Sunday, October 08, 2006

Hot Chocolate Hath Charms To Soothe The Tired Knitter

Morning everyone, we're feeling quite a bit brighter today, thanks in great part to a good night's sleep. That in turn was assisted by a mug of hot chocolate before retiring. And we're not talking low-fat, cholesterol-free, sugarless, additive-less, hot chocolate here but the real McCoy, made by melting a great deal (a great deal) of rich dark chocolate in a mug with some milk, whipping it up with a whisk, adding more milk, and bringing to just the right degree of heat for wrapping the hands around. Went down very well, tucked up in bed, with Vogue Knitting for company. (Yes, I made one for DH too, he's suffering as well, though he opted out on the knitting mag). Well, we can start detoxing tomorrow... or next week...

One of the most annoying hassles on the return trip was at Vancouver Airport where we asked at check in about cosmetics and particularly lip gels (I hate doing without some form of softener on a long trip). 'No problem' said the girl brightly. 'You can take it all on board now as long as you show it at security.' Great. Got the bags labelled, were just about to wave them off on their way, when the girl said (still brightly) 'Of course you must have a clear, approved, zip lock bag for the cosmetics, otherwise they'll be confiscated.' Did she have one of these bags for us, then? 'No, we do not have these for you, you must bring them with you.' Could she then perhaps tell us where within the airport we could purchase one of the strictly approved bags? 'No, we do not have them here, but you must bring exactly the right one with you.' Looks as though even if we had brought some kind of clear bag with us, it wouldn't have been the correct one anyway. So the lipgloss went into the (almost disappeared) luggage after all, me swearing quite considerably at the waste of time. Then, when we got to security for international departures, we saw (1) the first ever notice telling us all cosmetics had to be in the aforesaid approved bags - no such notices at the airport entrance or anywhere else useful, and (b) girls happily sailing through security with their lipsticks, moisturisers, lipglosses, etc., all strewn out in the open on the moving strip. Was I a muggins for taking any notice of the rules or what? (Fortunately DH had more sense and had tucked one of my lip balms into his pocket where it passed unnoticed, so I survived the trip.) Reminds me in a very very small way of the insanity Ms Knitingale has been enduring with the authorities in her praiseworthy quest for official qualification in what she's been doing perfectly for years - check her post out if you want an insight into just how maddening bureaucracy can be.

Anyway, to happier matters. Last night, although it isn't at all cold here yet, it is is rather dark and windy, so I lit the stove and decided to photograph my stash in full for your enjoyment on the hearthrug. The dogs, of course, had other ideas, and moved in as soon as I started gathering kindling and paper, taking up the best positions they could jostle from each other. Gave up on the hearthrug and dragged over a table and a stool on which to load the yarn. Muffy and Sophie grumbled off to their beds, muttering about house moving and it was a fine thing when a dog had been abandoned cruelly at boot camp for so long, etc. etc., but Tasha, a grande dame if ever there was one, had no intention of quitting her comfort spot.

'Ready for my close up now,' she said calmly, as I piled on the stash. (Sorry all these images are rather dark - it was dark by the fire, but the software for rectifying that is acting up as well and DH is out working hard at the press photography thing, recouping some of the costs of our trip so he can't help. Shout if you need more detail on any one of them. And try to think of it as the atmospheric chiaroscuro on an Old Master, ok?)

Here's a close up of the loot on the table. At the back, two wheels of soft roving, one from Briggs & Little, the other from White Buffalo, both bargains. No idea what I'll make from them, but an excursion into the new world of felting is clearly indicated. Next to them, a big skein of Fiddlesticks silk and wool. You're right, whoever observed that this would more than needed for the Swallowtail shawl - I now have other cherished plans for it. In the middle, a huge ball of variegated cotton in turquoises from Bernat, the better to make little petal bibs for several expected babies, with Peg's lovely felted bag centre stage. In front, on the left, what remains of the Coventry yarn with which I made the Campbell River vest, a skein of Handmaiden silk in variegated blues, and one ball of Online wool/cotton to test swatch for Aran patterns. In front is Peg's beautiful lace shawl which I treasure.

Socks reign on the stool: on the left is a lively skein of Fleece Artist merino, flanked by the emerald Cherry Tree Hill and two balls of Opal on the right. Then there are two sets of dpns, the gorgeous Lantern Moon behind, and Brittany Birch in front, in the same gauge (4mm) so I can make two sets of socks at the same time. (There was only one set of Lantern Moon available at Uptown Yarns in Courtenay - you never see a lot of Lantern Moon, but that's understandable since they're in such demand and made by hand in Vietnam after all and just as well too since they aren't exactly inexpensive.) You probably can't see it, but they're all lying on two metres of pure wool plaid which will make the most marvellous full length winter skirt to keep me warm while sitting by the fire. I'll make it on the bias with as much flaring out as the fabric will allow and might even tuck a silk petticoat underneath in really cold weather. Isn't it nice to dress up in older style in the darker months? Some of the nicest times I've had have been sitting in the firelight wearing a long skirt (sometimes I even don the pearls too), with classical music on the player to accompany my knitting and the dogs clustered contentedly at my feet (only occasionally growling for pole position or making a snatch at a straying ball of wool).

And of course there were books, magazines, patterns too - so many indeed that I had to smuggle most of the weight in my trusty little rucksack and try not to look as though it was heavy at the check-in. Elsebeth Lavold's Viking Knitting, the One Skein book, Vogue, several Interweaves, those felted clogs, that one on stoles and scarves - material enough for months of pleasant browsing. And you're perfectly right, of course, I should - and I will - subscribe to Interweave and probably Vogue Knitting International too. Makes far more sense than gnashing my teeth and depending on trips abroad to pick them up. Will get on to it right now.

[By the way, you don't realise this, because you're reading the final version, but it's taken me an hour to get this far. Every time I uploaded an image, it remained a tiny X mark on the page and obstinately refused to open. In the end, I went to the very last image I intended to use (don't ask me why) and tried that. Bingo, it worked! And so did all the recalcitrant ones after that. If you have exhausted all the possibilities, what remains must be the answer, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes...]

Now, fingers crossed, I think my knitting mojo has come home again, thank heaven, because I'm getting interested in several more projects which I want to start right away, not tomorrow, not next week, but now. That has to be a good sign, right? The Swallowtail shawl from the autumn issue of Interweave has to be one of the first (you all know the pattern by now so I won't post a picture) and I'm going to knit it with Handmaiden Silk . I really thought I wanted to make Icarus but when I saw Swallowtail I was totally lost. Those points are irresistible. There are about 600 yds of the silk so it should be enough. And the wool/silk Fiddlesticks is what I have been searching for this eternity to make the Refined Aran from Best of Knitter's Celtics and Arans.

This is a beautiful pattern in quite a fine yarn with a lot of detail. You mightn't be able to see it, but several of the twists actually start down in the rib, which gives it much more interest. It should look stunning in the variegated Fiddlesticks (no, I don't want to think about how long it's going to take).

The emerald CTH yarn is intended for a pair of socks with mysterious Celtic twinings down the cuff. Haven't worked the pattern out yet, but so confident am I after two pairs of completed socks (well, almost completed, I'm past the heel and galloping down the foot on the Glitz so you could say I'm totally and thoroughly experienced in all aspects of the medium by now, couldn't you? COULDN'T YOU?) And I have fallen completely in love with that wonderful Norah Gaughan asymmetrical jacket in charcoal alpaca in the latest Vogue Knitting.

I must make this - it's ideal for both trousers and skirts and would go anywhere, from docklands to debutantes, fashion show to fishing fleet. Of course I don't have the right yarn in stash - do we ever? - and I feel it deserves something very very beautiful, so it will have to wait a little while, though I don't want to accept that. I want to get going on it this minute. Any suggestions for a really deep charcoal yarn in a soft luxurious fibre? I think it needs to be worsted thickness, no thicker - about 5 sts to the inch?

I am also smitten with Viking patterns and was delighted with the Elsebeth Lavold book I secured at Fun Knits on Quadra Island, although I am advised that there is a better one. Oh well, just have to get that as well... Ms Knitingale posted a picture of the superb Samus sweater she is making and I fell in love with the intricate cabled pattern that goes round the hem and sleeves.

I've been intrigued by all this playing round with Koolaid which I hear about on your postings - Wanda was using it last week to amuse some youngsters she was minding, and I got annoyed at the idea that even they could play this nice game and I couldn't. I looked for it in BC, but had no luck. But would you believe it, Wanda has actually posted some to me so I can try it too? Bless you, Wanda, you're the best.

And so Lene has been posting for a year! Doesn't she have the loveliest images for all of us to share? I feel so incompetent and frustrated that I can't share thoughts and ideas with all the non-English-speaking knitters of the world, and am so totally grateful to Lene for opening at least one doorway for us. Please please keep it up Lene, and I promise I'll try to learn another language a bit better than asking for coffee or the way to the railway station. Perhaps not Finnish, though - I may not know much about it, but I do know that it is one of the three most difficult languages in the world - the Finno-Ugrians (yours, Hungarian and Estonian, right?) But keep up the occasional language hints to us, and we'll do our best. Promise!

One of the nicest things about picking up our mail on return was finding a lovely surprise package from Marianne with handwarmers she'd knitted especially for me, plus stitch markers she'd made herself, a big ball of Koolaid-dyed yarn, and even a little scent sachet, since she thought the Koolaid had left its own scent (it hadn't, Marianne, it hadn't!) And she sent me several sock patterns including the one I really really wanted, Cascading Leaves.

I was lost for words at such thoughtfulness. Isn't it lovely, this exchanging of little gifts back and forth? I'm totally hooked. Not sure about organised official exchanges, but between friends who know something of each other's tastes, how good is that? I wonder how many tiny Midwinter stockings I could make with a leaf or acorn or moss tucked inside, before December...?

I had intended to illustrate (for my own benefit as well as yours) the projects currently in progress, since I have been so casual with the list of new ones intended, but I will seize gratefully on today's problems with Blogger images as an excuse and leave them for another posting. I suspect I would become somewhat discouraged if I were to haul out even a third of them (and your laughter wouldn't help either). But I do have one right here by my desk (the multicoloured mohair boucle tabard) ready to work on if uploading is slow on something. Oh no, now that I look the Irish crochet lace is underneath that, so make it two by the desk. In the sitting room are the shepherd vest and the Glitz socks, plus, I think, the Shetland shawl started with such enthusiasm... NO, that's ENOUGH. I'm not going delving into cupboards. I'm going to take Sophie for a good healthy walk down in the Killarney woods to get rid of the last cobwebs of jetlag. Oh, and next week I must see about contacting the lovely John Cahill at Muckross Weaving about that shed he spoke of. You remember, the shed deep in the woods, packed with all the ends and leftovers and unwanted cones of yarn...?)


LaurieM said...

It certainly sounds as if your mojo is back in full force. I can sympathize with the more-ideas-than-time dilema.

I wish your stash pictures were a little bigger. I felt sort of like Alice in Wonderland when she was big and peering through a tiny door into a beautiful garden. But I understand since you were having problems with blogger.

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

Oh didn't you do well Jo? What a lot of imagining for the winter months here of what to make with all that stash:) Good to see you are back and isn't hot proper chocolate just magical for reviving one's spirits?

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo - you sound to be almost back to form! I am convinced computers and systems are evil sometimes! How much would it cost to fly to Ireland and go with you to see John Cahill? Perhaps a tad too much, but do send us all photos. I am so pleased that you have some fibrey souvenirs of your trip, plus some books and needles. The Kool Aid is easily shipped and althought it is always in the grocery stores, this time of year it may not be as popular as in summer. Enjoy your day!

Anonymous said...

I love proper hot chocolate.
The 'hunting and gathering' stash! Magnificent! *Might* just be enough to get you through a few months of winter, heh. Oh, I love that Refined Aran pattern, very pretty.
Glad to hear all the wee beasties are happy and well.
Jo, you are very kind, you are truly a lovely woman.
And please, take us all, in spirit, to the heaven shed deep in the woods, talk about a delightful outing.
Looking forward to seeing the rest of the photos.
(Did you happen to go to the blog to view the 'birth' of your dyed wool?)

Anonymous said...

01969 623840...that's the no. for Wensleydale longwool if you can't find the yarn you want.I bought some d.k in darl aubergine after seeing it on someone's blog.It was a generous 100grams for £4.25 and they also do aran weight .
I am just about to have some hot chocolate myself as it is quite chilly .I started a "Plaid "jacket for Holly and it is so boring as it is all plain. I think I'd drive myself even madder if I bought too many editions of Vogue and Interweave as there is already so much I want to make.They are fabulous compared to the English knit mags though.Welcome back ..missed you.

Ms. Knitingale said...

Jo, it is such a delight to have you back! I can hardly wait to see all the treasures you make with that lovely stash. And I'm with you on the Vogue patterns. I bought that entire issue entirely for the section with the gray cables. I was taken by the one where they twisted two strips together to form a giant faux cable front. I have no excuse for this whatsoever If I figure out the perfect yarn, I'll tell you right away! Now, if I could only tell you over a mug of that hot chocolate, and by the fire.

Joanna said...

I've followed the blog trail from miss nightingale to you, I'm a Jo too, I've only been blogging for a few weeks and still havent found how to make the links work, and I've been struggling with getting my photos to upload, and getting my text to behave itself, but I suppose thats just half the challenge. Its been lovely to read of your exploits in Canada, enviously because I'm on the wrong side of the world for fibre too!

Connie said...

I love that sweater from Vogue too...I have one skein of Aurora 8 in a charcoal grey that is almost black that would be great for that. It has great cable definition and is very soft. Of course, I'd have to buy more.....