I'm back, did you miss me? I missed you. Couldn't stand the post-Christmas weather any longer, it had been a trying winter with some sad events; and the residual cough which inevitably follows upon the flu just wouldn't leave. So DH took me away to somewhere you could rely on blue skies and sandy pathways leading to warm seas.
Sanibel Island on the west coast of Florida, is one of my favourite places. Small, unspoiled and utterly charming, it has a laid-back atmosphere like the Caribbean - which isn't that far away really - but without the steel drum bands, fortunately. I like my beaches silent with just the sound of the wavelets crisping on the shore (unlike Irish beaches with their Force 8 gales - remind me to tell you the legend of Cliona's Wave sometime).
As some of you may know, the beaches of Sanibel are famed for their shells - the tides in the Gulf of Mexico bring in the most beautiful ones and keen shellers go out at dawn to search for the perfect specimen. There is even a recognised angle of the human body known as the Sanibel Stoop, brought about by shell hunting.
It was lovely and just what was needed. Wandered along boardwalks, cycled for coffee breaks, sat out on the verandah of our hut at the adorable little Kona Kai where the raccoons come questing for titbits at night, and thoroughly enjoyed the supremely upmarket window shopping in the discreetly camouflaged big-name outlets (Sanibel wouldn't be this charming and unspoiled without a lot of resources put into keeping it that way). Meanwhile DH took so many pictures at the Ding Darling nature reserve that his laptop rebelled and he had to make use of a back-up thingy just to hold the images.
And then, since we had to fly back via New York anyway, we broke the journey there and stayed two nights at another of my favourite hotels - the quirky old Herald Square on West 31st. This used to be the offices of Life Magazine and the corridors and rooms are decorated with prints from issues dating back a century or more. It's a real bargain by New York standards if you want somewhere to stay in the Big Apple, and it's far more fun than some of the huge anonymous plate-glass and steel monstrosities uptown.
Isn't Ravelry wonderful? Thanks to that network, I sallied down to Soho, to that delumptious cafe with the delightful name of Once Upon A Tart, and there met with -
Hila! Hila of HPNYKnits. And of course it was like we'd always known each other, because we had so many friends in common through Ravelry, and so many projects to talk about - see that lovely jacket she's wearing? And that hat? (We'd both come prepared for the icy February winds, but De Big Apple decided to have a summer day instead and threw out 60 degrees of sunshine, which made for some layer-shedding.)
Just look at what Hila brought me.
Two skeins of Sock Hop yarn (she knew I wouldn't be able to find it in NYC because it's only available on eBay) and - get this - she specially chose the American Pie colourway, to remind me of my trip. Isn't that perfect? This yarn is going to see active service very soon, in Sock Madness - I think it's well able for it.
But that wasn't all she gave me.
She gave me New York itself. In a knitted wall hanging. See the trees of Central Park, and the skyscrapers, and the blue sky above? This was one of those moments when you suddenly see the possibilities of yarn creations and get quite overwhelmed with excitement. This is going to hang on the wall right here by my desk from now on.
After lunch we went right next door to the legendary Purl where every yarn was utter luxury. I don't think anything under 50% cashmere, alpaca or silk would have a hope of even getting beyond the step.
Here's Hila having a trauma outside because, although there was a reasonable alternative, the yarn she had set her heart upon for a pleated scarf cost a minor mortgage (no, I won't tell you her decision. What do you think? Me, I virtuously left without a single luxury - only to bolt back in again five seconds later. A girl can only withstand Jade Kingdom cashmere for so long...)
Hila, the loveliest of times together. Soon again I hope.
Had also hoped to meet with Kitsa, another Ravelry friend, but our schedules didn't quite tally in the end. Never mind - we'll see each other in that amazing Japanese bookshop next time Kitsa.
Loved New York this time round, not least because I got to see some of the older areas where the narrow streets are still cobbled, and little Italian restaurants crowd cheek-by-jowl with fascinating tiny shops. And of course hours were spent in those to-die-for button/bead/trimming shops on 6th, in the Garment District. Who would have thought the world could have such unique artefacts in it? Shaded velvet ribbons. Seventy-two types of wood buttons (which wood do you prefer, madam?) And the beads - no, I can't think about those right now. Actually realised that a certain section of the Celtic Memory brain (the 'ooh that's a nice new idea' section) would have to be closed down for the duration of the trip. Too much stimulus. Isn't that a wonderful thing? Really too much stimulus. (This is a family blog, so I won't post stills from the camcorder shots of the Chippendales dancing across Time Square, elegantly clad in silver G-strings with matching bow ties. And I haven't worked out how to do that yet anyway - no good with technology.)
Yes there was yarn. Oh yes there was yarn. Now I can't fit everything into this posting so I'll just show you some loot and then leave finished projects (one good thing about long flights), yarn shops and a few other excitements for the next one.
Here's my own minor-mortgage purchase: Jade Kingdom cashmere in my adored-absolute-favourite poppy red. Good yardage - but what on earth to make with something so heavenly? A lace scarf in a divine pattern perhaps. Advice?
Some thick and sumptuous Karabella silk. Could only afford five balls so this is going to have to make the most incredible lacy top for glamorous parties, I think. Advice on this one too, please.
Blue Heron Beaded Metallic Wool, a skein each in two different colourways. Reasonably thick gauge and good yardage so should be able to get a small crop vest out of it, striping the yarns.
Just one ball of the new Noro sock yarn, to try. Angeluna, I'll heed your advice on this. I think I'll skein it up and wash it, see what thickness it really is, before trying anything. Actually it would make a wonderful scarf of shawl in those amazing Noro colours, never mind the socks. Noro needs to be shown off in full view. But then again, think of Noro kneesocks...
The joy of actually being in the US meant that yarns could be posted to my hotel! Took full advantage of that, which meant that on arrival, instead of falling exhausted into bed, Celtic Memory was eagerly tearing open the packages containing -
This - Knit Picks Andean Silk (alpaca/silk/merino blend) in two shades. I got enough of the darker one for a sweater with two balls of the lighter shade to add little trims if wanted.
- and this. Laines Du Nord Royal Cashmere. Again enough for a sweater and I know exactly the one - that top-down, ultra-simple raglan that I've been coveting for ages. (JanKnits of Ravelry, I can't thank you enough for giving me the heads-up that this one was on serious sale!)
Enough, enough. I gotta go do the laundry, pick some daffodils (yes, they're out), find somewhere to store the new stash, listen with attention to every detail of the dogs' tales of what they did at boot camp, dye some new colourways for Sock Madness, and generally catch up. Will post again soon, I promise, with all the details on yarn shops visited, famous designers met, secrets acquired on this trip.
But here's a taster to keep you on your toes.
Do you know who this is?
And who we have here?
Talk to you soon.