Monday, July 30, 2007

Of Felting, and Favorite Socks, and Finishing Far Overdue Projects

There is no help for it, the day job is going to have to go. There just isn't enough time to get one quarter of the things done that are really worth doing, and still find space to write articles, compose copy, create impossibly flattering advertorial, chase new commissions. Let's not even mention ironing, cleaning, cooking, even basic shopping. Trouble is - the day job provides the wherewithal to pursue the really interesting ideas. No job, no wherewithal. Perhaps better to re-think that idea.

It has been a pretty busy time chez Celtic Memory though. Finished preparing the new designer yarn, Lunasa, without quite as much tears and temper as usual (maybe because August is really my favourite month of all), photographed it, and listed it on eBay last night.

I put all the lovely things of August into it - the colour of ripening corn, the flash of wild flowers in the hedgerow, golden hay bales, the rich green of brambles bearing autumn's fruit, the pale green of barley shimmering in the breeze.

Here's a closeup. It's a lovely happy yarn this one. The first skein sold almost as soon as I'd listed it which was a bit of a surprise but nice, since somebody else clearly liked it as much as I did.

And I finished a felted basket. Told you that the new little worktop washing machine worked beautifully for felting, and so it did.

Here's the completed bag, pre-felting, measuring around 16" across. I made it with a skein of Malabrigo kettle-dyed merino, gifted to me by the lovely Deb of the Woolley Farm in Maine - thanks, Deb. It was a beautiful yarn to work with.

And here's the finished product. I deliberately made this a shallow and wide-mouthed basket because I wanted to be able to hang it on my arm with the current project tucked inside, and go walkabout with my knitting. I'm thrilled with it. Definitely more to come.

A lot of you have asked for details of this little whiz kid machine. It's called a Mini Electric Washer and I got it on eBay from mozzzie in the UK for about £50 sterling. I think it originates in China and Mozzzie is the UK stockist, which should mean that you could track down something similar wherever you live. The machine doesn't heat the water, you have to pour it in very hot from the kettle, and I did worry that that would not be effective for felting, but it was. I gave it just one 15 minute session and that was plenty. Can't wait to try those amazing felted clogs now - bought the pattern in Jasper last year and have been waiting for the right moment.

(DH did say that he thought it a bit odd to knit something so huge and then deliberately shrink it down to a much smaller size, but then I'm not sure I can explain the attraction to myself, so how could I to him? 'It's a girl thing', I said vaguely, and he was wise enough to leave it at that.)

This was on Saturday, and after all that excitement, I went out to look for sunshine. But there was none to be found. It might be July, but as far as Moll's Gap was concerned, it was a wet and misty winter's day, the rain soaking into the already sodden hillsides and the rocks streaming with a million rivulets.

The road down towards Killarney was no better, with hapless cyclists lamenting the insanity that ever persuaded them to consider such an unprotected mode of transport.

However, every grey cloud has a silver lining, and halfway down towards the Lakes of Killarney, I came across a sign which said, Adopt A Sheep. Could you have resisted? I turned in towards an old farmstead and found this lovely man.

This is John Kissane, the fifth - or is it the sixth? - generation of his family to farm these wild mountain lands. These days, with the price of wool falling every year, it's getting harder and harder to make ends meet.

But John loves this land as generations of his family have done before him, and he is determined to find a way to stay here and farm and care for his sheep. And so he and his wife Anne have set up a tourist attraction. Busloads of visitors come and see him shear sheep while Anne talks to them about the production of wool and yarn and eventually clothing. Then the visitors go out to see one of the Kissane dogs herd the mountainy sheep expertly off the steep hillsides and into a pen.

You might just be able to see Jenny, one of the younger dogs, on the right of this picture, coaxing the reluctant sheep out of the shelter of some windblown trees (it was pouring with rain at this stage, and since DH wasn't with me, I had to make do with my own camera and short lens).

And here are Anne and John, rainsoaked but cheerful, as Jenny finally gets every last sheep into the pen.

I think the Kissanes are marvellous to be trying something like this and they deserve to succeed. No time wasted repining or regretting the good old days, they just work out what needs to be done to make a living, and then do their best to make it work. You'll be hearing more about them.

On Sunday Sophy Wackles indicated that she was feeling ready for a little exercise, so we went down to Gougane. In typical Irish fashion, the weather was sparkling, sunny, warm and utterly beautiful. Sophy was entranced to be out in the fresh air and went rather mad.

Can you see a tiny white shape leaping ecstatically through the meadow grass? I think it is safe to say she is recovered from the operation!

And here's a muddy and happy little girl, sitting on a rock, getting her breath back after a full-speed dash through some very wet and boggy ground.

Had a shock when I climbed that special gate to get into my secret part of Gougane Barra. Somebody else had climbed in before me! There was a French car parked right by the gate. I stamped down through the meadow, glowering furiously and ready for war. This was my patch and I didn't like anyone else discovering it.

And there were these two young French people by the stream. They had carried in a little folding table, a cool box, numerous pots and pans and supplies and were making lunch. And, being French, they had not only the bottle of wine, but even a bottle of olive oil - heaven forfend that they should use anything as appalling as pre-prepared dressing on their salad!

What could I do? I smiled. I waved and wished them 'bon appetit'. I pointed the camera and the young man hugged his lady love for my benefit (I suspect from the ease with which he did it, he does it for his own benefit too, quite frequently). Well - what would you have done? I mean - bringing the olive oil so that you can whisk up the dressing right there...

On our way back, the young couple were by this time grilling sausages on a little portable barbecue. The scent, drifting on the warm summer air, was delectable. Although Sophy is extremely wary of strangers and will invariably make a very circuitous detour to avoid any contact, I could see the struggle in that little dog's face - her body tugged her away towards a quieter path, but her head remained turned, small nose wrinkling and twitching, yearning to wriggle up to them and beg for a morsel. Safety and nervousness won in the end though and the sausages were safe.

To knitting concerns. There is no help for it - both the Austrian Socks and the Meida Socks from Interweave Favorite Socks will have to be started post haste. They are just too beautiful not to. Yes I will finish Pomatomus. Yes I will finish Birch Leaves. Yes I will finish the new
lace crop cardi (WHAT new lace crop cardi? Oh surely you knew about that? I did hint at it fairly clearly when I showed you that lace swatch... if you didn't pick up the obvious conclusion, what can I do?) . But I will IMMEDIATELY start on the Austrian and Meida. Oh and on the Swallowtail Shawl too (good heavens, almost a year since I screamed, danced, yelled until I got the pattern...). I thought of using a Blue Heron beaded rayon yarn from the stash -which would give the shawl a bit more size, and be a good way to practice (haven't the nerve to begin with Fleece Artist's stunning silk in case I have to frog back). But the admittedly beautiful beaded rayon is a bit dark and this pattern seems to call for light yarn to show off the lace pattern. Any Swallowtail experts out there care to advise me? Does dark matter? Is light better? Should I abandon all idea of starting Swallowtail and concentrate on the UFOs? Who will win the Dahomey election? Do I care?

Now Angeluna, you laughed at my petty-minded economies in needle matters and insisted that any knitter worth her salt needed several pairs in all her favourite sizes so that she need never delay starting a new project. Initially shocked at such lax behaviour, I nevertheless thought it over and admitted that you could be right. Darling Paradise Fibers came up trumps once more, mailing me two more pairs of Addi Turbo Lace in size 0 (my best sock size) in less time than it took me to finish my felted basket. Gosh they work fast up there in the Pacific North West. Let the games begin!


Angeluna said...

My goodness it's a cheery post, this one.

First off, Lunasa is absolutely beautiful, certainly my favorite of all the Celtic Memory Yarns so far. You nailed it. That little hint of mauve in there is wonderful.

It does my heart good to see little Sophy back in shape and having quite the time of it.

You are a complete WIMP in defending your Gougane Barra from the Norman invasions. OK, so they were cute and they had olive oil. You must defend your territory or next year they will tell all their friends and there will be hundreds of amorous couples with olive oil there in Gougane Barra, perhaps leaving their empties when they depart. Tchhhh, tchhhhh!

Just to cheer your day there, Yarns Ewenique is having a 25% off everything 2 day sale this week-end. Course I'm gone again, just like I was for the last one.

So glad to see felt and hear the reports on the micro washer! And the Kissane's look wonderful. How and why does one adopt a sheep?

As for Swallowtail, I love my ochre yellow one, and I love Jeri's dark red one just as much. There are 235 Swallowtail projects on Ravelry and 237 stashed in their queues! Since you can't see that yet, try the SWallowtail KAL group on Flickr.
It seems to look great any way you want to do it. And it is quite easy, you won't wreck anything. Just don't forget your lifelines.

And it merely shows your superior intelligence that you have come to agree with me that an extravagent number of needles in the same size is totally practical for ADHDers.

pacalaga said...

I recently completed Swallowtail for a friend of mine, days before she started chemotherapy. I used a deep polar blue (sea silk, swoon) fingering weight and it behaved beautifully. The pattern is simple but not boring, the nupps practically formed themselves, and it blocked wonderfully. Plus, it wasn't so big that I got bored half way through...
I didn't get a good picture but you can see it here:

Anonymous said...

Lunasa is gorgeous! Hurray for Sophy romping madly, bless the girl. Love the adopt-a-sheep idea; long may the Kissane's keep going. If it can work for entire zoos, it should work for a sheep farm! (Our Oregon Zoo has had a similar arrangement for years. Of course, they also sell Zoo Doo to supplement income...or at least they used to. [g]) And congrats on successfully felting your small bag. It looks great!

Lynn said...

Sister Jo, I am on the home stretch of Swallowtail, worked in Schaeffer's "Anne" in medium-to-verging-on-dark greens. And it's perfect. It seems to be one of those patterns where color doesn't matter. Angeluna's "classic and instantly identifiable Angeluna gold" one is perfect; so is Jeri's, which she knitted in KnitPicks' "Gloss" in a lovely rich burgundy.

Barbara-Kay said...

Inquiring minds want to know: did you adopt a sheep, then? VBG!

You have brought to mind some fond memories of spending one of my, how shall I say, "earlier" birthdays at a Welsh sheep farm/B & B.

Glad to see this farmer reinventing himself. Now that you have posted this lovely story, perhaps more folk will seek him out.

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

lunasa is gorgeous Jo, it reflects all the things I love about this time of year:) I had earmarked it for a birthday spend but I'm needing an urgent new computer so that will have to come first. In fact going through the house seeing what I can sell to fund it:)
Glad to see Sophie in fine fettle, she looks so happy in the fields. And the bag, quelle surprise:)) You can do it see
told you so:))

Tola said...

i want to adopt a sheep! (or at least part of one). seriously, please get more info from these folks. or if nothing else, more lovely photos of their operation.

Anonymous said...

I also am interested in the adopt-a-sheep. My husband was just in england and the Isle of Mann. He was there for the motorcycle races. while there he adopted a draft horse names Rupert for me at the Home for Old Horses. Why not an Irish Sheep since he couldn't find any local yarn for me. Lou Ann in Ohio

Dez Crawford said...

That's it. Case closed. I am moving to Ireland.

Something about that lush green mountainscape draped in mist quickens my blood in a way I can't explain. Who needs sunshine? I kid you not, whenever I see that kind of landscape, my nostrils flare and my heart rate jumps. Lush, green, coolness. Sheep. Herding dogs. Mist. Mountains. Sigh.

Lugnasa is magnificent. Just stunning. It must be wondrous, to live in a place where sun is not the enemy and where August is a month of grace and beauty, instead of opressive and even lethal weather.

Your French visitors are delightful.

And me? I'd ditch the housekeeping and ironing long before the day job. After all, one does need money for wool.

Just sayin'.

Emily said...

What a rich and wonderful post! I'm not sure where to start, go, or end, so I'll simply say it was lovely reading and I wish I'd started earlier during the HP KAL (I must admit, I only came over to check out more of your gorgeous hand-dyes). The most I can muddle out, between loving the sheep to the new projects, to the quitting of the dayjob is "adorable dog." Thanks for all that news.