Now back to the ranting...
I knew I shouldn't have agreed. I should have turned right round and told Angeluna where to put her suggestion that I should sign up to Sock Madness. But insanity won the day and now there is only a week to go to Lift Off. On Saturday March 10, the 128 contestants will be emailed a completely strange and hitherto unknown pattern which they will then have to knit up as quickly as possible. We're all in different groups, depending on whether we are novices (less than 6 pairs to date) or Big Experienced Sockies. Half get knocked out in the first round, and then it's bare knuckles and dpns at dawn or something. Am I mad or what? Are we ALL mad or what?
I'm in a group called Wendy's Toe-Up Sock Division and I tell you if that pattern turns out to be toe-up, then this lady will be turning her own toes up and her membership in! I have never tried that method - well, I did, but after seventeen goes at the devilish invention known as Figure of 8 Cast On, I gave up and went back to the tried and tested cuff-down. Nobody but nobody could work that thing out and stay sane.
Jeri (who is in Stephanie's Travelling Sock Division) very kindly suggested that I should do a bit of practising with toe-up over the next few days just in case, and very helpfully gave me a few websites to try. The first one was Figure of 8 (I just typed that Figure of * and no wonder!) so got zapped instantly. The second one said, 'Some people swear by Figure of 8 but it can be a bit difficult to get the hang of, so here's an easier method.' She then proceeded to describe Figure of 8 minutely all over again. Exactly the same as before. Only more maddening because I thought I was going to get out of this frustration. The third used a provisional cast on which is at least doable, so I'll go with that one. Maybe.
You'd think rehearsing in advance was daft, but not so. There is a lady in my group (the Novices, naturally, I've only completed two and three-quarter pairs of socks to date, so I'm no expert) who is training seriously for the event. Yes, training. When she signed up, she could manage to finish a pair in a fortnight. Now she's down to a weekend. Yikes, and I'm in against that sort of track commitment?
Enough already. Let's turn to happier matters. This fine Saturday morning was the ideal time to head for the Little Mission in the West, aka Spin a Yarn in Kenmare, armed with a huge stack of Bibles, catechisms and hymn books, courtesy of Sr. Denise at Mission Outreach Services in Our Lady of Perpetual Gauge.
And they were waiting for me! Yes, Jo and Jean had logged on, read the posting, and were eagerly awaiting the Bibles. They had even printed out my posting 'Yo, There's A New Yarn Shop in the West', which was all the more touching for being unexpected (and by the way, Steph, they were thrilled silly that you had actually read about them and had commented in the posting!)
Jo sat down immediately and got stuck into Interweave Knits.
Meanwhile, Jean had latched on to Sock Madness. 'Can we all get in on this?' I explained that unfortunately it was limited to 128 participants worldwide and she was disappointed because she wanted a bit of an incentive to start knitting socks.
'Well why not use that day to start your own sockfest?'
'Yes, why don't we?'
Jo was delighted at the idea, and they immediately hauled out dpns and the most gorgeous yarn they could find to show willing.
They're going to encourage anyone who comes into the shop next Saturday to seize needles and yarn and start socks too. Now I think this is a VERY GOOD THING all round, don't you? You don't have to be one of the lunatics tied into Sock Madness, but if you want to knit a new pair, or have always wanted to try, or just have too much sock stash for comfort (is that possible?), why don't you make next Saturday the day to start as well and tell us all about it? The world would be a better place if everyone wore handmade socks. This is a fact. Make your own Sockfest.
And so inspired am I by this praiseworthy attitude at the Little Mission in the West that I am going to donate a few skeins of sock yarn to the Sock Madness marathon myself. I have some very nice wool/cotton blends which are lighter and cooler than pure wool and therefore more suitable for anyone not living in Canada (are you still freezing up there, Steph, Rachel H, Charity?). I can only find a picture of one of them, a lovely pale sage green:
but the other two are equally gorgeous. I've called them all after herbs that you find in the maquis - the scented scrub that covers the hills in Provence in summer and leaves a lingering scent on your clothes as you push through it. This one, predictably enough, is Provencal Sage.
We had a great sit around and chat at Spin a Yarn, and I got a few rows done on my Blackberry Pie socks (got to get them finished before next week, that's for sure). Jean even went out and got coffee, so it was very cosy. And yes, before you ask, they are signing up for Sunday School too (aka Knitter's Review Forum). The revelation that you could download free hymns (or sock patterns) made them even happier. What a wonderful new world the Net has brought.
A couple of customers came in; and while the lady trawled the yarn shelves, her husband became fascinated with the Colinette colours.
He was a painter, he explained, and had never seen such a blend of varying colours and thicknesses in a yarn. 'We have all Kaffe Fassett's books at home,' he said enthusiastically.
On the way back I took a picture of one of my favourite places, the Black Valley, for you.
This is a very remote place indeed, and you can only see it from the high road above. Can you glimpse the tiny track which runs through it, down there at the bottom? It's the old way to Killarney, in fact, leading to the Upper Lake, from which you would have taken a boat down to the town in olden times. People still do - they come through the Gap of Dunloe by pony and cart - that's the Gap there behind - and then take the boat back to Ross Castle. Definitely going to do that this summer myself. Why should visitors have all the fun?
And to cap it all, a rainbow on the road round by the Lakes.
Can you just see the rainbow? DH would know how to make it stand out more, but I don't want to disturb him - he's busy processing today's photographic jobs.
And finally - the Celtic Vest. I was so excited Thursday and Friday. At last, at last I was getting there. Closer and closer to the neckline. One more damned twisted cable after another. I got so sick of those cables. Never-ending, constantly demanding, always there at neckline and armhole both. But I was almost there. Now binding off for the shoulder. Now just a few more rows of those cursed cables to go round the back of the neck.
I was already composing the speech with which I would greet the roars of applause, the plaudits of the crowd. I was mentally thanking all of you who got me through it, my family, the dogs (although perhaps not Muffy the Yarnslayer). I looked sentimentally at the picture on the pattern and thought it was a pity I couldn't get Celtic buttons like some of you had, but the leather ones on the original would be fine.
Hang on a minute.
Like in - BUTTONHOLES?
Oh dear heaven no, please no, no, no. Do NOT tell me I've forgotten buttonholes. I am NOT, repeat NOT going to frog back. Not now. I WON'T.
I was hyperventilating as I bent over the pattern, searching for that catty little side note, that 'at the same time' Catch 22 where they laughingly and offhandedly drop in a tiny hint that you should have thought of THAT earlier, ha ha!
But I didn't find it. No mention of buttonholes.
Only then did I see that at the very end of the page, the point at which I had been aiming for several months, was some tiny lettering.
I leafed through the pages with trembling fingers. But maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Looked as though I hadn't missed anything important. After all, what else could there possibly be?
'Pick up evenly all round the front and neckline seven thousand eight hundred and 'leventy-two stitches and work eight rows, making buttonholes as you go.' Or words to that effect.
If there is one thing that is IMPOSSIBLE, it is picking up evenly all round ANYTHING. They KNOW that. YOU know that. We ALL know that. It. Just. Isn't. Possible.
The number of WIPs I have abandoned at this stage of an almost-completed mission I don't care to think about. There is a perfectly beautiful Anny Blatt from last summer that was so close, so close...
I CANNOT do this. Inevitably one side has more stitches than the other, one part is puckered, another too loose. I cannot DO this. Pin, mark, glue, curse, measure, re-pin, re-mark, re-curse. It NEVER works out. Quite simply, I can't do it. All the rest of it looks perfect, but this I can't do.
Someone come to my aid. Tell me how it can be achieved. Please.
But a word of warning. The first one - the FIRST one - to say, 'Oh but it's easy - you just....' GETS IT. OKAY?
I most emphatically do not want to hear anyone say, 'it's easy, you just...' It isn't easy and I just won't. I want constructive advice with practical guidance.
I know about pins. I know about picking up one for each stitch. That's fine except when you're working round necks and curved bits. You try it Miss Clever Clogs!
It really is so close this time...
There's time for you to advise, because tomorrow morning the plan is to take a flight to Bradford in Yorkshire for the Open Day at Texere Mill, there to find strange and unusual one-offs in coned yarn to smuggle back to West Cork.
That's the plan; but unfortunately the weather forecast suggests that the only sensible course of action would be to retire to the airing cupboard with a large bar of chocolate and a wicked novel. Screaming gales, drenching downpours, structural damage warnings. Like - really a good day to go flying, yes?
I'll go to the airport. If nothing else, they have good (if expensive) coffee in Departures. The worst scenario would be being delayed so much that there would be no time to do anything other than turn round and come back again. A semi-acceptable scenario would be to get up to the airport, find out that there were no flights, and come back with at least half a day's knitting available.
In the meantime, I rely on you to come up with the goods as you have so often done before, and clear this last barrier between your correspondent and Celtic Vest Completion. You are generous, you are helpful, you are wise.
HELP ME! A moi la legion!