Friday, May 31, 2013

I spent far too much time yesterday and this morning with Google Street View. I can’t quite seem to make it work for Detroit and for West Allenhurst, NJ, the way it used to for Drummond Place and that street in South London where EZ used to live. That is, I can’t seem to walk along looking from house to house. But I got the idea. Maybe I’ll sneak in and try my husband’s Toshiba – Archie was impressed with the specs.

All three American sites look much grander than I remember them, manicured lawns and perpetual sunshine. My grammar school (Hampton) seems to have morphed into the Barbara Jordan Elementary School.

But the exciting moment was reading about Virginia Park, our first Detroit address, on Wikipedia. It said that everybody on Virginia Park goes to Thirkill Elementary.

I haven’t thought of that word for more than 70 years. I have only the sketchiest memory of my brief time there. But Thirkill! Yes! I was there!

It wasn’t a success.  I can’t remember why. I was taken to what must have been an Educational Psychologist who advised Hampton. For a while, I made quite a long journey there and back by bus, until the whole family moved to Parkside. What one puts one’s parents through (and takes for granted)!

My mother made the bus journey with me for a while, then trusted me to do it. The street before Virginia Park is Euclid, she said. When I saw that, I would know to get off at the next stop. After being carried on an extra bus stop for several days, I  told her that it wasn’t Euclid – she had her coat on and we were nearly out the door to check on this before I added – “It’s something beginning with E”.

And I’m glad to see that both Virginia Park and Euclid are still there. Many of the main arteries have been re-named things like Rosa M. Parks.

We had a successful time yesterday with the picture-hanging, although it still needs to be adjusted. I should have let Archie – who claims to a bit of Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder – climb down from the steps and survey the situation from afar. He would have seen the problem. I did all that myself, and lengthened and shortened the string as I thought appropriate, while he remained perched aloft. He’ll be back on Sunday, to avoid paint-balling. We’ll nail it.

And I knit on with Relax2, including the next round of eyelets. I must attempt a picture soon. I’m afraid it won’t do justice to the beautiful madelinetosh fabric.

There was an interview with Alison Steadman – British readers will know; she’s brilliant – in the Telegraph yesterday about a new television series coming up next week, on the general theme of marriages breaking up in later life. “Life doesn’t stop,” Steadman said. “Women are no longer looking after husbands and knitting, they are going out and living.”

Elsewhere in the article my idol Penelope Keith is quoted as saying, “All these women in their fifties and sixties who suddenly want their own space, to be their own people. To do what?”

There is an inscription which, I gather, is found not infrequently on the tombs of the women of ancient Rome: Domi mansit lanam fecit vale. Ronald Knox translated, “She stayed at home and got on with her knitting.” Maybe I should have that on mine?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Archie is safely here. He says the weather is even worse in England, and seems to have mastered travel by rail. My husband has a picture in mind for us to hang this morning, and this afternoon I’ll drive him back to school. He’ll be here again soon, for a weekend, to escape a paint-balling experience. So if we can’t find the hooks or do the simple geometry this morning, all is not lost.

I spent a happy half-hour gardening on the doorstep yesterday, thinning and weeding the sorrel and huauzontle and adding thyme to the herb trough. The Welsh onions have not germinated (yet) in sufficient quantity to need thinning, but they’re there. It is a great pleasure to know that everybody is safe from deer and rabbits.

What should I find in Tesco’s yesterday but chilli plants? Not garden ones, at the front door, which is where I got my little Apaches in April, but bigger plants, with chillis on them, amongst the herbs. Clearly, this year’s supermarket feature.  I was sorely tempted, much as if they had started selling kittens. But a) the variety wasn’t identified on the label which takes away ¾’s of the fun and b) there’s no more room on the windowsill.

And I knit more Relax2. I think I’ll be able to add another round of eyelets today.

This turned up on Zite this morning, an article about stashes from the Twist Collective Problem Ladies, with an illustration by Franklin. Some sound advice there. I like the concept of “flour and sugar yarns”.


Anonymous, your Barber Institute days must have been during the days when my husband was Director. I can’t remember exactly when he retired (and I started having to cook lunch every day) but he was certainly in position then. They are celebrating 80 years now – he was in charge for the 50-year celebration, which must therefore have been in ’83. We had fun. Thank you for writing.

Barbara M., yes, there was a big story in the Sunday Times this very week about the possibility of the sell-off of the Detroit pictures. And wonderful as they are, a sale would scarcely dent the city’s debts, I gather. I grew up in Detroit, during the war years. Wet Sunday afternoons at that museum were my first experience of art. It will be dreadful if they are sold. 

I would like to go back to Detroit, in its present ruinous state, and look at the houses we lived in, on Virginia Park and Parkside, and the school I went to, Hampton Elementary. It probably won’t happen. We moved to New Jersey in '46. 

Mary Lou, thank you. I didn’t know about Jane Brocket, and am an instant fan. I haven’t figured out, on a five-minute acquaintance, how to leave a comment on her blog. She mentions Ford Madox Brown’s famous picture “Work”. The woman in the upper left of that picture is wearing a Shetland shawl – clearly a specific one, which Brown had in front of him as he painted. This was in the early days, I think, of Shetland fashion-ability, deriving from the Great Exhibition. Was he thinking of the many, many hours of work which went into its knitting? Quite likely so. On my next passage through life, I’d like to do some research on that picture.

And, Judith, thank you for the RNIB link. I think it will prove useful, and I will save it. My husband is perhaps doing a bit better these days with modern computing, although he still thinks that if I were any use I would be able to simplify things and get rid of the myriad features he doesn't need.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Thanks for the pointers to the Loopy Ewe and their new stock of Pakokku. I’ve just been there and bought an armload of it. All I need now is time to knit.

Good day yesterday. J. and I had lunch in John Lewis’ cafe – good, but noisy. Next time we could try the Conan Doyle, a pub just to hand on more or less the site where the great man was born.

Today’s excitement is that Archie is coming back – not much of a half-term. I’ll take him  to school tomorrow. A picture view at the local auctioneers this afternoon – by our standards in old age, it’s all go this week.

As for knitting, I went peacefully on with the endless Relax2. I’ve got to get it to the Point of No Return (=finishing line in sight) before I succumb to socks.

I’ve also just bought Sarah Hatton’s “Scarves, Shrugs & Shawls”. She is a designer I admire. But that’s enough of buying things for this morning.

There was a good piece in the Telegraph yesterday about the art gallery in Birmingham of which my husband was the director for 20 years or so.

And that seems to be all. One of those mind-is-blank mornings. I should have flowers on the Apache chillis pretty soon. The plants on the cold doorstep are small but cheerful. I must get back to Craftsy. They’re plugging a class with Shirley Paden, a designer I extravagantly admire. But first I must finish the ones I’ve already got.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

I haven't been greeting new followers lately as I should -- be assured that each one of you is treasured.

A successful day, yesterday.

My husband’s appt was with a respiratory dr. He said, as our GP had, that my husband’s oxygen saturation is better than might be expected. The CT scan, compared with one four years ago, shows some decline, but not very much. He has referred my husband to a breathing-physiotherapist. Who would have thought there was such a thing?

Here are the Into the Whirled skeins at the beginning of the day.

 Beautiful, no? I wound the right-hand one, and cast on in the Respiratory waiting room. The previous Pakokku socks were done on 64 stitches, and came out striped. So this time I went for 56.

And it was obvious after five or six rounds, that I wasn’t getting anywhere. When I heard Kaffe speak here at the end of last year, he said something about hand-painted skeins which look beautiful and turn out like a dog’s dinner when you knit them. Except that the phrase he used was ruder than “dog’s dinner” – but I can’t remember what it was.

That’s what was happening. So I ripped it out and started again. That is most uncharacteristic of me. I live almost entirely in the I’ve-started-so-I’ll-finish camp. For the second attempt, I cast on 64 stitches. I do this, for socks, by casting on on one needle (on two, actually, held together, for extra stretchiness) and then knitting back, dividing the stitches among three needles but not joining the loop until the end of the first round – less danger of a twist.

That’s where I was when we were summoned to the Doctor’s Presence, and when we got home everything was in such a mess that I had to start a third time. Success! Not boring stripes but a beautiful swirl! I knit on, and therefore did nothing on Relax2 yesterday. I’ll return to it this evening.

Today’s excitement is a meeting in the John Lewis yarn dept, and subsequent lunch, with one of you (whom I’ve met before). So this morning I must provide my husband with a sandwich lunch and make arrangements for some tasks which can only be done at the top of the hill, where John Lewis is: wrap a birthday present for dispatch at the post office, fill out a deposit form for some cheques to go into the bank. Doesn’t sound like much, with a whole morning to do it in, but everything seems to take a long time these days.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Archie phoned last night to say he had reached his English destination. He had been anxious about catching a train. He regularly flies on his own, everywhere in the known world, but this was the first time in his life he had had to catch a train by himself. There was no way I could ditch the car and walk around the station with him, but we did see a Departures screen as we glided in and it prompted me to tell him that when a platform was posted for his train, he would have to set himself the task of finding it. Platforms are higgledy piggledy at Waverley. He seems to have managed.

The marathon turned out not to interfere either with Mass-going or with train-catching. Worry for nothing. It was won by a man from Kenya, as often happens. Is it acceptable, in these p.c. days, to allude to a quality in which one race is superior to others? As is clearly the case with black Africans and fleetness of foot.

Greek Helen is working on a new web address for her mosaics, and says that she is going to be a web designer when she grows up. Me, I’m going to be a chilli farmer:

I suppose Down Under, and in the US, and other such-like warm places, chilli-growing is no great cause for excitement. But success here is unexpected, at least to me, and I am happily anticipating the three varieties I will grow on the kitchen windowsill next year. At the moment, Big Nameless from Waitrose is carrying a fair crop, as you see, and the best of the Apaches from Tesco has not only branched but is budding.

I didn’t get much done in the way of knitting last week in Strathardle, but I finished a swatch of Faded Blue Raincoat, both the lace pattern from The Knitter and Bay Laurel. I like both a lot, but have decided to go with the lace. Next I need to cast off the swatch, photograph it for you, press it, see how the gauge stacks up with what the magazine says, and cast on. It can be the Strathardle WIP, over the summer.

Meanwhile, of course, I have resumed Relax2. It was curling tightly at the bottom. Yesterday, once Archie was safely dispatched and the lunch dishes done, I finally got the ironing board out, misted it with my chilli-plant-mister, and steamed it. I had expected the curl to provide more in the way of mileage than it did, but otherwise am very pleased with the way things are going. I put in the fifth round of eyelets last night. The fabric is beautiful. I think I was slightly disappointed with the yarn when I first saw it in the skein, but I needn’t have been.

And the skeins of Pakokku have arrived! bought on my behalf by Jeanne in Rochester’s sister at Maryland Sheep and Wool. They are unbelievably beautiful. Typing those sentences brings life into focus: my husband has a hospital appt this afternoon; I’ll need a sock to knit. So the Pakokku must be wound this morning. I’ll take a picture before I start.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Not a blog post, just a touching-of-base to assure you that I am alive and well. Archie is here, about to catch a train south to spend the half-term week with his other granny. Edinburgh is in the grip of a marathon today which makes it doubtful whether we will be able to get to Mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea in Leith; or whether Archie can get across Princes Street to the station and his train.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Safely back, after a good week. It felt precarious, but all went well. How many more?

This for Hat, the Babington leeks in the vegetable cage, along with some parsley I bought on the way up:

It’s been a dry spring. I think Strathardle has missed out on rain elsewhere – James calls it the “Strathardle mini-climate”. The clematis montana on the front of the house, eight or nine years old, one of our most successful plantings, appears to be dead. The metasequoia glyptostroboides has taken a bad hit, and lost maybe half of its height. Both were fine, a month ago.

The metasequoia is one of those stories – I must have told it here before – of something identified in a fossil (by a Japanese scientist during the war, I think). Then after the war when knowledge began to circulate again, the Chinese said, Oh, yes, we’ve got that. It was imported to Europe where it grows vigorously. There’s one at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. It’s called the Dawn Redwood, more colloquially. We planted ours for James and Cathy when they married.

And it has struggled. It is a water-loving tree (you’d think it would be fine, in Strathardle) and we made the mistake of planting it on a slope. The soil is essentially sandy. I have nursed it through a Sicilian summer – they do happen – hauling water up from the burn . But I thought the danger was past, and the roots now deep enough to withstand a spring drought.

I got the tatties planted. I won’t be doing much with vegetables this year, what with old age and deer, but they will give an impression of order to the patch, and be delicious to eat. One can see how the Irish got hooked on them.

I saw a pair of deer on the lawn one morning, nibbling the bluebells. Mercifully, they don’t seem to like daffodils. They lept nimbly over the dyke into the neighbour’s garden.

And that reminds me of a rant. In the film “The Queen” – how on earth did I see it? – the Duke of Edinburgh is represented as telling his wife that he had seen a stag – later of iconic significance – and that it ran off “towards the neighbours”, or something like that.

That’s not how country people talk, and I don’t believe the royal family are any different. Places are referred to by words which can be found on a map – “It ran towards Pitmarmick”. Or in a private family language – “It went off down the commonty”, “It ran across the stubble field”. Or by the names of the neighbours: “It went into Douglas’s bit”, “It was in the Nicholsons’ field”.

In this case, the deer were in Douglas’s bit, and that’s how I reported them to my husband.

The youth who came to give the grass its first cut – it is actually growing – found the foot and lower leg of a lamb on the west lawn. I told him about the leg-of-deer we found in April. A fox, I thought. Something Larger, in his opinion.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Not much, today.

Off we go. A Strathardle session (at last) will be a useful tonic for both if we survive it. The weather is bad.

I found that IK subscription service, easily enough, this morning. I must have been in Stupid Mode yesterday. It costs $20 per month – it would soon add up. Maybe I heard about it because of my Craftsy classes, rather than my subscription to Knitting Daily.

Little to report, as usual on Monday. I am within a yard or two of finishing the first madelinetosh skein employed on Relax2. Relax1 used less than four skeins all told, so I must be making progress. (“Less” rather than “fewer” there, I think – thinking more about the quantity of yarn than the counting of skeins.) And, sure enough, it is nice to find the next skein ready-wound, as a result of using two for the long-tail cast-on.

No swatching yesterday, but I’m trying to print the Bay Laurel pattern to take along for swatching in Perthshire. And I’ll take Relax2 – there’s no dedicated Strathardle knitting these days.

See you at the weekend, insh’Allah.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Followers flooding in. Welcome, all!

Southern Gal, Interweave has got a new subscription scheme where for a monthly fee you can access all their on-line videos and TV programs, including new ones as they get added. I must have heard about it because I subscribe to Knitting Daily (which is free). The monthly fee was much too high for my taste – but now that I want to direct you to a webpage with more substantial information, I can’t find it.

I like your alpacas.

I must get back to Craftsy. I still haven't done my mattress stitch homework for Franklin.

Donice, thank you for the pointers to EZ’s pelerine (love that word) and Barbara Walker’s top-down cape. Both are open down the front, like an old-fashioned nurse’s cape; not that one would have to stick to that. The pelerine is in Knitting Around.

I’ve swatched the pattern from The Knitter once through. It looks rather nice. I haven’t “got it” yet, although it is very simple: six stitches, eight rows of which the returns are plain purl – and would be even plainer knit, if done in the round. Then the pattern is offset, so there are 16 rows before you get back where you started. I must try Bay Laurel.

And I’ve added the fourth round of eyelets to Relax2.

Gardening news

We had a downpour yesterday such as I have not seen for a long time. I got wet.

Everything grows in May, even for me. The Big Nameless Waitrose chilli fills up most of the kitchen window and has quite a bit of fruit on it, one even turning red. Waitrose suddenly had chilli plants again this week, a third of the present size of mine, heavily laden with chillis both red and green. It was tempting to start again, but I could no more throw away the plant I have nurtured since January than I could throw away the cat.

One of the little Apache chilli plants I bought more recently at Tesco has started to branch!

And those seeds on the front step have come up – huauzontle, sorrel, and finally the tiny green croquet hoops which will be Welsh onions. Everything is still very small in this cold, cold spring. There are no Jersey Royal potatoes in Waitrose yet, and the asparagus still comes from Peru: in mid-May.

Strathardle tomorrow, we hope. Am I strong enough?

Saturday, May 18, 2013

TWO more followers! Welcome! Now we must press forward to 200.


Hat sent me some Babbington leeks. She tried last year, but I failed. I’m very keen to have them, as part of my perennial-vegetable project, the old-age answer to vegetable growing (if not necessarily to deer). We’re planning to go to Strathardle on Monday, where planting them will be my first project, inside the vegetable cage. Potatoes second.

You probably already know, because he’s world-wide news, that Cardinal O’Brien has been ordered by the Vatican to spend a penitential period abroad, outwith Scotland. The implication is that he will be allowed to retire to Dunbar within the foreseeable future. The parish priest there is cross, and threatens to sue to Vatican – how do you do that? – if the Cardinal isn’t allowed to come. O’Brien has always enjoyed travelling  Six months in a monastery on the outskirts of Rome shouldn’t be too onerous.

My husband just came in to say that there is a heron in our downstairs neighbours’ ornamental pool. A fine sight. How can we have downstairs neighbours with a garden if we live at street level? Because we live on a steep hill – in the back, we are two stories up.

Knitting-related Miscellany

I’ve had emails – we probably all have – from Interweave about their new subscription service. Far too expensive even for my extravagant self. But I am puzzled as to why the sample video produces no sound on my iPad.

Lou sent me this link of CCTV footage taken on a ferry crossing to Shetland. When I was young and crossed the sea by ship, all furniture was unostentatiously fastened to the floor. Why not so on the Shetland ferry? I would love to have gone that way, with Kristie and Knitsofacto and Kate in September, but getting to Aberdeen to join the boat would have taken an extra day from our precious few.

I have been paying mild attention to the Fiber Factory knitting competition, especially because Franklin is one of the judges. The first challenge was to Knit Your Life, and I think the Mason-Dixon knitter’s contribution was brilliant. It didn’t win. Maybe she didn’t send it in.

And finally, knitting

I started a swatch of Faded Blue Raincoat and the lace pattern in The Knitter. I haven’t knitted lace for a while, and perhaps for that reason it felt strange and clumsy. I’ve bought the Bay Laurel pattern (as I said, extravagant) and will swatch that as well. I suspect I could have found something pretty close in one of the books which clutter up the place.

I think I have figured out -- three-dimensional thinking is not my forte, as I am sure I have mentioned before -- that a capelet could be knitted in the round. 

And I knit Onwards on Relax2. Should reach the next eyelets today.

Friday, May 17, 2013

One of those days when I have too much to say – I’ll write half, and then forget the other half by tomorrow morning.

To start with, though, read Liz Lovick.

Thanks for the help with the capelet question. Beverly, Bay Laurel is gorgeous. It’s written for worsted – but it might well be worth swatching that beautiful stitch pattern to see how it comes out in lace-weight. And Kimberly, the idea of seaming a Half Circle Chapel Veil is also very interesting.

I suspect that if one is really serious about this business, one has to spend a lot of time swatching. Franklin does it. Kate Davies does.

The new IK turned up yesterday, not much of interest at first glance (as often, with the Summer issue of anything) but there is a Classic Elite capelet on the back cover. I am not remotely tempted, per se, -- the Bergere de France pattern in The Knitter has a much more interesting lace pattern, and better shaping, I think. But maybe this means that capelets are in.

The effect of the photograph is of a silliness that wouldn’t suit me – bare shoulders, light-coloured attention-drawing yarn. Slightly off-putting. How much of our judgment of a pattern depends on the photography?

I got most of a skein of Faded Blue Raincoat wound yesterday, not without crises, and may swatch soon. (I think there’s plenty of yarn for both swatches and finished product.) Meanwhile I toiled on with Relax2. I may (or may not) reach the 4th round of eyelets today. It is a situation where my slow and awkward knitting really tells. The only thing to do is to keep on keeping on.

Thanks for the help, too, on “sock blanks”. I did some googling, once I saw your comments. I get slightly the impression that this is an idea which has had its day and is fading. I was struck with the notion of a sock blank in which two strands of sock yarn were knitted together so that the eventual socks, however wild, would be identical twins. But, Blueloom, I agree with you in preferring fraternal twins for wild socks.

Kimberly, again, thanks for the Easyknits link to Sushi Sock Rolls. Very interesting indeed. I’ve saved it to Evernote. The first thing is to see how I get on with the sock blank I’ve actually got.

Domestic architecture

Stashdragon, although our neighbour lives directly above us, I must go out of my front door and around the corner to visit her. The Edinburgh New Town fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, despite its calm exterior.

We moved here 20 years ago, when we were a good deal spryer than we are now but could see old age coming. We wanted to avoid stairs, and have wound up in what must be one of the largest flat flats in the city. Six steps up from the street, and here we are.

Our neighbour, on the other hand, must negotiate 11 or 12 steps from the street before she even gets to the door. Once inside, there are three long flights of stairs – to accommodate high ceilings – before she reaches her level. She has been there more than 50 years.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

New follower, welcome!

It is an extremely interesting shop. Had I but world enough and time, I would spend more of them there. She sells British yarn, as local as possible. No Rowan or Patons or Sirdar. The most familiar name you’ll spot is Jamieson and Smith.

I bought one of those things, I had heard of them, no idea what to call them, a strip of machine-knitted yarn which the artist has hand-painted after knitting the strip, and you’re meant to unravel it as you knit your sock, or whatever. It’s from but there are no other examples on the website – just yarn. I’ll have to take a picture of it for tomorrow.  I can’t even think of how to phrase the concept for googling.

The yarn is merino, cashmere and nylon and I could always just keep it as a scarf. But I think I’ll cast it on as a sock pretty soon.

I also bought two balls of Pure Natural Guernsey Yarn: Hebridean/Manx/Romney from Blacker Yarns with a pattern of Kathy’s own for a simple cabled hat. I don’t know when I’ll get around to that.

I’ve been thinking about the Faded Blue Raincoat yarn mentioned yesterday. I think, on close inspection, that the pattern in The Knitter would have to be classified as a poncho. Is that really what I want? Maybe so, as I am not one to twist a scarf artistically around my neck like some.

There’s no schematic. Front and back are identical, with a scooped neck rather like Relax itself. The model is wearing it almost off one shoulder, but it could be narrowed a bit. The final instruction is: To make up – sew edge seams. That’s it. And I think it must mean, sew the shoulder seams, the bottom remaining open.

I think the only reason I hesitate is that Franklin has an anti-poncho cartoon in “It Itches”. This one is rib-length and maybe doesn’t even count as a poncho. The thing to do is to wind the yarn and swatch.

I’m getting on fine with Relax2, if slowly – a third round of eyelets was added last night.


I’m going to have tea this afternoon with a neighbour who lives high above us. She owns the picture I would most like to have in the world. It was painted by an artist of some distinction – he’s in the national collections – who used to live on the south side of Drummond Place. It's quite small. It’s called “Going Round to Monty’s”, Monty being the familiar nickname of the famous man who used to live in our house.

It’s November (surely) in the picture, it’s dark, it's wet. The picture shows the whole tenement, thus including the top layer where our neighbour has lived for very many decades. But Monty lived down here, in our house. Climbing up to see her is hard work – I don’t see how she ever gets out at all. But I will be rewarded by spending an hour with the picture again. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Yesterday was magic.

Grannypurple is in town. I met her and her husband Joe at Kathy’s Knits. We spent money there for a while, and then went around the corner to Angelina’s for coffee. A simple programme. I’ve never yet met one of you whom I didn’t enjoy spending time with. But yesterday was special.

Here are Grannyp and I in the shop, flanking a Kate Davies design  which many will recognise. Grannyp is actually wearing the Relax! If I had grasped that sooner, I would have had her take her coat off for this picture. She has achieved exactly the fit I am hoping for.

In the evening, Joe also sent this picture of me -- utter magic. If my grieving heirs want something for the funeral leaflet, in the modern fashion, they could do a lot worse than this one. The sweater is that Araucania one which went on for years in Strathardle and which, at the very end, was crowned with success by your suggestion, Ron, of  EZ’s Open-Collared Pullover treatment for the neck. (Knitter’s Almanac, October)

But how was the picture taken? In Angelina’s, I assume. The camera was on the table – the purples were planning to walk on up to John Lewis where Joe hoped to see and handle a piece of recondite camera equipment. But it’s not as if grannypurple and I spent the whole time talking about knitting, leaving Joe to sip his cappuccino and fiddle with the camera. It was a three-way conversation about life and death and the Cuban Missile Crisis.

[I remember it as a week of solid terror. They, interestingly, don’t. But they are younger, and Canadian which might make a difference, and I don’t think they had children at the time – I had three very small ones, and was substantially pregnant with Helen; couldn’t run, even if there had been anywhere to go.]

Grannyp gave me some yarn, most magically two skeins of a 50% merino-silk mixture from Sericin Silkworks of West Waterloo, Ontario. The shade is splendidly named: Faded Blue Raincoat. It appears to be laceweight.

I am resolved to attempt the Angel Cape I mentioned yesterday, from The Knitter 58. I suppose a swatch is called for – the pattern wants a 4 ply yarn. Lace being lace, the difference won’t be all that great. Jean S of West Allenhurst, NJ, learning to knit in the late 40’s with Vogue Knitting in hand but only Woolworth’s on Main Street from which to buy yarn, would have plunged straight in.

All I need is an extra pair of hands, and maybe four more hours per day. Just saying.

I have been feeling less than up to the mark for weeks lately, and had begun to suspect terminal decline. But I left Angelina’s with a spring in my step and have felt much better since. Time to go to Strathardle and get the tatties in.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

We had a grand weekend, in appalling weather. Snow on high ground, Sunday night, and from Alexander and Ketki’s house, you could see it.

The ducks have made great strides since Easter, and look full-grown, although it will probably be a couple more months before they start laying. They do everything together. Alexander means to put coloured bands on their legs so that he can determine whether one of them is the ringleader: Now we will have a nap. Now we will go to the kitchen window: 

Now we will play in the bath:

Or whether it’s just that a random one decides to do something and the others go along.

They stay very near the house. Ketki thought they would enjoy the trickle of a stream which flows along the edge of the garden at least in wet weather, but they were not to be persuaded.

Putting them to bed isn’t too difficult, when Ketki is at home:

I made a good start on Relax2. My new KnitPro needle was too long – I wouldn’t have thought that possible, with nearly 400 stitches. EZ says somewhere that a 24” circular needle is all you’ll ever need, and I suspect she was right. Mine was 100cm, which is appreciably more than 24".

So there was a lot of awkward tugging of the stitches to get them to move around. And my brand new KnitPro needle came apart. I put it back together and it came apart again. I put it back together and hit it with the handle of the kitchen scissors. It came apart again. I put it back together and got Alexander to hit the hasp – if that’s the word – with a hammer. It held.

A certain amount of time had to be spent rescuing the stitches which had fallen in the three disasters, and I had to proceed with caution and not apply pressure to the join, so progress thereafter was slow. I moved everything to a shorter and sturdier needle last night.

The design incorporates four columns of simple eyelets, two on each side. I’m putting them in every 15 rounds. They make very welcome milestones for the knitter toiling through a desert of round-and-round st st, and they also have a remarkably effective decorative effect in their understated Japanese way. I've done two eyelet rounds and am well on my way to the 3rd. The yarn is wonderful, better knitted than in the skein.

I also had a pleasant time wandering around cyber space, in the absence of meal-planning. I am greatly taken with the yarn of Rhichard Devrieze although what is the point when I have a boxful of Koigu already?

I got caught up reading The Knitter on my iPad. I like “A Twisted Little Raglan” in issue 57, from Ann Budd’s “Knitter’s Handy Book of Top-Down Sweaters” (in madelinetosh DK, no less) and Bergere de France’ “Angel Cape” in 58, for throwing on over a summer shirt. It’s lace, which would be sort of fun to get back to.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Well, here we are. I’m feeling more sprightly this morning. It’s difficult to distinguish, here on the outer edge of life, between it’s-been-a-hard-day/nearly 80/post-viral/Something Worse, and of course these categories blend into each other.

Alexander and I were meant to be in touch to fine-tune arrangements for today. I didn’t hear from him, so tried to phone in the late evening yesterday. No reply. No one there at 9 pm on a school night? Did I mis-dial? Last night I felt certain that they were all in a&e somewhere battling for the life of one of them. This morning, with the sun shining, that seems less likely. They couldn’t all be dead, or they’d have been on the news. I have mobile numbers and will make contact soon.

I finished the Pakokku socks. My husband thinks the foot looks rather long. Oh dear, but we’ll soon see. I’ve got numbers for everybody of course, but the Fleegle-Strong heel may have thrown things out. Helen and Ketki and I are the three with substantial feet. Rachel and James’s wife Cathy are tiny.

Helen was very complementary about the fit of the socks I finished for her last month – same numbers, but toe-up. Fleegle-Strong does add more mileage than some heels, and it may make a difference which way up it's done.

I also cast on Relax2.  Much anxious arithmetic, but I think I’ve got it right. The yarn I am using is finer than that in which the pattern is written, and so arithmetic is involved to begin with (apart from deciding on how to achieve desired width). The designer gets 23 stitches to 4”, I get 26. I’m reasonably competent at arithmetic, but inches-to-stitches sometimes feels like comparing apples to raspberries and I have moments of wondering, do I multiply here? or divide?

Then I consulted a book and decided that with so many stitches to cast on (186 x 2) the only sensible thing to do was to wind another skein and do a long-tail cast-on using both. There’s nothing worse than running out eight stitches before the end (it has happened), but having a left-over tail several yards long is undesirable too. So I did that. It would have had to be wound one day anyway.

I see, on a wholly different knitterly subject, that IK has a new editor. I heard this in an email from Spinning Daily (or something like that), not that I spin (alas). I don’t know her. She looks rather Eunny-like. I think she (E. Jang) has matured as an editor – at first, every pattern seemed designed for her figure which is rather emphatically not mine. We shall see. I hope the new one doesn’t require too long a breaking-in. At least VK is in sound hands at the moment.


Many thanks for yesterday’s. I’ll remember Malabrigo Sock for Relax3, if we get that far, but am grateful to have had my suspicions confirmed by you, Meezermeowmy, as to its suitability for socks. And, Tricia, Whimzy! I had never heard of them. The yarn looks beautiful. And you’ve knit socks with it, and it works! Will it be “Woodland” or “Spring Storm”? Or both!

So now I’ll go forward with the day. Back here Tuesday, insh’Allah. If disaster has, in fact, struck Cairndow, I’ll post a note.

[All is well in Cairndow: Alexander thinks I must have phoned while he was out putting the ducks to bed, a lengthy process yesterday.]

Thursday, May 09, 2013

It’s just as well we’re not attempting Strathardle today. We’re tired. Nothing much has happened – the hospital appt yesterday was routine respiratory function tests but it still involved driving across the city worrying about making the appt time, stopping at every red light – and Edinburgh has a remarkable number of them. Then an hour in the airless hospital atmosphere. Then home again in the rush hour, with every light green.

Whatever, we’re tired.

I’m within five rounds of the toe shaping of the second Pakokku sock – so should finish today.

I was cruising around just now, looking at sock yarn. Malabrigo is beautiful – but, I gather, pure wool. I’ve got reinforcement yarn somewhere, but even so…

Still, today’s job, apart from trying to find some respectable clothes, is to cast on Relax2.

Helen sent this the other day, labelled "Knitting from Epirus", without further explanation:

Jared has a new collection. Strong on shawls and wraps, but there are some rather nice sweaters, too. I haven’t spent enough time there yet even to figure out how to buy individual patterns.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

No pic, I’m afraid, but we had a lovely time.

Kate was enormously helpful about Shetland – names and addresses of people to get in touch with in advance, leaflets galore including one about walks, info on where to buy seaweed-fed lamb and how to get to Unst (which sounds like a perfectly possible, strenuous but delightful, day trip).

She thinks we’re just as well off not being there in Shetland Wool Week, when everything gets awfully crowded. Lerwick isn’t much bigger than Inverary, she says (visible in the picture above). What a wonderful thought!

It sounds, too, as if textiles are wonderfully well displayed in the Shetland Museum, with shawls and sweaters in pull-out cabinets so that, except for the glass, you can get up close and personal, far better than trying to peer into a display case.

And guess what she brought me for a present, on top of all this? – a ball of Rowan’s soon-to-be-released Fine Art yarn, so that I can knit my heel-swatch. She gets sent a lot of yarn. She has already knit herself a pair of socks with this one, and was wearing them. It’s slightly fizzy, not quite as firmly twisted as the sock yarn we are used to. Will it wear? That’s something a swatch won’t tell me.

I was surprised what a pleasure it was for me to talk about knitting. I write about it every day, and you guys respond wonderfully. But there’s no one in my little circle who knows anything about it, so I never get to talk, and it was an unexpected joy.

A very inadequate report of a very happy morning.

We’re all set to abandon potato-planting for the time being and go to Loch Fyne for the weekend. Alexander is even going to come to get us. I could perfectly well drive, as I did at Easter, but this way we get three hours extra both on Friday and again on Monday, riding effortlessly along in his company.

I will easily finish the Pakokku socks in time. My husband has a hospital appt this afternoon – that may even do it. I hope by Friday I will have made the final calculations and taken the necessary deep breath and cast on Relax2. 

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

I am in far too much of a tizzy to write at any length or with any coherence this morning.

I don’t see how a photograph will be possible, of me and Kate, since she said specifically that Bruce isn’t coming. My husband will be provided with his late breakfast and allowed to keep out of the way.

Alexander phoned last night and proposed whisking us off to Loch Fyne this weekend. I hesitated, because we had planned to go to Strathardle and I had hoped to get the tatties in. A younger Jean would have stuck to that plan, but this aged one is enchanted at the idea of  Little Boys and ducks and brief freedom from meal-planning.

I will give Alexander one of the Apache chilli plants, and with but a little bit of oomph I should be able to finish the Pakokku socks and give them to Ketki (saving myself wrapping and trudging-to-the-post-office). My husband keeps suggesting that if I would but go to a shop and enlist the help of a Young Man, all his problems with the new computer could be solved. Alexander knows all that there is to be known about computers, and might be able to straighten his father out on that score.

Miscellaneous non-knit

No news from the Cardinal, who is clearly keeping schtum.  I’ll let you know.

My brother-in-law, my sister’s husband, posted this on Facebook – himself with his son, my nephew Theo last weekend. Theo and his wife Jenni came up to CT from DC where they live for the weekend, to eat shad (I suspect I’ve never had it) and asparagus from the garden (I haven’t seen British asparagus in the shops here yet) and to plant a weeping dogwood in memory of their son who was born prematurely last year and lived only a few hours.

My husband’s sister (who died two years ago) believed with maddening intensity that sons looked like their mothers and daughters like their fathers, as a general truth of life. She had a sharp, observing eye and I am surprised that in nearly 80 years she never noticed contrary examples. Her own father died when she was about 5, my husband maddeningly older, 11 or 12. Her passionate belief about resemblances was a claim on the father she scarcely remembered. But her way of (often) stating it as a truth about genetics used to produce a quiet seethe in me.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Kate Davies is coming for coffee tomorrow.

That’s my sensational Shetland news. Kristieinbc is in her Ravelry group. She wrote asking for tips for our trip. She got a prompt and helpful reply by which we were all delighted. But then Kate wrote to me (she lives nearby) and proposed herself for a visit. We need to know what to do besides the obvious, and who to get in touch with (whom, that should be) to open doors and get lace shawls out of museum cupboards perhaps.

There used to be a place called the Shetland Textile Working Museum at Weisdale Mill not far from Lerwick, but it seems to have closed and its collection merged with the Museum in Lerwick, which might mean a smaller proportion of things actually on display.

Kristieinbc and her cousin Kath are serious walkers, as is Kate, so we hope for tips on that, too. I hope I will have the strength to tag along, although I think I am ebbing. I want to see sheep and ponies and wouldn’t object to a puffin or two. It was bird-watching that drew Gladys Amedro and her husband to settle on Shetland. I nearly went there years ago with an American bird-watching and knitting friend, but that turned out to be the year of foot-and-mouth and she and her husband were afraid that walking would be restricted. 

We are all simply overwhelmed by Kate’s kindness and generosity. I doubt if I will have the chutzpah to ask for a picture, but I might have her sign the book.

Otherwise, little to report. I have started to turn the heel of that sock. I hope to practise mattress stitch on my little sampler today. I’d like to have another look at Franklin doing it, but my desktop computer can’t cope with that lesson at all (it’s over an hour) and even on the new laptop I’m not sure I’d be able to ask Franklin to go back over the topic. So I’ll make do with the handout, and then go on to watch Franklin do herringbone stitch which is where I actually stopped the lesson.

And today is Chilli Feeding Day! I have re-potted the three little Apaches in some potting compost stuff which says on the packet that things won’t need feeding for six weeks. Everybody seems very happy, the Apaches and Big Nameless from Waitrose, despite being on a north-facing window with no direct sunlight. The kitchen is nice and warm. I think they like that. I have ordered another chilli book, hoping for more taxonomy.

Cat, you’re right about that Rowan sock yarn: swatch it and wash it and see. I wouldn’t even have to do a boring square swatch, either. I could knit a swatch-heel.

Silence from Cardinal O’Brien. We still don't know whether it's true that the Vatican has told him to leave the country, nor, if so, what he intends to do. The weekend papers confected stories by asking prominent Catholics what they thought. 

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Cardinal O’Brien

The lead story in yesterday’s Herald – a Glasgow newspaper – was that the Vatican got in touch with the Cardinal on Friday and ordered him to leave the country. That is, not to move into the house in Dunbar. The story has been removed from the Herald’s website, for whatever reason. Other newspapers have repeated it in the 24 hours since, most of them directly referring to the Herald and none of them adding any further news or any specific source. Here is the Scotsman’s version. The by-line is one that has not been attached to a Cardinal-O’Brien story in the Scotsman before now.

As you can see, everything is anonymous. That has been the way with this sad business from the beginning, except, of course, for poor Keith Patrick himself.


There has been a sensational development in the Shetland story. I’ll keep it to myself for the time being. That was just a teaser.

My agent bought two splendid-looking skeins of Pakokku for me at Maryland S&W. (But no Vampires, alas.)

I am three rounds short of the second heel in the Pakokku I’m actually knitting. One of the several merits of the Strong-Fleegle heel is that it is easily memorised. I don’t think I’ll have to refer to a printed text at all for this one.

I had been sort of half-thinking that the new Rowan sock yarn, “Fine Art”, which will burst upon the world at any moment, might be the right thing for the toe-up socks which will actually fit my husband. An appropriate name for an art historian, too.

But there is a review of it in the new issue of Knitting which arrived yesterday. The reviewer – Jeanette Sloan, who used to have a first-rate LYS here in Edinburgh – is enthusiastic about it. But the final sentence is “Cool hand washing is recommended or dry clean with care.”

They must be kidding. Dry clean with care?

So I hesitate. The composition is 25% polyamide, which ought to be OK. Perhaps the answer would be to knit one sock and put it through the normal sock-washing routine two or three times and see what happens.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

Today I began with a quiet quarter-hour with Franklin. We went on to mattress stitch, in the lesson about sewing on lace edgings. This time I had trouble because he kept stopping – that’s something about something called “streaming”, I think.

Except at the end of the section, when I wanted him to stop and he was determined to talk on about herringbone stitch. I silenced him at last. We’ll come to that only after I have practised mattress stitch.

I wound the first skein for Relax2 yesterday, and ordered some KnitPro needles, and worried on about size and gauge (it's different every time I measure it) and how many stitches to cast on. And I mustn’t forget that I want to wear this thing over a polo shirt, to provide a collar. Back to Epaminondas mode.

The Pakokku sock progresses. I should get pretty near the second heel today. It’s striping tamely. And my agent is this very day, I believe, going to Maryland S&W to look for more Pakokku on my behalf.

One of you sent me this wonderful link: Franklin, again.

Judith, I was deeply grateful for the link you sent yesterday to the article about Art Needlework Industries in Oxford, and Heinz Edward Kiewe. One of the things I did right in life was to write to him, when the shop closed. I got in reply one of his famous letters in green ink – it must be somewhere here in the archives.

There was a summer once when I collected bits of heather and things in Strathardle, and then went into that shop and tipped them all out onto the counter, and said, I want a sweater like that. The girl went away and after a while came back with the right Shetland yarn and I knitted it for my husband, an all-over Fair Isle pattern. It made him look like a pheasant. Eventually he outgrew it, and the moths got it – the remnants must be somewhere here in the archives.

Cardinal O’Brien

He turned up unexpectedly this week, moving the last of his things out of Archbishop’s House here in Edinburgh and – rather more controversially – into a church house in Dunbar to which he had long planned to retire. The parishioners of Our Lady of the Waves in Dunbar recently organised a statement, signed by over 90% of those attending Sunday Mass, saying “We the undersigned wish to express our support and affection for Cardinal Keith O’Brien. We look forward to welcoming him into our community when he retires to Dunbar.”

I suspect these developments mean that the new Pope has decided that there is no need for further public humiliation. O’Brien is still a cardinal, so it is a matter for the two of them. The bishops of Scotland are said to be cross at his reappearnce, and the stout Glasgow archbishop who is now in charge of Edinburgh is said to have shot off a letter to the Papal Nuncio.

If he is really to be allowed to retire to Dunbar, and even to help out in the parish, I am very happy to hear it. My husband thinks he should have stayed away (like Marshall Ney). Maybe he had nowhere else to live. I don’t suppose he is a rich man.

But nothing that I have said above should be construed as approval of his taste in sweaters.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Thanks for all the kind words about Shetland. We are now, all four of us, booked on the same flight north from Edinburgh, or so we hope. Your story about not being able to land for fog, and being diverted to Orkney, is a bit worrying, Shandy. Look on it all as an adventure. Now we can start thinking about what we want to do after the Museum and Jamieson & Smith.

It occurred to me yesterday that late September should be a good time for this-season’s seaweed-fed lamb, if it can be had without venturing into too fancy-schmancy a restaurant. And, even so, it may be obtainable from a butcher and I could bring some back for us and for Rachel.

I’ve just watched the Herzog lesson which I couldn’t stop yesterday, and it was indeed interesting. I had trouble persuading her to start again from the beginning of the lesson, but not as much trouble as I had yesterday.

It is much, much easier to get hold of what she’s saying than in the pages of her book, lucid though that is. I think the knitty-gritty is that you should choose a sweater size as if your torso measurement – circumference at underarm – were your bust measurement.

That will ensure shoulder fit, and bust size can be accommodated by darts.

The Relax is, as we knew, not at all suited to this sort of rigorous analysis. “The sizes given are just suggestions. Please choose the size that will suit the wearer best,” says Amirisu. But I think Herzog at least offers a nudge.

Kate Davies has just issued a lovely pattern called Catkin. My first thought was, it’s a stunner, if you have a figure like Kate Davies’. Then I thought, this could be the perfect project to apply Herzog’s principles to. We shall see. The yarn used, baa ram ewe’s new Titus, sounds terrific.


My chilli-growing book came yesterday and I don’t think I learned anything from a speed-read except that (a) heat is fully established in a mature green chilli so you don’t have to wait for it to turn red if you don’t want to; and (b) the little ones I bought at Tesco the other day to grow on a bit and give to our neighbours, called Apache, are easy and hot. They seem to be growing with enthusiasm. I need to get them into proper pots.

There was no clue as to what variety the Waitrose chilli might be. Its fruit grow upward from the stems, whereas most of the illustrations show chillis hanging down. That might be a clue, in a more comprehensive book.

The plant had a good few chillis on it, both green and red, when I bought it in the winter. The green ones briskly turned red. Then there was a gap when there was no fruit at all. Now I’ve got half-a-dozen or so green chillis, with more coming on, but no reddening.

Thursday, May 02, 2013


Yesterday went fine, but I’m tired. I thot I’d begin today (ignoring a certain amount of yesterday’s washing up) with Herzog’s next lesson. I want to cast on the new Relax soon, and I want to get a proper perspective on fit before I do.

I had a bit of trouble getting things started on my husband’s new computer but I achieved it, and the next lesson was about taking measurements and very useful it was. Then I got into one of those nightmare situations – have we all been there? – when Herzog went on to the following lesson and I couldn’t figure out how to tell her to stop. Wherever I went on the Internet, there was her voice telling me interesting and sensible things about fit. I turned the computer off. I turned it on again – and there was Herzog’s voice, by now advanced to the subject of bust measurement. At some points in the struggle, I had two versions of her overlaying each other.

I think I have succeeded in silencing her, and I certainly need to watch that lesson again calmly from the beginning. I think it may be the most important one of all. I only hope when my husband sits down to work today, he won’t find her explaining negative ease.

Lunch went well yesterday. The new researcher-editor seems competent and sympatica and possessed of a good knowledge of the required period and a good understanding of  the demands of academic research. So that’s all right for the time being.

What about Strathardle? Hey! It may be cold, but it’s May! But certainly not today. Our Edinburgh calendar is clear until next Wednesday. We shall see.

I finished the ribbing of the 2nd Pakokku sock. Hence my keenness to be ready to get started on the 2nd Relax.

But yesterday’s serious knitting news lies entirely elsewhere. For some time now, a scheme has been afoot involving me and Kristieinbc and Knitsofacto and Kristie’s cousin Kath – might we all go to Shetland for a weekend in September? Yesterday, things got to the flight-booking stage. The rest of the party will assemble in Wales, and fly to Edinburgh together on the Friday. I’ll then join the flight for the journey to Sumburgh. We'll have three whole entire days, four nights. I'll take a very early flight back to Edinburgh on the Tuesday.

Helen and Archie -- he has an exeat that weekend -- and Rachel will hold the fort here.

The deed is done. I had a bit of trouble with the booking – at least, in the sense that I got to a screen that seemed to require that I pay extra for a seat. It seems unlikely; there must have been a way to avoid that. But I went ahead and did it. It’s a small plane, with only one column of seats on the left-hand side (as you face forward). I booked myself one of those, on the theory that it would afford a good view of Fair Isle as we came in to land.

I got a bit misty-eyed at the idea, before reflecting that much depends on how the wings are attached to the plane. I may have paid for a seat with no visibility at all.

So now we have the happy business of planning our weekend. There is even some talk of a day-trip to Unst. 

Wednesday, May 01, 2013

All is more or less in hand for lunch, but I will try to be brisk this morning. Many thanks for help with recipes.  I have added some comments to yesterday's comments on the subject. Our lunch guest will not be in Edinburgh very long, so I will not be called on for chit-chat: she’ll need to spend the time talking shop with my husband. I’ll need to see enough of her to judge the lay of the land -- whether he can work with her -- but lunch will suffice for that.

The sock progresses through the tedious ribbing.

I have recovered from my Epaminondas moment and am determined to stride boldly forward with the 2nd Relax. I want to go on with my Herzog lessons before beginning, however, at least to the point where she expounds her theory (sounds good to me) about achieving fit across the shoulders before you start, and altering other parts of the pattern as needs be. Some self-measuring is sure to be involved.

The trouble with the 1st Relax had nothing to do with gauge or swatching – I got the size I was aiming at; it’s just that that size was totally inappropriate for the pattern, which demanded extravagant ease.  I’ve got my original swatch, and I also made notes about the final, blocked gauge before I sent the sweater off to Hellie. So in that respect I’m ready to roll.

Yesterday as well as sock-knitting I attached the first of my three little edging strips to its little centre square with whip stitch. Rather fun. Now I am ready to move on to the next part of that lesson with Franklin, which I think is going to be about mattress stitch. But Herzog is currently more urgent.

The Noro sock yarn turned up. I don’t think it’s quite right for my husband, texture-wise. I am increasingly resolved to attempt some toe-up socks for him and see if I can’t get the fit right.

I got the seeds sown on the doorstep yesterday, too: sorrel and Welsh onions and huauzontle, in separate containers. I wonder if my previous failure with doorstep vegetables has been due to lack of feeding. My husband tends to regard “feeding” plants as sissified  – manuring the soil in advance is all right. But I think vegetables in pots probably need Miracle-Gro.

(The Word spell-check accepts “sissified” but has never heard of “manuring”.)