Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Year Should Mean New Challenges

In crafting terms anyway. We'll probably get quite enough of the other kind without looking for them. But instead of making daft resolutions which won't last beyond January 2, it might be a good idea to try and stretch oneself a little, try something more difficult than usual, or at least something which requires a little staying power (not Celtic Memory's strongest suit, it has to be admitted).

Which is why there are two major items on the To Start List for January 1 2009. Firstly, that albatross of ill omen, the Eriskay gansey, beautifully designed by Starmore, attempted by Celtic Memory at least twice in the past.

The first had been with a nondescript, perfectly adequate yarn, but the incredibly huge number of stitches somehow got twisted on the third round. Not the first as you might expect, but the third. No I didn't behave well. Inner Child came instantly out of hiding, screamed with rage, and wrenched the whole sorry mess from the needles before rushing off to find several other new projects to smooth over the hurt.

A year or so later, memory having blurred the worst bits, another attempt was made. This time, for some insane reason, a very fine and very beautiful pure cashmere, of which a large cone had been snaffled some time in the dim distant past, was brought into use. The casting on was a success (that, in itself, is a triumph with a Starmore special, which tends to demand in excess of 300 sts right at the beginning). The joining went fine. The working of several rows of ribbing (can you imagine just how fine this darn work is?) went well.
Then, flushed with success, Celtic Memory left the knitting on the armchair upstairs and went down for a celebratory coffee. Inadvertently leaving the door ajar...

Ok, ok, for all those of you who wanted to see it again (sadists!), here it is. Happy New Year to you too!

It's taken a little longer this time to blot out the past, but the encouragement of Ravelry and sundry friends thereon have worked the irresistible alchemy. There is now an Eriskay KAL, beginning on New Year's Day 2009. And Celtic Memory is ready, with the poppy-red Shetland wound, the frighteningly fine needles standing by. This time, maybe this time...

She'll be celebrating Hogmanay. Maybe she won't have her look-out posted in that direction. If I could even get past the initial ribbing, perhaps the spell would be broken?

You'll hear all about it here anyway.

The second challenging project for Jan 1 is the spinning of sufficient yarn for a sweater. This was thought up by the Spinner Central Group on Ravelry, and it seemed like such a good idea, CM jumped right in there with the others.

Thought I'd get a bit ahead of myself, and try out that new Corriedale over Christmas. It would make a beautifully cosy sweater.

The Kromski Mazurka is working beautifully. Angeluna, you would love one of these. Its old-world elegance would complement your home, and you would find it a joy to work with. It didn't complain even when spinning continued for hours and hours. Two huge bobbinsful were created, and then plyed before being wound into a nice big skein and soaked to set the twist. Drying was watched impatiently, but at last it could be wound up into a big ball -

Well -

- a rather small ball actually. Can you read that label? 'Almost 60m', it says hopefully. 60 metres. Less than the usual ball I'd buy.


No, no, don't all shout your estimates. I know, I know! It was a rhetorical question, OK? I've been making sweaters long enough. I don't need to have the sums done for me. It is sufficient to realise that despite this first skein taking as long as the Forsyte Saga to make, there are a great many more necessary before I can even think of casting on.

Oh woe! Oh despair! Oh almost giving up!

Mind you, the good advice given by Boogie, moderator of the SpinAlong for a Sweater group, does offer some hope. She suggests using the first hard-won ball to knit up a swatch. Not only will this give an idea (however unwelcome) of the amount of yarn needed for the final product, it will also provide (it is suggested) a surge of delight at seeing how beautiful the finished sweater will be. Going to try that this very evening, once I've finished posting.

In the meantime, starting two new projects really should mean finishing those in progress. Or at least the currently visible ones. A scarf, a pair of socks, and a washcloth were all done for Christmas; now the Noro jacket is being attacked.

Back and fronts done, both sleeves being worked at the same time. This is fairly mindless knitting (which reminds me, Blogless Dicksie (renowned on Ravelry, though) considers Eriskay a mindless knit. What, one wonders in terror, does she consider a challenging one?) and can be progressed a bit at a time, while waiting for the kettle to boil, watching TV, even waiting for something to upload on the computer on a slow evening.

Christmas was grey and dark and damp, but yesterday was one of those brilliantly clear days you rarely get here. A wind that would take the horns off a goat, and a chill that came from Eastern Europe, but still it was sunny, and we headed down to the coast, with a flask of hot coffee, turkey sandwiches, and Sophy Wackles.

The aim was to explore some of the tiny winding boreens that undulate in and out, up and down, along the coastline, sometimes stopping dead without any warning, sometimes turning themselves inside out and arriving back very near to where you left the main road, but sometimes leading you to totally unexpected corners or coves or viewpoints. You simply never know what you're going to find around the next corner.

Like a skewbald pony tethered to the roof of an old cottage, with a friendly collie coming to greet you, slightly embarrassed by a very Christmassy ribbon tied to his collar.

Sophy (who also had a bright red bow on her harness in honour of the festive season) was not at all sure about the pony. Narsty and dangerous was her opinion, and she declined absolutely to make friends.

Then you come round another bend and are rewarded with a totally new view of the coastline with Jeremy Irons' restored castle standing proudly on its headland beyond -

- or drive down a really narrow muddy lane and discover an entirely new castle that you never dreamed existed. This one is White Castle, which is interesting because we already knew Black Castle, further down along the coast, but hadn't realised that its counterpart was here all the time, far from the madding crowd.

These new views and hidden secrets of West Cork are something we are particularly hunting out at the moment because (to let you into a secret) DH and I have been commissioned to produce a new book about West Cork in words and pictures, during 2009. It's something we've long wanted to do and we are determined to produce something that will be as beautiful, as fascinating, and as much a long-term love-affair as the place itself. Of course there have been plenty of books about the region before now, and that's why ours will have to be different - more off the beaten track, with lots of little nuggets of information and history and stories and legends, as well as DH's breathtaking pictures. The kind of book you'd keep by your bedside and dip into time and again.

That's going to be the third challenge for 2009. And I suspect it's going to take centre stage before long, causing Celtic Memory's usual calm, methodical approach to come to the fore (that's hysteria, followed by insane laughter, followed by total panic, followed by despair... you know, the usual. Think Sock Madness and then some.)

I don't suppose we'll be including this image in the book though.

Can you read that? It says Independent Waste Removal. But I think somebody lives there. I just love that. It was in a lane miles from anywhere.

There were so many adorable little ruined cottages, you would have been hard pressed to make up your mind which one you wanted to rescue and adopt.

How about this one, high up on the side of a mountain, in a little copse of trees? I dreamed about this little ruin last night, of cleaning it out, and putting in a window at the back, and making a wooden door for the front, and looking after it...

Or this one, dozing in the sunlight near White Castle? It's clearly been deserted for years, maybe even a century or more, but it would respond so much to love and care. I want to look after them all! (But given the number of ruined cottages in Ireland, that would really be impractical. Maybe we could start a group?)

And of course we found standing stones.

This fine gallaun was right down by the seashore, minding its own business and enjoying the salty air.

And these two sturdy sentinels on the slopes of Mount Gabriel are all that remain of what was once in all probability a long stone row leading to a circle or other important site.

As the sun was setting, we decided to make the demanding ascent up the hill to Dunbeacon stone circle, to pay our respects at the ending of the old year, and get something for you to share too.

And finally we braved the icy winds on top of the hill to look out over the bay.

May the old year end peacefully and happily for you and yours, and may 2009 bring us all the things for which we wish most. (Hint though: don't wait for them to come to you - go out and hunt for them!)


Cindy/Snid said...

The book sounds like a great project for 2009!!! (and I can already hear your "Woe is me's" during SM3!)

Happy New Year Jo. I am grateful to have you as a blogland friend ;)

Dreamin Diva said...

I've been reading Castle Richmond again, it is set in Cork as you know. I would love to see some pictures of the area related to Trollope's novel--and if a few made it into your book project, that would be extra fine.

Wishing you a very happy New Year and all the best for 2009 as well as many successful and exhilarating projects. Elly in Nova Scotia

knittingyoyo said...

I enjoy reading of your knitting and spinning escapades. I also love seeing your landscape pictures. It makes me feel as though I am there. Happy New Year!

Chris said...

Belated Merry christmas and a stonking new year!
I love the idea of your book, I'd buy it, the photos in your blog are evidence enough, so much inspiration!
Don't stress about the spinning, give it time and good things will happen but well done on the 60 metres anyway.
I still have to plan my new years resolutions but I think they may be a bit alternative this time as I don't think I achieved any of this year's!

Chris said...

Oh yeah, but I will be joining you in the spinning for a sweater thingumebob...amongst all the swaps I think that's plenty for 2009!

knititch said...

that is true. let us have a challenge. a controllable one. there is enough of those beyond controle.

i am a sucker for starmore but won't join since i have an icelandic project for a friend to do and fern by alice too.

and the irish luck helped. i got the job. thanks so much for sending it my way.

happy new year. may it be grand.

Unknown said...

Please add to your resolutions, keep the dog away from any knitting projects!

I am counting on your new book to acquaint me with the colors and scents of your Cork, as my traveling days abroad are probably over.

Best wishes, dear Jo, for all your 2009 endeavors!

Beth in North Idaho

Jean said...

Did you ever think of knitting a baby sweater? Or must it be for an adult? Your book will be on my I want list, and I hope I can purchase one when they are available, so please let us know the details when the time comes. Your blog is such a fun place to visit.

Melissa said...

The book sounds lovely! I'm adding it to my "I want it" list :)

Best wishes for 2009!

Anonymous said...

Delurking to wish you success in all your endeavours - I look forward to reading all about them on your wonderful blog.

Shame there's no way you can ask your four-legged fibre fiend - sorry, friend - what challenges he has set for himself this year.
Though you can probably work them out for yourself!

Best wishes for a happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

"A wind that would take the horns off a goat..." Too funny! I'll be looking for an opportunity to use that expression.
The book sounds very exciting, indeed. All the very best for the New Year, Jo!

Angeluna said...

A book! Oh, yay! After looking at the Irish calendar selections, I was going to suggest that you and Richard do a calendar, perhaps of standing stones. Perhaps your publishers will combine that with the book.

And perhaps you could tell us the story of the 16th Century Irish pirate queen Granuaile? I know only that reference, but no story.

Glad you had a lovely day. And yes, I must be a total sadist because I adore that photo of Muffy the Yarn Slayer, surrounded by piles of bloody yarn.

Kit said...

The real secret to Eriskay and any other monumental task in life, I think, is to change ones perspective. Instead of dreading it, consider it an exciting adventure. There will be many secrets and new aspects of your own self that this knit will help you discover and should it not work again, it has NOT defeated you for look at what you have learned and seen at this point.

I'm trying this same technique with an upcoming exam. It has me shaking in my boots but I think that if I look forward to it as a new learning experience, perhaps I will conquer it rather than letting it conquer me. And should I fail it again, I still have another chance and I know better what to do.

Here's to 2009 and indomitable spirits! Also, that pony looks quite sweet, it's a shame that Sophie had no inclination to be friends, but I think my own Daisy would have been of the same mind. ;)

Linda B said...

Is it too early to pre-order the book yet?

I salute your Starmore ambitions. I'm not there yet. Might not ever be there until my overflowing nest is empty!

I want all the empty cottages. All of them. But especially the woodsy one on the mountain. Unless it's the one right on the shore from one of your recent entries . . .

Roggey said...

Happy New Year to you, love! May it bring all sorts of wonderful knitting related surprises...

MmmYarn said...

I think I will need to buy that book. I've always enjoyed your photos of Cork.

Spinning enough yarn for a sweater... Now that's something I haven't tried yet but right now I have so little free time that it's not the right time to take that on. I wish you the very best of luck in this challenge. Do you also need to knit the target sweater in the same year? Whew!

Ring in the new year in style (wearing cozy, wonderful handknits)! -- Kirsten

~ ~ Ahrisha ~ ~ said...

Oh sign me up. I would love to rescue one of Irelands lovely cottages. Such beauty. Thanks for the tour I always enjoy myself in your company. Stop by sometime for a visit in the states.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the lovely photos, and good luck with your New Year's projects!

Anonymous said...

Keep us posted on the book!

I just love your photos and writing it is always a relaxing treat to read your posts with a good cup of coffee or tea.

Dana said...

Good luck with the Starmore! You'll have a whole pile of people cheering you on. Happy New Year--Dana in Bellingham, Washington.

pacalaga said...

The book sounds lovely - I hope you and DH will be on a book tour, or at least up for autographing some for your blog/sock madness cronies.

Lindy said...

The making of a new book is soooooo
exciting! I can hardly wait to know more about its progress. I do hope you will be able to keep your blog friends up-to-date on this adventure as you keep us so well up-to-date on all of your other adventures.

Happy New Year,
Lindy in AZ, USA

EGunn said...

I am spinning for a sweater right now (my first real spinning project). The yardage on the first ball almost killed me...I couldn't believe there was so little! But once I got into the swing of things and stopped expecting a bobbin to equal a sweater, it's actually going really fast. Keep at it for a few bobbins, and you'll fall into the rhythm of it. (I'm actually starting to worry about what I'll do when this one is done!) Happy new year, and good luck with your challenges!

Allison said...

Thank you to you & DH for all the lovely pictures and commentary. I've been meaning to ask you for some time now about where y'all publish your articles. And now you'll be providing a wonderful book for me. Thank you. Thank you!

Dez Crawford said...

Book! Book! Book!

I can't wait!

And of course you'll need a book tour. A world tour, of course. You have fans! International ones, and many. Tell them that -- or I surely will.

Oh, this tour of West Cork is just what I needed today. We just got back from out of town so Dave could have surgery (did you get my email?) and this was a much-needed mental vacation.

And that first cottage in the woods? Someone is still there, I can tel, but a gentle spirit. I would love to redo it and love it. And have a horse and some sheep.

There is a tiny town called White Castle here in South Louisiana, full of spirits of its own, and many bald eagles. I love the place to death.

Happy New Year, and thank you as always my dear friend for your lovely, lovely posts. You bring humour and beauty nto many people's lives each time you post.

Now that we are back, I promise to update my own blog with shop photos, etc. by Twelfth Night.

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to you, too! I treat myself to an enjoyable visit with you each week. And now I'm thrilled to read you and DH will have a book on West Cork. Since I know the types of places you love to visit -- just the sorts of natural/pagan/mysterious things we like, too -- we look forward to using it to wander about your magical land.

tmjackson said...

Ooh - congrats on the book! I know you'll keep everyone posted, so I won't ask you to, but just in case you needed someone else to say they'd looooove to buy it, I will want it! Happy New Year and best of luck on all your projects.

Charity said...

Oh, Jo, a book!! Wonderful!

That 1st picture makes my stomache turn just as much as it did the first time... stop doing that! The Noro jacket it lovely. :o)

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Jo, for a wonderful post (as usual). Ireland always jumps to the top of my list of places to go after I read one of your posts. I envy you the time to explore the place properly; my adventure would have to start with a two or three week visit. I can't wait to see the book's progress, and hopefully obtain a copy when it's done.

Happy New Year!