Sunday, April 30, 2017

Freecell has beaten me, I’m afraid (but also rather glad). In the Olden Days, when layouts were numbered, one could (cheat and) go online and learn the solution. No longer. I won’t give up and go on without cracking this one, but nibbling at its difficulties will become less and less attractive. I fear I'm cured.

I finished knitting a swatch for the Polliwog, devoted a good deal of mental energy to moving the disks on my Pony Knitting Calculator, and wound up with the solution with I had thought of in the first place, and which the designer – Mary Lou – endorses. Namely, knit the instructions for the largest size, hoping to achieve the smallest.

However, I don’t have a right-length circular of the necessary size; and I can’t find my pack of beautiful wooden dp’s which I had only a day or so ago, casting on some socks during a hospital visit. So the Polliwog will have to be suspended until I can order what I need from Meadow Yarns.

Shandy, my plan, as far as there can be said to be one, is to knit the Polliwog as a sort of palate-cleanser between courses, and then plunge into real life: Alexander’s Museum-Sweater-Vest with perhaps something else in alternation. Newspapers in this country often tell us how many days into the tax year we have to work before we are working for ourselves rather than the gov’t. I have much the same feeling at this moment, this year, knitting-wise – and it leaves me spinning around in my place.

However, today’s main excitement on the knitting front is completely other. I spend the first moments of the day hunched over the kitchen table, checking my emails (and your dear comments) and then, usually, moving on to the Times on-line. But today there was something in my “Promotions” folder which led me to click onto a Youtube podcast by Fruity Knitting.


I have seen knitting podcasts before, and found them rather languorous. This one was a delightful, varied magazine program, Andrea and Andrew, both knitters. All the better because the episode I thus tumbled into included the EYF. A&A had lunch with Hazel Tindall on the Saturday, the day after I was there. The podcast included a brief view of her actually knitting. Her fingers scarcely move. Ah! but what a wonderland lies behind that “scarcely”!

How does it work? YouTube is free. There was no sign of any advertising. Do A&A do it for love of knitting, like my clumsy self? 

Saturday, April 29, 2017

It was a tough day, my husband not at all well. We can but hope that the antibiotic kicks in more smartly tomorrow.

I decided – and, oh dear! I fear this is worse than what I did with the sleeves – to sign off the Tannehill un-blocked. It looks very good on him. A pic, perhaps, when we have a more cheerful day.

So I turned to Mary Lou’s Polliwog (“Drop Dead Easy Knits”) and found, to my considerable surprise, that the Sweet Georgia yarn I bought for it at the EYF was too fine, sock-yarn instead of sport. I thought I had all that worked out before I tackled the market.

My first thought was just to cast on the no of stitches specified for the largest size and hope it would fit somebody. But the sight of my husband, however droopy, in his well-fitting (and swatched-for) Tannehill sort of inspired me. So I am nearly finished with a Polliwog swatch.

I have something – I feel I’ve mentioned it before – called a Pony Knitting Calculator. It claims to be able to translate a pattern to a different gauge. Discs revolve, with numbers on them. We will soon see.

I felt, again, in the midst of all this, a great yearning for a yoke sweater. I got Kate Davies’s “Miss Rachel’s Yoke” out but of course found that KD is extremely fierce about swatching so I was no further forward.

Friday, April 28, 2017

I’ve now hit a Freecell that is worse than anything. Maybe I’m cured!

I’m sorry about last night’s silence. My husband suddenly, in the late afternoon, developed an infection of some sort – high fever; cold, clammy skin; violent shaking. Mercifully, Helen dropped by just as I was reaching the your-blood-sugar-is-low-please-eat-your-supper-dear stage. We tested his blood sugar, and it was low, but Helen also google’d and diagnosed an infection. We phoned 111.

We’re working on the assumption these days that my husband wants to stay at home at almost any cost, and also under the shadow of the fear that if our “care package” is interrupted for too many days, it will be withdrawn.

The NHS as it presents itself in real life is totally different from the collapsing institution of the media. Omitting from my narrative various alarums and excursions, the emergency dr said that he needed intravenous antibiotics. They act much faster than pills, apparently. He needed hospital, she said. So we decided to let him be taken away.

He was getting stronger before even he left. Helen went with him, bless her, and was there until 2 a.m. – Perdita and I went very gratefully to bed. He was much better this morning, and is coming home in the next couple of hours, with oral antibiotics. And Kelly and Bill will come to put him to bed, as they did yesterday. And all is well – or, at least, as well as it was before.

As for knitting, there is not much to report. I finished the neck ribbing for the Tannehill, but haven’t finished tidying up. This afternoon during hospital-visiting-time, I cast on a pair of socks. I wound the skein into a ball so long ago that I can’t remember what it is – conceivably, Into the Whirled. It's rather nice. I got a couple of rounds done.


Isabella, Comment Monday, I love the idea of a cat being taken to the rescue shelter because he was “boring”. That’s fully worthy of Thurber. I’ve told Perdita she needs to sharpen her repartee.

Shandy, we need to talk about sleeves. Tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Kirsten, I thought yesterday and earlier this evening that I had encountered the Freecell layout that I couldn’t win. I wished it had had a number, as under the old system, so that I could have told you and we could both have been free of the curse.

But then I cracked it. There is nothing that can help us except self-discipline.

Here’s the Tannehill. I’m very pleased:

When the picture was taken, the sleeves had been sewn in (rather lumpily – I’m counting on blocking to work wonders) and the sleeve seams pinned. By now I have done them, all but an inch or two. That leaves tidying, the neck ribbing, blocking: three more days, insh’Allah, and I should have another FO. A useful one.

I had a very happy moment, in the course of all that. I have been knitting sleeves lately, as you know, and had for the moment forgotten that the body was knit around until being divided at the armpits. So – no side seams! It was a real moment of surprise and delight.

Alexander came to see us today, as often on a Wednesday. I had him try on my husband’s madtosh sleeveless v-neck Whiskey Barrel vest, which looked very well on him. I thought that was a simpler way of establishing size than tape measures and gauge calculations. But the fabrics are so different – Fair Isle sort of stiff, plain-vanilla madtosh adapting itself more cheerfully to the human form.

So the Fair Isle vest should be ever so slightly smaller? Perhaps next Wednesday I’ll employ a tape measure. He approved of my plan of knitting a comparatively sub fusc vest for him now, and a brighter one for his wife when Scotland next win the Calcutta Cup. If any of us live to see the day.

We could go on talking about our cats forever. And what fun it would be! You need to know that every comment is read and treasured.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Today is Perdita’s second birthday. She is not an entirely satisfactory cat – my husband would very much prefer someone who would sit on his lap and talk to him; but she is a valuable third personality to have in the house and by now she is a member of the family, like it or not, satisfactory or otherwise.

I finally finished that sleeve cap. The Tannehill is knit, except for the neck ribbing – but it remains to be seamed. I got the shoulders done, and even pinned the first sleeve in place. Pic tomorrow.

How long has it been since I set in a set-in sleeve? What was I thinking of, to do it this way instead of a good old EPS raglan? The answer to that second question is easy: I wasn’t thinking. The first sleeve seems to fit well into its socket: that’s something.

The general impression at the moment is that this sweater is going to be really good, and fulfill its intended purpose to something like perfection.

It leaves me, just now, with nothing to knit, until the seams are done and I can start that neck ribbing.  Uncharacteristically, I don’t even have a pair of socks on the go. I could wind the skeins I bought at the EYF and cast on Mary Lou’s “Pollywog Popover” from “Drop Dead Easy Knits” – it's going to be next anyway – just for something to knit in the dead hour at the end of the day when mindless television and mindless knitting are all that spirit can manage  – certainly not, the setting-in of a set-in sleeve.

But I am afraid, if I do that, that the Tannehill might lie about in the form of disjecta membra forever. No, I must press on.


Flipboard seems to have given up trying altogether in its “Knitting” category. Alas, again, for the death of Zite. Does anyone have a suggestion?

Poor Susan Crawford is trying to work, but finding her mind clogged with “chemotherapy-induced cognitive dysfunction”. It sounds thoroughly unpleasant. 

Monday, April 24, 2017

I’m sorry for last night’s gap – sometimes I feel I am sinking beneath the surface or life, not waving but drowning. But essentially, everything is all right and here I am.

I am shaping that final sleeve cap, but I should be further forward with it by now. Tomorrow, surely, will see it done.

Here, at least, is the long-promised pic of the swatch-scarf, not showing up quite as well as I would have hoped. The two rows of lozenges at the top are the ones I am ready to pass off as OK. The two third and fourth up from the bottom, are the calmer ones Alexander prefers.

Shandy, yes, I saw Jen’s comment here and was very grateful for it. I seem to be having trouble getting into Evernote – I mustn’t let that one get away. I think your problem about the bisected lozenges can be resolved by the fact that they are offset in every other row. But thinking about things like that makes my mind hurt.

I am enjoying thinking about the future, even as I toil ever so slowly on with that sleeve cap and contemplate the seaming to come. I incline rather a lot towards KD’s “Miss Rachel’s Yoke”, which I’ve got. Call it the Veenstra syndrome – I don’t terribly want to wear it, it would get dirty too quickly, I do better in washable rugby shirts; off-hand I don’t know who else might want to wear it. I want to knit it.


Archie came to see us for a while on Sunday morning. The conversation turned to Ozymandias, King of Kings. It was my husband who brought him up. I wondered who had written the line. Archie said, without (metaphorically) looking up from his knitting, “Shelley”. My husband said, with some emphasis – and some plausibility, I thought – “Coleridge”. So we looked it up.

Archie must be learning something. Much of his classroom time at Lancaster is spent in Autonomous Learning Groups, a phrase which passed immediately and derisively into our family vocabulary. It means what we used to call “seminars”, but without the presence of a grown-up. Helen is indignant that universities charge more money than good private boarding schools and offer substantially less tuition.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

It has been a difficult day – my husband sleepy, characteristically disagreeable, uncharacteristically low on appetite. The cat is fine, and I not much behind, although when life contracts like this to the immediate situation, it’s hard to say how one actually feels.

Kirsten, what are we to do without Freecell, after such a day?

Knitting, then.

I have broken my promise to you, to take a picture of the swatch-scarf. I have knit forward with the Tannehill, but not as far as I expected. I’m still a very few rows short of the beginning of the shaping of the second sleeve cap.

“Knitter” arrived today, not yet sufficiently digested, but including an enthusiastic piece about the LYF by Jen A-C. I was struck by the pic of Lucy Hague’s Durrow shawl, which reminded me of the Dunfallandy blankie I knit for great-granddaughter Juliet.

They’re very different. Looking up the links just now for you, I am really rather impressed with how different they are. What they have in common is cables which snake from one square to another, and possibly – but this depends on orientation – horizontal cables. Which Dr. de Roulet, designer of the Dunfallandy, unvented.

The Dunfallandy squares are knit from corner to corner, with the horizontal cables in the middle. Whereas Hague’s squares are knit either centre-out or centre-in so the horizontal-looking cables must have been formed differently.

I think I remember chatting to Lucy (you know how it is) at the launch of KD’s and Jen A-C’s Haps book, and asking whether she knew the Dunfallandy blankie which I was then – or had been recently – engaged with. She didn’t. Elderly memories are not to be trusted.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Kirsten, I’m sure you’re right, that cold turkey is the only answer to our Freecell problem. Once, long ago, in a burst of piety on Ash Wednesday, I deleted it (or something equally obsessive, but I think it was Freecell) from my then-computer. But that wouldn’t work nowadays, would it? when it is beamed down to us from heaven and isn’t even here on earth to be deleted.

I never allow myself to lose, ever since Mary Lou told me about Ctrl-Z. And the “Undo” button on the new manifestation of the program does as well. Every so often I hit a nasty layout and think, Great! I’ll never be able to do this one so the problem is solved.

But I always go back to nibble at it, and so far, I’ve always won.

Equally, I sometimes hit a sequence of easy ones, and think, this is really rather boring. But then I meet one of the nasties.

Let me know how you get on.


I have, reluctantly, laid the swatch-scarf aside and resumed Tannehill-knitting. I am very close to the second sleeve cap – another day or two will launch me on to seaming.

Stranded knitting is awfully cosy, and my swatch-scarf, being a tube, makes it doubly so. Or quadruply, depending on how you look at it. That means that a Dr Who scarf, length-wise, is not a good idea. It currently measures 33”, not quite enough by any measure – but it won’t need much more.

I am sorry I didn’t get a pic taken today. Tomorrow, promise. Both Perdita and I, and perhaps my husband as well, felt slightly under par today.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

I think more and more about what you said the other day, Mary Lou, about your former relationship with mah jong. Freecell is taking up too much of what little remains of my life.

No pic today, despite promises. I’ve finished the lozenge and have embarked on the peerie pattern. I like to leave the swatch-scarf at that point, where I’m ready to snatch it up and embark on the next experiment. I wonder if the original knitter welcomed the peeries as relief from the stress of knitting eight (or however many) different lozenges around the body, or found them a tedious interruption to the intellectual excitement.

My own experience veers towards the latter.

It occurred to me today that perhaps Alexander’s problem with my latest experiment is the slightly Christmassy effect of the red stripe across the middle of the lozenge in conjunction with Flugga white. Perhaps if I went back to the original sub fusc colours and threw in a gentle blue stripe instead.…

I must go back to my Craftsy Fair-Isle-vest class with Mucklestone and try to find and mark the place where she extols the merits of swatching and says, perhaps with a wicked smile, that you may never need to knit a sweater again. Who would have thought that I would be so totally drawn in to a practice I have always avoided? I’m sure it helps that there’s no immediate need for the garment, since (as Alexander’s remark about his winding sheet implies) there’s no immediate (or even remote) prospect of Scotland's winning the Calcutta Cup.

My plan, vaguely, having invested all this time and interest, is to go ahead and knit Alexander a non-Calcutta-Cup vest. Then when we do win, if I’m still capable of knitting, I’ll knit his wife one in the brighter colour-way.

And my more immediate plan, once I’ve finished the current peerie pattern, is to return to my husband’s Tannehill sweater and finish it. What a lot of italics there are in this post!

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Sorry. At my best, I was never very good at multi-tasking, and I’m well below my best by now. We’ve had lots of people about, and have enjoyed a happy time, but not much knitting, less blogging. Rachel was horrified to see how much of her anticipated inheritance is being squandered on top-level cat food, but otherwise, I think, enjoyed herself.

She was very pleased to hear about the General Election, because it will happen just when Hellie and Matt’s baby (=her second granddaughter) is due so she doesn’t need to count any more, the press will do it for her. Sure enough, tonight, “…fifty days until…”

I thought  Ms Sturgeon, although her words were bold, looked a bit uncomfortable on the news last night. I think Scotland is far and away the most interesting place in the UK to be, for this election, but one thinks of the Chinese curse (if true) about living in interesting times. Wikipedia says there is no such Chinese curse.


I think I’m still engaged on the lozenge where last I was to be found. I’ll finish it, I hope, tomorrow, with the following peerie pattern – then a photograph. Alexander joined the party this morning, and as I half-expected he would, preferred the sub-fusc version at the beginning of the swatch-scarf to the livelier lozenges I have been knitting lately.

Sub-fusc would rule out Flugga White.

He does not think there is much prospect of our winning the Calcutta Cup any time soon. “You can use it as my winding sheet,” he said.

But all was a bit noisy and confused this morning, and I was dashing out to the supermarket while there were still people here to sit with my husband. When Alexander comes next week, I can expound the difference between stitch pattern and colour sequence and explain just how I have been experimenting.

We’ve had a Shetland Vintage Project update from Susan Crawford, although it doesn’t get us much forrad’er. She is working again – good news. She hopes to have it ready for the printer by the end of June, although she doesn’t phrase the prediction quite as confidently as that. I have, I am afraid, lost all hope, after being disappointed so often. I am desperately sympathetic with her situation. If a book eventually results, I will be awfully glad.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Helen is safely back from her family Easter in Greece, and we have spent enough time over the kitchen table discussing the troubles of the Middle East, and other troubles, closer to home, that I have no time left to write to you. All is well, and the swatch-scarf is moving forward in interesting ways.

A proper post will be forthcoming tomorrow.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Kirsten: it’s wonderful to meet a fellow Freecell fan. I can scarcely even begin to imagine the force of character necessary to give it up for Lent. Although I, and perhaps you, gave it up for years between its first Microsoft incarnation and the current one.

In the blank years in between, I never found an implementation that came near what I needed. The present one is pretty good, but no more than that. I miss the way the original one (original, as far as I was concerned) numbered the hands and let you go back to a specific one. There was a horror that I never mastered – 1941 or 1945 or some such number, significant as a WWII date. There seems to be no way to recall it, now that I am so expert.

I remain grateful to Mary Lou, who taught me that CTRL-Z works as well in Freecell as in Word. So I never lose. I won’t allow myself to give up, and there have been moments when it has looked as if I would be stuck forever and therefore free of the obsession. But, so far, I’ve always solved it in the end.

I’ve had a pleasant end-of-Lent, with the first glass of cider in my hand as the Greenwich Time Signal sounded noon. Rachel rang up thus morning, and said that her son Thomas (Juliet’s father – above – the barrister) was going to do it that way too. I’m not sure whether he has been reading the blog – he’s not a knitter – or has arrived at the same conclusion by another route. In either case, I’m glad to have my thinking approved by a legal mind.


I had a very happy day with Fair Isle knitting, too. The new grey yarn – which I feared was too light – is disastrously so. You’ll see soon. I whizzed down to Kathy’s Knits when our cleaner came this afternoon – she, Kathy, specializes in British yarns, and has a reasonable range of J&S Shetland. She has sold me one which looks, if anything, too dark – but dark is what is needed. Results here soon.

Kirsten, yes, Jen A-C’s Year of Techniques is the same as the Mason-Dixon one. I assume it originated with Jen. But why do I assume that? Mary Lou, your note encourages me. I very much enjoyed Kate Davies’ Inspired by Islay subscription – patterns and essays and photographs and no required yarn. I’ll look again at the Techniques.

Shandy, we must keep this problem in mind, and eventually solve it. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

I added not-playing-Freecell to my list of Lenten austerities, just for today. That proved to be the one which required the highest pitch of iron self-discipline. Not-knitting-Fair-Isle was the one I thought about the most, while slogging on with the middle passage of the second Tannehill sleeve. Not-drinking-cider was easy by comparison with both the others, but will probably be the one to afford the most pleasure from noon tomorrow.

The sleeve progresses well. Presumably the next time I assign a wadge of days to it – and that presumably will happen next week – I’ll finish the principal knitting of this sweater altogether. That will still leave half a mile of seaming, and the v-neck ribbing.

Shandy, I found the passage about the original lozenge sweater in Jen A-C’s blog again, not without difficulty. I think when she says “side seam”, as she certainly does, she is just referring in an economical way to the point at the side where colour changes are made. A paragraph or so before that she says that she hasn’t made any change in the construction of the original sweater, and surely the pattern she produced for J&S is knit in the round? Maybe we’ll have to ask her.

I have had two thoughts over the last few days which I keep forgetting to tell you about:

             1)   The pattern for the Tannehill is of course a print-out from the Sweater Wizard. I am greatly enjoying the freedom to write all over it, and have resolved, now that technology has put a copying machine in every home, to copy future patterns from book or magazine, so that I can go on writing. You've probably all been doing that for years.

              2)  I am greatly tempted by Jen A-C’s “Year of Techniques”. I love subscribing to things, but know from experience that it burdens me with more than I can possibly knit. Countess Ablaze and her Classics Society offer  a similar temptation – I was nearly overwhelmed by it, looking up the link for you just now. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The yarn is here.

I’ll spend a penitential Good Friday knitting more Tannehill sleeve. I’ve finished the fast-seeming part above the wrist and am now mired in the instruction to increase at each end of every 6th row 13 times.

And then at the weekend I’ll knit another lozenge or two – first, I must chart them. Shandy (comment yesterday), I think the lozenge patterns are all different, front and back. As far as I can judge from the picture on the J&S website, the sleeves re-use the patterns although not necessarily in the same order. Maureeninfargo would know. I’ll look again tomorrow at her pictures, and those of the other Raveller who has knit it.

(Jamieson & Smith’s pattern, we now know, is the one Jen A-C reconstructed from the original in the Shetland Museum.)

Why do you think it was originally knit flat? Is that something I paid insufficient attention to in the pictures Jen A-C posted on her blog? That would be most unusual. I’d better have another look at them, too.

The new yarns are pretty good. “Flugga white” has a slight yellowish cast to it – no harm in that. The grey I have ordered to replenish the darkish grey I have been using, appears far too light – but it may turn out, in practice, that there is no harm in that, either. It’s not as if I were switching yarns in mid-sweater. The gentle green which is teamed with “tangerine” in the peerie is not the same as the one I have been using.

Kathy has some J&S jumper weight, although not the full range. If I don’t like the next lozenge, I may well be able to better the grey and perhaps the green there.


I got down to Tesco’s this afternoon and bought the last package of Hot Cross Buns. At least we will observe Easter to that extent. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I must be brief, again. It's late.

No yarn yet. It was dispatched from J&S on Monday. I hoped for it a little bit yesterday, and a bit more today. I’ll be disappointed if it doesn’t turn up tomorrow. Normal, post-Easter life will resume next week, and Alexander will be back. I’d like to have a couple more lozenges to show him.

I finished the first sleeve of the Tannehill today, and the ribbing for the second. I spent much of the day worrying about what to do if I finished that first sleeve with only a little bit of yarn left from the fifth skein. Obviously, the only sensible thing to do would be to start the second sleeve with a new skein, to avoid unnecessary joins.

But that would be cheating! Those skeins are the milestones by which I measure progress. I couldn’t possibly start the sixth if even a yard of the fifth remained.

However, it proved a (mental) fuss about nothing. The fifth skein expired in the antepenultimate row of the first sleeve.

All the skeins seem remarkably uniform except that one that makes a dark line across the middle of the body. I could have saved myself some trouble by paying attention (as I will have two or three skeins left over).

I have been fretting about Susan Crawford. The burns she suffered during radiotherapy are still bandaged, after more than a month, but she feels she is slowly regaining strength. She doesn’t seem to be working. Lambing is going well.

What I fret about is that the Vintage Shetland book is, for her, nothing but work and expense. She’ll have to pay the printer and the post office and there’ll be relatively little money coming in as a reward, because it has come in already. She grumbled once, in a dispatch to crowdfunders before she fell ill, that getting all the books wrapped up and dispatched was going to be tough. Much tougher, now.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The final lozenge it is, then. I’ll run that colour scheme through two more lozenges once I’ve got the new yarn, and then, if all is well, it but remains to practice corrugated ribbing. Maybe my swatch-scarf can wind up as an over-long stocking cap.

I like the idea of stapling a bit of yarn to the ball band, Mary Lou. Simple and effective.

Meanwhile, today, I knit zealously on with the Tannehill. I’m ready to shape the top of the first sleeve, which shouldn’t take long. I keep reminding myself that this is my ticket to the future – something wanted and needed, the completion of which will allow me to choose a new project from a wide range of possibilities.

I did some, at least, of the heavy Easter shopping today – cider for me, wine for Rachel (who will be here on Monday), plenty of cat food. Today proved to be the glorious annual moment when English asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes turn up together. A feast for the gods.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Here we are. I think the red centres and the lighter grey brighten the whole effect quite a bit.

In the top band, with two red rows, the red has replaced the darker shade; it’s the other way around in the lower band, where there is only one red row. I like the top effect better. Next time I’ll do the same thing – one band with one red row, one with two. But I’ll replace the darker shade with red each time. The result may depend on the pattern in the lozenge, so I’ll go on changing that.

I’ll need to see if I’ve got the new yarns right, too. I’ve tried to keep ball bands, but there is a certain amount of confusion. Some of the yarns I am using are the ones I bought at Jamieson & Smith my own self, that happy day with Kristie and Kath. Others are from the EYF quite recently – and they are Jamieson’s, not J&S.

And I still need to practice corrugated ribbing. Maybe I’ll wind up with a scarf after all.

The picture I took of the side seam doesn’t seem to illustrate much of anything. I’ll try again tomorrow. Kirsten (comment yesterday): I have got three steek stitches at each side, I don’t know why – I have no intention of cutting this thing open. Some book told me to, and I am nothing if not a blind follower. But it does give me somewhere to join in the new yarns, and it does have the effect you mention, of keeping the non-continuous patterns apart from each other.

I bought Heart on My Sleeve yesterday. It’s a good cause, attacking malaria – although I thought Gates had that one covered, financially. And a couple of the patterns, including the cover one, are real possibilities for my yoke sweater with gradient yarns employed in the yoke pattern. The basic pattern in the book is DK, and I’m 4-ply, but I ought to be able to finesse that.

Mary Lou, yes, “Knitting” – not “Knitter”, as I said yesterday -- is a British monthly magazine. I think I have subscribed from the beginning. It’s not terribly good. I have never been tempted to knit anything from it. But it’s young and cheerful and the woman who answers readers’ letters and reviews new yarns used to keep an LYS here in Edinburgh. 

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Mary Lou, I forgot to tell you --  but surely you know already – “Knitter” magazine has given a copy of Drop Dead Easy Knits to its star letter this month!

Which reminds me that I discovered the other day, wandering the internet in the evening, that Knitter’s has ceased publication although all the other X’y activities will continue. That’s mildly interesting. I haven’t missed that magazine since I stopped it a couple of years ago.

I’ve had a wonderful day knitting Fair Isle. I won’t show you, though, until I’ve done a little more.

I’ve finished one lozenge, and the accompanying peerie, and am nearly halfway through the next. I think that dash of red across the middle is going to work rather well. For the next one, as I’ve said before, there are going to be two rows using red, on either side of the central row.

The big discovery of the day, however, was an accidental one. I have two light greys among my Shetland yarns. I’ve been using the darker one of them as the partner of the darkish green. Today I picked up the other, lighter one by mistake and discover that it is much to be preferred.

I ordered some more yarn today. Jamieson and Smith have a shade among their Heritage Yarns called Flugga White. It’s simply got to be the shade I want, that’s all. Standing on the northernmost point of Unst and looking across to Muckle Flugga was an unforgettable experience. I thought I was just there to humour Kristie and Kath, who are keen on lighthouses. I am too, now.

I took a rough stitch gauge from my swatch-scarf the other day, and did some arithmetic and discovered – no surprise – that Alexander’s vest will either be too big or too small. In the end I will wash and block the swatch. That may produce a slightly different gauge (fewer stitches to the inch, I would guess) but not enough of a difference to change things much.

Mucklestone has an interesting paragraph about curtailing the “X’s” in an OXO pattern by cutting off their feet, Procrustes-fashion. What I will do in fact – it will probably have them fainting in coils, in Lerwick – is centre the front and, separately, the back and let the side seams fend for themselves. I’ll show you how this is working on the swatch-scarf. The effect is not bad at all, to my mind.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

Largely non-knit, although there’s some at the end.


It’s wonderful when things fit together.

I have a half-memory of reading somewhere that Evelyn Waugh (who was very devout) happily smoked his Easter cigar in the afternoon of Holy Saturday, but, if so, I have no memory of where I acquired this nugget. I tried googling, and learned that he always went on retreat in a monastery in the days just before Easter – well, I knew that much already – and that the retreat ended with an “anticipated” Easter Mass on the Saturday morning. That was news.

Waugh was very cross indeed when the liturgical reforms that followed Vatican II swept the practice away.

I have no memory of it, and I am sure I have never attended such a Mass. Maybe it only happened in monasteries. But if it ever happened anywhere, it certainly means that Lent was over by Saturday morning.

And this fits perfectly with your father’s memory, Fiona (comment yesterday) – because I believe that in the Olden Days, before Vatican II, Mass was always said between midnight and noon, and never in the other half of the day. So next Saturday I will have my first cider at noon in honour of both men.

You’re right about the 40 days, too. It’s really a bit odd. The Eastern Orthodox start Lent two days earlier than we do, meaning that the 40 days are finished on Maundy Thursday, before the Triduum starts – that’s the Latin word meaning “three days”. It is a liturgical season all of its own, and should surely come after Lent the way the Greeks do it.


Here’s the Tannehill. That dark line amidships where I added a new skein, looks more conspicuous than ever. Two different skeins were employed on either side of the v-neck. Mercifully, it didn’t happen again.

I’ve now increased enough stitches on either side of the sleeve that it no longer feels as if it’s moving fast, but in fact I’m doing fine. Fair Isle tomorrow, with a clear conscience.

Friday, April 07, 2017

I have little to report – perhaps just as well, as the computer seems to be feeling a bit fragile.

I knit happily today on the first sleeve of the Tannehill. It’s going much faster now that I have only one ball of yarn to deal with, and a manageable-sized piece of knitting. HOWEVER when I weighed the two balls together this evening, they totaled 108 grams – meaning that I haven’t quite dispatched a skein of yarn this week. I think I’ll have to go on tomorrow and polish it off, and then take however long it takes to do some more swatch-scarf.

The new VK turned up yesterday – DK, I suppose I should call it. They have discovered gradients, down at Vogue. The Davidoff Studio’s cashmere cowl tempts, as does Tanis Gray’s wrap. But the last thing I need is temptation to buy more gradients. I need help with the ones I’ve got. I also like Joan Forgione’s (single colour) scarf.

What a lot of shawls and cowls and scarves there are about these days!

My current thinking about my own gradient packs is an EPS yoke sweater of some sort, with gradient stripes in the yoke. Either simple, just like that, or Kate Davies’ one in the Islay book where the stripes take the form of little pops of colour. Not quite bobbles – I’m against bobbles.


We have reached the point where it is appropriate to give some thought to the question of when Lent ends. The essence of the question is, is it all right to give up one’s Lenten penance on Holy Saturday, the day between Good Friday and Easter?

I google’d the question today – the answer is, that Lent, per se, ends on Thursday. A Catholic website says crisply that you can leave off a penance you have imposed on yourself, any time you like. Rachel, whose piety inspires us all to annual abstinence, says that the last few days are always the hardest.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

I hope you’ve all followed the links provided by Helen (anon) in Comments yesterday, to those posts of Jen Arnall-Culliford’s about the Museum Sweater and the writing of its pattern for Jamieson & Smith. Helen is right that the photographs are excellent, and by no means restricted to the Museum Sweater. And the story is interesting.

I’ve got another lozenge charted, and am straining at the leash in my eagerness to spend another couple of days on Fair Isle. Kate Davies in the Machrihanish sends her “pop” colour, a moss green, across the centre of her OXO patterns in a way I mean to try, alternating OXO’s where it appears in the centre row only with ones in which it is used on either side of the centre row, but not in it.

But her moss green doesn’t “pop” as much as my red will. Try it and you may, I say.

I think I am going -- at least -- to throw a tape measure around Alexander’s chest when he re-appears in Easter week.

But I also think I owe Tannehill another day right now. I have finished the front, a great relief as it was becoming awkwardly large, and have cast on the first sleeve. Another day will see the ribbing finished. I’ve been using two skeins at once on the two sides of the v-neck, but some surreptitious skein-weighing, combined with elementary arithmetic, reveals that I am nowhere near finishing the equivalent of one 100-gram skein this week as I did last week.

All this talk of the Shetland Museum has brought my thoughts back to poor Susan Crawford and the Vintage Shetland Project. I follow her as closely as I can these days, and have at last discovered that the best way to do that is to watch for Tweets. Like following President Trump.

I’ve joined the Stitch in Time group on Ravelry, which has a thread for the Vintage Shetland Project and another for Susan’s Progress, but updates are infrequent there compared to Tweets.

She had hoped to start work on the book again this month. March was tough, as she had been left with painful burns from the radiotherapy. So far, April Tweets have been about daffodils and lambs.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Great excitement! When I got up this morning, after dressing and feeding the cat, I opened my iPad as usual and there was a message from Jen Arnall-Culliford. She it was (it turns out) who designed the Museum Sweater for Jamieson & Smith, at their request, to show off their new (at the time) line of Heritage yarn. 

She has written some interesting blog entries on the subject. I thought I could link you to them, because I can get them on the iPad. It says “” at the top of the page – but an attempt to go there on this laptop ends in a morass of confusion.

You are cleverer than I am – what is wanted are her entries for December 14 and December 5, 2012. If anybody can do it, I am sure others would be interested in the result.

Jen A-C was asked to write some patterns based on pieces in the collection of the Shetland Museum (shades of the Vintage Shetland Project!) The piece she was working from in this case was a fairly battered fragment. She credits Grace Williamson with knitting the sweater from her pattern – that will be the one illustrated on the Jamieson and Smith website.

Then after all that, Felicity Ford (Knitsonic) spotted the illustration in Mary Jane Mucklestone’s book – the one that started me off, the other day. It was obviously the same sweater, in a sense, but not quite. Jen asked Carol Christiansen at the Shetland Museum and learned that the Museum had had replicas made of several items in the 1990’s – that’s where that one came from. The main difference between the replica and Jen’s J&S pattern is that the replica continues to vary the lozenge patterns on the back of the sweater.

I wouldn’t be telling you all this if I could master that link, as Jen (obviously) tells it better and more immediately, and also includes an illustration of the battered fragment from which all else derives.

I had a good day with Tannehill, and lack only a couple of rows before the front, and therefore the body, is finished. 

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The nurses finally came and syringed my husband’s ears. He’s still a bit hard of hearing, but the transformation has been miraculous. Conversation is possible.  I had coffee with a friend this morning, a bit hard of hearing herself, who reminded me that television offers the option of subtitles these days. I should have thought of that myself.

I broke the yellow tab off the Sirka this morning while struggling clumsily. I now don’t know whether I will replace it. It turns out to be more expensive than I remembered, and I wonder if moving those pointers is, in fact, quicker than leaning forward and making marks on a piece of paper. More fun, yes, the Sirka is that.

At the moment, I am counting some things it can’t help with – the overall number of rows since the underarm, so that front and back will be the same size; the number of times I have decreased at the neck edge every fourth row (Sirka could do that); and exactly where I am in the every-fourth-row sequence. So far so good, but I’ll be glad when the front is finished.

I got to work charting another lozenge. I’m getting there. It doesn’t really matter whether or not I get it absolutely right, as long as the result is symmetrical both horizontally and vertically. I wonder if they’d sell me the pattern on its own.


Tomorrow is Lizzie’s birthday, the youngest of Rachel’s four children. I’m sure I must have told you that when I was young, you could claim your infant child as a dependent for the whole of a tax year no matter what day of that year it was born on – so one born on the last day of the tax year, as Lizzie was, was money for jam, as the saying goes. Alas, by the time Lizzie was born, that pleasant rule had been changed.

Monday, April 03, 2017

I hope you’re right, Tamar – and I have learned from experience that you almost invariably are. Do I really need “almost” in that sentence?

The only change in my husband’s medication recently is, of all things, the addition of eardrops. He has been hard of hearing for some time – nothing remotely like the current experience, however. I asked the nurse if the eardrops could be responsible for this, and she thought it possible that wax has been dislodged and that syringing will put it right. I am not entirely convinced, but clearly syringing must be tried first.

Thanks for your concern for my finger, Southern Gal. I think it is healing all right. I don’t think we have any antiseptic. I sort of hoped the blood would have washed the germs away. I slept the first night with a newly-laundered handkerchief wrapped around the finger as a sort of tourniquet. Bandaids don’t stay on because one’s hands are so endlessly in water.

Now for knitting, a much pleasanter topic. Thank you for your help with the Fair Isle colour problems. I keenly look forward to trying a shot of red next time. And Karen, I like the idea of that bright lime-yellow as the “pop” colour. And Maureen, I take your point that these lozenges don’t really lend themselves to the traditional Shetland “pop” of colour in the middle. I’ve got lots of ideas to play around with.

A dear friend gave me the catalogue of the R.A. exhibition in which Hopper’s “Gas” currently appears. The illustration of it there, better than the newspaper one, doesn’t add any substantial information about colour, however.

But today I got dutifully back to Tannehill. I’ve finished the back and re-started the front at the underarm. I had to wind another skein so that I could use two at once, one on either side of the v-neck. I had been looking forward to using my Sirka (unused for a while) to track the simultaneous side- and v-neck decreases, but I find I can’t budge two of the three tabs. Yellow and blue, the two outer ones. Grey, in the middle, works fine.

It’s plastic, for heaven’s sake. It couldn’t have rusted. Maybe I’ll try loosening the central screw tomorrow. Maybe I’ll order a new one. Except that by the time it gets here, I’ll have finished the front somehow.


Rachel is coming up from London for a couple of days after Easter – a fortnight from today, in fact. And Helen will fly back from Greece on Easter Sunday. Two good reasons, besides cider-drinking, to look forward to the end of Lent. It will be good to have Rachel in the picture.

Exciting news: my quince tree, in a pot on the front doorstep, is about to burst into flower! I’ll show you, as soon as it does so.

Sunday, April 02, 2017

Another trying day on the deafness front, but at least Oxford won the Boat Race. I regard it as the world’s most tedious sporting event, but it’s the only one my husband has any interest in, and he supports Oxford.

Here’s the swatch scarf. The top four bands are the ones derived from the Museum Sweater. The narrower bands, the peeries, have a plain, unpatterned row above and below. The first time, I knit those rows in orange; the second time, in the gentle green which forms the background. I was completely astonished to see what a difference that made to the five patterned rows in between, which are identical in the two bands.

(Colours are a bit funny again -- I'll try again tomorrow in different light.)

I think the first one, with more orange, is the one I want. It makes a successful “pop” of colour, and goes very well with the four colours in the lozenge rows.

This leaves no room for red. The next time I lay Tannehill aside, I’ll try a line of red across the middle of the lozenges, but I don’t expect it to work. They seem to me splendid as they are. But the whole point of a Fair Isle swatch is to try things out, so I might as well have a go.

I know I am planning a Fair Isle vest and not a lesson in art history, but Mr Hopper has done remarkably well at choosing colours for me so far. Maybe red will be a success as well. I've also left out blue. Other reproductions make the sky appear much more gray, anyway.

Tamar (comment yesterday), thank you for the list of possible uses for the swatch. Brilliant, as always from you.

New topic

I cut a finger last night just before going to bed. It’s all right, I’m fine, but there was a certain amount of gore because of the blood-thinner I take. I found myself wondering if knitting would be affected – and then I realised that I didn’t know, in words, in my head, how to knit. The cut is on my right ring finger. How important in the process is that finger? I couldn’t say.

And this morning when I sat down to knit, there was an alarming moment when my hand couldn’t remember either. The cut was still painful. Is this the way I usually hold the yarn, or was I favouring the sore spot? The answer is that I tension the yarn with the middle finger of my right hand, and also use that one to throw the yarn.

I’d be a better knitter, I suspect, if I had learned to use the index finger from the beginning. In either case, the ring finger doesn’t have a terribly important role to play so all is well.

Saturday, April 01, 2017

Thank you for your sympathy, Martha. Deafness really is a great affliction. I can shout replies to my husband’s commands or comments to me, but it’s no use hoping to introduce even an off-hand topic of conversation myself. We can only wait and hope for the results of next week’s syringing.

I had another good day with the Museum Sweater Fair Isle. It remains but to do a second peerie and then, tomorrow surely, I can show you. I continue to be very pleased with the result I’m getting. I’m concerned that I can’t get all my colours in, but maybe that doesn’t matter. There is only room for six. That’s how many Meg has in her video’d Fair Isle vest/cardigan in “Knitting”. And I do tend to put in too much.

I don’t know what to do next. Well, the immediate answer is, have a shot at corrugated ribbing. But after that? This thing is a long way short of a scarf, and I don’t want it to become a burden. For the moment, I’ll go on as before, spending most of the time on Tannehill, taking a day or two off every so often to practice Fair Isle. We’ll see how long the swatch-scarf is when Tannehill is finished.

My hands are getting re-accustomed to stranded colour work, and also to the short circular needle. Maybe I’ll just have to go ahead and knit the vest without the Calcutta Cup.

L. (comment yesterday), you have indeed found the Raveller whose photographs of his Fair Isle sweater – the one I am calling the Museum Sweater – have helped me so much. Now I’ve put that link in Evernote.