Friday, April 24, 2015

The Secret of Life may be to panic a day in advance. I got a fair amount done yesterday, the tasks, of course, multiplying hydra-headed as soon as each one was ticked off. The same thing will happen today. But I'm feeling more confident.

Our friend G., who reads this blog every morning to see if there is something she can do to make life easier for us, came round and put the iPad right. I had made considerable progress with turning it off and on again, to no avail. She turned the wi-fi router off and on (or whatever you call that gadget that extends the signal) and that did the trick.

So here is the picture of the Sous Sous which had got stuck in the system. I lightened it somewhat with the iPad's picture-editing tools, in order to show you the pattern. The effect is to downplay the wonderfulness of the yarn. I could go on knitting Whiskey Barrel forever and must, indeed, make my husband a pair of socks in it.

I got well on with the sixth repeat last night, and may advance to the beginning of the sixth cable crossing today. The cabling all comes towards the end of the 16-row repeat.

There's a new Twist Collective out. Nothing for me, knitting-wise, I don't think – the sweaters too fitted, the shawls too big. But there's a seriously interesting article about provisional cast-ons, worth stowing in Evernote, and an ad from Catherine Lowe that I must pursue, another simple, loose-fitting sweater in the Relax stable.

Clicking on the ad doesn't help, though. Ravelry doesn't advance things much.


Rachel and Ed should be here tonight, and tomorrow we will set off towards Strathardle as soon as we can get my husband up and booted and spurred (=roughly, midday). I should be back here on Tuesday, insh'Allah. My sister should arrive later that day. She says she has got a step-measuring gadget and is trying to do 10000 steps a day. I have spent enough time on that particular game to know that that will require her to be in almost constant motion.

Except for the hoped-for appearance on Tuesday, there won't be any blogging next week either.

SamKD, I was touched by your comment yesterday about Ruth Rendell. I am currently reading her “House of Stairs”, under the name of Barbara Vine. Not her best, but that's a comment which might be made here and there of Raphael. When the iPad was out of touch with the world for two days, I found that that was the thing which worried me most – I won't be able to get another book for my Kindle app.

Does anyone know how she is? She = Ruth Rendell. She had a massive stroke early this year. Googling reveals a number of newspaper reports, “serious but stable”, from January. Then, silence.   

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rachel and Ed will be here late tomorrow, insh'Allah, for our long-awaited trip to Kirkmichael the next day. I am gripped by panic on several fronts. I met a neighbour yesterday – virtually a next-door neighbour in Drummond Place; in Perthshire, she has a little house in the next glen. She was up there last weekend and found it overrun with mice. That's one of my many anxieties this morning. My husband is afraid trees will have blown down. Turning the water on for the first time after the winter is always exciting.

That about covers it, for Perthshire-based anxieties. There are also plenty of Edinburgh ones.

The iPad still refuses to communicate with the outside world. I've tried turning the wi-fi off and on again and doing the same for the whole machine. I'll have to advance to a more radical re-set today.

Yesterday's dentistry went well. The third pocket square reached the end-game, where one becomes delightfully aware that the rows are shortening. So in the evening I polished it off, and now have the beginnings of a satisfactory little pile.

I don't think enough yardage remains in that skein for the next square. I've got an abundance of yarn – it would be silly to risk an unnecessary join. On the other hand, nothing is more dispiriting, when one suddenly feels like knitting a pocket square, than the thought that one has to wind a skein of yarn first.

So I went ahead and did that.

So there wasn't much time for the Sous Sous. But I've made a respectable start on the 6th repeat. I think this back piece is going to prove to be the largest by quite a bit. The front is truncated by that fancy shaping and the two little sleeves scarcely count.

My Sirka counter is proving invaluable. It's wonderfully sure of itself – no pegs to fall out or clicking arrangements to attract visiting children. When I switch to the Tokyo shawl, I can trust it to remember where I am in the 16-row Sous Sous repeat while at the same time counting the 21 long rows in each Tokyo colour band.

Well, I can't look at Zite if the iPad won't cooperate. I had better go chip away at panic by writing down some, at least, of the things I need to do, and then doing them. Little trips to Strathardle were never entirely easy, but they used to be routine. They have lost that quality.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dentistry today. That should give me a chance to advance the third pocket square.

I very much like Stella's idea, endorsed by Meezermeowmy, comments yesterday, of a double row of eyelets for the bridegroom's pocket square, nothing fancier. I'll go with that one. I mean to knit eight, and will do that one last. In fact, they'll have nine, counting the sample I have already sent to London for approval. So he'll have a choice.

The iPad seems to have the vapours this morning. It says it's connected, it says it has a strong signal, but it doesn't seem able to send me the picture I just took using it, of the Sous Sous in progress. Maybe tomorrow. I've done the fifth cable crossing.

I've just heard from one of you who is going to be on this tour. We hope to meet for lunch during the Edinburgh bit at the end. The tour sounds excellent – I like Dundee, and it's a solid and un-tourist-y spot for a base; I like Amy Detjen; I like the idea of arriving in Lerwick by sea, and it will be wonderful to meet Hazel Tindall. Is anyone else signed up for it?

I have also heard from two Maryland-Sheep-and-Wool-goers, so the Vampires should be in hand. I don't really need them – I am more enthused at the moment with the idea of more socks for my husband with the new(ish) madelinetosh sock yarn, probably including Whiskey Barrel itself.

But the Vampires of Venice, apart from the sheer wonderfulness of the name, are mentioned in the found poem Alexander constructed from this blog and gave me, printed on tea towels, for my 80th birthday. (We have framed and hung one.) I've just been looking back through the archives to find it. I wrote it out for you in full on August 15, 2013.

Looking back brought many happy memories of that wonderful 80th birthday party. And this picture, which I had forgotten:

That's me and Matt, on our way up the commonty towards the house. You can see why I'll knit him all the pocket squares he could possibly want.

That all happened only two years ago -- how long ago it seems. I am afraid the downward trajectory since then has been rather steep.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Yesterday was an unexpectedly good knitting day. The eye appt went on all afternoon. I had finished off the second pocket square at home, and by the time optometry was over, I was nearly halfway through the third (eight are wanted). I pressed on in the evening, counting up to 62 stitches and then beginning the decreases, before reverting to the Sous Sous.

The simple and excellent pattern I am using begins every row with k2, YO. Or K1, k2tog, YO, SSK, for the decreases. It makes a very nice little edge. But what about something just slightly fancier for the bridegroom himself? I'll think about that, and perhaps turn back to my Craftsy class on lace edgings with Franklin.

(I wish he'd do another class for them. He offers several in real life which I'd like to attend, and he is the most exemplary of teachers.)

And then a bit of Sous Sous. I am poised to do the fifth of ten cable crossings for the back. It is a good thing the yarn – madelinetosh DK in the shade called Whiskey Barrel – is beyond wonderful. Otherwise I would find the knitting tedious – a cable panel embedded in double moss stitch, nowhere to kick up the heels and just knit. But I love it, love what's happening. A picture tomorrow might be nice. Franklin's class on photographing one's knitting might be nice, too, although perhaps not enough for a whole Craftsy course.

Non-knit – a) loss

I was most encouraged by your story of the found keys, Mary Lou – spotted from the back of a galloping horse, indeed (more or less). We're going back to Strathardle this weekend for only the second time after that famous loss. I haven't much hope. Greek Helen asked once if I found I was putting things in odd places – she has clearly been reading the literature on demented parents.

The answer, I think, is no. And anyway, that day, I had no motive to “put” them anywhere. I was pacing about, with the keys in my left hand – Archie confirms that – waiting for my husband to emerge from the bathroom so that we could head back to Edinburgh, leaving Helen and her boys to clean and close the house. The keys dematerialised. I suddenly realised I was no longer clutching them. And they haven't been seen since.

The disappearance of the iPad is equally, although differently, puzzling. Observing my behaviour with its replacement, I don't see how I could mislay it, it is so constantly in use. Could a Bad Man have got in here and snatched it after all? But how? how? Don't forget the near-contemporaneous appearance of that baseball cap on the bedroom floor. That remains unexplained.

Non-knit – b) Scotland

One of you has written to ask what to do on a two-week trip to Scotland next summer. A wonderful question, solutions invited. It depends, of course, on whether you want to eat, or walk, or look at art, or visit gardens, or...

Repairing my own failures, I would want to fit in a mini-cruise of the Western Isles. I don't know if such a thing is offered formally. It could probably be constructed from the ferry schedules. The Isle of Bute would be high on my list. Until I went to Shetland with Kristie and Kath, I had never been to a Scottish island. That's shameful.

Knitting again

Is anyone going to Maryland Sheep and Wool? One of you was planning to buy a couple of skeins of Vampires of Venice for me, but family health problems have prevented her from going. Email me – address in sidebar – if you can help. I can reimburse you with a check in USD.

Monday, April 20, 2015

The second pocket square is nearly finished, but not quite. That's the end of this morning's knitting news.

I looked up Kate Davies' tea cosy pattern. It's a sweetie, all right, and it includes a number of interesting techniques which I might benefit from attempting. I've never liked corrugated ribbing, for instance – but I didn't discover until late in life that it's not meant to pull in like real ribbing. Maybe it's worth another try. And I wonder if I've even heard of “vikkel braids”.

Life begins to sizzle a bit, this week. My husband has two appts – eyes today and teeth on Wednesday. Rachel and Ed are coming up after work on Friday for our weekend adventure in Strathardle. My sister is coming next week. Her husband, who had a small stroke just before Thomas' and Lucy's wedding, is well enough to be left on his own – that sounds good.

Nope, I'm afraid I've got nothing to say.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Progress as hoped, yesterday – the 11th Tokyo stripe finished; it's time for the next little five-row stripe. I laid it aside as planned and reverted to the current pocket square. I've passed the half-way point, the passage where pretty constant counting is needed to ensure that I turn around on exactly 62 stitches. From here on out, as long as I do it right every time – k1, k2tog, yo, ssk, knit to end – I just have to keep it up until only four stitches remain, and then bind off.

Do another, while the iron is hot? Or revert at once to the Sous Sous?

Today, books. I've got three to report on.

The Manly Art of Knitting

I must have heard of this from Zite, and ordered it for the sake of the cover photograph of the cowboy knitting. It's an utterly basic book, very faintly tongue in cheek, by a man, for men, covering the essentials. I wish I had had it to give to Alistair, the summer he was learning to knit in Strathardle. He had real ability, and won a prize for a scarf in the Games that summer, and gave it up entirely because Men Don't Knit in China.

Maybe it's not too late.

Unst Heritage Lace

This one is utterly enchanting. It is little more than a pamphlet from the Unst Heritage Centre, with a bit of local history and patterns for three all-overs, three “laces” (=scalloped edging patterns) and two motifs which could be combined or repeated ad lib. I hope I've counted rightly. Where relevant – “Unst Snaadraps”, for example, or “Flukra” -- the lace patterns are illustrated with photographs of the local phenomena their names suggest. “Flukra” are gently falling snowflakes.

The patterns are charted and also given line-by-line, in both cases using the old “T” and “C” – “take” and “cast” – for k2tog and YO. Amedro does it that way. I used to find it an easy and pleasant way to sing the repeat to myself, so to speak.

When we were there, I asked why Unst of all places, the most northerly inhabited (or uninhabited) British island, had become the home of extravagantly fine lace knitting. Answer came there none. There doesn't even seem to be a local legend explaining it. But there it is.

Ten Poems About Knitting

James spotted this in a bookshop window, and sent it up to me with my husband was he was returned after the Easter holiday. One of the poems is actually about “The Manly Art of Knitting”. Another is by Emily Dickenson. It's from the Candlestick Press, and nicely done.


On page 46 of the current British edition of The Economist, you will find the headline “Arabia Infelix”. James rang up on Thursday, deadline day, to make sure that the Latin was acceptable. I was glad to do my bit.

In 1954, the summer I was 21, I had a hunble but not entirely menial job at Life Magazine in NYC. They were the happiest weeks of my life, I think. It couldn't have lasted – I would have had to go on to something more stressful and join the others weeping in the Ladies'.

We got our copies of the magazine, stamped STAFF in big letters, the day before publication, and enjoyed riding home on the subway with the cover prominently displayed. One week there was a headline, perhaps even over the leader, “O Tempore O Mores”. If I had had my wits about me as I should have had, I could have cried, Stop the presses! (It should be “tempora”.) A chance missed forever. At least “Arabia Infelix” is right.

Saturday, April 18, 2015


My husband and I disapprove of a lot of things, one-day cricket and cricket commentary when it replaces the Today programme on Radio 4 long wave, among them. But we have been enjoying the Test Match from Antigua during our naps this week. The Test Match Special team always invites distinguished retired cricketers from the other side to join in the commentary – and West Indian cricketers have lovely Harry Bellafonte voices.

It occurred to me that my husband and I have reversed our traditional national roles, when it comes to cricket. He thumps the floor with his stick (metaphorically speaking) and demands to know, as any American would, What is the score?

And I try patiently to explain that the question is irrelevant. You have to take a number of matters into consideration. Should England declare, or bat on for a while? It's not simple.

It is surely the only sport in the world where they stop for tea.


My knitting time was more than ordinarily interrupted yesterday, so there are still a couple of rows to be done before I can lay the Tokyo shawl aside and knock off a pocket square.

Rachel and Ed are coming up next weekend to take us to Strathardle, wonderful to anticipate. Ed is always keen to be active and I am sure my husband will have many a chore to keep him employed. Rachel and I can attempt to deal with a winter's infestation of mice. And we can look for those keys.

I don't know what we're going to do about the Games this year, but I just had a look on-line and sure enough, there they are, on a rather over-busy website suggesting a keen amateur employing all the tricks in the web designer's tool box.

The knitting categories are 1) a cardigan for a premature baby, to be donated, pattern supplied; and 2) a tea cosy. David and Helen have been meekly asking for a tea cosy for years. Have I got time? Do I want to involve myself in the clever fiddliness which will probably win? Everybody's got access to the books with the extreme patterns, in this digital age. I would have no advantage there. Still, I'll think about it. The more entries there are, the more gratifying for the winner to win, I always feel.

The cardigan pattern is mildly interesting. Have a look. To begin with, it specifies the needle sizes as 10 and 12 – so many years out of date as to be astonishing. I remember a character in a dear, departed soap opera more than 20 years ago – we were still in Birmingham – referring to “number 8's” and my thinking that that wasn't right. If she were really a knitter, she'd be talking metric.

And the first few rows seem to begin with an instruction to “slip 11”, surely impossible. Maybe it will look more comprehensible when I have had lasers shone into my eyes.

Thank you for your comments on the question which arose yesterday as I contemplated that event, namely what does a devout Muslim eye surgeon or airline pilot do about fasting during Ramadan? I am reassured by your answers. If I get a chance, in a quiet moment in our nearest shop, I'll ask Mr or Mrs Hussain. He grumbled to me during one Ramadan recently that his teen-aged children were eating the pre-dawn breakfast and then spending the day in bed, emerging just in time to break the fast with the daily feast after sunset. He thought that was cheating.

I don't know his children well, but I have known them a little bit since birth and I would say that they were turning out splendidly.