Saturday, March 28, 2015

It's happening. The car has left for London. Rachel and Alexander seem fully on top of the problem. Problems. My husband was actually cheerful. They have got him something which I think might be called a zimmer frame. It'll be interesting to see how he gets on with it, and with the wheelchair which I think has been provided in London. These things may herald a whole new lease of life.

And my weight was down by two whole digits this morning. I had been firmly stuck on a plateau for more than a week (as happens) and had hoped for a bit of improvement on this, my last Lenten weigh-in, but didn't expect anything as good as this. Of course it will bounce back up tomorrow – but I'm not going to weigh myself tomorrow. I'm off to Greece.

My hair looks good. When I first started having it cut by Charles Kivlin – ?five years ago – I asked him to aim for Hillary Clinton. She's not ageing entirely well, in my opinion, or maybe it's just that she's neglecting her hair a bit, so now the target is Theresa May.

Charles' daughter is married to an Italian. They run a delicatessen somewhere near Naples, and Charles told me yesterday, as he snipped away, about gathering wild asparagus with his son-in-law. I emailed Greek Helen as soon as I got home, to ask whether this year's wild asparagus season had started yet, in Greece? And the answer is, yes! I think it will grow in this country if you coax it. I think Jamie Oliver is keen. I am greatly looking forward to tasting it.


All well there, too. I wound the second skein of Whiskey Barrel and joined it in, somewhere very near the beginning of the fourth repeat. I'm now nearly ready for the fourth cable crossings – they come at the end of the 16-row repeat. I think once they're done, it will be time to go back to the Tokyo shawl.

But I don't expect to do much knitting today.

And the word from London is to go! with the American yarn, for the pocket squares. I should be able to knock off a couple in Athens. As I've said, I'm not hugely enamoured of the shade (too light) but my beloved Polish cleaning woman pointed out, when I discussed the problem with her, that they will show up better against a black jacket than a serious navy blue would.

So, goodbye for now, and a happy spring holiday to all except those in the antipodes for whom autumn is drawing in. See you in a week or so, insh'Allah.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Archie is safely home in Athens.

The latest news about the plane crash in the French Alps is infinitely depressing.

It turns out – or so they told me, when I got there yesterday – that my hair appt is for this morning. So that's still to be done. Today's other major activity is to pack for my husband. I have been making a careful list all week – it should just be a matter of ticking things off. An email from Rachel this morning suggests that all the food he will require en route should be on board at departure, so that's something else to do. She's taking a train up after work and will – insh'Allah – be here late this evening. He's a notoriously slow starter. We'll have time to bustle about in the morning.

On top of everything else, a tour bus crashed near the Rest and Be Thankful yesterday, and the road is closed. That may affect Alexander's journey here tomorrow.

This is a picture of my Chinese chillies in our friend's kitchen. I am sure they will be far happier there. I have them in a north-facing window, no direct sun, far from ideal, because that is the only window in our kitchen, and it's warm in there.


After reading all your kind and helpful comments yesterday, I pulled myself together and tinked two and a half long and laborious rows, and re-did that cable cross. Although I'm sure you're right, Kristie, that I would have forgotten all about it ere long. At least I grasped in time that I could stop tinking as soon as I had released the mal-crossed cables, turn the work at that point, and start re-knitting at once.

This is an image from the Loop website. The pattern was designed for them although also, I believe, available on Ravelry. I hope I'm not violating copyright.

As you see, there are three ribs involved in each of the two cables. The impression is that the inner rib and the outer rib change places at each intersection, while the centre one continues uninterrupted. That's not true. The centre rib becomes the new inner one. The outer rib takes its place in the centre. It looks like one operation, but it takes two cable rows, four rows apart, to bring it about. Most ingenious, and a lovely effect.

So a mis-crossed cable (I had crossed the wrong rib over the wrong rib) is worse than a simple over-which-should-be-under. I'm glad I re-did it.

There are only a few yards left in the first skein of Whiskey Barrel. More winding looms. I'm going to change the basis for awarding percentage points in the sidebar. I will assume I've got enough yarn and that therefore each skein consumed (there were eight) represents 12.5% of the knitting.

The other thing perhaps to do, today or tomorrow, is to get the Pakokku socks re-started, for knitting aloft. I took them to the dentist on Wednesday and found myself in some sort of muddle and ripped it out. It would be nice to knit these socks for C., who will be travelling with me. But I am sure she has small feet and the other time I tried, Pakokku didn't swirl properly over 56 stitches. It needed 64.

So I had cast on 64 this time – that restricts the possible recipient-pool to Greek Helen or Ketki. But, apart from the muddle, it didn't seem to be starting off in a swirl so I am trying 56 stitches again and we'll see what happens. It would be good to do a few rounds of that so that all I have to do on the plane is take them out and get going.

I'll try to post a final pre-Athens bulletin tomorrow, after the London-bound party has departed, therefore several hours later than usual.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Archie has been and gone – he should be well over Belgium by now. I lay half-awake for much of the night, wondering whether he was capable o getting himself up and out at 4 a.m., and whether the taxi would come. Of course he was, of course it did. Perhaps it's just as well that the night will be a short one – because of the time change – when it's my turn.

Here's Archie in the sweater:

I think it can be classed as a success. I wouldn't mind it an inch shorter in both body and sleeves, and I wouldn't mind a slightly higher neck. That will look better if he wears something wkth a collar underneath.

Last night's knitting involved an unfortunate mis-crossed cable in the third repeat on the back of the Sous Sous. What to do? I know it is possible to ladder back just the cable stitches and re-cross them. But 15 stitches are involved – could I pull it off? Or frog – no, tink – two rows and do it properly? That's the best option, but a bit daunting because the work is so wide; there's an awful lot of double moss stitch to unpick. Or figure that in a dark yarn, low down on the back, a mis-crossed cable has a certain rustic charm?


The kind friend who has been driving us to so many appts lately, has offered to give a home to my little Chinese chilli plants while we are away. (They're looking well, but don't have true leaves yet.) That will be a huge relief.

I'd better leave it there for today. I'm having my hair done this morning, and must fetch the newspapers and lay out my husband's breakfast before I go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All well. Not even much panic. I am moving nicely through the day-by-day items on my schedule. Today my husband has a dental appt., and Archie is coming in the evening to be in position for the early-morning EasyJet flight tomorrow. At least he won't have to contend with the Astronomer Royal and the loss of an hour, as I will on Sunday. I haven't scheduled anything else for today.

I'll be sure to get a picture for you of Archie in his new sweater.

The danger of a list is that it can lull one into a false sense of security. I am trying to keep alert and to think of more things to write down, as well as enjoying the keen pleasure of crossing out other things.


I sent the latest pocket square off to London and await the verdict.

And I proceeded with the Sous Sous. I am well into the third repeat, beginning to master the rhythm of the ribbing across the central panel and not making any more mistakes, so far, with the double moss stitch on the sides. It's looking great.

The ribs – is that what you'd call them? – which cross each other to form the cable pattern consist of k1b, p1, k1b instead of the k3 one might expect. I'm proceeding more briskly now that I've grasped that.

The first skein of Whiskey Barrel hasn't far to go. It'll see me through this third repeat, but not much beyond. I am mildly worried. The pattern is written for madelinetosh DK. It specifies seven skeins for the Medium size I am knitting. I bought eight.

There seem to be eleven repeats in the back, so I'll probably be into the fourth skein when I finish. The front will be much smaller, with a deep v-neck and that scoop out of the bottom hem which Greek Helen thinks will draw too much attention to the wearer's less-than-perfect un-flat stomach. And the over-wide front and back provide about half of the sleeve length – only another 7 1/2” will be needed for each sleeve, and they're narrow.

So I'm probably fine for yarn. It's just that one needs something to worry about.

I'll try to get a picture for you soon. The yarn is so dark I'm not sure the luscious pattern will show up.

Mary Lou, the fun of fine lace knitting is that one moves onto an entirely different plane of being. Finshing is impossible, so one doesn't even think about it. One simply enjoys the moment. “Patience” is the wrong word for the quality of mind needed. I think I am talking myself into picking up the Queen Ring and forging ahead. 

Sharon Miller says she finished it in five months, working two hours per evening. But I bet she knits more adroitly than I do, and perhaps has fewer ingerruptions per knitting session.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Our EasyJet flight on Sunday leaves at 7 a.m. That will mean getting up at about 4, and having a taxi here at about 4:30. In fact, we are going to travel together in one taxi – C. will summon it to Morningside at about 4:15 and we therefore won't leave Drummond Place until slightly after 4:30 which will fret me a bit, but it should be all right.

Last night, as I was lying there peacefully waiting for sleep to come, I thought of something. I have confirmed it on-line this morning, The clocks go forward on Sunday. We've got to get up at three.

I'll change the clocks in the house, and my watch, on Saturday morning as soon as the party (my husband, Alexander, Rachel) sets forth towards London. That might help a bit.

I finished the Pocket Square yesterday, tidied and pressed it, and will dispatch it to London today. It's less bulky than the DK ones, as hoped. The colour isn't very strong. We'll see what they think. It would be great if it passes muster, as I've got the yarn and can take it to Athens and practice Continental Knitting.

And I resumed the Sous Sous. The secret of multiple-WIP-ery is surely never to leave anything for too long, so that resumption doesn't involve a strenuous mental readjustment. I'm nearly finished with the second pattern repeat. I'll press on at least through the third.

I also spent some time with three Sharon Miller shawl patterns, trying to extract the relevant figures for comparison. The Unst (just completed), the Wedding Ring and the Queen Ring are all standard-shape Shetland shawls, with an edging, four borders, and a square centre. Unlike the Princess, which is an enormous triangle. So what one needs to know, essentially, is how many stitches there are in the long outward edge of each border, and how deep the borders are. All the rest follows from that.

It is not altogether easy to find this information in the patterns. Sharon writes rather diffusively (I think might be the word) and she prefers to start with the centre. And in the case of the Queen Ring, she offers several alternatives which affect the stitch count.

The answer is roughly that the Unst is the smallest of the three, then the Wedding Ring, then, by a fair margin, the Queen Ring. I don't think it's going to be possible to reduce and simplify and still retain the elements I want. A framed centre has to be of a certain size or the frame will simply overwhelm and swallow the centre. The borders have to be in proportion. The edging has to go all the way around.

So maybe I'd better just go ahead and start the Queen Ring and see what happens. The pattern is based on an actual shawl which Sharon bought at auction. She tries to copy the original technique – knitting from the edging inwards. That is the method I prefer. Indeed, after doing it Sharon's way, centre-outwards, for the Unst, I resolved, never again.

The Queen Ring pattern has the four borders knit separately and seamed at the end. I'm certainly not going to do that. Even Sharon found it tough going. It has occurred to me that the simplest solution to the garter stitch problem (instead of purling alternate rounds, or mastering the Fleegle System) might be to knit the borders all-in-one not circularly but back-and-forth, with a single open seam. Plenty of time to think about such things as I knit the edging.

I made a start at Christmas, which now seems a very long time ago – ten edging points done. It's an easy edging pattern to learn, I remember. And it looks rather nice – I got it out yesterday.

As far as I know, Sharon hasn't published the pattern for her own-design “Fine Lace Framed Shawl”, but it could be deduced from the calculations and charts of pp 215-218 of Heirloom Knitting. Maybe I should add it to my little compilation.

New follower -- hi!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A fairly successful day, yesterday. I got two of the three things I had assigned myself, done. The third, putting the spare room back in order after its use as a blocking room, has been postponed until tomorrow when the cleaning woman is here. Hellie's shawl is finished and tenderly packed and labelled. I've probably mentioned that Rachel (the bride's mother) is coming up on Friday night to accompany Alexander and my husband on their drive south on Saturday– so I can consign it into her hands and be sure the shawl will be safely conveyed.

I have been thinking about More Lace. Sharon's Queen Ring is probably too ambitious for my time of life. (Anything is probably too ambitious, but never mind that.) But maybe her Wedding Ring Shawl, another said-to-be 72” square number, would be possible. Or rather, use that as the basis for what might grandly be called my own design: I want to do a framed centre. See Heirloom Knitting, page 215 for a splendid one in the Shetland Museum. And I'd like boteh's in the border – that's what those Paisley-shawl-like motifs are called. (The link is to Wikipedia.)

The Queen Ring has both of those features, so maybe what I want is just a somewhat simplified and smaller Queen Ring. I'll give this some thought. What does one use for lace-planning software these days? I've got Stitch and Motif Maker, although I haven't used it for years or tried it on a newer computer.

I've got three more granddaughters in the pipeline, so to speak, and there's no chance at all for a veil for each of them. But one more, maybe...

Not much knitting got done yesterday, as usual for a Sunday. My husband had an unusual computer problem, ingenious even for him – endnotes which seemed to disappear off the right-hand margin. The complete endnote was there, somehow – one could see the complete text if one hovered the cursor over the number in the text. But the end of each note didn't appear in the list of notes at the end of the document, and couldn't be reached for editing.

I can't say I cracked that one – I don't know what he had done wrong. But I found a workaround that recovered the full text, in plain sight, edit-able. Valuable knitting time was consumed in the operation.

I advanced the current Pocket Square somewhat, however. I'm now decreasing. It's still looking good. I should be able to dispatch it to London tomorrow. I do hope Matt likes it. I could knock off a couple more in Athens. And, Lisa, I think you're right – it would be just the thing for practising Continental Knitting. Bugger the Parthenon.

However, yesterday's excitement in the knitting line was an email from Webs about (among other things) a new(ish) madelinetosh yarn called madelinetosh Twist Light. It's not all that new, because Ravelry is replete with happy users and their FO's. It's a proper sock yarn, with 25% nylon, and plyed. Not to be confused with madelinetosh Sock which is 100% merino and unplyed.

I had been thinking that it was time my husband had another pair of socks. He's got a drawerful; they wear well. But he hasn't had a new pair for a long time. I've got some nice stuff in my Unknit Sock bag, but it's all along the lines of Kaffe-for-Regia or Into the Whirled, nothing for a gent with conservative tastes in footware. Well, there you are – what could be better than Whiskey Barrel itself? And there are many other possibilities in Webs' enticing pages.

A bit of Googling suggests that mt Twist Light hasn't reached these shores yet. Neither Loop nor Meadow Yarn seem to have it, anyway. I'd be very happy to be corrected on that point. Otherwise it looks like a third order in rapid succession to Webs. Will the Queen notice this time?


Old friends are coming to lunch today, so I haven't scheduled anything for myself except a couple of phone calls, brief but important. And I'll have to tidy the sitting room a bit and nip out to a local Marks & Spencer-light for some sandwiches. (The friends have been warned.) I'll offer beer and if they like the idea, I'll have some too -- with a clear conscience. What I have given up for Lent is, after all, only Weston's Vintage Cider, although the effect has beenb no alcohol at all except for Laetare Sunday (and six pounds of weight lost).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm sure you're right, Susann, that that mosaic (two days ago) shows Dionysius and his panther. A cat, in a sense. I'll tell Helen. The mosaic is in the museum in Antalya (Turkey). I hope we're going to see lots of mosaics while we're in Greece.

I'm now in countdown mode. One week from right-this-minute I should be aloft, well on my way across Europe, knitting my sock. I have made a schedule of the days, assigning tasks to each, keeping Friday clear Any spare time, and I can drag a task forward from the dwindling stock of future days. Whenever I find myself thinking, I mustn't forget to... and whenever my husband says, You've got to... – down it goes on the schedule.

Today's top-of-the-list job is to finish tidying and (alas) mending Hellie's shawl, and put it in a box, and label the box clearly, and put it near the front door to go to London on Saturday. Here's the shawl:

One comfort (as you view that gaping hole) is that it is a lot easier to mend lace up to the galloping-horse stage than a lot of other sorts of knitting. It won't pass muster with Sharon Miller or the Shetland Museum, of course.

Yesterday's knitting went well. The rugby did not – Scotland lost by a fearful margin, the worst score of a disastrous season. We've won the Wooden Spoon, fair and square.

I got that last skein wound for the Tokyo shawl. And of course you're right, Liz and Lou and Skeindalous, that plastic bags would solve the problem of identifying the near-identical yarns. The fifth one, which I've just wound, doesn't just add itself to the sequence of the other four. That is, it won't form the next broad band but will pop up unexpectedly later on.

I finished band six, one of the narrow accent bands, and decided that that was a good place to stop. My fear about leaving anything is not that I'll forget it, just that today will never be quite the right day for resuming it, again and again until too late. Exactly as happened to the Green Granite Blocks, as you say, Weavinfool. I'm less inclined to that sort of thing than I used to be. That's some comfort.

So I cast on another trial Pocket Square with the new yarn from Webs. It's a fingering yarn and the point of it, you will remember, was to produce something less bulky than the last two DK attempts. It's looking good. And there should be plenty of time for it to get to London this week. With the first one, I stopped increasing and started decreasing when I had 62 stitches and it Looked About Right. I've gone on doing that. This time, since the yarn is finer, I thought I'd need more stitches – but no, 62 is About Right again.

I think it's going to be firm enough. Garter stitch helps a lot. I could perhaps go down another needle size, if need be.

I've mentioned that I've been getting a lot of emails from Craftsy. Yesterday I fell for their special offer of a course on Continental Knitting. I thought I could try it out in Athens in the intervals of looking at ruins and mosaics and shopping for Greek knitting wool. Am I too old for a new physical skill, one wonders? I think, if I can make any progress, it will be a good start towards learning to use a Shetland knitting belt.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The eclipse was something of a disappointment. I thought, with 92% of the sun obscured, the light would be a bit crepuscular. It wasn't -- it was just slightly eerie. This picture was taken at the maximum moment. There's not much point showing you the others.

However, I did see it. One of the neighbours, as we gathered on the street, had a piece of dark brown polythene, A-4 sized, fairly solid but still pliable. I can't think what its use might have been in real life. He had folded it over and was looking at the sun through two layers. He said it was perfectly safe and invited me to look. I took his reassurance cum grano salis but still allowed myself a quick keek. There it was! – the sun's orb obscured except for a glowing crescent bottom right.

A total eclipse such as you have experienced, Shandy, must really be something. I think James made an expedition to see one once, in the Gobi desert.

Later, I went up the hill as planned. I now have a reliable watch strap and some sound and comfortable tights. My husband has enough medicaments of various sorts to see him through his week in London.

Knitting went well. I am all but finished with the fifth Tokyo shawl band. The next one is another of the four-row accent stripes. The plan is to go on with it for today, including winding the next – and last – skein. I am sort of worried about this multiple-WIPery, afraid that something will slip through the system and languish unknit despite my best intentions until I wake up one day and realise that it has become a UFO. I will certainly return to the Tokyo with a lighter step if the winding of that final skein is behind rather than before me.

And it's a good job for doing as I watch rugby. Scotland play Ireland today, here in Edinburgh. It's the last weekend of the Five Nations tournament. The Loch Fyne Mileses are coming over, but I don't think we'll see them. It could be a good match.

Skeindalous, have you any suggestions as to how to label the balls of Tokyo yarn? I have already spotted the danger. They are all so sub fusc, and of course carried with the grey alpaca, that it's virtually impossible to decide which is which even by comparing them with what has already been knit. I am keeping them in strict order on the floor:

My husband isn't nimble enough to get over there, the cleaning woman has too much sense to disturb them, and we don't (alas!) have a cat. So far so good.

I got the first skein of luxurious pocket-square yarn wound. I have bought four skeins, venturing all. It seemed foolish to go on buying one trial skein at a time when I was ordering from the US. I think, after the experience of winding it yesterday, that four is going to be too many (I need eight squares). And if Matt chooses one of the other, heavier yarns in the end, it will all be wasted.

Since the Bridal Shawl is already blocked, I hope to use some time this morning (where that job was pencilled in) to unpin it and attend to loose ends and ahem! a couple of holes. Maybe even get it packed for its trip to London a week today.

Hat, you're right – and well remembered! – Hellie is tiny, although so dynamic that one doesn't notice it. A small shawl will cover more of her than it would have done on a more substantial bride.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Good old Edinburgh! The forecasts were very gloomy last night, but the day is starting off as bright and sunny as anyone could ask, with only a few wisps of high cloud. It could still change – the show doesn't start for another hour. It'll reach its apogee an hour after that. I'm talking about the eclipse, of course. I plan to take a series of pictures of Drummond Place for you, to show progressive darkness, not the sun's disk.

But I might venture that black bucket of water on the step again, and a very, very, very quick glance at the sun's reflection in it.

They must be clearing the decks at the Eye Pavillion and gearing up for a busy weekend. A sobering thought.

More utter non-knit:

Greek Helen sent this image yesterday. She says that cats in ancient mosaics are incredibly rare, and once she realised that this one was drinking water from the cup, not playing with string as she had at first thought, she wondered if it was a cat at all.

I told her that that is the detail which proves it is a cat. My husband and I are old enough to remember the Good Old Days when cows were sometimes milked by hand and the kindly farmer would direct an occasional jet of warm milk straight into the mouth of one of the hopefully-waiting cats. Neither of us ever heard of a dog mastering that trick.

Now, knitting

I got the shawl blocked yesterday. Here is the “before” picture, but I am afraid that in its present state it is next thing to invisible. I'll have to think of a way to photograph it for you after I unpin it.

It is disappointingly small – just under five feet square, whereas Sharon predicted 72” which is six feet. She asked for J&S cobweb “or similar”. I used their Shetland Supreme Lace Weight which probably hadn't been invented when she wrote the pattern – it's the result of a relatively recent collaboration with the Shetland Museum.

I wouldn't use any other. And I used the needles Sharon asked for, 2.25mm. Again, I wouldn't use any other. I'm delighted with the fabric. I've blocked that baby within an inch of its life – there's certainly not another six inches in each direction to be found there.

So Hellie will just have to have a disappointingly small shawl, if she wears it at all. At least the audience, those who were at Thomas' and Lucy's wedding and were paying any attention, will see at a glance that she's not wearing the Princess all over again.

As for other knitting, I got on a bit further than expected yesterday. The next skein of Tokyo Shawl yarn has been wound and the next band begun. I'll go on with it today, and also wind a skein of the new, pocket-square yarn. There's only one more Tokyo skein to wind, which is a relief. The yarn is  fine and it takes a long time. Mercifully, the alpaca yarn which is carried along throughout, comes ready-wound, as do the small balls for the accent stripes.

It's going to be hard to photograph it before the end, what with the way the cast-on edge rolls up and the alternate st st and reversed st st bands puff out. The chiselled effect created by the YO's and k2tog's distant from each other won't show until it's blocked, I fear.

And on that subject, the pattern says to pin it out to shape and then place a damp cloth on it and leave it to dry. It'll need a big cloth, even a sheet – it's supposed to be 28” x 68”. Has anyone ever blocked like that? Would it be all right to do it the usual way, wetting the article then rolling it as dry as possible in towels then pinning out?

The sun is still shining brightly, but there's a bit more cloud and some wind. I think I'll go get the papers now, before the show starts.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Another bright, sunny morning. Alas, the forecast is not so bright for the eclipse tomorrow.

Yesterday's hazards were successfully negotiated, thanks in no small measure to the kind friend who drove us to the dr's appt. I've already been out for the papers this morning, so all I have to do for the rest of the day is sit back and wait for that package, hoping it's here in time to let me have a nap this afternoon. The tracking process shows it as “loaded to vehicle for delivery”. That's encouraging. Maybe I'll be able to block that shawl.

I'm back in the saddle with the Tokyo shawl, halfway through the fourth band (of 29). But the big news yesterday was the arrival of the new package from Webs, again with no duty to pay (like the recent madelinetosh Whiskey Barrel for the Sous Sous). The Queen is going to have to improve surveillance. They post in a dark-coloured plastic envelope, perfectly adequate for yarn and/but distinctly unobtrusive. The perfectly correct customs form identifies the sender as “Steve Elkins, 8 Industrial Way, Easthampton”, rather than “Webs”. The contents are described as “knitting yarn” and the cost is given – it is fairly considerable, in this case. That information is in very small print, rather faint.

I don't know if any of these factors weigh with Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs, but I do know that I'll look first at Webs, in the future, when I want yarn from the US.

And the yarn? Oh, yes. Rather good. This is the fingering-weight yarn which I hope might make a less bulky pocket square . Baah Aspen (never heard of it), merino, silk and cashmere. The colour is OK, I think. The linen Shibui Mary Lou sent me remains the best on that front.

So the plan is – if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans for tomorrow – that I'll finish the current band of the Tokyo shawl, wind the next skein and establish the next band, and then knit a pocket square, a fifth attempt. The pattern, as I've said, is a simple “cast on 4; increase every row until it's big enough; then decrease every row until you're back down to 4”. So there will be no difficulty adapting it to the lighter yarn. The label says to use US 6 – that's 4mm – needles. I think I'll go down a notch or two. This thing mustn't droop.

It's in skeins, so more winding will be involved. I might even get it done before Athens.


Several of you have sent links in your comments recently which I mean to pursue. This morning I went to one of them, Mrs Hiatt's new website based on her iconic book (I think the word is justified) “The Principles of Knitting”. I have the earlier edition, and rarely use it.

The website isn't very densely populated yet, but there is an interesting article about the use of a knitting belt. She and her son have designed one which looks rather nice. The Fair Isle vest I keep mentioning, on my project list, is meant to be knit using the belt and long dp's I bought from Jamieson&Smith. Maybe Mrs Hiatt will be the spur to get that started.

I was reflecting yesterday on how much I have knit with madelinetosh in the last four years and how there is none at all in the stash except for leftovers, which I think you will agree come into a slightly different category. It started with Thomas-the-Elder's request for an “electric red” sweater, made at my sister-in-law's funeral early in 2011.

I knit it for him, using Jared's Brownstone pattern and madelinetosh scarlet. There was enough left over that I knit a reduced version for Thomas-the-Younger. Then a hat for somebody. Then a striped hat for somebody else.

There's been lots more – the Mitered Jacket in “Knit One, Knit All”; a sleeveless vest for my husband; a “gardening sweater” for Rachel's husband Ed; two Relax's – one so small I gave it away, a second one I happily wear; Archie's sweater; now the Sous Sous. Maybe I'll look out some pictures for you. But the point is, when I buy madelinetosh, I knit it.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

There is exciting news on the horticultural front: those chilli seeds I planted are coming up!

Last year, when the family was moving from Beijing to Sydenham, James brought his brother Alexander a substantial consignment of Chinese chillies. (Alexander is a very serious cook.) For reasons I have forgotten, the package was briefly with me and before handing it on, I sequestered a few chillies. One of them provided the seeds.

How can I go to Athens? The poor little things will wither away. I wonder if Alexander knows anything about what sort of chillies they are.

The iPad labels photographs with where they were taken. When I take pictures in the sitting room, they're in Drummond Place. I am rather chagrined to discover that the kitchen is in Scotland Street around the corner. Steve Jobs must know where my first iPad is.


I finished the first Sous Sous pattern repeat and am well into the second. Today I switch back to the Tokyo shawl.

The Sous Sous is looking good. Double moss stitch makes a very attractive fabric although I dread the result if I drop a stitch or make a mistake. Mistakes scream at the viewer and are singularly hard to repair. The stitch is not at all difficult (although slow, for a clumsy knitter like me) if you 1) remember the Master's injunction – look at your knitting; and 2) make a real effort to be mindful of whether, at any given moment, you are knitting a right-side row or a wrong-side one.

That's not entirely true, about mistakes screaming. I do seem to have a passage where things went wrong, near the beginning. It really, reeely doesn't look bad. I doubt if I could figure it out to repeat on the front if I wanted to.

I had an email from Webs pushing, amongst other things, semi-solid Koigu. That's what I need, in a dark grey or black, to deal with my large heterogeneous stash. Stripes, in other words. But there's no need to order now. I am fully booked at least until the end of June, with other tantalising WIPs on the horizon – that Fair Isle vest, that Jack Russell terrier. No, no more yarn now.


The removal of word verification for comments is producing 8-10 rogue comments a day, a manageable number. So far.

This busy week has got a bit worse – I've got to wait in for a package tomorrow. My husband isn't nimble enough to be trusted to get to the front door. That means that the supermarket will have to be done today, as well as the dr's appt in the afternoon. Pretty strenuous. Friday, after the eclipse, I must go up the hill to get pills from Boots and respectable underwear from John Lewis and a new watch strap from Timson's. And Saturday is for shawl-blocking.

Although I might possibly pull that off tomorrow while waiting for the package.

You're absolutely right, Nana Go-Go, that this would have been the week for doing the grocery shopping on-line. I have done it, when first one and then the other of my arms were broken, and when I was suffering from that mysterious weakness last year which turned out not to be my heart. I prefer to do it on foot. Inspiration as to possible meals is more likely to strike, that way. But I could have made things easier for myself this week.

Don't fail to follow the link to Nana's blog for a mouth-watering account of the Edinburgh Yarn Festival. Oh, what I have missed!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I must be brief...

One of you brought me flowers yesterday. I was profoundly touched. She had been in town (from Nairn) for the Yarn Festival.

The Unst Bridal Shawl remains unblocked. Life rose up and overwhelmed me, as often, and things are likely to remain substantially unchanged throughout the week – and I'm allowing time to enjoy the eclipse on Friday. But the job has got to be done in time for the shawl to travel to London in the car with my husband at the end of next week.

So I have decided it has to be Saturday morning. I'll get the weekend shopping somehow done in advance, and skip blog-writing that day, and devote this first hour to blocking.

Otherwise, all went well. I've done the first five-over-five cable on the Sous Sous and am nearly finished with the whole first pattern repeat. There are eleven in all. I don't think I had entirely grasped in advance that the whole thing is, effectively, ribbed. It's a good thing the yarn is so utterly, addictively delicious.

So the thing to do is polish off the pattern repeat this evening, and then go back to the Tokyo for a couple of bands. Its utter st st simplicity makes it an excellent alternative. And vice versa.


I think I've found myself a good thriller – “After the Crash” by Michel Bussi. It's translated from the French and I try to avoid translations when I can – there aren't many as good as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. This one has a few infelicities of language but the story powers one forward.

I'd better go...

Monday, March 16, 2015

New follower -- Hi!

Laetare plus one. I feel slightly less than sprightly this morning, happy to embrace total abstinence again. I had planned to declare Lent over as soon as my husband pulls away from the curb on his southward journey on March 28, but I must be careful. Full sprightliness will be wanted on March 29 – which will commence at 4 a.m., at that. C. is going to come and get me in a taxi at about 4:30, meaning tbat she will have to get up even earlier than I will. The flight is at 7.

Joe (Rachel's younger son) sent me these two pictures yesterday, of Matt wearing (I presume) the two pocket squares I have sent him, one Rowan Cotton Glace and the other Juniper Moon. I couldn't attempt to guess which is which. Matt has a natty way of folding them, better than the way I learned from Google. Rachel phoned again last night – she seems to think that one of these squares would do, presumably Cotton Glace which Matt has said he prefers.

We'll see what Webs comes up with.

I am interested in the details of these pictures. What has happened to Matt's chin? A swarm of bees, perhaps, but Rachel would have mentioned such an event. The spice rack in the background is encouraging – everybody was afraid when they moved in together that Matt would starve to death.

As for actual knitting, not much got done yesterday. The Sunday syndrome. I am a bit worried that the double moss stitch is not entirely right – that is, that I knit a row somewhere, maybe more than one, which turns it into single moss stitch. It won't matter much, in a dark yarn low down on the back, but I'd better get it right before I move into more conspicuous areas. I might reach the first cable crossing today if I press industriously forward.

The spring issue of Knitty is out. Franklin contributes a baby hat (I'm not interested, I'm afraid) and an article about his fondness for deciphering old patterns. I enjoyed that, as I enjoy every syllable that falls from his pen.


I'm sorry I missed the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, Nana, and I won't let it happen again. Although the last thing I need in the world is to be tempted by yarn. First I've got to finish knitting the yarn I bought at Jamieson & Smith in the fall of 2013 – a Fair Isle vest and Kate Davies' Northmavine hap remain to be done.  It should be possible to polish them off in a year, even with my current obligations. The 2016 EYF is a real incentive to try to do that.

I hope I'm right, Liz, about the Calcutta Cup and the Laetare weekend. I feel pretty sure I'd remember if they had coincided any time between 2000 and now. We could work it out by looking up the dates of Easter – Laetare Sunday is the fourth Sunday of Lent – and the Six Nations rugby schedules, but that's far too much work.

Will I get the Unst Bridal shawl blocked today?

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The miracle didn't happen. Scotland were leading by three points at half-time, astonishing enough, but England took over in the second half. We haven't won in Twickenham (where the match is played in odd-numbered years) for 30 years. They showed the Cup, on a table.

I am indeed just as glad, Jean, not to have those scarves on my immediate to-do list. It means there a much better chance that I'll get that dog knit soon.

I wound the yarn for the next pair of Pakokku socks – we have a dr's appt this week; I'll need a sock to take along and of course for the flight in a fortnight's time. That was a good rugby-match activity. Casting on and knitting those first tricky rounds was a good deal more difficult and involved a substantial false start. I blame the Calcutta Cup rather than senility for that one.

But I got it in the end, and have done about an inch. So I can safely put that away and get back to the Sous Sous today. Alas, I can't find the ball band and don't know what these socks are called. I suspect it will turn up.

There was a brief passage about the Edinburgh Wool Fest on the Scottish news last night. There's glory for you.


I had a good time yesterday, and my husband was fine without me. We started off by going to the restaurant at the Botanic Gardens – it's awfully nice, food-wise and ambience-wise – where C. had breakfast and I, another coffee, and we made Athens-orientated lists. My own is very small. I've got to buy tights, and remember to take my out-of-date passport with the vital stamp “Given leave to enter the United Kingdom for an indefinite period”. What would they do with me if I tried to come back without it? C. is going to get Greek Euro's for us both.

The list for my husband is a good deal longer.

Rachel phoned in the evening, to sigh about the match result. We agreed that it would be a good idea if she came up after work the night before my husband's departure for London, and drove down with them. Alexander apparently has pooh-pooh'd the idea, but I think it could help a lot. Those journeys are the aspect of things that worry me most. On the way back, they'll have Ketki. The Little Boys are staying on in London on their own, apparently.

Rachel and her husband Ed are going to see Hellie and Matt today. They can talk about pocket squares.

After the list-making session I bought another cactus and some proper terracotta flower pots in the excellent Botanic Gardens shop and then we went for a gentle walk, maybe three miles or so altogether, up and down the sea front in Portobello, invigorating and just tiring enough.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Calcutta Cup Day

I must be brisk, as I need to go out and get the papers, and then prepare my husband's breakfast and lunch, and preferably have some breakfast myself, before setting out on our walk. It is difficult to date specific stages in the decline, but he is more fragile than he was, less steady on his feet, more anxious about his balance and the dangers of a fall. And I more anxious about leaving him for longer than a supermarket hour.

But I can't leave you without saying that this is Calcutta Cup Day. In 2000, when a Scotland win was pretty well impossible, but we won, the match was played on Laetare Sunday. That's tomorrow -- the word means Rejoice! It's not an infinitive, as you might think, but a deponent imperative. It's the slightly-more-than-mid-Lent Sunday when one lays down the burden for a day.

I have kept an impeccable Lent so far, and am looking forward to my cider tomorrow. But if, per impossibile, Scotland should win the cup today, I'll crack open a bottle this evening. I don't think the match has been played on Laetare Sunday weekend from 2000 until now.

Well, yesterday I cast on the Sous Sous and established the pattern, painstakingly but without error. From now on, it's mostly a matter of looking where I'm going. The cable panel is 16 rows, repeated eleven times up the back of the garment. Much less in the front. I'll carry on until I have finished the first of them.

The cast-on went pretty well, and I am extremely grateful for your help. Once you reminded me, I remembered using the two-ends-of-yarn trick at times in the past. But that would have meant winding another skein of Whiskey Barrel and I'm a bit tired of winding. And anyway, I had never tried the wraps method and wanted to give it a go.

It worked fine. The reason I say that the cast-on went only "pretty well" is that, at 100 stitches, I discovered I was using the yarn the wrong way around -- forming the stitches on the needle with the long-tail and using the yarn from the ball as the securing chain beneath. Done that way, the long-tail was about to give up. But I figured that forming the actual stitches must use a lot more yarn than just running along below, so I started over at the same measured point on the yarn and did it right and have a satisfactory but not excessive tail.

Am I making more idiotic and catastrophic mistakes like that than I used to?

Sous Sous begins with a nice little garter stitch band which is lying there neatly, showing no tendency to roll upwards the way the one on the Tokyo shawl is doing. Why? Because the whole thing starts with a single row of purl? Or because the double moss stitch above holds it in place?


Our friend read yesterday's blog and came around and sorted the iPad before even I had sent her a proper email of her own with a humble request. I was still confused about which button is which -- the one on top is the camera shutter button but it is also the Sleep button which needs to be pressed at the same time as the Home button to unlock a freeze. I must try to remember that.

She showed me how to take a picture of the screen while she was at it.

That's an interesting theory, that Zite is responsible. But I had Zite for years on the old, missing iPad, and it never once froze, for that or any other reason, in two-and-a-half years of daily use.

Now I must get moving.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Today's problem is that the iPad has frozen again. I thought I knew what to do; indeed, I did it once, after John Lewis unfroze me the first time. But I can't get a peep out of it now. We have a very clever friend who seems eager to shoulder as much as she can of the distresses of old age – and who says that she walks her dog Pedro past our front door daily. Perhaps she can help. Pedro is the dog I am going to knit when things calm down. A Jack Russell without significant spots – which will make things easier.

Otherwise, it's all go. Webs has shipped the new order. I might even be able to knit a sample pocket square in Athens. Portable, light-weight.

The Tokyo has advanced to the fourth band, with another skein of yarn wound. There are 29 bands in all, I think.

I decided last night, as I knit happily on, that the thing to do was face the Sous Sous in the morning when the synapses are firing (or whatever synapses do). I've done that. It starts by casting on a great many stitches, proceeds to purl one row and then knit two, and then launches into the lovely cable panel set in double moss stitch. The pattern is really pretty simple, given the striking effect. All the fancy shaping, if fancy it prove to be, is in the front.

The new iPad won't sort mail for me – or maybe it's just that I haven't figured out how to ask it to do so. Here on the laptop, Googlemail has a category called Promotions which I rarely even look at, but on the iPad I must run briskly through them all. It's probably a good thing – I delete a lot of clutter that way.

I've been hearing a lot from Craftsy lately, indeed would like to get back to them. And Knitting Daily is sometimes interesting. They were haranguing me last week about the value of swatching, attempting to demolish each of my imagined protests in turn. (“I always get gauge”, “I don't want to waste expensive yarn”, etc.) However, they didn't think of my actual excuse – I've got so many daughters and daughters-in-law and granddaughters that it'll fit somebody.

Indeed, one of my real successes in recent years was my first Relax. That time, I think, I did swatch, and based the size on a beloved rugby-shirt-type-thing of my own. It came out exactly as intended. What I had failed to grasp is that the design required a good deal more positive ease than the rugby shirt allowed. It looked awful on me.

So I gave it to the slightest-built of the granddaughters, Hellie, now the prospective bride. It looks brilliant on her. And I persevered to knit myself another, the right size, which I love. So much for swatching.

But I must acknowledge that I knit a substantial swatch for Archie's recently-completed sweater and I admit it may be reflected in the successful result.

I think Meg says somewhere that she never swatches, but will start with a sleeve if she's in doubt. And, of course, as I keep saying, if you're a humble traditional knitter, knitting the same thing over and over – Fair Isle, Norwegian, whatever – you soon learn the characteristics of the fabric and are free to experiment with design.

To return to the Sous Sous – somewhere in all my books there must be a trick for estimating the amount of yarn you are going to need for a long long-tail cast-on. The Sous Sous wants something like 170 stitches. Nothing is worse than getting to the last five stitches and finding that you don't have enough yarn to finish. Been there, done that. But the opposite mistake – winding up with a yard and a half hanging down – makes one feel like a novice and an idiot.


We had another good session with the computer man yesterday. My husband has taken to his mouse with more alacrity than I would have expected. The man has recommended a wireless printer which sounds like a brilliant idea. At the moment, the printer is connected to the old, slow desktop computer which therefore has to be laboriously fired up whenever I want to print anything. The wireless one might even mean that my husband could do his own printing again, from the dining room where he operates.

The man is going to come back next week with such a machine – he recommends a brand, I've forgotten which, whose ink cartridges don't cast £75 each.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

One thing to be said for Lent: putting out the bottles for recycling, as must be done on alternate Thursdays, is a lot easier than it was.

The weigh-in was good this morning, too. I've just been looking back through the electronic filofax – in March, 2009 (was that the year Theo and Jenni got married?) I weighed about 20 pounds more than I do now. I was surprised to see that it was so much. That was the year when I realised that giving up cider for Lent increased my appetite for chocolate, which I don't normally have much of. All I had to do was resist the temptation to replace cider with refined sugar...

And it worked. It is most encouraging, at this time of life when I am perceptibly becoming slower and weaker and clumsier, to discover a respect in which I have actually improved.

Knitting – pocket squares

I've heard from Webs – all is well.

The new square has reached London, and the prospective bridegroom says he slightly prefers Cotton Glace to Juniper Moon, although he didn't express it like that – both for colour and texture. Interestingly, he thinks Cotton Glace is slightly less heavy. That shouldn't be the case, since Juniper Moon is a wool and silk blend and cotton is notoriously heavy. Both have the same number of stitches. We'll see what the new yarn is like.

I've got to get this show on the road. September is closer than I seem to think.

Tokyo shawl

I knit happily on, and am nearly finished with the second colour band. The next one is wee, only four rows instead of 21, with a nice red yarn knit along with the grey alpaca. I can't possibly stop until I've done that one. The red, and two other colours that are used only for accents, come ready-wound, too.

Alternate bands of st st and reversed st st are pulling up mightily, of course, like horizontal ribbing. And the initial four-row garter stitch band is rolling up. This baby is going to need some pretty severe blocking.

Sous Sous

I got a ball of Whiskey Barrel wound, anyway.

Unst Bridal Shawl

And I finished tidying the Messy Corner and feel rather happier about it. It doesn't exactly look good, but it looks a bit less clumsy and amateur. The effect is rather as if I had knit the borders in one piece back and forth and then seamed the final corner – which would have been one way of doing it.

I only very recently became aware of it, and won't be going. I mustn't let this happen again. Hazel Tindall is going to be here! Stephen West! That man from the Netherlands who does darning! And no doubt many others. Getting out is difficult for me, and I don't like leaving my husband for any length of time, but that's no excuse as in fact our niece and I are going for a walk on Saturday morning – we'll keep it short – for a breath of fresh air, and to fine tune our plans for the Great Athenian Getaway which now looms fairly close. She is a more experienced traveller than I am, at least in recent years. Maybe we'll go to Cramond.  I'm not sure I've ever been there.

And then home for the Calcutta Cup!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Pocket Square

Alas, no pic.

I pressed it and re-folded and sent it off to London, entirely convinced that it is too thick and kludgy-looking. I went to Webs and ordered four skeins of something called Baah Yarn Aspen in shade Navy. It is a similar wool & silk mixture in a fingering weight, with some cashmere thrown in this time, and has a name even more forgettable than Juniper Moon.

All went well except that after the PayPal bit, when I expected to be transported back to the Webs website, I found myself looking at a page of code. And Webs hasn't acknowledged the order, although Paypal has acknowledged the payment.

Last night, when I couldn't even remember the name of the yarn, this seemed an occasion for considerable worry. But this morning I found the yarn easily – shades actually labelled “navy” are very rare in the yarn world; I have no doubt that I have found the yarn I ordered – and wrote to Webs attaching the PayPal acknowledgement. I notice they say that the money won't leave my account until the merchant processes the order, so there should be nothing to worry about at all except for the loss of a day.

Tokyo Shawl

I have finished the first 21-row stripe, wound the next skein of wool into a ball, and embarked upon the next stripe in reversed st st. So it is time to wind a skein of madeleinetosh Whiskey Barrel and square away to Sous Sous. I haven't decided how to divide my time between the two projects. Day-and-day-about is too frenetic. Alternate weeks? The problem is going to be that involvement in each project in turn will make me reluctant (as now) to abandon it.

When I was knitting the Rams & Yowes I tried to do an assigned bit of it each evening and then retreat to the knitting I really wanted to do. That won't work here, since I really want to knit both.

Unst Bridal Shawl

I finally grafted the two ends of the edging together yesterday. It's not an elegant job, but I defy anyone except Sharon Miller to find it. I also started tidying the Messy Corner with the help of a sewing needle. The result isn't beautiful like the other three corners but I think it's less conspicuous.

When to block? Today my husband has a dental appt, tomorrow the computer man is coming back. We had a good session with him on Monday. He thinks my husband needs to learn to mouse, and has gone away to acquire an accommodating rodent. I offered the only one in the house but it is so old that it won't plug in to my husband's computer. On Friday I must have a session at the supermarket. I am well past the stage in life when it was possible to fit two Events into one day, in addition to cooking, knitting, and making the bed.

Saturday morning? That's Calcutta Cup day. Sunday afternoon? We'll see. But it won't be long.


I had trouble with the iPad last night. It said it was connected to the wi-fi extender, it said it had a strong signal, but nothing happened. Adding to my feelings of isolation and anxiety. This morning I have re-connected it with the wi-fi hub itself, and it is back in touch with the world.

I gather people are having trouble commenting. There was a stage when I was deleting 30 or more spam comments a day so I reluctantly signed up for verification. I hate it when I have to jump through those hoops when I am commenting on something myself. I'll try taking it off. Maybe the bad guys have forgotten about me.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The monitor turns out to be fine. A friend was here recently taking our wi-fi-extender in hand. She unplugged it. This room resembles a WWI field station in its proliferation of wires. Thank you for the information, however, Knitlass (about how to dispose of a dead monitor) – it will one day be very useful.

I finished the square, and folded it. I'll send it off to London, but what worries me now is its bulk. The Juniper Moon stuff, perfect in all other respects, is a DK. One is required to make three folds, which means that six thickness's of fabric must be crammed into the wearer's pocket. I fear – trying it in my own shirt pocket – that it's going to bulge. Maybe men's pockets are more accommodating?

I went back to Ravelry, however, to see what yarn those gents actually used for their pocket squares, and sure enough, fingering predominates. I did some cyber shopping at Loop, without success – all the possibles seemed to be out of stock. I did a bit better at Eat Sleep Knit, along the lines of Handmaiden silk mixtures. But colour? Perhaps email ESK or Webs (and Webs) and throw myself open to suggestions.

Mary Lou has sent me a stunning skein of Shibui linen, the perfection of colour but so fine that I tremble.

For size, I realised that an education is some use after all. The first fold is made along a corner-to-corner diagonal, and by the time the subsequent two folds have been made, the width of the finished object is 1/3rd of that diagonal. So all you have to do is decide how wide you want it, and then work back to the question of how long to make the sides via Archimedes.

Or just guess.

For actual knitting yesterday I pressed on with Tokyo – and, oh dear, discovered another mistake. I have corrected it without frogging – at least it will be right from here on out, exactly the attitude I used to adopt when I was 15.

The pattern rows are: k20, k2 tog, k48, yo. Repeat. So when I was casting on I put markers at 20, 70, 90, and 140 (after which there are 20 more stitches, knit plain) and knit cheerfully forward without subsequent counting. That works fine, it turns out, for the two k2togs in the row. They are stacked up as they should be on top of each other. But the 50-stitch sections are shortened by one stitch each time, and the marker ought therefore to be moved one stitch to the left. The yo's aren't properly lined up.

In fact, I think the result will pass the galloping horse test. First there is a little spray of YO's leaning to the right, and then they start leaning to the left (after I started doing it correctly). It's an effect that lace patterns often incorporate deliberately. I can repeat it at the other end of the shawl if I really want to.

I'm a bit more than half-way through the first 20-row band. The plan is to establish the second band – which will involve winding a second skein of wool yarn in a new (dark, subtle) colour – and then bring Sous Sous into the scheme.

Monday, March 09, 2015

Today is Ketki's birthday. The day Alexander met her was a red letter day for all of us although unrecorded on any calendar. Except perhaps his.

I'm another digit down in the Lenten weight-loss. I was stuck on a plateau all last week.

We'll start with Archie's sweater. I was determined to show you a picture of it and took one and then discovered that the monitor of my old (slowcoach) desktop computer has died. How do you throw away a computer monitor? What shall I do with the computer and keyboard?

Anyway, up against it, I have taken a picture with the iPad and mailed it to myself. Here it is:

So I have acquired a new skill, iPad photography, clearly capable of some development.

Blocking was interesting. I found that I blocked the chest measurement to exactly the size I was aiming at from the pattern in the book – 26” across, 52” circumference. It a state of nature, it was about 23 1/2” across.  The back flap at the bottom is designed to be half an inch longer than the front flap -- that's why you can spot the bright red inner hem down there.

I am less happy about the neck. The book says it should be 15” in circumference, which is absurd. Try 15” of tape measure around your own neck and you will see what I mean. I've been back to Ravelry; other people's Henley necks look higher than mine. Can anything be done to correct it? I could unpick the edging and do an inch and a half (say) of ribbing instead. Maybe I'll take the spare yarn and some dp's to Athens and hope that it isn't too warm for Archie to wear the sweater around the house a bit while I contemplate the options.

Last night's knitting was devoted to the pocket square. That can be my second iPad photo, tomorrow, insh'Allah.

This is really embarrassing.

I am knitting a very simple and rather effective pattern that S. sent me. It's done corner-to-corner, in garter stitch. You cast on four stitches and knit every row: k2, YO, knit to end, until you think it is big enough. Then you switch to...

And what I did last week was switch to K1, k2tog, YO, knit to end. I actually knit several inches like that. When I sat down to it last night, I finally grasped, after knitting a couple more rows, that I could go on like that until kingdom come and never finish. So I ripped it all the way back to what should have been the corner-to-corner diagonal, and proceeded with k1, k2tog, YO, k2tog, knit to end – which actually reduces the stitch count.

Almost all of last night's knitting consisted of re-knitting the frogged yarn. I am now within a few rows of the end.

The pick-up after the frogging was pretty good, but not perfect. But I regard this as a sample square, not one of the finished eight. It would be usable. You begin by folding along a diagonal, and that fold winds up at the bottom, deep within the wearer's pocket. But I'd know.

So, no Tokyo yesterday. I hope to get back to it tonight.

Today a man is coming to try to teach my husband (and indeed, me) to live happily ever after with Microsoft Word. It will be an uphill struggle.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Helen is – or, at least, certainly should be – on the early-morning direct EasyJet flight to Athens which I will take, insh'Allah, three weeks from today. It leaves at 7 a.m. which doesn't allow the traveller much preliminary sleep. It was wonderful having her here.

Much seems to have happened on the knitting front.

1) I am well advanced with the sample pocket square in Juniper Moon, although still having trouble with its name. Those two words seem to have no relation to each other or to yarn – makes it difficult to remember. I like the result a lot. This time I will finish off the loose ends and steam-iron it into a tidy square and fold it before I send it to London.

I have been Googling “how to fold a pocket square”. There is an extensive literature on the subject. How on earth did we manage our lives before Google? Helen says she recently employed it when she needed to study the proportions of the human body for a mosaic she is designing.

2) I applied the steam iron to Archie's sweater to restrain the hems from flipping outwards, and it seems to have worked. He came around briefly yesterday – couldn't stay for supper because exams loom – and tried it on and pronounced himself pleased. For a moment I thought we could skip blocking, but he would still prefer a smidgen more ease so I'll do it this afternoon. It doesn't have to be pinned out like a shawl, after all. I'll see him again soon, when he stays here overnight before catching his own early-morning EasyJet, a couple of days before mine, going home for the Easter holiday. He can wear the sweater on the journey.

The neck is lower than I expected. He says it's fine. How did that happen?

3) I've started the Tokyo shawl. It's knit with two strands of lace-weight yarn held together, one of them alpaca which comes in balls, the other wool which is in 50 gram skeins and takes a considerable amount of winding. The alpaca is constant throughout, the wool changes colour and therefore a lot more winding looms.

There is no schematic, but I think we're aiming at a rectangle. The stitch pattern consists of 2 k2togs and 2 yo's, widely spaced on top of each other in alternate 160-stitch rows; and in alternate bands of st st and reversed st st. Plus those subtle – and very occasionally startling – changes of colour.

160 stitches is quite a few, but less than a million. I have made a good start, the garter stitch edging done, the first st st band embarked upon. To begin with, the two yarns are a pretty identical grey. The next band will involve the first colour-change (and more winding). My plan is to continue thus for a few days and then launch the Sous Sous and keep them going together.

Helen quite liked the Sous Sous I think, but believed it unsuitable for any but the seriously slender young because of the way the scooped-out front edge will draw attention to the stomach. The wearers' pictures on Ravelry suggest that it looks good on a wide variety of shapes. We shall see. Fortunately I've got lots of the seriously slim among my panel of recipients.


Queer Joe says that a new Koigu book, Wrapped in Colour, devoted to shawls, is the best yet for mixing Koigu colours. Oh, dear, in my case. I had almost forgotten my extensive Koigu stash and indeed (while forgetting Koigu) had begun to think, why not get rid of the whole stash and go on acquiring yarn project-by-project as I seem to be doing at the moment?

Friday, March 06, 2015

This is just a brief hello -- pleasanter to sit over the breakfast table with Greek Helen.

Archie's sweater is finished, save for buttons and blocking. She is going to be up that way this morning, and will see what John Lewis has for buttons, taking a sample the right size, and the swatch, a good deal easier than carrying the whole sweater. Archie will be here tomorrow afternoon and can try it on before blocking.

I started a Juniper Moon pocket square. It promises very well indeed.

See you on Sunday, insh'Allah.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Talk about cups running over!

The little package from Loop arrived – a ball of Juniper Moon (what a forgettable name!) as a potential material for the pocket squares for the wedding. It looks very promising indeed. It's a 50% merino and silk mixture, DK, a deep, rich colour. I think I'll knock off another sample square as soon as Archie's sweater is tidied away, while I'm winding the opening skeins for the Tokyo Shawl and Sous Sous.

For the package from Webs also turned up – with no VAT to pay. The Queen must have overlooked it. She's getting on a bit. Whiskey Barrel is exactly as I hoped, for grey-brownness. Exactly as I imagine a whiskey barrel to look. Splendid.

And Archie's sweater is finished, as far as knitting goes. The neck edging includes the tops of the plackets. The start I reported yesterday, those first 20 stitches picked up, proved to be exactly right. The edging is tending to flop outwards, just as the hems at the bottom are trying to flare. The sleeves, at least, are behaving themselves.

I still have a few more ends to deal with, and buttons to buy and sew on. I don't think I'm going to see Archie this weekend – his mother Greek Helen (who will arrive late this afternoon, another cause for joy) will be at the school tomorrow for a parents' evening and a university application talk and a parents' supper. But Archie will be here overnight towards the end of the month, before his early-morning flight to Athens a couple of days before my own. If I can get the blocking right on the basis of earlier try-ons, he can wear the sweater home.


I was deeply touched yesterday by how many of you rushed in to join my unknown benefactor in the gift of the Tokyo Shawl. Thank you, one and all.

I was interested to learn, BirgitR, that this blog turns up on your Zite. I have it in mine, most days, but I thought they were maybe just doing it to please me. And I promise to get to grips with the interaction of Windows 8 and my camera. Or my iPad and my new MacBook.


The moon is full tonight, I think. Observing it nearly so, the other evening, I was sort of surprised to work out that the impending eclipse will coincide with a new moon.

I've just had a wee look at Wikipedia and discover, not to my surprise, that the Greeks and the Chinese were both able to predict eclipses in the fourth or fifth century BC. That seems awfully clever of them. I often marvel at how, after millions of years of evolution, high civilisation seems to have begun in the same split second (evolutionarily speaking) in China and India and Europe and the Middle East, and probably elsewhere, roughly four thousand years ago. Something to do with agriculture and aqueducts and sewers, no doubt. High civilisation needs cities.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015


The yarn didn't turn up until after 2 – I had nearly despaired. I thought the postie would bring it mid-morning.

­I opened the box with avidity and pulled the plastic-wrapped packageof yarn out upside down. I had time to think, in rapid succession, before I turned it over: Oh, dear, there's no brown in that grey at all...The yarn looks awfully fine for DK...They've sent the wrong order; I'm going to have a struggle, sending it back.

The card – with a nice design of slightly abstract-looking southwestern sheep – says “A gift from all your very loyal followers. Please enjoy!” The shop it comes from is not Webs at all, of course (who are sending me the madelinetosh order), but Tutto in Santa Fe. I wouldn't mind browsing there.

It may be from all of you as it claims, but some one individual must have thought of the idea and executed it. Thanks are inadequate. The yarn is more precious to me than spun gold. I will knit it in alternate sessions with the Sous Sous and wrap it around myself in all the winters left to me.

I rather dislike descending to the mundane, after that.

Nothing came from Loop except an email to say they had dispatched my order. Maybe they're not open on Monday. It will require a signature but if our usual postie is on duty she will sign for me while I enjoy the supermarket.

And as for knitting, I have now done everything else on Archie's sweater, and am approaching with trepidation the infamous neck edging. Beverly, I did email Bruce Weinstein, on your excellent suggestion. No response yet. And, Judith, I looked at the Ravelry discussion you referred me to, and I agree that Bruce's own Henley looks as if the edging goes all the way across the top of the placket.

So I started off that way, and have picked up 20 stitches from the placket edge to the first false raglan seam. If I go on at about the present rate, I will have 70 stitches by the time I reach the back-neck mid-point. The instruction says to pick up 112 in all. I would allow myself a certain latitude on that – say, perhaps, 110 to 120, but 140 is too many in a pattern so carefully written.

So I'll start again, this time omitting the placket. The top of the placket, after all, looks finished. What follows is not finished at all – I was adding stitches at the beginning or end, or both, of many rows and the result looks ragged. From the raglan seam on there's a chain, representing the 76-stitch original cast-on.

I'm thinking aloud here. A little mental arithmetic based on the figure in the last paragraph suggests that I should pick up 23 stitches on each front. Perhaps I'll do a bit more counting, after all, before I take out what I've done already.

We didn't go out yesterday, as hoped. The snow melted, but it stayed very cold. I got a bit done, other than cooking and knitting and making the bed, for the first time in quite a while. I repotted my cactuses (I have three) and sowed some chilli seeds and paced about the house with a tape measure looking for a spot six feet x six feet, unimpeded by furniture and not part of a major traffic avenue, where I could block the Unst Bridal Shawl.

Not easy. And the spot had to allow room at the edges for the blocker to crawl about. I have decided to try pushing the two single beds in the spare room together and doing it there. If it works, it will eliminate crawling. That's good. I must get it done before the end-of-month travel, so that my husband and Alexander can take it to London.

All that, and a new follower! the first for many a day. Welcome!