Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's Almost Autumn!

Where did the summer go? Not that we had one in Ireland. Nope, went smoothly through from damp dark spring to damp dark autumn without a hitch. Although this week, with September nudging at the gate, the skies appear to have relented somewhat and are surprising us with clear blue mornings. To remind us that it isn't long to winter, no doubt. Rather like the tradition here in West Cork that the sun will always try to come out at least once before it goes down, just to show it's still in existence.
Actually this past weekend was a genuine scorcher in West Cork. Or so I believe. DH and I were away in the north west, in Mayo. He had a photoshoot to do for the bigwigs, and it had been put off and put off since April, while we watched weather forecasts and waited for a miniscule window of opportunity. This weekend was supposed to be it. Fine weather across the country, the boffins declared, best chance yet at an Irish summer. So off we went on Friday morning. It's not a huge distance mileage-wise up to the north west, but with our roads it takes quite a bit of time - about five hours in the end. We were glad to get there.

And the weather?

Well what did you expect? There are vast and beautiful mountains over there behind me in the picture, but you can't exactly see them. They've pulled the duvet down over their heads and have gone back to sleep. It was a long trek up across the boggy slopes (is Ireland the only place that manages to have deep treacherous pools on even steep slopes? Doesn't water usually run downhill to find somewhere to sit?)

Even the sheep were giving up and going home early (they're supposed to stay on the roadside, posing for the rare visitor, until 7 pm in summer, and well they know it).

It was maddening to hear the delighted reports from other, sunnier corners of the land, on the car radio while we peered through the mist and tried to take photographs.

It is a wonderful place, though, Mayo, deserted and windswept and silent. You can stand on a tiny boreen and almost hear the silence all around. And everywhere the signs that this was once a highly-populated region, full of families and animals and cultivation and life.

Now only the sheep are left, grazing the tiny fields where you can still make out the ridges or lazybeds created on poor soil to grow potatoes.

The hawthorn is about the only tree that will flourish in this environment where the wind blows straight in from the sea.

Don't you love this one, bent against the wind and enduring determinedly? The thorn is the fairy tree of course and nobody would think of uprooting one or cutting it down. That would be asking for trouble. You will often see a huge ploughed field with one lone thorn tree standing proudly amid a pile of rocks in the centre, left there for good luck. There is another tradition that these bent old thorns are really images of the Cailleach or the Crone, the wise old woman of Ireland. At midnight she straightens, looks around, and then runs before the wind, cackling. But by dawn she's back standing immovable on her watching post again.

The few remaining families in this part of Ireland still cut their fuel from the bogland as generations have done before them.

The turf is cut and arranged in little stands of three sods for the wind to blow through and the sun dry out for a few weeks. Then it's piled into a rick and brought home gradually in loads, to be kept carefully under cover for the winter.

The little villages don't look like they've changed in half a century. The local pub is often the shop and petrol station as well (plus the place to go when you want to find out the news or exchange a bit of gossip).

We stayed at the unusually named village of Pontoon. It got its name from a very narrow bridge crossing between two lakes. The hotel had a wonderful view over one of the lakes, and because we arrived so late, we were lucky enough to snaffle one of the best rooms at a good rate.

The French window opened out on to a deck. And yes, those are the Fawkes socks, did you think there wasn't going to be any knitting in this post, did you, did you? Well there is. Brought the Gazebo lace crop cardi along as well, since a sleeve is being done at the moment and that's something you can do without much concentration, only a two-row repeat for the lace bit in the centre of the sleeve. Almost suitable for cinemas, but since it's a quadruple-stranded yarn, probably not. One would certainly miss a loop or two in the dark. You need solid yarns and easy stocking-stitch for the cinema, one feels, and even then not at exciting Harry Potter-type movies.

Actually your experienced and wide-ranging views would be welcomed on this issue. What does one knit where? Socks of course are eminently portable, but if the pattern is complex, you do need a little time to work out where you had finished and what bit was coming next before you even start, which makes a short bus ride or a bank queue impractical. The boring and endless sleeve of a sweater offers no difficulties for picking up and putting down, but it is a bit larger to carry round and attracts more attention. Then there are the real demanders, the Starmore Arans of this world, which require your total and undivided concentration non-stop the entire time they allow you to share their presence. (A Starmore is never owned, it just condescends to pause haughtily by your chair for a while.)

Mais retourner a nos moutons. Or in this case, nos fleurs. We were up there photographing extremely rare plants so it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss or indeed show those here, but I thought you'd like to see this beauty.

What a cracker! Exquisite shaping and colouring. I love it!

And this is actually what it was - a tiny clump of wild eyebright growing by the roadside. The blossoms are so small you hardly notice them. But with the magic of a macro lens they become a hothouse delight, don't they? Eyebright is supposedly wonderful for easing tired, computer-dazed eyes when soaked in water - I must try it.

There has been, one regrets to report, even more weakness of character than usual displayed chez Celtic Memory during the past week. (Cries of 'shame', 'shame'.) The hints of autumn in the air - a few dried leaves on the pathway, reddening apples in the orchard, a crispness in the early morning - brought thoughts of cold winter weather and warm cosy sweaters. Such thoughts, linked to the undeniable presence of some rather gorgeous cashmere/silk in the private stash (no you can't, not a hope, it's all mine, all mine), led to wonderings and to perusings and murmurings, and eventually -

- to this.

You could call it Alice Starmore Meets Michael Kors Chez Celtic Memory (now that would be some party!) Last winter's Vogue Knitting had an amazing Kors Aran on the cover, but when I tried to swatch for it I just couldn't get gauge and anyway didn't like the pattern combinations used. But I loved the idea of a showpiece, party-style, elegant Aran. Then, browsing through Starmore's Aran Knitting (gosh, isn't it great to have your own copy at last, I can't believe it!), a rather beautiful design called St. Enda revealed itself. The original was in bright red and sized for giants at a minimum 45" chest, but it was adaptable, it was adaptable... (Does Starmore come off the Isle of Lewis and track down people who adapt her patterns from the exact original, do you know?)

This is now going to be a rather beautiful polo neck sweater for the winter. OK, if it means having to go somewhere really cold, that's fine by me. Whatever the sweater wants it's going to get. It's that beautiful. Working on it makes me feel happy.

(There's a provision in Ravelry for the WIP that makes you feel happiest. How good is that? Great minds there must be, making up the Ravelry phenomenon. Sorry? Oh, yes, I'm in - at last! The invite came while I was up in Mayo - wouldn't you know it? - and when we got back very late on Sunday night, exhausted, hungry, and surrounded by angry dogs who hadn't appreciated being sent to boot camp for three days, there it was to be dealt with. Immediately. Without delay. Upload everything, input everything you possess, everything you know, everything you're working on, the lot. So I went to bed instead. And the next day there were deadlines to catch up with and shows to review, so today is the first chance. It's intimidating me right now, but everyone else has managed it, so maybe if I take it slowly?)

I saved this one until last for you. There was a full moon when we were staying in Mayo by those twin lakes. And just coming up to midnight, when we went for a walk, the moon came out from behind the clouds and threw its path perfectly across the water.

The legend has it that if you see this path at magical times, when the moon is full, you can step out on to it and it will lead you to Tir na n'Og or the Land of Youth. Hadn't seen it so clearly in a long time, so I was delighted that we could capture it (thanks Richard!) and share it with you.


Anonymous said...

I don't know if I've ever commented here, been lurking for over a year now though!

I always have a sock in my purse, sometimes more than one if I have that feeling. For the most part if I'm knitting in public, I'm working on a sock, it's just easier. My bus trip isn't even long enough to get my sock out, and everything else I think is just easier at home. Although I do have knitting for differant rooms for example:

The kitchen has something stockinette in the round so I can do a few stitches in between whatever. The basement TV area is littered with squares, and log cabin projects, and whatever my favorite is at the moment. And the room I designated as the Knitting Room, that one that I barely use, is where I work on things that may require a bit more concentration, or if I just want to be left alone with my wool (it's where my stash lives).

In the movie theatre I usually take either kitchen knitting, or garter stitch squares.

Anonymous said...

Portable knitting must be small of size and a reasonably simple stitch pattern. For public transport, standing in a line up, waiting rooms or walking I usually work on a sock, hat, glove, wrist warmer or muffatee( an arm warmer). If I am at the beginning of a scarf I will lug it around until it becomes to cumbersome to carry. This list should clue you into the fact that I live in a part of the world with a cold winter so all of the above are much needed bits of my wardrobe.
Any pattern more complicated than some simple intertwined cables or a few yo's are worked on at home no matter what size. If it needs a chart it stays put. If it is longer than my forearm it also stays home.
At home knitting is either fit accompaniment for tv, film viewing or reading or of the "Don't talk to me now" variety i.e. lace or some insanely complex colourwork or fiendish interlocking cables.
Love your Starmore/Kors/Celtic Memory sweater. Now is the time to start those cold repelling projects. I had my Noro stash out this week in spite of the temperature being 27+. Before we know it it will be time for the Silk Garden scarves to come out.

Roggey said...

that last photo is just beyond beautiful... interested in selling prints of it?

Sallie said...

Thank you for sharing your weekend. It was lovely. Since we are having heat alerts here in Texas, it was nice to look at cool Ireland.

I usually have two pairs of socks going. One in plain stockinette, and one with a more complex pattern. The plain sock goes out with me.

pacalaga said...

Wow, it's like an Irish countryside vacation to read your posts. sigh.
Will my knitting license be revoked if I admit that the Starmores turn me off, just a bit? Yes, they design and make gorgeous, stunning items, but really, don't many people do just that? I find the mystique and the awe surrounding Alice and Jade a little manufactured. Over the top, as it were. Your Aran will be especially lovely, though!

Anonymous said...

Oh, Jo... your lovely photos make me so eager for our trip! My husband has a business trip to Dublin in late October, and I get to come along...can't wait to explore!

I always carry socks: 2x1 rib in Mountain colors, and knit them wherever I am as no pattern is needed and the lovely yarn makes them all different and always lovely and warm. Sometimes baby knitting is simple enough to bring along and small, although the grandbabies are growing up way too fast. Anything with a chart stays home, as I'm an old knitter and grew up on written patterns, so charts still don't come naturally to me and require lots of concentration.

Your Aran is inspiring me...maybe I'll find some nice Irish wool when we are there to make one for myself. Any suggestions of shops for me? Thanks!

Barbara M.

Charity said...

My Ravelry invite was waiting for me, too, and I also find it a bit intimidating. Try taking it in bits - I only registered, and had a little peek around, and then today, filled out my own profile. One of these days, I'll get stuff on there, I'm sure! :0)

Needles said...

Since all I have knit so far, really, is socks, socks are my travel project. I do have one lacey thing for socks that I can do without too much thinking, so I take those along too.

My recently completed Calorimetry would travel really well too. Its pretty sound and simple. I think I'd be brave enough to try it without markers next time round. My next big project to test for travel is going to be the vest out of Blue Moon Alina. I've not begun that yet, but will be there next weekend and I do think it will travel well, once I know the pieces.

My problem with portable knitting is where is it socially accpetable. Its hard work educating people that when your hands are busy you are listening better than ever.

LaurieM said...

Stop your knitting immediately! Put down the Aran sweater and please don't kill the bearer of bad news. There is an error in the first crossing on the right hand cable.

After this horrible announcement, I don't suppose you'd listen to me much if I complimented you on the rest of your post.

Cindy/Snid said...

Dearest Jo,
sometimes you make it so difficult to comment! Your long meandering, AND entertaining posts cover so much that by the time I get to the end I am quite confused as to where I began (don't worry- it's me, not you!).
It makes me very happy that the sheep seem quite content in Mayo and how lovely to have them grace your pages here. We can pay hommage to them!
The flower is beautiful and my reaction was "ah! THAT is Eyebright!" I have heard of it many times, but never actually seen what the flower looks like (not that we have it 'round these parts anyway).
As for the Aran, did you really say cashmere silk?! I am drooling here, I just want to touch it...just a little... pretty please?!

Angeluna said...

Wow! I'm almost speachless. And totally jealous. Tir na n'Og on a full moon. Beautiful! But isn't there a darker side to that legend?

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Laurie, I may continue to hold affection for you. When I've got over that cruel blow. What am I going to do? Why leave it as it is, that's what I'm going to do. It will be the quirk that makes the sweater unique (sounds convincing, right?)

And Angeluna, you're right - I did put in the darker side, but took it out again. You can't usually come back from Tir na n'Og or if you do, your own world has disappeared and all your friends with it.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

I have been known to be rushing out the door casting on something 'simple' just to have a project to work on! I have learned to never take an object using black yarn anywhere. It is difficult to see, as are charcoal and navy!
I love your moon pic, Richard. We were to have a blood moon (eclipse) in our area in the wee hours of this morning - I got up a few times, but saw only clouds - darn!
Oh yes, a barge sank at Robson Bite and there was diesel fuel on the water. That was a real worry and still is, as that is where the whales come to rub against the pebble/stone beaches! There was some heavier fuel on the barge, so that is all being investigated.

Ronni said...

What lovely photos! Even if the weather wasn't really cooperating. My portable projects are socks or scarves or the French Market Bag. I have taken a lace shawl places too but I find anything where I have to concentrate or move markers or something isn't as flexible as other options. Although, when I was commuting with my hubby, he drove and I knitted sweaters. Plain stockinette ones in at least worsted weight or higher yarns though. No fingering weight Fair Isle or fancy Arans for example. Ravelry is worth the time investment I think but I'm still working on entering all my stuff. Actually, I'm feeling a bit shy about entering all my stash. It's embarrassingly large.

Liz said...

I'm so lucky to have found your blog. It's as comfy and satisfying as a Maeve Binchy novel, except with knitting.

cindyl said...

Jo -
In New Mexico there are these small round sage bushes dotted like freckles all over the landscape. I've always asserted (much to the hilarity of my friends) that those freckle-like creatures come to life at night and run around, changing places with each other and laughing as the sun comes up because what human driving by them is going to realize that they aren't where they were the day before (they all look too much alike to tell). And I live on the shore of a tiny lake in east Texas, my house facing east so that I watch the moon come up over the tree line across the water. When the full moon shines across to my house, the path is so solid I've often thought I could just step out on it and nothing would happen. I'd walk clear to the moon.
My mother would say this is my "black Irish" coming out in me. I don't even know what "black Irish" is (don't think she does either, she just heard it from her Logan father).
As for portability, I take whatever I'm having fun with at the moment. I agree with Jill though, there are those moments when nothing will do but to go into your stash room and be alone with yarn.

Julie said...

I really needed to see something beautiful this evening, so THANK YOU for sharing your photos. :)

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry but I have to dissagree with lauriem. I think that the first cross on the right hand cable is the only one that is right. On all the others, the bits going from the lower right to the upper left are going under the bits going from left to right. Am I wrong or aren't they supposed to go under, over, under? In any case, check them over before continueing.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, make that the bits going from right to left should go over, under, over.

cindyl said...

Oh, and eyebright. I forgot. Eyebright is wonderful for eye infections, tired eyes. I buy the capsules, since we don't have it growing in Texas, and make a solution, then wring out a cloth soaked in it, drape it across my eyes and relax. It really works. I use it on my dogs too, if they seem to have "weepy" eyes from allergies or whatnot. Some swear that taking the capsules combined with gingko improves aging eyesight.

Anonymous said...

All your pictures are lovely, but the one with the sheep on the road is amazing. Ireland Tourism should pay you for that one, it totally convinces me I must visit! In fact, I would pay for a print for my wall.

Portable knitting is invariably socks, but I tend to knit them slowly as possible because my sock drawer is almost full. I don't often knit socks for anyone else because I can't seem to size them for anything but the feet I brought with me!

Home knitting is something with a chart, currently the Girl from Auntie's Rogue. I'm working up the courage to tackle the fair-isle in the basket beside me...

Anonymous said...

Jo, you know you write the loveliest posts, right? Today's popped up on my RSS feed while I was still at work but I put it aside so I could read it at home tonight in the dark. It's always a magical moment, when I click on your post and the storytelling begins. Thank you for weaving such wonderful tales.

Anonymous said...

Hey, glad I found your blog! Will still have to read it from the start... but so far I like what I see and read.
I, too, think there are some cables crossing in the wrong direction (unless it is just the way you want them to go!). I am knitting another sweater of the same designer and know of what I speak! When I found a similar error in my knitting too far down to tink or just go down at that spot I cut the yarn, pulled the cable part from front to back and made a knot. There is no difference to see in the front and noone will ever notice!

Anonymous said...


That was lovely. Your posts are always a treat to the eye. You make me homesick for Ireland.

All the best,

HPNY KNITS said...

I so love your posts! is there a book coming of your lovely knitting/travel posts? I'll be first in line!

I read the Noro lady came for a visit, but how about YOU (and DH to photo) go to Japan to visit Noro?

Anonymous said...

I always have a sock to knit with me, but right now it's the Tangled Knot cardigan by Eunny Jang from the Fall IK. It's so pretty, and for once I actually bought the yarn recommended. And it's Rowan.

And your pictures, your beautiful, beautiful pictures of Ireland. If I didn't have to go back to school in a few days, I would totally blow all my hard earned money this summer on moving to Ireland. One day.

Anonymous said...

Love. The. Moon. Photo. I second Roggey - is there any possibility of inducing print sales? Actually, I can think of several photos I'd love...supposing I could afford 'em. [g] But I'd save up and get that one first!

So that's what eyebright looks like! Gorgeous little flower. Pools even on hills - oh yeah; here in the PNW. Trust me. If not that, a surfeit of mud and squoosh under the grass and ferns and alder and nettles and-- You get the idea. ;)

And carry-along knitting you don't have to pay attention to... Well, everyone's covered pretty much everything, except the following:
--neck gaiters (Those long, open tubes you can wear like a cowl collar, or pull up over your head to make a hood? They look very nice with a simple stitch pattern.)
--plain triangle shawls. If you know of anyone who just wants a plain shawl. ;)

SueJ said...

What a wonderful landscape -perhaps it is more beautiful under a misty sky than a blue one? Mayo appears to be a magical place. I tried to explain to my Mum, at the weekend, the need to have a range of knitting projects 'on the go' to suit all situations. I just need a 'big' project but I await the Fall Interweave Knits edition!

shandy said...

I really enjoyed reading about your trip. A little while ago we took a cycling tour of that area and experienced coastal winds and heavy rain for ourselves...were we glad to see that night's B and B or hotel! We were amazed by the recent evidence of depopulation everwhere, including the Aran Islands, let alone the ancient evidence. We did wonder if the ruined old stone cottages were left that way, in some cases, because they were in fact damp and draughty dwellings...

Anonymous said...

I NEED PICTURES! Love the sheep & the moon.

Bridget said...

I knit in LOTS of places: on the treadmill, walking around, on the potty, watching football, during teleconferences at work, even during traffic jams! I even knitted while in graduate seminars, which may be why they felt I wasn't a serious-enough student. I can do any kind of pattern on the treadmill or exercise bike, except anything requiring picking up. Watching TV, plain patterns (stockinette, or garter, ribbing or something with a small stitch repeat or a small number of rows in a repeat). I even did stockinette in the round while reading my Organic Chemistry as an undergrad--knitted slow and read slow, but at least I didn't fall asleep. Knit while waiting for my daughter's dance class, knit in line at Disneyland, knit at lunch with understanding friends. Even knit at a work party, when I was in the throws of Sock Wars. Have yet to knit in the tub, but I imagine it's just a matter of time.....

Bridget said...

Oh, forgot to mention that I've done everything from socks to sweaters to hats to scarves to shawls to baby blankets in most of these venues. And I used to knit walking around campus, with my yarn in my back pack, pulling it out as needed. Also, waiting for and riding on the bus.

Anonymous said...

I love the ability to "travel" around the world with the nicest and most talented knitters. The travelogue combined with the knitting is a very nice way to relax at the end of the day before picking up my knitting. Thank you for the lovely photos.

I am now to the point where I start a new sock pattern soon after finishing a pair. Have you discovered the Charlene Schurch sock books yet? There is a Ravelry group or you can just do a search of patterns and finished projects.

P.S. I too am planning a modification of Starmore patterns to create my first Aran sweater. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

Amanda said...

what lovely pictures! and your aran is just too tempting - i have to keep telling myself that, really i have enough projects on the go, and no, now is not the time to buy such a pricey book as the starmore...

Sam said...

To reiterate the other comments - Wonderful story and absolutely stunning photos!

How about a knitting across Ireland calendar? A photo of the countryside for each month with a smaller insert photo of the project you made. The instructions for the project could also be included. Then we'd have a beautiful calendar and a pattern book! :)

JenniferB said...

Your trip to Mayo looks delightful, peaceful. I saw your post on Ravelry (cone thread) and came to visit your blog, especially to see if you ever destash any of your coned yarns. I love knitting from cones. Anyway, I know Americans are said to be obsessed with their family lineage, so I guess I am no different. Part of my father's family supposedly comes from County Mayo--last name is Gibbons.

Anonymous said...

What wonderful pictures! I especially liked the last one of the moon and the moon trail! We just had a total eclipse and we had a clear sky! It is other-worldish to see the moon start to be eaten by some 'unseen' force until it is a visible moon but looking nothing like the usual orb in the night sky. Much more reasuring to see it slowly regain its 'normal' appearance of a full moon.

Where and what I knit differs with what are my current projects. I've found that complicated lace and frequently changing rows are best left to sitting on the couch at home (with or without the TV being on). For other places I judge a project 'portable' if I can work a row without needing to refer to a chart/pattern while I knit the row. A quick glance at the beginning of the row doesn't count. I even knit, with the other's consent, during a weekly meeting at work that often lasts 3 hours! I agree with needles that when my hands are busy I listen better!

You're newest project mirrors a project that is flitting around in my thoughts! It felt strange to see vague concepts actually worked out by someone else.

Thank you for taking the time to write your blog. I enjoy it!

Jocerane said...

Thanks for sharing so beautiful pictures and stories! I think it's prettier and more magical with mist! I love all those green shades...Well, this year, in the south of France, even if the heat has been there, it remained a lot more green than the other years...but the vegetation is quite different.
When I knit outside, it's while waiting for my daughters, at the doctor, or in the train : the knitting is the current one, except when it needs too much balls. Usually, my neiborghs in the train don't like when I knit : I need too much space!!!

Anonymous said...

Howdy folks I am in Port Mouton Nova Scotia and have a chance to buy a used...barely Aran sweater. The label looks very new as if it hasn't been washed much.Do these sweaters still have lanolin in them? Is it possible to relanolin such a sweater?
I ask because this sweater has a dry feel to it.
Geoff Smith