Sunday, December 21, 2014

Here we are – the shortest day! We made it! Happy Winter Solstice to all northern hemisphere readers, and sympathy for those down under. I think this would be a good point for a seasonal pause in blogging, perhaps to resume on Tuesday or Wednesday next week, in time for the New Year.

My sister wrote a Suess-like poem recently about a local (to Old Saybrook) beloved wooded spot which was scheduled to be developed into a golf course. I have (I am ashamed to say) forgotten the details of the story. The collapse of Lehman Bros comes into it, and the land is now, I believe, owned by a local trust and safe for trees and dog-walking at least for the time being.

Rachel Miles, James' and Cathy's daughter, has illustrated the poem and designed the book. My sister sent these pictures yesterday. I think it is sensationally good.

My sister and her husband are coming for a visit in the spring, when they will deliver a hard copy.


I went back to that hole – between the edging and the border of the Unst Bridal Shawl – armed with my own logic in yesterday's blog: and sure enough, dropped stitches! Four of them! They didn't include the crucial k2tog that joins edging to shawl – that one, if dropped, unzips very promptly. They were simply border stitches which must have flown off the needle unnoticed when I turned at the end of an incoming row. They were sitting there quietly (biding their time?), showing no eagerness to escape. I have secured them with a safety pin. The hole will eventually be easily repaired with a needle.

Still no red madelinetosh, although it was said to have been posted from London on Tuesday, first class. I had a word with the postie yesterday – she is used to conversations with me about consignments of yarn. She says it'll turn up, and it probably will. And anyway, we have decided to leave the bottom of Archie's sweater unfinished and go on to the sleeves, until he can try it on for length in January. (The red is for the inside of the terminal hem.)

I got my knitting sorted out and packed for our brief trip to Loch Fyne. I'm taking the whole Queen Ring pattern, and will try to understand how the edging is done. Sharon M. seems to be saying that some repeats must have more stitches than others, in order to make the count come out right. I will try to think through a simplification of that.

And I've also packed the Pakokku socks, and another skein, just in case. Ambitious, for 72 hours.

Happy Hols, everybody. See you later.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Nearly there. Google assures me that Someone Up There will throw the switch at 11:03 p.m. tomorrow night.

I had a nice time at the hairdresser's, and now look tidier. When I first started having Charles cut my hair, 5 ½ years ago for Theo and Jenni's wedding, I asked him to aim at Hillary Clinton. She seems to have given up on hair – she'll have to do something about it if she really wants to stand for president – so now we aim at Theresa May (British Home Secretary).

Knitting continues peacefully. Five more days will get me to the Messy Corner of the Unst Bridal Shawl. After that I will have to count stitches with care, and almost certainly do some fudging, to make things come out even for the final graft, when I reach the point where I started.

Yesterday's explanation of the hole between edging and shawl, won't work. If I had merely failed to grab a stitch from the edging on an inward row, the result would be a slight pucker, not a hole. It looks as if a stitch has been skipped on the shawl side, all right, corresponding to an unattached row on the edging side. But the hole seems secure. That's impossible. I had better double check.

Kate Davies' hat pattern Epistropheid is now available from her Ravelry store. It looks glorious fun to knit – no pompom, thanks, for me – and I'd like to make the acquaintance of the Toft Ulysses yarn she uses. It's got some Blueface Leicester in it, a lovely, silky yarn. But it's expensive, and you'd obviously have to buy two. Maybe someone will do a kit.

Friday, December 19, 2014

My husband's hairwash was easier than expected. Alexander will give him a haircut – one of Alexander's many talents – on Boxing Day. But I think you're right, we need more help. I feel myself sinking.  I don't know how to set about it. Greek Helen will be here towards the end of January. She is strong and energetic and may be able to think up a plan.

My dental appt also went well. The practice rang up the day before to say that the hygienist would like to see wedding pictures of the Princess shawl in action. I must have babbled about it in our June session, to keep her off the subject of flossing. So I took one along.

And it was only then, after a whole year of knitting, that I thought of a serious problem. Hellie doesn't want to wear the Princess, because it would feel sort of second-hand. That's why I'm knitting the Unst Bridal Shawl. But if she wears any Shetland lace at her wedding, 94.7% of the guests who were also at Thomas' and Lucy's wedding will assume it's the same shawl.

I will raise this point with her when I see her at Loch Fyne. We're not going to be there as long as I had hoped, but we should overlap Hellie by one night. She could keep the shawl to wrap a baby in.

The actual knitting continues well, except that last night I got another hole between the edging and the shawl – not a Fatal Error, dropped stitch, all-will-now-unzip hole, just a hole.

I may have figured out how this can happen. Every outward row begins slip 1, knit 1, then YO, k2tog for the column of faggoting. The inward rows end yo, k2tog, and then another k2tog which actually joins edging to shawl. If I should accidentally throw in an extra YO on the outward row, between the slip 1 and the knit 1, that YO would then figure as part of the k2tog at the end of the next row instead of the wanted next stitch from the border.

And thank you enormously for your help with Archie's sweater. You are of course right, that I must stop and wait for it to be tried on when I get to the bottom, either before knitting the flaps or after knitting at least one of them, but before adding the fold line and the inner hem. (The red yarn hasn't arrived yet, but now I don't need to worry.)

I have a five-mile-long dp that I bought just the other day, for the edging of the Rams & Yowes blankie. I could leave the whole sweater on that, but I think it might be better to divide and start a flap. It had never occurred to me that the defining factor in the length of men's sweaters is their need to get things in and out of their trouser pockets – but once you've pointed it out, it seems obvious.

I'm about 12” below the armpits at the moment, Slow, as I've said – but I could always pause the Unst for a day or two if need be, to finish off the body of Archie's sweater before the Boys' Weekend I mentioned, in January, when he will be here to try it on. I think I'll take those poor Pakokku socks to Loch Fyne instead – they've waited long enough. I am doing the second heel flap at the moment. We should have just enough time there to let me polish them off.

Today's excitement is my own hair appt, always a pleasure. Charles has superb coffee, and at the worst I'll come out looking better than when I went in.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Here we are. Today's ordeal is to be the washing of my husband's hair. Any joint enterprise brings out the worst in him – and it's fairly near the surface at the best of times. If one is, for instance, hanging a picture, this can be a good thing, Adrenalin flows. One does not err from inattention. But washing is different, It would go better if we could laugh about it like friends.

Knitting continues to go forward smoothly. I've clearly reached the endgame of the Unst Bridal Shawl – I can see that, from the way it hangs from the long needle when I turn around at the end of a row. This final side is proving remarkably disaster-free: that's good, too. Now I must find a place to block it.

I am fretting a bit about the length of Archie's sweater. I have an old one of his here – not a fave, but I've seen him wear it. And it's perhaps a bit short. It measures 25” from the highest point of the shoulder seam to the bottom. I've just looked up the measurements for the most successful sweater I ever knit, Joe Ogden's Grandson Sweater. 26”, is the answer. Joe is tall, but not nearly as solid as Archie. Probably not quite as tall.

I was grateful for Kristie's comment the other day, that big men need a bit more length. On the other hand, men don't snuggle down in oversized or even just overlong sweaters as women sometimes do. Men need fit. Rachel once bravely said that a sweater can't be too big – when I had just finished knitting a too-big one for her, from “Kaffe Fassett at the V&A”. I can think of at least two too-big sweaters I have knit for men.

The schematic for the pattern I am knitting from “Knits Men Want” shows a rather alarming 31” from top to bottom. The fact that it ends in shirt flaps, rather than ribbing, may justify a bit extra. And there seems to be a mistake – although that remark usually means that I have misunderstood something. My current target, according to the book, is 17” from the underarm. Then 1 1/2” of flap. But the schematic shows that length as 19 1/2”.

Laying the current project on top of Archie's old sweater, mentioned above, it looks as if the new one is about an inch deeper in the armholes. An extra inch already, therefore.

I think my conclusion to all this is that I will skimp a bit on the 17” prescribed.

One undoubted advantage of top-down knitting is that an error here will be easy to rectify. A Boys' Weekend is planned, fairly early in January, when James' and Cathy's son Alistair, now in his first year at Glasgow University studying computer science, will come over and Archie will get away from school overnight. (Alistair is finding things rather Glaswegian over there, as I certainly did in my first year at that institution.) The cousins are close in age – the pregnancies overlapped, so to speak.

Surely by then I will have finished the body of Archie's sweater, and he can try it on with only the sleeve stitches to be put on waste yarn. When he tried it on before, to assess chest size, it took three days of knitting time – one to put the stitches on the waste yarn, two to retrieve and unsplit them and sit them aright.

A message from Loop yesterday says that the red yarn, for the inside of the hems, has been dispatched – first class, and requiring a signature. If our usual postie is doing the round, she'll sign for me. But you never know, this time of year. One skein will go easily through our big letter box, unless Loop has some very unusual packaging. But it's one more thing to fret about, at least somewhat.

I do like Kate Davies' new hat pattern, based on one of the designs in her Yoke book. The actual pattern not yet released, but soon.

I have an early dental appt tomorrow, so I won't be here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

No time for much more than a strap-line (was that the term?) this morning, but all is well, or at least well-ish.

The big news is that we've got our Disabled Parking Badge and can now park with impunity on yellow lines, and for free in parking-meter slots. I have read the booklet carefully and note that I must not park on a yellow line and go off shopping, leaving my husband sitting in the car. The badge belongs to him and not to the car, so I hope Alexander can find some creative places to park in Inverary over the holidays.

I did the post-office-queue business yesterday, I hope for the only time before Christmas. We used to have our own sub-post office around the corner on Broughton Street. Very handy. Then it closed, and I mostly used the  big one in St James Centre opposite Boots. But it has moved away -- just in time for Christmas -- so I have no alternative to the pleasant Pakistani-run PO in Canonmills. The queue could scarcely fit into the shop yesterday.

I want to write about the length of Archie's sweater, but I'll leave that for tomorrow.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Thank you for help and sympathy. A light box, I take it, isn't the same as one of those super-lights one gets for winter knitting? Ott Light? If the solstice doesn't help, I'll do something. The fear of death is the essential difficulty here – and nemo potest impetrare a Papa bullam numquam moriendi. I'll leave that in Latin.

I remembered yesterday a present I must give, and last night I dreamed the perfect thing. I realised in the first seconds of waking up, that I had forgotten what it was.

Loop rang up at lunchtime yesterday to say that they didn't have that skein of madelintosh DK in Tart after all. We settled on Robin Red Breast (or words to that effect). It doesn't look quite as rich and wonderful as Tart, but it'll do. I was impressed with the level of service.

Archie's sweater has now advanced 11” from the underarm. There's lots of Archie to circumnavigate, and this is a late evening, post-lace-knitting job, so it's going slowly. I hope some peaceful days at Loch Fyne will speed things up. At 17”, it divides into front and back, and the flaps thus produced end in hems – that's where red comes in. So, maybe before the holidays are over?

I also extracted the edging-pattern page from the Queen Ring Shawl envelope. It's 16 rows, a bit more complicated than the Unst Bridal Shawl 12-row'er. The Queen Ring is not exactly Sharon Miller's design – she is copying a huge and wonderful Shetland shawl she was able to buy for her collection. It is knit edging-inwards section-by-section, so that at the end you have to sew the pieces together at the mitered corners of the borders.

Even Sharon clearly found that tough going, and I am not even going to contemplate it. I will master the Fleegle System before I start the borders, and knit the whole thing round and round.

The edging numbers are unexpected. Sharon says that the original – I hope I've got this right – has fewer points in the edging than are needed for the start of the border. The difference is made up by a vigorous row of increases after the stitches have been picked up from the edge of the edging. Sharon has done the maths for both ways, and I very much prefer the idea of knitting the edging to the length appropriate for the borders, as I have always done.


We had some seasonal pictures of Prince George in the paper yesterday – a bonny lad. He was wearing a blue sweater with red-coated guardsmen around it, in intarsia. It was bonny too, and I don't suppose it will be long before a copy-cat pattern is available.

Last Saturday was apparently Horrible Sweater Day in aid of a charity – Save the Children? And all the papers had articles about the phenomenon. I was in a Tesco Express yesterday, and complimented the young man at the check-out on his sweater: it was a cheerful, mostly red-and-white, small-patterned Fair Isle (with, I noticed, some bands inside out, as we had been talking about here recently). Seasonal without being hideous, I told him. I was afraid I was being patronising, but he seemed delighted and told me some things I didn't understand about Primark.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The good news is that Archie and his suitcase got to Athens in the small hours of yesterday morning. Credit to British Airways, under the circumstances.

There was only one incoming Christmas card yesterday, from an American friend to whom I had already written. She sent a new address – she's 90, and has moved into a retirement community which she seems to be enjoying. I think the US does that sort of thing better than we do here, as I have probably said before. So today I'll send her a whole new card.

And that's really about all I have to report, apart from another disaster-free evening of knitting.

I have decided on two little Christmas treats for myself. One is to start the edging of the Queen Ring Shawl when we are at Loch Fyne for Christmas. I can't very well knit Unst Bridal Shawl while Hellie and Matt are there.

It's a solemn step, to embark on something like that which I may very well not have enough lifetime to finish. Except that that's true of all of us, whenever we cast anything on. There is nothing for it but to press Onward, as EZ recommended.

The other treat was to order a whole new skein of madelinetosh for the hems of Archie's sweater, instead of rooting around in the stash for something. I've done that. It's called Tart – a strong, cheerful red. Loop had only one skein of it in stock – kismet! I ran the idea past Archie, who seemed to think it was all right. This is for the invisible inside of the hems, of course.

At the very end, a couple of rows of something are added to finish the sweater off around the top. I may suggest red for that as well, but I won't do it unless I am sure he buys the idea.

A new issue of Knitty is out – lots of hats and shawls. Franklin's historical pattern is for a rather nice-looking pair of gloves (also red). I knit my father a pair of gloves once, when “Men's Gloves” was one of the knitting categories at the Games. I won First Prize – because nobody else entered. I gave them to him for Christmas, thus killing two birds with one stone. And resolved never to knit gloves again, not even for Franklin.

I am oppressed this morning by a feeling of foreboding, which is even worse than panic. Only one more week to the solstice.