Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Is There Enough Yarn To Finish The Socks?

Flemisa, Sharon, Julia and everyone else who rowed in with the sock advice, THANK YOU! It's so much simpler when you finally are able to work it out for yourself. Now I know what it actually is I'm doing, I'm on my way. Trouble was, because of that error in the pattern, I had no choice but to frog right back to the heel flap on both socks.

This is not a happy picture. It shows two socks, both well down the foot, in the process of being frogged. Once that unpleasant process had been endured, there was the picking up to do, necessitating the introduction of The Four Cs until well after midnight (crochet hook, Calvados, chocolate and cursing).

There was a soft rain falling this morning and once the most urgent writing jobs had been finished and sent off, I headed for Macroom with sock bag in tow (only two and a half more working days before show entries). Since the introduction of the smoking ban in public places over a year ago, our bars have become very pleasant places to take coffee, and Cotter's (established 1905) is all that a pub should be: dimly lit, cosy, and with a fire in the winter months. Today when Geraldine brought my coffee and scone, she picked up the knitting and admired the yarn colours. 'You've dropped a couple of stitches off those tiny needles,' she observed and straight away, to my amazement, quickly and competently picked them up on the tiny toothpicks which masquerade as rosewood dpns.

She declined all offers of needles and yarn for herself though, saying she'd done enough of it in her time and didn't see the point now when yarn was so expensive and shop sweaters so reasonable. I'll convert her another day - maybe when I've got a really irresistible soft yarn and a delectable pattern on the go.

I've been getting a bit of totally undeserved praise for some of the pictures that appear on this website. I need to emphasise again for anyone who doesn't know, that DH takes all the better shots. He is a professional and specialises in wildlife. I'm adequate when recording a half-finished sock but when it comes to capturing the look in the eye of an animal, the exact turn of the head, then there's no-one can beat DH. I stick to the words mostly, and let him practise the gifts the gods gave him.

The Ukrainian wool saga is ongoing. You may remember that I ordered some very fine silvery-white laceweight yarn but that when it arrived it was brown. Emails were exchanged, I sent it back, and yesterday got the replacement - this time dark grey. More emails and a heartrending reply from Oleh in furthest Ukraine. He wants to please me, he writes sadly, but if the next batch doesn't suit, he will just have to refund my money. I feel so guilty! But I really didn't want the dark brown or the dark grey. For safety I tucked in a few strands of various creamy white yarns I had around the place, and asked him to match those. Perhaps 'silver' is a very variable colour to interpret after all. Bless him, he even sent a picture of all the colours they have in stock over there.

I'll just have to order some more, if only in the interests of furthering East-West relationships, shan't I?

Oh the distractions that throw themselves in your path when you have so little time left to finish urgent projects. The latest golden apple to roll in front of my feet is that utterly amazing St. Brigid design from Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting. I saw a superb example knitted up by Francesca. Oh me oh my I want to work that pattern! And I really thought, being Irish and all, and raised on the darn things, I knew it all on Arans. It's the finer yarn she uses , I think, that enables her to work out such incredibly interlaced designs. Beautiful.

(By the way, St. Brigid was originally one of our powerful Irish goddesses, Brid. When Christianity reached the island, she was downgraded to gentle little interceding saint instead of all-powerful hell-raiser in her own right. Just so you know we didn't always have a patriarchal society.)

Angeluna, thank you for that link to the wonderful site for making your own knitting needles! Don't you love the acorn-topped ones? I really like the idea of using something from nature to finish them off. Yet
another project for the dark evenings (roll on dark evenings, the jobs are piling up...)

I was working away on those socks today when Patrick (the neighbouring farmer) and his son went out for a spot of rabbit shooting in the woods (well, I suppose if the little pests were eating all my crops I might feel belligerent too). Although Tasha and Muffy don't even notice the shots, Sophie gets terrified out of all reason, even though she is safely in the house. She comes bolting in, eyes wild and ears back, and launches herself at whoever is sitting down, from about twenty feet away, landing in a lap with force, no matter what else may be there at the time. She seriously affected the number of stitches on each needle several times until I gave in and let her stay there, pretending to be fast asleep, while I tried to get on with the socks.

A few people asked if I could speak Gaelic. I'm reasonably articulate, but it's my second rather than my first language. The people in the Gaeltacht areas speak it as their first choice with English coming in second. In really rural Gaeltachts (like the Aran Islands) this can result in a beautifully careful form of English. I remember one old man on Inisheer (the smallest of the Aran islands) looking at my mutts and saying politely, 'I am thinking that those would be little holiday dogs.' I thought it was a lovely way of expressing it.

Down in the orchard yesterday evening I noticed that the surrounding trees had got a bit high and some of the little apple saplings weren't getting any light. Seized the extending pruners and got to work as quickly as possible. Eventually, just as the sun was sinking, I was able to see its rays gilding one of the saplings and felt so pleased.

It's not a very good picture but I felt so happy I'd done something to help the little tree that I wanted you to share it. The branches on the left are in the shade, but those on the right are catching the setting sun, and I swear it took a deep breath and held up its face in delight. It's quite a rare Irish variety called Summer John. I also have Ardcairn Russet, Irish Peach, James Grieve, Cox's Orange Pippin, and Scarlet Crofton. The Grieve and Cox are common enough, the others are all rarities now and only available from the Seed Savers Society up in the Midlands. Cox, I have to say, though it is my favourite eating apple, is a real whinger and sulkyboots, needing constant encouragement and assistance, whereas the others get on with life by themselves most of the time, pleased to get the occasional feed or mulch, but otherwise coping admirably. One day soon I may even be able to pick apples from them (if the summer isn't too dry, then it's too wet, never quite right, apparently.) The only tree which regularly bears a heavy crop is an unidentified cooker around the back which bends its branches every autumn with huge fruits that cook down beautifully to a frothy white sweetness.

Wednesday evening here now. Thursday and Friday to go (both with quite a lot of my journalistic workload to be attended to as well, I have to say) and then Saturday morning is the final deadline for finishing both socks and Elann lace crop cardi. The latter is actually complete, all but the trying bit of tidying up loose ends and tucking away those irritating loops of glitter which created themselves unnoticed while I was struggling with the pattern. It just needs to be mounted prettily on a hanger, with a high-necked, long-sleeved blouse tucked inside to show it off properly. The socks? My main worry now, once I've finally managed to clear the hazards of heel and instep, is whether there will be ENOUGH YARN TO FINISH. The two balls are looking quite soft (I've been working from the inside out) and it is getting stressful. There is the maddest urge to knit even faster, to get there before the yarn runs out. Don't know what I'll do if it does. Make socks for exceptionally short feet, I imagine. No time for any other alternative at this stage.


Anonymous said...

To this untrained eye, it looks as if you should be ok with the yarn to finish the socks. If you want to get obsessive and have a very accurate scale, you could put the stitches on some waste yarn and see if the sock plus the remaining yarn weigh 50 grams. If that or more, you're golden. If not, they're for someone with smaller feet.

I wasn't aware that there were apples specific to Ireland. I think those seeds would make an interesting gift for my Dad at some point. I'll have to look in to it.

My husband and I spent a day on Inishmor during a holiday about 12 years ago. I loved it. The wildness still in the landscape, the beautiful sound of the spoken word. I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo, I just love reading your blog. I left a comment awhile back that we spent some time 2 summers ago in your area of Ireland - I thought we stayed on Bantry Bay however found out it was Dumannus Bay. It was so beautiful and we spent most of our time in that area. Thanks for making my day reading your blog! Your work is beautiful too! (Oh and Macroom, I actually own a small (like 1 foot X 1 foot) piece of land that my aunt bought me years ago as a way to encourage me to visit there - never found my piece of land though!!)

Anonymous said...

Jo, For the socks, I usually weigh the yarn before I start, and a general rule of thumb is when you reach the heel, you should have a teeny bit more than half left (which of course depends on how long you made your sock). At this point, you can do what Rachel suggested to find out what your original weight was, and then what you have left. If you are into or past the turn, think you could tell pretty much what weight it took you to do how many inches, and how many inches are left to do, remembering the heel takes a bit more yarn.
Jeri, the mathematician in our knitting group, weighs everything obsessively. At first I laughed, but I have taken it up for sweaters, etc. and know that I have X for the sleeves, and X for the body and X for the collar, so my measurements are frequently adjusted based on that info. You get very accurate measurements by weighing your swatch.
Jeri also has a little portable scale that she takes with her for yarn buying. You wouldn't believe how many skeins are short-shrifted. That way she can choose the heaviest skeins!!! And leave the rest of them for those of us who aren't so clever.
Whew, cardi done! Bit of socks to go. Then turn them over to the wide world for scrutiny and win those ribbons.
Now just wish to heck I had a Cotter's nearby, complete with Geraldine and scones.

hoong said...

Hello Jo,

Can you share the address of your Ukranian contact?


Anonymous said...

Glad I could help with the sock situation.

The pictures are, once again, lovely. Cotter's looks a treat!

No need to worry if the socks will fit you. Finish them for the show and if they don't fit, get another hank of yarn and make them the right size. You can use the left over from the "extension" yarn for the cuffs on another pair of sock or on mittens. ~Sharon

Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear more Irish ,I think that spoken in "Roan Inish" is the most I have heard. Languages are really fascinating. I had a few comuter lessons in Blackfoot once ..can't remember much sadly.
All those apple trees ,how lovely.As small as our garden is I have brambles popping up but have left them this year for the birds . I love the colourway of those socks Jo , what yarn is it?

Kathy in DC said...

Wandered over to your site from MDK. Love your photos and reading your blog. But. Link to acorn-topped knitting needles, handmade? Couldn't make the link from Angeluna work. Could you please post it again?

Charity said...

Sorry to hear of the sock sadness, although they are still lovely. The colour is beautiful! It seems funny to me, so addicted to knitting for so many reasons, to hear of someone who only knit for practical purposes, and now doesn't see the point :0)

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Oh, but the trials of 'do I have enough or don't I' - not a great position to be in when these are off to their debut in a matter of hours.
Why is it we knit faster and tighter when we are worried we are short of yarn?
Our one cairn will come and want in your lap when something 'worries' her. Not always convenient, but definitely wonderful, as she can be quite feline!

Anonymous said...

It looks as if there's enough yarn but I agree with rachel h and weigh it in. I used the crochet hook to pick up the stitches for the gusset on my first pair of socks but since have just used my dpns, just stick a needle in the stitch (the ones you slipped on your heel flap) and then another needle in same stitch and knit, and there's your picked up stitch, really much easier than using the hook.
Thanks for the info on the apples, again, loving the information about your lifestyle and the country. My paternal grandmother's name was O'Murphy, grandfather's name was Robinson (Scottish) and of course, Cherokee thrown in for good measure.
In many hearts Brigid remains always and forever an all-powerful hell-raiser in her own right (mine for one).
Best wishes and luck with showing your knitting, and also getting the colour of choice in Ukrainian lace-weight.

Fiberjoy said...

Mmm - coffee and scones accompanied by a set of DP needles and a ball of yarn, may I join you?

How's the yarn holding out? Sharon has a great idea. If they look conspicuously short why not root around in your stash for a nice contrasting yarn for the toes to make it look planned.

Bantry - one day!

dovegreyreader said...

Lovely socks and who needs a matching pair is what I say to myself when the wool looks to be running low. I've just done a pair in Noro Silk Garden and had a feeling things would be tight so knitted the heel up in a contrast colour (pics on my blog somewhere)These are going in the village show next week, last year's pair won the WI trophy , not sure that can be done two years running but you never know!

Anonymous said...

Just discovered your blog. Can't wait to read all of the blogs. Your name was just above mine on Stephanie's blog, and the celtic yarn intrigued me.

I have a friend touring rural Ireland right now. I'm soooo jealous.

Your socks are beautiful. As Rachel said - I think you should be okay with the yarn. But weighing it might be a smart idea.

I'd love more info on the Ukrainian source too! My husband's family is from Ukraine.

Keith said...

Can you advise please, where I can locate on the web, illustration and description/info for the 17thc.-18thc. Guernsey Frock? I have searched all over, and need to find the info on the web as I am isolated here. Regards, Keith. Australia.