Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Let's Swatch Again, Like We Did Last Summer...

YO, I think we're back in business! Don't say anything, but it just might work this time! It's been like nursing an ailing car back home - will it make the next phone box, will it make the next crossroads, will it make the next bend... Anyway, fingers crossed, this post will actually get out there.

OK. To return to where we were three days ago. What was I working on? Oh yes -

You know this swatching business can actually get addictive. As I think I mentioned before, swatching and moi, indeed any kind of preliminary gauge check and moi were entirely strangers throughout most of my knitting life. However, hearing about the dutiful work put in by the rest of you made me feel ashamed and when I considered making an Alice Starmore Aran I didn't even have the choice. That woman simply commands you right from the printed page to DO a swatch in EACH of the patterns, repeated TWICE, and then check again. Divine designer, but would you choose her as your companion on that desert isle?
Anyway I decided to test-drive a miraculous feat of Celtic interlacing showcased in her St. Brigid design. Had sent off for a ball of Jo Sharp Silk Road but it hadn't arrived yet, so picked up a ball of Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino and tried it with that. Fascinating following the chart: over the years you get used to Aran patterns that follow a clearly defined and symmetrical path - both sides go out, both sides come in and cross; you twist 2 k over 2 p in every case or 2 over 1 in every case. On any row you work towards the centre and then reverse your pattern for the other side. Now suddenly all the rules were being broken and I had to follow the chart like a hawk. Several times there were abrupt halts while I thought, 'Hang on, that can't be right. Surely I don't go backwards here?' But The Lady of Stornoway knew what she was doing and I have to say the end result was incredible. I've worked Celtic interlacing in many forms before, in embroidery, couching cord on velvet cushions, drawing, painting - but I've never worked it in stitches before and I can only sit back and admire someone who is able to reproduce that maddeningly difficult over-this-and-under-that regulation with such deceptive ease.

Trouble was, once I'd finished that swatch and pressed it neatly, I rather missed the exercise. By this time Silk Road had arrived from Ozeyarn, so I worked another of the St. Brigid patterns in that. Then, with enthusiasm undimmed (after all, these were nice easy exercises on 35 sts at the very most, and usually around 19) I tried another in that Cheviot wool of which I had a large cone (used that one doubled). Finally I gave the lovely soft alpaca I got in Killarney a bit of an outing. Here's the result of all that fun and games.


Reading from left to right: small swatch at top is in Cheviot pure wool, used doubled; small swatch below is pure alpaca. Centre diva is Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino; and long swatch to right is Jo Sharp Silk Road.

Now I need everybody's help on this. Which to use? Which has the best stitch definition? I think, much as I adore it, the alpaca is out of this one. It's just too soft, too cuddly for a marathon like this and it's not fair to use it for something for which it is so clearly not designed. The Cheviot I have LOTS of and I really should use it since it's in house and bought long ago and therefore virtually cost free. The Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino isn't exactly inexpensive but at least I can buy it locally (and probably just slightly cheaper than you can in the New World). There is no excuse at all for the Jo Sharp Silk Road DK Tweed since I have to get it from Australia (!) and it isn't cheap either. Which makes it the most obvious option of course. HELP!

Got a lovely package in the post from Natalie at Yarn Yard yesterday, containing an utterly glorious skein of explosively creamy orange sock yarn known as Mango Sorbet.



Do you know, this is the first time ever I've been able to source a really good cheerful sock yarn from the UK? Good on you Natalie, and let's have more of it. She's new to selling this beautiful stuff, so go and give her some support, willya? Can't wait to get started on it, but the Glitz socks have to be finished first.

Dammit I am so FED UP of gigantic spiders in the bedroom! Is it the autumnal weather or what? It seems I can't go in there at night without finding something the size of a truck hanging off the curtains or glowering at me from the ceiling. DH is getting tired of being summoned shrilly from his computer to deal with these threatening invaders. Last night I found the strong female courage from somewhere to clap a glass over one (its hairy legs almost protruded beyond, it was so huge) but then lost the strength to slide a card underneath and get the whole thing out the window, so had to call on DH again. And then I spent the night imagining that same spider cursing solidly and quietly as it clambered right back up to the window again. It'll be there tonight again, I just know it.

(I met a tarantula in Texas in the spring, in an attractive patch of bluebonnets, but that was so huge it was almost like meeting a rabbit or a kitten. I could nearly have stroked it, except that it backed away and raised its pincers or whatever they have out front, so I desisted. But these hairy things about three inches across that have developed a passion for our bedroom, those give me the shivers.)

On Sunday I suddenly had enough of crafting creative comments, designing undying dialogue, and wrestling with Blogger. Grabbed sweater, camera, purse, and headed out for the Pass of Keimaneigh. I love this place, a tiny fissure between the mountains, linking Bantry and the ancient coastal ports to Inchigeelagh and the Lee River, leading towards the City of Cork. Let's get it straight, this isn't the Grand Canyon. Neither is it the Cheddar Gorge. But it's mine, it's local and I love it. You come up from Bantry on a twisty road towards what looks like a solid wall of mountain but gradually a tiny gap opens up ahead of you.



If you look at the right-hand side of this picture, you can see a tiny scrap of road which is turning left and heading into the pass. Keimaneigh comes from Ceim an Fhia, or Leap of the Deer, in memory of some long-ago creature fleeing from the hunt which desperately leapt from one side of the pass to the other to avoid capture. It's a lovely intimate place, and it leads to another of my favourite spots, Gougane Barra. Here I called in to Breda at the hotel to say hallo and pass the time of day before they close for the winter. We talked about times past and times present and she told me about her grandmother who would shear the sheep, spin the wool and knit the socks to sell in a little shop locally, as well as making her own soap and candles. Aren't we spoiled these days? I showed her the Glitz socks and she was much diverted by the colour schemes you can get from Cherry Tree Hill.




Gosh, how did that get there? Sorry, the raspberry roulade must have materialised without my noticing. Nothing whatever to do with my visit. The sock is on the right, on the RIGHT, do you hear?

I discovered to my delighted surprise that Breda's husband keeps a flock of Soay sheep. She hadn't realised I would like to know this and took me out the back to see if they were around. Soay, as I'm sure you know better than I do, are the very ancient rare breed originally from the Scottish Hebrides, and they are wild, but wild. 'You can't do anything with them,' agreed Breda. 'Even getting them down to be dipped in the spring is the divil's own problem.' Fortunately they were near enough to the hotel to be photographed, so I captured them for you.


(you can tell it was just me, and not DH doing a proper job with the camera, can't you?)

These Soays don't get sheared ( they wouldn't let you) but simply 'roo' their fleece in the early summer each year. I volunteered to pull the wool next spring but Breda was doubtful they'd play ball. We'll see...

I got a great urge to make something with that divine purple-blue mohair loop yarn I secured from John Cahill at Muckross and started out on a sort of tabard or tunic worked in one piece from the back up to the neck and divided to come down the front. The kind of thing you could just tie at the sides rather than sew up, and could slip on when the weather was just a bit chilly.



I don't know if you can see any of this, but I sketched out the design and put that in the picture too. I have the idea to turn up the front corners to make pockets. Then it will be one of those really useful garments rather than a decorative one.

And the crabapples are really ripe now in the garden. If I didn't pick them now, they'd be fallen and gone by the time I got back from the trip.




So I did just that. Now all I have to do is to find time tomorrow (somehow) to make a very very tiny pot of crabapple jelly...

19 comments:

Kelly said...

You always have the most delicious posts. Thank you so much for that. Also, since I believe you are due down in my neck of the woods soon (Vancouver...I think you are still coming, right?), I wanted to tell you that the fall rains have started but we should have a reprieve for the weekend. I hope so. It is darn chilly here today. Good travelling if you are coming. You always seem so well prepared that you probably don't need any recommendations, but if you do, I could try to make some suggestions (even non-knitting related!). Thanks again for the great blog.

gwtreece said...

Be careful with the Cashmerino. I have heard several complaints about pilling on the KR.

Julia said...

You didn't mention which of the wools got the correct gauge! If they all did, then I would do a bigger swatch of the Cheviot and go with that if you like the way it looks (it's hard to tell from the small swatch what exactly it's doing!)

Marianne said...

Well, Jo, is that roulade for me?? You are a bit of a wicked lass, aren't you. YUM on all accounts, as in all your photos..as to our dear Ms. Alice, on a desert isle? dear me, as much as I greatly respect her character and the workings of her mind, I'm thinking she'd have me fed to the sharks within minutes...the swatches...yes, please make a larger swatch in the Cheviot, otherwise it's looking like the Cashmerino winning out from where I can see, but really, would like to see a bigger Cheviot.
What kind of spiders are they? and what no photos? I don't much mind the wee beasties, but, sigh, tis death by smashing to the recluse fiddle back whenever they dare to cross my path.
The sock yarn is glorious..wow.
Thank you once again, Jo, for the lovely outing, it is always a pleasure visiting with you!
Which book is St. Brigid in?

LaurieM said...

I thought that the Cashmerino gave the you the neatest stitches and the best definition. But if it pills don't bother! I knit Rogue from a beautiful yarn that was soft and had great definition, but it's just a weekend sweater because it's so pilled. Very disapointing.

Kit Is Knitting said...

I vote for the Cashmerino and if it does pill, just use a sweater stone on it. The pilling will subside. :) Also, I would love to try some crabapple jelly, it sounds marvelous!

Lynn said...

I've heard that about the Cashmerino, too, but haven't tried any, myself. I agree with lauriem on both points: it's the crispest-looking swatch, and if it pills, then it's not worth using. My Wilted Leaf Cardigan, knitted in Cascade 220 because I didn't know any better, is pilling as impressively as new wall-to-wall carpet. I'm seriously thinking of frogging it and knitting up rug squares for a [checkerboard?] rug under my dining room table...

The cheviot is a lovely color, and on my monitor I can barely see the cables. So I'd pass on it for this project.

Francesca said...

Your swatches are looking good. I haven't used Cashmerino,so I can't say anything about that, but I've knit St. Brigid four times and I like a yarn that holds its own for it, so I'd stay away from alpaca. My last St. Brigid (when, oh when will I finish it?) is in the Silkroad Tweed DK and I love it. I've previously used JoSharp DK, which turned out a bit on the stiff side, Jaeger Superfine merino, which is absolutely lovely, and a free-range merino from a small farmer ont he East Coast (US), that worked out really well. It's hard to tell from a picture, but I think I'd go with either the Cheviot or the Silkroad.

Your account of the spider hunt gave me the creeps. I have a holy terror of spiders and freak out even for the small ones. Thank you for sparing me pictures of those!

Ms. Knitingale said...

Jo, I love the swatches. I'll have to cast my vote with the majority and say the cashmerino has the crispest look to it....but that's too much work to lose to pilling. That said, the cashermino is also the brightest and largest swatch. Maybe try the Cheviot in a brighter white and a larger swatch? My sympathies on the spider issue. I'm terrified of them and they know it--I swear they come looking for me every fall and delight in making me shriek! Just reading your post made me look nervously around the ceilings.....

Carrie K said...

I like the Baby Cashmerino or the Silk Road for stitch definition. Those are some beautiful cables.

Nice looking sheep! I'm sure they'll be amenable, once they understand.

rho said...

I'm thinking along with everyone else on the cashmerino choice -- it looked the best on my monitor.

when do you leave for your trip??? Will you be updating us along the way?

angie cox said...

Swatch on the left I'd say ......you have that many spiders? What eats spiders? If I were you I'd have had a coronary by now .I loathe the things and how typical of one to hide amongst pretty bluebonnets.Don't get me started on how many agricultural workers get bitten at least unlike in India it's not tigers. Have a great trip meet as many blog pals as you have time too.

roggey said...

I have to say that after reading your blog entries (and how divine was that raspberry roulad?), I want to visit Ireland even more than I did before... thanks for the beautiful photos!

Ruby said...

I must agree with the others about Cashmerino being the best looking to me, on my monitor, for stitch definition. But, if it pills much it would ruin the entire project. Might you be able to 'abuse' the swatch and see just how much/if it would pill or react to wear/use?

Thank you so much for your time and attention to showing Ireland to us. I haven't yet gotten to travel there, but have always wanted to! With your blog I'm able to at least see through your eyes what hopefully someday I'll be able to see with my own eyes!

Dez Crawford said...

Okay, I'm afraid my opinion is always expensive. Not much definition in those little bitty swatches. Debbie Bliss looks superb, but Jo Sharp is also grand.

As an addicted cabler, I adore your Celtic knitted knotwork, which I adore anyway on general principles, knitted or otherwise.

I'd be tempted to go with Jo if Debbie pills, but before mortgaging the house, I would wash that Debbie swatch, shave off any pills and wash it again -- some yarns retain a small bit of lint from the mill, and thus pill only on the first washing or two.

Gorgeous pictures. Wonderful orange wool. Lovely gorge you have there, and you made me smile when you mentioned Cheddar Gorge. I've seen pictures of Cheddar Gorge, and it's lovely, but when I hear the name I always imagine myself hacking my way through it with a knife, a sack full of crackers, and a thermos of hot, sweet tea, regaling in cheese heaven.

Also, please tell this arachnophile what sort of Irish spider visits you ... in exchange, I will provide you with this bit of trivia ... the "pinchers" on a tarantula are actually its jaws, although what it was probably waving at you were its pedipalps, which are its "feelers," (the word means "feeling feet") through which it learns much about the world, because although they have eight eyes, they can only detect motion and tell the difference between dark and light. So when they wave those appendages at you, it's very much like a blind fellow sticking out his cane or his hands to find out what he's been confronted with, and tarantulas exaggerate this efect by rearing back so the pedipalps can wave around unobstructed by their legs.

Just a spidery hello ... checking you out, and all that.

Good and kind of you to put the little dude outside ... my Irish granny used to say it was bad luck to kill a spider. Do you know the reason?

Great post,

Dez

rita said...

I love your pic with the red plants down in from....makes to want to be dyeing... :-)

I'm off...

Barb in Texas said...

I vote for the Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, based on the photo. But that may be because it's a larger swatch than the others.

Maureen in Fargo said...

I'm fairly new to your blog, Jo, and first want to say how much I enjoy reading it. It sure does make me ready to visit Ireland one more time...

Regarding the swatches, I'd also like to see a bigger swatch in the Cheviot as I'm partial to more traditional yarns and I like the shade.

SpinningErin said...

You are a wicked woman, and I drown in envy of you and your glorious Ireland and impressive knitting skills! Keep up the fabulous work, and I will become a stronger, better person by the acceptance of vicarious Irish living through your (untouchably delicious) blog.