Monday, September 30, 2019

Here I am, after all. I woke up feeling odd this morning – a bit dizzy, unsteady on my feet, no appetite, coughing. I didn’t go to Kirkmichael. I spent the morning in bed (except for a bit of knitting at the end) and feel a bit better. I’ll have a proper meal soon.

While in bed, I watched Fruity Knitting 64 – Melinda, you’re right, that’s the lace one we want. Two Shetland sisters, both lace knitters; in their 60’s I would guess. We were right – no lace graphs when they were young. One of them has taken to it duck-to-water, incorporating patterns from Sharon Miller’s Heirloom Knitting into her work and using squared paper to plot out her own designs.

The other, embarking on a major design, knits a swatch – it must be 50 stitches or more – which is a cross-section of a trapezoidal border, edging to square centre. That lets her plan and see the design horizontally, and calculate how it will fit into the corners of the trapezoid.

One factor that I had not thought of, is that an experienced lace knitter can look at a shawl and knit from it, as we might from a chart. My innocent eye is not capable of that – the lace holes seem to pull the knitting out of line. All I’m looking for is k, k2tog, YF, k3tog – but I can’t tell who did what in which row.

I’ve finished row 42 of the Spring Shawl borders. After all that beddery this morning, I ought to be able to knock off a couple more later on.

And I need a plan. This stuff is addictive, as Sharon Miller says; and Elizabeth Johnston warned me not to switch projects mid-stream: that is, not to try to knit a larger-gauge project in the middle of fine lace knitting. But I must finish Thomas’ Calcutta cup scarf (=two weeks?) and Matt’s pocket square (=two evenings?) before Christmas.


I’m getting on fine with “The Spoils of Poynton”. It’s an easy one, as Henry James goes. Shandy, to my great embarrassment I can’t remember the end of “Portrait of a Lady” at all, although I’m sure I’ve read it. He doesn’t go in for happy endings.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

I’m half way along row 41 of the Spring Shawl borders. The next target, I suppose, is row 50 – one-third of the way home.

Tamar, I suspect you’re right (whenever not?) that lace knitters probably made some sort of sketches, at least for the trapezoidal shapes of shawl borders, showing at least roughly how things were to be centred and how the pattern was to begin and end. But the notes weren’t kept because meaningless to anyone else.

Shandy, perhaps I’ll trawl back through Fruity Knittings to see if I can find the one you mention. I have the vaguest memory of such a thing myself.

I’ve had an email from the Shetland Peerie Makkers, soliciting funds, and have contributed. Do have a look at the website – they have an enchanting promotional video. Until very recently, knitting was taught in Shetland primary schools. That stopped in 2010 (talk about suicidal decisions) and since then volunteers have organised classes. It sounds as if it’s going fairly well.


I’ve polished off “The Dutch House”. It’s certainly a good read – I’m not quite sure that it gets us anywhere. There is a long, laudatory review in yesterday’s Financial Times, mentioning two other books which are also family sagas based on a house: Henry James “The Spoils of Poynton” and Anne Tyler “A Spool of Blue Thread”. I’ve started James.

We had a friend in Birmingham who died of cancer in middle age. We also had a mutual friend who was – indeed, is -- a fairly well-known British novelist. After Liz died, I learned that the novelist had been to supper and had given her his latest book. After his departure, she said to her husband, “I’ve got six months to live and I haven’t finished Henry James. How does ***** think I have time to read his book?”

That anecdote launched me into Henry James. I read quite a bit, but not this one. It’s a curious pleasure, those long, convoluted sentences. It’s rather like reading Latin – you get to the end of the sentence and you know the meaning of all the words but you have to double back to the beginning and work out what it means.

I will probably go to Kirkmichael with C. tomorrow, to bring in the apple harvest – it may take us all of ten minutes – and turn off the water and walk around a bit. So I won’t be here.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

A lovely fin-de-septembre day, but I am pinned to the spot by the need to wait for the postman to bring me that expensive ball of yarn for Matt’s pocket square. He’s usually earlier than this on a Saturday.

Helen’s little party was very jolly and noisy last night. (My husband never went to "openings".) I saw the book, but wasn’t allowed to buy it because she said she can get a few copies cheap. All the other artisans had submitted photographs of themselves, but Helen, handsomer than any of them, provided pictures only of her hands, setting tesserae.

There is a remark in the text about the pleasure of making a mosaic which sounds remarkably like the pleasure of the kind of knitting I am doing at the moment, the Spring Shawl. I’ll quote it for you when I finally get the book. Helen herself had long ago noticed the similarity between mosaic-making and knitting.

I’ve finished row 38 of the Spring Shawl borders – halfway up Chart One, as far as line numbers go. But the stitch count is increasing by two every row…

I’ve started wondering a good deal about how lace knitters managed without charts. Fair Isle knitters had their exercise books with coloured squares, and the three simple cylinders of the human body to work with --but I’m pretty sure the charting of lace is very recent. There’s no hint of it in Amedro.

Much lace design (including the Spring Shawl) is a matter of setting fairly simple 5-,6-,or7-row patterns into familiar shapes. That’s still not easy to do without a way of visualising the whole. And it doesn’t cover situations like the Princess shawl – probably the most complicated lace pattern ever written – which is a simplification by Sharon Miller of a shawl knit on Unst for a royal princess long before they had electricity up there, let alone lace charts.

The knitter made a copy, which is in the Museum of Scotland here. I don’t know whether the royal family still have their one.

That’s the question I should have asked Elizabeth Johnston when I was on my Wool Adventure in May, but didn’t.

…while I’ve been writing this, the yarn arrived through the letter box. I needn’t have waited in at all.

Thursday, September 26, 2019

I’ve finished row 35 of the borders of the Spring Shawl. These bulletins may make fairly tedious reading for you, but it is a great comfort for me –looking back after no more than a week – to see that I am, in fact, crawling forward. Soon I will be halfway up Border Chart One.

The only other knitting news is that I have had one of those dread announcements from the Post Office to say that they can’t deliver my item because there is a fee to pay. That’ll be the yarn for Matt’s replacement pocket square. I thought that a single ball of yarn might get in under the radar, but no. Half of the fee is customs duty, the other half a “handling fee” to the post office.

Archie came this morning, the last visit for a while as he is about to go back to university. I got him to replace two important light bulbs, so that’s something done.

A book is about to appear called “Artisan Edinburgh”. Greek Helen and her mosaics feature in it. It will be launched tomorrow evening at the Coburg Gallery and the related exhibition – including something of Helen’s – will last over the weekend. I shall be going to the launch which means I can’t do any Italian homework tomorrow evening so I had better do some now. Maybe tomorrow morning would suffice.

I’ve finished “Lady Audley’s Secret”. It’s rather gothic. The second half of it is also rather padded out. (I have my beloved “Mansfield Park” down off the shelf at the moment, since I was looking up Mr Rushworth’s name in order to mention it to you the other day. I read the first page and a half today in order to reassure myself that in Austen, every syllable counts.)

I downloaded “My Lady Ludlow” and “Cranford” – in one volume – the other day, and may proceed in that direction. Shandy, yes, I have read “Wives and Daughters” quite recently. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t answer your question off the top of my head. I remember “North and South” much more distinctly.

But “The Dutch House” – the new, and highly-regarded, Ann Patchett – turned up today. Maybe it’s time for some 21st century. Alexander came to see me yesterday. He said that he, too, is keeping a record of books read in ’19. His list includes comments, and marks out of 10. I am interested to see, looking back over my list, that, on the whole, it is the rubbish [judging by author and title] that I cannot remember. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

All’s well. I’ve reached row 34 of the Spring Shawl borders, and the knitting continues straightforward if not exactly easy.

Politics continue preposterous. If you’ve watched any of it on television today, you’ve probably seen the Attorney General shouting at Parliament that they’re a disgrace, unworthy to be sitting there. There was a nice picture in the paper this morning of the Attorney General and his cat, one of them entering the house as the other was leaving.

(Science has discovered – this was yesterday’s news – that cats are often fond of the people they live with, although you might not suspect it because they don’t bark and wag their tails. Isn’t science wonderful?)

My problem these days is to stay awake long enough to go to bed in time for for the news at 10. I mustn't lie down earlier than 9:50 or I'll sleep right through. It ought to be particularly interesting tonight because it will include Mr Johnson's statement to Parliament.

Andrew and Andrea were good yesterday. The interviewee has the professional name of Olgajazzy. Her real name is unpronounceable. Her strength is in shape and (especially) texture, and she was much influenced by her years of living in Japan.

But the high point of the episode was an Australian sheep farm. Two brothers told us about it, in alternate sentences, as Arne and Carlos did when I heard them speak at the Museum of Scotland once. I was interested in their dogs. They look nothing like the sheepdogs I am used to, but are clearly every bit as good at their work, and enjoy being a Very Great Help just as much. The brothers said, I think, that European dogs have been bred with dingoes to provide the ability to work all day in 40-degree heat. (That’s centigrade.)

Andrew and Andrea are now off to Shetland for the Wool Week, and will therefore be away for another three weeks. Still, there should be some treats in store for us when they get back.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Not much was done today here in Drummond Place, although the heavens were falling elsewhere. What is to become of us?

Archie came over. I meant to send him up the hill to pay in some cheques – but he persuaded me to come along, which was no doubt good for me. Then we had pasta amatriciana for lunch which was OK but not sensational.

I did a little knitting, but still haven’t quite reached the end of Row 30 of the borders of the Spring Shawl. Greek Helen popped in during my Knitting Time at the end of the afternoon (when Pointless should be on, except that it isn’t, because they’ve moved it). She has been Down South at an informal reunion of middle-aged schoolgirls. It’s good to have her back. She stayed to watch the beginning of the news, but there’s nothing to be said except that parliament hasn’t been prorogued. They’ll sit tomorrow.

I hope I’ll do a bit more this evening. I have been reading this blog from two years ago, the weeks after my husband died. I sounded much more vigorous then than I feel now, and I certainly watched television and knit in the evenings then. Perhaps this evening I could go on knitting while watching the new Fruity. The designer is unfamiliar to me, and interesting.

I think I have previously expressed my opinion that years, in this ninth decade, matter one by one as they did in the first decade. Eighty-five is seriously older than eighty-three, just as seven is older than five.

There is terrible news – I am embarrassed to tell you. I started to put on the Stronachlachar the other day – I think it was to go out to have supper with Kristie and Kath – and discovered that it has been quite badly mothed. I have found the necessary leftover oddball (sometimes I surprise myself) but haven’t addressed the problem yet. I wish I had succeeded in taking a darning class with Tom of Holland at an EYF. I wish we were going to have an EYF next year.

The Stronachlachar can be saved, I think, but it won’t be the same.

Thank you for the remarks about charting. They were making Fair Isle charts on Shetland, of course, a hundred years ago or so – some recently published. Lace charting must be much more recent, and perhaps even more valuable.

I’ve started reading “Lady Audley’s Secret” but it’s not as meaty as Trollope.

Monday, September 23, 2019

I’m sorry for my absence. I’m fading away, I fear.

However, there has been some progress with the Spring Shawl. I have now embarked on row 30 (of 150) and feel I am getting into the swing of it – or maybe the last couple of rows have been unusually easy. I get the idea, from the first 20 stitches or so, and can then stop peering anxiously at the chart.

Here’s a picture from earlier today:

Perdita is sitting on the centre triangle – which has that wide mesh edging. Below that, scarcely more than a frill, is the border-to-date: arithmetic assures us that it is 1/6 of the total.

I wish I could audit your chart class, Mary Lou. It seems extraordinary to me that anybody has difficulty with charts. Jamieson and Smith used to sell – I hope they still do – a pamphlet with a tremendously Fifties look, with patterns for several fancy lace scarves and shawls. They are all written out stitch by stitch, meticulously proof-read. I’ve knit at least one of them, and found that the only possible way to do it was to chart it, row by row.

When did charts come in?

Yesterday – a great event – Kristie and Kath came to see me, and we all tottered out (I tottered, they supported me) to a nearby pub for supper. It was with them that I went to Shetland (in 2013? some such date) and we stayed at Burrastow and went to see Muckle Flugga and had a grand time. Latterly, they have been walking the West Highland Way. Kath, the non-knitter, took a picture of me and Kristie which I trust I will be able to post to you soon. We bitterly regretted on the way home that we hadn’t asked our nice waiter to take a picture of all three.

We scarcely knew each other, when we went to Shetland. We met on-line, and had had lunch together once. I have the fondest memory of sitting next to the appropriate departure gate -- the departure gate for Shetland -- and seeing them walking down the airport corridor towards me.


I’ve  finished “The Duke’s Children”, including a bit of speed-reading through the later political bits. I loved Lord Popplecourt. His social ineptitude almost rivals that of Mr Rushworth in “Mansfield Park”.

Now what? I’ve pre-ordered “The Dutch House” and fear I should attempt “Adam Bede” again.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The best-laid plans… Except that this time, the fault is weakness and inertia.

I finally got to the knitting during “Pointless”, as so often, and I’ve finished row 24 of the Spring Shawl borders. It was tricky right the way across, but I think all is more or less well.

And I’ve lined up the Papal encyclical “Laudato Si’” for my Italian homework – recast it into indirect discourse, “The Pope said that…” It’s about taking care of the planet, appropriate for today. But I haven’t actually done anything. Friday evening as usual… And I must find out how to say “Papal encyclical” in Italian.


Pasta carbonara seems to be the commonest recipe with guanciale, Mary Lou. I may go for that. I have promised Archie a lunch next week. There is another, interesting recipe involving ricotta but at the moment I am largely debarred from interesting ingredients – they are tearing up the roads outside my house. I’ve got a good parking place and simply don’t dare move the car (=go to Waitrose) until there is some hope of parking when I return. The necessities of life (except for Weston’s Vintage Cider) are within even my walking range, but that doesn’t include ricotta.

As for pronunciation, it was in Valvona and Crolla (see yesterday) that I learned to pronounced “nduja”, and put the lesson to good use when Archie and I were in an interesting delicatessen in Reggio Calabria.


I have finished “The Prime Minister” and have plunged straight into “The Duke’s Children”. I was astonished to find the phrase “tell it to the marines” in the former text. It occurs twice. Also, less surprisingly, “wet blanket”.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

I finished row 23 (was it?) of the Spring Shawl but got into mild trouble at the beginning of 24, and decided that it was wiser to leave it to tomorrow. This morning Archie and I walked all the way to Valvona & Crolla – a famous Edinburgh/Italian delicatessen – a distance (altogether, counting the return journey) of a bit over a mile. It has flattened me.

But was worth doing. Often, in the evening, I watch Youtube presentations by Italian chefs in the vain hope of improving my grasp of the language, and lately I have stumbled on a few involving guanciale. That’s what I was in search of, and indeed what I purchased. As well as a couple of Amalfi-type lemons, and some magnificent garlic. We sampled some delicious olive oil and balsamic vinegar – one of the perks of going to Valvona and Crolla.

Archie’s brother Mungo then came to lunch and a nice time was had by all. He is about to go back to university (Oxford/Arabic). He spent the summer mostly in Cairo.


Mary Lou, I, too, had a screen that looked as though I could buy the Kindle version of the new Lampedusa book – but when I clicked on it, it dissolved into one that said not-until-February. It’s all very odd. Tamar, I’m sure you’re right (as always) that no UK titles can pass by adoption.

There was a letter in the Times a few years ago from a nobleman who had only daughters. His question was, in these days of anything-goes, whether one of them could declare herself to be a man and inherit the title? As far as I know, the question hasn’t been answered.

I am nearing the end of “The Prime Minister” and a resolution is offering itself. Some of the political bits are a bit turgid, but it remains fascinating.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

All well. I’m slightly more than halfway through row 23 of the Spring Shawl borders – what’s that? Two rows in advance of yesterday? Better than nothing.


I am riveted by “The Prime Minister” and find it hard to believe that I have ever read it before. Could I possibly have forgotten Ferdinand Lopez? (No spoiler there – he’s in the first chapter.) I’m sure we read our way through the Barchester novels. We must at least have embarked on the Pallisers – I remember Phineas, and Mrs Goesler. I’ll search the archives.

I heard from Sharon today – she who has been so useful on the matter of the pocket square pattern – about the new “Lampedusa: a Novel”. It hasn’t yet been published over here. I got all set to order the kindle edition nevertheless, only to be told that it won’t be available until February. Why ever not?

-- Ah! Perhaps because by then it will have been published here.

I am slightly suspicious of it, on the grounds of poetic-ness and also because of reading in the descriptions of it that Lampedusa adopted Gioacchino Lanzi in order to pass on his dukedom. I think Gioacchino had a dukedom of his own. I’d better look it all up. That glorious day when Archie and I went “Cooking with the Duchess” at their palazzo in Palermo, I sat next to Gioacchino at lunch (!!!!!) but mostly talked to his son, on the other side. Never mind dukedoms – I asked why Gioacchino wasn’t the Prince of Lampedusa, although he was the author’s adopted son. His son didn’t know. I said that there are titles in GB which can’t pass by adoption. I think that’s true.

My Italian homework this week is to take a paragraph or so of current text and re-cast it into indirect discourse. I have spent a bit of time (not much) with RAI – the Italian BBC – without finding anything. I cannot go to bed without at least defining the task. I think religion might be my best hope. The Pope speaks excellent Italian.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

All well. I’ve done three rows of the Spring Shawl, I think – at any rate, I am halfway through row 21 (of 150), establishing a new motif.

I have been touched and helped by your comments on the need for a new pocket square for the new father. He and Hellie were bound for a wedding in France when all those disasters struck, which is why he had it along. The yarn is on its way, I am told, from someone called Premium Yarns. Four years ago, Webs had it, but they don’t seem to have it any more. Lots of Ravellers have it in stash, in the colour I want – but every single one is marked “not for sale”.

And Sharon has supplied the pattern, including toiling back through the sad account of that summer and discovering that the bridegroom’s square had a double row of eyelets. Saturday, July 25, 2015 shows all the squares being blocked, with the bridegroom’s double eyelets clearly visible. The picture also includes Perdita as a kitten. She liked blocking -- she still does.

Anyway, I can fool around a bit, once the yarn arrives. Greek Helen, who is about to go south, picked up the new sweater for Ruby today.

It was interesting, re-reading that summer. Clearly knitting is falling behind these days because I don’t knit in the evening as I did then. After writing to you, and having something to eat, I tend to hunker down in the kitchen with Trollope. Perhaps I could re-establish the practice of blogging in the morning.

I am sad about Perdita. It was my husband, in hospital – that must have been early in ’15 – who said that it was time we got a cat. It had to be tortoiseshell-and-white; and had to have a pretty face. Perdita qualified on both counts, but she was a very peculiar kitten. My husband never bonded with her. “She’s your cat”, he said, and rightly, although I think they would have settled down with each other had he lived longer.

She was always with me, and I thought, after he died, that the company of another cat would make it easier for her when I was occasionally away. But Paradox has taken over as Head Cat, sleeps with me, bullies her sister. I still love Perdita better, but some days I scarcely see her. She continues to be a very peculiar cat.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Not much, again today. I did a row and a half of Spring Shawl borders, though.

This afternoon I went out with Helen and all her family to a famous fish restaurant in Newhaven. It was pretty good, but the chips were soggy. When I got back I found a nice email from the next-generation Helen, Ruby’s mother. She says her husband still wears, on special occasions, the pocket square I knitted for his wedding day – and it was recently lost in France during a disastrous trip involving delayed flights and a crashed hire car. Could I knit him another?

I found the spot in the blog, and toiled rather sadly through the account of that summer. They were married four years ago. My husband was in hospital, desperate to escape. I was complaining of weakness, although a hundred times stronger than I am now, and getting much more knitting done. My pulmonary embolism happened. Perdita was small, and extremely naughty. I had forgotten that I resorted to water spray to deter her from some of her naughtiness. Poor little cat. We loved each other.

But I found the account of knitting the pocket squares. The yarn – at least for Matt’s white one – was Baah Aspen LaPerla, a luxurious wool-silk-cashmere blend. With some difficultly (and considerable expense) I found someone who would send me a ball of it. I was knitting pocket squares while I was in hospital myself, humbler blue ones for the groomsmen.

It remains to figure out (again) how to knit a pocket square, but I should be able to do that. It’s got bobbles or loops or something around the edges. Basically, it’s garter stitch, corner to corner.

So that will be fun.


Tamar, thank you for your comment about language. “Where” “wear” and “were” is not a confusion I was aware of, and is distressing. I am particularly irritated by “lie” and “lay”, so often mis-used. I had an English teacher in Asbury Park High School who didn’t understand the distinction. She didn’t know that blank verse is unrhymed iambic pentameter, either. I must have been a particularly irritating adolescent.

“The Prime Minister” continues well. Phineas is Secretary of State for Ireland, and spends a lot of time over there persuading them that they don’t really want Home Rule.  If only he had succeeded! Stashdragon, it was grand to be reminded that I’ve still got “The Duke’s Children” to look forward to.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

I was sort of ill yesterday. I’ve never learned to spell “diahhorea” so I can’t tell you what was wrong.

But I’m moving forward on other fronts. I’ve knit 16 rows (out of 150) of the borders of the Spring Shawl, and the stitch count is – astonishingly – right. That's 10% anyway. The rows don’t even seem dauntingly long so far, but of course will get longer as they are being knit from the central triangle outwards.


I’ve finished “Phineas Redux” and have embarked upon “The Prime Minister” which is the subsequent, and last, title in the Palliser series. I hope to catch further glimpses of Phineas, but it starts off vigorously with a whole new set of characters.

A couple of small remarks about language and customs: there is a murder trial towards the end of PR. When references are made to execution, the past participle is always “hung”. I was taught – it must be after I came to GB – that one must use “hanged” in that context. Thank goodness the question doesn’t arise any more.

And Lady Glencora  at one point uses “lay” where I would insist on “lie”– or maybe it is the other way around. I have heard that Jane Austen is weak on “imply” and “infer”.

As for customs, I was very surprised to find that, during that murder trial, some of the witnesses were in court, and thus hearing the testimony of other witnesses, before they gave their own. That doesn’t happen at any criminal trial nowadays. (I went to a murder trial once, in Birmingham, because it concerned Oxford students and an awful boyfriend and might have been Helen. It was extremely interesting.)

And the other odd custom is that men seem to take their hats with them, into the House of Commons. They get no pay (and thus must be fairly well off to attempt a political career) although there does seem to be a stipend for ministers.

Friday, September 13, 2019

All well, except that it’s Friday evening again and I haven’t done my Italian homework. My trainer came this morning and as always I feel better for her visit. 

Greek Helen is going to London next week, for an Old Girls’ reunion. She’ll be staying with her sister Rachel, Ruby’s grandmother, and Archie (Helen's son) will be here on Monday. So I can send the sweater down from him to his mother to Rachel to Ruby. Alternatively, C. is going to be there (again, staying with her cousin Rachel) at the end of the month. All I’ve got to do is wrap it up and find a card.

I’ve finished the plain-vanilla rows at the beginning of the Spring Shawl borders, and have embarked on the first real pattern row. I’ve passed the centre point, and can report that the stitch count came out right for the first half. Once the pattern has been established (as with Fair Isle) the stitch count becomes less of a source of anxiety.

Mary Lou, the fascination of this sort of thing is very like that of a jigsaw puzzle. I can’t entirely remember my own progress. Lots of Amedro, certainly. Straight from there to Sharon Miller? Sharon herself says somewhere that it's addictive.

Wandering around the internet yesterday as one sometimes does, I discovered that Meg is about to go to Florence to teach some workshops. She clearly has some Italian, like me, but will have an interpreter. That should be fun all round. She must be a bit younger than I am, because her parents didn’t arrive in the US until 1937.

She had some interesting Faroese books, too. I must examine my shelves.


A dramatic event has suddenly occurred in “Phineas Redux”. It is as if – and why not? – Trollope himself realised that it was all getting a bit turgid. I am sure we had it as bedtime reading, long ago, but I can’t remember a word of it.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

All well. I’ve finished the slanting sticks, or whatever they’re called, and have embarked on the real charts for the Spring Shawl borders. I got to start at row 10, a nice bonus.

The borders will take a while, but they’re nothing like the Princess borders. That time, one began with the edging, and then picked up stitches for the borders, and knit along (forever) thinking that the central triangle would be a doddle, at the end. How wrong one was! This time, when the borders are done, there will be nothing left to do but the edging. Endless, no doubt, but I love attaching edgings. One stitch taken in every two rows seems like so little, but eventually it gets the job done.

Here’s the promised picture of Ruby in her big sister’s Pollywog. I think they used it – it’s knit of sock yarn, as is the “Overlap Baby Sweater” I have knit for Ruby herself. The Pollywog appears to have worn very well. The next job is to figure out how to get the new one to London, now that they have shut down my local post office. The remaining PO’s are further away than I can comfortably manage on foot these days, and adjacent parking isn't guaranteed.

Jared has issued a fall collection – some good things, as you might expect, and some brilliant photography. The shawls and scarves particularly appeal.


“Phineas Redux” continues well, although I am mired in a political section at the moment which is all too much like the evening news:

“’A prime minister so beaten surely can’t go on.’

‘Not for long, one would think. And yet how are you to turn him out? It depends very much on a man’s power of endurance.’”

Plus ca change…

I hope Trollope will get back to love and intrigue soon.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

My cleaner is back from Romania! Archie and I have just about kept our heads above water in the month she has been away, but it is bliss to have her back, and the amount of cleanliness and order she was able to install in three hours’ work this morning is astonishing.

And all is well with the Spring Shawl. Those “slanted sticks” or whatever they’re called haunted my dreams last night, but I’ve got them right, and they’re nearly finished. Then will follow four whole rows of plain garter stitch before the borders begin in earnest. The tear-shaped motifs in a Paisley shawl (and in Sharon’s Princess shawl) are called “botehs” – that’s the word I was too sluggish to look up last night.

The current episode of Fruity Knitting concerns Cristel Seyfarth, a Danish designer, as mentioned yesterday. She’s keen on costume – think Alice Starmore’s recent book. And she mixes colours in “magic balls” like Kaffe, although you couldn’t possibly mistake the work of one for the other. She’s attractive, and interesting, but I don’t think I’m going to pursue the episode to the end.

Mary Lou (comment yesterday), I think you’d better go see “Mustang” but be wary of violence and unpleasantness.

And, yes, I am very happy to have a namesake great-granddaughter in Ruby Jean. My husband had two namesakes among the grandchildren – Mungo Hamish Harold and this year’s bridegroom, Joseph Michael James. (James=Hamish) Both Rachel and James – my son James -- have/had mothers-in-law named Joan, and I thought it would be nice to knock off two at once by naming a girl Jane. But Rachel’s husband Ed had been frightened by an Aunt Jane in infancy and recoiled from the idea, and I may never have suggested it to James and Cathy.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

I’m a bit further forward with the Spring Shawl. (Maureen, if you’re here, avert your eyes.) I’ve started the few simple rows which Sharon calls (I think) “slanting sticks”. They all slant inwards to the centre stitch. We had something like that, but much fancier, with the Princess shawl where some Paisley-type motifs – there’s a name for them, which I’ve forgotten – all nod inwards toward the centre.

This time, I seem to have gotten it wrong. I’ve started the second pattern row, and find (I think) that the sticks in what was the second half of the first row, are slanting in the wrong direction. It’s easily corrected, and I’m doing it – but what if I’ve got it wrong this time?

I’ve had a pleasant and rather strenuous day, starting with a dental appt. The dental surgery is very near at hand, but uphill by two strenuous blocks. C. drove all the way across Edinburgh to give me a much-valued lift. Teeth were fine, and are now brilliantly (and expensively) polished.

An hour or so later, C. and I went to see “Mustang”, an interesting film. It concerns a programme – you may know this – in which prisoners in American jails tame mustangs (of which there are an astonishing number). The horses are then sold at auction and the profits support the programme.

The film is at many points violent, and prison life is unattractive. The director is a woman, with a fancy, unfamiliar name – she’s good. The story has the core of sentimentality which you might expect from such a plot. It’s well-buried and brings tears to the old eyes when it comes.

Andrew and Andrea, sure enough. I realised at the end of the afternoon that I hadn’t heard from them. I usually get an alert from Patreon -- had something gone wrong with my patronage? But all seems to be well. The alert had been classified as a Promotion, for reasons only known to Googlemail. I haven’t watched much of it yet. The prime subject is a Danish designer, unknown to me.

And all is well with Phineas Redux.

Monday, September 09, 2019

Not much – as usual. I’ve moved the stitches from the top of the Spring Shawl triangle back onto a needle of their own, and have proceeded on the border stitches, not without a certain amount of anxiety as to whether I am knitting a complicated moebius for myself. We’ll soon see. I am just about finished the with plain rows, ready to embark on the exciting bit.

Andrew & Andrea tomorrow, I think – it seems like a long time.

Alas, weavinfool (comment yesterday) – Paradox is today undoubtedly in heat. No kittens, unless I can find a suitor for her.

Greek Helen turned up this afternoon, and showed me how to forward pictures from WhatsApp on my telephone. The trouble is, they don’t turn up anywhere. There’s a nice one of Ruby (the new great-granddaughter) being fitted into her sister’s Golliwog (a design of Mary Lou’s) – but it’s far too big for her. One day soon, I’ll be able to show you, I hope.

Meanwhile I continue to read Phineas Redux with delight.

Sunday, September 08, 2019

The big news, delayed by my inanition yesterday, is that the fourth great-granddaughter has safely reached the Shores of Light: Ruby Jean Isabella K., born Friday afternoon. I’m not quite sure of “Isabella” (one of her mother’s names) and was horrified by “Ruby” although I’m getting used to it. It’s not in the family. They just like it.

There are some sweet pictures in our What’sApp group, but I don’t know how to get them out. Archie will be here tomorrow.

Otherwise there is (as usual) little to report. The first rows of the Spring Shawl borders are long and plain, and I am nearly finished with them. I seem to have amalgamated all the stitches onto one needle, despite the point protectors, but at least I have done it without knitting across the top of the triangle.


Sinking into sleep last night, hearing of Amber Rudd’s resignation, I was actually a bit frightened. “The centre cannot hold…” But today that event has been amalgamated into all that is going on, with various people expressing various opinions, and I feel stouter of heart.

It is interesting, reading “Phineas Redux” as a background. When the 19th century was in progress, everybody thought (rightly) that the Reform Bill and the repeal of the Corn Acts were of lasting importance. Now, they’re important all right, but they’re history and therefore just slightly boring. In the book, the big issue is the disestablishment of the Church of England, which of course didn’t happen although I think Trollope thought it would.

In 2119, “Brexit” will equally be history, and equally boring.

On another subject, clutching at straws, I google’d the symptoms of pregnancy in cats – and discover that some of them actually have morning sickness, poor beasts. But essentially, there are no symptoms at two weeks, except perhaps for such as might be determined by a scan. At least Paradox isn’t in heat -- a valuable negative symptom, perhaps.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Neither the cleaner nor the personal trainer turned up today. I must have had the day wrong. There is an Italian lesson tomorrow, however. I think I’ve done enough homework to allow an early bed.

As for knitting, I turned out to have plenty of long circulars in the required gauge. I have left the live stitches of the centre of the Spring Shawl where they were, adding secure point protectors. And I have slid another needle through the YO’s at the beginning of every row. Easy-peasy, and equivalent, of course, to picking up a stitch every other row, as the pattern commands.

I thought I acquired this technique from Gudrun Johnston’s hap “Lang Ayre” in Kate Davies’ Hap book. Not so, I see, looking it up, although she employs it there – I’ve never knit that one (although it’s very tempting). She must have used it in her Craftsy hap class. A YO at the beginning of a row is not quite as easy as it sounds, but one gets the hang of it. And not having to struggle with the stitch count at the end is bliss. I counted, of course, but it wasn't a struggle.

The result, needless to say, is a row of little holes along the pick-up line. No harm in that.


I’ve finished Memento Mori (and started Phineas Redux – I like it much better than the Eustace Diamonds, so far).

When I read it long ago, I got bogged down in the characters and their long-ago love affairs and their inheritances. I decided that the point was that all that really matters is the Four Last Things: Death, Judgment, Hell and Heaven. The final paragraph leaves Jean Taylor pondering those things.

This time the relationships seemed perfectly clear, and the money worth having, although the point remained the same.

I was disconcerted to find that I am older than almost all the principal characters.

One very small niggle: I remembered, from all those years ago, the wonderful scene where Charmian makes herself tea, and carries it through to the fire, item by item. At one point she drops some biscuits, but retrieves them, along with the crumbs. At another, she spills something on the kitchen floor, and cleans that up, too.

What is really scary, in tottery old age, is dealing with anything on the floor. Falling in an attempt to pick up a handkerchief was a decisive moment in my husband’s downward course. He never walked again. (He was with a carer for a moment, getting dressed in the morning; I wouldn’t have let him attempt to retrieve the handkerchief.) I felt that Spark should have put in a few extra words about Charmian’s courage – or less have allowed the crumbs to stay on the floor.

Thursday, September 05, 2019

As so often, there is little to report – but the central triangle of the Spring Shawl is finished. There is a tiny twist of yarn left. It would be absurd even for me to employ it. Here is the shawl:

The stitch count, unbelievably, came out exactly right. Obviously the picture suffers from the fact that the stitches on the top row are drawn in. So tomorrow I must stow those stitches somehow or other, and face the question of whether I have a suitable needle or needles for picking up the side stitches.

Then the fun begins.


Greek Helen and C. and I went to the “Cut and Paste” show at the Gallery of Modern Art today – collage through the ages. It was extremely interesting, although Helen rightly said that individual artists (except perhaps for Picasso and Matisse) sort of got submerged in the technique.

I felt terribly weak. My personal trainer will be back in action tomorrow. (Also, my cleaner should be back from Romania.) I need her. I need both of them.


Thank you for suggestions. I think Phineas Redux is a good idea, Stashdragon. Currently I am reading the last few pages of Spark’s “Memento Mori”. Maybe I’ll say a word or two about it tomorrow. I read it once before, when Muriel Spark and I were young. It’s a book about old age, and it’s coming across rather differently now.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Politics continues exciting – goodness, gracious me! And there are more votes to come tonight.

Knitting goes forward well, too. I have done the break row at the top of the Spring Shawl triangle, and the plain rows that follow. What remains is the decrease row (k3, k2tog) followed by one more plain one. Then: (a) how to preserve the stitches? And, a subsidiary question, how many stitches do I actually have, compared to the number there ought to be? I don’t expect perfection. I also don't expect the yarn to suffice for those two rows: I'll take a picture for you whether it does or not.

Next: (b) Is the needle I have been using long enough to handle the stitches I must now pick up along the sides of the triangle? If not, do I have another suitable needle of the same gauge?

None of this sounds insuperable, problem-wise.

Danish “night sweaters”

Hoxbro supports your ideas, Shandy and Anonymous and Chloe, that Danish people slept sitting up in alcoves or short beds. It’s a good deal more comfortable than it sounds, speaking from experience. It's the way to go if you break an arm. And I, too, have retained an outer garment or two in extreme weather, such as Christmas in Kirkmichael.

Chloe, it’s disappointing that you can’t get a preliminary idea of the book. I think the part of my (extensive) knitting library that I most value is/are the books about regional knitting of one sort or another. Gladys Thompson and Sheila McGregor were the first; there are many others. This one is a worthy addition.


I’ve finished “The Eustace Diamonds” and am at somewhat of a loss. I’ve started “Adam Bede” but am put off by the dialect. I’ve downloaded “The House With the Green Shutters” but I don’t know that I am stout enough of heart to read it again. Unlike many others, I remember it pretty well. It's grim.

Tuesday, September 03, 2019

An interesting week in politics, it is indeed proving. My own passions are not deeply involved. I would have voted Remain, had I been a citizen. My husband voted Leave, and I wasn’t sorry that the result came out that way. But the current situation is beyond such matters: the gov’t against parliament.

My plumbing problem has worsened – the drip has been fixed, but the sodden floorboards beneath remain to be investigated. They were inspected this morning. Alexander’s sons are now back at school and he is coming over to see me tomorrow. It will be good to have a shoulder to weep on.

I have hunkered down with the Hoxbro book, “Traditional Danish Sweaters”. It is indeed good. Cam, I have found no entirely satisfactory answer to your question – why were they called “night sweaters”? Hoxbro comes to more or less your conclusion, Tamar. (When are you ever less than right?) People slept in most of their daytime clothes. She suggests that the term may have arisen to distinguish the homemade, knitted ones from fancy silk items of the same shape, which would have been worn only by day.

She says, interestingly, that these were garments knitted by women for themselves. Whereas all the other traditional sweaters I can think of were knitted mostly by women, largely for men. The night sweaters went out of fashion around the end of the 19th century.

The book includes charted motifs with knitted samples, and some good modern patterns.

I am pressing forward with the Spring Shawl. I am halfway across the row before the row with the break pattern. After that come four more plain rows – without even the lace edges, thank goodness – and then a final decrease row. I doubt if the present – the 2nd – ball of yarn will suffice. I’ll take a pic for you once No. Three has been attached.

I may knit on a bit this evening, watching a program about the rise of Nazi Germany and waiting for the vote. An Oberlin friend, a history major, was particularly interested in the period which had coincided with his own gestation. That’s more or less what we’re talking about here, 1930-33.

Sunday, September 01, 2019

Here begins an interesting week in British politics. Commentators are recalling the Civil War, when Charles I prorogued parliament (if I’ve got it right) – and look what happened to him.

The radio made much this morning, too, of the fact that today is the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the war. But in fact war wasn’t actually declared until Sunday September 3 – that was the date of Chamberlin’s famous broadcast. And that must be the day I am remembering, if the memory is to be trusted, when we all went swimming in the Great Salt Lake and my father told me to remember the day, because of the war. I remember it because of the swimming, too – they had told me how buoyantly I would float, but hadn’t mentioned the fact that there was no guarantee of floating face upwards.

And look what happened to me! During Mass this morning I thought of three simple things I would do today. I have forgotten one of them, and one of them I haven’t done. The third was to water my cactuses which have been sadly neglected of late. None of them even got re-potted this spring. And look what I found:

It has long been an ambition of mine to see one of my cactuses in flower. My husband’s sister could do it. It has never happened to me before.

I have progressed well with the Spring Shawl. I have one more row to do, of the final motif. It is time to stop increasing at the beginning of every row. I have been doing it Gudrun Johnston’s way, with a YO to make a loop though which a needle will soon be slipped to pick up the border stitches. That is not how Sharon Miller does it. So from here on out I must continue making the loops but must at the same time insert a compensating k2tog. That shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man.

The Hoxbro book about Danish night shirts is very interesting and needless to say, very well done. Their history apparently goes back to 1800 – which is a couple of decades earlier, I think, than our first firm knowledge of Shetland knitting – although obviously it must have been going on before our records begin. The Danish shirts were knit for personal use; our early records of Shetland knitting are about knitting for sale.

I’m saying all this without looking anything up. I must spend some more time with the subject.