Saturday, March 28, 2015

It's happening. The car has left for London. Rachel and Alexander seem fully on top of the problem. Problems. My husband was actually cheerful. They have got him something which I think might be called a zimmer frame. It'll be interesting to see how he gets on with it, and with the wheelchair which I think has been provided in London. These things may herald a whole new lease of life.

And my weight was down by two whole digits this morning. I had been firmly stuck on a plateau for more than a week (as happens) and had hoped for a bit of improvement on this, my last Lenten weigh-in, but didn't expect anything as good as this. Of course it will bounce back up tomorrow – but I'm not going to weigh myself tomorrow. I'm off to Greece.

My hair looks good. When I first started having it cut by Charles Kivlin – ?five years ago – I asked him to aim for Hillary Clinton. She's not ageing entirely well, in my opinion, or maybe it's just that she's neglecting her hair a bit, so now the target is Theresa May.

Charles' daughter is married to an Italian. They run a delicatessen somewhere near Naples, and Charles told me yesterday, as he snipped away, about gathering wild asparagus with his son-in-law. I emailed Greek Helen as soon as I got home, to ask whether this year's wild asparagus season had started yet, in Greece? And the answer is, yes! I think it will grow in this country if you coax it. I think Jamie Oliver is keen. I am greatly looking forward to tasting it.


All well there, too. I wound the second skein of Whiskey Barrel and joined it in, somewhere very near the beginning of the fourth repeat. I'm now nearly ready for the fourth cable crossings – they come at the end of the 16-row repeat. I think once they're done, it will be time to go back to the Tokyo shawl.

But I don't expect to do much knitting today.

And the word from London is to go! with the American yarn, for the pocket squares. I should be able to knock off a couple in Athens. As I've said, I'm not hugely enamoured of the shade (too light) but my beloved Polish cleaning woman pointed out, when I discussed the problem with her, that they will show up better against a black jacket than a serious navy blue would.

So, goodbye for now, and a happy spring holiday to all except those in the antipodes for whom autumn is drawing in. See you in a week or so, insh'Allah.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Archie is safely home in Athens.

The latest news about the plane crash in the French Alps is infinitely depressing.

It turns out – or so they told me, when I got there yesterday – that my hair appt is for this morning. So that's still to be done. Today's other major activity is to pack for my husband. I have been making a careful list all week – it should just be a matter of ticking things off. An email from Rachel this morning suggests that all the food he will require en route should be on board at departure, so that's something else to do. She's taking a train up after work and will – insh'Allah – be here late this evening. He's a notoriously slow starter. We'll have time to bustle about in the morning.

On top of everything else, a tour bus crashed near the Rest and Be Thankful yesterday, and the road is closed. That may affect Alexander's journey here tomorrow.

This is a picture of my Chinese chillies in our friend's kitchen. I am sure they will be far happier there. I have them in a north-facing window, no direct sun, far from ideal, because that is the only window in our kitchen, and it's warm in there.


After reading all your kind and helpful comments yesterday, I pulled myself together and tinked two and a half long and laborious rows, and re-did that cable cross. Although I'm sure you're right, Kristie, that I would have forgotten all about it ere long. At least I grasped in time that I could stop tinking as soon as I had released the mal-crossed cables, turn the work at that point, and start re-knitting at once.

This is an image from the Loop website. The pattern was designed for them although also, I believe, available on Ravelry. I hope I'm not violating copyright.

As you see, there are three ribs involved in each of the two cables. The impression is that the inner rib and the outer rib change places at each intersection, while the centre one continues uninterrupted. That's not true. The centre rib becomes the new inner one. The outer rib takes its place in the centre. It looks like one operation, but it takes two cable rows, four rows apart, to bring it about. Most ingenious, and a lovely effect.

So a mis-crossed cable (I had crossed the wrong rib over the wrong rib) is worse than a simple over-which-should-be-under. I'm glad I re-did it.

There are only a few yards left in the first skein of Whiskey Barrel. More winding looms. I'm going to change the basis for awarding percentage points in the sidebar. I will assume I've got enough yarn and that therefore each skein consumed (there were eight) represents 12.5% of the knitting.

The other thing perhaps to do, today or tomorrow, is to get the Pakokku socks re-started, for knitting aloft. I took them to the dentist on Wednesday and found myself in some sort of muddle and ripped it out. It would be nice to knit these socks for C., who will be travelling with me. But I am sure she has small feet and the other time I tried, Pakokku didn't swirl properly over 56 stitches. It needed 64.

So I had cast on 64 this time – that restricts the possible recipient-pool to Greek Helen or Ketki. But, apart from the muddle, it didn't seem to be starting off in a swirl so I am trying 56 stitches again and we'll see what happens. It would be good to do a few rounds of that so that all I have to do on the plane is take them out and get going.

I'll try to post a final pre-Athens bulletin tomorrow, after the London-bound party has departed, therefore several hours later than usual.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Archie has been and gone – he should be well over Belgium by now. I lay half-awake for much of the night, wondering whether he was capable o getting himself up and out at 4 a.m., and whether the taxi would come. Of course he was, of course it did. Perhaps it's just as well that the night will be a short one – because of the time change – when it's my turn.

Here's Archie in the sweater:

I think it can be classed as a success. I wouldn't mind it an inch shorter in both body and sleeves, and I wouldn't mind a slightly higher neck. That will look better if he wears something wkth a collar underneath.

Last night's knitting involved an unfortunate mis-crossed cable in the third repeat on the back of the Sous Sous. What to do? I know it is possible to ladder back just the cable stitches and re-cross them. But 15 stitches are involved – could I pull it off? Or frog – no, tink – two rows and do it properly? That's the best option, but a bit daunting because the work is so wide; there's an awful lot of double moss stitch to unpick. Or figure that in a dark yarn, low down on the back, a mis-crossed cable has a certain rustic charm?


The kind friend who has been driving us to so many appts lately, has offered to give a home to my little Chinese chilli plants while we are away. (They're looking well, but don't have true leaves yet.) That will be a huge relief.

I'd better leave it there for today. I'm having my hair done this morning, and must fetch the newspapers and lay out my husband's breakfast before I go.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

All well. Not even much panic. I am moving nicely through the day-by-day items on my schedule. Today my husband has a dental appt., and Archie is coming in the evening to be in position for the early-morning EasyJet flight tomorrow. At least he won't have to contend with the Astronomer Royal and the loss of an hour, as I will on Sunday. I haven't scheduled anything else for today.

I'll be sure to get a picture for you of Archie in his new sweater.

The danger of a list is that it can lull one into a false sense of security. I am trying to keep alert and to think of more things to write down, as well as enjoying the keen pleasure of crossing out other things.


I sent the latest pocket square off to London and await the verdict.

And I proceeded with the Sous Sous. I am well into the third repeat, beginning to master the rhythm of the ribbing across the central panel and not making any more mistakes, so far, with the double moss stitch on the sides. It's looking great.

The ribs – is that what you'd call them? – which cross each other to form the cable pattern consist of k1b, p1, k1b instead of the k3 one might expect. I'm proceeding more briskly now that I've grasped that.

The first skein of Whiskey Barrel hasn't far to go. It'll see me through this third repeat, but not much beyond. I am mildly worried. The pattern is written for madelinetosh DK. It specifies seven skeins for the Medium size I am knitting. I bought eight.

There seem to be eleven repeats in the back, so I'll probably be into the fourth skein when I finish. The front will be much smaller, with a deep v-neck and that scoop out of the bottom hem which Greek Helen thinks will draw too much attention to the wearer's less-than-perfect un-flat stomach. And the over-wide front and back provide about half of the sleeve length – only another 7 1/2” will be needed for each sleeve, and they're narrow.

So I'm probably fine for yarn. It's just that one needs something to worry about.

I'll try to get a picture for you soon. The yarn is so dark I'm not sure the luscious pattern will show up.

Mary Lou, the fun of fine lace knitting is that one moves onto an entirely different plane of being. Finshing is impossible, so one doesn't even think about it. One simply enjoys the moment. “Patience” is the wrong word for the quality of mind needed. I think I am talking myself into picking up the Queen Ring and forging ahead. 

Sharon Miller says she finished it in five months, working two hours per evening. But I bet she knits more adroitly than I do, and perhaps has fewer ingerruptions per knitting session.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Our EasyJet flight on Sunday leaves at 7 a.m. That will mean getting up at about 4, and having a taxi here at about 4:30. In fact, we are going to travel together in one taxi – C. will summon it to Morningside at about 4:15 and we therefore won't leave Drummond Place until slightly after 4:30 which will fret me a bit, but it should be all right.

Last night, as I was lying there peacefully waiting for sleep to come, I thought of something. I have confirmed it on-line this morning, The clocks go forward on Sunday. We've got to get up at three.

I'll change the clocks in the house, and my watch, on Saturday morning as soon as the party (my husband, Alexander, Rachel) sets forth towards London. That might help a bit.

I finished the Pocket Square yesterday, tidied and pressed it, and will dispatch it to London today. It's less bulky than the DK ones, as hoped. The colour isn't very strong. We'll see what they think. It would be great if it passes muster, as I've got the yarn and can take it to Athens and practice Continental Knitting.

And I resumed the Sous Sous. The secret of multiple-WIP-ery is surely never to leave anything for too long, so that resumption doesn't involve a strenuous mental readjustment. I'm nearly finished with the second pattern repeat. I'll press on at least through the third.

I also spent some time with three Sharon Miller shawl patterns, trying to extract the relevant figures for comparison. The Unst (just completed), the Wedding Ring and the Queen Ring are all standard-shape Shetland shawls, with an edging, four borders, and a square centre. Unlike the Princess, which is an enormous triangle. So what one needs to know, essentially, is how many stitches there are in the long outward edge of each border, and how deep the borders are. All the rest follows from that.

It is not altogether easy to find this information in the patterns. Sharon writes rather diffusively (I think might be the word) and she prefers to start with the centre. And in the case of the Queen Ring, she offers several alternatives which affect the stitch count.

The answer is roughly that the Unst is the smallest of the three, then the Wedding Ring, then, by a fair margin, the Queen Ring. I don't think it's going to be possible to reduce and simplify and still retain the elements I want. A framed centre has to be of a certain size or the frame will simply overwhelm and swallow the centre. The borders have to be in proportion. The edging has to go all the way around.

So maybe I'd better just go ahead and start the Queen Ring and see what happens. The pattern is based on an actual shawl which Sharon bought at auction. She tries to copy the original technique – knitting from the edging inwards. That is the method I prefer. Indeed, after doing it Sharon's way, centre-outwards, for the Unst, I resolved, never again.

The Queen Ring pattern has the four borders knit separately and seamed at the end. I'm certainly not going to do that. Even Sharon found it tough going. It has occurred to me that the simplest solution to the garter stitch problem (instead of purling alternate rounds, or mastering the Fleegle System) might be to knit the borders all-in-one not circularly but back-and-forth, with a single open seam. Plenty of time to think about such things as I knit the edging.

I made a start at Christmas, which now seems a very long time ago – ten edging points done. It's an easy edging pattern to learn, I remember. And it looks rather nice – I got it out yesterday.

As far as I know, Sharon hasn't published the pattern for her own-design “Fine Lace Framed Shawl”, but it could be deduced from the calculations and charts of pp 215-218 of Heirloom Knitting. Maybe I should add it to my little compilation.

New follower -- hi!

Monday, March 23, 2015

A fairly successful day, yesterday. I got two of the three things I had assigned myself, done. The third, putting the spare room back in order after its use as a blocking room, has been postponed until tomorrow when the cleaning woman is here. Hellie's shawl is finished and tenderly packed and labelled. I've probably mentioned that Rachel (the bride's mother) is coming up on Friday night to accompany Alexander and my husband on their drive south on Saturday– so I can consign it into her hands and be sure the shawl will be safely conveyed.

I have been thinking about More Lace. Sharon's Queen Ring is probably too ambitious for my time of life. (Anything is probably too ambitious, but never mind that.) But maybe her Wedding Ring Shawl, another said-to-be 72” square number, would be possible. Or rather, use that as the basis for what might grandly be called my own design: I want to do a framed centre. See Heirloom Knitting, page 215 for a splendid one in the Shetland Museum. And I'd like boteh's in the border – that's what those Paisley-shawl-like motifs are called. (The link is to Wikipedia.)

The Queen Ring has both of those features, so maybe what I want is just a somewhat simplified and smaller Queen Ring. I'll give this some thought. What does one use for lace-planning software these days? I've got Stitch and Motif Maker, although I haven't used it for years or tried it on a newer computer.

I've got three more granddaughters in the pipeline, so to speak, and there's no chance at all for a veil for each of them. But one more, maybe...

Not much knitting got done yesterday, as usual for a Sunday. My husband had an unusual computer problem, ingenious even for him – endnotes which seemed to disappear off the right-hand margin. The complete endnote was there, somehow – one could see the complete text if one hovered the cursor over the number in the text. But the end of each note didn't appear in the list of notes at the end of the document, and couldn't be reached for editing.

I can't say I cracked that one – I don't know what he had done wrong. But I found a workaround that recovered the full text, in plain sight, edit-able. Valuable knitting time was consumed in the operation.

I advanced the current Pocket Square somewhat, however. I'm now decreasing. It's still looking good. I should be able to dispatch it to London tomorrow. I do hope Matt likes it. I could knock off a couple more in Athens. And, Lisa, I think you're right – it would be just the thing for practising Continental Knitting. Bugger the Parthenon.

However, yesterday's excitement in the knitting line was an email from Webs about (among other things) a new(ish) madelinetosh yarn called madelinetosh Twist Light. It's not all that new, because Ravelry is replete with happy users and their FO's. It's a proper sock yarn, with 25% nylon, and plyed. Not to be confused with madelinetosh Sock which is 100% merino and unplyed.

I had been thinking that it was time my husband had another pair of socks. He's got a drawerful; they wear well. But he hasn't had a new pair for a long time. I've got some nice stuff in my Unknit Sock bag, but it's all along the lines of Kaffe-for-Regia or Into the Whirled, nothing for a gent with conservative tastes in footware. Well, there you are – what could be better than Whiskey Barrel itself? And there are many other possibilities in Webs' enticing pages.

A bit of Googling suggests that mt Twist Light hasn't reached these shores yet. Neither Loop nor Meadow Yarn seem to have it, anyway. I'd be very happy to be corrected on that point. Otherwise it looks like a third order in rapid succession to Webs. Will the Queen notice this time?


Old friends are coming to lunch today, so I haven't scheduled anything for myself except a couple of phone calls, brief but important. And I'll have to tidy the sitting room a bit and nip out to a local Marks & Spencer-light for some sandwiches. (The friends have been warned.) I'll offer beer and if they like the idea, I'll have some too -- with a clear conscience. What I have given up for Lent is, after all, only Weston's Vintage Cider, although the effect has beenb no alcohol at all except for Laetare Sunday (and six pounds of weight lost).

Sunday, March 22, 2015

I'm sure you're right, Susann, that that mosaic (two days ago) shows Dionysius and his panther. A cat, in a sense. I'll tell Helen. The mosaic is in the museum in Antalya (Turkey). I hope we're going to see lots of mosaics while we're in Greece.

I'm now in countdown mode. One week from right-this-minute I should be aloft, well on my way across Europe, knitting my sock. I have made a schedule of the days, assigning tasks to each, keeping Friday clear Any spare time, and I can drag a task forward from the dwindling stock of future days. Whenever I find myself thinking, I mustn't forget to... and whenever my husband says, You've got to... – down it goes on the schedule.

Today's top-of-the-list job is to finish tidying and (alas) mending Hellie's shawl, and put it in a box, and label the box clearly, and put it near the front door to go to London on Saturday. Here's the shawl:

One comfort (as you view that gaping hole) is that it is a lot easier to mend lace up to the galloping-horse stage than a lot of other sorts of knitting. It won't pass muster with Sharon Miller or the Shetland Museum, of course.

Yesterday's knitting went well. The rugby did not – Scotland lost by a fearful margin, the worst score of a disastrous season. We've won the Wooden Spoon, fair and square.

I got that last skein wound for the Tokyo shawl. And of course you're right, Liz and Lou and Skeindalous, that plastic bags would solve the problem of identifying the near-identical yarns. The fifth one, which I've just wound, doesn't just add itself to the sequence of the other four. That is, it won't form the next broad band but will pop up unexpectedly later on.

I finished band six, one of the narrow accent bands, and decided that that was a good place to stop. My fear about leaving anything is not that I'll forget it, just that today will never be quite the right day for resuming it, again and again until too late. Exactly as happened to the Green Granite Blocks, as you say, Weavinfool. I'm less inclined to that sort of thing than I used to be. That's some comfort.

So I cast on another trial Pocket Square with the new yarn from Webs. It's a fingering yarn and the point of it, you will remember, was to produce something less bulky than the last two DK attempts. It's looking good. And there should be plenty of time for it to get to London this week. With the first one, I stopped increasing and started decreasing when I had 62 stitches and it Looked About Right. I've gone on doing that. This time, since the yarn is finer, I thought I'd need more stitches – but no, 62 is About Right again.

I think it's going to be firm enough. Garter stitch helps a lot. I could perhaps go down another needle size, if need be.

I've mentioned that I've been getting a lot of emails from Craftsy. Yesterday I fell for their special offer of a course on Continental Knitting. I thought I could try it out in Athens in the intervals of looking at ruins and mosaics and shopping for Greek knitting wool. Am I too old for a new physical skill, one wonders? I think, if I can make any progress, it will be a good start towards learning to use a Shetland knitting belt.