Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Things are moving along. I’ve done everything on yesterday’s list except pack, and that will be quick. And I’ve done a couple of other urgent things as well – they spring up like weeds. Changing the cats’ litter tray was one of them.

The head kitchen fitter phoned last night to tell me to switch the Aga off, so that the plasterers could plaster behind it this morning. And leave it off, for the convenience of the work-surface-fitters tomorrow and the tilers on Friday.

That meant no cooking-heat at all; I don’t own an electric kettle. I went to bed in the Slough of Despond whence I was roused at 7:10 this morning by the plasterers, due at 8. They had finished by 9:30 and I switched the Aga back on. It is up to heat now, so I can have something hot for my supper. Then I'll turn it off again.

The big unanswered question at the moment is, what about water? Does work-surface-fitting include plumbing the kitchen sink? All attempts to find out have so far failed. Still, today, no water is less of a disaster than no Aga.

In the course of executing yesterday’s list I threaded Alexander’s vest onto a slippery string. I could tell by the time I had reached halfway that it is indeed much too big. At the moment, anyway, I am inclined to start again.

The measurements and the numbers don’t entirely add up. Alexander measures 39” around the chest, so I’m aiming for 43” or so. The vest measures 23” across = 46” circumference. Too big. But each full repeat of the pattern measures 5 5/8”. There are nine, so the circumference ought to be 49 5/8”. Much too big.

The swatch scarf doesn’t help. This morning, a full repeat there measured 4 ½”, a big discrepancy. How did that happen? Could I somehow have switched needles? It’s now up to 5”, presumably because of its brief appearance under the steam iron this afternoon. I’ll take everything, including the tape measure, along with me to Loch Fyne tomorrow, and try to puzzle it out. If I start again, will eight repeats be enough?

Then I’ll give the scarf to Ketki.

I’ve started Archie’s larger-sized sock. The shop gave a name involving chillies to this colourway. I expected a bright, clear red. The predominant shade is distressingly pink. But there are lots of interesting stripes and it may be all right. The ball band makes no claim to chillies – there are just numbers.

I’m going away tomorrow, I hope. I’ll be back on Monday if all goes to plan. No more here, until then.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Plasterers are said to be coming at 8 tomorrow. I must be up and dressed and brushed in good time.

Then on Thursday it all happens, I hope. Alexander will come and get me in the afternoon, and Helen will take over here.

So, between now and then, I must:

a)     Get the vest to a stage – another 2 ½ rounds – where no balls of yarn are attached, and then thread something slippery through the stitches. And I’ll try it on myself – that was a good suggestion, Beverly.
b)    Cast on some socks for Archie, employing a greater number of stitches than for the previous attempt, and do a few rounds of ribbing so that, if I want to, I can knit in the car.
c)     Go to the supermarket and stock up on cat food.
d)    Iron my one thoroughly respectable skirt, the one I bought to go to Palermo in.
e)     Pack. That won’t take long.

It doesn’t sound too formidable, set out like that. I’m not going to install the kitchen myself – I’ll have some time for Doing Things on Thursday.

The new Fruity Knitting is out. It’s all about the EYF. It’s good. Andrea was set to buy some of Jared’s “Arbor” yarn to knit the Fieldstone pattern in his Fall 17 collection. Alas, Jared wasn’t there this year, and nobody had brought the yarn. She chose another DK, a wonderful colour, and swatched it that evening. She was way out with the row gauge (as we so often are) so she discarded that idea. Andrew will use the yarn to knit her a hat.

The pattern is rather wonderful, but I don’t think it’s the right sort of thing for any of the ladies I knit for, let alone myself. There are a number of good cables in that collection, including the Fieldstone, and, needless so say, some wonderful photography.


I met Neil MacGregor once, sort of. (for whom, see yesterday, with comments) My husband and I were at a small exhibition in London devoted to Sir George Beaumont, a collector and patron who was important to my husband’s artist. Neil MacGregor came along, by himself, in an ordinary sort of raincoat, and said “Hello, Hamish”. He was director of the National Gallery at the time. They talked about the exhibition for a little while. I don’t think I was actually introduced but of course I knew who he was. And haven’t forgotten that day.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Here’s where we are so far. I got a bit more done today:

You can see why I fear it’s too big, and you can see what I mean about the bottom flaring. The techknitter’s system begins with a couple of rounds of st st, which is meant to curl, and then some one-colour 2x2 ribbing. If blocking doesn’t cure it, I can cut off the st st and finish it somehow.

The Calcutta Cup motif is also centered, and has the same number of stitches in the repeat as does the OXO, but since it isn't symmetrical it doesn't show.


I wasn’t greatly impressed with Mary Beard last night, although she was fine to knit to. (But I passionately agree with you, Lisa, about the former director of the British Museum – his name is Neil MacGregor and he’s wonderful.) The whole point of this new series is to be about the whole world, not just Western art like the earlier Civilisation.

Unfortunately, what Mary Beard knows about is classical art, which is as Western as all get out. So they had to ship the poor woman out to China to the terracotta warriors, and off to Mexico for some Olmec, to give it a world-ly flavour.

And then at the end, the whole thing was spoiled when she revealed that the object she was ending on might be a fake. (There are a lot of Olmec fakes.) Do you suppose they had made the whole programme and then someone came rushing in saying “Hey! Wait a minute!” and the only thing they could do was have Mary Beard record a new voice-over?

I remembered how I had loved the Etruscan warrior at the Met in NYC when I was young – and then he was exposed as a fake. (I don’t seem to be able to post a link. Google “Etruscan warrior statue fake Metropolitan Museum” and you’ll see.)

Mary Beard was a contemporary of Rachel’s at Cambridge, both doing Classics. She wasn’t exactly a friend, and I don’t think I ever met her, but I remember Rachel and Ed talking about her. Both my husband and Rachel’s sister Helen have often referred to MB as Rachel’s tutor, but she wasn’t, she was just another undergraduate, that funny girl who’s always in the library.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

I love the light as well as the next man, but it is hard, with the equinoctial sunshine streaming in the window, to believe that it’s time to make myself something to eat, and write the blog. I’ll get used to it. I have done no knitting at all today, so I need an hour with some mindless television – “Civilisations” might strike the right note – before I go to bed.

I had my Italian lesson this morning, and then Helen and Fergus came over and we all walked down to the Stockbridge Sunday market which is always fun. Fergus’ school term has already ended – the more you pay for education, the less of it you get. The walk was close to the limit of my strength.

Helen’s husband David is currently driving about Turkey with Archie and Mungo (the brother studying in Jordan). Archie and David will come back here on Friday. They’ll have a weekend of cat-feeding and, if need be, hovering over the kitchen work, while I go to Loch Fyne.

I am sure you are right, Shandy, that the motifs in an OXO Fair Isle pattern need to be offset. It is interesting how pleasant is the appearance,  nevertheless, of Meg’s vest (where the motifs are not offset) and KD’s Machrihanish (where the v-neck isn’t centered over the pattern).

It is interesting to compare the Museum Sweater, where everything is perfect. Complete patterns end at the shoulder line. The sides “seams” bisect patterns. (That is not happening with Alexander’s vest because I have nine repeats. The vest is centered back and front, but not at the sides.)

The only way that could be done – I have read somewhere recently that it was standard Shetland practice – would be to design the whole thing, starting with the size of the motifs, for a particular wearer. Or to knit with a total indifference to the question of whom it might fit.

I have got some yarn to try again with socks for Archie – two different Kaffes. I’m not entirely pleased with either, and cross that the picture on the ball band doesn’t predict the sock that will be knit from the yarn within. The same was true of the Arne & Carlos yarn with which I was knitting before (and of which I have one thoroughly decent sock). I’ll choose the less unsatisfactory one, and perhaps get it cast on before taking it with me as I head west for Easter.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Again, not much was accomplished. I went to a movie called The Square which is not without interest. Some plasterers came and filled in holes in the kitchen wall.

I’m on the home stretch of the first OXO band on Alexander’s vest. The garment is looking increasingly large as I knit away from the cast-on edge. While I’m knitting the next peerie, I can decide whether to go on with the pattern as currently set, X above X and O above O, as Meg does, or to slide the motifs to one side by half-a-repeat, so that the centre front stitch for a while bisects the O instead of the X.

I think that is probably the commoner practise. That is what the Museum Sweater does (which J&S sells as a kit), and Kate Davies with the Macrihanish although she doesn’t bother with perfect centering. That is what I planned at the beginning: I started with centering the X so that it would reappear in the centre when it was time to start the v-neck.

My sister has (some days ago) received the yarn from Jimmy Beans which she will bring me soon, and with which I mean to knit Gudrun’s Kirigami.

The clocks go forward tonight. Time for bed!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Again, there is little to report.

I got up to the top of Broughton Street, to John Lewis, to buy a new iron. Old Faithful had recently started blowing a house fuse, immediately, whenever and wherever it was plugged in. That’s why those two scarves haven’t been signed off as FO’s yet. But now I’ve got a new one.

I’ve done a bit more knitting. I have now passed the halfway point in the first broad OXO band. While in John Lewis, I went to haberdashery and tried to buy some coil-less pins, which is what Meg recommends for marking stitches, but they had never heard of such a thing.

I’m very glad I knit that swatch-scarf and that the pattern is therefore familiar. I'll try a pic when I finish the current OXO. I was uneasy about the techknitter's starting rows at first, but they're improving as the needle gets farther away from them. Blocking will help, and radical surgery is not impossible.

I have had an email from Rachel to say that her son Joe says that the Calcutta Cup has left Twickenham, headed for Edinburgh. Joe works there, reporting for and maintaining a website devoted to amateur, community rugby. A dream job. I think our trouble yesterday, searching the web, was that ten years (the length of time since the Cup was last here) is beyond forever to a computer.

Now all I have to do is book my Murrayfield tour. After Easter.

Tamar, the trouble with asking the kitchen fitters to postpone things for a bit, is that they might stay away for too long. It’s a kitchen-fitting time of year, and they’ve got plenty of work. I rang up this morning and explained the position and have been assured that plumber and electrician will follow the work surfaces in next Thursday and toil industriously until all is ready. We shall see. I can’t stand this much longer – I have almost forgotten what it feels like to cook.

KD has posted an interesting (aren’t they all?) essay about the Electric Village after which this week’s West Highland Way pattern is named. Interesting, in particular, to me, because it concerns the smelting (if that’s the word) of aluminium. I’ll spell it the British way, although I have long believed that the man who devised a feasible and relatively cheap way of extracting it from (I believe) bauxite was an American, Charles Martin Hall, an Oberlin man. He did it in his back garden in an old bathtub, and became very rich, and was a major benefactor of Oberlin College which thus became a place of some distinction.

The dates fit, late 19th century. But the amount of energy the British needed for the operation seems disproportionate.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

There is little to report. I have heard, via Helen, that my kitchen work surfaces will arrive next Thursday. I must ring the people up tomorrow and find out when, once that is done, water will be restored and the dishwasher plumbed in and my new magic electric hot water tap installed. Good Friday is a big deal in England, but not much of a holiday in Scotland. I am afraid that all these necessary operations are going to interfere with my much-anticipated Easter weekend on the shores of Loch Fyne.

On the other hand, it would be wonderful to be able to cook again, and I’ve got the prospect of cider to comfort me whatever happens.

Alexander came to see me today. He suggested emailing a journalist, and/or the Scottish Rugby Union, to ask where the real Calcutta Cup is. It's hard to find email addresses for such people, but I tried.

I had another stuffy day-in today, waiting for someone to come and remove my old refrigerator. At the end of the day I found a card at the front door to say that he had arrived and I wasn’t there. I was there, of course, wide awake, not watching television. So I must start again tomorrow with that one.

Meanwhile, waiting, I got on with the Fair Isle vest. I’ve done the first peerie band, and established the first OXO. That required careful counting and figgering, and I am happy to report that the X of the OXO is centred on the centre front stitch where I wanted it.

And the lozenge, the O, is likewise centred at the back, and since back and front are only distinguished, so far, by which side seam I deem myself to have started at, all options are open.

I read some of the essays at the front of the Vintage Shetland Project, but I don’t think I have anything to say about them. She has done a good, conscientious job. She loves Shetland. She avowedly doesn’t attempt to explore the 19th century and earlier origins of the unique Shetland patterns.

I noticed for the first time, looking at the illustration in that book, that the corrugated ribbing flares in the front of that famous portrait of the last Prince of Wales, dressed for golf in his Fair Isle sweater.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Shandy, and Tamar, you’re right, of course. If the vest is too big, I can seam it, or even cut. It is such a comfort to press ahead knowing that I’m not going to have to rip out the whole thing. Many, many thanks.

Tamar, the vest is for Alexander, the meant-to-be-Palermo socks are for Archie. Archie is bigger.

I knit happily on with the vest, and have finished the Calcutta Cup band. I hope to have introduced a bit of colour before Alexander sees it tomorrow (the cup band being grey and white, as on the swatch scarf). I am now in a position to start negotiating to see the Cup itself, and take a selfie of it with the unfinished vest.

Google has nothing whatsoever on the question of where the real Calcutta Cup is at the moment. It has been in the rugby museum at Twickenham for the last ten years, all are agreed. I hope if I rang up Murrayfield to book one of their rugby ground tours, they would be able to tell me whether the fake cup they have been displaying has been replaced with the real article. If needs must, I’ll go to London and let grandson Joe take me to Twickenham as he has offered to do.

I certainly don’t want to photograph my knitting with a fake Calcutta Cup. But it seems absurd to go to London to see the real one, when those nice young men have gone to all the trouble of winning it for Scotland. I’ll keep you posted.

This being Wednesday, we have a new West Highland Way pattern. It’s a triangular hap this time, nice enough but I’m not tempted. It’s called Electric Village which is at least pronounceable.

And isn’t it time for another Fruity Knitting, or have I got my weeks mixed up? Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the EYF.

I didn’t attempt my Sunday class on tucks with Nancy Marchant, by the way. I had pretty well decided to skip it, and the appalling weather that day put the seal on my decision.

All is stasis in the kitchen, except that I now have a date, some weeks hence, for the laying of the floor tiles.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

It has been spring again today, and a bit warmer than yesterday. The National Gallery has finished taking books. I’ll go in there tomorrow – it’s a particularly cold room – and see what can be done about shelf space by moving things around.

There have been no workmen today, and I have done lots of knitting. I finished the corrugated rib; it got a bit more comfortable towards the end. I watched Meg’s video  again, on the subject of setting the pattern. I counted and counted and counted. Even so, I got the first row of the Calcutta Cup somewhat wrong, and had to move the base of the cup two stitches to the right each time on the second row.

Colour knitting can be corrected on the next pass, much as one could replace a knit with a purl. The trouble is tension – the wrong-colour yarn which now drops behind threatens to form an unwanted loop, while the right-colour yarn, fetched from a float, will be too tight if you try this over more than two consecutive stitches.

I think I’m all right, and the third row went fine. When I knit this motif previously, on the swatch scarf, I did it upside down because I was approaching one end of the scarf and I thought it would look better with its feet towards the outside world. And I think I was right.

I was tired that evening (as often) and hesitated for fear that knitting it upside down would also knit it backwards, but that didn’t happen. But the inevitable result is that knitting it right-side-up feels like a whole new Calcutta Cup.

So the only problem that remains – well, apart from establishing the Fair Isle motifs themselves – is the question of whether the vest is going to be too big. If I keep industriously at it, I ought to have enough done by the time I head for Loch Fyne on Good Friday that I can thread it on something slippery (remembering your advice from long ago, Mary Lou) and try it on Alexander. If I do have to start again (oh, horror! horror!) it’ll have to be done with incomplete motifs, starting and stopping at the “side seam”. There certainly isn’t enough spare fabric to take out a whole repeat.

Here is Archie’s not-quite-big-enough sock. I ordered some more yarn last night, something of Kaffe’s with a name involving chilli’s. Perhaps even wilder than this, certainly redder.

Is this the finest tail in the Second New Town?

Monday, March 19, 2018

The weather has calmed down, for the moment. Today was a cold spring day, such as are not uncommon in March. Archie came to lunch – his term seems to have ended already, and won’t resume for a month or so. He is flying to Greece tomorrow to join his father and brother (Mungo, the one in Jordan) to lounge around a bit, and then drive to Turkey for a while, all three of them. They'll be back for Easter, all three.

I couldn’t give him lunch, so we walked up the hill to a Mexican place just off St Andrew Square. Not bad, and the walk was no doubt good for me, although thoroughly exhausting.

I rapidly finished off his sock this morning, so that he could try it on. It’s a good sock, and the foot-length is perfect, but the leg is too snug. Archie is big. I should have done it on 72 stitches instead of 64.

It would be absurd to rip out a perfectly satisfactory sock. So the thing to do is to knit its pair, at some point, for somebody else, and start afresh for Archie. Kaffe has some interesting yarn under the heading Chilli Pepper. The sad thing about this procedure would be that none of the new pair will have been knit in Palermo, but that is a minor consideration compared to having socks that fit.

Meanwhile I have pressed on with corrugated ribbing. It is slow, demanding work, and I wonder if I’ll ever try it again, but I like the result.

The National Gallery has turned up, in the person of a pleasant young woman, to collect some books for their library from among my husband’s, promised them – and selected by them – some years ago. We have been held up recently by a maternity leave. I had hoped she would make a space for me to house my knitting books in, but it looks as her selection is more hit-and-miss than that. I feel that if I could get my knitting books properly stashed, the rest of the house would fall into order of its own accord.

And the kitchen has reached a point of (waterless) stasis. The joiner has finished and has gone away for the time being. A man came today and measured for the work surfaces which will come back next week with the sink already fixed in place. The floor and the tiles on the walls and of course the painting remain to be done. Maybe they will get on with some of that this week.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The weather is still nasty. It’s too dark now to see whether it’s snowing, but it’s blowing, and there’s snow lying from last night. When I got up this morning it was blowing a small blizzard – I offered my tutor the option of postponing our nine a.m. Italian lesson which she gratefully accepted. She usually comes by bicycle – the bus journey takes her three times as long. I’ll pay as usual, and we’ll fill in the lesson as soon as we can.

So I’ve been in all day, which always feels stuffy.

However, I got on a bit with the vest. Thank you for your help with joining the cast-on into a circle. I usually follow the course a couple of you suggest, knitting the first three or four rows back and forth. In this case, though, I was beginning with the techknitter’s recommended procedure for corrugated knitting – a couple of rounds of st st, to provide a curl, and then a few more of k2 p2 rib. I knit the first row before joining – but then was forced either to join or to purl, and chose the former.

I like the idea of attaching clips of some sort, and will try that next time. That’s probably the trick I feel I’d heard about. And Maureen, I will remember what you say about using a long needle. That makes good sense. I’ve got rather a short one at the moment.

I’ve finished the techknitter bit and have advanced to the actual corrugated ribbing. I had thought I would just do it in two colours. But at the EYF I picked up the free Shetland Wool Week leaflet, with this year’s pattern: it’s a nice little hat, and it begins with corrugated ribbing. A little shading in the knit-stitch column is perfectly easy and looks rather good. So I’m doing that. Finishing one colour and attaching the next one feels like Progress.

I started out knitting the knit-column with my right hand, and doing the other with my left. Goodness, this is much easier, I thought. Starmore is right. About half-way around I realised that I wasn’t purling at all. I didn’t correct it, and those unwanted knit-stitches are buried in the dark green columns and would require dismounting and close examination to detect.

I did learn on the swatch-scarf that if I forget to take the yarn back after purling, the thing to do is leave it and correct on the next round by flicking the yo to the back. Quicker and easier than correcting on the spot.

CKP, I’ll suggest a vacuum pack to my sister for that yarn – thanks.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The weather sounds almost as nasty out there as it did during that famous passage two weeks ago – and it’s almost as cold, too. We’ve had snow…

…and it was snowing at Twickenham as Ireland beat England. St Patrick will be celebrating with his mates in heaven tonight. It was the first time in several years that England have lost at home, and it means, as I said yesterday, that Ireland have their grand slam. Scotland won in Rome, but only just. Italy outplayed us for much of the match.

I didn’t pick up Archie’s socks, after all. I cast on Alexander’s vest and started on the techknitter part at the beginning, which is pretty easy knitting. I feel I’ve got an awful lot of stitches. Somewhat-too-big is a good deal better than somewhat-too-small, but there’s a limit.  It’ll be a while before a judgment is possible.

I have half a feeling that I recently read about a nifty trick for avoiding the Fatal Twist when joining knitting for the round, but if so, I can’t find it. Anybody? I tried YouTube but all I got was a couple of pleasant ladies telling me to be very careful to get it straight before joining.

I think I’m all right, but it’s not entirely easy to tell when you get up into hundreds of stitches. I got it wrong once, knitting a shawl edging-inwards. That time, I took the scissors to it.

I’ve heard from Jimmy Beans that they’ve shipped that yarn to my sister, and she has born with good grace the news that she’s got to find room for it in her suitcase. Maybe by the time she gets here I will be far enough forward with the vest that I can allow a couple of days a week for a second WIP.

The kitchen is getting on nicely. But it was sort of peaceful, not having the men here today. I gather that I will be without water in the kitchen at least through next weekend. I braved the weather and got up to Marks and Spencer this morning and bought some ready meals. It’s not so much the cooking – I’ve got the Aga, and evenings are peaceful when they finally go away – as the washing up.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The weather has turned vicious again. 

Yarn-buying: I have betrayed my own pieties of yesterday.

I thought about madelinetosh as I was tottering about the EYF market.  It wasn’t represented, but when I got home I went to Jimmy Beans’ website, where I have spent many a happy hour in the past.

And I found this: A “onesies” yarn, a JB exclusive, of which, if I understand rightly, the last few skeins were being sold at a discount. There was enough for a sweater. The colourway is called “Penny Loafers” and it spoke to me. And not just a discount on the sale price: no postal charge within the US. And my sister is coming to see us next month. That also means, no customs charge.

I did a careful comparison this morning, of gauge and wpi and yards per gram, and decided that it would, indeed, “do”. The total price, in dollars, was about the same figure as I almost spent in pounds at the EYF yesterday.

I didn’t do any knitting today, but I did finish and close the other end of the swatch-scarf:

It, too, like the Soutache, would benefit from a pass of the steam iron. I hope I’ll do that over the weekend. If so, everything in the collection above will be finished except poor Archie’s socks. I must get on with those. Tomorrow is another rugby day, the last of the present season. That should advance the socks somewhat.

It does look to me as if corrugated ribbing is trying to flare out a bit, there at the end of the swatch-scarf. So I will follow Meg’s and Maureen’s advice and reduce the stitch count a bit, perhaps 5%, and drop down one needle size. Today I did the last calculations for Alexander’s vest: there are going to be a full number (nine) of pattern repeats – but that doesn’t mean I can start at the beginning of a repeat. I will be starting at a side seam, and I want the pattern to be centred in front. I hope I’ve got it right.

Will I have the strength of character to rip and start again if any of these thoughts and calculations prove faulty?

My main interest in the rugby tomorrow will be England-Ireland in London. Ireland has won every match so far, and are eager to complete the grand slam. England have lost their last two and are keen to avenge the humiliation. (France beat them and so, of course, did we.) But the game is at Twickenham, where England are almost invincible. Scotland are playing Italy in Rome (lucky men) where we often do badly. 

Thursday, March 15, 2018

I had a fine day at the EYF, and am very tired. Several of you spoke to me, which was wonderful. I met Christine by arrangement in the Podcast Lounge after my morning class – she was waiting for me with a sandwich and a bottle of water. Life-saving!

We admired Andrew and Andrea from afar, and then Christine went off to her afternoon class and I actually spoke to them, briefly, when they had finished talking to Nancy Marchant. They are taller than I expected, and every bit as good-looking and pleasant as we had all concluded some time ago.

I had my valuable Pupil’s Hour in the marketplace first thing in the morning, before the hoi polloi are admitted. I got the colours I needed for Alexander’s vest, and looked around a bit.

I was the dunce of my drop-spinning class, as I fully expected, but I enjoyed it very much and learned something, as I had hoped, about how yarn works. It is interesting to think of Primitive Man, eyeing a sheep, and thinking, now, if we just sheer this stuff off and wash and comb it, we could perhaps figure out how to add some twist which would make it strong enough to weave or even knit…It's almost as magical as wine-making.

I didn’t buy any other yarn. Tiredness was beginning to pile in by the time I got back to the market in the afternoon. I was hoist by my own petard on the yards-per-gram thing. The Brooklyn Tweed website gives its Arbor yarn, on the page about Gudrun’s Kirigami pattern, as 145 yards to 50 grams, and that’s what I had written down.

Loop was there, but hadn’t brought Arbor, which they stock in abundance. I wandered around looking at other possibilities. They were all identified as metres per 50 or 100 grams. And I didn’t even have my telephone with me, which could presumably have translated.

But then common sense kicked in, augmented by exhaustion. Did I really want to spend more than £100 on wool I might never get around to knitting, which “would do” for this pattern? When I’m ready to knit, I can order the wool, from Loop. So I called a taxi and went home.

The kitchen is progressing well. It’s got lots of units now, but still lacks water. The cats had bullied or charmed a tradesman into letting them out of the dining room, and were enjoying their day in charge. I've finished tying off the ends on the inside of Ketki's scarf, and have picked up stitches at the other end and started to knit some ribbing to finish it off. Picture tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

That was even worse. The fuse box had to be changed, which meant that the electricity was off all afternoon, until nearly seven. Not too bad at first, but at the end – no heat, no light, no television, no computer, and if there had been, no wi-fi. And the iPad was low on battery. I sat there wrapped in a blanket feeling sorry for myself.

Shandy, I am sure I am not going to work my way around the house with renovations, when this is over. The central heating boiler was condemned and sealed off yesterday by a zealous young gas fitter. Something will have to be done about that.

The cats are bearing up well, although agitated (as am I). They don't have to be confined to the dining room except when quantities of things are being carried in or out. I'll leave them there tomorrow when I go to the EYF. They are puzzled by the banging and sounds of men's voices, and rush into the kitchen at the end of the day to assess progress.

And progress there is, although I am still without water. And Ketki’s Calcutta Cup scarf is progressing, too. I decided I had done enough corrugated rib, and have finished off one end, as planned. It is now inside out, having the loose ends tightened and knotted and cut. I think I remember hearing from Hazel Tindall herself that she ties and cuts the ends on the inside of a Fair Isle sweater, unless she is actually preparing it for an exhibition.

And in this case, the knots will be sealed inside. I am about 5/8ths of the way through the job.

The Soutache, by the way, is waiting for a final, gentle steaming before I sign it off.

Fortunately I prepared for the EYF first thing this morning, while still feeling in high spirits. I’m all set, except for not know how much of each colour to buy for Alexander’s vest. It doesn’t matter – Jamieson & Smith will send any necessary augmentation promptly.

Has the endearing hybrid “yards per 100 grams” established itself on both sides of the Atlantic as the way to describe yarn? I have noted those figures against the names of yarns specified by my fancied patterns, in case I want to attempt substitutions.

Elizabeth, I am sorry not to have seen you at Kathy’s Knits. Please say hello if you see me tomorrow. I’ll be at the market, I hope, for that preliminary hour before my morning lesson, and in the afternoon while strength suffices. I’ll carry my New Yorker tote bag, which has the advantage of being printed on both sides.

I’ll wear my “Never Underestimate an Old Woman Who Went to Oberlin” sweat shirt. Last year there was another Oberlin woman (not as old) in Hazel Tindall’s class, an extraordinary coincidence.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

So much suddenly happens.

This was the kitchen yesterday.

It’s worse now, as they have removed the sink so I can’t even boil a kettle. The contents of the kitchen are spread all over the rest of the house. Here is some of it, in the spare room.

The men are very good, and are working very hard. Maybe it won't be too long.

The Vintage Shetland Project has arrived! And I think it probably has to be classed as a triumph.

And the EYF is this week – day after tomorrow, for me. I must print out my Thursday class ticket again – the first attempt, several moons ago, came out a bit blurry – and I must make careful notes about yarn. How much of which colours do I think I need for Alexander’s vest? And Gudrun’s sweater? And the KD vest from the West Highland Way, just in case her yarn turns out to be there?

I spent some of the stressful sitting-around time yesterday re-plotting the Calcutta Cup chart and making it match the motifs stitch-count-wise. I have now knit it on to the end of the swatch-scarf and have gone on to practicing corrugated rib. I'll post a picture soon. I think I’m ready to finish it off with some ribbing and a three-needle bind off, then turn it inside out and secure the ends a bit before picking up stitches and repeating the process at the other end.

I like the effect of corrugated rib, but it’s odd. The purl ribs come more prominently forward than I expected. Of the various systems, I think two-handed with the purl yarn in the right hand is the least tedious for me. Doing it in two passes would be unendurably slow. It is extraordinary how right the books are, that it is hard to remember to move the yarn to the back after purling. Every time I think I’m beginning to settle into the rhythm, I find that I left it in front again.

And the new Fruity Knitting has appeared! For a while I thought there wasn’t any fruit, but it turned out to be concealed behind Madeleine’s head.

Franklin is in Italy, sending wonderful pictures back to Facebook.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

All well here, more or less, but no knitting.

The full horrors of kitchen reconstruction will burst upon me tomorrow. All that I  know is that the prefabricated units will be delivered at a time presently unknown, but at some point to be revealed to me.  My very dear cleaner was to have come this afternoon to help move the last few things out of the present kitchen, but she didn’t. I hope everything is all right there. And Helen will be back tomorrow.

So if you don’t hear from me, that’s why.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

You’re quite right, Mary Lou – the Calcutta Cup is what matters.

In 2000 – I fear I tell you this every year – it was the last match of the season. Scotland had lost every preceding game; England had won all of its games. Someone was quoted in the Scotsman that morning as saying that Scotland’s only hope was if the English team didn’t turn up. But turn up they did, and lost.

That was my first Calcutta Cup knitting – I put it in Kirsty Miles’ Christening shawl, under the year date. ( She is James’ and Cathy’s younger daughter). I pointed it out to the priest after the ceremony some months later, and, far from thinking it an irreligious intrusion, he said, “Maybe we’ll beat them this year”. By “we” he clearly meant Ireland, and, bugger me! they did. I sent him a congratulatory postcard when it happened.

In 2000, after the event, our coach said, “They won the Six Nations Championship. We won the Calcutta Cup. Everybody’s happy.” (not)

Today, Scotland were soundly beaten by Ireland, and France, to everybody’s surprise, in a breathtakingly exciting match, beat England. I went on knitting Archie’s first sock – rugby is far too exciting for Fair Isle. I think I’m ready for the toe shaping – and there’s plenty of time for him to come and try it on, before I get to that point on the second sock. And it will be easy to take the toe back and change the length, if need be.

The Harlot has a good blog post today about the remark, “I have nothing on the needles” and its possible meanings. It was of particular interest to me, who am in just that situation – and who fits into one of her possible meanings.

Susan Crawford has sent me a pdf of the Vintage Shetland book. I hope that doesn’t mean I crowdfunded for that reward, and not the printed version. I don’t buy knitting books electronically, in the normal way of things. I gave in, though, and downloaded this one. There’s lots there, certainly. I felt a certain regret for the much more concise book which would have been published two and a half years ago, pre-cancer, if we crowdfunders hadn’t been so generous.

Elginknitter, my electric Aga doesn’t have much in the way of controls, just a thermostat as on yours. There are fancy electric models on which you can turn off the top plates until you want them, but mine, being an older, reconditioned model, doesn’t offer that. I cooked with it today, and love it. Its colour is “hunter green” – on my computer screen, it looks black in the picture I showed you yesterday.

Friday, March 09, 2018

It has been a stressful day

for man and beast – why are we shut in the dining room?

But with a highly successful ending:

While it was all going on, I could only sit about feeling stressed. I spent the time doing the arithmetic for Alexander’s vest, so successfully that I all but cast on before remembering that I had to include the Calcutta Cup.

Then I decided that the best thing to do would be to add an OXO to the swatch-scarf (for which, see above) to get my hand and eye back in. I will go ahead, when I finish that, and add the Cup, and it will be a scarf for Ketki. I can take it along when I go to them for Easter, and she can decide whether she wants it straight, and/or fringed, or joined into a cowl, or twisted into a moebius.

I checked and re-checked the gauge, but thought, as often, of Evelyn Waugh’s Major Erskine (“Men at Arms”) who was “…strangely dishevelled in appearance. His uniform was correct and clean, but it never seemed to fit him, not through any fault of the tailor’s, but rather because the major seemed to change shape from time to time during the day.” I’ll thread it onto a lifeline at least once and try it on Alexander as we proceed.

I read about corrugated rib. I was delighted to find these two passages:

1.     The Feral Knitter: “If you hold one color in each hand, corrugated rib is a snap – just hold the purl color in your left hand – it is much easier than bringing the yarn forward from your right hand to purl.”

2.     Starmore: “Corrugated rib is much easier to work if the knit stitches are produced with the Continental method and the purl stitches with the English method. Remember to take the yarn to the back of the piece after working the purl stitches.”

In other words, whichever feels more comfortable. And the possibility of doing it in two passes remains.

Rugby tomorrow – Scotland play Ireland in Dublin. It’s going to be very tough. Ireland always win when they’re at home, and we always lose when we’re away from home. And after that, England play France in Paris. England will probably win, but you never know – and France will have home advantage.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

I’m all ready for the new Aga tomorrow. Well, more or less ready.

Jean, tomorrow’s reconditioned one will be electric. An Aga service man told me once that most of the ones they install these days are electric. I was surprised that I could get a reconditioned one – I thought it was so new an idea that nobody would have discarded one yet.

Old Faithful is gas-fired. It’s very old, probably 50 or 60 years. I suspect it was solid-fuel to begin with. The man who last serviced it, two or three years ago, said that he really ought to condemn it. Then he didn’t turn up for the next annual service, which was even more alarming.

I have two gas burners to totter on with, if for some reason tomorrow’s installation isn’t successful. And two cats, to keep me warm. And the weather has turned into springtime.

Let’s think about knitting…

I didn’t get on as far as I hoped, with the Soutache. I’ve done the fancy bind-off, however, and started on the loose ends. All I’ve done for Alexander is re-read the Techknitter’s piece about corrugated rib. I decided to store it in Evernote. I knew I had an account somewhere, with some interesting items in it, although I haven’t used it for a while.

I found it and logged in – mercifully, the computer remembered my password; I certainly don’t – and discovered, to my surprise and delight, that the Techknitter’s essay was already there., and had been for about a year. I had no memory of having read it before.

Shandy, I meant to answer your question about the new KD pattern (comment, Tuesday) but forgot. I like it, but… I hadn’t thought about its old-fashioned air, but you’re right, of course. KD herself, in the essay accompanying the pattern, says that it reminds her of pieces she has seen in the Shetland Museum, and that such sweaters were “popular in Scotland in the middle of the last century”.

The “but…” above concerns the yarn. This pattern is written for Fyberspates’ “Cumulus”, silk and suri alpaca, which sounds wonderful. But it looks awfully like Rowan’s Kidsilk Haze. I once knit a big, beautiful striped scarf in that yarn – a Kaffe Fasset pattern, I think; on the cover of a Rowan magazine, I think. The result was very successful. I gave it to granddaughter Hellie. And resolved never, ever to knit with Kidsilk Haze again.

It sounds as if all the rest of the West Highland Way patterns are going to be in “Cumulus”.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

I trust you all noticed that we had a comment from Carol Sunday herself. I feel hugely flattered, like the day we heard from Hazel Tindall. It is very good news indeed that she is working on a two-colour brioche design which is somewhat, at least, garment-like.

As for me, I have finished knitting the Soutache. A fancy bind-off remains to be done, and end-tidying, and steam-blocking – but I’m getting there.

And I’ve decided on my EYF extravagance. (I don’t actually have to buy it.) It’s Gudrun’s Johnston’s “Kirigami” in Jared’s “Winter 18” collection. I will at least go armed with the yarn requirements. The pattern is written for Jared’s “Arbor” yarn; Loop will be there, and they may bring “Arbor” along. They stock it in a good range of colours. I had some pattern of his in mind last year, when Jared himself was there, but found the yarn too expensive even for my extravagant self.

And there’s much to be said for just walking the marketplace with nothing in mind, discovering yarns and feeling them.

Meanwhile Alexander came over and has been measured for his Calcutta Cup vest. He wants the whole family kitted out – Ketki to have the swatch-scarf, and hats for the boys. Why not? The first thing to do is to establish a number of stitches – the number EZ calls “K” – bearing in mind Alexander’s circumference, the need for some positive ease, and the desirability of having the number of pattern-repeats divide evenly into “K”.

Then decide where to start in order to have the pattern centred centre-front so that the v of the v-neck can fit into the X of an OXO, as Meg likes to do. I’ll hope to get these calculations done in the next couple of days.

As horror descends on me. The reconditioned Aga is arriving on Friday, so tomorrow, after cooking my Mindful lunch, I will turn Old Faithful off again. Then (if all goes well) I will have a weekend without hot water in the kitchen, but with an Aga, and then on Monday all hell breaks loose. But Helen will get back from Greece that day. She can take over.

Dead cat (not): 

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

I got my food, mid-morning today. I don’t know what would have happened if it had been spoiled, but it wasn’t. I’d have got my money back, I think, and the Mindful Chef would have had to fight it out with Yodel, a completely separate delivery company.

My wonderful cleaning woman has got the kitchen largely clear of Things, including shelffuls of cookery books, all ready for next Monday’s horror, namely the installation of my new kitchen. She’ll come back on Sunday afternoon for the last few things. The cats are enchanted by empty cupboards and shelves for them to sit on, or in. I’ve now got to make arrangements for a 30-foot lorry to park at the door while the units are delivered.

Fortunately next week is Frot with Event, to take my mind off what will be happening here. The Yale University Press is coming on Tuesday, in connection with my husband’s life work, and taking me out to lunch. And after that, the EYF! I don’t think they provide lunch, but who cares?

What I urgently need is some target yarn. Alas, Kate Davies won’t be there in yarn form this year, as she is lecturing on her new book about having a stroke. I’m quite keen on knitting the Stronachlachar tee in the West Highland Way collection. The yarn is Buachaille, which I know I like from knitting Miss Rachel’s Yoke in it. I could devote EYF time to looking for a substitute, but that seems sort of pointless.

I’ll need a bit more of a couple of colours for Alexander’s vest, and Jamieson & Smith will be there. That’s something. But I also want something more extravagant.

The Soutache has advanced to the final stretch of plain ribbing. Even that is peppered with mistakes. Brioche remains hypnotically fun to do. I wish there were garment patterns in it that I liked. I’m well provided with books; that isn’t the problem.

I hope Carol Sunday will design something in two-colour brioche again. I will write and tell her so when I finish, thanking her again for the Soutache yarn which was her gift. I much prefer her charting system to Marchant’s – clearer and simpler.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Edinburgh is back to winter-normal, slushy, still, but largely thawed. I got out to a supermarket. There were lots of gaps on the shelves, but enough food to keep us all going.

I've had nothing from the Mindful Chef. I had completely given up when I had an email in the late afternoon from the usual delivery people, Yodel, saying that my package was out for delivery.  But it’s not here, an hour and a half after the time they specified, and I can’t track the package, as on other Mondays. When I first saw the email, it said that there were 15 deliveries ahead of mine – that’s not much more than half an hour. But 15 it has remained.

I am making myself an interesting-sounding roast tomato soup, from this morning’s Times.

I got on well with the Soutache. Odd things continue to happen from time to time, but I’m closing in on the darkest of the gradient colours, smaller needles, and the final 5” of rib.

One of you told me recently about a group – a Ravelry group? – devoted to knitting things one has knit before. I’ve let it get away from me, and would be very grateful to be reminded. Those are the patterns worthy of notice.

What has brought the thought to mind, is my half-brioche sweater from last year. It has kept me wonderfully warm these last few days. Would I like another one? And – would it be possible to introduce some picturesque swirls into half-brioche? I don’t see why not. Every row, in both real- and half-brioche, has to be knit twice. But all the fancy patterning is done with the first pass. Then you have three plain-vanilla rows. Then you start again. It might be worth a tentative swatch.

I think full brioche is too much, for a sweater.

I looked at the end of Nancy Marchant’s Craftsy class today. She recommends full-scale, get-it-wet-and-pin-it-out blocking for large projects in which she wants the two colours to have equal importance, but only careful steaming for projects in which bounce is important. Like a scarf. So that’s nice.

I’ve now finished making the soup, and it’s good. Yodel says that their van broke down. 

Sunday, March 04, 2018

The weather eased a bit more today. I wonder if the Mindful Chef will deliver my week’s food tomorrow. I haven’t had any mail since Wednesday. Much longer, and bad weather will threaten to overlap the EYF.

I am toying with the idea of cutting Nancy Marchant’s class on the Sunday – a fortnight from today. It’s about tuck stitches, and involves knitting a cowl. There’s lots to be brought along – two colours of DK wool, three sizes of needle, and a lot of stitches to be cast on with both colours in a manner I don’t entirely understand.

I suppose I could turn up in the role of Ethel the Unready.

The Marchant classes I wanted, about brioche, were the ones I missed by sitting there poised at the required moment and not realising, for a full, fatal 90 seconds, that I had to refresh the screen. They were sold out.

I’ve got a Thursday class on drop spinning – NO preparation, nothing to bring – which will get me into the market early and also will let me admire Andrew and Andrea from afar in the podcast lounge, where they hope to be from 12 until 2 that day. Maybe that’s enough. I’m greatly looking forward to it.

Today’s session with the Soutache was fraught with difficulties. Marchant’s Craftsy class has a whole lesson on troubleshooting, but the troubles she deals with are obvious, conspicuous ones, not my Messy Places which mysteriously involve the disappearance of some stitches. But I’ve reached Chart 2 and will soon join in the penultimate gradient shade.


Roger Bannister is dead; you’ll have heard. I am old enough to remember articles in the press speculating about whether it was physiologically possible for a man to run a mile in four minutes. It was a goal much discussed at the time.

My father was sports editor of the Associated Press then. For some reason long forgotten he had me visit the AP office in London when I got here (late summer, ’54) to start my studies in Glasgow. A man in the office told me about being there, that day in May, when Roger Bannister ran the mile in four minutes.

It was known in advance that he was making a serious attempt at it. The AP man took the trouble to locate the nearest phone booth before the race. Afterwards, he sprinted there and found, to his dismay, that a woman was occupying it who seemed determined to go on talking.

A few minutes later the United Press man sauntered up, thanked his wife for securing the phone, and called in the scoop.