Saturday, January 20, 2007

A Wild And Stormy Night

It really is pretty wild here tonight. Thanks for your kind thoughts, Barb in Texas, but we're fine. So far anyway! Luckily our house is a little down from the top of the hill - something I used to deplore because it meant we didn't have such a good view of the lakes when the trees were in leaf in summer, but right now I'm rather glad we're not up there in the teeth of this stormy weather. It howls for a day or two, then quietens down, and then returns again refreshed with renewed force. Never known anything like it. Right now the gales are shrieking round the house and the trees are lashing their branches frantically. It's definitely a night for the fireside and a new project on the needles.

No, no, NO! Scrub that last phrase. Not another project, ABSOLUTELY not. Finish what's on the go, get to the bottom of the WIP basket, and THEN, only THEN (well not then either, the ironing mountain has grown to the height of the Himalayas en masse by now) can one even afford to think about new projects.

The temptation doesn't go away, though, does it? Having devoured both Interweave Knits and Vogue Knitting in one sitting (so much for rationing myself and making them last) I have at least three I want to start right away. And there are still those beautiful projects from previous issues - do you know, despite purchasing all that exquisite Seasilk and Silk from Fleece Artist, I still haven't started the Swallowtail Shawl, and not only do I want to make that stunning Michael Kors Aran sweater in the fall issue of Vogue Knitting, I even have the right silk/cashmere to do it justice. Plus Peg drew my attention some time ago to a glorious cabled crop cardi on which would be a really useful addition to my wardrobe in these darker months if I made it in a nice bright singing red.

But progress has been made. Yes, smiling modestly, I can at last announce that not just one but TWO WIPs have made it past the finishing line and are now FOs. First that chunky charcoal crop cardi, copied from an unbelievably expensive French item barely glimpsed in a snobbish boutique.

Made this one entirely by guesswork and it hasn't turned out too bad. Nice and warm too, despite its exiguous length. The sleeves are wide and can be turned up to the elbow to change the look.

Then the shepherd's vest finally got completed and I had just enough of the original yarn to finish the front so no need to frog part of the back, thank heaven.

DH is out in the stormy night, photographing debs or politicians or something, so I couldn't model it for you, but take my word it has inset pockets on the front and alternating squares of stocking stitch and moss stitch. It's pretty simple in design, just rectangles, and the top corners turn back naturally to form lapels. It's nice to shrug on over a sweater on cold mornings for extra warmth when taking the dogs out to see what damage the winds did overnight.

So there is a certain amount of satisfaction chez Celtic Memory that two at least of the growing heap of WIPs have moved on into usefulness and public life. Now the Celtic Vest and the Travelling Cables really need to wake up from their extended winter holiday and get back into action.

However, in the meantime, an exciting package arrived from Texere Yarns. I had ordered some alpaca and some cashmere/silk/angora fibres and they galloped over from Yorkshire post haste, in the teeth of an opposing gale, bless them.

I was a bit nervous about spinning with the alpaca for the first time so consulted the expert in the shape of Anne who advised trying small samples first. I decided to take the safe route and used a little drop spindle for preliminary trials. You can see it in the picture above. So far I'm make rather lumpy, uneven yarn, but I'll persevere and it may smoothen out. Think of being able to supply your own knitting needs with alpaca yarn!

Had a most happy and serendipitous experience today. Heading home from giving my Saturday lecture to journalism students (today's subject: we are totally and utterly controlled by one form or another of pervasive media and should never make the mistake of thinking that we think for ourselves because we can't any more, or aren't allowed to) and popped in to a local antique shop to wish them a Happy New Year. There in the corner was the most adorable, cuddly, desirable little sweetheart you could ever imagine.

This is a genuine tiny gypsy stove, the kind that was fitted into a horse-drawn caravan and was used for cooking, boiling water, warmth, everything. I've wanted one of these all my life! (No, of course I didn't tell the shop owner that. I bargained and produced real cash - always a good way to bring the price down.) Then he helped me to lift it into my little jeep (it's a heavy little thing!) and I brought it delightedly home. It's sitting here in the fireplace of the sitting room and I've lit a candle on top of it right now to make it feel wanted and welcome.

Look, you can lift up the decorative top and there are two little hot plates underneath! And two tiny doors open at the front to feed in fuel or to make toast! Now all I have to do is take it down to Paudie Cronin in Ballymakeera and get him to make me a flue pipe for it (it's got a very odd oval-shaped outlet at the back, but Paudie is well able to create anything in iron - he makes the most wonderfully decorative gates). I don't know whether to call this new member of the family Sam Wild (after a Victorian travelling showman I researched once, who had a stove like this in his caravan), or Baba Yaga after the Russian witch of fairy tales who lived in a stove in the deep forest - a stove that danced on thin chicken legs. That image always delighted me as a child (still does, now I come to think of it).

I've been commenting on other people's weblogs on the following issue, but now I want to put in my own tuppenceworth about the Blue Moon and Socks That Rock vs NastyStupidBank fiasco. I know you'll all have heard about it by now, and I'm just as certain that it must be making you as incandescent with rage as it does me. What a typically stupid, narrow-minded, MALE mindset (sorry all the men I know well and love - you're excepted). Imagine being so smugly sure that you know all the really important things in life that you decide knitting and loving yarn simply aren't possible on a large scale, and that in no way could thousands of women enjoy such a hobby as making beautiful socks.

(If by any chance you've been out of the world for the past couple of weeks, you can get an excellent summary of the fiasco on Yarn Harlot's weblog.)

I've done what I can so far. I've sent messages of support to Blue Moon and I've ordered a skein of their sock yarn (Nodding Violet, as I recall). But that's not enough for my temper. I want that bank to KNOW what it's done. I mean I want its directors to really REALISE the extent of their huge and excruciatingly embarrassing blooper. I want the WHOLE WORLD to laugh at them, point their fingers, and then take their accounts elsewhere. What incredible arrogance and ignorance. Oh just wait until I find out their identity. They'll be sorry they were ever born to be bankers (did I spell that right?)

Gosh, I'm all worked up again as I think of it. I think I'll go and do a teeny weeny swatch for the Michael Kors cabled sweater to calm me down.


Charity said...

You're too funny, Jo. :0) LOVE the finished knitting! Well done!

Jan said...

Jo, Love your FO's and your gypsy stove. That is too cute. About my celtic buttons, I hate to tell you where I got them coz it was Joanns. Maybe you can get them online through Joanns? I hate to buy things from them but they just happened to be there. Don't know if this helps. Stay warm.

Anonymous said...

After hearing the news about the storms blowing in your part of the world I am glad to know you are safe and snug with you gorgeous little stove. What luck you had in finding that little treasure.
The dark gray cropped cardi looks very smart indeed. It must please you far more than the one you saw in the saw window.
This is a good time to finish the projects that have been lurking around. In anticipation of Spring(a far off dream in these parts), I took out my stash of Sea Silk and my Barbara Walker stitch books. Not quite ready to cast on, I still have some things to finish off as well. I am eager to knit for the warm weather though.

pacalaga said...

I was pretty well outraged by that story too - I had the same plan to order their yarn! Nodding Violets was my favorite on their page, but I am in possession of a color card for their lesser known Sock Candy (cotton) so I decided to go with one of those instead - I can't wait!
Sweet little stove.
Congratulations on those two FOs! I have two nearing completion, and I can hardly wait for the rush I feel when I complete them!

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Jo - you make me look up words in the dictionary and now I want to use 'exiguous' in a sentence!!
I love both of your FOs. I like the exiguous length of the chunky cardi! I have two sweaters that are exiguous in length, and they make a nice change from sweaters to the thigh - find me a wonderful tongue massaging word for that length, Jo! Smile!
The little stove is delightful and I vote for Baba Yaga!
Your roaring winds must not be too cold, if I judge by the height of your daffs and the catkins. I will say it is beautifully sunny here today! Hooray!
We called our DD in Germany, but they got off lightly in the storm!
Hello to Richard!
I will have an FO for my next post!

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you're ok so far, Jo! The cardi is gorgeous, but oh my - I'm enthralled with the vest! Thanks for the pix of your new stove. What a lovely little thing, and how wonderful to make a discovery like that! I second Baba Yaga. ;)

And hee - great rant re Blue Moon and The Bank!

Anonymous said...

Very, very nice crop cardi. Well modeled, too. Nice to have a personal photographer who love you!

What a charming little stove. I'm with Peg, she is BabaYaga!

Sorry about the winds. A bit is exciting but a lot wears the nerves. I just got back from driving 10 solid hours in the non-stop misty rain, that was dreary. Not a dry moment all day. And this is Texas?

Anonymous said...

I covet your wee stove. Baba Yaga definitely. I love those stories and the Ivan Bilibin illustrations that went with them. Karen

Anonymous said...

Now that stove is beautiful ..if a whole caravan pops up let me know I dream of living in one ( where to put the stash? ). The knits are gorgeous too ,well done for copying .I can't say how much tooth enamel I lost grinding my teeth over the Blue Moon thing .Let's hope some petty-minded bank withdraws funding for a D.I.Y shop or something .Just the amount of beautiful socks I see on Gill's site make me want to open a sock yarn outlet and have some-one teach me how not to be so cack-handed I can hold D.P.Ns day .

Anonymous said...

Jo, I know you're a busy person but I wish you'd post more often because I love reading your blog!

artyfartykat said...

I love reading your blog!
I love the crop cardi, the colour is fab. But I must say, the gypsy stove is the thing I am most envious about! It is gorgeous.

LaurieM said...

You are a wild storm Jo!

Kris B said...

Glad to hear the wind hasn't caused any major damage for you. The cardi and vest are lovely. What a great find the stove is. I think Baba Yaga fits.

Kit said...

Ohh, that gypsy stove looks like just the thing for stormy weather.

I would like to insert my two cents about what happened to BMFA. I don't think the bank was being sexist at all. I think that it was doing was attempting to act responsibly. I think it believed that there might be a scam and it was protecting not only the good people who might possibly be buying into a scam but also their own business. It's better to refund payment than to have to pay for lost funds out of their pocket book.

In nursing, we are told to go with our gut feelings because more than often, our gut feelings are right. I think this bank did the same and I'm not sure if this came to your mind, but may I gently remind you that a lot of progress is being made and that decision was made by a committee of not only men but women as well.

They just didn't knit.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jo, Really loved your photos of birds and bats. However, here's the thing..that stove. We have the identical stove in our dining room. On the front dropdown section: Stratford N1899 - does yours have that? We've always assumed this stove was installed by the previous owners of our house who did major renovations in the four years they had it. It certainly is a godsend if the power goes off - we've even heated soup on the little hotplate.

Anonymous said...

Here's some encouragement to knit your swallow tail shawl. I'm not a fast knitter, but it was 5 days from cast on to blocking. It's a delightful little thing - just the right thing to soften the shoulder of my suit coat. I knit mine in Knit Pick's Alpaca Cloud, the colour Smoke.

rho said...

I don't know if this post is meant to be - first I started it - then had to run to MIL's because she was in a dementia rage - spent the past 3 hours there - came back finished the post and hit send and lovely blogger brought me to the sign in page and never brought me back to send the original post.... arrrgghhhhh

anyhow --- you make me feel guilty complaining you aren't finishing anything then showing the finished products while I have done NOTHING on my knitting since we left for vacation.

Love the gypsy stove - friends of ours had a gypsy caravan in their back yard as their retreat from the world and I always envied them that....

Dez Crawford said...

Baba Yaga, Jo. Without a doubt. How I would love to come over and have a cup of tea, and spin, and warm my toes by that little stove! I'm glad you weathered the storm.

FOs are fabulous -- so glad you had just enough yarn for the vest. Really, really like the cropped cardi. You make a great model for your own stuff.

We are all so glad that you are back and blogging ... you were missed!

Kit, I will respectfully disagree with you about the problems Blue Moon is having with their bank. I addressed the issue of the bank's duties on my own blog --

The bank's glaring error was that they entirely failed to investigate something that seemed suspicious to them; their decision to shut Blue Moon Down was done in spite of BMFA's sales plan, which was laid out before them; they returned money without a complaint from any Blue Moon customer; and they returned money that belonged to Blue Moon, not the bank. They simply decided, WITHOUT RESEARCH, that a sock club simply could not be real, and shut Blue Moon down. For a bank to have that kind of power without a court order or even a customer complaint is terrifying.

When I mentioned the situation to the bank rep at the good local bank which handles our own small business account, the bank rep said, "a decision like that is inexcusable, they deserve to be sued and the responsible persons should be seriously disciplined or fired. There is a proper course of action for suspicious account activity, and they did not follow it."

Dez, who has already received her "moral support" order from BMFA.

Miranda said...

Bab Yaga, definitely! I love the little stove... We've been having wind and snow here too, and while I love the snow, the wind gives me the creeps.

Mama Lamb said...

I am so envious of your gypsy stove! ONe of my favorite authors is Miss Read, and her stories of Ms.Curdle and the May Day fair and her gypsy caravan...mmmm. Delcious reading. Enjoy it!

Anonymous said...

Glad you're all right!

Love the wee stove. I never heard of a gypsy stove before, but then along the Gulf Coast we don't often have a need for emergency heat. Emergency generators and water pumps, yes.

I want to bring down Blue Moon's bank. What idiocy. (Memo to self: Must go buy more yarn from Blue Moon now that I have a shiny new paycheck.)

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo, just discovered your blog. I'm in Maine USA & own a yarn shop The Irish Ewe ( and also have a cottage that we're working on near Kenmare Co Kerry!!! I can't believe I've found another knitter in Ireland, right near us! We go over to Bonane 2-4 times a year, next trip should be in May. Here's the best part--- we go over with empty suitcases and I could bring a suitcase full of yarn to you without you having to pay for shipping.

I just called my friend in Kenmare, who just found out she's having twins. She says it's cold & blusterly there, but she wants to come to Maine again for a visit as she loves the snow. Last time she was here, we all went dog-sledding.

I'm slowly reading thru your blog and see familiar places like Macroom, Kilarney, Muckross... Oh, I wanna come over there right now and knit with you and have a cup of real tea and go to Jam in Kenmare for pastries and to Bantry to the olive man.... I'm wicked homesick for Ireland!!!

It's funny that my girlfriend in Kenmare wants baby clothes from Boston & Baby Gap instead of handknit cashmere stuff. She sniffs "only poor people knit in Ireland". I'm trying to change that....

Please email me at and let's get together next time I come over.
Deb Woolley
The Irish Ewe
& The Woolley Farm (Jacob sheep)
Baldwin Maine

Anonymous said...

I'm late chiming in on the STR bank fiasco. The bank's decision was idiotic. Commendable that they actually pay attention to things and try to protect buyer's money (more likely their own). But assinine and completely lawsuit material that once presented with the facts, they still made an arbitrary and incorrect decision of the sort that could destroy a small business. Frankly, I hope the girls sue, and I'm not one to throw that idea around lightly.

I went to my bank of ten years this week, where with my father, I maintain at least 10 accounts, 3 safe deposit boxes, several CDs, and a credit card. The bank recently merged, then every single manager I knew at either bank left, and I went in to establish a relationship with someone, so that I could call in with simple transfers and such. Got a wet behind the ears moron of a young man who couldn't answer correctly a single question. I took all of my powers of attorney with me so that he would realize that I managed all these things. After an hour in his office, when I asked to take an application for my 88 year old father to sign (for whom I had the power of attorney) the idiot said he couldn't let me do that since he didn't know me. Now people sign credit card applications every day in their own homes, so where is that big deal? In any case, I told him that since I had been with the bank for ten years, and he was new, it was in fact I who didn't know him. And I plan to report him for his rudeness and frankly, I hope they fire him. No sympathy at all. Sorry for the diatribe, I'm obviously hot under the collar (knitted neck warmer). But incompetence combined with rudeness is unacceptable, though it often goes together.

Anonymous said...

Hi...came across this page when I was looking for Queenie stoves.
If it has Stratford N1899 on the front plate then it is not vintage.
It was made by Stratford Industrys in the 1980s and is a replica of the Smith and Wellstood Queenie stove.
I bought one new in 1987 and it is still going now except the metal side and back plates that came with it burned through a long time ago.
I now have fire bricks in there.
I also burn coke in it rather than wood and with the doors shut and the flue damped down the heat it gives out is amazing....1 x 25kg bag of coke will provide for about 5 days burning.
I also cooked on mine for a 2 week period when my gas supply was cut off......all in all a great little stove regardless of its status.
I am busy looking for another one for my other room.