Friday, January 09, 2009

Twelfth Night Gone - And So Is The First Challenge

That does not mean that Eriskay is done, dusted, blocked and e'en now being shown off to an admiring public. Quite the opposite in fact.

Take note that this carefully assembled picture is the last you are going to see of said Eriskay and the poppy-red Shetland for quite some time.

Celtic Memory can be dense at times. She can persist in a patently disastrous course of action when all others have abandoned ship and swum for shore. She can persuade herself that something inherently hideous is really beautiful and worth making. She can even dispense vast amounts of coin of the realm in the purchase of yarn which is never likely to be made up into anything. Ever.

But even Celtic Memory gets the message finally.

You will recall the cheerful tone of my last posting of 2008. New challenges were needed, I declared, and therewith I pledged my troth to two in particular: to spin enough fleece for a sweater, and to try again with the fated Eriskay.

Well the spinning is going just fine, you'll be glad to hear. Slowly, due to unforeseen circumstances (of which more later) but going fine. Could have saved myself the agonising over how to spin finer or thicker yarn. Turns out Celtic Memory's yarn comes out the same every time, whether she tries to create laceweight or bulky. Sort of middle-of-the-road worsted-to-Aran, so that's OK anyway. Just hope there will be enough for a sweater when the 600g of Corriedale is all gone, but if there isn't, then it will be an ornately cabled vest. That's OK too. There are times when you just don't have the energy to worry any more over the small stuff.

Which Eriskay isn't. Wasn't. Observe deliberate amendment to past tense.

The yarns were wound and ready, the terrifyingly small gauge needles were to hand, and on New Year's Day the casting on began. It's a long job casting on for Eriskay, but CM was wise enough to take the advice of good friends like Ruth and placed little markers every 20 stitches or so, to make sure she didn't lose count and have to start all over again (you really don't want to do that with this number of stitches and they are all so small, so small - sorry, they were all so small.)

It took half the day to get the correct number cast on and then came the careful joining, ensuring that the stitches were not twisted in any way. Must have laid them out on the table, checking and re-checking, half a dozen times before making the final join.

By 6 pm, two whole rows had been worked in that eyestraining rib. Two whole rows! At this rate, the telegram marking my 100th birthday would arrive before Eriskay. But it was New Year's Day and a start had been made.

January 2, and the work was taken up with renewed vigour. Only... after working a few miles within Row 3, an unease was felt, began to grow, to deepen...

No, surely not. Couldn't be. Not this time. Look, you're an expert in this, OK? You're just imagining things.

Work on a little further. No, can't ignore the sense of impending doom any more. Take a deep breath. Get up. Spread it all out on the table and turn all the little stitches neatly in one direction...

Yep. The work was twisted.

How? How the heck should I know. Didn't I take care? OF COURSE I DID. YOU THINK I DO THIS FOR FUN? Didn't I look to see - yes I did. But did I - YES I DID THAT TOO SO STOP ASKING DAFT QUESTIONS!

And so, as I mentioned earlier, there comes a time when even Celtic Memory gets the message. The work was put gently down. The needles were gently tugged from the stitches. Each and every little stitch marker was removed and put away in the correct little bag. The yarn was gently rewound on to the ball (had to go round the outside instead of back inside, but that was OK. Who cares?)

This is definitely time, I thought, to forget all about besting Herself of Stornoway. Put it away, think of something else, forget you ever thought it attractive. Carefully composed that picture for you and you alone, and then banished book to shelves and yarn to stash.

OK, she can't do anything more to me now. Start the New Year afresh.

Did I think I'd get off so lightly, after that blatant attack on the outer bulwarks of Starmore Castle? Foolish Celtic Memory.

The headache which had been ascribed to eyestrain got worse. The snuffles which had been put down to over-attentive fluffy small dogs got even worserer. Aches and pains which could hardly be explained away by sitting stiffly over millions of tiny stitches, became impossible to ignore.

Within an hour it was clear that somehow I had been blasted right from the Hebrides by the flu bug to end all flu bugs. Nearly ended Celtic Memory, that's for sure.

Yes, those of you with good recall will query this. 'Surely you got exactly the same bug at exactly the same time last year?' they will ask disbelievingly. Yes, I did. And I'll give you three guesses what I was working on at the time. Predictable or what?

It has been a pretty bad week since then. After four days of no sleep, incessant coughing, and an inability to eat even a grain of muesli, gave in and went in search of a doctor. A cheerful young Australian locum checked me out and gave it as his considered opinion that there wasn't too much wrong with me at all. Readers, at this point I was slumped in a heap on the floor, quite incapable of rising without assistance. I was a wreck, alternately feverish or icy cold, totally choked up, and feeling that death would be a release.

'Oh in a week or two you'll probably think, yes I'm coughing less than I was back then,' he said gaily, waving me out the door and trousering my not inconsiderable contribution to the medical fund. And DH drove me home and put me to bed and administered hot honey and lemon, and wiped away my tears, bless him.

So bad indeed was I that knitting seemed a vague triviality. Who cared? (There was one point when, feverishly unable to sleep, I got up in the middle of the night and cast on for a violet guernsey, from a Japanese pattern book. Next morning I realised the error of my ways and frogged that too.

The remains of what will definitely NOT be a Japanese guernsey. With or without flu bugs.

January 6 was Little Christmas or Women's Christmas and no way was I going to miss that. Grannies, girls, mothers and daughters, women all over Cork were heading out for a great evening on the town and I didn't want to be left behind. DH took my bedraggled shadow into the city for a cheer-up dinner which included a seriously strong hot toddy.

DH was the only man in Luigi Malone's that night, apart from the waiters. Every table was jammed with women of all ages having a wild night out and enjoying exactly what they wanted, from steak to creamy desserts.

By way of distraction from my miseries, I went on DH's jobs with him that evening, to all the different events being put on for women around the city. When we got to the Abba tribute show at the Opera House though, I decided to stay put for a while and enjoy the atmosphere. Whatever you might think of their music, you can't deny it's eminently suitable for dancing along to. Which women were doing. In the aisles. Great fun.
'Does your mother know that you're out?'

When DH was carting me back to the car to go home to bed, there were cheerful groups heading to all the pubs, to continue the celebrations. It's a great idea. Why don't we have a virtual one online next year? You know, like the bleachers in Sock Madness?

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when a package of exquisite stitch markers arrived from my good friend Linda Burklin. Linda's designs are always in demand and I know she was rushed off her feet over Christmas meeting orders, but she still found time to make these beautiful ones for me, all delicate green leaves and pearly beauty.

She always makes one that is a little bit different to the others, stands out as the 'lead marker'. In this set it's one on the right that has a gold bead at the very tip of the leaf, like dew with the sun on it. We're talking, Linda and I, about theming hand-dyed sock yarns to her stitch marker designs and bringing them out at the same time - say a Lord of the Rings theme or similar. That would be fun.
Enough. I'm recovered to the stage where I think I just might go on living. And that at some point in the future knitting might even be fun again. But it's slow work.
And you will oblige me by not enquiring after that particular ornately-patterned gansey. Please do continue with your own interpretations of this. I imagine yours will turn out just perfectly. Peg, you emailed to enquire if it were possible to use any other than AS's own yarn for this particular project. At risk of inviting a relapse into that ghastly flu, I would declare truthfully and bravely that of course it is possible to use other yarns. Any yarn that gets you gauge is just fine. Why wouldn't it be? There are so many lovely lightweight Shetlands out there, in every colour of the rainbow. And smoother yarns too, if you don't like the fluffy halo look. Just go for it!
(Might be an idea to lay in stocks of flu remedies first though...)


rho said...

sooo -- you went out and spread all your germs all over town - just to get even with all the women out having fun huh ;)

we both are on the mend from it too.... still have the cough but feel like a human being again at least

Sara said...

I hope you're on the mend soon.

I must admit I like the looks of that violet Japanese guernsey. Would you mind sharing the pattern name/source when you're feeling better?

Nancy Fletcher said...

Glad you're well enough for blogging! Continue to get well!


Anonymous said...

I trust you are on the way to good health. The flu sounds just awful! The doctor must be related to the one I saw in early December. I went in hopes of staving off bronchitis and his comment was, "It's just a cold; you'll have to live with it." Well, it wasn't just a cold and on top of a sinus infection, I had vertigo for over a week.

Re the casting on that got itself twisted, a hint I use when I have multitudes of tiny stitches to cast on, in addition to the use of markers, is to knit back and forth for an inch or so before I join them. It's much more difficult to twist them at that point and no one ever sees that tiny little seam when I'm finished.

knititch said...

how sad about the cough and the knitting. darned twisted cast on. but so joyful almost to read about places in cork where i actually went and enjoyed myself immensely. so much more fun to read about an operahouse one has actually been to and enjoyed oneself. not to speak about the tour de force around cork town afterwards.

Anonymous said...

I do hope that you feel better by now:)

I'm really sorry to hear about Eriskay:(

However, having finished mine last year after 2 years of knitting, I must say that it's worth all the effort you put into it!

So, I truly hope you get back to it again:)

Angeluna said...

I'm so glad you are feeling a bit better. We're sending you serious get-well wishes, our house to yours.

Luigi Malone's? Hilarious. For real?

That violet shetland is lickable. Fabulous color. Notice I'm not mentioning the pattern to spare your nerves.

And what is the history of little Christmas? Clueless here.

Anonymous said...

As we say in the South on such occasions, "Well, bless your heart!" You poor dear...all that suffering and the flu, too. The rest of the year can only be better!

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about your recent Eriskay experience and resultant flu! I had hoped you would have conquered the challenge this time. I've not attempted any sweater so challenging as Eriskay, but I did recently cast on the same sweater three times before I successfully joined without twisting, so I almost feel a teensy twinge of your pain.

I do hope you feel better soon.

Anonymous said...

I do hope that you're feeling better by now. I'm just starting to recover from a nasty bug myself so I really sympathize.

Angeluna seemed to get amusement from the name of Luigi Malone's so I thought I'd share another odd combination name. We used to have a Mexican restaurant here named Carlos Murphy's.

Vicki in So. Cal.

laura gayle said...

Oh I'm so sorry you've been so ill! Perhaps before you even look at E again (or that lovely violet Japanese guernsey) you need a medicinal dram of your preferred strong drink to chase away any residual germs!

Anonymous said...

can i volunteer to knit the first 2 or 3 rows of eriskay for you??! karen

Aline said...

Sending you get well wishes. Happier knits too!

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you were/are sick!!! Hope it will all go away soon. Over here we're lucky that it's been below 0C for over a week as that seems to have killed most of the nasties.

I was going to give you the same tip Charlotte did. With a big number of stitches (especially when they're tiny) I will knit a few rows, mostly 10 and join at that point as it is easier to see if something's twisted or not :)

I would also like to know how Little Christmas came about. Sounds like fun!

Cheers Eva
PS: my 'safety word' is sheep!!! How fun is that hehehe.

Cindy/Snid said...

Jo, I do hope that you are feeling better by now. I had to laugh because as you were describing your symptoms I was thinking to myself "what that woman needs is a hot lemon with honey" Great minds think alike I guess.

I need to catch up over at the SM forum I think... I have been in jetlag brain fuzz mode this week. Stay warm and keep the hot toddys (toddies?)coming!

Karen said...

I had to de-lurk to find out about Little Christmas. I love this idea! After all, it's we wimmen that do all of the work in order for others to enjoy their holiday. Why shouldn't we get to celebrate when it's over!

I was also hit with the flu bug over the holidays. I feel your pain.

Let himself know that his photos are gorgeous.

Linda B said...

I'm so glad you liked the markers I sent you. I'm already working on spring designs and should have them ready soon.

And very, very glad you were well enough to enjoy your Twelfth Night outing!

Sarah said...

Oh you poor thing! I'm glad you are feeling better and I don't blame you one bit for deciding to abandon *that* *pattern*. I am just about to start mine, so I hope that I can avoid the curse of You Know Who.

Melissa said...

I'm glad to hear that you are feeling better. And good for you to know when to finally abandon a pattern! Somethings just aren't meant to be, you know?

I've never heard of Little Christmas before. It sounds quite lovely. I'm glad that you were able to get out and enjoy a little bit of it.

Silver Phoenix said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Silver Phoenix said...

I love reading your blog, and I'm glad you're on the mend. Hot Toddies are the cure-all for anything you really need to sweat out, so keep the lemon and honey going and you should be even better soon.

As to the sweater, well. Condolences on that, as well. I'm sure when you're feeling better, you'll find yourself taking it on again (and again and again and again), although I have to admit the name sounds like something vaguely dirty rendered into Pig Latin. I'm not sure how wild I'd be to handle a project at that gauge, in that shade of red, with a name that translates constantly as "Amnday" in my head.

Then again, knowing myself, I'd probably giggle myself sick over it... :-)

(Why no edit feature in Blogger comments? Life would be so much easier for the spelling challenged like me if there was!)

Anonymous said...

Oh, my. You're made of sturdier stuff than I am, even attempting Eriskay again. However, I also admire the fact that you know when to admit defeat. I think I'd be afraid to even attempt any of Herself's designs. (The phrase, "I'm not worthy" will not leave my mind.)

The stitch markers are beyond lovely--no wonder Linda has been so rushed. Such talent!

I love the idea of Little Christmas, and your online idea is terrific. I must admit to being an ABBA fan, corny though it may be. I wait until I'm home alone, turn it up loud, and sing and dance like a loon. My family already know I'm nuts, but no use adding fuel to the fire, is there?

Here's to a speedy and complete recovery, and I wish you and yours a (belated--sorry) very happy, healthy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Your spirit is indominable! How lovely the stitch markers are. I searched for Linda B's work, and could not find it. Would you or she post a link?

Anonymous said...

So glad to hear you are feeling better! I sympathise, as I'm just recovering from 4 weeks of coughing and ick.

That yarn needs put in time out! It sounds like it has it's own idea of what it wants to be.

We have a big job that needs done. We have been trying to get it done for several years. Every time we have dug in to do it, someone has suffered a major injury (unrelated to the job)! Broken bones and such type things. As you can imagine, we are all a bit skittish about approaching the task again!

The ladies night on the town sounds like great fun!

Anonymous said...

And here I thought that since you weren't posting you must be traveling with himself, doing the end of year/beginning of new year obligatory photos; I was looking forward to seeing crazy folks turning blue after a dip in the ocean. But sorry you were ill and glad you are on the mend.
That gorgeous red shetland really does want to be a shawl. Knitting-delight's Birgit is starting a new one this coming Thursday called "Lady Jane". Maybe you'll join us.

Windybrook Spinner said...

Poor CM! Those stitch markers are incredibly lovely.

LaurieM said...

I'm really very sorry you've been sick, but all this talk of Eriskay being cursed has me almost itching to cast it on! Which I absolutely cannot do because I've just finished loading up my queue with knits for mom, dad and the hubby. I write this with kind intentions and sympathy for your trials, but I seriously don't believe in this curse.

Women's Christmas is an intriguing idea. I've never heard of it. I'm off to Google it to see what I can learn.

KiniaCat Crafts said...

Very sorry to hear you were ill but glad to hear you're recovering.
(Kudos to your DH for being a true DH!)
I was also ignorant of the history of the Eriskay attempts until your 12/28 blog. Considering the various consequences seeming to relate to the Eriskay endeavors...I feel I must commend you on your good sense.
Please - I would also request history and expanded knowledge of "Little Christmas" or "Woman's Christmas". I'm also intrigued by the idea of a virtual, On-line version. Or possibly of inspiring my friends from my weekly Craft Klatch to have one here in Arizona.
Ah - and I'm developing a penchant for spiffy stitch markers. The ones you received are loverly. I'm off to see what I can see of Linda Burklin's.
Healing thoughts to you. Be well.

Unknown said...

Ah, so that is where you have been--in bed, croaking. Very glad to hear that you have rejoined the human race. Seriously, best wishes for a healthy 2009 and many successful FOs.

Sally said...

Hope you are seriously on the mend, Jo. The flu is a bugger, for sure.

I love the idea of Little Christmas, or Women's Christmas...we get far too little celebrations as it is. Hurrah for you!

Feel better and Happy New Year!

Anonymous said...

Sorry you've been sick.

But more, please, on the origins of "Women's Christmas". You throw it out there and leave us all envious. We need ammunition so that we can demand this tradition next year in our home towns!

Jean said...

Coughing is such a nasty business, it is especially hard for me with my asthma. Thank goodness you are on the mend, cough syrup with codeine usually will help me to sleep thru the night. You have such a dear fellow to share your life with, the little things he does for you. You really lead a charmed life, full of opportunities to learn and grow.

EGunn said...

Ugh. I'm sorry that Eriskay has brought you such bad luck! But you're done with her now. I've had a few sweaters that twist in the third or fourth row after cast on. I have no idea how they do it. I check, check again, have someone else check, and suddenly they are undeniably twisted. Some yarns just have the devil in them.

Glad you're feeling better, and that you made it out for the Women's Christmas! Sounds like something you don't want to miss.

Anonymous said...

Poor Jo! I too thought you might be travelling somewhere nice when I noticed you had not blogged for a while. But flu and its nastinesses is no joke. My heart went out to you when I read of your twisted rows on the Eriskay. I always knit the first few rows back and forth before joining - experience shows I keep my temper better then, or there might be more projects hurled to the floor and stamped on! Bon courage for your next project.

Anonymous said...

Ha! I know what toddy you were drinking to brace yourself against the flu -- a hot whisky! Am I correct?

Was just in Leitrim visiting friends and was introduced to this marvelous winter drink. (We darted into a pub on New Year's Day after a brisk and frosty winter's hike up in the hills around Loch Allen.) My Irish friend could hardly believe I didn't know what a hot whiskey was, but now that I do I can't give them up.

Back home in DC, we have consoled ourselves on several evenings with hot whiskies (the impending Inaugural crowds! the traffic! the decided lack of brown bread!), and I'm not sure how we got along this long without them.

Dez Crawford said...

My close women friends and I do Twelfth Night, too. We hold off on exchanging our gifts until Little Christmas -- it extends a few knitting deadlines, too. ;-)

I alway, always (did I say always?) leave a longish tail and knit the first few rows back and forth before joining at fine gauge.

I know you better, silly girl. You'll be at it again. perhaps this time to start on it for the Summer Solstice? The energy will be different then. Starmore should do like tarhawk and tell you the proper times to begin her rituals, hm?

Hoping you feel better soon....

Dez Crawford said...

That should be "Starhawk." With an "S." Can't type to save my life today.

Helen said...

I think Herself's flu curse came past my house on its way to yours (probably direct line of sight tbh) - I am now officially too scared to try a pattern as I am far too close here in Ayrshire. All I did was THINK about trying to get a pattern and I was smited. I'm sticking to Elizabeth Zimmermann personally.

Linda B said...

For anyone who's interested, my new collections of stitch markers are up on Ebay now. Look for my username: DressyNeedles. Come on over and browse!
Linda Burklin

Spinningfishwife said...

Knit the first ten rows flat. You'll have to darn that end in anyway....

Marji said...

oh dear. I read on Ravelry that you were giving up the ghost on this one.
Just for grins, go have a look at
Gordon is starting a new gansey and is documenting the process. The neatest thing about his start is that he separates those first couple of inches and knits them flat.
It's an idea.