Wednesday, September 13, 2006

So Little Time, So Much To Knit!

The wild west winds were blowing hard last night. So hard indeed that one gust slammed the window shut in the wee small hours. Rain too, driving against the house until early morning when it all slipped away towards England, leaving us washed and clean and fresh-scented for the new day. Do you know that ancient Irish fragment of a poem about such a storm? It was originally written in the margin of a vellum manuscript on which the monk must have been working as the wind roared outside.

Fierce is the wind tonight
It tosses the ocean's white hair.
Tonight I fear not the Danish invaders
Coasting on the Irish sea.

It's a glimpse back through the centuries to an older and harsher landscape, brought closer by that scribble in the margin by a man thankful that the storm prevented a worse terror.

And as we're on the subject of stormy landscapes, tossing seas and northern lands, thanks Anne for the hint on the Icelandic Feather & Fan shawl. You said it tends to work out way way bigger than you would think. I might just stop much earlier in the pattern (ha, that would mean fewer stitches too, which isn't a bad thing, I mean have you seen the numbers Cheryl Oberle is playing with in that pattern?) and start the lace design with just fewer repeats along the row. Looks like Feather & Fan is about an 18-stitch repeat so as long as I allow for a multiple of that plus enough for the edge and centre stitches, it should work out OK (she says doubtfully, crossing her fingers).

And Barbara-Kay, thanks for telling me where to find the corrections for this pattern. Omigod I never thought to look for corrections! Just think of it, I could have been galloping happily away on the lacework, confident that I had it right, and then wondering why everything was coming up all wrong. Now that I know, this might have to be applied to everything in future. Not just knitting patterns but LIFE. Is this event/ year/ experience/ lifetime working out OK? No? Well had you considered that the instructions were faulty or incomplete? Frog back? Not really feasible where life is concerned. Try to muddle along, using own experience to work out what is going wrong? A popular choice. Dump the instructions and work from instinct? YESSSSS! Free your inner wild woman and go with your own rules. (Just don't any of you quote that back to me when I'm a heap of weeping self pity surrounded by miles of tangled yarn and a lumpy holey product that looks like Muffy got at a dishcloth.)

And speaking of dishcloths, why is it that I now feel an irresistible urge to knit some? Oh I heard about Mason Dixon and the dishcloths (I like the Old English word 'dishclout', don't you?) washcloths and cute little towels and things and thought, 'why on earth would anyone want to knit anything so basic?' I met a charming new-to-knitting lady in a Hobby Lobby in Texas some time back . I was on a frantic pre-flight last-minute bash, cramming everything I could find into my basket, she was wandering happily, picking up nice bright cottons to make washcloths for her kids. How odd, I thought pityingly, and went on my way.

This gal is like that. Bell-bottomed trousers, satellite TV, the Internet, you name it, I hear about it and think, 'Why would anyone go for that?' Then, in the fullness of time, I slowly realise my mistake. It would be good if just ONCE I could get the idea first off, before anyone else. Actually, now I come to think of it, I did - with videos. When I heard there was a machine that would allow me to play old movies ad nauseam, I thought that was a good idea. Still do, although now it's DVDs.

What do the rest of you do when one form of technology gives way to another? Throw out all the old stuff and buy new? Run with both systems? I sure as hell don't feel like converting all my treasured old b/w movies to DVD, and I'm not throwing them out. Just hope the video doesn't give up the ghost - it will be like restoring a 1895 De Dion Bouton (a car, girl, a car!), to get someone to repair it.

And speaking of Muffy, I took her down to Killarney woods for a walk the other day. She doesn't get out much, because that mystery illness a couple of years ago left her very inclined to fall over or go round and round in circles, but she's been so healthy lately (probably something to do with her new-found interest in yarn and knitting) that I thought she'd like the treat. And she did! When we were on quiet back roads I lowered the window so she could look out at everything in the ditches and hedges, and she loved that. Then we had a wonderful walk (kept her on the lead, as she has no sense of directional finding for my voice any more and prefers some form of physical contact). She was so happy that her joy came right through to me as well.

Muffy under a tree in the Killarney woods, dreaming of heaven knows what.

We found tiny fungi growing everywhere after the damp weather - just like those lovely ones Ambermoggie showed on her weblog the other day, although we couldn't rack up the marvellous variety she located and photographed.

Loved the combination of dark green moss and fresh little fungi on this fallen log, though.

And then of course my steps gravitated towards Muckross House just in case they had any new cones in their yarn basket. They didn't, and the girl folding feathery scarves and wraps hadn't an idea when they would...

...but then this man came in with great heaps of new rugs and scarves and he looked like he knew what he was about so I challenged him forthwith. WELLL...LLL...LLL It turns out he's the head honcho at the actual weaving mill for Muckross, which is a few miles away in Killarney town. I immediately put Ploy No. 1 into action - i.e. that he would make a very interesting subject for my weekly column, Busy Today - and he seemed rather flattered. (It's genuine - I'm always on the lookout for new subjects.) Then I slid in a query about the cones of yarn. Not too enthusiastically - I don't want him raising the prices from their rather good current level after all - but he took that bait too. 'Got lots of those leftover yarns back at the mill. You might like to come over there one day and see the place?'

I didn't bite his hand off and I didn't bundle him into my car right there and then and force him at camera-point to drive to the mill (he was on his way elsewhere, and couldn't), but it took considerable restraint I can tell you to accept the invitation with no more than a show of mild interest. It will have to be next week. Fellow webloggers, I will keep you posted. Believe me, I will keep you posted on this one!

A really good end to the day came when a large supermarket on the outskirts of Killarney proved to have a stock of those elusive Thorntons chocolate hazelnut praline cake bars which are proving essential for wellbeing and happiness chez Celtic Memory right now. Don't you find that there are times in your life when you simply get FED UP of all the wise advice and guidance, and suddenly think TO HELL WITH cholesterol levels and waistline and daily exercise and raw brown rice and low-fat spread - I WANT CHOCOLATE? It's been like that here lately.

Some of the chocolate-related crisis might have stemmed from the fact that I started a couple of swatches for those incredibly complicated Celtic interlacings which Alice Starmore dreamed up for her book Aran Knitting. As I've said before, I considered myself pretty competent on the Aran front and thought that new patterns or designs held no surprises for me, but I have to admit that Starmore takes the skill to new heights - or should that be depths? How does she think of those complications, much less put them into practice?

The Jo Sharp Silk Road is still on its way north across the wide oceans from Australia, so I decided to have a go on one particularly challenging design in the Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino. I hunted out my 4mm Lantern Moon circular to do the yarn honour. It was then I began to get the first tremors of unease. I mean, this is a thin needle, this 4mm LM. I normally reach for something more like a chunky pencil when I think Aran. If it takes one 4mm needle and 35 stitches and seventeen hours to work three rows of what is, after all, only one section of one part of a Starmore sweater, how long will it take one knitter.... oh forget the maths, we're talking years here, not months, aren't we. Answer me, some of you who have lived to tell the tale! I know you've done it, Francesca, answer me!

This is how far I got last night. And you know the worst thing? It should really be on a 3.5mm or even a 3mm needle, shouldn't it? 'Oh, agony, rage and despair, oh where will this end, oh where, I should very much like to know!' (which Gilbert & Sullivan opera is that from - The Sorcerer?) Why do we do these things? Because we must... Onward, ever onward.

By way of relaxation, I went back to those meat skewer dpns. I'd made a mess of the first set, so started again - this time with a fresh clean new set of skewers costing all of €1 for at least fifty. The best thing about this new pack was that they were in different thicknesses! I gauged up some on my trusty Susan Bates and selected two sets, one 3.25mm, the other 3.5mm, and got to work.

The ones on the right are 3.5mm and I've shaped the upper points and sanded them as smooth as possible. The ones on the left are 3.25mm (you can see at the top where I've tried to write it on, not with much success - how do you do it on Ed's gorgeous designer needles,Wanda?) and the points are roughly shaped there, but not sanded down yet. Any suggestions on what kind of goo or wax to use that would make them smooth and slippery? Or should I use varnish? You know, there might be even more gauges in that one pack of skewers. This is so much FUN!

Then I decided to try dyeing some of that rather lovely lambswood/angora blend of which I discovered I had two cones from years back. It's just about the right weight for sock yarn and in its current natural colour, a light beige, should take dye well. Never one to shirk the unknown, I dyed one half yellow, and the other red. The trouble is, I don't think that red was the kind which blends to yellow - it must have been more of a pinky red.

The results are questionable, but we'll wait and see what happens when I rinse it properly. 'Tis all adventure.

And there is still that suri alpaca to attend to, and the Blue Heron. And of course the queen of all, the sumptuous Seasilk. More time, we need more time! Wasn't it Joyce Grenfell who worked out the probable length of her remaining life and then set her alarm clock for an hour earlier each morning so she could catch up on reading all the books she had intended to? There has to be a message in there somewhere for the rest of us.

And speaking of that wonderful product from Fleece Artist/Handmaiden, I loved your comment, Angeluna, that you too were going to indulge in knitting up your Seasilk as soon as you finished 'the current 4 sweaters, 5 pairs of socks, 4 shawls, 1 felted bag, 3 washrags and 2 baby sweaters' on which you were currently working. And to think that poor girl I met in the LYS felt she couldn't buy more until she'd used the four balls of yarn sitting at home. Boy, does she have a way to go yet!


Anonymous said...

O>MG do I need chocolate..Mum caused a major health scare this morning and I had her in the Co-op laid out.She now has anti-biotics and my sister who doesn't panic is with her !
Anyhow here's to V.C.R's Jo ..I think some little man somewhere will repair them .At least I hope so I have some very rare Mex-American films and I'm not darned buying them all over again.We got a recorable D.V.D player and it is so temperamental .I havn't got the money or the brains for new gadgets. Update on Benjy ..he is having trouble knowing when to use the litter tray ..or more when to step out we can't have him for two more weeks. Just what I need a thicj cat. Back to knitting my shawl which I was thinking of wrapping Mum in ...morbid or what?

Anonymous said...

So good to see Muffy happily out and about in the woods. And oh, my! a foot in the door of the weaving factory!!!! You are a clever girl.
I now feel I shall have to be totally honest about the projects in progress, and to do so, I must dump out the ten knitting baskets surrounding my high back chair a.k.a. "my Nest". I fear there are far more than I mentioned. And I neglected to note the companion chair piled high with at least twenty finished objects in need of having their ends worked in; a Mountain Colors lace moebius, a Noro cape, the first of my summer cotton sweaters, a chenille moebius to wear as a bed wrap, a cabled halbard, at least six socks, two sari silk wedge purses needing lining, and that's only the top of the pile that I can actually see.
The baskets are huge things with handles from Kenya, very decorative when piled one on the other, and each holds at least 6 WIPs. Gives chez moi the feel of a marketplace in Nairobi specializing in fibers. Easy to grab one when running out the door just in case there is a chance to knit. Will report back one day when I've dumped it all out and counted. No shame here!
Keep a couple of cotton washrags in progress in the car just in case it breaks down and I have time on my hands. One theory behind those cotton "warshrags" is to get over the feeling that knitting is sacred, not to be used. They are quite fun. Wonder if that woman you saw in the Texas Hobby Lobby wasn't a friend, we're all nuts about those Ballbands.

Anonymous said...

you just crack me up!
my husband is inclined to always buy the newest technology—i always think it's fine if he indulges, but i can do without it. i spend the whole day on the computer working, and then some, and i am more than happy to "unplug" at the ened of the day! but sometimes, like you say, he forces something on me that IS a good idea, and i reallize that i should not, as a rule, be so resistant, but instead, remain more open-minded . . .
oh, and that scrap of poem caught at my heart—how beautiful those few words are!

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

I love the scrap of the poem Jo, so evocative. Aren't the fungi adorable this year and so many of them. I'm almost finished my Children of Lir shawl and hope it is going to be long enough for the purpose I have in mind. It knits up incredibly fast, just last night knitting and almost done:)
Onthe yarn you dyed, you can always overdye if you don't think the shade is right, sometimes I find the second and in some cases third dyeing are incredible depths of colour

Anonymous said...

Why dishcloths? It's a great way to "try out" a lace pattern. If you hate knitting it, the cost in time and money was very little. If you like it, you have learned a new pattern.

For the skewer DP's - how about dipping the points of one size in food colour or dye - should be permanent once dry.

cindy said...

I very much enjoy reading your blog! You always mention something of the literary to make us think!

I'm looking forward to seeing your Feather and Fan Shawl. I love all the patterns in Folk Shawls ....

LaurieM said...

For your DPNs, I suggest using wax paper. I've used it on some bamboo needles that needed a bit of a polish and it worked well. I just took a strip of wax paper, and rubbed it up and down and all around my needle.

Anonymous said...

Hm, new yarn cones on the horizon… didn't you just start to list your old cones on eBay 'cuz you have too many? :)

About St. Brigid, I don't believe in a prescribed needle size or yarn gauge so I wouldn't worry about that. As for time… well, if you were in this for speed, you'd be buying your sweaters ready made, wouldn't you? Yes, it's a labor of love, no quickies here I 'm afraid. You are doing exactly what I did when I knit St. Brigid the first time; I made several swatches of a whole repeat of the central panel. Once you've finished this one and you make a second one with the new yearn from down under, you should be ok. It's not so much that the cables are difficult; it's that it's an unmemorizable pattern and you have to pay close attention. At least, *I* cannot memorize it, because it works on too many stitches and too many rows and there's a lot of asymmetry. But that's one of the reasons I like it so much.

The nice thing is that this pattern really rewards you as it grows. It's very gratifying as soon as you have two repeats. BTW, I tried to knit this in the round the last time and gave up. It was just too much to keep track of all those patterns.

That's a great shot of muffy in the woods.

gwtreece said...

Glad to see Muffy got out. Try not to drool on all of the cones at the mill.

Charity said...

Whew, you're one busy lady, Jo! I'm so sorry my email has been so rude to you! I'm not sure why, and I don't have access to my own computer right now, but I'll check it out when I do. So, you'll be in Jasper, eh? Do you know when? It's a bit of a hike (about 4.5 hours drive), but there's always the chance I can convince hubby we need to take a day trip! :0) It seems awful to me that you, from so far away, could come so close and I wouldn't get to meet you!

Fiberjoy said...

Tips for writing on needles and hooks:

Write on the raw wood before adding any finish.
Use your Susan Bates "knit chek" needle gauge as a platform to rest your hand on and to keep your writing even. I use a 0.5mm Pilot P-500 Extra Fine pen to write on the wood. It took trying lots and lots of various types of pens to find one with a fine enough tip and ink which dries almost immediately with very little seeping into the wood grain. No one touches my Pilot p-500 pens. I also wear a headtype magnifier so I don't go prematurely blind. (My eyes took a beating the first couple years before I finally swallowed my pride and bought an ugly headset.)

As for finish - So many waxes never totally dry, they retain a bit of moisture and can be tacky. (Beeswax is one of the worst.) Use Watco Satin Wax which quickly wipes on with a rag. You should be able to find it at a hardware store. Before finishing your skewers use a bit of brown kraft paper to polish them. Helps to make them satiny smooth.

There, you now have some of our trade secrets. :-)

Barbara-kay has a great idea to dye ends of the different sizes for quick identification.

Roggey said...

I'm not a Mason Dixon devotee... but I like their idea of bringing it back to basics since quite a few people I know had been put off of knitting, thinking it had to always be crazy spectacular knitting skills/project.

Barbara-Kay is right -- it's a fabulous way to try out new lace patterns!

Also, a friend of mine pointed out this website that gives free patterns for dishcloths. Mine are so huge, people use them for washcloths (instead of those plastic scrubbie poufs).

Dishscloth Boutique

Anonymous said...

I've just read through several posts, for some reason my pc got stuck on your Bantry post, finally 'refreshed' and what a delightful surprise and treat....thank you so much for the story, loved it, you've been very busy and everything looks fabulous.

Anonymous said...

I have had some success with using beeswax on some fine wooden needles. I gave them a good polishing after letting the wax dry a bit. At least I think it was beeswax - it was one of those thin sheets with the imprint of the bees' hexagons, that you wrap up to be a candle (our art specialist said it was beeswax anyway). Good luck with them.

Anonymous said...

I so enjoy your weblog! It's like a lovely escape to come visit. Full of wonderful pictures from your husband and wonderful writing from you.