Wednesday, October 15, 2008

'Tis The Season For Start-Itis

Maybe it's the weather we've been having. Misty, drizzly, the sun only showing its face every third day, and then for the bare few minutes to remind us it's still around before it disappears again.

When Sophy Wackles and I went down to Gougane Barra for a stroll the other day, even the enchanted little island seemed to be floating above the lake, insubstantial as a dream.

The holly berries were already ripening, though, and giving a welcome flash of scarlet against the grey hills where the druids walk -

- and the woods were as magical as ever. The luxuriantly thick moss covers everything, and you have to look hard to see the vague outlines of what were once sturdy little stone walls around hard-won fields, before the trees took the land back.

Here's a closeup of that tree, so you can enjoy the rich variation of greens and browns as much as I did (can't give you the wonderful scent of fresh earth and moss and damp, unfortunately). Wouldn't you love to create something like that in fibre? Don't think we could ever match Mother Nature, though.

Here's some of her superfine lacework -

- and her dreamy stained glass.

Maybe it is the weather then, creating that urge to snuggle up by the woodstove with a nice knitting or crochet project. It's that time of year after all, and within a few weeks everybody will be panicking wildly about holiday gifts, so getting a head start makes sense really - doesn't it?

Which is one way of confessing that start-itis has broken out with rampant ferocity chez Celtic Memory during this last while. Now there were more than enough projects OTN already without any further bright ideas springing to mind, but somehow all control seemed to go. Brilliant thoughts proliferated, exciting possibilities even invaded dreamtime. Just one teensy new project then. Oh but how about that one? And this? Oh look, isn't that just divine? And wouldn't this make an ideal gift?

Shameful it is. But I can wear the sackcloth and ashes with the best of you. Behold me then, crestfallen and repentant (well, maybe...), trailing the following behind me:

Exhibit A:

The Charcoal St. Enda. Impeccable lineage from the Starmore stable, which must be why I laid the cashmere/silk version in palest cream to one side and started it again in darkest Shetland yarn. You can never have enough Starmore can you (says she cravenly, hoping to break that Stornoway Curse for once and for all).

Exhibit B:

The Somoko Socks, in (I think) Oblique Spiral Rib. Or maybe not. It's in Sensational Knitted Socks anyway. This is the yarn I got in a rather good trade-off with Alynxia and of course it's Fleece Artist - what else could it be with those vibrant colours? - in a luxurious blend of merino, mohair and silk. How could you not cast on for these, once the idea had occurred?

Exhibit C:

A Noro raglan cardigan, worked from the top down. This is from that eminently sensible and easy to follow book, Button Up Your Top Down by Deb Gemmell, and since I had just frogged the Noro from a project that was one of those 'what on earth was I thinking when I started this?' disasters, it felt delightful to cast on for something completely different. Looking at it now, one does wonder if Noro Kureyon was the best choice for a top down - there are so many stitches at the widest point that you only get tiny stripes instead of waves and bands of colour. Not frogging it at this stage though. Not when I've just got to the exquisite relief of taking the sleeve stitches off on to lengths of yarn to await their own moment later.

Exhibit D.

The Schoolmarm Vest from Interweave Crochet. Wanted to make this for ages, and when I saw Loremor's beautiful rendering of it on Ravelry, I couldn't put it off any longer. I'm using some dreamily variegated boucle mohair from the Little Secret Stash Shed in the Woods and yes it is crochet, it IS CROCHET, and I'm glad I tell you, I'm glad, I'm GLAD, hahahahaha! Celtic Memory plays with everything, be it knitting needle, crochet hook, spool with nails stuck in, hairpin lace, broomstick lace, bobbins, spindles, the LOT!

Exhibit E.

The gorgeous Jabot Scarf from Knitspot. Well it seemed such a tiny, indulgent project, surely it couldn't take very much time to make, and I had this sinfully beautiful skein of cashmere/silk (also Fleece Artist, how that woman does seduce our souls...) product of another happy trading exchange, this time with Raspberry - what nice friends one finds in the blogging world!

Kind of keen at the moment on neckwarmers and little scarves and cowls and things like that. Of course it's the cooler weather, but also they don't take up too much yarn (you should see the way the Noro top-down is gulping in entire balls of yarn - seem to be splicing ends every second row at the moment), are a quick knit (well, a quick knit if you aren't doing seventeen others at the same time), and make ideal gifts. So there are plans to make quite a few more - perhaps a gansey-style neckwarmer? That would be fun. Maybe taking an idea or two from Starmore's Eriskay?

(Ducks and runs for cover as another thunderbolt hurtles from Stornoway towards West Cork.)

Whew, that one was close!

Exhibit F.

The Jane Thornley Sunset Vest (only mine is going to be The Mermaid Vest, obviously). I'd gathered together this stash ages ago, and it had been languishing underneath a table, but one fleetingly sunny morning I caught sight of it and decided to get started.

Nearly finished before it got underway, though. I kept the door of the upstairs sitting room rigorously closed, or so I thought... when I got home that evening, DH called, 'Er, Jo - did you leave the door up here open...?' Took the stairs two at a time -

Fortunately Muffy the Yarnslayer hadn't really got into her stride. She'd attacked some nice silky green eyelash, and was just starting on a rather good glitter when we spoiled her fun. She may have been kept away from yarn or even the sniff of yarn for several months, but you can't change basic instinct, can you? No, I will not make her a Mermaid Vest. Can you imagine what she'd do with it? Be sensible now.

Somehow also found time to dye up some more yarns.

Here are a few of them, grabbing the ten minutes of sunshine allocated to West Cork last Monday. From left to right, Chocolate Fudge, Autumn Leaves (both merino/bamboo), Secret Woodland, and Spring Hyacinth (alpaca/silk). The last one on the extreme right is a new experiment, a blend of organic cotton and tencel, and I want to see how it knits up into socks before I force it on any unsuspecting customers.

What do you think of this one? It's a superfine kid mohair boucle and I wound up a nice big 500m skein so that whoever got it would have plenty for an airy shawl or stole. Now that I look at it critically, the colours aren't too far off those of Fleece Artist's Somoko, so maybe I'm getting there.

And now, the real reason I haven't been posting. The result of days of exhausting struggle down in the depths of the stash room, of woe and misery and fury and frustration and all the other concomitants of yarn creation.

This is Samhain 2008, and, because so many people asked me to make a big one, it's a huge skein this time, around 264m or almost 300 yds. That mightn't seem like a lot, but believe me, when you consider that there are over twenty different yarn combinations in there, and each combination can contain anything up to four separate yarns, you might realise that getting it together was a major task. I made up just two before I collapsed from exhaustion and they're both up on eBay now, along with all the others. I just hope nobody asks for half a dozen more! Its ID number is 170271677183 if you can't find it. Sometimes eBay lets me link to US and Canadian sites, sometimes it doesn't, and I can't work out why.
I was looking at Bionic Laura's blog today, and enjoying her picture of lots of nice people making tiny hats for juice bottles al fresco in Co. Dublin (look it up, you'll enjoy it as well). She tells me that she too gets adverse reaction to her knitting in public, and even anger, as if she shouldn't be disgracing women's rights by doing something so demeaning. It was good to find someone else putting words to this experience - I wondered if I'd been mistaken in the hostility I sometimes encounter, but apparently not. Is this just an Irish problem or do any of you in other countries come across disapproval or opposition to your public crafting?
OK, it's open season on holiday knitting now. Yes, I realise we haven't passed Hallow-E'en yet, but this year - THIS YEAR - Celtic Memory is going to be ahead of the game. Honestly...
UPDATE. Following morning. Gosh, that Samhain designer yarn went quickly! Didn't expect that. Well done, D, for snaffling both of them - they're on their way to you right now.


Wudas said...

Nope, just curiosity when I knit in public. At least here in Sunny California (26 deg C). Your yarns are lovely.

Windybrook Spinner said...

I don't face any opposition or disaproval in Utah either, but that's probably not too surprising. Most people here think it is pretty cool and are blown away when they realize I'm not looking at my hands most of the time. I think it is pretty funny. I mean, do they think about walking or breathing? I sure enjoy your blog.

ccr in MA said...

Anger? Hostility? Yikes!

I get curiosity, and interest, and I too have heard the whisper of "she's not even looking at her hands!", but no one ever seemed upset by it. Wow. Keep fighting the good fight, I guess?

Melissa said...

It's all just too lovely for me to take in! Lovely place, lovely knitting, lovely yarn!

I never get hostility when I knit in public here in Georgia. I have, however, had children come and want to watch and pet my yarn, I've had people in airports ask me how I knit with all those needles (I was making socks obviously), and I've had half my friends ask me to teach them. Thankfully no women's libers.

Anonymous said...

I thought women's liberation was making your own choices?

pacalaga said...

You tell them that women's rights mean that you have the RIGHT to do ANYTHING you want. Sheesh. Some people.

Linda B said...

I was so dismayed to hear that you face criticism for knitting! I've never had that experience. Here are the reactions I have had, though:
1. Complete apathy. I have knitted in very public places and had not even a second look from anyone.
2. "What is that you're doing? Is that crochet?"
3. "Wow, I really admire someone who can do that. I could never do that."
4. "What are you sewing there?" (from a man)
5. "Could you make me something like that?"

Jean said...

This post is especially nice, your knitting, the photos of the forest, I just could go on and on. As far as people's reaction when I knit, It has been very positive, at work there is a very large lunch area and I knit there every once in awhile as the light is good, but I get interrupted alot by people wanting to see what I'm doing. I knit at the coffee houses and everyone is very positive. You have your fellow bloggers who not only appreciate your knitting, but enjoy your sense of humor and wonderful photos, here you are truly appreciated.

Anonymous said...

Ah, such a lovely walk today was sorely needed. And yes, I could smell the moss, tree and dirt.

Crochet! Yes, You're hooking again. What a clever vest the Schoolmarm is.

Anonymous said...

I too am beginning a number of projects but I have also been finishing projects that have languished for a considerable amount of time. I have done quite a few holiday gifts already and have most of them planned. Or at least until I see something else that piques my interst. So many lovely patterns. Your yarn is so lovely Jo. Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures.

Debra in Seattle, WA

Anonymous said...

Sometimes people are interested in what I'm making, but never are they hostile and rarely even curious. I figured that had to do with living in a city, though... It takes a lot to surprise those who have people around them all the time.

Artis-Anne said...

Sometimes I feel as though you are walking here in Wales with your photos !! and yes its another wet one today after sunshine yesterday.
I too have start-itis and a cowl yen after doing some for gifts. I love them :)
Re knitting in puplic I just get curious looks but never any hostility. Great way of starting a convo with someone though . I have now started to spindle in puplic , so we will see what the people think of that one ;)

CraftyGryphon said...

Ever since a photo of Russel Crowe knitting was broadcast by the American entertainment shows, knitting is a "cool thing" in the States.

About twenty years ago, in Boston, though, there *was* that sort of hostility, especially at the male-dominated university I attended. (And all the hostility was from other female students.)

Since knitting has become "in", with celebrities spotted with needles in hand every other week, I've gotten "oh, when did you start knitting?" - with the expected answer clearly being "Oh, three weeks ago, when Pamela Anderson showed off the new sweater she made on Entertainment Tonight!" - and the actual answer being "um, let me see, when I was four - so about thirty years ago!"

Times change. The coastal USA seems to be where things change first (and not always for the better, mind you!), and things spread inland from there. I can only imagine there's a similar drift in Ireland, but I'm not sure where the epicenter(s) would be...

All 9 Muses said...

Hi Jo, great post. Full of inspiration. These days, I can't get to much Christmas knitting as it is getting snapped up as it comes off the needles. Of course, I'm knitting for my kids.

Most of my acquaintences know I'm a chronic knitter so they don't bat an eye. I've had great responses in places like Celt Fest and other festivals. But occasionally I have family that gives me the hairy eye-ball because they don't believe I should be dividing my attention from our visit. Of course every knitter knows that stitches fuel talk!

They'll just have to get used to it. And so will the rest of the world. So there!

Jennifer in Ottawa

Anonymous said...

I knit a lot in public (in southern California), mostly because I really knit a lot where ever I happen to be, but I've never run into hostility. Mostly I'm ignored. The only people who say anything usually are other knitters.

Your weather looks lovely to someone in the worst part of fire season. Yesterday it was 100degrees at my house with about 15% humidity and winds.

Vicki in So. Cal.

Bionic Laura said...

Wow that yarn is beautiful. The colours are great.
Thanks for the link to my blog. We had a lovely day knitting in the park. People do seem to think you're a bit odd when you knit outside, lots of people stopped to stare. But hopefully as the trend for knitting comes here from the US more and more people will start knitting. Then I can say I was doing it before it was cool.

HaveFaith said...

I absolutely love the knit from the top down sweater. Colors are gorgeous too!

Aline said...

I so enjoy reading your blog. I wish I could visit! The woods are magical and the yarn is heavenly. I love crochet too and it is fun to find a knitter that knows how and does. I totally agree about knitting neck warmers. There is a chill outside that makes one crave that sort of softness these days.

Allison said...

Jo, I find myself stunned that there is hostility to someone knitting. I've knit at motorcycle rallies, waiting rooms of just about every flavor, in line at the grocery store, everywhere. I've either been ignored, or gotten all sorts of friendly questions. But hostility? Never.

However, it's not been that long since I read in Bell's blog entry on October 14 of this year( of some hostility in Australia. Her post doesn't actually go into the hostility, but if you follow her link to The Riot Act, you'll see a smorgasbord of support, indifference, and some hostility.

Granny Sue said...

Ahhhh. Every time I visit here, I am reminded of my English mother and her many baskets, boxes and bags of yarn, half-finished projects, and always of Mom sitting in her chair with a pair of needles in her hands, soft yarn on her lap and a contented smile on her face.

Your photos are gorgeous, and the projects are incredible.

HPNY KNITS said...

the woods look very magical. so lush and green.

Charity said...

Mmmmm, I'm suffering from serious startitis here, as well. Must be the season...

I will confess that when I knit in public, I have such an air of being thrilled with myself, and smile smugly while people look on. I don't think they could possibly look at me negatively, so much joy do I exude. Or, perhaps they do look negatively, and it just flies right over my head?

Anonymous said...

Jo, love your blog and always look forward to the next post. Unfortunately here where I live in Australia, it's getting close to the season for stopitis. The weather and humidity are both climbing rapidly, and I'm envious of all the bloggers I'm reading who are coming into winter and can knit Christmas gifts. People would think you were truly mad if you gave them a hat or mittens for Christmas in this climate. Even our winters aren't very cold.
I love your pictures, especially the countryside. I love seeing what it's like where other people live. As for the knitting in public thing, I don't do it a lot, but when I do I've never been met with hostility, but I do believe I'm viewed as an oddity. Most crafting,(except scrapbooking, which for some reason people here are absolutely crazy for)is seen as a quaint old ladies activity, and very old fashioned. Yet there must be a burgeoning underworld of knitters out there, because you see them buying yarn and taking lessons at craft fairs. Apparently yarn is a lot more expensive here. A friend tells me she was getting yarn for a song from the U.S. until our $ crashed.(Was close to parity, now only worth about 66 U.S. cents.)So maybe that is a contributing factor.
Love your yarns.

Shannon said...

I just get curios looks and odd looks. I like to knit in public just to see what kind of looks I get. I've also found that it starts a lot of conversations.
Northern California

I love your photos of your local scenery. Very beautiful.