Friday, October 05, 2007

Who's Going To Ally Pally?

It can't be that time of year already! I can't believe it's a whole twelve months since the Knit & Stitch Show at London's Alexandra Palace, but it has to be. I might even have missed it this time round, so frantic is life, if the adorable Andy from H. W. Hammand (quite possibly the last of the great Yorkshire yarn spinners and source of superb undyed yarns in bulk) had not emailed to ask if I would be there. A quick search through the low-fare airlines on the Net and the plans were made! Next Thursday, October 11, Celtic Memory will quit the soft green fields of West Cork for the mayhem of London and the sheer hysteria that is the first day of Knit & Stitch at Ally Pally. Only a day though - couldn't take that stress for any longer.

EVERYBODY will be there, and temptations on all sides fit to try a character of steel. Right now manufacturing a Special Ally Pally Bag to cram in as much loot as possible while still passing the gimlet glare of security at Stansted for the return journey. Had you noticed that some airlines say 22" x 15" x 8, while others say 20" x 16" x 10" and a few - just a few sensible few - give an overall total of inches or mm, and leave it to you to decide whether your long thin bag or the short fat one will suit you better. Ryanair opts for 55mm x 40mm x 20mm so out came some nice padded fabric to be cut to EXACTLY the right measurements (yes yes, I did allow for seams. Size does matter!).

Why not check in a bag for the return journey, you ask? Oh you do not want to go there. First of all you have to know in advance that you will be bringing back a big fat bag, tell them so, book it in, and pay for it online. And then it means you can't check in beforehand online, but have to join the queue at the airport. And you do not, repeat, do not want to see the Ryanair queues at Stansted. The security queue is bad enough - an additional hour has to be wrested out of the day to allow for that particular delaying tactic - and you don't want to add on a further two hours for the preliminaries. It's getting so you almost have to come back before you get there. The fares indeed are low, but the overall price is high when you take all the hassle into consideration.

So it's hand baggage plus discreet pockets in raincoats (raincoats can be rolled up pretty small and tucked into said Ally Pally Bag for the outward route, but unrolled, donned (yes, I know it's always pretty stuffy in airports, don't we suffer for our addiction?), and jammed with additional yarn for the return journey. And I'm considering those delightful fashion accessories, yarn skeins twined around an elegant neck or twisted around the head as a decorative hat. No avenue will be left unexplored. Except that to the baggage check-in queues.

Anybody who is thinking of going to Knit & Stitch for the opening day (it gets progressively more and more crowded towards the weekend), let me know and maybe we can get together over coffee? Or do a joint chat-up on Andy Hammand in the champagne bar? (Note to self - don't forget camera.)

And what project to bring? The Starmore St. Enda might be a bit bulky, taking up precious yarn space; socks aren't an option because I use the metal Addi Turbo Lace ones which aren't allowed on flights (can't get wooden ones in size US O yet, if you know of someone that makes them, do let me know, will you?) Maybe some Irish lace crochet - that has the advantage of being light and having only one fine hook (have to be plastic or aluminium though, no steel).

Why not the Noro Halfobi, I heard someone ask? Ah, yes, well. This is all DH's fault. I told him I was going to Knit & Stitch and gave unnecessary details on the bag I was making, the better to circumvent British airport security regulations. And he simply said, 'But you're going to wear something you've knitted, aren't you? Isn't that the right occasion to do so?'


OH boy.

He was perfectly right, of course. Maddeningly, perfectly right. Lene, you know this situation because you've experienced it before. You're going somewhere and clearly you should don an exquisite little number that you've made yourself. But you can't find anything. And then you ask yourself -

If I've been knitting for all this time - where are the finished projects?

It's frightening to think how much time has been spent in the Celtic Memory stronghold working away on one bright idea after another - and how little there is to show for it. OK, so there is the Celtic Vest, that's a possibility. Not quite the right occasion for the crop lace cardi (Kathy, you asked about the pattern for that, if someone would just tell me how to work out a link, I'll happily post it free, gratis and for nothing, for anyone who wants it). So what could I wear to mark me out as at least a reasonable knitter in this terrifying world of sado-experts that is Knit & Stitch?

Ah - the Halfobi Jacket! Could I get it done in time? You saw it at an early stage a couple of posts ago.

I worked feverishly on it for a couple of days . I'd had this bright idea of putting in a moss-stitch cuff and border, which was so pleasing that I decided to start an expanding triangle, also in moss stitch, at the shoulder point, just where you cast on for the front and back. Oh dear heaven, have you any idea how much a huge length of moss stitch slows you down when you're really in a hurry? It takes roughly twice the time to work even one row. There were times when the Utter-Cry-Of-Rage-And-Fling-In-Nearest-Bin syndrome bubbled dangerously close to the surface.

Otherwise, though, this is a lovely pattern, very simple and ideal for something like Noro which positively demands straight simple lines to show off its beautiful colour shadings. I love Ivete Tecedor's patterns. I'm going to do the Weekend Jacket one of these days. And in the end, perseverance was rewarded. I got to cast off a whole lot of stitches for the front.

It's not a good picture - we've had some very gloomy days here recently - but you might just be able to make out the moss stitch triangle tapering down to the front edge. Or not. It's there anyway, take my word (and that of my suffering fingers) for it.

It was at this point that I thought it might just be a good idea to weigh the project so far and see if it balanced with the yarn I had left. This, you may recall, was a frogged Klaralund sweater which had proved rather too shapeless and amorphous to be truly worthy of the yarn. I could secure another couple of balls of Silk Garden from the Little Yarn Shop In The Far West but would really have to skein them up, wash them, dry them, and ball them up again before using, to ensure they looked and felt the same as the older batch.

Fortunately the weighing exercise proved positive. We are now at the stage of casting on for the second front, and after that there is a long slog on full stitch count before getting back to the relative simplicity of the second sleeve. And if I get it done in time, I should be able to wear it next Thursday at Ally Pally. At least you'll recognise me!

While playing with the Noro it seemed a good idea to measure it off, to try and establish just how long each colourway is. I would love to dye some self-striping bulky yarn, but although I know by now roughly how much it takes to do one round on a sock, clearly a sweater takes far more. I calculated that Noro gives about 12 metres to each colour before starting subtly to blend into the next one. It is going to take one very very long skein indeed to do a striping dye job on the bulky, but it will be tried, and the tale told here. Advice and suggestions welcomed. Angeluna, you gave me the brilliant idea of simply skeining up and then lifting several loops off at a time into the dyebath. I might try that, although knowing my luck the entire lot will fall happily and irretrievably into the first colourway. Or else a small dog will delightedly tug at a loose end and send everything flying. Those kind of things tend to happen around here.

But some dyeing has been done. A new sock yarn colourway in that lovely soft smooth merino/tencel.

This one has got to be called Atlantis. I had intended to create Galway Bay or even Hy Brasil (that mythical island which floats off the west coast of Ireland and can only be seen at sunset, 'twixt sea and sky), but as soon as it came out of the dyepot it was clear that it could only be the legendary lost sea-city of Atlantis.

It's hard not to be fascinated by the legend of Atlantis and wonder what the real story is behind it. There is usually some germ of fact buried deep inside all these ancient legends, and it's fun to try and work out what it might have been - a tsunami perhaps, a major earthquake, perhaps Velikovsky's Big Bang? And where was Atlantis? Me, although I realise that most people will not go along with this, would choose to site it exactly where Hy Brasil lies, off western Ireland - still there, but invisible to all but those with the will and the wish to see it just at sunset. Lookit, the whole huge mountain of speculation and academic opinion, books and TV programmes, cult groups and quite possibly blogsites, is built on just one tiny reference from Plato. That is all. No more. So if I say it is - was - sited off the west coast of Ireland, I probably have as much chance of being right as anyone else.

Yes, well, got carried away there. Let's be practical now. Must list Atlantis one on eBay tonight.

Along with this glorious multicoloured mohair - not my own dyeing, that of an unidentified Italian mill - which will be ideal for Hallow-E'en scarves and shawls and things. And maybe some of the cashmere/silk that looks like old rope and smells like a piggery when washed, but is utterly aristocratic and beautiful. If I can bear to part with any.

There have been enquiries about Muffy the Yarnslayer. She is well and happy, thank you. And keeping her jaws in excellent condition, the better to waylay roving rovings and silly skeins as they caper past her bed.

Muffy is much attached to this toothbrush and you wouldn't want to try and take it away when she is in mid-scrubbing session.

The Mad Vest hysteria has not gone away either, thank you for enquiring. Only now it has sort of transmogrified into a Mad Jacket obsession. I need a new jacket. A new cardigan. Something I can shrug on when the morning is chilly, but which will also take me out to tea in the afternoon when I need to look a little less like a homeless hobo and more like a crisp efficient journalist. Something quick and easy to make (I'm no masochist, although you might be forgiven for believing so), yet utterly beautiful and admirable.

You know - having read the foregoing paragraph, it occurs to me - doesn't that sound just like what your Significant Other says when you ask him what he'd like for dinner? 'Oh just something nice and quick and simple and tasty - something elegant and different, but easy to prepare, because I'm starving...' Whereupon you hit him over the head with a large and heavy saucepan because the one recipe you can't think of is something quick and simple and tasty. If you could, you wouldn't have asked him. You asked him because you can't think of anything. Your brain is totally empty of quick, simple and tasty recipes (mostly because you've spent the afternoon surfing the Net and Ravelry...)

Where was I? Oh the quick, simple, easy but tasty jacket.


I went looking. Now the options open to a Knitter in Search of a Pattern are wide ranging indeed these days. Type in the simplest search phrase on your computer and see the pages come up. You could spend a whole evening looking (I did). You might end up with not just one but several tempting alternatives. Or you might break forth in a frenzy of rage because nowhere, nowhere could you find exactly what you were looking for.

Which is when you get that first tiny whisper inside your head saying -

If you know precisely what you want, why don't you just go knit it? Cut out out the middle man?

Which is probably what I will do. Oh I did find tempting possibilities. The Weekend Jacket, but it wasn't quite what I wanted at this particular moment. Later. Right now I want a hug-me-tight kind of cardigan, fairly short, but with extra long ribbing for the hug effect, v-neck, button band, three-quarter sleeves. Maybe a bit of cabling to keep it interesting and the texture firm.

The Nantucket Jacket from IK Winter 2006 came around with me for quite a while. I studied it in bed, at the breakfast table. It lay on the seat of the car when I drove (it's OK, I only glanced sideways in stationary traffic). It accompanied me upstairs, downstairs, into the kitchen, out into the garden (it's getting a bit tired by this time). I almost cast on for it. But for two things. I'm not sure abut that elongated waist. A bit twee for Celtic Memory.

And - AND -

I don't have the right yarn.

Go ahead, laugh all you want to. I don't. I really don't. I have gone through every corner of the stash (and that took some time). I hauled out cones from every box, unwrapped those too huge to fit in any container (yes, there are a few of those, show you sometime). Nothing, though, was quite right. Isn't it always the way with a new pattern? You could have a stash bigger than Mount Everest and exactly the right, perfect one would NOT be there. It's a kind of natural law of yarn, I think. Must ask the Yarn Harlot.

A few times I thought I had it. That blue mousse I used for the lace crop cardi. A rather beautiful silky chenille in a dark mossy green. That one came close. Late last night, very late (and Celtic Memory is not a night person, CM is very much a morning person, ask Angeluna, she knows), I swatched, came down a needle size, swatched again, came down another needle size, finally got gauge. Whereupon I went to bed.

This morning the potential love affair had fizzled out even before it had begun. I couldn't think what I'd seen in that particular marriage of pattern and yarn. It can be like that sometimes, can't it? Madness of midnight...

Now a rather attractive little charcoal country-style Shetland is nuzzling up to me in a confiding manner. I might swatch.

But first the Noro Halfobi has to be completed. HAS to be. How else will you know me at Ally Pally?


Charity said...

Mmmm, love the Noro jacket. I know that problem, I've had it myself! :0)

Ambermoggie, a fragrant soul said...

oh that jacket is gorgeous Jo:)) I desperately wanted to go to ally pally but can't afford sadly:(
Love the new yarns both gorgeous and covetable
the moggie

Sallie said...

KnitPicks has wooden needles in a US 0 size. They have circulars and DPNs. I have some of the circular Harmony needles, and I like them a lot. They have a good point and a smooth join.

pacalaga said...

Jo dear, at the end of your post, click the posted time link, and that will create a hard-link to the post that has the pattern in it. (If you mean that you want to have a separate page that is not a post, you have to upload it to a server somewhere before you can link to it, and I don't think Bloglines lets you have free-standing pages like that.)
Knitpicks does have circs in either nickel or wood down to 0. Anything below that, and well, you might have to get them custom-made or something.
Also, I don't think I've ever seen Lene leave something undone... Sorry... ;-)
Oh yes, and your trip is shortly before my birthday, so buy yourself something extra-exquisite in honor of same!

Angeluna said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angeluna said...

You'll have a grand jacket to wear to Ally Pally! Wish I could be there. And I know what you mean...all this knitting and never the right thing to wear.

Short jacket, cables, take a look at this one:

Done in silk/alpaca. You might just have the yarn.

Love, love Muffie and her toothbrush.

Lene said...

"...little charcoal country-style Shetland is nuzzling up to me in a confiding manner. I might swatch."

There you would have a faithful companion for the winter. Just my kind of yarn: not flashy, but simple, true and honest. Do a swatch.

Pam said...

Brittany Birch also makes wooden needles in size 0. I love mine.

Anonymous said...

*makes gimme paws at Atlantis* Any chance you could send a link via email to the eBay listing?

TheDrollEclectic said...

Thanks, Jo! I was about to go on a wild goose chase to find out the approximate yardage for the color changes in Noro and you've already done it! (or does this make you the wild goose???)

HPNY KNITS said...

I was at Ally Pally last year. perhaps next year. I loved it and meeting all the knitters there.
I am looking forward to see your FO to wear. it will be lovely!

Pat said...

Love that Noro jacket! I'm going to Ally Pally so I'll look out for it/you. Sooooo looking forward to all that yarny shopping.

Roggey said...

You are *killing* me with the Atlantis yarn! Wow, the blue leaps off my screen at me. Good job!

Ronni said...

OMGosh. I just about died laughing about the trench coat. I got an instant mental image of you trying to explain it to security. And then another of a shady character stepping out of an alleyway "hey lady, wanna buy a skein?"

I love your jacket. It's gorgeous and I wish I lived closer and could meet up with you at the show in London. Which sounds absolutely like something I need to see some day. I love that Atlantis yarn too. Very pretty. Must nip over to e-bay soon...

Anonymous said...

Lantern Moon has a fancy wooden US0=2.0mm that are quite expensive but a pleasure to knit with, actually I didn't knit with the 0 so I hope the pleasure of the thicker ones go down to the zero too!

Anonymous said...

The Katherine Hepburn cardigan has 3/4 sleeves and cables. Good luck on your hunt.

rho said...

Ok == on yarn shopping while on a trip - can we say DHL, FedEx, UPS any of those and other shipping companies -- Pulease - Nothing gets in the way of my shopping while traveling - I have been known to send my clothes back and cart my purchases with me to be sure they get home - you can always buy new clothes - Here I thought you were this seasoned traveler - - well maybe not a seasoned shopper while traveling. I go everywhere with just my carry on bags so I learned this trick ages ago. :D

And can I just say OMG about Atlantis -- it is scrumptious!!

Have a ball - that Noro jacket sure will look good on your Ally Pally trip - so get to work!

Says rho who is such a sucky knitter she has decided to do an Elizabeth Zimmermann Pi are Square Shawl because it is just garter stitch - to get get her knitting mojo back ... :(

Dez Crawford said...

Toothbrush! Ah, the cuteness.

LOVE the Noro jacket. Just love it.

Hy Brasil? I have a speculation about that. I think Hy Brasil is really the "Green Flash" that can be seen at sunset if you're out on the ocean and far away from the ambient haze of the mainland's artifical light. I know sailors and merchant seamen who've seen it -- a flicker of pure, bright emerald on the horizon, only for a second or two, just as the top edge of the sun disappears. A cloudless sky is requisite for this phenomenon. Of course, in olden times, no one had artificial light, so the green flash no doubt was visible on the western shores of many lands. Easy to mistake it for the flash of sunlight on a distant, verdant island.

But it is SO much more fun to have it be a mythical place, eh?

That blue yarn is simply stunning.

I have tried to wrap my own brain around dyeing long, Noro-esque repeats, but my best mental calculations require a warping board, handpainting, and a considerable amount of plastic wrap.

Jackets: have you considered Elizabeth Zimmermann's Adult Surprise Jacket? It looks smashing in hand-dyed yarns. Shows off long color repeats in lovely geomtric lines and takes on an Ikat-weave look with short color repeats. And nothing but miles and miles of garter stitch.