Saturday, May 31, 2014

I'm well advanced with round 111 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl – the third corner is in sight. The current and last motif reaches its widest point at 113 – another little landmark and one I might even reach today. Meanwhile the 5th ball of yarn – the May Ball, one might call it – is on its last legs, with the cardboard core showing urgently through. But the yarn can hold out a remarkable length of time in that state – it'll go a couple of days into June, at least.

I feel pretty confident that the 6th ball will see the job out. Sharon's pattern was written before Jamieson & Smith Shetland Supreme came into being – she specifies 9 25 gram balls of J&S cobweb yarn, “or similar”. Shetland Supreme was cooked up fairly recently in a collaboration between J&S and the Shetland Museum, to recreate handspun Shetland lace yarn as closely as is possible in a commercially-spun yarn.

It's wonderful stuff, strong and bouncy. And, now it would appear, also miraculously light. But J&S will scarcely expect the cash to come rolling in, if it takes a month to knit 25 grams of it.

You will remember that I started out, in late December, by knitting the edging, expecting to pick up stitches and knit inward towards the centre. But I got scared about the need to reverse aspects of the border pattern since it had been written centre-outwards. The last thing I wanted to do in those dark days, when I wasn't feeling very well anyway, was think. So I laid it aside, and cast on the centre (provisionally), and have been doing it Sharon's way ever since.

And I have recently half-decided that when I finally finish the borders, I will not graft on the waiting edging, but knit one on (because it's fun), and keep the edging I've got as a starter for the Queen Ring Shawl. I have further half-decided that I might as well knit the Queen Ring edging onto the Unst Bridal Shawl, since the reverse is going to be the case.

In terms of width and effect, the edgings are fine for substitution. But what about the maths? I must soon re-read the instructions for both patterns, and do a bit of thinking. I don't mind it (thinking) so much when we've got a proper amount of light.


My sister has got the Good King Henry plants she ordered, and is now not sure that treating them as bitter leaves and frying in butter with anchovies and garlic, is going to work. They actually taste nasty, she says – the mot juste, indeed.

All is going well on the doorstep here, although the lollo rosso lettuce is making but slow progress. I think the Salad Leaves (mild) might actually figure in their first salad today. The chillis on the kitchen windowsill are swinging into production.


The Harlot's post of May 29 found her stuck in a number of ruts, but I'm glad to see that May 30 reports progress on all fronts. Other people get so much more done than I do.

I am much struck with the Red Fuji Tank Top, discovered on Zite, and rather emphatically not for me. The yarn is Noro, cotton, wool, nylon and silk, which sounds OK. Perhaps a granddaughter? But when?


Thank you again for suggestions and comments about my husband;s mobility problems. I'm going to shelve the whole thing until Helen gets back in July, but I will remember your advice.

Eeny Meeny continues to hold up well on Amazon's bestseller lists. It was 5th last week on the Sunday Times paperback fiction list -- tomorrow's ranking is eagerly awaited.

Barbara M., I was deeply moved by your comment yesterday, alhough I had to look up Chawton. I wish we had met.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Everybody is back in position. Helen emailed pictures from Athens, some of which appear below. And I delivered Archie to Merchiston myself.

I've reached round 110 of the 136 needed for the border of the Unst Bridal Shawl. A round and a half is about the best I can hope for as a day's stint, now that there are so many stitches – and still increasing by eight every other round. Indeed, in one sense, I am in no hurry to finish, this is such pleasure. Like Penelope at her loom, although I wouldn't go so far as to unpick it at night, And I don't see where there is going to be space to block it, in all this clutter.

Thank you for your kindly messages yesterday welcoming me back. Mary Lou, I wish I could have some of the walking onions you are discarding. I have tried and failed with them. Here is a picture Helen took of me amongst the vegetables – seeing to the garlic, judging from my position:

The man we have commissioned to look after the garden – he's doing brilliantly – was asked to put in some potatoes. They're coming up in the foreground of that picture, and provide an air of stability and order to what would otherwise be dereliction.

Here are pictures Helen took of our resident deer in the paddock. I feel it is a comment on the lack of mental scope in an animal, when English doesn't distinguish between singular and plural – deer, sheep, fish:

Archie will be back here in ten days or so, when his GCSE exams are over. I am debating with myself whether to ask him to go to Strathardle with us. He is strong and cheerful, but he's not a woman – would his support be enough? And would he want to come? My husband is notoriously bad-tempered, and comes down particularly hard on Archie, who bears it with amazing grace. But it must be hard on him.

On the other hand, it is a wonderful time of year to be there. The cuckoo is singing. The bats are flying (we love our bats). The light is still increasing.

I am grateful, too, for your advice on wheelchairs and, Ellen, your suggestion of a portable walker. The main purpose of any such device would be to make patent our right to be treated as Disabled and be helped on and off trains. You may well be right, Ellen, that a walker would be more acceptable to my husband than a wheelchair. I am inclined to leave the whole problem aside until Helen gets back in July. The wedding isn't until November 1. We need to know Destination Station and train times. I need to email the wedding venue -- it's one of those country houses -- to ask about meals for my husband in our room. His right hand is arthritic, and he is embarrassed about eating in public.

But I'm pretty sure that this will work out better than leaving him behind with a resident nurse.

For something completely different – here is a picture, taken recently and sent to me yesterday, of the Socklady and Kristie. I don't know the details of their meeting yet. Such conjunctures always startle me – I think of you as characters in separate novels, and this is as if I should have been sent a picture of Elizabeth Bennett with Julia Flyte.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Safely home, happily reunited with the Unst Bridal Shawl. I'm halfway around round 108 of the border pattern, 136 being the target.

We had a good time. I had something like a panic attack on Sunday morning, the day we left, and was afraid to take valerian for fear it would affect driving. But all went well. We -- my husband, Archie and I -- got to Strathardle, and Greek Helen joined us that evening.

She harvested a rich crop of local news during our two-day stay, and also made a delicious nettle soup. I tried the Guardian writer's idea of soaking Good King Henry in salt water before cooking, and it works. Not as tasty as real spinach picked at the man-from-Del-Monte moment,  but all four of us ate it cheerfully enough. It's a hardy easy-care perennial vegetable of no interest to rabbits or deer -- that's something worth having. I will move on next time to trying my sister's idea of frying the leaves unsoaked and bitter with anchovies and garlic.

Deer are getting increasingly out of hand. Helen flew to Edinburgh and then took the train to Pitlochry and then a taxi the rest of the way. She says they disturbed two herds of deer at separate points on the road over the hills. And we have one living in our paddock. It watches coolly as we walk or drive past (our driveway goes up through the paddock to join the road to the village) with an air that suggests that we are the intruders. Helen got a couple of pictures of it which I hope to post soon.

Little remains of my Welsh onions, but the garlic patch is in good heart and -- oh, Hat! -- your Babington leeks! My perennial vegetable book suggests leaving garlic in. The unharvested cloves from last year have come up in clusters -- again, clearly of no interest to deer. So I dug up some clumps to use as garlic-y spring onions, and others to separate and re-plant. It is hardneck garlic, and I'm hoping for some of the magical spiral flower stems we had last year. A Chinese delicacy, lightly fried in butter with a squirt of soy sauce.

So all is not lost.

Knitting went less well. I took along the Carol Sunday scarf kit and a short circular of the right gauge. Short, but not short enough. I don't keep many supplies there,  but I did find a short-enough circular of a too-small gauge. I knit a couple of four-row stripes, but I don't really like short circulars, let alone too-tight knitting. I deliberately left the whole apparatus behind , and will pack a set of dp's of the right gauge next time.

We hope that Rachel and her son Joe might be able to join us there soon. Failing them, we'll have to wait until Helen reappears in July. I don't think even my husband would propose going without support these days. He fell, at one point -- slipped on wet grass and sat down heavily, partially supported by a black current bush. No harm was done, and Archie got him to his feet without difficulty. But all three of us were a bit shaken. Helen was off gathering local gossip and missed the brief excitement.

We talked about what to do about the wedding -- November 1 in North Yorkshire. I think we have more or less concluded that my husband will have to make the effort, the alternatives being too grim. I've got to be there, because my mother refused to come to Rachel's wedding (Rachel being, now, the bridegroom's mother). It's a long story which I won't attempt to tell.

I think the answer might be to acquire a collapsible wheelchair. "Frail and irritating" is one thing, "disabled" quite another.

I promised pictures, and will eventually have some, when Helen sends me hers. Meanwhile, here is Lizzie on her West Coast tour. (Lizzie is the bridegroom's younger sister, travelling in the UsofA at the end of her very successful and happy year at the University of Kansas. I don't know who the other girls are.)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

This is dreadful news about the Glasgow School of Art, although the radio this morning mercifully suggests that the loss is not total. If the word “iconic” weren't so dreadfully overused, this would be the moment to employ it. It is (or was) an astonishing building in every detail, of European importance.

I thought yesterday (although I am sure this is inappropriate) of Herostratus, who burnt down the Temple of Diana at Ephesus in the 4th century BC – it was one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world – in order to ensure that his name would live in history. As it has. The School was full of students yesterday, preparing for their degree show. If the fire was started by the carelessness of one of them, he or she will have to live the rest of his or her life as The One Who Burnt Down the Glasgow School of Art.

I did well on errands yesterday. Today will be quieter, I hope, organising things for Strathardle tomorrow and cooking for Archie, who is an appreciative subject. I'm glad we're not going today. For one thing, I still haven't potted-on those chillis.

I've reached round 106 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Only 30 more remain. And the 5th ball of yarn, the one for May, is beginning to look poorly, right on schedule.

I won't try to write tomorrow morning. If all goes well, I'll be here again on Thursday – with pictures, I promise.

Friday, May 23, 2014


No more courgettes. It looks as if five-out-of-eight is to be my ration. Greek Helen sent me a picture of her courgettes. She's well ahead. That looks like an earthenware pot.

My husband voted successfully yesterday, while I waited outside on a double yellow line. There was something very touching about watching people detach themselves from the city centre crowd and follow him in with their poll cards in their hands. Judith, that is a good idea about registering for a postal vote. At the moment, there is much to be said for making the effort to get out. We no longer go for walks. “Out” is only for doctors and religion. Politics make a pleasant change.

And you're quite right, Knitlass, UKIP is worse than preposterous. I don't think I have ever felt so fed up with politicians, on both sides of the sea. Like Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst/ Are full of passionate intensity.”

LisaRR, white currants are a sport (I think) of red currents, and taste very similar. We have a couple of bushes in Strathardle, cuttings from my (now dead) sister-in-law. The birds largely leave them alone and go for redness. I have made summer pudding with them. I don't think it is quite as good – but maybe, like the birds, I am just  beguiled by colour.


Not much yesterday, but I am well into round 104 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl and the new tree-of-life motifs have been established without mishap.

The new IK turned up yesterday. I like the Nautilus Hat – someone might get that for Christmas. I love Shirley Paden's travelling stitch jacket, but am sure I will never tackle it. And the main business of this issue – knitting socks from the sole upwards – sounds very interesting. I feel I ought to try, after my recent sock-knitting binge. Does it work, fit-wise? Is it intolerably fiddly to execute?


Archie phoned last night, disappointed that we planned to go to Strathardle as soon as he can get here from school tomorrow. I have decided that he's right – we'd be better, on a number of counts, to stay here tomorrow night and go on Sunday. His mother Helen will arrive that evening. That still gives us two complete dawn-to-dusk days up there. That should be plenty.   

Thursday, May 22, 2014


FIVE courgettes came up in the pots on my front step yesterday! I put in eight seeds, in all. It's a chilly, grey Edinburgh morning today. They'll wish they'd stayed in bed.

Hellie says that Eeny Meeny will be 6th, not 8th, on that Sunday Times best-seller list this weekend. She also says that newspaper reviews can make a difference if you are – say – in the running for the Booker, but don't greatly affect “commercial books”.

Everybody must be potting on their chillis – B&Q had no flowerpots of the size I wanted, earthenware or plastic. I have been given some by a neighbour who came upon me searching for flowerpots in the boot of the car. Hers are plastic, somewhat chewed by her dogs. I hope to get the potting-on done today.

But today's real excitement will be getting my husband to the polling station to cast his vote for the European parliament. It's one of those unexciting elections with lists of candidates and votes distributed among them by a system too complicated for anyone to understand. Here in Scotland, it seems to be regarded as a dry run for the Referendum. If I had the franchise, I would be tempted to vote UKIP, just this once: a plague on all their houses.

“Pudding”: you're right, it means what Americans mean by “dessert” but it also means pudding, as in Yorkshire pudding and Guards pudding (there's a good one) and Christmas pudding. As for Summer Pudding, all the recipes I've ever seen say to make it with a mixture of red fruit – raspberries, strawberries, and red currents. My husband is emphatic that it must be made with red currents only so that's the way I do it.

Ebay hasn't emailed me with news of the hacker and instructions to change my password. I'll probably do it anyway but so far, at least, am not greatly agitated. As long as PayPal is secure. That's the scary one.

The Scotsman has been advertising a tour devoted to the gardens and wildflowers of Shetland. That would be fun. I read about an interesting garden, not long before we went, and took the clipping with me, but there was no time to be spared from kntting.


I've reached round 103 – just – of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl and am beginning to establish the Tree of Life motifs. There's a slight oddity in the chart – some trees begin YO, k2tog and others k2tog, YO. I can't see any point in the distinction and think it may be a peculiarity – one couldn't even call it a mistake – in the charting.

Sure enough, there was trouble at one point (only) with the trellises in round 101. I didn't try to correct it. The stitch count was unaffected, and I figured that a temporarily errant trellis would be less conspicuous than the dropped stitch all too likely to emerge if I tried to unpick a k3tog.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The big news is that Eeny Meeny will be on a Sunday Times bestseller list this weekend, at no. 8. I asked Hellie in my reply whether there have been any newspaper reviews – haven't heard yet. Maybe those aren't as important as they once were. It continues to sink in the Amazon rankings.

Still no courgettes. I put in two different sorts in two different pots. Not a squeak, and it's been nearly a fortnight. Everything else is well, especially the Salad Leaves (Mild). I thinned them a bit yesterday, feeling rather sad, as always, at having to rip out little plants that had taken all the trouble to grow.

Today I hope to get down to B&Q and buy some earthenware pots for potting-on the little chilli plants Alexander gave me, and some potting compost to put in them. I have come to think that everybody is much happier in earthenware. My husband profoundly disapproves of potting compost, but when one has no other access to soil, what is one to do? Plants like it.


I've started round 102 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl, another plain garter stitch round. 101 involved the trellises only, moving left and right – so easy a round that it was also easy to lose one's place. And what is not easy, is tinking a k3tog. That is what the trellises are composed of. I will count carefully in this round and may be able to make some adjustments.

Then in 103 the final motif will be established and all will be well – it's an upside-down Tree of Life. Upside-down so that it will read as right-side-up when the finished shawl is viewed from the outside-in. If you see what I mean.

You have left such nice comments lately that I will let you in on something – to do with football. You will remember that on Easter Sunday, way back then, Liverpool were well placed to win the League. And they won that day, which made it better. And Matt said that if Liverpool won the League, he might propose to Hellie.

That doesn't mean that Hellie would have been obliged to accept him, of course. She'd better get married to somebody at some point, however, now that I have invested six, at least, of my dwindling stock of remaining months of life, in knitting this shawl.

Cam, that's an inspiring idea – to take the Carol Sunday scarf along to Strathardle this weekend. I may just do it. Poor Pakokku socks! They haven't been forgotten, either. You would think with all this doctor-going lately that they would have been finished long since. What happened was that, waiting for one appointment, I messed up the k2p2 rib at the start of the second sock. I think that was the day when Alexander had come over to support me, and I was talking as well as being nervous as well as knitting.

At the next appointment, which was cardiology I think, I tried to repair it and gave up and started again.

At the moment, I am within a round or two of finishing off the 35 rounds of ribbing. After that, they should knit themselves.

Here's a mildly amusing yarn-based video for you.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I've reached round 100 (a plain garter stitch round) in the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. If mental arithmetic serves, the final 36 rounds will add another 144 stitches. It's going to be very crowded. And the Queen Ring, if I am really foolhardy enough to take that on, will have even more. I suppose one could employ a second needle, but it would be awkward.

The original knitter and Sharon knit the borders separately, for that one. The trouble with that solution is the seaming. Sharon doesn't make it sound like much fun.

I am feeling a bit overwhelmed with how much else isn't getting knit, while I revel in lace. It's the addition of Kate Davies' Hap for Harriet to the list of things I urgently and immediately want to do, which has precipitated these feelings. There's that one, and the Northmavine hap mentioned yesterday, and finishing Rams & Yowes, and the Fair Isle vest I want to do while learning to use my knitting belt, and I bought that Carol Sunday beautiful stripey scarf kit – there must be close to a year's knitting in that lot alone. And that's just the recent stuff, leaving the Real Stash untouched.

That Anonymous Comment

Many, many thanks for your support. It was deeply appreciated. But, Anonymous, if you're here this morning – there's some truth in what you say. Old age is biting deep around here. This past winter took a heavy toll. And as a result, the blog is more and more confined to events behind our front door. Edinburgh might as well be Akron, Ohio, for all we see of it. No more trips to London, few to Strathardle. Even exhibitions right on our doorstep are difficult to manage and rarely attempted. Have the courgettes come up? (No) Did I reach round 100? (Yes) In the excitement stakes, it's not exactly Godzilla.

But the recent discussion of how much imperfection can be tolerated in lace knitting, is an odd bone to pick as the reason for leaving. That's clearly a temporary thread which will fade away in a day or two like Eeny Meeny (sinking, in the Amazon bestseller lists) and the habits of cuckoos.

We have at least this weekend's trip to Strathardle to look forward to. Will there be enough Good King Henry to try some experimenting? My sister recommends bitter leaves in general, fried with a bit of garlic and butter. And that woman suggested soaking it in salt water for half an hour before cooking as spinach. And this year's crop of nettles should be just right for soup-making.

Will we be in time to net the Summer Pudding Bush? Probably so – the birds leave it alone until the berries begin to turn pink and then red. And what about apple blossom? How much? And did it get frosted? It takes only the slightest touch of frost, at the right moment, to carry off the whole year's crop. Are there any flowers on the white lilac we planted last year? How are the mice? Lots of potential excitement there.

My husband and Archie and I will drive up on Saturday. Helen will follow on Sunday, directly from Athens.

What knitting to take? I can't remember what I did last time. I think it probably has to be that Pakokku sock

Monday, May 19, 2014

One of you gave me Kate Davies' “Hap for Harriet” pattern yesterday. Sue, I have left a grateful message for you over on Ravelry, but words can't do it. It was a wonderful kindness.

As it happens, I had to change the ink cartridges in the printer yesterday. They are so expensive that I use the printer as rarely as possible, so it took a while to figure out how to proceed. (It's easy: open the printer, take the old cartridges out, put the new ones in.) Then I tested the success of the operation by printing the pattern and stapling it together and putting it in Kate's “Colours of Shetland”.

And then I spent a while with that delightful book. I had almost forgotten that I have the yarn for the Northmavine Hap – Kristie made me buy it, that day we were in Jamieson & Smith, after I had bought the lace yarn I'm now using and some of their Shetland Heritage yarn for a Fair Isle vest, and been given the Rams & Yowes kit as an 80th birthday present from Kate herself. Kristie has knit the Northmavine Hap, and says that darning in the ends is a bore.

Then I had to buy a zippered carrier bag to get the yarn home.

As for what's actually happening here, I'm halfway around round 98 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Round 99 will finish off the current batch of motifs, I ought to be able to achieve that today.

As for the Fear of Lace, do read Mary Lou's comment yesterday, Kristie. And there is a touching passage in Sharon Miller's description of the Queen Ring Shawl – it is an antique shawl which she owns, and has re-created in the published pattern. She says that the original knitter has had to insert an extra plain stitch in an section which Sharon illustrates close-up. I can't see it, myself. Then she says, “It looks as if she accidentally caused this by doing a 'k3tog' instead of a 'k2tog' on the first 'half bead diamond' which she corrected. To see such things done by experts is a comfort for us distracted knitters, and tells of long past events that caused the knitter's mind to wander temporarily – just as ours can do today!”

That's an interesting idea, Ariana, of using that little hole in a circular needle (see comment yesterday) to insert a lifeline. The wonderful needle I am using – I hope I have a record somewhere of what it is – doesn't seem to have a little hole, but I am sure I have seen them.

I hope Blogger's recent eccentricities of font size will have smoothed themselves out by today.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I' m halfway around round 97, of the borders of the Unst Bridal Sawl. It's another slow one, with multiple k3tog's. But they are at least simple and straightforward k3tog's in which all the stitches to be operated on, were knit in the previous round. It's incorporating yo's into k3tog's that gives me trouble.

Kate Davies has published a new pattern, a hap shawl designed as a retirement present for an old friend and mentor. It's a stunner, in that elongated triangle shape which is so useful and versatile. The yarn is from Old Maiden Aunt, and looks lovely and cosy. Kate describes it as a “heavy laceweight”. I think I'd better get the pattern and lay it aside.

I heard from Kristie yesterday – she had fallen even harder, and ordered both pattern and yarn. (Do you have to pay duty in Canada on yarn imported from Scotland?) She's now wondering whether she has the capacity to do it. I'm sure she does. 

The yarn is finer than she's used to – one's fingers soon adjust to that. Her biggest problem with lace, she says, is not being able to fix mistakes. I know what she means. I've never had any luck with lifelines, either. Getting one in would take three times as long as knitting the stitches – and the thought of trying to recover stitches from a lifeline doesn't bear contemplating.

Hazel Carter in her excellent “Shetland Lace Knitting from Charts” says that it is when you stretch a shawl out to block it that you see all your mistakes. And also says that nobody else will notice.

I'm a bit worried about my Unst shawl in this respect. There was serious trouble at the stage where I was picking up stitches from the centre and beginning to knit the borders outwards. I had difficulty recovering the stitches from the provisional cast-on. I had that accident where the end of the circular needle separated itself from the cable. Stitches flew everywhere, and they weren't very neatly recovered. And there's the Messy Corner, where I achieve garter-stitch-in-the-round by turning and knitting in the other direction.

(I've started wrapping the pivot stitch at that corner, inspired by my own words in that virtual lace seminar we were talking about the other day. It's much neater, although distinctly conspicuous.)

My comfort is that the outer part of the shawl – the part I'm knitting at the moment – is going to be fairly good, barring another disaster. Maybe that will carry the eye. And maybe there is a charm in imperfection. I started knitting a Mourning Shawl for our niece in the last days of her mother's (my husband's sister's) life. The evening after the visit to the hospice which was the last time we were able to speak to her, I completely messed up one of the edging points. I was about to rip it out and try again – you can get away with that, on an edging, because so few stitches are involved. And then I thought no, I'll leave it, as a permanent, visible token of distress.

Well, I'll go on thinking about all this. For now, I must get on with Sunday.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

I'm halfway around round 96 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. 100 is in sight.

I was wandering around Zite yesterday and came, again, to Franklin's blog for Lion Brand: the one he published in February about things that take a long time to knit (like the Unst Bridal Shawl). In it he says:

Oddly enough, I’m less inclined to cast on for something large if it’s also something simple. If I’m going to be on the road for a long haul, I need scenery. I need twists and hills and rivers and roadside attractions and flocks of sheep.

This is why complicated lace attracts more than repels me–all that fun along the way, always something new just coming into view. Shetland lace, with all those different patterns in the center, borders, and edging? Yes, please. It may have to wait until I retire, but I want to go to there.”

Oh, Franklin, you'll love it. I would say, plunge in now – except that it wouldn't leave much time for writing and drawing and designing and teaching, and perhaps you have a living to make.

Jane, my Princess is a triangle. In fact, I didn't know the pattern was available as a square – although I did know that Sharon had re-issued the pattern, with additions. The triangle shape gets past the garter stitch problem, at least, by being entirely back-and-forth.

I've been having a nice time flipping through the Amirisu magazine – perhaps for the first time really enjoying my new blistering download speeds. There's a Stephen West shawl I fancy, if I had nothing else to do.

Nature notes

I got a pollinating brush for myself last year, Jeanfromcornwall, when I was worried about chillis not setting fruit. Inspired by your comment, I started using it again yesterday. I have been misting the plants regularly – I think that's supposed to help.

How do you suppose one stresses a chilli plant, Mrs. A? Shout at it? More seriously, an occasional shortage of water might do it. They are thirsty plants.

And I don't need any chillis – I still have quite a substantial poke of them in the freezer, from last year. Nor does my husband care for very hot food. I like to use them as an accent, as one might shake in a few drops of Tabasco to a dish which otherwise disappoints. The big jalapeno from Waitrose is the best for that purpose. The Apaches and Scotch Bonnets are seriously hotter. Chillis keep their heat when frozen but, as Alexander rightly says, lose their texture.

On a different topic, my sister sent me this link to an article about cuckoos from the University of Michigan. I had no idea there were so many different species. Indeed, I thought a cuckoo was a cuckoo and that was that. And it is very interesting to learn that Darwin himself was puzzled about how the cuckoo's unusual system of child-rearing could have evolved. We hope to go to Strathardle next weekend – a week today, in fact – with Archie and his mother, Greek Helen. I hope we aren't too late to hear the cuckoos.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Driven to distraction by pop-up ads – and restoring the original settings didn't help – I google'd the problem just now and have just added an extension-program called Simple Adblock (free in the Chrome store). I think maybe it's going to work.

Yesterday was successful, although fully as exhausting as feared. The streets around the dr's surgery are being resurfaced – driving my husband to a point near enough that he could walk there, was rather like a computer game. But we managed, and got the desired referral back to Rheumatology for his near-useless right hand. And, later, it was good to see our old friends, and especially good for my husband to connect for a moment again to the world of art.

Not much knitting, therefore, but I did get all the way around round 94 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl (a particularly soothing round) and have embarked on 95. I hope to do a bit better today. There are chores – back to Boots to pick up yet another prescription – but nothing involving the clock.

I was up there earlier in the week – the dr had filled only half of the request, hence the return visit. I spent a few soothing moments in the yarn dept of John Lewis (of course). I looked at the balls of Rowan Big Wool, enticingly coloured and £8.50 each. Any of us could knit one in a weekend – probably, indeed, in an evening. And there I was, blissfully happy with a yarn costing £5.50 for a ball which lasts me a month. But does nothing for stash reduction.

Eeny Meeny had a sluggish day yesterday and has slipped down the ratings.


My seeds are coming up! First Salad Mixture (Mild), then the peas, and today the lollo rosso loose-leaf lettuce and a couple of nasturtiums. That leaves only the courgettes to check in. There is room out there for a couple more big pots. I must give serious thought to a more interesting and extensive range of subjects for next year. It is wonderful to have them right under my nose, where I can pop out to talk to them every half hour.

The chillis on the kitchen windowsill are growing and flowering nicely, but remain reluctant to set fruit. Rachel says the chilli plant I gave her for her birthday last year (end of June; I've forgotten the variety) is covered with chillis.

Simple Adblock helps a lot, but hasn't solved the whole problrm.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

I've reached (just) round 94 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. 93 was a slow one – no fewer than 6 k3togs in every 36-stitch repeat. My ambition for the day was just to get around, and I did. There will probably be even less knitting today – one event per day is about all we can handle (and that, not too often). Today we've got two, a dr's appt for my husband and the visit of old friends at the end of the afternoon.

I went back to the Awful Library Books site – link yesterday – and left a comment in defence of “Royal Knits”. I would be delighted to find it on the knitting shelf of any library, and said so. I agree with them that one volume of an encyclopedia (another entry, above Royal Knits) is not much use, but am taken aback that they seem to think that an out-of-date encyclopedia is useless per se.

Jared has been publishing interviews with the designers in his latest collection, most recently Kyoko Nakayoshi. And I must say if I weren't totally obsessed with Shetland lace, her drapy cardigan would be high on my wish list. (Knitting seems to be drapy everywhere at the moment – I was riding the crest of a wave without knowing it, when I knit those three Relax's.)

And Joe is off to the annual Men's Knitting Retreat, an event I always enjoy vicariously. He has promised to blog every day – and he takes good pictures.


“Eeny Meeny” seems to have sunk slightly in the Amazon listings overnight, despite your purchase, Shandy. Thanks for that. (Follow the link, if you've got a moment. Shandy is always worth reading – and looking at.) No, I don't remember the character named Hellie! I will make enquiries. I thought the author was particularly good at handling a large cast without creating confusion. I am much prone to losing my footing and having to double back to remind myself who someone is, but it didn't happen in that book.

Lizzie has finished classes and exams at KU and is about to leave forever, first on a westward tour to take in Las Vegas and San Francisco, then home to South London. She has made good use of her year. To mark the departure, she staged a mock graduation with her friend Logan, who is also leaving, and may be surprised to find himself featuring in an Edinburgh-based knitting blog.. Another friend contributed a mortarboard. They walked under the bell tower and down to the football stadium, which is what one does at KU on one's graduation day. I feel my old eyes misting with tears.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

I'm half-way around round 92 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I have attempted a photograph – it's increasingly difficult to get anything vaguely meaningful because of the bowl-like shape imposed by the centre-outwards orientation. And increasingly dangerous: even this well-behaved yarn could decide to push the point protectors aside and make a dash for freedom.

So I probably won't attempt another until I start knitting the edging on and thereby releasing the shawl. That will be fun.


Notice, please, that the Socklady herself left a comment here yesterday. I am absolutely sure she is right that if you do want to knit gloves, 4" needles are the only way to go.

Zite came up with this, this morning, a book called “Royal Knits” on a site called (I am afraid) “Awful Library Books”. The text claims that it dates from the 80's, vintage Charles-and-Diana. It seems to be undated – I sped off to Abebooks and bought it for my oddities shelf; the seller's description didn't include a date. Some of the items illustrated are really very witty.

I thought this sort of thing was a recent phenomenon – Knit Your Own Royal Wedding for William and Kate, and so forth. So this book is interesting historically, too, as well as for wit.


Amazon keeps a best-sellers list, updated hourly. Eeny Meeny was 49 among the hundred-top-Kindle-titles yesterday, now 40. It's 17 on Books>fiction>contemporary fiction. I've finished reading it – it keeps up the pace and the surprises to the end – and have returned rather gratefully to Mr. Sharma's “Family Life”.

The author's fictionalised teenaged self speaking: “Normally when I did things that appeared difficult, like connecting a VCR with the TV, I didn't read the instructions, for I was afraid of failure, and reading the directions only made me more anxious that I would fail.”

That's my current relationship with the signal-booster, precisely. I haven't attempted it yet.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Well, here I am, as you see, now with blistering download speeds. But I am still constrained by the idiosyncrasies of the computer and – a real downer – the neat little signal-booster thing David and Helen gave me for Christmas doesn't work with the new "hub", and I can't find the book. I've got instruction books for every other electronic device known to modern man, but not that one.

I've found the box and in it a little CD with a manual on it. It claims that I've got to install the booster by going on-line and telling some website the new password. I'm sure I didn't do that last time. It was just a matter of pushing buttons. But I suppose I'll have to try.

It doesn't really matter for day-to-day life. I can always carry the iPad nearer the signal source. But when my husband stops prowling around the house and starts working on his computer again, it's very handy to have a strong signal in the dining room where he works so that anything he saves is safely stored in the cloud.


I'm nearly halfway around round 90 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Progress is slow (but peaceful) at the moment as the current motifs are nearing their apogee – it occurs in round 91. The motifs require action in every round. The even-numbered, wrong-side rounds (as at present) aren't much faster than the other ones.

It is rather wonderful the way this sort of knitting calms and steadies one – yesterday was fairly stressful – by holding the world at bay. For however long one can allow oneself to keep at it, it is necessary to concentrate on the here and now.

The Socklady has extended her Koigu-based colour-blending genius to  gloves. They are mentioned on her blog, but for a picture you have to go to Facebook. I am tremendously impressed. Fingers are on my short list of things never to knit again, along with mohair and bobbles. But in the case of fingers, I love the result, I just don't want to do it.


I have picked up speed again with Eeny Meeny. The twists and turns are irresistible, rather like finishing off a su-doku,

Cat G. sent me this link to a review of it at the Book Depository. Amazon and Goodreads have also got customer reviews – all pretty positive. I have learned, at least, that M.J. Arlidge is a man. He has made his career writing for television. This is his first novel. There is another promised for September – I don't think anyone has much hope of getting a first thriller published these days without submitting a second at the same time.

I shall continue to watch the best-seller lists anxiously.

Monday, May 12, 2014

It's all over. Liverpool and Manchester City both won yesterday. Half the battle, you might say. For Liverpool to win the league, Manchester City's defeat was as essential as their own victory, and it didn't happen.

I had a good day otherwise. The tripod is installed and sown with peas and courgettes – and looks rather well, even without greenery. I could wish I had been feeling peppier in the earlier months of the year, when I should have been poring over the catalogues and choosing interesting seeds. Next year. Knitting-wise, I'm in the home stretch of round 88 of the Unst Bridal Shawl – two whole rounds yesterday; that's very good, especially for a Sunday.

I'm about half-way through Hellie's book Eeny Meeny, watching eagerly and so far in vain for reviews. It's got a brilliant McGuffin. It moves very fast, with a new twist or turn every time you think you've got it all sussed out. A large cast of characters are marvellously well distinguished and handled. The prose is not very high quality – we're certainly not talking Le Carre here. And I'm finding it rather monotone in mood. I can't very well revert to Sharma's “Family Life” because that's equally depressing. I'll have to read about sheep.

And that's about it. I'll now retreat and dread the arrival of the BT engineer.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I do dislike Sunday mornings on Radio 4, and the fare was unusually depressing today.

We had a successful trip to B&Q yesterday, achieved our goal and I got my peas – Tom Thumb, “ideal for container growing”. Such are the achievements and excitements of old age. I hope I'll get the peas in today. At some point I'll post a picture of the tout ensemble on the doorstep, but that had better wait until something comes up.

Dear Liz – comment yesterday – would you have room for a chilli plant next to the parsley on your windowsill? It would produce a gratifying crop, which freezes well.


I'm now 3/4's of the way around round 86 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. It seems to go faster, now that the motifs have been established, although there are still an awful lot of stitches. I suppose the next big excitement, landmark-wise, will be the 100th round. It comes just at the top of the current set of motifs. There are 136 rounds, in all. Still a long way to go.

More non-knit

Greek Helen gave my husband a beautiful Greek sheep bell for Christmas. She has at last, after a titanic struggle, succeeded in posting this on YouTube. Will it work?

Tomorrow a BT engineer is coming to upgrade our download speed. I'm sort of sorry I signed up for this. If you don't hear from me, it's because I'm tangled up in technology.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

I am nearly around round 84 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl – establishing the next set of motifs. When one finishes off a set of them, and faces the uneventful rounds that follow, the prospect is blissful. But “uneventful” soon morphs into “tedious”. There are now really an awful lot of stitches, and it seems to be all I can do to get around once-and-a-bit in a day.

I got out that old book and looked at the “Shetland shawl” pattern but am none the wiser. One casts on a number of stitches, a multiple of the lace pattern provided – what multiple, is up to the knitter. One knits for a while, on four needles or two. I was puzzled by the idea of four needles – are we knitting a tube here, to be cut open like Rams & Yowes? I think not. I think the extra needles are just to facilitate more stitches, although it's odd.

Then one might edge the whole thing with a Van Dyke edging, found elsewhere in the book.

Now that I have written that down, I feel it might be interesting to swatch both the lace pattern for the shawl and the edging pattern. For authenticity, stick with Sharon Miller. But this book – 184- something – is half-a-century earlier than the first real Shetland lace printed patterns which Sharon has found.


I got a pot of loose-leaf lettuce sown yesterday, and a trough of courgettes and salad leaves with the occasional nasturtium. The trough was intended for peas, but there were none in the envelope. A click that failed to go through? Courgettes are a rather boring vegetable when it comes to actual eating, but they're more fun than anything to grow. And I think Helen has a Greek recipe for stuffed courgette flowers which doesn't involve deep-fat frying.

That leaves a tripod, a curious rusty object which has been at the edge of the kitchen garden in Strathardle forever. I thought it might add interest to the doorstep by adding height. The idea is for more courgettes, which will spill down the sides – but we've got to go to B&Q today in pursuit of one of the bees in my husband's bonnet, so I might be able to seize the opportunity to have a look at their seed-packet rack.

Friday, May 09, 2014

My eyes are fine.

Well, they're not, of course, but I can drive. I can, in fact, read the line below the one on the oculist's chart which the DVLA specifies as a minimum. The recent difficulty is (I was told) because the plastic lens in my right eye since the cataract operation, has gone a bit cloudy, as plastic does. This can be corrected with lasers if I want but for the moment I will leave it, at least until I see how much new spectacles help. As long as I can knit comfortably and drive safely, why worry?

I've reached round 83 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. 136 is the target.

More non-knit:

A brief, excited email from granddaughter Hellie yesterday: “EENY MEENY is my book!” with a link to Richard and Judy.

I don't think this means that Hellie is writing thrillers these days under the name of M J Arlidge. More likely s/he is a writer Hellie has found and got published and promoted -- Richard and Judy are surely a coup -- in her role as literary agent. I bought it and am reading. It is perhaps stronger meat than I really care for, but it is certainly a page-turner. More on this later.

Before I get back to “Counting Sheep” and Sharma's “Family Life”. The great thing about Kindle is the way half-read paperbacks don't pile up on the floor.


I'm not really a Liverpool fan, Knitlass. Rachel's husband and children are, and Hellie's boyfriend Matt. In fact I think it is Liverpool that brought them together. On Easter Sunday they got up early and went off to Mass in Dunoon so that they could be back in time to watch the match. The rest of us went to the 11:30 in Inverary. And of course on Easter Sunday, Liverpool won. Things have gone downhill since.

As I understand yesterday's newspaper, Liverpool can still win the league if they win on Sunday and Manchester City lose. Stranger things have happened, although not many. But perhaps I don't grasp the subtleties. The man on the radio said yesterday that Liverpool would have to win by 14 points. That would require direct divine intervention.


The chilli plants on the kitchen windowsill have overwintered successfully and are now in action, although the big jalapeno from Waitrose that started the whole thing off, is reluctant to set fruit, as it was at the beginning of the season last year. The little plants that Alexander gave me are coming forward nicely. Eventually they will have to be re-potted and then one, at least, of last year's chillis will have to be sacrificed to make room for them.

And I am about to sow peas and salad leaves and courgettes on the doorstep outside – safe from rabbits and slugs and deer and sheep but alas I will not hear the cuckoo sing as I work.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Manchester City won 4-0 yesterday – goal difference comes into the story, as well as wins and losses. They've won the league, barring a miracle.

I've reached round 82 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl and thereby embarked on the third and final chart. The next set of motifs begins on round 84. I might get there today.

My sheep book arrived yesterday, and promises very well. “Counting Sheep” by Philip Walling. We all know a sheep when we see one, and we share these islands with 25 million of them. Mr Walling's thesis is that they might as well exist in another dimension, for all most of us know about them. And he writes well. His sheep-farming roots are in the north of England.

I started with the index and “Shetland”, but there is little there. It is not a systematic breed-by-breed sheep book. I've got other books that do that.


I found those remarkable pictures of cuckoo eggs (link yesterday) on a website promoting a book called "Why Evolution is True”. Maybe I should read it – the author must have some theory about how cuckoos evolved their remarkable way of life if he mentions them at all. Your hypothesis, Tamar, gets us some way along the path although it doesn't entirely address the question of why any cuckoo should abandon her egg in the first place, contrary to all other warm-blooded behaviors. Or am I wrong about that?

There are certainly birds that lay on bare ground, or at least in the grass. Pheasants do. But they sit on their eggs and try to take care of their chicks. They're not very bright.

I was very interested to learn, Anonymous, that cuckoos in PA only sometimes lay in other people's nests. I hope teams of ornithologists around the world are hard at work studying cuckoo behaviour. They are rather elusive birds, I believe. I don't think I've ever seen one.

Other non-knit

Today's excitement is a trip to the optician. I am experiencing a certain loss of visual acuity. Fine lace knitting and driving are perfectly comfortable, reading and television-watching more problematic. Can he fix things with new lenses? Or is this the beginning of the end of driving?

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

I didn't make quite as much progress as hoped, yesterday. But I'm more than halfway around round 80 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl, the last round on the second chart. It's a plain-vanilla garter stitch round, but there are still a lot of stiches. I won't reach the next motif today – maybe tomorrow – but should achieve the third chart.


Thanks for the link to the Online Lace Symposium, Catmum. I feel I must have read that interview with Sharon Miller before, because I was there (so to speak) at the Symposium – I appear as “A Lace Knitter” on Tuesday. My memory is that Franklin and Delores were also present, but if so, I haven't found them yet. Sharon Miller appears as I thought, although I don't remember reading the interview – an ordinary knitter like you and me, not a Shetlander, whose interest in lace became focussed and precise and scholarly.

As for Shetland shawls, Else and Linda, I think you could probably knit the edging as you go, Orenburg-fashion, on a rectangular scarf or stole but to do it on a square shawl would involve so much reorganization that – even if it proved possible – you'd wind up with something else. Normally, the rows of the edging are at right angles to the border rows all the way around. In the middle, the top and bottom of the centre square flow out into the borders with the rows parallel, but on either side of that centre square the connection is perpendicular again.

I have a half-feeling that there is a Shetland shawl pattern in one of my (few) nineteenth century knitting books which gives the whole thing as one piece, row by row. I have never tried to figure it out, but maybe today I will look it up and see if I can get at least a general idea of what is going on. (I am a graduate of Franklin's class on reading old patterns, after all!) I think it is the pattern which Richard Rutt says is the first Shetland shawl ever published. If so, it is but a pale simulacrum of what we know was going on in Shetland at the time.

Sharon's book “Love Darg Shetland Shawls Centenary” records and celebrates the first serious publication of Shetland lace patterns, in Aunt Kate's Home Knitter magazine from 1902. I must have another look at that, too.


Alexander has been listening to the cuckoo as he works outdoors, and wondering how such behaviour could ever evolve. There's no doubt that getting someone else to undertake the trouble and expense of bringing up your children, is advantageous. But how could it ever get started? Either you build a nest of your own like a normal bird, and lay eggs in it, or you lay them in someone else's nest. It's a yes-or-no decision, whereas evolution needs gradations.

 I did some Googling and (of course) got nowhere with the basic problem, but I did discover that cuckoos lay eggs which mimic those of the host birds in extraordinary fashion. I had always supposed that the host was too stupid, being only a bird, to recognise an alien egg amongst their own.

My theory is that when we hear the cuckoo in the spring, it is singing to its children and explaining the outlines of the system.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014


With 11 minutes to go, in the game with Crystal Palace last night, Liverpool were leading 3-0. That's a lot. The match ended in a 3-3 draw. It is still not impossible that Liverpool should win the league, if Manchester City disgrace themselves in their last two matches. But is it likely? No.


I have finished off the recent row of motifs, and reached round 79. Today's target is to finish round 80 and with it, the second chart. That's three and a half rows of motifs done, two and a half to go. I must surely be half-way, even allowing for the expanding corners.

Cam, yes, you've got it. A traditional square Shetland shawl consists of a square centre, usually with an all-over pattern, surrounded by four trapezoidal borders, the principal design element, the width of each border being roughly half that of the centre. The whole is finished off (or started, depending on which way you're going) with a strip of lace with a toothed edge – the edging. Liz Lovick refers to her edging patterns simply as “lace” – and she lives on Orkney and ought to know how people talk about things.

The first such shawl I ever knit was from a Paton's leaflet in the 50's (when I was expecting Rachel), designed by “Mrs Hunter of Unst”. I can't believe that Mrs Hunter knit it Paton's way – the six elements (centre, four borders, edging) were knit separately and laboriously seamed at the end. Shades of EZ's experience with editors! who insisted on taking her Aran designs apart and issuing the pattern so that they were knit flat. EZ found her own solution to the problem of editors. Mrs Hunter presumably just went home to Unst.

I got Sharon Miller's pamphlets out yesterday and began re-reading them attentively, starting with “The Lerwick Lace Shawl” in which, rather as with the Queen Ring, she deconstructs and then re-constructs an antique shawl in her own collection.

Her achievements really are rather remarkable. As far as I know, no one else has brought remotely her range of skills to bear on Shetland lace. It is appropriate that the Shetland Guild of Spinners, Knitters, Weavers and Dyers include an enthusiastic paragraph about “Heirloom Knitting” in the acknowledgements to their recent book “A Legacy of Shetland Lace”. A distant Englishwoman – or is Sharon an expatriate Shetlander? Google is quiet on the subject. Wikipedia knows only of an American professional golfer under that name.

Her ability to read a piece of old lace is remarkable, and to deduce the design process of the knitter. To knit and design herself, goes without saying, But she also has done serious research into the printed references to Shetland knitting and sheep. Her books/pamphlets contain many interesting quotations, passages not easy to find elsewhere.

Zite doesn't seem t have anything for us this morning.

Monday, May 05, 2014


Norwich City held Chelsea to a goal-less draw, the best news we've had for a while. Liverpool have still got to beat Crystal Palace today.


We've all known for the last few days that people in the audience at the production of Titus Andronicus at the Globe have been fainting at the sight of the violence. What I didn't know until yesterday is that the actress playing Lavinia, whose mutilation causes such havoc, is Flora Spencer-Longhurst...

...the daughter of old friends.

The sweater she is wearing here (I was not responsible for the trousers or shoes) is based on the patchwork jumper in Pam Dawson's “Knitting Fashion” from the mid-70's. That was one of the pivotal books in my knitting career, up there with Kaffe's “Glorious Knitting” and Amedro and later Miller on Shetland Lace. It's available for pennies on Abebooks, if you're interested.

EZ doesn't figure in my list of pivotal books. She sort of crept up on me. An article in the Sunday Times first introduced her to me. This was probably in the 70's, too – knitting was suddenly everywhere. You could send in for the pattern of the Baby Surprise. I did, and still have it, much-tattered mimeographed pages (that takes you back) from which I have knit many times.

EZ's books came later, for me.

As for Flora, Greek Helen and Archie and I saw her in a two-hander called “Wonderland” with Michael Maloney at the Festival Fringe two or three years ago – can't remember which – and Helen said then that Flora would go far. There os a picture of her in yesterday's Sunday Times, page 3, picturesquely smeared with stage blood.

I've reached round 77 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Round 78 will finish off the current motifs, an attainable goal for today. And this time there are five whole easy rounds to be done, before I am to launch the next set of motifs. That should speed things forward a bit as well as moving me to the third and final page of the “long charts”.

If I carry out my scheme of knitting the edging on to the shawl when I finish the borders, and keeping the edging already knit as the first element in a future Queen Ring shawl, I will need to add 32 points to it, eight per side (obviously). That's do-able. The great thing is that the Unst edging is as deep as the proper Queen Ring one – a narrow edging really wouldn't do.

Knitting the edging on would probably take about a month. I am a bit worried about the need to finish the Kate Davies Rams & Yowes blankie in time for Ted's first birthday at the end of October, two days before The Wedding. Archie's 18th is on the same day, but I don't think he'll want a blankie. Ted will celebrate, according to the current plan, at the wedding venue which is somewhere in the north of England.  

Sunday, May 04, 2014

I am afraid Manchester City won yesterday. We are not doing very well with our project of ensuring that Liverpool win the league. Today Chelsea play Norwich City (that's Delia Smith's team, I think); a freak victory for the latter would be welcome. Tomorrow Liverpool play Crystal Palace, and must win.

Yesterday was not very productive, knitting-wise. I have made a good start, however, on round 75 of the Unst Bridal Shawl border. My husband has abandoned his computer and taken to prowling about the house on a fault-finding mission, for which there is much scope. Then I must put things right.


A book called “Counting Sheep” was reviewed in the Scotsman yesterday. I ordered it at once, and will report further in due course. It is a history of British sheep, written by “a former sheep farmer and barrister” – a promising start. Nowhere else in the world has anything like the number of native breeds – 64 – in such a relatively small area, we are told.

I went past my LYS on yesterday's shopping expedition. The bunting was out for Yarn Store Day, and posters promised a visit from Ysolda Teague for the afternoon. I didn't trust myself to go in. 
Nana Go Go – I got your comment in my email in-box. Why doesn't it appear on the blog? At any rate, Kathy's Knits is the LYS in question. I linked to it yesterday, but left the name out of my text. It is an excellent shop, specialising in British wool. I wish for her sake that her premisses were at street level (instead of in a semi-basement) so that I could be tempted by the window display. For my sake, it's probably just as well this way.

You may have noticed that I have taken the blog-list in my sidebar in hand at last. Foggy Knitter is particularly good on books you may not have thought of, to read. (And I see I've got the links wrong, in the list, for her and the other newbies. I'll have to fix that.) And on that topic, I have embarked on Akhil Sharma's “Family Life” – a bit of which appeared in the New Yorker as a short story – and it's terrific.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Let's get it right, this weekend. Everton are at home to Manchester City today, and it is important that Everton should win. So if your heart is not otherwise engaged, please cheer for them.

I spoke to my sister yesterday, over a bad line. She got sick on the flight over – probably a bug acquired from grandson Ted with whom she had been spending time in DC,,,

 ...and since arrival in London she has started a cold, so she sounded rather miserable. And London is having tube strikes (I didn't know that) which inhibit sight-seeing.

But the mended shawl has arrived, and she professes herself pleased with it, so I can now revel in the Unst Bridal Shawl with an even clearer conscience.

The end of round 73 is in sight, and all continues to go smoothly. The current set of motifs are as easy as the ones I was struggling with at Loch Fyne over Easter were difficult. I even think the Messy Corner is looking a bit better, but I certainly won't attempt this sort of thing again until I have mastered the Fleegle System for Garter Stitch in the Round.

I had an idea, yesterday.

I have mentioned that I am doing the Unst Bridal Shawl in a way which manages to deprive me of two pleasures. I knit the edging first, meaning to proceed inwards, and then got worried about the need to flip some of the border patterns – it was deep midwinter, cold and dark, and I didn't want to think, just to knit. So I laid the edging aside and knit the centre and proceeded outwards, thus losing the pleasure of gradually reducing the stitch count as I approached the centre and seeming to knit faster and faster.

But when I finish the borders, I will have to graft the edging on and I won't have the fun of knitting the edging onto the live stitches.

And my idea is, to do just that anyway, and keep the edging I have already knit for the Queen Ring Shawl which I will knit inwards.

The Unst Bridal Shall edging is a 12-row repeat whereas the Queen Ring one is 16. Unst starts with 23 stitches and increases to 29; Queen Ring goes from 19 to 25. I'll do a bit more thinking, but I'm sure only a very modest amount of fudging would be necessary, and also sure no one would notice that my Queen Ring Shawl had the wrong edging, or if they did, they would be too polite to mention it.

Zite indicates that a new IK is on its way, with an “interesting and novel” way to knit socks. I feel I should try that, to add another to the pack of techniques I tried recently during my Sock Year.

And Zite also says that today is Yarn Shop Day. I would venture into my local if I could be sure of finding a book or magazine to leave with. Knitting as I am at a rate of 25 grams per month means that exposing myself to the risk of stash-enhancement is to be avoided.


Greek Helen's husband David nearly stepped on a horned viper on Mt Pelion yesterday.


Friday, May 02, 2014

I had a grand time, lunching with J. yesterday.

She comes to Edinburgh from time to time to do research in the Public Records Office and elsewhere. We have lunched before in pubs but they are noisy, so this time went to a Japanese restaurant called Bonsai at the top of Broughton Street. The food and its presentation were very Japanese, the staff young and cheerful Edinburgh. J. managed her octopus dumlings very neatly, with chopsticks. I was a good deal messier, resorting to fingers for my sushi. The bill was very reasonable. Recommended.

She was wearing an interesting little scarf – three inches or so of ribbing at the ends, in a solid colour, and in between a tube knit on 60 stitches (like a sock) in an Opal self-patterning yarn (not just self-striping). The effect was remarkably convincing, stripes of little two-colour “Fair Isle” designs. The scarf consumed two balls of yarn, she said, and then got finished off with the second ribbed cuff. There were no purl ribs down the sides to encourage it to lie flat, but flat it lay.


I finished my clumsy repairs to my sister's Amedro shawl, including mending two holes, and sent it off to London with a ball of the yarn in case she wants to take it to someone more adroit. And returned to the Unst Bridal Shawl very happily and with a relatively clear conscience. The current row of motifs have passed their apogee. I have now embarked on round 71. The next major landmark is round 80, the last one on the current “long chart”, a Miller speciality. And the next long chart is the last.

Mangoes, etc.

I was interested in your remarks (comments yesterday) about the sources of fresh food on the West Coast. I am sure that, even if the importation of Indian and Pakistani mangoes is limited to a few boxes for the benefit of fancy NYC restaurants, the Food and Drug Administration keeps a close eye on fruit flies.

We get asparagus all year round from Peru, supplemented during these few happy weeks by the local crop. French beans from Kenya. Lots of veggies from Spain and the Netherlands and Israel. Grapefruit from Florida is one of the consolations of winter – that season is just coming to an end. For the rest of the year we will depend on South Africa and Israel. I wonder where food came from (and how it arrived) during the 30's. I know that Britain wasn't anywhere near self-sufficient and that feeding the population was a major preoccupation throughout the war.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Current affairs

(a) The EU has imposed a ban on the importation of Indian mangoes, starting today. The Alphonso mango season is about to begin, and they are one of the year's brief treats, like British asparagus and Jersey Royal potatoes.

The best Alphonso's come from Pakistan, not India. I was worried, hearing the news, for fear sloppy journalists were saying “India” when they meant “India and Pakistan” but I've just google'd and it would appear that Pakistani imports will go ahead (they come in a bit later than the Indian ones, and are even tastier). The ban has been imposed by the EU only, and has something to do with fruit flies. Indian mangoes are still being shipped to all the rest of the world, including the US where they tend to be fussy about such things.

Are we going to have to vote for Mr Farage after all?

In Edinburgh, at least, you have to go to a Pakistani corner shop for Pakistani mangoes. The supermarkets have fewer, inferior ones at a great price.

(b) People had to queue for hours yesterday at airports and ports because a computer failure meant that the details of everybody's passport had to be recorded by hand. My sister was due to arrive at Heathrow. I haven't yet heard how she fared.

But her shawl will be ready for posting today. It's a poor job. There are a couple of loose ends to deal with, and a hole to mend, and I must pack it before I go out to lunch with one of you because I might as well take advantage of the fact that we are meeting at a Japanese restaurant which is most of the up-hill way to the post office.

I also got 3/4s of the way around round 69 of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and the fourth ball of yarn finally breathed its last and has been replaced.

That means I am proceeding at the rate of one 25 gram ball a month – not exactly a stash-busting pace. I cast on the edging of this thing at Loch Fyne in that still week between Christmas and the New Year. My hunch is still that two more balls will finish it and if so, it'll be done some time in the summer, even allowing a fortnight for grafting the edging to the body. Fortunately I like grafting. Sharon Miller had me order nine balls – that would take us into the autumn.


I am attracted by your theory, Jean, Pattie, and Knitlass, that osteoporosis pills were behind the whole spectrum of my 2014 symptoms. I googled the drug yesterday – risendronate sodium. It's clearly serious stuff, and you're not meant to take it after 80 anyway. (Why not?) It lingers in the body for an unknown length of time, since its job is to do with bones.


Somebody on Zite this morning is enthusiastic about String Theory Colorworks and their self-striping yarns. I've just spent a pleasant few moments there, There aren't as many different-coloured stripes per colourway as there were on Lizzie's London Transport socks, but the colourways are enterprising and the Zite enthusiast suggested combining two (in fingerless mitts, which I will certainly not attempt).