Sunday, December 04, 2016

A pretty good day. I have decided to proceed with the shawl edging until I finish the first side -- perhaps that will even be tomorrow. I've done 9 of the second 16 scallops. I'm terribly pleased with the yarn. What a good thing I read the mail in my Promotions folder that day!

You're right, Shandy, this edging is very like the one on the Houlland shawl in the Haps book, except for being simpler. I'm sorry to hear about your "ugly ridge". I learned what little I know about shawl-knitting from Amedro, who very much prefers edging-first. She has a simple and elegant picture in "Shetland Lace" showing a needle being slipped through that edge chain. I suppose nowadays it must be on YouTube. (Sharon Miller, on the other hand, I suspect of being a fan of centre-out.) 

Maybe the ridge isn't ugly?

I suspect Mrs Hunter of Unst (or James Norbury) of making this old Paton's pattern as easy as possible, while still looking fancy, for the benefit of us southerners. The pattern is written, remember, in 6 separate parts, to be sewn together. That's what I did in 1958. It's unlikely it was ever done like that on Unst. Now I'm trying to Amedro-ize the pattern and knit it in one piece, edging-in.

I plan, at least at the moment, to keep the borders in garter stitch by wrapping and turning. That will make a strong line at the relevant corner, but otherwise solves the problem. Purling -- no. I have knit a shawl using Fleegle's brilliant system, but I got a bit tangled up in it. I seem to remember that I got a bit tangled up in wrap-and-turn when I was knitting Hellie's wedding shawl -- "the ugly corner". But I have done it successfully in the past.

I'll take a picture of my swift for you in tomorrow's light. It stands in a corner and has had the same ball of yarn on it, half-wound, for quite a while.

I've heard from Deramores that my 2nd striped hat has been dispatched -- no grumble about the inadequate charge for postage, so it must be coming from within the UK. But the email claims to emanate from Deramores-US. If it does turn up, I think I'll try to dash it off in time for Christmas.

What hasn't turned up is my Knitzi. 


Gretchen (Stashdragon) I will happily tell you the winner and runners-up in David's Boring Book of 2016 race -- but of course can't do so until after Christmas. He knows he's getting a Boring Book. 

I took another forward step towards Christmas. I got the cards out, and decided we didn't have quite enough, and ordered more. (I get them from Aid to the Church in Need – efficient service, nice holy cards, very reasonably priced.) Next I must ensure that I have enough ink cartridges for my fountain pen, rarely used in the other eleven months. I have composed a round-robin to enclose, where appropriate – a form of composition I only adopted last year, although I hugely enjoy getting them. Maybe tomorrow I will even print an initial run, and write a few cards.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Today is my sister's 80th birthday, on which I wish her all happiness. But if you want to feel really old, try having a younger sister of 80.

My iPad has been updated and I find the results disconcerting.

But otherwise it's been a fairly good day. I've done half of a side of the new shawl -- 16 scallops. It measures about 21 inches. The original pattern says that the shawl will be 47 inches square. Blocking may well achieve that, or close enough. At any rate, it'll be better than handkerchief-sized. Here's a pic. I've done some more since it was taken in the brief daylight.

I am really rather pleased at how well it's looking. It could hardly be simpler, short of being a garter stitch strip. But what a pretty little lace it Is!

And I followed the link to the American Delameres site and ordered another hat kit. Thanks for that. They have acknowledged the order although they haven't charged me nearly enough for postage. The friend who wants me to knit it for her says that she tried, and they refused to mail to the UK. We shall see.

The new Knitter came today, with an interesting article about early knitting books. I've got a couple, but one really ought to rev oneself up and visit the digitised archives at the University of Southampton to which Bishop Rutt left his collection. 

The Techknitting blogsite has a great post on corrugated knitting. I tried it a couple of times and abandoned the idea because nobody had told me that it wasn't meant to pull in like real ribbing. I thought I was doing it wrong. I think it's time to try again. When Scotland win the Calcutta Cup and I knit that Fair Isle vest for Alexander, perhaps. Next year in Jerusalem-- not. (We're not going to win in an odd-numbered year, when the match is played in Twickenham.) 

Carolyn, that was an incredibly kind suggestion, about the ball-winder. But, as you suspected, I'd be happier without. I've got a swift, which I don't often use because it's perpendicular and I prefer to sit with the skein around my knees. I like getting acquainted with the yarn. It was just, the other day, that 100 grams of lace-weight involved an awful lot of winding. As I've already said, the pleasure of winding those mini-skeins is half the fun of the stripey hat. 

And I got at least slightly to grips with Christmas today, and feel the better for it. I'm not going to get all the way through the present list, let's face it, but some things are essential. We have an odd tradition -- no idea how it got started -- of giving Greek Helen's husband David a Boring Book for Christmas every year. I've chosen a good candidate, but will look a bit more widely before I order. Boring but worthy, is the idea, and he faithfully reads them.

Friday, December 02, 2016

I’m sorry about yesterday. This is as far as I got:

“The yarn arrived; it looks splendid. I am knitting the sock with ever greater speed.

And I've ordered the Shetland Oo book.

I think that next year -- meaning next month -- I'll add an FO box to the sidebar.

It's been a remarkably tiring day. I hope to be back tomorrow in better fettle.”

And here I am, in at least slightly better fettle. KD says that the fancy edition of the Oo book sold out yesterday, the day of publication, which leads one safely to assume that sales in general are good and likely to continue so. And that’s good news.

I decided, lying in bed this morning, to go ahead and wind a skein of the lace wool. And I have successfully done so, no knots, no tangles, but what a task. You wind and wind and wind and wind before you even get to the point where you begin to think, maybe we’re getting somewhere. And then you wind a lot more. But it’s done, and it should last me until February at least.

In the peaceful afternoon, I cast on the edging (of Mrs Hunter of Unst's shawl -- see KD's chapter in the Haps book) and have knit seven or eight scallops. The pattern is simplicity itself – one of those edgings where you don’t have to do the decrease rows, always somehow slower and more depressing. You just knit up to the summit and then bind off (in this case) 5 stitches and start again. I have no memory at all, in my fingers, of knitting it for Rachel before she was born -- although I did so. 

I think I need 32 scallops per edge, judging from the number of stitches to be picked up for the border. And so when I have 32 scallops, I will also have the means to make a rough-and-ready guess at the finished size. And by the same token, when I have 16 I’ll be able to make an even rougher estimate. I’ll go on tomorrow at least until I reach that point.

My one anxiety so far is that the yarn is so nice, it might be hard to persuade then to use the shawl. I'll try to get a picture over the weekend.

Here’s the hat picture. Isn't that nice? 

Roobeedoo, I couldn’t find the hat kit at Deramores, despite searching their website for “hat kit” and “striped hat kit”. Can you zero me in?

I’m not abandoning that sock. I need it for Christmas.


The evening carers tell me that we’ve had a murder around the corner on Scotland Street. (What will Alexander McCall Smith have to say about that?) I saw a satellite van at the corner when I went out to shop at midday and assumed it was looking for people without television licenses. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

I've ordered Morning Rain -- Melanie Berg's lace weight yarn, mentioned yesterday. I agree, Beverly, that Sheepish looks awfully nice, too. But I am anxious that this should be a shawl-for-use, and was afraid that Sheepish might come out looking keep-for-best.

I tried to compare yardage and weight with J&S Shetland Supreme, and was stymied by the failure of the Loveknitting website to give the weight of Berg's skeins. A guess would have been right, but it's wiser not to rely on guesses at critical moments (general rule of life). I floundered for a while before I thought of Ravelry. The answer is that they are very similar -- 860 metres per 100 grams for Berg. 800 for J&S, I think, or thereabouts. That'll do. The baby is not going to take a tape measure to the result. So I ordered it.

A dear friend would like a stripey hat, and I am delighted to have an excuse to knit another. But Loop has sold out for the time being, which leaves me feeling slightly smug for having acted fast. Alas, I didn't get around to taking a picture in today's brief light. Tomorrow, I hope.

I've done the heel flap of the 2nd Kaffe Fassett sock, turned the heel, am making good progress with the gusset decreases. Loveknitting says that the lace yarn has been dispatched already -- a great incentive to press on fast. 


It's tough, but we're doing pretty well. The care package we have been waiting for, for so long, is excellent. My life is easier in some ways than it was before, now that I am not allowed to help my husband to move (although I have done it a few times, when someone else was here to help). I'm constrained, but so I was with daily hospital visiting. I'm not very strong, but can't think of any specific markers in the past year which might serve to measure my decline.. And maybe this is what being 83 is meant to feel like. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The hat is finished, without ever achieving a place in the sidebar.  I'll miss it. I'll take a picture tomorrow in the light. It was gratifying at the end to throw away all the odds and ends -- nothing left to augment the stash. Gratifying, too, to have dispatched an impulse buy so briskly. And to have another FO.

Now to finish off some socks. The current Kaffe Fassett pair is not quite as near the 2nd heel flap as I remembered; another dozen or so rounds to go.

I thought the programme about Fair Isle was very good indeed, with another to come next Monday. Not much about knitting, although it was mentioned. A good sense of the island community. I was surprised to hear that cruise ships manage to land there.

 I've seen Fair Isle, out of the airplane window. I booked my seat on the left-hand side on purpose. It was a wonderful moment. But not quite as wonderful as standing on the northernmost point of Unst, a couple of days later, and seeing the lighthouse at Muckle Flugga.

The new Knitting magazine tells me that Carol Feller has published the book about gradient yarns which she promised us during her class on the subject at the EYF earlier this year. And Marianne Isager's book of designs based on manhole covers is one I'd like to look through in a bookshop, if I had access to a bookshop. But I fear neither would make the cut when it comes to final-home, so it would probably be wiser not to buy them now. 

I'll be ordering Kate Davies' book about Shetland Oo, however, any moment now. I'll go for the paperback.

Wandering through the Promotions folder in my mailbox, I found an ad from the Yarn Collective pointing me to some very nice-looking lace weight from Melanie Berg.  I think her "Morning Rain" might be the very shade I'm looking for.

The trouble about knitting a striped shawl for the new baby, as several have interestingly suggested, is that it sends me back to the Hansel hap pattern. I love it. It was a joy to knit. I hope to knit it again (and again).  But just now, so soon after knitting it for Emmett, I feel I want to strike out into pastures (relatively) new for my own great-grandchild.

Many thanks for all your help about fudge. I will look up Hugh F-W, for a British slant on the question. It occurs to me that Alexander -- a serious cook, as I have mentioned before -- probably has a thermometer which will tell them when the mixture has reached 238 degrees Fahrenheit which = the soft ball stage, according to Mrs Rombauer. Then you cool it to 110, she stays, and start beating. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Crown decreases in progress on the stripey hat. DP needles employed.

The first of two BBC programmes about Fair Isle went out tonight – we’ll see it tomorrow. We regulate our television viewing with the Culture section of the Sunday Times. It listed something completely different for the relevant time – although we are supposed to be blessed with the Scottish edition. Poof. Fortunately, I outwitted them.

Many thanks for the help with the forthcoming baby shawl -- Vivienne, Carol, Robin, others. And I think you've cracked it. J&S Heritage lace weight 2 ply in a natural colour. Just-off-white will look too fancy-schmancy, and I want this to be a shawl for use. Both fawn and grey -- that's a really good idea -- are darker then I care for, viewed on a computer screen. At the moment, I think I'll go for fawn, as less sepulchral.

I trust we're all following Kate Davies' teasers for her new book. She's brilliant at teasers. I want a sheepskin from the Shetland Tannery for my knitting chair (yesterday). And I would have ordered yarn for the shawl from today's Uradale Farm near Scalloway, had they offered lace-weight. 

 I need your help on another matter, non-knit. My Christmas present to the Little Boys at Loch Fyne is a do-it-yourself -- Nestle's chocolate chip morsels for Toll House Cookies, and some Baker's Chocolate, for fudge. They do cookery at school, and their father is a brilliant cook so he can help. Neither of these ingredients is readily available in GB.

Toll House Cookies are easy -- the recipe is still on the package, as it was 70 years ago when I first made them. For fudge, I will have to enclose a recipe. I turned to The Joy of Cooking, virtually the only American cook book I have left, and was surprised to find it slightly strange. Grate the chocolate? I'm sure I've never done that. Looking at the recipe again, more calmly, it seems to be sound.  Mrs Rombauer is good on how to recognize the soft ball stage. Alexander's help will be welcome there. It's a valuable life skill, I feel, recognizing the soft ball stage.

But I would be glad to be pointed to a good basic fudge recipe -- no condensed milk, for heaven's sake, just real milk, sugar, chocolate, butter, vanilla. Just for comparison. And, should I really tell them to grate the chocolate?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Stripes continue well. I should reach the crown shaping tomorrow, and will be sorry to finish. This delicious hat fits in with my strongly-held view that bright-and-cheerful (and, especially, red) is what to knit during these last grim weeks before the winter solstice. It's just as dark in January, but I love the sense of light returning, and February is a strong candidate for being my favourite month. Nov-Dec are the tough ones.

Next will be to finish off the most recent pair of hospital socks -- I think I was somewhere in the vicinity of the second heel flap. And to finish-finish the other socks languishing in my sidebar (I.e., graft toes and tidy loose ends). 

And then the new great-grandchild's shawl. Colour? Not pink. Not blue. Does the 12-week scan reveal the answer to the implied question there? But if so, I don't want to know. An Irish friend told me more than half a century ago that it's bad luck to knit in green for a baby, so that's out. Red was fine for the Dunfallandy blankie for the first great-grandchild but I can't do that again. That doesn't leave much except yellow. I’ll keep you posted.


Isabella, I don't know what we're going to do. My husband is so much happier at home, and so much clearer-headed, that I don't see how I can consign him to a care home. The children are enormously supportive and ready to converge on the poor man and tell him he must go. But can I do it? My inclination at the moment is just to wait for the next crisis -- it can't be far away.

My father, whose 3rd and final wife was an Englishwoman, said once that he thought these things were better done in Britain. I doubt it, at least for the relatively affluent. A retirement community such as my mother lived in, and such as my sister and her husband have recently moved to, seems to me a solution in many ways better than what is available here.

We have retirement apartments, but they don't seem to offer the same community facilities, such as dining, and nursing care when needed, and book clubs. We buy the apartments, and our grieving heirs can sell them on in due course to other over-60’s. Whereas Americans make a massive capital payment which they lose entirely after a few years. Is it because the British are obsessed with the ambition to preserve the capital represented by the family house for their children?

In an alternative universe, I see myself withdrawing to Kendal at Oberlin, but it will never happen.

I get the impression that middle-range care homes here in Britain are closing fast -- the ones which take both private patients and the ones the Council sends along because they can no longer fund their own care. The trouble is, the Council doesn't pay very much, and it is difficult to find staff to do the demanding work required for the minimum wage (or less). Even if the care homes make up the difference, as I gather many do, by charging the private patients more than the Council pays for the others.Whereas high-level care homes, with gourmet chefs and gyms and gardens, are actually opening. Helen is going to look at one this week. 

Again, I’ll keep you posted.