Monday, July 31, 2006

The Moon Spinners

Everyone seems to have been talking about spinning lately. Reading Anne's weblog about working with that beautiful silk fibre made me yearn to get back to my dear little Haldane Orkney again. It's been neglected a bit recently as I went through a fairly uncontrollable phase of amassing yarn, but now that we're past midsummer and autumn is on the horizon, it feels like time to return to twisting my own.

I have always found it difficult to spin those lovely soft rovings on a wheel - perhaps because I learned wheel spinning with natural fleece that still had all its oils in. When you are then faced with the soft dry smoothness of best merino top, it just breaks every inch or so. The only solution there was to go back to a drop spindle, and that was very nice too. Much slower, but that's no bad thing in today's world. Which brings me to my exciting news - I am getting practically the first of the new Ladakhi-style drop spindles from Jenkins Woodworking (Wanda's husband, his link's on the sidebar), and it's going to be in apple wood. There isn't a tree I love more than the apple - it's one of the most important in Celtic folklore (along with the rowan) and to have a spindle made from its wood will almost guarantee power flowing into any yarn I make with it. (OK, OK, so I'm supposed to be a hard-bitten journalist, but when it comes to tree lore, my shoelaces are still plugged into the earth.) There is so much legend and tradition attached to trees in Ireland, including an ancient poem listing the kinds of wood which are best and worst for burning. I'll tell it to you when I find it. In the meantime, hurry up Jenkins, I can't wait to hold that spindle in my very own hands.

Thinking about spinning reminded me of the legend of the Moon Spinners - the spirits who take the moon as it wanes, winding its light on to their distaffs, and then bring it down to the edge of the sea and wash it so that it can be spun again for the new moon. I might just take the new spindle down into the orchard when it arrives, and spin with it there under the new moon by way of welcome.

I'm very fond of that orchard. It isn't particularly large, but I have planted some very old species of apple there. There is a horticulturist in East Cork who specialises in finding the ancient types and grafting them on to sturdy stock. Even here in Ireland there are hundreds of old varieties recorded, some of which have disappeared, others which have hung on long enough to be saved and propagated. When I was little we had one called Irish Peach in our garden at home; its fruits were pale yellow gold flushed with pink, and tasted wonderful. I have an Irish Peach in my own garden now, and look forward to the day I can pick a sun-warmed apple straight from the tree. Anyone who has the tiniest space should try to find and plant the old species of fruit. Someone has to save them!

Got some lovely very fine blue and white wool (it's barely 1 ply) from Mistylee78 on eBay today. She's great to deal with, very friendly and quick to post, and the yarn is going to be great fun to work with.

It's so fine that I'll either have to ply it, use it with another, or - yes, perhaps I could use it for very fine Irish crochet lace. I've always wanted to take that traditional whitework in other directions. A little jacket in Irish lace? Maybe. There are all those sock projects to finish first, not to mention the lace crop cardi and the silver top.

There are so many amazing yarns out there now, and of course the World Wide Web makes availability universal. It wasn't that long ago one could only dream of exotic yarns from other countries - now they're just a mouse-click away. You lot in the New World have had broadband (you might call it 'normality') for far longer than we have. DH had to bully me into agreeing to get broadband (in case you thought everyone always had unlimited Internet access all the time, we didn't here until very recently) but once we had it, I couldn't imagine how I'd managed without. And what it's done to my yarn stash... Now every day brings new temptation. This morning Angie emailed me about Curious Yarns so of course I had to look them up immediately. Dear heaven, those sock yarns!

I mean just look at this one. It's called Faded. Isn't it just right for the court of Louis XIV? And they do the most glorious silk yarns too...

I was talking about ancient Irish poems a moment ago, I think. We're all very excited here in Ireland since the recent discovery of a very old manuscript indeed (c. 800 AD), buried in a peat bog. It's being hailed as the greatest find ever in a European bog.

I heard Garrett's little green post van at the gate this morning and went down to find him half in, half out of the van, listening to a discussion on the find on radio. 'Isn't it great?', he enthused, handing over my mail. 'Wouldn't you love to be able to read whatever's on it?' I would indeed. I wonder whose hands wrote it, and who buried it for safe keeping when times were dangerous.

The Mughal Miniature socks are coming on fine but today I digressed briefly and made a start on copying that crochet shrug I bought. I used a particularly lovely mohair that I'd been keeping for just such a project, and made up the first motif fairly quickly. However I realised just after I'd fastened off and cut the yarn that this was perhaps not quite the gauge I'd anticipated. The original motif on the bought shrug was about three inches - this was nearer 12.

Yes, that's a 12" ruler underneath it. Oops - back to the drawing board on that one. Yes, it would make up the shrug pretty quickly, but you wouldn't get much shaping and definition with twelve-inch motifs.

Great excitement as I was dishing up dinner. DH called urgently that the baby wrens were out of the nest. I thought they had a week to go yet! Tiny short-tailed babies fluttering here there and everywhere, dogs following curiously, unsure whether to attack or flee.

This little chap was quite eager to start exploring this brave new world.

Mother wren of course was frantic; DH was rushing round brandishing a camera, and I left dinner to look after itself while I hared after the dogs. Some of the nestlings were quite lively and learning to cope even as they fluttered and stumbled; others sat crossly on twigs and demanded supper as they had been used to in the nest. I do hope they're all tucked up somewhere safe and snug tonight. It's such a responsibility!


rho said...

I so wanted to ask you about the manuscript - but I figured you probably thought I was dorky and nerdy enough already -- and then you go and wonder exactly the same things I wondered about. I also felt a little sad because the person who buried it must not have lived for it to be there still. But then again if they had - it wouldn't have been discovered now. And then look at what would have been lost forever. I am so hoping that they do a documentary on the restoration process.

Anonymous said...

I'll have to look up more about that manuscript - if I can tear myself away from that Curious Yarns link. I was very fortunate to have been gifted some of their organic wool last year, but oh, those silks...

I hadn't known about the apple tree's importance in Irish folklore. As part of my wood turning practice I've made a few pens, and back in January placed my first order for wood to be shipped to work with. That order contained Irish bog oak, and apple wood. I haven't worked with the apple yet, but it felt like I was connecting with the past to work with the bog oak. To wonder what ife had been like when that tree was still standing.

I'm also awaiting delivery of my first spinning wheel - a Haldane, currently on a ship from the UK. I'd love to see yours.

Anonymous said...

Tiny as our garden is when we moved in I planted a Blenheim Pippin ( grown by me from a seed) .Mainly because I'd grown up in Bleheim Road and because I love trees .Holly is crazy about myths and legends .We have various collections including Maori but not a whole Celtic one .I must look for a good one .That sock yarn colour is the most beautiful soft blend isn't it? .My E:Bay sock yarn arrived yesterday but I am going to wait a bit as I want to finish a few W.I.Ps first .

Anonymous said...

Mmmm, beautiful photos of wildlife (especially the mid-air shot of the swallows), tales of ancient manuscripts, poems and wonderful yarns of both types. As I don't have a blog, I've added pictures of my handspun alpaca Trellis scarf on Flickr, but as this is new for me, I'm not sure how to show them to you. My folder is bootscooter552003 (don't ask), so hopefully you'll be able to see them there.

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Dorky? Nerdy? Rho, we're talking ancient manuscripts here! With things written on them back in 800 AD! I can't think of anything more wonderful and exciting except perhaps a package of new yarn. I'll keep you posted on this one.
And Rachel, wonderful you're using bog oak. Do you have a weblog? I'll put a picture of my Haldane on tonight's posting.

LornaJay said...

This is the link I use for that poem, when memory lets me down:

Holly said...

Tut, Tut I am sorry to hear about you and Haldane Orkney a notorious cad.I have to tell you an apple is a fruit not a tree ,here in Cutting Sprout we buy then at the Greengrocers .Such a beautiful old maunscript and you bury it in a bog ! I just hope it was clean and no-one flushed .Mrs J.Nito.

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way to start my day: wildlife pictures, knitting, yarn, and an ancient manuscript! Couldn't get any better! Will be interested in more about all of the above. I agree with rho that they will do a documentary on it.

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

So much to comment on today's post. Love the wrens - we have Winter Wrens here and when they sing, they sound as large as an eagle! Can only imagine the excitement of the dogs. Thanks for the link to Curious Yarns - love the 'Bruised Apple' colour. You could spin some of that coloured fleece on the apple spindle.
Just found out about a fellow country woman of yours that writes - Marian Keyes. She was interviewed on our CBC and you had to listen 'quickly'!

Fiberjoy said...

Dear Jo,

The applewood Ladakhi Spindle is excitedly winging airletter post to you even now. And rest assured, you will hold the very first proper Ladakhi style spindle Ed has ever made.

I have it on the best authority that it will love to catch and spin the moonlight in the orchard. As it was being bundled for the journey I imagined it being taken outside to spin in a softly wild place with trees all around.

What an astonishing treasure to find in a peat bog! Better yet that the finder understood that it was possibly ancient. Oh to behold it with one's on eyes.

Having worked in a monastary library and actually holding in hushed hands an illustrated Book of Hours - ink and gold still shining bright - which dated back to the 1200s, the thought of gazing on this ancient bog preserved book is breathtaking.

Anonymous said...

your descriptions of those fruit trees have my mouth watering. i think before too many years more we will have to get ourselves a little more land.