Sunday, July 20, 2008

Merrily We Crank Along...

Who would have thought that one small century-old machine could occupy so much of one's time? Since my last posting, almost every waking minute has been spent working on that little survivor and by now Celtic Memory knows every nut and bolt, every spring, every millimetre of its surface.

And eventually, hard work paid off, and it was set up. A few false starts, but at long last -

- it was knitting! Not without the occasional catch, a dropped stitch here and there, but, after fifty years of lying hidden and unused, it was working! It felt like magic, and perhaps it was magic in a way.

I know I've said before what a great crowd of friends bloggers, Ravelers and knitters in general all are, but I'm saying it again now. I joined the Ravelry Circular Sock Machine group, asked for help, and down it came from all sides! Eirual spotted I needed a vital part known as a cylinder ring, and sent one from her own collection. Civilgrrl offered to make me a set up bonnet - another vital accessory. Pat at Angora Valley sent me an order of needles so quickly they almost got here before I'd hit the 'Order' button. Bonnie Smola did likewise with my order for an instruction DVD - and then, when I discovered she'd sent a more advanced one than I could use at this stage, said no problem, send it back and she'd replace it. Laura of Handwerks got a yarn mast and topper to me in double-quick time. And absolutely everybody piled in with advice, guidance, encouragement, help, even detailed pictures. What a lovely lot you all are!

Of course there are still hassles and difficulties and some days it seems like one baby step forward, one speed train backwards, but slowly, slowly progress is being made. When things get really difficult, and the same operation crashes for the seventeenth time, recourse is made to Little Barbie - a good name for the small toy machine, which has proved surprisingly effective and well behaved in cranking out nice narrow silky tube scarves. You have to keep a close eye on it for the first few rounds, often lifting the thread over the hook to assist the mechanism, but after that it works away very well.

Ten minutes or so of soothing handle-turning on that, and I'm ready to go back and tackle Madame Defarge. (Probably won't go on calling her that - but today it did seem to suit her rather. Don't ask about trying to make a selvedge at the top of a sock, just don't ask!)

As a result of all this light engineering, progress has been slow on The Summer of Socks.

The Koigus are getting towards the cuff, thanks be, and there is a determined effort to get them finished, out of the way, tucked in the sock drawer, within the next day or two.

Even took them to Cahirmee Horse Fair (nearly typed 'Sock Fair' there, honestly!) so as not to lose a minute.
Cahirmee is one of the oldest fairs in the country and still takes place in the main street of Buttevant in North Cork.

There are horses everywhere, big, small, piebald, skewbald, roan, bay, black, grey. Donkeys too, aplenty. You have to be careful where you walk, and also watch what is coming up behind you at a wild gallop.

The main purpose of the day is horse trading, and it's taken very seriously indeed.

...with the finer points of the animal being discussed in great detail before the ritual handslapping and handing over of wads of cash (it is customary for the vendor to hand back a note or two for good luck).

For some younger traders, having had to get up before dawn to travel to the fair was just too much.

- and the cafe was doing a roaring trade in pots of strong tea and full Irish breakfasts. So much so indeed that the landlord had to guard the half-door so that it didn't get too overcrowded inside. The queuers didn't mind - there was plenty to look at in the streets.

Isn't that a fine sock now? I wonder would ye make a set of four for meself, to go over the hooves? They'd be fine for a ceili, so they would.

It is really heartening to see these fairs continuing to be held as they have always been, on the streets of the little towns of Ireland. In so many places, complaints about nuisance and lack of hygiene and perceived risks to life and limb have resulted in such events being forcibly moved to a purpose-built, clean, empty site well away from human habitation. That almost always spells death to the ancient tradition. These fairs belong in the streets that gave them birth, and long may they remain there.

Actually managed to stay away from the sock machine the other day long enough to get a new batch of sock yarns dyed and painted up and hung out to dry.

It was about time I got round to it. Trying a new blend this time - 80% superwash merino, 20% bamboo - as well as the 50% superwash merino/50% tencel I usually work with. The bamboo blend gives a generous 400m to 100g which is good news for people who like more yarn to play with; it's also very soft and pleasant to the touch. The tencel blend gives 360m, but also has that added sheen which looks so nice knitted up. These have now been listed on eBay but only for a three-day duration, since workloads towards the end of the week will mean no time for packing and posting - got to clear them by midweek. You'll find them by putting Celtic Memory into the search box.

Woke up in the early hours this morning, feverishly wondering just how many WIPs there were lurking around the house (it's not a very good thing to think about in the early hours, be warned). Could only get back to sleep by deciding firmly that the top six would be assembled and worked on, in the order of closest to finishing downwards, and No More Would Be Started Until They Were Done. The So Near To Finishing Six are:

1. The red Koigu socks. Almost up to the cuff ribbing on both. What's keeping you?

2. Hug-me-tight seamless cardi in soft blue mousse yarn, worked in the Elizabeth Zimmermann style upwards to the neck. At the armholes on main body and both sleeves, so the careful decreasing starts now. Just sort out the math, OK?

3. The Norwegian grey socks for DH. One almost at the heel-turn, the other some way behind. Doesn't he deserve them?

4. The Trip To Oslo socks. Well sock really, since only one has been started. The fun bit of the decorative cuff has been done, in natural and red; now the long slow march down to the foot awaits. Do cast on the second sock immediately - you don't want SSS do you?

5. The Laminaria Shawl. This one has suffered more frogging than a large nature pond in the tadpole season. Advance two rows, frog one. Advance five at a gallop, frog four. Why can't you get your increases right?

6. The St. Enda jacket. No, you didn't know about this one, I was keeping it for a surprise. I'm starting St. Enda in charcoal Shetland, conveniently forgetting about the version in cream cashmere/silk which is currently dozing in its private, curtained, basket. Currently a couple of repeats up the back. Get on with it!

Feel so much better now that list has been compiled and published. Will have to progress them after that - won't I?

To my great surprise, GrannySu informs me that she has considered me worthy of the Arte y Pico award! I am touched and honoured, GrannySu. Thank you very much indeed.

Now - back to Madame Defarge. If I leave her alone too long, she might start bullying Little Barbie.


Luneray said...

This one has suffered more frogging than a large nature pond in the tadpole season.

This is a delectable quote.

You do have my sympathies (and empathy, too. I can't figure out why a simple combination of YOs and K2tog can bring me to my knees every.single.time.)

Jean said...

The yarn you listed on ebay is go gorgeous! I am so glad that I was able to purchase one. I just had to frog an entire sock (almost had it knitted to the toe), the yarn just did not want to be made into a simple sock, so I am trying the Sweet pea sock on knitty and it is turning out beautiful, hopefully will be able to post soon. Now I don't feel so bad about the three other projects demanding my attention. Hopefully someday my knitting projects will turn out as beautiful as yours!

Granny Sue said...

You're welcome! Your blog is fascinating, even for a non-knitter. Loved the photos of the horse fair.

Anonymous said...

It's nice to see your progress on the machine. The CSM group on Ravelry was incredibly helpful to me too! Good luck!

And I love the red socks, and the horses.

Angeluna said...

Oh Glory be, a genuine smelly horse fair and a lovely little sock knitting machine full of memories. Life is grand!

Did the sound of the sock knitting machine bring things back?

pacalaga said...

The picture of you and the pinto makes it look like that horse has a little flowered bonnet.
Good work on the Mme DeFarge. I had a Little Barbie machine like that, back when I DID play with Barbies. My Barbies had many an acrylic worsted weight tube dress to wear...

Anonymous said...

I also really enjoyed the photos of the horse fair.

I went to the Midwest Fiber and Folk Fair in Illinois this weekend, and I wanted to thank you for your mention last year of the "Dark is Rising" books. An audio copy of "The Dark is Rising" on CD made the five-hour drive really fly by.


Unknown said...

I have given you the Arte Y Pico award for your inspiration to blog land. (check my blog for info)

beegirl said...

Thank you for the horse fair narrative and pictures!

Dez Crawford said...

Three cheers for you getting the sock machine working! I bet it does your heart good, and brings back so many memories of your mother.

So glad to see a traditional fair in its right and proper place. What's a little horse poop on the streets once a year? But then I'm one of those odd ducks who finds the scent of fresh manure vaguely comforting. I get weary of the sort of people who try to sanitize every aspect of human activity. People have become so divorced from the pulse of the world -- for heaven's sake, at a horse fair, you should fully expect to step in a flop or two, so don't wear your best shoes, eh?

I don't know if I can handle this. Socks and horses and Irish breakfast all in the same post. You will please excuse me ... I have the overpowering urge to go fry some bacon.

Shosh said...

I just wanted to say that reading your posts about your knitting machine struck a chord with me, to the point that I couldn't not write something... My dad died just over a year ago, and he was the one who taught me to knit. I hadn't really done much knitting in quite awhile... until a couple of months before he died. I think I understand what you mean when you talk about the connection to the past and emotional attachment you feel... the way you felt your mother's "hand on your shoulder" - I had tears in my eyes. Good luck with your knitting machine...