Sunday, December 09, 2007

Of Wind And Rain And Rescue Yarns

I have derived such delight from everyone's confidences about the books they read, the music to which they listen, and the movies they watch during this festive season. It was so lovely, not only to realise that so many shared what I thought were totally weird individual preferences, but also to discover new and exciting roads to follow. Tan you said I hadn't mentioned A Child's Christmas in Wales. I'd forgotten to put it in, but I assure you it is there - how could it not be? I love Dylan Thomas' musical phrases and evocation of magical childhood memories. And Gretchen mentioned Wind in the Willows, especially The Wild Wood chapters. How could I have left those out? When Mole goes off bravely on his own into the dark woods and Ratty has to go and find him, and they fortunately discover Mr. Badger's doorscraper almost hidden in the snow and know they've found safety - what delight to read when the wind is howling outside and you're curled up in an armchair. AND I forgot to mention the Little House on the Prairie series (but Needles reminded me!) - that first Christmas when Laura and her sister get a tin cup each and think it is the summit of all earthly delights, and that winter when Almanzo makes a desperate trip to save the entire town from starvation - they are classics. And one I didn't know about - The Box of Delights DVD to which Jocerane alerted me - I'll have to try that now! At present I am reading a chapter of The Children of Green Knowe in bed each night. Its magic is just the right feeling to fall asleep to.

Oh, Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening - didn't that evoke a response and then some! Pam says she has the edition illustrated by Susan Jeffers. THAT'S THE ONE, THE VERY ONE I WAS TALKING ABOUT!

Have you ever seen anything so enchanting? This is one edition everyone should have. Children should get it in their stockings one year, when quite young, and cherish it forever thereafter.

Speaking of lovely illustrations, Cindyl mentioned Tasha Tudor, another favourite of mine too. And I am now reminded to dig out Jill Barklem's enchanting Brambly Hedge books again, particularly the Winter one with its adorable pictures of mice preparing for the festivities deep down beneath the roots of the old trees. Magical.

Speaking of old trees, I went down to my favourite haunt of Killarney National Park the other day, despite the wild weather, for a fix of ancient woodlands. They were doing something to the very grand main entrance gates at Muckross so the way in was via a private estate road, through a part of the park you wouldn't normally see.

I paused (Stopping By Woods on a Wild Rainy Day?) to say hallo to these gentle giants who were rather quietly pleased to see me, I think.

and this splendid guardian of the woods too, although, as is the wont of trees, he didn't say much, just looked calmly into the distance. You could feel the power coming from him, though.

Now I know there are some of you (fortunate souls say I, who keep separate pairs of wellies by both the back and the front door right now, and a stack of ever-dwindling dog towels by both in a vain attempt to reduce carpet and cushion damage) who actually revel in the idea of wild windy rainy weather. And for you, I give this picture of Muckross as it really does look at this time of year. Reality versus the glittering sunny image that our tourist board would prefer I used (hope they're not checking up on me, I'll never get another commission from them).

View from outside the cafe (rather good scones, I have to say, despite the weather), at Muckross House.

But you know, even into the dreariest day some rays of sunshine fall. Somewhere along the route on that rainy afternoon, I somehow came by a rather nice big cone of exquisite thick/thin merino in the most gorgeous variegations of blues and violets.

It has a lovely crunchy texture while still being divinely soft. 95% merino, 5% nylon for strength. Wouldn't this be perfect in a kimono or Dogi vest? Or any kind of vest. A big scrunchy cuddly one with POCKETS? Or one of those handy little shoulder stoles with pockets. (Everything should have pockets. For seed pods, measuring tapes, rubber bands, handkerchiefs, scraps of ribbon or string... Ought to be a law governing all new knitting patterns.)

No, I'm sorry, I can't help you with that rather quick (and rather sharp) query. For some reason I simply cannot recall where or how that cone of yarn got into my car and home with me. Did it slip quietly from behind one of those venerable woodland trees? Fall off a lorry? Yes, I did find a lorry obstructing my path round by Lough Guitane, now I come to think of it...

Can you see a glimpse of blue-violet round by the back wheel there? No, neither can I. But it must have come from somewhere, because it certainly sat on the passenger seat beside me all the way home, singing softly to itself and chuckling happily at intervals while it peered out at the rain. It's amazing what you can find out there in the wild woods...

I'm going to list some of it on eBay later today, along with some seasonal white and red boucles for fluffy scarves and some NEW DYED MERINO TENCEL SOCK YARNS! I did these over a week ago, but the weather has been so frightful that I couldn't take the usual outdoor pics so eBay will have to make do with indoor

What should I call this colourway? Candy Cane? Cranberry Cream?

Finally got exasperated with my circular needle collection and actually got round to making a needle holder.

I'm quite pleased with this, especially as it used up some of my quilting fabric stash. I think I might make a few more as gifts. At first I attempted to grade the openings to each gauge of needle but that drove me mad in the end, so settled for equal-sized (or almost) openings throughout. After all, I might have several pairs in one size and only one in another, so that will be fine.

Another attempt at making a traditional Irish lace blouse.

This time I tried a blend of two very fine smooth mohairs plus a strand of glitter, but it didn't satisfy. The last time I tried, the motif was too small, now it is too big . You have to get a measurement that will fit into your planned blouse size and this one would have multiplied up either far too large or far too small. Try again. I secured a rather costly little cone of pure silk yarn in about fingering weight (the term 'costly' explains the surprising term 'little' since as you are doubtless aware, Celtic Memory normally goes for industrial sized cones of everything - one never knows, and there might be a crisis or a long winter, or... where was I?) Oh yes, the silk yarn. I had to go to London for a quick day and although it was mostly crowded and drizzling and trying, I did manage to get to the Handweavers' Studio in North London where they stock some excellent acid dyes, fibres and yarns. (They are posting on my dyes, since the airport would have had me locked up if I'd tried to slip them through in the hand luggage and nobody with any sense at all tries to check in bags during the present crisis-laden, queue-ridden airport atmosphere.) I also yielded to the blandishments of Nancy Bush's highly practical spiral-bound sock Bible and a couple of vintage IKs.

The silk is front right, partially shadowed by the reflection of my lens hood, with some little sticks of bright chainettes behind, and a cone of silk/wool in a pale almond green behind that. The silk/wool is slightly crisper and drier feeling than Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool, but will make wonderful Viking Socks. And the horribly expensive pure silk will be essayed in some traditional Irish crochet lace. Heaven help me if I have to buy more!

And hey, there is a Starmore (gosh, did you hear that clap of thunder when I typed that name?) link in both IKs! One has an interview with AS on the publication of Aran Knitting (yes it's that old), and the other introduces Jade S and has a very nice pattern for a jacket by her. So the annoyances of the trip were made up for by the loot. And I got quite a bit of sock knitting done on the plane, thanks to Rho's generosity in sending me a wooden KnitPicks size 0 that wouldn't be confiscated - thanks Rho, my pet. I like that KnitPicks very much - it's tough and able to cope with awkward tight stitches, but smooth and flexible too. And it seemed to match the Addi fairly well in gauge - as we all know, a size 0 is not necessarily the same from maker to maker.

You may recall I mentioned that Angeluna had been clearing out wardrobes and cupboards and disposing of unwanted items (the better to make room for more yarn, yay!) I decided to follow her example and found a frightening number of things about which I had completely forgotten. Large bags went to the charity shop, but I kept two sweaters:

The one on the left is cotton, the one on the right silk, both about what I would call DK and you might call worsted weight, off-white. Being shapeless and unworn for several years, they were on their way to the charity bag when I remembered that someone - it was you, wasn't it, Ms Knitingale? - regularly snapped up charity shop bargains and frogged them to rescue the lovely yarn. I remember I thought at the time that she must frequent better thrift stores than I, since all we ever seem to get remaindered here are acrylics and unidentifiables, but it clicked that this could be an opportunity to try the technique for myself. So they are saved, and one rainy day soon (bwahahahahahah, when have we had anything else for the past month?), I will get frogging. It should be a lot of fun and I adore the idea of rescuing beautiful yarn.

As I look from the study window now, the trees are bending in the gale force winds and the rain is sweeping across the hills.

A busy Sunday afternoon ahead. Yarns to list on eBay, some sock knitting to finish, a small railway to set up around the fireplace in the upstairs sitting room (never said I behaved like an adult, did I?), and the potted spruce tree to drag around from the back of the house to the front steps where it will stay until just before Midwinter (it comes inside for a few days then). May you have a cosy day too.


Anonymous said...

The forest is magnificent! Now I have to show lamentable ignorance [g], and ask, what kind of trees are those? (You'll have to forgive me; I'm used to evergreens. Lots and lots of evergreens. But I wouldn't recognize an oak if it hit me over the head. Unless it was with an acorn; then I could catch a clue.)

And thank you for all the pix of rain and green and mist and rain and more green. ;) Beautiful! So is that cone of merino. I nearly swooned, and started muttering, "My preciousss" as soon as I saw it. Of course my budget is replying sternly, "Not on your life, missy, the spree is over." - but it's sure lovely to look at. [g]

Good luck with that silk!

Anonymous said...

You slip just the right amount of magic into your blog. First the illustration and then your captured essences of real trees have me feeling more holiday spirit.
I am happy remembering all the magic in those books you mention and feel the need to get a few back onto my nightstand. Thanks.

Angeluna said...

Beautiful, magical forests you have. And such a sense of adventure. It is a joy to hear about all of your festive traditions.

And you have such fun with your treasures. Glad you got Knitting on the Road, you will love it. But really, really love your needle organizer. I have a stash of quilt fabrics, but my treasured old sewing machine is broken and they just can't seem to fix it. One day!

I forgot to mention last time that smells are such a part of the holidays for me. The cut evergreens, clove and orange potpourris, special things cooking, mulled wine.

Punkin said...

After seeing the illustration by Susan Jeffers and hearing about the book, I placed an order for it. I had forgotten how much enjoyment I get from illustrated books like that. I will share it with my grown children when they come home for the holidays.

Anonymous said...

I love the photos of the woods that you post--they make me look at our own woods in a whole new light. We've been ahving our own wild weather, though more of the snowy/icy variety. The waterfalls are all frozen and the only green around is on the evergreens that stubbornly refuse to lose their needles.

And speaking of needles, you're doing wonders with yours. Your Irish lace is looking beautiful!

Anonymous said...

I think your tourism board should reconsider the rain shots. I love the rain! Gorgeous.