Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Will Someone Please Stop Me Digging This Bottomless Pit?

It's insane. I am well acquainted with the old proverb - the one which suggests that if you happen to find yourself rather far down a muddy hole - so far that you can barely see the light of day up at the top - you should actually desist from the energetic manual labour that is drawing you ever further downward.

So why can't I stop? What mad lunacy is driving me to continue with a project which has already taken up far too much time, has spawned countless sub-projects, and has produced to date absolutely nothing except a bigger list of non-knitting things left undone that were urgent enough in the first place.

I allude, of course, to the Mad Vest. That sudden brilliant flash of creative genius which had me dashing wildly for every skein, every cone, every ball of yarn I possessed, in the absolute belief that I was about to break boundaries, transcend experience, create the most beautiful fibre-item ever seen in the world, The One which would ensure my name going down in knitting history (and don't you copy it, I thought of it first!). I was over the critical stage of this disease, or so I thought, when I last posted. Little did I know that the fever had not gone away. It broke out again, in even worse degree, and I have been suffering from it since.

Angeluna observed that I could at least have taken pictures of the various stages of dementia before frogging yet again. Point taken, Angeluna, and for you and others who wish to avoid a similarly sad situation, I did just that at intervals during the past week. OK, I know they'll make you laugh. I don't care any more. Go on, laugh at me.

Here was a particularly silly idea, early in the week. I suddenly wondered if a combination of black mohair and pink fun stuff would make the perfect Mad Vest. I was cautious enough to try out a ripple pattern in crochet first, because (a) it's quicker and (b) it's easier to frog. You see? Learning a little, if not a lot. In any case, it didn't last long. I realised at just about the point you see here that I must have been out of my tiny nut to think I could successfully wear (could at ALL wear) anything remotely like this. A-frogging we will go, tra la la...

This was another attempt, in a nice thick navy chenille which hurled itself into Celtic Memory's hot little paws somewhere in the south of France last year. As you can see, it didn't get beyond the first row before being hauled furiously off the circular. The patience span was getting shorter every time.

Had enough yet? Gosh, you're a crowd of ghouls, aren't you?

Of course!, I cried, smiting myself heavily on the forehead. Blues are what I need. It's the colour I have most of in my stash after all. It suits me! How could I have considered even the most restrained of Mad Vests (is that a contradiction? Probably) without a whole scrumptiousness of blues? Down to the stash room quickly. Haul out another of those pop-up laundry bins (do you use these for stash diving? Aren't they ideal?)

H-ll and d-m-ation. No bins left. (Celtic Memory possesses several - more than several in fact - of these. All are now otherwise occupied with skeins of yarn, balls of yarn, cones of yarn, WIPs and UFOs. Oh sorry day!) Well haul them upstairs somehow. (Dropped a few in dark corners which will appear in one or other of the dogs' beds during the next month or so, slightly soggy from being loved a lot). Pile them all on the floor in the sitting room. Shut the dogs out (should have done that first). Start again.

Frog again.

Swear again.




(yes, actually, now that you mention it, there are a few deadlines looming...)

A ray of sunshine breaks in from stage left. Postie arrives with a package of magazines from darling Ambermoggie. Amber has been destashing and I got the Noro pattern books (yay!)

Oh my HEAVENS, look at that Ekeby vest! I'd forgotten all ABOUT that.

Never mind that I'm not that shape, that colouring, that age, that style. Never mind ANYTHING. I have to make it. THAT is my Mad Vest (for now at any rate). Noro, Noro, who's got the Noro?

Briefly considered frogging the half-made Halfobi jacket...

...but couldn't bring myself to do it (I know, surprising, considering the way I go on).

Ha! How about that Noro vest I started a while back? It must be around here somewhere. Oh there it is. How on earth did it get there?

Hmmm. Now that I look at it, I see that it's quite the wrong gauge - far too loose. Would look dreadful on me if I persevered and finished it. No, only virtuous thing to do is frog it back right away before it goes any further. And that would leave me with several balls of Silk Garden Lite, wouldn't it? Well isn't that convenient? Oooh, now for a nice little sit down in my favourite armchair with the Ekeby pattern...

Can you tell me why, why, WHY it is that when we know in our heart of hearts that something is going to turn out the wrong size, we still keep working on it? I mean, it isn't as if I hadn't realised it. I worked a few rows of the pattern in a larger needle and decided it was too loose so switched to a finer one and started again, congratulating myself on my efficiency as I did so.

Now it has been abundantly clear since Row 5 at least of the current version that this is going to be the shortest most miniscule vest since time began. Cropped isn't in it. Oh the gauge is absolutely right, it looks beautiful. But a vest which ceases abruptly half-way down my chest isn't really practical.


Why haven't I sworn, frogged, started again with an additional 12 sts or so to fit the pattern into a longer length?

How is it, I beg someone to tell me, that I am stupid, dense, slow enough to keep on knitting happily, enjoying the gradual development of the colours, the way this intriguing pattern works up (am I answering my own question here?) when I know it's going to be way, way, too small?

Dez, I know you won't laugh at me. You've admitted to doing the same thing now and again. But I bet no-one else has. Oh no, you all swatch, and block and measure and swatch again for safety, and then cast on knowing exactly where you're going and exactly how it is going to turn out. Oh happy people.

(it is a nice pattern though, isn't it? And the colours are cute, the way they evolve from one another. Clever Mr. Noro. Clever Jane Ellison.)

Celtic Memory became a little depressed. Just a little. Not quite despairing but definitely down. And what do we all do when we get a little depressed?

All together now -


Well done. That was a perfect chorus.

There was this nice soft ball of Austermann Step in the sock yarn stash. Wasser, I think the pale grey/blue blend is called.

Coming along nicely. Rib done on Sock 1, and now starting the rib on Sock 2, so they can work away together. It's going to be either the Broad Cable Ribbing or the Faggot & Cable pattern from More Sensational Knitted Socks. The Broad Cable would be easier, but the Faggot & Cable is really beautiful. Unfortunately it requires a real cable twist every 12th row, and for stitches as fine as socks I find I have to resort to a cable needle which annoys me inordinately since normally I just pull them off the needles and twist them into their new position. But if you try that on size 0 needles, you tend to spend a lot of time with a fine crochet hook picking them up again from whence they have merrily retreated, four rows down.

And I could start these socks because I have MORE size O circulars, hahahahahaHAHAH! This time the wonderfully generous gifter was Morgen in Washington State, who sent me this marvellous package:

Can you see what I got? You might not be able to, so I'll list them off. TWO size 0 circulars. TWO size 00 circulars (that impossible size to locate, these were HiyaHiya. Now, with the ones from Rho, and these from Morgen, I am well provided indeed!) A wuvly wuvly coffee mug, and some glorious white tea. An adorable mini sock blocker with instructions for a mini sock to go on it. And last, but most certainly not least, Steph's Casts Off book. And not just Casts Off, but a signed copy of Casts Off, especially for me! What are you like, Morgen? And all packed into what is absolutely my favourite type of knitting bag - a clear plastic one with handles and a zip on top. Morgen, you are far and away the biggest petkin. Lucky bag coming your way! Although how can I match that?

With all these new needles, at last I can join the big girls, those who carelessly and happily have several sets of socks on the go at once (you know who you are). In fact if I got my act together and really tried, I could put a pair of socks on one circular, and have even more on the go at once...

Do you think perhaps if I dampened and stretched that Ekeby vest really hard, it would turn out the right length after all...?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Sisters, Take Warning From My Sad Tale And Shun The Sudden Urge For A Quick Fling!

I don't know what came over me. I really don't. It's been a shocking experience and I don't really want to tell you about it, reveal my weaker side. But for the sake of those gentler, untried, younger knitters among us, who may learn and profit from my mistakes, I feel I must.

Sisters, I have fallen. You see before you a chastened Celtic Memory who is not fit to be called one of your elect. I have no excuse. You don't want to hear the sordid details (cries of, 'Oh yes we do!'). No no! (Yes, yes!) Oh all right then.

It started yesterday morning. All was bright and happy, the sun shining in a clear sky, the air crisp and bracing, a refreshing change from the heavy muggy atmosphere we've been labouring under in West Cork for the past few months. I finished dyeing a whole new batch of colourways in that nice merino/tencel sock yarn and hung them out to dry in the breeze.

These are, from left to right, Connemara Evening, Killarney Fern, and Autumn Harvest. They look a bit muted here because of the shadows of the tree, but they're actually quite a bit brighter. The Killarney Fern in particular is pretty sassy and determined. Angeluna, you know that amazing pattern for slashed-doublet-type cuffs on Wollmeise's site? This yarn would be superb for those!

The tiny crabapple tree has outdone itself this year in miniature red fruits; so many indeed that the frail branches are bowed down with their weight. It was the perfect place, though, to photograph Autumn Harvest.

I listed all these yarns on eBay last night. You can find them if you put 'Celtic Memory' into the search box in the Yarn section.

ANYWAY, to get back to the sordid tale, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself. The writing work was going well, and even some ironing had got done during an old black and white movie on TV, which always makes one feel better (although I wonder - do you have one of those ironing baskets that magically triples its contents when your back is turned? Mine does. I think it has inbuilt yeast or some other raising agent).

Work on the Halfobi jacket had progressed to the shoulder, and a creative Celtic Memory notion about incorporating moss stitch here and there was working out well.

(Funny how that Noro always looks so soft and beautiful in pictures, whereas up close and personal as it tends to be in knitting, it's quite rough and scratchy. But no-one ever says so! It's always raved about as if it were - well, a wonderful blend of wool and silk, which after all is what it is. But silk can often be quite rough, and so can wool - you should have tried some of the Irish spun bainins with which I grew up! But I digress.)

Life was good. And I fully intended to put in an hour or two 'twixt jobs on the St. Enda Starmore (see, I hadn't forgotten it, so there!) But then this - this whirlwind struck, this coup de foudre, this totally unexpected smash in the ribcage shock of need, of want, of - well - LUST, there is no way of avoiding that unpalatable truth.

Quite suddenly and out of the blue, without warning, I became consumed with desire for a vest (a waistcoat for any UK readers). A magical soft light vest in gorgeous shades of blue and turquoise baby suri alpaca. Now admittedly there was a germ of a base for this lunacy - namely two cones of the said b-s-a which have been sleeping quietly in their own individual special plastic container in the stash den for the past few months, ever since a grateful client pressed them upon me (no, I'm not giving you the details of how I obtained them, if I did you might try the same devious methods, and that wouldn't do at all).

But those two cones had been there without any trouble for a while, and could continue to sleep the sleep of the just. I had more than enough on the Celtic Memory plate (and in the Celtic Memory WIP basket - oh did I mention I bought a nice new WIP basket, one with rather more depth and width than the previous one which really didn't try very hard at holding several projects at the same time?) Yet in the space of a heartbeat, a serene and profitable morning turned into this desperate, undeniable, irresistible tornado-like force. I HAD to make that vest. I HAD to make it RIGHT NOW.

The cones were rudely shaken awake and brought upstairs. The house was ransacked for the right gauge circulars. (I don't want to tell you how close, how very very close - oh heaven, it makes my heart stop even now to think of it- the elegant rosewoods charged with the care of the Starmore St. Enda came to being ripped out of the beautiful cabling). Eventually, with a cry of triumph, a suitable pair were located in an earlier project I'd quite forgotten about, buried at the bottom of a rather big pile.

Isn't it maddening that when all you want to do is sit and knit on a consuming new passion, the world and all that is in it conspires to get in your way, and try to thwart you? Dogs whinged, shrieked, had thorns in their paws, wanted in, wanted out, wanted feeding. Gates banged. Postmen called. The phone rang - incessantly. Irate editors demanded copy. The fridge was empty. One d-n job after another. In between swearing and sorting, I knitted. And knitted. And knitted. Heaven was calling and I had to answer that call.

Eventually, though, even the most trying tasks are done, and there remains just the peace of the settling evening and your knitting needles. At last I could get on with completing the dream vest...

Only it wasn't. I had started with such joy and optimism, such warm and trusting belief that this, this at last was the Right One. I'd given it everything, without question. I had worked the ribbing, I had started the cabling. I had introduced the first stripe of turquoise. I had worked on. And on...

Why, oh why do we continue with something, doggedly, determinedly, when inside we have the increasingly chilly certainty that This Is Not A Good Idea After All?

About midnight I gave in. I looked hard at the travesty that had occupied my mind, my waking hours, the entire fibre of my being since morning. It was a disaster. Very slowly and deliberately (actually you can't do much else with a very fluffy suri alpaca) I frogged it back, rewound the cones, went down to the stash den and tucked them up in their bed once more. With an apology. I may have sung them a snatch of an old French lullaby, I don't really recall. The iron had entered deep into the soul of Celtic Memory.

Now look. It's not a pretty story. I had a happy life, work to do, a home to see to, and several lovely projects for which I should have been very thankful. I was secure (well, fairly). But I deliberately risked it all, let myself be tempted. I swayed, I fell. Into the depths. And FOR WHAT? So that at midnight, like a latter-day Cinderella, the magic would fade and I would end up in the gutter. OK, OK, so I wasn't in the gutter. But I'd betrayed all that I held dear for a whim, a quick thrill, a passion that was over before it had even begun.

WHAT MADE ME DO THAT? Didn't I know that nice girls stick with what is safe and worthwhile? That quick liaisons, one-night stands are not a good idea? That old friends are best? Evidently not. I can only hope that the suri alpaca cones will forget the trauma. That's the worst bit. That I abused them, brought them down with me.

It won't happen again. I've told you of my shame so I won't let it happen again.


All the same, though. I can't quite get the idea of a rather special vest out of my mind. A Mad Vest. Yes, that's it. You know when you have to go somewhere fairly tidy and you put on a dark jacket and dark trousers, maybe a freshly ironed white shirt and you look - well, tidy, yes, but - well, BORING? Now suppose when that jacket fell open, onlookers saw a flash of a spectacular, an amazing, a supersonic, shocking VEST? Something with exploding pinks and iridescent purples and eyepopping greens and golds? And then the jacket fell shut again and all was quiet and businesslike once more?

I mustn't. I mustn't. I must think of my devoted little WIP family that trusts me. I mustn't go there again.

I must definitely NOT go downstairs, climb to the topmost platform of the diving board, and take a header into the foaming and dangerous waters of the stash. NO. No way.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Oh The Instant Gratification Of An Immediate Download!

I succumbed to temptation last night. (Cries of, 'Oh really?') I'd been wandering around Ravelry you see (yes yes, it's all true, it is a black hole and it does take up all your time, hadn't you noticed how SOME people haven't posted in a month since they got their invite?) and had been sneaking a peek at what other people had queued in their Works Yet To Start (it's great fun, you feel like you're peering in the window or going through their stash basket while they're out in the kitchen making coffee). Anyway, I saw this AMAZING little jacket on Angeluna's page. Yes, it's all your fault, Angeluna, as usual, you knew I'd see it and fall head over heels in love straight away, didn't you? You do this all the time. You do it just to annoy, don't you?

This is the Halfobi jacket by Ivete Tecedor and the best bit about it is that you can download the pattern for a very reasonable amount right away! Now how good is that? OK, some of you, a lot younger than me, probably don't know a time when you couldn't see something, click a button or two, and own the pattern immediately, but some of us remember the bad ol' days when you yearned and desired, planned for the next long trip, sought out a shop, bought the cherished item, and carried it back to the homeland in triumph. Now, joy of joys, it can be Sunday night, or the start of a long holiday weekend, or the beginning of Lent or whatever, but when you suddenly know you can't live without a pattern, the instant gratification is there at your fingertips! Gosh, how I love the world of technology when it works!

Now, lest you think I'm going mad altogether and planning to make a cute little pink jacket, more appropriate for a Barbie-lookalike than an Attila-the-Hun doppelganger, the plan is (was?) to knit this up in Noro Silk Garden certainly (as the pictured one is) but to use the big stash of Noro yarn which was reclaimed from a Klaralund sweater which, although certainly delivering on the colour drama, did little in the way of structure and shape, and so was relentlessly frogged. It's a beautiful blend of blues, greens, turquoises, and will look stunning in this.

I said the plan was... because to tell the truth (as do all of us on our blogs, don't we?) having succumbed to the temptation of instant gratification and downloaded the pattern, I kind of got the taste for that instant grat (like the first heavily salted potato crisp) and began thinking how nice it would be to - well, just - just cast on, you know? Not do anything else. Not work any rows or anything. Just cast on, to see what it would look like.

And then, having cast on, I very virtuously remembered all those sage knitters who intone from their ivory towers that we must check gauge, get gauge, swatch for gauge. No matter if the world is ending, CHECK GAUGE. And for that you do need to work a few rows, right?

OK, so the Halfobi jacket is under way. Not very far, just a few rows up the arm, but it's under way.

So - she's started another project, you chortle. What a wreck, this Celtic Memory is! How many does that make?


What you DIDN'T know was -


Yes, even I got sick of myself and my ever-increasing stack of WIPs. I really lay awake at night and called myself all kinds of things. And finally I got stuck in and knitted constantly. At home, out shopping, in the kitchen, in the garden. Queuing, on the phone, walking the dog, having coffee. Yes, in bed too. (Can you knit successfully in bed? I haven't got the hang of it yet. Either you lie on your back and knit above you, or you lean uncomfortably on one elbow, or you prop yourself up... But I digress) Anyway it paid off. It took a bit of time but it paid off.

Flourish of trumpets The First:

Gazebo Lace crop cardi, front view.

Gazebo Lace crop cardi, back view.

I'm fairly pleased with this. It looks good. I could have made the sleeves a little shorter (and saved myself a few rows) but I'm sure as heck not going back and frogging from the sleeve cap. It's nice and I'll wear it. My own design, progressed from the initial edging pattern by Nicky Epstein in Knitting On The Edge.

Flourish of trumpets The Second.

The Fawkes socks are DONE! Yes, the phoenix rises triumphant from the ashes and soars aloft, glittering feathers fluttering in the breeze and magnificent beak opening in a cry of triumph. This is a superb pattern and I loved it all the way. It's a snug fit, though - to tell you the truth yet again, I could have finished these last night. I finished the first one, grafted the toe stitches and tried it on. Um. It was just that tiniest bit too snug. Could have done with a few more rows before the toe shaping. Tried to persuade myself that negative ease (the new catchphrase) was what I needed. But not that much negativity. On the second sock, reluctantly put in another four rows before toe shaping, and it was divine. Oh all right. Spent this morning painstakingly unpicking the grafting (and had I ever hidden the loose yarn end well inside the first sock...) and ripping back to the beginning of the shaping before repeating as before. But it was worth it. They are beautiful and I will wear them tomorrow with pride and my best clogs.

So that justified starting the Halfobi, don't you think? (Yes, yes, yes, I know there are other projects on the go, don't be a nag, I'm GETTING ON WITH THEM.)

Nice surprise in the post the other day. Dawn Brocco's divine book, Curvaceous Cables, arrived in a far shorter time than I could ever have believed possible. This woman has the most fiendish mind when it comes to cables and how to treat them weirdly and creatively. I can't rest until I've made all the projects in her book. Do you have it? If you do, you know what I'm on about. They are positively addictive!

And then, I was checking out Jane Thornley's blog, as I frequently do, and saw this absolutely incredible free pattern for a wrap she's designed. The things Jane can do with yarn and the way her mind envisages capturing things like leaves or trees or seaweed or rockpools in fibre - I don't know how she does it. There is no help for it, the Green Before The Gold Free Free Range Pattern has got to go on my To Do list.

(And that was before I saw the amazing Noro Ekeby vest listed in several people's Queued lists on Ravelry. Now there's a pattern...)

I don't have this particular Noro pattern book right now, and no prospect of nailing it down in the near future, but I live in hope. Actually I think this vest would look even more effective in shades of silky chenille, don't you?

An afterthought. I love, love, LOVE this idea of downloading patterns instantly and having them right there at the moment you most desire them, but isn't there a risk (as in all instant gratification) that once you've got them you might forget you have them? Downloaded designs aren't quite the same, after all, as thick paper sheets or laminated folders. They tend to get lost in one of your crammed computer files, don't they? I am reminded of this because someone somewhere mentioned Cookie A's amazing Twisted Flower Socks, and I realised that I had downloaded them almost a month ago. A whole month and I hadn't tried a new Cookie A sock pattern!

Now those are going to be a challenge! Lucky I joined the Cookie A group on Ravelry...

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Meanderings on the Mosel And Must Manage My Projects

Gosh, it's over a week since I last posted. Really sorry. Life sort of got in the way. You know, while drifting off to sleep last night, I counted up the current WIPs. That does not include the terrifying number tucked away out of sight in cupboards, baskets, under piles of ironing. These were just the ones actually being worked on at the moment, in full view. And there were eight of them. Isn't that rather too many to be dealing with at just one time?

There is the Starmore St. Enda (and for heaven's sake gang, it's ST. ENDA, ST. ENDA, not St. Edna! She'll be on her broomstick and sweeping down here in an instant if she sees that, and she'll blame me, not you, she has it in for me, does Starmore, I know she does, and so far I've evaded her curse, apart that is from Laurie M's heads up on the error in cable crossing and that was really more of a blessing or a preventative countering to the curse, where was I?) Oh yes, the St. Enda Starmore.

[Wow, you didn't see what happened then! I put up the picture I took most carefully yesterday and found it was horribly washed out and didn't show the pattern at ALL. Rushed down to DH desperately with the WIP, and bingo, in less than two minutes he'd posted this for me! What a pet!

I think what makes this pattern is the break in cabling every so often, where you finish up with one group of stitches and reduce them down to one, and then start afresh with a new lot. It makes it all stand out so much better. Elsebeth Lavold does much the same. I wonder if they thought of it simultaneously or...?

(Oh and here I will show my mean side for a moment and thank Laritza from the bottom of my heart for giving me that link to a glaring error in a Starmore sample, when I was wondering in a previous post whether she had a secret stash of disasters. It heartened me so much to be reassured once again that even Homer nods. There is, after all, hope for the rest of us. What? Show you all that link? I will NOT. I'm not that mean....)

There are the Fawkes socks. Now you don't want to see yet another picture of these. You're sick of the sight of them and so am I. For heaven's sake, how much longer am I going to take over these? Me who managed a pair in two days flat back in the craziness of Sock Madness? (although even then I was way way behind fiends like Knitting Momma who could throw off a devilishly complicated pair in less than twelve hours!) The heel is turned on both, and they're ready for the gallop down the foot. I am decided - Fawkes get finished TODAY. It is now a superbly sunny Sunday morning (we're getting a welcome Indian summer here in West Cork) and sundown is going to see those socks DONE! I have spoken. Ich Isolde!

There is the Gazebo lace cardi. Again you've seen enough pictures-in-progress. Only half a sleeve left to go before it can be seamed up and suggestions accepted for a suitable banding. What is KEEPING me?

The Swallowtail shawl. Ahem. Yes, well. Started this in such excitement.

...and there it remains. Yes, that picture does look familiar. I haven't done another stitch on it since. Heaven's sake, I can't even remember where I was in the pattern! Oh help! Lynn, I might need your assistance! You made this with no problems at all, as I recall.

Where had we reached? St. Enda, Fawkes, Gazebo, Swallowtail. Three more. Now what the heck were they? Ah yes, the Noro Vest, result of a weak moment when visiting Spin A Yarn.

Another one progressed just so far and no further. What kind of creature IS Celtic Memory?

Having to search the brain now. I had them all in my mind last night and even counted backwards as well, to be sure (you know those long hours when you can't get to sleep and everything you've ever failed at comes back in glorious technicolour). Oh yes, the Anniversary Socks.

These are the ones you will recall that are being made in a fine cashmere doubled, at knee length to wear underneath a long skirt. The first section was worked in a size 0, and then I had to await the arrival of some rare 00 circulars from the adorable Rho so that I could reduce the width appropriately. Those needles checked in on Friday, and now I can get on with the next section. Thank you so much, Rho, for sourcing these for me. It is a mystery why 00 is such a difficult gauge to get hold of in circulars. Addi Turbo Lace doesn't have this particular size at ALL. A pair of nice Galway Hooker T-shirts on their way to you in absolute gratitude, pet! (The rest of you, you wanna know what a Galway Hooker looks like, check it out on the Net, I'm not telling you!)

There is a seventh. I know there is. What is it? Ah, the tiny gansey from Beth Reinsel Brown's book. How could I forget it? (Quite easily actually, since it is so miniature.) A shame to leave it there, so close to finishing. Must get on with it. The problem with this one is that I started knitting straight from the huge cone of Cheviot and although the project may be miniscule, hefting a cone of that weight around isn't quite so easy. I'll think before I cast on next time. At least I think I'll think before I cast on. Never do.

The eighth? Another essay into felting. I had some Colinette Point 5 (that thick and thin one) which wasn't doing anything in particular so I decided to see how crochet compared with knitting for making felted baskets (the last one has been exceptionally useful as a project bag to carry around on my arm when knitting on the hoof).

Started this the other day when I knew I was going to have to queue somewhere for ages and needed a quick easy project. Crochet works up far quicker than knitting, besides being a lot safer when you're moving around, as there is only one stitch to drop, and I got the base done within half an hour, but there it languishes... GET ON WITH IT!

In the interests of full disclosure, it should be admitted that the Fawkes socks at least could have been well down the foot by now if it hadn't been for these -

Well could you have resisted them? Thought not. Saw them on Saartje's blog yesterday and simply had no control over my actions. Just grabbed my nearest handful of leftovers and got going. Honestly, they only take a couple of hours to make and they are so cute they should be labelled Dangerous. Saartje you are a generous and lovely person to share this adorable pattern with everyone. Fortunately there are several new baby friends imminent so all those tiny balls of leftover sock yarn now have a new life ahead of them. And I'm going to try them in slightly thicker yarn and needles too, for toddlers. Red and white for Christmas maybe? Or even tinier, with sweets inside, for the festive tree? Hold on, hold on, surely it isn't time to start thinking about the holidays yet, is it? Maybe it is. Life, life, will you SLOW DOWN for a moment while I catch up?

To excuse perhaps a little this outrageous delaying and putting off of projects on my part, I should explain that DH and I were on a brief working trip to the Rhineland for two days last week. We flew from Kerry Airport (quite my favourite, it's so tiny it doesn't even have its name up yet, and it's surrounded by bogland and mountains) to Frankfurt-Hahn. Now Frankfurt-Hahn is nowhere near Frankfurt - it's about a hundred miles away - but it is ideal for the Mosel valley and thus for weekend breaks. Which is why we were there - to do some research for a short travel piece.

It's a long, steep-sided valley, that of the Mosel, running north-south with lots of twists and bends, so they have to make a specially long fold-out map for visitors.

But a map can't give you an idea of the reality. This is such beautifully serene countryside, the vineyards covering the slopes and the tiny villages with their steeples tucked by the water's edge. We wandered up and down and in and out and had a lovely time for our brief visit. Angeluna you would have adored it - I know Germany is an old stamping ground of yours.

There were castles on hills

- and so many tempting weinstubes with jolly people enjoying the September sunshine.

It's a region famed for its Black Cat wine, and that moggie appeared everywhere, on rooftops, fountains, glasses, posters, and of course inn signs -

There were beautiful old buildings everywhere

and barges pulling enormous loads up and down the river.

Some of these barges even had a small car loaded at the rear, presumably so the skipper could go ashore in Antwerp or Koblenz or wherever he was headed. It was fascinating to watch the procession of barges and realise that they've been working this and the other waterways of Europe for centuries if not millennia.

Of course, being Mittel Europe, there were culinary temptations -

(well, we were there to do serious research, weren't we?)

I even managed to track down a yarn shop, albeit a very small one.

They didn't have anything I didn't have in plenitude already (so when did that ever stop you, I hear you comment), but I found a 2mm (that's about a size 0) Inox circular. Then had a panic in case the airport security wouldn't let it through (aluminium, dodgy), but stowed it at the very bottom of DH's rucksack with all his wires and connectors and charges and other paraphernalia essential to a photographer's existence, and it came through fine.

It was a lovely trip, if a flying visit, but do you know what impressed me most? On the way back through that fairly small airport, I checked out the magazine stall, without much hope, since no airport newsagent in any country ever has knitting magazines.

Would you believe they had dozens? I bagged just four as our flight was called, but I could have chosen from many others, as well as crochet, cross-stitch and other crafts. Clearly Frankfurt-Hahn has the right idea when it comes to magazines. Does anyone know if other German airports are as knitter-friendly? Holly, you should know if anyone does! I'd love to be sure, so I can plan future trips!

Small amount of stash wickedness during the past while. Fell hard for some superb Blue Heron Metallic which I saw on Ravelry and got some on eBay.

I think this colourway is called Water Hyacinth/Copper or somesuch. It has real weight and drape and would make the most stunning shawl. Would it be heresy to make the Icelandic Lace Shawl in this, do you think?

The bands of colour might be quite dramatic.

And then, searching for my Dawn Brocco pattern for that amazing cabled scarf without any visible means of support, I went on to her website and remembered that I'd always intended to buy her Curvaceous Cables Collection book so I did. Can't wait for that to arrive. Dawn does the most incredibly creative things with cables, doesn't she? Wish I could free my mind up the way she does.

Which means even more projects on the horizon, one would imagine. Well, as I mentioned earlier, the holiday season isn't that far away. I must post some more yarns on eBay tonight, to encourage people to get started. I have this superb alpaca/BFL chunky yarn which is so soft and gorgeous that it would make the most marvellous Irish Hiking Scarves. And there are some hand-dyed cashmere/silks to go on too. But first the Fawkes socks. Definitely.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Another Bad Attack of Start-Itis

You'd think there was more than enough to be going on with, wouldn't you? The Fawkes socks are both ready to start the heel shaping

and all that is necessary is a quiet evening with few interruptions (this pattern, it has been satisfactorily established, is not a good one for taking out on trips, into cafes, anywhere that there is likely to be distraction. The number of times that Round 6 was started on one side of the circular while Round 5 was bewilderedly waiting to be finished on the other does not bear counting.)

And the Gazebo lace cardi is progressing most satisfactorily. It doesn't look all that interesting in its separate sections but a picture will be posted when it's sort-of seamed up and ready for your advice on a band or edging.

Even the (whisper it) Starmore St. Enda is behaving fairly well. All right, all right, all right. It got FROGGED, OK? Satisfied now Laurie M? Satisfied now the rest of you who were laughing in your sleeves at the insouciant [look it up, girl, look it up] confidence of Celtic Memory daring to challenge Starmore yet again?

Yes, you were right, Laurie M, there was an error. But Blogless Vicki in SoCal (sorry, that's politically incorrect, BlogFree Vicki in SoCal) was righter in that she spotted the first cable as being the only one which was actually right. The second and third were wrong. As were all three on the first repeat (at least there was some consistency). Go look it up in my last posting if you want to. I'll wait here if you don't mind. Don't really want to revisit that again.

I really thought I could handle this. There was absolutely no problem with leaving it as it was, carrying on (only correctly this time), and keeping that first laughable, rather charming, little error as a reminder that we are not perfect and that only The Great Knitters in the Sky get it right all the time (them and Starmore, although I like to think Oor Alice has a secret boghole out there on the murky marshes of Lewis absolutely stuffed full of disasters). I even emailed the helpful Laurie to say so.

But the next morning it didn't seem quite as acceptable a solution. The piece was laid out, angled differently, pulled around, brought closer to the window so that a rare shaft of late-August Irish sunshine could hit it.



Oh d-n and b-s-t it. ALL RIGHT ALREADY!

It got frogged. It was painful. That beautiful aristocratic yarn being ripped back. I felt it was bewilderedly looking up at me asking 'Why?' 'What have I done wrong?' It was awful.

But it got done. And rewound. And all those pesky stitches picked up, every single one, angled the right way (you know I never could remember until I read the amazing Elizabeth Zimmermann who makes it all so simple and who said, 'Right side of loop first is right. Left side is wrong.') And then quite a few hours were put in. To get back to where we were in the first place.

Look, if you can see another mistake there, I DON'T WANT TO KNOW, ALL RIGHT? I JUST DO-NOT-WANT-TO-KNOW!

So, there is the St. Enda in progress. There are the Fawkes socks, ditto. There is the Gazebo lace cardi, ditto ditto. There also is the Noro vest - oh crikey, forgot that one. Where did I leave it? Better do a few more rows.

(No we're not listing WIPs here. These are just the ones out in front, on top of everything, where they can be seen. Cupboards are not being opened, piles on handy armchairs are not being plumbed. This isn't the Spanish Inquisition.)

So what do you do when you have four pleasant projects all nicely simmering?

Well done that bright girl in Row Five. You start another one.

For this I entirely blame Ravelry. (If you're not in yet, sorry, you will be soon, honestly, I know what it's like, I had to wait ages while intelligent folk like Angeluna who had signed up at the first moment raved about the fun they were having.) You wander round in that treasure cave, picking up something here, opening a door there, and finding the most amazing wonders.

I saw this delicious sock called Giotto, designed by Anna Bell. (You can see an example on Alwayscastingon's blog, if you want to go look.) It has an irresistible little folded picot top to the cuff, cables blended with lacework, and altogether the most come-hither air I have seen in ages (or since the last temptation anyway).

Everything got dropped. Down to the stash basement. Rip off the lid of the (by now very large) sock yarn container. Throw everything around. Select one of Celtic Memory's own hand-dyed merino-tencels, mostly cream with hint of blush pink. Spend ages winding up the skein on a swift that has an attack of the fidgets and keeps falling over. (No, it's not the kind you can clamp to a table it's a bit older than clever ideas like that, sometimes I wish it wasn't.) Look at yarn again. Decide it wouldn't look right for this pattern. Back to basement, repeat Steps 1 and 2. Settle on a cherished Sea Wool from Fleece Artist in a colour called Rose Garden but which to this mind resembles rather more that multi-flavoured ice cream they used to call Neapolitan. Repeat Step 3, only with even more collapses on the part of the swift.

Ahhh.... Cast on.... At last.

It takes quite a bit of time this kind of double cuff, doesn't it? You work away for ages, do a picot row, work away again, then pick up the cast on stitches along with the current row. Do you have a foolproof way of doing this? It seemed to me dangerously like that pet hate of all right-thinking knitters, 'now pick up evenly all around the edges seven thousand eight hundred and twenty-two stitches, AT THE SAME TIME ensuring that no one stitch is out of place and that no corner gets neglected...' Anyway we persevered, and finally had something worth photographing.



Looks a bit -

Where's the ruler?

Thought so. 6" doubled - that's twelve inches around. A bit large for the Celtic Memory ankle, one would have thought. And now the pattern says 'Increase'. Admittedly that's for the cabling and lacework, but still... And I'd even gone down a needle size from the recommended one, on purpose, since I'm a loose knitter.

And while we're at it, that colourway looks a bit - well, mawkish. Not strong, challenging, in-your-eye, look-at-me. Yes, I know, I know, any complex pattern should have a clear light yarn so you can admire the details, but this one puts me more in mind of twee tea rooms and pot pourri than is entirely acceptable.

Oh well...

The Sea Wool is frogged, rewound, back in the sock crate. The Fawkes have been rescued from the one single circular to which they were summarily banished during the temporary insanity of their mamma. (Hey, NOW I see the point of knitting two socks at the same time on one circular. It frees up ANOTHER NEEDLE so you can start another project! Sorry, sorry. Temporary lapse. Won't do that again.)

No more projects (have I said that before, can anyone remember?) NO MORE PROJECTS until these are done. Or some of them anyway. St. Enda (whoops, did you hear the rumble of thunder when I said that? She's listening, I tell you, she's listening), will probably take until Tibb's Eve. Not the Giotto in any yarn, not the Saxon Braid with its own side fringing from Nicky Epstein's Knitting on the Edge (although there is some delectably soft chunky alpaca/BFL begging to be used), not even a Baby Bolero for some imminent new small friends. None. Nada. Zilch. Moratorium.

Funnily enough, I'd been thinking about making an early start on Christmas gifts and then got an email from Gill at The Woolly Workshop reminding everyone that there are only so many knitting days 'twixt now and then. That Saxon Braid Scarf would make a lovely present for someone special. Maybe dyeing up a skein or two of the alpaca/BFL wouldn't break the moratorium, would it? I'll be doing some for eBay anyway, so it's hardly the same thing. At all.
Wonder how the pattern would look in the alpaca? If I just did the teeniest swatch...