Saturday, October 25, 2014

No further news from Strachur.

The hair-do was a success. At least I now look sane.

Panic continues. I am grateful for your advice. But Cat, the sensible approach doesn't work – I'm not frightened of anything in particular, just frightened. Well, perhaps of my increasing inability to cope with my husband's increasing frailty. But nothing can be done about that – indeed, the longer we can continue to slide down the familiar grooves, the happier for both.

I got a few things done yesterday, not including silver-polishing. But whatever is accomplished, two or three more chores spring up in replacement. I have a good deal of sympathy for Hercules' difficulties with the Hydra.

Yesterday I re-read the brilliant “found poem” Alexander constructed from this blog for my 80th birthday and printed on a tea towel. The link is to the blog itself, when I copied the poem out for you. We have had the tea towel framed; it hangs in dark corner with some old samplers. And it clearly shows that the notes of anxiety and fear go back a long way. This time of year is always difficult, with the encroaching darkness. I am drinking soothing herbal teas.

Will I feel better if I find my keys in Strathardle next week? Or will I just cling to them hysterically?

Valerie, thank you for the report on The Knowledgeable Knitter. I've ordered it.

Knitting went well yesterday – I did a scallop for the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl before returning to Archie's sweater. It is getting on nicely – madelinetosh produces a beautiful, smooth fabric. I am about to start the ribbing for the neck placket (top-down, remember). I don't think there's any hope of reaching an easy bit before we head off for the wedding – less than a week now. Greek Helen will be here tomorrow. But once the placket is established and the interval between buttonholes determined, it may prove easy enough.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Panic continues. It's worst in the morning. Tamar, I'll check on Vitamin B. I have a half-feeling that it was much touted during the war – perhaps recently discovered? I take Vitamin D in quantity during the dark months but I've forgotten what its virtues are supposed to be. And, Weavinfool, you're quite right that panic and happy anticipation are remarkably similar – I remember feeling something like this the morning I set forth to Shetland, and, long before that, the day I went to the Calcutta Cup on tickets I had won in a newspaper competition.

This is worse, I think. I got Rams & Yowes wrapped up and tagged yesterday. That hasn't helped. The wedding present is silver and I need to polish it. I hope I'll get to that today. And today is when I'm having my hair done. That should lift the spirits.

We had a grand time having lunch with our niece. That helped for a while.


My swatch of madelinetosh DK measures just a whisker over 20 stitches to four inches – not even 20 ½, just a whisker. So I'm calling it five stitches to the inch and proceeding on that basis, but remembering, as I often do in this sort of situation, Major Erskine in Evelyn Waugh's “Men at Arms”: “Major Erskine...was strangely dishevelled in appearance. His uniform was correct and clean but it never seemed to fit him, not through any fault of the tailor's, but rather because the major seemed to change shape from time to time during the day.”

The pattern is one of those with tables of numbers – you have to find your size and your gauge for every instruction. I hope it's not going to be too instruction-intensive for wedding-knitting. It's top-down, a novelty for me, and the neck-band isn't going to be added until the very end – so it curls. I'll have to do quite a bit before Archie can get much idea. It's knit circularly below the armpits, but it'll be a while before I reach those sunny uplands. I made a good start yesterday, leaving the Bridal Shawl aside despite my firm instructions to myself.

Here's something from Zite about knitting and the Yes campaign for Scottish independence. Woolly thinking of the worst sort, pun intended, but I thought you ought to see it.


Do you like numbers? Alexander emailed yesterday to say that his son James – the elder of the Little Boys on Loch Fyne – had been set the following sequence as his homework from Strachur Primary School, with instructions to find the next four numbers in the sequence:


The best Alexander and I can do is to assume that “8” is a mistake, and that the sequence required is 4,16,5,25. But James found this solution, which his doting grandmother regards as little short of brilliant:

64, 63, 3969, 3968

I'll let you know what they say about that in Strachur.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The feelings of panic are as bad as ever – so they clearly have nothing to do with dental appts or delivery of packages of yarn. I got nothing whatsoever done yesterday except breakfast, lunch, tea, supper, a little expedition with my husband, and sewing some elastic into the cuffs of his bed socks which had become dangerously loose.

Today our niece is coming to lunch and to pick up Archie's old computer. I may have mentioned that transaction – he has acquired a big, heavy, fancy one for advanced game-playing, in anticipation of his 18th birthday next week. Our niece's one is tottering towards the grave, so she will now have Archie's (which is not really “old” at all). A happy arrangement.

It should cheer and steady me to see her. She is a wedding guest, too – the bridegroom's first cousin once removed, indeed – and she still has to go shopping for a dress whereas I just have to wrap up presents. She hoped to wear one out of the cupboard, like me, but says it doesn't fit any more. Hard to believe – she doesn't carry a spare ounce.

Jan, your report about the church where the wedding will be, is wonderful. I will forward it to Rachel, along with the article about Hilda and Michael. Some of my children read this blog some of the time, but Rachel, I think, least of all.

I finished Archie's swatch yesterday, and today will take meticulous measurements and – why not? – cast on. I also did another scallop for the Unst Bridal Shawl, and mustn't be tempted to abandon it. It was hard to start again after finishing Rams & Yowes. One a day will get me there in plenty of time – but I mustn't slacken.

Now, VK.

I would be terribly grateful to have your verdict on the Knowledgeable Knitter, Patience. (And I love writing to you, because P. is my favourite Gilbert & Sullivan, closely followed by the Gondoliers and Trial by Jury and the good old Mikado and you are the only real-life Patience I have ever known.) There are some other mildly tempting titles on the VK book page, especially, perhaps, Mucklestone's Fair Isle book.

There are lots of really good cables in this issue. I'm having serious trouble locating the item-number in some cases, but I think I'm right in saying that I love the little, cropped No. 2 and am extravagantly impressed by both 7 & 8. Indeed, if Archie thinks the madelinetosh Composition Book Grey is too purple, I can see it winding up as one of those. Five stitches to the inch, for both. I ought to be able to achieve that. Maybe I already have.

The cover pattern, No. 22, by Marie Wallin in Rowan Kid Classic, is also wonderful. The effect is brocade-like (as it says) and I had to look at the chart carefully to see whether it obeys the Fair Isle limitation of having only two colours per row – but I think it qualifies. I have often admired Wallin's patterns for Rowan, never knit one. This pattern, as given, looks too close-fitting for my taste (love my Relax) but that doesn't mean the stitch pattern couldn't wind up as a vest.

And in the pages showing yarns in the skein, I loved this one from Ancient Art Fibres. A Bluefaced Leicester – I knit with that once, and it is indeed delectable. How does this one look when knit? Is it strong enough for a sock without any reinforcement? Lots of nice things to think about.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Yesterday went well, except that I am increasingly assailed by feelings of anxiety bordering on panic, for no credible reason at all. Much like my mother in her old age. Yesterday, to begin with, a new cleaning woman came from the agency – I like her a lot and I think things will go well, but preparing the kitchen for an 8 a.m. knock on the door is still slightly stressful.

Then my husband's dental appt – getting him to any appt is hard work. But not that hard, and I'm used to it. The wind was strong and fitful and he was worried about balance as we started back, but we were rescued and carried home by the kind friend who drove us to the Referendum vote not all that long ago.

I was worried about whether ParcelForce had tried to deliver my package during our hour's absence. No, that was all right – it turned up an hour later. The yarn is beautiful – this is the madelinetosh DK in Composition Book Grey.

Then I couldn't find the book “Knits Men Want” which contains the pattern Archie had chosen. I've got a lot of knitting books, many in piles on the floor where I have exceeded my shelf space. I rarely have any trouble finding a particular one. But this one had been taken from its home-space to show to Archie, and then left lying around waiting for the yarn. I could pretty well have recreated the pattern without the book – it's fairly basic. But then I found the book.

None of that sounds worthy of anxiety bordering on panic, does it? I think the approach of the wedding is weighing on me.

In the evening I started Archie's swatch. I had nicked the index finger of my right hand and the little wound kept opening and bleeding a bit, quite painlessly. But I couldn't risk blood on the Bridal Shawl, could I? So I devoted the evening to the swatch. Wonderful stuff, this yarn.

One of you warned me that it's really more purple than grey, and that's true. But the idea of taking it along as wedding-knitting -- a comment from someone else; I'm sorry to be so vague -- is perfect. There's time to do enough before then that Archie can judge the fabric, and anyway I can take the swatch along. But not too much time -- I can still back-track at that point. I think he'll like it, but it's best to be sure. My husband didn't recognise the concept of “composition book grey”. British education must proceed along different lines.

And then, talk about cups running over, the new VK turned up. It's a stunner.

Does anyone know the book called “The Knowledgeable Knitter”? It's all about getting gauge right and not casting off the ribbing too tightly at the neck and things like that. It sounds good. Do I want it, or do I know it all already?

And speaking of books – Kristie sent me a link just now to the Stranded Colourwork Sourcebook, privately published and sold by the author. That one I'll go for.

There's much to be said about the new VK – I could knit from it from now until the next issue comes out and be nowhere near the end of the things I admire. More tomorrow.


Rachel sent this link yesterday, no message, with the subject-line “It's Real!”

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I talked to the postie yesterday (about Archie's yarn) – but ParcelForce and the Royal Mail are two separate things, so she couldn't help. She said to leave a note – they don't like taking a parcel away any more than we like not getting it. We've got a bit of that hurricane this morning. It will be hard to leave a note that won't blow away.

The Economist seems to be off the hook (see yesterday). The phrase that alarmed me is “...the transport links that shuttle virus from villages to the town and back into uninfected country”. In a leader about Ebola, of course. But apparently “virus” is not a plural, there – “the” has dropped out.

I achieved two more scallops on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl yesterday. It is getting harder and harder to remember where I am from minute to minute. I'll take it along to the dentist today.

Something very peculiar has happened to all my pictures – but here's a new one. Mungo got an Outstanding Achievement Award at his Athenian school yesterday for getting A* in all his GCSE's. No one else in the school did that. Here he is receiving it. He is there on his half-term break from his new Scottish school. Helen will bring him back on Sunday, and then come here to look after us for a few days – including the wedding the following weekend.

Anyway, Mungo:

I think the trouble with that NYTimes article (yesterday, again, with comments) is that the author was trying to write light-heartedly about two different things – the decline of Home Ec, and gender-specific crafts. I think gender-specificity is declining, at least to some extent and in some places. Grandson Alistair showed great promise as a knitter but couldn't pursue the subject in China because boys simply didn't. It was very sad.

And I wonder if Home Ec will come back. Archie's all-boys school teaches Man Skills such as ironing in the final year, and cookery is available throughout as an optional activity. They couldn't be the only school to do it. But on the other hand single-sex schools are something of a rarity these days. Cookery might be hard for all but the boldest of boys, if the class was full of girls. It's an interesting topic.

Monday, October 20, 2014


It looks to me as if the Economist has wandered into the minefield offered by the question of the plural of “virus”. At least they avoid the odious “viri”. The word is never used in the plural in ancient Latin – it means “venom” or “slime” and doesn't really need a plural. I think the only possible English is “viruses” but I've had trouble defending that corner in the past. It's a neuter noun, so the strictly correct Latin plural would be “vira” which is obviously impossible. I've emailed James.

Hilde, thank you for your comment. I had got as far as the House of Bruar page of sizing instructions before I read your message, and had grasped that 38 was a European size. I was hesitating between 40 and 42 for the replacement – you have decided me. 42 it will be.

Sarah, I don't know Susan Crawford, and will now watch for her new book rather attentively.


Not much else to report. I applied the principles adumbrated yesterday to the Northmavine Hap, and got on well. It's now at a point where I can leave it. I got another scallop done on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl.

I've just grasped that tomorrow's post, with Archie's yarn, is likely to arrive when we are out for yet another dental appt – my husband's new gnashers are still not comfortable. I'll try to have a word with the postie this morning, if I can catch her,

My sister sent me a link to an NYTimes article “Knitting Backward”. It froze my computer but this morning it turned up on Zite, so I have read it and it left me mildly cross. The author is a woman who started life as a boy, and she is writing about gender roles and “home ec” and the inability of anyone, nowadays, to sew on a button. The climax comes when her mother teaches her how to knit – but only after she has turned into a woman.

So, men and boys don't knit? My husband's mother taught him, without waiting for a sex-change operation. I suspect the author of the Times article didn't go on to become a knitter, after that initial lesson.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


Dear Friends!

Hazel Tindall left a comment here yesterday – for Saturday, October 11. Kristie, don't miss. I cannot think of another honour to compare this to.

And, Kristie, you asked about Meg's Fair Isle Vest pattern. Here's the Ravelry link. I like the idea of using it as a template, Mary Lou. One of my books – “Fair Isle Knitting Patterns: Reproducing the Known Work of Robert Williamson” – has a simple paragraph about choosing patterns: firstly, with a number of stitches that divides evenly into the number of stitches you've got; and secondly, all in the same “family” so that they line up vertically on top of each other. A “family” of patterns, if I've got this right, all have a common factor in the number of stitches in the repeat – 3,6,12,24 or 4,8,16 or 5,10,20,40.

This promises to be rather fun. I'll probably wind up knitting Meg's vest as given – it fulfils the basic requirement of having different patterns all the way up. Perhaps I could do something slightly more exciting for the peerie patterns.

The big news here – second only to the comment from Hazel – is that Archie's yarn has turned up. In the sense that I've had the notice about the “import VAT” to be paid, and I've paid it, and delivery is promised for Tuesday.

Last night I struggled on with the Northmavine Hap. I think I will have to alter my approach, and perhaps get rid of some of those markers in favour of looking at the knitting, as EZ recommends. The pattern is a simple feather-and-fan. I can do that. The triangle is expanding by means of yo's hither and yon. I must master the system, and make sure it doesn't trip me up by changing pace at any point. And then I ought to be able to knit fairly peacefully without all this counting and struggling with markers.

I also got one more scallop done on the edging of the Unst Bridal Shawl. Keep at it, that's the thing.

I tried on the new clothes yesterday – a skirt and two shirts and a little suede vest. Everything's fine except for the vest, which is absurdly small. The other things are size 14. The vest is 38. 38 whats? I'll have to figure that out in order to ask for the right size. There's still time to get the replacement before I set off to the wedding, as long as I get down to the post office tomorrow morning.

Greek Helen phoned and offered to do all the driving for our little outing to Strathardle next week, Monday to Wednesday, just before the wedding. It would mean a lot of scrambling about for her, driving boys to school and then back to Edinburgh or Strathardle, as appropriate, to fetch us. But it might relieve my absurd anxiety somewhat. I'll feel much better if I can find my keys, as I keep saying.

I have finished reading “Do No Harm” and have plunged straight into Atul Gawande's “Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End”, perhaps unwisely. He writes often for the New Yorker, and is a fave of mine, but this one cuts close to the bone. By “end” he means “end”, the part of life that awaits too many of us, when we start falling down and the retirement community is no longer secure enough.