No sooner are the Ravelympics out of the way than lo and behold, an Elsebeth Lavold KAL is starting. Tomorrow, September 1, to be precise, and me with not a dog in the house washed! I have had my suspicions for some time, but now it is become blindingly apparent that Ravelry expands effortlessly to fill every available moment and quite a few moments you don't have. It is fun though. And I can give it up any time I like... really.
(Yesterday I met the receptionist who I had introduced to the joys of surfing on the Net while sitting primly at her counter, so nobody would be any the wiser, bosses can be such killjoys, and she asked if I knew of any nice patterns for bazaar or gift items. Whoo hoo, another novitiate for Ravelry! Gave her a quick glance at the possibilities, and she signed up for the waiting list on the spot, saying amazedly, 'you mean I can just type in the sort of thing I want to make and it shows me everything that's been made already? I can't believe this!...' Neither can the rest of us really, can we? I mean - look back at your hobby habits five years ago and look at them now.)
But the Lavold KAL. I had started Ragna absolutely ages ago then left it to one side because it was looking a bit big and bulky (not to mention warm) for my lifestyle here in Ireland where it doesn't usually get very cold. I still loved the idea of those medieval tabs, though, so I'm thinking about making an open-fronted jacket or cardigan with a high neck. Will post pictures when there is something to see. Still in the brain at the moment.
The Rivendell socks are progressing again, having been unceremoniously dumped for Estrid during the Ravelympics.
This is a really lovely design, and I'm enjoying it so much I might just continue the little diamonds down the instep. The stitches are so tiny, though, that a cable needle (well, a very fine darning needle really) is necessary to avoid catastrophes.
In the small window of opportunity 'twixt the ending of the Ravelympics and the intrusion of real life, managed to dye up a whole new lot of sock yarns.
These are up on eBay now - about half and half merino/tencel and merino/bamboo, to suit all tastes. Must start making up special packs soon too, with a mix of all kinds of different textures and colours and fibres, for those who are thinking of making any of Jane Thornley's gorgeous designs either for themselves or as seasonal gifts.
Speaking of whom, have you seen this latest amazing design from Jane?
The Roving Moss Cardigan.
What that woman can do with colour and texture is incredible. This I have to make. Hope you don't mind my showing your picture, Jane - it's so lovely I wanted everyone to fall for it as much as I did.
Gosh, it's almost September and that means I-Knit Day in London! Squeeeee! Who else is going to this next Saturday? I'll be there, with bells on. Let's meet up. It will be crowded, it will be exhausting, it will be hell on wheels, and none of us would miss it for the world. Yarn Harlot, see you on Saturday!
Now - I ran out of time last posting and promised to tell you about Prince Edward Island this time round.
I fell for that gentle lovely little island big time -
- from the moment I caught a glimpse of the little lighthouse and the characteristic red earth of the cliffs, as we came in on the ferry.
Of course it's famous for Lucy Maud Montgomery and her wonderful creation Anne of Green Gables. Must have read every single one of her books a hundred times over the years, and loved every one of them, but wasn't quite sure what to expect on PEI - total tourism perhaps, the sort of over-commercialisation that you get in other places. But the Island does it so very well, and with such an evident sense of caring and thoughtfulness, that you never feel you're being manipulated or fleeced - not ever. Even driving to Charlottetown the apartness of this place was palpable. Cottage gardens filled with old fashioned flowers, rolling fields of grain, traditional wooden barns beautifully maintained, a sense of earlier times - it was so restful. It's not so much that they play the part of the island described so lovingly in Montgomery's books, it's that PEI simply doesn't appear to have changed that much since the early 20th century.
Well of course we went to Green Gables! Did you think we wouldn't?
(Mind you, DH had to be given a very quick run-down on the books, the characters, the plots, the places, the best bits, the next best bits, the absolute favourite bits, while driving over to Cavendish, where Green Gables is located, but to give him credit, he took it all very well, only occasionally looking at me with puzzlement as if to ask, 'Does a children's book really matter all that much?' Actually they weren't written particularly for children - Montgomery just wrote them for anyone, and myself I still happily re-read them with no problem at all.)
The house has been really lovingly restored - I keep on using that term, but it honestly is the one which applies most appropriately to PEI - such care is taken with their tourist sights that other places really should go there for lessons on how to do it RIGHT.
I mean - just look at this. Anne's bedroom. Now you know and I know that Anne was just a character created by Lucy Maud, but to most of us she is as real as a sister, and they realise that at Green Gables. All her girlish things are here, all the memories of growing up, including even the cracked slate which she broke over Gilbert Blythe's head for calling her 'Carrots'. It really makes you feel choky inside when you look at the detail in that room - and at the narrow little staircase down which she went on her wedding morning to Gilbert waiting at the foot.
And yes, the orchard is there, and they have a wonderful vegetable plot with all the lettuces and tomatoes and carrots well tended. And roses and hollyhocks, and the path leading down to the little footbridge into the Haunted Wood, just as there should be. You feel you're walking through Anne's life when you're there, just as you read it in childhood.
Look at this little girl being photographed in the garden proudly wearing her Anne hat.
Apparently it's a very popular location for getting married too - some brides even dyeing their hair bright red for the occasion. Laugh if you like, but I must admit that I went into the bookshop later on and re-read that chapter, where Anne and Gilbert pledge their vows under the old apple trees.
We had a wonderful time just relaxing and wandering around the island for a few days, not rushing, going where the little winding roads took us, and DH patiently putting up with my, 'Oh there's the old Silverbush farm! Look, that's the Lake of Shining Waters! Gosh, that's the village hall where Ruby Gillis -' and so on.
One place I was determined to find was Anne's House of Dreams. This was always my favourite - the story where she comes as a young bride to an idyllic little cottage in a seaside hamlet, the dreams she weaves there, the sorrows and joys she encounters. Had some difficulty establishing which area had given Montgomery her basis for Four Winds Point and Glen River. Staff at Green Gables, though ready with every detail on their farm, the outbuildings, and anything connected with the tourist centre, were unsure; but eventually tireless persistence paid off, and we were directed to New London.
Only it couldn't be New London. It didn't look right at all. 'It has to have a promontory, and a lighthouse for the old captain,' I exclaimed crossly, banging on the dashboard of the car and rattling the map yet again (it occurs to me that there may be some reading this who have never actually read the Anne stories. If so, you have my apologies. No you don't. You have my sympathy. Stop reading this right NOW, go find the first in the series, and don't come back until you've read them ALL. They are not SO just for children. They're for anyone who appreciates good writing).
We drove on, along ever-narrower roads, on some red earth dirt tracks even, until at last I knew we'd found it. This had to be it. French River.
There are trees behind the bay, there is a beach on which Anne could dance by moonlight, and there is a path winding up to the clifftop and the tiny old lighthouse. Yes, I'd found the right location. There was even a darling little house tucked way back into the trees which could well be the original inspiration, but it didn't have the stream that Anne's house did. Ah well, maybe every author is entitled to some license in making the perfect house of dreams. (I'd show you that little house, I would, really, but it's currently in the limbo of being put on CDs by DH along with thousands of others, so it will have to wait. Remind me if I forget.)
This wasn't all the joy that Prince Edward Island gave. It had a secret gift waiting for me. We were coming back from the House of Dreams hunt and stopped to look at a tempting roadside junkshop - you know the kind, with old armchairs out on the roadside and stuffed moose teetering by the door. Wandered up and down the dusty aisles, noting the surprising number of spinning wheels on offer here on PEI, including great or walking wheels as well as the smaller type (how come there are so many, and that they're not all snapped up, spinners among you, head for PEI NOW, they're quite reasonably priced). Niddy noddies too, both elegant and very evidently home-made, but rather too large to fit in a suitcase.
Just about to leave, decided to wander down the last aisle, checking if anything was hidden underneath the display tables (I'm always on the lookout for a teeny tiny folding table, the kind that looks like a footstool when folded, and can fit behind the armchair, but makes a nice little coffee table when opened up.)
Then, quite suddenly, I saw - this.
Only a handle, poking out of a box that was pushed right under a shelf, but it was enough. I tried to call DH but only a strangled croak came out. 'Twas enough for him to detect the emergency though, because he was at my side in an instant.
'Is - is it?'
'It can't be. I don't believe it.'
'Neither do I.'
But it was. And five minutes later we had loaded it into the car and were heading back to our hotel at full speed. At last we could unload the full contents on to a handy newspaper and examine our find.
Now what, would you say, are the chances, within a couple of months of being reunited with the most wonderful and precious family heirloom, of finding just another such? On Prince Edward Island? With a sock still in the cylinder? No, coincidence won't wash this time. That little machine was waiting for me and I was led to that dark aisle in that junkshop. No question.
All the bits were in the box which was the original packing case in which the machine arrived. I know that because of the envelope you can see on top in the picture there. We carefully, oh-so-carefully unfolded it, held it up to the light, and tried to read the address. Eventually DH photographed it at high resolution, and then enlarged it on screen.
You might not be able to read the address here, but you can probably see it comes from the Dundas Knitting Machine Co. in Dundas, Ontario. And can you see the lovely engraving of a knitting machine in the top left hand corner?
The little Dundas was bought, it appears, by a Mr. Arsene Gallant of Miscouche, Prince Edward Island. Thank heaven for in-room wi-fi! We searched for M. Gallant and found one in Miscouche who lived between 1860 and 1940. His wife (who died in 1948) was called Sophie. Of course she was! Now we had a name for our new treasure. And the makings of a perfectly lovely story in the future - the Tale of A Sock Machine.
Heavens above, Lucy Maud Montgomery might have known the Gallants. She might have seen Sophie working on it. The possibilities of her story are endless.
She is really tiny in sock terms this little Sophie - the cylinder has only 32 slots, which means a 32 stitch sock, while the ribber has just 16. Perhaps it was intended for children's wear, although you could perhaps get an adult size with thicker yarn. Time will tell.
So now my own beloved Maman machine has a little daughter machine, Sophie, to keep her company. Some day soon they will crank side by side. Sophie Gallant, wherever you sleep on the island of red earth and winding lanes, know that your treasured machine is safe in Ireland and being well cared for.
And thank you, Prince Edward Island. I truly did not expect such a gift, but I am so grateful you thought me worthy of it.