I have noticed very much over the past couple of weeks that postings, both on blogs and on Ravelry, have fallen off sharply among my acquaintances. Can this have anything to do with frantic last-minute clicking of needles and hooks as the deadline draws nearer for gifts to be finished, tidied up, blocked, tenderly wrapped in tissue and bright paper, tied with pretty ribbons? I would think so. Chez Celtic Memory it has been fairly frantic too, but at last we are seeing a tiny glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Nearly there.
Or we would have been, if the idea had not suddenly occurred late last night to make a last-minute gift for someone to whom Celtic Memory has cause to be grateful. Anne runs the retirement home where my father now lives peacefully (he will be 96 in January) and she gives him tenderness, attention and care above and well beyond the call of duty. She is making his twilight years very content indeed. And a little special present at Christmas seemed to be appropriate. (It would have been better, admittedly, if this had been thought about a little earlier, but things have been fairly frantic here.)
It was almost midnight. The next day (today) a trip was planned down to see Papa and leave gifts for the big day. That trip could just about be left until mid-afternoon, but no later. So - not too much time.
A shawl. Not a complex knitted one, beautiful patterns though there are, in abundance. Some other time. Not now. A crochet one then. Used to be able to whip those off in an evening in my heyday. Wonder if the skill has survived? Only one way to find out.
Hunted for a big skein of composite yarn which was an experiment that hadn't quite turned out the way I wanted. I'd blended superfine merino, kid mohair and a strand of glitter into what should have been the most stunning yarn ever, but wasn't, due to the misbehaviour of the glitter. Given the smallest chance, it kinked doubled, stretched, and generally made itself a pain in the neck. Couldn't sell a yarn like that - not every customer would appreciate that glitter runs by its own rules and can't be relied upon to arrive at the finishing line at the same time as everyone else. But if I worked it up myself, adjusting the contradictory lengths patiently as they arose, it would still be a beautiful and luxurious yarn.
Worked for an hour and then went to bed.
Picked it up again this morning and worked flat out for a couple of hours. Ta da! Done.
Well, without the fringing. How much time left? Half an hour?
Viking Knits obligingly helped. Didn't dare use Starmore's Aran - can you imagine the risks involved in asking a book like that to do a mundane job like this?
Ten minutes to spare, so put a quick picot edging on the top to make it look even nicer.
I hope she likes it.
I was SO PLEASED that so many of you logged on to see the solstice at Newgrange! It's the very first year, as I said, that this has ever been done, and it was wonderful to sit here and watch it, knowing so many of my friends were doing the same. It was very clear that morning up in Meath, although down here it was rather mistier.
That tiny triangle of light just above the hill is the sun trying to peek through as it rises over our corner of West Cork.
Here is a picture an hour later, looking the other way from the window. The tree in the centre is just catching the morning light, and far away you can just see that little House on the Prairie in its lonely field.
Speaking of the Little House on the Prairie, my knitting reading over the past few days has been Wilder's The Long Winter. It was very moving to read it again, and realise just how much privation they went through out there, where no food could get in for almost seven months, and they relied on crushing corn in a coffee grinder to make the most basic bread to avoid starving. She wrote from the heart, didn't she? Finished that book now, and on to The Dark Is Rising, to accompany these midwinter days.
There is a rather special and little-known site in West Cork where a very few go to see in the solstice at Midwinter. I'm going to go out there one day soon and get pictures for you. You'll see it almost as soon as I do, I promise. And maybe next year we'll see the dawn in there together? If you did miss the Newgrange Internet experience, I think you could probably still find it in the archive there:
With all the gift knitting to be done, there has been little time for anything else, but oh temptation is never far away. The latest must-do is the utterly gorgeous Schoolmarm Vest from Interweave Crochet (yes, the winter issue arrived at last):
This is so cute with its layered effect. Got to make it and soon. But what yarn? Maybe some of that mousse, double or triple plied? Certainly no more yarn is to be bought. NO. MORE.YARN.EVER!!! (You heard me.)
Angie has been talking on Ravelry about how nice it would be to see a really new knitting book - one on international knitting styles and techniques, incorporating chapters from people in different countries, with illustrations and pictures and history and anecdotes. Wouldn't that be a really nice idea? Rutt's History of Knitting is great, but it only covers the UK. We need a worldwide one now, with all the access we have to each other. I'm all for it certainly, and will be glad to put in my tuppenceworth. Yo Angie, you have some great ideas!
We went into Macroom yesterday, having a little time to spare (this was before the sudden notion of making the gift shawl for Anne). We called to Twomey's in the Square for bird peanuts.
This is Twomey's. You can get absolutely everything here, from rat traps to socket sets, nuts and bolts to dog kennels.
And here is Frank himself, exchanging all the local news and gossip while weighing out the peanuts (and adding in a pack of fat balls for the birds as well, as it's Christmas. We'll make a little festive tree out in the back garden for them with all kinds of goodies so we can enjoy watching them having their feast too.)
Then over to Cotter's Bar for morning coffee. Geraldine was busily serving the shoppers.
She was very interested in the red headband I was knitting (Celtic Braid, couldn't find either of my other two knitted headbands no matter how much I searched, and it was chilly weather, so back to the knitting needles, but of course as soon as I got home, having worked three quarters of the new one, didn't I find both, isn't it always the way?). I'm very proud of the fact that I encouraged this woman, who has been an expert knitter in her time, to rediscover its pleasures. She is now working simultaneously on a poncho for her daughter and a sweater for herself. 'Isn't it terrible to be doing two things at the same time?,' she said in horror. Oh Geraldine, you just wait...
I wish you could come in and share the cosiness of Cotter's one of these mornings while it is all decorated up for Christmas. It isn't actually as bright as it looks here - Richard used a flash - but rather darker and snugger, more intimate. There is a bright fire burning in the grate behind me - you can just see it. And do you know something? When Geraldine sees me knitting, she turns up the lighting in the corner where I'm sitting so I can see the stitches. How nice is that?
Sophy Wackles was depressed this evening.
She said her shares were going through the floor, and was worried that this might mean no festive dinner. I assured her that the makings of the said dinner had already been bought and stored, and she cheered up and went out and bit the postman. Who was bringing me two classic knitting publications, one from 1978, the other from the 1980s, I think, which are going to be savoured slowly over the next couple of days, after which I will share them with you.
Gales are forecast, and as I type, I can hear the wind getting up into howling mode outside. Nice to be snug in here, talking to you. But Christmas Eve tomorrow! I haven't even decorated the tree yet! How are you doing? What are your traditions for Christmas Eve?