round and round the field, and when the music stops the passenger leaps out and tries to secure one of the stakes in the ground at the centre.

After many years as a spectator, I drove and Joe Ogden ran a few years ago. We did rather well, although we didn't win. One tries to drive a little faster at one or two unfortunate points in the circuit – especially when driving past the dancing platform. This quadrant of the year – from here to the solstice – is definitely on a level with the dancing platform.

Otherwise, I have little to report.

My husband was unusually sleepy yesterday – “Have they drugged me?” I sat with him for an hour and a half, or so, knitting away. He didn’t even ask about coming home. We’ll see how things go today.

Helen and I are thinking of going to Strathardle tomorrow. There are apples to be picked and potatoes to be dug, and water to be drained for the winter. If I’m not here, that’s why.

My poor sister is terrified by the election. Understandably. I am obsessively interested in it, and glad to be viewing it at one remove. I hope Monday’s debate will be see-able on our television if one is willing to sit up until the middle of the night.

Apart from the Whiskey Barrel socks, I reached row 241 of the Uncia – seven rows to go in Chart D. I am beginning to get the hang of what’s going on at the moment, and can knit (slowly) across without much peering. Everything will no doubt change in Chart E.

And, later, I watched “National Treasure”. It was undoubtedly “good” but I doubt if I’ll go on. No one in it was very nice. I found I couldn’t knit as I watched, but I persevered and did another edging point on the hap shawl afterwards. Now that I’m back in the saddle, I’ll aim for one a day. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Neither of the last two days were really all that strenuous, but I’m tired and am taking it easy today.

My husband is to come home, when we get the “package of care” –which could still be weeks away, or perhaps not. Carers will come in four times a day and will do all the moving. I am forbidden to attempt it. If we have a diarrhoea crisis, we ring somebody up. I still have to cook and do the washing and feed the cat and be at the receiving end of the bad temper. But we’ve got to try.

The Whiskey Barrel sock made progress yesterday – I’m not many days away from the heel.

I didn’t get any Uncia done yesterday, being totally shattered by the time I finally got home from the hospital; but I’ve done three whole rows this morning, and hope for more before the day is out.

I got an email the other day from Colorful Stitches about three rather wonderful shawls. I can’t seem to persuade it to come up as a web page. Two Manos, one Berroco, blocks of colour in all three cases.

The new Knitting magazine has, as usual, nothing to tempt me. I sometimes wonder whether my disdain is due to the fact that their photographs aren’t as brilliant as other people’s, but I think it’s not that. I think the patterns aren’t as good.

At the end of every issue we have the Purl Princess, who irritates me a good deal. But she has a point, this month – knitters wear shawls, and love them. But nobody else. “You can’t even buy them on the high street; perhaps a floaty chiffon wrap or a woven pashmina, but not a triangular, semi-circular, circular or square knitted shawl”.   

I am much tempted by the new television series called “National Treasure”. I recorded the first episode last night. Perhaps I’ll sit up tonight and watch it and get back to edging that hap for Emmett before he leaves for college.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

We had a good time at the care home yesterday, I guess – but they have no beds. I had sort of hoped that my husband might move there right away, and that the prospect could be sold to him as a way of getting out of hospital now. Helen was a bit surprised that the place didn’t seem quite as much of a country club as did the retirement community in NJ where my mother used to live.

But a care home is not quite the same thing as a retirement community. They were much occupied with a cupcake-decorating competition. My husband would hate it.

It sounds (from Helen this morning) as if the process of getting him home is moving forward rather briskly. Hopsital bed to be delivered next week. Maybe I can manage. Maybe I’ll have to.

And meanwhile we still have this afternoon’s appt with the consultant.

I have been clearing out the bottom drawer of an old wardrobe this morning: Helen is going to have it -- one less piece of furniture here. It was the drawer with all the old programs – two Calcutta Cups (neither a win); Michael Pennington’s Hamlet, Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, Antony Sher’s Richard the III and Tamburlaine the Great, Brian Cox’ Titus Andronicus (all from Stratford); the Edgbaston cricket ground the day Brian Lara scored 501 not out, and so forth. Many a tear.

As for knitting, the Whiskey Barrel sock moved forward nicely yesterday, and so did the Uncia – I’m seven rows into Chart D. That’s a good day’s work, for me. And I can tell you that row 234 is almost easy. Something to look forward to, if you’re just starting out.

Monday, September 19, 2016

So today is when life gets exciting. Helen and I are going to visit a possible care home in the early afternoon, armed with lists of questions. Then on to visit my husband and perhaps to put the idea seriously to him. The care home is further from here than the hospital, but mercifully in the same direction.

We had a good visit yesterday. My husband asked how many socks I had finished during his current imprisonment. Good question. Presumably all of the Vampires – when did I start them? Since we never travel these days, and I don’t knit socks at home, hospital visiting is the only time. Yesterday I finished the ribbing on the second Whiskey Barrel sock, as hoped, and made a good start – 20 rounds – down the leg.

I also had a good day with the Uncia. I finished Chart C, as hoped. I have even knit the first row of Chart D. But that still leaves Charts D, E, F, G and H – 170 rows –- so there’s no need to get too worked up. I am still very pleased with the way it's looking, a determined to forge ahead as fast as I can before life closes over my head.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

I had a grand day in North Berwick. Good recent weather was predicted to turn, but it didn’t. We had summer warmth to an extent that might have provoked a Hillary-episode. We walked on the beach with happy dogs and ate fish and chips. No photographs, alas.

I am very grateful for all your comments about my present dilemma.

Auntie Jane, I have read on-line of the American retirement facilities which provide for different stages of decrepitude in each of two partners. I don’t think that’s possible here. I think, in general, that retirement communities are more attractive in the US.

And, Judith, you’re right – a care home for my husband would mean pretty well daily visiting. As does his current incarceration, but the care home we have in mind is slightly further away than the hospital.

We'll know a lot more in a couple of days -- the big question being, if we move my husband now, does that disqualify us for council care and thus make a return home next to impossible? 

I need to take myself in hand – now. I spend mornings in a state of mounting tension, getting a bit done but usually not much. Then I go to the hospital, often stopping at Waitrose on the way. Then I come back, cook myself something, nap, spend a couple of evening hours accomplishing little, early bed. I think there are adjustments that could be made to make my days more productive, although it’s difficult to think of what they might be.

An occupational therapist came in while I was visiting on Friday and gave my husband a cognitive test. He didn’t do very well, but it was fun. Count backwards from 100 in intervals of 7? “Who is the Prime Minister?” is almost a trick question these days. My husband thought it was Cameron – he’s been in hospital for two months now and hasn’t exactly been reading the papers.


Only five more rows to go of Chart C of the Uncia – my ambition is to finish today. There’s a mistake in the last row I did – I have twisted a stitch in the wrong direction. I realized this before I had finished knitting the row, and found the place. I think it will be redeemable during the next row but I decided last night that it was wiser to go to bed than to press on.

It’s going fairly briskly at the moment. Right-side rows are slow because of endless cabling and twisting, but it’s possible to get a grasp of what is happening and execute considerable stretches of it without peering. Wrong-side rows are brisker, but watch out for those slipped stitches. And never take Lucy Hague for granted, is my advice.

I should finish the ribbing of the second Whiskey Barrel sock today. I was delayed on Friday by the mysterious loss of a needle. I will never go on a hospital visit again with fewer than five. It turned up under the bed (where I thought I’d looked) when the occupational therapist arrived.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Greek Helen and her son Mungo and I went to the hospital together yesterday, and had a good visit. I’ll go alone today, and tomorrow not at all, as I am going to North Berwick with a friend. I’ve been past it often, and once went there to buy petrol on a journey south. But I’ve never been to North Berwick, per se. It’s a long way north of Berwick.

I think my four children and my sister feel that care of my husband at home is going to be more than I can cope with, even given maximum care. Helen and I are going on Monday to see the care home which a friend and I sussed out over a year ago – the one with the cat on the staff, although he no longer seems to be there. He was old. And on Tuesday we’re going to talk to the consultant in charge of the ward where my husband is.

I am much torn. He would be devastated. What about the marriage vows?


A bit more ribbing-of-the-second-sock while we were at the hospital, and a successful day with the Uncia. I have done row 214 of Chart C, out of 228. I got rid of the six stitches I had mistakenly added, and I think you’d have to stop the bloody horse and get off before you could spot the place. There are people on Ravelry who seem to be able to sit all afternoon knitting Uncia while the Olympics roar in the background. Not me.

I think the travelling stitches and cables of Chart C are more or less discernible at the top of that image.

It occurred to me as I was toiling on yesterday, what an expenditure of time this must have involved for Lucy Hague. Not just designing it, and knitting the prototype, although that is no small thing, but devising the charts – there are 34 different symbols on page 86, where I am at the moment. I couldn’t say, and won’t attempt to, whether there are more and others, on other pages. But I can say that the charts are brilliantly done, and reliable.

She lives somewhere around here, and often helps out in Kathy’s Knits where I was yesterday buying a cable needle to help with all this.


Perdita doesn’t seem to be eating. But we all know that a cat rivals an IRA terrorist when it comes to starving oneself to death to make a point. Does anyone remember an otherwise utterly unremarkable movie with Donald Sutherland or Elliot Gould, which has a wonderful 90-second sequence in which the hero finds himself out of cat food, and goes to the all night grocery but they don’t have the right brand, so he goes home, and pushes the cat out of the kitchen, and decants the wrong cat food into an empty tin of the right brand and then invites the cat back in for feeding?

I don’t remember that we are shown the cat’s disdainful response.
Greek Helen and her son Mungo and I went to the hospital together yesterday, and had a good visit. I’ll go alone today, and tomorrow not at all, as I am going to North Berwick with a friend. I’ve been past it often, and once went there to buy petrol on a journey south. But I’ve never been to North Berwick, per se. It’s a long way north of Berwick.

I think my four children and my sister feel that care of my husband at home is going to be more than I can cope with, even given maximum care. Helen and I are going on Monday to see the care home which a friend and I sussed out over a year ago – the one with the cat on the staff, although he no longer seems to be there. He was old. And on Tuesday we’re going to talk to the consultant in charge of the ward where my husband is.

I am much torn. He would be devastated. What about the marriage vows?


A bit more ribbing-of-the-second-sock while we were at the hospital, and a successful day with the Uncia. I have done row 214 of Chart C, out of 228. I got rid of the six stitches I had mistakenly added, and I think you’d have to stop the bloody horse and get off before you could spot the place. There are people on Ravelry who seem to be able to sit all afternoon knitting Uncia while the Olympics roar in the background. Not me.

I think the travelling stitches and cables of Chart C are more or less discernible at the top of that image.

It occurred to me as I was toiling on yesterday, what an expenditure of time this must have involved for Lucy Hague. Not just designing it, and knitting the prototype, although that is no small thing, but devising the charts – there are 34 different symbols on page 86, where I am at the moment. I couldn’t say, and won’t attempt to, whether there are more and others, on other pages. But I can say that the charts are brilliantly done, and reliable.

She lives somewhere around here, and often helps out in Kathy’s Knits where I was yesterday buying a cable needle to help with all this.


Perdita doesn’t seem to be eating. But we all know that a cat rivals an IRA terrorist when it comes to starving oneself to death to make a point. Does anyone remember an otherwise utterly unremarkable movie with Donald Sutherland or Elliot Gould, which has a wonderful 90-minute sequence in which the hero finds himself out of cat food, and goes to the all night grocery but they don’t have the right brand, so he goes home, and pushes the cat out of the kitchen, and decants the wrong cat food into an empty tin of the right brand and then invites the cat back in for feeding?

I don’t remember that we are shown the cat’s disdainful response.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Alexander came over from the west to visit his father yesterday; I stayed home. Helen came, with a Romanian cleaning-woman/friend who is thinking of relocating to Edinburgh. She’s wonderful, and so is Helen. They blitzed the house and did all the ironing. I now can’t find anything, but it’s all clean and organised. Today Helen and I and her middle son Mungo will visit my husband – Mungo on the threshold of the Oxford Experience.

So the only knitting was the Uncia. I’ve done 209 rows – and had trouble in the 209th. I found myself a stitch short at six equivalent points in the row, so I added one at each point. As soon as I picked it up this morning, I saw my mistake – I had misread a cross-two symbol as a cross-three, so of course I was short a stitch. I think the result will be fudgable. We’ll soon see.

I should have known. 209 is not mentioned in the errata. This very complicated pattern has been very meticulously edited. The fault had to be mine. The moral is, perhaps, not to attempt the Uncia after 6 pm.

No hospital meant no Whiskey Barrel sock.

Jared has a new collection ready: wow! I feel myself increasingly drawn to a yoke sweater – you’ll see the relevance of the remark when you follow the link. I’ve already bought Kate’s kit for “Miss Rachel’s yoke”. All I need to do is knock off a couple of UFO’s, and I can add it to the rota. But that won’t be this week or next.

Isabella, thank you (comment yesterday) for your encouragement on the Debbie-Bliss-cowl front. I think it will probably happen, with you as the enabler.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Another good day, I guess. My husband was in much better humour, although still miserable about not getting home. The hospital is fast-tracking his homecoming: he is to have a hospital bed here, and a “samhall” – a wonderful machine; I must look up its etymology – and two carers four times a day, for transfers from chair to commode and that sort of thing. They will be provided by the council and all we have to do now, is wait for them to be arranged. It may take a while; it may not.

The idea, which is of course preposterous, is that I will have nothing to do.

I knit onward with the ribbing of the second Whiskey Barrel sock – past halfway.

And I’ve done a few more rows of the Uncia – I’ve now finished 203 of them. I think it is close to being the most difficult thing I have ever knit. I’m not complaining – it’s beautiful, and I am dizzy with admiration for Lucy Hague. But it’s tough. I was very grateful for your comment yesterday, Bettina. I had sort of been afraid that my problem was more old age than the pattern

In Ravelry – where I spend a lot of time these days, looking for news of the Vintage Shetland Project in the Susan Crawford group which I have recently joined – in Ravelry, the difficulty of the Uncia is rated at 66% or so (there are no actual numbers on the difficulty-line). I would put it in the 90’s. But the rows are short: that helps. I do want to press on as urgently as possible: it is going to be even more difficult when my husband gets home, whereas sock-knitting and hap-edging will be do-able.

The new “Knitter” is here. I am much taken with the Debbie Bliss ad for a cowl on the inside front cover. The pattern looks like good fun, and the yarn, a mixture of yak! and cashmere! must be sheer heaven on the fingers. A Christmas present? In fact, an expensive pre-Christmas present for myself, in the doing of it. The yarn, and the pattern-book, are called “Lhasa”. I’m thinking about it.


I remain obsessively interested in this story, although there’s still no news that couldn’t be condensed into a brisk paragraph. Yesterday – alas! this morning I can’t find a link to prove this – a woman was interviewed on the World at One (Radio Four) who was purportedly a former editor of the New York Times. She said that obsessive interest in Hillary’s pneumonia was a form of sexism.

I have never heard anything so preposterous. If Mr Trump had buckled like that at the World Trade Center on Sunday, I am absolutely sure the world would be astonished and even more interested. This is so absurd that it wouldn’t be worth mentioning except for the position in the frame of the New York Times. The New York Times. Maybe I’ve got it wrong.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I had a good day yesterday, relaxed without the anticipated-stress and exhaustion-afterwards of hospital visiting. I spent the whole day here, but at least I got some things done. Old sticky-keys is back in action – you were right, whoever suggested that a new battery in the mouse would work wonders. I’ve remembered how to make it go, and re-accessed Lotus Organizer. And in the evening I re-set a forgotten password and got back to my Rosetta Stone Italian lessons.

And I finished Chart B of the Uncia, and made a six-row start on Chart C. I am finding it very difficult – now it’s the right-side rows which are near-impossible, and those cable crossings, each slightly different. I am very near the half-way point number-of-rows-wise, and can therefore say that I’m pretty well on target for size, allowing for blocking.

I had hoped to be able to combine Uncia-knitting with television-viewing by now, but alas no. I watched part of the first episode of “Victoria” (unconvinced that she was anything like that, even in youth) but couldn’t knit.

Mary Lou, thanks for the pointer to the Fair Isle pattern book (comment yesterday), ordered as soon as seen.

Many thanks, too, for everybody’s comments about my husband and his problems. Yours was a good, sharp question, Abland – could he, in a care home, be any crosser than at present? (Except that he would be without hope.) When I was briefly in hospital myself last summer with my pulmonary embolisms, I was impressed and touched with the old woman in the ward who was just as happy as any of us to be released, although she was going back to a care home.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Poor Hillary.

“Basket of deplorables” would have been enough of a stumble for one weekend.

The BBC’s Jon Sopel said, interestingly, on the Today programme today, that someone had suggested to him that in this extraordinary year, whichever candidate the campaign focused on, would be the loser. If it was all about Trump, Hillary would win. And if…  And for the moment, undoubtedly, it’s all about Hillary.

It’s interesting that Trump has been completely silent on the subject for almost 24 hours now.


Very little to report. I got the second sock cast on and well started. The first one looks big, but the intended recipient is a big man.

I didn’t even pick up the Uncia. The visit to my husband was a tough one. He’s not interested in a care home. “It’s too late for that.” Thank you for the tip about Age Concern Scotland, Helen(anon). I’ve had a quick look and it certainly sounds as if we could claim Attendance Allowance. However, money isn’t the problem. Essentially, it’s bad temper. There’s nothing anyone can do about that.


Yes, Abstract Fibre (comment yesterday), we have a grand view of the downstairs garden from all the windows in the back of our house, and it is a great pleasure to us. Our neighbours moved in at the same time as we did, 23 years ago I think it was. They have been good neighbours to us through the years, and we will miss them. We have enjoyed watching the garden evolve.

It must be one of (if not the) biggest gardens in the New Town. Its size was an attraction for Compton Mackenzie when he moved here at the end of his life. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Nine Eleven

My husband was in pretty good form yesterday, but desperately unhappy about his continued incarceration. “Couldn’t I go to a holiday camp?” If he means a care home, this might be possible, although enormously expensive. He’d have a nice room, with books and pictures, and better food. Preliminary investigations were carried out more than a year ago, and we’ve chosen one with (amongst other attractions) a cat on the permanent staff.

But would such a move end forever the possibility of coming home, by cutting us off from the Lothian Council care system? I’ll try to talk to him about this today. I’ve never known anyone in care who wouldn’t prefer to be at home.

Knitting went well. The first Whiskey Barrel sock is finished; I hope to cast on the second today. And the Uncia is picking up speed. Two more rows to go in Chart B. I had hoped to polish them off yesterday evening, but, as so often, came home from the hospital stunned with exhaustion, ate, slept. I’ve been through the pattern and noted the errata, at least.

No luck with Lotus Organizer. I found the program disk and the memory stick all right – but it won’t load, presumably because this computer has advanced an operating system or two beyond its capabilities. Old sticky-keys uses an earlier system, and part of my problem in trying to access my notes is that I have forgotten how it works.

That’s a good idea, to set Archie at the problem. Once he has found Organizer on the older computer, I can at least copy my page of sock notes into Word and thence anywhere. And he can tell me how to turn the computer on and load Organizer. That is where I used to sit at the end of the year and write the list of what I mean to knit in the months ahead, including the Calcutta Cup celebration knit which is rarely needed. (Currently, Alexander’s Fair Isle vest) I’d be sorry to lose those lists, but where to put them?

Helen has an excess of boys next week – her middle son, Mungo, is coming home from Greece. He has been working all summer at the beach resort of an immensely wealthy friend. And Archie has invited his cousin Alistair to stay, James’ and Cathy’s son, about to start his third year studying computer science at Glasgow. And Helen’s Romanian friend/cleaning woman will also arrive, looking for work and thinking of relocating to Edinburgh.

So maybe Archie and Alistair could stay here, and help with my computer problems.

This might amuse – our downstairs neighbours are (alas) selling up and moving north. Their house and ours used to be one – the internal stairs survive, covered up and boxed in. The external street view, on the link I have provided, is much more us than them. You can easily discern my quince tree, and the raggedy curtains in the catalogue room. But we have diverged. I can assure you that my kitchen does not contain a five-door Aga and a range cooker. Golly.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

A pretty good day, yesterday. Greek Helen came with me to the hospital, where we found my husband alert and fairly cheerful, although with his heart set on getting home to his cat and believing that it could happen within a day or two. It can’t and won’t, but we had a good talk with a doctor. The “care package” has been applied for – the process is in motion.

I’m not sure I can manage, under any system of care, but we’ve got to try.

I’ve just deleted a comment from the blog which gave the email of someone who casts wonderfully efficacious spells. There was nothing about knitting; it had to go. But I was tempted, as my finger paused over the button. Although I don't know what I'd ask for.

As for knitting, I’m doing the toe decreases for the first Whiskey Barrel sock. I’ve got to try again to fire up that other computer – the one with the sticky keys – and get back to Lotus Organizer where all my notes about sock sizes reside. Or find the program disk and the memory stick and transfer everything here.

And I had a pretty good day with the Uncia. Six rows remain of Chart B. I have more or less mastered the right-side rows, but the wrong side remains a struggle. The difficulty is the slipped stitches. On the right side, they present as sloppy-looking knit stitches, and you knit them. From behind, they are hard to distinguish from ordinary purl stitches.

Then one turns over the page and allows oneself a look at Chart C, and recoils in horror. I thought that perhaps by then the knitting would guide one, as it does in Shetland lace even of the most complicated. Chart C is full of unimaginably-difficult-looking symbols never encountered before. Keep calm. Take it a row at a time. Master the symbols before beginning the row. 

Lucy Hague knit the prototype herself. There are designers who design on computer screens and farm it out.

Friday, September 09, 2016

Well, on we go.

Yesterday’s hospital visit was distressing, for my husband’s sadness and desperate wish to come home. I am sure the hospital is as keen to get rid of him as he of it, and meanwhile he is brilliantly looked after, in a private room. But it’s still tough. Helen will come with me today. She is adamant that we mustn’t try to jump the gun, by taking him home before the hospital is ready to release him and a care package is in place.

The Whiskey Barrel sock is far enough along that I must decide before today’s visit, how long the foot is to be before I start decreasing for the toe.

And I moved the Uncia a few rows on, not without difficulty. It is interesting, on Ravelry, to see how many people have already finished it. In my present situation, I should have as much knitting-time as anybody, but it doesn’t seem to be working out that way.

I’m about halfway through Chart B. I’ve worked an increase row, fairly successfully. There are mistakes, further down. I can see them.

Chloe, I was greatly taken with your suggestion of working from the written instructions. What written instructions? But after a good deal of faffing about, and almost posting an ignorant query to the Ravelry group, I found the paragraph at the end of the Haps book. The only difficulty now is, that the link doesn’t work. Was it meant to be temporary?

My main difficulty is much as feared – having to remember, at any given moment, which direction I’m going in and therefore whether the basic symbols – plain white and plain black squares – mean “knit” or “purl”. Fancier symbols I can handle.

Mary Lou, I was much taken by your remark about buying knitting books for your Kindle and printing out a page. How do you do that? I recently bought a “Vintage Visage Old Shetland Lace” pattern, from Amazon I think, available only in Kindle form, expecting to be able to print it out. I think I can at least mail it to myself, page by page. Is that what you do?

I’ve had a look at the new Knitty a day early, in my role as a patron, and there are some good things there. I wish Franklin would resume writing for them.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

I enjoyed my day off – oh, boy! did I enjoy it – but now it’s over and life resumes, which is the essential difficulty with days off. I heard no news from Alexander, which I can take to mean that he found my husband much as expected.

I got the downloading, etc., done and have just dispatched the scans to NY, ready for the start of their day. So that’s done – if I’ve done it right.

And I got a bit further forward with the Uncia. I’m finding it very difficult. I haven’t yet tried enlarging the chart – after all this scanning, that should be trivial. I don’t remember that even the Princess shawl involved this much anxious peering. At the moment, I am alternating a right-side and a wrong-side row, each the same as before. (Except – watch out – an increase row looms not far ahead.)  I have learned a certain amount about them, but there’s still a lot of peering to be done.

But I remember that I had done something like 50 repeats of the Princess shawl edging before I had memorized the pattern. There must have been a lot of anxious peering involved that time.

It would be nice to get the Uncia to the point where I could attempt television.

Other Knitting

I’ve heard from the Feral Knitter that her book is about to be dispatched. I am really giving some thought, in these troubled times, to the breaking up of our house: which will mean deciding, amongst an infinity of other things, which knitting books and which cookbooks to take along into my brief future. Other books pile up in the clouds, thanks to the Kindle app on my iPad.

But nothing is more difficult than to stop accumulating knitting books and cookbooks.


You’re right, jeanfromcornwall, that Alexander’s pipe (Tuesday’s post and comment) is facing the opposite way from Magritte’s. There are several possible explanations:

                Alexander got it wrong.

                Alexander intended it as a comment: this, after all, is a pipe.

                A couple of years after he gave it to my husband, the pipe got unstuck. We took it to our local framer-restorer and tried, I think unsuccessfully, to explain it. But he put it back together for us, solidly. He may have been the one to turn it around.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

I’ve suddenly got A Day Off, and my current thought is that I’ll go back to bed once I’ve posted this.

-- Alexander is coming over to visit my husband.

--  I was going to North Berwick with a friend, as my husband knows – but she now says that she’d rather go next week. Fine by me.

--  I have those forms from NYC to download, print, sign, scan, and send back – but they’re not waiting for me this morning, as I expected. They won’t be here until NYC wakes up sometime this afternoon.


So I think bed is the thing to do. I’ll get up mid-morning and address the question of food.

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

Not a stitch, yesterday.

Greek Helen did the hospital visiting, and found that my husband had had more “episodes” after I last saw him in the early afternoon on Sunday. He was in bed, where he had been all day, but alert and – really good news! – ate a hearty supper while she was there. I usually visit at lunchtime, and he usually consumes little of that meal.

We had a good time at the Surrealism expo, I guess, but I found it rather depressing. I sort of thought that surrealism was fun, but of course it was very much a product of the interwar years in Europe, which were not fun. A couple of the great Magrittes were there, and I am glad to have seen them.

Alexander made this for my husband – goodness! 14 years ago. I think Magritte would have appreciated it.

Archie and I walked back to Drummond Place. I wasn’t at all sure that I could do it, and was delighted to discover that I could. Google and the signposts suggest that the distance is about 1 ½ miles, but we didn’t fly like crows. We walked steadily for an hour, being shunted back and forth across the Water of Leith and at one point being diverted away from it for a considerable stretch. We couldn’t have failed to cover something approaching 3 miles.

And I’m ready for the phone call this afternoon from my Financial Adviser – that’s something achieved. There was a considerable little panic first thing this morning when I thought I couldn’t find my Social Security number. I found James’ and Alexander’s and Helen’s before I found my own, but now I’ve got it. [Rachel is an Englishwoman, and has always been.] And I’ve printed out the documents I will need to sign and consign to the post.

I haven’t grafted the toes of those socks, but there’s still this evening. I’m not going to trudge to a post office until tomorrow.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Some more ironing today, I hope; and I must print the docs which will be have to be posted to New York tomorrow (with or without the socks), after a phone call from my Financial Adviser. Said not without irony.

Today, Greek Helen is going to do the hospital visiting, while Archie and a friend and I go to the Surrealism expo at the Gallery of Modern Art, very well reviewed. I expect to enjoy it, and it will be fun to introduce him to it. Art doesn’t have to be heavy.

Thank you for your help with alpaca. As I thought! I’ll keep it (mentally) for scarves and lace. I don’t see why this should be so – that is, I don’t understand the distinction between “hair” and “wool”. An alpaca just looks like a long-legged sheep, to me.

As for knitting, I advanced the Whiskey Barrel sock somewhat yesterday – but most of the hospital visit was devoted to the problem of a maddeningly-beeping machine connected (or rather, un-connected) to the drip my husband has acquired for hydration.

I advanced somewhat with the Uncia. Chart A is finished; I’m five rows into Chart B, and it is indeed easier. Some rows even repeat themselves! The one remaining problem is that there are a lot of slipped stitches on the wrong side and I am not finding them easy to anticipate. Even EZ’s ever-useful maxim, “Look at your knitting”, doesn’t necessarily tell me whether the next stitch is to be slipped.

I fear my Uncia will be smaller than the prototype, but of course there’s still blocking to come. I’ll know more when I reach row 200, half-way, at the beginning of Chart C. It won’t be absurdly small, at the worst. It’s about two feet long, so far.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

For today, more ironing, I think; and change the cat’s litter tray.

Little was accomplished yesterday. David and Helen came with me on the hospital visit. We found my husband sleepy, but much recovered from his “episode” of the day before. I advanced the Whiskey Barrel sock somewhat. In the evening, D&H had a very small drinks party as a housewarming for their Edinburgh flat. I walked home with a friend in the gentle spring rain, except that it was autumnal.

I was far too tired at that point to attempt the Uncia, but today I fully intend to do the three rows remaining in Chart A, if nothing else.

However, that’s not all, knitting-wise, for the new VK arrived. It always comes in a Plain Brown Envelope, unlike the awful shrink-wrap of everybody else. And I always forget – what could this be? So it always comes as a delicious surprise. Some fine cables, some tempting vests. And if I were still in the market for ear-flap hats, some very interesting chullos.

And lots about Peru and alpaca. My memory of that fabric, some decades ago, is of knitting a sweater for myself. Fisherman’s rib, perhaps? The experience was utterly delicious, but the garment was a disaster. By the second or third wearing, it was a knee-length dress. Does alpaca still behave like that? I’d be very grateful for any comments. I’d like to go back there, but only if I can produce something with a bit of future life.

My current struggle with finance is going to involve a trip to a post office soon to consign some papers to snail mail. This is my chance to post some socks off to London, for-whom-they-may-fit; and so I may be inspired to get those socks – see sidebar – actually finished this weekend. It’s not as if I have any objection to Kitchener’ing toes.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

Today’s ambition (alas!)  is to do something about the ironing.

My husband had an “episode” yesterday – a seizure? Not hypoglycaemia, apparently. He was in bed when I got there at midday, clearly exhausted by what had happened. Helen saw him later in the day and found him awake and perhaps even unusually talkative. A dr had phoned me in the afternoon to say that the “bloods” and a brain scan had revealed nothing amiss.


Oh, Maureen, wonderful!  if you can get me the Whalsay catalogue. Expense is no object, although I doubt if it will cost all that much. Thank you, and thank you, in advance.

I finished the gusset decreases on the first Whiskey Barrel sock yesterday, and began the actual foot. I’m counting carefully, so as to get the second sock to match – this one, I will decide with measuring. But I need to get back to my archive on the other computer, and am grateful to whoever suggested (I’m not going to look, just now) that what I need is a fresh battery in the mouse. I’ll try that.

I did a bit more Uncia, in the evening. Goodness! it’s hard, now that I’ve advanced to the charts. I sort of thought, I haven’t done anything as difficult as this for a while. But of course, I did the Dunfallandy blankie not all that long ago.

I looked on Ravelry. Nobody else seems to be finding it quite as tough as I am. There’s old age for you?

It’s not lace, at this point anyway. The next chart seems to have a generous sprinkling of YO’s. That may go better. Now (Chart A) it’s travelling stitches, as much as anything. The top picture on page 84 of the Haps book strongly suggests that help is at hand – I’m doing the complicated-looking inch-or-so on the model’s (Kate’s) right shoulder. What follows looks straightforward by comparison.

But it’s too much for the exhausted evening, even without television. I’ll try to put in half an hour this morning, after the ironing.

I’ve done 159 rows, out of a total of 400. It’s hard to decide what percentage to assign in the sidebar, as I am knitting an ever-widening wedge. One thing, though – the total length is clearly going to be acceptable.

What a wonderful thing is Ravelry! How very well engineered, the software! 

Friday, September 02, 2016

Here we are, tottering on. This morning’s resolution was to tidy up from yesterday, and I’ve made a reasonable start.

Greek Helen came with me for the hospital visit yesterday. Like me, she doesn’t see how we’re going to manage. But I got the heel flap done, and the heel turned, and the gusset stitches picked up, so it’s all go for the foot of the first Whiskey Barrel sock.

And in the evening, I started the first Uncia chart. I almost wrote – I’m not used to reading a lace chart back&forth, but of course I’ve done it for many an edging. The problem being, of course, that the symbols change meaning according to which direction you’re going. I think this is going to be fairly straightforward, but I hope to get a few more rows done today without benefit of television. I was trying to watch “One of Us” last night but I think I’m ready to give up on it.

I'll get the chart well started, and then switch to "Victoria".


Jealousy in animals, for Kristie: my parents had a cat named Norman Thomas who simply left home for good when they came back from the hospital with me. Poor Perdita is in heat again, longing for babies of her own. All I can say for sure is that she didn’t sleep with me, the night Juliet was here. (Those of you who know who Norman Thomas was, can trace a direct line of descent to my recent fondness for Bernie Sanders. My mother would have loved him, I think – but as an ardent feminist, she might have been torn. And, alas! I can't discuss it with her.)

Cat, yes, I’ve read KD’s wonderful blog about Whalsay. Don’t miss, anybody. She says that there is an excellent, comprehensive catalogue of the exhibition. I can’t find it, pursuing the links to the Whalsay Heritage Centre. Is anybody going to Shetland Wool Week who could get me one? I could ask KD, but don’t like to presume.

PomPom: my husband’s socks are provided by the NHS, and are indeed wonderful. He has a couple of pairs here, treasured from previous periods of incarceration. There is a bit of a nip in the air, as is appropriate for the week after Games Day. Lucy and Juliet had walked to the hospital from Drummond Place, a couple of miles. Hence the fleece vest.

As Thomas and Lucy and Juliet were leaving, I mentioned the possibility that they might carry her in the Princess Shawl on her Christening day – and they were already thinking of such a possibility. There will be a picture for the top of this blog, if it happens. The event is to be in mid-October, and I will certainly go if my poor husband is still imprisoned. 

Thursday, September 01, 2016

All went well – and today is starting well. I often lie in bed in the morning and pick which, of the chores which press and worry me, I am going to attempt to deal with. Today it was two bothersome financial ones, and I have dealt with both (=dealt with one, written an email which holds the other at bay) and it’s only 8:05.

Thomas’ and Lucy’s and Juliet’s visit was a great pleasure, enjoyed not least by my husband:

I’ll have better pictures soon, when other people’s pictures have been accumulated. Here, meanwhile, are:

Lunch on Tuesday. Helen is handing Juliet to her mother, Lucy. Her husband David is standing behind her. That’s Alexander, in the window. And:

Juliet with Archie.


I am grateful for your help with the sock problem. I counted two separate socks from my husband’s drawer, and the answer seemed, in both cases, to be 80 rounds, ribbing to heel. That doesn’t feel right. I’ve done 90, and yesterday began the heel flap

And yesterday evening, I actually got back to the Uncia and am now ready – bar one row – to start the first chart. As I was knitting row 149, I remembered that I hadn’t put the rubbish out. That’s a vital and rather strenuous weekly chore, the harder to remember because it occurs in the evening. I put some clothes back on and got it done – not too late, after all. But that was enough, for knitting.

I bought Liz Lovick’s Pierowall Vest pattern. I doubt if I’ll actually use it, because I think, at a fairly cursory reading, that the stitch pattern isn’t vertically symmetrical (I hope I’m using those terms correctly). One of my great pleasures in Fair Isle knitting is the mantra-like effect, row by row, of the pattern that doubles back on itself: 3-1-2-1-5-1-2-1-3. Sort of thing. I made that up at random.

But she has much to say of interest about choosing colours. Where did she get those wonderful mini-skeins? It seems, again on a cursory reading, that she uses an equal number of foreground and background colours, meaning, I think, that the colours keep the same relationship to each other but not to the stitch pattern.

Whereas in my Odham’s-Encyclopedia-inspired system, background and foreground colours are different (say, 6 of one and 7 of the other).

Much to think about.