Friday, November 24, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

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

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

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


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

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

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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Sunday, November 19, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Saturday, November 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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