Sunday, December 05, 2010

St Agnes Eve... Ah bitter chill, it was...

In fact that feast isn't celebrated until January 21, but the way the weather has been behaving here lately, you'd be forgiven for thinking we'd jumped forward six weeks or so.

St Agnes' Eve---Ah, bitter chill it was!

The owl, for all his feathers, was a-cold;

The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass,

And silent was the flock in woolly fold.

We'd been trudging peacefully towards the end of the year, accepting the dark evenings and looking forward to the first signs of spring in January. Doesn't really get cold down here in West Cork, as I told one impending American visitor recently (I'm so sorry, I hope you did after all bring some warm clothing!). Yet one morning, we all woke up to below zero temperatures and - was it? Could it be? Snow?

This was the view from my study window last week, and it hasn't changed since. You can't see the tiny snowflakes falling, but believe me they're there. And that spidery little magnolia out there in the middle of the lawn has its buds on, silly thing. Tuck them away again, quick!

This is what it looked like from the sitting room window this morning. Beautiful, but freezing cold. The winds have been taking turns to come from Siberia and from the Arctic, turn and turn about, easterlies and northerlies. Oh for a beaker full of the warm South...

The birds have been frantic, and so have we, trying to ensure that not one little sparrow falls victim to the Big Chill. Now I realise that for many of you, minus five is no big deal at all, and unless you have to dig your way out from under a snowdrift, it's not worth putting on an extra woolly, but remember that our birds are no more used to this weather than we are. And so the fat balls and the crumbs, the halved apples and the muesli, have been in demand. Plus fresh warm water of course. They have nothing to drink when everything is frozen hard. I wondered why their nice fresh water was disappearing so rapidly, and then discovered that the dogs were pottering out to slurp from the handy bowls outside, since their favourite ponds were iced over. Now I've put the birds' water bowls up on flowerpots

I've even had the birds tapping at my study window, that one you can see in the top picture above. I'd started leaving seeds and crumbs there in the autumn, and each freezing morning the little fluffed-up creatures are there and waiting. Got it organised now, with a dish of supplies inside, so I can add more to the windowsill outside as and when required

This little robin looks quite plump and happy, but that's because he has all his feathers fluffed up for warmth. We've hung a couple of woven birdhouses in the porch, and are keeping fingers crossed that some of the birds use them at night

I've been re-reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's The Long Winter too. The frightening description of living through those prairie blizzards comes a lot closer to home when you're caught in the grip of this kind of weather

Doubtless it will lift soon and we'll be back to the customary damp mild Irish winter. It had better. We're nearly out of firewood. Not prepared, I tell you, not prepared!

There hasn't been much discussion of knitting matters lately, but that doesn't mean they haven't been happening. Quite a few projects even got finished. I experienced one of those blinding moments of self-realisation when I looked around and saw just how many weary WIPs there actually were in view, not to mention all of those tucked safely out of sight and out of mind. Nauseated by the sheer number of failures, I dived in and sorted out several.

This is the Victorian Shoulderette, worked in a nice variegated wool boucle. It sits superbly on the shoulders and doesn't slip off annoyingly just when you least want it to. It had been lying unfinished for almost a year because I couldn't face working the endless sideways lace edging. Solution? Don't work the edging. Fine as it is. Job done.

And this was a machine-knit project, essayed to see if I could manage to execute cables throughout a long piece of work. I could and I did, but then left it to one side because it needed a trim of some kind and I couldn't think of one. After a lapse of a month though, the ideal trim was obvious. Work three very long lengths of i-cord (only takes minutes on a machine) and plait (braid) them together, then sew around the fronts and neck. Excellent.

The Adam's Rib Vest, aka the Newfoundland Vest, because I think I was thereabouts when the project got started, is still not finished though, nor is the Pamuya Shawl, nor yet the Pogona Shawl. What possessed me to start yet another shawl when one is unfinished? Listen, you have no idea how many more there are tucked away in boxes and baskets. Don't ask.

So the one clear idea would have to be: do not under any circumstances start another project until all (or at least nearly all) of these are done, right?


Well... it is a pretty thing, no two ways about it. Which is presumably why the Yarn Harlot called it that. And it's a cowl, which is needed right now, to keep the Celtic Memory neck warm. And I had a ball of scrumptiously soft Italian merino mousse hand-dyed in my favourite violet shade, which was sitting there feeling unused and unwanted. And I was waiting for the next day's clue in the Advent Lace Scarf KAL.


Oh, well it seemed like such a nice idea at the time. Tricia started this with her local knitting group at her yarn store, and asked if I'd like to join in, never mind that I'm several thousand miles away across the herring pond on Tuesday nights which is when they get together usually. So I did. And I am. Each morning another little pdf arrives plunk in my mailbox, and I keep the knitting next to the screen so I can start immediately.

Up to Day Five now, and every day different. It's enormous fun, and also excellent practice at lacework, because there are only 54 stitches to get wrong instead of the hundreds you might have on a shawl. And Celtic Memory is pretty good at getting it wrong, mainly due to the fact that she won't read a pattern slowly and carefully but plunges right in and gets going. Only to find it necessary to frog back after Row One. Again. You'd think I'd have learned by this time, wouldn't you?

Awoke this morning to the shocked realisation that Christmas was approaching with the speed of an express train, and I hadn't fulfilled my promise of putting some yummy yarns up on eBay to enable others, more organised than I, to get their gift lists sorted. So the brief period of sunshine was put to good use in photographing tempting skeins.

Felt more like Scrooge than a joyous, open-handed yarn seller when putting these beauties out. This is (peal of bells) brushed Suri alpaca, almost weightless, soft as a fairy's touch, with a loft which would put it in the bulky category if that wouldn't be an insult to something so delicate. I love it, love every cone of it, you hear? You don't deserve it. Especially the natural soft white one. I want to keep all of that for myself. Might pull it from eBay yet.

And these are laceweight kid mohairs for shawls. A pale lavender and a hand-dyed violet to match.

Put up lots more - alpaca/silk fingering, some merino/silk, more kid mohairs. But you don't want to see them all. I mean, how boring can pictures of yarn be?

Now listen. I've had some lovely comments on various postings over the past while, and several times I've wanted to reply directly to the commenters. But I COULDN'T BECAUSE THERE WAS NO WAY OF CONTACTING THEM. You haven't enabled access on your Blogger profile, so you haven't! Elaine, who told me, wonderfully, that her husband's grandfather actually owned Rabbit Island (you remember, that gorgeous little Roan Inish lookalike down in West Cork?), I want to TALK to you. And Sharon, who remembered singing a May Day carol in her youth, CONTACT me. There is a link to my email on this page, for heaven's sake. Don't go round muttering 'that Celtic Memory, thinks she's somebody or what, never bothers to answer, why do I take the time to comment...' If your own Blogger ID has not been enabled for contact, then make the effort, enable it, and after that, do still please make contact with me directly. I LOVE talking to people (as most of you already know!) I'm wallowing in ancient customs, traditions, songs and music right now, and need all the help I can get.


LaurieM said...

I'm having a laugh at your meager snow. This afternoon it snowed 15 cm and we're expecting another 40-50 cm before morning. Ha, hahahaaa.... Oh dear.

And you should see how I dress to walk the dog. Shirt and jogging pants, yes, then a wool vest, lined snow pants, winter coat, earflap hat and finally some lined leather gloves. When it gets colder, I add long-johns a full wool sweater and muffle my face up in a wool scarf to the nose.

Dexter has his own winter coat too, from Chilly dogs that covers him from neck to tail. It cost as much as a person's winter coat and was worth every penny.

Angeluna said...

Wherever LaurieM lives, I'm glad I don't! Makes me cold just hearing about it.

Although I must say, tis the season that I'm definitely inspired to knit cowls. And fingerless gloves to wear inside the house.

Ooooh, your Pretty Thing is just lovely. And that cabled vest is a real winner.

It's dipping well below freezing here tonight. I put out food for the birds and will fill their water bowls in the morning. Even the cats with their luxurious coats are huddling next to me. Knitting weather.

India said...

Jo--quite a while back, you and I began to have a conversation about my father's book The Mitten (pre-Jan Brett), but then my email address changed when we switched providers and I never heard back from you if you would like a copy. Now that it is winter again (ahem. several inches on the ground here, more to come all week, temps well below freezing...) I thought I'd offer it again. If you're interested I'll need your land mail address so that I can send it off. Happy holidays to you in West Cork! I would love to visit there some day! P.S. I don't have a Blogger account but I believe you can get my email through my Google sign-in.

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Er... India, could you be more specific? Where do I find your Google sign-in? I would certainly love to make contact again but you'll have to give me more of a hint. Or heck, just email me. See the Hey, Jo! link on the sidebar? That's for emailing.

Audrey said...

It's 5 degrees F here this moring with about 5" of snow on the ground. The roads are clear except for some patchy black ice so I'm on my way for an hour Pfrimmer Massage!

SharonO said...

I thought I left a comment but it seems to have disappeared so we will try again.

I grew up in a place where the winters were frequently cold and snowy. In fact, in grade school I remember that we were only allowed to wear pants to school if it was below -10F. When I grew up I realized that I really didn't like this weather and moved to Southern California. If I have a yearning for snow.... I can go to the mountains.

Your knitted goodies are beautiful. I love the blue shawl. I love the ones that do stay right on your shoulders. The yarns are drool worthy.

Enjoy looking at the snow and hopefully it will remain a rarity.

SharonO said...

Oh, Jo, I am the Sharon of the May Day song and I sent you an email.

Anonymous said...

Each time I visit this post, a lovely and apposite song starts playing in my head: "In the bleak midwinter. . ."

Why does that robin have a yellow breast, rather than red? Is that its winter plumage?
-- Gretchen

Anonymous said...

I live in a snowless place, so I understand your confusion. The birds are lucky to have you.

Angela Cox said...

Jo , do you know this shop .Have a look it is gorgeous .angie

Angela Cox said...

Jo , do you know this shop .Have a look it is gorgeous .angie

marit said...

I live on the westcoast of Norway- where there should be plenty of rain, and mild winters...HA! We've had below zero C -down to 7 or 8 -for several weeks, and now i has started to snow! 30 cm, and more falling...Second winter in a row with proper winter! But it's a great chance to wear all my woolens!

Love your knits, and your writing:-)
Have a lovely December.

Roggey said...

Winter is winter, no matter where you live, when temps jump off the cliff and keep falling, along with snow swirling about the place! I hope the weather has moderated somewhat.

This weekend we're under blizzard warnings (not so much tons of snow arriving as the gale-force winds that blow it around) for my neck of the woods.

Lovely photos of the projects and fiver!

Dez Crawford said...

How beautiful. Here in Louisiana we are swinging between mild and muggy one day and protecting the pipes the next. We had a frosty Christmas but it's rainy and mild today. In a few more days we'll be worrying about the water pipes bursting. A very Happy New Year to my dear friend so far away! I want to order an autographed copy of your book, too.

shailajaa said...

evespecial Professional’s makeup advice for beginners and regular makeup lover. Pick your makeup need for your eyes, hair, face, neck, etc. for more informationthat suits your need for the occasion. Experts makeup advice for girls and women, for both daily needs and for events or here