Monday, December 17, 2018

I didn’t really intend to plunge us into silence so abruptly – I think, however, that this would be a good place to pause. I’ll see you in the New Year – speriamo.

I’m ready to do the decreases at the top of the second stripey hat. I can assure you that the cable cast-on curls just as much as the long-tail, if not more. But I’ll block them both somehow, and cast on the Stronachlachar before Christmas. Something to look forward to.

I haven’t sent Christmas cards this year, nor have I done much else of a seasonal nature – but when I get a card from someone whose email address I know, I have been writing substantial messages to them, and getting replies, which is very gratifying.

That day when we went to Greek Helen’s studio open day, I tried to ask Manaba what Christmas was like, south of the equator. I didn’t learn much – but he’s a man, and I don’t think Christmas weighs quite so heavily on men. Cat, what can you tell us?

I am encouraged, I think, by the discovery of the old Shetland practice, referenced here recently, of observing Tulya’s E’en, seven days before the solstice, when you have to start taking precautions against Trows. We’re in that period now. Surely that means that the end is in sight?

A happy solstice to all, and I hope 2019 brings you all you might hope of it. See you soon.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Hellie has sent me some wonderful pictures from her recent visit, but I can’t figure out how to download them. I click left, I click right, and lots of options appear, but not that one. I’ll go on working on it.

I have knit onwards. I’m about halfway through the slouch part of the second stripey hat – there follow 16 rounds of crown decreases, but those go fast. So I’m well on target. I think the cable cast-on is better, although not perfect, curl-wise.

More Italian homework tonight. This will have to be the last lesson of ’18. It was interesting the other day when my new Romanian cleaning woman was introduced. Greek Helen was here, and Daniella, also Romanian, my current, beloved, cleaning woman who is leaving to have a baby. Helen and Daniella speak to each other in Greek. Really speak. Not like me in Italian, fumbling for each phrase. The new one has excellent English.

Mary Lou, I envy you, having seen the trunk show which included “Foldlines”, and I’m terribly glad that you like it. I don’t think there’s anything you can do to help – although I thank you for the offer. Brooklyn Tweed patterns are so utterly detailed that I don’t think there’s anything else to be said.


I watched “Zelig” again not long ago. The odd thing is how much younger my father has become, since it first came out.

Kate Davies has posted a blog post about her considerable achievements in ’18. Saleswoman she may be, but she won’t sell me on Nicola Sturgeon. I am like a grumpy ‘30’s Republican, grumbling about “that man in the White House”.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Not much progress, but a little. I’m 10 rows or so into the second stripey hat. I’m trying to keep the yarns in alphabetical order, because some of them appear a second time, and they can be difficult to find. That plan involves remembering the alphabet, which isn’t always easy. It’s too early to say whether the cable cast-on is going to prevent curl.

I haven’t done anything about blocking the first stripey hat.

Kate Davies has posted an interesting essay on her blog about “getting gauge”. I must say I prefer the modern approach, where you swatch to get the fabric you like, and then do the maths. But KD's take-off-point is her new "Heids" book, and maybe that doesn’t work so well for hats.

And it won’t work very well for “Foldlines” where the size of the individual squares determines the size of the whole. I’ve done one. It’s too big. I’ll try again with a smaller needle. But if that doesn’t work either, I’ll consider both as to which fabric I prefer, and then see what mathematics might achieve.

Ella Gordon has written about her newly-designed Yule Mitts, including a most interesting link to this article about how these dark days were observed in the Shetland of yore – the pivotal day was not Christmas, not the New Year, but the solstice itself. This coming Sunday is Tulya’s E’en, seven days before the solstice – that’s when we have to start watching out for Trows (=trolls??). And from then on until New Year’s Day, no work is to be done – and that includes knitting!


SamKD, your story beats this one, but still – my parents divorced (painfully) after 20 years or so of marriage. My father has a bit part in Woody Allen’s “Zelig”, in which he plays himself, a retired newspaperman reminiscing about the 30’s, improvising his own lines. He appears only very briefly, but he does appear twice, and he is utterly himself. My mother saw the movie and didn’t recognise him.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Well, here we are. They’ve all gone away. We had a good time. The little girls, two of my three great-granddaughters, are unspeakably delightful. I didn’t take any pictures, but other people did, and I hope I’ll have some to show you soon. It was odd to have the frequent conversational references to “grandmother” refer to Rachel – who is brilliant in that role.

I tidied up the socks and gave them to Rachel. And Alexander and Ketki came over to see his sisters and his cousins (no aunts) and went away in the Calcutta Cup vest – so that’s two end-of-year FO’s. And today I finished knitting the stripey hat, although it remains to be seen how easy it will be to block out that tendency of the lower edge to curl.

I already can’t remember why I bought two stripey-hat-kits, but I did, and I went straight on to cast on the second – there’s still time to finish it before Christmas. (I’m not really doing Christmas this year, but there’s no getting away from its presence.) This time I persevered with the cable cast-on. I didn’t recognise the interesting-sounding variation you mentioned in your comments: I hope to explore that avenue before it is forgotten. And I hope I’ll knit a stripe or two on the second hat while watching this evening’s political news.

And on top of all this, the package has arrived from Kate Davies with the yarn for the Stronachlachar – needless to say, it’s the right colour, and very tempting. It will be a great inducement to get the second stripey hat out of the way as soon as possible.


I feel I ought to have something to say about the political situation, but I don’t. It’s bizarre. A few days ago I watched a video of a talk given recently in Baltimore by a man I knew well at Oberlin – he and I were successive editors of the Oberlin Review and indeed, for a while, co-editors. He went on to a distinguished career in journalism.

His talk was about Britain Today, and he is well-informed although I don’t think I gleaned any illuminating insights. The disconcerting thing was that I didn’t recognise him, even sitting there watching for half an hour or so.  

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Nothing to report.

I forgot all about Kate Davies’ club launch yesterday, until 8 p.m., three hours after the crucial moment. (What was I doing?) The expensive version was all sold out by then. I signed up for the lesser one, which is much more suitable for me anyway. She’s a brilliant saleswoman.

Italian went fairly well this morning, Skype-wise, but was, as always,  a tremendous mental strain. Archie came to lunch (“Tagliata” from “Nigelissima”) which was soothing. Then after my nap, Helen and David – he’s here from Thessaloniki for the weekend, as often – turned up and that was pleasant, too. But no knitting. And tomorrow I must prepare for Monday’s invasion. Helen will come and help in the afternoon, not that there’s much to do except worry.

Tomorrow launches a pretty fraught week, what with relatives and a dr’s appt and new spectacles at the oculist’s shop and a new cleaning woman who will replace beloved Daniela when she leaves soon to wait for her baby. Even with all that, not nearly as fraught as Theresa May’s week is going to be. I wish her well.

Friday, December 07, 2018

I have come to a mini-skein I don’t have, for the stripey hat. If they were threaded on a leather thong, like last time, I would know for sure that it was missing to begin with. This way, I strongly suspect it was mislaid by the furry Rumpelstiltskins who sometimes come to help in the night. There are various available work-arounds. No panic. 

The lower edge is curling badly. One can only hope that blocking will help. The instructions asked for a cable cast-on but I found I wasn’t enjoying that and reverted to the good old long-tail. Now I learn from KD’s “Heids” that the cable cast-on is employed specifically to avoid curling. Live and learn. Learn and forget, more likely, in my case.

The new VK tuned up today, and is a winner, in my opinion. I’m keen on brioche anyway, and it’s a major feature of this issue. I hadn’t known that Nancy Marchant actually unvented increasing and decreasing in mid-brioche, allowing it to swirl. I’ve got a substantial Koigu stash, if the moths haven’t eaten it away from below. Could I divide it into light and dark and knit Unjung Yun’s wrap?

I’m also very keen on Norah Gaughan’s cardigan (no surprise there) although I think I would liven up the colour a bit.

And there’s much else, and interesting articles. I hadn’t known that textiles were such a bone of contention between the American colonies and the crown.


As I was last Friday, I am confronted with an early Italian lesson tomorrow. I think instead of doing much homework tonight, I will work on how-to-explain, in Italian, that I am wearing temporary glasses while the lenses (including the one badly scratched when I fell in Reggio Calabria) are replaced in my proper ones, and reading isn’t easy. Lots of useful vocabulary in the explanation, not to mention moods and tenses.

If Wikipedia is right, Tom Lehrer is still alive, only five years older than I am. Back in ’54, he was grown-up and I was only Jean. That’s good news, anyway.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Not much knitting – a few more rows on the stripey hat.

I’m enormously grateful for all your kind comments on the Calcutta Cup vest. I don’t think I’m going to block it, in the full crawling-about-on-the-floor sense of the word. The fit is so good, that I’ll try first to see what can be achieved with a damp tea-towel and a cautious steam iron.

Long ago, Ketki posted what must have been the image above to Instagram or some such, and the Scottish Rugby Union responded by saying, do let us know when the vest is finished. I’m sure she’ll follow that up. We have at hand all the knitting I’ve done on this theme since 2000 except for 2010 which was a draw: I knit a hat for Alexander and Ketki’s elder son that time, shewing half the Cup: but he lost it. A photograph exists.

I entertain occasional mild elderly daydreams of being photographed with Chris Paterson or Greig Laidlaw and Alexander in the vest, but on the whole, as with any other FO, I’m just looking forward to the future. The Stronachlachar package isn’t here yet. Rachel said it was a good thing Scotland won while I was still able to knit such a thing – an uncomfortable reminder of the nearness of the grave, but she’s right.

A draw would require some thought, should it happen in 2019. It would be a substantial moral victory, since it would happen in London; and it would mean that the Cup would stay in Edinburgh for another year. It won’t happen, but it’s worth thinking about.

When I come to add up the achievements of ’18, as I will soon, high among them will be the facts that I met the Duke of Palma, the model for “Tancred” in “Il Gattopardo”; and that I’ve seen the Calcutta Cup.


I’m delighted to learn that so many remember Tom Lehrer. I heard him sing in the flesh, in the winter of ’53-’54, when I was with some Oberlin friends in NYC. Indeed, until that evening, I had never heard of him. I’ve been a fan ever since. I’ve had “Wernher von Braun” playing in my head all day. “That’s not my department, says Wernher von Braun”.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Howzat!? As they say on the cricket field:

Perfect fit. Gregor Townsend’s triumph (Scotland’s newish coach), and mine as well.

Kate Davies’ “Heids” is here, full of good things. And I’ve read her blog post about the new club. I agree, Southern Gal, that the price of the fancy subscription is daunting. Also, I still have all the colours of Milarrochy Tweed from last year’s club, in their special bag, so it would be extravagant to sign up for them again. “Heids” is of course ideal for their employment. But I’m tempted…

Mary Lou, I do like your knit bud’s hat

We’ve all got a couple of days to think about it. I like the notion of the Guide to Creativity which is called “Do Nothing” – but we get that with either subscription.


Greek Helen came around this afternoon, full of gloom about global warming. I don’t think I am capable of worrying about it as much as she does, having survived those years of worrying about nuclear annihilation. That could happen at any moment (still could). I was heavily pregnant with her, the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Global warming advances slowly, and ours is a most ingenious species.

I told her to find Tom Lehrer on Youtube, and listen to “We’ll All Go Together When We Go”, to understand that fear. I also recommended “Werner von Braun” and “National Brotherhood Week”. He was (is) a funny man.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Today’s ordeal was an eye appt., at the extreme outer edge of my walking-range and also just at the time when I like to sink into bed for a nap. But I did it, and even got back in time for a brief snooze before Pointless. When I fell in Reggio Calabria, the left lens flew out of my glasses and was seriously scratched. I hope I will be able to retain it as a souvenir. It’s plastic, thank goodness.

Knitting-time was happily devoted to the stripey hat. I’m slightly more than halfway through the initial, slouch section. What follows are the crown decreases. It is ideal solstice knitting, as I thought.

I must get Rachel’s socks moved from the WIP section to FO. The toes have been kitchener’d – all I have to do is to tidy the cast-on ends, and turn the socks inside out to make sure no horrors lurk within. She is coming up next week, with her daughter Hellie (everybody is named Helen around here) and her daughter Orla. Now it turns out that Thomas, Rachel’s elder son and my eldest grandchild, is coming too, with his daughter Juliet. I will have to take to my bed for the duration.

KD says that the “Heid” book has been dispatched – good news. She has posted a long blog entry about a journal which will be part of next year’s club. It sounds attractive, but I can’t think how it could fit into my life. I’m not a designer. I don’t have ideas.

It’s time to begin thinking about the page in Lotus Organizer on which I list my hopes for the year to come. I don’t seem to have done it last year – the first gap in a long while. This time it will be Stronachlachar and Foldlines and, if we win the Calcutta Cup, some splendid Gaughan cables, probably for one of Alexander and Ketki’s sons. We won’t win, because the match is in London and we never win there, so I don’t need to plan the sweater in too much detail.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Full speed ahead.

I’ve finished the Calcutta Cup vest, except for blocking. I was tempted to do that this afternoon, in the hopes of having it dry and ready for Alexander if he comes on Wednesday. But it would be foolish to block before a try-on, in case the size needs tweaking. He says, a propos the weekend FT, that nobody in Cairndow will know whether it’s cool or not.

And I’ve cast on a stripey hat, which is clearly going to be compulsive knitting of the just-one-more-stripe variety. Last time -- ?two years ago – the mini-skeins were all threaded on a leather thong. I sort of liked that. This time, they are bunched like a bouquet of flowers. This has the advantage that, once you’ve found the one you want, you can pull it out and off you go. With the thong, you had to keep threading them off and then threading them back again.

I emailed the Kate Davies shop yesterday about my desire to buy a Stronachlachar kit in the Macallum colourway. I had a very prompt reply – late on a Sunday afternoon – from Melanie, who said to go ahead and order and then to email her and she would mark my order to be Macallum and not the colour I had ordered. I did that this morning – asking for “Highland Coo” which wouldn’t be a total disaster – and she acknowledged my email promptly, again, saying that I’ll get Macallum. That’s service, if it works.

Today is my sister’s birthday. She’s almost as old as I am (although much stronger), and catching up fast. Happy Birthday, Helen.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

I am sorry about yesterday’s silence. Manaba and I much enjoyed the Open Day at Helen’s studio, but the experience involved a lot of upstairs-downstairs both indoors and out, and I was flattened thereafter. I think Archie must be right that I am continuing to lose strength.

I have finished knitting the Calcutta Cup vest, and am now diligently employed on tidying it up within. You may have noticed that nothing was done for those steeks except for clipping them open. I am confident, as I’ve said, about the tendency of proper Shetland yarn to stick to itself, but am nevertheless overcasting the cut edges and tucking them in. Slow work, but I’m nearly finished. They certainly look much tidier this way, and are possibly more secure.

Neither Kate Davies nor Andrea would be satisfied with such an expedient, I feel sure.

That still leaves a million loose ends, where colours were joined and abandoned. I hope to have the tidying finished by Wednesday, when I may see Alexander again and we might have a try-on before I go on to blocking.

The Weekend Financial Times – my only newspaper, these days – often has a supplement called “How To Spend It”. It is hard to believe that a certain element of tongue-in-cheek isn’t involved in its production, but it is undoubtedly a splendid and stylish display of expensive things for rich people to buy.

Today’s issue is about clothes, and includes an article about “Fair Isle” for men, which is apparently “cool” this season. I would confidently toss Alexander’s vest onto a pile with the Balenciagas and Ralph Polo Laurens illustrated. But he won’t want to appear “cool”.

I have been toying with the idea of going straight on to KD’s Stronachlachar, and find to my horror that her “West Highland Way” (where the pattern is) is not where it belongs on the shelf. I can’t buy a kit from her website because the yarn-colour I want doesn’t seem to be on offer in a kit, although there’s plenty of it on the “yarn” page. But I can buy the pattern separately; that’s something.

And meanwhile, I’ve got stripey hats to knit.