Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Here we are. I've missed you guys.

The big knitting news is that I have turned the Messy Corner – the final corner – with the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, and am now on the home straight. Today's job is to count the stitches between where-I-am and where-I-began to see how much fudge is necessay to make things come out even for the final graft.

There's a bit more to tell you on the knitting front, but I'll leave it for now. Here is some family news:

  • Ketki was working at home recently, as she often does. The Little Boys were at school and Alexander off somewhere. She heard an unusual noise from their ducks, which are allowed to wander about the premisses by day, and got up from her desk to investigate. She found one of them in the jaws of a fox. Ketki is formidable behind – perhaps, indeed, because of – her Hindu calm. I have never heard her raise her voice, but she says she shouted at that fox. He was not happy to let go but recognised that he had met his match. The duck was badly shaken but has now recovered.
It means that the ducks are no longer allowed to wander unless someone can keep them under close observation, and rush out to shoo them home every time they try to march down the driveway towards the loch. The rest of the time they must be in their pen, and they don't like it.
  • Ketki and the little boys were on Queen Street in Glasgow when that bin lorry careered out of control. They were finishing off lunch in a pizzeria and would actually have been out on the street if the waiter had been a bit faster with their bill. They were kept penned up inside for a while, as the pavement was occupied by the dead and injured and confusion. They were eventually let out the back by the fire exit.
  • The house were struck by lightening on Christmas Eve. This has happened before, indeed once before while we were there. This time it happened while Alexander was driving over to fetch us. He had just heard the news when he arrived. They were without electricity or telephone. He was nearly in tears.
However, the electricity board came up unexpectedly trumps. Power had been restored by the time we got there. British Telecom promised that the telephone line would be restored “within three working days”. Given that disaster had struck on Christmas Eve, that meant “within a fortnight if you're lucky”.

So we had no phone calls, no internet, no email. They don't have television anyway. The effect was extraordinarily peaceful.

So that's that for 2014. I have high hopes for next year. I must spend today thinking of ways to simplify life, and laying out papers as a preliminary to tackling the income tax. There seem to be an awful lot of medical appts in January, each demanding a full day of time and nervous energy. And there's also a weekend when Archie and his cousin Alistair will be here. So the income tax must not be allowed to drift.

Knitting news tomorrow, plus an account of books given and received for Christmas. Meanwhile, a very happy New Year to all.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Here we are – the shortest day! We made it! Happy Winter Solstice to all northern hemisphere readers, and sympathy for those down under. I think this would be a good point for a seasonal pause in blogging, perhaps to resume on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, in time for the New Year.

My sister wrote a Suess-like poem recently about a local (to Old Saybrook) beloved wooded spot which was scheduled to be developed into a golf course. I have (I am ashamed to say) forgotten the details of the story. The collapse of Lehman Bros comes into it, and the land is now, I believe, owned by a local trust and safe for trees and dog-walking at least for the time being.

Rachel Miles, James' and Cathy's daughter, has illustrated the poem and designed the book. My sister sent these pictures yesterday. I think it is sensationally good.

My sister and her husband are coming for a visit in the spring, when they will deliver a hard copy.


I went back to that hole – between the edging and the border of the Unst Bridal Shawl – armed with my own logic in yesterday's blog: and sure enough, dropped stitches! Four of them! They didn't include the crucial k2tog that joins edging to shawl – that one, if dropped, unzips very promptly. They were simply border stitches which must have flown off the needle unnoticed when I turned at the end of an incoming row. They were sitting there quietly (biding their time?), showing no eagerness to escape. I have secured them with a safety pin. The hole will eventually be easily repaired with a needle.

Still no red madelinetosh, although it was said to have been posted from London on Tuesday, first class. I had a word with the postie yesterday – she is used to conversations with me about consignments of yarn. She says it'll turn up, and it probably will. And anyway, we have decided to leave the bottom of Archie's sweater unfinished and go on to the sleeves, until he can try it on for length in January. (The red is for the inside of the terminal hem.)

I got my knitting sorted out and packed for our brief trip to Loch Fyne. I'm taking the whole Queen Ring pattern, and will try to understand how the edging is done. Sharon M. seems to be saying that some repeats must have more stitches than others, in order to make the count come out right. I will try to think through a simplification of that.

And I've also packed the Pakokku socks, and another skein, just in case. Ambitious, for 72 hours.

Happy Hols, everybody. See you later.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nearly there. Google assures me that Someone Up There will throw the switch at 11:03 p.m. tomorrow night.

I had a nice time at the hairdresser's, and now look tidier. When I first started having Charles cut my hair, 5 ½ years ago for Theo and Jenni's wedding, I asked him to aim at Hillary Clinton. She seems to have given up on hair – she'll have to do something about it if she really wants to stand for president – so now we aim at Theresa May (British Home Secretary).

Knitting continues peacefully. Five more days will get me to the Messy Corner of the Unst Bridal Shawl. After that I will have to count stitches with care, and almost certainly do some fudging, to make things come out even for the final graft, when I reach the point where I started.

Yesterday's explanation of the hole between edging and shawl, won't work. If I had merely failed to grab a stitch from the edging on an inward row, the result would be a slight pucker, not a hole. It looks as if a stitch has been skipped on the shawl side, all right, corresponding to an unattached row on the edging side. But the hole seems secure. That's impossible. I had better double check.

Kate Davies' hat pattern Epistropheid is now available from her Ravelry store. It looks glorious fun to knit – no pompom, thanks, for me – and I'd like to make the acquaintance of the Toft Ulysses yarn she uses. It's got some Blueface Leicester in it, a lovely, silky yarn. But it's expensive, and you'd obviously have to buy two. Maybe someone will do a kit.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My husband's hairwash was easier than expected. Alexander will give him a haircut – one of Alexander's many talents – on Boxing Day. But I think you're right, we need more help. I feel myself sinking.  I don't know how to set about it. Greek Helen will be here towards the end of January. She is strong and energetic and may be able to think up a plan.

My dental appt also went well. The practice rang up the day before to say that the hygienist would like to see wedding pictures of the Princess shawl in action. I must have babbled about it in our June session, to keep her off the subject of flossing. So I took one along.

And it was only then, after a whole year of knitting, that I thought of a serious problem. Hellie doesn't want to wear the Princess, because it would feel sort of second-hand. That's why I'm knitting the Unst Bridal Shawl. But if she wears any Shetland lace at her wedding, 94.7% of the guests who were also at Thomas' and Lucy's wedding will assume it's the same shawl.

I will raise this point with her when I see her at Loch Fyne. We're not going to be there as long as I had hoped, but we should overlap Hellie by one night. She could keep the shawl to wrap a baby in.

The actual knitting continues well, except that last night I got another hole between the edging and the shawl – not a Fatal Error, dropped stitch, all-will-now-unzip hole, just a hole.

I may have figured out how this can happen. Every outward row begins slip 1, knit 1, then YO, k2tog for the column of faggoting. The inward rows end yo, k2tog, and then another k2tog which actually joins edging to shawl. If I should accidentally throw in an extra YO on the outward row, between the slip 1 and the knit 1, that YO would then figure as part of the k2tog at the end of the next row instead of the wanted next stitch from the border.

And thank you enormously for your help with Archie's sweater. You are of course right, that I must stop and wait for it to be tried on when I get to the bottom, either before knitting the flaps or after knitting at least one of them, but before adding the fold line and the inner hem. (The red yarn hasn't arrived yet, but now I don't need to worry.)

I have a five-mile-long dp that I bought just the other day, for the edging of the Rams & Yowes blankie. I could leave the whole sweater on that, but I think it might be better to divide and start a flap. It had never occurred to me that the defining factor in the length of men's sweaters is their need to get things in and out of their trouser pockets – but once you've pointed it out, it seems obvious.

I'm about 12” below the armpits at the moment, Slow, as I've said – but I could always pause the Unst for a day or two if need be, to finish off the body of Archie's sweater before the Boys' Weekend I mentioned, in January, when he will be here to try it on. I think I'll take those poor Pakokku socks to Loch Fyne instead – they've waited long enough. I am doing the second heel flap at the moment. We should have just enough time there to let me polish them off.

Today's excitement is my own hair appt, always a pleasure. Charles has superb coffee, and at the worst I'll come out looking better than when I went in.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Here we are. Today's ordeal is to be the washing of my husband's hair. Any joint enterprise brings out the worst in him – and it's fairly near the surface at the best of times. If one is, for instance, hanging a picture, this can be a good thing, Adrenalin flows. One does not err from inattention. But washing is different, It would go better if we could laugh about it like friends.

Knitting continues to go forward smoothly. I've clearly reached the endgame of the Unst Bridal Shawl – I can see that, from the way it hangs from the long needle when I turn around at the end of a row. This final side is proving remarkably disaster-free: that's good, too. Now I must find a place to block it.

I am fretting a bit about the length of Archie's sweater. I have an old one of his here – not a fave, but I've seen him wear it. And it's perhaps a bit short. It measures 25” from the highest point of the shoulder seam to the bottom. I've just looked up the measurements for the most successful sweater I ever knit, Joe Ogden's Grandson Sweater. 26”, is the answer. Joe is tall, but not nearly as solid as Archie. Probably not quite as tall.

I was grateful for Kristie's comment the other day, that big men need a bit more length. On the other hand, men don't snuggle down in oversized or even just overlong sweaters as women sometimes do. Men need fit. Rachel once bravely said that a sweater can't be too big – when I had just finished knitting a too-big one for her, from “Kaffe Fassett at the V&A”. I can think of at least two too-big sweaters I have knit for men.

The schematic for the pattern I am knitting from “Knits Men Want” shows a rather alarming 31” from top to bottom. The fact that it ends in shirt flaps, rather than ribbing, may justify a bit extra. And there seems to be a mistake – although that remark usually means that I have misunderstood something. My current target, according to the book, is 17” from the underarm. Then 1 1/2” of flap. But the schematic shows that length as 19 1/2”.

Laying the current project on top of Archie's old sweater, mentioned above, it looks as if the new one is about an inch deeper in the armholes. An extra inch already, therefore.

I think my conclusion to all this is that I will skimp a bit on the 17” prescribed.

One undoubted advantage of top-down knitting is that an error here will be easy to rectify. A Boys' Weekend is planned, fairly early in January, when James' and Cathy's son Alistair, now in his first year at Glasgow University studying computer science, will come over and Archie will get away from school overnight. (Alistair is finding things rather Glaswegian over there, as I certainly did in my first year at that institution.) The cousins are close in age – the pregnancies overlapped, so to speak.

Surely by then I will have finished the body of Archie's sweater, and he can try it on with only the sleeve stitches to be put on waste yarn. When he tried it on before, to assess chest size, it took three days of knitting time – one to put the stitches on the waste yarn, two to retrieve and unsplit them and sit them aright.

A message from Loop yesterday says that the red yarn, for the inside of the hems, has been dispatched – first class, and requiring a signature. If our usual postie is doing the round, she'll sign for me. But you never know, this time of year. One skein will go easily through our big letter box, unless Loop has some very unusual packaging. But it's one more thing to fret about, at least somewhat.

I do like Kate Davies' new hat pattern, based on one of the designs in her Yoke book. The actual pattern not yet released, but soon.

I have an early dental appt tomorrow, so I won't be here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

No time for much more than a strap-line (was that the term?) this morning, but all is well, or at least well-ish.

The big news is that we've got our Disabled Parking Badge and can now park with impunity on yellow lines, and for free in parking-meter slots. I have read the booklet carefully and note that I must not park on a yellow line and go off shopping, leaving my husband sitting in the car. The badge belongs to him and not to the car, so I hope Alexander can find some creative places to park in Inverary over the holidays.

I did the post-office-queue business yesterday, I hope for the only time before Christmas. We used to have our own sub-post office around the corner on Broughton Street. Very handy. Then it closed, and I mostly used the  big one in St James Centre opposite Boots. But it has moved away -- just in time for Christmas -- so I have no alternative to the pleasant Pakistani-run PO in Canonmills. The queue could scarcely fit into the shop yesterday.

I want to write about the length of Archie's sweater, but I'll leave that for tomorrow.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thank you for help and sympathy. A light box, I take it, isn't the same as one of those super-lights one gets for winter knitting? Ott Light? If the solstice doesn't help, I'll do something. The fear of death is the essential difficulty here – and nemo potest impetrare a Papa bullam numquam moriendi. I'll leave that in Latin.

I remembered yesterday a present I must give, and last night I dreamed the perfect thing. I realised in the first seconds of waking up, that I had forgotten what it was.

Loop rang up at lunchtime yesterday to say that they didn't have that skein of madelintosh DK in Tart after all. We settled on Robin Red Breast (or words to that effect). It doesn't look quite as rich and wonderful as Tart, but it'll do. I was impressed with the level of service.

Archie's sweater has now advanced 11” from the underarm. There's lots of Archie to circumnavigate, and this is a late evening, post-lace-knitting job, so it's going slowly. I hope some peaceful days at Loch Fyne will speed things up. At 17”, it divides into front and back, and the flaps thus produced end in hems – that's where red comes in. So, maybe before the holidays are over?

I also extracted the edging-pattern page from the Queen Ring Shawl envelope. It's 16 rows, a bit more complicated than the Unst Bridal Shawl 12-row'er. The Queen Ring is not exactly Sharon Miller's design – she is copying a huge and wonderful Shetland shawl she was able to buy for her collection. It is knit edging-inwards section-by-section, so that at the end you have to sew the pieces together at the mitered corners of the borders.

Even Sharon clearly found that tough going, and I am not even going to contemplate it. I will master the Fleegle System before I start the borders, and knit the whole thing round and round.

The edging numbers are unexpected. Sharon says that the original – I hope I've got this right – has fewer points in the edging than are needed for the start of the border. The difference is made up by a vigorous row of increases after the stitches have been picked up from the edge of the edging. Sharon has done the maths for both ways, and I very much prefer the idea of knitting the edging to the length appropriate for the borders, as I have always done.


We had some seasonal pictures of Prince George in the paper yesterday – a bonny lad. He was wearing a blue sweater with red-coated guardsmen around it, in intarsia. It was bonny too, and I don't suppose it will be long before a copy-cat pattern is available.

Last Saturday was apparently Horrible Sweater Day in aid of a charity – Save the Children? And all the papers had articles about the phenomenon. I was in a Tesco Express yesterday, and complimented the young man at the check-out on his sweater: it was a cheerful, mostly red-and-white, small-patterned Fair Isle (with, I noticed, some bands inside out, as we had been talking about here recently). Seasonal without being hideous, I told him. I was afraid I was being patronising, but he seemed delighted and told me some things I didn't understand about Primark.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The good news is that Archie and his suitcase got to Athens in the small hours of yesterday morning. Credit to British Airways, under the circumstances.

There was only one incoming Christmas card yesterday, from an American friend to whom I had already written. She sent a new address – she's 90, and has moved into a retirement community which she seems to be enjoying. I think the US does that sort of thing better than we do here, as I have probably said before. So today I'll send her a whole new card.

And that's really about all I have to report, apart from another disaster-free evening of knitting.

I have decided on two little Christmas treats for myself. One is to start the edging of the Queen Ring Shawl when we are at Loch Fyne for Christmas. I can't very well knit Unst Bridal Shawl while Hellie and Matt are there.

It's a solemn step, to embark on something like that which I may very well not have enough lifetime to finish. Except that that's true of all of us, whenever we cast anything on. There is nothing for it but to press Onward, as EZ recommended.

The other treat was to order a whole new skein of madelinetosh for the hems of Archie's sweater, instead of rooting around in the stash for something. I've done that. It's called Tart – a strong, cheerful red. Loop had only one skein of it in stock – kismet! I ran the idea past Archie, who seemed to think it was all right. This is for the invisible inside of the hems, of course.

At the very end, a couple of rows of something are added to finish the sweater off around the top. I may suggest red for that as well, but I won't do it unless I am sure he buys the idea.

A new issue of Knitty is out – lots of hats and shawls. Franklin's historical pattern is for a rather nice-looking pair of gloves (also red). I knit my father a pair of gloves once, when “Men's Gloves” was one of the knitting categories at the Games. I won First Prize – because nobody else entered. I gave them to him for Christmas, thus killing two birds with one stone. And resolved never to knit gloves again, not even for Franklin.

I am oppressed this morning by a feeling of foreboding, which is even worse than panic. Only one more week to the solstice.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Sorry about that. All well here. Yesterday was a confusion of multiple breakfasts and trying to persuade Old Slowcoach to print Archie's boarding passes – two, because he was flying to Heathrow and then on to Athens; and re-packing with the addition of presents from us, and things his mother Helen had recently ordered to be sent here. We got the suitcase closed, but remained worried about weight.

All went well, except that it was a cold and brilliant day and the journey to the airport was a nightmare of Low Winter Sun. The suitcase was 0.2 kilograms over the limit and they waved it through. We parted just before noon with mutual good wishes for the festive season.

British readers will have spotted the flaw – maybe others as well. Archie phoned in mid-afternoon to say that he was still here. There had been a computer failure at air traffic control down south, and Heathrow was effectively closed. This item has been top-of-the-news ever since, and still is, this morning, We felt rather smug, having heard it from Archie first.

He got to London in the early evening and thought that he would still be able to get the flight to Athens, which had been similarly delayed. That was the last I heard. I hoped there might be a message on my little telephone this morning, but there isn't. I'm sure I'll hear something today, both about Archie and about the suitcase.

Otherwise, life goes on. Christmas cards have started arriving, and today I hope to put into practice my new idea of answering them as they come, rather than a year later. I have reached the half-way point on the edging of the final side of the Unst Bridal Shawl – no recent disasters. So this baby should reach FO status somewhere in January, surely. Archie's sweater progresses steadily.


Thank you, everybody, for your comments. I love Scotland – I love Alyth, come to that. When I was young we used sometimes to drive out at the weekend to a place called Franklin. It's presumably very near Detroit. Cider (=un-fermented apple juice) was a feature of Franklin. It was billed as “the town that time forgot”. I always think of that phrase when we go to Alyth. I could live there rather happily, given a good broadband connection.

(I've just google'd Franklin. It's still there, and still makes cider. I didn't get far enough to find out whether it's still the town that time forgot.)

But I don't like Mr Salmond. Nothing wrong with that. I am sure I could find you lots of people who love England and don't like Mr Cameron. I think Scotland is better off in the United Kingdom than otherwise, and I am glad that well more than half the population agrees. It was rather nice, in the days before the referendum, how we could and did talk to each other about it everywhere, over the counter at the butcher's, drinking beer at the Games, and disagree with each other without rancour. It isn't like that in the days before a General Election, when good manners dictate that the subject isn't mentioned.

As for oil, a lot of Mr Salmond's case was based on the wealth it brings Scotland. I'm sure I haven't imagined that. The recent, extraordinary fall in the price is already bringing changes – jobs lost, exploration cancelled. Scotland will be better able to weather this as part of the United Kingdom. All oil-exporting nations are affected – Saudi Arabia, Russia. It's worse in Scotland because North Sea oil is so expensive to extract.

Perhaps even Mr Salmond, lying awake at three in the morning, is a bit glad he doesn't have to deal with this.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

If I were not so happy and relieved about the outcome of the Scottish referendum, I could wish it had gone the other way for the pleasure of watching Mr Salmond squirm as the world oil price falls and falls. I wonder what he's thinking, in his quiet moments? His whole premise was what a rich little nation Scotland would be – based on North Sea Oil. Greed and stupidity having already brought down Scotland's two great banks and much diminished Edinburgh as a major financial centre.

Malwarebytes claims to be hard at work again this morning, blocking things every few seconds, this time unprompted by me. And it's working, to some extent. Things are a bit better. But why am I being persecuted like ths?

Thank you for your Christmas comfort. Shandy, that's a good idea, to blog every other day – I may need to employ it in January, to get the tax done. But for now, I need this morning time with you guys to keep me sane. And you're right, in general – relax! It doesn't matter! I love the idea of sending the cards in April, Tamar – and what pleasure they must have brought the recipients.

I had two years off, after all, and the world didn't stop revolving. In 1991 or so, I broke my right arm during the last week of November. No cards that year. (We were in Strathardle. I was wandering around in the late afternoon gloom, looking for my husband, with a diabetic snack in one hand, or possibly both. I slipped on a rock concealed in the damp grass. At least, nowadays, I know where he is.)

And in 1995, Helen's and David's first child – a boy, like all the subsequent ones – died during the first week of December, after a little lifetime spent entirely in hospital (in Edinburgh, where he was born). I remember walking along Princes Street during that December, looking at all the tense and miserable faces, and thinking, not me; I'm exempt, this time.

One thing I can certainly do is answer the important cards as they come in, instead of writing a message now based on the sender's last-year card. You're right, Shandy, that it is depressing to regard the swathe death has cut through one's address book. And, no doubt, this year's crop of incoming cards will bring more bad news.

Then there is the related problem, which I have mentioned here before, of losing touch with the rest of a family when death removes one's main point of contact. I've got a couple of those, to whom I have been sturdily sending cards ever since the bereavement. Time to give up.

Knitting continued well last night, except that one of my beloved Cubics – I'm not going to stop to look up the spelling – broke in my hand, for no particular reason. And with no loss of stitches. The stitches of the Unst Bridal Shawl are on a long circular, being knit off one by one into the edging. I am using a short sock needle – the unfortunate Cubic – as the other needle.

Archie will be here this afternoon, school having given up for the term. I'll drive him to the airport tomorrow, a job I much enjoy, to send him off to Athens. I hope my husband is not too hard on him. What shall we eat?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

I've re-activated MalWareBytes – I thought the Malware had eaten it alive, but it turns out that the icon on the desktop still works and it is currently hard at work, it claims, eliminating dozens of intruders We'll see.

We've been having wind and rain – far short of the forecast storm, so far. But we didn't go for a walk yesterday, because of the wind and my husband's unsteady balance. I got two – two – Christmas cards written in the precious half-hour thus made available. That is a good idea (comments yesterday), just to send them late. I should have a bit of extra time in the day when we are at Loch Fyne (if storms don't prevent our getting there) with no cooking to do, and I could write some then. In January, every free second must go to the income tax.

KayT, I used to do the cards your way, the easy ones first and the delicious long letters to old friends last. Meaning that sometimes, the long letters didn't get written. But now, with powers failing and time running out, I am going straight for the people I am most anxious to keep in touch with.

Last night's knitting was again successful. But I think two WIPs is all I can manage – Carol Sunday's beautiful yarn will have to wait. Archie's sweater is now about 10” below the armpits – 17” required. Slow progress – but it's progress, and it is, as hoped, just the right late-evening retreat from the mental excitement of the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. The half-way point, on this final edge, is not impossibly far ahead.

The cumulative effect of madelinetosh Composition Book Grey is more grey than purple. In fact, very like remembered composition books. But that may be just the result of the poor winter solstice light.

P.D. James

I'm sorry she's gone. The Economist, this week, has a good obituary, imagining her own Inspector Dalgliesh calling on her for tea.

I heard her speak in an Edinburgh bookstore once, not long after we moved here, so about 20 years ago. I also heard Ruth Rendall, on another occasion, similarly. I was amazed, and remain so, that those two women, millionaires both, who could snap their fingers at any publisher in the world, could be persuaded to turn out on a damp autumn evening to sell a few books.

At the time, the TV adaptations of several of James' books were fresh in our minds, with Roy Marsden as Dalgliesh. He was simply perfect, and I am sure I am not the only reader who cast Marsden as Dalgliesh in my mind's eye during the reading of all his subsequent adventures.

But P.D. James said that, good as Roy Marsden was, he wasn't Adam Dalgleish as he appeared in her mind's eye. A tantalising thought. She ought to know. 

Wind now seems to be throwing rain at the windows. Perhaps we're having a storm after all.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I scythed through the top of the to-do list yesterday with some success, but the relief from panic was all too temporary. I'm not making much progress with the Christmas cards, either. When I do sit down to that job, I am cherry-picking, doing the ones I really want to write instead of marching down the list. I had better also knock off the ones to the people who will be hurt or offended if they don't get one. Christmas cards weren't a source of offence in my youth – they were essentially for people you didn't like quite well enough to give a present to. Nobody expected both.

I'm pretty sure I'm not going to finish the job. I hope I'll have done the most important ones. I love you all, but I'm sinking.

Knitting went well enough. I lost my place once during the first of the scallops on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl – my mind wandered, as minds do, and I found I didn't know which row I was doing. I have disqualified myself for the Shetland Museum yet again, but otherwise you wouldn't know. I finished my self-allotted stint: 2 1/3 scallops.

Somewhere yesterday I saw “stint” used in that sense, a word I have been groping for, for some time. Now I can't remember where I read it.

Julie, thank you for the history. I had always thought the Japanese ambassador did know about Pearl Harbor in advance, but there's no reason why he should. I wonder if Hitler knew? Churchill went to bed a very happy man that night, as I have mentioned here before. Hitler had reason to worry. Or did they think the US would declare war on Japan and leave Europe out of it?

Churchill had clearly taken some trouble in the early years of the war to cultivate his relationship with Roosevelt. I don't think they were entirely compatible. That evening, he was dining with the American ambassador – ambassadors everywhere, that day – and was able to speak to FDR by telephone within 5 minutes or so of hearing the news (which they had from the butler who had heard it on the radio in the kitchen). I wonder if Cameron could get through to Obama as briskly today.

My husband says he doesn't remember that day, which seems odd. He was 16, therefore not yet in the army but perfectly old enough to be paying attention. And they lived in the south of England, where it was happening.

I was 8, and living in Detroit. I remember December 7, 1941 vividly.

Even so, I was surprised at the statistics they mentioned on the radio on Sunday in recalling the anniversary – how many men died, and three battleships. One of the men was (I think) my second cousin Phil Bright. Sister Helen, is that true? And, if so, how exactly do we trace the relationship?

Monday, December 08, 2014

Thank you, Sharon and JAG, for rescuing me from the Adobe Pop-Up Virus – although, as I said, it's hard to see how things could be worse than they are now. What is McAfee doing to earn its fee? Why doesn't Malwarebytes work any more?

I had a less than entirely satisfactory Sunday afternoon. I started with trying to order from a Christmas-related site. Everybody else must have been doing the same thing – I kept getting their (rather entertaining) “Oops! Something went wrong!” page. I'll try this morning.

Then I turned my attention to emails from the Mellon Centre in London. Someone in British Columbia had written to the director about a picture he has which he thinks might be an oil sketch for a major picture by My Husband's Artist. He asked (by name) that the director refer the question to my husband. The director replied that my husband “is not in good health, and might not be able to assist you”.

Maybe just his way of trying to escape a nuisance, but it irritated us.

Then he had his secretary forward the correspondence to us. It arrived as one of those Chinese puzzles of messages within messages. I had to extract the relevant bits and print them out in a form my husband could comprehend. As I have said, he never really mastered computers.

Having done that, I found that I couldn't persuade Old Slowcoach – the computer which is still attached to the printer – to print the attached images. I could probably have managed if I had been willing to sit there all night. So I wrote to the secretary and asked her to print them and send by post. I assured her that my husband is sound of mind and eye, and always answers such queries. 98% of them are rubbish – but that leaves two.

It's one thing off my conscience, I guess, but not nearly as much as I had hoped to get done that afternoon.


There was more in the Sunday Times yesterday – everything came in under £1000, you'll be glad to hear. Again, big and formless. I haven't, myself, seen any inside-out ones this year, but I know what you mean (comments yesterday). Lisa, I like your friend's hypothesis that the factory sewed them up wrong and Gap was making a virtue of it. Although I would agree, Knitlass, that there are too many for that to be the case.

It would be the ultimate illustration of EZ's thesis that there's no mistake in knitting which can't be turned into a Feature – except a split stitch.

Speaking of which, it was almost with joy that I found one (a split stitch) in Archie's sweater the other day. What to do? Ladder back and correct it! This wasn't lace, and it wasn't garter stitch. The correction was easy, and perfect. I have never mastered laddering in garter stitch, although I own one of those two-headed crochet hooks which are meant to make it simple.

All went well here last night, despite the darkness and my frustrating afternoon and the lack of our soap opera. I am now about ¼ of the way along towards the final corner, the Messy Corner, in my edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. The Messy Corner is still out of sight over the horizon, but I can see real progress in the distance I have made from the preceding one.

I meant to say something about P.D. James, but I've run out of time. Tomorrow, I hope.

Pearl Harbor happened on a Sunday – I thought I remembered that, and I've looked it up; it's true. It must have fallen on a Sunday often since, but yesterday seemed sharper than usual. So why was the Japanese ambassador with Roosevelt? Why didn't they take the day off? FDR, at least.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Pearl Harbor Day

Little to report. Evening knitting was interrupted by the welcome arrival of the Waitrose order, and I'm pretty sure I didn't resume in the right place. Not a disaster, just another imperfection. No Carol Sunday, no Archie. Our soap opera has gone off until some time in the new year, taking with it a peaceful half-hour of knitting. This time of year is hard to bear.

The Financial Times – we read it on Saturday – has an occasional big glossy supplement called How to Spend It, full of pictures of improbably expensive things. It reaches new heights at this gloomy season. Is anybody really that rich?

Yesterday's issue has a knitwear section. Does anybody really go out dressed like that? I mention it because snug-fitting is not in evidence at all. Ease is everywhere. I was particularly struck by a simple-looking sweater in a very heavyweight-looking cashmere yarn for “about £2800”. Except perhaps for the big collar – just as you said in yesterday's comment, Jane -- you or I could knock it out in a weekend. At The Row, if you're interested.


Google Chrome now loads without Google's opening page. Is that a response to the EU demand for “unbundling”? Or just this endlessly irritating computer finding another way to slow me down and infuriate?

One of the most persistent of the pop-ups is purportedly from Adobe Flash, wanting to update the version it says I've got. Do you think they'd let me alone if I went ahead and did it? It's hard to see how things could be worse.

I have ambitious plans for Getting Things Done today. I'll feel briefly better if I succeed.  

Saturday, December 06, 2014

We qualified for our Blue Badge! It was as I expected – by the time the assessor had come to get us from the waiting room and had walked with us to the near-by consulting room, she could see that my husband was in the Disabled Parking Badge category. The only thing that could possibly have gone wrong was if she had taken it into her head to wonder whether he was hamming it up. Mercifully (for her) she didn't. We sat for a while answering questions which G. and I had already answered on the 14-page application form and then she said that we will get our badge in a couple of weeks.

Better yet, almost, G. herself rang up in the morning and offered to drive us there. She is brisk and funny and a delight to be with. She is the one who drove us to the polling station on Referendum Day, not realising until too late that my husband was going to vote the wrong way. This offer transformed the day, almost, from an ordeal into a pleasant outing.

The Astley Ainslie hospital is something of an experience. We got there all right, there was a sign saying so, but we turned in the wrong direction and drove along the wall finding no way in and soon found ourselves half a mile away in horrible Christmas-shopping-Friday-afternoon traffic on the Morningside Road, with my husband (uncharacteristically) issuing unhelpful instructions. He knows Edinburgh and is usually good at it.

And then when we had retraced our steps and found the way in, the place turns out to be a labyrinth of little buildings and winding roads. The job done, we had not inconsiderable difficulty finding our way out again.

In the evening, everything over and done, I had something of a little panic attack. But I got my 2 1/3 scallops of the Unst Bridal Shawl edging done, yet again without disaster, and a few more stitches on Archie's sweater.

The shawl is looking good, now that the third corner is free, if one sort of squints at it with poor eyesight and makes allowance for blocking. I found a hole yesterday – not a Disaster Hole, all of which are at least, I think, secure, but a real one, with live stitches. Moths? Or a dropped stitch I didn't notice at the time? The Princess had two or three such holes, despite very careful storage, when I got her out for the wedding. They were easily repaired and totally inconspicuous – although, as mentioned before, it wouldn't do for the Shetland Museum. I'm not overly worried about this one. But it's sad.

My sister says that I am not to worry about size. Hellie (the 2015 bride) is tiny, although so fiercely competent that one doesn't notice it. She will be glad not to be overwhelmed by the shawl, my sister thinks.


I hope to return today to my project of a brioche/fisherman's rib scarf with Carol Sunday's wonderful yarn.

Franklin has a new blog post, an uncommon event these days. What is Dolores doing? Link in sidebar. But it's not about knitting! Or Dolores!

I've just spent some time with the new Twist Collective, and need to spend more. There's a shawl called “Pelion”! I think I have formulated a Thot about style – which is, that winter sweaters just at the moment are tighter-fitting and more bosom-y-looking than I am entirely happy with. One could always add more ease. Kate Davies' “Yoke” book started this hare for me – she models most of the patterns herself, and of course has the figure for it. Many of us don't.

But what really caught my eye in the Twist Collective was the Tokyo Shawl (again), and a asymmetric, wrap-around striped cardigan from Wool People 8. No bosoms there.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Today's news is that someone from the Council phoned yesterday and made an appt for my husband to be “assessed” for the Disabled Parking Badge this very afternoon at the Astley Ainslie hospital, over on the south side of the city. I have worried and prayed four children from infant school through to their university degrees (and beyond – it doesn't end) and have never before felt so confident of a “pass”.

But getting anywhere for a specific time is stressful these days.

Yesterday's pleasant surprise was the arrival of the Early Winter 2014 VK. I didn't know I was expecting such a thing. Unusually, I don't really care for any of the patterns. The yoke sweaters at the end are mildly interesting, but Kate Davies is better. What I love unreservedly is the Jimmy Bean pull-out, offering and illustrating yarn bouquets as potential Xmas presents. “Flowers are so last year.” There are all one's faves, madelinetosh and Koigu and Noro.

Meg writes about provisional cast-ons. The wonderful thing in that article is her reference to the old one of crocheting a chain and then picking up stitches from the back of it for your cast-on. The chain can simply be unzipped when you want the stitches again. But “several times I chose the wrong loop and the chain would not unzip.”

That's what used to happen to me. And knowing that Meg Swansen could make the same mistake really made my day. The solution, of course, is to crochet the stitches directly on to the needle. Meg doesn't know who to credit for that great “unvention”.

All continued well with actual knitting – another 2 1/3 scallops done, on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl, without disaster. Then I sank back with a couple of rounds of Archie's sweater. It had been a long, hard day of non-achievement and I wasn't up to much.

I'll take those poor, neglected socks to the hospital this afternoon.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Greek Helen has written a marvellous account of the mosaic she made for Thomas and Lucy. Don't miss. It includes a picture from the wedding day of the Princess shawl in action, but I think you've seen that one already.

Thanks for the nudges about the “Marius sweater”. Of course the concept was familiar, once I looked it up, but I don't remember ever hearing the term before. I think maybe that's the direction I'll head in, if Scotland win the Calcutta Cup and I find myself knitting sweaters for the boys on Loch Fyne.

I continue to read Kate Davies' Yoke book with great interest. The chapter on Shetland has a lot about what might be called the Great Yoke Boom of the 50's and 60's, when everybody in the islands was knitting yokes to be attached to machine-knit sweaters. I remember beautiful Munrospun packs – way out of my price range in those hard days – containing a yoke, plain yarn for the rest of the sweater, and (I think) a skirt-length of beautiful toning tweed. If I'm not imagining this, I wonder if such kits ever turn up on eBay.

I must try to find the Vogue Children's Book with the yoke pattern I knit for Rachel (twice, I think). It was my eureka-moment as far as Fair Isle knitting was concerned – I discovered that I could happily carry one of the colours in my left hand while the right hand was busy with the other, although I can't (then or now) knit “continental” with only one colour. And I discovered what enormous fun it was.

My sister-in-law asked, of Rachel's finished sweater, whether I had bought the yoke ready-knit. A compliment indeed, in retrospect – for if I had, it would almost certainly have been knit in Shetland. This must, given Rachel's birth-date in 1958, have happened somewhere in the late-ish 60's.

KD speaks of people who grew up in those days hating knitting, because it represented the churning out of those yokes to a deadline. And of the old woman whose dementia revealed itself when she could no longer remember the fern-and-star pattern.

This is a book for reading.

(Meanwhile, back at the ranch) all went well here last night. I did my 2 1/3 scallops on the Unst Bridal Shawl edging without mishap. There's a long, long way to go, but the third corner is now visibly behind me. I started winding the first of Carol Sunday's beautiful colours. The yarn (100% merino) is fine – it would have to be, to facilitate the intricate pattern of her Aberdeen mittens for which it is intended. I don't think fineness is a drawback in a scarf – and fisherman's rib is a warm, dense fabric.

Eventually I retreated to Archie's sweater.


The pop-up ad plague has reached Black Death proportions. My sister says to switch to Firefcx. Here on Blogger, I regularly get a banner across the top of the screen with ads for jeans. I have finally grasped that it is a Joyce-ian joke on my name.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Yesterday's news was the unexpected arrival of a package from Carol Sunday. Had I ordered something and completely forgotten about it? Senility, indeed. But, no – it was a present from Carol herself, her Aberdeen mitten kit. I was moved to tears.

The present includes the pattern, which I can download from Ravelry. It's beautiful, but complicated. If I just add it to the HALFPINT list, Subcategory Already-in-Stash, I fear it will remain there forever. My thought at the moment is a brioche scarf – or fisherman's rib, or whatever you want to call it. K1, k1b, on and on, no purling. Nothing is more soothing.

But might the Aberdeen pattern, or part of it, eventually figure in a yoke? I am hugely enjoying Kate Davies' book of that name – and I haven't even really got to the patterns yet.

You might not think it, looking at Carol's Aberdeen pattern on-line, but there are eight or nine different colours, beautifully gradated. I could either eyeball the quantities and turn around in the middle of the scarf, or I could just start at one end and knit to the other – and I think that's my choice.

I can't set the Unst Bridal Shawl aside, so it's Archie who will have to wait. Perhaps I can alternate evenings between him and the scarf. I will wind up like the late and much-missed Judy Sumner who had different WIPs for every day of the week.

Here's Archie's sweater at the moment -- not at all a god photograph; you can't even see the placket. But it shows you roughly how far I have progressed:

I had another disaster-free evening with the Unst Bridal Shawl last night. I've looked it up – there are 50 scallops per side, as I thought. The pattern lasts for 12 rows. A losenge on the outside edge expands and contracts. Between that and the shawl is a column of faggoting and then a very simple 4-row lace pattern, repeated three times (obviously) per losenge, then another column of faggoting, then the join.

My current plan is to persist with two-scallops-per-evening, but to add another four rows each time – another repeat of the simple lace pattern. That will give me an extra scallop every three days, if arithmetic serves, and will speed things along a bit.


I wrote two more Christmas cards yesterday. Not good enough. I have been giving a lot of thought to your suggestions about life. I think my best plan, for the moment, in order to squeeze an extra hour-per-day from the 24, is to plan meals by the week and shop accordingly. We have excellent local shops within easy walking distance. My practice is to lie in bed in the morning thinking of what we might eat today, and then, later, shop for it. It's a pleasant outing. But I could cut down.

For now, however, I'll struggle with Old Slowcoach to bring you those photographs.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

This is cleaning-woman-morning, and I am distracted (she's wonderful, it's not her fault). I'll do my best.

Lisa, industrious and inquisitive, has found the knitter of that wonderful red Rams & Yowes. And of the “Marius sweater” – is that what the chap is wearing? Ravelry links; I haven't checked them yet, but I have great faith in Lisa. When I first saw the red Rams&Yowes yesterday, I thought for an instant that it was a Turkish carpet.

Yesterday's big news on the knitting front is that Kate Davies' book “Yokes” arrived. It's terrific, as expected. I am greatly enjoying the essays at the beginning, especially the one about Greenland. KD is a professional historian, and it shows. The text explains – although the actual photograph isn't included; why not? – the remarkable picture on p. 63 of Vibeke Lind's indispensable “Knitting in the Nordic Tradition”, of the Danish Royal family in their Greenlandic sweaters.

There's an interview with the Icelandic designer Helene Magnusson (and another with Meg). That one sent me back to my shelves, and I've straightened something out. I recently bought Magnusson's “Icelandic Knitting Using Rose Patterns” (on KD's recommendation, in her blog). I liked the historical research into slipper insets, didn't care for the sweater patterns – as I've already said here. It turns out I also own “Icelandic Handknits” by the same author – much better. It explains KD's enthusiasm. She says in “Yokes” that there's another, “Icelandic Colour Knitting” (2006). I can't find that on Amazon or Abebooks.

I think I'll have more to say about this book – “Yokes”, I mean. Which pattern to add to the HALFPINT list?

As for real-life knitting, I got around that third corner with the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Without mishap. So now it's down the straight to the Messy Corner, and then a bit more on the first side. Sharon Miller said to start at the midway point. I don't think I did that – I must look, today – but I started far enough along that there will be time for some foot-shuffling, if need be, to make the beginning and the end come out even for final grafting.

I'm not afraid of the blocking (except for the considerable problem of, where to do it?). I did the Princess just after I got back to Edinburgh from Theo and Jenni's wedding in '09. My husband stayed on in London for another day. I moved the dining room furniture to make space and took plenty of delicious time for the job. That won't work, this time. He won't go away, and he has commandeered the dining room for his work. The pattern says the shawl will be six feet square.

Thank you for advice about income tax and life. I have some ideas of my own. More tomorrow

Monday, December 01, 2014

Thanks for al the comfort and advice.

Sunday is a good day for getting things done – in fact, the only one. We have lunch at lunchtime, on Sunday, when we get back from Mass, then an hour's nap which has become an essential for both, then there are still a couple of hours of Doing Time before Television-and-Knitting Time. Other days, my husband's getting-up, and breakfasting, and bathroom-time take all and rather more than all of the morning, and then we go for our little walk, and then have lunch in what is getting dangerously close to mid-afternoon.

Yesterday I spent those precious hours sorting piles of paper and securing them with paper clips. I feel quite a lot better. My account-keeping has gone to hell of latel, and papers keep piling up, and some sort of order will be needed for the income tax in January. For the moment, it actually seems do-able.

Income tax is where your several words of comfort fail, I'm afraid. OK, if I don't write the Christmas cards or think of presents for the Little Boys at Loch Fyne. Too bad, but life will go on. But if I don't get the tax filed in January, they'll come and get me. And it won't be me – it's my husband's tax I'm doing, in fact. It'll be all right if I die, I suppose – Alexander will just have to arrange a postponement. He'll have a lot to do, in that case, and I'd rather spare him that one.

But things tend to seem better in January, post-solstice. And the day one files the tax is exhilarating, with a whole delicious year stretching ahead and more light every day.

I haven't given up on the Apple Mac idea, indeed am negotiating about one for Christmas. I wonder if this would, after all, be the solution of my husband's wish for a simple word-processing program – meaning, one with the features he needs and nothing else? There are programs, I know (even dedicated computers?), for Silly Old Fools who only need to send emails to their grandchildren. But my husband also needs footnotes, and a program which can move a footnoted paragraph from one place to another and have everything smoothly re-numbered.

Why did I ever let him abandon his DOS-based machine? Why didn't I make him face up to what was going on – file structure, formatting – when he was young enough perhaps to take it in?


Don't miss the link in Jean from Cornwall's comment yesterday. Here it is, to save you turning back: Tjipeter Mystery. Scroll down to fifth picture. I have forwarded it to K.D., just in case she missed it.

All went reasonably well with my own knitting yesterday. There was a dropped stitch in the Unst Bridal Shawl edging. It has been safely recovered, and I doubt if you could find the place, but it's not up to Shetland Museum standard. Only eight stitches remain between me and the third corner – I should round it this evening. Each scallop eats up six stitches, but two return rows will be unsecured, one on either side of the corner stitch – that is, they will advance the scallop but won't consume a border stitch. I can't remember what I did about that on the other corners. Something similar.

The whole thing, as it increasingly emerges from the confinement of the needles, looks awfully small and mean, especially as compared to the Princess. Blocking will transform it (and reveal all the disasters), but even blocking can't be expected to double its size. Hellie must understand that she doesn't have to wear it on September 19. I will see her at Loch Fyne at Christmas and we can discuss this in depth. She could just keep it for her babies.

And Archie's sweater is now 7 1/2” (of 17) below the armpits. I'm relaxing about the yarn-quantity question. Skeins four and five (of 12), currently employed in tandem, will clearly last a long time.

Again this morning, Zite's knitting section is full of thngs I've already seen. What's gone wrong?