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.