Tuesday, February 28, 2017

I’ve had a very pleasant Fat Tuesday, sipping cider and thinking about Fair Isle colours.

In the Fair Isle phase of my middle years, which didn’t involve much in the way of colour theory, I used to separate the chosen yarns into two piles, Background and Foreground, each arranged with nice graduations. Today it occurred to me that if one is knitting a banded sweater, as opposed to an all-over pattern, there is no real need to keep the piles separate.

I don’t think either the Feral Knitter or Knitsonic address this question head-on. I started by looking closely at KD’s Machrihanish pattern, and sure enough, colours seem to move from one role to the other, in different bands. I think it is probably a good idea not to have too many different colours altogether. And clearly each band, although differing somewhat in pattern from its fellows, must have the same colour arrangement – although the intervening band will be differently arranged, colour-wise.

You’re right, essentially, Shandy, that I must knit this vest for Alexander while I still can, whatever the fortunes of Scottish rugby. I had it in mind when I bought some of their Heritage yarn, or whatever it’s called, that happy day in Jamieson & Smith – not recently. Perhaps the solution this year, if we lose on the 11th, will be to knit the swatch. A hat is too small, and has the disadvantage that you have to think about a pattern for the crown shaping, which is completely extraneous to the central problem.

But a scarf…

Mrs Hunter’s shawl has advanced to the second half of the final repeat of the centre pattern. I should finish tomorrow. I like Kitchener’ing; that final side holds no fears. Except that it’s garter stitch: a) I must remind myself how to graft garter stitch; and b) I remember that one needs to have the two rows to be grafted at the proper stage of development. Since garter stitch involves turning the stitches first this way and then that (hence the difficulty in laddering down to correct a mistake), it is important to have the two rows either this way or that, before embarking upon Kitchener.

That much I remember, but memory needs to be refreshed.


Alexander is coming to see us tomorrow, as often on a Wednesday, but briefly, this time. He is involved in a complicated difficulty about his passports. He keeps explaining, and I keep forgetting. The essence is, I think, that his American passport and his British one give his name in slightly different forms. No one has ever objected before.

I have been able to find (good for me!) his birth certificate, and also a document which shows that his birth was registered with the American consulate in Glasgow. He is going to sweep in tomorrow to collect these precious papers and go straight on to the consulate here.

I have been concerned about the existential problem. The papers undoubtedly show that someone named GADM was born at 34 Hillhead Street in Glasgow on the 27th of February, 1960. But how will the American consul in Edinburgh know, tomorrow, that Alexander is that man? Maybe he just found all that stuff in a tip? I know, of course, but nobody’s asking me.

Monday, February 27, 2017

One more day, then Lent.

I have advanced to the final repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter's shawl. The stitch count is one-too-many on the left, as you look down on things, and correct on the right. I can deal with that.

The newspapers are wondering, as I am, whether Scotland could possibly win the Calcutta Cup this year, although they don't exactly see it in terms of a Fair Isle vest for Alexander. 

I have got a truly extraordinary amount of resources -- Meg's DVD, Mucklestone's Craftsy class, you name it. I’m pretty sure I’ve never looked at the DVD – what about the pattern? And I watched, or re-watched, the first episode of Mucklestone today without any memory of having seen it before. Presumably, in that case, the pattern is in the class materials.

I've found my "inspiration" -- Hopper's "Gas", pictured in the FT at the weekend because it's in the "America After the Fall" expo at the RA. I'd love to see that show -- the decade and the continent from which I derive. 

It should yield a good Fair Isle design, and Knitsonik and the Feral Knitter should help me plan it. Shandy, yes, you’re thinking along the same lines. I would want to alternate (shall we say)  nine- and thirteen- row designs, different each time but not very different, lined up above each other, separated by a peerie pattern which would stay the same. And although the patterns would be different each time, the colours would stay the same.

Needs some thinking.

The EYF is the day before the Calcutta Cup match so I couldn't actually presume to buy yarn -- but Jamieson & Smith will be there. I can choose yarns and note names and numbers, for later ordering.

I don't have to cast it on the next day, for Heaven’s sake -- as long as it's finished before the 2018 Calcutta Cup match.

Both the Feral Knitter and Felicity Ford ("Knitsonic") are desperately keen on swatching, to test how colours work with each other. Why am I so reluctant? If Scotland should actually win - per impossibile -- it would be an event worth commemorating in a sweater worth keeping. And swatching does help.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

If we were in Greece, Lent would start tomorrow. The Orthodox don’t count Good Friday and Holy Saturday as part of Lent (reasonably enough), so they have to add two days at the beginning to make up the total of 40 days. This year, I am told, the two Easters coincide.

I have had a pleasant time thinking about Fair Isle vests, and have made a little pile consisting of Sheila McGregor’s Fair Isle book, Alice Starmore’s one, the Feral Knitter’s “Joy of Color” and – except, just at the moment, I can’t find this one – Knitsonic’s stranded colourwork source book. There is a picture on an early page of that (I had it, earlier today) showing Felicity in very much the sort of thing I’d like to aim at – a Fair Isle sweater with every band differently patterned and the whole thing held together by colour.

Should I attempt corrugated rib? I did, once. It’s rather tedious to knit, and I didn’t know then that it’s not supposed to pull in like ordinary ribbing, so I thought I was doing something wrong. At least it lies flat. I’ve looked at KD’s “Machrihanish” pattern, and the one Meg published in Knitter’s a few years ago. There’s also the DVD Meg offers of (I think) a somewhat different pattern. Plenty to think about.

The next thing is to delve into my archives and find my primitive two-colour rendition of the cup, and add it to the pile. The idea would be to have a band, 8 or 10 rows high, just above the ribbing, with the cup and the date.

This is all very presumptuous. We won’t win. The last time Scotland won the cup in London was in 1980-something, before any member of the present team was born. All the Calcutta Cup victories which I have commemorated in knitting since 2000, have happened in Edinburgh in even-numbered years.

But the great thing about yesterday’s victory is that the team will approach the match with a spring in their step. That in itself is unusual. Even stranger things could happen. Alexander says he is predicting a substantial English victory and he’s sticking by that – especially, he says, since all his predictions to date have been wrong.

As for real life, the penultimate repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl is well advanced.

Jared has posted to the “Exhibitors are bringing…” thread of the EYF group on Ravelry, to say that he’s bringing lots and lots of all of his yarns, plus some sample garments. Perhaps even the Nila? He doesn’t exactly say that he’s coming himself, but surely… This is so exciting.

Comment, Anonymous, two days ago. Thank you for the advice about exercise. I will pursue it.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Χαιρετε! Νικουμεν!

Scotland beat Wales this afternoon, against all expectation. It means that a Scotland victory for the Calcutta Cup on March 11 is thinkable (although still extremely unlikely). I can revert to speculating about Fair Isle vests. All credit to our coach, Vern Cotter by name, in his final season. While Mrs Miles of Drummond Place has been telling anyone who would listen for the last fortnight that there was Now No Hope, he chose a new captain to replace the injured one and inspired those young men to believe that they could beat Wales for the first time in a decade.

And they did.

Alexander and Ketki and their sons came to see us this morning, on their way to Murrayfield. We were all very gloomy about Scotland’s prospects. Otherwise, they were well.

The centre of Mrs Hunter’s shawl continues to progress, a bit slowly. The penultimate repeat is well advanced.


Claire, I was very grateful for your offer to meet me at the EYF on Friday the 10th and get me in the back door. We can discuss this later. I mean to get a taxi from here at 8:30 or so, to be there promptly at nine.

Carol, I’m glad you enjoyed l’Escargot Bleu, and the Winter’s Tale. I didn’t even know the latter was on. I’ll tell Perdita. Let me know the next time you’re coming.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

I’m nearly halfway through the 12th repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl – not much of an achievement. But it occurred to me that this is the antepenultimate repeat, and it’s not often I have a chance to use that word.

Today’s problem was that the lightbulb fizzled out in the standard lamp beside my husband’s chair. We replaced it with another of the same strength, 150 whatevers. He said it was far too bright. So I went out and bought a 100 watt bulb, which he also found too bright. We’re now down to 60, with which he is satisfied, but the dim, romantic light is not comfortable for knitting.

In the course of all this, I found I was not strong enough to climb up and stand on a chair to explore the high shelf where we keep light bulbs. It has been difficult, recently, to do so, but today I couldn’t do it. I feel sort of glum about that.

Claire, I was greatly comforted by your message about how there will be people to show me how to get in the back door of the Corn Exchange on 10/3. My plan is to get there early, in the hopes of a generous half-hour of pre-planned market time before my 10 a.m. class. Afterwards I’ll go back to the market for as much longer as I have strength for.

Skeindalous, I note what you say about the need to knit Brooklyn Tweed patterns with Brooklyn Tweed yarn. But of course, if I decide to go for Nila despite its impracticalities, Jared will be there…

“Antepenultimate”: what follows is not entirely relevant, and I’ve probably said it before anyway.

I was listening to the midday news the day the Queen made her famous remark about her “annus horribilis”. They broadcast a little clip of her actually saying it, and I was surprised that she pronounced the antepenultimate syllable with a short “i”: hor-rib-il-is. I went and looked it up. She was right. The vast majority of commentators who have quoted her since, have said hor-reeb-il-is. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Again, not much. I have embarked on the twelfth repeat (of fourteen) of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl, but have done no more counting of the stitches remaining to be consumed.

I have spent some more time thinking about patterns for which I might seek yarn at the EYF. Still too many – the shorter Ancasta, from Laine; Nancy’s vest, from Carol Sunday; Nila, over there on Brooklyn Tweed. We’ve agreed that it would look ridiculous on me on Broughton Street, and wouldn’t keep the chest warm, but I keep being drawn back to it. Perhaps I should put the idea out to daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters and see if anyone’s interested.

I had an email from EYF today, full of do-this, do-this, do-that. I’ll have to let it simmer for awhile. I still don’t know how to go around the back and get into the market early on Friday the 10th of March – a perk for class attenders. It sounds as if my class with Hazel Tindall might be in the Corn Exchange itself that morning; good news. I’ll have to work it all out soon, and plan my attack, and print my ticket.

I was very interested in your comment, Joni, about how your DFW Fiber Fest chooses vendors. The great thing, obviously, is to be a Successful Event, so that they have to come to you. The EYF seems to have achieved that status rather quickly. And, Maureen, what you say about Amy Detjen having to submit a proposal for a class and then being accepted, fits right in. I think I had always assumed that organizers of such events invited the teachers they wanted.


Alexander came to see us this morning, as often on a Wednesday. We talked sadly of who might captain Scotland on Saturday (when we play Wales, here at Murrayfield) and who might play scrum half. It was no use even trying to talk about who could kick for goal. They – the Loch Fyne Mileses – are coming over on Saturday, as often. We’ll see them before the match. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Some of you will have noticed, I hope, that the Times has at last published an obituary of our friend Anthony Bryer. They took their time.

I’m nearly finished with the eleventh repeat of the centre of Mrs Hunter’s shawl, and – sure enough – the stitch counts on the one side and the other have changed. The left-hand side now has too many stitches, the right-hand side, which but recently had too few, now is bang on. I’ll leave things as they stand until at least the end of the twelfth repeat.

I told Perdita that you’re all on her side, when it comes to lap-sitting.

Joni and Liz (comments, Saturday) – I’m sure you’re right that I should email the EYF organisers and ask them to invite Franklin. I’ll leave it, now, until after the event. They must be frantic at the moment. On that happy occasion some years ago, when I went all the way to London for a day of classes with him at Loop – which also involved happily meeting and lunching with Shandy – I got the very strong impression that he was delighted to have the gig because it meant that travel expenses could be claimed against tax. And, as you say, he was happy to be in England.

I made the happy discovery today that the list of Exhibitors on the EYF website, is a list of links to the websites of each one of them. I’ve had a good time clicking and have made some interesting discoveries. I mustn’t fail to find ananuca on the day.

It’s an excellent blend of predominantly British yarns with some spicy additions, such as ananuca and of course Jared. I wonder how it’s done. I’m sure exhibitors have to pay well to be there – maybe they self-select? 

Monday, February 20, 2017

Even less, tonight.

I don’t know what to do about the cat and lap-sitting. It is the sort of behaviour we have long wanted to encourage in her, but it does eat seriously into knitting time. Can I persuade her to sit on my husband’s lap? He’d like that. But I’m afraid she’s my cat.

I did at least finish the tenth repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl – and found that there were only 39 stitches on that side, instead of the required 41. I have left one row unattached, and when I finish the eleventh repeat I will count again, on both sides.

Isabella, I was interested in your comment, not yesterday but the day before, about how the organizers of EYF are not looking for more space. It makes sense, when I think about it seriously. I, at least, couldn’t have handled more exhibitors last year. I didn’t really get around the whole thing (and I am weaker now). More space might have been welcome, for breathing, but not more buyers. Many exhibitors are single-handed; two people per stall was pretty well the maximum. A substantial increase in buyer-numbers might have overwhelmed them and slowed us all down.

We’ll see how it goes this year.


Here’s a link to an article about l’Escargot Bleu and those pigs I mentioned yesterday. I looked at the menu outside the restaurant today – no mention of Mangalista pork. I could go inside and ask – one of the restaurant’s many charms is that it is not oppressively fancy -schmancy.

My husband has been here at home for three whole months now.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Something, at least, to report. I haven't quite finished the tenth repeat of the centre of Mrs Hunter's shawl, but I have at least finished the penultimate row and thus given myself permission to count the remaining stitches on that side. And they are exactly right -- 41. I could of course do the simple sum and count them on either side at any time.

Perdita, perhaps because of the lobotomising effect of her operation, occasionally comes and sits on my lap these days. Which of course brings all knitting to a halt. Fancy the iPad, which endlessly misinterprets my intentions, allowing "lobotomising"!

Yes, I had indeed forgotten the rural shows, Knitalot. I went once to Knitting & Stitching at the Ally Pally and wasn’t tremendously impressed: hot, crowded, undistinguished yarn. Our visit, however, was greatly enhanced by the Japanese pavilion. So I am probably remembering 2001. It was a revelation.

And of course the EYF has classes as well as wonderful yarn, a big plus.


This really belongs as a reply to your comment, Carol G., but since I have nothing else to say, I’ll put it here.

I hope you enjoy both Cathy’s Knits and l’Escargot Bleu – I’m pretty sure you will. There was an article in the Times last Thursday about some mangalitsa pigs which the chef has been rearing – they are supposed to be the wagyu of the pork world, and are now just about ready for the table. The chef (Fred Birkmiller) had thought he had contracted to buy some pigs when they had been reared and slaughtered, and found to his surprise that he had bought a litter of piglets. He managed to lodge them at the Gorgie City Farm.

Other chefs think that, although the meat is wonderful, the cost is too high.

The Times article didn’t say anything about l’Escargot Bleu, but those of us who know Fred know what they were talking about.

So, hold on to that word: mangalitsa. And do report back, if you find it on the menu. 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Last night’s problems were resolved shortly before midnight, by two nurses who replaced my husband’s catheter, leaving me weary today (Perdita seems fine) but otherwise OK. The standard of care we receive continues to be astonishing.

An old friend and one-time next-door neighbour from Birmingham came to call today. She said that when her 90+-year-old mother was in hospital towards the end of her life, the social worker called the family in and said that Mrs Molnar would have to be out in a week (i.e., you’ve got to organise care and pay for it). I don’t entirely see why Scotland doesn’t sink beneath the waves, providing us with so much.

Not much knitting today, what with Nina’s visit and general exhaustion. But I am well embarked on the second half of the tenth repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl. Each repeat consists of two rows of roundels, the second one offset.

I learn, a bit too late, that the EYF organisers were here (=around the corner) at Kathy’s Knits today, with a trunk show of patterns from Wool Tribe, the EYF magazine. I doubt if I could have fitted it in, even had I known, and it would have increased the stress of the day to try. I'm sort of sorry, anyway, to have missed it.

What I did do yesterday was to email Franklin urging him to book a gig at next year’s EYF. (I did that last year, too, with no result.) He’s all we lack. I’m sure they’re right in claiming to be “the UK’s premier urban hand-knitting show”. Presumably “urban” is included so that they don’t seem to be pushing ahead of Shetland Wool Week – otherwise, I can’t think of any rival claimants. Having all classes and all free-range market tickets sold out six weeks in advance would make Vogue Knitting Live itself feel a bit envious.

Presumably they are looking for bigger premises for next year. Both the vendors and the knitters must be intensely frustrated at the thought of all those people, keen to buy yarn, being kept outside the doors.

I also went to the Baa Ram Ewe website to look at their Dovestone DK, recommended for the shorter Ancasta. It looks pretty wonderful, both in terms of colour and of composition – none of your poncy merino, it is a blend of the wool of three breeds of British sheep. (I gather the British climate is too cold and damp for the delicate chests of merinos.) I haven’t emailed them yet, but will soon. It is sufficiently expensive that I would be glad for guidance on how much to buy – which Laine doesn’t provide. And sufficiently glorious, that I hope they will say they’re bringing truckloads to the EYF and I don’t have to choose a colour now.

Friday, February 17, 2017

My husband is having catheter problems, and I am waiting for a district nurse to come and resolve them, late at night. Someone phoned back, after our initial call, to say that they are inundated with calls this evening and therefore it’ll be a while. I continue to be astonished at the level of care we get. I think he has gone to sleep fairly comfortably. I can, and will, but wait.

I’ve made a fair start on the tenth repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl.

You’ll have seen that Kate found her Wild Apple kit. I think you were too severe, Shandy – she had plenty of yarn, of course, but suddenly she had the time and she didn’t have the thing she had been planning to knit. I am always surprised when I read of people who finish something and don’t know what to do next. Part of the pleasure of finishing, for me, is lining up the next one, selecting it from the queue, laying out the yarn where I can watch it as I put the finishing touches on whatever.

The poor cat rightly says that it’s time to go to bed, and can’t understand my explanation of why we can’t do it.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Guess what? I found Gaughan. And guess where? Where she belonged – among the “technique” books on the knitting shelf in the bedroom.

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that it is ever a good idea, when you’re looking for something, to go back, from time to time, to the place where it ought to be. As several of your perspicacious comments suggested.

I have enjoyed looking through the book  again today, keeping ever a sharp eye in case it showed any tendency to vanish into thin air. I am glad to have it, and perhaps even gladder to discover that I treated it with respect in the first place, and put it away where it belonged. My hold on life is ever more tenuous, and that discovery was a boost.

[No, in answer to your questions about my two big losses: no iPad and no keys. I feel pretty sure that the iPad must have been stolen, although that leaves several anxious questions unanswered. How did someone get in here and out again unobserved? The keys remain a total mystery. There is no way that a Bad Man could have got hold of them in Strathardle that day, surrounded as I was by family. I can still remember the sense of emptiness and surprise when I realized that they weren’t in my hand as they had been a moment before.]

Looking at cables in Gaughan has rekindled my enthusiasm for the shorter Ancasta. I think probably the time has come to email Baa Ram Ewe about the yarn.

I’ve finished the ninth repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl. When I’ve done the tenth (of fourteen), it’ll be time to start counting – how many stitches remain to be swallowed? How many rows remain to be knit?


There’s nothing to be said about rugby, really. We get this weekend off. The unfortunate Scotland coach has got to find three men to replace Greig Laidlaw: a scrum half, a captain cool under fire, a near-faultless goal kicker. Not easy.

Does he have a slightly feline face? Or is it just that, loving him and loving Perdita, I want to find a resemblance? As I think I’ve said before, Laidlaw sizing up a kick and Perdita meditating a leap to a forbidden height, approach the problem in much the same way.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Greig Laidlaw won't be coming back to the Six Nations tournament, due to an injury to a ligament. I know that is not the sort of news you come here for. The one or two people actually interested, already know. But there is a certain knitting relevance. After our glorious victory over Ireland in the first match of the tournament, it was possible to toy with the dream of winning the Calcutta Cup.

[To do that, you have to (a) be Scotland and (b) beat England.]

I have commemorated every Scotland victory since 2000 in knitting. This year it was going to be a sleeveless Fair Isle vest for Alexander with my rendition of the Cup, and the year, just above the ribbing. But I don't think there's any chance at all without Mr Laidlaw so we don't need to worry about that.

I'm on to the ninth repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter's shawl -- of fourteen. 

No luck with Gaughan, either. I'm sure you're right, Mary Lou, that the fault isn't Perdita's.

Records show that I bought it late in November. That makes it a strong candidate for having been swept into a totally miscellaneous pile of books and papers to make space to celebrate Christmas. Once I had that thought, I believed I had cracked it, but no such luck. 

Your idea is a good one, Tamar, and one I still cling to -- the books I did find were here in the dining room, where I sit over my computer. The book must have been in here when I was writing enthusiastically to you about it. We ate Christmas dinner here, and later I needed most of the table for the Income Tax. But apart from the knitting books I found yesterday, everything seems to be art. I’m sure you’re right, Chloe, that it’s under something.

I feel confident that I wouldn't have mis-shelved it, but otherwise am completely baffled.

We have had two epic book-searches in recent years. One was for an old edition of Ripley's Believe it or Not. Alexander and James, in youth, annotated the illustrations, often very wittily. I looked for that high and low, both in Kirkmichael where the annotations had been done, and here. I eventually found it in a perfectly appropriate place, in a pile of books under the Glass-Fronted Bookcase. The G-FB is devoted to books by family members or to works of great significance, but has run out of space. I've given Ripley to Alexander.

The other was a book my husband had convinced himself that my sister had taken away to the USofA and never returned to him. He was fairly unpleasant about it. That one had been mis-shelved. I found it, purely by chance, not long ago, when I was looking for something to take him to read in hospital. It must have been there ever since we moved here from Birmingham in (I think) 1994.  I rang my sister up at once. The book is called "Ordeal by Hunger" and well worth a read. Copies are available, but my husband wanted his copy, which had belonged to his father. It's now in the G-FB. He never apologised. He was never very good at that, and he's far too old to learn how now.

Those two books were literally irreplaceable. I can always buy another Gaughan.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

There is little to report. I am nearly finished with the eighth repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl – the seventh was the halfway point. The end is in sight.

My main knitterly concern today is that I cannot find Norah Gaughan’s “Knitted Cable Sourcebook”. I spent a fair amount of time looking for it. If I had shelved it, it would be among the “technique” books – Post-Quinn on double knitting, Hoxbro on shadow knitting, that sort of thing. I have so many brioche books that they are in a separate place. In neither place, however, do I find Gaughan.

I thought of one spot after another where she might be, and have left little pools of tidiness behind me all day. I found Mrs Thompson’s “Patterns for Guernseys, Jerseys, and Arans”. I think I may have mentioned here recently my anxiety about her absence from her place on the shelf. I found Franklin’s colouring book. But no Gaughan.

I am sufficiently sad and anxious that I may even buy myself another copy. It is a seriously good book.


I have nothing more to tell you about Greig Laidlaw’s ankle. He has gone back to Gloucester, where he plays rugby when he is not playing it for Scotland. That’s better than being trussed up in a French hospital – the match, on Sunday, was in Paris. I’ll keep you posted.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Home again -- although in fact I never got very far. The weather on Saturday morning was appalling, and I feared that appalling might = snow in Strathardle. I didn't feel strong enough for snow. So I spent the weekend in Helen's and David's lovely, comfortable flat on Windsor Street, while they went away to Strathardle.

Helen says that the pipes are OK and the mice haven’t been in and it was bitter cold. They meant to stay another day, but the weather got too much even for them, and they’re safely back here this evening.

I spent much of the time in bed. Very little knitting. I re-watched two Craftsy favourites, Stephen West "Shawlscapes" (delightful) and Franklin on Heirloom Lace Edgings. The former may have provided some suggestions for EYF yarn-buying, and the latter could be very useful when it comes to sewing up the open corner of Mrs Hunter's shawl.

Or what if I just slid needles through the chained edgings on either side of that opening and did a three-needle bind-off on the inside?

I think Perdita was glad to see me back, but it's hard to tell with a cat. My husband did well with his carer, so future escapes are a possibility.

One thing I think I have partially learned in extreme old age, is that length can be a more useful measurement than weight in yarn substitutions. A skein of the yarn I’m using for Mrs Hunter is 940 yards long. So at the moment I know what it means, to knit 940 yards. And other shawl patterns which define their requirements in yards, can be judged accordingly.

Today’s pattern for KD's "Inspired by Islay" club is a pretty yolk sweater which would be a good use for a set of gradient yarns.

And have you seen her sad blog post, asking for suggestions as to what to knit? "Inspired by Islay" has gone to the printer. Suddenly she has time. She thought she had a kit, laid aside for this very moment, but she can't find it. She doesn't have much of a stash. What an organised woman! And what a dreadful situation!


I did get out of bed long enough to watch the rugby on both days. Scotland lost to France, and far, far worse, we lost our captain to an ankle injury at the end of the first half-hour. We don't know yet how bad it is, but it doesn’t sound good. With him off the field, there was no hope. I watched the rest of the match in glum misery. He is the best captain we've had since Gavin Hastings in the last millennium, cool under fire and also, incidentally, brilliant at kicking goals.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

I’m very much better. Although I was spared the dread coreopsis, I felt pretty low on Tuesday and Wednesday, but am now, I think, restored to my usual sub-par level, perhaps because of the antibiotics, perhaps because the boil started to drain yesterday, whatever.

Barbara-Kay, very grateful for your reminder about hand-washing. I’m not always desperately conscientious, but in this case I knew the dangers and have tried hard. Public service announcement re-broadcast.

The plan has long been to go to Strathardle on Saturday with Greek Helen and her husband David, who returns from Thessaloniki tomorrow, and Fergus. There has been some suspense because of my health, and because of bad weather forecasts, but at the moment it's all systems go. I thought we were to have Archie, but no. I had thought about taking the cat, but no. A carer whom my husband knows and likes will live in. If all goes well, the world is my oyster.

The temptation will be to spend 20 hours asleep and the other 4 knitting, but I must get out for a good walk both days and, of course, contrive somehow to watch France-Scotland on Sunday. If we could win that one…

I am very grateful indeed for your help with my quest for patterns to walk around the EYF with. JeanK introduced me this morning to Heidi Kirrmaier, a brilliant suggestion. And, Sharon, I have looked at Versaciknits, also with profit. I was interested, and indeed inspired, to read two endorsements for Nancy’s Vest. What’s the point, I ask myself, of exploring the EYF for grey yarn? But maybe there’s more to that search than meets the eye.

Which brings me back to the point where exhaustion supervened last night – the (grey) yarn I am using for Mrs Hunter’s shawl. I have always loved variegated yarns, from the days when I made i-cord with four nails stuck into an empty cotton reel. I think, when I first discovered hand-painted lace yarn, I went more than a bit OTT, with the result that the shawls knit for the Little Boys – who happened to be the grandchildren available at that time – were more than a bit garish.

Less is more. There have been no grandchildren since, and I have had time to calm down. This yarn – The Yarn Collective, Portland Lace, merino, “Morning Rain” – is something that turned up in my email “promotions” one morning, and is perfect. Variegated enough to make the result interesting and to keep me happy, but nothing to startle the horses when they wrap the baby in it and take him/her (I don’t want to know, at this point) down to the pub for lunch.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Thank you for your sympathy. I think I'm a bit better. Sister Helen and Greek Helen combined forces this morning -- and they are a formidable team -- to insist I saw a dr. He has prescribed a basic antibiotic, told me to come back at once if I get worse, and after a week of antibiotics, if no better. He took my temperature and blood pressure-- the raising of one and lowering of the other could mean that coreopsis had set in, but I'm fine in those respects.

[And you mustn't assume that that is the standard of medical advice I get on NHS websites. It's a quotation from James Thurber/Walter Mitty, as I hope some recognized.]

The physical discomfort>pain is, if anything, worse, but I think the general sense of malaise is somewhat relieved. The boil is now draining of its own accord – more than you really need to know, in a knittjng blog – justifying the dr’s decision not to lance it today.

Sister Helen has gone off to London, thence to DC. Much missed.

I continue to explore patterns. I have decided that what I really like is over-sized, verging on sloppy. Current contenders are Carol Sunday's "Nancy's Vest", the shorter “Ancasta” from Laine, Bristol Ivy's "Devlan" from Jared's Wool Book 7, and Anne Hanson's "Dock and Cabin" which turned up among my Promotions this morning. It's delicious still to have a month to think about it. 

I made a bit more progress with Mrs Hunter's shawl. Thank you for your kind words. The yarn is a great part of its success, and I must say something about that, but for now, hottie-bottie-and-bed.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Very little tonight. I’ve got a boil on my bum and feel fairly low, although I think the crisis has passed.

Sister Helen is leaving tomorrow, going to London. She will be missed.

And I don’t think I’ve got any further with my delicious pattern-search.

As for actual knitting, I’ve reached the second half of the sixth pattern repeat of the centre of Mrs Hunter’s shawl. The centre pattern is a very simple row of roundels, offset in the second half.

I hope you’ll find me brighter tomorrow.

Monday, February 06, 2017

We are beginning to draw breath again, after the victory. As Rachel rightly says, it is so much easier when we lose.

Knitting continues well. I have embarked on the sixth repeat of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl. Seven, will be halfway there. Maybe I’ll finish in February? Here at last is a picture, showing nothing very clearly – just wait’ll you see it blocked. But you get the idea.

Sarah, I could if you like send you my Calcutta Cup patterns – I’ve done it both in lace and Fair Isle. Our granddaughter Kirsty, James’ and Cathy’s daughter, was born in 2000, the glorious year when Scotland lost every match except that one. The cup is incorporated into her Christening shawl. Subsequent victories – there haven’t been all that many – have been done in Fair Isle. There was one draw (meaning that the cup stayed in Twickenham) – I knit a hat, that year, for one of the Little Boys, showing half the cup. But, alas, he lost it.

Mary Lou, thank you. Your baby sweater in Drop-Dead Easy is indeed a good idea, and sort of a nice change after a long succession of Baby Surprises.

I am very grateful for your help, all round. The problem is, I want a pattern or two to wander around the EYF market with. If I decide to go for the short Ancasta (Laine), it would be silly not to go for Baa Ram Ewe (who will be there). If I choose a Veronik Avery, it will probably be one published in Wool People, and I might as well get the yarn from Jared (who will be there).

Sara, thank you, therefore, for Junko Okamoto. Not a name I knew, and there are some very good things there. I incline towards her “Bright” sweater at the moment, although there are other possibilities. And – precisely – the specified yarn is unobtainable (I hope) so I will have to wander around the market, pattern in hand.

I hoped, when I first saw your message, that she was African, which would have been a whole new knitting world for me. But Japan is extraordinarily interesting, too.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Scotland’s win yesterday means that at least I can go on thinking about this year’s Calcutta Cup sweater, although the need for it remains pretty remote. (The match will be at Twickenham, where we never win.) (Still, we only very rarely win our first match of the tournament, as we did yesterday – so one never knows.)

Rachel wasn’t able to watch the match live. She recorded it, and went to great lengths not to know the result before she watched it. And she succeeded, although, leaving Mass this morning, she overheard an aged Irishman asking his friend whether he had watched the rugby, and deduced from the tone of voice that the news might be good, from her point of view. Alexander, who was of course there on the spot, says it was a bit too exciting for him.

I incline, Calcutta-Cup-sweater-wise, towards Kate Davies’ Macrihanish. Tom was wearing it at the EYF last year and it looked rather well. There are other options, including one of Meg’s. Or I could design one myself. It’s nice to think about, and I will go on doing so as long as I can. And if we should win this year, per impossibile, I will make very strenuous efforts to see the cup. I never have.

Today was calmer, and I am a bit more than halfway through the fifth repeat of the centre of Mrs Hunter’s shawl. The line where the centre I am knitting joins the borders which I have already knit, looks really good, far better than a sewn seam could look. I really must get that picture taken. I’m glad I put in the break row, too. I am becoming obsessively anxious about the k2togs at the end of each row, where the join is made. They’re very slightly tricky, because there is a marker to be moved out of the way. And if I drop one, I don’t just have a dropped stitch – the whole join could un-zip.

I have also gone on thinking about EYF-2017 purchases. I am grateful for your comments about the Nila pattern, and I think I have abandoned the idea. If the weather was chilly enough to make the neck and cross-over comfortable, you would want the chest fully covered. I went on through Veronik Avery’s patterns and have flagged (if that’s the word) “Waterhouse”. One of the Ravellers who has done it, added a couple of inches. It’s better that way.

Once having conceived the idea of knitting a Baby Surprise with little skeins of graduated yarn, I got on today to Madeleinetosh “Unicorn’s Tails”. Wow! But I tried Google with a natural-language question about how much yarn I would need for a Surprise, and the answer gave pause even to my extravagant self.

And part of the trouble with this mental exercise is that I keep finding things which it would be simplest to order online. I love Carol Sunday’s “Nancy’s vest” – but why not just order the kit from Sunday, with her own yarn? Last year I went to the EYF with four patterns for shawls/scarves. That was ideal. I was looking for any suitable yarn. I need to think this thing through. 

Saturday, February 04, 2017

If I knew how to launch my computer into the Greek alphabet, I would report today’s events in the very words Pheidippides used when he had run back to Athens from the battlefield of Marathon and delivered the news before dropping dead: “Rejoice! We conquer!”

It was a nail-biter. Scotland was brilliant in the first half. Ireland came out like tigers in the second, and took the lead. But we won.

I think I have said before that Mr Laidlaw, sizing up a kick, looks remarkably like Perdita, calculating a leap to a high (forbidden) shelf: look up, look down, look up, look down again, and… And he got them all in, today. The Irishman, the Englishman and the Frenchman who had to do the same thing at other points in the day (and did rather well at it, on the whole), didn’t have quite that Perdita-gleam in their eyes.

Later on, England beat France, in another nail-biter.

I couldn’t interest my sister. She decided to have a nap. “You can tell me about it.”

Not much knitting, and some of that got confused. All is well, but the fourth repeat in the centre of Mrs Hunter’s shawl isn’t quite finished. Still no photograph.

Thank you very much for your help with my enquiry yesterday, about Brooklyn Tweed’s  “Nila” pattern. I suspect you’re right. The slightest-built of my loved ones is Hellie, soon to be the mother of 2017’s great-grandchild. When I first knit a Relax, it came out exactly the size I was carefully  calculating it to be, and it was entirely wrong for me – it needed much more positive ease. I gave it to Hellie, who I think wears it with pleasure. I knit it again for myself, on rather more generously-proportioned lines, and I, too, wear  it with pleasure.

I’ll see what she thinks about “Nila”.

Meanwhile, I have had at least one possibly-productive thought. Namely, that I can employ graduated-skein-packages, if purchased at the EYF, in any number of Baby Surprises for Hellie and Matt’s baby. 

Friday, February 03, 2017

I have let the Groundhog go by without a nod – but tonight is the eve of Six Nations Rugby, and that’s another matter. Scotland’s chances are fancied rather higher than in some years. “That’s because we haven’t played any matches yet,” says Simon in the butcher ‘s.

Tomorrow it all begins with us v. Ireland, here at Murrayfield. Alexander and his family are coming over, as often. (Last March the  boys actually got to witness, for the first time, a Scotland win, against France.) They’ll come here first, a long loop because Murrayfield is on the west (=Glasgow) side of the city, in order to see my sister.

Later in the afternoon, England will play France (Vive la France!). Wales and Italy will play on Sunday and can amuse themselves as they choose. I trust you have all seen this little video which was, I think, judged too strong for general release on British television last year.

I’ve done a bit more of Mrs Hunter’s shawl, but haven’t yet photographed it, despite yesterday’s promise.

Thinking forward to the EYF and stash enhancement, I have been rather taken by this pattern by Veronik Avery. But, oh, dear! Could I wear it? trudging up Broughton Street to the fishmonger? Or would any of the people I love care for it?

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Here I am.

My sister is safely here, sleeping off the horrors of jet lag, I hope. Knitting-wise: I have embarked on the fourth (of 14) repeats of the centre pattern of Mrs Hunter’s shawl. I keep not photographing it because I keep thinking, I’ll do a bit more today before I take a picture – and then the light goes. I hope I will set vanity aside and show you something tomorrow.

JenAC herself responded to my thread on Ravelry. She hasn’t knit any of what she bought at the EYF market in 2016 – and someone else soon chipped in to say she hadn’t yet knit any of her 2015 purchases either. Why do we do it? Not an easy question.

But I particularly wanted to be here tonight, to agree with you, Melfina: some days just getting through to the end is a real accomplishment, deserving to be celebrated. 

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Again, little to report. I’m well into the third pattern repeat (of 14) in the centre of Mrs Hunter’s shawl, but haven’t photographed it yet. Nobody on Ravelry has responded to my invitation to reveal to the world the amount of yarn we bought at the EYF last year and haven’t knit yet.

I suppose most of us by now have read Kate Davies’ blog post about the 7th anniversary of her stroke. Only seven? It is very remarkable what she has achieved in that time, quite apart from recovering physically. She wasn’t happy in her academic role before the stroke. She says herself that she is now in a better place, with a better life. But she also says that the stroke underlined her belief in the “randomness and raw brutality of life.”

She’s probably right about life being random and brutal.  But I am sad to see someone I admire so much, so devoid of hope.

Beverly (comment yesterday) you’re absolutely right that keeping my husband here at home for a month is an achievement worth recording with the others. Thank you for that. And I did get the 2015-16 tax papers neatly stashed away today.

My sister will be here tomorrow, insh’Allah. I don’t know how much I’ll post in the next six days.