Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Hands Across The Sea

OK, so it has to be the most insane idea yet - a weekend in Texas. But that's what it was, and I wouldn't have missed it for anything. Angeluna had a birthday a couple of weeks ago; I have one coming up in a couple of weeks. She blogged about that great ranch in the countryside where she was going to take a dyeing workshop. I felt so envious when I read about it that I raged down to see DH and complain about the unfairness of living in Ireland where nobody has ever seen a dyeing workshop, nobody is ever likely to organise a dyeing workshop, and you could live and die (no, die) without dyeing. More, probably your great grandmother and your great granddaughter would have the same experience (or lack of it). DH, as is his wont, listened patiently, and then said:

So why don't you go?


Why don't you go over, and join Angeluna on this weekend


Well, it's not that difficult, is it? You could fly from Shannon.


Look, are you really keen on this thing. Because if you are -

Gosh - it would be kind of a serious birthday present, wouldn't it?

That's what I was thinking.

He would look after the dogs, he said. Yes, he would keep a special eye on Sophy (she's doing fine, playing us up for every treat she can. The scar has almost disappeared into her fat tummy).

I tremulously emailed Angeluna. She responded with delight.

A couple of days later I was on the plane . Terrified, appalled at the sheer idiocy of going to Texas for a weekend. Didn't tell anyone else. I could imagine their reaction.

You're going over there for a weekend, right? Over and back within four days?

Er - yes.

Don't you think a fortnight would be better?

It might well be. But that isn't feasible right now. Deadlines, commitments, workload. It's either this or nothing.

You'll have the jetlag from hell.

Very probably. But I think it's worth it.

Well - you're mad.

Thank you. It has always been my life's ambition not to be considered middle of the road.

It was strange and exciting to be flying over so much of the United States, especially when I realised at one point that Big Muddy, aka the Mississippi was right below me.

OK, it's not a great image but believe me it was quite an experience seeing it down there, far below, and even being able to pick out a miniscule barge heading down for New Orleans. And then we were landing in Texas.

You've seen Angeluna's pictures. She does it so much better than I do (and she's used to the Texas heat too!) It was incredible, though, to emerge at Fort Worth and find her waiting, arms outstretched for a big warm hug.

And the knitting group were patiently waiting in Borders, so wonderful, friendly, welcoming, full of enthusiasm and encouragement. Jeri was there, and Aisling and Susan and so many others. After twenty hours travelling I wasn't entirely sure where I was, but the lovely voices and handshakes will always stay with me. And they gave me a gift! Now how generous was that?

I was so delighted! This fascinating account of Belle and Pearl Starr, plus the most exquisite silk scarf with miniature cattle brands printed on it - all from the Cowgirl Museum. Gang, I'll treasure these all my life, I promise you!

And just when I thought I wouldn't see her, darling Lynn turned up, and it was so wonderful to be able to hug in real time and see each other and make that personal contact. Isn't blogging the most amazing invention? (Lynn had brought me a gift too, the nature of which shall remain a closely guarded secret 'twixt us two: suffice it to say that Texas creates a particularly delectable delicacy not entirely unconnected with praline... And no, you're not getting any, so PAWS OFF!) Honestly, was anyone ever so spoiled? I didn't deserve such kindness from everybody.

Staying with Angeluna was one wonderful experience. We talked nonstop and traded knitting secrets, lore, useful tips. The cats were all courtesy, and even checked on me at intervals during the night to ensure I wasn't lonely.

(Yeah, of course I always sleep with a camera ready. Don't you? Doesn't everybody? How else would I have managed that time in the Himalayas when a bandicoot got into my underwear bag?)

We soundly thrashed one of A's favourite stores, Yarns Ewenique. What it must be like to have places like this just down the street, round the corner, I can't imagine. Sigh... We did have fun.

Here's Angeluna busily selecting some Mountain Colors sock yarn to add to her collection (and does she have a collection... Get her to show all of it to you sometime. Not just some of it, all of it). I went a bit mad on books and magazines. We don't get any of these here in Ireland and although of course I can order on the Net, it's not the same as being able to open them, check through them, gloat over the glorious pictures, is it?

The Kimbell Art Museum was an experience I won't forget. I kept coming across old masters and almost saying, 'But this must be a copy, surely?' I didn't even know they had Canalettos and Caravaggios, for heaven's sake. It was pure luxury (and air conditioned too!) Yes, I had genuine Texas barbecue (no, not at the Kimbell, settle down for heaven's sake!). And yes, I did get a marvellous personal tour of old downtown Fort Worth, where millions of cattle were driven to central collecting points before being taken on to Chicago. It's a beautifully preserved historic area.

And the next day we went out to Heritage Arts at Beaumont Ranch, for the dyeing workshop. I can't begin to express what it was like to arrive at this great little place and see all those enthusiastic participants already working away on skeins of art. Angeluna has already told you about the marvellous Lorelei and Sue, but I'd like to add that they are a great team and make you feel so welcome. Lorelei is the kind of person who seems to know what you're asking and answers your query before you've even finished - a very useful gift when you want to learn everything you possibly can in one short visit.

Inside, the tiny shop was an Aladdin's Cave for those of us deprived of dyes and carders and suchlike. I didn't know where to grab first.

(Oh you can laugh, you lucky blogger who simply wanders down the street to pick up a pot of dye or a pair of carders, but some of us are starved, STARVED of these opportunities, I tell you...)

And then there were all those divine skeins of brightly-coloured rovings just asking to be taken home and spun into sock yarn... Which to choose, which to leave behind?

After that, of course, there was the entertainment of the midnight launch of the seventh and final Harry Potter book. It was such fun to wander through Borders (or was it Barnes & Noble, Angeluna, by that time I was so jetlagged I can't remember!), seeing witches and wizards with banners proclaiming Severus Snape Stinks or Harry Potter Forever.

(And yes, I've read my copy by now. And I told you so, I told you! Angeluna and I were right to choose Slytherin House, support Snape, and start knitting green and silver socks. Told you!)

You'll be wondering what I managed to pack into my bags coming home (came out with just light cabin baggage, but tucked in a folding big bag - I'm not daft!) Here is some of the yarn - can't find the rest right now:

You'll see some green and silver there on the left, for a Slytherin lace scarf, what else. Back left, some Mountain Colors, centre Cherry Tree Hill, back right, provision for another attempt at felting (yeah, I'm a masochist). Bottom right, some fun yarns for experimental work. And in the middle a rather expensive but beautiful pair of fleece combs (as opposed to fleece carders). I knew of these traditional tools of course, but Heritage Arts was the first place I actually saw and touched them. They're better for creating a roving for worsted yarn (i.e. smooth and firm) rather than a woollen (rougher, fluffier). Some spinning fun ahead.

And here are some of the books I hauled home. Knitting Vintage Socks, and Favorite Socks, of course. And a clutch of irresistible magazines unobtainable here. If I'd had longer, I'd never have got through security, I assure you!

It was too short. Angeluna and I hadn't said one quarter of the things we wanted to talk about before she had to drop me back to the airport for the flight home. Unsurprisingly, I fell asleep immediately and only woke as the plane descended over the green fields of Ireland.

And dear dear DH was there waiting to welcome me home. Thanks, sweetheart. For your generosity, for your knowledge of me, for your indulgence.

But this was more than a hugely indulgent madness. It was an insight into just how much the Net and blogging have changed all our lives. I was able to meet people who actually recognised the sock pattern I was knitting, people about whom I already knew so much myself. We didn't meet as strangers but as friends. We traded snippets about other friends. We were all part of one huge family. We will continue to be so. I titled this posting Hands Across The Sea. It's more truly Hands Across The Net. You're all a powerful force. We are all a powerful force. What an experience. I'm grateful to have been able to know it.

(Now it's back to the desk and the screen to work my handknitted socks off for the next few months, to balance the books after that amazing trip. Ah well. It was worth it! Next posting I'll tell you about The Little Yarn Shop in the Far West and The Day The Noro Representative Came To Breakfast.)


Angeluna said...

What fun to read. Was wondering when you were going to shake your jetlag.

Have you already been to the LYS of the West?

How are the girls?

Anonymous said...

WOW! What a weekend! All I managed was to finish my Ravenclaw "Fred and George" Socks and read the book. Likely you didn't fly over Ohio, but I wish I would have known so I could wave!
How many projects are to be started immediately?

Unknown said...

KEEP THAT HUSBAND!!! What a prince--& what an awesome experience. My DH made a similar comment when I mentioned the Yarn Harlot's March book launch in NYC wistfully--and a good friend joined me there from Zurich, Switzerland. Here's to amazing long distance weekends, with adequate recovery time between!

Micki said...

You are mad--fabulously mad! It was a delight to meet you.

Unknown said...

Madness should infect us all. What a wonderful thing to do on a weekend!

gemma said...

What a great post. Who ever wants to be ordinary, or have an ordinary birthday??? No knitter I know, but that sure was the most super present ever. Happy birthday.

Anonymous said...

Holy wow. That's some husband! I love that you flew that far for a dyeing workshop. Your glee at getting to attend and see all those lovelies came through loud and clear, and I smiled all the way through.

Also, bandicoot? o_O

Faren said...

Wow, what a weekend and what a husband!

Anonymous said...

And to think we were so near...we made the trek from South Louisiana to Ft. Worth for our dear granddaughter's baptism. Ships in the night, we were!

So glad you had a wonderful time.
Barbara-Kay in Zachary, LA

Victoria said...

WOW! how fantastic it is to do what you did....happy belated birthday! my goodness i dare say i would have done the same thing...and what a nice honey you have to suggest it and support you! 3 cheers for him!

3 cheers for you for being someone who takes walks off the beaten path!

Knitstress Mary said...

It was wonderful meeting you, next time, give us a wee bit more warning so that more of us can spend time with you. I can't wait to see what you learned at the ranch.

Dez Crawford said...

You flew right over us! And I missed you. Oh, I am so JEALOUS of the Texas knitter! But also, I am so happy that you had such a grand time. What an amazing weekend.

That Richard guy you keep talking about? I'd hang on to that one, me. The world needs more of your kind of madness.

Perchance did you meet Leef Bloomenstiel of Apple Leef Farms?

And last, but not least....your gorgeous Wid Roses yarn arrived today. I can't stop petting it!

Artis-Anne said...

Wow you lucky girl !! Sounds like a great whirlwind few days and met up with so many lovely folks.
Are they English Combs there ? if so they are brillinat as we have them at our guild for hire
Bet you need a rest now after ALL your excitment

Anonymous said...


BTW, I also love the Kimbell - it's just there, quietly minding its own business filled with great masterpieces.

artyfartykat said...

What a wonderful birthday pressie, one you'll never forget, that's for sure! Happy belated birthday, or belated happy birthday?!
I really enjoyed reading about your fab trip and look forward to the next instalment!

Fluffy Geek said...

I know exactly what you mean: I get sent to the USA for work every now and then, and occasionally I escape to a yarn shop... it's like some kind of wonderland where people know what you're talking about!

SueJ said...

njA trip & birthday to remember, Maybe the jet lag doesn't kick in in the sight of so much wonderful yarn & yarn related goodies!

Tracy said...

I'm so excited that you got to see a bit of my hometown! (I spent the first 22 years of my life in Fort Worth.) Things have changed a lot since I left, though--when I lived in Fort Worth, there was ONE SINGLE YARN SHOP LEFT. All the others had closed down, as had the yarn departments of the major department stores. So to me, it sounds like absolute madness to leave Ireland (the land of sweaters!) to go to Fort Worth (hotter than hell and rarely in need of heavy sweaters) for anything related to knitting. I'm so glad to hear that you had a wonderful time, saw the Kimball (isn't it amazing?) and have some REAL barbeque. I'm glad you had such a lovely Cowtown welcome!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! How wonderful to have the memories you'll have from this trip!

In your books I see the "Vintage Socks" - I have one and find it a great addition to the knitting library and I've liked each of the socks I've knitted from it! I hope you enjoy it too!

pacalaga said...

Wow, what a great great experience that must have been. (no, I'm not the least bit jealous, no, not me!)

Anonymous said...

Now that is a weekend and a birthday! Yep, definitely a keeper, that DH of yours. What a wonderful trip!

Oh, speaking of dyeing supplies - with the caveat that to Ireland, due to import restrictions, they can only ship dyes, paints and tools, not any of their fabric, blank garments or the Henry's Attic undyed yarn... and they require a $100 minimum order for shipping overseas (eek)... But have you ever checked out Dharma Trading online? (

Seriously. Dangerous. Site. For dyeing enthusiasts. I mean seriously. Dyes and supplies for all sorts of different fibers and methods (along with silk & other fabric paints). Plus umpteen online tutorials. I only allow myself to go look occasionally, because I might have a swiping accident, and I don't even have a credit card. But oh, what a lovely temptation! And it would definitely be accessible. [veg]

HPNY KNITS said...

what a lovely post! I really enjoy you knitting/travel musings- and you are so right- the net has made the world our village! some worried it will isolate- for knitters it has brought us all closer.

JazzRizz said...

Sounds like you had a wonderful trip! Your DH is a prince!

Just wanted to let you know how touching I found your post today.

It is amazing how the net & blogging has really changed the world.

Thanks for the positive & uplifing thoughts today!

Rosie said...

That must be the most exciting whirlwind trip EVER.

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

sounds like a great time Jo and are you hiding the Noro books there at the back????

Needles said...

Jo, it sounds like a splendid trip. Nice haul.

LaurieM said...

Frentic, action-packed fun! That's our Jo!

Bridget said...

Sounds like you had a fabulous time! What a wonderful birthday present! Your Richard is definitely a keeper!


Anonymous said...

You were only a couple hours away from this Texas knitter, and thank God it isn't as hot as it's been the last few summers, or you might have gone into shock as you stepped from the airport. My most treasured possession (next to my own DH, two bossy Yorkies, and some ebony Holz and Steins) is a pair of boots custom made for my long skinny feet (look like a pair of letter openers) by M.L. Leddy right there in Cowtown where you visited. So glad you like Texas and the knitstuffs we have to offer. Can't wait to get my SeaCave yarn, with all its watery Ireland colors, perfectly timed for a Texas summer not as hot as usual, but still roasting.

cindyl said...

Oops. Sorry. That last comment was mine. Didn't mean for it to be Anonymous. Just didn't sign in right.

Denise said...

So that's where you were! I'm glad you had a good time. What a lovely birthday gift from Richard!

And Happy Birthday!

picperfic said...

wowee! You are amazing! What an adventure and what a story! You lucky lady, and what a star you DH is!!

txknitter said...

Jo, I'm a little late in posting. It was so good to meet you. I love your adventurous spirit. I might have been a tad cranky after that long a flight, you were wonderful.

It is amazing how the internet has made the world a smaller place.


Anonymous said...

I was one of the lucky ladies who got to meet Jo at the Heritage Arts Dye Day. I had not been acquainted with her via the Internet as most of the other women had been. When she told me of her impromptu journey to Texas, it made my heart race! It was such an inspiration to a traveler at heart like me to realize that in time, we will all have our opportunities to go where our crafting hearts lead us.

It was great meeting you, Jo!