Sunday, January 06, 2008

New Ideas, New Projects - Just Give Me Some New Weather!

It's Little Christmas today or, as it's known here, Women's Christmas. Presumably that title reflected the day at the end of the all the festivities when the women could at last sit down, kick off their shoes, and relax for a brief moment. I like to think of exhausted country farmers' wives cutting a slice from the cold ham and pouring themselves a cup of tea from the blackened kettle on the hob, putting their feet up on the creepy stool with a sigh of relief. 'Himself won't be in from the fields for an hour or so,' they would say. 'Maybe I'd get a few rows done on the sock before he'll be roaring around looking for his tay.'

In fact, in older times this Women's Day was taken very seriously. I've spoken to elderly ladies in the far West of Ireland who remember it as a time when men were actually barred from the house for the whole day from sunrise to sunset. The women would gather in a pre-arranged farmhouse kitchen and spend the time in celebrating, eating and drinking, and talking. No man could cross the threshold - all the turf had to be brought in the night before and if they forgot something that they needed for the day's work outside, well pity about them!

These days in Cork at least, Women's Christmas is celebrated with great energy by the younger folk, with parties of girls booking restaurants months in advance for a great big hen night out. Clubs put on special evenings for them and enormous fun is had by all.

Me, I'd swap every last celebratory drink for the merest glimpse of sunshine. We've had rain, sweeping winds, more rain, howling gales, yet more rain, storms, and more rain, since late December. Every hill has its dashing torrent of white water where for most of the year a damp ravine wiggles its way.

For one brief moment the other day - after weather the like of which made you wonder if it was the end of the world entirely - the clouds broke and I actually saw a shaft of sunshine over the garden.

It didn't last of course. All too soon the black clouds swept across again, the driving rain fell in sheets, and the dogs, who had been lured into the great outdoors, scurried frantically for the front door and the haven of the fireplace. There really are days (mostly in midwinter) when I'd pay good leprechaun's gold for someone to tow Ireland a good bit further south into the Bay of Biscay. Say down off Portugal or somewhere. Or near the Azores.

Being indoors of course means one is constantly tempted by new ideas and new projects. I'm currently in love with Nancy Bush's Chalet Socks, having seen a really nice pair on Laurie M's weblog. I'm going to start them in a really delicious organic fingering weight in soft natural grey - I have so much of this that I can make them over-the-knee if it suits me, with no fear of running out. What? Make some available to the rest of you? Well, say please and then maybe...
Someone commented politely that the Online red and grey socks looked 'interesting'. DH was less polite when he saw the pic up on my blog. However, he wasn't here today when I was working on them, so I had another go.

One really must resist the temptation of multicoloured yarns. They look so lovely, we buy them as we might paintings, but the knitted object never looks as good as the skein did, and in any case, such a complication and conglomeration of colours totally distracts from the complexity of the pattern which someone worked very hard to design. From now on Celtic Memory is really going to try to buy only semi solids or total solids. (So what happens to the gigantic box of multicoloureds, one wonders? One might well.)

Then there are the Japanese books, which have been sorely trying my temptation factor. These divinely beautiful publications are enough to distract anyone from the straight and narrow.

The patterns in this book are not only superbly printed, they are totally irresistible.

This is the one I want to try first (yes, I know it's a Guernsey, not an Aran). I have the right yarn for once (a purple blue wool worsted on cone, got it from Texere Yarns in Bradford, always worth a trawl through the darker shelves on the upper floor if you find yourself in downtown Bradford). And I very much like this boat neck style - I'm seeing a lot of it in the fashion circles, in either dark blue or black, worn with a startling white blouse underneath.
And then there is the crochet lace, very much in the Irish style.

I don't know why I have to go to Japan to get Irish designs, but that's the way it is these days.

I'd love to conquer this one. I realise she isn't remotely like me, but it's the blouse I want to make.
So many temptations, so much to do in 2008. What are your top priorities?


cindyl said...

Okay. Stupid question, but I just have to ask it. How DO you translate a knitting pattern, using one of the online sites as you go, or do you read and write Japanese? And I have arrived at the same decision regarding lovely multicolored yarns, having just "ruined" two knitted caps for young friends because the pattern called for their knitting in two pieces, and I used Kureyon, so at the seams there's this distracting "doesn't match up," as my grandmother used to say. She always bought extra yardage, just so the pattern repeat would "match" at every seam.
Happy Women's Day.
Here, it simply means, I don't have the Christmas tree down yet, so I must do that before I can resume my Colinette shawl.

Anonymous said...

Dear, dear! It's a little early for Winter Malaise to settle in. You are not allowed despair until February. Think of the comforts of short days and warm hearths and all will be better. Have a cup of tea.


pacalaga said...

don't give up on those crazy colorways yet! they make wonderful stockinette or ribbed socks for those cold miserable days when you can't remember what sunlight looks like.
as for me, I am wishing for some rain. wanna send some down here?

Needles said...

Oh I love the idea of Little Christmas or Womens Day. I love the idea that they would have closed the doors and done the day just for themselves, and not allowed anything to disrupt them.

Needles said...

I meant to say that my knitting goal is to knit 2 sweaters. I knit one adult sweater in 1980 and then gave up knitting for good (the yarn was old fashioned Phentex - its no wonder I gave it up) till took it up again last srping. All those wasted years of not knowing knitting.

SueJ said...

I mean to carry on knitting socks, shawls & hats as I did in 2007 but to add at least one or two sweaters & something from Nancy Bush's 'estonia' book! Colourwork has let to be met head on by Mrs J!

Happy Woman's Day!

LaurieM said...

The more complex the color way the simpler the pattern must be. There's no harm in those multicolored sock yarns. They are perfect for a mindless, traveling sock and they really liven up the sock drawer!

Good luck with the Japanese books. I have one, and I think of it mostly as inspiration. I don't know if I'll ever knit from it. If you can handle that, you can easily master Alice you-know-who.

Marianne said...

Hmmm, Women's Day you say? I'm liking that! and as how Bobby left for DC this morning I'm thinking I'm doing right by it, although I am here alone, doesn't stop me from celebrating and making good times!
I agree with 'pacalaga'... the multicoloured yarns are wonderful for plain stockinette and ribbed, and also for the Jaywalkers! But I do prefer the solids and nearly solids for the patterned socks!
A very happy Women's Day to you!

Lynn said...

Would you like a quart and a half of spring, to go? We froze last week. I thought I was going to melt down into my clogs at church today.

My priorities, you ask? Number one will be enjoying LittleBit's last six months or so, chez nous, followed by figuring out what God wants me to do with the rest of my life once the nest is empty.

So many options, and still only 24 hours in a day.

Dez Crawford said...

Wow. Women's Christmas. I like that idea a lot. Over here the sixth is Twelfth Night, and the official opening of Mardi Gras season.

Our weather has been schizoprenic, well below freezing for a few days and mild for the next few, then back again. No wonder I'm sick.

I love Japanese patterns. They are usually so well charted you don't need to know a word of Japanese.

As for the variegated yarn, I find that certain types do better in textured work than others. Short color repeats and subtle contrasts can add a lot of interest to a textured piece. For the most part, though, my granny was right: "fancy stitches for plain yarn, plain stitches for fancy yarn."

Love the socks anyway.

Anonymous said...

And over here in MD, it's suppose to be up close to 70F by Wednesday!!! This year's goals are two stranded color knitting, and cabling without the needle - two things I fear the most! I'll gladly trade some warm weather for some more seasonable weather!

rho said...

Woman's Christmas I LIKE that - may have to start a tradition with some friends next year.

On the socks -a couple of things - they are super for simple ribbed socks and for the times you want to just knit - you must have those days.

And if you decide to get rid of them in a fit of craziness - you have my address ;D

I may be taking a top down sweater class -doesn't that sound like fun.

RecycleMicol said...

Oooo...can tomorrow be my Women's Day? We're already pushing Roc Day back a week this year at Heritage Arts...why not Women's Day, too?!

Seriously...I've spent 15 out of 17 days with my dear husband. He goes back to work tomorrow.

Ha-ha. Merry Woman's Day to me!

Here's to sunny days ahead...

Anonymous said...

I like Women's Christmas! I think I'll try to start it here next year. I am celebrating St. Distaff's Day today, I'm planning to stay at home with pots of tea and some cookies and my spinning wheel. I haven't done any spinning this month , what with taking care of my grandbaby, all the Christmas activities and trying to manage my grief. My corgie (do you remember the photo I showed you of him in his wheelchair when you visited me at Balboa Park?)lost his four and a half year battle with cancer on the 14th of December. I'm afraid I've been rather lost without him. Give your dogs a big hug for me, we have them in our lives for far too short a time.

Erica said...

Hmmm, Womens Day... Sounds like a must-have tradition in my house :) As much as I love and admire your work involving complex sock patterns, I get a smile on my face knowing that there is an Irish lass somewhere out there rocking loud and crazy socks! There is something to be said for the tranquility of stockinette. I also wanted to thank you for reminding me of the Dark is Rising series late last year. I devoured them all while enjoying faint glimmers of recognition from a read through many many years ago! Enjoy your day :)

Anonymous said...

I know the rain had you down but my brother was out your way over the last week and loved it. Of course it was 25ยบ here. He enjoyed the sites in Cork and my sister-in-law only had one thing on her mind and it was wool. I swear she brought home a whole suitcase.

Warmer but not dryer weather is heading your way. Cheers

Kathy said...

Oh I so like the idea of Women's Christmas. I may have to start that tradition here. I like the socks. I'd send you some of my beuatiful blue Colorado sky if I could.

Anonymous said...

Well, here in Portugal we've had rain since Christmas. And in the Azores you usually get 4 seasons in a single day. But from April on, it's another story!

MmmYarn said...

I agree with you on the Chalet Socks design - it's simply beautiful. However, all those traveling stitches did tighten mine up considerably and I ended up having to add extra purl stitches between the motifs to make them big enough to fit me. I recommend swatching! -- Kirsten

Desperate Housewife said...

Women's Christmas sounds awesome! With men AND kids banned from the house!

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you about using the multi-colors for complicated lace, cable, etc. designs. It's like mixing plaid and polka dots, to my mind. Much too distracting. I am mystified as to why I am always seeing perfectly good sock patterns in hand-painted yarns.


Love the idea of a Women's Christmas. Lord, I could use that. My husband's entire (Jewish) family comes for Christmas every year. It's lovely, but I'm exhausted by the end.

Anonymous said...

Chiming in late but I WANT a Woman's Christmas! I'll put that on my calendar for next year.

The blue Guernsey looks perfect for you. Have you cast on yet?

Hope the sun has been shining a bit more for you this week.

Unknown said...

Women's day...I wish I'd read that sooner, then I would have arranged a daylong stitch n bitch session. Next year!
What I would like to do this tear...keep my sanity with this horrid weather, design a Faroese shawl and have fun dyeing yarn!

Angela Cox said...

I can't stop spending time ogling yarns on Ravelry and seeing what projects people are making with them. The trouble is it eats into knitting time .

Charity said...

Jo, I've given you the You Make My Day Award on my blog! Pop on over and check it out. :0)

Sarah said...

Just stopped by from Charity's blog - lovely to visit. I had not heard of the Womens Christmas tradition before, but love the idea of these kitchens full of women; also love your red and grey sock but I'm thinking the same thing about only buying solids and semi solids as it's all the patterned socks that I really want to knit.