Saturday, November 29, 2008

Of Misty Mornings, Merry Spinning, And A Horrible Tale

Hah, that took you by surprise, didn't it! Celtic Memory posting again, two days later! Nay not so much - more like a day and a bit - well can't miracles happen after all?

I took it to heart. I decided, after all the comments, that I really must try harder. It wasn't just KiniaCat and lovely Suzy in Oklahoma chiding me gently, it was my own realisation that I'm not ORGANISED enough. So often, just after posting, another idea comes to mind, a project unmentioned, a funny event, a wonderful picture, and a mental note is taken to include it next time. Only these build up and up, and eventually there is so much that the thought of sitting down for a marathon session is one of those ghastly ideas - you know, like when you pass the door of the spare room and see the chaos within and think, one of these days, yes, really one of these days I must tackle that. Or the ironing. Or the garden - but you know what I mean.

So what I think is, if postings were more regular, on a daily basis - or let's be reasonable, perhaps a two-day basis - then it wouldn't be so demanding. A little and often instead of feast and famine. You think?

You know, this is what Stephanie does. Come rain or shine (snow or more snow right now I should think, considering where she lives) the Yarn Harlot posts. Heck, she was even posting from her hotel room on her London book launch. How does she manage that, along with defending fleece from squirrels, never missing a Knit Night, making socks for her entire family, going on world lecture tours - oh and rattling off a few bestsellers along the way?

I think I've discovered something distinctly sneaky about our beloved YH. I think - wait for it, wait for it - I think -

The Yarn Harlot Is An Organised Woman!

It's no good denying it Steph, it's no good shaking your head as you read this. One of us at least is on to you. You've spread the image far and wide of a girl beset by troubles and invaders (oh sorry, that's Ireland, well beset by happenstance and circumstance, by airport delays and unfriendly computers, by uncooperative yarns and frightening requests then) who richochets from disaster to disaster and only barely pulls herself out by her bootlaces (no I do not know if she is wearing boots this snowy morning in Toronto and if so what the make is, so you can get a pair exactly like them. Ask her!)

Whereas the reality is that you are a soundly organised and steady-minded individual who plans ahead, has the ironing done not only for her immediate family but for relations too, who makes Christmas gift lists in January and ticks them off all the way through to June, when she can relax, who never forgets to put each item into its correct recycling box, who swatches for every single project and never, but never, omits to read the pattern through three times before even casting on.

I mean, how'd you get where you are today if that were not the case? Hey? C'mon admit it, this chaos thing is a blind, a literary fiction. Right?

Well I am going to follow Steph's example. I'm going to try at least to post every couple of days for a while, and see how that works.

So here is your Saturday surprise! A beautiful frosty clear sunny morning too. DH has taken Sophy Wackles down to the Gearagh for a run - doubtless there will be some stunning pictures when he gets back.

Here's one from my study window to be going on with. The sun hasn't hit the lawn so the frost is still untouched. Had to refill the bird feeders and break the ice on the pond first thing.

Thank you for all the congratulations on the safe if overdue arrival of baby Kromski.

Here is the first formal picture, with baby on her sheepskin rug as every new baby should be, flanked by her watchful fairy godmothers. She looks quite large because she's in the foreground but she's quite a bit smaller overall than either Queen of Orkney on the left, or Countess Angelique on the right. Hasn't got much of a polish on her yet either, because I need to buff up the beeswax some, but that will come with time.

And here's a closeup. The most lovely set of instructions came with her, including a gentle reminder that she had come a long way from Poland, so to take care with unpacking. Which I did. I was delighted by the strip of suede leather which was to be used to tie the footman to the treadle, as I was with the reassuring advice 'there is no magic to this - we suggest you try this way...'

What do you know, she worked like a dream, from the first moment! I couldn't believe it! Tried some BFL combed top and straightaway I was spinning fine yarn - something I've never been able to do on the Orkney which is bluff and hearty and will only create chunky yarns fit for keeping out Scottish wind and rain. I went on and on spinning this laceweight, enchanted with the way we were working together.

Oh - I'm really sorry, but this is where the idyll ends for a while and you have to read of something rather unpleasant. No pictures - it was too awful for that - but those of you who had looked forward to a really nice weekend, skip the next couple of paragraphs and don't come back until you see a nice image of something else entirely, like - like a big bag of fibre. OK?

Well - I'd spun almost a whole bobbinful and was beginning to think about starting another, when my attention wandered (I think I was gazing at the beautifully turned distaff and thinking of fairy tales) and the thread broke. This happens in the best regulated spinning households, it's no big deal. I reached in for the end, to bring it out and join on the last little bit of top.

I reached again...

I got up crossly and looked down on the bobbin to find the broken end.

I looked again.

Muttering under my breath, I removed the whole caboodle, unscrewed the whorl (sorry for the technical details non-spinners, but we spinners love these little bits of extra information), slid the bobbin off the flyer (ditto), and looked once more for the broken end.

Readers, I spent a full hour searching for that loose end. Raked up and down the bobbin, lifted likely loops with a crochet hook and ran them around and around to see if they were the right one, to no avail. Called in the services of DH plus the magnifying facility on my daylight lamp. Nothing. Nada. Pas de saucisse. Or, if you prefer, ochi loukanka.

It just wasn't there. And hold it, hold it, I do NOT want a joyous chorus of 'Oh but it's easy, you just....' Rather object to that catch-phrase if you recall. When Celtic Memory says she's tried everything, she actually means it.

Three hours later, bowed to the inevitable and called on ancient Greek legend to solve the problem. Yes (this is the nasty bit, look away now), Celtic Memory took a sharp scissors and cut every inch of beautifully-spun laceweight BFL off the bobbin. Hercules, when faced with the Gordian Knot, seized his sword - I used a scissors but it was the same thing.

Don't want to think about it any more. I bet you're glad there aren't pictures.

But it wasn't baby Kromski's fault, no indeed, not a shadow of suggestion that it could be. She is a fairylike spinning wheel, and to make sure she didn't feel worried (though she's a bit young to pick up these nuances as yet, I think), I took out my lovely big bag of Gotland combed top.

(OK those of you who skipped the nasty bits, you can come back now.)

This is that magical fleece which was used for the elven cloaks in the film of Lord of the Rings if you remember. The Gotland is a very ancient breed from Scandinavia, and to work with it is going to be rather lovely. (Celtic Memory has inadvisedly joined a SAL (spinalong) on a Ravelry spinning group to make enough yarn for a sweater - she will live to be sorry for this, she knows it already, but it is for that the Gotland is intended.)

Tasha was quite entertained both by the new wheel and by the Gotland fleece (you can't see Muffy, but she's prowling wildeyed in the background, biding her time and waiting her moment).

What I like about the Kromski (no, not named yet, I've got to be sure it's the right one for her) is that she gently and courteously accepts any fibre you give her. This Gotland is a bit slippery, short-stapled, not something I'd used before, but there was no difficulty in spinning two small bobbinloads, plying them, and then washing the first ever Kromski/Gotland skein.

Don't laugh at it. I am amazed and delighted that straight out of the cradle, this little Polish princess was able to cope with and create yarn from, a totally strange fibre. Just think what she'll do in the future!

There have been more insanities chez Celtic Memory. Galloping through Ravelry yesterday, en route to the spinning group, I caught a glimpse of the most be-yoo-ti-ful sock pattern. Already the process of moving to the next screen was in progress - you know those moments when you falter on one foot but can't stop yourself leaping ahead? - but I'd seen the name, and went back straightaway to search for it (if you're on Ravelry, have you noticed that advertisements don't stay there for long? You have to be quick, or hope that they'll come round again while you wait and they don't, not for ages.)

Oddly enough, the last time this happened to me, it was a Red Bird sock pattern, and so it proved to be this time again. They really are lovely designs. I got it through Patternfish where Julia went out of her way to sort a downloading problem at my end and was as pleased as me when it came through in the end. Nice people at Patternfish!

This is Snowy Woods, after Robert Frost's poem which is an especial favourite of mine. Isn't it stunning? Don't you want to make it this very second? (This is Red Bird's picture not mine, by the way - I'm sure she won't mind my showing off her lovely work to everybody.)

I'd make a pair of these as a Christmas present for somebody else but reason tells me that I'd never let them out of my hot little hands, so I won't even consider that. Going to check the stash later for the right green - got plenty of the snowy white.

Don't you love the instant gratification of these pattern downloads? Assuming you have a reasonable stash of both yarn and needles (gosh, I remember the time I thought one set of each was enough, foolish foolish girl...) you can fall in love with a design at 9 pm, have it printed and in your hands at 9.02, and have the cuff done by 9.30 (well, maybe 9.45, we're not into Sock Madness Three yet.)

Further insanity. A rescue cone of beautiful poppy-red Shetland yarn came into Celtic Memory's paws recently. It was dirty and dusty, but a skein washed up beautifully and showed its proud lineage.

Hung it here in the last rays of evening sunlight the other day to be photographed. It's a fine Shetland, and, I think, a bit too delicate for socks, lovely though such socks would be. What can you make with a fine gauge Shetland yarn in that rare poppy-red?

This is where Eriskay comes back into the picture. Remember Eriskay? That stunning gansey pattern from Alice Starmore (good heavens, how on earth can there be a clap of thunder on a frosty late November morning?) Venerable readers may recall the chapters of disaster that followed earlier attempts on this design. The ribbing which unaccountably twisted itself after five rounds, not before. The Slaughter Of The Cashmere By Muffy The Yarnslayer. And that's without considering the impossibility of working five million tiny stitches on microscopic fine wire needles. Anyone trying this sweater must be insane.

Enter Angeluna The Enabler. 'No trouble', she said easily. 'I'm working a Vivian Hoxbro on pretty fine needles at the moment and you'd be surprised how fast it progresses. Give it a try.'

No. Definitely no. Absolutely finally NO!

Although it is a lovely design, isn't it?

(whimper) Do you know what size circular that is? 2mm. Yes, US size O. The one I normally use for socks. That would be for the ribbing of course. For the main body of the sweater, one would move up to the lavish luxury of US size 2, or 2.5mm.

Is Celtic Memory seriously considering creating an entire sweater on 2.5mm needles?

No she isn't. And I'll tell you why. She's a loose knitter (as veterans of Sock Madness will know - remember the saga of Reversai and CM's total inability to get gauge?) so of course she wouldn't be knitting Eriskay on tiny 2.5mm needles.

She'd be knitting it on even tinier 2.25mm needles! (Thanks Ruth for sending me those. You and I both thought they'd be used for socks, but no more they're not! A higher calling perhaps?)

No, haven't swatched. Haven't the courage yet. Maybe after a strong coffee. Let you know.

Speaking of coffee, I must tell you about a lovely little happening down at my favourite watering hole, the Cruiscin Lan in Ballyvourney, the other day. These two men were sitting at a table nearby and observed my travel knitting with interest.

'Tis a long time since I saw someone knitting socks,' said one with evident pleasure.

His companion who was less talkative, but very observant, looked closely at the pattern. 'That's a nice design,' he said. 'And a nice soft wool too, I'd say.' It's not often you find women, let alone men, as interested as that, so they were worth cultivating, these two, wouldn't you say?

We fell into easy talk, as you do in West Cork, and they chatted about the old days and the old ways and how both their mothers had knitted all the time, making sweaters, socks, hats, for their families.

'My mother used to make - would you call it Fair Isle - with different colours?' said one. 'And sometimes she'd get her sisters to knit the sleeves while she knitted the body, but she was very cross with one sister because, she'd say over and over again, 'she knitted loose'. And that meant of course that the sleeves weren't the same fit as the body at all when you came to put them together!'

'My mother made me hold up the skeins of wool for her,' recollected the other. 'I'd have to sit there for ages, and my arms would get tired, and down they would droop, and she'd say, 'Lift up that skein, lift it up for me.' Like this, I'd have to hold them.'

That's the great thing about going out for coffee in this part of the world. You never know who you'll meet and what fascinating things you'll find out.

It's sunny this morning, but yesterday at dawn there was a mist over everything. The sun had to struggle to break through. Beautiful, isn't it?


Lynn said...

Jo, m'dear, put one of those nice men in a box with plenty of airholes and a bit of chocolate, and ship him to Texas. Assuming he doesn't have a wife or girlfriend who would object.

I have found the loveliest local shop that makes pralines in the shape of Texas...

Just sayin'.

Cindy/Snid said...

IT is so nice to have a bit of a "catch up" with you. Your Kromski is beautiful! I miss spinning. Even though I brought my wheel here with me I have to confess that it has only been gathering dust. I need to make a day for spinning some day soon.

I laughed out loud hearing you bemoan your gauge. I do remember your struggles. FWIW, I too am contemplating a sweater made on similar sized needles. Although I have developed a tight knitting tendency. Never used to be like that. I think it is all the fault of Sock Madness actually!

Oh, and I second the bit about cultivating a relationship with men who can hold yarn for their mothers! My husband also did that for his mother (though she was a weaver, not a knitter)and he is definitely a keeper!!

Anonymous said...

I am so pleased that you will be "writing home" more often. I seem to recall that you had found a second sock machine, and were engrossed in getting both operable. What have you knit with them? Are they both up and running?

I sympathize about the small needles. I am a "relaxed" knitter. When a pattern calls for beginning with my smallest needle, it's a no-go, as I would need to go down a size to get gauge.

Jean said...

Oh how I do love to read your blog, I feel like I've just won the lottery! Two postings to enjoy this morning. What cherished accounts, the two incredible men (who I already adore), yarn, beautiful spinning wheel, Yarn Harlot, its almost more than I can bare. By the way my most knowledgeable and worthy friend encouraged me to be more organzied as it will help my creativity. When I do follow this advice, I find that I have more time to create and my mind is free to do so. It is difficult in a busy full life, but I shall strive a little harder to do this. Thank you for a most enjoyable moment. Your blog causes me to reflect on things as well as joyful outbursts of laughter at your tales. DELIGHTFUL!!!

Anonymous said...

Holy crap. I've got to go. I can't know for certain, but I suspect that when Rachel reads your suspicion that I'm organised, they'll have to call the medics to take her away for a short rest.

I'll need to be there to feed the kid and the dog.

Roggey said...

Oh, that's a lovely wheel. I always felt that if there was one wheel that could tempt me to ditch my drop spindles, it would be the Kromski.


pacalaga said...

LOL @ Steph's comment.
Jo, dear, losing the end of the spinning is heartbreaking - I've done it. I just have to ask, though - why not just break one strand, continue spinning, and then deal with the breakage at plying time? (I'm a newbie spinner, so forgive me if that "just isn't done" or something.)

Charity said...

Hmmm, I think you might be on to something! :0)

I had more to say, but the wiggling baby on my lap is making me type one handed!

Anonymous said...

The part about cutting the laceweight gave me heart palpitations.

And in response to Stephanie, she is obviously organized in her own fashion or she couldn't survive. As are you!

Love the gents with knowledge of knitting!

rho said...

new wheel is a beauty

my most recent purchase was an umbrella swift that i cant use and i cant knit and am typing lefty with one finger thus no caps etc

im dying here not able to knit but at least i had 2 blog posts to enjoy

HPNY KNITS said...

YH is an organisation managing the clones known as Stephanie. we all know that, but keep pretending.....

cindyl said...

Did I ever have to let out a huge Texas laugh, nope, a "holler," actually, regarding your losing the end of your yarn on the bobbin. I have had the same thing happen several times, have even savagely sliced the yarn just as you did, when I could not find the end no matter what I did. It made me ill, ill, ill, but now it makes me cackle reading of it happening to you. Not that I want bad things to happen to you or little Kromski, but it is funny.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Jo. Your postings are a delight to read and I look forward to each of them.

Wish I could say I didn't have a clue what you were talking about when looking for the lost end on the bobbin, but alas, I do! And your new wheel is beautiful, as are the others--love the group photo of them.

Anonymous said...

Jo, please, please, please use that perfect poppy red in a lace shawl. It is begging to be a lovely stole. If you need some wondrous patterns go to Birgit's designs are wonderful, well written and doable. And never, ever boring. For more fun, join us on her knitalong. I just finished one of her projects (Way of Life Stole) half an hour ago, and I am truly impressed. Can't wait for the magic of blocking! And now there is a new mystery neck warmer pattern up.

cindyl said...

And Lilly is VERY correct, that poppy red HAS to be a stole. The warmth would be doubled by the lush red.

Anonymous said...

That first Toronto-area snowstorm has melted, but we're expecting another inch or two of white stuff starting this aft.
My partner is a loose knitter too -- but she'd rather be playing her Celtic harp, whom she has called "Willa" . Wooden things ask to be named, don't they?

tiffibug said...

Oh my, I'm in love with Baby Kromski. She's enough to tempt me into spinning. :D

Those men were so sweet!
My husband loves to hold yarn for me while I make it into balls. I don't have a swift, so must do it by hand.
He's a keeper.

I also think the red would make a gorgeous shawl.

Anonymous said...

Love your blog -- in any manner of installment.

I'm to be in Dublin and Leitrim with dear friends for the holidays, and you have inspired me to "go public" with my knitting while I am there (e.g. a pint with my rows of this hat or that sock).

Who know? I may even go wild and knit on double points!

Anonymous said...

"Baby" Kromski was just letting you know that it will be a cooperative effort, with both parties having input. I think she's beautiful, and every time I read about your spinning it makes me think I should learn how to use my wheel (which I've had for at least ten years).

I think I have to put West Cork back on my list of Places to go Soon. It sounds like a good and real place to be.

Unknown said...

Hah! There is organized, and then there is ORGANIZED. Like, why has the corner of my living room been gradually redecorated, with the addition of plastic boxes, an extremely LARGE wood bowl, and an open basket all just full of yarn and needles and patterns...?!

PLEASE I BEG OF YOU, keep blogging, as often as you can possibly muster. You are read thoroughly by NoIdahoStix in the wilds of the north Idaho panhandle. I do not spin. I do not crochet. I take lousy photos. I am a passionate but poor knitter with extravagant, excessive yarn collecting abilities. You inspire, coddle, educate, articulate, philosphize, and make me grin. Carry on!

Beth (aka bkat and NoIdahoStix on Ravelry)

Chris said...

Oh Jo! I had EXACTLY the same palarver with one of my early Kromski bobbinfulls! i used sellotape, unlooped miles of the stuff, oh what an unholy mess that was! It's a salutory lesson to wind the spare yarn round the top nub (where the drive band goes) a few times then it can't get lost.At least that's how I got around it. I think because of the depth in the bobbins they can "bury" strands sometimes but I don't have a kromski to comment on now. I love your handspun anyway and I agree Kromski's are fab. for laceweight.
Well done with the extra posts, we love reading about you.

Sally said...

Oh, Jo! I absolutely love, love, love your wordsmithing! I eagerly check each day to see if you've posted another gem and imagine my delight when I checked yesterday and, Hey Presto, you had done so. Try as I might, I never can quite get my wit to come out on my own blog.

Thank you so much for sharing your life, and home, and craft with the rest of the world. I, like many, am charmed by you!

Anonymous said...


Keep up all the wonderful work on your blog. It is always such a delight to sit down and read through your life and the photos are always a treat!

I just sat down and got myself caught up on my reading from October.

Happy knitting and spinning!


Angeluna said...

So pleased to see Baby Kromski safely ensconced on her fur rug. And to hear that she is so happy with you and just wants to perform. Expecting grand things. I saw little Tasha looking at you adoringly in that wonderful photo of home and hearth. Wondered where Muffy was, obviously just waiting for her chance at some fiber.

I too have been very lax in my blog postings. But to be realistic, it takes time away from my knitting, never mind housework. Sigh, you are making me feel very lazy. I've had the same sneaking suspician about Stephanie's organizational skills.

Bionic Laura said...

Your Kromski already sounds like she is settling in well. It's wonderful to hear you will be posting more often. I find your writing very relaxing.

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. I really did try to read all the way to the end of your post because, well, things look pretty. But somewhere very shortly after you posted your assertion about Stephanie being an organized person, well, my brain broke. Rather spectacularly.

It's ok. I've got a nice glass of wine now. I expect I shall be all better soon.

Melissa said...

I would love to run into one of those charming old men when I'm out knitting. I usually have to put up with the good-natured ribbing (no pun intended) of my friends.

I'm sorry to hear about the mishap with the lace weight. What a shame :(

And you're very ambitious with the (near) daily blogging. I'm a sporadic poster as well and I find inspiration from the more dedicated.

SandyK said...

Dear Jo, I know you're gonna want to slap me for this one..

Your comment about the ads on Ravelry: "but I'd seen the name, and went back straightaway to search for it (if you're on Ravelry, have you noticed that advertisements don't stay there for long? You have to be quick, or hope that they'll come round again while you wait and they don't, not for ages.)" jumped off the page at me and I couldn't resist letting you know how to find those ads that disappear.

IF you'll hover the mouse over the lower part of any ad, you'll see the words "more" and "clip it" appear below the ad. Clicking on "clip it" adds it to your favorites, and clicking on "more" will take you to a page showing you all the ads that appear in that particular section of ravelry, where you can scroll through quickly to find the missing one.

Fair warning: The latter can be dangerous to the health and safety of one's credit card. You may wish to consider giving it to Sophy Wackles for safe burial in the garden in a location beknownst only to her first.

Anonymous said...

Patternfish, eh?? Just like buying a drink for an alcoholic (a glass of wine would be nice about now)! Remind me to look through my stash for yarn to go with the patterns I just downloaded. Those people at my Credit Card company will probably be sending me thank you notes soon!!

Nancy Fletcher said...

Dear Jo, (whom I've never met, but feel I know very well)
I love your blog, and am so looking forward to frequent posts from you!!!

Nancy in Oregon
(nancyknots on Ravelry)