Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Chloe, that’s an awfully interesting question – when did Unst get electricity? I was surprised, after an admittedly not-very-strenuous search, at how reluctant the ever-helpful Google was to tell me. Shetland is still not on the National Grid. I think Lerwick got electricity at some point between the wars, like the rest of GB. But Lerwick is a long way, and two ferry rides, away from Unst. Well-off households will have had their own generators before WWII  -- at least, that’s how I imagine things.

But in any event, the amazing lace in the Lerwick museum (and the shawl here in Edinburgh, of which Sharon Miller’s “Princess” pattern is a simplification) were knit in the 19th century.

All the promised delights arrived in today’s post – plus the new VK. Liz Lovick’s book has a couple of real possibilities for the new great-grandchild. I considered knitting it the Christening dress she offers, but I think I’ll go for a more utilitarian hap. Lovick says in her introduction, as I said yesterday, that spinning was done in the winter and fine lace knitting in the summer when you could see what you were doing.

The knitting of North Russia is going to take some reading, but looks interesting. The knitting is largely bright and cheerful with fairly simple geometric patterns. I have already discovered that “sweater” is not a Russian word – they use the English, which strongly implies that they haven’t been knitting sweaters for all that long.


Here’s today’s picture.

When we lived in Birmingham, we had what I suppose would have to be called a French window in the sitting room, with glass nearly down to the floor. There was a radiator set into this window, with a little bit of space between it and the glass. In the winter, in the hours when the central heating was on, our Dear Old Cat Poussin would sit there, between the radiator and the window, warming her furry bottom and surveying her domain.

The old cat next door soon learned the secrets of the timing of our central heating, and would come to call. The sound of their caterwauling filled the house. But with glass between them, no harm was done.

I used to think this was a game of their own, but I am beginning to wonder if it might not be a cat-thing: to have a fight with the parties on opposite sides of a barrier, minimizing damage. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Today’s knitting was somewhat impeded by a purring kitten, but, on the other hand, I did make some progress. I should finish the second ribbon of Miss Rachel’s Yoke tomorrow, and have something to show you. I’m slightly worried about the danger of running out of the main colour, but I’m sure KD has more in her shop and a change of dye-lot matters little in the middle of a colour pattern.

I grumble about the pattern being so easy that it’s difficult, and so it is – but it’s a brilliant interpretation of the woven pattern KD is referencing.

I continue to enjoy the Craftsy spinning class, and I’ve also watched a few shorties on YouTube. And I’ve been thinking about Unst. The yarn for that amazing lace had first to be spun. I think (from the knowledge I have acquired in the last 48 hours) that very skilled hands might have been able to go on spinning in the dark months (and it’s very dark, up there). And leave the actual knitting for when the light came back.

I think I’ve got two knitting books arriving tomorrow: one by Liz Lovick which may contain a pattern, glimpsed on Ravelry, for a possible hap for next April’s great-grandchild; and one, completely unknown, about knitting in North Russia. Sometimes, when all else fails, I wander through the knitting books on Amazon. That’s where I found it.


Perdita was crosser than ever today, but I think that may be because Paradox is becoming bolder in offering friendship.

My kitchen door is an endless source of fun for kittens. You can open and shut it with the push of a paw, and push things underneath and rush around to the other side to see if they are there (rather like playing Pooh Sticks). Perdita has largely outgrown such childish pleasures, but I think this scene from this morning shows elements of game-playing, however much Perdita might choose to deny it.

Monday, October 16, 2017

No storm here so far, although it’s been a wet, grey, discouraging day. Radio and television have placed reporters at various strategic west coast spots, the way they do on such occasions. One of them said, on the radio news, that he had seen a sea gull flying backwards.

A better day’s knitting, today. Rachel’s Yoke is not quite as blissful as I had anticipated. Maybe after another decrease round things will begin to fall into place. It’s looking good. There are nine six-round “ribbons” on the yoke. I’m halfway through the second of them. A picture soon, when I’ve reached the third.

Here are my cats, this morning. Perdita turned around and growled and stalked out of the room shortly after the picture was taken. The object between them is a catnip rat, the gift of a dear friend to Perdita when she was a kitten. I don’t know where either of them is this evening. I may soon have to go to bed without shutting Paradox into the dining room.

Nancy Marchant’s cowl class at the EYF – the one I succeeded in getting – requires one to cast on 96 stitches with two colours, using the long-tail cast-on. The instructions with the class notes don’t suffice, at least not for me, but she does it in her Craftsy class and in her books, so I have no excuse for not mastering it. I will have to start working on it soon after the new year.

I think the grandmother who taught me to knit just showed me a backward loop. I learned the long-tail cast on, I think, from a friend at Hampton Elementary School in Detroit. I do it, as she showed me, by wrapping the yarn around my left thumb and knitting into it.

I don’t think I had ever seen the cat’s-cradle method (which everybody, including Marchant, seems to use) until the happy day a few years ago when I took two classes with Franklin at Loop, having travelled down to London on purpose. (I got to meet Shandy that day, too). He cast on something during the lesson. I was tremendously impressed. But I've never actually done it myself.

Isabella, thank you again for pointing me to Jacey Boggs-Falkner’s Craftsy class on spinning. I’m two lessons in, and enjoying it tremendously. I restrained myself with some difficulty from rushing out and buying a wheel this morning. Do you know what a Short Forward Draft is? (Well, obviously, you do, Isabella.) What a tremendous amount there is to learn and do, absolutely fundamental to knitting. I’ve left it awfully late. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Nothing to report. I dozed in front of the television this afternoon, watching or rather listening to the recent documentary about Queen Victoria and the real Abdul. Not without interest. But the little cat was asleep on my lap and of knitting there was none.

Yesterday immediately after those frantic few minutes of EYF-booking I got an e-ticket and a PayPal receipt for my Nancy Marchant class, but nothing for the other one, the drop spindle. I logged on to PayPal and confirmed that payment had been made for the second class. I thought I’d leave it for a bit until things calmed down. But there was still nothing this morning.

So I emailed them. I had a reply, and an e-ticket, within half an hour. We’re talking about 10 o’clock on Sunday morning. Those women are amazing – it’s no wonder the EYF is such a success. It was suggested, in their reply, that my other ticket might be in the Junk file. I looked, and sure enough, there it was, nestled among all the “Hello, Tanya”s. Although it must have arrived within five minutes of the Marchant one.

Isabella (comment yesterday) I am very grateful indeed for your suggestion about the Craftsy spinning class, and think I will take you up on it. I didn’t even know that Craftsy did spinning.

I’ve ordered the new edition of the book of Silk Road sock patterns. Although I don’t go in for sock patterns – I buy sock yarn, and sit back and let them knit themselves. I must get something organised for the trip to London for the baptism in a fortnight’s time. The Silk Road book will be here tomorrow.

I have long been distressed that Bruce Weinstein pronounces the two syllables of his surname differently. (He is both a cook and a knitwear designer; I’ve got him on Craftsy in both capacities, and knit Archie a sweater last year from a design in his book “Knits Men Want”.) The constant reiteration of the surname in recent days is some help to me in trying to remember how it’s done, although I heard a pundit on the midday news today saying “Wine-stine” the way I keep wanting to do it. Like Einstein. He wouldn’t have been half as clever if he had pronounced his name “Ein-steen”.

Saturday, October 14, 2017


There I was at 3:55, Nancy Marchant’s “Beyond Basic Brioche” class on the screen, finger poised on the button for the moment it went live. 4:00 came and went. Nothing happened. It wasn’t until 4:01:30 or so, that I grasped that I had to refresh the screen. The class was sold out.

I went on to the tucked cowl class, and got it, so at least I’ll meet Marchant. (And I’ve got her on Craftsy, anyway.) I also got the dropped spindle class. Then I looked around for others. TomofHolland, Donna Smith, Felicity Ford – all sold out. By this time it must have been fully 4:08.

I’m proud of Edinburgh for having such a successful Yarn Festival. Proud of the organizers for getting through all that without a system crash. I’ve just been reading through the notes on Ravelry, and find that we were clearly reminded to refresh the screen at 4.

Otherwise, little was achieved today. I got my homework done, and had a good Italian lesson. I think my sister’s presence sort of distracted me last week, even though of course she wasn’t in the room with me and Federica. My head seemed to function slightly better today.

I knit a little, but not much. Buachaille twists back on itself, as some yarns do. I don’t expect my spinning class to make a spinner of me – I’m much too old and too clumsy – but I hope to come out understanding that phenomenon, and grasping, as distinct from just reading about, the difference between woollen- and worsted-spun.


Not much progress. Paradox would like to be friendly, but bravely puts up with constantly being repulsed. Perdita no longer seems afraid of her sister, and sometimes even seems curious about her, but continues to hiss and growl.

It is interesting how different they are, born of the same mother and reared in the same human family. Paradox is almost cloying-ly friendly and purr-y. Perdita never sits on a lap and never purrs. 

Friday, October 13, 2017

Tomorrow is the big day – EYF classes go on sale at 4. I will have drooped by that time of day, and live in dread of having forgotten. It’s complicated this year – there are five days of classes and only three days of market and there are lots of rules to govern the relationship between class ticket and general admittance. It doesn’t affect me – I will only want to go to the market on a day when I have a class. I hope everyone else will be so bogged down with calculation that I’ll be able to nip in and book what I want. I’ll start with Marchant on advanced brioche. You have to do them one at a time. You can’t pile them up in your cart.

Cooking with the Duchess: all well on that front. I have heard from PayPal that my refund has been received. I have heard from the Duchess that she has every hope of being able to recruit four more cookery students from among the people booked to stay in the self-catering flats carved out of the Palazzo. Most of the Trip Adviser reports on the cookery lessons are from people who were also staying at the palazzo.

Mary Lou, Italian lessons are going fine. At least, I am enjoying them. I don’t know if I’m improving. Federica is coming at 9 tomorrow morning, as every week, and I haven’t done my homework yet. I’ll have to take it to bed with me. (I’ve been keeping up with Italian, Duolingo every day; reading one of Montalbano’s adventures – just slide over the bits in dialect, is my advice; trying to watch Italian television news – I can sometimes get the general idea, but they talk too fast. But that doesn’t add up to doing my homework.)

If Federica had been a disaster, the trip to Palermo would have been a tactful point to leave off the lessons. But she’s wonderful, and I will continue, in the hopes of being granted the strength to go back to Italy again soon.

But the lesson, which lasts an hour and a half, leaves me tired and, this evening, that fact increases my fear of forgetting to be poised with finger on the button at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

I am knitting colours into Miss Rachel’s Yoke. The colour pattern is very simple, and I think I mentioned that I found it difficult when I was knitting it into the sleeves just above the wrist ribbing. I thought it might go better when it was laid out on a larger canvas, and it does. It remains a bit too easy for comfort, however.

Be careful what you wish for: I have often taken Perdita to task for not being the sort of cat who sits on laps and purrs. Now I’ve got one, and she renders knitting almost impossible.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

I’ve done the 11 plain rounds of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and have embarked on the decrease round. It’s a bit tricky – k32, k2tog, repeat. That means a lot of concentrated counting. But the next round is in colour – worth striving for.

This and that

Joan, I think you were right to hold out for the Japanese stitch book. “Slow Knitting” is very pleasant bedtime reading, and contains some good patterns by top designers, but the Japanese book promises something special.

Hazel Tindall says “pattren” for “pattern”, like Carol Feller.

I think I told you that I booked a day of “Cooking with the Duchess” for me and Archie in Palermo. Tomasi di Lampedusa, who wrote “The Leopard”, had no children but adopted a son who is still alive. His wife does cooking days, where you get taken to market to select ingredients and then go back to the palazzo and cook them. If you are lucky you get to meet her husband, said to be the model for Tancred in the novel.

I booked this on September 1, and wrote to her to say that Archie and I could be slightly flexible as to the day. I found this message a few days ago, stuck in my iPad outbox. That happens sometimes, goodness knows why. I sent it off. I had an instant and horrified reply from the Duchess herself. She had never heard of me. She had no booking for the day in question.

I feared, of course, that I had poured a not inconsiderable amount of money into a rogue website. It’s called GetYourGuide and the Duchess had never heard of it.

All seems to be well. I am promised a prompt refund, and GetYourGuide no longer offers “Cooking with the Duchess”. And we will have our day, if she can get another four people. She doesn’t do it for fewer than six.

There’s plenty to do in Palermo, including other cooking-days with humbler hosts, if we’re determined. I’m not unduly concerned. It all seems rather Sicilian.