Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A New Year, Full of Possibilities

A very very happy 2008 to everyone. Gosh it doesn't seem like a year since we last exchanged this greeting, does it? Sometimes I look back in disbelief to how life has changed since we all got to know each other through weblogging and Ravelry. The isolation that surrounds every creative individual has been removed, and we are all able to chat, get advice, feel affection, obtain information, from like-minded friends at any time of the day or night. It's like a gigantic and warmly welcoming craft cafe and it's so full of possibilities, and we're all learning so fast, that I can only wonder what 2008 will bring.

Of course it's meant rather a lot of time taken up too, and I have been no more immune than anyone else to that bewildered feeling, 'where did the day go?' Quite apart from wandering happily through the innumerable patterns, notions, ideas available at the click of a mouse, there is also the constant driving necessity, not just to knit, crochet or create, but to do those things with the express aim of photographing the finished results and posting them so everyone else can see that we're keeping up with the Knitterses! A new kind of pressure, not of feeling like the only craft-minded person in the world, but of struggling to keep our heads above the water - sorry, yarn. It's small wonder that some of us feel the urge to slow down, get off the merry-go-round for a while, kick back and remember what it was like to have a long slow afternoon to yourself. Yes, OK, I know, it's a bit easier for me, because writing is my living, but certainly there are other things I could be doing than knitting frantically on a WIP because somewhere somebody is expectantly waiting to see the pictures...

How was your Christmas? Here in West Cork, as the sun set and the dusk advanced on Christmas Eve, wreaths of white mist began to drift across the hills towards the house.

The Little House on the Prairie looked mysterious and enchanted as the mists slowly crept closer. The weather got colder and colder, and on Christmas morning, the fields were white with frost. As close as we're likely to get to a white Christmas here, and particularly welcome because the more usual festive weather (which returned pretty promptly) is damp and wet and windy - ideal for snuggling by the fire.

But we were working on Christmas Day - or at least DH was, and traditionally we always go out as a team on that day. So it was a quick breakfast of porridge liberally laced with Baileys Irish Cream (another tradition) before heading out to the windswept beaches of West Cork for the annual display of courage known as The Big Swim.

We brought Sophy Wackles but kept her well away from the crowds as she would have panicked at the sight and sound of so many shrieking masochists rushing towards the icy Atlantic (and rushing out again almost immediately to down hot whiskies). I gave her a good run on an uninhabited stretch of beach further along the coast, which she enjoyed thoroughly.

Then it was home for hot coffee and mince pies, and a present opening session in the sitting room - with, of course, the formal photograph (have you ever tried to get three small dogs to sit quietly and look at the camera all at the same time? Not easy).

Yes, that nice loosely knitted washcloth had been made and wrapped for Muffy the Yarnslayer (she's there on the right, looking expectant), but there was a change in priorities of which we hadn't been informed. Muffy pounced on the nice rustling tissue paper and bore it off into a corner, while Depressed Sophy exploded out of her customary torpor and seized the washcloth delightedly. Cries of 'no, no, that's for Muffy, you can't have it', fell on deaf ears.

Ah well, we live in hope. Who knows, she may be requesting some little wooden needles and her very own ball of yarn soon. Could we have another Yarnslayer on our hands? Can there be more than one in any generation?

DH opened his special gift - not the only one, obviously, but the most important one as far as Celtic Memory was concerned. Yes, like the rest of you, I have been working away on secret projects which couldn't be blogged about because of the risk of revealing surprises to their intended recipients (it was OK about the washcloth, Muffy isn't that good on the computer yet and can never remember the password).

Here they are at last - the black cashmere socks in that nice twisted cable pattern. He loved them. He loved them so much he refused to take them off after the photo shoot and kept them on right through to bedtime. Wanted to wear them in bed, in fact. Total success.

But dear heaven, now do I ever know what others have meant when they vowed never to make another pair of black socks as long as they lived. They have my wholehearted support and then some! That has got to have been one of the most trying projects ever. Firstly, I was using a very fine cashmere which had to be doubled. That meant of course that whenever the yarn could split, it did. Secondly, it was black. Have you ever tried working with very fine black yarn at any time of day other than the morning and in any environment other than a brightly lit tropical beach? Well nigh impossible to see where you are and what you're doing, while if you drop a stitch - well, heaven help you.

It was worth it, though, to see how much he liked them. Wasn't it the Harlot who advised that if your man couldn't see the point of socks, just knit him a pair of black dress ones? She was right.

Only - ONLY - now of course DH is taking far more interest in things sockly. Like his innocent comment as we headed out St. Stephen's morning to do the hunt and the Poc Fada.

'Why are socks always started from the top? Why don't they start from the toe?'

Ah. Well....

I began to waffle about the cuff being far simpler and easier, and the hazards of toe-up design, but then gave up. He wasn't to know that the relative merits of one have been hotly debated against the other throughout the knitting world for quite some time. Nor would he really be interested. The simple answer was that yes, they can be started from the toe just as easily as the cuff. And (warming to my theme as I thought about it, since it isn't often I have a captive audience calmly driving and listening) there were many advantages to the toe start. Like being able to create to fit precisely, trying on as you go, and using up every inch of yarn instead of being left with a tiny ball that could have been used but wasn't, and is forever condemned to a small box labelled Itty Bitty Sock Yarn Balls (yes, I do have one, honestly).

But in that case, why wasn't I knitting habitually from the toe upwards? Good point. Well, Christmas is a time of new beginnings. (Is it? Well it is now.)

And so, when we got back from the hunt and the Poc Fada (back to those in a moment), a pleasant dip was taken in the rather more clement and welcoming waters of the sock yarn stash. And there emerged like a rather jolly festive elf, a nice ball of crimson and grey Online supersock which was duly wound into two balls

Starting from the toe is still a fiddly business for Celtic Memory - the crochet cast on, the careful working around with very few stitches - it's all rather slow and exasperating until you get on to the foot. But then it fairly gallops ahead and it's nice to think that when you're finished you're finished - no grafting to do, and best of all, no leftover yarn (as long as you calculate the length required for casting off fairly accurately).

Here they are so far. Well, they're beyond this by now - turned the heel on both yesterday and currently working up the cuff. It would be nice to get them finished on New Year's Day but they will probably take a little longer since the break is almost over and there are deadlines to write for.

It strikes me that this (i.e. the toe-up method) is a very good way to work out a new pattern or design - first on the instep, and then over the whole stitch count when you reach the leg, with time to adjust along the way. And of course for kneesocks, this way is ideal as you can really check the width you need at every stage. Yes, I think the next pair will be a Celtic Memory NEW DESIGN - kneesocks in a pale, natural or grey yarn, with cables of course, and twisted stitches, and a bit of devilment or magic worked in there somewhere. The kind that would protect you if walking in strange places. Keep you posted.

But back to the day's jobs. The Ward Hunt has met on Blarney village green on St. Stephen's Day for the last hundred years at least and this year was no exception.

Here they are, the hounds feathering around happily and behaving extremely well while toddlers were hoisted on to horses to get a taste of the atmosphere, and small boys ran around excitedly.

The stirrup cup was brought out ceremoniously from the Muskerry Arms (hot whiskey again, best thing to chase away the damp of a cold misty St. Stephen's Day).

Don't you love the way this little girl has clipped her pony to leave a furry heart on its rump?

The Poc Fada or Long Puck takes place all over County Cork as indeed it does throughout the country on St. Stephen's Day. Young and old emerge to honour the ancient sport of hurling, hitting the ball as far as they can along the quiet boreens. In older times one imagines this was done as a specific way of beating the bounds or marking the territory of one clan - now it's fun for everyone -

- be they eighty -

- or eight.

It really is heartwarming to see the passionate interest still being taken in such a very very old sport as hurling, which is chronicled as far back as the days of Cuchulainn and probably existed long before that.

There was some excitement yesterday, as the long-awaited new Knitty Calendar arrived.

I had really really hoped it would get here before New Year's Day and it did!

And look, look, LOOK -

My very own Pomatomus socks, photographed by me on the shapely ankles of my long-suffering friend Eileen. I'm March! I'm so proud I can hardly type. Who would have thought, a couple of years ago, that blogging could lead to this?

It's nice I'm March, because that was when Sock Madness started last year - after which knitting footwear was never the same again for so many. And it's doubly nice because I've just realised that I'm now Jo March - straight out of Little Women! One of my favourite books! Joy to you Amy Singer for all you do, with Knitty.com and with everything it gives us. You enrich our lives immeasurably with your generosity.

May 2008 bring each and every one of you the peace, the reassurance, the fulfilment you are seeking right now. And long may we continue to enjoy each other's company.

My little Finnish gnome has been working steadfastly and unceasingly throughout the festive season. He will continue to do so until Little Christmas, January 6, his candle flickering in the window to guide lost travellers (it's OK, this one is battery powered - I use real ones all the time, but for a window all night, electric is safer). May he guide you where you most want to go in the year ahead.


Anonymous said...

Happy New Year from all in Gougane Barra. Socks look great as always.

Becky Cheung said...

Interesting socks! ;)

LizzieK8 said...

It's always a joy to read your blog.


Barbara-Kay said...

Happy knitting New Year to you, my friend, from our household in Zachary, LA. We are relieved to know the dogs have not mastered the art of the password.

I told DH when I first saw the black socks pic, "she REALLY loves him!" Then I read your confirmation. Hopefully he will enjoy lovely grey socks in future offerings.

Anonymous said...

What a perfect New Year's post, not only personal but observing the knitting community's coming ever closer together thanks to blogging and now Ravelry. Certainly you bring an Irish twinkle to our eyes with great frequency. And your formal picture -- incredible. It belongs on the cover of some excellent doggy magazine as well as serving as your holiday card. Thank you for bringing Cork across the Pond to Cambridge.

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

Happy new year to you both:) The socks look fabulous Jo and what a lot of work at this time of the year:)

pacalaga said...

Happy New Year to you both, and your three fur-babies too.
My New Year's gift to you is this:
Judy's Magic Cast On. I used to prefer the provisional cast on for toe up socks until I tried Judy's. It's brilliant, easy, and I think Judy should get a Nobel prize.

HPNY KNITS said...

lovely holiday! who will not like wonderfully knit cashmere socks?!?

I am curious how you'll feel about the toe up heel. that was the part that I did not like.

happy new year!

knitspot anne said...

it's that photo of the dogs on christmas morning that caught my eye most! HOW adorable is that??
congratulations on your knitty calendar photo . . it's lovely!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Jo! Congratulations on the reception of your beautiful black socks, and congrats, too, for making the Knitty calendar. March is also a great month for you because of St Patrick's Day, which is my favorite holiday of all (which happens to coincide with my birthday, too!). Have a very good year ahead!

Needles said...

Congratulations on being Miss March. The picture makes me fall in love with Ireland all over again, but then all your pictures do.

I usually do toe up, but it's as much because I only know the the backward loop cast on. Its a horiible cast on, so toe up, for all its irritation is my choosen way. I've still not tried circs for socks, but I will. I've a couple sets now in my favoured size. Circs for socks and a new cast on are on the list of things to learn this year.

I love the New Year, fresh and clean and full of possibilites. May it be a good one to you and yours.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year! Though I don't often comment, I am always charmed and delighted by the magic you bring to life in your blog.

DeAnn said...

Wishing you a Happy New Year. Love your blog. Thank you for your magic of life.

Anonymous said...

Very Happy New Year! Please do try Judy's Magic Cast On...positively inspired!!! Love your family portrait and your beautiful March Socks. Richard's socks are a particulaly lovely statement of your love and affection. I forsee more statements of this kind in your future. You have thoroughly spoiled him now.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for such a joyful introduction to 2008, and congratulations, Jo March!

Here is a fun project for those tiny balls of leftover sock yarn: miniature sock monkeys! http://www.evelynclarkdesigns.com/products/product1-5.htm

Anonymous said...

I love your blog...love all of it especially the pictures and stories of your lovely little companions.

Your blog is enchanting!

Angeluna said...

Loved seeing the girls on Christmas morn. I've been missing them.

And huge congrats on the calendar! Can I say I knew you when?

Kathy said...

A very happy New Year to you from sunny, but rather cold Highlands Ranch, Colorado. I always enjoy reading your blog, usually while eating breakfast at work. May 2008 bring you lots of time for friends, family and knitting. I hope one day to meet you if my travels lead us to Ireland.

LaurieM said...

Hooray for the toe up socks! Good for you Jo.

I enjoyed reading your Christmas traditions. Thanks for sharing.

At our house, when I want on the computer, I tell the boys, "Get off the computer, Mom wants to get on the knitternet!"

Ronni said...

Happy New Year and congrats on the calendar location.

Thank you so much for all the lovely reads over the last year.

rho said...

Happy New Year to you and yours...

hmmmm Baileys and oatmeal huh? may have to try that one. I usually go with Maple sugar but..

Our Polar Bear Run was the beginning of December - and no I didn't do it... ;)

rho said...


what fun -

Roggey said...

Congrats on the lovely calender pic and Happy New Year!

Charity said...

Happy New Year, Jo! :0)

Anonymous said...

I find your blog interesting and charming. I am sorry that you feel pressure to finish things quickly, however. I read knitting blogs because I always felt isolated and now I feel like I'm part of a community, not to see if people measure up!

Happy New Year from California.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year, Jo!

Here in Washington, DC, we always go bowling on New Year's Eve. Not really a local tradition, but rather our own. Perhaps a throw back to hurling?


Anonymous said...

Looks like a lovely Christmas, Jo; Happy New Year! Beautiful black socks, and congrats on the calendar - what a gorgeous page. Perfect for March.

Loved all the pix as usual, but especially the hunt. Horses! The pony pic with the hunter clip is fantastic. I would've loved to try a hunt with my second horse. I walked him up to where I could look over a fallen tree once, and made the mistake of leaning forward a bit - over he went! Not what I was planning, since there was a nasty stub of limb sticking up dangerously. (And I was using the Western saddle, LOL.) Luckily, he jumped back out just as nicely. I kind of think he would've enjoyed a hunt. ;)

suesea7 said...

I love your blog - and especially the pics of the hunt! I saw this a few days ago and now, more horse pics! I would love Ireland, I know I would. Thanks for bringing it to me.

Dez Crawford said...

Congratulations on the Knitty calendar page! Woo-hoo! Smashing photo. Just wonderful.

The formal photo is divine -- appreciated all the more as I do know what it takes to get critters to be still -- and I haven't failed to notice the bit of blue on your wheel. It appears that we are both spinning the same shade of blue on the New Year!

I have enchanted myself silly with the hunt photos - hounds and horses - and the shaved heart is too precious for words.

Thank you for the photo of the little house in the field. We've had frost and fog, too, here in Louisiana.

Black cahsmere socks? You do love that man -- and they are lovely.

When I was a young girl of the ideal age to read Little Women, I avoided it like the plague, as I was such a tomboy that the title made me think it would be full of Proper Young Ladies and I wanted no truck with that. Years later I had to write about the author for a college paper and fell in love with the book, most especially Jo, who I wished I had "met" years earlier.

Thanks so much for your lovely blog and all that you share. Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Happy 2008 to you, Jo, and to all who "meet" here - thanks for the efforts to stay in touch and share your experiences.
Betty KU

Chris said...

I'll let you know next time the ravelers have a Colinette outing, there's bound to be a spring outing somewhere between skip north and Woolfest!

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the calendar shot! I am so happy for you, Jo!

Anonymous said...

Porridge with Bailey's? Hmmmmm...
Happy New Year!

Blogger said...

Easily Increase Your ClickBank Commissions And Traffic

Bannerizer made it easy for you to promote ClickBank products by banners, simply go to Bannerizer, and grab the banner codes for your favorite ClickBank products or use the Universal ClickBank Banner Rotator to promote all of the ClickBank products.