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.  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Another new follower! Welcome!

Mungo got to Athens.. Of course he did, but one worries a little. Travelling alone is (at least relatively) new to him, all that business of boarding passes and finding the connecting flight in the horrors of Heathrow.

And I got my package from the House of Bruar, but there's still no sign of Archie's yarn. I haven't looked at the new clothes yet. Must do that.

Knitting yesterday was a bit hit-and-miss. I did a scallop and a half of the edging of he Unst Bridal Shawl and decided that I was tired enough that it would be wise not to go on. The Northmavine Hap, unfortunately, is still at the stage where there seem to be more markers than stitches. I'm hoping it will be easy and soothing soon, but not yet. After a bit of that, I retreated still further to the heel flap of the second Pakokku sock.

Mary, thank you for the pointer to the Feral Knitter and to the Nahanni Fair Isle Vest. Lovely, I agree. I have been dimly aware of the Feral Knitter but don't visit often – and didn't even know that the name derives from a non-knitting friend's mishearing of “Fair Isle”. I love it, and will be back often.

I have enjoyed wandering among the patterns on her website just now – maybe Ron Schweitzer's Flowers of Life is the sort of thing I want. But on the other hand, I have half-a-dozen bright Fair Isle-y colours bought at Jamieson & Smith that day – I want to accommodate them.

Goodness, I envy you Meg's workshop, Mary. And we all wish we had been at Shetland Wool Week.

Knitting tidbit: we watched a real-life program called The Kitchen a day or so ago, not cookery but cameras set up in six different kitchens watching what people do there. The Silly Old Fools, the Gay Couple, the one with Lots of Children, the Sikhs – I can't remember any more. Maybe there were only four. I don't think we'll go on watching, but I wanted to tell you that the man who was half of the Silly Old Fool pair was a knitter, with vests and socks as brilliant as the Socklady's.

Non-knit: The computer has resumed its errant ways. And today is the day the Apple Store opens on Princes Street.

Friday, October 17, 2014

No yarn, no clothes. Otherwise yesterday was a rather successful day. A school coach brought Mungo to Edinburgh – his school is in the wilds of Perthshire somewhere – and he found us without difficulty. He seems in good form, and we had a pleasant evening watching The Apprentice with our lamb-and-quince stew on our knees. The taxi came on time this morning (6 a.m.) -- I heard the telephone -- and Mungo no longer seems to be here, so I can only assume that the first stage of his journey went well. He has to make a connection in London.

Odd bits of knitting yesterday – not much of anything, but on the whole successful. I embarked on the heel flap of the second Pakokku sock while queuing for a parking place at the Western Infirmary. I managed only half a scallop on the Unst Bridal Shawl. It seemed wiser not to press on, under the circumstances. I started the Northmavine Hap and have done the first few rows. The stitch count is approaching 20 and the work bristles with markers. It'll get much easier pretty soon but for now is count-intensive and not suitable for company.

I am overjoyed to learn that I have tempted you into lace, Melfina. I've never done Orenburg myself, although I've got all the books. The secret of life is to have what someone on the dear old Knitlist once referred to as Locational Wips – something by the telephone for those interminable waits, something in the car, lace for the rare peaceful hour at home. Although I do now take the Bridal Shawl along to my husband's dental appts – there's good light in the waiting room, Radio Five Live, few people.

I spent some time yesterday thinking about a possible Fair Isle Vest project. It needs thought, I'm afraid. I'm not terribly fond of thinking. I am most tempted by the dust jacket of Sheila McGregor's Traditional Fair Isle Knitting (not the Dover edition). It looks like a simple all-over design in five colours – white and gold for the pattern, red, blue, and black for the background. The more you look at it, the more complicated it gets. It's a museum piece – what does NMAS mean, exactly? – knit in about 1900. Maybe I should start trying to chart it.


Archie asked as we were driving to the airport last Friday whether I thought I was getting more forgetful. An ominous question – has he been reading something? I honestly don't think so, although I am certainly getting more anxious and agitated, just like my mother in old age, and not helped by no longer having my beloved key fob to cling to for comfort. At the moment, in particular, worrying about getting to Strathardle in a fortnight, when Greek Helen is here in the days before the wedding. Am I strong enough for both? But my husband, of course, is eager to go – and I need to look for my keys.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Today's excitements are all post-meridian – I am free to spend a moment here, now, in the morning. My husband has a physiotherapy appt for his rheumatic right hand in the middle of the afternoon (NO NAP) and shortly after that, Mungo will be here – Archie's next younger brother. He'll stay overnight and then catch an early flight to Athens for his own half-term break, which (as you see) doesn't correspond with Archie's. They'll overlap for the weekend.

Waitrose had some quinces when I was last there, a rare treat. I'll make Mungo a middle-eastern-sort-of-stew with caramelised quinces and shallots. He used to be interested in food. He used to cook, indeed. Archie always asks “What's for lunch?” even last week when we drove from his school to the airport, nowhere near Drummond Place and the lunch table. He also invariably asks, “What are you reading?”

The answer to that, at the moment, is “Do No Harm”, the memoirs of a neurosurgeon named Henry Marsh. Recommended, if you like that sort of thing. The early chapters are largely and predictably accounts – and he writes well – of difficult and successful operations. The book gradually darkens: accounts of some of his failures; of his mother's death, with reflections on the deaths that await us all; of his fury with modern NHS hospital administrators.

He is an angry man. I have often reflected that my husband's bad temper – when, for example, he is supervising the hanging of a picture – has the salutary effect of keeping us all on our toes. We might err through clumsiness or stupidity (as he clearly expects us to do), but not from carelessness or inadvertence. Maybe anger works as well in neurosurgery.

Anyway, knitting. Here is the Bridal Shawl as it gradually emerges from the needle. I don't need to tell you that you are not seeing the Messy Corner:

It looks rather small. It will be better when it is entirely free, and much better when blocked.

I think I did 2 ½ scallops yesterday. No yarn arrived from Eat Sleep Knit, or clothes from House of Bruar. I laid out the yarn for the Northmavine Hap (Kate Davies: Colours of Shetland). It is a semi-circle, and begins with a little garter stitch tab. I met that technique in Steven West's Craftsy class. But I haven't done anything about it.

Lying in bed this morning, I thought of my fourth and final acquisition at Jamieson & Smith that happy day in Lerwick – their wonderful Shetland Heritage yarn, bought with a Fair Isle vest in mind but without guidance from a specific pattern. Meg Swansen's one in Knitter's, Fall '97, might be a useful starting point. I might expand that thought.

[The other three acquisitions were Rams & Yowes, an 80th birthday present from Kate herself; some Shetland Supreme 1-ply Lace Weight, later supplemented by a further order and now emerging as the Unst Bridal Shawl; and the Northmavine Hap.]

Lots of nice things in Zite this morning– had I but world enough and time.


I am for the moment completely nuisance-free. Thanks primarily to Cam, who got rid of the endless pop-ups from McAfee, Potentially Unwanted Program Blocked. That left the pop-up ads (despite AdBlock) which were all the more maddening when they were the only irritant. I got rid of them (for the moment) by restoring Google Chrome to its original settings. I notice that that operation has swept AdBlock away. That happened once before, when I reset Google Chrome, but when I noticed the absence of AdBlock that time, I thought the pop-up ads had eaten it, as viruses can disable virus protection. Live and learn.