Thursday, November 30, 2017

I’m puzzled about books. The Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible which we are all eagerly awaiting, seems to be tantalisingly just out of reach. It can be ordered from the US. It can be downloaded. But – jam yesterday and jam tomorrow – it can’t actually be bought.

And what about Bristol Ivy’s “Knitting Outside the Box”. Amazon says “currently unavailable”.  It seems to be expensively available at LYS’s hither and yon.

And why can’t I find my Silk Road Sock book?

I had a peaceful day today, with no external engagements. I got some things done, but not others. I am marking the lace edging of the baby shawl with little safety pins every ten scallops (there will be 80 in all). It got to be time for another pin today – I thought it would mark the third corner, as I said yesterday, 60 scallops. I found that I was, in fact, only half-way along the third side, 50 scallops.

Still, I got another 5 scallops done today, without incident. I’ll reach that corner soon.

I have some homework to do before my Italian lesson on Saturday morning. I meant to make a start on that today, but didn’t. I continue to be grateful to you, Shandy, for putting me on to Duolingo. I keep up with that conscientiously. It says that I am 63% proficient in Italian.

In fact, I think I am about at the level of a three-year-old child. If someone speaks to me slowly and clearly (as my tutor does) I can understand and make myself understood in response. But when the grown-ups speak to each other at speed, I can only catch an occasional word.

A major problem here is my computer printer. It has started smudging everything, and leaving lines out. It’s not terribly old, but I suspect the answer is anyway to buy a new one. I urgently need to print a Christmas round-robin letter and start addressing cards. I will soon need to print our EasyJet tickets to and from Palermo.

Now I’ll go find some mindless television and knit some Soutache. I really think I’ve got the hang of two-colour brioche.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A brief, formal appearance tonight. It’s been a pleasant but strenuous day.

Helen and I were offered a free breakfast at Dishoom this morning, which we happily accepted. A bit tough, setting forward before it was fully light, but worth the effort. And the breakfast was, indeed, utterly free, as well as delicious.

Two different people came to look at the kitchen and estimate what it will cost to do it up.

And I knit another four (I think) scallops on the third side of the shawl edging. One more scallop and I’ll be round the final corner. Things went less smoothly than yesterday, but just manage to pass the galloping horse test.

Now I must go to bed.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This has been a good day on the knitting front. I had a date with Greek Helen and an old friend from Kirkmichael, to have lunch in the Portrait Museum. I took life as easily as possible (= knitting) in the morning, in order to have the necessary reserves of strength to ascend Dublin Street. It nearly killed me.

But I got four scallops done, and another later in the day – ¼ of the third side of the edging for the new shawl. And I have also moved smoothly on with the Soutache. Perhaps it’s time we had another picture of that.

I have been keen to buy Hazel Tindall’s new video lesson, “50 Tips from Shetland Knitters”. At first I got tangled up in unfamiliar terms – “Vimeo” – and scarcely better-known ones – “streaming” – but eventually discovered that I could buy an old-fashioned DVD from Jamieson & Smith, so I’ve done that.

I discovered in the course of all this, that she is going to accompany a knitting cruise on a Holland-America Line ship next August-Sept., from Copenhagen to NYC, with generous time in and around Iceland en route. I have a soft spot for Holland-American, who first brought me to England in 1953. I'd like to visit Iceland. But on the other hand, I have a deep and passionate antipathy to huge cruise ships. And if I do anything at the fag end of ’18, it ought to be to go back to Italy, to justify all this learning.

I got two emails from EasyJet today, and could feel the nervous tension collecting in my chest as I spotted them in the mail list. They were just trying to sell me hotel space in (a) Palermo and (b) London, to go with the flights I’ve booked. We’ve already booked a well-located hotel in Palermo, and have family to take us in in London. And all will be well – Archie is strong and calm and cheerful. And it’s useful to have something else in the vicinity to worry about, besides Christmas.

I’m glad to hear (comments, yesterday) that I am spreading the news about Aga cookers. They’re on all the time – and least, the old-fashioned ones are – and therefore wouldn’t be suitable at all for the North American climate. They are a wonderful source, here, of warmth and comfort all year round – never mind cooking.

Thank you for your comments, too, about hot water and magic taps. I’m learning.

Monday, November 27, 2017

A royal engagement! What fun! In the BBC interview on the news just now, she came across as very intelligent, and he, at least, as besotted. I look forward to reading all about her tomorrow – and I’m sure she’s up to it. It sounds as if Prince Harry has prepared her well for the horrors of royal life.

I’ve reached halfway on the third side of the shawl edging. If I knit any more this evening, it’ll have to be on the Soutache. I’m encouraged at how well things are going – most of the time – but alarmed to think how much lace-weight yarn remains to be knitted. This first ball will clearly see me and the edging all the way around – and there are seven more balls to come.

Knitalot, thank you for your comment. Somewhere – I can’t place it mentally, just now – I’ve heard about starching lace. I’m not tempted. Anyway, this shawl – like the one I knit for Orla K. (above) last year – is meant to be a shawl for using, not for “best”. A wrap-the-baby-up-and-take-it-to-the-pub-for-lunch sort of shawl.

I discovered last night (wandering aimlessly around cyber-space before going to bed, as often) that the Twist Collective is back with us. There had been a gap. They’ve now teamed up with Webs, and we are promised issues every other month, starting in January. I haven’t finished inspecting the new issue, but I can tell you that the photography is as good as ever.

Completely non-knit – kitchen-related

I’ve been reading about these modern kitchen taps which deliver boiling water, as a possible solution if I go the whole hog and install a new Aga which doesn’t heat water.

When I was fairly new-married, I once made tea for my husband using water from the hot tap, then brought to the boil in the kettle. He wasn’t in the room when I did it, but as soon as he tasted it, he said, “Did you make this with water from the hot tap?”

I never did it again. (And I never became a tea-drinker.)

Presumably the distinction is that tea must be made with water fresh from the mains supply, not water that has been standing around in a tank. If so, how do these fancy modern tap people get around the problem? The tanks in question are clearly rather small, not much bigger than a kettle. But the water must, nevertheless, have been standing around. May, even, have been held at heat, which sounds even worse.

I'd be glad of your comments.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

All well. I’m sorry for yesterday’s gap.

I have pressed on with the edging for the new shawl, and am now four scallops along the third side. I’ve put an openable stitch marker on the scallop side, and I move it up every scallop – so at least I know without having to smooth it out on my knee, which direction I’m going in. That ought to prevent a repetition of the recent disaster, when I found three scallops on the wrong side, but still leaves the danger of forgetting whether I am meant to be increasing or decreasing at any particular moment.


Patience, yes, I saw Susan Crawford’s Instagram about the Vintage Shetland Project, still without the promised publication date. It was interesting, and sad, to learn that she “blamed” the Project for her cancer and that that’s why she has found it hard to resume work.

Kirsten, concerns about the floor bedevil my Aga plans. We have neighbours underneath, rather than a void like yours, and there’s no doubt that the kitchen floor runs slightly downhill in the direction of the Aga. It has been a constant, if minor, worry ever since we moved here. We recently had a Man come and look at it. He doesn’t think the slope is the fault of the Aga, but still, who knows. I'll keep you fully posted.

Here is another cat picture for you. Again, things are not quite as pacific as the image suggests, but I feel we’re making progress. I don’t think Perdita will entirely forgive me, and be my cat again, until she accepts Paradox.

This picture clearly illustrates one of the many differences between them: I have always felt that Perdita has an unusually short and stubby tail. Paradox has a particularly long and splendid one. I have wondered – perhaps I’ve said this before – whether Perdita could be 1/64th wildcat. (Wildcats have short, stubby tails.) We would have to ask her mother, who probably wouldn’t say.

Wildcats are near extinction not because of anything people have done to them or to their preferred environment, but because of their own promiscuous ways. They interbreed freely with domestic strays. 

Friday, November 24, 2017

These are tough days, but at least we’re within a month of the solstice.

I paused a little while ago, and spread my knitting on my knee, and discovered that I had knit the last three scallops from the wrong direction, so that they were on the wrong side of the edging. That’s what we call a Fatal Error. I have ripped them out, and have successfully retrieved the stitches. If I knit on this evening, it will be to attempt Part 2 of Howard’s End on television, and to knit the Soutache.

I have a sort of feeling that this is not the first time in my life that this has happened.

Helen and I went up to John Lewis this morning, to see what sort of kitchen they had planned for me, and it looked rather wonderful although also rather expensive.

As for the Aga: I had thought of your very comparison, Shandy, after I visited the showroom yesterday. The car I drive is 15 years old. If my health holds, it will have to be replaced one day.

I don’t entirely understand about Raeburn. The name was there on the wall of the Aga showroom – it all seems to be the same company. But it wasn’t mentioned as an option while I was there.

One of you, via Helen, has given me the web address of a promising-sounding company which sells reconditioned Agas, and which also (inevitably) reconditions them. I think my dear old friend may be dangerous, as your Raeburn became, Isabella, and perhaps for a similar reason. But perhaps it could be eviscerated and restored for a good deal less than the cost of a replacement.

A new one would be considerably cheaper to run, but it would take a long time for the savings to justify the capital cost.

Despite all this, I thoroughly applaud the decision of your relative, Shandy – a farmhouse kitchen needs an Aga.

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving, if celebrating. Here, yesterday, were my sister and her husband Roger, their son Theo, and Theo’s sons Ted and Emmett. Emmett can WALK. Theo’s wife Jenni was the photographer.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

There is virtually nothing to say, except that I am still on my feet. (That’s news, these days.) I got up to the Aga shop and was horrified by how much a new one will cost, and by the fact that they don’t heat water any more. Constant, super-hot water in the kitchen is a luxury I should miss.

Tomorrow Helen and I have an appt in John Lewis with the young man who measured my kitchen on Monday and will have planned something.

I got the new New Yorker today, and in addition one addressed to a neighbour across the square (unknown to me). I know that another neighbour, a friend, subscribes – she got mine, a couple of weeks ago. What an internationally-aware lot we are, in Drummond Place! 

I was interested to read Peter Schjeldahl’s article about the recently-sold “Leonardo”. I will have to add that to my most-expensive-picture file. He says something about “never quite loving any Leonardo”. That’s how my husband felt. Raphael was his man. I love the Madonna of the Rocks in the NG in Trafalgar Square but that is as much for personal reasons as for Leonardo’s. Ann and Sylvia and I used it as a meeting point whenever we separated in London in the summer of 1953.

As for knitting, I have done two more scallops on the edging for the second side of the great-grandchild’s shawl: that was all that seemed safe, in that session. It’s so very easy that the mind wanders. I retreated to the Soutache, and that went well. I hope to do a couple more scallops before giving up and going to bed. There is a bit of recent television that should suffice as background.

For British readers: I wonder whether the Chancellor will have wrong-footed Miss Sturgeon yesterday. Income tax down -- but not in Scotland! Houses cheaper for first-time buyers -- but not in Scotland! (Because those tax powers have been devolved to her.) We shall see. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

I’ve done four scallops on the edging for the second side of the baby shawl. There are 20 scallops per side. That was all that felt safe. I then retreated to the Soutache, and had a bit of trouble settling myself back into the saddle there. I mustn’t put it aside for too long. Maybe it’s not a good idea to add that stripey hat to the mixture.

The new Fruity Knitting is a delight, as ever – and the good news is that I don’t think I need to buy Marie Wallin’s “Shetland”. I’ve got far too many books as it is, and none of the patterns there – I think we saw them all – quite grabs me by the throat.

I will continue to hope for the Vintage Shetland Project (yesterday, with comments). It must be very nearly ready for publication. When cancer was first diagnosed, Susan thought that it would go off to the printer as planned – that must have been sometime in 2016 – but that she wouldn’t be able to play the hoped-for role in promoting it. I’m sure she also said that there was someone who could take over – presumably daughter Charlie – if she really couldn’t do it. I’m pretty sure, even now, that we’ll get something someday. But it’s very tedious, waiting, and not being told.


You’ll enjoy Visconti’s “Gattopardo”, Mary Lou –it’s a treat for the eyes. But it’s no substitute for the book. I saw it once, in a cinema, and watched bits on YouTube this morning. I feel a) that Visconti has had to bring Garibaldi and revolution too far forward – in the book they are constantly there, like the rumble of distant thunder, but never quite on stage; and b) that once he has got everything ready for a big, expensive scene, he has to let it go on too long, in order to justify the trouble and expense. The famous ball at the end, for example.

Lancaster seemed to be speaking Italian, in the bits I watched. Surely the voice must have been dubbed, but he was good enough that there was none of that ghastly discrepancy between words and lips.

I’m going up to the Aga shop tomorrow to find out what it would cost to replace the beloved but dangerously antique one which was here when we bought the house. Then on Friday Helen and I will have a conference at John Lewis with the young man who measured the kitchen up on Monday. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

I must be brief – the new Fruity Knitting is up, right on schedule – and it’s Marie Wallin!

I sometimes wish I could reach through my computer screen and comfort Susan Crawford. I fear that she is shrinking from the completion of the Vintage Shetland Project because it’s going to be expensive and it's going to involve hard work. Indeed, we had a post complaining in advance about the hard work of sending out the books, way back there before the cancer diagnosis.

She will have had the crowdfunding two and a half years ago. Now she’s got to pay the printer, and then package up the books (and other rewards) and send them out to us all. It’s no wonder that she prefers to concentrate on simpler and more immediate tasks, as her strength returns. But I wish she’d face up to it and tell us what’s happening, even if it’s very bad news.

I’ve had a reasonably constructive day. I’ve finished 20 scallops, on the edging of the Amedro shawl for the prospective great-grandbaby. That’s the first side done. I should surely be able to finish the edging before Christmas. By then I should be near, or at, or beyond, the end of the first 25 gr of yarn, and better able to calculate the time needed for the whole.

If it weren’t for Fruity Knitting, I’d do a bit of Soutache before bed.


Barbara, I looked at Amazon for the “health walking seat”, as you suggested, and it sounds very good. But I can’t remember what it was exactly that I bought for my husband. It could even be that. The first thing to do is to see if Helen can find it when she goes to the country next weekend. There will still time to order another one.

The big non-knit news is that I’ve heard from the Duchess, and there seems to be every hope that she can scrape together enough clients from her b&b people for a cookery class in Palermo to include me and Archie during the first week of January.

How’s that for Degrees of Separation: 1) the Duchess, who is married to 2) the adopted son of 3) Tomasi di Lampedusa, who was the author of 4) Il Gattopardo, who was played in Visconti’s famous film by 5) Burt Lancaster.

Here’s another cat picture for you, taken this morning. Things are not quite as peaceful as this might suggest, but, on the other hand, they’re not too bad, either.

Monday, November 20, 2017

I’ve always been rather glad to be relieved of Thanksgiving – all that cooking, and all that family pressure. Although I enjoyed it, the one Thanksgiving in my married life (1960) that I spent in the USofA; and it does take some of the pressure off Christmas. I am horrified, however, to find that Black Friday has made its way across the sea, this year for the first time, as far as I am aware. Poof.

I remember the Queen’s wedding day, the 70th anniversary of which we are celebrating today. I would have been 13. We were able to listen to the tail end of it on the radio in NJ before I went to school. “The Duke of Edinburgh turns to his wife…” the commentator said, and I was quicker than my mother – devoted though she was to the Royal Family – to grasp what was being said.

I knit a few more scallops today, without incident, and will perhaps knock off a few more before going to bed. My guess is that this first 25 gr ball of yarn will last most or all of the way around.

I’ve finished reading “Jamieson & Smith: A Shetland Story” and would highly recommend. There are some pleasant Fair Isle patterns attached, too. I was surprised about several things I learned. For one, the change from “wool broking” to supplying yarn for knitting seems to have happened only in 1967.

I used often to shop at a place in Perth – I can’t remember what it was called, although I could lead you to its former site without difficulty – which claimed to have been the first to import coloured Shetland knitting wool to the mainland. They must have been doing it before 1967. I bought some choice 1930’s patterns there.

Jamieson & Smith’s is a story of survival, where others have fallen. The business was sold in 2005 to Curtis Wool Direct, I was horrified to learn. But that may be the price/cost of survival. Oliver Henry submitted the text of the book to a senior person there, who replied: “I found it very interesting, but would that apply to the wider textile world? Also, the writing is a bit ‘croftery’.” Oliver felt hurt, at first, but then decided that it was a fair judgement.


That’s a brilliant idea, Tamar (as ever, from you) (comment yesterday)  – that I should take a portable folding seat to Palermo, for moments of weakness. I bought my husband such an item, towards the end of his active exhibition-going life. He never used it, but I am pretty sure it can be easily found in Strathardle, where Helen is going next weekend. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A pretty good day. I’ve now done 11 scallops for the shawl edging – past halfway on the first side. I was beginning to encounter the dread where-am-I, what-did-I-just-do syndrome as I was knitting the 11th, so no more tonight. I'll watch some television and knit some Soutache when I've posted this. 

J&S has supplied me with an alarming-looking eight balls of yarn. I won’t really be able to estimate how long this is going to take until I finish the first. I don’t know when in April the baby is due, and don’t want to cut it too close anyway.

The new IK has arrived; there are some good yoke sweaters and some good cables therein. And an article on how to avoid Cable Flair which is a problem I don’t think I’ve ever been aware of before. And an interesting interview with June Hemmons Hiatt.

I’ve got the first edition of PoK, and almost never consult it. Perhaps I should. Back in the days of the dear old Knit List, someone offered to swap it for an early issue of the Rowan Magazine (No. 4, I think) – which I had. I had, indeed, knit a cabled sweater from it, and thought I could afford to let it go. I don’t need to buy the new edition of PoK, do I? How radical a change is it?

Today initiates a week in which there’ll be a new Fruity Knitting. We patrons got a delicious outtake this morning.

Poor Susan Crawford promised us, three weeks ago, an Update on the Expected Publication Date of the Vintage Shetland Project in 2-3 weeks’ time. It didn’t occur to me then, but it’s obvious now, that we’re sure to miss another Christmas – the third. Publication was going to be November, ’15, when we signed up for crowdfunding.


Someone named James is coming to measure the kitchen tomorrow. Exciting!

Helen’s husband David is here for the weekend – he’s still based in Thessaloniki. We all three walked down to the Stockbridge Market this morning and, as ever when I go there, spent more than we meant to. I was tottering a bit by the time we got home, and worried again about whether I am strong enough for Palermo. Archie will have to carry me about. But it was a cold day, and there is nowhere to sit down in the Market, and it was well past lunchtime by the time we got back.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday. It must be a difficult moment in any bereavement.

Today was a good day – successful knitting, exciting rugby. Scotland came that close to beating the All Blacks.

I figured out what was going wrong with the shawl edging last night. Can I explain it?

In my (admittedly limited) experience of lace knitting, the knitting of a shawl edging begins at the inner, straight edge, whether you are knitting the edging onto an otherwise-finished shawl or, as in this case, knitting it first. The pattern stitches are done on that first, outward-headed row, and on all subsequent odd-numbered rows. Unless you’re doing a really fancy-schmancy lace with pattern stitches on both sides.

I assumed that that was the case here. I have, perforce, bought the kit from Jamieson & Smith, which includes charts. I am glad to have them. Amedro didn’t chart her designs. The new chart clearly shows the scallops to the left, as the work faces you for the first row.

But that's not right. By the time I had finally finished two pattern repeats, it was clear that the knitting started out at the scalloped edge.

Now that I have grasped that, all is going well. I’ve done eight scallops, 10% of the whole. The danger now is inattention due to the easy pattern. The answer will be (as so often in life) little-and-often.

It has left me wondering, how does the knitting know which side to put the scallops on? For the first eight rows, you are increasing; then, for the next eight, decreasing. The chart, as printed, looks curiously upside down. But why? The symbols are correct, and following the chart will produce the desired result, if not the expected one.

I did a bit more of the Soutache, too. I am tempted to knit the Blue Sky Fibers slouch hat again. It’s been cold here lately, and Greek Helen has been wearing the one I knit for her last year. It’s certainly attractive. It makes a good, if rather expensive, Christmas present. It’s ideal winter solstice knitting. It would be something straightforward and simple, on days when both the Soutache and the shawl seem too much of a challenge.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A distinctly better day.

The package came from Jamieson & Smith. The yarn for the shawl is fawn, as requested, and is more beautiful than I had expected. I also ordered their new book: “Jamison & Smith, a Shetland Story” which I have been reading with great interest. Oliver Henry wrote it. Some attractive “Fair Isle” patterns are included, but the story is the thing.

And I got my hoped-for place in Kate Davies’ “West Highland Way” club. Greek Helen is determined that I should have a proper kitchen, at last, here at the end of life, and she had made an appt for us to go up to John Lewis and talk about getting one fitted, for 10:30 this morning.

KD’s club went live at 10.

So there I was poised, fingers on keyboard, Helen here waiting to drive me up the hill. All went well until the actual moment when I clicked on PayPal – and then I lost the connection. I think the trouble was that Paradox, who had been trying to help, had put me into Flight Mode. Whatever – it took me a while to re-establish the connection, and then I couldn’t persuade the website to listen to me and it was time to go. So I went. I didn’t need the yarn anyway. I could join the club without it.

But when I got back, and went back to the website, I found that my order was still in my basket. I happily paid, and all is well.

Last night I reached a milestone with the Soutache: it was time to wind and join in the fourth gradient colour, and that has been done.  The fifth colour is the one which will form the mid-way point of the scarf.

But for today’s knitting, I cast on the newly-arrived yarn and started the edging. I have had a terrible time. Like Miss Rachel’s Yoke, it’s too easy. The first time, I found that I was confused as to which end of the row I should be knitting from. (That is, had I left out a plain-vanilla even-numbered row?) The second time, I was interrupted at a vital point and found myself unsure whether I was nearly finished with the first repeat, or just starting on the second. The third time, everything was going swimmingly, I thought – but what I expected to be the final row, was two stitches short.

At the moment, starting yet again, I am half way through the first repeat and unaware of any error.

Here is another cat picture, Perdita this time:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It hasn’t been a wildly productive day. I have done no knitting at all, but intend to hunker down with the final episode of Victoria before going to bed. That should move things forward.

The mail was a real disappointment. There was a big, squishy package just right to be my yarn – but it wasn’t. It’s something from Greece for Greek Helen. There were two interesting-looking envelopes: they tuned out to be for the next-door neighbours.

For many years now, I have kept a file of clippings about the Most Expensive Picture Ever Sold at Auction. There have been years when I seemed to have added to it every few months. But of late, the supply has dwindled away. So I was very keen to have today’s addition. I bought two newspapers, and neither of them have the story.

Perhaps tomorrow. This will surely be my last clipping. It will be a good while before anything can eclipse Leonardo. It looks like a fairly dreadful picture. I don’t know what I’d do with $450 million, but it wouldn’t be that.

One thing I did today was watch Notting Hill on my iPad, thanks to Netflix. It really is very classy schmaltz. I must have told you repeatedly that James used to live on the same stair as Hugh Grant, when they were both students, and once loaned him a frying pan. That frying pan is our family’s claim to fame.

Here’s another dead-cat picture for you.

I was interested in your comment about religion and presidents, pgnitter. It would indeed make an interesting newspaper article. Times change, and we change with them, but we don’t always notice.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All well here, and the Soutache has progressed slightly. The stitch count continues sound. I wonder what I was doing wrong. I may yet find out.

Dear Carol, thank you (link in comment yesterday). That’s “my” duchess all right. Goodness, I hope I get to meet her. In our exchanges she mentioned that she lived for a while in Glasgow. Her written English is certainly faultless.

Knitting news is all on-the-brink, nothing actual. The package from Jamieson & Smith should be here soon, I’m hoping for tomorrow. Will the yarn be “fawn” or will I have a tedious return on my hands? And on Friday, I can sign up for Kate Davies’ new club.

Brooklyn Tweed has a holiday brochure up, and unlike all the other examples I know of that genre, it includes two (rather delectable) sweaters, as well as the expected – and also delectable – hats and cowls and scarves. I don’t think there are any mitts.


I’ve gone on watching “The Crown”. Your fault, Mary Lou. Today it was 1954, and the destruction – that certainly happened – of the Graham Sutherland portrait of Churchill, considerably to the old man’s discredit. I hope the sketches survive. Two remarks:

1)    They can’t include everything, obviously. But you’d never suspect, from what is shown, that Churchill went to Washington to see Eisenhower in the summer of 1954. I was young then, and world events get remembered as they entangle themselves with one’s own life. I had a summer job at Life Magazine, cutting up the day’s newspapers and filing them. American presidents were expected to turn out for church every Sunday – are they still? – and there was always a paragraph or so on the subject on Monday. I was impressed to learn that Churchill gave instructions to be called in time for lunch.

2)    A few years ago, Alexander saw a Sutherland in the window of a charity shop, tagged at £10. He went in and tried to buy it, but the man behind the counter had another look and withdrew it from sale. I don’t think, strictly, that you’re allowed to do that. Alexander didn’t really like the picture all that much – he was just hoping for a quick buck.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Soutache continues well. This 12-row centre section, repeated over and over until the crack of doom, is very easy. It would, indeed, have made a good preliminary swatch. And it should mean that the final section, which gets a bit complicated again, should find me the complete mistress of two-colour brioche.

It’s very pleasant to knit. I am self-taught, slow and clumsy, as I’ve often said, and I find ribbing and patterns (seed stitch) derived from ribbing, tedious and unpleasant. But brioche, although it involves bringing the yarn forward between stitches, doesn’t seem to have the same effect.

The order from Jamieson & Smith is on its way, I am told. Will they really have sent fawn although I originally clicked (as instructed) on white? And how shall I interleave it with the Soutache?

We are only days away, now, from Kate Davies’ West Highland Way Club. I’m going to go the whole hog this time (if I get in on time) – Option 1, with the yarn sample pack. Although the last thing we need around here is more yarn. I am not familiar with the West Highland Way, but we’re in territory which is at least somewhat familiar from driving up along the west side of Loch Lomond before turning left and over the Rest and Be Thankful to Alexander and Ketki’s house on Loch Fyne.


Mary Lou, I was immensely touched by your comment about the Cenotaph. Did you just happen to find a soldier there, or was he stationed? I think I have said several times that I did not grasp the extent of the WWI slaughter until I first came here in 1953 and travelled about and saw the war memorials in village after village (starting with Grantchester itself) with three times as many names for the “Great War” as for the Second.

When I was growing up, it seemed to me very odd to celebrate “Armistice Day” when we were totally at war.

It has left deep scars. I often think how peculiarly dreadful it must have been for people of the age of my husband’s grandparents.  They must have been born, roughly, in the 1860's. They were lucky, in a sense. Their only son, born in 1894, came back, although he then went on to die of a brain tumour. And then the war happened again – twenty years is the twinkling of an eye, in adult life – and could well have claimed my husband, their only grandson.

But he came back, too. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Oh, Carol, yes! “Cooking with the Duchess” in Palermo must be “my” duchess – but, alas! the link didn’t come through with your comment today. Please re-send. Rick Stein had a Weekend in Palermo program on television here recently, including the duchess. The food in Palermo looks pretty inviting. Street food tours are available, and Archie is interested. What a relief, not to be committed to art museums. I can always go back and visit them next time.

 But it sounds as if your reference is to a newspaper article.

I have progressed with the Soutache. Things are calming down – the stitch count even comes out right, these days. I have hit the centre section where 12 rows are repeated over and over for a long time.

AND I have ordered yarn from Jamieson and Smith for that Amedro shawl, for next year’s great-grand-baby. I gave up and wrote to them and they wrote back promptly to say that I could order the shawl kit as per the website – I won’t be sorry to have the pattern again, with the charting done for me – and just announce in the comment box that I want “fawn” instead of “white”.

So I did that, also ordering the new book about J&S themselves (+ some patterns). I will certainly let you know what happens.


I watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph on Sunday morning. It was very moving. What a security nightmare that must have been!

Michael Foot, a former lefty Labour party leader, turned up one year in inappropriately informal dress. I was glad to see that Jeremy Corbyn, the present Labour leader, alarmingly left-wing, was nevertheless properly turned out.

I have been watching “The Crown” on Netflix, I am ashamed to admit. I doubt if what really happened was much like that, but it has a hypnotic fascination.

Here is today's cat picture (Paradox) – not dead;  totally in charge. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

I signed up for the new Craftsy classs by Lesley Anne Robinson on “brioche lace” and watched some of it in bed last night. I felt that she had me on the right track (although I might well have achieved the same end with the other Craftsy classes on my list, Marchant and non-Marchant).

Things went better today, and I feel that I’m nearly back in the saddle. I’m still having a bit of trouble with right- and left-leaning decreases: that is, I don’t yet know instinctively which is which. And I’m having trouble, too, with the stitch count: I have several times discovered extra stitches lying about at the end of the row. It will be a soft and pleasant scarf to wear when I’m finished, whatever happens, and will look good in a general sort of way. By then I would hope to have fancy two-colour brioche down pat.

Rebecca, thank you for your kind remarks about Miss Rachel's Yoke. I'm at least as bad as you are at choosing colours for stranded knitting (although rather enamoured of Kaffe's idea of basing a scheme on a favourite picture). I just ordered a kit from KD's online shop, with Haar as the base colour. 

The EYF Vendors’ List for 2018 is up. It’s going to be fun. Kate Davies isn’t coming back – I already knew that. She will be there, giving talks about her new book about her stroke, but not selling yarns and books. She felt that enough was enough. And Jared doesn’t seem to be making a re-appearance. The general list, however, seems thoroughly satisfactory. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A distinctly quiet day. My Italian tutor comes on Saturday morning. We have a nice time, but it leaves me tired. I wonder if I am making any progress.

I have resumed the Soutache, but am not happy with what is happening. It was far from perfect before the break; even farther, now.

Here, at least, is the promised picture of the two sweaters, along with the back end of one of my cats. Paradox, in fact.

Miss Rachel’s Yoke is perfectly comfortable, perhaps just slightly too snug but nothing that a blocking couldn’t fix.

Friday, November 10, 2017

All well. I’ve finished Miss Rachel’s Yoke. I think a passage with the steam iron will suffice, rather than total blocking. And tomorrow I must photograph it side-by-side with the blissful madtosh DK half-brioche. The shape and size look very good. Comfort remains to be established.

Then I picked up the Soutache, at first with utter despair. I’ve located all the pages of the pattern from the places to which the cats had dispersed them -- a good first step. And I have re-read them thoroughly. I had stopped with a wrong-side row facing. All such rows are plain-vanilla brioche. I’ve done that, and thus have restored a bit of confidence. I think I’ve figured out where I am. I will have to be very careful where and when I put it down again, and I think a substantial message to myself would be a good idea.

A message from Carol Sunday arrived today, about some new scarf designs, including a new super-dooper brioche one which doesn’t show up in the previous link. Also Craftsy seems to have a new, non-Marchant, brioche class.

Probably even more exciting, Kate Davies has published another teaser about her forthcoming new yarn and book club. We have only to wait until next Friday!


I think you’re right, Shandy, that I’m pressing Jane Austen too hard for political parallels. It was just that the situation on whatever-day-it-was, when Ms Patel was summoned back from an official visit to Africa, seemed suddenly very female and Austen-like. And Ms Patel seemed very Mary-Crawford-like. Best to leave it there.

When they invite me onto “Desert Island Discs” I will be torn between Mansfield Park and Il Gattopardo for my book (and sorry to have to leave Brideshead behind). I think I’ll go for Il Gattopardo, but I’m not sorry to have been brought back to Mansfield Park by these recent reflections. It is interesting, and rather curious, to love the book so much without having much affection for any of the characters.


I left Paradox free last night, and so had her in bed with me. I don’t know where Perdita was – somewhere near, perhaps under the bed, as she appeared as soon as I got up. Paradox is a bit of a trial in bed, much purring and I-want-to-come-under-the-duvet followed shortly by no-perhaps-I-don’t.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Again, very little to report.

I had left the loose underarm stitches of Miss Rachel's Yoke in poor condition for picking up, so that took quite a while, before I could embark on the pleasure of actually Kitchener’ing. Then there were more loose ends to do – I had temporarily forgotten the coloured ribbons on the sleeves just above the wrist-ribbing.

One is done, one remains to do. Again, I can only hold out hope of tomorrow.

I had a very jolly day, though. I went shopping with our niece C. It has been a long time since I had the pleasure of wandering through shops in a purposeless fashion with another woman. We bought virtually nothing. It was I who broke our duck (is that the phrase?) by spending not-very-much in T.K. Maxx.

Then we went to lunch at Dishoom in St Andrews Square. Very highly recommended for food and service and ambience. C. had been before, I never had. Both Greek Helen and C’s daughter, another C., turned up to sit with us for a while as we were finishing.


I allowed myself the pleasure of looking again at “Mansfield Park” to see if I could find a couple of sentences of justification for assigning the role of Mrs Grant to Theresa May. But Mrs Grant is introduced in very few words. She was the next mistress of the parsonage, after Mr Norris died. Mrs Norris profoundly disapproved of the amount of butter and eggs that were regularly consumed in Mrs Grant’s kitchen. She is described as a “warm-hearted, unreserved woman” a few pages later. Mary and Henry Crawford were her half-sister and -brother.


Thank you for your advice. I’ll leave Paradox at liberty tonight. But it was nice having Perdita back with me last night, just the two of us. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

I set off for the surgery this morning, for my flu injection, but the car wouldn’t start. I wasn’t entirely surprised. It had hesitated in a rather alarming way over the last couple of starts, and this morning we had our first serious frost – ice on the windscreen. My nice garage came and brought me a new battery, but it was too late for the flu clinic. Next Wednesday.

I finished the knitting of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and have dealt with a good many of the loose ends. I am an incorrigible tie-er of knots. A few ends remain, and the Kitchener’ing of the underarm stitches. Surely tomorrow will see it done. I love Kitchener’ing.

And a picture of it next to the blissfully comfortable Madtosh half-brioche is a very good idea, Mary Lou.

Then I will return to the brioche scarf, and probably go ahead and order the yarn for the new great-grand-child’s shawl.

The new Fruity Knitting is good, as always. There’s a bit more Shetland. The interview-ee is Caitlin Hunter, previously unknown to me. I’m not terribly keen on her designs, but she’s young and obviously worth keeping an eye on. There was one very attractive yoke sweater with a floral pattern in Brooklyn Tweed’s Loft.


Paradox has taken over from Perdita the job of being the cat who is always with me, and I worry quite a bit about Perdita’s feelings. Until last Saturday, I shut Paradox in here every evening after we had finished writing the blog together.  Perdita and I would then sit watching television like an old married couple, and go to bed together.

But last Sunday a) I heard Paradox crying at 6 a.m. and b) it was Guy Fawkes Day, and she was worried by the noise in the evening. So I let her stay up. And have done so since. But that means she is taking over from Perdita the role of bed-cat and I am even more worried about Perdita’s feelings. Perhaps I will shut Paradox in here again tonight, and see whether Perdita comes back to me. 

Non-knit, non-cat

Today has been a dramatic one in British politics. I don't know the outcome yet. But it is all rather Jane Austen, with Priti Patel as Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park. I haven't decided what role to assign to poor Mrs May.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

I must be brief tonight. For one thing, there’s virtually nothing to report. And for another, the new issue of Fruity Knitting is up, right on schedule, so I want to go to bed with my cats and my iPad, and prop it on my knees.

One thing I neglected to say yesterday: Edinburgh has turned November, and I have started wearing my half-brioche Madtosh sweater. That weekend in Strathardle, whenever it was, when I removed the unsuccessful collar and repaired the neckband, was a weekend well spent.

I am sensitive to the wearing of wool. This one is blissfully comfortable. It’s also very cosy – brioche involves two passes for every row, so the resulting double fabric is as warm as Fair Isle.

I’m currently about 2/3rds of the way around the neck of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, working Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. If it’s not a success, I can remove it and try something else. But I certainly ought to be able to report tomorrow on whether Buachaille is as comfortable to wear as Madtosh. I suspect not.

Should I knit myself another Madtosh half-brioche? I’d hardly need to turn on the central heating at all, if I had two.

Kate Davies has another post up about the process of producing her new yarn. Wonderful, as ever.

Monday, November 06, 2017

All well here.

I’ve done all but the final round of the neck ribbing for Miss Rachel’s Yoke. Bind off with your favourite stretchy bind-off, it says: a bit of a cop-out, for a pattern that has used up so much printer paper. I turned to Mary-Lou-and-friends’ “Drop Dead Easy Knits” but the instructions there are for k1, p1 rib and I’m knitting 2 and purling 2.

I’ll find it. I’ve got nothing here if not books, and there’s still the internet. Tomorrow should see me pretty well finished, if not entirely.

I found the My Weekly Baby Shawl pattern without difficulty, once I had figured out how to subtract 21 from 2017. Archie had a big birthday last weekend. In the old days, I used to attach photographs to the patterns in my archives. Here, for maximum embarrassment, is Archie in the shawl:

I don’t know what the yarn was. Probably J&S. And, alas, Mary Lou, there are no notes on the pattern.

Once, long ago, Helen (not yet Greek) asked me: “What’s that going to be – if you finish it?”

I don’t remember what the project in question was. But not long afterwards, I labelled a manila file “Knitting Actually Done” and started stowing in it the patterns for FO’s, with photographs. When the file threatened to burst at the seams, I transferred the contents to a box file (labelled with dates) and started again. I’ve done that several times, by now. It’s rather a pity that digital photography has replaced real-life photographs.

Here it is, beginning to bulge again – and the many pages of Miss Rachel’s Yoke will swell the load. This may be the end-of-year for a new box file.

It has often proved very useful (as now) to be able to go back and find old patterns. It is truly horrifying to see how awful – by my present standards – were some of the things I actually knit.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

It’s a noisy evening. In my day, I don’t think Scotland was much interested in Guy Fawkes – indeed, if they gave the matter any thought at all, might have been just as glad if he had succeeded. But now, it’s any excuse for making some noise to advance us through the darkness. It is distressing for the cats, but must be much worse for the cats of Streatham and Sydenham.

It is nice to welcome a week in which a new episode of Fruity Knitting should appear.

I am grateful, as always, for your comments. My dr., after taking bloods, said that I was somewhat deficient in vitamin B12 – and prescribed some vitamin D. He didn't explain the apparent discrepancy. I am faithfully taking that, and also taking B12, on my sister’s suggestion, although I gather that if one is really deficient in that, one needs injections. I’d be happy to add iron, and it seems a reasonable hypothesis. I’ve done some mild Googling, and it sounds as if a small dose won’t hurt, although I note what you say, JeanfromCornwall.

I think my diet is pretty good. I am still enjoying cooking the food I like instead of invalid food, and eating it at my preferred times of day. I am tending towards a vegetarian+fish diet, and may therefore be short of iron.

Anyway, we’re here for the knitting: I finished the colour patterns on Miss Rachel’s Yoke today, and did the subsequent round of decreases. It remains but to find an appropriate circular for the neck ribbing, and rib it.

Apart from the difficulty posed by the simplicity of the pattern, there was also the difficulty that the first and last round of each six-round ribbon was knit in a single colour. In stranded knitting, and indeed in lace, one relies on the row below to keep one in order. But this pattern had to be re-set again and again.

However, it’s done now, and the effect is very good. I’ll show you soon.

Thank you for your comments about the shawl for the new great-grand-baby. I can’t quite figure out how to order the Amedro kit from the Jamieson and Smith website. I’ll go back through my archives, which are in fairly good order. If I’ve got the pattern I knit Archie’s shawl from, all I need is some yarn. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

There’s a wonderful new post from Kate Davies, with wonderful photographs – we’re getting closer to her new yarn and new club. I am not greatly enamoured of tweed yarns, but I’m more than willing to be persuaded, and am trusting the club to brighten these short, dark days.

Thank you again for all your comments. Iron deficiency is an interesting idea. I went to see the dr not all that long ago. He took “bloods” and prescribed vitamin D and said to come back in six weeks. They must have more or less elapsed by now. I’ll certainly mention iron when I get there again.

I’ve finished the eighth – the penultimate – ribbon in Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and indeed have started the ninth. I think we will all agree that when we are worried about whether or not there is enough yarn, we need to knit fast in order to get to the end of whatever-it-is before the yarn gives out. Well, it worked. I won’t attempt to use the fragment remaining for the neck ribbing.

So I should be able to polish off this project altogether within a very few days.

And I think I may have decided what to knit for the next great-grandchild. Instead of repeating Mrs Hunter’s shawl (see Wednesday), I could repeat the one I knit for Archie, 21 years ago. It’s an Amedro design, originally called the “My Weekly Baby Knits Shawl” and now sold as a kit by Jamieson and Smith under the name “Sletts Shawl”. It is hard to decide which is the less appetising title.

Helen and David’s eldest son died at 6 ½ weeks. When the pregnancy began which was to produce Archie, I had never knit anything finer than jumper-weight. That first effort (lace-weight) was a success. It would be nice to use Shetland Supreme Lace-Weight, perhaps in fawn. Would that be too gloomy?

Helen is safely back from Kirkmichael. She brought me an apple from our unproductive tree, and the news that our neighbours in the Big House will be leaving next summer, hoping to sell on to another branch of the family. That's what passes for exciting news, in a village. She says there were lots of deer about.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Another day of non-achievement. I am comforted and encouraged by your comments. The trouble is: I am so old. Lots of people are dead by the time they’re my age, and nobody regards them as having died young. Do I have time to recover some oomph?

I’ve finished the seventh, of nine, ribbons on the yoke of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and am beginning to wonder if the torpor with which I am struggling could have something to do with Buachaille itself, KD’s wonderful yarn? Is it perhaps slightly too heavy for utterly blissful two-colour knitting? The effect is beautiful, no complaints there.

In any event, the sweater is nearly finished. The next ribbon is the one where the main colour reappears. I am going to take the risk, and knit it as charted. When the final ribbon is done, there remain six rounds of rib in the main colour. I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough for that, but there’s plenty of everything else. The cats made a thorough mess of the remaining main colour while I was in London, but I have re-wound it. Ready to press forward.

Mary Lou, I didn’t answer your question from a day or two ago, a propos the picture of Paradox on the sitting-room chest of drawers. There used to be lots of ornaments there of various sorts, all stowed away now for fear of cat. Our Dear Old Cat used to do it deliberately – if we didn’t get up, when she suggested that it was time for Pussy Cat’s Breakfast, she would start gently pushing the things on the chest of drawers towards the edge. It worked, every time.

Helen is having a tough time in Kirkmichael. She has found a whole nest of dead mice under the kitchen sink. (The mice in Strathardle are Timmy Willie rather than Johnny Town Mouse, which helps a bit. The two species won’t share premises.) Apparently someone left a Pot Noodle behind. The worst mess I ever had when was I left a banana on the kitchen windowsill. Timmy Willy loves bananas, and word went out up and down the glen.

That time, though, the result was just utter mouse mess throughout the house, no little corpses.

I watched an episode of Victoria this afternoon – the one where they go to Blair Atholl. I gather midges hadn’t been invented in the 19th century.