Saturday, July 22, 2017

Another low day – no excuse. Rain, so I didn't need to water my tomatoes.

As requested, I’m at least logging in to thank you for help with budgeting. I had never heard of Pocketsmith, and it’s interesting. But British banks don’t like to have you handing out your log-in details to a third party, and I’m inclined to agree. Also, I don’t want to subscribe to anything.

I had thought of Excel, and am tremendously impressed than you could just do it, Mary Lou.  I watched a YouTube video on the subject last night, and I guess I get the idea, but I remain impressed.

I think my present system (an antique version of Quicken) is going to work. There are various respects in which I can simplify the way I used to keep accounts when I was young and enthusiastic, without spoiling the results.

I hope to do better by you tomorrow. Archie is coming for a late lunch, which will keep me on my toes.

Friday, July 21, 2017

I’ve got a little, tiny green tomato on one of my tomato plants on the doorstep! How’s that for exciting?

I got on well with the Polliwog yesterday, first sleeve finished, sewn bind-off completed – I didn’t even have to look up the technique. I’ve made a good start on picking up stitches for the second sleeve, but I discovered at the close of play yesterday that I am doing it wrong.

I thought I wanted 90 stitches. I only need 6o, so I’ll have to double back. Over-confidence bred of the successful sewn bind-off.

The decision about What Comes Next now looms. Marie Wallin’s Lovage, I think.

Carol: Orla's shawl is the Paton's pattern designed by "Mrs Hunter of Unst" to which KD devotes a chapter in her Haps book. I knit it for Orla's grandmother Rachel many years ago. In Ravelry, it goes by a slightly different name -- but I've forgotten what. (One of you told me.) Once you find it, I think it's a free pattern. 


For many years I kept accounts with Quicken. I even wrote a book about it. Then I upgraded to a faster computer and found that, although it would load the program, it refused to import the data. Intuit, by then, had deserted the UK. I struggled, and then sort of gave up.

Then at some point I moved on from that computer to my husband’s laptop – it won’t even load the Quicken disk. Microsoft Money has also deserted the UK, and the homegrown program once provided by Sage seems also to have melted away. It was a bit kludgy. Sage and Intuit still offer small business software. Maybe Microsoft does, too -- who knows?

Google’ing seems to show that nothing else in the personal finance line is available here in the UK. People use apps on their telephones – but I am not that advanced with mobile telephony, and anyway what I want is an overview, over all the various accounts we have squirrelled here and there, of what is actually happening. I’ve got plenty of money just now – don’t worry. But incomings will now be reduced, as pensions are cut; and outgoings, although lower, won’t be that much lower. As I say, I need an overview.

Yesterday I gave up, and went back to the computer mentioned above which will load Quicken but refuses to import data (too late now, anyway) – and started again from the beginning. It’s going to take more than a bit of doing, but I feel wonderfully invigorated by having made the start.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

I’m sorry to have worried you. The difficulty has been nothing worse than a busy week socially – a coffee and two lunches. I get home utterly tired. At whatever time of day, fall gratefully into bed. No Radio 4 these days. Just Women's Cricket.

I wrote this much on Monday:

“A very happy ending to Wimbledon – not a dry eye in the house.

I thought Kate, Duchess of Cambridge, would be handing out the prizes, but no, it was the good old Duke of Kent, as usual, looking much sprightlier than his wife. And surely, I thought, he must be a couple of years older. But I looked him up – he’s more than two years younger. I’m afraid, in our ninth decade, every year counts, as it did in our first.

Oh, Maureen, (comment yesterday), how I would love to go to Shetland with you next year! Especially as we missed meeting when you recently came to Edinburgh. But the June Shetland Adventure finishes only a few days before my cruise to the Hebrides departs, on June 30. Not long enough to turn around and become re-acquainted with my cat; and anyway, I want to space out my pleasures.”

I received this picture of Orla the other day. Clearly, I’ll have to finish the Polliwog fast.

I am in fact making progress with it, albeit slowly. I don’t watch much television these days, is the problem. I’ve done all the decreases on the first sleeve (top-down), worried again about whether it might be too long and therefore omitted the following nine rounds (about an inch and a half), and am now embarked on the final ribbing. Another sewn bind-off follows shortly – I should be pretty good at it by now.

I’ve blocked the Northmavine Hap:

with Perdita's help:

I can’t sign it off until I’ve clipped the darned-in ends.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

That leaves us with Federer. Now, even more, he’s simply got to win.

Yesterday’s match started well, evenly balanced. Venus had a couple of points for the first set on the Spaniard’s serve, but failed to make them. Then she collapsed, much like Murray with his hip, although she hasn’t complained of anything since, that I know of. With Murray, I could switch over to the other match (Muller-Cilic, I think it was). Yesterday there was nothing for it but to retreat to the kitchen.

However, better news: the Northmavine Hap is ready for blocking. I got the last few ends darned in this morning watching the rather interesting political program we have on Sunday morning. Who knows? I may even get the blocking done today. I’ll return to the Polliwog while supporting Federer.

Anonymous, thank you again, for the Shetland Wool Adventure dates (comment yesterday). They offer a wide choice of dates, which is good; they go to Unst and include a lace lesson, which is very good. Perhaps less good, they put you up in Lerwick, rather than at wonderful Burrastow where Kristie and Kath and I stayed, and where Mary Jane and Gudrun go. But on the other hand, Burrastow is a fair distance from anywhere and there’s much to be said for being in Lerwick. SWA promises good food. Burrastow guarantees that. Mary Jane and Gudrun don’t go to Unst.

I do agree, Lisa, that nothing beats armchair travel planning.

Mary Lou, I have let my New Yorker subscription lapse, a shameful admission. I switched credit cards – or, rather, had mine switched from under me – so that they couldn’t automatically renew. I went straight in to put things right when I heard from them, but something was wrong with their server that day and since then life has piled up on me.

But I need to read about The Accidental Urban Gardener, and Rachel says I’ve missed David Sedaris. I will take action.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Federer was magnificent, too. He and Williams have got to win, if there is any poetic justice in the world.

I finished the sewn bind-off of the Northmavine Hap. I’m ready (although I must confess that I haven’t done it) to put the book, “Colours of Shetland”, back on the shelf. That will be a step forward. I have started, languidly, darning in the loose ends – although not securing them, in case blocking changes things.

I am desperate to be knitting something, but don’t dare. This is the very most dangerous moment to lay a project aside.

Here it is. I am surprised, despite all my recent grumbling, to find how very long the top edge is, how obtuse – I hope I’ve got that right – the lowest angle. Blocking will change that. I’ll get some more ends darned in during Venus’ final today.

Non-knit & comments

The Duchess of Kent was at Wimbledon yesterday. She’s six months older than I am, and didn’t look at all sprightly.

Anonymous, thank you, I’ve signed up with Misa Hay for news of her Shetland tours—but couldn’t find any 2018 dates yet.

Thanks for all the advice about exercise. I’ll try YouTube, to begin with. I need something that can become an early-morning routine.

Lisa, that’s a good idea, to photograph the essential page of my new passport.

Friday, July 14, 2017

I got my passport! And – equally as important – I have located and rubber-banded to it, the one-before-last, which contains the vital rubber stamp “Given leave to enter the United Kingdom for an indefinite period.” They don’t hand those out like sweeties any more. I don’t know what would happen if I tried to get back to Drummond Place without it, and don’t intend to find out.

Helen (anon) (comment yesterday) – that was a good idea, to list the places I wanted to visit, and see what Google came up with. Lerwick, Norway, Faroes, Iceland. There are indeed several interesting cruises .  I even found one that included a knitting cruise, but it seemed to think that 1500 passengers made it a small ship. (Not all knitters, of course.) I’m certainly not going to add my voice, and money, to big-ship-cruising.

I’ve signed up to hear what Gudrun and Mary Jane are offering next year, and also Amy Detjen. You’re right, Mary Lou, that my driving-home-from-Greece hopes for this year preclude Rhinebeck. Which is a distinct shame.

My difficulty is not just that I’m about to turn 84, but that I’m weak. I hope that will pass, to some extent. But that’s why an initial adventure with family at hand to support, is a good idea.

I’m getting a bit bored with tennis, and indeed with the sewn bind-off. Three more matches. Federer and Williams have simply got to win: the two oldest players in the tournament, I think. Venus was magnificent yesterday, and the British Girl, in today’s newspapers, is suddenly somewhat more Australian than she was yesterday.

We’ve heard from Susan Crawford. She hopes to have the Vintage Shetland Project book ready to go to the printers in “early autumn” and to us six weeks later. I’ll believe it when I see it. It would be gloomily interesting to collect all her reports from the two years (for such it now is) since she solicited crowd-funding. I’m pretty sure, although I’m not going to look it up, that when she was first diagnosed with cancer, late last year, she planned to publish the book as then scheduled, but said that she wouldn’t be able to take part in the post-publication publicity.

Cancer sort of takes over everything, but it is worth remembering that we had had major delays before the diagnosis. She was at EYF in March, 2016, selling autographed bookplates to put in your book when you got it. I was already cross, having hoped to have mine by November, 2015, and didn’t seek her out. 

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Wimbledon imploded yesterday. Murray’s painful hip (we’ve been worried all along) gave up on him. It is to his credit as an athlete that he was able to do as well as he did, and to his credit as a man that he stuck it out, and lost in five sets. I couldn’t bear to watch much of it, and mostly switched over to see Mr Muller losing to Celic on the other court. Painful, but less so. And then Djokovic withdrew with a sore elbow, after losing a set.

Federer’s match, after all that, was a draft of cool water in the desert. He’s got to win.

I shall be cheering for Venus today. (And, Peggy, I agree: the way she carries herself is an essential part of her beauty.)

As for knitting, I got a couple of feet along the sewn bind-off of the top edge of the Northmavine Hap. The instructions for the sewn bind-off say to start out with a piece of yarn which will go the distance three times. That’s obviously impossible, in this case, and even if it were otherwise, I have read recently that drawing an over-long piece of yarn again and again through the loops, abrades and weakens it.

I have already finished the first piece of yarn and started on the second, and I don’t think the break is going to do any harm. There’ll be more. I’m not halfway yet.

Still loose ends to come, and blocking, but I’m beginning to think about the future.

Especially because I had a text message this morning (!), just like a grown-up, to say that my new passport will be delivered today between 8am and 6pm. At least, I hope it’s my new passport. Maybe it’s the old one, rejected. It's something, from the American Embassy in London.

But that should mean that the world is my oyster. I have been searching websites in the last few days, for places I might go. What a lot there are! offers cruises around the coasts of Turkey, Greece, and Italy in Turkish “gulets”, small boats like the ones that will take me around the Hebrides next summer, but in warmer waters. Somebody called Flavours offers tempting-sounding cookery holidays, also in Italy.

The trip to Thessaloniki this autumn, and then the drive back through Italy and France with the Drakes – for that is the current plan – will let me know whether I am really strong enough to contemplate any of this. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Everybody should be happy tomorrow, May Lou, when Venus plays the British Girl in a semi-final.

Yesterday was interesting. She is the oldest player, of either sex, still standing – even older than Federer. She was playing the youngest, an Eastern European who has suddenly flashed across the tennis sky like a comet. She won the French open. She’s terribly good, and we’ll see more of her.

But Venus was better.

I don’t remember being properly impressed, before, with how beautiful she is. Not just good-looking: they’re all that, in varying degrees, being young and glowing with health. Venus is beautiful, a Greek goddess, a Benin bronze. I can’t find a picture to show you – they all show her in motion, or smiling. I’m thinking of her standing on the baseline, composing herself for the next point.

Murray’s path to the final looks more hopeful, with Nadal gone and Djokovic’ shoulder giving trouble. Murray, moving about between points, has limped like an old man, but is still a gazelle in motion.


I’m still engaged with the last few stitches of the garter stitch band at the top of the Northmavine Hap. I should at least begin on the sewn bind-off today (men’s quarter-finals).

Andrew & Andrea’s new issue appeared yesterday. Itfeatured a designer I’ve never heard of (but should have – she has produced at least one pattern for Brooklyn Tweed), Andrea Mowry. Delightful.

You’re right, Pom PomElla Gordon’s blog is certainly one to look for. She was there in the shop the day I went to Jamieson&Smith. (I love your blog post about your grandmother.) Her blog is full of wonderful Shetland-ness.

But what I love about Andrew & Andrea is a) that there are two of them – it was a stroke of genius to start teaching Andrew to knit; and b) that it is a true magazine, with items from far and wide.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Well, wow!

I was surprised to find how much the crowd loved Nadal. There was support, more than polite, for Muller – but much more for Nadal. I would have expected a Wimbledon crowd to group behind the underdog, given that Nadal was neither English nor Federer.

I kept remembering, not much to the point, how we went to CT in (what must have been) 1996 for my mother’s 90th birthday in late October. Clinton was standing for re-election. I had been uneasy about him – them – from the beginning, and expressed this unease again. My mother said that she was absolutely behind him, being always for the underdog.

This was an idiotic statement;  and to her credit – despite being 90, and a lifelong Democrat – she corrected it. The underdog, of course, was poor old Dole with his withered arm. I’m sure she voted for Clinton anyway.

Prince Felix (was it?) of Luxembourg was there yesterday to support Muller. But if the post-match interviewer expected Muller to be even mildly excited at the news, the attempt failed. There are only 50 people in Luxembourg. Prince Felix, who plays a pretty good game of tennis himself, was an old friend, we were told; of course he was there.

The BBC remained determined to keep me away from Venus Williams. She was first on Centre Court yesterday, to be followed by Murray. When transmission started, only one channel was available and that, of course, had to be devoted to the British Girl. So I watched the midday news, and waited until that channel was available for tennis. Fifteen minutes of silliness – and then they went to an outside court. I managed to find Venus on the “red button” for her last few games, and she looked very good indeed.

Not much knitting. Nadal-Muller knocked the needles from one’s hands. I have, however, finished the basic patterning of the Northmavine Hap, and am now embarking on a top garter stitch edge. The colours all lasted the course, although without much to spare. I thought recently that I had mastered the problem I have previously mentioned to you, and could read the pattern in my knitting and keep everything properly lined up. It all went wrong at the end (Wimbledon?). I don’t care.

But I don’t think I had any such difficulty knitting Gudrun’s Hansel Hap at the end of last year – also feather-and-fan.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wimbledon promises well – I should be able to finish the basic Northmavine Hap. I’m just about to start row 9 of the final 12, the pattern row. That will leave a garter stitch edging, a sewn bind off, many a loose end, and blocking still to come. But it will be a significant step forward.

We start off with Venus Williams. The BBC has been singularly uninterested in her. They have been fully occupied, on the women’s side, with two British hopefuls (the survivor of the pair not terribly British – she was Australian until recently) and a great many brilliant players with Eastern European names whom I can’t keep straight. But it turns out that Venus has quietly made it through. I’m a tr’ffic fan, being an elder sister myself.

Thank you for your message, Cat (comment yesterday).  Are you (or is anyone?) familiar with Sally Melville’s “Knitting Pattern Essentials” or with Deborah Newton’s books about design and finishing? I ask because you said yesterday that you prefer to design your own.

It becomes more and more striking, I think, how everyone is designing shawls these days and eschewing sweaters.

Yesterday I re-watched Fruity Knitting Episode 19, from the end of last year, when Newton was the interview-ee. She is most engaging. That was before poor Andrea was struck down with repetitive strain injury and forced to stop knitting, we hope for not too much longer. She really is brilliant -- meticulous and inventive. The podcast suffers while she can’t knit.

There should be a new episode this week.

I liked your comment, Chloe (and agree with your programme for an ideal Japanese knitting class). How lucky we all are that even with our betes noirs firmly in the cupboard – bobbles and beads, for starters, in my case – there is still so wonderfully much to do!

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Wimbledon has still not ignited, for me. I’m glad to have a day off. Maybe some doorstep gardening instead? If I understand things aright, and if all four top seeds are still on their feet for the semi-finals, Murray will play Nadal and Federer will play Djokovic. I can’t see Murray getting past that. I hope Federer does.

I’ve never cared for Nadal, too many muscles, but he has endeared himself to me and to the nation this week by being photographed (accidentally, unposed) in Tesco Express struggling with the automatic check-out.

The Northmavine Hap struggles on – four of the twelve rows of the final half-repeat are now done. I’m not sure there’s enough of the fourth colour left – it’s the one that has always, in each repeat, had to knit the longest rows. I’ll substitute one of the others, if it gives out on me.

I got my books. The Leapman, "6000+ Pullover Possibilities",  is one of those assemblies of sweater parts that you can mix and match (to coin a phrase). I’ve got other such books. This is far and away the most comprehensive. Leapman is in favour of seams, like Sally Melville.

“Knitting Short Rows” disappointed at first. It is brilliant in its technical discussion and illustration of five different methods, with the pros and cons of each. It is less good on how to use short rows. There is an excellent, but very brief, paragraph on the subject on page 5.

I went back and re-watched the last two lessons in Carol Feller’s short-row Craftsy Class. (I have a considerable arsenal of Craftsy classes at my disposal: they’re wonderfully soporific.)

But then I decided that the answers I was looking for are there in the book after all, in the patterns. Each is photographed from a variety of angles, and accompanied with notes. You've got to work at it a bit.

I see we are to have a new Japanese book in November: “Japanese Knitting Stitch Bible”. Despite the title, it is not a compendium (already got those) but a collection of patterns by Hitomi Shida. Order ahead, to be surprised on a dark, wet day at the worst moment of the year? (Except for you, Cat.) 

Friday, July 07, 2017

I’m OD’ing on Wimbledon a bit. It hasn’t been all that gripping, so far, although today promises very well. I think I decided yesterday that I need to program in a nap, no matter what. It’s hard to see where, with today’s schedule, it might fit in.

Murray’s match against Brown was just about perfect – Brown as delightful and inventive as before, Murray triumphant in three sets. I think one could see Murray thinking – it’s not just a game of power and might.

Here is the promised picture of miserable grandsons up Glenfernate last Sunday.  From left to right, Mungo, Fergus, Archie. Perdita and I were having a nap, as I’ve said – but I don’t think the weather was quite that bad down in Strathardle.

As for knitting, I’m not quite as far forward with the Northmavine Hap as might have been expected with all this tennis. I’m engaged on the final pattern row of the final full repeat – fifteen rows remain, when this one is finished, but since each one is half a mile long, fifteen is a lot. Then there are four rows of garter stitch – no increases, at least. Then a sewn bind off.

It’s like climbing a hill – I can see the top, perhaps there’s a cairn up there – but for now I must lift leaden feet for step after step.

I got carried away with I-don’t-know-what yesterday and ordered Dassau’s “Knitting Short Rows” and Leapman’s “6000+ Pullover Possibilities”. The last thing I need is more knitting books. They will probably arrive today. I’ll report soon.

I also bought Pearl-McFee’s “At Knit’s End” in the middle of the night – but I got that one for the Kindle, so at least it doesn’t take up shelf space. It’s amusing.

Everyone has suddenly gone off and left me. Helen and her family are in Greece, soon to be on the slopes of Pelion where they will be out of email contact. My dear cleaning woman is in her native Romania until the 18th. My fishmonger is about to spend a week in Majorca. Alexander and his family are still here. He came over yesterday. Perdita and I may go and see them on Loch Fyne soon.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

We had a good time in Kirkmichael. I have some fine photographs to show you (tomorrow, perhaps) of miserable grandsons in the rain on a hike to Loch Loch (sic) on the Sunday afternoon. Perdita and I had a nap.

She did well. She did go out, briefly, on the Sunday. I followed Joe’s advice (comment, last time) and stayed with her. She wasn’t hard to catch when I’d had enough, but she is interested in “out”, and likes it. I think I’ll be braver next time. She’s fond of me, in her furry way. I really don’t think she’d head for the hills.

I didn’t knit a single stitch. The only thing I did, in fact, was to weed and feed and mulch a little rose – mentioned here before – of which my husband was very fond. I can’t find it in my books. It’s a small floribunda, red, single-flowered, late-blooming, on its own roots, inherited (54 years ago) from the previous owner of the house, a keen rosarian.

It was the subject of the only gardening I did last year, and is looking rather well.

Since our return, knitting has gone better, thanks to Wimbledon. Days One and Two were rather tedious, but I have high hopes for this afternoon. I have loved Mr. Brown of Germany ever since he beat Nadal at an equivalent stage of the tournament two years ago. Today he’s playing Murray. And if Murray has to lose to anyone – as I fear he will – I wouldn’t entirely mind to have it be Mr Brown.

I’m engaged in the second half of the final 24-row repeat of the Northmavine Hap. I have wondered a bit whether I have enough of the four contrast colours – but I’ve now finished the contribution of one of them to this repeat (it will have to re-appear for two rows in the final half-repeat) and am hopeful. Not that it matters – there’s J&S on my doorstep, and I know the shade numbers.

I have also started worrying – a 4 a.m. thought – about the edges. I’ll have lots of ends to darn in. I know that. I’m braced for it. But I have been carrying the main colour up the edges. What about those loops? Attached i-cord is always possible. We won’t panic.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Perdita and I will soon be going to Strathardle, with Helen and her boys. I haven’t been there this year, except for the day of the funeral, when I didn’t go into the house. I’m more than a bit stressed. Perdita, fortunately, since we don’t have a common language, doesn’t know what’s about to happen to her.

Is there going to be room enough in the car? Helen has a big one, but travelling with Perdita is almost as encumbered as travelling with a baby. Plus we’ll need to lay on food for five.

The plan is to keep Perdita indoors – but Helen and her boys (and their dog) are great ones for striding o’er the heather. It is possible that I will invite her out to help me in the garden.

Whatever happens, we’ll hope to be back here on Monday.

The Northmavine  Hap progresses, very slowly now that the rows are so long. I’ll take it along, of course. Yet another bag, after the Jean bag and the Cat bag and the Nigella-recipe bag,

What a comfort that hap has been, these recent weeks; and what an endorsement for stash-enhancement! As I remember the sequence of events, Kristie pressed it on me (having knit it herself) that happy day in Jamieson&Smith, after I had already bought a great deal. I bought it, and knit a few rows back here in Edinburgh, and stashed it away in a shoe box, and thought that nothing much is ever going to come of this. And now, when I need it, here it is!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

It’s another pretty dismal-looking day.

Joni (comment yesterday),  you solved the mail problem. I keep forgetting that I use googlemail on my iPad, accessed through Safari – but that the machine itself prefers its own mail app. There I found the Northmavine Hap. Here it is:

That picture was taken 24 hours ago. I’m not much further on – the rows are long. I counted stitches when I had officially finished the fourth repeat, and was surprised to find myself two stitches short. I am currently engaged in the first pattern row of the new repeat. Something is slightly awry.


I took Archie and his brother Mungo to lunch yesterday at Wahaca. We had a nice time. If I had hoped to learn anything about university life in Lancaster or Oxford, I failed. The conversation largely demonstrated to me how little I know about contemporary life anywhere.

There was a moment – Mungo told of visiting an Oxford friend at home on a newly-built estate in conditions of what seemed to him like preposterous wealth. (And Mungo has Greek friends who have demonstrated to him what preposterous wealth looks like.) His friend’s father had something to do with a hedge fund, Mungo said.

I said, “Bernie Madoff must have lived like that.”

And they, for once, didn’t know who I was talking about.

Helen and I are thinking of going to Strathardle this weekend. What about the cat? I want to take her there, and introduce her to freedom. But Helen has a dog. He is a very amiable dog, who pays no attention to Perdita when he is here. She pays little to him, although she is wary. But I feel his presence will add to the stress of strangeness for her.

I am sorry to have given the wrong impression in my reference to the cat yesterday. I love her dearly, and value her company – but am beginning to realise that she is almost as much of a responsibility as my husband was. I can at least go out during the day, if I can face that reproachful furry face at the inner glass door when I get home. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The courier didn’t come until late afternoon, causing some anxiety and lack-of-nap. However, eventually he turned up, and my passport is on its way to London. (Why not Edinburgh? The consulate is just around the corner.) And the world should soon be my oyster – when I’ve figured out how to dispose of the cat.

Helen had a grand time in Chicago. The course was just what she needed, she says – very technical, about grouting and such. The people were nice, and interesting, and she got to spend time with a cyber friend. She says that it cost her twenty-five dollars to visit the Art Institute of Chicago, and then they compounded the crime by asking her if she was over 65.

My husband was a life-long and passionate advocate of free museum entry, and would have been horrified.

The visit was worth-while, however. She saw some mosaics, long familiar to her from photographs, which she had thought were hidden away in a private collection. But there they were!


I continued to make good progress with the Northmavine Hap. I’m ready to start the fifth and final full 24-row repeat. I switched to a longer needle yesterday, and took a nice picture for you this morning – but I’m back to the old problem. The picture sets off with a promising “whoosh” but never arrives at its destination. The friend who helped last time will have to try to explain to me what the trouble is.

I’ve had some difficulties – getting the colour of a stripe wrong, which meant getting some more wrong before we were back on track; getting confused about which stripe was the last of one repeat and which the first of the next – that affects the position of the chevron of eyelets in the centre. Neither problem is going to make the slightest difference to the rider, even at a slow trot.

I got my Ackerworks Swatch Gauge in the post the other day. I love it. Those little teeth that bite into the fabric! I can use it on the Fair Isle swatch-scarf, and, goodness knows, there’s plenty else here to swatch for.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It’s a really rotten day – grey, cold, sodden.

Helen should have reached home a couple of hours ago, f her mosaic week in Chicago.

My major activity yesterday and today has been applying for a new passport, essential to our tentative plan of driving from Thessaloniki to Edinburgh later in the year. It wasn’t really so difficult – I’ve got the old one; I haven’t changed my name; getting an American-style picture taken wasn’t as tricky as I anticipated. Now I’m waiting for the courier specified by the Embassy to collect the envelope and take it to London.

I knit stoutly onwards with the Northmavine Hap. I suspect I’ve got a few more stitches than I should. How could that happen? I’ll face up to a count when the fourth – the penultimate – full repeat is finished, which should happen today.


Thank you for the temptation to embark on Carol Sunday’s Pueblo Shawl, Chloe (comment yesterday). Do we buy too much yarn in the misplaced hope that we are somehow buying the time needed to knit it?

I have subscribed to the British magazine “Knitting” since the first issue without ever being greatly tempted to knit anything. But the little girl’s dress from Bergere de France in the July issue may be the pattern that breaks the mould – for a great-granddaughter next summer?

(We’ve already had the August issue – it’s no wonder one gets confused.)

Wimbledon next week!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Perdita and I had a lovely time with C. The cat was a bit surprised, and stayed a bit more closely than usual with me (while feigning not to), and is glad to be home: but she did well. I moved about a bit more than usual but still feel weak.

I took the Northmavine Hap along and am making good progress. I’m halfway through the fourth repeat, if you overlook the 36 stitches still to be added. But I discover that there are five and a half repeats to be done, not four as I had thought from a hasty reading. I wondered why I had so much yarn. So there’s a long way to go.

I am finding this simple pattern curiously hard to read. In lace as in colour knitting – and, indeed, stitch patterns of all sorts – one keeps track of what one ought to be doing by looking at what one has done already. I am finding it hard to decide which are the stitches to be knit together on the pattern rows. But the overall effect is OK.

6767                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         /’.HJ)@~?~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~H?’dr67d[1]

That’s an interpolation from Perdita, who has even contrived to add a footnote.


A new Fruity Knitting episode is promised for tomorrow! Poor Andrea is still not knitting.

Jared’s Look Book 11 is (as ush) full of good stuff. I love the Boundary Pullover. He’s got a new lace yarn.

And I love Carol Sunday’s Pueblo Stole, each colourway more tempting than the last.

[1] e

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Perdita and I are going off tomorrow to spend two nights with my husband’s niece C. in south Edinburgh. Back here Friday, I hope. Then we must think, she and I, of going to Strathardle.

I knit on. We are having what passes for a heat wave here, and Shetland jumper weight is slightly uncomfortable on the fingers. I was first in this country in the summer of 1953 and I remember my amusement at newspaper headlines proclaiming that temperatures were mounting towards the 80’s. It’s happening again.

I’m still engaged with the third 24-row repeat of the Northmavine Hap, although nearing its end. One and a half to go, after that, with each row longer than the last.

I’ll take my new telephone along tomorrow. Our niece is a mere 60, and like everyone else in the civilized world except (until yesterday) me, has a smart phone. I have ordered “iPhone for Dummies” from Amazon and since I have, for reasons recently urgent but now forgotten, a temporary membership in Amazon Prime, it’s going to be delivered this evening, between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. It’s now 8.  Dare I go to bed? We’ve got a big letter box.

Monday, June 19, 2017

There is very little to report, but that is no excuse for not reporting it.

I am well advanced with the third repeat (of 4 ½) of the 24-row pattern of the Northmavine Hap, and I sort of think I might as well plough on. Every row adds two stitches. Still…

Guess what I did today! I bought a telephone! And have thus catapulted myself into the third millennium. My dear friend G. who was at my elbow in the shop then spent at least an hour cursing and swearing in my kitchen as she tried to set it up for action.  I think she has done so. I’m sort of scared of it, as it lies there on the kitchen table. I can always give it to Archie.

I do regret the days when an expenditure of that sort would have secured an instruction book which one could read in the bath.

I have discovered an author, new to me – Salley (sic) Vickers. Highly recommended.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Sorry about yesterday. As you suspected, I was too exhausted after the lawyer’s visit – so exhausted, as it proved, that I couldn’t sleep. I remember that happening after a transatlantic flight. At any event, all well today. I went for a walk, and must keep on trying to do that.

I think the lawyer left with a good idea of my husband’s estate, and I with a good idea of what I’ve got to do. “Probate” isn’t called that in Scotland – it’s “Confirmation”. Live and learn.

There’s not much to report on the knitting front BUT a dear friend came round and solved the problem of the missing photographs sent from the iPad. It has something to do, I think, with the fact that I don’t use the iPad mail system but rather Googlemail, accessed through Safari.

And then the next problem was that the iPad wouldn’t charge. I seem to have solved that one myself by re-booting.

So, here’s Perdita on the Himalayan shepherd’s shawl:

And here’s the current state of the Northmavine Hap, at the beginning of the third 24-row repeat. I'll soon need a longer needle:

Cats: Rachel and Ed and their children used often to join us in Strathardle after Christmas, bringing their cat Romilly. She and our cat Poussin were not at all pleased with each other, but eventually adopted a modus vivendi and finally slept together peacefully enough, one on each chair on either side of the wood-burning stove in the sitting room. (Same make and model of chair, same distance from the stove.)

After Poussin’s death, Romilly moved over to the Top Cat’s chair. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Not much tonight – very tired.

Orla is tongue-tied. She’ll have her snip on Tuesday.

I can’t imagine what’s wrong with the iPad and photographs. I tried sending it again (Perdita on the chair with the Himalayan shawl). Off it went, with that nice whooshing noise. Arrive, it did not. I tried sending a different picture. I tried taking a new one and sending that.

Tomorrow I’ll try sending it to someone else, who could forward it back to me. This is a distinct set-back, as I use the iPad for all photography these days.

I finished the second 24-row repeat on the Northmavine hap, and started the third. I think the important thing is to stop (if I’m going to stop) immediately after a pattern row.

I have heard nothing from Shetland about the lace course on Unst, and I suspect I’m better without. It’s probably booked up; most of Wool Week is. My sister and her husband are coming in October – it would have been a tight fit. And at the end of the month I hope to fly to Thessaloniki and then drive back to Edinburgh with Helen.

I toyed, today, with the idea of knitting another bridal shawl. When I knit the Princess, I had romantic notions of them passing it fondly from hand to hand. But of course no bride wants to come down the aisle in last year’s bride’s shawl. For Hellie I knit the Unst Bridal Shawl (Sharon Miller, again). If I do another, it’ll have to be straightforward – Hazel Carter’s Shetland shawl from “A Gathering of Lace”? Eugen Beugler’s frost flowers from the same source? Sharon Miller’s Lerwick Lace Shawl?

It’s fun to think about, anyway.

A lawyer is coming to see me tomorrow, to get started on the business of death. Helen will be here too. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Dear Friends…

What I didn’t say yesterday, was how much I appreciated all your messages of sympathy.

Here's Perdita in my husband's chair. The shawl is one Alexander brought back from a trek in the Himalayas, a shepherd's shawl, when he and Ketki were living in Mumbai. It was meant for me.

...but for whatever reason, the picture hasn't arrived here from my iPad. We'll hope for better tomorrow...

Today’s mental activity, such as it has been, was largely devoted to the appalling fire in the tower block in west London. At first, one wondered, could this be Isis? (Perdita and I sleep with the radio on, and for the most part those calm BBC voices telling us about the terrible things happening around the world are wonderfully soporific.) But it sounds now as if it was a hideous miscalculation by our old friend Helff&Safety.

Not much knitting – but by now a single row of the Northmavine Hap takes quite a while. I did a couple.

And – oh, dear! This was ridiculous – I ordered the yarn for Marie Wallin’s Lovage pattern, from

Is this even more ridiculous – no! I applied for a place at Belmont House on Unst for Shetland Wool Week. It’s expensive; you get picked up in Lerwick and taken there; a tour of that magical island and a lesson in lace knitting from a native; two nights at Belmont House; you get taken back to Lerwick.

We shall see. That would still leave me to get to Shetland, find somewhere to stay in Lerwick, get back again. I’ll keep you posted. Kristie, I need you!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

There she is – Orla K., born last Thursday, the day before the funeral. All is well. All of us, youngest to oldest – well, maybe not Juliet, who was there and toddling most engagingly about – will remember fractions of that remarkable weekend – Orla’s birth, and the funeral, and the rather extraordinary result of the General Election.

Here is Matt, facing up to his new responsibilities:

I finally resumed knitting today. On one of his last days in his chair in the sitting room – Perdita has since commandeered it – my husband: what verb to use? I’ll go for “complained” although there are stronger possibilities. OK: My husband complained about my knitting “…on and on and on.” It was a fair comment, but is not a good memory. I wondered if it were that which was paralysing my hands.

What I did was to fish out KD’s “Northmavine Hap”. It was my final purchase that happy day at Jamieson & Smith, on Kristie’s urging. I did a few rows and put it away in a shoebox.

It took me a while today to get back into the swing of things, but I’ve got it now. The pattern is a clever riff on the Shetland shell pattern, in five colours, looking like the lines a retreating tide leaves in the sand. The pattern is a 24-row repeat, and I’m well into the second one. But each repeat adds 72 stitches – it’s one of those. Altogether, there are five and a half repeats. (It’s in Kate’s “Colours of Shetland” book.)

I think I should at least finish this repeat, in the hopes of being able to pick it up again with less difficulty than I had today. You’d have to get down from your galloping horse to spot the misplaced yo’s, I think, but I would rather not introduce any more.

Then I will finish the Polliwog – so close – unless it turns out to be too imbued with death.


A new episode from Andrew and Andrea today – she’s still not knitting. I thought the previous episode (No 30) a bit dull but this one is a corker.

What has happened to the Twist Collective? There’s nothing there but the Winter 2016 issue.

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Dear Friends,

Thank you for your messages. My husband died on Monday evening. Helen and Alexander and I were with him, as we had been all day. He had seen, and known, Rachel and James in the few days preceding. And he was at home, as he very much wanted to be, and as he had been for the preceding six months. It was a “good death”, insofar as that is not too  much of an oxymoron.

I am doing fine, again supported by my excellent children, and my cat. Don’t worry.

I haven’t touched my knitting all week. This worries me a bit. I hope the wonderful Poilliwog won’t be overwhelmed in gloom. The birth of its wearer, Miss Kiernan, any moment now, may spur me forward. I remember an Aran sweater, probably my first, knit during some pregnancy or other, finished, pretty good – certainly a good size for the teenager next door. But I couldn’t look at it without feeling the nausea of early pregnancy, and was glad to see it out the door.

The knitting that tempts me is Debbie New’s fantastic socks, on the cover of the XRX Sock Book. I’ve looked at them often. Have I even attempted a stitch or two? Maybe I’ll try again – not to think of finishing, just to get to grips with the idea.

I have exercised my prerogative as a newly-made rich widow (I hope) by booking my cruise.

I read about them in some newspaper not long ago. When the EU Common Fishing Policy forced many West Coast fishermen out of business, two enterprising souls converted a pair of decommissioned boats and started offering cruises of the Hebrides. (The Scottish fishing industry is one group of people who welcome Brexit with open arms.)

They have had a great success, so much so that they have now had a somewhat more stable boat of the same size built for themselves locally. They make a feature of local food, including sometimes lobsters fished from the boat. They’re all sold out for this year. I’ve booked myself in for July, ’18.

The newspaper article reported the owner as saying, interestingly, that after 12 passengers, you have to go up to 50 before you make a profit again. So 12 it is, with four crew.

In all these 60+ years, I have never set foot on a Hebride. I find I could have had the Mekong Delta for about the same price, but

            a) that would have involved airports and long flights
            b) and health insurance, not easy at my advanced age
            c) and renewing my passport

            d) and anyway I have no interest in the Mekong Delta

Thursday, May 25, 2017

I’m sorry about yesterday. My husband was very weak. He is somewhat better today. James is here, for an overnight visit. Alexander is coming tomorrow. Rachel will be here on Saturday for a similar overnight visit. We hope her new granddaughter doesn’t throw a spanner in the works by getting born tonight.

I’m doing well with the Polliwog – back and front finished and overlapped, one set of stitches picked up, first sleeve progressing nicely. I continue to be enchanted by the pattern. It deserves to become a classic. I will be proud to send it to Hellie & Matt & their daughter and tell them that it was designed by a friend of mine.

Maybe the next time we have a great-grandchild, I will knit it again in the yarn it was designed for. What a luxury it is, to be able to whistle down any yarn in the world! I remember my high-school self, and those VKB’s, and all those yarns I had never heard of (same still applies). All I could do in those days was buy yarn at Woolworth’s in Allenhurst and hope for the best. The best didn’t happen very often. Now, it would take only a moment or two to find a source for anything Vogue could throw at me.

Everybody has responded with great enthusiasm to the prospect of the Lovage. Ketki says that it would make a good Calcutta Cup sweater, with the Cup and the date around the bottom. Only one trouble with that idea…

So I’ll probably go ahead with that. How I wish I could be like Andrea – finishing one project and then buying yarn for the next. It sounds so easy! But even she took on board a few odd skeins during the EYF.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

I keep worrying away at that Freecell layout – but I can’t do it. How I wish I could tell you which one it is, as I could have in the old days!

We’ve had another hard day here, but essentially – no better, no worse. And not much knitting.

Sure enough, I’m up to date with Andrew and Andrea now that I’ve watched all of Episode 23 with Deb Robson. That’s a wonderfully good episode. I don’t have her book, The Fleece and Fibre Sourcebook, and I have rarely seen so many enthusiastic Amazon reviews all tagged “verified purchase”. But it’s a book for spinners (mainly, I think) and felters as well as knitters. I think I’ve got to be firm with myself again, as with Arne & Carlos’ birds. In my next life, I will take up spinning early on.

Thank you for your encouragement about the Lovage pattern. I have sent out a general alert, to see whether any of my female relatives in however remote generations, might consider actually wearing it. Remember, I’ve also got Kate Davies’ “Rachel’s Yoke” here, ready to go. And the yarn I bought from the Ginger Twist Studio, planned to make a sweater with my purchases of gradient yarns. That could well be done as a yoke.

So it would be ridiculous to rush out and buy “Lovage”. But we’ll see what they say.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Today was no better, on the domestic front.

I did, however, finish off the first of the back shoulder short-row sections of the Polliwog, and may be able to do the other tomorrow and start picking up stitches for a sleeve. Am I dragging my feet a bit here, for fear of having to make a decision or two about the future?

Yoke sweaters seem to be everywhere in Andrew & Andrea. I feel greatly drawn – and have two, here, ready in stash and Marie Wallin’s “Lovage” pattern still calling to me.

I have been thinking somewhat about meticulousness – which Andrea certainly has and I certainly haven’t. She would never have abandoned the Stillwater project.

I think I’m nearly up to date with A&A. I’m watching Episode 23, the one with Deb Robson – and I think when I’ve seen that, there will be nothing for me but to wait for the next episode. I saw all the intervening ones in my initial flurry of excitement. The standard is very high.


My front-step garden was seriously advanced today. I had meant to work out there while the cleaner was here, dusting and ironing. But she came out too. She is Romanian; we lack a common language. We can communicate nearly-perfectly, but can’t gossip. She is very strong and intelligent.

So last year’s pots and troughs have been emptied and re-filled with fresh compost; seeds planted; everything tidied. There are a couple of tweaks to come, but essentially, the job is done, and affords me much pleasure. And Daniella got the dusting and ironing done as well.