Thursday, July 27, 2006

Keep Knitting And Maybe Nobody Will Notice!

That silver lacy top got frogged back right to the first stitch. I'd tried to ignore the increasingly obvious fact that it was both too openwork and a bit too large. I should have made it on the smaller size needles that I'd originally tried. Eventually this morning I woke up accepting the fact. I got up, slid quietly into the sitting room without waking DH (or, more importantly, the three small lively dogs down below who would immediately get out of bed and start demanding FOOD, FUN, WUV), frogged with fanatic calm, and cast on with the smaller circular. Then I thought I'd knit one pattern repeat before getting breakfast (the book I got it from, Ripple Stitch Patterns, calls it Guppy Tails, but I'd have called it a fairly simple horseshoe or fan lace pattern. Whatever.) The first row is never much fun, because the stitches aren't really set in place yet, so you have to work carefully. Which I did. But not quite carefully enough, apparently, since I arrived at the end and found I had three stitches over. Which should not have been the case.

What do you do when that happens? Frog patiently back until you find where you inexplicably started off a pattern repeat only half way through the last one? Ignore it, knit the leftovers, and hope that if you're very very good and very very careful from now on, nobody will notice, and it was only the first row anyway? Or do you rip the whole thing from the circular with a cry of rage and squash it into the WIP basket, slamming down the lid with unncessary violence?

You are invited to guess which option I chose. Breakfast was a rather silent affair. DH knows when to be tactful.

Turning to happier matters, the Scottish dpns arrived yesterday, and today Garrett the postie brought all the lovely yarn from Simply Socks . I was so pleased that I carried them all out into the orchard to have their picture taken together.

Garrett (he's working hard these days) also brought a marvellous surprise package of different leftover yarns from Angie. Angie and I (in the interests of better UK/Irish relations) have decided that we're going to swap back and forth like this once or twice a year from now on. Lucky bags we call them, after a childhood treat. Did you have those in your local shop growing up? A big sealed paper bag, usually in a bright colour, which contained some sweets, perhaps some sherbet, and a surprise - a plastic toy, a tiny game, maybe even a model aeroplane. Never knitting needles though. Well, we both realised that we might be older but we still wanted our lucky bags, so we're re-inventing them. Might make it stockings at Christmas. Everyone should have a Christmas stocking.

Reading your responses to my last posting, about that desperate struggle for yarn in the Balkans, I was so very glad I'd taken the chance and shared it with you. My instinct was right and you were absolutely the only people who would understand the way I wanted it to be understood. You really are wonderful. Every one of you empathised with those women. I only wish we could let them know. I send them good thoughts, wherever they are now.

It also got me thinking about how I've felt in different corners of the world when I've found myself without yarn and needles. It doesn't happen too often these days - the planning of which travel projects to take often occupies more time than the general packing - but there were occasions when for some insane reason I would decide that I didn't really need any handwork cluttering up my bag. Then of course I would arrive in some strange country and immediately realise that I couldn't live another second without something to work on. There was that village in Crete where a gnarled old lady and I made pantomime gestures to each other for half an hour before light dawned and she brought out a box of crochet hooks and some skeins of cotton from under the ancient wooden counter. And that Romanian town when I accosted two women knitting on a park bench and pestered them in a mixture of every language I could think of until they realised I wanted to be directed to the local yarn store. And that time I combed the back streets of Vienna until I saw a stray ball of wool in a window and knew I was on the right track... Can you remember times when you felt like that? And the sense of delight and relief when you knew you could settle down that evening in your hotel room or tent or train compartment and start to knit again? There's nothing like that happiness.

After a morning spent writing (as well as having scenes with that silver lacy top), it seemed a good idea to go out and get some fresh air this afternoon. Killarney is only half an hour from me, but as it is over the hills, the weather is often quite different. The clouds were down on Magillicuddy's Reeks and the rain was starting to fall as I reached Muckross. Muckross is an old gracious estate, once the home of the Herbert family who entertained Queen Victoria there n the 1860s and bankrupted themselves in the process. Now it belongs to the nation and everyone can enjoy it. The grounds are beautifully kept, and although I'm sure most visitors would have preferred sunshine, I think Muckross actually looks at its best in dark weather, when the white mists sweep over the mountains and make them look an even deeper blue in contrast.

They have quite a few industries at Muckross, including a weaving shed where they make scarves, wraps, hats and lengths of tweed in lovely soft colours. I've been nagging them for years to make the leftover cones of yarn available to buy. After all, if there isn't enough to use on another length of fabric, they might as well sell it. But it took a long time for the message to get through. Today, however, I could see that the effort had paid off. There was actually a basket by the door.

Unfortunately there wasn't a great deal of choice, and I didn't really need any of them, but at least it's a start. I'll call back next week and if nobody else has bought any, I'll have to take some of them home, if only to encourage the staff to put out more. I'm sure visitors would be delighted to get genuine Irish yarn - it's scarce enough.

Took Sophie for a wander in the woodlands before going home. The rain was fairly heavy by now, but under the leaf canopy only the occasional drop splashed down. Everything had a rich fresh green scent. These are very ancient woodlands, probably the natural descendants of the original forests in these parts. To walk in them is deeply relaxing and always makes me more aware of our instinctive links to the past and to the old ways of doing things. Who'd willingly opt for a machine when the satisfaction of creating with the hands is so consumately fulfilling?

DH found this quote for me last night, attributed to one Alex Levine:

"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups: alcohol, caffeine, sugar and fat."

And if you haven't tried Irish coffee in Killarney, you haven't tried Irish coffee. As hot as hell, as sweet as sin, and as strong as love. What's keeping you?

I must go to Vancouver Island. Now! Well, as soon as possible anyway. Peg has just told me of the most divine yarn made there of silk and seaweed. Sinfully gorgeous, she calls it. Now that's a yarn to make
a dream-catcher, seal-singing shawl with if ever there was one. When's the next flight?


Anonymous said...

I hate to say it, but I would rip out the false start and start again. I usually have to start a new project two or three times until I'm satisfied, so I've just resigned myself to this fact. But I won't judge you harshly if you just keep knitting:-)

rho said...

I so understand the feeling you had -- I felt like doing that to my wayward sock but I just frogged back enough to make it a tube and knit it longer for a water bottle cozy - have to wash it and let it dry on the bottle for the perfect fit.

You are just plain mean - that basket of left over yarn cones made me drool on my keyboard - the tweedy one and the dark maroon looking ones -- OMG.. they are wonderful!!!

Anonymous said...

i love the ripple stitch book too. but then all stitch books are MY favorite . . .
how do you like your DPNs? did you buy the really short 4 inch ones, or the 8 inch ones?? i've been using suzanne's needles for some time in the ebony and have grown very attached to them for lace knitting. now i am contemplating getting the rosewoods too.
oh, and you had to start talking about traveling, didn't you just!
i am craving it, but w have no immediate plans to hop the pond. hmm. but we did renew our passports recently, so we haven't given up entirely.

Lene said...

Sounds like you had a good day after the scene with the lace! Your surroundings (with the yarn) sound just beautiful!

Angie said...

That Simply Sock is pretty darned gorgeous ...have a look at the sock yarn on "Curious Yarns" too. I loved the colours and even if a sock never comes off my needles I'll make scarves. The sound of those woods was so good,cool ,the smell of damp earth etc. It sounds like we are both yarn evangelists..I spent ages trying to persudae the local Fair-trade sho to stock the alpaca distributed in Reading .I phoned the guy who distributes it he was very pleased but the only luck he has had is a small yarn shop in a sub. called Tilehurst . It's the one Jean Moss does designs for and I have to say it is gorgeous .

Angie said...

Do not worry my little chickadee I am using "Hickory Pill" just that when I post I forget to type in the name and it's linked to A/T.W/W/K.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Oh Jo, you hit rather close to home with the lines about being caught without some fiber. I am surrounded here by fiber, but it is the fiber called Silk Stream by Fleece Artist that I need - only about 15 yards and in a beautiful variegation that looks so lovely in a Clapotis. I have sent up a prayer to the Knitting Goddess to help me - perhaps if I offer the girl a cup of Irish Coffee, she might sit up and take notice!
Maybe you can help me, do you by any chance know if there is a Goddess of Knitting and what her name would be. Maybe we can start a thing in blogland to try to find out about her (she must exist, as she has helped me out from time to time) and I promised her I would rename my Clapotis after her if only she will help in the search for my much needed, desired Silk Stream!
Oh darn - 3 stitches left over!
What kind of dogs do you have?

Anonymous said...

Ah yes, the Handmaiden Sea Silk of which Peg speaks is truly wonderful stuff. I bought a skein last week. Haven't started knitting it yet, just like to have it around to pet and look at a while.

And Oh, the Irish yarn! I want the red or the maroon. I was supposed to get a trip to Northern Ireland this September to accompany my Dad to his 50th med school reunion in Queen's University, Belfast, but he's decided now not to go. So very disappointing.

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Rachel, you and Peg are conspiring to work me up into a frenzy! Do you live on the Island too? What's your weblog? Let me see a picture of this yarn, one of you. Did you hear me? I said NOW!!

Two Pekingese and a Shi Tzu, Peg. One clever, witty and cunning, one rather dim (see early postings) and one a fervent wuv-bucket.

Anonymous said...

For Fleece Artist/Handmaiden Yarns, go to or for more views and buying try (Nancy is a darling). TidalBrookYarns on eBay sells a lot of FA, too. I fondled a whole roomfull of the Sea Silk when it first came out and it is gorgeous stuff.

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