Sorry it's been such a time. I had fully intended to wish you all the joys of the Solstice, and then to update on knitted gifts which have been taking up most of the time chez Celtic Memory these last few weeks. As, I imagine, they have been with you.
But Blogger had other ideas. OK, so I had adjusted to the idea that from now on, instead of dragging and dropping pictures where I wanted them to appear, I'd have to load them all, one by one, in reverse order (and thereby, perforce, planning what I was going to say in advance) and only then inputting text.
Now Blogger won't let me load more than three or at a pinch four pictures before it hangs, jams, throws up entirely incomprehensible warnings, and finally crashes. My good friend LilyMarlene says she has the same problem. Anybody got any ideas here? Stress levels reached a high last night when one might have thought that, it being Christmas Eve, one could have been winding down.
So after a fairly peaceful day (far too slippery and icy to go out, so why not enjoy a lovely time trying out a new project, a top-down boat-neck sweater in black Incense (from Elann) designed to show off a white shirt underneath, you know the style?), I've accepted the inevitable and you will therefore get, instead of one lengthy post, several short ones, spaced out over the next few days.
The plan was to update you on the gift knitting, as I said, and then talk about books, followed by an account of a lovely solstice exploration down another old road revealed by very low water levels in the lakes near home. Tonight, you're getting the gift knitting and a bit of the books. No more, because if Blogger goes b-y-minded again, I can't guarantee I won't attack the blameless screen on my computer with an (empty) Chardonnay bottle.
There are many books laid out for the festive season by the fireplace in the upstairs sitting room. A Christmas Carol, of course, A Child's Christmas in Wales, 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, The Dark is Rising, The Children of Green Knowe, Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening. This year, however, I think my absolute favourite has to be The Mitten by Jan Brett.
I'm sure you know it well, but this anniversary edition is so exquisite I am charmed afresh every time I turn over the pages. Just look at the granny knitting by the porcelain stove, and Nicki bringing armsful of white wool for her to make the special mittens. Every page is a delight for the detail of the Ukranian countryside and lifestyle, not to mention the animals. Illustrations can make the simplest of stories into an enriching experience, can't they? (Must dig out those Russian fairy tales with the wonderful illustrations by Ivan Bilibin - often wanted to copy the glorious costumes depicted there.)
Now, like the rest of you, I've been working flat out on gift knitting. A new baby friend arrived last week, a little girl, so I decided she needed a nice red hat for Christmas. I wish I could show you the sequence of pictures, but I can hear Blogger threatening softly in the background so I'll content myself with telling you that the main part of the hat was worked on the sock machine, and I then picked up the stitches for a crochet cast off for the brim (which rolled nicely) and then the stitches to decrease for the crown. Finally I was working a 4-st i-cord to make a decorative top, and thought, 'this is just like that nice cord-maker I have in the workshop...
It took a bit of doing to coax the i-cord already made up through the little machine and then to hook the stitches on to the needles, but once that had been done, and a good bit of yarn pulled through to work the last bit, gosh it was a quick job! Just turn the handle and it's done! (I have several cord-makers but this one, made I think by Bond, is the best, probably because it has real steel needles and a good weight to hang on the work.
And here are some of the dozens of pairs of wristwarmers I made on the sock machine and then finished with frilly crochet edgings. They're such a handy gift for nice people in shops and post offices and places. Here you see them with the waste yarn still holding the main stitches, waiting for me to work the edgings. Wish I could show you some of the finished pairs, but see above re Blogger...
But the postman's socks deserve their own picture and they're going to get it. Our postman is particularly nice and helpful and friendly, so when he didn't turn up for a few days last month I worried about him. Enquired of the stand-in, who told me that postie had been in hospital for an operation. Well, what do you do when someone nice has had an operation? Well of course you make him a pair of socks! Time was tight, so the tube in black wool was made on the sock machine, and then toes, heels and cuffs hand-knitted in a bright red. Finished them on Dec 23, washed and dried them overnight, and handed them in to the post office for onward transmission via a helpful workmate on Christmas Eve. Just in time!
OK, that's the story so far. So many more things I wanted to tell you about and to show you via DH's lovely pictures - the huge fir tree we cut from the top of an enormous one in our garden, which just brushes the ceiling in the hall; the frosty scene from my study window for the past few mornings; the dogs skidding wildly on the driveway this morning as sleety rain fell on top of hard frost. But better not to push my luck. It's really been a bad couple of days with Blogger and I'd rather get down and check the festive dinner really. The next posting (tomorrow hopefully) will tell the tale of The Secret Solstice Road across the lake.
Oh yes, did get some rather nice books for myself as a treat this Christmas. Barbara Walker's Knitting from the Top, plus her first book of patterns; and both Knitting and Spinning in the Old Way by Priscilla Gibson-Roberts. Oh, and Knitting Around by the diva herself, EZ. All texts I really should have owned long ago, and all awaiting a lovely browsing session.
Now, off to tackle that top-down sweater in Incense. Yes, yes, and check on the turkey as well...
Don't forget to give me any - ANY suggestions as how to deal with Blogger. It is really frustrating not to be able to march up to its (their?) door and just clock it hard over the head. So much more satisfactory than trawling through irritatingly useless Help pages.