At last and finally, I am out of the competitive section of Sock Madness and I will admit to being rather relieved. It was enormous fun in the first round, with all 128 of us competing vigorously, rather less fun in later rounds when each had to compete against just one other; but when it got down to the final 16 and then the final 8, the pressure was pretty strong. Celtic Memory has been in some stressful situations in her life, but this came surprisingly high up the league. When it came to midnight last night, and my opponent (9 hours behind me on America's west coast, and thus at early afternoon) announced her intention to knit nonstop until finished, I thought about it. I looked at the clock. I looked at the lovely pattern and the exquisite yarn I was using, and realised that I simply didn't want to rush it so much. It was like - oh, I don't know - maybe seeing how quickly you can gulp down an ice-cream sundae or a really nice fresh cream cake? Yes, you could do it at speed, but doesn't that rather go against the original purpose? Which is enjoyment?
(Yes, there are other, rather obvious similes to this 'slowly is better than quickly' comparison, but since this is a ladylike weblog, we won't take that further, will we?)
Anyway, I tucked the socks (both beyond the heel and gusset and ready to work down the foot) into their basket, went to bed and was hugely relieved to see my opponent's pictures posted on Flickr the following morning. Free, free, free at last, free I tell you, hahahahahahhhh!
To celebrate, I took the socks out for coffee, to show them how they should be knitted, in suitable surroundings. This, by the way, is quite the prettiest pattern I have seen in Sock Madness yet. Entitled Mad To Dance, it combines cables with lacework most enchantingly; and the best detail of all is a cabled heel - I think it's called the Backwards Heel or the Birkenstock, because it shows to such advantage from behind or in an open heeled shoe. And I'd decided on my favourite yarn of the moment, Silkwood hand-dyed in the Bluebell colourway, from the lovely Gill at the Woolly Workshop.
Here is one of the socks, propped up against a vase of real bluebells in the cafe. Is there anything nicer on a Sunday morning than sitting looking out over a lake with some lovely knitting in your hands?
Oh all right, all right, here's the wider picture. How is it that you all know instantly when I am using discretionary framing?
Look, I was entitled to it. Saturday, a beautiful sunny one, was one long exhausting slog on the knitting, interspersed only by demands from Muffy the Yarnslayer for some skeins to kill, from Sophy Wackles for some wuv, and from Tasha for a rat to torment. DH, bless his heart, made tea, coffee, snacks, so I could knit. And in the afternoon, he went down to the woods behind the house with his cameras and spent hours waiting patiently hidden from view behind a bush, watching a fox den where he thought something just might be happening on this nice spring day. And as it happened, he was right.
It was rather worth the wait, wasn't it? Wish I could have been there, but I was knitting, wasn't I? Maybe in a day or two, when we're sure they weren't disturbed.
Nature has speeded up considerably this past week or two, and the birds are nesting everywhere. Some of course start earlier than others: a tapping at the upstairs sitting room window this afternoon turned out to be a young mistle thrush on his first flight.
He sat outside on the ledge and chirped constantly; I am no expert on bird language, but it sounded reasonably like, 'Mum! Dinner! Dad! Dinner!', repeated over and over again.
And eventually, what came along but dinner! Which goes to show that if you shout loudly and long enough, somebody will give you what you want, just to shut you up.
Being free of pressure meant that at last there was time to get the new designer yarn, Bealtaine, assembled and skeined up to be photographed.
It is an attempt to capture the breathtaking beauty of the month of May in Ireland, with carpets of bluebells in the woods, the hawthorn trees a mass of foamy white blossom, and green, green, green of every hue and shade exploding in lush richness. I despair of ever really recreating what the reality is like right now, but I still go on trying.
Here's a closeup. Yarn in the foreground, genuine West Cork grass in the background.
Just listed it on eBay - late enough I know, given that MayDay is on Tuesday, but that sock thing simply took over... Still, it's time enough for people to get it and make something beautiful during this special month of early summer. Up to now I've suggested scarves and shawls, but it might be effective in vests and tops too, in the Jane Thornley mode, d'you think?
May Day. What do you do? As far back as I can remember, I have always washed my face in the dew on May Morning. And I can remember people tying little posies of flowers to door knockers, and to horses' harness, for good luck. Have been bidden to breakfast at my old Oxford college, after the dawn celebrations on Magdalen Tower, but who wants to face airports or crowds at such a magical time in Nature? Think I'll forgo that in favour of a walk in Gougane Barra woods. If you're near woods or trees early on Tuesday morning, go wander there, touch the trunks, pick a twig and bring it home. You'll be replicating what people have done for thousands of years. And do try to wash your faces in the dew.