Saturday, November 18, 2017

Tomorrow is my husband’s birthday. It must be a difficult moment in any bereavement.

Today was a good day – successful knitting, exciting rugby. Scotland came that close to beating the All Blacks.

I figured out what was going wrong with the shawl edging last night. Can I explain it?

In my (admittedly limited) experience of lace knitting, the knitting of a shawl edging begins at the inner, straight edge, whether you are knitting the edging onto an otherwise-finished shawl or, as in this case, knitting it first. The pattern stitches are done on that first, outward-headed row, and on all subsequent odd-numbered rows. Unless you’re doing a really fancy-schmancy lace with pattern stitches on both sides.

I assumed that that was the case here. I have, perforce, bought the kit from Jamieson & Smith, which includes charts. I am glad to have them. Amedro didn’t chart her designs. The new chart clearly shows the scallops to the left, as the work faces you for the first row.

But that's not right. By the time I had finally finished two pattern repeats, it was clear that the knitting started out at the scalloped edge.

Now that I have grasped that, all is going well. I’ve done eight scallops, 10% of the whole. The danger now is inattention due to the easy pattern. The answer will be (as so often in life) little-and-often.

It has left me wondering, how does the knitting know which side to put the scallops on? For the first eight rows, you are increasing; then, for the next eight, decreasing. The chart, as printed, looks curiously upside down. But why? The symbols are correct, and following the chart will produce the desired result, if not the expected one.

I did a bit more of the Soutache, too. I am tempted to knit the Blue Sky Fibers slouch hat again. It’s been cold here lately, and Greek Helen has been wearing the one I knit for her last year. It’s certainly attractive. It makes a good, if rather expensive, Christmas present. It’s ideal winter solstice knitting. It would be something straightforward and simple, on days when both the Soutache and the shawl seem too much of a challenge.

Friday, November 17, 2017

A distinctly better day.

The package came from Jamieson & Smith. The yarn for the shawl is fawn, as requested, and is more beautiful than I had expected. I also ordered their new book: “Jamison & Smith, a Shetland Story” which I have been reading with great interest. Oliver Henry wrote it. Some attractive “Fair Isle” patterns are included, but the story is the thing.

And I got my hoped-for place in Kate Davies’ “West Highland Way” club. Greek Helen is determined that I should have a proper kitchen, at last, here at the end of life, and she had made an appt for us to go up to John Lewis and talk about getting one fitted, for 10:30 this morning.

KD’s club went live at 10.

So there I was poised, fingers on keyboard, Helen here waiting to drive me up the hill. All went well until the actual moment when I clicked on PayPal – and then I lost the connection. I think the trouble was that Paradox, who had been trying to help, had put me into Flight Mode. Whatever – it took me a while to re-establish the connection, and then I couldn’t persuade the website to listen to me and it was time to go. So I went. I didn’t need the yarn anyway. I could join the club without it.

But when I got back, and went back to the website, I found that my order was still in my basket. I happily paid, and all is well.

Last night I reached a milestone with the Soutache: it was time to wind and join in the fourth gradient colour, and that has been done.  The fifth colour is the one which will form the mid-way point of the scarf.

But for today’s knitting, I cast on the newly-arrived yarn and started the edging. I have had a terrible time. Like Miss Rachel’s Yoke, it’s too easy. The first time, I found that I was confused as to which end of the row I should be knitting from. (That is, had I left out a plain-vanilla even-numbered row?) The second time, I was interrupted at a vital point and found myself unsure whether I was nearly finished with the first repeat, or just starting on the second. The third time, everything was going swimmingly, I thought – but what I expected to be the final row, was two stitches short.

At the moment, starting yet again, I am half way through the first repeat and unaware of any error.

Here is another cat picture, Perdita this time:

Thursday, November 16, 2017

It hasn’t been a wildly productive day. I have done no knitting at all, but intend to hunker down with the final episode of Victoria before going to bed. That should move things forward.

The mail was a real disappointment. There was a big, squishy package just right to be my yarn – but it wasn’t. It’s something from Greece for Greek Helen. There were two interesting-looking envelopes: they tuned out to be for the next-door neighbours.

For many years now, I have kept a file of clippings about the Most Expensive Picture Ever Sold at Auction. There have been years when I seemed to have added to it every few months. But of late, the supply has dwindled away. So I was very keen to have today’s addition. I bought two newspapers, and neither of them have the story.

Perhaps tomorrow. This will surely be my last clipping. It will be a good while before anything can eclipse Leonardo. It looks like a fairly dreadful picture. I don’t know what I’d do with $450 million, but it wouldn’t be that.

One thing I did today was watch Notting Hill on my iPad, thanks to Netflix. It really is very classy schmaltz. I must have told you repeatedly that James used to live on the same stair as Hugh Grant, when they were both students, and once loaned him a frying pan. That frying pan is our family’s claim to fame.

Here’s another dead-cat picture for you.

I was interested in your comment about religion and presidents, pgnitter. It would indeed make an interesting newspaper article. Times change, and we change with them, but we don’t always notice.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

All well here, and the Soutache has progressed slightly. The stitch count continues sound. I wonder what I was doing wrong. I may yet find out.

Dear Carol, thank you (link in comment yesterday). That’s “my” duchess all right. Goodness, I hope I get to meet her. In our exchanges she mentioned that she lived for a while in Glasgow. Her written English is certainly faultless.

Knitting news is all on-the-brink, nothing actual. The package from Jamieson & Smith should be here soon, I’m hoping for tomorrow. Will the yarn be “fawn” or will I have a tedious return on my hands? And on Friday, I can sign up for Kate Davies’ new club.

Brooklyn Tweed has a holiday brochure up, and unlike all the other examples I know of that genre, it includes two (rather delectable) sweaters, as well as the expected – and also delectable – hats and cowls and scarves. I don’t think there are any mitts.


I’ve gone on watching “The Crown”. Your fault, Mary Lou. Today it was 1954, and the destruction – that certainly happened – of the Graham Sutherland portrait of Churchill, considerably to the old man’s discredit. I hope the sketches survive. Two remarks:

1)    They can’t include everything, obviously. But you’d never suspect, from what is shown, that Churchill went to Washington to see Eisenhower in the summer of 1954. I was young then, and world events get remembered as they entangle themselves with one’s own life. I had a summer job at Life Magazine, cutting up the day’s newspapers and filing them. American presidents were expected to turn out for church every Sunday – are they still? – and there was always a paragraph or so on the subject on Monday. I was impressed to learn that Churchill gave instructions to be called in time for lunch.

2)    A few years ago, Alexander saw a Sutherland in the window of a charity shop, tagged at £10. He went in and tried to buy it, but the man behind the counter had another look and withdrew it from sale. I don’t think, strictly, that you’re allowed to do that. Alexander didn’t really like the picture all that much – he was just hoping for a quick buck.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

The Soutache continues well. This 12-row centre section, repeated over and over until the crack of doom, is very easy. It would, indeed, have made a good preliminary swatch. And it should mean that the final section, which gets a bit complicated again, should find me the complete mistress of two-colour brioche.

It’s very pleasant to knit. I am self-taught, slow and clumsy, as I’ve often said, and I find ribbing and patterns (seed stitch) derived from ribbing, tedious and unpleasant. But brioche, although it involves bringing the yarn forward between stitches, doesn’t seem to have the same effect.

The order from Jamieson & Smith is on its way, I am told. Will they really have sent fawn although I originally clicked (as instructed) on white? And how shall I interleave it with the Soutache?

We are only days away, now, from Kate Davies’ West Highland Way Club. I’m going to go the whole hog this time (if I get in on time) – Option 1, with the yarn sample pack. Although the last thing we need around here is more yarn. I am not familiar with the West Highland Way, but we’re in territory which is at least somewhat familiar from driving up along the west side of Loch Lomond before turning left and over the Rest and Be Thankful to Alexander and Ketki’s house on Loch Fyne.


Mary Lou, I was immensely touched by your comment about the Cenotaph. Did you just happen to find a soldier there, or was he stationed? I think I have said several times that I did not grasp the extent of the WWI slaughter until I first came here in 1953 and travelled about and saw the war memorials in village after village (starting with Grantchester itself) with three times as many names for the “Great War” as for the Second.

When I was growing up, it seemed to me very odd to celebrate “Armistice Day” when we were totally at war.

It has left deep scars. I often think how peculiarly dreadful it must have been for people of the age of my husband’s grandparents.  They must have been born, roughly, in the 1860's. They were lucky, in a sense. Their only son, born in 1894, came back, although he then went on to die of a brain tumour. And then the war happened again – twenty years is the twinkling of an eye, in adult life – and could well have claimed my husband, their only grandson.

But he came back, too. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Oh, Carol, yes! “Cooking with the Duchess” in Palermo must be “my” duchess – but, alas! the link didn’t come through with your comment today. Please re-send. Rick Stein had a Weekend in Palermo program on television here recently, including the duchess. The food in Palermo looks pretty inviting. Street food tours are available, and Archie is interested. What a relief, not to be committed to art museums. I can always go back and visit them next time.

 But it sounds as if your reference is to a newspaper article.

I have progressed with the Soutache. Things are calming down – the stitch count even comes out right, these days. I have hit the centre section where 12 rows are repeated over and over for a long time.

AND I have ordered yarn from Jamieson and Smith for that Amedro shawl, for next year’s great-grand-baby. I gave up and wrote to them and they wrote back promptly to say that I could order the shawl kit as per the website – I won’t be sorry to have the pattern again, with the charting done for me – and just announce in the comment box that I want “fawn” instead of “white”.

So I did that, also ordering the new book about J&S themselves (+ some patterns). I will certainly let you know what happens.


I watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph on Sunday morning. It was very moving. What a security nightmare that must have been!

Michael Foot, a former lefty Labour party leader, turned up one year in inappropriately informal dress. I was glad to see that Jeremy Corbyn, the present Labour leader, alarmingly left-wing, was nevertheless properly turned out.

I have been watching “The Crown” on Netflix, I am ashamed to admit. I doubt if what really happened was much like that, but it has a hypnotic fascination.

Here is today's cat picture (Paradox) – not dead;  totally in charge. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

I signed up for the new Craftsy classs by Lesley Anne Robinson on “brioche lace” and watched some of it in bed last night. I felt that she had me on the right track (although I might well have achieved the same end with the other Craftsy classes on my list, Marchant and non-Marchant).

Things went better today, and I feel that I’m nearly back in the saddle. I’m still having a bit of trouble with right- and left-leaning decreases: that is, I don’t yet know instinctively which is which. And I’m having trouble, too, with the stitch count: I have several times discovered extra stitches lying about at the end of the row. It will be a soft and pleasant scarf to wear when I’m finished, whatever happens, and will look good in a general sort of way. By then I would hope to have fancy two-colour brioche down pat.

Rebecca, thank you for your kind remarks about Miss Rachel's Yoke. I'm at least as bad as you are at choosing colours for stranded knitting (although rather enamoured of Kaffe's idea of basing a scheme on a favourite picture). I just ordered a kit from KD's online shop, with Haar as the base colour. 

The EYF Vendors’ List for 2018 is up. It’s going to be fun. Kate Davies isn’t coming back – I already knew that. She will be there, giving talks about her new book about her stroke, but not selling yarns and books. She felt that enough was enough. And Jared doesn’t seem to be making a re-appearance. The general list, however, seems thoroughly satisfactory. 

Saturday, November 11, 2017

A distinctly quiet day. My Italian tutor comes on Saturday morning. We have a nice time, but it leaves me tired. I wonder if I am making any progress.

I have resumed the Soutache, but am not happy with what is happening. It was far from perfect before the break; even farther, now.

Here, at least, is the promised picture of the two sweaters, along with the back end of one of my cats. Paradox, in fact.

Miss Rachel’s Yoke is perfectly comfortable, perhaps just slightly too snug but nothing that a blocking couldn’t fix.

Friday, November 10, 2017

All well. I’ve finished Miss Rachel’s Yoke. I think a passage with the steam iron will suffice, rather than total blocking. And tomorrow I must photograph it side-by-side with the blissful madtosh DK half-brioche. The shape and size look very good. Comfort remains to be established.

Then I picked up the Soutache, at first with utter despair. I’ve located all the pages of the pattern from the places to which the cats had dispersed them -- a good first step. And I have re-read them thoroughly. I had stopped with a wrong-side row facing. All such rows are plain-vanilla brioche. I’ve done that, and thus have restored a bit of confidence. I think I’ve figured out where I am. I will have to be very careful where and when I put it down again, and I think a substantial message to myself would be a good idea.

A message from Carol Sunday arrived today, about some new scarf designs, including a new super-dooper brioche one which doesn’t show up in the previous link. Also Craftsy seems to have a new, non-Marchant, brioche class.

Probably even more exciting, Kate Davies has published another teaser about her forthcoming new yarn and book club. We have only to wait until next Friday!


I think you’re right, Shandy, that I’m pressing Jane Austen too hard for political parallels. It was just that the situation on whatever-day-it-was, when Ms Patel was summoned back from an official visit to Africa, seemed suddenly very female and Austen-like. And Ms Patel seemed very Mary-Crawford-like. Best to leave it there.

When they invite me onto “Desert Island Discs” I will be torn between Mansfield Park and Il Gattopardo for my book (and sorry to have to leave Brideshead behind). I think I’ll go for Il Gattopardo, but I’m not sorry to have been brought back to Mansfield Park by these recent reflections. It is interesting, and rather curious, to love the book so much without having much affection for any of the characters.


I left Paradox free last night, and so had her in bed with me. I don’t know where Perdita was – somewhere near, perhaps under the bed, as she appeared as soon as I got up. Paradox is a bit of a trial in bed, much purring and I-want-to-come-under-the-duvet followed shortly by no-perhaps-I-don’t.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Again, very little to report.

I had left the loose underarm stitches of Miss Rachel's Yoke in poor condition for picking up, so that took quite a while, before I could embark on the pleasure of actually Kitchener’ing. Then there were more loose ends to do – I had temporarily forgotten the coloured ribbons on the sleeves just above the wrist-ribbing.

One is done, one remains to do. Again, I can only hold out hope of tomorrow.

I had a very jolly day, though. I went shopping with our niece C. It has been a long time since I had the pleasure of wandering through shops in a purposeless fashion with another woman. We bought virtually nothing. It was I who broke our duck (is that the phrase?) by spending not-very-much in T.K. Maxx.

Then we went to lunch at Dishoom in St Andrews Square. Very highly recommended for food and service and ambience. C. had been before, I never had. Both Greek Helen and C’s daughter, another C., turned up to sit with us for a while as we were finishing.


I allowed myself the pleasure of looking again at “Mansfield Park” to see if I could find a couple of sentences of justification for assigning the role of Mrs Grant to Theresa May. But Mrs Grant is introduced in very few words. She was the next mistress of the parsonage, after Mr Norris died. Mrs Norris profoundly disapproved of the amount of butter and eggs that were regularly consumed in Mrs Grant’s kitchen. She is described as a “warm-hearted, unreserved woman” a few pages later. Mary and Henry Crawford were her half-sister and -brother.


Thank you for your advice. I’ll leave Paradox at liberty tonight. But it was nice having Perdita back with me last night, just the two of us. 

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

I set off for the surgery this morning, for my flu injection, but the car wouldn’t start. I wasn’t entirely surprised. It had hesitated in a rather alarming way over the last couple of starts, and this morning we had our first serious frost – ice on the windscreen. My nice garage came and brought me a new battery, but it was too late for the flu clinic. Next Wednesday.

I finished the knitting of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and have dealt with a good many of the loose ends. I am an incorrigible tie-er of knots. A few ends remain, and the Kitchener’ing of the underarm stitches. Surely tomorrow will see it done. I love Kitchener’ing.

And a picture of it next to the blissfully comfortable Madtosh half-brioche is a very good idea, Mary Lou.

Then I will return to the brioche scarf, and probably go ahead and order the yarn for the new great-grand-child’s shawl.

The new Fruity Knitting is good, as always. There’s a bit more Shetland. The interview-ee is Caitlin Hunter, previously unknown to me. I’m not terribly keen on her designs, but she’s young and obviously worth keeping an eye on. There was one very attractive yoke sweater with a floral pattern in Brooklyn Tweed’s Loft.


Paradox has taken over from Perdita the job of being the cat who is always with me, and I worry quite a bit about Perdita’s feelings. Until last Saturday, I shut Paradox in here every evening after we had finished writing the blog together.  Perdita and I would then sit watching television like an old married couple, and go to bed together.

But last Sunday a) I heard Paradox crying at 6 a.m. and b) it was Guy Fawkes Day, and she was worried by the noise in the evening. So I let her stay up. And have done so since. But that means she is taking over from Perdita the role of bed-cat and I am even more worried about Perdita’s feelings. Perhaps I will shut Paradox in here again tonight, and see whether Perdita comes back to me. 

Non-knit, non-cat

Today has been a dramatic one in British politics. I don't know the outcome yet. But it is all rather Jane Austen, with Priti Patel as Mary Crawford in Mansfield Park. I haven't decided what role to assign to poor Mrs May.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

I must be brief tonight. For one thing, there’s virtually nothing to report. And for another, the new issue of Fruity Knitting is up, right on schedule, so I want to go to bed with my cats and my iPad, and prop it on my knees.

One thing I neglected to say yesterday: Edinburgh has turned November, and I have started wearing my half-brioche Madtosh sweater. That weekend in Strathardle, whenever it was, when I removed the unsuccessful collar and repaired the neckband, was a weekend well spent.

I am sensitive to the wearing of wool. This one is blissfully comfortable. It’s also very cosy – brioche involves two passes for every row, so the resulting double fabric is as warm as Fair Isle.

I’m currently about 2/3rds of the way around the neck of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, working Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off. If it’s not a success, I can remove it and try something else. But I certainly ought to be able to report tomorrow on whether Buachaille is as comfortable to wear as Madtosh. I suspect not.

Should I knit myself another Madtosh half-brioche? I’d hardly need to turn on the central heating at all, if I had two.

Kate Davies has another post up about the process of producing her new yarn. Wonderful, as ever.

Monday, November 06, 2017

All well here.

I’ve done all but the final round of the neck ribbing for Miss Rachel’s Yoke. Bind off with your favourite stretchy bind-off, it says: a bit of a cop-out, for a pattern that has used up so much printer paper. I turned to Mary-Lou-and-friends’ “Drop Dead Easy Knits” but the instructions there are for k1, p1 rib and I’m knitting 2 and purling 2.

I’ll find it. I’ve got nothing here if not books, and there’s still the internet. Tomorrow should see me pretty well finished, if not entirely.

I found the My Weekly Baby Shawl pattern without difficulty, once I had figured out how to subtract 21 from 2017. Archie had a big birthday last weekend. In the old days, I used to attach photographs to the patterns in my archives. Here, for maximum embarrassment, is Archie in the shawl:

I don’t know what the yarn was. Probably J&S. And, alas, Mary Lou, there are no notes on the pattern.

Once, long ago, Helen (not yet Greek) asked me: “What’s that going to be – if you finish it?”

I don’t remember what the project in question was. But not long afterwards, I labelled a manila file “Knitting Actually Done” and started stowing in it the patterns for FO’s, with photographs. When the file threatened to burst at the seams, I transferred the contents to a box file (labelled with dates) and started again. I’ve done that several times, by now. It’s rather a pity that digital photography has replaced real-life photographs.

Here it is, beginning to bulge again – and the many pages of Miss Rachel’s Yoke will swell the load. This may be the end-of-year for a new box file.

It has often proved very useful (as now) to be able to go back and find old patterns. It is truly horrifying to see how awful – by my present standards – were some of the things I actually knit.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

It’s a noisy evening. In my day, I don’t think Scotland was much interested in Guy Fawkes – indeed, if they gave the matter any thought at all, might have been just as glad if he had succeeded. But now, it’s any excuse for making some noise to advance us through the darkness. It is distressing for the cats, but must be much worse for the cats of Streatham and Sydenham.

It is nice to welcome a week in which a new episode of Fruity Knitting should appear.

I am grateful, as always, for your comments. My dr., after taking bloods, said that I was somewhat deficient in vitamin B12 – and prescribed some vitamin D. He didn't explain the apparent discrepancy. I am faithfully taking that, and also taking B12, on my sister’s suggestion, although I gather that if one is really deficient in that, one needs injections. I’d be happy to add iron, and it seems a reasonable hypothesis. I’ve done some mild Googling, and it sounds as if a small dose won’t hurt, although I note what you say, JeanfromCornwall.

I think my diet is pretty good. I am still enjoying cooking the food I like instead of invalid food, and eating it at my preferred times of day. I am tending towards a vegetarian+fish diet, and may therefore be short of iron.

Anyway, we’re here for the knitting: I finished the colour patterns on Miss Rachel’s Yoke today, and did the subsequent round of decreases. It remains but to find an appropriate circular for the neck ribbing, and rib it.

Apart from the difficulty posed by the simplicity of the pattern, there was also the difficulty that the first and last round of each six-round ribbon was knit in a single colour. In stranded knitting, and indeed in lace, one relies on the row below to keep one in order. But this pattern had to be re-set again and again.

However, it’s done now, and the effect is very good. I’ll show you soon.

Thank you for your comments about the shawl for the new great-grand-baby. I can’t quite figure out how to order the Amedro kit from the Jamieson and Smith website. I’ll go back through my archives, which are in fairly good order. If I’ve got the pattern I knit Archie’s shawl from, all I need is some yarn. 

Saturday, November 04, 2017

There’s a wonderful new post from Kate Davies, with wonderful photographs – we’re getting closer to her new yarn and new club. I am not greatly enamoured of tweed yarns, but I’m more than willing to be persuaded, and am trusting the club to brighten these short, dark days.

Thank you again for all your comments. Iron deficiency is an interesting idea. I went to see the dr not all that long ago. He took “bloods” and prescribed vitamin D and said to come back in six weeks. They must have more or less elapsed by now. I’ll certainly mention iron when I get there again.

I’ve finished the eighth – the penultimate – ribbon in Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and indeed have started the ninth. I think we will all agree that when we are worried about whether or not there is enough yarn, we need to knit fast in order to get to the end of whatever-it-is before the yarn gives out. Well, it worked. I won’t attempt to use the fragment remaining for the neck ribbing.

So I should be able to polish off this project altogether within a very few days.

And I think I may have decided what to knit for the next great-grandchild. Instead of repeating Mrs Hunter’s shawl (see Wednesday), I could repeat the one I knit for Archie, 21 years ago. It’s an Amedro design, originally called the “My Weekly Baby Knits Shawl” and now sold as a kit by Jamieson and Smith under the name “Sletts Shawl”. It is hard to decide which is the less appetising title.

Helen and David’s eldest son died at 6 ½ weeks. When the pregnancy began which was to produce Archie, I had never knit anything finer than jumper-weight. That first effort (lace-weight) was a success. It would be nice to use Shetland Supreme Lace-Weight, perhaps in fawn. Would that be too gloomy?

Helen is safely back from Kirkmichael. She brought me an apple from our unproductive tree, and the news that our neighbours in the Big House will be leaving next summer, hoping to sell on to another branch of the family. That's what passes for exciting news, in a village. She says there were lots of deer about.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Another day of non-achievement. I am comforted and encouraged by your comments. The trouble is: I am so old. Lots of people are dead by the time they’re my age, and nobody regards them as having died young. Do I have time to recover some oomph?

I’ve finished the seventh, of nine, ribbons on the yoke of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and am beginning to wonder if the torpor with which I am struggling could have something to do with Buachaille itself, KD’s wonderful yarn? Is it perhaps slightly too heavy for utterly blissful two-colour knitting? The effect is beautiful, no complaints there.

In any event, the sweater is nearly finished. The next ribbon is the one where the main colour reappears. I am going to take the risk, and knit it as charted. When the final ribbon is done, there remain six rounds of rib in the main colour. I’m pretty sure I don’t have enough for that, but there’s plenty of everything else. The cats made a thorough mess of the remaining main colour while I was in London, but I have re-wound it. Ready to press forward.

Mary Lou, I didn’t answer your question from a day or two ago, a propos the picture of Paradox on the sitting-room chest of drawers. There used to be lots of ornaments there of various sorts, all stowed away now for fear of cat. Our Dear Old Cat used to do it deliberately – if we didn’t get up, when she suggested that it was time for Pussy Cat’s Breakfast, she would start gently pushing the things on the chest of drawers towards the edge. It worked, every time.

Helen is having a tough time in Kirkmichael. She has found a whole nest of dead mice under the kitchen sink. (The mice in Strathardle are Timmy Willie rather than Johnny Town Mouse, which helps a bit. The two species won’t share premises.) Apparently someone left a Pot Noodle behind. The worst mess I ever had when was I left a banana on the kitchen windowsill. Timmy Willy loves bananas, and word went out up and down the glen.

That time, though, the result was just utter mouse mess throughout the house, no little corpses.

I watched an episode of Victoria this afternoon – the one where they go to Blair Atholl. I gather midges hadn’t been invented in the 19th century.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

A better day, in some respects. I started out this morning by making a simple list – I wrote it down – of three things to get done today. And I did them. I will try to continue the practice. One of them was to apply to Virgin East Coast for a refund of some or all of my fare for the strenuous journey north on Monday. To Mr. Branson’s credit, there were frequent announcements telling us that one was due, and how to apply.

Knitting progresses, but I haven’t yet finished another band in Miss Rachel’s Yoke. I am somewhat distressed at how little I seem to manage these days. Would it be wiser to choose a humble Shetland hap for the next great-grandchild, rather than trying to replicate Mrs Hunter of Unst’s somewhat more complicated pattern?

Stella, thank you, thank you (comment yesterday) for reminding me of the yarn in which I knit Mrs Hunter’s shawl for Orla. You have saved me valuable time. I incline in that direction. I keep feeling that any moment now I will recover a tremendous amount of oomph and knit for three hours a day. I think the answer really is that when my husband was alive, I sat with him for several hours a day watching television and, of course, knitting. Now I slump about doing nothing much.

I continue to stalk poor Susan Crawford. Her tweets suggest that she is feeling well, and getting things done, now that her cancer treatment is finished. Unfortunately, from my point of view, the things she seems to be getting done are not connected with the Vintage Shetland Project.

This month, November, is the second anniversary of the originally-promised publication date. There is a recent note from her on Ravelry to say that there will be an “update” in 2-3 weeks’ time with news of yet another publication date – we’ve had several, since November 2015.

Sed mulier cupido quod dicit amanti
in vento et rapida scribere oportet aqua.

Sorry. It means, I’ll believe it when I see it.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Another pleasant day with little achieved. I must somehow take myself in hand.

I am on to the next stripe in Miss Rachel’s Yoke. Each one involves two colours, and when its turn comes round again, the colours are reversed. The main colour – the only one I am worried about – is involved three times. For its final appearance, as for its first, it is supposed to take the leading role. It would have a better chance of making it to the finish line if I asked it only to be the pattern colour. We shall see.

Despite achieving so little, day by day, I am enjoying planning a shawl for the next great-grandchild. I could knit a basic-type Shetland hap using one of my packages of gradient yarns for the border colours. I could knit Mrs Hunter of Unst’s famous shawl again – Rachel says that Hellie has used it, as I hoped, for carrying Orla about, and the next one will be a summer baby as well.

What was that yarn? No doubt the answer is somewhere here in the blog.

And the long-anticipated Japanese stitch pattern book should be with us soon. Maybe there will be the germ of an idea there.

Here is the picture of Orla in the Pollywog towards the end of last Saturday afternoon, in the arms of her father Matt. I sent it to myself from my phone yesterday. It must have chosen the scenic overland route:

And here is a rather successful, but wholly irrelevant, picture of Paradox which Alexander took a week or so ago:

Rachel and Ed have a beautiful black cat named Pushkin. She has beautiful black whiskers – a design detail I had never noticed until last weekend. My cats have white whiskers.

Greek Helen is now back from Thessaloniki, and from London, and is swinging into action. She is determined to make our house in Strathardle – see sidebar – fit for renting out, so that it can pay its own way in the world. She is going there tomorrow to embark on that project. She also means to take me in hand, and render this house in Drummond Place somewhat more comfortable to live in. What Helen sets out to achieve, gets done.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

A grand weekend, although an exhausting one, not helped by a protracted journey home. But here I am, and the cats are fine. And glad to see me, I think, although it’s not entirely easy to tell with a cat. The friend who came in to feed them said that sometimes she couldn’t find them. Paradox was especially unforthcoming. Whereas I have been tripping over them all day.

The Christening was a great success. Hellie’s wedding shawl reappeared as the “white garment” put on the candidate in the moments after the actual baptism. So far I don’t have a picture of that. Here’s a nice four-generational picture, taken at the (excellent) pub where we repaired for drinks and snacks afterwards.

Thomas O., our eldest grandchild; his mother Rachel; me, looking rather Zimmermann-like; Thomas’ wife Lucy; their daughter Juliet. Lucy is expecting our third great-grandchild next April. She says she is feeling better, after a rocky start. She looks well.

I was glad to see the Polliwog appear, as the afternoon grew chill. Hellie said how easy it was to pull on, compared to some of Orla’s other sweaters. Which is, of course, the main selling-point of Mary Lou’s excellent design. I took a rather muddled picture of that event but haven’t yet succeeded in sending it here from my phone.

I didn’t get much sock-knitting done, but at least a start has been made on my new Arne & Carlos yarn.

Meanwhile the friend who was cat-feeding told me that the furry P’s had been doing some knitting of their own. Sure enough. Much of my knitting time today was spent in tidying up their efforts, and I suspect that Miss Rachel’s Yoke will continue to bear the scars. I’ve nearly finished the fifth stripe. The main colour got through that one all right, but threatens to run short in its final appearance later on.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

It turns out that the picture of my husband which the Telegraph used on-line but not in print, was taken by Alexander. No wonder it’s so good. It will be used again, in print, in the obituary which will be published in the Burlington Magazine in December.

The version of the obituary which was originally submitted to the Telegraph listed Perdita among the survivors “…and his beloved cat”, but the Telegraph cut that out. She was chagrined. 

So, London day after tomorrow. I must make an actual, physical, written-down list of things to do tomorrow, most of them, but not all, cat-related. Clean litter tray. Write detailed instructions for cat-sitter. Find and pack sock needles. Helen will be back tomorrow (insh’Allah) and she and Archie will be around in the evening. To the list must be added a birthday card for him: his 21st looms at the beginning of next week.

Today, again, was pretty feeble on the knitting front. I gave up and took a picture of Miss Rachel’s Yoke in the dark. It is very remarkable what the modern non-camera can achieve. It was noticeable at the last wedding I attended (Hellie & Matt, parents of this weekend’s baptismal candidate) – how almost nobody carried an actual camera.

Nancy Marchant’s “Tuck Stitches” arrived today, not quite what I expected. I thought it was going to be Purtscher’s “Dimensional Tuck Knitting”, applied to brioche.

Not quite so – and bear in mind that I haven’t done any swatching from either book. I think what Marchant is doing, starting from machine knitting, is treating basic brioche itself as a “tuck stitch”. From there she goes in two directions. The easier one to understand is where she fails to knit or purl a sl1yo on the next row, but instead slips it again and piles another yo on top. And so on, for four or five rows.

But since basic brioche looks like ribbing, she also treats it as such, and creates the brioche equivalent of the other fabrics we make of k’s and p’s, such as moss stitch.

So I could either start swatching now, or wait until my class at the EYF in March. In either event, you’ll hear more about this in the end.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Some will have seen my husband’s obituary in the Telegraph today. The on-line version used a wonderful photograph, unknown – or, at any rate, forgotten – by me. The print version substituted a dull-as-ditchwater one, which I do remember.

Knitting progressed, although I still haven’t taken that picture.

I watched some of Feller’s short-row Craftsy class, without success, as far as double-gusset heels are concerned, but also perhaps without much perseverance.

The big news, however, is the new episode of FruityKnitting, no. 40, right on schedule. Not to be missed, free on YouTube. I sat down with it after lunch, meaning to watch a bit, and watched it all. They’re still in Shetland. There’s a wonderful passage with Donna Smith, showing the spinning of fine lace yarn.

There’s also a bit with Oliver Henry, sorting yarn in the Jamieson & Smith warehouse. How lucky I was! to see him there, doing that, and address him (and not be mistaken) and introduce myself as the writer of Gladys Amedro’s obituary.


I think they are forming a team, like Morecombe and Wise or Abbott and Costello. Both like a little morning exercise, so why not career about the house shouting obscenities in pursuit of each other, before a bit of lunch and a well-earned afternoon nap? At night, Paradox is shut into the dining room as she has always been. The first thing I do in the morning, walking along the passage from bedroom to kitchen, is to release her. She springs out and bursts into purr, just as if it weren’t I who had imprisoned her.

But meanwhile Perdita, in the evening,  emerges from wherever-she-was, as soon as I come out of the dining room, (where I have been writing my blog as well as imprisoning my kitten)  and we spend a bit of grown-up time together and then go to bed, also together. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

A bit better, today.

I’ve reached the fifth of the nine ribbons in Miss Rachel’s Yoke. The new needle arrangement helps, I think; and the decreases are beginning to make themselves felt. In any event, I kept knitting Just One More Round until it got too dark to take a picture. Tomorrow, surely. It’s looking good.

The fifth round is the second, of three, in which the main colour reappears. I’ve certainly got enough yarn for this ribbon. But there’s another to come, when even more will be required. That’s going to be a bit scary. I can unravel the swatch. I have never in my whole life unravelled a swatch. The neck ribbing can perfectly well be done in one of the other colours, I hope.

As for socks, I’m going to have to take the iPad to bed (as, indeed, I always do) and see if I can find the bit in Carol Feller’s short row class where she mentions a second gusset. I remember doing the Fleegle Heel (comment yesterday) during my Sock Phase – I don’t think that’s it, although I don’t remember what the Fleegle Heel was.


Today’s picture shows only one. After I had taken her off my lap half a dozen times, she retreated in some chagrin to the top of the chest of drawers.

She and Perdita came to blows at one point today, but I am not sure that it wasn’t at least half a game. Paradox rolled onto her back with all four paws in the Defensive Position, and the encounter didn’t last long. I think that this fairly absurd enterprise, the second cat, has achieved its main object: Perdita will be less lonely when I go away.

I’m going to London on Friday. Three more days to prepare. My hair looks very nice.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Again, there’s virtually nothing to say. Although the cats were napping, I got virtually no knitting done this afternoon. I will have to pull myself together.

One thing I have done is order some Arne&Carlos sock yarn for my journey south next week. I have some sock yarn, but nothing that’s very much fun. A&C have produced some very jolly self-stripers since I last thought much about sock-knitting. Self-striping is undoubtedly fun. I may strike a shabby and down-at-heel note at the Christening, but at least I have some knitting for the train.

I'm going to have my hair done tomorrow. That's something.

A&C have invented a simple system for knitting two socks the same from one 100 gram ball of self-striping sock wool. I don’t know if the system applies to the ball I bought. I think not. And, anyway, my philosophy is that of the Socklady’s wonderful poster of October 5. In fact, her many remarkable socks are much closer to identical than mine ever are.

Somewhere in a Craftsy lesson – it must have been Carol Feller on short rows – there was something about an extra, upside down gusset inserted into a normal heel-flap-short-row-heel-pick-up-gusset-stitches heel. I had a phase, several years ago, of knitting socks after socks with all the different heels I could find. Hence all those sock books in a pile which should, but doesn’t, include the new book of Silk Road socks. But I’m pretty sure I never encountered that one.

Does anybody know anything about what I might mean by that extra gusset? I’ll try to find it in Feller’s class, but I don’t think she dwelt particularly on how to do it. Sometimes socks can be hard to get over the heel. Even with carers to help him dress, my husband didn’t wear them at all in the last couple of years of his life. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

I wasn’t going to write tonight – but why not? I’ve got to stay up another hour at least before I can empty the slow cooker and stow the contents. No knitting today.

I miss my husband most when something happens – often a small something – which I can’t tell him about, although he would have been interested. There were two such, today – one, not small.

The dear friend who drove us (me and Sister Helen) to wrest Paradox away from her natural family, took a picture of her mother Esther. Who is also, of course,  Perdita’s mother:

The person in the background must be Paradox’ full brother or sister. That’s what most of the kittens of our Dear Old Cat Poussin looked like, plus a few ginger toms. She never produced a calico/tortoiseshell-and-white. Two years ago, when the same friend took to me acquire Perdita, we didn’t get to meet Esther. I am glad to be able to record her here.

My husband would have liked to see that picture.

The other news, the not-small one, was the accidental discovery of the death of an old friend. He died a few days before my husband did, so at least I no longer have to feel guilty about not writing to him at once. He was substantially younger than I am, and even more substantially (19 years) younger than my husband.

My husband remarked of similar news, not all that long ago (I’ve forgotten the details) that he was in danger of outliving everybody. Quite so. 

Friday, October 20, 2017

Here are today’s cats. Perdita continues to growl and hiss, but without much conviction. At tea-time, Paradox actually lifted a little paw and pushed Perdita away from the plate. And she retreated, and sat watching from a few inches away, growling gently, until Paradox finished.


Jill, thank you very much for the idea that silk, in a luxurious sock yarn, will prove as strong as nylon. Now, where have I put that book? I think I remember not only deciding to put it on the pile of sock books – I’ve got a lot – in the bedroom, but actually doing it. But it’s not there, and it doesn’t seem to be in any of the few other possible places. Maddening.

Mary Lou, you must certainly watch Fruity Knitting. Start with the latest, the Shetland Wool Week episode. A great deal of the attraction lies in the careful way Andrea prepares for interviews and conducts them, but there is much else.

Jane, you’re quite right that Nancy M. mentions, in her Craftsy class (I’m doing it too) that she had given that scarf to a friend to do.

Skeindalous, I ordered Nancy’s tuck-stitch book from Ysolda yesterday, and paid £30 for it. Not cheap.

Tamar, I suspect you’re right (as usual!) about doing the required two-colour cast-on for the brioche tuck cowl – my class with Nancy at the EYF – by doing a backward-loop cast-on and then knitting the first row in the other colour from the far end, by sliding the stitches back. I’ll address this problem in the new year.


I’ve reached the fourth ribbon in Miss Rachel’s Yoke. I’ll take a pic tomorrow when the light comes back. Much of today’s knitting time was spent on needles – I thought maybe I would find yoke-knitting as fun as it ought to be, if I used a shorter one. So I did. And then discovered, when I began the next round, that there was a tiny flaw between the cable and the wooden tip which meant that the stitches would not slide.

So I had to move them all, from behind, onto another needle – a whole round of knitting, almost, for which I got no credit.

Then I decided that the work was uncomfortably tight and that, even at this late stage, I would try going up a size. I’ve done that. It’s too soon to comment.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Elaine, thank you very much for the link (comment yesterday) about how electricity came to Unst. I wondered about the RAF. And that’s most interesting, Shandy, that Unst was ahead of rural Cumbria.

Again today, knitting was much impeded by an affectionate kitten. Just when I think I’ve got the sitting room to myself, it comes trotting in, all wreathed in furry smiles. It is a pity Paradox wasn’t the elder sister – she is just the cat my husband wanted, for sitting on his lap in his last months. Perdita was useless.

Here’s today’s cat picture. The scene was not quite as peaceful as it looks, but I do think we are making progress. Milk is a rare treat.

Nor I have started reading Traditional Knitting in North Russia. There’s lots to read in the new VK, and I have gone on turning the pages of Lovick and thinking about the forthcoming great-grandchild. Lovick surprises me by suggesting an acrylic yarn for a baby shawl which is going to be used and washed. I see the point, but…

The Silk Road sock patterns are tempting. I don’t know where I’ve put that book – I thought it was on the sock-book pile. The recommended yarns are each more luxurious-sounding than the last, but none, I think, has more than 10% acrylic (I expect 25%) and several are completely natural. I can’t believe they’d stand up long to being worn on actual human feet, but I’d be delighted to be contradicted.

Fruity Knitting had a q&a session with Nancy Marchant, live for their big-hitting patrons and then available as a podcast for the rest of us. It was interesting. I learned one valuable thing – this long tail cast-on I’m supposed to do with two colours before arriving at her EYF class, does not result in alternate stitches of different colours. It just means that the stitches on the needle are one colour, and the row beneath, the other. I can probably achieve that the old knit-into-the-loop-on-the-left-thumb way.

And I’ve heard Marchant say it herself. I suspect that has saved me a lot of time and anxiety.

I also learn that she has written a new book about the “tuck” system which my class is going to be about. Amazon has never heard of it, but Ysolda is selling it. Marchant said that in the US, it’s available from the Schoolhouse.

She does all her own knitting. That's another thing I learned.