Tuesday, August 28, 2007

It's Almost Autumn!

Where did the summer go? Not that we had one in Ireland. Nope, went smoothly through from damp dark spring to damp dark autumn without a hitch. Although this week, with September nudging at the gate, the skies appear to have relented somewhat and are surprising us with clear blue mornings. To remind us that it isn't long to winter, no doubt. Rather like the tradition here in West Cork that the sun will always try to come out at least once before it goes down, just to show it's still in existence.
Actually this past weekend was a genuine scorcher in West Cork. Or so I believe. DH and I were away in the north west, in Mayo. He had a photoshoot to do for the bigwigs, and it had been put off and put off since April, while we watched weather forecasts and waited for a miniscule window of opportunity. This weekend was supposed to be it. Fine weather across the country, the boffins declared, best chance yet at an Irish summer. So off we went on Friday morning. It's not a huge distance mileage-wise up to the north west, but with our roads it takes quite a bit of time - about five hours in the end. We were glad to get there.

And the weather?

Well what did you expect? There are vast and beautiful mountains over there behind me in the picture, but you can't exactly see them. They've pulled the duvet down over their heads and have gone back to sleep. It was a long trek up across the boggy slopes (is Ireland the only place that manages to have deep treacherous pools on even steep slopes? Doesn't water usually run downhill to find somewhere to sit?)

Even the sheep were giving up and going home early (they're supposed to stay on the roadside, posing for the rare visitor, until 7 pm in summer, and well they know it).

It was maddening to hear the delighted reports from other, sunnier corners of the land, on the car radio while we peered through the mist and tried to take photographs.

It is a wonderful place, though, Mayo, deserted and windswept and silent. You can stand on a tiny boreen and almost hear the silence all around. And everywhere the signs that this was once a highly-populated region, full of families and animals and cultivation and life.

Now only the sheep are left, grazing the tiny fields where you can still make out the ridges or lazybeds created on poor soil to grow potatoes.

The hawthorn is about the only tree that will flourish in this environment where the wind blows straight in from the sea.

Don't you love this one, bent against the wind and enduring determinedly? The thorn is the fairy tree of course and nobody would think of uprooting one or cutting it down. That would be asking for trouble. You will often see a huge ploughed field with one lone thorn tree standing proudly amid a pile of rocks in the centre, left there for good luck. There is another tradition that these bent old thorns are really images of the Cailleach or the Crone, the wise old woman of Ireland. At midnight she straightens, looks around, and then runs before the wind, cackling. But by dawn she's back standing immovable on her watching post again.

The few remaining families in this part of Ireland still cut their fuel from the bogland as generations have done before them.

The turf is cut and arranged in little stands of three sods for the wind to blow through and the sun dry out for a few weeks. Then it's piled into a rick and brought home gradually in loads, to be kept carefully under cover for the winter.

The little villages don't look like they've changed in half a century. The local pub is often the shop and petrol station as well (plus the place to go when you want to find out the news or exchange a bit of gossip).

We stayed at the unusually named village of Pontoon. It got its name from a very narrow bridge crossing between two lakes. The hotel had a wonderful view over one of the lakes, and because we arrived so late, we were lucky enough to snaffle one of the best rooms at a good rate.

The French window opened out on to a deck. And yes, those are the Fawkes socks, did you think there wasn't going to be any knitting in this post, did you, did you? Well there is. Brought the Gazebo lace crop cardi along as well, since a sleeve is being done at the moment and that's something you can do without much concentration, only a two-row repeat for the lace bit in the centre of the sleeve. Almost suitable for cinemas, but since it's a quadruple-stranded yarn, probably not. One would certainly miss a loop or two in the dark. You need solid yarns and easy stocking-stitch for the cinema, one feels, and even then not at exciting Harry Potter-type movies.

Actually your experienced and wide-ranging views would be welcomed on this issue. What does one knit where? Socks of course are eminently portable, but if the pattern is complex, you do need a little time to work out where you had finished and what bit was coming next before you even start, which makes a short bus ride or a bank queue impractical. The boring and endless sleeve of a sweater offers no difficulties for picking up and putting down, but it is a bit larger to carry round and attracts more attention. Then there are the real demanders, the Starmore Arans of this world, which require your total and undivided concentration non-stop the entire time they allow you to share their presence. (A Starmore is never owned, it just condescends to pause haughtily by your chair for a while.)

Mais retourner a nos moutons. Or in this case, nos fleurs. We were up there photographing extremely rare plants so it wouldn't be appropriate to discuss or indeed show those here, but I thought you'd like to see this beauty.

What a cracker! Exquisite shaping and colouring. I love it!

And this is actually what it was - a tiny clump of wild eyebright growing by the roadside. The blossoms are so small you hardly notice them. But with the magic of a macro lens they become a hothouse delight, don't they? Eyebright is supposedly wonderful for easing tired, computer-dazed eyes when soaked in water - I must try it.

There has been, one regrets to report, even more weakness of character than usual displayed chez Celtic Memory during the past week. (Cries of 'shame', 'shame'.) The hints of autumn in the air - a few dried leaves on the pathway, reddening apples in the orchard, a crispness in the early morning - brought thoughts of cold winter weather and warm cosy sweaters. Such thoughts, linked to the undeniable presence of some rather gorgeous cashmere/silk in the private stash (no you can't, not a hope, it's all mine, all mine), led to wonderings and to perusings and murmurings, and eventually -

- to this.

You could call it Alice Starmore Meets Michael Kors Chez Celtic Memory (now that would be some party!) Last winter's Vogue Knitting had an amazing Kors Aran on the cover, but when I tried to swatch for it I just couldn't get gauge and anyway didn't like the pattern combinations used. But I loved the idea of a showpiece, party-style, elegant Aran. Then, browsing through Starmore's Aran Knitting (gosh, isn't it great to have your own copy at last, I can't believe it!), a rather beautiful design called St. Enda revealed itself. The original was in bright red and sized for giants at a minimum 45" chest, but it was adaptable, it was adaptable... (Does Starmore come off the Isle of Lewis and track down people who adapt her patterns from the exact original, do you know?)

This is now going to be a rather beautiful polo neck sweater for the winter. OK, if it means having to go somewhere really cold, that's fine by me. Whatever the sweater wants it's going to get. It's that beautiful. Working on it makes me feel happy.

(There's a provision in Ravelry for the WIP that makes you feel happiest. How good is that? Great minds there must be, making up the Ravelry phenomenon. Sorry? Oh, yes, I'm in - at last! The invite came while I was up in Mayo - wouldn't you know it? - and when we got back very late on Sunday night, exhausted, hungry, and surrounded by angry dogs who hadn't appreciated being sent to boot camp for three days, there it was to be dealt with. Immediately. Without delay. Upload everything, input everything you possess, everything you know, everything you're working on, the lot. So I went to bed instead. And the next day there were deadlines to catch up with and shows to review, so today is the first chance. It's intimidating me right now, but everyone else has managed it, so maybe if I take it slowly?)

I saved this one until last for you. There was a full moon when we were staying in Mayo by those twin lakes. And just coming up to midnight, when we went for a walk, the moon came out from behind the clouds and threw its path perfectly across the water.

The legend has it that if you see this path at magical times, when the moon is full, you can step out on to it and it will lead you to Tir na n'Og or the Land of Youth. Hadn't seen it so clearly in a long time, so I was delighted that we could capture it (thanks Richard!) and share it with you.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Forget HTML, Give Me The Milking Parlour Any Day!

Celtic Memory is just not one of those techie fiends. She wishes she was, but she isn't. Big time she isn't.

Have just spent most of the morning trying to make a few simple changes to the layout of this page but have only succeeded in working up a real temper. Go AWAY computer complications! Why can't you be simple? On the other hand, I wouldn't be here talking to the rest of you if it were not for the wonders of modern technology...

The milking parlour? Well when the world of wires and Java and computer-speak and HTML and URL gets as trying as it has done this fine Sunday morning, it is comforting to think that somewhere, not all that far away, a patient cowman is milking a red shorthorn in the old traditional way. How do I know this? Read on.

It started with Noro (oh shut up you at the back, if you can't stop giggling I'm going away right now to eat chocolate). Jean and Jo, my friends at The Little Yarn Shop In the Far West, sent me a terse email saying 'Noro arrived - looks beautiful.' Now what would you have done? Of course I headed off at the first possible moment. It was a very wet West Cork morning, and the hills going over the Kerry border had pulled the cloudy duvets right down over their heads and said they were staying out of sight for the day. DH had had an early start on that particular morning, so I did too, which meant that there was time on the way to Kenmare to call in at the Traditional Farms at Muckross in Killarney.

These farms are a particularly inspired idea, for Ireland at any rate - those of you in the New World have been doing things like this for ages, but it's taken us longer to get far away enough from our past to take pride in it again. They are a series of old farmsteads set along a winding lane, tucked away behind high hedges above Muckross House Estate. In the old days they would have supplied the Big House with milk and eggs and labour too. The estate had the vision to restore these old buildings and put in people to talk to visitors about the old ways and the old days. And they didn't choose bright young things straight out of college, but the genuine article - men and women who had grown up on farms themselves and had done all these old jobs and tasks in their younger days. As a result, when you go in there - as I often do, just for the pleasure of seeing the genuine article - you can tap into an incredible richness of reminiscence and information and bright images of life in years gone by.

This is the first cottage you come to as you toil up the steep muddy lane between high hedges. It would have been the cottage of a labourer rather than a prosperous farmer. The next one along is a little larger, and the third is a big farmhouse with all the little luxuries that someone with enough land and cattle could provide for his family. They're heartcomforting to visit. Would you like to go inside?

Here it is, a simple whitewashed cottage with Kitty Brennan making soda bread at the table. We had a quick chat and then I went out to the shed to see Patrick O'Sullivan milking his two cows.

Patrick first started milking when he was about eight or nine, he told me, 'when I was big enough'. Before that, though, he'd had plenty to do around the small family farm. 'All of us had to pull our weight. You did in those days. The kids now, they're indoors all the time with their Gameboys and their computers. They should be out wandering in the fields and getting the fresh air into their lungs like we did.'

When he'd filled three buckets with foaming creamy milk, we went back into the house to relax for a minute and talk about the old days. About the times when people shared what little they had, and came visiting to spend the evening in song and story.

The dancing at the crossroads was something they both remembered with affection. 'Everybody would come from miles around, they'd think nothing of walking all the way there and back for the chance of a bit of a music and a dance.' Indeed Kitty would sometimes travel further afield, all the way to Aubane near Millstreet, more than thirty miles distant, if she could get a lift. 'You'd meet big farmers there - some of them had their own tractors.' She'd been after one of those farmers herself, she confided, laughing merrily.

'Did you get him?,' I asked.

'I did not. I got a civil servant.' More peals of laughter.

She showed me the thick coarse handknitted socks airing by the fire. 'I used to make these myself, but nowadays I think they'd be too itchy. You weren't so particular back then.' Michael, stretching his legs comfortably, agrees. 'We had the long socks, to go under the rubber boots. They'd keep you warm on a winter's morning.'

Then it was time for Michael to take the milk up to the next house, where it would be separated, prior to its churning at the third farm. And it was time for Kitty to check on her bastable bread.

Here she is lifting the lid off the iron pot with a tongs.

and here is the bread, rising nicely. I wish I could bake bread like this. One of these days I'm going to try. And who'd mind the bit of turf ash? It adds flavour.

The poultry were clucking around the door, hoping to be allowed inside on the wet morning it was, but Kitty was firm about keeping them out.

And it was beyond time for me to be on my way, so I took a cut of fresh soda bread, spread with butter of their own making, and headed off.

Yes, to Kenmare (via Moll's Gap, Deb, via Moll's Gap) and to the Noro, of course. I'd spent so much time at the farmhouse (wouldn't you have, on a wet morning, with a turf fire like that?), that there wasn't much left for Kenmare, but I will confess I did yield to temptation a little.

Two new books, and - oh gosh, how did that yarn get there? I simply couldn't resist that little vest on the right of the picture, in Silk Garden Lite.

In fact, to get it over with, let's have the full picture. Not only was new yarn bought -

(Dez, isn't there something in the records about Noro not counting or being allowable when there's a vowel in the month? Sorry for disturbing you, but you're the only one with the full set of volumes from the Kashmir Stash Summit, I think it's on the eleventh shelf up, in Volume XVIII(b) or maybe on the fourteenth in Volume XCIX(d)?),

- but a NEW PROJECT was started. Well you were probably going to find out about it anyway so might as well tell you right away.

Here is the vest so far. Oh frailty, frailty, thy name is Celtic Memory. But it was the colourway, and the gorgeous picture, and the temptation...

Other work has been proceeding, nevertheless (yes, yes, I do have a day job). The Fawkes Socks are both well under way,

and the crop cardi based on Nicky Epstein's Gazebo Lace pattern has the back and both fronts complete, with one sleeve started.

Still wondering what kind of band to work on the fronts of this little jacket. Thanks for all the suggestions - I might go with either a rendering of the rib strip or an i-cord.

Then there has been some more dyeing here in the West Cork woods. The new sock yarn colourway was inspired by the wonderfully scented sweet peas which are blooming in pots (our slugs are much addicted to tender young sweet peas, hence big pots on tall stands) at both the back and front of the house, wafting their perfume in at open windows. I love the way one shade blends into another, with even the white blooms showing a touch of soft blue or pink on their petals.

Of course the pots couldn't be moved and their background didn't look right, so had to photograph the skeins against the Japanese anemones which are wonderful at the moment. Then used a vase of sweet peas for the close up.

Sophy Wackles wanted to get in on the picture too.

I'll put this one up on eBay tonight, along with Strawberry Mousse and the second of the Phoenix Feathers skeins. If the computer behaves, that is. Do you think they can scent fear? I really feel they know if you're afraid of them. DH storms in, slaps the keyboard, thumps the box, and it behaves like a lamb. Maybe it's a man thing.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Misty Rain - It Must Be Summer

We've had several days of dark rainy weather but yesterday I'd had enough. Cabin fever was setting in, so I dragged DH out for a drive into the wilder regions of the South West. Sophy managed to conceal herself among the raincoats on the back seat so got a trip too - she's becoming pretty artful at slipping out of the house and into the car while we're getting organised, and even though you would swear you'd just shut her in the kitchen, there she is pretending to be a furry sweater and not making a sound (until you're safely on your way, and then she leaps into the front for some good cuddling sessions en route). We headed to Glengarriff where the local hotel said no, it couldn't provide scones with the coffee but they did have fresh warm apple pie if that would do...

One of the good things about the Irish scenery is that it looks just as effective - if not actually more effective - in the rain.

The woodlands by the Glengarriff river are wonderful for walking. This is one of those extra-sheltered regions on the West Cork coast that is warmed by the Gulf Stream, so everything grows here with additional luxuriance. And the path meanders and wanders in a relaxed fashion, and the occasional drip down the back of the neck from the trees is more fun than anything else.

This picture is for all those of you suffering severely hot conditions at the moment - Angeluna, Lynn, Marianne, Dez, Carrie, Tania, Vicki, and everyone else in more emphatic climates than ours. Sit by the banks of this virtual river for a little while and breathe in the cool damp air. I benefit so greatly from your spectacular countryside and weather when I'm over there that it's only fair you get a little bit back.

You find some very strange rock and tree formations in these ancient woods...

Isn't that like a powerful Easter Island face on the right? And can you see the mossy green frog-like being on the left, communing with it? No wonder Sophy Wackles bate the hell out of there. 'Go away small creature, we are talking of old things and you are far far too young...'

But she recovered her equilibrium and joie de vivre with a jolly good paddling session later.

'So what if I get all wet and muddy? The best bit is leaping up on Mamma's lap on the way home, all soaking and dripping, and gradually drying off...'

No matter how familiar these woods are, the sheer exuberance of growth is always amazing.

Just look at all the ferns and moss packing into the fork of this tree, and all the creepers and ivy and other greenery forming a backdrop. Just to walk here is to feel the spirits revive.

Thoroughly refreshed, we looked at the map and discovered a very narrow twisting road climbing into the hills and crossing over the Shehy Mountains towards Kilgarvan, so decided to try a little bit of exploring. In its lower reaches, the road wound through thick woods with only the slightest signs now and again that whole communities had once lived here.

This old ruined stone cottage was so thickly covered with moss you would have missed it, except for that sudden shaft of sunshine striking its gable end.

We climbed and climbed, past curious sheep (Irish sheep always prefer to use the road when they can, both for travelling and for taking a nap, so be warned if you intend driving these byways), and waterfalls gushing down rocky hillsides. The view from the top was worth the twists and turns.

See that rushing stream and the old track parallelling its path up, up and over the hills beyond? I must walk that track one day. Generations of country folk will have done so, carrying their wool and butter down to the fair at Kenmare, and it would be good to follow in their footsteps. Did that once on the steep track over the Kit Carson Pass where Nevada meets California's Mother Lode country but there it was deep snow. Every step I took, I felt just a tiny bit of the struggle and fear and effort of those who came across to the west coast this way. What an indomitable spirit they must have had.

Is there going to be any knitting content in this posting, you are asking testily? Sorry, of course there is. The Anniversary Socks (Nancy Bush's, from Favorite Socks) are progressing - the one on the go doesn't look like much at the moment, since the cashmere really should have been gently washed rather than rushed at and slammed on to the needles straight from the dusty cone, but I put it up just to encourage those of you who feel only the best will do, since this obviously isn't the best.

(Oh and speaking of the best, and of good pictures, we're nearing the deadline for the Knitty.com entries for next year's calendar - it's August 17 I think. I'm going to try to photograph my Pomatomus socks somewhere good. Yes, I know I have to take the picture myself and no I'm not going to cheat and ask DH - there would be no joy in getting a place on the calendar if I'd done that, would there? I can get someone to model them easily enough, but where to picture them? Maybe that powerful Defender of the Forest tree in Killarney?)

But back to the Anniversary Sock. I want these to be knee length so I've done a few pattern repeats on the 0 gauge circular. Now I should go down to 00 - but can't locate one. I have 000 but I think that might be too extreme a change of gauge. I enquired of the very helpful Evelyn at Knitty-Noddy and she responded with great promptitude, explaining that Addi didn't do the 00 sizing. Thanks Evelyn, I owe you for that friendly help. Mt. Mom very kindly sent me a link to The Knitting Zone who now stock HiyaHiya circulars in that gauge but they don't seem to have them in 32". I have some 42" and they really are a bit long and tangly to use for socks.

Now look. If someone can find me a 32" circular made by ANYBODY in 00 - that's about 1.75mm - then rush it to me and I'll send you a skein of hand-dyed merino-tencel sock yarn in return. Yes, in your colourway of choice. And no, I most definitely do not mind if I get two pairs from different locations! But they have to be 32" circular and 00 (1.75mm), since I already have 0 and 000. Go search your LYS! Who knows they might be hanging there on the wall squeaking, 'Here, here, buy me for Jo!' In the meantime, I'll bring the second sock down to the same staging post, and wait for someone to make contact!

No, I won't be sockless in the meantime, for heaven's sake what a notion! I gave in to temptation and started the Fawkes socks.

These are really nice to work and the pattern is looking beautiful already. More on those as they progress. But late last night the socks suddenly became unbearable. Didn't want to knit another round - you know the feeling? Hunted for the lace crop cardi (it took quite a bit of finding, being buried under several layers of other subsequent happenings - you know that feeling too?) But finally located it, sitting patiently in the nice blue felted basket, and to make up for its neglect, finished the back before going to bed rather late.

Picture? Picture? Gosh, I didn't take one. Hang on, the sun is out, briefly. Wait there and I'll go rectify the omission.

Now, how was that for speed? Gosh isn't technology wonderful? I estimate that took about eight minutes from leaving the computer to getting back to typing. And not much more than a year ago, I wouldn't have known this could be done, let alone done it!

I'm rather chuffed with this crop cardi pattern. I used that design from Nicky Epstein's Knitting On the Edge and just kept going. Fronts next, then sleeves - and not sure what to use for the band. Maybe an i-cord? You can give me your expert opinion when the fronts and sleeves are done.

Must go dye some more sock yarn. The blackberries are ripening (Lene, I saw the bilberries on your posting, have you gathered many yet?)

I'd like to do a colourway called Blackberry, but it should contain so many subtle shadings - the rich deep purple, the deep crimson of the juice, the paler lavender where the juice runs into the whipped cream ... And up in the misty hills between Cork and Kerry yesterday, the colours of heather and moss and grey rocks gave me the idea for another colourway... Better get going.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

To The Green Woods

It was a perfect August day today - a day like they used to make them, when we were young and the school holidays stretched never-ending into the blue distance and woodlands were magical places where you might well find elves or fairies or even a marauding troll. Speaking of which -

- what do you think of this Defender of the Deep Forest who suddenly appeared in front of me in the depths of Killarney woods this morning? I have to admit he made me stop short. But I don't think he was threatening, just reminding that the Old Ones were there long before we foolish humankind and will be there long after we have gone.

I'd taken Sophy down for a bit of a day out, having worked hard over the weekend and yesterday so that we could have this time off. We had morning coffee at the thatched cottage you've seen in previous posts - Sophy is allowed into the main, flagstoned room, as long as she stays there and doesn't try to sneak into the section where food is actually prepared and served. The cottage still has its original leaded windows which give it a lovely peaceful atmosphere.

No, of course that slice of cake wasn't for me. I sneaked little bits of it under the table for Miz Sophy from time to time, so that she wouldn't fret at me to come out from this place and go for a lovely run.

By dint of that bribery I was able to get a few rounds done on the Nancy Bush Anniversary Socks from Favorite Socks. I'm knitting them in a very fine black cashmere, used double (I know, always leads to trouble, splitting yarn, loops left off, don't tell me), so it's not very easy to show the pattern, but it's coming up very nicely. Why black? Well I was on my knees in front of the sock stash (which now occupies a huge plastic container all by itself - good heavens, how it's grown from the days when I could tuck the few skeins into a tiny box), sorting greens from pinks and explosive oranges from purples, when it slowly became borne in upon this tiny Celtic Memory brain that what I actually needed was a really nice pair of knee length black socks, preferably lace patterned, to wear under long skirts. Much addicted to long skirts, Celtic Memory is.
A dusty cone of black cashmere was recalled - although actually finding it took more time than expected - how do cones of yarn disappear within the confines of one room? - and duly wound double. The pattern called for US size 1, so I came down to size 0 because of my regrettable tendency to looseness (on the knit front, that is). The sock is looking a little large at this stage but that's OK: as I want to make them knee-length, I'll switch down a gauge when I calculate I'm halfway down to the heel. Trouble is - have never been able to find size 00 anywhere, no matter how hard I search. Even on the Net, sizes seemed to go straight from 0 to 000. Ah well, we'll see how it goes. It is possible to work a loose tension first, and then gradually tighten up, but it's not particularly easy, and downright impossible if you're watching television as well or even allow the mind to wander to a recalcitrant small dog tearing up cushions or jumping gleefully on beds to dry off muddy paws.

When Sophy's mute pleading looks turned to whinges and whines, the Anniversary Sock was tucked away and we went for a walk. Sunshine everywhere, belying the fact that we've had the wettest summer on record. Even the horses drawing the jaunting cars were in good mood, tossing their heads and almost prancing through the woods.

It is Celtic Memory's birthday today (and thank you so much Peg for that lovely e-card - I laughed until I cried at the little bluetit with the bottle of champagne and had to play it all over again for DH - whose birthday isn't until tomorrow), which is why we were out playing truant instead of slaving over a hot computer. And right on the dot, two self-generated gifts arrived by post - what timing! Now prepare yourself and take a breath before you scrutinise the next picture.

I have to say that I ordered the Starmore before DH surprised me with that amazing weekend in Texas - it's just that post from the US can take an awful long time. And no, I did not win it on eBay. I've looked at it there a few times and have always pulled out of the frantic bidding which pushes the price into stratospheric figures. I had been checking regularly on one of my favourite secondhand book sites and found it there, at a fixed price which was comparatively reasonable when you look at the eBay final bids. And it arrived today! Thank you, Fate!
Leaning elegantly against it are two Colonial Rosewood circulars, a 4mm and a 4.50mm. I have circulars in this size already, but Angeluna's advice about always having several pairs in the same size to hand, the better to start new and indulgent projects, has been found excellent and will be adhered to forthwith.

Now it's possible you don't know about Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting. And you may also wonder what makes a circular knitting needle a worthwhile self-birthday-gift? Oh are you in for a bit of a shock. If you are one of those few (I suppose everyone has to start knitting sometime, and it's like - oh, I don't know, maybe the war, or baking bread, or trying to buy tickets for a pop concert - there is a time in your life when you simply don't realise what is involved, the huge swathe of experience opening up in front of you, some of it less pleasant than others, but all of it life-changing - where was I, what was I talking about?)

Oh yes. If (a) you are a Starmore innocent, and (b) you think all circular needles cost the same, then don't stay here a moment longer. We'll chat among ourselves (and giggle a bit) while you run right over and see if you can buy a copy of Alice Starmore's Aran Knitting anywhere on the Net. When you have results on that (a half hour should do it, one way or the other), go check the price of Colonial Rosewoods.

See? Now you're older, wiser, more shocked. The shock will pass. Believe me, the day will come when you hurl bank books, credit cards, the keys to your husband's Ferrari at an eBayer selling Starmore's Aran Knitting while all the time knowing in your heart that it won't be enough - it is never enough.

(On the other hand, knowing the fraught relationship I have been enjoying - if that's the word - with La Starmore, I wouldn't put it past her, despite the constant and continuous refusals over the years that the book has been out of print, immediately to organise a new paperback edition of the said text. Anyone want to take a bet?)

No, on the other hand, don't make a bet. I don't want to think about that, even as a joke. Let's think about success.

Pomatomus is finished!
I was really pleased to get to the end of these. I love the pattern to bits and I will most certainly make them again, but quick they aren't. What a great design though - Cookie A, you're a genius. I must meet up with you sometime.
The Swallowtail Shawl has progressed one more pattern repeat, and the crop lace cardi is still below the shoulder on the back, so nothing worth photographing there. And Angeluna, the Travelling Cables Cardi is still sitting firmly in the back of my mind. The original yarn just didn't seem right and I haven't found an alternative yet. Nor a colour. I promise I'll tell you when I do. (But suggestions welcomed.)
And then there was one of those late-night sessions on eBay when lots of fascinating knitting patterns came up for sale and I couldn't resist them. Eagerly awaiting their arrival - more temptation to stray from the current projects, more insistent little hands tugging at my sleeve... oh the life of a fanatical knitter is a hard one, no doubt about it. What do you do when temptation beckons just when you've started the second sleeve of a long-in-the-making project? How do you turn your back on the seductive siren? Maybe we should create a helpline - a lifeline? - for those led into temptation?

Friday, August 03, 2007

The Anticipated Pleasures of a Long Weekend

It's our August Bank Holiday this weekend. We take the first Monday of the month, the UK takes the last, and everybody's happy. Outside my window I can hear the sound of traffic faintly drifting up from the main road to Killarney as the caravans and the camper vans head west into the setting sun (well, actually into the thickening mist - the spirits of the Irish climate don't like to make things too idyllic in case it gets too crowded, so they are pretty well guaranteed to provide wind, rain and associated wild conditions on every Bank Holiday. Keeps the dust down - hah, as if dust ever had a chance of forming here!)

Where was I? Oh yes, it's the long weekend and oh the pleasurable anticipation of time - time to spend on lovely knitting projects. It's been another busy week, not only on the hack journalism front (interviews here, previews there, summaries and stories in the far corner) but also in dye matters. You may recall an attempt a few weeks ago to create a colourway worthy of being used to make those stunning Fawkes socks designed by Socktopia in honour of Dumbledore's wonderful mythical phoenix which not only gave a feather to Harry Potter's wand but saved his life too. Well that first attempt gave a nice enough result but not good enough. So, with Angeluna's warning ringing in my ears to use vermilion, use pink, not to stay just with the oranges and the yellows, I got going again. The skeins were dyed. They were overdyed. They were dunked, painted, edged, touched. And finally Phoenix Feathers was finished, washed tenderly in lavender shampoo and hung out to dry.

I'm quite pleased with the result this time.

Cameras are notoriously troublesome when it comes to reds, but you can see the apricot pinks in here too, I think, as well as the warmer vermilion. I made just four skeins of this (they took a lot of work) and listed one of them on eBay last night. I will probably list two more in the weeks ahead, but one of them is definitely staying right here. This is August, this is my birthday month, and I'm going to have a pair of Fawkes socks to show for it!

Ye-e-e-s, there are one or two projects already sitting around expectantly in baskets or bags, now that you mention it. The never-ending Pomatomus, for example -

so nearly finished, so nearly finished. Working down the second foot. Should get through them this weekend - maybe tonight even. That's if I don't get distracted by -

Item: The lace crop cardi. This is based on a nice design in Nicky Epstein's Knitting On The Edge and I'm working it out as I go along. Done the armhole shaping on the back and heading for the neck. See the nice felted basket holding the yarn? It's lovely and light for slinging on my arm and wandering around the garden, knitting as I go.

Item: The Swallowtail Shawl. Yes, Celtic Memory has finally got her act together and started on this iconic piece just about a year after everybody else. (Gosh, when I remember how I yearned for the pattern, yowled for it, searched throughout British Columbia for it, ran it finally to earth on Quadra Island, bought Sea Silk for it, bought Lace Silk for it - and then... well, got distracted, I suppose. How these things do happen!)

But ANYWAY, the urge came back uncontrollably when I saw Lynn working happily away on hers at the Sisters of the Wool get together when I paid that flying visit to Texas. Suddenly I couldn't bear to think of Lynn making this and me not making it with her - you know the feeling? Hunted out the Blue Heron Beaded Rayon, since I'm conspicuously lacking in courage when it comes to treating Seasilk badly, and would prefer a trial run. So Lynn, I'm a bit behind you, but I'll surely catch up this weekend.

Although there are other distractions too. You won't believe this, but I made a wonderful discovery in my own city of Cork today. I'd stopped to speak to the receptionist in the building where the Irish Examiner is now located, and she confessed that she crocheted to while away the long hours. This naturally led to a long discussion and exchange of views ("go away you silly visitor, can't you work out what floor you want yourself, can't you see we're busy?") and a promise on my part to bring in some shawl patterns for her to try. In return she told me that she'd seen some nice knitting books in a shop called Vibes & Scribes on the other side of town. Knitting books in Cork? Knitting books in Ireland? I think not. But to humour her (and because I can't pass up even a whisper of a hint of a rumour where knitting books are concerned) I headed over there.

Omigod! It can't be true! I don't know if they've hired a new buyer, or if someone with a sense of what is really important in life has made it to managerial level, but this bookshop has turned over a whole section to crafts, and not only craft books but craft SUPPLIES. A window display of beads that was stopping the traffic, handmade papers, stamps, paints - and yes, a big central unit full of knitting and crochet books - and YARN!

Now once again I realise that for a great many of you, this stunning discovery won't hit home. You'll yawn (I nearly typed 'yarn' there!), nod, maybe admit that it's nice to find a new source, but that will be all. You won't realise the total lack of such facilities within the Emerald Isle. You won't feel, as anyone living here does, the desperation akin to that of a thirsty man in the desert. But if you can imagine that man in the desert, stretch your mind a bit further and imagine him rounding a sand dune to discover a little oasis with flags fluttering, green trees offering shade, and a smiling waiter with a tray of iced drinks....

Vibes & Scribes, I salute you (patience, patience, I didn't have a camera with me, DH is on the task and will provide images tomorrow, I promise). Not only did you have several books which I would have been delighted to find in the Land of Promise and Unending Yarn Supplies (aka the U.S.), but also - take a deep breath, gang - Artesano! Yes, all shades of Inca Cloud, Inca Mist, and Hummingbird. Plus Brittany needles and crochet hooks. This in a city where until recently all you could find was pastel acrylic and count yourself lucky! How things change.

I don't know how long that oasis is going to last in Vibes & Scribes. I hope that the good people of Cork will hail it with cries of delight and keep it so busy that they'll have to re-stock again and again. But I won't take any chances. I'll buy all I can.

On this occasion, however, since I was on a strict post-Texas economy drive, I confined myself to two books.

It was a close-run thing between this and the Vogue Little Book of Bags & Backpacks, but this one made it in the end, since it had more variation in its designs (quite a few of those in the Vogue book looked to be just different yarn or colour versions of the same pattern).

I think I'll make this one first. And then another one the same, maybe in a lighter gauge yarn as a cute gift for a new baby. You know, like saying you're never too young for your first backpack...? With a toy inside. Or no - for the older child when the baby gets a quilt. Then he or she won't feel left out but will feel important.

And this one I was really really chuffed to bits to get. I'd admired it in Canada but balked at the $50+ price tag. I yearned for it again in the States, but still found $35+ unacceptable. And then, where should I discover it, but in my own city of Cork and - wait for it - REMAINDERED! I got this beauty for €19.99. YO and again YO!

There might be time for some ironing this weekend. There may be a little sweeping, a hint of cooking. But the majority of the lovely long weekend will be devoted to knitting. Even Sophy Wackles got into the mood, hauling out a shawl pattern to decipher before going off to hunt for a chewy circular and some enticing yarn.

Mamma, you know where it says "yo, k2tog tbl...?"