Thursday, March 31, 2016

Juliet's birth is announced in the Times today.

And I'm nearly there – one more decrease to do at the neck edges of the Sous Sous.

I arrived, at one point yesterday, at the situation most dreaded when one is knitting two halves of something with two different balls of yarn: namely, I was interrupted when precisely at the centre. When I resumed, there were the two balls, each attached to one side of the neck. I could complete a right side row, or else a wrong side one.

If one or the other half had involved a decrease, all would have been clear. That was not the case. There is no solution to that problem, is there, other than counting the rows? I relied on my Sirka – or, rather, on myself, to have moved the pointers faithfully. The worst that can have happened is two extra rows on one side or the other. And I think I got it right.

My other problem is marginally more serious. When I finish the decreases – it will happen today, barring a disaster – I am to work one row straight and then “Patt 4 sts, place remaining 66 sts on holder.”

The trouble with that is, that at the beginning of a row (any row, right side or wrong side) I am down there at the elbow. And those four stitches, it soon becomes clear, are about to be extended into an edging and sewn to the back of the neck, and therefore must be the four ribbed stitches at the neck edge, half-way through the row. “Work 1 row straight” must mean, work half-a-row, back to the neck edge.

 But the pattern has been meticulously written up until now, and I was wrong about it once before and you had to put me right. So I’m slightly worried.

And absurdly concerned at the following instructions, for the RH side and the LH side. Does that mean the wearer’s right and left? Or the viewer’s? It doesn’t make the slightest bit of difference, as far as I can see, but we Blind Followers get really worked up about problems like that.

Change of subject

I signed up this morning to be a Patron of Knitty – they’re having trouble staying afloat as advertising dwindles. I should have done it some time ago. I’ll add the badge to the sidebar if I can figure out how. I’ve knit Kate Gilbert’s Clapotis (what did I do with that?) and the Dunfallandy blankie and that’s more than I’ve knit from many a magazine.

(I suddenly couldn't remember the words for either "Clapotis" or "Kate Gilbert". I googled "shawl pattern Knitty Kate" -- and it came up top. Clever algorithm somewhere.)

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Another good day, spent edging forwards. Three stitches remain to be decreased on each side of the Sous Sous neck – 12 rows. A good deal of knitting time yesterday was devoted to winding a skein. That always feels like progress.

It looks as if I have far more Roast Hatch Chillies than I do Whiskey Barrel, but I am not going to revise my original plan of having the latter be the dominant colour in my half-brioche sweater. If I have to order a third lot of it, at least I’ll do so when things are in a state when the amount-needed can be estimated fairly accurately.

Knitlass, I’m sure you’re right, about the pronunciation of the “ch” in Buachaille. (And, hey! I think I’ve spelled it right even before looking it up!) I went back to the recording of the native speaker whose version KD provided early on – on her lips, it sounds like three syllables. So “Booke-ul” won’t really do. And we don’t really need to say it out loud anyway, since it seems to be sold only from KD’s website and at markets.

On the other hand, “Booke-ul” gives us a mental handle for thinking about it!


Sorry – the subject has wedged itself obsessively in my mind, just for the moment. In the very early church, the date of Easter was determined by the simple and effective means of asking your Jewish neighbour when Passover was this year. The Council of Nicaea in the fourth century put paid to that, and launched us on the path towards the present confusion.

Wikipedia has a useful chart showing the dates of the Spring Full Moon, the Astronomical Easter, the Gregorian Easter, the Julian Easter, and Passover, for every year from 2001 to 2021. Of those 21 years, 2016 is the only one with a big difference between the Gregorian Easter (that’s what we just had) and Passover. I don’t know why, probably because I wasn’t paying attention. Wikipedia explains what the “astronomical Easter” is; I’ve forgotten already.

There are serious moves afoot to fix Easter on the second Sunday of April. If they ever do that, it will simply create another column in the Wikipedia chart – we’ll have the Old Easter and the Official Easter. It is the spring holiday in England, nothing to do with religion at all, bunny rabbits and chocolate and bank holidays. I can see why they would like to pin it down a bit.

That is an interesting observation, Mary Lou, that Ramadan is linked to the moon as well. I’m pretty sure that it’s a complete lunar month, from the dark of one moon, all through the phases of the next one, ending with the first sighting of the first sliver of the one after that.

It moves gradually backward through the (Gregorian) calendar year and has recently been particularly difficult for Scottish Muslims, occurring at the summer solstice when there isn’t much darkness at all. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We had a grand Easter, and everyone is now safely returned to their various bases. Rachel and Ed had to do the long drive down the face of England yesterday, but they reached home in the early evening and should be fit for work today. All three of us, here in Drummond Place, spent the afternoon drowsing in our chairs. Today I will restock the larder and then life can begin anew.

Southern Gal, thanks for putting me right about the date of Passover this year After reading your message, I did a bit of Googling and then gave up in despair. I know that Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. I had always assumed that the Orthodox rule is the same except that they use the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian one for determining the date of the equinox. It turns out to be a bit more complicated than that.

And the Jewish calendar is far more complicated than either of the above. Passover is always on the same date, I think, but the calendar itself isn’t attached to the Gregorian one, why should it be? It’s much older, and it floats about a bit, so that Jews ask each other, When is Passover this year? just like Christians enquiring about Easter.

I have a dear Jewish friend, an Oberlin friend, a retired academic, who writes a private daily blog, mostly intended for her family, but she generously includes friends. I enjoy it enormously. She had been asking lately, Who’s coming for Passover? and I had leapt to the conclusion that the date was the same as that of Easter. No – she was thinking well ahead.

It would be an interesting question to pursue, if I had the mental energy. Where did Christians get that Paschal moon? How does it relate to the Jewish calendar? It must be in there somewhere.


I hope everybody has by now heard Felicity Ford singing her Buachaille Song. It’s beyond wonderful, and has inspired me to begin to try to learn how to spell the name of Kate Davies’ new yarn. Listening to Felicity sing, I deduce that the pronunciation is more or less Booke-ul.

Ironically, one of the things I wanted to do at the EYF market, and didn’t achieve, was to spend some time fondling Buachaille. I’ve seen it. Kathy at Kathy’s Knits around the corner was a member of the Seven Skeins Club – they got to see it first. She showed me some, and it’s good all right, but I would have liked to wallow in it a bit more and think about projects.

As for actual knitting, since I saw you last, I have finished the bit of the Sous Sous front where I had to do six repeats of a six-row sequence involving two decrease rows, and have now embarked on eight repeats of a four-row sequence involving one decrease row. And when that is done, the front will be damn’ near finished.  

Friday, March 25, 2016

Forgot to say...

I won't try to write during the Easter excitements. Service should resume on Tuesday, when everybody will have gone away.

Happy Easter/ Joyful Passover as appropriate.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Bit of a rush this morning, due to not having written anything last night. I’ll leave you to find the links, and to let me know of egregious mistakes.


Pascoagirl, it’s good to meet another Sous Sous knitter. As the anniversary of my happy week in Athens looms, it’s interesting to remember that the idea had at least flickered across my mind, to knit it to take along as a useful between-season garment. Still, here we are, and it hadn’t occurred to me to sew the long side seams before knitting the sleeves (I being EZ’s quintessential Blind Follower). It makes good sense, and I’ll do it.

I didn’t accomplish much yesterday, but something. If I keep at it, it’ll get done.

Jennifer (day before), thank you very much indeed for your question about wool shops to visit in Edinburgh. My brief on-line enquiries have turned up one I’ve never heard of, Ginger Twist on the London Road. It’s reachable from Drummond Place by an only mildly energetic walk which I will schedule for next week, when all this Easter business is out of the way. If photographs on the website indeed show the owner, as the colour of her hair suggests, she would have been in primary school when we moved to Edinburgh so the shop may be fairly new.

I would recommend Kathy’s Knits, on Broughton Street, specialising in British yarns, and Be Inspired, over in Marchmont, for international delights. McAree Bros on Howe Street is larger than either, a very well-stocked main-stream LYS – the big name brands are there. John Lewis in the moribund St James Centre has a good yarn dep’t. Say hello to Lindsay, the Rowan girl, for me.

In the old days Jenner’s, the big department store on Princes Street, had an excellent yarn dep’t on the ground floor and I often used to pop in (and spend money) when I happened to be passing. Then they moved it up to the fourth floor and I’ve scarcely been there since, so can’t report on it.

Knitlass, is there anything else that ought to be mentioned?

Jennifer, can we meet when you’re here? I’d like to meet your daughter and get an insider’s slant on third-millennium Oberlin. Email me (address in sidebar) if this is possible.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Hey, a new follower!

And I'm sorry to be so late today, My new system is to compose at night, and leave it to ripen before adding a tweak or two in the morning, Today, the morning got away from me...

I was disappointed in the programme about Unst, although I shall continue to watch. There was not the slightest evidence of an interest in knitting – there was even a scene where a husband and wife were being interviewed. She was seated, and one suspected from the way her right hand occasionally appeared and disappeared at the bottom of the frame, that she was knitting. If so, it wasn’t mentioned.

Also, unless my ears deceived, the Unst Bus Shelter was referred to as “infamous”. This is a malapropism which particularly offends me, and I am sorry to think the BBC may have descended to it, they who are holding the bridge so valiantly against the modern misuse of “beg the question”.

Also, I thought the reverend gentleman who was meant to be the centre of the piece was an interesting and intelligent man and therefore probably worth listening to.  I was sorry that his role was reduced to that of skipping stones. Maybe next week.

I am sorry to be so disagreeable. On a brighter note, I trust everybody has seen Kate Davies’ blog post about the EYF, full of wonderful photographs. It was just like that! Doesn’t tomofholland look like someone whose class it is a shame I missed?

Actual knitting moved forward yesterday through the v-neck decreases of the Sous Sous. Not far to go now, although it seems endless.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

I can’t do much more today than assure you that I am alive and well. 

I did some more Sous Sous. I once believed that when I had divided it for the deep v-neck, the job was almost finished. It’s not – I’m knitting back and forth on more than 150 stitches, decreasing four of them in every six rows, hardly enough to count.  And “knitting back and forth” means “knit one purl one”-ing back and forth, for the endless double moss stitch.

The reason being, I’m mostly knitting sleeves now, in a drop-shoulder pattern.

Still, I’m doing it, and things are moving forward.

I might say, patting self on back, that I am rather proud of myself for interrupting on-going projects to make way for the Dunfallandy blankie – which obviously had to be ready for Juliet on time – and then going back to them. Tokyo shawl finished, Sous Sous at least with the home stretch in sight. I think it’s those WIPs being tracked in the sidebar that keeps me on the straight and narrow. Except for poor Kaffe.

Not quite knitting

The BBC is doing a clutch of series called Island Parish. There was one about the CofE man in the Falklands. We watched a couple of episodes. They were mildly interesting. This week, they have started a new series, about the Church of Scotland man on Unst. I recorded the first episode yesterday and eagerly look forward to watching it today.

In so small a place, we’re bound to see something of the Unst Heritage Museum and the women we met there; of the world-famous Unst Bus Shelter; and with luck we’ll get a distant, breath-taking view of Muckle Flugga.

Why should so distant and inhospitable a place (even by Shetland standards) have become the home of the finest lace knitting? They couldn’t tell me, when I was there. It’s probably nothing more mysterious than a single remarkable woman – or a remarkable family, perhaps. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Guess what? I blocked the Tokyo shawl!

What a rush of joy and energy one feels, doing something at last which one might – indeed, should -- have done a fortnight ago. I’m terribly pleased with the way it looks. Now all I need is for the equinoctial weather to turn sour, so that I can huddle in it.

Perdita is interested in the bright heads of the pins, and pulls them out, greatly endangering herself and distressing me,

This means that I’m free to add another project to my weekly schedule – it’ll be my half-brioche sweater of madtosh Whiskey Barrel and Roast Hatch Chillies. I won’t do it, though, just at the moment. I’m decreasing for the deep v-neck of the Sous Sous. I am engaged with a six-row sequence which must be repeated five times, two of the six rows being decrease rows. All is well, the count is right, my beloved Sirka counter is earning its keep. But I think I had better keep my eye on the ball until the front of the Sous Sous is finished.

That will leave two small sleeves to do, and lots of mattress stitch. Another project wouldn’t hurt at that stage.

The half-brioche (if that is the correct term) produces a vertical striped effect, with one colour very much in the ascendancy over the other. The pattern picture shows a bright colour peeping out from a dark one, and I think I’ll go with that – Whiskey Barrel (it feels as if I have been knitting with it since the dawn of history) as the predominant colour, the Chillies peeping out.

I had a good day yesterday doing nothing much, except blocking that shawl and tidying away my purchases and class handouts from the EYF. What a glorious event it was! I took taxis both ways every day – there was always one dropping off a knitter or two, when I wanted to go home. By day three, the drivers were asking me what was going on.

I took presumption in both hands just now, and emailed Franklin to tell him that he should book a gig here for next year. Did I get the idiom right?

One small thing – and I’m sure there’ll be lots more in the next few days. Carol Feller told us, that when one is knitting chevrons – one of those patterns where increases and decreases alternate across the row, but never next to each other – when you’re doing that, the effect of an increase is to draw the knitting up, of a decrease to let it down. This seems a bit counter-intuitive, and Feller herself clearly had to stop and think it through whenever the situation arose.

It’s what’s happening with the Sous Sous, all right (pictures soon) – on the back, the pattern (double moss stitch with a central cable pattern) is knit straight across. On the front, there are decreases just inside each selvedge, and corresponding increases to the right and left of the central panel. With the result that the edges droop down, and the centre is scooped out.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Well, the EYF is over, at least as far as I am concerned, and so is Six Nations rugby. Scotland lost to Ireland. England and France are battling it out in Paris as I write. Allez les bleus! But I don’t think it’ll happen.

Everything went extraordinarily smoothly this morning, and I got to Woolly Wormhead’s class with time to spare. I regret not having another hour in the market – to look at the stands that didn’t exactly have yarn in them, like Shetland Wool Week; to finish cruising past everything, however briefly; and to explore Kate Davies’ own stand. I never actually got to do that.

But it was safer not.

Woolly’s class was fun. She had a glorious armload of her hats to show us, and tried to introduce us to the mental concept of knitting hats sideways. We knit a circle of short-row wedges, and learned a good provisional cast-on and how to graft in garter stitch. The doing of it is easy: the trick is to have the two rows being grafted at different stages so that grafting can produce an artificial row of garter stitch which bridges the gap between the two.

The only way to carry things forward will be to knit some of Woolly’s patterns.

And one of you recognised me and introduced herself! Not because I was wearing some particularly striking knitting, as many were, but for my Bernie Sanders sweat shirt. It was a very happy moment.


Kristie, no: how did you find Whistlebare? I don’t think I had ever heard of them. My yarn isn’t sock, but DK, to knit Carol Feller’s capelet from IK. And I also bought a pack not of gradient colours but of co-ordinated colours in the same weight, the idea being to combine them somehow with the base colour, probably nothing more complicated than stripes. They look wonderful together, and that’s where I spent the most money. 

Feller talked to us about the problems of using a set of gradient yarns like that, as stripes in something in which the stitch count keeps increasing. You must decide in advance (obviously -- but it's got to be thought about) whether you want the stripes all the same width, or will you allow them to narrow as the stitch count increases.

The yarn is 80% their own mohair and 20% their own Wensleydale and gloriously lustrous. I saw it early in my exploration and at the end, beginning to totter with weariness and confusion, I had a real fear that I couldn’t find my way back to their stand. But I did. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

I’ve never seen anything like it (the EYF market) – and I’ve even been to a Stitches market in my time.

There were, I think, hundreds of people queuing down the street and around the corner when I arrived at opening time – with dozens more forming up behind me before we all got in. Not that a crowd necessarily makes a good market.

I think I expected the best of Scottish yarn, with a generous admixture from the rest of Britain. It was much more than that. A real I-must-have-died-and-gone-to-heaven experience of beautiful yarns, a very high proportion home-grown from small producers, but another substantial tranche from further afield. Unbelievable. I didn’t even get all the way around.

I had set out with four patterns – the two shawl patterns you gave me, Mary Lou; the Cameo Flower from Knitty; and Carol Feller’s capelet from IK. I spent a great deal of money and bought yarn specifically for each pattern -- from (in no particular order) Old Maiden Aunt, Nature’s Luxury (they’re German), Whistlebare (Northumberland) and Skein Queen. Yarns and patterns will now be carefully stashed together.

That should last the rest of my life without much difficulty, given that I still have the madtosh here for my half-brioche vertically-striped sweater, Whiskey Barrel and Roast Hatch Chillies. And all that madtosh Tannehill about to arrive from CT. Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice.

And I saw Kate Davies who swept me off to the room the organizers had allowed her for sitting down in (very welcome). Tom came in and out, wearing his Macrihanish which looked extremely smart and fit rather well. She introduced him as “my husband” and I thought that perhaps the words were still a bit new and strange on her tongue. He was carrying bin after bin of her new Buachaille yarn to the booth for sale.

Felicity Ford was there, the author of the wonderful “Knitsonik Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook”, getting ready for the class she was about to teach in the afternoon. This all begins to sound a bit like a dream sequence.

Their van had broken down on the motorway earlier in the morning. Bruce, I gather, had been left in charge of it, to deal with the garage.

I doubt if I will achieve Woolly Wormhead tomorrow – there are too many little-things-which-have-got-to-be-done to make it very likely that I can be ready to ring for a taxi by 9:30. I’ll try. I’ll get up early and do as much as can be done by myself. The rest depends on carers – a new one will have to be instructed on the mysteries of my husband’s breakfast and lunch; and someone will have to be here when I nip out to the corner shop.

But even if WW proves impossible, I can (and will) go back to the market for a while. Dangerous, I know…

Thursday, March 17, 2016

I had a grand day, and am very tired. I doubt very much whether either my strength or my husband’s ever-fragile patience will last until I get to Woolly Wormhead's class on Saturday, but I will certainly be at the market tomorrow, planning to spend big bucks.

Carol Feller’s class on gradient yarns was first-rate. The essence of it was, that you’ve got to think ahead. She drew our attention to various devices, designs, stitch patterns. She is working on a book about gradient yarns, due later this year. She was talking mostly about those wonderful little packs of yarn, like mine from the Pigeon Roof, although due recognition was given to gradients self-assembled from stash and also to yarns like the Knit Circus ones which do the job all in one yarn.

I would judge the EYF to be a roaring success. We went around the table at the beginning saying who we were and where from and what we wanted to achieve with gradient yarns. I think I was the only one from Edinburgh. Several Americans, several continentals, one woman from Singapore; the most exotic of all, to my mind, was the woman from Ardnamurchan.

At the end Feller asked us what we now wanted to do with gradient yarns and I was tempted to say that I might attempt her capelet from IK. Which is perfectly true. But I was afraid that I was mistaken and that it might have been designed by somebody else (it wasn’t). And it would have been a terribly teacher’s-pet thing to say. But I shall explore the possibility tomorrow, amongst the packs of gradient yarns.

The great thing, of course, was being out in the real world amongst flesh-and-blood knitters. It was utterly exhilarating. I hope the EYF organizers have the strength and patience to go on with this. They’re on to a winner, but it must be enormously hard work.


Poor Perdita is in heat again – we’ll have to face up to the dreadful operation soon. We shut her in the kitchen last night, as she is too restless to be a bed-cat just at the moment. And guess what – she caught a mouse. We haven’t seen one for, literally, years. Perdita has been telling us recently that they are about, doing a sort of Banquo’s-ghost act as she stared at places from which, indeed, they have darted out in the past.

But there it was, this morning. Very small, even for a mouse. She was delighted with it. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Again, little to report. Today will be fairly frantic, getting in ready meals and tins of soup and thinking organisational thoughts in readiness for the Edinburgh Yarn Fest. Can I go straight to my class tomorrow or do I have to go somewhere else first to get a gold bracelet? I must try to find the instructions again and read them calmly.

I did a bit more on the Milo Bambino. I’m within a round or two of the point where the final garter stitch skirt must be started. I decided I could afford to add a bit of length, but it probably still won’t carry me as far as the sixth skein. I may even be able to finish it off today and take the finished object to my class on Gradient Yarns tomorrow.

Allison, a pair of booties in the final colour is a brilliant idea – except that I doubt if there would be enough, the individual skeins are small -- and I have never been able to knit booties that stayed on. My own children pretty well went barefoot until they could stand up, to the disapproval of old ladies and, on one memorable and embarrassing occasion in Massachusetts, social services.

Thank you for your comment about the Curmudgeon, Southern Gal. It is extraordinary how often tales like that, of missed symptoms, are reported even in these hyper-health-conscious days.

I probably won’t be able to post much for the next couple of days, but I’ll try to get an interim EYF post up at some point. Knitlass, when will you be there? I fear you said Friday afternoon. I’ll be at the market all Friday morning – at least, I will if there is provision for an old woman to sit down.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A new follower!

My check to the kind soul who bought madtosh DK “Tannehill” for me and sent it to my sister, has reached New Jersey successfully. A great relief. She was brave to trust an internet acquaintance for so much. As long as the check was outstanding, I didn’t even entirely trust myself.

Beyond that, I have virtually nothing to report.

I made a little progress on the Milo Bambino, and have discovered that I am very close indeed to the specified length for my size. I’ll finish, at this rate, without involving the sixth skein at all, although I chose the size which ostensibly required the length of yarn I had available. Today I’ll have to do some measuring – maybe the girth of what I have produced will justify making it a bit longer. Juliet can wear it next summer.

But it doesn’t want to be too long, to get tangled up with the nappies.

I watched a video, thanks to Flipboard, of Arne & Carlos knitting Easter eggs. When their Christmas bobble book came out – was that the one that made them famous? – I was greatly taken with it and knit several. I feel no urge whatsoever to knit Easter eggs, no doubt a symptom of advancing age. But A&C are as engaging as ever.

I was saddened to learn of the death of the Knitting Curmudgeon. I suppose it's the Harlot who would have to be considered the doyenne of knitting bloggers, but the Curmudgeon must have run her a close second. Shd was a particular favourite with those who like salty language with their knitting.  Queer Joe’s tribute (March 10) is eloquent.

On a brighter note, the unstoppable Socklady seems to be doing fine back in her wilderness after her run-in with pulmonary embolisms.

I am tempted by Joe’s enthusiasm for “Modern Lopi” by Lars Rains – but there are so many knitting books these days. I can’t buy them all, as once I could and almost did.

Monday, March 14, 2016

You’re not going to believe this – Scotland won! The Little Boys from Loch Fyne, not so little any more, who have been often to Murrayfield and had never before beheld a Scotland victory, have broken their duck (I think that’s the phrase). It was a thrilling match, beginning with a French try (=touchdown) in the first ten minutes.

Knitlass, I found that Milo Bambino, at the stage I had reached, was perfect rugby knitting, better than a sock, I think, because it took a bit longer to get around the circuit. The only interruption is the 12-stitch cable pattern and one could always postpone that in the tenser moments. Of which there were many.

I’m now well into the fourth of the six little skeins. It will be time soon to take a serious look at the end game. I think all I have to do is to break off what I’m doing and add a circular garter-stitch border. How deep? Will one skein be enough? (Surely it will.)

I find, incidentally, that the gradient yarns are all blending into each other elegantly. Only the fourth one, where I currently am, has created a line with the colour which preceded it. The colour scheme, on the other hand, is a bit more violent than I had anticipated.

So here we are in EYF week. I must soon start planning my husband’s breakfasts and lunches for those three days, and typing out instructions for the carer.


The electrician came this morning. Light has been restored. He put a circuit-breaker in, instead of the blown fuse – it is one that has gone before – so that in future I can restore the status quo myself. There are reasons both of expense and of complication for not replacing the entire board.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

How about that?

And here she is with her grandmother Rachel. She’s got a good head of hair, our little girl.

Rachel ended the brief email yesterday to which these pictures were attached, with the words "How did we do it?” How, indeed?

I am knitting very happily on, on Milo Bambino. I have reached the third skein, of six; and I think I’m probably pretty near the half-way point on the vest.

The beginning is very ingenious. You cast on and knit garter stitch round and round (=alternate rounds purl), increasing at four points every other round. Like a hollow shawl, perhaps, knit centre-out. At a certain point you pause, bind off some stitches, cast on others, and hey! presto those rounds have turned into shoulder straps. Even having done it, I couldn’t tell you how it’s done. Rather like the experience of knitting the Baby Surprise.

I’m now knitting round and round for the body, with a single cable band down one side.

The madtosh “Tannehill” DK has reached my sister in CT, who pronounces it an excellent colour for a gent’s sweater. I wonder if I have secured the last sweater’s-worth in the world of this discontinued shade? My happiness will be complete when I know that my check has reached my benefactress – the woman who bought the yarn and had it sent to CT; and, of course, when my sister gets here and delivers it.

You will have deduced that I still haven’t blocked the Tokyo shawl. It’s not usually a chore that I neglect. Maybe a great-granddaughter excuses my dereliction.


Scotland v. France today, here at Murrayfield. It’s a beautiful spring day, and for once the match will be played by daylight. Maybe this will be the one…

Saturday, March 12, 2016

After all Thursday’s excitements, there is remarkably little to report.

No more news has reached me on the baby front. The Dunfallandy blankie is on its way south. Rachel said on Thursday that Lucy’s mother will be staying with them for the first few days. She is a retired GP, and Juliet is not her first grandchild – the perfect mother-in-law.

I’m substantially further forward with Milo Bambino, a most ingenious and clever pattern. I have progressed to the second of the six graduated skeins. It’s too early to guess whether I need to worry about having enough yarn.

And I spent some time with Mrs Gaugain’s Shetland shawl, as promised, but without much result. The shawl is surrounded by a narrow garter stitch edging on all four sides. I’ve got that. It is knit on 244 stitches from start to finish.

But beyond that, every row is a to-me-bewildering succession of “take” and “cast”. I’d need to try knitting it. How is the border pattern orientated? And the centre pattern? How do they relate to each other? It is obvious from the text that the centre is separate, at least in a sense, and that it has a different pattern.

Franklin, perhaps ironically, was writing yesterday as ever was – Friday with Franklin – about the delights of knitting from 19th century patterns. He was talking chiefly about swatches and stitch patterns – the sort of thing currently on show at the Museum in Lerwick. But I am sure he would enjoy untangling Mrs Gaugain’s shawl. I’d like to do it myself, had I but world enough and time. After one had knit a few rows, perhaps one would be able to chart the rest…

I’ve printed out all the patterns I want to take with me to the EYF for yarn-buying purposes. As for lessons, I’m worried about Woolly Wormhead’s injunction (amongst others) to bring along straight needles of the appropriate size. I never knit with straight needles these days, unless they are dp’s – which would, of course,  be entirely appropriate for hat-knitting. But she doesn’t say “dp”, she says “straight”. I can see myself turning into one of Franklin’s “Knitters we Meet in Hell” at this very moment.

A fuse blew here on Thursday evening. (You don’t really need to know this.) Our fuse box is old and peculiar and well beyond my own do-it-yourself abilities. I phoned our electrician this morning, an old friend, and he said he would come, but he hasn’t done so. A third to a half of the house lacks light, although the sockets, thank goodness, continue to function.

As the afternoon light was fading today, and I was setting everything out in the kitchen so that I could find it and produce some sort of supper, I thought of my father, reading Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall” in the months when he knew he was going blind from macular degeneration. He never actually said that that’s why he was reading it. Maybe I’m romanticising.

Friday, March 11, 2016

A big day, yesterday.

Here’s Juliet, our great-granddaughter.

We have a little family tradition of coincident birthdays. I share one with Greek Helen’s husband David, and Archie shares another with Theo and Jenni’s son Ted. If Juliet had been born a day earlier, she would have coincided with Ketki. But it didn’t happen.

As promised, I stopped what I was doing (possibly in mid-row of the Sous Sous, I didn’t notice) and started the Milo Bambino. There were a couple of false starts, but I’m well on the way now. It’s knit from the top down, and I’m doing the gradient with the last and brightest colour at the top. Picture soon. A moment ago I was wondering whether to wind the mini-skeins before my class on gradient yarns next week. Now I may have a whole Milo Bambino to take along.

And, apart from that, not only did I find that old Paton’s shawl leaflet yesterday, I also found the other serious missing item: my own copy of Mrs Gaugain. There are lots of books in this house, and lots of untidiness, but Mrs Gaugain is simply not a book that gets mis-shelved. My little group of 19th century knitting books sit by themselves. It’s not something I would lend, or even leave lying around.

In the event, after causing me several days’ anxiety, it turned out to be on the mantelpiece just beside that little group, lying flat, in a plastic envelope because the binding is loose.

Mrs G has a pattern for a Shetland shawl, quite different from the mid-19th-century one I quoted the other day. In Mrs Gaugain’s book, you cast on 244 stitches and knit, apparently, from one side to the other, creating a lace edging as you go, Orenburg-fashion. I hope to read it through today and see how much I can figure out.

I was a bit disappointed to discover that the 19th century patterns re-knit and on display at the Museum in Lerwick the other day were stitch patterns, swatches, and not whole shawls or scarves knit from old instructions, Franklin-fashion.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Hey! Bernie won in Michigan!

I’ll have to write my gloomy thoughts about Politics 2016 one day soon. Essentially I think that Hillary would make the best president of a dispiriting lot. But I’m sort of happy to think that if I were 18 again, and at Oberlin, I’d be as keen for Bernie as I was once for Adlai Stevenson.

An email from one of you yesterday morning really got me serious about the EYF. She sent me a link to this useful blog, which itself contains a link to a Survival Guide written last year.

I have phoned our private care providers and asked for cover from 9 until 2 on each day from Thursday until Saturday next week (classes being from 10 until 1). I haven’t heard back from them; that probably means all is well.

And I have grasped that that won’t leave me proper time for the market, and that the market richly deserves proper time. So I have (sadly) cancelled my Friday class with Tomofholland. It would have been such fun, especially as no preparation and no supplies were required of attendees. But I don’t see any way around the problem.

The Survival Guide mentioned above contains the excellent advice – would I have thought of it? – to go to market knowing what you want. Even if there is a danger of restoring my stash to its previous dimensions, it will be far better to have it stocked with patterns-and-the-yarn-with-which-to-knit-them rather than random, wonderful skeins. So I shall at least look out and write down the yarn needed for the little shawls mentioned here recently for Cathy and Lucy, and that capelet or whatever you’d call it, in IK.

And I am rather taken with the Antler pullover, discovered recently on Flipboard. The blogger who wrote about it says “It turns out that if you work on stuff, it eventually gets done.” There’s a great truth there. However, the Antler starts off with a madtosh yarn and I doubt if I could bear to substitute anything for that.

I have also re-read Franklin’s famous (I hope) essay on the Ten Knitters You Meet in Hell. Ethel the Unready, that’ll be me.

Vivienne, I had already looked for that pattern leaflet in “Heirloom Knitting” and, prompted by your comment, I looked again. It really wasn’t there. But this morning I thought of a third possibility – Hazel Carter’s “Shetland Lace Knitting from Charts” (which also mentions it in the bibliography). And there it is.

The other loss, alluded to yesterday, is much more serious. I’ll tell you tomorrow. I am encouraged to hope that I’ll find that one, too.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

A new follower! Welcome!

A certain amount of exuberance remains, even writing so late.

B. has bought the “Tannehill” madtosh DK and shipped it off to my sister. Grand news.

Flipboard included me yesterday, perhaps because I had included a plug for them. I am grateful to them, not for that, but for directing me to Ella Gordon’s blog entry about the conference at the Lerwick Museum last Saturday.

She muses about “authenticity”. Ella Gordon is undoubtedly “authentic”. She was in the shop – Jamieson & Smith, of course – that wonderful day when I was there, but I scarcely spoke to her, being so overwhelmed by having actually spoken to Oliver Henry and by the whole experience. And she says, in effect, that you don’t have to be as authentic as she is, to be authentic – Sarah Don and Gladys Amedro and Sharon Miller and Kate Davies and (I will have to include) Susan Crawford  and even you and I, are authentic if we are publishing or knitting  a Shetland pattern with love and not just exploiting the name.

I had not really thought about it before – all those are the names of outsiders. Of them, only Amedro even lived on Shetland. And I had also not reflected on the fact that the recent “Legacy of Shetland Lace” which Ella mentions, is something of a breakthrough in the fact that it is a book of Shetland patterns by Shetlanders.

But apart from all that, there are two things I want you to notice in Ella’s blog. One is the picture she includes of the little girl with her knitting and her cat. I had seen it before. It is enchanting. But now that I am living with a cat again, I looked at the picture again: that is a real Shetland cat. It knows that you don’t interfere with knitting, if you are a cat. You don’t even think about it.

And the other thing is the link Ella provides at the end to Kate Davies’ essay about Mrs Gaugain, written back when KD was a mere university lecturer in history rather than an internationally-known knitwear designer. The Dean Cemetery is not far from here. I must try to find the grave.

The other thing that filled me with enthusiasm yesterday morning was KD’s appeal for people who had knit a Paton’s leaflet from the 50’s of a Shetland shawl designed by Mrs Hunter of Unst. I knit it for Rachel, in the months before she was born. I emailed KD to this effect. I was touched to see your comment on her blog entry, Knitlass, recalling the fact that I had mentioned it here on my blog.

And I was horrified to discover that the pattern itself is not where I thought it was, inside Amedro’s “Shetland Lace”. Where could it possibly be? And another even more distressing knitting loss was discovered yesterday. More to follow.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

The trouble with this new system – write at night, post in the morning – is a day like this one, when I am effervescing with things to say to you – Ella Gordon’s blog post about the conference at the Lerwick Museum; Kate Davies’ did-you-knit-this-pattern? appeal. But there’s no time to write, and by this evening effervescence may have waned.

Rachel just phoned – the grandmother-to-be. All is well, she says. The midwife says that the baby’s head is engaged. We wait.

Here’s what I wrote last night:

I have distressingly little to report. I’ve lost a follower in the last few days, and no wonder, with such a succession of non-events.

I finished casting off the Tokyo shawl, and have dealt with most of the ends. I found two actual holes, broken yarn, live stitches hanging there. Moths? Perdita? Alarming.

So blocking may be as soon as today.

It sounds as if my sister and B. have the madtosh “Tannehill” situation under control; very good news.

Here in Drummond Place, we seem safely back in the arms of the various organisations who look after us. My husband likes some of the carers better than others, to put it mildly, but none actually provoke explosions of temper yet. That’s good.

My next job is to face up to the EYF. I’ve had an email of instructions from them which fills me with despair. There are three venues. There are instructions (but not maps) for getting from one to another. There is something about a gold bracelet. You’ve got to be at classes 15 minutes early, and to have done your homework. The market is (predictably) in only one of the venues. You can get in to the market an hour before classes start if you’ve got a gold bracelet, but you probably have to get to one of the other venues for your class, and get there 15 minutes before class time.

I’m not at all sure I’m up to it. If I’m going, I’ll have to ring our private carer in the next couple of days to arrange extra cover for whichever days I decide on attempting.  I’ve signed up for three wonderful classes, but I suspect the market will be the best bit of all.

It seems to me that Flipboard has improved a bit lately, and may one day come to rival the dear departed Zite. 

Monday, March 07, 2016

Yesterday’s big excitement was that I have almost finished the Tokyo shawl – I am halfway across the “bind off loosely” row. This is particularly gratifying because of the danger involved in laying anything aside (in this case, the counter-attraction was the Dunfallandy blankie) and having it slide into UFO territory. And the Tokyo shawl is particularly precious because of its being your gift to me.

It’ll take a while to deal with those ends, as I’ve said. There is no real front and back to this thing – the bands keep turning, first st st and then reversed st st. So the ends will have to be dealt with, with unusual neatness, for me. And then there’s blocking. Still, I’m getting there.

And once that end has been achieved, and the Sous Sous resumed, I can begin thinking of fitting my half-brioche sweater (madtosh Whiskey Barrel and Roast Hatch Chillis in vertical stripes) into the weekly knitting sequence. This is exciting.

But all will be swept aside in an instant when news arrives of the baby, in favour of Milo Bambino and the graduated skeins from the Pigeonroof. The yarn has arrived from Loop, and it’s very good.

Anonymous: “Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting” (the conference at the Museum in Lerwick) sounded too heavy for me, but the idea of the “19th Century Pattern Book Project”, whatever is involved, sounds very exciting and I hope time and strength will allow me to follow up the link you provide (comment, yesterday).

In response to a comment – I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten whom I’m replying to, and if I am to post this before doomsday I’d better not take time to look: I had intended to say myself that Susan Crawford’s track record, as author of A Stitch in Time, assures me that the Vintage Shetland Project will soon be published. And then all the delay will be forgiven and forgotten.

But I still think the appropriate way to proceed, when cloud-funding produced so much more money than she expected, was to sit down calmly and work out what she wanted to do and how long it would take (factoring in the danger of bad weather in the winter – it is not uncommon). And then to determine a production schedule, and stick to it. 

And make a serious, formal announcement to us all at the beginning, apologizing for missing the original publication date and Christmas: and telling us when it would be published.

It’s the succession of promises that annoys: including the one about having the book ready for the EYF. Which it won’t be.

And her remark about the “huge task” of sending out books to the cloud-funders, sounds to me like a grumble we could have done without. Perhaps I am taking it amiss. 

Sunday, March 06, 2016

Not much knitting yesterday. An old friend came to see us, with some welcome art-world gossip for my husband. I fiddled with the Knitcircus sock while she was here, and am very near the toe. I was too tired thereafter for anything else.

Madtosh “Tannehill”: my sister found Chelsea yarns on the internet, and offered to bring the yarn when she comes to see us in the summer. She and her husband are currently in the throes of selling up in CT and moving to a retirement community in DC, where they used to live. It sounds like a sensible move, and it sounds as if this is the moment to do it. But if you really want a recipe for feeling old, having your younger sister – and her even younger husband -- go into a retirement community will do it.

Meanwhile, one of you most kindly contacted Chelsea Yarns and reserved on my behalf most of the 11 skeins they claim to have. Before I went to London last month, I calculated that I would need 10 skeins for a v-neck sleeved sweater for my husband, and in the current circumstances I think I might as well take all 11.

I’ve forwarded their messages to each other, and am sitting back bemused, and grateful. One good thing is that there are only 11 skeins – I can’t find much of any, anywhere else. So whatever happens, I won’t be inundated.

As for carbon footprints, I’m pretty irresponsible; and I love madtosh; and I have accumulated valuable data by knitting that recent v-neck for my husband, a great success; and Archie’s sweater, perhaps slightly less of a success but still not too bad.

The big question remains, Georgia O’Keefe? My memory and my notes confirm that I knit my husband a sleeveless pullover in that shade. The NHS swallowed it last year. It was green. Those statements are facts. But Georgia O’Keefe now, from any source, looks blue. My husband is peculiarly anti-blue. I have no doubt that the lost sweater was not blue. It’s all very odd.

My oldest knitting book is “The Knitter’s Friend” from 1847. It has a pattern for “the much-admired SHETLAND SHAWL”. On four pins, cast on any number of stitches divisible by 22. The first round is: “bring the thread forward, and take two stitches together, take two together three times, bring the thread forward and knit one stitch five times, bring the thread forward and take two together, take two together twice, knit one, bring the thread forward, and take two stitches in one.” (it adds up to 22 all right.)

The 2nd, 3rd and 4th round are plain knit. Then repeat the pattern round. And so on.

The result would be a large cylinder, wouldn’t it? People in the 19th century weren’t stupid. I can only assume that one was meant to know how to decrease towards the centre of one’s shawl. 

Saturday, March 05, 2016

I wrote this on Thursday evening, meaning to post it yesterday. But the first carer came early, and one thing led straight on to another. So here it is, already a trifle out of date and leaving much that I want to say but haven’t got time to write just now. I’ll have to think out a new system…

A better day. We are reconnected with social services, indeed with one of the dear people who have been looking after us in recent months. The other has gone off on maternity leave. They even apologized for the mix-up.

Deb, that is exciting news, that you were one of the knitters puzzling out old lace patterns for the exhibition currently at the Shetland Museum in Lerwick. I hope we can find out more about it, and see something of it.

I think I’ve got an old pattern myself, and having said that I’ll now have to look it out. Especially as I think the result may be something like a hap shawl, knit in a way no Shetlander would ever have done. More to follow on this.

My own knitting: I’m progressing well through the final band of the Tokyo shawl. Loose ends will take a while. The whole shawl is knit with two relatively fragile yarns held together. There have been some breakages, especially towards the end as the yarns have got wound around the increasingly bulky shawl. And, Perdita has helped. And, one colour has been dropped and another introduced at the beginning of every band, even with no allowance for breakage.

No hospital visiting means not much in the way of sock-knitting. My current thought is – not to start the second Knitcircus sock from the inside of the second ball, but to carry on with the first ball. There won’t be much left. And only when it is finished, start the second from the inside. We’ll see.

Sad news by email from Loop: the yarn I saw and fondled that happy day recently, and chose for a sweater for my husband, madtosh “Tannehill” by name, has been discontinued. Someone in NJ called Chelsea Yarns – I’ve never dealt with them – seems to have DK Tannehill in sufficient quantity, but I have struggled in vain with their website, and can’t even make “Contact Us” work. I hope I haven’t paid for it yet, but am not even sure about that. Another problem to return to.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

The homecoming went fairly well, on the whole -- except that the expected social services carer didn't turn up at the end of the day. I hope it was just a blip and that someone will be here soon to help my husband get up and dressed.

But I am too distracted to think about knitting this morning,

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

So here we are, waiting.

I’ve heard nothing from the hospital. Private care is expected soon – I could have put her off until tomorrow, but my husband was weak yesterday. I will be glad to have someone here when he is delivered, even if, in fact, it means that she will just be sitting around for most of the time. Or all of it.

Gosia has just been here for two hours, so there is not much that needs to be done. The bed is ready. The sitting room has been tidied (mostly of knitting) and hoovered. The cat has had a wonderful morning helping with everything, and has now gone to sleep in front of the Aga.

I found my Edinburgh Yarn Fest receipts without much difficulty, and have printed them: Carol Feller on gradient yarns, Tomofholland on darning, Woolly Wormhead on sideways-ness. It all seemed wonderful in October – all I needed to do was secure an extra hour of mid-day private care, and off I could go. Confronted with actuality, it’s not that easy.

I’m not that strong. 

I’m still hoping I can do one of them – it will be hard to choose. And I’m still very much hoping I can get to the market – everybody who is anybody in British yarn-production will be there, and Kate Davies has even said she hopes to see me there.

In the course of all this, I found an old email which seemed to say that Carol Feller would suggest some gradient yarns for us before the class. That hasn’t happened. I carefully re-read the class specification yesterday – she really does mean “gradient”, not hand-painted skeins that go round and round.

I’ve got another Knitcircus sock set, besides the one I’m knitting. I can take that. But I also, yesterday, went ahead and ordered two sets of Pigeonroof graduated skeins from Loop – to knit Milo Bambino for the great-grandchild. We’ve pretty well reached the any-moment-now stage on that one.

I felt, on the one hand, uneasy about ordering the yarn before we’ve actually got the baby. And, on the other, why not? When Rachel and Ed got married, an unbelievable number of years ago, he forbade her to wear something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue – God’s love is not to be so constrained, he said. And he was right.

I’m afraid that what follows reveals an unpleasant side to my character: I was pleased to discover that one of the very few things you can still sign up for, and pay for, at EYF is Susan Crawford talking about the Vintage Shetland Project, and showing a film. She still has no book to promote. I’ll skip that.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016

So – here’s March.

A good day yesterday. A (blog-reading) friend came around and fixed the printer. I think turning it, and the computer, off and then on again figured in the treatment, Mary Lou. We discovered early on that I could print perfectly well from the iPad (the printer is wireless). The problem was just that it wouldn’t listen to the laptop.

I've printed the Bidwell Shawl and, Marion, I agree -- it really speaks to me, too. I'll go ahead and print the others: it's safer than just keeping a note of electronic addresses somewhere.

So today I must do a certain amount of tidying, and laying in supplies for husband-feeding. But I must also find those emails from the Edinburgh Yarn Fest, print them, and face up to the whole thing. Where exactly is it happening? And exactly when?

I did a bit better yesterday, knitting-wise. The first Knitcircus sock has nearly rounded the heel, and the gradations are looking good:

The Arne & Carlos socks are finished-finished. I think I’ll take them along to the hospital today and see if Alexander wants them. He should be there. It would save me wrapping them up and trudging to the post office, an unwelcome chore:

And I got at least a little way forward with the Tokyo shawl.


They’re having a study day on “Authenticity in Culturally-Based Knitting” at the Shetland Museum in Lerwick on Saturday. The University of Glasgow is involved, and it sounds a bit heavy. But at the same time there is an exhibition in the foyer of the Museum of lace patterns published between 1840 and 1880.

1840 is about when knitting pattern books were first published, for “middle class ladies with leisure time”. Shetland lace was becoming fashionable at the same time. (The Great Exhibition was in 1851.) Those early printed patterns aren’t illustrated (let alone charted) – you really have to knit them to figure out what’s going on.

For this exhibition, Glasgow University appealed for knitters. I’d really like to see the result. Maybe some of it will turn up on-line.