Thursday, October 19, 2017

Elaine, thank you very much for the link (comment yesterday) about how electricity came to Unst. I wondered about the RAF. And that’s most interesting, Shandy, that Unst was ahead of rural Cumbria.

Again today, knitting was much impeded by an affectionate kitten. Just when I think I’ve got the sitting room to myself, it comes trotting in, all wreathed in furry smiles. It is a pity Paradox wasn’t the elder sister – she is just the cat my husband wanted, for sitting on his lap in his last months. Perdita was useless.

Here’s today’s cat picture. The scene was not quite as peaceful as it looks, but I do think we are making progress. Milk is a rare treat.

Nor I have started reading Traditional Knitting in North Russia. There’s lots to read in the new VK, and I have gone on turning the pages of Lovick and thinking about the forthcoming great-grandchild. Lovick surprises me by suggesting an acrylic yarn for a baby shawl which is going to be used and washed. I see the point, but…

The Silk Road sock patterns are tempting. I don’t know where I’ve put that book – I thought it was on the sock-book pile. The recommended yarns are each more luxurious-sounding than the last, but none, I think, has more than 10% acrylic (I expect 25%) and several are completely natural. I can’t believe they’d stand up long to being worn on actual human feet, but I’d be delighted to be contradicted.

Fruity Knitting had a q&a session with Nancy Marchant, live for their big-hitting patrons and then available as a podcast for the rest of us. It was interesting. I learned one valuable thing – this long tail cast-on I’m supposed to do with two colours before arriving at her EYF class, does not result in alternate stitches of different colours. It just means that the stitches on the needle are one colour, and the row beneath, the other. I can probably achieve that the old knit-into-the-loop-on-the-left-thumb way.

And I’ve heard Marchant say it herself. I suspect that has saved me a lot of time and anxiety.

I also learn that she has written a new book about the “tuck” system which my class is going to be about. Amazon has never heard of it, but Ysolda is selling it. Marchant said that in the US, it’s available from the Schoolhouse.

She does all her own knitting. That's another thing I learned.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chloe, that’s an awfully interesting question – when did Unst get electricity? I was surprised, after an admittedly not-very-strenuous search, at how reluctant the ever-helpful Google was to tell me. Shetland is still not on the National Grid. I think Lerwick got electricity at some point between the wars, like the rest of GB. But Lerwick is a long way, and two ferry rides, away from Unst. Well-off households will have had their own generators before WWII  -- at least, that’s how I imagine things.

But in any event, the amazing lace in the Lerwick museum (and the shawl here in Edinburgh, of which Sharon Miller’s “Princess” pattern is a simplification) were knit in the 19th century.

All the promised delights arrived in today’s post – plus the new VK. Liz Lovick’s book has a couple of real possibilities for the new great-grandchild. I considered knitting it the Christening dress she offers, but I think I’ll go for a more utilitarian hap. Lovick says in her introduction, as I said yesterday, that spinning was done in the winter and fine lace knitting in the summer when you could see what you were doing.

The knitting of North Russia is going to take some reading, but looks interesting. The knitting is largely bright and cheerful with fairly simple geometric patterns. I have already discovered that “sweater” is not a Russian word – they use the English, which strongly implies that they haven’t been knitting sweaters for all that long.


Here’s today’s picture.

When we lived in Birmingham, we had what I suppose would have to be called a French window in the sitting room, with glass nearly down to the floor. There was a radiator set into this window, with a little bit of space between it and the glass. In the winter, in the hours when the central heating was on, our Dear Old Cat Poussin would sit there, between the radiator and the window, warming her furry bottom and surveying her domain.

The old cat next door soon learned the secrets of the timing of our central heating, and would come to call. The sound of their caterwauling filled the house. But with glass between them, no harm was done.

I used to think this was a game of their own, but I am beginning to wonder if it might not be a cat-thing: to have a fight with the parties on opposite sides of a barrier, minimizing damage. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Today’s knitting was somewhat impeded by a purring kitten, but, on the other hand, I did make some progress. I should finish the second ribbon of Miss Rachel’s Yoke tomorrow, and have something to show you. I’m slightly worried about the danger of running out of the main colour, but I’m sure KD has more in her shop and a change of dye-lot matters little in the middle of a colour pattern.

I grumble about the pattern being so easy that it’s difficult, and so it is – but it’s a brilliant interpretation of the woven pattern KD is referencing.

I continue to enjoy the Craftsy spinning class, and I’ve also watched a few shorties on YouTube. And I’ve been thinking about Unst. The yarn for that amazing lace had first to be spun. I think (from the knowledge I have acquired in the last 48 hours) that very skilled hands might have been able to go on spinning in the dark months (and it’s very dark, up there). And leave the actual knitting for when the light came back.

I think I’ve got two knitting books arriving tomorrow: one by Liz Lovick which may contain a pattern, glimpsed on Ravelry, for a possible hap for next April’s great-grandchild; and one, completely unknown, about knitting in North Russia. Sometimes, when all else fails, I wander through the knitting books on Amazon. That’s where I found it.


Perdita was crosser than ever today, but I think that may be because Paradox is becoming bolder in offering friendship.

My kitchen door is an endless source of fun for kittens. You can open and shut it with the push of a paw, and push things underneath and rush around to the other side to see if they are there (rather like playing Pooh Sticks). Perdita has largely outgrown such childish pleasures, but I think this scene from this morning shows elements of game-playing, however much Perdita might choose to deny it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

No storm here so far, although it’s been a wet, grey, discouraging day. Radio and television have placed reporters at various strategic west coast spots, the way they do on such occasions. One of them said, on the radio news, that he had seen a sea gull flying backwards.

A better day’s knitting, today. Rachel’s Yoke is not quite as blissful as I had anticipated. Maybe after another decrease round things will begin to fall into place. It’s looking good. There are nine six-round “ribbons” on the yoke. I’m halfway through the second of them. A picture soon, when I’ve reached the third.

Here are my cats, this morning. Perdita turned around and growled and stalked out of the room shortly after the picture was taken. The object between them is a catnip rat, the gift of a dear friend to Perdita when she was a kitten. I don’t know where either of them is this evening. I may soon have to go to bed without shutting Paradox into the dining room.

Nancy Marchant’s cowl class at the EYF – the one I succeeded in getting – requires one to cast on 96 stitches with two colours, using the long-tail cast-on. The instructions with the class notes don’t suffice, at least not for me, but she does it in her Craftsy class and in her books, so I have no excuse for not mastering it. I will have to start working on it soon after the new year.

I think the grandmother who taught me to knit just showed me a backward loop. I learned the long-tail cast on, I think, from a friend at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit. I do it, as she showed me, by wrapping the yarn around my left thumb and knitting into it.

I don’t think I had ever seen the cat’s-cradle method (which everybody, including Marchant, seems to use) until the happy day a few years ago when I took two classes with Franklin at Loop, having travelled down to London on purpose. (I got to meet Shandy that day, too). He cast on something during the lesson. I was tremendously impressed. But I've never actually done it myself.

Isabella, thank you again for pointing me to Jacey Boggs-Falkner’s Craftsy class on spinning. I’m two lessons in, and enjoying it tremendously. I restrained myself with some difficulty from rushing out and buying a wheel this morning. Do you know what a Short Forward Draft is? (Well, obviously, you do, Isabella.) What a tremendous amount there is to learn and do, absolutely fundamental to knitting. I’ve left it awfully late. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nothing to report. I dozed in front of the television this afternoon, watching or rather listening to the recent documentary about Queen Victoria and the real Abdul. Not without interest. But the little cat was asleep on my lap and of knitting there was none.

Yesterday immediately after those frantic few minutes of EYF-booking I got an e-ticket and a PayPal receipt for my Nancy Marchant class, but nothing for the other one, the drop spindle. I logged on to PayPal and confirmed that payment had been made for the second class. I thought I’d leave it for a bit until things calmed down. But there was still nothing this morning.

So I emailed them. I had a reply, and an e-ticket, within half an hour. We’re talking about 10 o’clock on Sunday morning. Those women are amazing – it’s no wonder the EYF is such a success. It was suggested, in their reply, that my other ticket might be in the Junk file. I looked, and sure enough, there it was, nestled among all the “Hello, Tanya”s. Although it must have arrived within five minutes of the Marchant one.

Isabella (comment yesterday) I am very grateful indeed for your suggestion about the Craftsy spinning class, and think I will take you up on it. I didn’t even know that Craftsy did spinning.

I’ve ordered the new edition of the book of Silk Road sock patterns. Although I don’t go in for sock patterns – I buy sock yarn, and sit back and let them knit themselves. I must get something organised for the trip to London for the baptism in a fortnight’s time. The Silk Road book will be here tomorrow.

I have long been distressed that Bruce Weinstein pronounces the two syllables of his surname differently. (He is both a cook and a knitwear designer; I’ve got him on Craftsy in both capacities, and knit Archie a sweater last year from a design in his book “Knits Men Want”.) The constant reiteration of the surname in recent days is some help to me in trying to remember how it’s done, although I heard a pundit on the midday news today saying “Wine-stine” the way I keep wanting to do it. Like Einstein. He wouldn’t have been half as clever if he had pronounced his name “Ein-steen”.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


There I was at 3:55, Nancy Marchant’s “Beyond Basic Brioche” class on the screen, finger poised on the button for the moment it went live. 4:00 came and went. Nothing happened. It wasn’t until 4:01:30 or so, that I grasped that I had to refresh the screen. The class was sold out.

I went on to the tucked cowl class, and got it, so at least I’ll meet Marchant. (And I’ve got her on Craftsy, anyway.) I also got the dropped spindle class. Then I looked around for others. TomofHolland, Donna Smith, Felicity Ford – all sold out. By this time it must have been fully 4:08.

I’m proud of Edinburgh for having such a successful Yarn Festival. Proud of the organizers for getting through all that without a system crash. I’ve just been reading through the notes on Ravelry, and find that we were clearly reminded to refresh the screen at 4.

Otherwise, little was achieved today. I got my homework done, and had a good Italian lesson. I think my sister’s presence sort of distracted me last week, even though of course she wasn’t in the room with me and Federica. My head seemed to function slightly better today.

I knit a little, but not much. Buachaille twists back on itself, as some yarns do. I don’t expect my spinning class to make a spinner of me – I’m much too old and too clumsy – but I hope to come out understanding that phenomenon, and grasping, as distinct from just reading about, the difference between woollen- and worsted-spun.


Not much progress. Paradox would like to be friendly, but bravely puts up with constantly being repulsed. Perdita no longer seems afraid of her sister, and sometimes even seems curious about her, but continues to hiss and growl.

It is interesting how different they are, born of the same mother and reared in the same human family. Paradox is almost cloying-ly friendly and purr-y. Perdita never sits on a lap and never purrs. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tomorrow is the big day – EYF classes go on sale at 4. I will have drooped by that time of day, and live in dread of having forgotten. It’s complicated this year – there are five days of classes and only three days of market and there are lots of rules to govern the relationship between class ticket and general admittance. It doesn’t affect me – I will only want to go to the market on a day when I have a class. I hope everyone else will be so bogged down with calculation that I’ll be able to nip in and book what I want. I’ll start with Marchant on advanced brioche. You have to do them one at a time. You can’t pile them up in your cart.

Cooking with the Duchess: all well on that front. I have heard from PayPal that my refund has been received. I have heard from the Duchess that she has every hope of being able to recruit four more cookery students from among the people booked to stay in the self-catering flats carved out of the Palazzo. Most of the Trip Adviser reports on the cookery lessons are from people who were also staying at the palazzo.

Mary Lou, Italian lessons are going fine. At least, I am enjoying them. I don’t know if I’m improving. Federica is coming at 9 tomorrow morning, as every week, and I haven’t done my homework yet. I’ll have to take it to bed with me. (I’ve been keeping up with Italian, Duolingo every day; reading one of Montalbano’s adventures – just slide over the bits in dialect, is my advice; trying to watch Italian television news – I can sometimes get the general idea, but they talk too fast. But that doesn’t add up to doing my homework.)

If Federica had been a disaster, the trip to Palermo would have been a tactful point to leave off the lessons. But she’s wonderful, and I will continue, in the hopes of being granted the strength to go back to Italy again soon.

But the lesson, which lasts an hour and a half, leaves me tired and, this evening, that fact increases my fear of forgetting to be poised with finger on the button at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

I am knitting colours into Miss Rachel’s Yoke. The colour pattern is very simple, and I think I mentioned that I found it difficult when I was knitting it into the sleeves just above the wrist ribbing. I thought it might go better when it was laid out on a larger canvas, and it does. It remains a bit too easy for comfort, however.

Be careful what you wish for: I have often taken Perdita to task for not being the sort of cat who sits on laps and purrs. Now I’ve got one, and she renders knitting almost impossible.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I’ve done the 11 plain rounds of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and have embarked on the decrease round. It’s a bit tricky – k32, k2tog, repeat. That means a lot of concentrated counting. But the next round is in colour – worth striving for.

This and that

Joan, I think you were right to hold out for the Japanese stitch book. “Slow Knitting” is very pleasant bedtime reading, and contains some good patterns by top designers, but the Japanese book promises something special.

Hazel Tindall says “pattren” for “pattern”, like Carol Feller.

I think I told you that I booked a day of “Cooking with the Duchess” for me and Archie in Palermo. Tomasi di Lampedusa, who wrote “The Leopard”, had no children but adopted a son who is still alive. His wife does cooking days, where you get taken to market to select ingredients and then go back to the palazzo and cook them. If you are lucky you get to meet her husband, said to be the model for Tancred in the novel.

I booked this on September 1, and wrote to her to say that Archie and I could be slightly flexible as to the day. I found this message a few days ago, stuck in my iPad outbox. That happens sometimes, goodness knows why. I sent it off. I had an instant and horrified reply from the Duchess herself. She had never heard of me. She had no booking for the day in question.

I feared, of course, that I had poured a not inconsiderable amount of money into a rogue website. It’s called GetYourGuide and the Duchess had never heard of it.

All seems to be well. I am promised a prompt refund, and GetYourGuide no longer offers “Cooking with the Duchess”. And we will have our day, if she can get another four people. She doesn’t do it for fewer than six.

There’s plenty to do in Palermo, including other cooking-days with humbler hosts, if we’re determined. I’m not unduly concerned. It all seems rather Sicilian.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Where to begin?

FruityKnitting Episode 39, about Shetland Wool Week, is terrific. You can find it on YouTube. You don’t need to subscribe (although I do). I’ll watch it all the way through again soon.

Carol Christiansen of the Lerwick Museum is not at all as I expected, as so often in life. Amongst other treats, she showed us fragments of what I am pretty sure is the thing I call the Museum Sweater, which Jen A-C has reconstructed for Jamieson & Smith, and for which they sell a kit, using her pattern. The unusual thing about that sweater is that the lozenge patterns change along the rows. Is it unique in that respect? Certainly very unusual.

Dr Christiansen, displaying it, talked about the colours but didn’t mention the pattern.

Shandy, my version is still on my to-do list and my swatch-scarf is still very visible in the sitting room.

However, the prospect of a new great-grandchild has altered the schedule. I must knit something to welcome it. (I know the sex – apparently it can be determined by a blood test these days, early on, before the answer is visible in a scan. But I’m not going to tell you.) So Alexander’s vest will have to wait, and perhaps can be pressed into service as a Calcutta Cup vest next year. Perhaps. If Scotland wins.

And you can see even from the swatch-scarf that I am not going to knit different lozenges in the same row, although the lozenges themselves have been copied from the Museum Sweater.

The cat situation is much as before. Perdita continues to frown and hiss. Paradox is shut here in the dining room at night, as Perdita and I have hunkered down together ever since her kittenhood and I don’t want that disturbed until relations are smoother.

I’m enjoying “Slow Knitting” and my latest idea, based upon its philosophy, is to take a drop spindle class at the EYF, plus two Marchants. The idea being to actually learn something.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We’ve had another good day on the cat front. Perdita still growls and hisses, but less so, and she doesn’t seem as frightened of the kitten as she was at first. Mostly she just frowns. Paradox has had a long, hard day of being enchanting and should be ready for bed soon.

The Shetland Wool Week episode of Fruity Knitting is up! – with Hazel Tindall and Burrastow House (where Kristie and Kath and I stayed) and Carol Christiansen who is in charge of textiles at the museum in Lerwick. We didn’t meet her, despite an email introduction from Kate Davies, but we had a grand time at the museum anyway.

I shall soon go to bed with my iPad and revel in every moment of it.

As I continue to revel in planning my EYF ’18. I really don’t know what to do. I doubt if I’d actually learn that much from Donna Smith or Felicity Ford on colour, although I’d hugely like to meet both of them. Perhaps I should prefer Donna, because I’ve got Felicity’s first book and will soon have her second. I think two classes with Marchant is the way to go…

It is certainly proving to be a fun week, thinking about it. The EYF is going to be Bigger and Better next year. I hope they haven’t bitten off too much.

As you see from the picture above, I succeeded in joining the pieces of Miss Rachel together. As I thought, it was a prolonged and tough counting session. The body had one stitch too many – I’ve left it in one of the underarm collections. One of the sleeves had one stitch too few – I’ve increased.

Next I must knit 11 rounds plain. That’ll take a while. Especially as I had to knock off just now to wind the final skein of the Main Colour. Those 11 rounds are just the thing for catching up on the television I didn’t watch while my sister and her husband were here. And tonight there’s something on More Four about the real Victoria and Abdul – I must record that before I go to bed. I gather, from a photograph briefly shown in the movie, that he was a good deal less handsome and a good deal stouter than Judy Dench’s Abdul.

"Slow Knitting" has just arrived from Amazon. I'll report soon.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Paradox has been leaping about and this time has affected the font.

In general, however, things are improving on the cat front. Perdita’s attitude today has been that we must be adults about this. We have been afflicted with a kitten, but that is no reason why we can’t go on living more or less as before, with occasional growling. It’s not my fault (a major concession).

I worried, a day or two ago, about not bonding with Paradox while trying so hard to reassure Perdita. No danger there. She follows the script for Engaging Kitten so strenuously (lap-sitting and purring and all) that no one could fail to bond with her.

Knitobsession, thank you for “Purradox”. It took me a long time to grasp that my husband’s P-names for cats were also puns of that sort: “Perth”, who died young in a road accident in Leicester in the late 60’s; “Poussin”, the cat with whom our children grew up; and – after a gap – “Perdita”.


Miss Rachel’s Yoke is at the exciting point where the next thing to do is to join sleeves to body. I need to tackle that one early in the day, as it involves much sliding of stitches around needles and counting them.

Tracy Purtscher’s “Dimensional Tuck Knitting” was delivered here today – I think you in the US have had it for a couple of weeks. It is extremely interesting. Going back through the EYF class list – is anyone teaching this technique? – the only one I can find is Nancy Marchant.

Tricia, could you tell me a bit more about her brioche-with-tuck class? Maybe I should switch. I’ve still got five days before the classes go live. Or, of course, I could do both! and cut out something else. What an enterprising woman! Within a year or two, there’ll be Craftsy classes on tucks and EYF classes and all. For the moment, maybe there’s something to be said for learning from the first leading knitter (other than Purtscher herself) to have engaged with the technique.

If I applied myself, even at my great age, I could probably work it out from the book. But a teacher helps.

Jane, I do admire your calm and sensible approach to brioche knitting – work through Marchant’s Craftsy class and only then attempt the Soutache. Whereas I plunged straight in.

Fruity Knitting tomorrow? Let’s hope so. Three weeks is a long time to wait.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

My sister and her husband must be flying westward as we speak – they are much missed.

All proceeds well on the cat front, although I am afraid Perdita doesn’t love me any more.bhggs2222222222222222 nnnnnnnnnnnnnnn444444444444444444444444444444444444444444n3 ,
 I went down to the Stockbridge market this morning – a good Sunday walk, just far enough to be slightly stretching. There was no anxious furry face at the inner glass door when I got back, and no sign of her all afternoon. She’s here, all’s well, but she doesn’t love me. Interjections, above and below, are from the kitten.

Each cat has its own place (with litter tray, food and water). I think I will shut the kitten in here alone again tonight. During the day, I let them loose together. Perdita, if anything, seems still to be frightened of her sister.

I think the name is going to be Paradox, my brother-in-law’s suggestion. I’m not quite sure yet, but it seems appropriate.  She’s enchanting. And she PURRS.


I’m very near the point where all will be joined together for Miss Rachel’s Yoke. Maybe tomorrow.

Thank you for your help with the EYF. Yes, I know that TomofHolland is theoretically possible. But I don’t thinaqqqqqqqqqqqqqq his classes fit. One is on Sunday, by which time I will be prostrate and the market closed. One is on Friday (or is it Saturday)  morning – but the class with Marchant on brioche which is my Big Want, is the afternoon of the same day. I’m not sure I’m strong enough for a full day’s learning. 34cu4i assssssss I’ll think about both possibilities.

I’ve been watching The Knit Show on YouTube, sponsored, I gather, by VK. They only told me about it recently, but there seem to be a lot of episodes available. It’s good, no doubt. But my heart remains with Andrew and Andrea, who should reappear this week after their appearance at Shetland Wool.

Saturday, October 07, 2017

Here she is:

She is entrancing. She has every catly virtue. She’s pretty, she has a nice long tail (Perdita’s is rather short), she’s got slightly long fur, as you see; she purrs (Perdita scarcely does); she shows every sign of being about to grow up into a lap cat. As an elder sister myself, my sympathies are entirely with Perdita. She is not pleased. She growls, she hisses, and she retreats, as if she were afraid of the kitten.

I strongly believe in jealousy in animals. But can I reassure Perdita by fondling the kitten in her presence, to demonstrate that we are all one family now? Or do I need to ignore it, and fondle Perdita?

My sister and her husband have now gone off to Loch Fyne, whence they will leave for DC tomorrow. For the last two nights my sister has slept on a camp bed here in the dining room with the kitten, and has put up with quite a bit of prancing about and purring. I don’t know quite what to do tonight.


I haven’t done much this week. Such little as was achieved was added to the second sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke. I think I’ll press on with that, now, at least until sleeves and body have been joined into one.

BUT the big news is that the EYF teaching schedule for ’18 has been released. I have spent some happy time with it, and have made my choices: Felicity Ford, Donna Smith, and Nancy Marchant, the last-named being the one I’ll have my finger on the button for, a week today. Alas, again, TomofHolland doesn’t fit. I’d love to take his class on darning.

I don’t know whether I’m strong enough for three, but it’s worth trying.

One Shetland class on yoke-design is advertised – not Donna Smith’s – in which, if you bring along a sweater at the stage Miss Rachel’s Yoke is about to reach, you can begin actually knitting your self-designed yoke right there in class. 

Sunday, October 01, 2017

All well.

My sister and her husband are expected tomorrow, from Iceland via London. You probably won’t hear from me again until after their visit, by which time I hope to have acquired a second cat.

The Soutache continues reasonably well. The front colour remains the same throughout, the background greys go up and down through a series of gradients. I joined in No. 3 today. If I’ve got it right, No. 4 is the one that goes around the back of the neck, so to speak, and then one counts down again, three, two, one.

That can't be right. There are five. So No. 5 must be the back-of-neck one.

I found today, to my considerable surprise, that it helps to write out a pattern row, not exactly in English, sort of in hieroglyphics with a bit of English. After all those years of transcribing lace patterns into charts….

As I’m sure you know, each row of brioche knitting requires two passes. All the exciting pattern work is done on the right-side pass of the dominant yarn. After which, therefore, you have three easy rows. Easy, at least, once you've got the hang of things. So it is only one row in four that needs to be transcribed into hieroglyphics.

But while my sister is here, I’ll retreat to Miss Rachel’s Yoke.

I’ve been thinking about the prospective great-grandchild, and can’t think of anything better (so far) than another of Gudrun’s Hansel haps. For its elder sister Juliet I knit the Dunfallandy blankie, so they (presumably) don’t have a shawl for carrying a baby around in. The other possibility would be a pi-shawl with goodness-knows-what for lace inserts.

Greek Helen’s mosaic conference is over. She will return to Thessaloniki tomorrow. Archie is still here – not going back to university until Friday. He will join us for supper tomorrow.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

There’s nothing to report on the kitten front, and little on the knitting one. I hope to be able to arrange to get my kitten one day in the week which will begin tomorrow. My sister and her husband will be here. She can sit beside me in the car with one of those magic telephones to show us the way.

I am sure you are right, Tamar and Shandy, that she will know her own name. Cf T.S. Eliot. There was a touching ad on Gumtree the other day about a kitten named something or other, where the owner said that since she paid no attention to her name, you were free to call her anything you liked. I have never known a cat which “answered” to a name. I call “kitty, kitty, kitty” and if Perdita feels so inclined, she appears.

I ran into a friend today who told me about a dear cow he used to have called Penelope. That’s a good one, and unlike Pandora refers to an admirable mythological figure.

As for knitting, I am afraid I took the coward’s way out, just as I used to in the olden days. I simply went on with the Soutache, despite grave errors, assuring myself that at least it would be right from here on out. Which is probably not true. I think the result is going to be acceptable. The pattern dips and weaves enough that (or so I assure myself) erroneous dips and weaves are subsumed in the whole.

Non-knit, non-kitten

The newspapers say this morning that loss of the sense of smell is a good predictor of dementia to come. I have had that symptom for a couple of years now. Usually, when I read gloomy statistics, about red wine or chocolate or whatever, I comfort myself with the reflection that they haven’t corrected for something-or-other. This one sounded pretty conclusive, until I thought that maybe they hadn’t corrected for age: perhaps losing the sense of smell in one’s 50’s indicates dementia to come, whereas in one’s 80’s (=me) it doesn’t matter so much. I'll hope so.

Brighter news: my grandson Thomas phoned today to say that another great-grandchild is expected in April. His wife Lucy is feeling pretty rotten. They’ve had the 12-week scan and all is well. Another of Mrs Hunter’s shawls? It’s a good pattern. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Sorry about yesterday – I wasn’t very well.

There has been a major development on the kitten front. Thinking along your lines, Moorecat (comment, Wednesday) – Mystery Kitten-A-Long: I love it! – but not wanting to have anything further to do with the woman in Glasgow who betrayed me, yesterday I wrote to Perdita’s birth mother.

I remembered her name, Esther. I hadn’t the vaguest idea of her owner’s name, but “Esther” is a rare enough word that I easily found the email address I needed by searching my email archives for that. I expected that she would be dead, or spayed, or just wouldn’t answer.

But there was an answer this morning. Esther is alive and well. She had a litter of kittens on August 12 (the day before my own birthday) among whom are two callico’s. They haven’t been advertised yet; I can have my pick. Talk about kismet.

“Hermione” is a lovely name, but I sort of feel I used it up on those Glasgow kittens I’ll never see. I’m thinking of reverting to the family tradition of names-beginning-with-P and calling Perdita’s sister Pandora. There’s one more possible character in the Winter’s Tale, Paulina – but is it Paul-eye-na or Paul-ee-na? Whichever I chose, the alternative would haunt me.

Knitting continues reasonably well, except that I think I have seriously messed up a recent row. Tinking is not easy in brioche. Perhaps the best course is to adopt Marchant’s advice and address the problem in the morning.

I went to see “Victoria and Abdul” this morning with our niece C. It is a lavish spectacle. There’s not terribly much story. The Shetland shawl we were interested in makes only a very brief appearance – most of the lace the Queen wears is needle lace. 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I’ve been checking Gumtree for cats roughly every twenty minutes all day. In fact, there was a distinctly good one at the top of the list (=most recently posted) when I first logged in yesterday. It didn’t seem quite right, to find a new Hermione so easily – and by now, of course, she’s gone.

There are a great many “ragdoll” cats on Gumtree, at considerable cost. The vast majority of the others are black or black-and-white or ginger. That’s what I don’t want. I’d be happy with a nice tabby. They’re surprisingly rare. This cat (I hope it reproduces well), fully three hundred years old, shows that the design I have in mind is well-established.

I have gone on working on the Soutache, partly because it’s fun; partly because I am afraid I will forget everything I have painfully learned, if I stop for a day. What a remarkable achievement is Nancy Marchant’s, to have devised all this! Carol Sunday (designer of the Soutache) gives her full credit in the pattern notes.

The difficulty is that every increase and decrease must involve two stitches (or four). I am finding increases easy, but haven’t yet settled down with the basic decreases, left and right, which are so easy in ordinary knitting once one has learned that the stitch the needle enters first is the one that winds up on top. I think I should get it soon, and then all should be plain sailing.

I find myself much drawn – and especially, perhaps, at this time of year – to the idea of communal knitting, KALs and subscriptions to yarn packages . I know it would be folly. I have more than enough to do without new self-imposed targets. But…

Carol Feller’s about-to-begin Camira Cardigan is a particular temptation.

Greek Helen has whizzed back to Edinburgh for a mosaic conference, largely organised by herself. She agrees with Perdita, that we don’t need a kitten. I’m afraid I’m too deeply committed emotionally to take her advice.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Today’s sadness – nothing to do with yesterday’s – is a blow indeed. Hermione is gone.

Alexander phoned in the early afternoon, from her earthly home in a suburb of Glasgow, to say that no kitten remained except the ginger tom. Poor little boy – but I don’t want him.

I don’t think there was any confusion in the telephone call in which I staked my claim to Hermione. Well, except for the basic confusion: which kitten was mine? There were two tortoiseshell-and-white girls, and their unwanted brother. I was to have one of the girls. Her owner wasn’t quite sure which one she had already promised. The moral is, I fear – when you find the kitten you want, go get it; don’t depend on the kindness (or reliability) of strangers for a week.

Carla emailed to say that the ending is just like the Gondoliers, which I had myself cited a few days ago. (“One of the two, who will soon be here/ But which of the two, it is not quite clear/ is the royal prince you married.”) At the end of the operetta, it turns out that neither of them is.

So I start again, heartbroken. Perdita says we didn’t need a kitten anyway.

I had a lovely day out with C. Here she is at Stobo Kirk.

And here is the current state of the Soutache. It’s not quite as good as it looks, but I think it’ll do. I think perhaps this is the moment to go back to Miss Rachel and finish the second sleeve:

Mary Lou, I do agree that the “Glaswegian” sweater in the new Knitty is delectable. Knitting with plotulopi is (like fancy brioche) something I have never done and really ought to try. But I’ve got plenty of Unknit Sweaters here – I can always order plotulopi from Meg, or indeed from Iceland. I don’t need to ask my sister to get it for me now.

Monday, September 25, 2017

All well here, but I've had bad news from a dear friend which has rather taken away my appetite for writing about knitting this evening. I'm going for a walk tomorrow with our niece, which will be good for me if I am strong enough to totter along for a mile or two. And on Wednesday Hermione will be here.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

I’m within a row or two of finishing the five inches of basic two-colour brioche at the beginning of the Soutache, and advancing to the exciting bits. Increases and decreases, and even cables, sound straightforward, chart-reading rather more difficult. We shall see.

AnnP (comment yesterday), I’m sure you’re right that it would be worth learning how to fix mistakes, at least that most common one where there is an unwanted bar of the wrong colour across a stitch. (I have managed other, more adventurous mistakes.) I’ve bought Marchant’s “Knitting Fresh Brioche” (to add to “Knitting Brioche”). It includes a very useful-looking page on the subject – and, as you say, there’s YouTube. I like Marchant's reiterated advice to lay it aside and go to bed -- fix it in the morning.


And Ann, yes, I had already started, at least, to listen to the Susan Crawford interview on Mason Dixon Knitting. Someone else had tipped me off. But it soon proved to be an old recording, made in the happy summer of 2015 when she was full of delight about the success of her crowdfunding venture. It might be worth listening to more to see what she says about the timetable, but I didn’t.

We crowdfunders had a message from her the other day – provoking great, but brief, excitement. She showed us the cover of the forthcoming book. She made it sound as if she is working away. But no timetable. Not that we haven’t had plenty of timetables before, before and after the cancer diagnosis.

On a happier note, yes, Mary Lou, the Marie Wallin Shetland piece on MDK is wonderful. That must be Belmont house on Unst in the background. I believe there is a two-day (or even three) lace course up there, part of Shetland Wool Week, where the participants are put up at Belmont House. As soon as this year’s Wool Week is over, I must start investigating the possibility of booking myself in for next year. Although goodness knows how I’d get there – I don’t entirely fancy driving.


Thank you for your encouraging comments. I’m glad that Perdita isn’t worried yet. It says somewhere in the Sunday Times today that domestic animals are incapable of jealousy. I don’t believe it. And, Joan, yes, this is very much like bringing the new baby home. I remember getting Rachel up for her late-evening pee (as was my wont) when the labour which was to produce Alexander had already started – he was born at home. And wondering how I could possibly love anyone as much as I loved her.

She was not entirely pleased with him, in the morning, although she didn’t hiss. And I managed the loving.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The neighbours two doors down are having a very noisy party in their garden. It has been going on for some hours now. My only emotion is delight that I don’t have to attend – there is something, after all, to be said for old age. Gone, that feeling that everyone else somewhere else is having a better time than oneself. I’m glad, though, that Perdita’s and my bedroom is at the other end of our house.

Isabella, thank you very much indeed for your kitten-advice. That had been more or less my plan [comment yesterday], but I had been worried about the night. Perdita and I have slept together almost every night since she came here. It would be nice to hope that all three of us might pile into bed together soon, but I can’t take it for granted. I’ll have to shut Hermione in the kitchen (where it’s warm) at first, and put out a second litter tray for Perdita in case she is caught short in the night as I often am.

Yesterday I wound Carol Sunday’s beautiful yarn and cast on the Soutache. I have never actually done brioche stitch before. It’s not entirely easy. Marchant says in her book “Knitting Brioche” that the fisherman’s-rib system, k1, k1b, ad infinitum, produces the same fabric. She says that she finds brioche knitting faster and more even. Not me.

But can you do two colours with fisherman’s rib? Not to mention all those interesting cables and swirls? It might be worth attempting a swatch.

In any case, the Soutache is moving forward. It begins with 5” of plain-vanilla two-colour brioche, before the swirling starts. That’s where I still am. There are mistakes – and correcting a mistake in brioche knitting is next thing to impossible. In the night, I asked myself, what would Andrea do? and got up this morning resolved to frog and start again.

But looking at it in the cold light of day, I decided that I could live with the mistakes, and forged ahead.

Brioche stitch, as I am sure you know, is a succession of k1s or p1s with, in between, a slipped stitch crossed with a yarn over. On the next pass, the slipped stitch and yo are knit, or purled, together as one. That’s easy.

I think the essence of my difficulty is that the motion of the working yarn, as you establish the cross over the slipped stitch, is different, depending on whether the following stitch is to be knit or purled. We all know this in real life, but someone or other in brioche stitch it’s harder to keep straight.

I can only forge ahead and hope it will be second nature by the time I have done 5 inches.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Yesterday was a day of total non-achievement, followed by early bed. I am determined to do better today.

Non-achievement, but not non-event. Classes for EYF ’18 will be bookable from October 14. That pretty well means, on October 14. Last year, all the plums were taken by tea-time.

I found this announcement in my in-box early yesterday. But there was no mention of when the class list would be available. One needs time to think, so that one can be poised with finger on the buzzer. What if Franklin is coming, for instance? It’s not impossible.

I posted an anxious note to the Ravelry group, and an assurance soon followed that the class list would be announced a week before classes go on sale. They don’t miss many tricks, those ladies.

Not a third cat, but alpaca-and-Wensleydale skeins from New Leaf Yarns. 70% alpaca. Lovely and soft and they feel as if they wouldn’t droop. Now I must cast about for a hat pattern, among the hundreds of good ones.

I’ve also started thinking about the Soutache. I often lull myself to sleep by watching one of my many Craftsy classes, with the iPad propped on my knees. Last night I let Nancy Marchant show me how to cast on for two-colour brioche, and found it rather alarming. But this morning I read Carol Sunday’s instructions, which are completely different, and feel much calmer.

My sister is getting tired of being bossed around in Iceland, but continues to find it interesting. This is a picture of some knitting available in the shark museum. Alas, we have to take her word for the sharks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I didn’t get out to Kathy’s knitting group this evening (see yesterday). I didn’t really think I would. Evenings are not my best time.

Progress, however, on the cat front. Alexander came over this morning, and went away with the cat-carrier and with the phone number of the new kitten’s birth mother (so to speak). He has emailed since to say he has made contact, and all is well. The plan is that he will come to see me next Wednesday by car, picking up the kitten on the way.

She is to be named Hermione – not for Harry Potter, but because Hermione, Queen of Sicily, is Perdita’s mother in The Winter’s Tale. I still don’t know which kitten is mine – it’s all rather like the situation in the Gondoliers. One is prettier, the other has a more interesting face, I’ll be delighted with either. The ad seems to have been taken down, so I can’t refer you there any longer  – kittens are hot property. Once she’s here, I’ll show you, whichever she turns out to be.

Thank you for your advice about introducing my two cats to each other. Cathairinmyknitting (comment yesterday) – I have ordered a Feliway kit, thank you, which should be here well before the kitten is. James and Cathy are using Feliway, too, so far without much success. What worries me today, is that, whatever system I adopt, both cats will need me. I must bond with the kitten. I must continue to support Perdita with my constant presence. Watch this space.

My sister and her husband, who have, in their time, introduced a new cat to an incumbent, as I never have, will be here next week to help with the process. They are currently on a package tour of Iceland which they seem to be enjoying. “Knitting is for sale everywhere including the fish factory.”

I had another good day with the second sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke. It is now so far forward that I may have to finish the whole sweater before embarking on the Soutache.

Andrew & Andrea were splendid, as ever, and Gudrun Johnston extremely interesting on several fronts. The bad news is that we have to wait three weeks for the next episode, because they’re off to Shetland for Wool Week. The good news is that we get scenes at Burrastow [where I stayed] in the current issue, along with the news that the food is as good as ever. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oh, dear – I’ve done it. Committed myself to a kitten. Two cats don’t quite qualify me as a Crazy Cat Lady, but I’ve never lived with more than one before, so it feels like it. And I can’t look Perdita in the eye.

Gumtree, “cats in Scotland”, look for a post that went up this afternoon in Springburn, which is part of Glasgow. Alexander will come over tomorrow and go back with my cat-carrier – and return, the following week, with a cat in it. The Springburn litter contains one ginger boy (par for the course) and TWO tortoiseshell and white girls. I’m not quite sure which one I’ve got. Our Dear Old Cat had at least four litters and never produced a single kitten worth remembering – all ginger, or black-and-white.

The (former) Beijing Mileses are having a terrible time with their new kitten. They alternately fear that their Chinese cat Mimi will leave them, or will tear the kitten limb from limb. At least my two cats are both the same sex. I think that may help.

But, oh dear.

As for knitting, I’ve finished the coloured stripes at the beginning of the second sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and am steaming up the arm. The coloured patterns weren’t quite as difficult this time, and I remain hopeful that the yoke will be as blissful as anticipated.

I’ve been reading the Soutache pattern with some attention. There’s going to be a learning curve involved. It will be good for me.

Kathy’s Knits has a monthly meet-and-knit group, and tomorrow is it for September. I hope I’ll have the oomph to go. I’m not getting out enough. That sleeve is at exactly the right point for taking along to a knitting group. Kathy herself is off to Shetland Wool Week any moment now.

No television last night – I found a black screen with the message “No signal”. I have television supplied by cable from Virgin, so I assumed Mr Branson would be toiling all night to restore the service, but things were no better this morning. The admirable Virgin website could find nothing wrong. I had to try the nuclear option – switching off the electricity at the wall. It worked. So now I will go watch “Victoria” and knit that sleeve and worry about my kitten.

And then go to bed with my iPad and the new Fruity Knitting.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Soutache package is safely here, and very beautiful. I hope to cast on later in the week.

I have finished the first sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke – I’m a stitch short, unaccountably – and have done the wrist ribbing for the second, and, indeed, have embarked on the first coloured band. I think I’ve got a new episode of “Victoria” to watch, and in a moment I’ll go do that. It doesn’t require much concentration.

And once I have finished the three coloured bands, and am embarked on the easy part of the second sleeve, I don’t see why I shouldn’t introduce the Soutache as a second WIP for alternate days.

The new issue of Knitting came through the letterbox along with the Soutache package. Some interesting news – an Addi circular needle for socks, 25cm, with one needle tip substantially longer than the other. Would that make it possible to use a circular for socks without torturing one’s wrists? Bliss, if so.

And there’s going to be something on YouTube (where it’s all happening) called “The Knit Show”, starting October 5. It sounds interesting, although I refuse to be lured away from Andrew & Andrea.

And the Purl Princess (back page) sent me off to New Leaf Yarns, a spinner of alpaca with various wools. It turns out they’re virtually on my doorstep. I’ve ordered their set of mini-skeins, alpaca and Wensleydale. Somehow, mini-skeins – of which, by now, I’ve got quite a few sets – don’t seem quite as wicked as buying yarn per se. This set can surely become a Christmas hat for somebody.

You’ll have heard that Kate Davies is launching a line of ready-made knitwear? I hope she doesn’t over-extend herself.


I have spent the day in an agony of indecision. There were a couple of sweeties on Gumtree this morning. I won’t insist on tortoiseshell-and-white this time (if I go ahead with this mad idea) although I wouldn’t mind another. I don’t want a boy, or black, or white, or black and white. (Although, oh dear! They look sweet, sitting up for the camera, with their little white whiskers on their earnest black faces.) That more or less leaves tabby.

Can I do it, to Perdita? My absences are stressful for her. What if I came back, after a couple of hours, not with armloads of groceries, but with another cat? Even a small one. I don’t think she’d like it. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

If I can find any television to keep me awake for an hour, I should easily finish the first of Miss Rachel’s sleeves tonight. The Soutache is supposed to arrive tomorrow, released from the clutches of the Royal Mail. I think I may start it, to alternate with Miss Rachel, as soon as I have finished those troublesome coloured stripes for the second sleeve.

That’s about it, for news. Andrew and Andrea have again put up a little video for patrons about the forthcoming podcast, due on Tuesday. The guest this time is Gudrun Johnston, which should be pretty wonderful. Then they’re all off to Shetland Wool Week. It sounds as if Gudrun will be staying at Burrastow, where Kristie and Kath and I stayed. With luck, there will be a glimpse of it when A&A do their Shetland Wool Week episode. They have never been to Shetland – they’ll love it.

There was a titbit in this morning’s paper to say that the RAF station on Unst, at the most northerly point of the British Isles, is to be re-opened. When K&K&I were there, we went on up, after marvelling at lace in the Unst Heritage Museum, to see Muckle Flugga, as K&K are keen lighthouse fans.

I wasn’t all that enthusiastic, but Kath, a non-knitter, had been very patient about the lace. It turned out to be a thrilling sight, even for me; a highpoint of the weekend. The lighthouse is built on an inhospitable rock, slightly north even of Unst. How on earth did they do it?

To get to our vantage point, we had to walk past the disused RAF station, past rusted signs that said (effectively) “Take another step and you will be shot”. K&K were a bit anxious, but the place was so obviously deserted that I urged them on.

I do hope that the reinstatement of the RAF (very good news for the island) doesn’t mean that earnest knitters won’t be able to see Muckle Flugga in future.


Thank you for your help and advice. I will certainly leave Perdita here when I go away (with a friend, or Helen, or a professional cat-sitter). I won’t get a grown-up cat. I’ll go on thinking about the possibility of a kitten – and watching Gumtree. I’d be sort of jealous if Perdita became so attached to another cat that she was less dependent on me – but I can’t have it both ways.

It sounds from Gumtree as if kittens are even more expensive now than they were two years ago. I paid sixty pounds for Perdita, which still seems outrageous. I might have to go up to a hundred, this time.