Sunday, August 31, 2008

A House of Dreams And A Little Forgotten Treasure

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.


Ruth said...

Ravelry is insidious! How can I ever get any knitting done when there are so many patterns to explore!

Nancy said...

Sophie has been waiting for just such a moment.
(I found you on Ravelry!)

pacalaga said...

My goodness! Two machines in one summer. What are the odds?

Lynn said...

The girls and I all love Anne and her adventures. I thought the adaptation for public television was just lovely; I have it on VHS.

And what marvelous adventures *you* have. Thanks for taking us along on this one!

Sally said...

Thank you, Dear Jo, for taking us along on your adventures. I've loved Anne for so long...must search out that series and re-read! Perhaps the book on CD to listen while knitting...ah, heaven.

Anonymous said...

A lovely adventure, to be sure, with a stunning treasure to complete the happy ending. Congratulations!

Dana said...

And did the little house of dreams have the shells outlining the flowerbeds? What a wonderful story--both LMM's and yours. I've long wanted to visit PEI and you're not helping me with that...of course it's further from where I live, on the same continent, than from you in Ireland.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

So glad you found PEI. We lived there for six years and it is truly a delightful place - might not say that in January when there is a snowstorm and you feel a bit cut off, but you visited at the best of times.
Miscouche could be seen from our living room window. Sophie Gallant will be pleased to see her little machine in use. Such fun!

Anonymous said...

I too love Anne of Green Gables and reread the whole series from time to time. I really regret not getting to PEI when I was in Canada for a year as Mother's Help. You describe it so well, that it makes me want to jump on the next flight.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Part of me has wanted to visit PEI for a long time (because of the Anne books, of course) and part has been afraid it would be too commercial. It's so fun to see your pictures and know that PEI really exists as it did for Anne. Now I have no excuses not to visit!

Ruth said...

I just finished reading the rest of the story. Now I have to reread Anne. sigh.

Anonymous said...

I do look forward to your posts. There's usually a good story in there, and this time was no exception. I'm glad your trip to Nova Scotia was so rewarding and look forward to hearing more about the little sock machine. What a wonderful find that was!
Melinda J.

Anonymous said...

Dear Jo... Loved your PEI post... it is my favorite place in the whole world. My family has been camping in the national park at Cavendish since I was 11 (that would be 50 years!) And the park hasn't changed at all, although the Island has, a little.

I used to teach ESL, and when I told my Japanese student I was going to a "little place in Canada you've never heard of.... PEI" he jumped up and shouted "Annie with the red hair! My wife's favorite!"

It turns out the Anne has been a best-seller in Japan for years, and lots of little Japanese girls, like little American, Canadian, and Irish girls, dream of visiting Green Gables. I love thinking of all of us, growing up, looking for our kindred spirits.

Barbara M.

Anonymous said...

Anne of Green Gables is a wonderful series of books. I too have read and re-read them. Your vacation sounds like a treat. Thank you for sharing it.


Erica said...

Anne of Green Gables was always a favorite of mine growing up and is still read occasionally now and again. Thank you for the glorious pictures and what a find!!! Such a treasure, I'm glad it found its way to you :)

rho said...

can you believe it is possible that an avid reader - who's husband has said will read the back of a cereal box if there is nothing else to read - HASN'T read Ann of Green Gables - somehow I think it has to go on my list of books to read .... followed by a trip to PEI someday.

Anonymous said...

I too, have read the Anne series too many times to count. Your photos brought back lovely memories of my own trip to Green Gables a number of years ago during a (somewhat)leisurely move from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island.

Angeluna said...

Like Rho an avid reader through and through, I too have never read Anne of Green Gables. It sounded girlish and I was probably too busy reading about climbing K2 or Mount Everest or hiking into Nuristan. Obviously, I missed out. Thank you for this charming journey. And I am delighted to meet little Sophie.

Unknown said...

I loved your tale of PEI. I went there when I was a kid and fell in love with the place. I ADORE LM Montgomery's books -- confession: I just re-read "Anne's House of Dreams" for the 100th time.
I can't believe the sweet little gift the Island gave you! That is just the sweetest ending! Happy Knitting!

shandy said...

I'm going to the i-Knit event in Saturday and to the Harlot's talk. I commented once when you had just bought a little black stove. I can bring photos of the one we have which seems very similar. Was it the flue which was missing on yours?

Linda B said...

I was raised reading the Anne books over and over and in fact lived a lifestyle quite similar to hers in many ways. I wanted to name one of my sons Gilbert but my husband vetoed it! It's been a lifelong dream of mine to make it to PEI--maybe some day.

I actually try to avoid being on Ravelry much because I just don't have the time.

Jocerane said...

Wow Jo! Great post! Green Gables! A baby sock knitting machine!
Things always happen for purpose!

Cindy/Snid said...

That really is amazing! Wow.
I never would have spotted it, you are a good "junk hunter"! (and that's a compliment by the way...)

Anonymous said...

Oh Jo I can't tell you how happy I am for you. This story brought tears to my eyes, along with the previous story of your family knitting machine. What a joy! And, I think after a while you have to say this is more than mere coincodence. I have wanted to travel to PEI for as long as I can remember. Thank you so much for bringing it to our lives. I have all of the Anne movies and the Avonlea movies too. I'm 41 and still love the books and shows.

Mr Puffy's Knitting Blog: said...

The Roving Moss Cardigan is amazing! Love your pictures :)

LizKnits said...

Sounds like a wonderful trip and what a wonderful memento to bring home!

Tola said...

as much as i love all eight Anne books, plus the Chronicles and Further Chronicles of Avonlea, my favourite LM Montgomery book is The Blue Castle. i encourage all to search out as many of her books as you can, as they are all wonderful. <3 Tola

Anonymous said...

Such a charming post full of blissful treasures.

It is so reassuring to know that the PEI of our dreams, brought about by vivid stories from a gifted writer, is much the same.

Oh! Have a blast at I-Knit!!!

cath said...

A lovely story from my home province (I actually worked at the Green Gables house for a summer) - I'm so glad you had a lovely time! (Did you by chance find the Belfast Mini Mills while you were there?)

lark8girl said...

As if the previous sock machine story didn't make me weepy enough! This one sent me right over the edge. But with a smile. Thank you for sharing your very special find!

Charity said...

Oh, Jo, I so enjoyed reading about your trip to PEI. I've always wanted to travel there - that's where my family first lived when they came over years ago. And that sock knitting machine!! How amazing. :0)

Hellbelle said...

I have just stumbled upon your blog and read with delight your account of your visit to PEI. It sounds as heavenly as it is in my imagination! ;)

Twisted Knitter said...

I loved this blog entry of yours about PEI and was holding my breath at the end while you enthralled us with your discovery :-)

Desperate Housewife said...

I live across the bridge from PEI in New Brunswick, about an hour away in Moncton. I go to PEI at least a couple of times a year, (I would more if not for the $42 bridge toll) and I swear I feel my cares sort of falling away as we drive onto the island.

And I hope you had a pigout at one of the lobster supper places. They're the best!

Anonymous said...

I was led here by the mention of your wonderfulness on the Yarn Harlot's blog today. What a good writer you are. Thanks for the great story of PEI. And thanks for hugging SPM.

Aline said...

I just found your blog and love it. I was sooo happy you shared those moose pictures! thank you for your lovely writing and knitting!

Pixiepurls said...

I've been to PEi and Nova Scotia as well, fleece artist home is in NS and very much worth a visit. I loved both places SO MUCH! I also always wanted to go because of the books and as well the movie's. I was a little disappointed in the haunted woods because when I went it was too green and too bright out so I didn't want to walk through them. I told my husband we have to go back when it's october and I can wear a sweater and go on an overcast day for the full effect haha.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Jo for enjoying NS and PEI so much. Your descriptions made me wish to move south immediately. We know one day we will leave the north and retire somewhere, either the east coast or the west coast (where all our friends are). Our daughters are willing us to move to PEI and I must admit we were taken with it when we holidayed in Pictou, NS. PEI is a little like stepping back in time - quite precious in fact. Glad you had a great visit.
Janet MF up in Yellowknife, NWT (Ice truckers and all that!)

kimberly said...

Thank-you, Thank-you, for your wonderful post about PEI, Anne and the knitting machine. Reading your blog is a such a pleasure!

Anonymous said...'ve got me. First, I haven't read the Anne of Green Gables but now absolutely MUST! And I've got an 11 year old daughter who I suspect will enjoy them as well. Second, I am loving your blog. I was referred here by Yarn Harlot's description of meeting you and as one who is Irish by heritage and determined to visit Ireland one day, your blog will be my Irish heritage knitting indulgence!

lostarts said...

There's an Elsebeth Lavold KAL and I missed it? How did that happen?

I went to Ravelry, and looked around, but couldn't find anything about the KAL, although I did find an Elsebeth Lavold group to join.

Can you point me in the right direction?

Anonymous said...

32 stitches... mittens too, and narrow scarves? wide neckties? Strips to be sewn together into afghans and kimono sweaters? Wound into turbans?
Hooray for Sophie!

Vickie said...

Another treat in PEI is the Belfast Mini Mill, a must see for knitters ( where they show you the entire process of fleece to skeins and woven items. You just drive up to the yard where there are various farm animals in fenced off areas. My husband and I drove down east two years ago and we charted the trip based on LYS opportunities. Not all were still there, but the added treat of Belfast Mini Mill made up for it.

Mary Burke said...

Thanks very much. I've lived here for over 50 years, and I usually just see what we've ruined in that time. So much is lost! But glad you had an adventure. Belfast Mini Mills... and Fibre Isle yarns! they would have been good too. You must come back.

Darcys Knotty Knitter said...

I found you on ravelry. I love your
Rivendell Socks and the Wollmeise Wristlets and matching neck warmer and green is my favorite color:)Hugs Darcy

Unknown said...

What great fun and such a great story. Thanks so much for sharing. I hope you don't mind but I can hear my Gram's voice in your writing. She was born in Mayo, Achill Island in Pollagh. And you write with her lilt and I can hear her. Of course, she is the one who first put needles in my hands . . . mohair, a sweater pattern, with cables . . . why start simply when there are great things to be made!

Wendy said...

Like you,I have read all the Anne books (as well as everything else by LMM!) more times than I can count, and dream of a trip to PEI someday. Thanks for such a wonderful post that allowed me a bit of a vicarious thrill through your eyes and experience.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit to the Island and found a treasure to take home with you. I was a 'blow in' to PEI 17 years ago...(or as they say here, a "come from away"). I loved reading your account of the spell the Island casts...Do come back!

SpinMeAYarn said...

ach, it's me again,
all hail Ravelry!
loved this post, you write with liquid silver in the words....
so delighted you found Sophie in this way, to go with Maman,
i too long for a moment like this, in faraway junkshops,
my day will come, of this i am sure,