Sunday, September 24, 2017

I’m within a row or two of finishing the five inches of basic two-colour brioche at the beginning of the Soutache, and advancing to the exciting bits. Increases and decreases, and even cables, sound straightforward, chart-reading rather more difficult. We shall see.

AnnP (comment yesterday), I’m sure you’re right that it would be worth learning how to fix mistakes, at least that most common one where there is an unwanted bar of the wrong colour across a stitch. (I have managed other, more adventurous mistakes.) I’ve bought Marchant’s “Knitting Fresh Brioche” (to add to “Knitting Brioche”). It includes a very useful-looking page on the subject – and, as you say, there’s YouTube. I like Marchant's reiterated advice to lay it aside and go to bed -- fix it in the morning.


And Ann, yes, I had already started, at least, to listen to the Susan Crawford interview on Mason Dixon Knitting. Someone else had tipped me off. But it soon proved to be an old recording, made in the happy summer of 2015 when she was full of delight about the success of her crowdfunding venture. It might be worth listening to more to see what she says about the timetable, but I didn’t.

We crowdfunders had a message from her the other day – provoking great, but brief, excitement. She showed us the cover of the forthcoming book. She made it sound as if she is working away. But no timetable. Not that we haven’t had plenty of timetables before, before and after the cancer diagnosis.

On a happier note, yes, Mary Lou, the Marie Wallin Shetland piece on MDK is wonderful. That must be Belmont house on Unst in the background. I believe there is a two-day (or even three) lace course up there, part of Shetland Wool Week, where the participants are put up at Belmont House. As soon as this year’s Wool Week is over, I must start investigating the possibility of booking myself in for next year. Although goodness knows how I’d get there – I don’t entirely fancy driving.


Thank you for your encouraging comments. I’m glad that Perdita isn’t worried yet. It says somewhere in the Sunday Times today that domestic animals are incapable of jealousy. I don’t believe it. And, Joan, yes, this is very much like bringing the new baby home. I remember getting Rachel up for her late-evening pee (as was my wont) when the labour which was to produce Alexander had already started – he was born at home. And wondering how I could possibly love anyone as much as I loved her.

She was not entirely pleased with him, in the morning, although she didn’t hiss. And I managed the loving.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The neighbours two doors down are having a very noisy party in their garden. It has been going on for some hours now. My only emotion is delight that I don’t have to attend – there is something, after all, to be said for old age. Gone, that feeling that everyone else somewhere else is having a better time than oneself. I’m glad, though, that Perdita’s and my bedroom is at the other end of our house.

Isabella, thank you very much indeed for your kitten-advice. That had been more or less my plan [comment yesterday], but I had been worried about the night. Perdita and I have slept together almost every night since she came here. It would be nice to hope that all three of us might pile into bed together soon, but I can’t take it for granted. I’ll have to shut Hermione in the kitchen (where it’s warm) at first, and put out a second litter tray for Perdita in case she is caught short in the night as I often am.

Yesterday I wound Carol Sunday’s beautiful yarn and cast on the Soutache. I have never actually done brioche stitch before. It’s not entirely easy. Marchant says in her book “Knitting Brioche” that the fisherman’s-rib system, k1, k1b, ad infinitum, produces the same fabric. She says that she finds brioche knitting faster and more even. Not me.

But can you do two colours with fisherman’s rib? Not to mention all those interesting cables and swirls? It might be worth attempting a swatch.

In any case, the Soutache is moving forward. It begins with 5” of plain-vanilla two-colour brioche, before the swirling starts. That’s where I still am. There are mistakes – and correcting a mistake in brioche knitting is next thing to impossible. In the night, I asked myself, what would Andrea do? and got up this morning resolved to frog and start again.

But looking at it in the cold light of day, I decided that I could live with the mistakes, and forged ahead.

Brioche stitch, as I am sure you know, is a succession of k1s or p1s with, in between, a slipped stitch crossed with a yarn over. On the next pass, the slipped stitch and yo are knit, or purled, together as one. That’s easy.

I think the essence of my difficulty is that the motion of the working yarn, as you establish the cross over the slipped stitch, is different, depending on whether the following stitch is to be knit or purled. We all know this in real life, but someone or other in brioche stitch it’s harder to keep straight.

I can only forge ahead and hope it will be second nature by the time I have done 5 inches.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Yesterday was a day of total non-achievement, followed by early bed. I am determined to do better today.

Non-achievement, but not non-event. Classes for EYF ’18 will be bookable from October 14. That pretty well means, on October 14. Last year, all the plums were taken by tea-time.

I found this announcement in my in-box early yesterday. But there was no mention of when the class list would be available. One needs time to think, so that one can be poised with finger on the buzzer. What if Franklin is coming, for instance? It’s not impossible.

I posted an anxious note to the Ravelry group, and an assurance soon followed that the class list would be announced a week before classes go on sale. They don’t miss many tricks, those ladies.

Not a third cat, but alpaca-and-Wensleydale skeins from New Leaf Yarns. 70% alpaca. Lovely and soft and they feel as if they wouldn’t droop. Now I must cast about for a hat pattern, among the hundreds of good ones.

I’ve also started thinking about the Soutache. I often lull myself to sleep by watching one of my many Craftsy classes, with the iPad propped on my knees. Last night I let Nancy Marchant show me how to cast on for two-colour brioche, and found it rather alarming. But this morning I read Carol Sunday’s instructions, which are completely different, and feel much calmer.

My sister is getting tired of being bossed around in Iceland, but continues to find it interesting. This is a picture of some knitting available in the shark museum. Alas, we have to take her word for the sharks.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

I didn’t get out to Kathy’s knitting group this evening (see yesterday). I didn’t really think I would. Evenings are not my best time.

Progress, however, on the cat front. Alexander came over this morning, and went away with the cat-carrier and with the phone number of the new kitten’s birth mother (so to speak). He has emailed since to say he has made contact, and all is well. The plan is that he will come to see me next Wednesday by car, picking up the kitten on the way.

She is to be named Hermione – not for Harry Potter, but because Hermione, Queen of Sicily, is Perdita’s mother in The Winter’s Tale. I still don’t know which kitten is mine – it’s all rather like the situation in the Gondoliers. One is prettier, the other has a more interesting face, I’ll be delighted with either. The ad seems to have been taken down, so I can’t refer you there any longer  – kittens are hot property. Once she’s here, I’ll show you, whichever she turns out to be.

Thank you for your advice about introducing my two cats to each other. Cathairinmyknitting (comment yesterday) – I have ordered a Feliway kit, thank you, which should be here well before the kitten is. James and Cathy are using Feliway, too, so far without much success. What worries me today, is that, whatever system I adopt, both cats will need me. I must bond with the kitten. I must continue to support Perdita with my constant presence. Watch this space.

My sister and her husband, who have, in their time, introduced a new cat to an incumbent, as I never have, will be here next week to help with the process. They are currently on a package tour of Iceland which they seem to be enjoying. “Knitting is for sale everywhere including the fish factory.”

I had another good day with the second sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke. It is now so far forward that I may have to finish the whole sweater before embarking on the Soutache.

Andrew & Andrea were splendid, as ever, and Gudrun Johnston extremely interesting on several fronts. The bad news is that we have to wait three weeks for the next episode, because they’re off to Shetland for Wool Week. The good news is that we get scenes at Burrastow [where I stayed] in the current issue, along with the news that the food is as good as ever. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oh, dear – I’ve done it. Committed myself to a kitten. Two cats don’t quite qualify me as a Crazy Cat Lady, but I’ve never lived with more than one before, so it feels like it. And I can’t look Perdita in the eye.

Gumtree, “cats in Scotland”, look for a post that went up this afternoon in Springburn, which is part of Glasgow. Alexander will come over tomorrow and go back with my cat-carrier – and return, the following week, with a cat in it. The Springburn litter contains one ginger boy (par for the course) and TWO tortoiseshell and white girls. I’m not quite sure which one I’ve got. Our Dear Old Cat had at least four litters and never produced a single kitten worth remembering – all ginger, or black-and-white.

The (former) Beijing Mileses are having a terrible time with their new kitten. They alternately fear that their Chinese cat Mimi will leave them, or will tear the kitten limb from limb. At least my two cats are both the same sex. I think that may help.

But, oh dear.

As for knitting, I’ve finished the coloured stripes at the beginning of the second sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke, and am steaming up the arm. The coloured patterns weren’t quite as difficult this time, and I remain hopeful that the yoke will be as blissful as anticipated.

I’ve been reading the Soutache pattern with some attention. There’s going to be a learning curve involved. It will be good for me.

Kathy’s Knits has a monthly meet-and-knit group, and tomorrow is it for September. I hope I’ll have the oomph to go. I’m not getting out enough. That sleeve is at exactly the right point for taking along to a knitting group. Kathy herself is off to Shetland Wool Week any moment now.

No television last night – I found a black screen with the message “No signal”. I have television supplied by cable from Virgin, so I assumed Mr Branson would be toiling all night to restore the service, but things were no better this morning. The admirable Virgin website could find nothing wrong. I had to try the nuclear option – switching off the electricity at the wall. It worked. So now I will go watch “Victoria” and knit that sleeve and worry about my kitten.

And then go to bed with my iPad and the new Fruity Knitting.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Soutache package is safely here, and very beautiful. I hope to cast on later in the week.

I have finished the first sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke – I’m a stitch short, unaccountably – and have done the wrist ribbing for the second, and, indeed, have embarked on the first coloured band. I think I’ve got a new episode of “Victoria” to watch, and in a moment I’ll go do that. It doesn’t require much concentration.

And once I have finished the three coloured bands, and am embarked on the easy part of the second sleeve, I don’t see why I shouldn’t introduce the Soutache as a second WIP for alternate days.

The new issue of Knitting came through the letterbox along with the Soutache package. Some interesting news – an Addi circular needle for socks, 25cm, with one needle tip substantially longer than the other. Would that make it possible to use a circular for socks without torturing one’s wrists? Bliss, if so.

And there’s going to be something on YouTube (where it’s all happening) called “The Knit Show”, starting October 5. It sounds interesting, although I refuse to be lured away from Andrew & Andrea.

And the Purl Princess (back page) sent me off to New Leaf Yarns, a spinner of alpaca with various wools. It turns out they’re virtually on my doorstep. I’ve ordered their set of mini-skeins, alpaca and Wensleydale. Somehow, mini-skeins – of which, by now, I’ve got quite a few sets – don’t seem quite as wicked as buying yarn per se. This set can surely become a Christmas hat for somebody.

You’ll have heard that Kate Davies is launching a line of ready-made knitwear? I hope she doesn’t over-extend herself.


I have spent the day in an agony of indecision. There were a couple of sweeties on Gumtree this morning. I won’t insist on tortoiseshell-and-white this time (if I go ahead with this mad idea) although I wouldn’t mind another. I don’t want a boy, or black, or white, or black and white. (Although, oh dear! They look sweet, sitting up for the camera, with their little white whiskers on their earnest black faces.) That more or less leaves tabby.

Can I do it, to Perdita? My absences are stressful for her. What if I came back, after a couple of hours, not with armloads of groceries, but with another cat? Even a small one. I don’t think she’d like it. 

Sunday, September 17, 2017

If I can find any television to keep me awake for an hour, I should easily finish the first of Miss Rachel’s sleeves tonight. The Soutache is supposed to arrive tomorrow, released from the clutches of the Royal Mail. I think I may start it, to alternate with Miss Rachel, as soon as I have finished those troublesome coloured stripes for the second sleeve.

That’s about it, for news. Andrew and Andrea have again put up a little video for patrons about the forthcoming podcast, due on Tuesday. The guest this time is Gudrun Johnston, which should be pretty wonderful. Then they’re all off to Shetland Wool Week. It sounds as if Gudrun will be staying at Burrastow, where Kristie and Kath and I stayed. With luck, there will be a glimpse of it when A&A do their Shetland Wool Week episode. They have never been to Shetland – they’ll love it.

There was a titbit in this morning’s paper to say that the RAF station on Unst, at the most northerly point of the British Isles, is to be re-opened. When K&K&I were there, we went on up, after marvelling at lace in the Unst Heritage Museum, to see Muckle Flugga, as K&K are keen lighthouse fans.

I wasn’t all that enthusiastic, but Kath, a non-knitter, had been very patient about the lace. It turned out to be a thrilling sight, even for me; a highpoint of the weekend. The lighthouse is built on an inhospitable rock, slightly north even of Unst. How on earth did they do it?

To get to our vantage point, we had to walk past the disused RAF station, past rusted signs that said (effectively) “Take another step and you will be shot”. K&K were a bit anxious, but the place was so obviously deserted that I urged them on.

I do hope that the reinstatement of the RAF (very good news for the island) doesn’t mean that earnest knitters won’t be able to see Muckle Flugga in future.


Thank you for your help and advice. I will certainly leave Perdita here when I go away (with a friend, or Helen, or a professional cat-sitter). I won’t get a grown-up cat. I’ll go on thinking about the possibility of a kitten – and watching Gumtree. I’d be sort of jealous if Perdita became so attached to another cat that she was less dependent on me – but I can’t have it both ways.

It sounds from Gumtree as if kittens are even more expensive now than they were two years ago. I paid sixty pounds for Perdita, which still seems outrageous. I might have to go up to a hundred, this time.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Federica was a huge success, and I have every hope of impressing at least Archie, if not the Palermitans, with my fluency in Italian. We conducted the whole hour in that language, she speaking slowly and simply, me floundering, but still, we did. We’ll have another, longer, session next Saturday. I need to review/revise verbs, rather to my surprise. In conversation, one skips about from first to second to third person, singular and plural, in ways I hadn’t entirely expected.

She seems to like cats.

Theresa (comment yesterday) – you have given me a dreadful idea. I could get another cat. This thought is partly prompted by the fact that the Beijing Mileses – now the Sydenham Mileses – have recently acquired a kitten, to the astonishment of all, not least of their Chinese cat Mimi. Cathy doesn’t even like cats much.

If I had two, they would have each other for company (after two or three weeks of hissing and sulking) and I could bound off to pastures new with a clearer conscience. I even had a look at Gumtree today, and there is a tortoiseshell-and-white cat (not kitten) (one year old) for sale in Inverkeithing, not far away. She is not nearly as pretty as Perdita, although designed along roughly the same lines. She has been spayed, which certainly is a fact to be set against the price.

I have always believed in getting cats young, but that didn’t make much difference with Perdita. Her character was firmly set at seven weeks.

I’m tempted.

There’s little else to report. Thinking, let alone trying to talk, in a language other than one’s native one, is very tiring. I can’t think how the Pope manages.

I haven’t done any knitting at all yet today. I’ve pretty well finished reading (partly, speed-reading) Parkes’ “Stash of One’s Own”. I would particularly recommend Debbie Stoller’s “Yarn as a Feminist Issue” at the end. The over-all effect of the book is rather sad. Except for the brisk few who have only the yarn they need for immediate purposes, all seem to be feeling sorry for the loss of their mothers. 

Friday, September 15, 2017

Further progress with the first sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke. There are now enough stitches that the circumference takes noticeably longer to get around, but even so, the end of the increases is in sight – and after that I can consider whether I want to knit the sleeves perhaps slightly shorter than the pattern would bid me do.

Tomorrow I am to have my first Italian lesson. Great excitement. I have bought myself a brand new notebook – taccuino? Or quaderno? Federica will have to tell me. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow, I hope.

And the day’s other event was the arrival of Clara Parkes’ “A Stash of One’s Own”, an actual, physical book, not Kindle. It is the sort of thing I resolve not to buy. I succumbed in this case – it’s not another memory lapse – because it contains an essay by Franklin. It’s a rather sad one, about the death of his mother.

I’ve only read two or three of the essays, so far, but what a revealing subject it is! One cannot write about one’s stash without exposing one’s whole self.

The Good Intentions Club turned up in my in-box this morning, and I like the idea:but I don’t think it would help much here. I’m getting slower and slower. I now try, if I buy yarn at all, to buy it with a specific project in mind and put it away in a project bag with the pattern. It just means I've got a lot of project bags.


When I go away for the Christening -- three nights at most -- I think I will ask a friend to come in and feed Perdita. That solution would be possible for January/Palermo, too. She will be sad and anxious in either case. It is hard to judge which would be worse – an empty house, or a cattery. In the latter case she would have more company, including perhaps other cats. But she would be in a cage, and she might not like the other cats. Here, she would be lonelier but free-er. I wish we could talk to each other.

Meg contributes the opening essay to the Parkes book. She says that the Zimmermanns have a whole “cat language” for talking to cats with.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

All continues well. I’ve now done fifteen of the twenty-two increase-one-stitch-each-end-of-every-sixth-round for the first sleeve of Miss Rachel’s Yoke – and have discovered that I have two unwound skeins of the basic grey, in addition to the one I wound and joined in last night. One more than I thought. That should be plenty.

And – great excitement: I’ve had one of those “unfortunately-we-can’t-deliver-your-item” cards from the post office. A modest Customs charge, and the usual outrageous "handling fee". That’ll be the Soutache. I ought to be able to deal with that on-line and get the package on Monday.

What else? Not much. I recently watched a delightful video by Meg, on the Schoolhouse website, about i-cord. Nothing you don’t know, but it’s worth watching for the happy cat that weaves in and out of every shot. Meg explains that she has been away, and he is glad to have her back.

I worry about leaving Perdita. I will be going to London for two or three nights at the end of October, for Orla’s Christening. And of course to Palermo, in January. And on my cruise, next summer. She has been a strange and rather disagreeable cat since kittenhood, but for a lot of that time she and I have lived alone here, and, like Meg’s cat, she doesn’t like being away from me.

Joni, thank you very much for the tip about the translation app. Both Archie and I will have smartphones with us – presumably the all-seeing Eye in the Sky will be able to guide us around Palermo as it does around Edinburgh. Archie doesn’t speak a word of Italian, and he will be out on his own some of the time, while I nap or go to bed early. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

I'm getting on fine:

The pattern as written (link yesterday) has quite substantial gauntlets, as separate items, nearly up to the elbow. I don’t want that, so I have done a very small sample of the gauntlet striping – which is the same as the yoke striping to come – just above the wrist ribbing.

I am very pleased with the result, so far, and slightly surprised that so few people on Ravelry seem to have done it this way. Although of course some.

I am nearly finished with another skein of the main colour, as you can see. I think I’ve got plenty, as the yoke – which starts as soon as the sleeves are latched on -- uses virtually none. I refuse to worry.

I have a demon cleaning woman, a Romanian whom Helen got to know in Athens. I’ve probably mentioned her before. She and her husband and son have with huge courage translocated to Edinburgh and work all the hours God sends. She and Helen communicate in Greek, but her English is improving by leaps and bounds. She and I have even managed a telephone conversation. Today we purged the stash cupboard, which had acquired a distressing amount of clutter since its previous purge. Feels good.


Tamar, you’re absolutely right (as ever) – I need to know how to ask the way to the ladies’ room in Italian. I’ve looked it up, since I read your comment, and will check with my tutor on Saturday. Before we go to Palermo, I must acquire one of those small but enormously useful little language books.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Carol, yes – Dishoom! We had chosen a Monday on purpose, and went early. One isn’t allowed to book, however, for a party of fewer than six. There was a pleasant young woman outside the door who said that we would have to wait for a half to three-quarters of an hour.

We went next door to Wagamama instead, no real hardship except that the ambient music made conversation difficult. We are all three (Archie, me, dear friend G) determined to make another assault on Dishoom soon.

Knitting progresses well. I’ll aim for a picture tomorrow. I’ve started the first of Miss Rachel’s sleeves, and have knit three six-row patterned stripes just above the wrist ribbing, in lieu of a gauntlet. The effect is rather good.

I found the simple two-colour patterns enormously difficult. Because the stitches were divided among three needles? I remain confident that the yoke – same patterns, on one huge needle  – will be much easier. Let’s hope so.

On the other hand, this was my first experience of coloured Buachaille, and it’s wonderful. The palate is not extensive – by which I mean, there aren’t all that many colours in the range. But the ones there are, are beautiful, soft and gentle and glowing. It will be very interesting to see the new yarn which KD is at this very moment cooking up for us in Ireland.


I have engaged an Italian tutor (this is ridiculous) and we will have our first lesson on Saturday. She is a Roman, here in Edinburgh to embark upon a PhD. So she must have had, and surmounted, my problem in reverse – to get her knowledge of English from her head and out through her mouth. I’ve seen a video of her, in my Googles for Italian tutors. She speaks English very well.

I have prepared a few introductory sentences: “This is my cat. Her name is Perdita. Do you like cats? Some people can’t stand them.” [I haven’t worked out that last bit yet.] [Perdita almost always runs to answer the front door; she misses the coming and going there was, of nurses and carers, when my husband was alive.] “I hope we can use the intimate second person.” “What is the subject of your PhD thesis?”

After that it will be up to Federica. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Thank you for all your help and advice.

I love sailing – it’s just those big ships I disapprove of. When I and my friends were in Shetland for that glorious long weekend, however long ago, a Scandinavian cruise ship put into Lerwick on our last morning. The streets were full of disconsolate Norwegians walking up and down with no idea why they were there.

I booked a cruise of the outer Hebrides for next summer, remember, before my poor husband was even buried. (Nothing was left for this year, even in May.) The Majestic Line started with converted fishing trawlers, but has now had a boat of the same size built to their specifications. I think that’s the one I’ll be on. The boss said, interestingly, in the newspaper article which drew me to the idea in the first place, that when you go above 12 passengers you have to go on up to 50 before you make a profit again.

There’s a firm called Noble Caledonia which makes a point of cruising with smaller ships. There must be others. My problem, of course, is that I'm responsible for a cat. I can't just go gallivanting about.

GrannyPurple, your idea of crossing the Atlantic on the QEII and just knitting peacefully while nibbling delicious food, is a very attractive one.

Jane, in My Day (the mid 50’s) there was something called the Donaldson Line which took twelve passengers or so across the Atlantic on what was otherwise a cargo boat. I don’t think they carried a doctor – you had to be under 60 and reasonably fit. My husband came from Glasgow to??? – a Canadian port – in '57 when he was coming over to get married. My mother did the same thing the other way, the following summer, coming over to meet Rachel (who, however, beat her by a few days). Both enjoyed the experience very much.


I’ve finished Miss Rachel’s body – or, at any rate, have declared it finished for the moment – and cast on the first sleeve. Exciting.

Tomorrow I will be having supper at a well-recommended Indian restaurant nearby with Archie and a dear friend. If you don’t hear from me, that’s why. Archie has finished his summer job, and will be flying to Thessaloniki for a bit of summer on Tuesday, before the new university term starts.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

A touching of base

Not much knitting. Not much anything, except Duolingo. My life needs more structure. I think I’ve got the stitch count straightened out, for Miss Rachel’s sweater, and should (finally) polish off the body tomorrow.

One thing I did want to say, a propos huge cruise ships, at least vaguely. My mother (born 1906) said once that she was glad she had been born late enough in history to fly the Atlantic. I feel exactly the opposite: glad that I was born (just) early enough (1933) to have crossed on the waves, when that was the normal method of getting to and fro. An ocean liner, at the beginning and end of a ‘50’s summer, was a floating seminar.

Until recently, at least, it was possible to sail one way and fly back – Franklin and his partner did it not so long ago. But that’s not at all the same, because the ship would be essentially a cruise ship, not primarily a means of transportation.

Friday, September 08, 2017

I’m virtually at the armpits of Miss Rachel’s body. I discover that I am several stitches short of the desired number, despite having made careful and explicit marginal notes in the pattern. Therefore much of today’s knitting time has been devoted to counting, but we’re nearly there. If I can find something televisual to watch before I go to bed tonight – “The Normans”? – all will be well. I’ve finished “Cuckoo’s Calling” and don’t entirely fancy Dr. Foster. I could always hope to improve my Italian by revisiting Montalbano.

I went to see Kathy today to get the dp’s I’m going to need for Miss Rachel’s sleeves (and which I’m sure I’ve got, if I just pulled myself together). A costly replenishment, but it was good, as always, to chat with her. She asked if I was finding time hang heavy. That is certainly not the case, but I’m not getting much of anything done, either. My sister and her husband will be here soon, and I am trusting her to take me in hand. I had always assumed I would have my husband’s sister here, at this juncture of life, to give me sharp advice which I could disregard. But she preceded my husband in death, despite being several years younger.

Amongst my “promotional” emails this morning was something from Loop about Triskelion yarn. It looks wonderful.

Shandy, thank you again for Duolingo. I am finding it almost as compulsive as Freecell, and surely better for my Italian. How is it done? How can it be free? The software is extremely clever – I am assuming that Mr Duolingo is not sitting there in California grading my answers as they come in. Cui bono? as Cicero might have said. Perhaps it is all aimed at getting the program into schools -- where it might well be very useful.

Tamar, I am grateful to you for sending me back to December, ’16, in pursuit of Selbuvotter. There it is, sure enough, but I was also glad to be reminded (by my own prose) of the Blue Sky Fibres striped slouch hat kit, which I found so uplifting in the darkest days last year, and knitted two of. I gather both Loop and Delamores expect to have it again, but don’t yet. I’ll be hunkering down with Carol Sunday’s Soutache myself, but recommend the hat heartily to other SAD sufferer-knitters.


The question of how to pronounce “clothes” is another that had never occurred to me. Nor am I sure how I normally do it, if I’m not paying strict attention to the position of my tongue. In our family language, “clo” is the singular, coined, I think, by Rachel. Family language is the one unbreakable code, Marjorie Allingham says somewhere, although that one, at least, is pretty obvious.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

An inch or so to go, on the body of Miss Rachel. I can’t find my favourite needle gauge, nor my pack of KnitPro dp’s. What’s the matter with me? But I’ve got enough to be going on with, and the sleeves won’t be on dp’s for long, I hope.

Shandy, do you mean Lucy Hague’s “Kells” pattern? [comment, two days ago] It’s lovely, but I don’t like that 0 or perhaps even negative ease. How would it look two or three sizes up? I’m pretty sure the yarn is beautiful. I would be interested to hear how you get on, temptation-wise.

Speaking of which, the new VK (known as Designer Knitting here, for reasons I’ve forgotten) turned up today. It’s a good deal better than I had expected from preview sightings. I like Kaffe’s ruana although I would never knit such a thing. The one I’d go for, if required at gunpoint to cast on something tonight, would be Laura Bryant’s vest. Reading the pattern, I don’t see how Fibonacci comes into it, but never mind. The stripes are good, and the yarn sounds thoroughly delicious.

There are other nice things, too, in the earlier, monochrome pages. And I have pre-ordered (because not published here until next month) “Dimensional Tuck Knitting”. It’s a technique book, so that’s all right. You can remind me, if need be, when I’m taken by surprise by its arrival.

Melfina: mosaic lace book? Tell me more.

Daisy sent me this notice the other day, about a cruise with Franklin. I’m afraid I can’t go – I am deeply opposed to the huge cruise ships which are ruining the world. I hope Venice succeeds in keeping them out. But, oh! the thought of it! If any of you do go, please tell me about it. I will abandon all my principles and revel in your account.


Thank you for your comments and links about “often” and “offen”. I had never even thought of similar words like “soften” and “hasten” and “chasten” and “christen”. I polled our children once and I think they broke 3-1 in favour of “often”.

Mary Lou, I was glad to be reminded of that “l” in “almond”. I knew I was nearly home (to NJ), on those dreary overnight train journeys from college in Ohio, when the man came through the train offering Hershey A’mond Bars.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Blow wind, come wrack
At least we’ll die with harness on our back.

Progress, I think. My next job is to wind the next skein (the 4th?), and the finishing of Miss Rachel’s body will not be long delayed after that. Tomorrow I must look out needles for the sleeves, and give some thought as to whether I have an appropriate one for the yoke. The one I am using is too short to accommodate a substantial increase of stitches.

Forward on other fronts, too. I am now in touch with an Italian tutor and we have set Saturday the 16th for our first lesson. She is in Sardinia at the moment, a young woman from Rome who is here in Edinburgh to do a PhD. I have pressed on with Duolingo which suddenly announced that I am 17% proficient in Italian and sent me on to Stage Two.

Carol Sunday has sent me the Soutache kit, and a .pdf of the pattern which I have printed out. It sounds a bit of a challenge, but if Andrew and Andrea can do it, so can I.

Speaking of whom, their new podcast appeared today. Other times, it has come out on Tuesday, and I was a teeny bit worried. It is, as always, extremely interesting. This time, the interviewee is Daphne Marinopoulos of the Fibre Co., neither of which I think I had previously heard of. She blends exotic fibres, and I would like to ask her – if we patrons get the chance – don’t you find that mohair droops? Would you agree that cashmere doesn’t take dye terribly well, compared to wool or silk or cotton?

But what really interested me was that she pronounced “often” as it is spelled. I say “offen”, and although I have changed many pronunciations to accommodate British ears – “Tom-ah-to” instead of “tom-ay-to” – I couldn’t change that one. The OED (1933) gives “offen” as the pronunciation but acknowledges that “of-ten” “is now frequent in the south of England”.

Gilbert and Sullivan fans (I know you’re there) will remember the passage in the “Pirates of Penzance” in which a tedious pun involving “often” and “orphan” goes on too long – evidence that “offen” was the common pronunciation then.

So where did Daphne get “of-ten” from? Her grandparents came from Greece to New England, and worked in a mill. She has had a most interesting professional history, including a spot of airline piloting. She now seems to be based in the north of England. Maybe she changed to “of-ten” as I have changed to “tom-ah-to”.

It doesn’t matter, there’s no right or wrong, but I’m curious.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

On and on I knit, and have at last got to 12” on the body of Miss Rachel. Measuring circularity is not all that easy. And I injudiciously laid it on the floor today at a critical moment in the early evening television-viewing – and it turns out to be big enough for a cat to curl up on, if she makes a fairly tight circle.

So, no knitting during the news, but I mean to go back and watch the latest episode of Victoria any moment now.

I am tempted to skip the final episode of “Cuckoo’s Calling”. The reviews make it sound too complicated. The trailers for the new series, starting Sunday, sound very attractive. Can’t I just start again there? I will read the books, when I am clear of all this Italian revision/Sicilian history.

But I agree with every word you say about the television Strike, Shandy. Convincing, understated, humorous, attractive. How could you imagine him differently, Hat? I may understand once I’ve read the books.

I remember once going to one of those author’s-book-readings at a Waterstones here in Edinburgh, to hear P.D. James herself. She said that Roy Marsden’s portrayal of Adam Dalgleish on television was indeed wonderful [anyone who can remember will agree], but that he was not the Adam Dalgleish in her head as she was writing him. In that case, the Marsden Dalgleish fitted perfectly with the reader’s impression. At least this reader’s. Who could have been the alternative man whom P.D. James thought she was inventing?

And, Shandy, thank you for Duolingo. I have spent a lot of time wandering around cyberspace lately looking for Italian lessons, but I hadn’t spotted that one, and they’re good. I think I need to download an app, somehow or other. I keep getting the message “You didn’t test out of any skills”, even when I’ve done pretty well. I’ll keep at it. And, meanwhile, I have learned – and written down – my own mobile telephone number, and pursued, so far without result, a flesh-and-blood tutor.

Monday, September 04, 2017

You say you want news about nothing – here is another such message. It’s not quite as bad as that sounds. I knit on and on and the body of Miss Rachel never grew beyond 10”. Suddenly it has become 11 ½. The target is 14 ½ -- call it 15.

Mary Lou (and everybody else): what happened about my autumnal plans was this – I had thought to fly out to Thessaloniki with Fergus at half-term (he is now boarding here in Edinburgh), and drive back to Edinburgh with the family thereafter. But David and Helen suggested that this might be Too Much For Me: they would drop me in Rome to fly back from there, and avoid the long slog across France.

And I thought, well, perhaps I could stay on a few days in Rome.

And then I thought, I’ve been to Rome (a long time ago) – why not go somewhere else? And the idea of Palermo sprang to mind, for love of “The Leopard”. I can’t remember how Archie got involved, but now I couldn’t face it without him and he seems really keen. The dates (that first week of January) are determined by his university term. He has to be back on the 12th.

And here we are.

I have been thinking of doing some sort of Italian course to boost my conversational abilities. When Helen and Mungo were here the other evening, she said that what I need is someone Italian to talk to. So I google’d, and have found what sounds like the ideal tutor (Rome-born and raised, about to embark on a PhD here in Edinburgh). But I can’t contact her without a mobile phone number. I’m working on it.

New topic – “Cuckoo’s Calling” got sort of boring in the second episode, I felt. Brilliant acting and staging, the whole horror of London, but not much actual plot. I gather a whole new series will start this coming weekend. I think I need to read the books.

“Victoria and Abdul” – the new movie advertised with Judy Dench in a little Shetland shawl – had a rave review in the Times this morning. Perhaps I’ll venture out to see it. It hasn't actually opened yet.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

And yet again, almost nothing to tell you. The body of Miss Rachel is beginning to look seriously like a sweater, but there is still a way to go. But it was a good day in general, in which I got a thing or two done.

 I think I have decided on the Soutache, as my present from Carol Sunday. A) because it’s beautiful B) because I have sort of been dallying with brioche lately and C) because I am afraid there is simply too much knitting in the beautiful Pueblo stoles.

Poor Susan Crawford (whom I stalk on Twitter) has been having some lymphodoema (a build-up of lymphatic fluids where lymph glands have been removed) and some chest pain, perhaps from a broken rib. We have been promised another statement soon, about the timetable for the publication of the book.

Tamar, thank you for that comment about those books…..

That much I wrote last night. Then Helen and her son Mungo dropped in, to say goodbye. They will drive off to London tomorrow, whence Mungo will fly to Jordan for the year-abroad which is part of his university course in Arabic. Helen and Farouk, who is a dog, will drive on to Thessaloniki.

Unlike yesterday, today was not much of a good day at all.

But anyway, back to that unexpected package from the Schoolhouse. I was comforted, Joan, by your comment saying that you often get such packages. And interested, Tamar, that you found me mentioning “Selbuvotter” last December. The paperwork in the box says that I placed the order towards the end of July. It came surface mail.

I think my future rule-of-life has got to be, no knit-related orders after 6 p.m.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Again, very little – but I did finish that third skein of Buachaille, and will wind the fourth before I allow myself to go to bed.

And I advanced the Palermo story somewhat, booking our “Gattopardo” walking-tour and our day of “Cooking with the Duchess” (wife of Tomasi di Lampedusa’s adopted son). It turns out that our hotel is rather well-placed, within an easy walk of the starting-points for both of those treats. Certainly a matter of good luck rather than good management: it was chosen somewhat for centrality but mostly because it offered single rooms.

It remains to book our rail journeys, which may be cheaper if done sooner, and an excursion to Monreale, which can probably be left to the last moment or beyond.

My sister and her husband are about to embark on a “Road Scholar” tour of Iceland, after which they’ll come and see us. She is tired of arranging flights and hotels and happy to leave it to someone else. I am finding it rather invigorating.

An unexpected package from the Schoolhouse this morning: Meg’s “Norwegian Snow Flurry” pattern, Anne Bardsgard’s “Selbuvotter” and Svanhild Strom’s and Marjun Biskopsto’s “Ferosk Strikkebog”. The former, in Norwegian (I guess) about mitten patterns, the latter, perhaps in Faroese, a collection of traditional-type patterns.

All very nice, but I have no recollection whatsoever of ordering them. They are certainly the sort of thing I might order, except that I am trying to cut down a bit on things. It’s more than a bit alarming.

Shandy, yes: I saw and enjoyed the first episode of “Cuckoo’s Calling” and think I will now go and watch the second while winding that wool. My husband was never very good at that sort of thing, where you had to relax and allow yourself not entirely to understand and trust the story to straighten itself out in the end.

I am a great JK Rowling fan, not because of Harry Potter but because my niece used to teach her small daughter and therefore knows her slightly. They met in the street once, in Morningside, when my niece was with her own daughter. She introduced her daughter to JK Rowling but then, perhaps overcome by the aura of fame, didn’t complete the other half of the introduction. JKR put out her hand and said, “Hello. I’m Jo.”

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Again, not much. I’ve knit 8” or so of the 14 ½ needed for the body of Miss Rachel. I’m nearly finished with the third ball of yarn – that always feel like progress.

I’m having a terrible time deciding what to ask Carol Sunday for. I’m sort of tempted by the Soutache scarf/stole, a two-colour brioche affair with the reverse side done in a set of tasteful gradient greys. But the Pueblo stole which Carol herself suggested is also extremely tempting – I think I’d go for the Hacienda del Sol colourway, but that, too, is not an easy choice. High Country will make a very nice Fair Isle, Maureen.

One thing I got done today – I don’t know why I was finding it difficult to take the plunge – was to book flights and a hotel for Archie’s and my week in Palermo at the start of the year. It remains to book trains – we’re flying from London – and our entertainment on the spot: the Gattopardo walking tour, “Cooking with the Duchess” (Tomasi de Lampedusa’s daughter-in-law) and a half-day excursion to Monreale.

Google Maps has already shown me how to get from our hotel to the Catacombs of the Capuchins, clearly a must-see. It’s not an over-long walk.

Today is my 60th wedding anniversary. We never celebrated any of them, so it doesn’t much matter.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Again, very little to report. I knit happily on, with Miss Rachel, delighted to be relieved of the need to measure or indeed think. I’ve passed the half-way point between cast-on and arm-pits: and the second half of anything always goes faster.

I’ve been fiddling about a bit, trying to tidy up life. I have succeeded, as you know, in re-subscribing to the New Yorker, and am very much looking forward to the article, promised in today’s (London) Times, about the (apparently) disastrous Reality TV experiment on the Ardnamurchan peninsula.  

Amongst this fiddle, I spent a while the other day, as not infrequently, wandering around Carol Sunday’s website and subscribing (or re-subscribing, as events proved) to her newsletter.

She wrote to me, saying that I was already subscribed. I replied that I was trying to tidy things up, and that my husband had recently died. She wrote back asking if she could send me a consolatory kit.

I am overwhelmed, and feel like the kid with the keys to the candy shop. She suggests a Pueblo Stole, which her software must have told her I’ve been looking at a lot lately. I think that’s probably what I’ll go for, although I’ll hesitate a little while longer.


Chloe, I didn’t even know that anyone would want to de-claw a cat. I certainly won’t let them near Perdita. I still feel bad about having had her spayed.

Mary Lou: two separate productions here. I have just settled down with the second series of a television “biopic” (I think would be the word) about Victoria. The first one ended with the birth of her first child, and the new one starts there. Meanwhile, Judy Dench appears in a new film (for the cinema) about the aged Victoria, called “Victoria and Abdul”. That’s the one which is advertised with a picture of her in a small and most attractive Shetland-looking shawl.

The publicity says that her servant Abdul – this is after John Brown’s death – taught her Urdu to the point where she was able to write a diary in that language, which is pretty good going for old age.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

JeanfromCornwall – yes!  I had seen that picture advertising Victoria and Abdul, and had admired the shawl around her shoulders, and, indeed, it was all I had thought of to write about today – or indeed, yesterday.

What follows is memory, and unreliable, but I think there was an exhibition of Victoria’s clothes (?in Kensington Palace) some years ago. I wrote to the curator – on paper; with a stamp; that’s how long ago it was – asking if there were Shetland shawls in the expo, and eventually had a reply saying, as I remember, that they had none in the collection. If there is any truth in the memory, I must have that letter somewhere. But if I can’t find Lucy Hague’s Celtic Shawl book, what hope for that letter?

But Victoria certainly had Shetland shawls, and it is good to see the costume people acknowledging the fact.

I have knit happily on. There are things I want to watch on television these days: that helps. Inspector Montalbano isn’t doing much for my Italian, but I’m sticking with him. Endless Diana, as the 20th anniversary looms, and I find her endlessly fascinating.

What I keep thinking is this: it was essential (or so it seems in retrospect) that Prince Charles went to Paris that day to escort her body back to London. He was at Balmoral with his sons. He and Diana were thoroughly divorced. They hated each other. She was entangled with Dodi el Fayed, (who has been air-brushed out of the current commemorations, as far as that is possible). Prince Charles didn’t have much time to make the decision. But he got it right, to the extent that it passes without comment while people still fuss about flags that did or didn’t fly at half-mast. Maybe his mother advised him.

And I am also watching Jamie’s programmes about his new book – my husband absolutely forbade cookery programmes. And the new biopic series about Victoria. And I have recorded, but not yet watched, BBC 4 on “The Normans”. Mustn’t giggle.

When we got back from Strathardle last week, I sloppily consigned the half-brioche sweater to the floor for a bit. Perdita loved it. Cats like wool, of course, but she seemed particularly attached to half-brioche.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Virtually nothing, today. I knit on and on, round and round, and the halfway point of Miss Rachel, from cast-on to underarm, continues to recede.


n  We had a new Fruity Knitting last week, always an event. The interviewee was Ysolda Teague. She is enchanting. I always used to get her slightly mixed up with Lucy Hague – both are local. Now I think I can keep them straight. I have lost Hague’s “Celtic Cable Shawls” book. It’s been gone for so long that I may give up and buy another. It’s a keeper, if I were only able to hang onto it.

n  I had a teaser about the forthcoming VK today. I wasn’t tempted, except briefly by Shiri Mor’s amazing geometry. I looked on her Ravelry page and found that it is achieved with the help of a lot of crochet, so that’s out. A little crochet, I might manage. I'll comment further when the magazine arrives.

n  I’m reading Adrienne Martini’s “Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously”. It is about a year devoted to knitting Alice Starmore’s “Mary Tudor” pattern in the days when the pattern was out of print and many of the yarns unavailable. It can all be had from the Virtual Yarns website now. I disagree with much of what Martini says, when she strays from the subject, but I’m enjoying the experience.


Mary Lou, that scarf isn’t entirely mindless, because you have to join in a new colour so often. On the other hand, each new colour means another stripe done: it sort of cancels out.

Connie and BCGramma – that’s not a cat plate, but a cardboard cutout which we bought long ago, pre-Perdita, from the National Gallery gift shop in Trafalgar Square. My husband always had tortoiseshell-and-white cats. The resemblance to Perdita is remarkable. It is a detail from a kitchen scene by Willem van Mieris at (roughly) the turn of the 17th-into-18th century. I know this, not from profound art historical expertise, but because Alexander and Ketki sent me a birthday card recently showing that very same cat, with the information on the back.

Janet, I have no quinces. The tree flowered splendidly, and I was out there several times helping things along with my soft brush. Surely the tree is self-fertile? It’s in fine fettle, after this wet summer. I hope for better next year, but I’m worried.

Knitalot, that’s great news about your daughter. I hope she’s as happy at York as Archie seems to be at Lancaster.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

A good week.

Granddaughter Kirsty, James’ and Cathy’s youngest, has covered herself with such glory, in her GCSE results, that it would be embarrassing to record the actual numbers here.

And Helen’s family and I had a good week in Strathardle, and got a lot done. Perdita is now much braver about Out, and I am much braver about letting her Out. Helen has a dog, named Farouk, a gentle creature who pays no attention to Perdita. She is wary of him, but only slightly. The only problem was that he much preferred her food to his own.

But when a stranger, walking along the burn, let a dog into our garden, Perdita was horrified.

A major problem, at the beginning, was that I forgot my knitting. It had been laid out, ready to go, on Monday morning --  but then I reclaimed it and sat down and did a few more rows, and there it remained, by my chair. I remembered, 20 minutes into the journey.

Even that turned out to be a blessing. I had the half-brioche sweater with me (see sidebar). It had a collar which was distinctly not a success. I frogged it and re-knit the back neck, and it’s much better collar-less. That might never have got done, had I had Miss Rachel to hand.

And then – I discovered Carol Sunday’s beautiful Oak Park scarf in the cupboard in the sitting room. Her website says it was launched in ’13 – I might have thought I had had it longer. Anyway, there it was, vaguely remembered, one 17-stripe repeat finished, no moth, perhaps a bit clammy.

My husband was housebound for the last two years of his life, and for at least a year before that, I was reluctant to go to Strathardle unless someone else could come with us. So it’s been a while.

I knit happily on that. Although you might not think it at first glance, there are 17 different yarns involved. I think I have matched them up rightly – and anyway, it doesn’t matter. If I really can’t tell which one goes next, it’ll be all right as long as all 17 balls are used only once per repeat.

Here’s where I am:

And here are the yarns, in order on the dresser. I left them there for next time. The picture provides a pretty good encapsulation of Life in Strathardle (indoors).