Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Legend of Cliona's Wave

Sorry, I don't know where the week has gone. There hasn't been a minute to spare. Well, actually there was, once or twice, but whenever that occurred I found myself over on Ravelry ogling patterns and obsessively checking out Sock Madness to see if they had posted the divisions yet. That kicks off in mid-March, so expect plenty of hysteria. Lots of old friends back in this year, and tons of new ones too, which is lovely. Sock Madness is really great fun, and proves that we all actually need more stress and pressure in our lives.

But I promised to give you the rest of the news on the recent trip, since it involves yarn people and yarn shops. I'll do that, update on WIPs, and then, as promised, I'll tell you the legend of Cliona's Wave.

In the last posting I put up two snapshots of VIPs met on the trip, and this time here they are in full.

This is none other than Laura Bryant of Prism Yarns in St Petersburg, FL. You know, the genius behind those amazing yarn combinations, Cool Stuff, Wild Stuff, et al? I fell in love with her incredible eye for colour a couple of years back and when I knew we were going to be in the area, emailed to see if she'd let us call round. And she did! She was friendliness and courtesy itself, showing us all over her factory and talking about her ideas and designs. Aren't these pieces amazing? That coat on the right is a masterpiece of freeform work.

This is her sweater display room, where shapes and colours and designs all come together in a magical kaleidoscope. Laura is an artist first, last and always. She decided to see what yarn designing was like and brought to it all her artistic creativity. Now it threatens to take over from her artistic career, such is the demand for these one-of-a-kind skeins.

Interestingly, Laura told me that when she was growing up (and knitting, crocheting, crafting obsessively) knitting was right out of fashion. Nobody wanted to do it, and they thought she was odd to like it. I hadn't realised that had happened in the States. I thought the tradition had endured throughout. I feel better about the Irish not being too keen on it now, since it looks as though it's a natural progression and we'll be back to it sooner or later. Laura, it was the fulfilment of an ambition to meet and talk with you. Thank you for your patience, time and enthusiasm.

Once DH had dragged me away, we went on up to Tampa to check out Knit n Knibble. This gorgeous yarn shop, as its name would suggest, sensibly provides coffee and delectables for those suffering from yarn exhaustion and needing support.

And you need it, because this is an exceedingly well-stocked store, and I bought a lot of the trip loot here, including the very new Noro sock yarn and some Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool which I can never resist. They are very very nice people at Knit n Knibble - I invested in a single skein of Art Yarns beaded silk but when I got back to Sanibel, discovered that I had inadvertently been charged for three skeins. If you know the price of this stuff you will realise that that is no small matter. No problem - emailed, they replied with a toll-free number to ring, and it was sorted out in minutes. That's the kind of service you appreciate.

This is Kate, who was having a coffee and doing a bit of knitting before teaching a class there. They do a great range of classes at Knit n Knibble and owner Caroline said they were well over-subscribed on most of them. Kate was teaching one on gauge. Yes, gauge - that vital ingredient you ignore at your peril. What it is, why it's necessary, and, most important of all, how to get it worked out correctly. We talked about emergency knitting kits - those bits of work you wish you had with you when stuck in a queue or waiting room, and Kate said that not only did she always take one with her, she had an additional emergency knitting kit always stashed in her car in case she forgot the current one when rushing out the door. Now there is planning! Kate, thanks for the tip. I'll adopt it at once.

When we got to New York, I was determined to find Seaport Yarns which has very recently moved to a new home on the fifth floor of 181 Broadway (way way downtown).

They have a huge stock, but were still unpacking it - and in addition, owner Andrea was on her way to Stitches West the very next morning, so things were a bit frantic. Did pick up that Blue Heron glitter wool there though.

And how convenient that the Herald Square Hotel, where we were staying, is only a stone's throw from a legendary store, a little further uptown at 1201 Broadway, School Products.

If you've never been up to this third-floor Aladdin's Cave, then I suggest you put it on the must-see list for your next NY trip.

Here is another view for those of you who like to do a little armchair lusting.

- and here is the lady herself. Berta Karapetyan, owner of School Products and author of Runway Knits. She has run this treasure trove for about twelve years now, although the shop itself has been there for 60 years, serving as inspiration and source for designers all over New York. 'When we took it over, knitting had not yet taken off as the craze it is today,' she revealed. 'We were there as a supplier for the trade and for the occasional hand or machine knitter. Today of course, demand is much higher.' She and her husband import yarns from all over the world and also snap up one-off cones of unusual fibres and blends which are the real attraction here - along with their own line, Karabella Yarns, of course. Oh and Berta's amazing designs for both crochet and knitting. 'Growing up, I always loved crochet best', she told me. 'But then lately I began to want a smoother finer line, and knitting was better for that, so I began to design knitting patterns too.'

School Products is definitely not your typical LYS. It isn't the kind of place where you go as a beginner for guidance and advice and classes on how to cast on or how to work out what has gone wrong with a pattern. But if it is information on different yarns you want, and how a particular fibre will behave under certain circumstances, then both Berta and her husband are mines of information. I picked up a huge cone of undyed white ribbon yarn and wondered if it would take colour. Berta picked it up, rubbed it, felt it judiciously, and gave her opinion. 'Yes, I think you could have a lot of fun dyeing with this one.' And of course you simply never know what goodies are going to be found lurking in a corner or tucked away behind a rampart of camel, cashmere or silk. Yarns you just will not find anywhere else, unique, unrepeatable. For the yarnaholic, it's Nirvana.

Works in progress. As usual, far too many started, not enough finished. But some did get there. The Wollmeise wristlets and neckwarmer for instance - you'll have seen those over on Flickr or Ravelry, so I won't post them again here. Very pleased with them, especially the neckwarmer which I will definitely make again in other colours.

The jacket from Doris Chan's Everyday Crochet is coming along very well indeed. I'm delighted with the way the Blue Heron beaded rayon is behaving. Just a bit more on the body length, and then the sleeves to about elbow length, I think. It drapes beautifully already.

Rushing to get the Austermann Step socks finished before the onset of Sock Madness in mid March. The Sasha Kagan black crop jacket has the back and one and a half fronts done, and that needs to be finished up sharpish too, or it will be consigned to the hibernation cave during the aforesaid Sock Madness. We won't discuss the many and various WIPs lurking in different corners around the house.

Except to say that one of them is a Starmore - the St. Enda. Now given that one Starmore at a time should be more than enough for anyone, can you tell me why I thought it necessary to start the most complex Starmore of all, St. Brigid? No, didn't think you could. Trashed the entire stash trying to find the perfect yarn for it, tried an interesting linen/cotton (which required preliminary bleaching and serious washing to get the yellowing tint out of it), discovered what I should already have known, that linen/cotton is not renowned for its bounciness and drawing-in qualities, searched again, failed, and sallied forth to spend more than I care to remember on enough Sublime (that gorgous mix of merino, cashmere and silk) in off-white, to make St. B.

Cast on, worked ten rows, and decided that after all I didn't like St. B. Now I know this is heresy and there is probably a thunderbolt on its way from the Hebrides, let alone several from Ravelry, but honestly the shape is awful. It's boxy, unflattering huge and chunky (let's not even mention that weird fringing around the bottom), and would probably do fine in Arctic conditions. I prefer slimmer-fitting, lightweight sweaters. So why was I making it? Because it was a challenge. Because the knotwork was pretty. Because - oh all right, because everybody else was making it. Oh Ravelry, Ravelry, you have a lot to answer for. A sheep, that's what I am, just following the herd.

Tossed and turned with frustration. This morning came the inspiration to make the ideal slim-fitting polo or crewneck in Sublime, utilising some of Elsebeth Lavold's lovely Viking designs. Spent the afternoon roughing out charts for different combinations. Glanced sideways at Starmore's Fulmar (now that is a beauty, but why these heavy dropped shoulders? What happened to the traditional Aran raglan, that's what I want to know? Raglan isn't difficult, why are today's knitters satisfied with crude drop sleeves? Hey?)

Where was I? Oh Fulmar. Really liked the cuffs on that one - they have little interlaced designs all of their own. Wondered if these could be incorporated into the new Lavold. Redrafted the chart...

OK, I recognise the signs. Startitis gone amok. I suspect, from previous experience, that the right and sensible thing to do now is retire quietly and finish up one or two other projects. Leave this idea to mature for a few days.




All right, that's enough. Here is the legend of Cliona's Wave.

On the coast of West Cork lies the postcard-perfect little village of Glandore. It really is a lovely place, the gentle green and lush landscape running down to the glittering sea, with brightly-painted houses tucked along the shoreline. Very popular with holidaymakers and the sailing set.

When the wind is high, however, and the sea is rising, the waves crashing into hidden caves and inaccessible little bays along the shoreline here make a strange and distinctive moaning sound. This has been known for centuries and the phenomenon has always been called Cliona's Wave.

It seems that Cliona was a beautiful princess from a far off land who came here to marry a noble Irish prince. She loved this bay, and would sit for hours on the rocks looking out to sea, perhaps thinking of her homeland far away. One day, a huge wave washed her from the rocks and she drowned. However, this being Ireland, she did not die but became instead one of the Sidhe, or the fairy folk. In fact she became the Bean Sidhe Ban, the White Fairy Woman, with power to rule over all this part of Munster. To this day she haunts her beloved shores, calling to her subjects both on land and sea, and conversing with them. This is the strange ghostly sound you hear when the waves lash against the shore on stormy days.

It is also said that to hear Cliona's Wave is a fortunate thing, as it will solve for you any difficult problem you are experiencing at the time. To walk on the cliffs at Glandore when the storm is rising (only for heaven's sake do stay well back from the edge!), and hear the keening of the Bean Sidhe Ban, is to find your mind suddenly clearer, and the path you should take made obvious as if in a bright picture unfolding before you. To go this way or that, choose this partner or the other, even, heaven knows, how to design a new sweater - if you want a clear path, go and wait for Cliona's Wave. It will tell you.


pacalaga said...

Cliona's Wave would tell you that ALL the Starmore patterns are BOXY and SHAPELESS. Or maybe I would.
I dunno, the more I see of the Starmores' patterns, the more I think, "Meh."

Anonymous said...

What amazing yarnhavens! I will have to journey there someday...

As I will to Glandore. Thank you so much for sharing the tale.

Angeluna said...

Delightful post as always. So good to have you back.

Sort of craving that freeform Prism number. As for La Starmore, frankly most of her things are amazing designs and challenging knitting, but not the most flattering objects to wear. With the exception of some of her glorious colorwork things. I've broad shoulders, so the drop shouldered or better the modified drops work on me, but they would swallow most folks.

And I am such a Lavold fan, I think you have probably chosen your path wisely, perhaps from walking on the Glandore cliffs?

And please, save a little energy for Sock Madness or you will be worn out before you get there.

cindyl said...

I'm on my way. How on God's green earth could anyone not use a problem-solving wave?

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Cliona's Wave - how long will you be gone to sit and listen, Jo? Don't forget the emergency knitting! Smile!
What wonderful shops you found in your travels.
Maybe more yarn shops need spots to sit and knibble - it would be good for spouses that do not knit!

Cindy/Snid said...

I don't have the intelligence at the moment to write an interesting comment (coffee is still kicking in!) but I really enjoyed your post. The yarn shop tour (those look really dreamy right now!), the various projects and the story were all nice to read about ;)

Anonymous said...

How can anyone AFFORD Starmore's patterns, much less find the time and patience to KNIT them? I suppose if you live IN the Hebrides which are inches from the Arctic Circle and you must needs wear thousands of layers to survive, the boxiness would be necessary -- but gad! the knotwork and colorwork IS brilliant to us mere mortals.

Anonymous said...

Best thing to do with those oversized Starmore designs (many of which, like St Brigid, are from the late 80s/early 90s era of oversized everything) is to figure out how to scale them down-- use finer yarn, eliminate a few cable sections, whatever. We're looking for a challenge when we knit them, yes? So might as well customize the fit. I'm doing so with Jade Starmore's Rosarie vest, and it's coming out a treat. I want to do Alice S's Golden Gate sweater too, and I'm already working out how to delete a few panels (and recenter the remaining cables) to eliminate 8"/20cm from the original "small" size's circumference. I love her Hebridean yarn, too. Dang that exchange rate!
(signed) Gretchen

LaurieM said...

Those boxy Starmore patterns were created in the 80's when everything was knit like that.

I've been wondering about changing the shoulder shaping on those designs. I haven't the mental energy at the end of the work day to tackle it though...

Ronni said...

I love the cable designs and the colorwork designs but I have to agree that there's a definite boxiness to them. That said, there was a boxiness to everything clothing-wise when she was doing the Celtic Collection book and a couple of others iirc. Still, I see no reason why a clever knitter like you couldn't reshape it to fit what you want it to look like.

Lynn said...

So when are you coming back to Texas? What marvelous adventures you have!

Anonymous said...

The vest: I love the interplay of medium- and dark-value blues in the yarn, and how the crochet pattern is distributing them. (The plain underlayer was definitely a good photo idea, I think.)

I don't check Ravelry as regularly as Bloglines, so I haven't seen your Wollmeise pieces. Guess I better go on over there. . .maybe tomorrow -- it's late here now.

Be looking for you in the SM2 trenches!

Anonymous said...

Goodness, we could use Cliona here in the U.S. to help us with deciding this interminable primary season! Certainly, here in DC (land of campaign consultants and their families) there is a lot of moaning, but not much relief!

I have a Starmore project lurking in my "yarn loft", the loft in our bedroom where I keep wayward and frustrating WIPs. Perhaps I should be brave and bring it down out of solidarity?

So lovely to read another posting. I missed you!

Holly said...

If you want a Starmore - think about Elizabeth from Tudor Roses, it is lovely and fitted,

From Lavold - Vejborg still is one of my favorites and can be adapted to finer yarn than the pattern initially required.

Dez Crawford said...

Absolutely wonderful story, Cliona's Wave. How am I ever going to check off everything I must see and do in Irleand when, finally, I am able to visit?

I am still recovering from my trip to Stotches, which I was barely able to squeeze in this year, but was so glad I did. I think I have wool fume poisoning.

Oh, and thanks so much for the yarn shop vitrual tour. I am still drooling over the freeform stuff. I took Debbie New's "Cellular Automaton" class and her freeform knitting class and came out whirling with ideas. Taking a class with her is like taking jazz lessons from Ornette Coleman. Also had a stunning and inspiring all-day class with Lily Chin.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't help smiling when I read your earlier mystification about why anyone would want to knit socks. I felt exactly the same way. Then, out of curiosity, decided to knit one, and only one, sock just to try to understand the appeal. Then designed one and only one pattern. And the rest is history, having since designed dozens of patterns with no end in sight!

Catherine (of The Sock Calendar, The Sock Journal and more socks, socks, sock)

Unknown said...

My Gaelic speaking, Irish father, who named my younger sister Cliona Deidre, always told us that Cliona was the daughter of the Irish sea god and that the 9th wave is Clion's wave. If you watch waves you can see that they come in sets of 9 with the 1st being the smallest and increasing in size til the 9th.