Sunday, April 29, 2007

It's Time To Enjoy Knitting Again!

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.


Holly said...


Time zones really count, don't they. I hope the pattern is out there sometime because it is one I would like to knit as well.

But the idea of a contest taking over my life?


Lots of applause for tea, coffee, common sense and beautiful photos.

(who didn't sign up this year and probably won't next time either)

Marianne said...

What a stunning photo of the beautiful vixen and her kits.
Just last year I tied a bouquet of blooms on an elderly neighbor's front door on May morning...I knew it would have her pause in memories. In visiting with her later in the week she mentioned finding the flowers but figured maybe some child in the neighborhood put them there, heh. of course, I didn't let on.

word verification: elvztfls

pacalaga said...

It's far too hot and dry here this time of year to have dew, much less enough to wash my face in.
Maybe instead I will go buy a birdfeeder and some seed and set them up for the critters...
Sweet little foxlets! DH is a talented photographer indeed.
Love the bluebell sock. My favorite color! Sigh.

Melanie said...

I love your blog.
Everytime I come here and read your entries, a sense of peace and happiness surrounds me.
You remind us all of the beauty of simple things..I know for myself I rarely stop and take notice. I will try to be better about that in the future.
Good for you taking the socks out for a lovely day! They deserved them.
And once again I am sorry about the whole sock madness hard feelings right? =)

Dez Crawford said...

The yarn is truly magnificent, Jo. You are tempting me again!

And the vixen with her kits -- how lucky for you. Tell Richard I am impressed with that shot, and let us know if they show up again.

I always take a walk in the woods on May Day, to whatever extent I can ... even if it's a nature trail in the park ... and I always bring flowers into the house.

I'm glad you got off the runaway train. The competition is fun, but ... I don't know ... perhaps too many rounds in Sock Madness? Knitting is a lot like horses ... a race is fun once in awhile but most of the time it's the joy of the well-paced ride, and stopping to drink and rest by a stream, and the intimacy of grooming and talking to the horse, and listening to the horse. The occasionaly race is fun, but horses are NOT about getting there in a hurry.

Give me a thought please, when you are walking through Gougane Barra. Those woods give me chills. I can almost smell them from the pictures. Could I have seen them before ... long, long ago? I think perhaps, yes.

Anonymous said...

I agree -- the bleacher section is *much* more sane. Your socks are coming along beautifully, and wow on the fox pics!

LaurieM said...

I think you are the real winner for staying with the enjoyment in your knitting. That breakfast table looked like sheer luxury. Lucky you.

The picture of the baby foxes made me smile. Thanks.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

That is a beautiful sock, Jo. You are right, sometimes rushing simply takes all the joy from the event! How come talking about knitting can be so sexual? Smile!
Our bluebells are about 10 days away, but they are worth the wait.
Don't think I could take on the stress of that sock KAL!
Let me know when you want to start the Irish Vest - but I don't want it to be a speed contest - remember - me too - it is all about the process!
Thanks to Richard for the beautiful photo of the fox family!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on how far you went in the competition and congratulations on knowing when it was the right time to quit. Sometimes slowing down and enjoying the process is more important than how quickly you complete a project.

The fox family is beautiful.

Artis-Anne said...

Sorry Jo I was away & totally missed this last round of SMand only just looked in at the Flickr group.
No worries hun you did your very best and it was a kind of madness wasn't it ? Now you will have time to watch the foxes :)
Great piccies again

picperfic said...

oh I am so relieved for you...I couldn't take the pace at which you were knitting, it was exhausting me just to listen to your chattings about it...those blue socks are so beautiful...enjoy the Spring sunshine, Ireland is breathtaking as it turns greener and greener...that pretty fox with those amazing eyes! You were already a busy lady without all those socks to speed knit! Bask in the peace...Marianne :^)

gwtreece said...

Glad you are out of the sock madness. We missed you.

Anonymous said...

How eminently sensible of you - to refuse to give up the joy of knitting. YOU're clearly the winner!

May day - Mum taught us to make construction paper cornicopias with a hanging loop (for a doorknob). We lined them with a paper doily for frill, and trimed with ribbons. Into the cornicopias went the first violets, or lily of the valley and some pastel mints. We hung them on special friends' doors, rang the bell and ran! (Mum's heritage was Welsh/German.)

Your dew custom is new to me, but sounds delightful!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful sock yarn, great pattern and "eye candy" shot! I agree with you on keeping knitting enjoyable--the sentiment, "life is a marathon, not a sprint" is one I try to keep in mind. Congrats on getting as far as you did--well done!

I bought some of your gorgeous Bealtaine yarn--had to have it after enjoying your blog for several months. Looking forward to seeing it in person.

Wonderful photos of the foxes--very patient of your talented DH. Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

I applaud you on deciding why you were knitting! I am like you and the process of knitting is much more the purpose rather than speed.

Thank you so much for the pictures (especially the fox) and the traditions of May Day!

Anonymous said...

You know, I don't have a May Day tradition. Must start one.

I have no intention of being awake early enough to find dew however.

Ronni said...

It sounds like a lovely pattern that does deserve to be savored. There've been several lovely patterns in Sock Madness. Enough to be worth considering signing up next time if they did it again but in my case with a complete expectation of being knocked out into the bleachers on the first round.

What a lovely lot of lovely photos. Especially the foxes. Between that and the photos a while back of the woods, I think I need to seriously consider a trip to Ireland before too long. It's so pretty.

Roggey said...

Beautiful nature photos!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the vixen & kits photo! It's beautiful, and has made my day.
If I lived where you do, I would defintely indulge in teashop pastries, nature walks in he forests, and copious knitting! I may even risk sleeping on a sidhe hill tonight, to see if I awoke mad or inspired...

Mranthe said...

Ah, and look at all the names and faces I recognize in your comments -- there's the thing, most of the group is in the bleachers by now and it's time to party!... (Is it okay if I bring the shawl I'm working on instead of socks for the next round, just in case I can't put it down again?). Team knitting might just work more comfortably anyway, and keep the spirit going without the stress...

Beautiful, the fox and kits, and now it's time to make up for some of those walks you've been missing... Thanks for the reminder of Mayday, as well -- and I love the idea of sharing posies anonymously... Don't think we have any bluebells, but just maybe we can come up with some May blossoms...

@hugs and see you in the stands (I'll be the one waving the lace flag attached to a size US3 flagpole ;*)

Victoria said...

Oh Jo, what a lovely post! The photographs are fantastic....I LOVE the one of the Fox and her babies....what a shot! What a lovely place to live in surrounded by all that beauty....takes my breath wonder you are so sweet (and funny) surrounded by all of that I doubt anyone could not be sweet! :-D

rho said...

I need a Richard like yours in my life -- mine forgets to take the camera out just like I do....we went away for the long weekend and I think the only pictures were of the carved birds - none of the lovely live ones we saw...

I love the close up of the new sock that you are enjoying now but I also LOVE the shot with the coffee, pie and ice cream too - my kind of knitter ;)

And that fox picture - all I can say is WOW!!

Anonymous said...

I know this is totally random, but I have been reading your blog for a while now, and when I had this idea I thought you might know the answer(s). I am traveling to West Ireland (Limerick area) at the end of May, and would love any woolly hotspots you could suggest. If this is a pain in the rear for you just disregard this post, but if you have any ideas I would be in your debt:) Thanks for any help!

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Maya, how could it be a problem to help anyone find a good yarn hotspot! If you let me have your email address we can correspond. Off the top of my head, is a lovely shop as well as an online store, located at O'Briensbridge in Galway. Galway isn't too far up the road from Limerick (a yarn desert to my knowledge, although I would be delighted to hear from anyone who knows otherwise). In Kerry (not too far in the other direction) you have Spin a Yarn in Kenmare, the Kerry Woollen Mills outside Killarney, and occasionally a few unusual cones for sale at Muckross House Killarney, in the weavers shop.
Why don't you talk to Denise at Yin and Yarn (link on my page). She's coming over from the States at the same time!

Fiberjoy said...

Good for you Jo! Got your priorities straight for such lovely sock pattern and yarn! Games are meant for fun, not obsession.

Wonderful pictures! Book. Book. Book. We want a picture book from Richard! :-)

May Day, such a lovely day in memories, and reality even if it was cold and grey with bits rain yesterday.aphelia

Fiberjoy said...

Hmph, Blogger's messing with my comment. Sometimes those word verifications are impossible.

Anonymous said...

Ah carpets of Bluebells , so very beautiful . During the war Mum used to go along with the German prisoner of war work parties to a wood near Goring full of them . It always drew them together that wonderful beauty . Needless to say there were soldiers with them !!

Cindy/Snid said...

Oh, those bluebells AND the accompanying sock are beautiful. I spent Mayday morning watching little ones singing and dancing round a maypole, eating ice cream and strawberries and shortcake for breakfast, but I didn't get a chance to wash my face with dew. I will remember that for next year!

So glad you have joined the bleacher section Jo!

Anonymous said...

Jo you must check Jane Thornley's site , she's having a knitting event in England in September ( I think) .

Kanisha said...

I found your blog are you still looking for a supply of "quality" ouessant fleece? I will have a couple this year who are looking for knowlegable and loving homes for free. all I need is some feedback.

knitspot anne said...

oooh, the new socks are jewls to be sure. beautful!
i wish i had read this post earlier in the week; i didn't know to wash my face in the dew but i would have done it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jo!
Let me try this again:) Sorry for the delay in getting this back to you, I was at the Maryland Sheep + Wool Festival all weekend, so much fun!
The e-mail is
If that doesn't work, is there a way for me to e-mail you directly?
Let me know:)

knottykitty said...

The fox and bird pictures are precious! And the colors of your yarn are stunning!