Monday, May 07, 2007

Bealtaine, Bluebells and a Forgotten Big House

How was your May Day? Did you go out into the woods and fields, wash your faces in the dew and collect blossoms to decorate doorways and windows?

We went down early to Killarney woods where the bluebells were coming into their full beauty.

Every way you turned there was another heartstopping vista. We couldn't stop photographing them, and I wished you had been there with me.

We had coffee at the tiny thatched tea room and watched the jaunting cars swinging by with their happy visitors while the sun shone down in celebration of this Celtic festival day.

Now don't go getting the idea that all Irish cottages look like this. They don't. This is the lodge to a great estate (the Earl of Kenmare's in fact) and it is made in the South of England style. A traditional Irish cottage is much simpler in design, lacking all the ornate decoration that a country powerful enough to enjoy peace for centuries can afford. But it is some place to have coffee on May morning - or any morning, come to that! It is definitely a favourite on my own personal Teapot Trail.

On the way home, followed a narrow winding gravel track to a once-great stately house, Mount Massey, now alas ruined and forgotten.

In its heyday, at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, this was a great house indeed, giving employment to hundreds of gardeners, chambermaids, stable boys, maids, grooms, butlers, launderesses and more. It was even the subject of a famous song back then:

Mount Massey, the pride of Macroom...

Now only the jackdaws awaken the echoes and small birds nest undisturbed in shrubs once tended lovingly.

Where the lady of Mount Massey once swept through her halls, cattle wander, and no industrious boy polishes the windows of the staff quarters.

To be practical, you would need more cash than any of us is likely to see, to restore Mt. Massey to its former glory and then keep it that way. But it was still sad to see it standing quietly and alone amid the fields. Or maybe it's resting serenely on its memories of days long gone. I wished it well as we tiptoed away.

The moon was full, and hanging huge and gold on the horizon on May night.

It awoke the voices of the foxes, and a vixen called in the woods beyond our home all through the night. It's a bit early for her to be seeking a mate, as cubs are still very small now; but perhaps she wasn't breeding last winter and is trying to make headway with the pick of the males before her sisters.

And speaking of small cubs...

This is from another secret location that Richard knows; if he stays very still in the car, with a mesh covering the lens at the window, the foxes have no fear. Richard wanted to crop this picture up close for you, but I wanted you to see the immensity of tall grasses and the hugeness of the landscape from the viewpoint of a very tiny baby coming out of the den for the first time.

To knitting. How could we have gone on so long without the slightest mention of knitting? There were so many skeins of Bealtaine to package up and post, and then this week's eBay listings to get ready. I'd had a lot of requests for more of the gorgeous cashmere/silk in the soft pastel colours - the yellow, green, blue - so they went on last night, under the Celtic Memory Yarns heading. I'd managed to locate another new shade in this - a scrumptious cafe-au-lait or perhaps melted milk chocolate - which went on for the first time.

I don't think the picture does it justice - might be better on eBay, I don't know. (Tried to put in the URL here but it didn't work when I checked; if you want to look at it there, just go to Knitting Yarns on eBay and search for Celtic Memory.)

This yarn is a bit heavier than fingering weight - it was too thick for socks when I tried it (cashmere/silk socks yet?) so I would call it between 4 ply and DK for Europe and perhaps sportweight for the New World. Whatever. It knits up beautifully.

And speaking of socks, I took one look at the Round 6 pattern on Sock Madness and thanked my lucky stars I wasn't in the Final Four. Just go over there and look for yourselves. I'll wait.

Bit of a challenge, what? And yet Knitter 473 cranked those beauties out in twelve hours or less, with Telkwagirl close behind. And so these two face into the finals to decide who will become the champion sock knitter of 2007. Out of 128 starting, it's now down to Joy and Kristi.

I have to say it was enormous fun competing in this. (That and severely stressful.) You learned so much from each pattern (hey, I know how to turn heels without that maddening pick-up bit, and can do Pheasant Eye with the best of 'em!), and got to know so many other knitters in that really close way that can only happen when you're all stretched to the limit at 3 in the morning. Small wonder that we're all going to stay on that Flickr site for the rest of the year, trading ideas and working again or for the first time on the patterns for each round. But there is still The Final Round to come and I simply cannot imagine what will come up in that. Every complexity, every difficulty has surely been encountered by now? (I hear the organisers faintly chuckling...)

In the meantime, though, I've almost gone off socks. The push was so hard, the pressure so huge, that I can't seem to face them at the moment. Yes, yes, I did finish the lovely Mad Bluebell Dance, and here they are in all their glory:

I adore these socks, and the pattern is delightful, right down to the cabled heel (I've taken to wearing clogs to show them off).

So right now there is nothing, but nothing on the sock needles. I did start one pair, but found my heart wasn't in it. Did get a rather nice pattern through the post, though, for traditional kilt hose, and those I will make. I could do with a pair of knee-length patterned socks and there is a cone of rather fine black cashmere hanging around somewhere which would work well if doubled. Is it a good idea to work a thread of nylon or polyester in with the heels and toes when you're using something as soft as cashmere? And if so, where do I locate this? Don't suppose synthetic sewing thread would do?

What is on the needles, at long last, is that glorious dolman-sleeved jacket from the legendary Fall 2003 issue of Knitter's.

When I first saw Noro Silk Garden some years ago and fell wildly in love, I made a sweater from one of the pattern books but although I adored the colour changes (I made it in those blues and greens), the sweater itself was too basic in shape, too floppy, so I frogged it back, washed and skeined the yarn, and put it away safely. You can't leave Noro unused though, and this particular dolman jacket has been in my mind every since I turned over the pages from the Celtic Vest and saw it. Now I knew LaurieM had made it, so I checked and she assures me there were no major difficulties, so I'm on my way. Got a sneaking feeling there are going to be a few 'pick up evenly all round the edge' bits, though. It looks like that sort of pattern, doesn't it? Ah well, we have to learn. Onward and upward, with much swearing on the way.

Denise is on her way to Ireland as you read this! Yes, the blog lady of Yin and Yarn is coming to the Emerald Isle for the first time and she and her husband should be touching down tomorrow morning in Dublin. Can't wait to meet up with her (we're thinking Spin a Yarn in Kenmare, naturally) and really see each other face to face. And then, in mid-June, Deb of the Woolley Farm is coming over with her group of shepherds, and we're all meeting up too! This is going to be the best fun.


LaurieM said...

Of course you must pick up around the edges! That's how it's made. But the pattern has everything counted out for you, so no guessing. It will be smooth sailing for a champion knitter such as yourself.

dawnbrocco said...

OK, GOTTA have that cottage! I swear I see elves in that gnarled tree surrounded by the bluebells, and Baileys! - my fav warm-me-up drink. Must be my 3/8th Irish!

pacalaga said...

Gorgeous. I've never seen bluebells except in photos. Wish I could roll around in those! That fox is ultra cute, too.
I laughed right out loud when I saw the Bailey's. I never bothered to get any (my husband doesn't drink and we were buying other liquor for a party, and I didn't want to make the cashier look funny at us and worry for our son's safety) but I had lots and lots of homemade sangria on Saturday for Cinco de Mayo.

Anonymous said...

Oh, those glades of bluebells are magical! It's not hard to believe in fairies in such surroundings...

Charity said...

Love the bluebell socks! Very pretty, and so perfect for spring!

I'm very excited about your dolman sleeve Noro, even with all the picking up of stitches. :0)

Roggey said...

My favorite drink of all time: double shot bailey's on the rocks.


Artis-Anne said...

Lovely photos Jo and we had a walk in bluebell woods here also but with a fine misty rain; you know the sort :) but my the smell was heavenly. Thankfully I have loads growing in the garden so can pick them for as you may know they are now protected as the Spanish Bluebell is taking over here in the UK
Love your new WIP and look forward to seeing it in process . I too have gone off the boil re socks and need to finish a pair for DH :(

Anonymous said...

We had a grey and misty day here on the 1st of May, oddly enough, but I picked small bunches of wildflowers for my daughter and myself.
I've never tried adding a synthetic thread to my sock heels but then I've never made socks out of cashmere either. I have heard that somepeople think that it can cut the other yarn and wear it out quicker. Maybe someone else has more experience with this and can advise you better than I can.

Anonymous said...

Been missing you on the blog, but then you come back with so much and such gorgeous photos. Where to start?
Well, I hope you wore your beautiful Bluebell socks on your Beltaine visit to Killarney Woods. And did I spot a rare scarlet Celtic Vest at Mount Massey? Stunning! And so appropriate.
I can't believe the moon. It is not a real moon? Too beautiful, an opera set. Takes you back to imagining your Celtic ancestors staring at it in awe and giving it mystical qualities. And the kit. How adorable is that kit?

And then your yarns. And your new Noro project. That is the one which made me dig up the magazine which made me push you into the Celtic vest. I bought the yarn for it. So perhaps this is the KAL we should do. Gotta finish my Baudelaires but then I will start on it. Think I got Kureyon, but may also have some Silk Garden. Oh goodie, a stash crawl is in order.

Lene said...

That baby fox is just adorable!

Victoria said...

oh that baby fox is so beautiful!

i would have loved to have walked around the ruins of that old house to hear its whispers of the past...lovely....i HAVE to go ireland...its a MUST

Anonymous said...

Stunning Pictures! I hope you will show us progress pictures on the Noro. I tried the pattern and eventually laid it aside in frustration.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Teapot Trail - I love it! We are more in to coffee here, but I love my tea and to have it in such gorgeous splendor of a spot!
Is that Cul de Sac taking a look at the ruins with you?
Have fun with Denise!

Anonymous said...

add me to the list of would-be owners for that cottage! wow...and the bluebells...and your lovely socks. do the sock madness people plan on releasing any of those patterns or is it up to the individual designers? I like that round 6 batik one. karen

Marianne said...

What on earth must the kit be thinking...a big wide world indeed but one of such beauty!
Love the window photo, the detail of the stones..a double hung window at that with the arch.
The Moon in all her golden glory.
Really nice socks ye've got there.

Anonymous said...

Greetings, Jo, I have not vistited in awhile, wanted to say hi before I catch up on your blog. I bought my annual Fuschia plant today as it reminds me of Ireland (Maybe it is called something different there, but I remember them being almost like bushes all along the countryside roads) and I buy all my sisters one for Mothers' day every year. Well, I am going to go catch up on your adventures. Regards, Mary

Anonymous said...

Loved the photos and I'm very excited, as one of Deb's shepherds, about our trip there in June. Right now, I'm up to my eyebrows in portable fencing and changing pastures as the sheep are eating faster than the pastures are growing, requiring quite regular paddock changes. Soon, the opposite will be true and I'll only have to change pastures once a week. This every day bit is for the birds...especially since I have portable fencing which has to be moved every time the sheep move...gets old fast, and takes up time I could be visiting with the lambs, training the pigs, or KNITTING!

Dez Crawford said...

On May Day, I couldn't manage a side trip to any real woods, but I squeezed in a walk in a neighborhood park. I did so early and was glad for it.

And that second photo? The gnarled roots? Surely it's a fairie castle ... and I'm with Dawn, I see at least three elven folk in there.

The colors in your photos for this post are over the top, Jo. The bluebells, the ruin ... and the bluebell socks could be a Bailey's ad (that's my favorite collection of blues in those socks, too). The golden moon. That fox kit in a stunning swirl of green ... Your site is a daily travelogue!

For the sock reinforcement I have found the very best thing is serger thread -- it's called "wooly nylon" in Europe and England, so I suspect it's called that in Ireland. too. Rather than poly sewing thread, serger thread is fine and fuzzy, and it blends into a variety of colors. One spool of charcoal will disappear into the toes of black and and other dark color. Serger thread is also the perfect carry-along to keep chenille from worming. I swear by it for a variety of knitting uses.

I have been sorely tempted to make the jacket you are embarking on. What holds me back is that it seems like it's the sort of thing that would look delightful on a wee sprite like yourself, but I worry that it would not be flattering on a meatier wench like myself. :-)

Cindy/Snid said...

Jo, the fox and the bluebells are beautiful and charming. Thanks for dropping by my blog... I have been sick and am behind in posting and many other things. BUT, the secret shawl is getting done and we will be posting soon!

Fiberjoy said...

Such a post!All the goodness has my brain spinning. :-)

It's difficult to see Mount Massey fleshed out in full, glorious array. What a shame it's only a shell.

Thank you for sharing a glimpse of the beauty of your world.

Marianne said...

I find myself coming back to that second photo....I believe I know the ones who live there.....heh.

Holly said...

Jo -

wonderful pictures, thank you!

I have done the dolman jacket. It is really mindless knitting unless you are compulsive about matching stripes.
Only thing I did differently was the edging working back and forth, knitting together with the edge stitch so that there was no sewing later.

It is a bit loose, but I wear it all the time.

Terrie D. (StarSpry) said...

I just love your pictures of Ireland! The are so beautiful and the little fox is adorable :) Your Mad Bluebell Dance socks look great!

Unknown said...

What a lovely day, the picture of the fox is magical & I'm glad you left it so we could see how small it was. We have a few spots like that near our cottage I'll have to see if I can get picture of the herons this summer.

Mranthe said...

More magic, and the spell of a baby on top of it all! Thank you for Mayday through your eyes.....

I think perhaps we've all earned a bit of a sock respite (she says, with at least three pairs on the needles, no less), and the jacket looks quite the thing to manage it with -- can't wait to see how it works up on your needles!

gail said...

What magical scenery!!!