Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Cast on 290 Stitches - Is She Kidding?

Look, I'm really sorry. I know there are still some of you out there patiently waiting for a skein or two of yarn from my Muckross stash. Believe it or not, I spent the whole of last weekend endlessly skeining up, packing into little plastic bags, sliding into padded bags, writing notes, filling out customs declaration forms and then hauling yet another sackful to the post office. They got quite fond of me at said Macroom post office, but it got so I actually drove several miles to the next post office (in Ballyvourney) for the last load, so that they wouldn't raise their eyebrows at my turning up yet again. I never knew so many people would want yarn, and now I have just about run out of the last lot of padded bags so those still waiting may have to wait until the shops are open tomorrow (it's after closing time now).

I admit I was getting a bit frazzled with all of this, especially as my journalistic workload also took off and started circling faster and ever faster, with deadlines all over the place. But all distress was forgotten when not just one, not just two, but three lovely packages landed in my letterbox a little while ago. The post was later than usual because it's raining and blowing a storm here, and the postman had to stop to clear trees from the road and drive rather carefully through the floods out along by the Gearagh, a strange mystic region of flooded primeval forest (take you down there another day when the weather's finer). Lynn, Ms. Knitingale and Peg you are all sweethearts! Such goodies! Can't do it now, because DH is trying to sort out something wrong with my camera, but I'm going to photograph them all carefully later on (or perhaps he will, which would give much better results and do the lovely contents justice), and let the whole world see what you sent me in my next posting. Packing up and sending off in bulk may not be so much fun, but boy is it great to get packages back!

Since these gifts enriched my stock of fine gauge circulars to the required degree, no further excuse was possible. Having spent the morning working flat out on writing demands (some advertising copy, an interview with the artistic director of Cork City Ballet - an absolute pet - a column on theatrical events coming up, and a travel piece), and having temporarily at least assuaged the Newspaper Beast, I gathered together all that was needful, parked myself in an armchair, and CAST ON FOR THE STARMORE ERISKAY.

Two hours later, I surveyed the achievement so far and wondered what on earth had possessed me to choose this, above all other projects for the Red Sweater KAL.

Look at it. No, not the picture on the left. We all know Starmore's a genius, OK? On the right, on the right. That's one whole circular row of knitting. Ribbed knitting. K1, p1 knitting, the slowest kind. Worked with infinite care and painstaking attention with two strands of gossamer cashmere on the finest of Addi Turbos (thanks, Lynn!) Two hours to get round once? At this rate, I'll be in a bath chair before I get to the main body of the sweater, and the comparative luxury of a size larger needles. My eyes were strained, so was my head, and deep inside the urge was building up to rip the whole thing off the needles and forget it ever happened.

I mean, it isn't as if I didn't have anything else on hand. There's the lovely simple Shepherd's Vest about which you have heard little for a while (because I hadn't been working on it much, that's why).

I'm three-quarters of the way up the back and more than halfway up one front on that (had to frog back when I forgot to put in a pocket, but soon caught up). It's on lovely 6mm needles with lovely chunky yarn and is so accommodating I can knit it while watching TV, even when falling asleep.

Then there's the charming little neck scarf from Sally Melville's Knit 1 - that's near as dammit finished and just needs a few more rows.

I really like the clever shaping on this - it droops attractively at the front to disguise the less attractive bits of the neck, and then wraps around just neatly. Thanks Peg for introducing me to this one! But I still haven't finished it! Instead I waste my time on impossible projects which will take forever to finish and blind me into the bargain. Why bother?

Then I looked at Yarn Harlot's latest posting, about her wedding shawl. Well, if she can persevere and create something as incredibly beautiful as that, surely I can give the Eriskay a bit more of a trial? Get to the end of the ribbing at least, say? Well, maybe I will stick at it a bit longer.

Wanda wanted to know why DH didn't take the picture of the Elann lace crop cardi actually at the Opera House, not in the middle of an unattractive car park? Because we were dashing in different directions, that's why! It often happens, especially on night jobs. He was finished in time to collect me later on though. We try to go into Cork together, to save on fuel and cut down the number of cars on the road, but it does take some organising when our jobs are in widely different places. Yesterday we intended to get in early (8 am) but ran into traffic jams caused by an accident, went across by lanes and alleyways to another route and got into another jam because of another accident, rerouted again and found ourselves in a really serious one (really serious because a delivery truck had overturned leaving one of Cork's breweries...) How many breweries in Cork you ask? Just two, but both long-established and quite famous - Beamish from the 18th century and Murphy from the 19th.

Which calls for a little lecture on stout or porter as you might know it. OK you've all heard of Guinness, but that's an absolute rank outsider, a Dublin drink. True black porter of quality is brewed only in Cork, at one or other of the said breweries listed above. Any student worth his or her salt can identify them at a sniff, let alone a sip. I grew up with the scent of the brew hops wafting over the city and came back to it, after many years travelling, with delight. One of the oddest things I had to get used to in other countries was Guinness (you rarely got Murphy or Beamish there, although Beamish appears under another name in some famous supermarkets) being pulled rapidly and handed over the bar as a foaming glass of bubbles. The first time that happened I handed it back, as you would in any self-respecting Irish pub, but soon learned that it was no good. The only way you'll get a true Irish pint, pulled as it should be, and taking half an hour in the process ('what'll ye have while ye're waitin'?' is a common phrase) is to order it in Ireland.

Now we've settled that, back to the knitting. Or was it the journey into Cork. Oh yes. It's lovely driving in at this time of year, when the trees are changing colour along the river banks. We have a lot of river channels here - Cork is built on the delta of the Lee - and it can be a bit confusing for visitors who cross several bridges and can't remember which side of the city they are on. The poet Spenser wrote about the river Lee which

'encloseth Corke with its divided floode'

back in Elizabethan times, when he courted the daughter of the Earl of Cork.

Just finished listing some of my stash yarns on eBay so that I can justify buying even more when the next opportunity arises. I'm already wondering what excuse I can use to go down and see John Cahill at Muckross again. The thought of that shed in the woods draws me like an addict... Maybe if I brought him some nice glossy prints of the pictures we took of him there? In proper mounts? This time I remembered to put the name Celtic Memory on every listing so that they should show up to anyone searching with those words in the Yarn section.

It takes surprisingly long to weigh and skein up even 50g of a laceweight cashmere/lambswool, but the real pain is estimating yardage. I have tried everything from kitchen scales to jewellers' scales, and finally settled on DH's ringing equipment from his bird recording days, which has a lovely hanging tube calibrated in grams, and a clip on the end to which the bag containing a bird is usually fastened, but to which I can fasten a tiny ball of yarn. Then I take it off, measure it against a metre rule, count the number of metres per gram, write that on the inside of the cone, and try to wind up the yarn again without incurring too many tangles (a vain task). Or, as all too often happens, I start rewinding, then realise I haven't written in the yardage, realise further that I have completely forgotten said yardage, swear and start the whole business all over again. Any other suggestions on how to measure yardage effectively would be much welcomed.

I've had enough of Starmore and her demands for this evening. I mean, cast on 290 stitches, join being careful not to twist (oh we know that one), and work several thousand rows of k1 p1 rib? You know, she says on that pattern that it was 'a joy to design.' To design, you see? She says nothing about knitting it up herself. Do you think she kept subservient, bullied knitters locked in a tin shed with tiny needles and infitesimally fine yarn? Somehow I don't think she'd have been writing so confidently if she had to go the distance with 290 stitches on size 1 needles.

No, tonight is going to be a treat. I've got the latest Sister Fidelma thriller and I'm going to curl up with that. Do you know Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma mysteries? They're set in ancient Ireland and because the author is an expert on the period, you get a marvellous feeling of living in those days, of wild bleak hills and warm kingly halls, fur robes and woollen cloaks, the mead circulating in gold goblets, romantic interludes 'twixt nun and priest (no, no, stop that, it was perfectly legitimate and accepted for religieux to marry up to the 11th century or so, when some misanthrope in Rome who hated women anyway decided to ban it), and fierce men roaming the mountains seeking vengeance for wrongs. Great stuff for a wet and windy October night!


Jen said...

There's actually a gadget designed to find the yards per pound for any yarn. It's called a McMorran Yarn Balance, and here in the states it can be bought for around $22 US.

Here's a link to a site that tells how to use one:

How to Use a McMorran Yarn Balance

That site also offers links to a couple of places that sell them online.

Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Lawdy! Remind me not to knit any of the Starmore things I had in mind. I suppose that one must remember that the process is as enjoyable as the result. Right? Your shepherd's vest looks lovely though.

Can't wait for photos along the Gearagh. And another trip to the yarn shed in the woods. Sounds like you have been very, very busy.

Anonymous said...

Are you using a niddy noddy to skein your yarn? My niddy noddy gets 1.5 yards to the wrap, so I just wind away , either counting the wraps as I go or counting the wraps at the end and multiply by 1.5 to get yardage. Of course, I'm not usually trying to get a particular weight so that might not be much help.

Charity said...

Oh, Jo, you're too funny! I love checking in with you, you always bring a smile to my face. :0)

Thanks for the stout education - to be honest I had never heard of Beamish or Murphy, and I'm very sorry to tell you that here Guinness is the drink of choice. Perhaps when we finally get over there, you can provide live education!

Marianne said...

Do you think there might have been a connection between her designs (Oh, I'm sure she knit them up Herself) and her, um, sense of humour?
Looking forward to the photos, as per.

Anonymous said...

you mentioned Macroom - we've been eating Macroom oatmeal porage for the last year thanks to our visit to Ballymaloe! Luckily we can buy it at a great cheese shop here in Edinburgh as it makes a great start to the day.
Now I'm off to Amazon to look up Peter Tremayne (his books sound wonderful), and from there to ebay to put a sight on some Celtic Memory yarn.....

Laura said...

Sadly true, while it is quite difficult to get a good pint of Guinness here in the states, there is the odd spot here and there where it is possible. If you're ever in southern California, try Muldoon's. It was founded by Irish twins, so your odds are better, anyway. And yes, last time I was there, I had to have a beer while I waited for my Guiness.

Also, though 290 stitches does seem like a lot, that's the full circumference, right? I made an Aran for my hubby some years ago that had 190 stitches each side (front and back)--that's 380 total--and thought I'd die when I knit the sweater back in its entirety to discover it was big enough to put two of him into. A year later I pulled it all out, and started over. Knit the thing on size 4 needles (not counting the ribbing), but at least the sweater was the right size this time.

Anonymous said...

I do so love reading your posts....educational and fun. Delightful commenary on Irish places, people and history. Makes me want to research my family tree a bit more...the Wright's came from there at least 6 generations back. May your fingers be blessed with speed for your new project!
And I'll check out the Tremayne mystery books...haven't heard of them and I love a good mystery!

Ms. Knitingale said...

You can do it, Jo!! (That's me cheerleading.) I know the feeling of eleventy thousand stitches and now just keep knitting for 12 miles...but you knit so beautifully and I can hardly wait to see the finished sweater. I'm coveting the vest, by the way.....

rho said...

here is a review on KR about a gadget to measure out yarn yardage

Well shoot that didn't work -- go to the main page on KR and look under tools then under beyond needles and it is the last one Yarn meter. But you can probably buy the same thing in any fly fishing shop for measureing out line and hook it to a piece of wood cheaper....

Anonymous said...

I have a 'Yarn Meter' that measures yarn (or fishing line) by the foot. That is no problem though because we can all divide by three to get the yardage. I even use it to measure the yarn left over from each project... that certainly is useful when considering its use for another project. You can read about the meter here:

Though I am usually a 'lurker' and haven't commented before, I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoy your blog. Your writing is a joy to read no matter what the subject. Not only do you make it possible for me to 'see' inside the shed in the woods, I can even 'hear' the raindrops on the metal roof and 'smell' the fresh, moistness in the air. I check for your posts with my first cup of coffee every morning. What a grand start to the day when you are there! Thank you

Gelsomina (Jill) Lucchesi said...

I thought of you this morning; Basil and I went to set the veternarian. I found in one of the dog magazines the online address for the chinese satin dog tote; they had pictures of it and also some other asian dog


chinese takeout bowls:

sushi dog toys:

asian dog coats/harnesses:

BTW, I bought the tote for 50% off, so you may want to ask them about that if you want to buy one.

:-) G

Fiberjoy said...

Blimey, you've taken on a daunting Red Sweater project.

Our regional library system has the Tremayne mysteries. :-) The bummer is that there's no audio edition to knit whilst listenin'.