Monday, October 31, 2016

Bangladesh won the test match against England yesterday. England started out brilliantly, in their final innings – 100 for 0, I think it was. And then collapsed utterly, and were all out for 164. I’ve been re-reading Rosemary’s Baby. That sounds like witchcraft.

A columnist in yesterday’s Sunday Times suggests that Trump might win because this is the year of the improbable – Leicester City won the Premier League, Iceland beat England 2-1. He might have added that Hibs won the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years, and the Chicago Cubs are in the World Series. I’d be slightly more persuaded if Scotland had won the Calcutta Cup, but we didn’t.

The England cricket team now moves on to India, and the first Test Match there begins on the 9th. I’m really worried: Test Match Special takes over Radio 4 Long Wave, and sweeps all before it. But on the morning of November 9 I will be lying in bed wanting to hear the election results. The time difference means that play will start early, GMT. Perhaps by the time play starts, the result will be obvious. Perhaps not. I will have been listening, off and on, all night.

I don’t like all this “early voting” – what for? why? – and I’m sorry that all American voting seems to be by machine. GB is ahead of the USA in many respects, electronic-machine-wise, but we still vote by marking an X in a square on a piece of paper. Counting is a physical operation with representatives of all parties present. The infirm, like my husband, and the necessarily-absent can vote in advance by post.


I hunkered down to the half-brioche yesterday. It moves slowly, since – as with full brioche – a row requires two passes. But I feel back in charge. The other time I used this stitch pattern, many years ago, I knit myself a plain-vanilla sweater. But I didn’t keep the numbers. This time, I’m going to do the pattern as given, shoulder-straps and all, perhaps adding a collar. I read in a magazine once that they are flattering to the elderly face.


I’ve been neglecting you, and many interesting comments have been posted. Shandy, I used to have blocking wires and didn’t really care for them; I gave them away to a friend. Whereas crawling around on the floor with pins, I regard as fun. As does Perdita. I’ll be interested to see your results with the Uncia.

Knitalot, I watched the old film of “Lucky Jim” last night – it has dated badly. But at the end of the initial credits, introducing us to the concept of the Red Brick University, there was a line about how all the students were state funded. As they were. That’s how our four got educated. The sums you mention are terrifying.

Liz, if it’s any comfort, Chart A of the Uncia is one of the very worst. Persevere!

Annette, I read through the Wikipedia entry on Cardinal O’Brien, and it’s pretty damning, but I’m not sure it adds anything to what I already knew. There was much that I admired about him – I’m thinking of an Easter sermon once about Trident. I think it’s a shame that he wasn’t allowed to work in that parish in Dunbar, after his disgrace. As his friend Margot MacDonald said at the time, “He’s lost everything. Isn’t that enough?”

Sunday, October 30, 2016

I hate the darkness of the next two months – I’m always a little bit afraid that whoever is in charge up there will forget to throw the switch, and we’ll just go on getting darker and darker. I said this to my sister-in-law once, and she said, Are you still on about that? so I never mentioned it to her again, but that doesn’t stop me grumbling to you.

(Jan and Feb are just as dark, and colder, but one can sense the returning light soon after the solstice and I love those months.)

But I also love this 25-hour day. In the Good Old Days we used to be able to enjoy several in succession, sailing home from Southampton to New York.

We had a good birthday lunch with Archie yesterday, at l’Escargot Bleu on Broughton Street (very busy, I’m glad to report; excellent, as usual). He seems – he feels -- fine. He’s still sitting up half the night playing computer games with friends far from Lancaster. His father deplores paying as much in tuition as a term would cost at Eton, for so little actual tutor-contact. Archie says that there’ll be a lot more next year.

The news from the US is bizarre. I am reminded of our Cardinal O’Brien, on the point of leaving for Rome for the conclave which elected the present Pope, accused anonymously of unspecified crimes of a sexual nature. It brought him down. The precise offence and the names of the accusers remain unknown.


Not much, yesterday, but I’m getting back in the saddle with the half-brioche. I think you’re right, Commenters, that I should proceed to the Tannehill madtosh sweater for my husband, for various reasons. The downside is that the yarn is so similar to the Roast Hatch Chillis element in the half-brioche.

I knit him a successful madtosh sleeveless pullover last year, so I’ve got the numbers to cast on with, and can design from there, if design is the word.

The Kaffe Fassett socks are doing nicely, initial ribbing finished.

And here’s the Uncia. I’m terribly pleased with it, and hope I will post it to Ravelry, with a comment saying that this is not easy, not even moderately easy, but immensely gratifying. As you can see, I hope, I have pinned out the scallops at the end – which means that Perdita has to be excluded from the dining room again – but otherwise have just patted it into shape like a sweater. The dimensions match those specified -- indeed, are very slightly larger.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

I’ve finished the Uncia.

Not finished-finished, but I’ve cast it off with the long, slow stretchy cast-off. The last few rows were deliciously easy, and I am fascinated to see that I have created a scalloped edge without even knowing I was doing it. Lucy Hague is really very clever. I don’t know if I’ll have time for loose ends and blocking today. Archie is home for his birthday lunch, and hospital-visiting can’t be neglected. We’ll see.

As for next – what a delicious moment! The first thing to do is to take the half-brioche firmly back in hand, re-establish total familiarity with the pattern and decide exactly where the sweater is going. I am interested to hear that K1, K1b is not the same as YO followed by BRK or whatever they call it. The only way out of that one is to swatch. I thought that when you knitted one below, the stitch from the row above lay over the knitted stitch in just the same fashion as a preceding YO. If that makes sense.

I’m feeling yoke-y, which would argue in favour of KD’s “Miss Rachel’s Yoke” (here, in stash). But on the other hand, the beautiful madtosh yarn Tannehill, which one of you heroically secured for me just as it was going out of production, and which my sister brought on her last visit – demands early knitting. It is to be a simple, long-sleeved v-neck for my husband. Decisions.

On with today! Archie’s 20th birthday isn’t actually until tomorrow – years ago, I gave him “Catcher in the Rye” and told him he had to read it while he was still a teenager. Now we’ll find out whether he did. I have no idea, myself, how it reads nowadays. Monday is Ted LeCompte’s birthday (he will be three, in DC, if I’ve got that right) and Tuesday is Juliet’s parents’ second wedding anniversary. An eventful few days on the calendar.

I was allowed into the OR when Helen had the Caesarian which produced Archie, and I remember that I took my knitting bag with me as there was nothing else to do with it. I wish I had recorded what was in it.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Anthony Bryer’s death

For this to be intelligible, you’ll need yesterday’s post, with comments.

Oh, Mary Lou, I was desperately impressed with your industry. But disappointed by that review in the Tablet – nothing there, to move a man towards marriage. But your zeal inspired my own, and I found this obituary of our friend’s father – in which the story appears, but this time he is said to have read the whole book on the Northwest Frontier, before writing to the author. That sounds much more plausible. The question remains, why did his brother or uncle send him the Tablet review? Because of a known interest in Shetland? or sailing? or herring fishing? More likely, I think, because the brother or uncle was slightly acquainted with Joan Grigsby and thought his brother or nephew should know her better.

I’ll certainly let you know my further thoughts when I get the book.

KayT, thank you for spotting the death announcement in today’s Times. He was so widely known, and so well loved, that the long obituary which I trust will follow in the Times and/or Telegraph will be worth cutting out and keeping. Let me know, anybody,  when you spot it.


Yesterday went well. I lost count of Uncia rows – there are only six to go, and the endless twists and crosses are over in favour of yo’s and k2togs. I can manage them.  A Birmingham friend is coming to see me this morning, and we will undoubtedly spend our time mourning Bryer, so I may not get anything done before hospital visiting.

The Kaffe Fassett socks are nearing the end of the long preliminary ribbing for the first sock, and I got back to grips, somewhat, last night, with the half-brioche sweater. My first experience with full-brioche was a VKB sweater-dress in the 50’s for which the pattern, I feel sure, consisted of “k1, k1b” throughout. (I can’t remember what happened to the dress. Probably impossible droop.) I don’t entirely, yet, see why we need to have all these instructions these days about yo’s and knit-one-brioche.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

An old friend phoned yesterday to say that her husband had died at the weekend. The world is very much a poorer place. He was Anthony Bryer: a great man, a great Byzantine scholar, a great friend. If anybody spots an obituary, I‘d be glad to hear of it. I don’t get many newspapers these days, saves clutter – but I’d like to have that.

In the course of the conversation, Jenny told me that Bryer’s mother, in her youth, had sailed off Shetland and had written a book about it: “An Island Rooing”, concerned with an island near Foula whose name Jenny couldn’t recall. The story was – and one can imagine Bryer telling it – that the book was reviewed in the Tablet. An uncle, or a great-uncle, that was a bit vague, cut out the review and sent it to Bryer’s father, then serving in Afghanistan. (Some things don’t change.) He was so impressed that he wrote to the author, hoping they might meet when he returned to England. And the rest is history.

I went straight from the telephone to my computer, and found the book with a bookseller in France. I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, since it must, with a title like that, be about Shetland and sheep.  But I hope also to discover why the Tablet reviewed it – it’s a very serious Roman Catholic weekly. And why one man was so taken with the review that he sent it to another, who married the author.

I’ll keep you posted.

As for knitting, virtually none. The morning was taken up with preparations for an elaborate, and in the end rather unsuccessful, slow-cooker meal. Then I went off to have my flu injection (that’s something done, anyway). I came home feeling more than ordinarily smashed (flu injection + the news from Birmingham?) and did no more knitting at all. In the hospital, I made progress with the initial ribbing of the new Kaffe Fassett sock. Even through the tedium of ribbing, one presses forward to see what the next colour will be. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Here’s a puzzle for you.

My cleaning woman was here yesterday morning – a wonderful Romanian friend of Helen’s, who hopes to resettle here. We have perhaps a dozen words in common, and manage fine. She and Helen speak Greek to each other. She left the kitchen window open a couple of inches.

While I was sitting with my husband in the hospital, I worried a bit about whether Perdita would wriggle out and fall to her death two stories (I prefer the American plural) below. She didn’t. She’s fine. But I found this on the kitchen floor when I got back:

Perdita refused to explain or even comment. I was afraid at first that I would find a dead or (far worse) a wounded bird somewhere in the house. We have had them in Strathardle. Amourous crows, trying to nest in the chimneys, have fallen into the wood-burning stoves and from there made their way into the house. You would think that could only happen once before the house-holder would get a grip and ensure that the doors of the stoves were closed upon departure, but we have had at least two such episodes. The damage and mess in the house was very considerable. Disposing of the corpse(s) of the bird(s), when discovered, was the least of it.

However, that didn’t happen here yesterday. Thank goodness.

I can only assume that a bird (a pigeon) sat on the windowsill and Perdita swiped it with a well-aimed paw.


I had another good day with the Uncia, five rows done, twelve remain. I could finish this weekend! It is a great comfort to reflect that finishing-finishing will be negligible. I joined in a new ball at one point, Perdita broke the yarn once. That’s not much in the way of loose ends. And I enjoy blocking.

I cast on some Kaffe Fassett Regia socks during the hospital visit. I am tempted to buy more sock wool – there are lots of wonderful things out there. But sock-knitting will end abruptly when my husband comes home, and that could be any day now.

Heidi Schultz’ “Devil’s Slide” shawl pattern turned up in my “Promotions” queue this morning, and I instantly added it to my Ravelry queue. Its appeal is much the same as that of the Tokyo shawl which I’ve already got, as far as bias-construction and comforting-drape is concerned, but I also love that flash of colour in the middle.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

That was a better day – a full five rows of Uncia done; fewer than 20 remain. I no longer felt ill. The Hansel Hap is on its way to DC. The Mosaic socks are finished, although not finished-finished. I did a few more rows of the half-brioche. I still haven’t got the hang of that one again. There are four pattern rows, and I keep having to refer to the text.

Skeindalous, thank you – Begonia Pope, for the knitter of the original Dr Who scarf. A name that deserves to be remembered. If the legend is true, that she was given an armful of yarn and told to knit, she can’t be given credit for the colours. But the arrangement is so very good that it’s hard to believe it was all accidental. I knit something of the sort once, recovering from one of my broken arms. And I think there’s one in one of Sally Melville’s books. Neither is anything like as good as Dr Who’s scarf. Apparently it became a knitting icon without really featuring in very many episodes at all.

This day is called the feast of Crispian…

Monday, October 24, 2016

I woke up to Test Match Special. I was cheering for Bangladesh, but, alas! just like Scotland and the Calcutta Cup, it was not to be. (Bangladesh has never beaten England in a test match. Today, they got within 22 runs or so. Which sounds comical to a baseball fan.)

I am constantly amused by the passionate love for cricket – and it’s a very odd game, believe me – which the British Empire left behind in the sub-continent and the West Indies. And Australia and New Zealand, of course, but that's different because no blood was shed in throwing off the yoke.


I knocked off one of the biggies on my to-do list yesterday, namely packaging the Hansel Hap for the post. I thought I could at least finish the Whiskey Barrel socks in the evening, and do the same for them – smaller, easier – but I felt ill after my afternoon meal and achieved nothing. I think I’m better this morning, but am not quite sure.

I also got two more rows of Uncia done, as Shandy speeds ahead. I’ve done 378 rows, of 400. If I keep at it, I’ll get there. I wrapped myself in the Tokyo shawl as I knit, and it’s wonderful. I think perhaps its bias construction lets it adhere to the shoulders in a particularly successful way.

And the second Mosaic sock is a few rows short of the toe shaping.

I’ve also got the half-brioche sweater on the go, but what with not feeling well and Queen Victoria having gone away and left me, there hasn’t been much in the way of evenings. (The Queen has survived her first childbirth – a princess.) James and Cathy recommend Poldark.

Dr Who

The original, mimeographed instructions that the BBC used to send to enquirers about the Dr Who scarf have re-surfaced on the internet. The scarf also has its own website, with recommendations for modern yarns to reproduce the original colours. The legend is that the producer bought an armload of yarns and gave them to a knitter (her name is preserved, but I’m not going to look it up just now) and asked her to knit a garter stitch scarf. She assumed that she was meant to knit all the yarn, and the rest is history.

My original copy of EZ's Baby Surprise is a similar mimeographed hand-out that I got by sending off an s.a.e. to the Sunday Times.

The colours of the original Who scarf are particularly good, better than any Who-type scarf I can remember. It’s soothing winter knitting. I’m just saying.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Well, I made my (scary) to-do list, and knocked off a couple of the easy’s. It is always prudent to include a couple of them in such a list. 

I found myself flicking through the Haps book, looking for something cosy to hap myself in – and remembered the Tokyo shawl, your dear gift, knit for that very purpose last winter. So one of the items on the list was to find it, and I did, just where it ought to be. And tonight I will employ it.

One of the many plus’s of the Haps book is the news, from KD, that “hap” is used as a verb on Shetland, as I have used it above.

Otherwise, little to report. The second Mosaic sock may reach the toe-shaping today. I think I have decided on Kaffe for the next pair of socks, and will take a ball along to the hospital just in case. You would think my unknit-sock bag would be beginning to show a slight diminution, but such is not the case.

As for the Uncia, I did two rows in the morning, without distress. But next is one of the rows Shandy refers to in yesterday’s comment, where every stitch is crossed or cabled. Not necessarily difficult, but demanding, and I didn’t feel up to it. That is the pattern of current days: I set forward pretty well, and accomplish a bit in the morning sometimes. But when I get back from the hospital in mid-afternoon, with theoretical hours stretching ahead, I make myself a meal and go to bed.

Sunday mornings tend to be longer than others, so I have some hopes for today.


It is interesting that you don’t have “bed-blocking” in the US. It’s all a question, I’m sure, of who pays. The difficulty here is that the NHS budget is one thing, and local council care is another, and the NHS can’t (by law?) discharge a patient until suitable care has been arranged. My poor husband is a classic case: he fell, he broke his hip, the operation to replace it went well, rehabilitation has been less successful, he needs a lot of care (two people, four times a day), it’s not yet available.

(And I’m not at all sure I’ll be able to manage when he comes home, whatever. That’s another question.)

So he’s blocking a bed. In fact, he is in an excellent adjunct to the Western General Hospital, purpose-built for old folks who need rehabilitation or to wait for care – a private room, with en suite facilities. But this can’t go on forever.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

I’m sorry about yesterday. A social engagement in the morning meant that the day’s strength had to be spent on tidying the sitting room. It looks much better.

Lying in bed this morning, worrying about the day, I decided that I need to resort to that old end-of-year list-making, instead of just knocking off the most urgent job each time and considering that a day’s work.

My sister phoned in the evening. Two interesting things: she didn’t seem to know what the phrase “bed-blocking” means. She’s a doctor, and has seen our parents through end-of-life. Things must indeed be different in the US. And, secondly, although she worked for Hillary in her (my sister’s) high-flying days, and admired her, she’s almost as unhappy about the current choice as I am.

While I’m there: I was distressed, in the third debate, by Hillary’s repeated references to how Osama bin Laden had been "brought to justice". That’s wasn't justice, lady. That was summary execution, or assassination, if you prefer. It sent me back, yesterday, to Wikipedia on the Nuremberg Trials. Stalin and Churchill and Roosevelt had been talking for months, before the war in Europe ended, about what to do with the Nazi leaders, and summary execution was high among the possibilities they discussed. I’m glad they chose as they did.

Not everyone was convicted at the Trials, and, among those who were, not everyone was hanged. They were being tried for war crimes, not just for losing. It’s all pretty distressing – I loathe capital punishment – but the Allies were trying to let justice be seen to be done. Hillary wouldn’t remember.


The Uncia has been pretty stressful, too. Shandy, I wish you were here to sweat it through with me. Somebody said that Chart H, the final one, was the worst of all. I sailed through the first 16 rows or so, not bad at all, especially since the repeat was shorter than in earlier charts. Then…!

370, with those Make-1’s next to YO’s in the previous row. I got through that, more or less, with the help of your comment. 371 went pretty well, although there was a bit of trouble at the end – two stitches missing in the final repeat, which would be the first repeat of 372.

But then 372 turned out to be the first wrong-side row with action of its own more exciting than K or P or slip-one. I discovered that on Thursday evening, 371 having been my only achievement of the day. I put the knitting aside in horror. Things went better yesterday. I did three rows, got those missing stitches re-inserted, and at the end – 374 – all was well, the stitches presenting themselves to be knitted or purled as required.

375 doesn’t look bad at all. But at the moment, I have abandoned all thought of five-rows-a-day. Inching forward is all my ambition.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Very little to report.

I got up in the night again to watch the third debate. It was ugly. I was sad to think that one of those people will, in all likelihood, be president of the US for the next four years. On the other hand – this is a terrible thing to say, when so many of you are living in the middle of it – I am finding the whole story fascinating, and will miss it when the election is over.

Archie phoned: the first time I have heard from him since he became an undergraduate. He says he’ll be in Edinburgh soon for his 20th birthday, and invited me to lunch. He had just been participating, he said, in an Autonomous Learning Group which I deduce to be a seminar without a grown-up. UK universities are often criticized these day for taking so much in fees and offering so little in tuition. This sounds like a brilliant solution.

I told his mother later. She hadn’t known he was coming.


I’ve nearly finished turning the heel of the second Mosaic sock.

I did three rows of Uncia yesterday morning, which took me through row 369. In the afternoon, when synapses are not firing on quite the same level, I had trouble with 370 and put it promptly aside. I don’t think anything’s wrong. I thought then, and think now, that it just needs a morning brain. I was having difficulty relating what-I-am-supposed-to-be-doing with what-I-did-in-the-row-below. Looking at the chart now, it seems straightforward. We’ll soon see.  

During the debate, I knit a few rows of the half-brioche. There was some trouble there, at one side, but I think it’ll pass the galloping horse test.


That squirrel is back this morning. How did it know? I’ll have to stop feeding birds altogether, at least for a while. I, too, thought “rat” when it first appeared, Green Mountain Girl, and had a good look at its tail before deciding not to scream.

Mary Lou, we were much plagued with squirrels in our garden in Birmingham. (Not in Strathardle – there, we are still, precariously, in red-squirrel country. We love them.) You don’t want to know this: we used to trap and drown them. It made no difference. Neighbours approved but tended to regard us with suspicion.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Back to real life.

I didn’t do any knitting at all yesterday – it’s wonderful how much time that frees up.

An impudent young squirrel found its way to our bird feeder yesterday – two stories up. It must have climbed up the pipes. It was completely unworried by Perdita, and even by me, knocking on the pane. I had to open the window before it moved, and even then, it was back in a few minutes. Impudent and intelligent. Scary.

I didn’t do as much Uncia as I had hoped, while away. Even the slight jiggle of a smooth train seemed a bit off-putting. But I got some done in London, and a couple of rows on the way back. I’m now at work on the final chart, with 34 rows to go – only a week, if I keep at it assiduously. I cabled away without a cable needle, not very adroitly or very quickly, but the result is perfectly satisfactory and I was very glad indeed not to have the extra item (the cable needle) to worry about.

A dear friend emailed yesterday about the Montbretia – the cover-picture of the Haps book. She has done it, spending big bucks on the specified yarn, and is completely unhappy with the result because of that bump at the top, clearly visible on the schematic. And indeed the designer (Carol Feller, no less) refers to it in her introduction to the pattern: “It can be bunched up around your neck but by having the extra fabric you have the option of opening it out over your shoulders…”

I looked at Ravelry. The few knitters who have actually finished tended to agree with my friend, although one did say that the lump could be pulled half-up around the face in hard weather.

I haven’t been tempted, being constitutionally averse to bobbles. But I’m sorry to hear such news.

Other knitting

I was there poised over the keyboard at 2 p.m. on Saturday – a good reason for not attempting Art that day. I got myself into Hazel Tindall’s class at the EYF next year. It was sold out within the hour.

Poor Susan Crawford is having a grim time with chemotherapy, like many before her. She hopes to get the book (Vintage Shetland Project) to the printer next month, and is worried about money. The crowdfunding has all been spent.. She needs the proceeds from the book, and the attendant sales of yarn kits, to keep afloat. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Here I am back. I had a grand time – and, I am sorry to have to admit, saw no art at all.

London is dreadful. No matter how well-cushioned you are by money and fame, it takes you forever to get from A to B, and you never see the horizon. I could get from here to Alexander’s house in Glasgow in the time it took James to drive us from Sydenham to the baptism.

My pictures aren’t very good. I hope I’ll soon be sent more and better. But here they are, concentrating on knitting:

Hellie’s husband Matt wore the pocket square I made him for his wedding:

And Rachel wore Amedro’s  Cobweb Lace Wrap, a 40th birthday present from some time ago, it has to be admitted.

And Juliet was wrapped in the Princess Shawl which her mother had worn as a wedding veil.

And here is Cathy, yesterday morning, as we were setting out for Kings Cross before dawn, in her new Vampires of Venice socks. She nobly escorted me all the way, and was a great comfort.


Perdita was much missed. The dear friend who was feeding her sent me pictures every day. This one, on Friday evening, nearly had me catching the next train back:

And this is James with his Chinese cat Mimi, on Sunday evening:

Thursday, October 13, 2016

It looks as if we’re all go.

I am in a state of considerable agitation. Greek Helen used to recommend valerian, and I think there may still be some in the dark recesses of the refrigerator. Does it go off? I had hoped not only to get myself ready, but also to tidy away the knitting books, throw away the rabbit food, and get in some meals suitable for the toothless in case my husband does, in fact, come home on Monday.

Not done. And there is suddenly a pile of bills – I haven’t written a cheque for weeks, but these are from small tradesmen who are good friends and need to be paid promptly – unlike BT and Scottish Gas, who can afford to wait. So that must be seen to. And arrangements for Perdita must be checked and re-checked. I will miss her dreadfully.

For now, I must go up Dublin Street to my hair appt…..

…That went well. Perdita’s arrangements are in order. The bills are paid, the knitting packed – enough for a six-month tour of duty on the International Space Station. I'm feeling slightly calmer. I’ll go to bed now and leave the rest for the morning. Back here Tuesday, insh’Allah.

Thank you for your kind words about the hap. The colours are Gudrun’s – I used exactly the Jamieson&Smith yarns she specified. 

I finished-finished two pairs of socks, to take to London to give to whoever they fit. I suppose that should be "whomever" but that sounds affected. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

All well. No news from social services yesterday, about the package of care which will bring my husband home. Today I will tell him about my hopes of going to London. And today I must get started on shoe-polishing and clothes-selecting. I don’t move from base very often these days, and as a consequence I get tremendously agitated about the slightest change.

The credit card seems to work! I wanted to start with something worthy, and have ordered Fuschia Dunlop’s “Land of Fish and Rice”. I doubt if I will cook anything from it – she’s more on Alexander’s level – but it will be a serious and worthy addition to my shelves. And Amazon seems to have accepted the payment.

So I went into PayPal and put the new number there, and ordered a Knitzi. And Knitzi has acknowledged the order!

And here’s the Hansel Hap:

I’m terribly pleased with it. The next time we get a baby, surely this is what to do again?

Perdita sat under the dining room table and watched while I placed the first half dozen pins or so, and then she pounced. She loves those brightly-headed pins, pulls them out and scampers about the room. I am of course terrified that she will swallow one and die in agony. The scene didn’t end well.

I think it needs another day on the floor before it gets packaged up. Tomorrow is fraught – hair to be done, appt with social worker about carer-support. I’m sorry to have to wait until Monday – it’ll be Tuesday, in fact. But I think that’s what will happen. Oh! for the days when we had a post office around the corner.

Other knitting went well yesterday. Six more rows of Uncia. One-over-one crosses: you’re right, Shandy, no prob. Knit the second stitch on the left-hand needle, then the first one, then slip both off. The only slight difficulty is when the first stitch on the left-hand needle has to cross to the left, so that one is forced to begin by knitting the second stitch tbl. I decided that that didn’t matter.

So (relatively) close to the end. I’m sure it’s important not to let the Uncia sag.

It feels like a long time since we’ve had a serious FO around here. In the Queen-Victoria stage of the evening, I re-addressed myself to the half-brioche sweater and got back in the saddle as far as the four-row stitch pattern is concerned. Now I must think again seriously about the schematic. I would also like to start the plain-vanilla v-necked long-sleeved sweater for my husband, for which my sister brought me the (discontinued) madtosh yarn on her last visit. Details are buried somewhere within the blog.

The Queen is pregnant, frightened of pain and of death. The death in childbirth of someone called Princess Charlotte apparently smoothed her path to the throne. And as for pain: I think neighbour Simpson made the Queen an early beneficiary of pain-relief in labour – for the birth of one of her many children, later on. On the other hand, my daughter Rachel eschewed all pain relief in labour, four times. It can be done – and must so very often have happened.

My husband and I are reading Mrs Trollope’s “The Vicar of Wrexhill”. (It was our bedtime reading, earlier, and I have resumed reading it to him in the hospital.) I hope it is a text in feminist literature courses, in that case for the control husbands automatically had over wives’ money. What with safe childbirth, and control of one’s cash, things have improved a good deal in not-all-that-many years. Bugger the glass ceiling. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I want to hear every detail about Rhinebeck. Next year in Jerusalem.

(I just google’d that phrase, in the hope of using it roughly right. I found a touching question in an online forum – What do you say at that point in the Passover Seder if you’re actually living in Jerusalem? I remember reading somewhere once that Princess Margaret, as a small child, asked her father how he dealt with the national anthem: “God save our gracious me”?)

(The answer to that one has to be that in Britain – surely alone in the world – the Head of State doesn’t sing the national anthem.)

My new credit card arrived yesterday. It came by courier and arrived, as I was sure it would, while I was at the hospital. But, miraculously, it was posted through the door. Wisely, at that: there’s not much a Bad Man could have done with it. I had to phone one of those numbers to activate it – and I had to do it from my land line. And then type in numbers which I didn’t know myself and had to go look up. I got the job done, on the third call, but haven’t been brave enough to use the card yet.

Knitzi first. But perhaps the simplest thing will be to give Amazon the number and buy a book and see if it works. And then I need to renew my patronage of Knitty – I’ve had a sad email from them saying that they weren’t able to claim their money from the old card.

I would recommend changing credit cards as an efficient way of sweeping out old standing orders. I look forward to further such sad emails, each of which will be judged on its current merits.

Knitting went well again yesterday. Uncia’s Chart F is much easier than anything that precedes, because the repeat is shorter and can be more or less memorized, row by row. Shandy, you mean that a one-over-one cross can be done by inserting the right-hand needle in the stitch it needs to knit next, from behind or in front as appropriate? And then knitting the other one? I’ll try.

But I also succeeded in finishing the Hansel Hap. In dealing with the loose ends, I probably created a few more kn*ts than Gudrun would like to hear about. So this morning’s task is to block it, which may cut into Uncia-knitting-time. It probably won’t be completely dry by tomorrow, so I may not be able to post it to DC before the weekend – that’s if I get to London.

The Care Package didn’t turn up yesterday. I now dread every phone call. Today is crucial – even from tomorrow, I could suggest that my husband stay in hospital until Monday. I’m taking an early train back that day, and there are people who could cover in the morning. Helen will be away.

Monday, October 10, 2016

I got up for the debate (2 a.m.) and am not sorry I did. (Perdita stayed in bed.) I got the second skein wound for the Uncia, for one thing. My conclusion matches what the pundits seem to be saying this morning – yesterday, it looked as if Trump’s campaign had gone up in smoke; today, he’s back in the race, although still an outsider.

What an extraordinary year!

Knitting went more or less according to plan. I finished the first Mosaic sock, cast on the second, made a good start on the ribbing.

I finished Chart F of the Uncia – two charts to go, 76 rows. Thank you for your comment, Shandy. I reverted to the cable needle yesterday – the Skein Queen wool-and-cashmere I’m using, an EYF purchase, is rather slippery. But Chart G has a lot of one-over-one crosses. I’m going to try again, using your comment. And I could always go back to YouTube.

And I finished knitting the Hansel Hap. I haven’t done any of the finishing, however, let alone blocking. Former today, latter tomorrow, I hope. Never mind London – the call from the hospital could come at any moment, and it will be harder to get the blocking done once my husband is here.

And writing that sentence about the Skein Queen yarn reminded me – isn’t it about time for the 2017 EYF schedule? Answer, yes. I must have missed the email somewhere in my Promotions pile. I’ve had a look.

Not good news, in various respects.

1)      Booking is at 2 p.m. Saturday, when I hope to be in London.

2)      Franklin isn’t coming.

3)      I want to keep Friday for the market (not that I need any yarn); but the classes I want are on Friday morning. Afternoons don’t really work for me, assuming my husband is here. Even if not, I flag after lunch.

Tell me that the market will be almost as good on Saturday. Then I can book a Friday class – 1st choice Hazel Tindall; 2nd choice Tom of Holland – and leave it at that. Maybe someone can can be poised over a computer at 2 p.m. in my stead.

Plenty to think about. 

Sunday, October 09, 2016

I think I’ve decided on Abstract Expressionism, for my day in London if I get there. It’ll be crowded, all right – although that is less painful at the RA than elsewhere, in those big, high-ceiling'd rooms. I’ll aim to get there early.

Yesterday was another pretty good day on the knitting front.

I did six rows of the Uncia – I might even finish the current chart today. There’s a bad mistake – my first, I think. A stitch just wasn’t in the right place, on a right-side row. The alternatives were to pick out two rows (a day’s work at least, with success not guaranteed), or go on. I chose the latter.

I’ve come to a passage that requires a lot of one over one crosses, both knit, and I am experimenting, rather late in life, with cabling without a cable needle. It’s going pretty well. Advice gratefully received.

I’m doing the toe decreases on the first Mosaic sock.

And I did another edging point on the Hansel hap – only one to go. I should finish this evening. Helen is coming round to test my vaunted ability to watch catch-up television. She missed Sally Phillips’ much-discussed documentary, “A World Without Down’s Syndrome”, a couple of days ago. That shouldn’t require minute attention. I ought to be able to get the end of the edging attached to the beginning, and do a certain amount of tidying as well.

However, the biggest news on the knitting front was the arrival of “Drop-Dead Easy Knits” – a present from Mary Lou herself. It’s full of good things I want to knit.

--The “Star-Eyed Julep Throw” by the Mason-Dixon Knitters. It’s log cabin knitting, for which they are famous, and at first glance doesn’t exactly look drop-dead easy, but is very likely to become so as one acquires the knack of binding off and picking up stitches for the next strip.

-- Two sweaters by Mary Lou herself: “Keynote Pullover”, a yoke sweater, with the yoke done in a simple-sounding stitch pattern, no colours. I’ve been hankering for a yoke sweater lately. And “Kiawah V-Neck”, a lovely, loose linen number “to throw on at the beach”.

-- And, Mary Lou again, the “Joggle Scarf”. It’s a simple stripe, one solid colour and one self-striping. One set of stripes in seed stitch, the other garter. The idea is – would it work? – that you knit it at a family gathering and set yourself cues for when to switch from one stripe to the next.

Lots to look forward to.

There’s also tonight’s debate. Unmissable. Or is it bound to be a disappointment? 

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Yesterday was a better day, knitting-wise, but not as good as some. I should reach the toe – and probably finish – the first Mosaic sock today. And I did my five rows of Uncia, but no more. And then just went to bed instead of finishing the Hansel Hap as I had hoped. I really want to get that blocked before my husband comes home.

I don’t think the Package of Care will emerge over a weekend, so I am relaxing into the prospect of looking forward to London even if it is to be knocked from my hand on Monday.

And, yes, Roobeedoo, what, indeed, about Georgia O’Keefe at the gallery my husband calls TatMo? I feel we are related, GO’K and I, as the sleeveless vest the NHS made off with last summer was knit of a madtosh yarn of that name. I didn’t replace it, because pictures of it looked blue (which my husband doesn’t like) whereas the lost one was definitely green. I went for Whiskey Barrel instead.

Or Caravaggio at the NG? That one is rather dimly reviewed in the Times this morning.

I had nothing like this wealth of choice when I was in London in January. Abstract Expressionism is the one my education requires. Our late friend Bill Gear (also known as William) had a joint show with Pollock in New York – must have been in the 40’s – before Pollock hit the big time. I wonder if there’s a small Gear in an early room at the RA. He was a near neighbour in Birmingham, and the man who taught me how to go into a betting shop and place a bet. It's not a thing I do very often, but when I do I am grateful to Bill for having shown me the way.

But I could discover that from the catalogue. Opus Anglicanum remains tempting. I’m not strong enough for two big shows in a day.

Delicious choice.

And tomorrow night I must, and indeed I will, get up to watch the Second Debate. I thought it would be even later in the night, but I learn that the whole thing has been scheduled for the convenience of the east coast so the time will be the same. Last time, I wound a skein of Whiskey Barrel. This time, I'll go for the second skein of whatever it is the Uncia is using, although I'm not quite sure it will be required.

Friday, October 07, 2016

I’m sorry about yesterday.

Here’s the story: Juliet is to be baptised on the 16th – next weekend. I’d like to go, and if my husband is still incarcerated, it’s perfectly possible. If not, not. So yesterday, first thing, Helen drove me up to Waverley – surely the only main-line railway station in the Western world named after a novel – and I bought tickets down and back.

Lying in bed thinking about it, I had decided that if I went at all, I might as well come back first thing Monday morning, rather than having to spend all Sunday afternoon at the party looking at my watch. And then I decided, why not go down Friday afternoon? So that’s what I’ve booked. And I’ve arranged a hair appt for next Thursday.

So that might give me Saturday for something in London. Abstract Expressionism at the RA? The chance of a lifetime. Or Opus Anglicanum (medieval embroidery) at the V&A? It’s not knitting, but…

And then, on Sunday, the baptism. And maybe she’ll be carried in the Princess shawl. Alexander and his family will be there. Not Helen and hers.

But it all depends – as far as my presence is concerned -- on social services not coming up with that Package of Care.

Then I walked back down Broughton Street, buying this and that. And then Helen and I went to the hospital. (The Mosaic socks are coming on fine.) And then I just did nothing else for the rest of the day except read my thriller. No knitting at all. I hope to do better today. If the London trip does happen, I think I’ll take the Uncia along. It’s light, and compact, and all those uninterrupted hours are not to be despised. And leaving it untouched for three or four whole days is not a good idea.


Loretta, thank you for your kind offer of getting me a Knitzi. But don’t worry – I think there’s a good chance it will get in under the radar, and if not, so what? Just at the moment, I am between credit cards – long story, and nothing to do with lack of funds. When the new one arrives, maybe even today, I think that a Knitzi will be top of the list.

Janet, how nice to think that we have the CT River in common. My brother-in-law (the man for whom the Whiskey Barrel socks are destined) took me sailing on it one evening. The whole experience, the light, was pure Thomas Eakins, not to be forgotten. 

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Not so good a day, in one sense. Brilliant in another.

I got home from the hospital rather late in the afternoon, ate mussels – which may not have been wise – and felt pretty feeble for the rest of the day. But I got my five rows of Uncia done. It was a very good idea, to set that low hurdle and keep myself jumping over it every day. I’ve done row 300.

The brilliant bit was earlier, when I met Maureen from Fargo at Kathy’s Knits and went on around the corner with her for coffee. Goodness, how wonderful it is to see and talk to a knitter. Much as I treasure my daily companionship with all of you, flesh-and-blood takes some beating.

Maureen is an utterly wonderful Fair Isle knitter, and was fresh from Shetland Wool Week. (She hasn’t been to Unst, however, and therefore hasn’t seen Muckle Flugga. I told her not to miss that experience, next time.)

High points: she had the Shetland Wool Week annual, and while I was browsing it, she pulled out a sock. It was one of those Opal self-striping numbers, and it had me completely fooled. Maureen said that it is all right to go on buying sock wool even if you already have more than could be knit in a lifetime. I'll remember that.

AND when I finished browsing the annual, and she put the socks away, they went into a Knitzi. Wow! I want one of those. I wish I had some knitters on my Christmas list. I’ve done some googling – it looks as if I’ll have to order mine from source, in the USofA. That’s all right. I'll do it.

We talked about the design problem I mentioned yesterday, and Maureen went straight for the solution which several of you suggested yesterday – namely, a big v-neck. My problem had been trying to place the beginning of the steek on the right hip, where the cross-over must end and be in some way fastened. But, no! Cast on three body-widths of stitches. Put the steek in the middle. Decrease on both sides of the steek. Get down to two body-widths of stitches at the point where you want the two fronts to cross, but keep on decreasing towards the shoulders, to make a genuine deep v-neck.

We’ve got something here. It demands a pretty close knowledge of one's gauge.


Thank you for your thoughts about bats, and how some people, especially young ones, can hear them. I remembered a sentence from Brideshead, in the scene where Charles first meets Julia: “As I took the cigarette from my lips and put it in hers [she was driving] I caught a thin bat’s squeak of sexuality, inaudible to any but me.”

Mary Lou: your comment made me think how “Victoria” must have, faintly, far behind, the sort of appeal Greek tragedy would have had for its original audiences. You know what’s going to happen. But exactly how is the author going to get there?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Another good day – six rows of Uncia. I should pass row 300 today – that will leave only 100 to go. But it doesn’t mean that I’m 75% of the way home, because we started with five stitches and the first 150 rows were easy-peasy, compared with what followed.

I should reach the heel flap of the first Mosaic sock today.

And there are only three more edging points to be done on the Hansel Hap. When my husband finally gets his Package of Care, there should still be a couple of days while everything else is put in place – visits from the District Nurse to inject insulin, delivery of weekly pills from the chemist – during which I hope I could hastily finish it off and block it.

Victoria and Albert are married – I am sorry to have left you in suspense on that one.

I’ve been thinking, without much result, about how to knit a wrap-around sweater in the round. (Janine Bajus, “The Joy of Color”, p 96 ff) You cast on three times the body width (plus ease or whatever). With a steek. After the ribbing, you start decreasing on the left-hand edge of the steek – the far edge, as you knit around.

Ah, but wait a moment! What’s happening meanwhile to the part which will be underneath when eventually the sweater is wrapped around? Can one steek accommodate two diagonal lines which cross each other?  And if not, then what? Writing this down helps the thinking process --  cast on with two steeks?  But surely there will be only one cut? I'll go on thinking.

The knitter – not Janine, but one of her students, Karen Hust – says that she took it step by step, and kept notes of what she did “in case I wanted to recreate this shape”. Otherwise, no hints.

First draw a schematic, perhaps.


I’m nearly finished with Tana French’s “In the Woods”, very much enjoyed. But I think I’ve caught her out in a mistake – always enormously gratifying to the pedant.

On page 381 (it’s a big book) of the Kindle edition, the hero is spending a night in the woods, for insufficient reasons, and, among other things, “bats shrilled across the dig”.

We have bats in Strathardle, more than ever this year. In the gloaming, that late, long failing of the light on a Scottish summer evening, they fly and swoop. We stand on the back doorstep and watch them. They are utterly, uncannily silent. Maybe Irish bats are different, but I doubt it.

Once my sister-in-law, who was a bit given to contrariety, suggested that we had only one bat which paused behind the garage for a bit and then came swooping back. This year there were so many that even she could not have doubted.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Another good day – I did a whole ten rows of the Uncia, a day gained in my scheme-of-things. I hit a patch, at the end of Chart E and beginning of Chart F, where I could just sit and knit as if it were ordinary challenging knitting, rather than having to sweat out every stitch.

The Mosaic socks are very nearly half-way from ribbing to heel flap. I haven’t bought sock wool for a while – I had a look yesterday at what Regia is up to. I like their new, broad stripes. I found myself wondering whether I had ever knit an Arne&Carlos. They look like great fun.

Then, yesterday evening, I was going through the photos on my iPad, thinking of making a deck of Perdita playing cards as a birthday (November) or Christmas present for my husband – and found unmistakable evidence that I have indeed knit Arne&Carlos socks, recently. Embarrassing.

And I did another edging point on the Hansel shawl. All is well – I should finish this week.


The great thing about a Kindle (in my case, app on the iPad) is that it prevents paperbacks from piling up in corners. I have a shocking number of books in the cloud. Although they are not knitting books or cookery books – I tried a couple of the latter, once. It doesn’t work for me. My library in the cloud mostly borders on rubbish – thrillers or girly novels. But some are semi-serious, and there is some popular science – just the sort of thing it’s hard to decide about, sorting through a pile.

At the moment, I’m reading and very much enjoying “In the Woods”, a Dublin Murder Squad thriller by Tana French. Although her name sounds vaguely familiar, I would have missed this one entirely but for the long article in the current (I think) New Yorker. Usually, their long book reviews are too highbrow for me, but occasionally they are golden. 

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Another good day – but how long can I keep it up?

I did six rows of the Uncia, leaving me with a wrong-side row to start with today, and only five more before I can turn over to page 89 and Chart F. On the other hand, there are still 120 rows to go – nearly a month’s work assuming I can maintain the current heady pace, which I almost certainly can’t.

I finished the ribbing of the first Mosiac sock, and started down the leg.

I did another point on the Hansel Hap edging, and re-counted the remaining stitches. Things are much better than I thought. There are only two stitches lacking on the shawl, of what I need to complete the edging. I’ll count again this morning, and if it still appears the same I’ll leave one turn unattached this evening, and leave the other to be subsumed in the final corner.

The Feral Knitter

I’ve spent some happy time with the new book, and am keen to start a Fair Isle something, less keen to spend much time planning. Janine wants us to build a “yarn library” – a.k.a. an out-of-control stash – to assist in making colour choices. Delicious thought! She also recommends a real-world notebook with swatches and inspirational cuttings and tentative plans. Arne & Carlos are of the same opinion.

One of the best features of the book is the inclusion of some of Janine’s student’s finished designs. I was particularly struck with Karen Hust’s “Fair Isle Wrap Sweater” in the chapter on shaping whole garments, and a bit cross that she didn’t actually say how it was done. But I think that’s because it’s based on Marie Wallin’s “Izmir” from Rowan 54 (do I have that one?) and she is perhaps being hyper-cautious not to trespass on copyright.

She succeeded in knitting it in the round. Several of the people who have knit it on Ravelry have done it that way. But how?

I watched an Arne&Carlos video yesterday about steeking (as they called it) and cutting a sweater. They didn’t add any stitches at all for what we would call the steek – just marked the cutting line with bright yarn, machine stitched on either side of the line, and cut. I’ve done that myself, to change a round neck into a vee. Shetland yarn really doesn’t want to ravel.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

We’ve got to start with this one – The Last Day of That Part of Their Lives:

Today they all, except for Fergus (second from left) will set off for Tomorrow. They’ll drive to their other grandmother in Cheshire and then, on Sunday, one car will go to Oxford with Mungo (right) and another to Lancaster with Archie (left). Other universities have been fully functional for a week or so. Granddaughter Rachel, at Leeds, studying Russian and Chinese, already knows the Russian alphabet.

And I am horrified to see those cigarettes.


Another successful day. Five rows of Uncia is a tough assignment, but I managed it yet again. I finished the Whiskey Barrel sock – except for finishing it – and cast on a Regia colourway called “Mosaic” for Helen.

I managed two points of the Hansel Hap edging – and then counted the stitches to the end. Each point consumes seven, and apparently I am left with a remainder of four: about as bad as it could be. I’ll re-count today, and try to count how many points I’ve done since the third corner, and try to think what to do, if the first count is right: suppress four, or add three?

Flipboard came up trumps this morning, as it occasionally does, and I have pre-ordered this book  – “People Knitting: a Century of Photographs”. I wonder if it will include my all-time favourite, seen here before: that little girl, in the Shetland Museum archives, pausing to stroke the cat who stands beside her, tail absolutely vertical.

I shouldn’t go on ordering and pre-ordering books, if I ever hope to get out of this house. Twice this week, looking for something to take my husband to read in hospital, I have found things on our shelves which I didn’t know we had and which, bibliographically speaking, are probably pretty valuable (Henry Miller, Oscar Wilde). Those shelves will have to be cleared volume-by-volume.


All this talk of gardening tools has suggested to me that there is someone on my Christmas list who would make good use of the one we have been discussing. I hope I’ll order it today.

And, Shandy, thank you again for yesterday’s comment. I was too flattened, as usual, after hospital visiting, to go out in search of the Times. But Mungo and Archie came over to sit with me for a while at the end of the afternoon to say goodbye – and they bought it, on their way here. I’ll be able to take it to my husband today, and he will be very glad to have it.