Thursday, December 20, 2007

Here we go. I am sorry not to be here tomorrow to wish everybody a Happy New Year on the darkest day. I don’t know when we’ll be back; in time, I hope, for the Iowa Caucus on January 3. At that point I’ll start knitting hard on the gansey, and hope to carry on right through New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Which should get me to the point where I put it on waste yarn and consider with care my options for how to proceed. Much as Clinton and Obama and Edwards will be doing, in a different sphere.

Apart from politics, I am always surprised by how good January feels. Most of it is every bit as dark as December, but the darkness feels different, right away. Pretty soon now!

I finished the Linked Ribs all right, and should have no difficulty polishing off the little hat tonight or tomorrow in the country.


Fishwife, funny to think of your being in D. Place yesterday and we wouldn’t have known each other if we’d passed on the pavement. I hope we’ll meet in ’08. It’ll be on my list of “achievables”.

Shandy, that is interesting news indeed about EZ’s neice. There were three sisters, EZ the eldest. The middle one was epileptic and, for whatever reason, died in her early teens. So this must be the daughter or granddaughter of the remaining one, Pringle. I would like to have the details, although I would never have the courage to get in touch.

I suppose EZ is getting better known on this side of the Atlantic in recent years, thanks to the Internet. But she is undoubtedly an American phenomenon. Like the phrase “Kitchener stitch”, once completely restricted to North American knitters. I first heard of her in an article in the Sunday Times more than 20 years ago – you could send for a copy of the Baby Surprise pattern, slightly modified to make it double-breasted. I did, and have knit that mimeographed sheet almost to death. I have noted all of the recipients on the pattern – I think the first one was my granddaughter Hellie, under her pregnancy-code-name of Bernadette. She has just turned 21.

Calantha, how nice to hear from you. I’m sure you’re right that I’ll feel happier in the country, in the natural light. It is good to get away from television- and computer-screen. Sort of soothes the mind. Life always seems more manageable there, too, largely because we don’t get much mail so it’s all piling up here to be managed when we get back.

An old friend of Alexander's was with us at the Games this year. He sent me this picture the other day, and Sam seems a very suitable image to close out 2007:

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The last day. Scary. I’ve done the final, perfunctory Christmas cards (a bit late, according to the official post office deadline); I’ve got another session to face in a post office queue this afternoon after all; and an appointment to have my hair done. I haven’t measured the linked ribs in the last 24 hours, but feel pretty confident that I can cast them off today.

I didn’t need much more than the yarn I originally started out with, after all; but it was worth getting more rather than leaving the scarf slightly-too-short. Tying in a new ball (as I did last night) is fun. Half of the knitting, although it may not appear so, is a simple st st tube. All you have to do is arrange for the new ball to be joined while that is going on; knit one stitch with two yarns together, and tie a tidy knot on the inside of the tube.

In a trice, the knot will have disappeared forever – I hope you tied it properly – inside the next set of flanges.

I think it looks rather nice.

So what to do with the nearly-two-balls left over of Silk Garden? (Just add them to stash.) Sean has been knitting dickeys lately, from EZ’s “Knitting Around”, and I’m tempted. A dickey would certainly be cosy, and should be almost instantaneous to knit.

So I got the book out, and read about dickeys, and then wandered about the pages for a while. It suddenly occurred to me – I’m pretty slow on the uptake – that “Stretham” where EZ was sent to live with some aunties during the Great War, might be “Streatham” (pronounced “Stretham”) where my daughter Rachel lives.

I got out my London street guide and, sure enough, found “Mount Nod Road” on Streatham Hill. It’s in a classier part of town than Rachel’s bit, but it would not be impossible to make a pilgrimage if I ever felt inclined.

There are things about that book that make me uneasy, most especially her treatment (or non-treatment) of the Second World War. Why did they emigrate to America, with no money and no job, a land EZ “hated and feared”? She says that the winter of Pearl Harbor was a cold one; otherwise, the war is scarcely mentioned. Did she feel guilty about abandoning the old country? There must have been Lloyd Joneses in London and Zimmermanns in Munich who occupied their thoughts. The Old Man says, in his own stirring account of his escape on foot from Hitler’s Germany, that he never saw his uncle or father or brother again.

It’s none of my business, but I feel she made it my business by writing an autobiography.


Knititch, where exactly did you bump into an Enid Blyton who wrote stitch dictionaries? I can’t find anything to back this up on Google on in the Wikipedia entry on her, but it’s very hard to believe that there were two Enid Blytons.

I will remember what you and Vivienne say about the Book Depository.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lunch with the sister-in-law was OK, the hat progresses, I did some more scarf in the evening. I’m nicely on target to finish both hat and scarf in time. I think. I’ll try to take a scarf picture today if it ever gets light.

One very distinct advantage of having all those people in K*rkmichael next week is that I have largely been spared both the trouble and the expense of posting packages this year. I went down to the post office after we got back yesterday to dispatch the only one on the list. The queue filled the little shop. I see I’ve missed the last-posting-day for second class Christmas cards (yesterday) so I’d better get back on that job.

I think I am getting some interesting colour-swirls on 110 stitches with Yarn Yard yarn, as hoped, and really do mean to return to thoughts of ikat knitting in the New Year. She’s got some gorgeous yarns in the shop, including a lace yarn named after ME.

Comments: Knititch, I just ordered the Charlene Schurch book from Amazon on your recommendation. (It’s currently out of stock in the UK, but they promise not to charge the credit card until it comes in.) Tamar, thank you for the specifics on hat-knitting.

Today’s Event is a long dental appointment while he makes a crown for one of my few remaining teeth. It should be something of a stress-reliever, and I may get some more hat knit in the waiting room.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Another day of modest achievement. I got the serious Christmas cards stamped and into the mail box and within an hour had a phone call from the stepdaughter of one of the addressees, to say he was dead. Not a close friend, but an old one. That’s the fifth member of our not-very-extensive Christmas card list to fall off the perch this year, and we’ve scarcely started on incoming messages yet.

In the afternoon, weary of Christmas cards, I went up to Princes Street. It was awful, and I didn’t achieve much, and everybody looked as miserable as I felt. What a curious annual ritual this is!

Things were brighter on the knitting front. I started the little hat, to plug that gap on the present-list. (Princes Street reinforced my decision to do it: better a hat he doesn’t want but at least keeps his ears warm, than expensive junk that occupies him for a moment or two.)

It is to be a simple stocking cap, using my favourite (although it’s not easy to choose) of my unknit Yarn Yard club yarns. How many stitches to cast on? No time for elaborate calculations here, nor do I have the recipient’s head measurement to hand. A cap like this is so simple that most books don’t bother. Even EZ wasn’t much help – she suggests 110 stitches for a watchcap in an authoritative but unspecific way (in Knitting Without Tears) and then proceeds to give a pattern using 36.

My usual resource in such matters is Vicki Square’s “Knit Great Basics” – no text to speak of, just schematics and charts where you slot in stitch and row numbers according to gauge. She gives three sizes – small, medium, and large. OK – but is that small adult? or small child?

But children’s heads are nearer adult size than you might think. And the finest gauge she gives is six stitches to the inch, and I would expect to get something more like seven with this yarn on 1’s.

So I wound up back where I started and cast on 108, Square’s recommendation for a small hat. And I think I’ve got it. It looks, if anything, too small in the picture, but the cast-on is stretchy, and seemed too big until I started ribbing: I think we’re all right. I’ll switch to the handpainted yarn, and increase to 110 stitches, before we go out to lunch.

110, because I think that’s the number which will produce interesting swirls of an ikat-y nature in a Yarn Yard yarn. No time to go back and look at notes on that subject, either. We’ll see.

Moorecat, that’s an interesting and useful tip, about making a scarf its wearer’s height. No great problem here. It’s aimed at a young teenager from a shortish family – she couldn’t be more than 5’3” which is about what I had planned for the Linked Ribs anyway.

So at least, among the horrors of this pre-solstice week, I think I’m on target to finish both knitted presents. We now hope to go to Strathardle on Thursday – a firm who were supposed to deliver some new chairs that day phoned late yesterday evening to say they can’t do it, what about Friday or Saturday? Not on your nellie, said I. I have just begun to realise that our entire family will be in K*rkmichael next week and will want feeding – not just on the 25th.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

A better day yesterday. The serious Christmas cards are done, the notes to old friends – what remains is just to write the token ones saying howdy-do to the people one sees anyway and says howdy-do to on a regular basis and to my husband’s family, mercifully small in number, who would be mortally offended not to get cards as well as presents.

I got a bit more than my assigned length of Linked Ribs done yesterday. MaryJo0, I wouldn’t dream of setting myself a daily knitting assignment were it not for the pressures of the season. My Principle of Life has always been not to allow Christmas stress to intrude into knitting, but this year things have run away with me.

[MaryJo’s blog, if you follow the link above, contains a link to Ann from Norway's blog (in Norwegian) which in turn contains a link to a pattern (in English) for Latvian mittens which Ann says are “min første egendesigna” – surely, “my first own design”. Isn’t language wonderful? – and isn’t the Internet so, too?]

Part of seasonal gloom could be dispelled by being outdoors more, in the brief hours of daylight. But that’s hard to achieve when there are all those Christmas cards to write. I did try to observe scarf-wearers when I was out shopping for food yesterday. Some of them wear the scarves on top of their coats and of course wrapped generously around the neck. I think the Linked Ribs would look rather well like that, two layers of links around the neck and not much tail.

It’s perhaps slightly odd, when one stops to think about it, that there are no pictures in “Knitting New Scarves” of the scarves being worn by human beings. My husband intervened again last night to say to be sure to make it long enough. The pattern specifies five feet; I might add an inch or two.

So today I probably ought to work on the gansey – this could be my last chance before the Iowa primary. But instead I will think of the small hat which I have added to the schedule just to increase stress – I hope to wind the yarn and cast it on. We are going to lunch with my husband’s sister tomorrow to exchange presents. I’ll take the hat to knit. I am not normally allowed to take knitting when we go to see her, it is ill-mannered, my husband says, but needs must, this time.

Bletchley Park (yesterday’s blog, plus comments)

They’re said to be very clever there. They took the money right at the end of November, and maybe they did it because they saw that the card I had paid with was about to expire. I’m sure I’ll get the stuff in the end. I’ll go out on Tuesday or Wednesday, if nothing has turned up, and get some make-weight presents, with the thought of sending the real ones on to Thessaloniki and Beijing in due course.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Blog Post No. 1111

A frustrating day yesterday, a running-to-stay-in-the-same-place day. Let’s see if we can do better today.

I did achieve my Linked Rib target, although only just – 6”. Not much for 30 stitches of Silk Garden on biggish needles, but endless time is spent separating and re-combining the rib, with what seems like very little knitting in between. It remains fun. Three more six-inch days to go.

Lee, you have persuaded me (comment yesterday) to try the Drifting Pleats – but I attach no guarantee of perseverance. For me, too, learning two-handed stranding was the Great Leap Forward in my knitting history. It happened in Leicester in the late 60’s, when I had Mary Thomas’ Knitting book out of the library. That was the beginning of my Fair Isle Phase. So if this experience can be compared to that, I’ll give it a go.

I can’t imagine what a j-shaped cable needle is, but good old Google will tell me.

Koolhaas: the stitch definition is better than you might think from yesterday’s picture, but nothing to compare to the beauties shewn elsewhere. Maybe I can get a picture of the Wearer Wearing, over the hols.

Mary Lou, thank you for the hat patterns. That’s another thing I’m definitely going to do – for me – once the solstice is behind us.


Knititch, I suspect you’re right that seasonal gloom and fear-of-darkness increases with age.
That’s why we’re celebrating, of course – all this fuss is designed to bring the light back. Up to now, it’s always worked.

Here is my Seasonal Crossness story: on November 3, I ordered two boy-presents from Bletchley Park, a scaled-down Enigma machine and a build-your-own-rocket-and-watch-it-fly kit.

My credit card expired at the end of November, and I had some trouble getting the new one. Nothing wrong with my credit, which is impeccable: inefficiency on the part of the issuer. At least one supplier from whom I ordered in mid-November (Museum Selection) didn’t getting around to filling the order until December, and then couldn’t get their money. (The new card has the same number but a different security code.) They sent me an email and invited me to phone. I tried and got Mozart and a recorded message saying repeatedly how busy and sorry they were. I decided those two presents weren’t very important.

I assumed the same thing had happened to Bletchley Park. But yesterday I got a credit card statement – they’ve got their money. I visited the website. It was still not too late to order for Christmas, they said. And what had happened to my order? “Waiting for stock”

Those are two important little boys.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Thank you for all the comments yesterday. I didn’t deserve them, for such a short and grumpy note, and I love comments.

I will track down all the hat patterns suggested. I’ve looked at your Noro one on Ravelry, Pie, and I agree, it’s good. I’ve added it to my “Faves”. I think I’ve ordered one more ball of Silk Garden than I’m going to need for the Linked Ribs: so maybe with that…

But on the hat front, it has occurred to me that there is one I could knit for a small head which would fill another gap on the Christmas list. (I didn’t do very well with internet shopping this year.) I have painted myself, I fear, into the very corner which in previous years I have loftily eschewed: counting the remaining days, reckoning the amount of Linked Ribs I need to knit every day (yesterday’s target easily achieved), and now trying to factor in a little hat.

At my stage of life, now that I don’t have to turn out for end-of-term school productions, the things to be done at this time of year aren’t too many, aren’t difficult, aren’t unpleasant. But the sense of stress is just the same, the pressure increasing with the darkness.

I enjoyed myself yesterday thinking what New Scarf I will knit with my Manos Silk Blend. My husband – who is much better, thanks – looked over at me and the Linked Ribs last night and said he hoped it was for a child. He does occasionally intervene like that towards the end of the project when he fears I might be thinking of appearing in public in it.

His remark rather coincided with one by my friend Lindsay. She was wondering, the last time I saw her, just how wearable some of the scarves in the book would be. I think almost all of them are great, and very much what the shops are showing – although not, I have to agree, much like what I see around people’s necks as I walk about. A lofty rib is the commonest there, I would say.

So for the Manos, wearable must be high on the list of desirable qualities. I like the Drifting Pleats, and am inspired by Grumperina’s enthusiasm. But: five dp’s, a pair of single-pointed needles the same size, and a j-shaped cable needle – that sounds daunting. I like the idea of the Tricorner – but do I want to knit any more flanges just now? At the moment, the choice is between a single-colour Stacked Wedges or some Tilted Blocks, like Chronic Knitting Syndrome.

Here’s the Koolhaas, looking more Koigu than Kool.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My husband’s cold was perhaps slightly worse yesterday. In old age we are almost as frightened by this common ailment as an Austen heroine. We’ve had our flu injections, on the other hand, and he’s not feverish.


Koolhaas finished, camera battery flat.

I feel gripped by a wish to knit hats. This one has come out exactly as Jared would wish, 7” in height, and is perhaps slightly small for me: the tips of the ears are covered, not the entirety. It may do a bit better on Rachel. What about a nice Yarn Yard hat, deep ribbing in the plain colour, the rest hand-painted?

But what I really fancy is a beanie, with swirls. Grumperina’s Odessa, perhaps, without the pearls?

But I must press on with the Ribbed Links, and return to the gansey.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My husband coddled himself yesterday and his cold is, at least, no worse. I wrote a few Christmas cards.

I also finished the fifth repeat of the Koolhaas pattern, and am ready to close off the top. I tried it on my own large head yesterday, and was delighted with look and feel and fit. I can’t face all those cables again soon, but will keep careful notes of needle sizes and how-many-stitches with the thought of dipping into the Koigu bag one day in the future. Jared has got a wonderful new blue one on his website – I’m sure he cables without a cable needle.

A gap has opened on the Christmas list which the Ribbed Links might fill, so I shall turn back to that. It’s about half done. The extra Noro Silk Garden in the hard-to-get Shade 34 has turned up from the States – with no duty to pay.

And the Manos Silk Blend is here, too – not quite the shade I expected, but one I might have chosen anyway. It’ll make a fine Knitting-New Scarves scarf: the only problem will lie in the choosing.

Early morning in Drummond Place has produced a rather excessively dramatic image.

Thank you for all the comments and Ann, especially, for the analysis of New Hampshire. I see why they say that a win in Iowa could sweep things forward there. It’s nice, in a way, having all this excitement to look forward to so soon after the midnight chimes on New Year’s Eve. Hogmanay can go on for a week in Scotland (not so much, though, now that we’ve got Christmas) and can seem rather flat towards the end.

I will seriously try to write about Vogue-Knitting-at-War once we’ve got all this festivity out of the way.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Here we are again. We had a good time, but my husband has returned with a chesty cough, and it’s cold, and atra cura in the form of seasonal panic waited for us at the door.

Less than a fortnight until the solstice, though.

While we were away, I read an article in a newspaper by A.S. Byatt saying how good Marjorie Allingham was. I don’t need to be reminded, but it sent me to the bookshelf to re-read “Traitor’s Purse” in a gulp. It starts with the most brilliant of McGuffins. (I’m not giving anything away, for those happy souls whose first reading is still in the future: it’s right there in the first pages.) Our hero wakes up in hospital and finds he has lost his memory. He can’t even remember his name. But he knows he has something very important to do, urgently.

It moves fast, and the final McGuffin is equally brilliant. (I don’t think I am giving anything serious away by saying that Albert Campion – for it was he – recovered his memory in time to save England.) I think I have read that critics at the time said that the denouement was preposterous, and then it turned out after the war that the Germans had tried to do just that.

My point here, is that it was published in 1941, when things were bad and Pearl Harbour hadn’t happened yet and events might have gone either way. The mood is exuberant. Like Evelyn Waugh’s “Put Out More Flags”, published in ’42 but surely written before Pearl Harbour. And like, in its small way, the spring ’41 issue of the Vogue Knitting Book, my recent eBay purchase, which turned up while we were away. Come the four quarters of the world in arms, and we shall shock them, is the general idea: Allingham actually quotes the lines.

Clothes rationing doesn’t seem to have started yet – in the very next VKB issue, the number of coupons needed is specified for each pattern, but there is no mention of such things in No. 18. Yarn is in short supply. The issue begins with a wonderful Editor’s question-and-answer about wartime knitting.

“'I wanted 12 ounces – they only had 8.' Where are your brains, dear lady?” [What a way for an editor to talk to a knitter!]

“'Where are those nice thick wools?’ There are none, so don’t waste your time looking for them….Finer threads give far better fit. Fine wool makes the perfect fabric, firm yet pliable.”


I had a nice time, while away, knitting with Araucania Multi. I’m within a couple of rounds of the armholes. Nor need I worry about size, as I do with Theo’s gansey. If it doesn’t fit one grandson, it’ll fit another. I am not so well endowed with nephews.

SisterHelen, that’s good news about Obama in South Carolina. But what about New Hampshire? There are lots of sane, thoughtful people there. We should be winning hands down in New Hampshire.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

To Strathardle today – blogging should resume on Tuesday.

I was gripped with a sudden and dreadful case of the Seasonal Heebie-Jeebies yesterday: not anxiety about Christmas, which is in fairly good case here, more a timor-mortis-conturbat-me sort of thing. Fresh air should help. January, when it comes, will help more.

I bought Vogue Knitting Book No. 18 on eBay last night – spring, 1941. I now lack only five of them: one from the war (spring, 1940) and four from the mid to the late 30’s.

Last night’s price was very reasonable for an early VKB. The cover is torn, as you see; that might have been it. I had the same opponents as in my recent purchase of No. 19, but they bid less.

I hope I will now (well, in blessed January) spread the wartime issues out on the floor and try to construct an essay around them. The missing one is part of the “phoney war” and can be treated separately if I ever get it.

I wound another skein for the gansey. It got sort of tangled somehow, and took a fair while, so I spent what knitting time was left on the Koolhaas. It’s coming along rather well – I think the pattern is going to hold its own against the yarn after all, although you can't see much of it here. I’m doing the third repeat – I’ll probably need five altogether.

Goodbye for now.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Oh, Theo! (yesterday’s comment)

Since I’ve started on politics –

There’s an interesting article in a recent New Yorker about Obama and Iowa. Normally we only read the New Yorker when we’re in the country, but I was suffering so much from last week’s Affliction that I allowed myself an exception. I think the New Yorker is on his side, and will no doubt be a more valuable ally than me and my knitting.

It is appalling to think what all this costs, the teams of people, before you get anywhere near paying for advertising.

But it occurred to me yesterday that Obama’s teams, no matter how acutely they may analyse interest groups, couldn’t have got as far as the Yarn Harlot. And yet by pausing for a moment, acceding to an eccentric request for a photograph, smiling that smile, he has created (at no expense to campaign funds) a website whose address must be passing from hand to hand among thousands of knitters. It just goes to show (although what, I’m not sure).

The Harlot herself mentions it, with a link; I had a peek. Everybody reads her except me.

Anyway, knitting. I got on nicely with the sock during the business part of yesterday’s meeting, and then fell asleep during the lecture.

Earlier, I discovered that I had lapsed into reversed st st instead of garter stitch for the separator-band of the gansey, and had to take out half a circuit. That involved sliding the needle out and frogging, and that in turn gave me another, better chance to assess the gauge.

And the answer this time seems to be that I am working towards a finished circumference of 55”. That’s too much.

The swatch, however, suggests that the cables on the stitch pattern will pull things in. (But will that leave the bottom to billow out??) I have decided to press on to somewhere near the point where I would start the underarm gussets, and then thread the whole thing onto some waste yarn and take a very hard, cold look at it. It’s worth getting this thing right, even if we have to wait until somewhere in President Obama’s second term for the photograph Theo promises.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

This link was in Kathy's comment yesterday. The Fishwife sent it to me privately. Everybody, have a look. SisterHelen, you’ll miss a bit of the fun, for never having read the Yarn Harlot, but you’ll get the idea. I don’t even enjoy the Harlot all that much (heresy, I know) and so I read down through the first third of the post-at-the-end-of-the-link in bewilderment: why does she think I’d be interested in this?

But all became clear.

SisterHelen and FriendHelen and I exchanged other, soberer, encouraging links on the subject yesterday. See SisterHelen’s comment. All this must be related to the fact that I’m working on Theo’s gansey – post hoc ergo propter hoc, whaddid I tell ya? One can only imagine what will happen when I finish the Christmas knitting and engage with the gansey full-time.

SisterHelen, that’s the word to look for: “gansey”.

I got on fine with it yesterday. It turned out I had done more thinking than I gave myself credit for, before I started. Sure enough, I had forgotten to take account of the four seam stitches in my calculations, but that’s easily remedied (I think). I measured, holding my breath, to try to get an idea of what gauge was actually being achieved, and got one that, if true, would produce a circumference of 48” whereas we’re aiming for 50”.

That’s well within the allowable margin of error (like Obama’s lead in Iowa), especially as the initial ribbing may still be pulling it in a bit, so I pressed happily on. I finished the plain part where the initials are and embarked on the garter-stitch divider. Knitting in the round, that has to be achieved by purling every other round, which is a bit of a nuisance but not much. This is very pleasant knitting – Theo’s cashmere feels much more cashmere-like than does cashmere Koigu, for whatever reason. Has the dye process subdued the Koigu in some way?

So I think I’ll press on for a day or two, and get the body pattern established. Not much will happen today, as I must attend the AGM of the Drummond Place Civic Society which means sock-knitting at best.

Miscellaneous including non-knit

I showed my husband the Kirkmichael postcard that’s coming up on eBay (see yesterday). He was baffled, to the point of wondering whether it was mislabeled and actually showed some other village. I’m sure not. I’m sure it’s us – the relationship of the bridge and the church and the hotel are perfect. Maybe I’ll print it out and take it with us when we go up (insh’Allah) on Thursday and see if I can identify the buildings on our side of the river.

Mary Lou, that pack of Brittany cable needles sounds very tempting. Lemme have a look around here before you take any action: Hk Handknit might even have them. And thanks.

You make Malabrigo Silky Merino sound utterly delectable. Interesting that they should be doing it, just as Manos comes up with the silk blend I ordered last week.

Monday, December 03, 2007

The other thing I buy on eBay, besides old Vogue Knitting Books, is postcards of Kirkmichael, Perthshire. This gem is coming up later in the week – I must trust you all not to rush forth and try to outbid me. The picture was taken from our side of the river, which is unusual for postcards. I haven’t figured out the vantage-point yet. It is interesting to see crops in the fields, and not a sheep in sight. The date is 1905, the seller says. I hope that means there’s a message on the other side. We prefer them with messages.

I had a good day with the Koolhaas, but I’ve flunked cabling-without-a-cable-needle. Mel, I knew you could do it, without being told, but I went back and had another try yesterday after I read your comment. Then I gave up.

I can do it, but it feels awkward, and the danger of losing a stitch induces anxiety, and I’m not sure the manoeuvres involved save time anyway. I am a slow and awkward knitter at the best of times. I’m using a darning needle, because it’s shorter than a cable needle, and now that I’ve given up, things are progressing nicely. I’m occupied with the second full pattern repeat.

I am afraid that Koigu sort of swallows the beautiful pattern, but it may emerge triumphantly at the end, and meanwhile the hat looks perfectly nice.

Today, back to the gansey.


Julie, that was an interesting remark, about Vogue expecting you to be able to figure out how to change sizes for yourself. I think I’ve read two contradictory editor’s-notes on this subject, in different issues: one saying that every stitch planned by our brilliant designers is sacrosanct, so face up to it and get gauge and don’t try to change anything; and another, nearer in date to the time they gave up and introduced multiple-sizing, suggesting ways of making alterations.

I hope to go through the wartime issues systematically soon, looking for things like that.

Thank you for the kind remarks about the Earth Stripe. The Fishwife got it right, I’m sure, about why I didn’t bond with it: the horror of knitting with Kidsilk Haze. It certainly wasn’t a question of pride recoiling from st st.

Cal, you misunderstand me and Kate on museum entrance: the idea was to check out the shop first, and proceed to pay the entrance fee if things look interesting. Although the idea of sneaking in through the shop has crossed minds occasionally…

You’re right that the way to proceed is to complain to politicians. My husband believes ardently that national and civic collections should be free, just as we take it for granted that access to education and libraries is free.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

So here’s the Earth Stripe. I’m perfectly pleased it, but never have I felt so detached from a piece of freshly-done knitting. That’s it. Done. Fine. So what? It’ll be a Christmas present, and since we are expecting a confluence of people in Strathardle over the hols, I may be able to produce a picture of the new owner modelling it.

The darkness at the top is a failure of photography.
Here is a (more successful) close-up of the i-cord edging:

Now, on with life. I very happily cast on the Koolhaas last night. I’ve finished the ribbing and have just started the first pattern row. This morning I have been reading Grumperina's excellent tutorial on cabling without a cable needle. I’ve done it in the past, most memorably during a day-long class on Bavarian Travelling Stitches with Candace Strick. I think I’ll go on with the hat today, and leave the gansey for tomorrow.

I’m not much of a hat knitter, scared of getting the size wrong I think. They’re very useful little things, quick to knit, no thumbs or fingers, and they need replacing when they get lost. I ought to do more. I’ve started the Koolhaas on 120 stitches and it looks plausible.

Comments & Miscellany

Kate, your idea of approaching a museum through the gift shop is a good one. My husband profoundly disapproves of entrance fees for public museums. We cough up happily enough for special exhibitions. But I fear Britain is off by itself with free entry.

You’d all enjoy the remarkable story of the Stashhaus cats, I think. The girl has got that authentic, sweet tortoise-shell-and-white face. And, yes, Stashhaus, rationing went on for a long time after the war. I had a meat ration book when I first came here, in 1953. By then the ration was pretty generous and price was the stronger disincentive. By the following year, when I came back (as it proved) to stay, rationing was over.

Shandy, you’re right about lisle stockings. I had completely forgotten them. Can you still get them? I can remember them on the spindly legs of unattractive maiden ladies.

My husband has been reading the recently-published letters of the remarkable Mitford sisters. I got it for him when he was in hospital a while ago. Yesterday he showed me this, from Diana in Holloway Prison in September, 1940, to her sister Pamela. (Diana was a fascist and I think her incarceration was to do with her politics. Her letters are wonderfully British-upper-class throughout the ordeal.) “Have you seen the dress I knitted for myself? Would you like me to make you one?"

I wonder if one was allowed to have the Vogue Knitting Book in prison? They’re strong on knitted dresses at that date. Everything, in those days, was one-size-only. You had to be shaped like the Duchess of Windsor, or bad luck. But the Mitford girls were shaped like that. Multiple-sizing came in just after the war.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

OK, the knots on the Earth Stripe are tied, the decision not to fringe the ends is firm, and today I hope I will proceed to pinning-out-and-spritzing. Photograph tomorrow, if so. Then on to the happy task of re-casting the Koolhaus pattern for cashmere Koigu. It’s written for a heavier yarn. (Jared’s pattern in the IK holiday issue)

“Knitting New Scarves”

The same problem, not serious, will apply when I get my silk blend Manos and proceed to choose a scarf for it – most of the patterns in the book are written for heavier yarns. Grumperina has finished knitting “Drifting Pleats” (which the author says is “the most challenging pattern in the book”) – it’s gorgeous. She used this yarn. I sort of have my eye on “Easy Wave”, which could be widened, but the Drifting Pleats are tempting.

Finishing the i-cording meant that the dp’s therein employed were freed to go back to the Linked Rib, and I added a bit to it yesterday.

Odds and Ends

Stashhaus, that’s a good idea, to visit the Churchill War Rooms. We often go past on our bus, on the way to the National Gallery. I’d love to see them, but your idea that I could visit the shop without paying the distinctly stiff entrance fee is an excellent one. We go occasionally to the Imperial War Museum – a great place to take children; their gift shop is interesting, too.

Emily, I shared your disappointment at finding that cream-and-grey-and-red colourway of Manos Silk Blend out of stock. And there were a couple of others – oh! that green-y one – which I strongly fancied and which weren’t there. I consoled myself, in the end, with the yellow-y one at the bottom of the page. They couldn’t have sold out of so many shades already – the initial shipment must have been short. Have a nice time in Australia.

Friday, November 30, 2007

I finished i-cording the Earth Stripe Wrap and made a decent start on the ends. I'm just tying neat knots and cutting off the rest. To hell with it.

Bits and Pieces

My secret knitting of a while back was this sweater for (as she turned out to be) Frances Campbell, Lorna's baby. I finally got it into the post yesterday. (In our early years in Drummond Place we had a post office around the corner, and I was in there at least twice a week. It’s gone; I miss it sorely.) If I’d known back then that she was going to turn out to be a girl, I’d have held out for the Tulip Jacket. Anybody else want to have a baby? Don’t answer that.

This one was knit in an Opal self-patterning yarn.

Jean, my assumption that some people had stashes during the war was based on no evidence except the invariancy of human nature. I think there must have been some prosperous knitters of middle age and more in 1939, who had stashes. Your grandmother’s generation rather than your mother’s. Of course there wasn’t much prosperity around, in the 1930’s. But I wonder.

When my stash first began to form, when I was in my late 30’s I guess, I thought it was a vice unique to me. It was only the internet that taught me otherwise.

Thanks for all the WWII memories and links. Even in the US, people painted their legs brown and added fake stocking seams, Knititch. At the beginning of the war, stockings were silk. That source was removed utterly – what silk there was, was needed for parachutes. Nylon got invented or at any rate, developed, as the war progressed – I think I remember the newspaper account of the brave man who first jumped out of an airplane with nothing but nylon to ease his descent. After the war, that’s what stockings were made of. In between, pretty well zilch.

Grannypurple, I’ll look for that book “Mass Observation”. It sounds just what I need.

Thinking more yesterday about VKB No. 19, it occurred to me that there are no men in it. In the 30’s and in the late 40’s and 50’s, there was usually a man’s pattern or two in every issue. And they appeared not infrequently in the drawings (1930’s) and photographs of the actual designs – slightly out-of-focus, perhaps, gazing with admiration at the model in her knitted whatever-it-was.

Not so in 1941. No men. I flipped through the recent Anniversay Issue of Vogue International – there aren’t many men there, either: none in Vogue’s actual fashion photographs, one or two in the ads. But that’s because they’ve gone out of fashion, like cigarettes.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Stash Haus, you’ve sold me. I’m going to order some Manos Silk today. Follow the link, people, for a lovely virtual tour of the Blackberry Ridge mill and a top down view of the cat I want: tortoiseshell and white. They’re not all that easy to find.

I had a successful if boring evening of i-cording. I’ve now finished the second short edge and have progressed perhaps two feet up the final long one. With a bit of pressure, I could get it finished today – ready to start on tidying the yarn ends.

Yesterday’s Knitting News was that Vogue Knitting Book No. 19 turned up – the specification on eBay said 2nd class post, and I didn’t write to her about it because she was selling six others the same evening – but she sent it 1st class anyway. That’s service. It’s in splendid condition, better than the photograph I posted here would suggest.

It was published in the autumn of 1941, when things must have been pretty grim. If I’m ever going to attempt a survey of Vogue-at-war I’ll need a companion volume of London-at-war to know what was going on in the background. The publisher’s address is given as 1, New Bond Street throughout.

(I must gaze at it reverently the next time we’re in London. The pursuit of art takes us up and down New Bond Street regularly, but I’ve never looked for Number One.)

The winter of 1939-40 was the winter of the “phoney war”, i.e., nothing much happened. Hitler made his move into the Netherlands in May, 1940, and the fall of France and Dunkirk and all that followed hard upon. Who was it? said when he heard the news from France, “So -- we’re in the Final.”

But the Blitz? When exactly? I have a sort of feeling that the bombing of London was very bad in '40-'41, tapered off somewhat in the later war years, and then was capped by the final horror of the doodlebugs.

Anyway: autumn, 1941. Vogue is never going to refer to specific events, but the war is on every page. Each pattern is tagged with the number of clothing coupons required. What a responsibility! – buying yarn in the knowledge that you’ve got to get it knit up promptly, and it’s got to be a good enough fit to be useful, or you’d have been better using the coupons for shoes.

(Coupon-free yarn was available for knitting for the troops. I’d have stuck to that, and to my stash, as I’m sure many did.)

Some peculiar yarns are coupon-free: “Greenwood’s rayon boucle”, “Greenwood’s Angel Skin Yarn” (what do you suppose that was?), “Copley’s Alpaca Loop”, “Greenwood’s Lightweight Chenille”, “Coats’ Crochet Cotton” (for stockings). By the date of the next issue (Spring ’42) all hand-knitting yarns were rationed.

The patterns, needless I hope to say, are Vogue through and through, all pretty knittable today with the addition perhaps of a little more ease. Vogue published knitting-for-the-troops in a separate publication. There is nothing of that here. “For walking, cycling, and the country life…” , “Here’s your new autumn sweater…” “Chic for wartime evenings.”

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

I have been restored to something like normal comfort and functioning, but remain battered and wary. My hypothesis is that it was a side-effect of some of the anti-osteoporosis stuff I take, and it had better not happen again.

I finished the initials, and am rather pleased with them. I haven't managed to include the "T" in the photograph, but it's there. This gives you a pretty good idea of the effect. knititch, I agree that knitting letters is confusing – in color, in lace, and now seed stitch. It’s so un-rhythmical. The colour changes, the yo’s, the purl stitches seem to make no sense and suddenly they pull themselves together and make perfect sense.

(I’ll go see asplund the next time I’m on Ravelry. He sounds very interesting.)

So now I need to:
a) find that swatch; it must be around here somewhere;
b) decide where in the pattern I want to be when I arrive at the shoulders;
c) use that information to calculate the width of the plain section I’m knitting;
d) make appropriate allowance for the garter-stitch separator band; and
e) have another look at pattern placement – I’m afraid I forgot about the four seam-stitches when I did the original arithmetic.

All this requires Thought – I shall gratefully retreat to i-cording and end-tidying until the weekend.

Theo's been ski-ing. I wish I thought he could have this sweater before the snows melt. There’ll be other winters, but he probably won’t be in Denver for them. He and Tiger are doing important and mysterious things in preparation for the Democratic convention.

Comments & Miscellany

Dawn, thank you for the news of Lorna’s baby. Here's the link. She and John had long hoped, and almost given up hope – Frances Jean looks like a most satisfactory outcome.

Tamar, thank you for your further message about MWPhillips’ “Creative Knitting”. I am not interested in knitting with wire, and not much in free-form, and the price is horrific, so I’ll pass it by unless I find it for sixpence in a charity shop. (But Mar's got a copy, and I’m as good as she is…what selfish creatures we are!)

Kate, I’ve never heard of “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and will watch for it. Last night we watched “Night at the Opera”. Now there’s slapstick.

I still haven’t shewn you the latest arrival from the Yarn Yard – but today’s excitement in the yarn area is the Manos Silk Blend I saw on Joe's blog. November is the month when I am at my weakest when it comes to yarn-buying, and I’m owed something for the suffering of the past two days. And “Knitting New Scarves” provides the perfect answer to the question, “What are you going to do with it?” AND the Woolly Workshop has got it here in Britain – no need to fear the knock at the door from Customs and Excise.

And I’ve saved all that money by not buying “Creative Knitting”.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Sorry about yesterday. I was – and still am – pretty well incapacitated by an embarrassing and uncomfortable ailment. Not for me the lying pale on a couch and coughing like Mimi, as other bloggers seem to do.

I bought VKB #19 on eBay last night. Six to go, concentrated in date between Spring, ’35 and Spring ’41. I notice, indeed, that five of the missing six are even-numbered spring issues. Knitting must have been more fun in the fall, even 70 years ago – no surprise. Number 19 itself is fall, ’41 and ought to be interesting. I’ll tell you all about it when it gets here.

I paid more than anyone else, of the seven wartime VKB’s that were sold last night. I wasn’t quite brave enough with the timing of my last-minute bid, and the underbidder had time to push me up twice.

In intervals of discomfort I got a little knitting done yesterday. I went on with the cashmere gansey – most of Sunday had been spent counting stitches, increasing from the rib to the body count, and lining up two opposite purl ribs to be the basis of false seams. I had knit the basic k2, p2 ribbing on a number of stitches divisible by four but not by eight – and that meant, if one thinks about it, that I didn’t have two p2’s directly opposite each other and had to add stitches to one side and subtract from the other to line them up. The great thing would be to learn to think.

So after all that I thought I’d start the initials yesterday.

They’re tough. (a) I can’t really see what’s going on, although I’m half-way through and (b) Theo has, I suspect, a particularly difficult set of initials, TELeC, and I keep forgetting where I am. I think maybe I’ll try to finish them today, while I’ve got the bit between my teeth.


Many thanks for the new anti-Jerry-Lewis votes. But now you’ve got to contrive to watch “King of Comedy”, if you haven’t seen it yet. The New Yorker did a big piece on JL several years ago, and if I’m remembering it rightly, the writer was surprised that JL didn’t seem to have much regard for or interest in that movie. He plays himself, needless to say, under another name, and there’s a scene in his fictional house when one sees a photograph of the young JL, just to underline the point.

I’m in the fortunate position of having seen Jim Carrey only in The Truman Show, which is wonderful. I tried to persuade Rachel to go, but she hates him so much she couldn’t face it. He was the perfect choice.

And, Julie, I loved your story about laughing in the wrong places – I’m sure you’ve married the right man. My only comparable experience was when my husband and I first saw “Mash” in a cinema in Birmingham. I think some of the operating-theatre scenes are still trimmed a bitwhen it appears on television. My husband and I sat there howling with laughter (and he hates medical drama) – “That’s BLOOD!” I remember him saying, slapping his knee. While the rest of the cinema sat in horrified silence.

But that was meant to be funny.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Another blameless week has brought me to the dawn of another Sunday of cider and cashmere. Today I should get the rib-to-body increases done on Theo’s gansey, start on the initials, and be at, or close to, the point where I can see what gauge I’m reeely getting – and rip if need be.

I-cording didn’t go quite as far, yesterday, as I might have hoped, but I’m more than half-way there, moving along the second short edge. MaryJoO, miles of i-cord isn’t as bad as miles of crochet, as far as I’m concerned – and notice that we are expected to do two laps of that. Your experience mirrors mine precisely, as to yarn. I started out with two balls of ZephyrSpun, and soon abandoned them (although they’re still to be seen in the early stripes) in favour of buying more KidSilk Haze.

The sun shone for a while again yesterday. The i-cord edge is grey, and can be dimly discerned along the bottom in this picture.

And Knititch, you’re absolutely right – dealing with ends is never as bad as you think it’s going to be, and I speak as one who has done quite a few full-scale Kaffe’s. I don’t entirely count the Earth Stripes, since they’re only stripes.


Thank you for what you say about “Creative Knitting”, Tamar. I’m still hesitating. It turns out to be one of those knitting books whose price has taken off into the stratosphere. Added to which, the only two copies on Abebooks are ex-library which always produces a depressing and shabby specimen, and anyway, what are the libraries thinking of, de-accessioning a book like that? I’ve got Debbie New’s “Unexpected Knitting” and although I’ve never used it, I can’t imagine anyone taking Creative Knitting any farther.

Jean from Cornwall, thank you, for that information about spray bottles from Boots. I will get one the next time we are there – which is often. And to think that day before yesterday, I wouldn’t have known what the word “spritzing” meant.

I can think of only two domestic skills I learned from my rather incompetent mother: one of them is how to sprinkle items for ironing (in those days before steam irons) with one’s bare hand. I still do it on the rare occasions when I iron linen table napkins – and then roll them up tight and leave them for half an hour to get uniformly damp. The other is how to turn a tough slab of beef into “Swiss steak” by laying it on seasoned flour and indenting it in a criss-cross pattern with the edge of a small plate. I still do that, too, sometimes.

And thank you, everybody, for not finding Jerry Lewis funny either. The hell of adolescence is thinking you’re all alone. I have a sharp memory of a huge cinema in Asbury Park (in those days before movie houses were divided up into small compartments) with everybody laughing except me. The consolation of old age is the knowledge that however bizarre one’s opinions, there are others out there who share them. And the great thing about the Internet is that we’re in touch with each other.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Another death. It’s been a bad year. This time there wasn’t much in the way of dear-ness involved, at least on my part; and she was very old and had sadly outlived herself, so there is little to lament. But I had known her for more than 50 years, my husband for longer, and she is gone. There is to be no funeral; that’s a blessing.

So, knitting

I discovered, looking up the subject of attached i-cord, that you can cast off in i-cord. Obviously you can, when one gives the subject a moment’s thought. I am not strong on that. So I cast off the Earth Stripe Stole that way, and am well down the first long side. It looks fine, and although tedious, is a lot less tedious than the crochet recommended by the pattern.

The disappointment is that I haven’t been able to incorporate the many loose ends – or the knots arising therefrom – inside the cord, as I had vaguely hoped. My hope now is that when the i-cord is done, I can make tidy knots and run the ends inside the cord with a needle. Slow work. The pattern doesn’t mention this painful subject at all.

Theresa, I mean to take your advice about pinning it out and spritzing. I don’t have a spritzer but I think I can improvise, and I now think it’ll need something.

There should still be plenty of time – even allowing for the writing of Christmas cards, which must start soon – to knit Jared's Koolhaus hat in Koigu cashmere to go with the Shawlette as somebody’s Christmas present. Knitting Software has come up with a hat program: I had an email from them just this morning. I’ll have to alter Jared’s pattern for a different yarn size; the program is cheap; I use Knitting Software a lot for sweaters, and like it a lot. So I’m tempted.

Speaking of Christmas, my calendars have arrived from Kodak. My husband says they are “surprisingly successful”. High praise.

The sun shone yesterday – that doesn’t happen often this time of year, and helps November along no end when it does. I took this picture of the Linked Ribs. I have borrowed two of its six needles for i-cording, so it is not going to advance for a while.


"King of Comedy" is on BBC television tonight. I'd rank it very high among my all-time favourite movies. I think it is perhaps enhanced for me by the fact that I was the only person in the entire United States in 1949 who didn't think Jerry Lewis was funny. Or so it seemed.

But don't worry: "King of Comedy" is 1983, Scorcese and de Niro -- and Jerry Lewis.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The jellyfish “bloom” (yesterday) wasn’t ten miles across – just ten square miles in all, which is a lot less. Still more jellyfish than one would care to find in one’s bathtub. They weren’t even looking for the salmon – they just stung them (at least that’s what the expert said on television) because they were in the way.

So: I finished the ribbing of the cashmere gansey, which involved attaching the second skein of yarn. There is rejoicing in heaven, in this much-stashed house, when a ball of yarn is actually finished. The Earth Stripe stole consumed only two. The rest now form a lovely bag of odd-balls, probably enough to knit a second stole.

So today I will refresh myself on the subject of how to knit attached i-cord, and tackle that job. I don’t know what to do about blocking and shaping this thing, and will postpone the question until it is finished-finished. It has a literal haze, and I don’t entirely like the thought of what water or pressure (if blocked under a damp cloth) might do to it.


knititch, yes, I got your message about Jannette’s Rare Yarns, and followed it up, and that’s when I decided I’d try to avoid importing yarn and concentrated on Ravelry instead – and wound up importing yarn. I think you might be right, Tricia, about the value of the package being the deciding factor. Fingers crossed for this one. I have often bought single tee-shirts and sweat-shirts from Cafepress without penalty, as I built up my Dolores-based wardrobe: but last year at this time I ordered three at once, for Christmas presents, and I got clobbered.

I am horrified to hear that you have to pay duty on imported books, in Denmark. There is none here. And I thought that sort of thing would be standardised all over the EC.

And, everybody, follow the link above to Knititch’s blog to read the Danish poem about November – for once, I think it probably loses but little in translation. But we should all remember (to play Goody-Two-Shoes for a moment) that these dreadful days are the annual price we must pay for May: and May has thirty-one days.

The Curmudgeon mentioned MWPhillips yesterday, too: and a book of hers called “Creative Knitting” which I don’t know and don’t have. (It’s great to sit here and look up my library on LibraryThing and establish for sure that it’s not there, instead of wandering disconsolately up and down the shelves.) Temptation plucks at the sleeve.

Fishwife, you have all my sympathy, as you knit an uncongenial object. I don’t know Elle Plume and don’t think I want to. I hope, at least, that it knits up fast.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.

I’m glad not to be there – Christmas is bad enough, without another Big Cook this close. But despite my churlishness, I hope you all have a nice day.

All well here. I finished the basic knitting of the Earth Stripes, as hoped. Today, without even pausing to cast off, I’ll have a Cashmere Gansey Day.

The Linked Ribs are about 22” long and I figure I’ve got about enough yarn for 48” in all – not really very long. I’m very grateful to everybody for their help with the problem yesterday. I figured out (not without some effort) how to post an ISO in Ravelry, and did so. Nothing yet. I also searched the Noro Silk Garden stashes – what a glorious lot! – and after much tedious clicking on what proved to be the wrong shades, and perhaps a certain amount of passing over the right one, I found it on page six or seven.

I wrote to her, she wrote back – she’s not letting go, but took the trouble to find it for me in a shop she knows: I’ve ordered two balls. I would have preferred not to attempt a commercial order from abroad. I was in the post office the other day and learned from a poster on the wall that they now charge eight pounds for their trouble when something is stopped by Customs and Excise. That’s eight pounds in addition to the duty. It’s going to be an expensive scarf if they catch me.

New Topic

Elizabeth wrote to me yesterday to tell me that Mary Walker Phillips died earlier this month. I didn’t know. Here's the link. I’ve printed it out to keep in my copy of her Counterpanes book.


I’ll get back to politics soon, I’m sure, but today’s news is that a plague of jellyfish, ten miles across and thirty-five feet deep, has completely destroyed the only salmon farm in Northern Island. A kind of jellyfish previously unknown in these waters. Presumably if the ancient Egyptians had gone in for salmon farming, God would have visited them with jellyfish before proceeding to kill the firstborn.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Bits of This and That

I had a good evening with the Earth Stripe. The plan is not to measure this morning, and to press on regardless this evening, and hope to find tomorrow that I have exceeded the specified length by a couple of inches.

If so, Friday can be a Gansey Day – notice my sister’s comment of yesterday: it seems to be working. I got the initials charted this morning, as planned.

On the other hand, I’m now pretty certain that I don’t have enough Silk Garden for a five-foot scarf – and shade 34 seems to have disappeared from the universe. I am sort of surprised that Ravelry doesn’t have a bulletin board for yarn-appeals. They were a constant theme on the old Knitlist, and very often successful. I’ll just have to knit a short scarf. And be more careful next time.


I must look at Doonesbury.

I’ve wandered around the Internet a bit on the subject of Donnie McClurkin (not, so far, the other performers mentioned). It’s not entirely easy to find a straight story, but it sounds to me as if the purpose of the concerts was to endear Obama to the black community, among whom, I gather, he scores rather low. And it also sounds as if McClurkin, who has clearly had a hard life, has lots of things to say of which his view on sexual orientation is only one.

A politician has got to travel supplied with a long spoon, for supping purposes. Even in one’s own modest private life, one has friends with views one ardently dislikes. I have a dear friend who is not sure that capital punishment is wrong, and my son James even used to defend G.W. Bush (that was before Iraq). On the other hand, a politician has also got to be alert to the question of who he is supping with. Whom.

Countrymouse, I was glad to hear you say that you’d never heard of Obama in an anti-gay context. On the other hand -- there seem to be lots of other hands involved this morning -- if you google on “Barack Obama and Donnie McClurkin” you’ll find plenty of blogs and websites which share Mel's anger.

Back to my knitting…

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Earth Stripe is 55” long – how did that happen? Another couple of evenings should see it done. See Phase One done.

I added some more links to the Linked Rib yesterday, too. I am now much less sanguine about the question of whether I have enough yarn – I think that initial odd-ball must have been almost intact, and the length it contributed won’t do at all as 1/3rd of the total. However, I also don’t think dye-lot is going to matter in a project like this: as long as I can match the color-way. It continues to be enormous fun.

The designer was trying to copy in knitting the 90 degree twist of the famous Infinity Tower in Dubai. The scarf in which she claims to have succeeded, the Tricorner, has been badly served by the photographer – it looks like plain old st st with some garter stitch bands, and I’m sure there’s more to it than that. Maybe I’ll try it next.

And there is also Twisted, a failed Infinity Tower attempt, she says. I’m not sure whether Linked Rib is another failure, or an extension of the idea once she’d got it right.

(This is “Knitting New Scarves” by Lynne Barr I’m still talking about. Get it, if you have any interest in scarves at all.)

Maureen in Tacoma Park, you asked about hot-water bottles covers a few days ago. I think I started from something in a magazine. But I also think I remember that the end-product was mostly mine.

I found this one and that one (free patterns) through Ravelry, of which I much prefer the latter, especially for that neat row of buttonholes at the bottom.


Inexperience doesn’t worry me in Obama (although Hillary is trying to instil such anxiety). Kennedy was a junior senator. And Clinton – remember him? – made an absolute hash of his first months. He was going to “hit the ground running” and all he did was hit the ground. Important government posts were unfilled for months. He got the hang of it eventually.

I am much more concerned about what you said yesterday, Mel. It doesn’t fit with Obama as he has been presented to me, a man who asks questions and listens to the answers and thinks about them. I’ll do a bit of clicking on the subject, but it sounds bad.

It is possible (although not easy) for me to cast an absentee vote from here. I did it last time. I'm not going to bother if Hillary is the candidate.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Today is my husband's 82nd birthday.

I didn’t quite finish the ribbing for Theo’s gansey. The next session will see it done. I’ll spend this week’s Osteoporosis Half Hour (when I take my pill on Wednesday morning) finishing the charting of the initials.

The cashmere is heaven to work with, and is knitting up beautifully. There is not the slightest sign that I can detect, however, of the hoped-for irregularity in the dye. And it’s awfully blue.

I am braced for the possibility of having to start again after a few inches of body, if the size is wrong. If my knitting could be said to have improved in my later years, it would be for that reason alone: that I have learned at last to rip and start again, if something is not right.

And I have trouble calculating from swatches, however generously large I knit them. (Meg says somewhere that she never knits swatches. Sensible woman.) I think of Major Erskine in Evelyn Waugh’s “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.”

This is the picture my sister referred to in her comment yesterday. That’s Theo on the left.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A couple more links were added to the Linked Rib yesterday – it’s a very satisfactory thing to grab and add half-a-repeat to as one passes through the room ostensibly on one's way to do something else – whereas the Earth Stripe, with all that ethereality, takes a certain amount of settling-down-to and figuring-out-where-one-is.

But it wasn’t neglected. I figure if I can add three inches a day, I can finish knitting the basic rectangle this week. I think I achieved that much yesterday, but I’m not going to measure this morning because…

…today is Sunday, and that means cider-drinking and Theo’s cashmere gansey. I could conceivably finish the ribbing today– and then it will be time to knit in his initials, and I’m not quite ready. There’s no difficulty. Brown-Reinsel has done all the work; all I have to do is copy the needed letters into some squares on a chart I’ve already started. But I begrudge even that amount of pencil-and-paper when it cuts into knitting time. I’ve already done the one thing that required some slight effort, namely devising a lower-case “e” in seed stitch, necessary for rendering “LeCompte”.

I’ve forgotten what the connection is meant to be between this sweater and getting Barak Obama elected, but I’m sure that Iowa needs me. I am disconcerted, however, that both real-life friends and cyber-ones whose opinions I respect, notably Joe and Mar, don’t share my enthusiasm for the man. I think he could really heal and unite. I haven’t felt so keen since Kennedy.


No fewer than eight wartime Vogue Knitting Books are coming up on eBay next week. Not many months ago, when I first discovered eBay, I would have been prostrate with excitement at such a prospect, totally unable to breathe. And worried about the expense, with Christmas coming. By now, I’ve got all of them except one, and can approach the eventful evening in a state of some calm. The seller is offering some wartime Stitchcrafts, too – rest in peace, whoever’s was the treasure-trove now up for grabs.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

I couldn’t keep my hands off the Linked Rib scarf yesterday – I guess I’ll have to acknowledge it to Ravelry as a WIP. It doesn’t look much like progress – but it’s about 10” and I’ve all but finished the odd-ball I started with, which was perhaps 1/3 of a complete one. I have two further balls so far intact, so a bit of elementary arithmetic reveals that I have enough to reach the 60” prescribed. It's rather nice the way Silk Garden starts a new colour for each link, but I'm not going to try to force the next ball to do the same thing.

The construction is most ingenious. You’ve got these ribbed flanges, and every so often you divide the ribbing, with knit stitches to the fore, and the purl stitches in back, and do a few rounds of st st. When that is subsequently re-combined into more ribbed flanges, they turn out to be miraculously offset from the previous ones by 90 degrees.

I think the dividing-and-recombining stunt is employed in at least two other scarves in the book, with different results.

It’s not entirely easy, but I didn’t have to do any substantial tink’ing yesterday, unlike the first day.

The poor old Earth Stripe wasn’t entirely neglected. It’s now got about 45” of its desired 60”. I should be able to finish the knitting next week if I make any serious effort at all. When Chronic Knitting Syndrome saw it on Thursday, she thought maybe it wouldn’t need a fringe. I pooh-pooh’ed the idea at the time, but it has taken root. We shall see. She agreed that attached i-cord should work for the edging.

If you want an addictive time-waster (just what we’re all looking for), have a go at the jigsaw puzzle in her sidebar. She brought the original knitting along for me to see, and it’s pretty wonderful. Is there some Kauni in my future?


Knititch, that is a fundamentally interesting idea, that knitting is not particularly flattering to women. It may go a long way towards explaining a number of disappointments in the past.

Mary Lou, I’m delighted with the news that Edith Sitwell was a knitter.

And I’m impressed with the thoroughness of your education. I knew about WWI when I was young, trenches and all, Flanders Field, America arriving very late. I can remember WWII – from a safe distance – and I had thought the Great War was about as bad, useless-slaughter-of-young-men-wise, until I came to England in 1953 and went about and saw all those memorials in all those villages, with three or four times as many names in the first list as in the second.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chronic Knitting Syndrome and I had a good time yesterday. We sussed out the Linked Rib scarf all right (page 56 of Knitting New Scarves). It’s not easy, but it’s fun. So have I got another WIP on my hands? I had some difficulty finding a yarn in stash which was about the right size for the pattern, and also the right size for the only set of six dp’s I could find, other than sock needles. But I hit it lucky with some Noro Silk Garden – and there’s enough to finish the scarf.

I sternly set it aside and added another four inches or more to the Earth Stripe Wrap in the evening. At this rate, I’ll be edging it in a week or so.

The holiday VK turned up yesterday. Mel, when I grumbled about the fitted, cropped patterns in IK I wasn’t just thinking of the condition politely called “fluffiness”. Women of a Certain Age tend to get rather brick-shaped. (I’ve been trying for days to think of the right word for a three-dimensional figure with rectangles on four sides and squares on the ends. I failed.) I have no style, and have never dressed well in my life, but I feel that such a shape is sometimes best served by drape and swirl and even asymmetricality – and certainly not by calling attention to the lost curves and waist-line. If I were going to start again and dress like Edith Sitwell, there are several things in this new VK I’d be interested in.

Ted, I’ve been thinking a lot about your question – why does your essay on “Why Knit” seem sad? Knitting has become for me, as other talents diminish, the one interest which can distract for a while from the approaching abyss. So it seems sad that you, with all your ability, could think of abandoning it, or cutting down. I have lots of people to knit for. So it seems sad that you feel you don’t.

Maybe – seriously – you should think of writing a book.

But I do agree about the feeling that one has too much stash – and that it’s a good idea to try to buy with a project in mind.

By the way, I enjoy none of the advantages you attribute to living with someone, except perhaps picture-hanging. Many of us who live in some sort of community or companionship, envy you your freedom to knit for another ten minutes if that’s what you want to do. One of my favourite New Yorker cartoons of all time is the man-with-martini, slumped over the bar, saying to the bartender, “The trouble is, either you’re married or you’re not.”

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Joe was wondering the other day whether blogging actually affected one’s knitting. Yes, apparently, in his case: He finds himself knitting a bit more, or even buying yarn, in order to blog about it. Not so, with me. Although I spend a lot of mental time, while knitting, washing dishes, or just walking about, polishing my lapidary phrases for tomorrow.

Yesterday’s knitting: I’ve done about 40” of Earth Stripe by now. (I don’t have to talk in cm, just because the pattern does.) Out of 60”. It moves fairly briskly, thank goodness.

Today’s excitement: my friend with Chronic Knitting Syndrome is coming to coffee this afternoon. I had thought we might have a mutual support session, struggling with the Linked Rib scarf in “Knitting New Scarves”. But she has jumped the gun and figured it out – see her latest blog entry – so it will be more like a teach-in. I haven’t even chosen my yarn.

The winter IK turned up yesterday. (They tend to be much quicker than Knitter’s, in making their way across the seas.) The articles are first-rate, especially Mar's, but the patterns don’t thrill. All the sweaters – and it’s a heavily sweater-ly issue – seem to be designed for Eunny: cropped, snug-fitting. Not what I look for in a winter sweater.

[Which would be more like this. The Spinning Fishwife pointed me to this tempting pattern recently.]

Another thing I hope to do today is finish off my calendar and order some exemplars of the result. I still have the November page to compose – and I’ll add this one to July. It was taken on the 31st, but that counts: two of Helen’s Thessaloniki boys (Mungo on the left, I think; and Fergus) in the bath at Burnside.

And it’s even got some knitting: that green hot-water-bottle cover balanced precariously on the end of the bath is my work.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Here we are, very tired, but it was a successful week.

The ditch wasn’t running – bizarre, for November. Maybe somebody up the hill has diverted it for a water feature? Time will soon tell.

So instead of forking wadges of leaf from the depths, we were able to make bonfires of them in the dry channel, and cart others away in sacks. Still hard work, but much more fun.

I made a good start on the Araucania sweater. It’s perfect country knitting at this stage, as easy to do as a garter stitch scarf while one snoozes by the fire. Nice to handle, nice to look at.

It is shewn hanging on the remains of a damson tree. It never bore a single damson, and was getting far too big for the site. Pruning just seemed to encourage it. We'll have to get rid of the remains before spring, or it'll be at it again.

There was not much time for vegetable gardening, but I did a simple soil test and it came out a bit on the acid side, so I spread some lime. And made a good start on that happiest of gardening jobs, reading the seed catalogues and making lists.

Here’s what the garden looked like yesterday morning, as if God had been spreading lime..

Last night, back here, I tottered on with an Earth Stripe or two. I am wondering whether I’ll have time to knit Jared's hat in cashmere Koigu before Christmas, to go with the Shapely Shawlette. That’s the Koolhaus pattern in the IK Holiday Knits issue. Mel has finished his.

The first three Vogue Knitting Books, "hand bound into a folder", with covers removed, fetched a fancy price on eBay yesterday, but not nearly as fancy a one as they might have been expected to fetch separately, with their covers. I've got all three, so I didn't need to agonise over that one.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Strathardle today. Blogging should resume on Tuesday or Wednesday next week. Severe winds are forecast -- fun, until we lose electricity.

Strenuous exercise outdoors in the natural light does much to relieve seasonal gloom. I’d like to think I’ll be spending the time spreading manure on my dear vegetable patch, but the big job this time of year is clearing leaves out of the ditch that runs beside our driveway. It floods if we don’t. It’s my husband’s job, but he’s getting seriously worried about whether his strength will suffice, and I think I’d better help.

Do read Knitterguy's sad essay on the theme, why knit?

I got Ravelry up-to-date yesterday – sorry to see that quite a few of the pictures of my stash are “currently unavailable”. I trust they’ll reappear A fair amount of work went in to assembling that lot, and it is potentially useful to be able to be able to remind myself of what is lurking in the darkest corners without actually having to rummage there. Meanwhile, it’s delicious to be free to wander about looking to see what my friends are doing, and what other people’s Earth Stripe stoles look like.

And I proceeded happily yesterday with the ribbing on the new gansey. There’s no sign yet of the slight irregularities in the dye which are meant to relieve the baby-blue-ness.


Neither POK nor Montse Stanley seem to have anything about mending holes in knitting with what look like actual knit stitches, but I found it in Mary Thomas' Knitting Book, as did Vivienne. I wouldn't like to try to describe it, Meg, never having made the attempt. Essentially you set up vertical threads, two per stitch, as if to darn, and then do some clever things across them with yarn threaded into a needle. Any decent library should eventually cough up the book.

Earth Stripe is just endless stocking stitch.

My grandson Archie sent me this picture yesterday, which should cheer us all up. It’s called “creek” and was otherwise unidentified. My guess is Mt. Pelion. Archie says it’s cold in Greece.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Earth Stripe stole is now about 98cm long – 2/3rds of the way home. There, for the moment, it will rest. We are going to Strathardle tomorrow, insh’Allah, and for today I mean to allow myself a bit of gansey-knitting.

I think Earth Stripes will be just the thing for your poor shoulder, MaryJoO. I was sorry to hear about that. I have had two broken arms in recent years, and neither time did I seem to have much treatment. The first, worse-r one, just spent some weeks in a sling. Last year’s, which looked worse to the innocent eye, with bone-ends going this way and that in the x-ray, had plaster for a while. Both have made excellent recoveries. It would be truly dreadful to have to cap all those weeks of pain and discomfort with surgery.

I spent some time in Ravelry yesterday, and am nearly up to date.


It’s here. My friend Helen received the Special Delivery yesterday, and came rushing round with it. It’s in tip top condition for a 75-year-old magazine. I will not have it subjected to the slightest stress, so I can’t scan any of it for you. I am happy to report that Feed the Children didn’t put pictures up on eBay, either, except for the cover.

It is designed as a stand-alone knitting instruction book, with pages of sage advice on swatching and such, followed by some pages of stitch patterns, before it gets started on actual Vogue-knitting.

It kicks off with a full-page photograph I’d love to scan for you. It would show you how to knit. She might be approaching 50 but dreadfully well-preserved, if so; immaculately coifed bobbed blonde hair, lots of pearls, silk blouse. The caption reads:

“This photograph shows you the correct position for knitting without tiring yourself. Seated on a chair without arms, the knitter rests her elbows on a cushion placed behind her back. The wool is passed over the index finger of the right hand, which, with a barely perceptible movement, glides it over the needle. The two hands are almost motionless. The thumb of the left hand moves forward with the stitches on the left needle. The work is held on the knees in a white cloth.”

It has long been a contention of mine that that paragraph we constantly read is an old one, ever-repeated: about how knitting has finally thrown off its grandmotherly connotations and moved on to the fashion stage. I am overjoyed to have confirmation in the very first paragraph of the very first Vogue Knitting: “We are very far from the days when hand-knitting was only used for warm but inelegant garments. Rejuvenated by a perfected technique and by new ways of using the resulting fabric, knitting now holds an important place in the mode.”

Written before many of today’s grandmothers were born!

There is an interesting two-page spread on how to mend knitting – how to darn a hole by re-creating knit stitches. Both st st and garter are illustrated. I’m not sure in all my extensive library that I’ve ever seen that before. Maybe Montse Stanley or POK? I’ll look.

I note yesterday’s advice about getting proper archive-quality sleeves for my babies, and will act on it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guy Fawkes

Little to report. I’ve finished the first repeat of the Earth Stripe stripe sequence – the repeat won’t look at all mechanical because I’ve moved the colours around a bit as I progressed and also, of course, because I’m more than half-way there so the second repeat won’t get finished.

MaryJo0, the Earth Stripe stole will be deliciously warm I think – it’s like knitting the cat. I may have said that before. It’s very light-weight for its size, but that’s not a bad thing: is that what you meant by “lighter”? Or were you talking about colour? My fear is that what with our warmer winters, my one won’t get much of an outing here in GB.

Your enthusiasm inspires me to think about Latvian mittens. They’d be a quick, fun project. I read someone on the Knitlist long ago who said she routinely knit single mittens, not pairs, and kept them in a basket by the door for family and visitors to employ as needed. That would work well at Burnside except that I’d have to knit a lot of them to get the show on the road. And it’s a bit late to get started, with everyone grown up and gone away and mostly visiting there only in the summer.

Thank you for the suggestions about VKB’s. I agree about not liking the idea of binding. I didn’t know about archival-quality sleeves, although it makes sense. At the moment I keep them in individual cheap plastic sleeves, in box files which must be pretty similar to standing pamphlet boxes. I like them like that.

No, Fishwife, I’ve never visited the Knitting and Crochet Guild. I’d love to. I’ve been a member for a long time. I tried to drop out once, because it seemed sort of expensive and the journal isn’t all that good, but I got a series of such pathetic letters saying why-haven’t-you-renewed that in the end I gave up.

Thanks to Helen for tracking down David Rudkin, the author of “No Title”. (She googled on “No Title Birmingham Rep”. I sent him a brief e-fan letter.) And for valuable off-comment suggestions about libraries as possible destinations for those VKBs.

We – by which I mean, this quadrant of Drummond Place – got no mail at all on Saturday. That’s no way to treat a woman expecting the winter IK. I take some comfort from the fact that Mar is waiting too – and she wrote the damn thing. And it also shows why I didn’t want VKB#1 simply to be entrusted to the ordinary mail.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

No Title

Live and Learn Dep’t:

The Curmudgeon says that the reason Ravelry won’t show my blog, is that I don’t use titles. So I’ll try a few. Today’s is the name of an hysterically funny play that I saw at the B’ham Rep long ago with my sister and Alexander (and anyone else? Can’t remember). Can’t remember the name of the author, either. No hint of such a play in the first three pages of a Google on “’No Title’ play”. What a lot of good writing must sink unseen.


I hitched the new PVR up successfully. It and the other two machines seem to work as normal, although we still have a lot to learn about the new one.

Thanks to everyone who wrote yesterday to congratulate me on my new eBay purchase. It has been dispatched Special Delivery to my friend Chronic Knitting Syndrome – because we’re going to Strathardle this week and I didn’t know when that would be, when I was making arrangements on auction-day – and should therefore arrive tomorrow.

Emma in France, that’s a good question, about what will happen to my VKB’s when I have popped my clogs. (Have I got that phrase right?) They are bound to be under-valued by the inheritance tax people -- Alexander is looking forward to releasing them back into eBay one at a time. No chance – I have left all knitting-related stuff to a dear knitting lawyer friend in the US. She will make wise decisions.

The library of the Knitting and Crochet Guild? They have some VKB’s, I know, because I added quite a few to my collection once when they were selling off duplicates. But do they have the set? The public library in Lerwick? I would welcome any suggestions. I suppose the thing to do, if/when I’ve got them all – first catch your hare – is to write around and see who sounds interested.

My husband thinks I should have them bound. The problem there might be that the VKB changed shape. It started off rather tall and rectangular, as you see from yesterday’s picture. Then at some point during the war it changed to a square-er format which it maintained to the end, except that the wartime ones were smaller, Honey-I-Shrank-the-Kids fashion. Smaller pages, smaller type. Soon after the war it expanded to its final size.

And finally, knitting

I’ve reached 75cm of Earth Stripes – halfway. Except that at the end it will have to be edged and (ugh) fringed. But I never suffer too much from finishing. Like any old horse headed home towards the paddock.

MaryJo0 -- always good to hear from Kazakhstan: I learned about Meg's "Armenian Knitting" from her twice-yearly "Woolgathering" to which I subscribe. Be warned: there's not much in it. The technique is to knit with two colours throughout, even in large passages where only one colour shows. Once that idea has been announced and described, the rest of the book consists of new patterns using this system. New patterns by the authors, not Armenian ones.

The (somewhat over-exposed) pictures arrived from London yesterday. Here is Rachel with her new KF socks:

and her husband Ed in his old KF Tumbling Blocks vest:

I think Lizzie who took the picture was more interested in her father than in knitting.