The weather has been quite incredible for Ireland this past week and more. In recorded history we have never before had a completely fine Easter weekend, so 2007 is going to go down in the books for sure.
Having finished Round 3 SockMadness in double quick time, so as to have at least some of the weekend free for enjoyment, took myself down to Gougane Barra on Easter Sunday, to see my old friends after the winter (they shut the hotel then) and stroll in the forests there. It was wonderful to see Breda and hug and talk about where we'd been and what we'd done since we'd last met, and we exchanged the traditional greeting, "Go mbeirimid beo ar an t'am seo aris", or, "That we may be alive at this time next year." It is usually said when you eat the first new potatoes since that was, for our ancestors, the time of huge relief that hunger was over and food assured for at least some months ahead. We now say it when a particular marker in the year is reached, as, in this case, seeing each other again after the dark months.
Then the deep forests of Gougane called, so I climbed over a gate and wandered along winding pathways through the trees and rocks for an hour or two, hearing nothing but the soughing of the wind in the treetops. (OK so there was a longer way round which wouldn't involve climbing a gate, but it seemed like the right kind of day to climb gates so I did.)
Gougane is an enchanted place, with a strangely powerful feeling. I think it has been a powerful place for a very long time indeed. These days established religion holds sway, declaring that a holy man called St. Finbarr had his hermitage here, but it is very clear that Gougane Barra (Inis Irce in ancient Ireland) being both a natural cirque or tiny valley in the centre of a circle of surrounding hills, and also the source of the river Lee which flows from here right down to Cork city and the sea, knew - and still knows - far older religions than Christianity.
Every rock, every tree seems to hold its own secrets. It was wonderful to wander there with only the wind for company.
In some parts of the forest you can see the traces of earlier habitation, when Ireland's population was larger, where trees were laboriously cleared and rocks and stones piled into encircling walls. Now any trace of homes has vanished into the ground, and only the stone walls remain, thick with moss, while the trees have come quietly back to reclaim the land.
Dez, I know how much you like moss and trees. These aren't a patch on the magnificent specimens of Louisiana, I know, but they're for you anyway.
Later I wandered around the lakeside, returning to my little jeep over the old clapper bridge.
As I picked my way across the long flat stones, smoothed with time, I wondered how many had crossed that river before me through the centuries.
Denise, when you come to Ireland in May, you have to come to Gougane Barra. It's waiting for you. And Deb, you have to bring your group of New England shepherds here too in June. It's somewhere you have to experience.
Now - tomorrow sees the start of Round 4 of Sock Madness and since Celtic Memory is upholding the honour of the Irish in the final 16, things have been getting a little edgy. It's difficult to settle to anything, but quite a few projects have actually been finished off, in a sort of clearing-the-decks-for-action effort.
Just take a look at this.
And again -
(Angeluna, I've been holding this back until you arrived home from Camp Sockamamie. Are you back? Did you have the best time? You were the one who introduced me to this pattern and then kept after me, so I kept the pictures until you were home.)
This, as I know Peg will heartily agree, is not exactly the easiest of vests to make. Oddly enough it's not the motifs - they need a bit of attention, but they're not difficult. No, it's the shaping in several different ways, all at the same time, each needing its own concentration, and all entirely liable to go wrong at any time. And most of all, it is that dreaded, thrice accursed 'pick up evenly all around the fronts...' instruction.
I thought I had this sussed finally. I got two long circulars and picked up each side at the same time, first picking up ten stitches one side between markers, then the other, and so on, right round to the back of the neck. It took forever. Then I knitted the band. And bound off.
And it looked awful.
It just didn't do anything for the lovely vest. In fact it detracted considerably from the overall effect. I was not encouraged to repeat the ghastly and time-consuming manoeuvre for the armholes, that's for sure.
I left that vest on one side while I ran off to Southern California and had a lot of fun with Mad Cow socks. When I came back, Angeluna gently reminded me of unfinished tasks and with a heavy heart I took it out again.
Several people had suggested an i-cord and I had started that before going away, but it looked as though it was going to take even longer than forever to get a few inches done. What NOW?
But hang on. What if -?
In So Cal I'd picked up a nice update on the old French knitting reel - you know, a cotton reel with four nails banged in the top, through which you can make tubular knitting? Well Clover have brought out a bigger plastic see-through version with several improvements including a revolving head. Nothing to lose, I thought. Grabbed the ball of red yarn, started winding it round the little plastic teeth.
Bingo! In ten minutes I'd worked enough for one armhole. The second followed rapidly. And the entire length to go all the way round from one front point to the other took less than an hour - more like half an hour. A little time to sew it on carefully, and there it was.
Simple. Bless that little Clover French Knitter. I can see all kinds of uses for it in motif work. It would be beautifully effective for Celtic interlacements on plain sweaters.
But now the Celtic Vest was done and I was still edgy. Finished the Mad Pink Cow socks.
Had a bit of fun dyeing yarns.
On the left is a lovely soft 'cashwool' merino laceweight, and on the right a wool/angora sockweight blend that was meant to be 'Wild Roses In Spring' but turned out as rather more 'Explosion In a A Sweet Factory'. Still debating whether or not to use it in Round 4 - depends on the pattern.
But it's still only Friday evening and the pattern won't be released until at least midday West Cork time tomorrow. What to do now? Found a half-finished Aran pattern in the same wool/angora sockweight, that I was never going to finish (it's one of those where you fall in love with the pattern and start right away without ever considering exactly when you're going to wear an extremely warm and heavy sweater).
Trouble was - I'd used the yarn double. Now I don't know if you've ever tried to frog a doubled-yarn project. If you haven't, then my advice is - don't. I've tried this many times before and always ended up hurling the whole lot into a dark corner for Muffy to find. But I like this yarn - it feels beautifully soft and rather like expensive cotton rather than wool. I want to dye more of it, use more of it for socks. So I thought about it for a while, and then worked something out.
Here you can see (a) the lovely antique swift I was lucky enough to get on eBay, (b) my niddy noddy from Quadra Island, and (c) the knitted piece being frogged.
(Now don't get hysterical. There's no point in keeping it. Even if I did finish the sweater (and the gauge is out anyway, it would be far too big), I'd never find an opportunity to wear it unless I went back to Dawson in Yukon Territory around December - a nice idea but unlikely. No, it had to go, and the yarn will be much more useful for other things.)
(Although even my heart fails me as I look at that lovely pattern... Maybe I could make it up again in a lighter yarn - cotton?)
Anyway the complicated manouevring worked: frog a length, pull the yarns apart, wind each on to its own skein, repeat: and I now have two skeins ready for washing and dyeing .
And it's still only coming up to 9 pm. At least another 15 hours before that pattern is out. I'd question my sanity, only I know that the other contestants are feeling just the same way. It's a sort of compelling urge that grips you until you can't think of anything else.
Expect to hear from me when this round is over. With my shield or upon it, as the Greeks used to say (or was it the Romans?)