Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Dreadful Inevitability Of An Eriskay Epic

Look, I'm not keeping this up, OK? I am NOT. There is no way Celtic Memory is going to continue at this rate, posting practically every day. It just so happens that it was a leisurely long weekend following on some exhausting workloads, and it also so happened that there were several things upon which I required your advice, but it won't go on like this. Soon we'll be back to the happy days of the West Cork Irregulars.

But in the meantime, I'm very worried. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. In fact, if this were not a family blog with toddlers lisping the unfamiliar phrases as they hit the keyboard and look at the pretty pictures before falling asleep in their cots, stronger words would be used.

It's because of Eriskay (cue sheet lightning from the general direction of the Outer Hebrides). It's my albatross, my Nemesis. It always has been. Oh I run, I hide, I set sail for the other side of the world, but it's no good. Eriskay (oh stop that d*n*d thunder, will you, Starmore?) finds me, wherever I go, and whatever distracting WIP I may have on the needles.

Lilly, seconded enthusiastically by CindyL, tried to help by suggesting a beautiful lace stole in that poppy-red Shetland. Thanks girls, it's a nice idea, and I totally agree that Birgit's designs are glorious. But you see it's no good. This is more than whim, there is little of choice in it. Eriskay (shut UP, will you AS?) is my Fate, my weird, my Philippi.

I wouldn't mind, but I know that every single attempt is doomed to failure, as all the previous ones have been. Was it Tantalus who was condemned to push a huge boulder uphill forever, only to have it roll back down again every time? Shouldn't be at all surprised. Or one of those luckless souls anyway.

What has brought this on, I hear the cry. What ails poor Celtic Memory that she looks so haggard and worn?

I fear thee, Celtic Memory,
I fear thy glittering eye!
Why look'st thou so forlorn and wan,
Beneath the winter sky?

Alas, she's cursed to face this task,
Until the Judgement Day!
Doomed to attempt again, again,
The dreadful Eriskay...

Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if some of you did shrink away. You wouldn't want this particular albatross around your neck.

But the reason? Well, last night, feeling in a slightly more cheerful frame of mind after posting and talking about this and that, and having tucked the baby Kromski up for the night (she's wonderful, sleeps right through, no waking up for a drink of oil or a polish or anything, mind you the presence of the two fairy godmothers might have something to do with that, Queen of Orkney is the frightening old black-habited aunt who inculcates good habits and is very strict on table manners, while Countess Angelique is more inclined to slip baby Kromski peppermints and tell her scurrilous tales of 18th century Paris), where was I?

Oh yes, I was feeling a bit more positive, so after dinner I found the micro-gauge needles and cast on for an Eriskay swatch (muttering as I did so, 'I can't believe I'm even contemplating this).

It's not exactly an Eriskay swatch of course, it's the Eriskay swatch. When Starmore tells you to work a swatch you jump to it. Cast on 31 sts. Not 30 you notice, not 32, but 31. For heaven's sake. Then work 44 rows. 44? Not 40? Not 20? No, you are requested - who am I kidding, you're commanded - to work the swatch exactly as dictated. Or she will know. She always knows.

Which I did. The correct swatching count, I mean. This in itself was a first for Celtic Memory. OK, yes, I do swatch. I've claimed to do so before, so I probably do. But my swatches tend to be worked in a happy-go-lucky, oh-that's-near-enough sort of way. The Irish approach, if you like. (The most popular phrase in this country, and the one which was the despair of the nice kind English who tried for so long to civilise us into their ways, is 'Ah 'twill do.') I dutifully cast on the requisite 31. I worked under the daylight lamp to keep an eye on the tiny stitches. All right, I didn't go the full 44. After 22 I reasoned I'd done quite enough. I cast off (bound off for Statesiders). I washed the tiny little red scrap. I draped it to dry alongside half a dozen skeins of organic Irish fingering weight destined for shawl kits. This morning I brought it up into the warm sunlight of the solar (really the upstairs sitting room which faces south and gets any sunshine that's going, oh and somebody asked what a solar was: it was an upstairs room in a Tudor or Elizabethan manor house which had big windows so the ladies could have both warmth from the sun and good light to do their needlework) and laid it out neatly to take its measurements. No, I didn't block it, there are limits even to my good humour (who laughed? OUT of here, you!)

Oh dear.

Oh deary deary deary dear. Oh 'eck.


I'd made gauge. In fact the eagle-eyed among you may suggest that I was slightly under gauge, but that could be due to my omission of the blocking procedure. Whatever.

It's the first time in my life I have ever made Starmore gauge.

And you know what that means, don't you?

Now I have to try the confounded (can I say 'confounded' on Ravelry? Are the kids in bed?) thing yet again, with this new yarn which I now realise came into my hands by no accident.

No escape.

As I suggested in the title of this posting, there is a dreadful inevitability about this project.

More on the Eriskay Epic as it unfolds. It will distress, it will frighten, it will hold children from their play and old men from the chimney corner. But it must be told.

You think if I went up to the Isle of Lewis with a big box of Irish chocolates....?

Now, we were talking about Birgit's lovely designs earlier on. When I looked at her site (thanks Lilly) I noticed some beautiful neckwarmers there. Now until recently I hadn't really noticed neckwarmers, or maybe they hadn't been quite as much in evidence, it being the wrong season and all. But now it's the right season and I think these are a great idea. They can look elegant and add a touch of bright colour while at the same time keeping neck and chest extra snug. So Celtic Memory has decided she can't live without one. Or two or three.

In fact I have downloaded several from Ravelry over the past week, and then saw Knitspot's utterly covetable Spiraluscious and fell in love instantly.

This is Anne's picture, not mine, but I'm sure she won't mind my showing it to you, do you Anne? I mean, dozens more people are going to want to rush out and buy it this instant, so that can't be bad, can it?

Thing is, Celtic Memory is planning a quick short trip to Estonia in December, and suspects that neckwarmers will be rather useful there at this time of year. Not to mention thick double-knit woolly hats, kneesocks over the silk thermals, and ski pants. (Anybody got a good pattern for a quick-knit double-thick hat?) And so both this neckwarmer and the Elsebeth Lavold Mathilde are going to be worked on without delay.

Reading Lene's blog the other day reminded me that I hadn't checked out Twist Collective in ages, so went over and had a look. And fell like a ton of bricks for this -

Yes, that small image was all it took. You can see the full picture on the Twist Collective site. It's called Stormsvale, and I have just the right yarn for it.

In fact two. These skeins are both from rescue cones, both pure Shetland-spun fingering weight. The one on the left is called, I think, Maelstrom, and the one on the right, Pinewood. My photograph does not do justice to the subtle shadings in both yarns. The cones were, as usual, dusty and a bit oily, but oh the way the yarns bloomed when given a gentle wash would do your heart good. It did.

Not that mad about colourwork (did it when younger of course, but went off it in recent years); however, if anything were to bring me back into the colourwork fold, it would be Stormsvale. Doesn't look like a quick weekend knit exactly though, does it?

The next image has nothing whatsoever to do with knitting. I just thought you'd like to see it.

And yet, maybe it's not completely unrelated. The mug mat on the right with its endearing off-centre heart, is a souvenir of the little town of Cheticamp in Nova Scotia, home of the hooked rug, while the pincushion on the left cost me just €2.99 in a local Christmas shop the other day. Backed with velvet, the top is fine suede, two layers of it, the pale biscuit delicately cut to reveal the moss green underneath. Even the little hanging loop is made of suede. I couldn't think why I should buy it, and turned away several times, but came back because of the delicacy of its work. It was only when I brought it home and put it down accidentally on this wooden stool that I realised why I'd bought it. Don't they belong together? And how the heck can something so beautiful cost so little at the end of what must have been a fairly long journey - from the furthest reaches of Asia, I suspect?

Did get round to trying that merino/bamboo/nylon blend on the Kromski this morning.

Quite pleased with it so far. Oddly enough, although too much twist was always the problem on the Orkney, with the Kromski I don't seem to be giving it quite enough twist. I suspect both have to do with tension - will have to go experimenting and twiddling to see if each can adjust a little. Always nerve-racking adjusting tension. Advice and guidance, as always, welcomed. And while I'm at it, what on earth is Scotch tension? I have the wherewithal for it (apparently) on the Kromski, but no idea on earth how to operate it.

Lovely sunny if chilly and frosty day again today.

Muffy the Yarnslayer helped with the leaf pile

while Sophy Wackles thought long long thoughts on the driveway.

And lastly, a special treat for all of you, my good friends, tonight, courtesy of DH, still the most brilliant and instinctive photographer I know. I'd been expecting this to turn up in tomorrow night's skies, but when I went up to draw the curtains in the sitting room, I saw it and shrieked for him to come with his camera. I ran for my own Nikon, but he said, hurrying past, 'Don't even think about it, you'd need a tripod and slow exposure and...' Gosh, I panic when he talks techie!

The new crescent moon in conjunction with Venus and Jupiter. Isn't that beyond words?


Anonymous said...

I went on a Starmore book buying spree earlier this year, so I love reading about people working on the projects. Though I do feel I should always be talking about them in a whisper, just in case. And oh WOW! Fabulous picture of that conjunction! Truly lovely...thank you for capturing and sharing it with us...the grey grey Pacific NW skies mean it's impossible to get good shots of the celestial bodies at's hardly every clear enough!

gemma said...

Venus is quite the jewel right at the moment, that's for sure.
lovely post as always. Thanks

KiniaCat Crafts said...

Please thank the DH for the lovely celestial photo!! And thank you for bringing it to his attention and your blog!
You're not alone in your interest in the wide range of spiffy neck warmer patterns that are cropping up. Sigh.
I haven't read back far enough to view your previous Eriskay adventures. But I did begin to grasp the enticement and trepidation associated with it. Woof. there's a swatch.
An on-gauge Starmore swatch. It would appear 'tis time and the planets are in alignment! ;-) You have the pictures to prove it!
Ah - please don't let my stray observation add pressures to your blogging. Post when you feel like it - we'll wait - with patience.

Anonymous said... has a free neck warmer pattern up today. It's her own take on Victorian - lovely!

What is it with you and impossibly difficult patterns knit in red yarn? Remember that knot work at the same time as shaping last year? And you, urging us on to the same madness!

LaurieM said...

I'd like to suggest some positive thinking for you. I believe you are suffering under a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the way you think and write about that Alice Starmore pattern. What you need is a clear mind and a steady heart when you approach that knit. Tell yourself "It is only knitting. Just one stitch at a time and it will get done. I can do it!"

pacalaga said...

Lovely sky photo - I saw it last night and didn't even think to take a picture.
It was Sisyphus who pushed the boulder - Tantalus was the one who had to stand in water he couldn't drink, under dangling food he couldn't eat. (I'd guess both could be descriptive of Starmore experiences. Heh.)

Unknown said...

Thank you for sharing DH's sky picture, we are awaiting the view tomorrow (Monday) evening on the east coast of the U.S. and it is clearing out nicely so I should be able to see it. it is a pleasure to read your adventures more frequently than usual but please don't feel any pressure to continue :-) I'll look forward to dogs, yarn, tales and photos of your travels and whatever else you choose to offer at your pleasure.

Anonymous said...

If it helps, a Scotch tension wheel has a drive band that turns the flyer and a separate brake that slows the bobbin. Irish tension has the drive band turn the bobbin and the brake slow the flyer, while a double drive wheel has a long drive band that goes around twice, one loop to the flyer, a twist, and the other loop to the bobbin. With Scotch and Irish tensioning systems you can separately adjust the drive band and brake tensions and with a double drive system, one knob adjust both together. I personally favor Scotch tensioning with Irish as the next choice because I feel like I have more control being able to tension the flyer and brake each on their own, especially as I prefer very little tension on the brake but need the flyer to turn steadily.

Vicki in So. Cal.

cindyl said...

Just get on with the danged Eriskay, for Pete's sake. There's not a doubt in my mind that you can do it. Kick the doubt out of your own mind and you're there.

Anonymous said...

Lovely sky picture. Thanks for sharing.

On another topic, how did Sophy Wacles get her name?

Jean said...

Oh the drama! You are painting yourself like a heroine in a novel. Delightful reading, and you know that your dear readers do not expect you to write every day (although I did check your blog again today, just in case). It's just wonderful when you do post, whenever that may be, you need never feel obligated, I feel like I'm receiving a gift with your postings, you never expect it, but are quite delighted when they are there. How wonderful to have a reason to knit warm useful things to bundle up in.

Melissa said...

I too feel "Ah twill do" is my motto for swatches...if/when I actually do them!

The celestial photo is amazing! I've always been so impressed by the night sky.

Emily Scott Banks said...

My son and I in Ft. Worth, TX just had a conversation tonight about this conjunction! He said he didn't know the moon could look like a smiley face...and where we are they were bundled tightly together as a line. Lovely.

Anonymous said...

I prefer Scotch tension myself because I feel like it gives me more control. On the photo of your flyer, there is an eye bolt, and there is a wooden peg. The tensioning band (I use a piece of fishing line for mine) wraps around the wooden peg (there is probably a hole in the peg for the string/band/line/whatever-you-use) to go through and be knotted, and then the band goes through the eye bolt and around *something* - it goes around a slot on the bobbin on my wheel, and then attaches to something else (probably another eye bolt) on the other side. You adjust the tension by loosening or tightening the band by turning the wooden peg so that the band wraps around the peg more or less. The instructions that came with the wheel probably show you how. Anyway, you can spin with no tension at all, loosening the peg so that the band gives no resistance, and this will give you a lot of twist because the yarn will pull in very slowly. Or you can tighten up the band incrementally and this will lessen the twist and pull the yarn in more quickly. I have one spinning teacher who insists we all have one speed that we like to treadle at, and it makes more sense to adjust the wheel than to try to adjust your treadling, so learning how to tension is very important to your overall spinning comfort. I have found this to be true.

Someday if I ever try double drive, you can explain it to me!

Windybrook Spinner said...

Beyond words...

p2sso said...

I have every confidence that this time is the charm with Eriskay -- the swatch is a good omen.

Lovely night photo and a great post.

SueJ said...

Eriskay is a gansey right? So its a piece of social history & an heirlom, not just a sweater so enjoy the process of creating it! Frame the swatch even! ...and its red so it will be awesome! Have you visited Eriskay btw? The gansey would be just right for walking on the shell beach (where Bonnie Prince Charlie landed in '45) with your dogs, whilst looking out to the Isle of Barra!

On another note I just finished a spiralicious for my aunt. Its a lovely knit (must knit one for ME!) & hopefully Anne will realease the matching fingerless mitts pattern today!

The sky photo is wonderful.

Brendaknits said...

Oh Oh I have spent money already and it isn't even 9 am here. The neckwarmer is lovely. My copy is winging it's way thru cyber space as we speak. Thanks for the tip.

Cindy/Snid said...

Hah. I knew you were going to knit it. And you made gauge!! It's a sign I tell you. Read about your little surprise visit. How wonderful!

(oh- and what a great photo!!!!!)

Anonymous said...

Post when you want as it is such a treat to know I am going to sit down to a lovely read when you do post! Everyday or every few days is far to much don't you think? Besides good things come to thus who wait!

Anonymous said...

You can knit anything Alice can knit. She's only human and all knitting is only two bloody stitches. So say I! Embrace your red yarn and go for it!

Roggey said...

DH takes some of the most brilliant photos! I still get compliments on the moon one y'all sent me last year!

Roggey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Leah - Rudy's Rescue said...

Hello! I was the one who inquired about wool socks recently, and must add - what a beautiful photo of the conjunction. A month ago my son's class 'previewed' and discussed this event. How amazing to see it in reality this past weekend. We are looking forward to seeing the stars from near your vantage point as we are headed to Ireland shortly. Perhaps we can stop by! Take care.

Ruth said...

Eriskay ganseys are so much fun to knit and you don't even need Starmore's patterns. Just about the time you get bored with a pattern, why you get to do another one!

Go forth and knit thy Eriskay. Hey, if a yank can do it, so can you. Oh, I just might have to do another one for me.

Nancy Fletcher said...

I saw the same arrangement of planets and sliver of moon last weekend while visiting family in Utah. It was quite a treat. In Oregon's misty-moisty climate, we rarely see stars. Give DH my thanks for the photo.


Ruth said...

I love the sky photo! I shivered outside for several minutes watching the planets myself.

Don't be afraid of the Starmore sweater. One stitch at a time, one row at a time ... viola!

Ruby Girl said...

Here is NSW Australia we saw the crescent moon, venus and jupiter much closer together than your photo, however we saw it, it was amazing.