Monday, June 30, 2014

All is well in Sydenham. Here is a picture of the house, taken yesterday evening when the sun suddenly appeared after what must have been a long, hard day:

They bought it a couple of years ago, before this absurd London housing bubble really started. They got that right.

Mimi sounds OK so far. He flew in the day before, business class, and had to hang around Heathrow for 24 hours until his family arrived, steerage. Now he is pacing from room to room and also, Cathy says, listening to the birdies singing in his new garden and asking to join them. He is, however, being kept locked up for the first few days. I asked how he was getting on with English cat food, but the answer is that we don't know yet. They brought Chinese cat food along to ease the transition.

We hope to see James and a grandchild or two here soon – their trip to Cornwall isn't until later in July. He doesn't go back to work until August.

Knitting progressed, yesterday. I've now done 12 bumps of the new edging for the Unst Bridal Shawl. I've marked the 10th one, to facilitate counting. I'm like you, Chris, in enjoying the calculation of fractions and percentages. I may well face up to finding out soon how many bumps are needed altogether so that I can do it. But for the moment, I'm just knitting happily on. Although I did find myself wondering this morning about how many more bumps I need to do before I'll have accounted for 10% of the border stitches. Not all that many, is the imprecise answer.

I spent a little time yesterday with the idea that sprang to mind while I was writing yesterday's blog, of culling some knitting books and putting them in a box or two in the cellar to make room for more on the shelves (=to get those piles off the floor). It's very hard. The rejects of course will be carefully catalogued, and the cellar isn't that far away, but it's still difficult to relegate a knitting book.

And, contrariwise, I went on thinking about that little shelf in the care home. You're right, of course, Shandy, that Barbara Walker's Treasuries must come. I'd also want the three Lisl Fanderl books on the twisted stitch, Bauerliches Stricken. One can begin to see where this is going. McGregor, I think, for Fair Isle. I'm going to allow myself both Thompson and Brown-Reinsel for ganseys. What about Aran? And Kaffe's Glorious Knitting must come.

Culling is harder. All the EZ's must stay together upstairs, and all the Fassett's, and all of Sheila McGregor's books. Whereas when one is selecting the treasured few for that little shelf, it's all right – it's nearly obligatory – to break up sets.

And, Shandy, it's no use speculating about one's future capacity to make use of these books. The coward dies many times before his death/ The brave man never tastes of death but once. If you prefer, here's one from last Saturday's Financial Times: “Life's a ride where they sure make you pay at the exit.”

That was from Susie Boyt, a favourite of mine, in a column abut how the great thing is to have some trivial things to worry about, to keep your mind off the real worries.


I continue very grateful for all your help with my husband's computing problems. I think we're making real progress. But is this one solvable:

When he wanted to open a new file (he has hundreds) in Open Office, I could easily set things up so that when he typed Alt-F he found himself in the “omnium” folder of Dropbox, where all his files are, and had only to type in the number of the next one he wanted. Word, on the other hand, probably because it is so anxious to force us to use the Microsoft cloud, makes him choose “computer” and then “omnium” before he gets the list of his files – or does he actually have to choose “dropbox” as well? Is there any way to circumvent that? He has never understood the way computers organise files, simple as it is. I should have forced him to learn, a quarter of a century ago. Or more. It's too late now.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I've mastered the lace edging pattern, I think, for the Unst Bridal Shawl and am enjoying, more and more, as I thought I would, the process of knitting it on. I only did three bumps yesterday – but on the other hand, I'm a good six inches along the course. I don't remember how many bumps there are altogether – I must have a note of it somewhere, but I don't mean to search for it. It's more fun like this.

Enough of the shawl will soon have been released from bondage that I should be able to take a more meaningful picture than we've had for a while.

I didn't succeed yesterday in locating the Nancy Thomas/Knitter's Scarves and Shawls book. My knitting books now well exceed their allotted shelf space. I would have hoped that that one would be in the Scarves and Hats pile in the bedroom, but it's not. It's probably in the Big Book pile here in the passage. In a situation like this a sensible person, like Franklin, with limited space, does some weeding-out. I've got dozens and dozens of knitting books that I may never open again. But the idea of weeding is unthinkable.

An archive somewhere? A banana box or two in the cellar?

And I ordered the new Elizabeth Lavold yesterday. I've never knit a stitch of hers, but I admire her extravagantly.

It's sometimes interesting to attempt a mental list of the dozen knitting books one will take along into one's care home – Knitting Without Tears, Heirloom Knitting: then what? The great thing is, one will have one's iPad and one will, of course, insist on wi-fi first of all, when choosing an institution. In this country, all those ads showing old folks happily taking tea with one another don't mention wi-fi, and I don't trust them. In the US, in equivalent ads, they're riding around on bicycles and I think wi-fi can be taken for granted.

How computers have changed the world! (Original thought: I think not.) Foggy Knitter said in her comment yesterday that my husband might be better off with a typewriter. I know, of course, what she means – but think of it: he is revising text, deleting a sentence here, adding a word there, editing a footnote. He could do it by hand, except that the pain and stiffness in his right hand makes writing difficult. A typewriter would be useless. Grumble as he does about the computer, it is making work possible for him.

When I arrived at the University of Glasgow in 1954, typewriter in hand, I was astonished that nobody else had one and that the local stationery store, supplying students, couldn't sell me a ribbon. Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. (Times change, and we change with them.)

Word promises well, and ...for Dummies turned up yesterday from the now-dreaded Amazon. I could scarcely have got myself organised and up to Waterstone's in the time. It looks like a good book, dense with information. I am impressed with what I have seen of the program, and furious that I can't get it on my own computer. Dammit, I've paid for it.

The author of ...for Dummies says that he prefers to work in “draft mode”. I'll have a look at that today – it may be less irritating for my husband. I fear, from what I saw yesterday, that he may have to learn to mouse. He has gone straight from a DOS-based keyboard to touch-screen, but there is so much in Word that keyboard and touch-screen combined may not be enough. Oddly – he is much more adroit than I am – he finds touch-screen difficult. He tends to jab at it, especially as he gets cross. And the computer sulks and doesn't respond.

I have always mouse'd with my left (non-dominant) hand. I know others who do. My husband could learn to do it that way.

Non-knit, non-computer

The new tax disc turned up in the post yesterday, the crown of a week's anxiety. It doesn't even have to be affixed to the car until midnight tomorrow.

Foggy Knitter, the Beijing cat is named Mimi. He was taken in when someone else abandoned him, and the name means something like “foundling”, I am assured, in Mandarin. His first problem in the Sydenham cattery is going to be explaining to everybody else why he has such a sissy name.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

And here, at last, a clear day. (Yesterday I had to go to Boots to claim an armload of pills.) And a remarkable day, in its way. Archie – with his luggage – has arrived in Athens. He and his family are going to Pelion today. Rachel's family, meanwhile, and the Loch Fyne Mileses are on their way to a Spanish villa somewhere. They have done something like this in different places for several years now. They insist on a swimming pool and a (ping pong) (table tennis) table. They compete for the Miles-Ogden Table Tennis Trophy. An actual trophy object has been confected, which the winner keeps for the succeeding year.

My husband is not one for chilling out. We have never had such a holiday in all our lives. We saw something like 28 art galleries in the first 30 days of marriage. He had never been to the USofA before, and didn't want to let the opportunity slip.

And the (erstwhile) Beijing Mileses, and their cat, are moving from China to Sydenham today. They should be airborne already.

Our day promises to be pretty tame, compared to all that.

Eadaoine, I've got that Shawls and Scarves book, and will look up the Joan Schrouder technique you mention, for attaching a previously-knit edging to a shawl. I am a great fan of hers. But meanwhile, things are going a bit better here.

I got properly started yesterday, knitting the original edging again, directly onto the shawl. I feel a bit embarrassed at the failure of my grand plans, but otherwise have begun to enjoy the process, the infinitely slow incorporation of the shawl, stitch by stitch. I've finished four points – not very many. I haven't, yet, re-learned the pattern. Once I do, it'll go faster – and there will be more scope for making mistakes by forgetting where I am. Meanwhile, constant peering at the chart.

Zite found me this blog this morning, by a woman who keeps Shetland sheep in the remote northwest of the Scottish mainland. She started only a year or so ago, not even knowing that sheep are death to trees.

More non-knit

Mr Murray got through the first week of Wimbledon without losing a set. Could be worse.

I got Word installed on my husband's computer all right. Talk about bells and whistles. I use an old Word on my treacle-slow desktop computer, and am rather fond of it. This one seems completely different. I've ordered ...for Dummies. Maddeningly, I can't get the new program installed on my own laptop. Or rather, even more maddeningly, I think I did install it yesterday morning and somehow messed things up, trying to get back to it. I've done a complete un-install with Microsoft tools. No use.

It's too soon to say whether this will be any help to my husband.

Ellen, your idea of an assistant is a good one. I don't think anyone could fit in to our odd daily routine, but I'll think about it. There was a time when the publisher with whom we are currently at odds promised my husband a research assistant. Such a one would have made a big difference, a few years ago. My current hope is that James will come up to see us soon – perhaps we can go to Strathardle together, which he loves. In his unworldly way, he knows a fair amount about the world and I want him to talk to my husband about the whole business of publication. He's not bad on computers, either.

But first, almost as soon as they arrive in Sydenham, the Beijing Mileses are all going off to Cornwall for Cathy's father's 80th birthday. I can wish him no more than as happy a time as I had last year. The cat will have to begin English life in a cattery, where I fear none of the other cats will be Mandarin speakers.

Friday, June 27, 2014

My husband is being driven to distraction by his computer – he is using Open Office, you will remember, which was recommended as being slightly simpler and more bell-and-whistle-free than Word (as well as being free). But I think we have been driven into a corner from which only Word – and, at that, only maybe – can retrieve us. So today I must spend this pleasant hour, which I look forward to spending with you, on getting Word established on his computer. If that fails, there will be nothing for it but to go back to the old DOS-based machine. I can (laboriously) translate its output into a modern format, and I assume, perhaps wrongly, that the process will work in reverse. It will be laborious.

One occasionally sees ads for simple computers for old folks – but they always turn out to be simple email and web-surfing, not simple word processing complete with footnotes.

But I wanted to bring you up to date on Life, even so.

I got Archie successfully to the airport yesterday. His flight wasn't checking-in yet. We hung around for a bit but nothing happened so I left and he went off to get himself some lunch. No news yet this morning.

Knitting went less well. I found a calm half hour and started the edging as adumbrated here recently. It didn't work. Edgings are harder than they look. I ripped it out and started again with the original edging – the one I have already knit. It includes faggoting. I spent all January doing it, and my fingers should remember, but they don't. That went a bit better, although I haven't finished the first time through.

I hope to have better news tomorrow. And I can always abandon the attempt – the point was meant to be that I enjoy this, knitting an edging onto a shawl and setting it free, inch by inch. I can go back to the edging I have already knit, and the question of how to attach it. (=pick up stitches from the flat edge, knit around once, Kitchener forever)

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Yesterday was another successful one in this exciting week. My husband managed, in the event, to walk both to and from the dental appt (and I got a bit more Pakokku sock done). The car got its MOT – which is in the folder, you'll be glad to hear – and has been taxed. I might even get the disc by next Monday when the previous one officially expires. The nice garage not only collects and delivers, but has given the key back with a plastic fob attached on which is written the date when the new MOT runs out.

And they managed to issue an MOT certificate without one of those phone calls I have come to expect, in which one is informed, with a certain amount of sucking in of breath, about the state of one's brake pads and how much it will cost to put them right. This garage is new to us, discovered in the aftermath of that episode when the bus leaned on us. Some will remember. Our old garage was sinking into oblivion at just that time, and passed us on.

Archie is here. He survived the 24-hour cycle ride which in fact sounds a bit of a damp squib. There weren't all that many exercise bicycles so most people were lounging about most of the time. Still, he says he was awake for 36 consecutive hours. That's a lot. And he took part – that's something, too. He neglected to take any pictures of the knitting at the Royal Highland Show, however.

He is convinced that he has left his phone in the taxi which brought him from school to Drummond Place yesterday afternoon. I'm not entirely persuaded. If it weren't set to Silent, as he avers it is, we might be able to find it by ringing it up. Meanwhile I'll lend him my basic but perfectly functional one for today's travel – Belgian air traffic control is causing some anxiety with little strikes, and Archie is meant to be flying Edinburgh>Brussels>Athens. My phone is no use for playing games or reading books but perfectly satisfactory for communication.

More non-knit

I am completely persuaded that Andy Murray couldn't possibly win Wimbledon again this year, so am not even hoping. But he did look awfully strong yesterday, losing only two games in his second round match.


I finished the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. A solemn moment. I broke the yarn, and slipped stitches back – or forward – to a point which is not perhaps the absolute centre stitch of the first border, but which is the equivalent centre of the pattern repeat, if that makes sense. And started to cast on for the edging when the phone rang and I never got back to it. That makes our life sound a good deal more eventful that it is in fact.

I'm all right, so far, on the issue of knowing which side is which and which way I'm going – guided by the four corner markers. On right-side rounds, the green one comes up first.

It was our niece on the phone. We have tentatively scheduled a (fairly gentle) walk for Saturday the 5th. She says that her sister F. has finished chemotherapy and now has a few weeks to recover from that before three weeks, Monday to Friday, fifteen sessions altogether, of radiotherapy. What a bitch of a disease! All this, when the lump itself had caused no symptoms other than to be present. She'll have a scan soon, during the resting weeks. She is well but very tired

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Yesterday went well – the nice man came for the car and took it away. The insurance company agrees that we are insured. I haven't heard from the car since, and will ring up soon. Today's excitement is a dental appt for my husband at mid-day. It's in easy walking distance except that he can't walk that far, so we'll have to get a taxi if the car hasn't come home. Then in the afternoon Archie should appear, ready to travel to Athens tomorrow.

What an exciting week!

However the real excitement is that I am knitting the final garter stitch round of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and should perhaps even be able to start knitting the edging on this evening. For the moment, I am thinking of the Ring Shawl Lace Edging with Spider Insertion on page 169 of Heirloom Knitting, If you've got the book, I'd be grateful if you had a look.

The photograph shows a column of faggoting, which I want to include. As far as I can see, the chart lacks it. I'm not desperately clever at understanding what a chart is going to look like when it's knit, but I'm pretty sure here. I think I could add faggoting without too much stress.

When you knit a shawl inwards, edging-first, you pick up the stitches along the flat edge of the edging by sliding the needle through – Amedro has an excellent photograph of that process – and then you knit into the back of each stitch on the first round, to “cross the legs”. Sharon agrees that this is the traditional Shetland way, in her instructions for the Queen Ring, although she would have you pick up each stitch and knit into the back of it, one by one.

It makes a nice little detail, those crossed stitches. Could it be imitated by knitting into the back of the border stitch as you pick it up at the end of every other row of a knitted-on edging? I might try. But even if I succeed, I think I'd like to include the faggoting.

Change of topic: Kate Davies is always worth reading, but I particularly enjoyed her this morning with an account of an old sewing cabinet she recently bought at auction in Glasgow, all its contents meticulously preserved and now exquisitely photographed.


I watched a few more fragments of Wimbledon yesterday. I'm sure I tell you every year about how Rachel's son Thomas, then attending a Wimbledon comprehensive school, was chosen to be a ballboy. What excitement when she phoned with the news! What a happy Christmas ensued! He was taken badly ill not long after training started, emergency operation. But he got better and they took him back into training and then he broke his arm playing cricket.

We all assume he would have been a super duper ballboy and would have been chosen for the final and smiled on by the Duke of Kent.  But maybe not. Maybe he would have been out on court 37 ballboy-ing the Over 50's Mixed Doubles. Somebody has to.

But every year since, watching the ballboys and ballgirls, one remembers and regrets. No amount of subsequent success in life, including the beautiful bride, can entirely compensate for not being a ballboy at Wimbledon.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

All went well, yesterday. And today should be relatively calm – the nice men from the garage will come and take the car away, and I've got to establish with the insurance company that the Great Computer in the Sky knows that we're insured. That's all, except for breakfast, lunch, tea and supper and blessed Wimbledon.

I watched a bit of it yesterday. I thought it might be consonant with lacy garter stitch, but it's not. The older and slower and clumsier – both mentally and physically – one becomes, the more wonderful is the youth and speed and mental and physical agility of top tennis players. And their white clothes against the background of that green, green grass are truly beautiful. The New Yorker had an article once long ago about the man responsible for the grass. Consider how you and I feel about moths, and then wonder what he must think of a mole.

The big news from the hospital yesterday is that I at last finished the ribbing on the second Pakokku sock. One would think with all the appts we've had this year, my own as well as my husband's, that I could have knocked out half a dozen socks. This one was slightly delayed when I got the ribbing wrong early on, and found it easier to start again than to correct it. Both of those sessions – the getting-wrong and the starting-again – were connected with my malaise.

I had only done a few stitches yesterday when we were called to see the Great Man, but after that session my husband had to have bloods taken, and an xray of his hand, and during that time I finished the ribbing and made a good start on the smooth bit. Things will go faster from here. Indeed, sock-knitting and Wimbledon should combine well enough. My husband says there was a prisoner handcuffed to a policeman in the xray waiting room, a pleasant-looking youth. That was exciting.

The Great Man suggested that my husband take paracetemol for his hand, quite a bit of it. He seemed surprised that that hadn't been tried already. My husband wants a cure, not palliation, but I don't think he entirely understands.


Roobeedoo, I am glad to hear that they still maintain a Department for Stupid Car Owners where one can go and confess one's delinquency to a human being. Cam, I once drove for a week or so without a license, including a trip from Birmingham to Strathardle. I discovered the fact the night before we left. In the dock, my defence was going to be that I had momentarily confused the British and American ways of writing dates – I thought, when the license expired on 8/7, that that meant the 7th of August when of course (light laugh, here) it was really the 8th of July. My husband drove the first shift, that day. I can still feel my tingle of horror and adventure as I drove down the slip road to the motorway after breakfast, without a driving license.

Hilde,  in Britain after the first two or three years of a car's life – I can't remember which, three, I think -- you have to prove that it is road-worthy before you can pay the tax and get the vital disk to display on your windscreen. That's the MOT test our car is going off for today. It's not just brakes and headlights. It's serous stuff. MOT = Ministry of Transport, and I think in fact it is called something else now. And you also have to prove you're insured.

Shandy, thank you for your comforting words. I don't fear dementia for myself – yet. I do think I am becoming overwhelmed by paperwork. It didn't help, feeling ill in the first months of this year. Now, the more I try to catch up the further behind I seem to fall. Peggy, persevere in your wait for “Elizabeth is Missing”. It's worth reading. The author is – what else could she do? – drawing on her own mental experience to guess what dementia could be like for the sufferer, and it's a very interesting experiment.

I am about to start Stephen King's new, non-supernatural, “Mr. Mercedes”, and am also tempted by the new J.K. Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith.

I got ahead of myself, reporting on the shawl yesterday. I am currently in the home stretch of the 4th of six garter stitch rounds to finish off the Unst Bridal Shawl. Two more evenings? Depends on Wimbledon, a bit.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Today is Rachel's birthday. She phoned last night feeling a bit glum about the prospect of being 56. She should try 80. She says her son Thomas – the bridegroom – is distinctly low about turning 30 later in the summer. That sort of thing never really troubled me, except for 35 – half way, and accelerating. June 23, 1958, was the First Day of the Rest of My Life, if ever a day was. I'm sure I've said that before.

We begin this week with the toughest challenge: getting my husband to the Western Infirmary (not far) to see the Rheumatology Dept about his near-useless right hand. Then, tomorrow, the car.

I was very touched by your offers to help on that one. When I got your message, Jean – reminding me that I could tax the car right away with the old MOT, as long as it had a few days to run – I lept up to have a look at it. It wasn't in the folder.

I was, and remain, alarmed at my incompetence. There's only one place for the MOT certificate, and it doesn't take much effort to put it there. I found it, more or less by accident, in a pile of paper later in the day. It expired eight or nine days ago, so it's probably illegal to drive to the Western Infirmary this morning.

I've just finished reading a somewhat interesting book called “Elizabeth is Missing” by Emma Healey, in which the author thinks herself into the head of a woman with dementia and writes about it in the first person. Something of a tour de force, but it leaves the reader more than ordinarily anxious when a train of thought evaporates or a word can't be recalled – or the MOT certificate is found to be missing.

I've taxed the car on-line for several years now. The website is very efficient, and the experience certainly beats queuing in the post office with a fistful of documents. Now that I know I've got a fortnight's grace before I have to display the actual tax disk, I look forward to doing it again. Once the car has passed its MOT and I've made sure the insurance is all right. They're fairly good on the phone, the insurance company. And if the car doesn't pass – it's old – at least it will be in the hands of the garage men, i.e., off the road, not parked outside the house, diskless.

Knitting went well, despite all the alarums and excursions of the day. I'm nearing the end of the fourth of six rounds of garter stitch, to finish off the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I did a rough stitch-reckoning last night. There are more than a thousand, but not many more. Not quite as bad as I thought. And at least none are being added during these final rounds.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A busy week dawns. My husband has two separate medical appts – anything involving him and a clock is stressful, and seems to be becoming more so with old age. And I've got to tax the car by the 30th. The garage couldn't take it in for its MOT last week, which means we're running things rather fine. It's going on Tuesday. And I can't find the insurance certificate, only the temporary one for when Helen was here in May. Did they ever send it? I renewed for the year (and paid), and got her included for a fortnight, in the same phone call.

So that will have to be dealt with. As long as we get the new MOT, I see I have a fortnight's grace before actually having to display the new tax disc. Assuming we are, in fact, insured. Life is getting to be too much for me.

But if anything can inspire me to trudge on, it is your comment yesterday, Anonymous. Yes, of course, it was Catullus 11 I was thinking of, and the flower tactus aratro, touched by the plough. Your note was as if Professor Fordyce himself – who taught me, in Glasgow in the 50's – should have stirred in his grave to send it, irritated that I should have forgotten.

The professor of Latin in Birmingham for much of our time there (70's and 80's) was A.E. Douglas, he who edited Cicero's Brutus – and there's a tedious text if ever there was one. He was once asked, at a meeting of the Classical Association, whether he was depressed, or discouraged, by the decline in the study of the classics. It has been very swift and steep in GB since the 50's. [When I got to Glasgow in 1954, the decline had already happened in the US. But the first-year Latin class in Glasgow was still 100-strong, and fierce. It could and often did reduce the more English of the lecturers to a state near tears. Professor Fordyce played us as a matador a bull, and enjoyed himself doing it.]

Anyway, Professor Douglas said no, he wasn't worried at all. Latin literature would survive because it was good. And here's your comment, Anonymous, to prove it.

I'll see Archie later in the week – we're driving to the airport on Thursday, and it will be a welcome coda to present stress. The two appts will be behind us, and the problem of taxing the car may even have been resolved. I'll ask him whether it's World of Warcraft he's playing in yesterday'a photograph – but I'm sure it is. He underestimated my readers.

As for crossness, my husband is notorious for it. But he seems to me to be especially hard on Archie.

And, oh yes, knitting. These six garter stitch rounds at the end of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl are proving as tedious as feared. I'm halfway around no. 2. I keep thinking about knitting a border on, and keep getting confused in my head. Which way am I going? It would seem a good idea to have the right side of the border facing the same direction as the right side of the shawl. How, exactly, will that work? How cumbersome will it be to turn the work at the end of each of those little rows?

Try it and you may I say – Sam-I-Am's excellent advice in his eponymous book.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Longest day

Somebody said on the radio this morning that the sun stands still for a while today. News to me. I love the light, this time of year. I'd love to see the “simmer dim” on Shetland. But this actual moment is a cause of sadness. I think there's something in a poem of Catullus' about the flower at the edge of the field which seems to go on blooming after it has been cut by the plough. So it will be with the light, for the next couple of weeks, and then the diminution will begin to be felt.

It's nice to know that there are still lace knitters on Unst who must share my annual sadness.

I finished round 136 – the final round on the chart – for the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl, turned and started back on the first of the six garter stitch rounds needed to round things off. This is sort of exciting. I don't even need to go on counting, although it's hard to stop. An extra stitch here, one fewer there – it doesn't matter any more. I must get the Queen Ring pattern out and look again at the edging. Do I want to use it?

“Royal Knits” has turned up – it's a delight. Not quite the same thing as my other curiosities such as Knit Your Own Scotland etc. This one has patterns for sausages and toast (a majestic breakfast) all right and a Windsor posy and a nice orb, if you're in want of an orb – but it also includes full-sized things that you could conceivably knit for use, a Guardsman's tunic with gold braid and medals, a delicious faux twin set with pearls, coats for your corgis. Its format is too upright for the size of my Curiosities Shelf: a problem.

Shandy, you're absolutely right, that Eeny Meeny is a “penny dreadful”. The perfect phrase. When I next see Hellie, I must find out what precisely is her relationship to it, other than being its agent now. Did she discover it in a slush pile?

Here's Archie, a day or two ago. He's playing a game in cooperation with two distant friends – they're on a quest of some sort. He wondered, when I took the picture, how many of my readers would recognise the game. Few, I fear.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Somebody once said that a week is a long time in politics. So also in knitting, and doorstep-vegetable growing.

I am nearly finished with round 135 – the last pattern round of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. There follow seven rounds of plain garter stitch, nearly a week's work with this many stitches but at least the end is in sight. Then the edging. I still think I'll try knitting it on, despite the fact that I have already knitted one. And, for once, it's not a do-or-die decision. If I don't like knitting-on, after a few repeats, I can double back and try grafting the already-knit edging after all.

Sharon would have one slip stitches until one reaches the precise centre of one of the borders, and start knittng thr edging on from there. I am sure that, whatever I do, it won't come out completely right, and also sure that, with thousands of tiny stitches, a bit of fudging at the end won't be conspicuous.

We have had a few days of what passes for warm weather in Edinburgh, and the doorstep vegetables have responded with enthusiasm. Especially the peas, which are now in flower and threatening to overwhelm the courgette in theit midst. Carrots, beetroot, lettuce also doing well.

We had a nice time with Archie – I'll post a picture soon. My husband is endlessly disagreeable to him. I fear he may not want to come any more. We'll see him briefly next week – he'll stay overnight next Wednesday, and I'll drive him to the airport, Athens-bound, on Thursday. I enjoy that a lot.

Today the school is taking him to the Royal Highland Show. He expects something like the Strathardle Gathering, writ large – he's more or less right. I have asked him to take snapshots of the fine lace knitting. We went once or twice (I can't remember which) in our sprightlier days. Then, much of the lace knitting was based on Amedro's patterns. By now, I am sure Sharon has opened the doors of design to everyone.

And – howzzat??

Hellie says that the author of Eeny Meeny has signed a nice contract with Penguin US and that the above ad will be in the London subway next month, The book hasn't reappeared on any best-seller list I have seen, however, since that happy day at No 5 in the Sunday Times.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

No blogging while Archie's here, I think. I'll be back on Friday, insh'Allah.

Here are those carrots, though, which I couldn't show yesterday:

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lizzie celebrated a belated 21st birthday yesterday. Isn't this lovely:

The birthday itself, on April 5th, was celebrated in Chicago. Now that she's home, what she wanted was a family Sunday lunch, so that's what they did. From left to right, Joe, Lizzie, Thomas (this year's bridegroom), Hellie, and Hellie's boyfriend Matt who might have been a fiancé himself if Liverpool had won the League and Hellie had accepted him.

I don't recognise the mosaic (it's been more than three years since we last ventured to London). A wedding anniversary present last year from Greek Helen?


Things are going great guns on the doorstep. I am greatly looking forward to getting a couple more troughs and some big pots and doubling this in spades, next year.

The carrots have come up, replacing Salad Leaves (mild). Can't get the pic -- we'll have to skip the carrots for today.

The lollo rosso lettuce is coming along nicely – it will eventually be thinned down to three or four plants. The empty-seeming pot next to it is where the beetroot are.

And the peas have seized control of the tripod. The idea is not to provide any support, but to hope they will spill picturesquely down the sides. My husband says it won't work. There's a courgette in the middle, nearly swamped. It's meant to trail picturesquely, too. Yesterday I moved the other one, the one whose first true leaves were pecked out while we were in Strathardle a week ago. I'm still curious as to what it will do, so saved it in a pot of its own.


Yesterday I managed the minimum I prescribe for myself – that is, I made the circuit once, and a bit more. I am just past the halfway point of round 132 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Four to go, after this one! The right-side, odd-numbered rows are getting faster too, as the trellis diminishes to a point over the head of the last full motif and in so doing, reduces the number of k3tog's per repeat. They are what takes the time.

Looking at Scarf Style, now that I have succeeded in locating it, I find that I have tucked inside it a kind message from Judith about the Potato Chip Scarf. I had entirely forgotten. The link is to the result of a Ravelry search for a pattern of that name. There seem to be lots, and there is also one of that ilk in Scarf Style called Ruffles by Amanda Blair Brown, in which the effect is achieved with short rows. Judith's version – she has  written it out for me in full – does away with that. It sounds easy and fun.

Another one for Christmas '14 – although I still hope it will never happen.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

I am currently ¼ of the way around round 131 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl – only five to go, when this one is finished.

I found Scarf Style without much difficulty. Once Library Thing had assured me that I did own it, and I approached the shelf in the spirit of come-out-I-know-you're there, it was easy. I don't like the Kathryn Alexander pattern as well as the one in the newer book, though. It seems sort of bitty and incoherent.

I knit a scarf from IK once – possibly so long ago that I hadn't started blogging. It consisted of five or seven lengthwise stripes. You began by knitting narrow strips of various lengths in each of the colours, and then joining them and knitting the length of the scarf intarsia-fashion until you got to the other end when the colours separated into individual strips again. I think my husband was afraid I would wear it and had me give it to our niece.

Maybe I can find something about it in my archives.

My sister brought the yarn from the US (it was enormously expensive, I remember), puzzled as to why she should have to import a British yarn. Whatever it was (and it was nice), it wasn't available here at all. I emailed the company to ask.

In all this thinking about missing books and Library Thing, I suddenly realised that I never got “Royal Knits” – the little book I accidentally stumbled upon on a website devoted to horrible books in libraries, such as single volumes of out-of-date encyclopedias. I didn't think “Royal Knits” was horrible at all, and left a comment to that effect.

And ordered it from a secondhand bookshop, very cheaply. There was no question this time of my simply not finding it – my Oddities section is very small. It would be there if anywhere. I went to Abebooks and soon discovered that the bookseller had been unable to supply it. Probably mislaid it himself. I never received the notice to that effect, or more likely didn't read it, assuming it was an order confirmation. Anyway, I ordered it again yesterday, still very cheap.


Archie has his last GCSE exam on Monday and will come here at once for a few days R&R. Then he'll go back to Merchiston for a bit of end-of-term-ery, including a sponsored 24-hour cycle ride. When we were driving to Strathardle at the end of May he suddenly asked from the back seat if we would sponsor him for £50. We said no, of course, and Archie was delighted because he didn't want to do it. He promised to report the exact terms of my husband's refusal to his disappointed housemaster. Mr Pyper's looks of disappointment as Archie declines to do something are apparently well-known.

But he reckoned without his energetic mother, who joined us directly from Athens that evening. She emailed Archie's cousins and aunts and easily raised £50 of support, including a contribution from us. The event itself is rather good: the school puts up a  solid marquee at the end of term in which cucumber sandwiches are dispensed to parents on Speech Day. This year, a day or so before, exercise bicycles will be installed and the boys of Archie's house will ride them for 24 hours, with 20 minutes off in each hour.

So often one is asked to sponsor someone for doing something one suspects they would rather like to do anyway. This is a genuine ordeal. Helen thinks Mr Pyper has not made adequate provision for getting in the money, and she is going to try to set up one of those websites for Archie. The money will go partly to an army charity, since they have provided the exercise bicycles, and partly to Macmillan Cancer.

And Archie is going to do it!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

I've reached the beginning of round 130 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. It really begins to look as if I'll finish all 136 (=be ready to start the next phase) before the end of June. The plain vanilla garter stitch rounds are indeed a bit faster, but the sheer bulk of stitches is now awkward to push around the needle. I am grateful to this wonderful, well-behaved yarn for not trying to escape every time I pause to do it. How will I manage with the Queen Ring, which has more?

Don't forget that I've also got to finish Rams & Yowes in time for Ted's first birthday on October 29. He'll be there for Thomas and Lucy's wedding on November 1 – it would be too unspeakably embarrassing for me to have to turn up without his blankie. Only when that is done am I free to think about the future. I hate deadlines, so I've got to return to that one early enough that time won't press. Why could I never apply that principle to any other activity in life except knitting?

I looked for, and failed to find, the original Scarf Style book. Maybe I don't have it? Maybe I'm mixing it up with Lynn Barr's brilliant “Knitting New Scarves”? But I went to Library Thing – haven't been there for a while – and it confirmed that I've got it, so I'll have to look harder today. It was a job worth doing, cataloguing my knitting books. I added Martin Storey's men's book, and Scarf Style 2, hoping that  that brings me up to date.

Sue sent me this interesting link to a blog about knitting (ganseys) with a knitting belt. I've Evernote'd it, and it makes me eager to get back to experimenting with the belt. First finish that blankie.


The new Knitty has Franklin back, in fine form, with a 19c book about floral knitting discovered in Bishop Rutt's collection. I can imagine being interested in and amused by such a book, but could never, even in my most energetic and intellectually active years, have succeeded in knitting anything from it. Or even tried. Franklin has done a boutonniere, and if that's the sort of thing you like, it's terrific.

Mary, I'll have a go today at discovering what forms Quicken is willing to export data in. That's a good idea. I didn't fire up the old computer at all yesterday.

I have changed my desktop background picture from a gloomy early-evening shot of Murrayfield as Scotland were about to lose another international match – taken by Alexander at some point in recent years – to the one I posted here the other day, of those cows blocking our progress from Kirkmichael to Bridge of Cally. It makes me feel happy to see it, as Murrayfield never did,

Friday, June 13, 2014

Will I get around to mentioning knitting at all, today? I've reached round 127 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl - that's what you're all waiting to hear -- and am happily establishing the last half-motif.

Non-Knit – Art

Did one or two of you, perhaps, recognise the picture in yesterday's Scotsman – “Masterpiece Rediscovered after 140 Years” – as the one we tried to buy for ourselves in NYC early in the year? Glorious, if so. I have not entirely failed.

My husband is credited in the article with “verifying” the picture. He also supplied all the historical information, starting with the “140 years” in the headline. He gave them the entry from his great unpublished catalogue, that day when they brought the picture around for him to see. That's why we thought we'd win, back there in January: we knew more about the lost picture than anyone else possibly could.

But the dealers bought it on the evidence of their eyes alone, and full credit to them for doing so. And shame to the NY auctioneer who didn't see its quality. It is about to be offered at the London Art Fair for a quarter of a million – pounds, not dollars. When we still hoped that we might grab it for what would have amounted to pennies, based on the auctioneer's estimate, Alexander thought that he would buy it himself, and lend it to us for life, as an ingenious and perfectly above-board way of avoiding inheritance tax. My husband wasn't entirely happy with the idea.

Alas, it was not to be. But at least we tried, especially my sister and her husband who made the heroic journey to NYC in the bleak midwinter, to bid from the floor (as we say). There is nothing more we could have done. The dealer quoted in the article is unknown to us – he's not the man on Dundas Street whose wife actually did bid, and win, from the floor and who subsequently brought the picture around to us. And suggested leaving it for the weekend, but we declined.

It's a lovely picture.

Non-knit – account-keeping

Ellen, I know that disaster looms on the old computer, just as I know it about death itself. But what am I to do? Quicken pulled out of GB ten years ago. The latest British version – the one I'm running on the old computer – seems to have installed itself properly on the new one, but can't read my backup files.

I could buy a current US version of Quicken. But could it read those old files? Perhaps the first thing to do is to establish whether the old British version will run and function on the new computer, if I wave goodbye to 20 years of account-keeping and start again from scratch.

And, Melfina, I will certainly look at the website you mention, as an alternative to Quicken. But I like Quicken.

Meanwhile, things went better yesterday although Quicken remained flaky and “had to close” a couple of times.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

I've started on round 126 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl – another little landmark: after this round there are only 10 to go. The final, easy half-motif will start in 127.


Ellen, I meant to get the first scarf book out when I read your comment, and look up that other Kathryn Alexander scarf. I forgot, but will certainly do it today. (It's in the bedroom, where my husband is still asleep.) I am tempted by your suggestion of doing a colour a week and finishing by Christmas, except that I feel I need every ounce of strength and every second of time, to finish the Unst shawl.

Shandy, I did a salad with my Waitrose ten-bean mixture. I can't remember where I got the recipe. Bits of celery and grated carrot were involved, and a pretty straight up and down oil and vinegar dressing. My bean phase began earlier this year when Archie was here for lunch and I gave him tuna with beans (tune and beans go well together). I had soaked and cooked the beans, I remember, instead of just opening a tin. But where is the recipe? Archie was delighted with it.

Other non-knit

Lizzie phoned yesterday – from Streatham! She's safely back from her year in the US, and now has a week or so to rest before going to work at Wimbledon, that great source of emergency income for the young of south London. She flew back from Vancouver in an antique Virgin plane. Some really old planes, I told her, still have little ashtrays in the armrests. “Yes!” she said. “We didn't know what they were.”

I am making a big push (still, or perhaps more accurately, again) to get my accounts in order. I had a thoroughly unnerving experience yesterday on the old computer with that old copy of Quicken, when I was trying to reconcile a bank statement and couldn't do it and struggled and finally grasped that Quicken wasn't adding the numbers properly. It was as if the Ardle flowed in the wrong direction – quite against nature. I'll try again today. Maybe I need to give up computerised account-keeping.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Here is a picture of the wounded courgette, mentioned yesterday. It's the one of the left, obviously. I go out and inspect it every couple of hours, and my guess is that it is going to recover – only to be uprooted, because the other one will still be well in advance of it. I didn't get the beetroot in yesterday, and must not fail today.

Hat, I love that little rhyme about the cuckoo. Is that true, the third line: “In the middle of June, another tune”? Perhaps he was there after all, and I didn't recognise the note in the general cacophony. According to the project I mentioned yesterday, he will eventually fly south through France and Spain and over to North Africa. The project website has a good interactive map on which you can click on the icons of individual cuckoos and learn where they are right this moment. I have sponsored a Scottish cuckoo called “BB” who is currently near Loch Katrine where he was tagged.

One of the English cuckoos is already in France – an early departure, the website says, but not the earliest they have recorded.

Knitting went well yesterday. “Well”, these days, means at least one complete round of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and I achieved that. I am about halfway around round 124 at the moment, one of the plain-vanilla garter stitch rounds (as all subsequent even-numbered rounds will be) – and all the more frustrating, in that it still takes a long time. All those innocent-seeming YO's at the corners on alternate rounds have seriously added up.

I am increasingly worried about the Messy Corner. There is nothing for it now but to finish and block and then contemplate the damage. Leave it? In use, with the shawl somewhat folded, it won't be at all conspicuous. Or try to fix? The problem is both that the central stitch, so neat and straight on the other three corners, wavers hither and yon; and that the YO's on either side of it are too big. Maybe I could crochet up a faux central stitch which would tighten the YO's in the process. Or something with a needle and herringbone stitch?

Tamar, thank you for your comment yesterday about the needle I am using – now safely recorded in Evernote.

Nana GoGo, I have used cubics before, although I can't remember when. There they were in my dp-holder when I was searching out a set to take to Strathardle. It was the memory of them that inspired me to order more, the right size and length, when I found myself unhappy with the set I was using – gunmetal grey and, as I said yesterday, too long. We shall see.

The other knitting news is that I now have the Martin Storey book about knitting for men, and it's good. And I also have Ann Budd's “Scarf Style 2” which Amazon insidiously suggested while I was buying Storey. There are some really good things in there, enough to make one look forward to Christmas if such a thing were possible. I am hugely smitten with Kathryn Alexander's 3-D Entrelac Scarf. Would any granddaughter actually wear it? One can order a kit – one skein each in 25 colours. The website is being reconstructed at the moment, saving us all from a possibly dangerous link.

Here is an extraneous photograph, taken as we were driving home on Monday. We had left the house in good time, but were still  mildly concerned about catching Rachel's train. She had one of those tickets that meant that all was lost if she didn't turn up at 2pm. We were stopped mid-glen by some cattle being moved. I lept out – since Rachel was driving – and took this. Not very good, but very Strathardle.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

 Safely back. We had a grand time, and all went well.

The country changes, in a fortnight. Our resident deer has abandoned the paddock. We didn't see any deer. Rachel saw a fawn, down in the larches on the way to the commonty. It sat so still and regarded her so calmly that she thought it was injured, but when she started to take its picture it jumped up and bounded away.

The cuckoos have fallen silent. Why do cuckoos do that? Everybody else, in the June sunshine, is twittering and singing and croaking and cawing. Alexander, consulted by email, thought they had skipped town. But I have found a mildly interesting project studying their migratory habits. They are fitted with tags and then tracked by satellite. All the British cuckoos are still here. Unless they have figured out how to deceive the satellite, like heroes of a Dan Brown book. I wouldn't entirely put it past them.

The bats are still flying strongly. The midges are moving into position. I got a bit of gardening done, and we ate some more Good King Henry. Is the taste becoming stronger, as the season progresses? It seemed to need more tweaking with butter and lemon juice and soy sauce than before, as well as that preliminary soak in salted water. But we ate it.

Things are looking good on the doorstep here, on the whole. I decided last week that the salad leaves (mild) were equivalent to salad leaves (boring) and took them out. I have put carrot seed in their place and hope for some finger-length tinies before the season is out. The pot of sorrel, sown last year, clearly wasn't getting anywhere so I took it to Strathardle and planted many of them in my vegetable patch – they were terribly pot-bound; no wonder they weren't growing. We managed a rather feeble sorrel soup. I filled the pot with good Perthshire soil and will today put in beetroot, hoping for golf-ball size results to be eaten with their leaves.

I wish I had been feeling better in the early weeks of the year which ought to be devoted to one's seed catalogues.

There has been one interesting disaster here. The courgettes are developing true leaves. One of the two in the tripod has had its heart pecked out. The seed leaves are still there (and have grown big). I don't need that plant – there are two in the tripod, and there is only going to be room for one (if that). The other would have had to go anyway. But I will leave it as long as possible, to see whether it is possible for a plant to recover from such an attack.

One doesn't really expect to have to deal with wildlife on one's doorstep.


There is a fair amount of news on this front, too. I am 3/4's of the way around round 122 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl – the round that finishes off the last motif. Fourteen rounds will remain, but from here on out alternate rounds are plain garter stitch.

And I made good progress with Carol Sunday's scarf, while we were away. I took a set of dp's along and started again. There are 17 colours, so much of the knitting time went to skein-winding. Sixteen of them are variations of grey and brown and beige. Four-round stripes alternate between lightish and darkish. The 17th skein is a brilliant red. The effect is terrific.

The dp's I took were too long for the job, and awkward to knit with. I have ordered some KnitPro Cubics, and look forward to using them next time. What a lot of the pleasure of knitting depends on having the right needles for the job! Much of my delight in the Unst shawl derives from having got that right in the end – I hope my records will show what the wonderful needle I am using actually is.

Pics next time, including the poor courgette on the doorstep here.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

I've started round 119 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl – 17 rounds to go when this one is finished. Things are speeding up, if only slightly. The odd-numbered rounds are as slow as ever, because the trellis expands as the motif contracts, but the trellis doesn't move in the even-numbered rounds so they are now quite brisk. Round 202 will see the motifs finished off altogether.

There are still an awful lot of stitches to get round – and 64 more will be added before I finish.

Thank you very much indeed for your help with Archie's sweater. When on earth? The only solution may be to postpone my funeral. I don't have Martin Storeys's “Knitting for Him”, Stella, so I ordered it yesterday (from Amazon, I'm afraid), glad of an excuse to buy a knitting book, I do have Bruce Weinstein's “Sweaters Men Want”. I got that out yesterday, prompted by your comment. Each pattern is more boring than the last, but that's the point. Weinstein says that boring is what men want. 

I'll look at EZ's New Zealand sweater again, Mary Lou, and also at Jared's collection for men, Ellen. Archie will be here next week, I think, when his GCSE exams are finally over, and I can show him my thinking to date.


This is a really embarrassing question, Lisa: where did you read James on Tiananmen? The Economist blog, maybe.

I haven't heard from him or Cathy but have been thinking much of them during the anniversary. She was writing for the Times at the time, and James was with the BBC. The demonstrations had been going on for six weeks or so, coinciding originally I believe with the visit of a Russian head of state – was it Gorbachev? Things seemed to be quieting down, and James had been dispatched for some R&R in Hong Kong.

We learned of the tanks and the guns on Saturday evening on television, from Kate Adie. I must have been one of relatively few mothers in the world who lay awake that night worrying that perhaps her son wasn't in Tiananmen Square. But it was all right. He hadn't left. There he was at the top of the radio news the next morning, calm and strong.

The second item that morning, I remember, was the death of the Ayatollah. (What Ayatollah?) He had been much involved in something eight or ten years before – the Iranian Embassy siege, perhaps? – which had begun to look a bit like the ending of the world while Rachel was sitting her finals at Cambridge. Was James still at school at that time? Whatever, none of us could have imagined then that the death of the Ayatollah could ever come second on the news to anything James had to say.

Rachel will be here tomorrow to take us to Strathardle. I probably won't reappear here until Tuesday. Here are some of the promised pics, already looking s bit out of date.

Good King Henry, in Strathardle ten days ago. I don't know why that one plant in the lower right-hand corner looks like an ad for Miracle Gro. I hope to tuck them all up cosily with compost this coming weekend:

And courgettes and peas on the doorstep here. One of those courgettes will have to come out. They are in a big pot supported by a tripod, a rusty old thing which has been lying about in Strathardle ever since we bought the house. It looks rather effective here. The change of height is valuable. I now aspire to a patio quince tree. Such things exist.  

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

I'm half way around round 117 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. It's really rather exciting, as we approach the end. Once this final, Tree of Life, motif is finished I must knit on a bit, while the trellis closes over its head. There is a half-motif to be knit into the space that will open out as that happens – but it only requires action every other round, like the trellis itself, so the final rounds should go relatively briskly.

I am worried by what you say, Hat, about the Cobblestone expanding. Is that a characteristic of garter stitch? Could it have been the yarn? My only experience of such a phenomenon was years ago, when I knit myself an alpaca sweater in a fisherman's rib, having just discovered the sensual pleasure of knitting with alpaca. It instantly expanded from a sweater into a mini-dress and was heading for the floor when I abandoned it. The loose rib kept catching on doorknobs as well. I doubt if I wore it a fourth time,

Maybe I should go on looking at cables and Nordic for Archie.

Lisa, I'm going to figure out how to turn off auto-correct. Maybe there are some other features that could go. My husband continues to believe that I could strip Open Office down to the features he actually needs, if I were cleverer.

I took some pictures of the vegetables on the doorstep yesterday. I hope to get them ported over here for tomorrow. We have introduced a Little Walk into our morning routine, very good for my husband who is now pretty frail, but demanding an extra tranche of time from me. So I'l stop here, for now. The iPad is back in touch with the world, thank goodness.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

My iPad can't seem to connect to the outside world this morning, despite a strong signal. I thought for a moment there that I was in the grip of Gameover Zeus or whatever the new internet scourge is called, but the laptop seems fine.

I've reached the very early stages of round 116 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl – a little landmark of its own, as there are only 20 rounds to follow. And I finally finished the May Ball, and joined in No. 6

I do that by knitting two stitches with both yarns held together, leaving generous ends which I will deal with after blocking. I have the vaguest of memories that I was taught to do that by a fellow-knitter at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit (now called something else). That, and casting on over two needles held together for a stretchy edge – I still use that for socks – and slipping the first stitch of every row for a nice chained edge.

Who could she have been? My paternal grandmother, who lived elsewhere in Michigan, taught me the absolute essentials – although I think I twisted purl stitches by knitting into the wrong leg for some years. Do you remember learning to knit, sister Helen? There was certainly no input from our mother.

I'm looking forward to swatching the Fleegle System for garter stitch in the round. I've just been re-reading it, She advises not making the turn at the corner. I had already reached that conclusion. That means that the turn will be seriously involved in lace, but maybe that doesn't matter. It will move diagonally towards the corner as one knits inwards, decreasing.

I found the IK with the Cobblestone pattern with no difficulty. I might buy the pattern from Jared anyway, in case he has re-knit it in his own yarn (which I will probably use – what use is a stash if you can't ignore it?) But the magazine will be useful for showing Archie. It's a tremendously popular pattern, with lots of recent examples on Ravelry, all looking good. There are some patterns one instantly decides not to knit as one scans examples on Ravelry making their wearers look odd and lumpy. Not this one.

A lot of people knit it in Jared's Shelter yarn, a lot of others in KnitPicks Wool of the Andes, a lot of others in very various yarns, including one Unspun Icelandic from the Schoolhouse. They all look good. They all seem to fit rather well.


I was very interested in your account of Amazon's fight with publishers and authors, Patience. I knew nothing of it. This is the link Jean provided to Wordery of whom (or of which) I also knew nothing. I retain a sympathy for Amazon, if only because their service has become as reliable as turning on the water. I seem to remember start-up years of massive losses during which they stuck to their guns. I think I have heard that they are grim employers, minimum-wage and nose-to-the-grindstone.

There was something else I wanted to say, but it has fled. I can't tell you about Zite because the iPad still can't connect.

Monday, June 02, 2014

There was a certain amount of what passes in old age for excitement, around here yesterday.

First of all, an email from my friend Lindsay (the Rowan Person at John Lewis) to say that Arne and Carlos are going to be at the Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street in mid-July. Here's the link. Tickets are free, but it's a good idea to book.

That got me thinking about Arne and Carlos. I thought I had pre-ordered their new book, which will – at last! – have some sweaters in it, but Amazon says it's not available for pre-ordering yet. But I went on thinking, and got Pagoldh's “Nordic Knitting” down from the shelf. She's the one who produced the Grandson Sweater for Rachel's son Joe, perhaps my most successful sweater ever. What about the Spjall sweater for Archie? It's a two-colour all-over pattern, shown in red, but one could knit it in grey and lighter grey to conform to Archie's wish for obscurity.

Then you suggested Jared's Grettir, CSJ0423, and I thought this must be fate – Nordic for Archie. But then you suggested Cobblestone, Kristie, and it's perfect. A single yarn (as opposed to a two-colour all-over Nordic job) would produce a more pliable fabric. I think I have every IK since its inception, and will try to find that issue today. It's as if you were acquainted with the boy.

The other excitement is that Rachel phoned in the evening to say that she is coming up on Friday to take us to Strathardle for the weekend. She even claims to be able to do the driving, on her insurance.

I did particularly well with food when Helen and Archie were with us – enough beans, not too many. I have a slow cooker there, ideal for beans. We had a bean salad one day, using Waitrose' Ten Bean Mix, and a mild black bean chilli on another occasion, and otherwise ate canned or frozen fish. I will give serious thought to this weekend – meat no longer needs to be eschewed, but beans are still nice.


I finished round 113 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and have turned the first corner of 114. It's slow work these days. The object is to do at least one complete circuit, and a little bit more, every day. The May Ball is still not exhausted, although by now there's lots of naked cardboard on the inner cylinder.

Kristie, I think traditional Shetland knitters use the belt and long dp's for lace as well as Fair Isle. (I'm not going to attempt to master that.) Shawls were traditionally knit – the books agree – one border at a time, edging first, then inwards towards the centre. That gets over the problem of how to create garter stitch in the round, since there is no round, but leaves you with the mitered corners to sew up.


Thank you for your help with the keyboard. Sure enough, \ and / are both there, did I but look. Melfina, I was overjoyed to discover that I'm not the only one to be confused by the words “forward” and “back” as applied to slashes. It depends which end you start from.

Eeny Meeny: it didn't appear on the Sunday Times best-seller list yesterday. Ron, that was indeed a bit uncanny, about your recent purchase, It was Lou who commented on Saturday that she had just bought it, and hers was the name I meant to type yesterday when in fact I put yours. Liz, I like your phone's suggestion of Went Menu as an alternative title. That's a feature of the modern computer that drives my husband wild.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

As hoped, I have reached round 113 of the borders of the Unst Bridal Shawl. I didn't finish that ball of yarn (and may not even do so today).

I noted in my electronic Filofax that I had reached round 69 on the 1st of May – that's 44 rounds or so in the month, better than one a day. I should certainly reach round 136 (the end) in June, despite the steady addition of stitches, and barring, of course, disaster.

I have been wondering whether it's going to be possible to knit the Queen Ring in one piece, inwards, given that it will involve even more stitches and that things are a bit cumbersome now. I think I'm using the longest available circular. I comfort myself with the thought that it might not be so awkward when only the edging is hanging from the work. At the moment, I've not only got a huge number of stitches – no use counting, because there'll be more in a moment – but I also have almost the whole shawl suspended from them.

Round 113 is indeed a significant landmark – the motifs are at their widest and the trellis at its narrowest. When that happens again, I'm done.

I was finding things a bit tedious last night, doing four or five consecutive k2tog's on the second half of each Tree of Life, whichever direction I was going. The first half, inwards towards the trunk, was done with ssk's – much easier. I always -- well, almost always – angle decreases, including centering k3tog's, but I remembered my astonishment in reading in Heirloom Knitting that it didn't matter.

I looked it up, and sure enough – Sharon says that both / and the one that goes the other way but doesn't seem to be on my keyboard, mean k2tog. If that's true, it ought to be equally true that both can be rendered with ssk. So I started doing that and am finding things much easier and pleasanter.


Archie said the other day that he wouldn't mind having me knit him a sweater. It's got to be distinctly sub fusc, Kaffe is out, but cables are acceptable. I must think about this. There's a lot of Archie and the prospect is a bit daunting, but I want as many as possible to wear my knitting at my funeral and it would be sad if Archie couldn't qualify.

Ron, thanks for buying Eeny Meeny. That makes two, with Shandy. I will be submitting my claim for commission to Hellie in due course. It's not great literature, but if you're a thriller-reader at all, you'll find it compelling I think. I haven't been out yet to buy today's Sunday Times – that best-seller list will be the first page I turn to.