Saturday, August 16, 2008

Meanderings With Moose And Efforts With Estrid!

There hasn't been a second to waste. There ISN'T a second to waste. I don't even have time to apologise for the long lapse since my last posting. Ravelympics are here and I have until August 25 (I think) to reach the finishing line on my marathon events, viz the Cable Steeplechase and the Sweater Sprint. For both of these I have entered the lovely but demanding Estrid out of the Elsebeth Lavold stable.

Here is the front, completed and blocking. Have just got to the armhole shaping on the back and laid it down to bring you this posting - hope you appreciate the sacrifice. No, the original didn't have armhole shaping, but I thought it would look more elegant, less bulky, with set-in sleeves. It's Lavold's own Silky Wool in Midnight or Navy or some such description of dark blue - colour 46 if you're besotted - and I'm working it on a 3.5mm circular - can you believe the insanity? Seventeen days, seventy million stitches on a thin little toothpick, and I chose to enter Ravelympics. Nobody forced me.

Actually the reasoning was that this particular design has been in the queue for quite some time and something as time-constrained as the Ravelympics might just make me finish it rather than starting, losing enthusiasm, and consigning Estrid to the ever-growing pile of WIPs hibernating in the stash room.

We got back from a travel job in Nova Scotia just before the start of Ravelympics. That was a good trip and one article has already been accepted for publication, while DH's pictures are on their way to Lonely Planet. Gosh Nova Scotia is beautiful.

This is the switchbacking coastal road along Cape Breton in the mists of early morning. You can spot pilot whales out in the waves as you drive by -

- but it's not that good an idea to take your eyes off the road, even for a second, as you never know who is going to appear, wandering peacefully on your side of the carriageway.

The most engaging thing about Cape Breton was the fact that the eastern side was totally Celtic, with signs in Gaelic, a College of Piping (bagpipes, bagpipes, not plumbing!), ceilis held in the evenings, and a general air of familiarity. The western side, in contrast, was totally French, with signs in the Gallic language, shops selling French patisserie, everyone speaking in Canadian French (not as easy to understand as the European version) and a completely different atmosphere in every way. Great fun.

Getting up early in the morning was a good idea as you often found the wildlife ambling around and willing to be photographed during breakfast (theirs, not ours).

Took this picture myself, I did, I did, with my own camera!

- and if you don't believe me, here's proof - the wildlife photographer in action, unaware that he himself is being tracked by a lens. Isn't it nice to see a moose against the dawn sky on a coastal headland with the sea below? By 8 am, he had ambled away into thick woodland cover where he would remain until after dusk (no, no, the moose, not DH, do pay attention).

Cheticamp, where we met the moose, is famed for its hooked rugs and naturally I fell totally for these.

I love the primitive style of this one, seen in a wayside cafe,

and the effect of this one, seen in a tourist information centre, is spectacular. Memo to self: when oh when are you going to do some rug hooking? Are you waiting to be asked or something?

River John, which produces those cunning Swing needles, had to be visited:

It's based within the Lismore Sheep Farm Wool Shop, seen here, and the lovely, touchable, hand-made wooden needles are marvellous.

Of course a pair of the Swing needles had to be bought - you don't turn the work, you slip the knob off the end of the needle and start again with a second ball of yarn. Gives most unusual results.

So why haven't I got a picture of the Swing needles? Because I can't find where I put them when I got home, that's why. Will post them another day.

Yes there was yarn - and yarn designers too. Gosh, isn't Nova Scotia amazing for producing such luminaries? Fleece Artist, Lucy Neatby, Ilga Leja, Jane Thornley, believe it or not, all live within hailing distance of each other. Although on reflection, that might be self-explanatory when you think about it. Encouragement and inspiration maybe? Hadn't intended to call in on any of them, since they probably get quite enough unwanted visitors dropping by without my adding to their number, but by happy chance, when I was passing through White Point on the south coast, guess who just happened to be holding a week-long workshop there...

- and she didn't mind my dropping in at all!

Jane Thornley and I have been corresponding for some time (don't be too surprised if there is an Irish workshop on the horizon...), but this was the first occasion we had met in reality. She was teaching this amazing course on how to knit your very own beach.

You should see the prototype vest she'd created. Beautiful! Jane has that enviable skill of seeing no limits, no constraints, no boundaries to creativity. She calls this kind of work Evocative Knitting, and to sit in, if only for a short time, and listen and learn, was quite an experience.

The students had walked the beaches at White Point, looking, seeing, visualising, and then, with all their yarns spread around them, were recreating all the different aspects of a beach, from sand to shells, foam to seaweed, ocean waves to shoreline grass. Absolutely anything goes as far as Jane is concerned, and her constant theme was to push the boundaries, go for what you see in your mind's eye and recreate it in texture, in colour, in stitch and shape. Wonderful!

This is lovely Maggie who prefers to sit on the floor with all her yarns and needles and hooks around her to create her one-of-a-kind projects. Maggie is another one of those great people who can do absolutely anything - show her an idea and she just runs with it. Her rendering of the Knit A Beach vest was going to incorporate lovely v-shaped godets in the back of the jacket. When I asked about an interesting way of edging a cuff, she whipped up a crochet hook and some yarn and showed me how to do it, right there and then.

And she has the warmest, friendliest hug I've ever experienced. So happy to have met you, Maggie!

Everybody at the session, from seasoned knitters to semi-beginners, was enthused and energetic, and they were all so welcoming to this unexpected visitor. One lady (I thought I had a note of your name, I'm so sorry, if you see this, do leave a comment!), upon my admiring a beautiful ball of yarn in her stash, just upped and gave it to me! Just like that!

This is Mitsuri, mostly cotton with a little wool, and it was completely new to me. I hadn't even suspected its existence until I saw it there.

It soon had companions on the trip of course. You can't go to Nova Scotia, and not call in to Baadeck Yarns on Cape Breton.

Isn't this the sweetest little place? Look at that Great Wheel mounted on the wall? OK, OK, you want to go inside. Your wish is my command.

It was a treasure trove. Kathryn (Fleece Artist) dyes colourways especially for Baadeck Yarns, most notably the beautifully misty Cape Breton Highlands in shades of lavenders and greens. Had to send DH outside to work on his pictures on the laptop while I wandered around hyperventilating at the sight of so much Fleece Artist and HandMaiden in one place.

But yarn and patterns and books were to be had everywhere. Oh Mother Ireland, what is wrong with you that the far-off colonies where your children settled treasure the old ways while you're trying to forget them? The people of Nova Scotia are extremely proud of their traditions and even during a thunderstorm there was always a yarn haven at the end of the road -

Lorraine has a wonderfully old fashioned and sensible shop, jammed to the rafters with good honest yarn and healthy sweaters and socks. Yes, she knitted them herself. Yes, she could do a pair of socks in a day (Lorraine, I'm getting back to you in time for next year's Sock Madness!) No, she wasn't a slave to the place, she shut when she felt like it, and she also did the paper round at 5 am every morning. Great girl!

(DH may not have realised that he had captured himself in that full-length mirror when he was photographing us. Always avoids being photographed, does DH.)

Perhaps my favourite shop of the entire trip though was Gaspereau Valley Fibres up at Wolfville. And we so nearly didn't make it. It was a Sunday and the last chance we would have to be in that corner of Nova Scotia. The shop shut at 4pm. It took a long time to get there (we were watching the famed Fundy tidal bore back near Truro). Got lost in the admittedly tiny town of Wolfville where nobody seemed to know the whereabouts of the shop. Finally rocketed to a stop outside the door of the old wooden farm building at two minutes past four, just as Jali was taking down the banner, signifying that they were all closed up until Tuesday (they don't open on Mondays). Brenda, the owner, was, as it happened, away visiting relatives that weekend and neighbour and fellow fibre enthusiast Jali was doing the Sunday shift for her.

Well heaven bless you, Jali! You went right back to the house and retrieved the keys, and then opened up for me again (you must have wondered if all Irish women were as breathless and hysterical and hyperventilating as this). And what a gorgeous place it is!

So old-fashioned and homely, with wooden floors and vintage shelving, creaky doors and mysterious corners. And the fibre, oh heavens!

Silky rovings all colours of the rainbow. Skeins and cones that would challenge an angel's restraint. Books, patterns, needles, notions, spinning wheels - I wanted to sit right down and stay there. On my own. All night. I would have pillowed my head on Fleece Artist and tucked my toes into HandMaiden to keep them warm. Oh my. Treble oh my. And Jali was laughing and amused and helpful and chatty and I stayed far too long. Brenda, you've got a treasure there!

Even on the morning of our departure, there was still time to check out The Loop Craft Cafe in Halifax, where another blogging friend was encountered, the lovely Shari.

It is so amazing to meet in real time with people you've chatted to over the airwaves for so long. Shari had brought along her son, Mackenzie who seemed to think that travelling and taking pictures or writing articles for a living seemed like a pretty good career option. Not all the time, Mackenzie, not all the time! Shari was moving house that week - hope it went OK, and that you kept the yarn where you could find it!

Here is the compulsory picture of stash obtained on the trip. Not huge, but then, there is some pretty high-grade ore in there:

Taking centre stage is a new (to me) sock yarn from Lang, 55% wool, 20% silk, and 25% nylon. Above it are two skeins of Elsebeth Lavold's Silky Wool in periwinkle; to the left, Fleece Artist Merino in Carnival (I think), and on the right, the same artist's Sea Wool in Blueberries. Left front is a little skein of Tilli Thomas Beaded Lace Silk in the Peace colourway (no excuse but lust), with HandMaiden SeaSilk next to that (more lust). On the right an exquisite HandMaiden Silk & Cashmere, and finally two skeins of laceweight pure bamboo from Kamboo, which I found on a stall at a Saturday Farmers' Market. I just love a country that sells yarn at an open-air country market.

Enough for now. I have to get back to Estrid. There is more to tell you about - we did take a side trip to the most enchanting place ever, Prince Edward Island, where I positively bathed in the Anne of Green Gables atmosphere, but that can wait for the next posting. The Ravelympics can't!


Artis-Anne said...

OMG Jo what a trip, I am green with envy :) Estrid will be fab I am sure ,I so love that pattern but just need the wool !!

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

wow what a great trip Jo:)

Jean said...

Welcome back! I have missed reading of your adventures and this certainly does make up for your absence. I shall have to peruse this blog posting at least a couple of times, there is so much to absorb, I may have to make this trip, between the natural beauty and the yarn stores its irrestible.

pacalaga said...

Quite wonderful, dear Jo. I would have fainted away at the pleasure of seeing a moose so close!

Angeluna said...

What a delightful trip you had. I haven't made it to Nova Scotia yet, but it's on my list.

I can't believe you are talking about rug hooking. I found a Kaffe Fasset design book at the library last week and what excited me was the hooked rugs. Must learn that one. Shall we?

Unbelievable all the yarn shops you found. Fleece Artist, HandMaiden...jealous!!!

Ruth said...

Sigh! What else can one say after reading about your moosey yarnie trip?

Triple sigh!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful! I will have to add Nova Scotia to my growing list of places I would love to visit.

Thank you so much for "taking us along" with your account and photos!

My husband, who almost never looks at blogs, even sat down when he saw some of the photos and looked along :)

Magaki said...

Oh, it's so nice to see sign of life again and I really enjoy your writing.

Sallie said...

Thank you so much for sharing your trip to Nova Scotia. I loved all the photos. I think I need to put Nova Scotia on my 'to see' list.

Robin said...

Come on down to Virginia! Our rug hooking group, Hookers, Strippers, & Co. is sponsoring a fall rug hooking retreat the weekend after Labor Day!

Anonymous said...

So good to hear from you. When last you wrote, you were cranking away on the sock machine, and here you were, across the pond!

LaurieM said...

Oh what a lovely trip! I'm not too envious because my husband and I have been considering making the journey to the east coast some day soon.

Great shot of the moose and DH!

BeFRuiTFuL KReaTioNS said...

I have enjoyed your blog this morning. Love the yarns, the rug hooking photos and the moose photos. I live in Colorado during the summer months and Arizona in the winter months.


SueJ said...

Wonderful stuff! Nova Scotia sounds facinating - is that where the novel 'Shipping News' is set? I wish we had yarn stores like that in the UK (DH & bank manager may disagree!)

SueJ said...

Wonderful stuff! Nova Scotia sounds facinating - is that where the novel 'Shipping News' is set? I wish we had yarn stores like that in the UK (DH & bank manager may disagree!)

Dreamin Diva said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed Nova Scotia and our wonderful fibre resources. There are a few you missed but with a wee bit of notice next time you visit, I'm sure you'd find us willing to share...
~ Elly in Nova Scotia

MmmYarn said...

So, did you score any moose fiber? -- Kirsten

Needles said...

A little bit of lust in Nova Scotia. Sounds all right and looks wonderful, yarn and photos alike.

rho said...

looks like a super trip - but you must convince hubby to schedule these for the deep dark of winter so you can be home when it is beautiful and green :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for taking us along on your knitting and traveling adventures-- your writing is always spot on (hyperventilating is EXACTLY what I do in yarn shops!) and I love your photos, whether the locale is exotic or your own backyard. Your Tale of Two Circular Knitters inspired me to find all the garish plastic bits to the Barbie knitter I'd given my daughter--I think I'll try a fancy silk/merino scarf on it! Best wishes for a speedy Estrid!

Anonymous said...

We Canadians are a crafty lot indeed.

Anonymous said...

Jo! I have no idea how I didn't run into you. I was just on the very same trip (although I didn't see any moose!). Spent a week at the Gaelic College in St Ann's spinning in the mornings, taking assorted music in afternoons and off to the country dances every night!

I agree with you about the shops and I bought a kit for rug hooking in Cheticamp. Gasperau almost did me in. I had to recline my seat in the car and have a bit of a rest after the yarn fumes almost overcame me completely. So glad you had a wonderful time in Nova Scotia!

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

So pleased you enjoyed my home province, Jo. I am a 'hooker' as well as a knitter, and I am sure the second 'mat'(that's what we call them in NS - rug sounds so pretentious)was designed and perhaps hooked by Deanne Fitpatrick - check her out on Google! Kathryn's dtr (the gal of Fleece Artist fame) knit her little one a sweater in cashmere - why not when your grandma creates such beautiful yarns!
It is a beautiful part of the world, but I love it here too!
You do like to take on challenges - good luck!

Anonymous said...

Sometimes I just wish I could shrink myself and fit nicely into your suitcase. What a wonderful life you have! The travels, the yarn!

Will sew up sweaters and weave in ends for food...

Anonymous said...

Luv, do you have any idea how dangerous moose are? You and DH are lucky that one was feeling mellow. They are not the sort of beasties you want to annoy and getting that close on dry land is not a good idea!

Erica said...

:) I never seem to tire of reading about your travels and stash enhancement. Your sweater is looking lovely although I think I might have seen a FO picture out there somewhere?? I'm so glad your DH made the blog :) Happy Knitting!

cath said...

What a great post! And I'm excited to see how you enjoyed my home province of PEI ... Love your blog and your writing!