Saturday, July 22, 2006
Of Sheep And Socks And Stirring Yarns...
Those of you who demanded more pin-ups of the lovely Daniel P. Buckley, wool merchant (see previous post, Where Yarn Begins), here he is with his dad, John-Joe. Daniel is, I have to tell you, happily married with two children (sorry girls!). John-Joe, however, is a widower. 'Can you shear sheep yourself,' he demanded abruptly of me, as he held the pot of bright red raddle for his son to mark the newly-shorn flock. I said meekly no, but that I could spin the wool afterwards reasonably well. 'And can you knit the proper socks then, to go into the wellington boots?' I crossed my fingers and said I could. (Well, I'm half-way down one, so it was nearly true.) 'You're all right so,' he said generously, and forthwith invited me to take a cup of tea with them outside the shearing shed. I was genuinely honoured.
A great deal of yesterday was devoted to sorting out and tidying up my burgeoning yarn stash down in the workroom (a nice big spacious place where DH drills holes in things and nails bits of wood together and re-wires plugs and other helpful tasks). The Really Useful Box Company makes great see-through containers with clip on lids that stack neatly on shelves and are ideal for storing dozens of balls of the same colour, while coned yarns (seem to have rather a lot of those too) go into slightly taller, floor-standing plastic containers, also see-through. Oh it was a good old satisfying session, as oranges were tucked away with yellows, greens gathered together, all the purples put in a huddle, and one gigantic box allotted entirely to blues. Only - what do you do when you find a lovely ball of pinks and greens and browns? I put it in with pinks, then changed my mind and sent it to the green corner. Later I showed it to the browns but they simply turned their backs and ignored it, so I did what I should have done in the first place and ASKED the yarn itself. 'Pink, please', it piped politely, so back to pinks it went. I never did really trust browns.
(These are the ordinary yarns, the ones I fully intend to get round to using sometime. The real prima-donnas, the superstars who go into my Celtic Memory collections live in special boxes of their own, well apart from the mob. They don't socialise much, you understand. It would be beneath yarns of their aristocratic social standing and background.)
It looked really tidy when I'd done, and DH thought so too. He didn't actually say it, but I could see it in his eyes as he assessed the stacks of shelf boxes, the serried ranks on the floor, ranged all round the walls. (That is, those sections of the walls I could get to, which hadn't been already usurped by useless aggravating things like planks of wood, tool boxes, electric drills - the sort of junk you don't really want to see in a workroom. Why do some people collect so much rubbish?) Oh - sorry, back to what I knew he was thinking. He was definitely considering that I surely, surely had enough yarn to last the rest of my life and quite a bit over now. He might well have been wondering if I ought to adjust my will to provide for the long-term care and comfort of this gigantic yarn stash. Perhaps he was even considering a babysitter for the collection on those evenings when we went out (not that I've time to go out - there's all that knitting to do).
He didn't say anything, just sighed gently, patted my shoulder encouragingly, and went back to his computer upstairs. I, however, felt a bit guilty. Not hugely - after all, when you are engaged in work that is so important, so worthwhile, so fulfilling, you can't afford too much guilt. But a little. Enough to make me decide that perhaps I should slow down on the yarn-acquisition front for a while. Use up what I'd got. Perhaps give some away - but at this my instincts recoiled violently, so I hastily put the thought aside for when I felt stronger. But definitely no more yarn for - well, a month at least.
Was it chance that Allison from Simply Socks chose that moment to email with a note of postage charges for the gorgeous Interlacements yarn I'd ordered the night before? It was a lovely chatty email - she's that kind of person - but there was a subtle hidden message in there that spelt DANGER. She was delighted that I was her first Irish customer and said she'd tuck in some free patterns as a welcome, but that wasn't it. It was at the end, when she said casually, in a completely throwaway-line-sort-of-way, that actually the postage costs were the same whether I ordered one skein or a huge parcel. Then she signed off with good wishes.
Well? Did you spot it? A statement like that is bound to cause trouble, isn't it? Not at first, but gradually - well, about three seconds later in fact. I logged on to the site again, looked at what I'd ordered, and then thought I'd just take a peep at some of the others on offer...
Look, I don't want to talk about it, all right? Suffice it to say that I got good value out of the postal rate. And yes, I will show you the whole lot when they arrive. If there is enough space on this page.
Thoroughly ashamed of myself this morning, I went into town with DH who had some jobs to do there. 'Oh, I know,' I said brightly. 'I'll take my sock-in-progress into my LYS and you can take a picture of me there to put on my weblog.' This we did and then he headed off to do useful manly things while I stayed on awhile to chat with Bernadette while I put in a few rows on the sock. She was knitting a beautiful Debbie Bliss jacket design in pale blue with lots of cables and blackberry stitch.
Reading left to right: me in a Cherry Tree Hill shawl with my sock; Bernadette working on a cabled cardi.
Incidentally, did you know that Debbie Bliss has taken over Kilcarra Wool in Donegal? Let me tell you, although you may well know it already, that Aran is going to be HUGE this winter. If Debbie is on to it, then the rest of the world will follow at a hand- gallop. If you can't tell your cables from your honeycomb, your diamonds from your moss, better get clued up fast.
I'm not talking here just about the use of what is called aran-weight yarn. I'm talking about any design that incorporates a complex combination of relief patterns and stitches. In fact Aran sweaters and jackets often look better in a different weight or gauge - think of a stunning evening top in fine silver, or a cashmere cropped jacket. All you need to ensure is that the yarn is smooth and fairly firm, to show off the stitches. A furry or fluffy yarn would just blur them and reduce the effect of all your hard work. Not that Aran is difficult. It's pretty easy once you realise you don't actually need that cable needle, and it makes working up the back of a big sweater far less boring than yawning old stocking stitch any day. Plus it makes keeping count of the rows a breeze - you just check the number of diamonds or cable twists you've done.
(Horror - have I just used my pet hate phrase - 'It's easy - you just...'? Darn. So I have.)
All this blarney is to deflect your insidious questioning. 'You didn't just stay there awhile and knit, did you Jo? You didn't make your farewells and leave with just the sock project, did you? Come on, better give us the full story.'
Well, all right. It was only polite to wander round and see what was new on the shelves. This really pretty aran-weight silver yarn smiled and waved at me so I said hi and picked it up. It whispered 'Cute evening top, so cute... I'd look lovely in a lace pattern...''
Then I heard a low, deeply attractive voice from a shelf on the opposite wall and spun round. It was a really hunky-looking big ball of soft oatmeal-coloured chunky yarn, the kind you'd die for in a fisherman's sweater. What really attracted me to this tall blond stranger was the fact that he wasn't the slightest bit yellow. So many of these creamy yarns have that yellow tinge which does nothing at all for my skin tones. This fellow was tough and manly and just the right shade of off-white with tiny flecks of black and brown here and there.
The thought of possessing him, taking him home, running my fingers through his strands set my heart pounding. Images of utterly gorgeous lumber jackets, cropped Arans, overlap-front cardigans, rushed through my brain. It was love, I tell, you, love at first sight. I have spent years hunting for a thick yarn in just that off-white and never could find it. Apparently the rest of the world is quite happy living with knits that look like they have a bad attack of jaundice. Not me. And of all the LYS in all the world, I had to walk into this one.
Of course we left together. And yes, the silver yarn came too. (You could tell that already, couldn't you, since they were both photographed on my floor, not on the shop shelf, smarty pants!) Hold on, though, I did show some restraint. I only bought one ball of my husky he-man. 'Just to try it out,' I said sincerely to Bernadette who smiled back sincerely, knowing I'd be beating the door down Monday morning. Sock-in-progress, hang on, will you? I've got a date with a hunk. Oooohhh...
(You may have noticed that I have not once mentioned Magic Loop. I don't wish to discuss that issue right now. I may possibly feel like doing so tomorrow.)