Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Year Should Mean New Challenges

In crafting terms anyway. We'll probably get quite enough of the other kind without looking for them. But instead of making daft resolutions which won't last beyond January 2, it might be a good idea to try and stretch oneself a little, try something more difficult than usual, or at least something which requires a little staying power (not Celtic Memory's strongest suit, it has to be admitted).

Which is why there are two major items on the To Start List for January 1 2009. Firstly, that albatross of ill omen, the Eriskay gansey, beautifully designed by Starmore, attempted by Celtic Memory at least twice in the past.

The first had been with a nondescript, perfectly adequate yarn, but the incredibly huge number of stitches somehow got twisted on the third round. Not the first as you might expect, but the third. No I didn't behave well. Inner Child came instantly out of hiding, screamed with rage, and wrenched the whole sorry mess from the needles before rushing off to find several other new projects to smooth over the hurt.

A year or so later, memory having blurred the worst bits, another attempt was made. This time, for some insane reason, a very fine and very beautiful pure cashmere, of which a large cone had been snaffled some time in the dim distant past, was brought into use. The casting on was a success (that, in itself, is a triumph with a Starmore special, which tends to demand in excess of 300 sts right at the beginning). The joining went fine. The working of several rows of ribbing (can you imagine just how fine this darn work is?) went well.
Then, flushed with success, Celtic Memory left the knitting on the armchair upstairs and went down for a celebratory coffee. Inadvertently leaving the door ajar...

Ok, ok, for all those of you who wanted to see it again (sadists!), here it is. Happy New Year to you too!

It's taken a little longer this time to blot out the past, but the encouragement of Ravelry and sundry friends thereon have worked the irresistible alchemy. There is now an Eriskay KAL, beginning on New Year's Day 2009. And Celtic Memory is ready, with the poppy-red Shetland wound, the frighteningly fine needles standing by. This time, maybe this time...

She'll be celebrating Hogmanay. Maybe she won't have her look-out posted in that direction. If I could even get past the initial ribbing, perhaps the spell would be broken?

You'll hear all about it here anyway.

The second challenging project for Jan 1 is the spinning of sufficient yarn for a sweater. This was thought up by the Spinner Central Group on Ravelry, and it seemed like such a good idea, CM jumped right in there with the others.

Thought I'd get a bit ahead of myself, and try out that new Corriedale over Christmas. It would make a beautifully cosy sweater.

The Kromski Mazurka is working beautifully. Angeluna, you would love one of these. Its old-world elegance would complement your home, and you would find it a joy to work with. It didn't complain even when spinning continued for hours and hours. Two huge bobbinsful were created, and then plyed before being wound into a nice big skein and soaked to set the twist. Drying was watched impatiently, but at last it could be wound up into a big ball -

Well -

- a rather small ball actually. Can you read that label? 'Almost 60m', it says hopefully. 60 metres. Less than the usual ball I'd buy.


No, no, don't all shout your estimates. I know, I know! It was a rhetorical question, OK? I've been making sweaters long enough. I don't need to have the sums done for me. It is sufficient to realise that despite this first skein taking as long as the Forsyte Saga to make, there are a great many more necessary before I can even think of casting on.

Oh woe! Oh despair! Oh almost giving up!

Mind you, the good advice given by Boogie, moderator of the SpinAlong for a Sweater group, does offer some hope. She suggests using the first hard-won ball to knit up a swatch. Not only will this give an idea (however unwelcome) of the amount of yarn needed for the final product, it will also provide (it is suggested) a surge of delight at seeing how beautiful the finished sweater will be. Going to try that this very evening, once I've finished posting.

In the meantime, starting two new projects really should mean finishing those in progress. Or at least the currently visible ones. A scarf, a pair of socks, and a washcloth were all done for Christmas; now the Noro jacket is being attacked.

Back and fronts done, both sleeves being worked at the same time. This is fairly mindless knitting (which reminds me, Blogless Dicksie (renowned on Ravelry, though) considers Eriskay a mindless knit. What, one wonders in terror, does she consider a challenging one?) and can be progressed a bit at a time, while waiting for the kettle to boil, watching TV, even waiting for something to upload on the computer on a slow evening.

Christmas was grey and dark and damp, but yesterday was one of those brilliantly clear days you rarely get here. A wind that would take the horns off a goat, and a chill that came from Eastern Europe, but still it was sunny, and we headed down to the coast, with a flask of hot coffee, turkey sandwiches, and Sophy Wackles.

The aim was to explore some of the tiny winding boreens that undulate in and out, up and down, along the coastline, sometimes stopping dead without any warning, sometimes turning themselves inside out and arriving back very near to where you left the main road, but sometimes leading you to totally unexpected corners or coves or viewpoints. You simply never know what you're going to find around the next corner.

Like a skewbald pony tethered to the roof of an old cottage, with a friendly collie coming to greet you, slightly embarrassed by a very Christmassy ribbon tied to his collar.

Sophy (who also had a bright red bow on her harness in honour of the festive season) was not at all sure about the pony. Narsty and dangerous was her opinion, and she declined absolutely to make friends.

Then you come round another bend and are rewarded with a totally new view of the coastline with Jeremy Irons' restored castle standing proudly on its headland beyond -

- or drive down a really narrow muddy lane and discover an entirely new castle that you never dreamed existed. This one is White Castle, which is interesting because we already knew Black Castle, further down along the coast, but hadn't realised that its counterpart was here all the time, far from the madding crowd.

These new views and hidden secrets of West Cork are something we are particularly hunting out at the moment because (to let you into a secret) DH and I have been commissioned to produce a new book about West Cork in words and pictures, during 2009. It's something we've long wanted to do and we are determined to produce something that will be as beautiful, as fascinating, and as much a long-term love-affair as the place itself. Of course there have been plenty of books about the region before now, and that's why ours will have to be different - more off the beaten track, with lots of little nuggets of information and history and stories and legends, as well as DH's breathtaking pictures. The kind of book you'd keep by your bedside and dip into time and again.

That's going to be the third challenge for 2009. And I suspect it's going to take centre stage before long, causing Celtic Memory's usual calm, methodical approach to come to the fore (that's hysteria, followed by insane laughter, followed by total panic, followed by despair... you know, the usual. Think Sock Madness and then some.)

I don't suppose we'll be including this image in the book though.

Can you read that? It says Independent Waste Removal. But I think somebody lives there. I just love that. It was in a lane miles from anywhere.

There were so many adorable little ruined cottages, you would have been hard pressed to make up your mind which one you wanted to rescue and adopt.

How about this one, high up on the side of a mountain, in a little copse of trees? I dreamed about this little ruin last night, of cleaning it out, and putting in a window at the back, and making a wooden door for the front, and looking after it...

Or this one, dozing in the sunlight near White Castle? It's clearly been deserted for years, maybe even a century or more, but it would respond so much to love and care. I want to look after them all! (But given the number of ruined cottages in Ireland, that would really be impractical. Maybe we could start a group?)

And of course we found standing stones.

This fine gallaun was right down by the seashore, minding its own business and enjoying the salty air.

And these two sturdy sentinels on the slopes of Mount Gabriel are all that remain of what was once in all probability a long stone row leading to a circle or other important site.

As the sun was setting, we decided to make the demanding ascent up the hill to Dunbeacon stone circle, to pay our respects at the ending of the old year, and get something for you to share too.

And finally we braved the icy winds on top of the hill to look out over the bay.

May the old year end peacefully and happily for you and yours, and may 2009 bring us all the things for which we wish most. (Hint though: don't wait for them to come to you - go out and hunt for them!)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Spinning And The Solstice

It's the Solstice, the shortest day of the year. From now on, the days start to draw out (ever so slowly at first and then quicker and quicker until before you know it, it's Midsummer!).

This is a very special time, marked the world over by different peoples in different ways, but all celebrating the same thing: moving away from the dark to the light, from silence to sound, from slumber to new growth, from death to rebirth. It's a good time to be creative, to spin a continuous thread, to turn fibre into yarn.

Which is what Celtic Memory has been doing. Not very well actually, since she is still far too impatient to take the time necessary, and expects to get everything perfect first time.

A wonderful coil of roving arrived from magic Margie at Moondance Wools.

It's a particularly lovely pale oatmeal Corriedale and as beautiful to the touch as it is to the eye. I was so thrilled with its arrival in time for the solstice that I slid it on to the distaff of the Kromski, just as it was, wrapped it with a few ribbons to make it feel welcome, and took it out to the grove to be photographed.

Yes, Celtic Memory does realise that you don't usually mount a big roll of fibre on a delicate little handturned distaff, but it seemed a good way to photograph them both at the same time. The grove is a special little corner of the garden where four trees (laburnum, rowan, birch and beech) form a circle, one at each compass point. It's a place to go to think about things or watch the moon rise or do some drop spindling or whatever.

Since then I've been hungering for a moment to try out the new roving and finally got a chance late this afternoon. And of course it wasn't as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Oh the fibre was beautiful, but my hands just won't create what my mind's eye sees. This roving can be made into nothing other than a lofty, light-as-air, bulky yarn but what I am making is dull, pedestrian, lumpy and heavy. Did I hear someone say that you can unspin and try again? Don't want to waste a single wisp of this one. Hovercrafteel, any hints?

As Christmas approaches, DH always gets certain press photography jobs and they are ones on which Celtic Memory always likes to tag along if she can. The December 25 swim from a chilly West Cork beach will be a definite of course, as will babies born either on Christmas or New Year's Day - but yesterday was the airport marking, an annual favourite, since it's to record all those happy exiles coming home for the festive season.

You can't help but feel your own heart warming and indeed a lump in the throat as you see excited kids launching themselves at a much-loved granny, or homecoming girls bursting into tears as they see their mother waiting at the barrier. It's a lovely happy time to be at the airport.

Thank you Deborah, Spinning Fishwife, Dez, and Paivikki, for all the helpful hints on how to work with that Estonian unspun yarn. I've already tried a little sample on big needles with a view to felting - if I can manage to complete anything without breaking the yarn, that is!

Julia, darling Julia (can't link to you because your profile isn't available for some reason), I'm so sorry I didn't get you that orange felted hat! I would have, honest, if I'd known you wanted it! But you'd have gone mad altogether if you'd seen the shapes and colours on sale in the Christmas Market in Tallinn. All kinds of felted hats for all ages, some with horns, some with spikes, some with long long tails, and the colours - all the rainbow and then some. I would have bought one for myself, but at the time something seriously thick, cuddly and warm was needed so DH thoughtfully got me a double-knit ribbed pull-on hat, which kept the Celtic Memory ears nice and snug.

The other evening, realised that one could not really consider oneself a seasoned knitter, let along a real Raveler, unless one had made at least a single Ribwarmer, a la Elizabeth Zimmermann. To find some yarn, and cast on was the work of a moment. Twenty minutes later, to pull the stitches off the needle, frog, rewind, and go in search of another more suitable yarn, was the work of half an hour (frogging: 1 min; searching for just the right replacement, 29 mins). Started again, enthusiasm only very very slightly frayed at the edges.

This is the first front, with the first lot of highly entertaining short row turns complete. Only...

It just doesn't work for me. Now I love EZ, wish fervently that I'd known her, enjoy her writing enormously. But the Ribwarmer Vest isn't my thing after all.

Can I progress to the next stage even if I haven't made the RW?

Come to that, will I be singled out at some point in the future because I haven't made the Monkey Socks either? No, not even once!

Had better luck with a swirly ruffle scarf for my friend Eileen, who takes care of the dogs when we're off travelling. Grabbed a thick crochet hook and two strands of that nice merino mousse yarn in a pleasant cafe au lait shade and got going.

Looks a bit dark here, even though I switched on the daylight lamp overhead to make things more visible. The shade of merino mousse is really more like coffee with a lot of cream in, rather than espresso. But this scarf, currently blocking, took only a couple of hours to make, and it twists most delightfully when thrown around the neck in careless fashion. Must make a few more.

But today is, as I remarked before, the Solstice. And on the Solstice you have to go and walk in the woods. A forest would be better, but a wood will do.

On our way to the woods, Sophy and I diverged from the road and went up an old green track to visit a rather special stone circle we know.

But - the gate was shut and padlocked. New barbed wire fences prevented climbing over the old hedge banks. A curt notice informed all and sundry that this was private property.

We walked a little further on, to where I could see through the hedge the great grey outlying stones, the ones I always think of as the guardians of the stone circle, across a field, and through another hedge.

Was getting a bit cross at this point, so went a little way further on, found a place where we could get through the mass of brambles and thorn bushes and briar roses that create effective barriers in most Irish hedgerows, and crossed the open field to the next hedge. Climbing to the top of that (it was the solid kind, the sort that you learn to tackle with your heart in your mouth and your fists balled in your pony's mane when you're out hunting in childhood days) we found the way barred at the other side by an electric fence.

Now we could have slid under that fairly easily, but looking towards where we wanted to be, we could see by now that we very definitely weren't wanted.

You can see the two great grey outliers on the left, and to their right, the circle of trees that holds Lissyvigeen Stone Circle. All surrounded by a tight and competent-looking electric fence. Another one. Just in case we hadn't got the message at the first one, or indeed at the padlocked gate and new barbed wire fence.

When DH and I first came to Lissyvigeen, many years back, these wonderful guardian stones emerged waist-high from a mass of bracken and golden gorse bushes. To come upon them suddenly was a wonderful shock. And then, to go respectfully between them and follow a tiny worn track through the high bracken until we came finally to the enclosing sheltering trees and the stone circle within, was a privilege.

Of course I knew the inheritors of this land (someone had died, someone else had taken over, it's often the way) had every right to clear the field and use it for crops - or something. They even had the right, I suppose, to trim the trees which shelter the ancient stone circle, although they did do that fairly brutally. At least they didn't try to pull up the stones - although surely no-one would be as unwise, as foolhardy as to do that. But an electric fence, drawn tightly around the whole site, almost choking it? It was a very sad thing to see. And so we didn't go down, slide under the first fence, cross to the Guardians, slide under that fence too, and go inside. The sense of unwelcome, of downright unfriendliness, was too strong.

Not from the stones of course. They are never unfriendly. I stood there, sent my respects for the Solstice, indicated that I was sorry at the way things were right now. But the stones weren't worried. They seemed to say that they had survived many previous manifestations of aggressive fear and would survive many more. These people would pass on, but they, the stones, would remain.

I can't show you Lissyvigeen today, at the winter solstice, but I can show you a picture from some years back, taken at Midsummer, which I put on my weblog before - one which shows how it was, and how it will be again.

Thaet ofereodes, thisses swa maeg, as the Anglo Saxons might say. 'That passed, so may this.'

We were a bit sobered as we went on down to Pike Wood for our solstice walk, Sophy and I, but soon recovered our spirits. After all, the stones are far stronger than petty malice, and there is something about walking through a mossy woodland that makes you feel better just for being there.

The little river was chuckling along over the stones, and the mosses and ivies were looking their best for Midwinter. Gathered some really thick emerald moss to take home - I tuck this around little votive lights in oval dishes to make solstice decorations.

The day was getting darker, but just before sunset a gap in the clouds allowed a shaft of light to penetrate right down and light up this tree, giving us a perfect solstice moment.

On the way home, the clouds were thickening ever more as we drove up towards the pass between Kerry and Cork,

and by the time we were over the mountains, it had settled into a heavy dark grey mizzle. It wasn't gloomy, though - in fact it felt rather reassuring and cosy, as if the Old Ones were snuggling us in their winter blanket and celebrating with us the changing of the year.

Tonight DH and I will celebrate the turning of the year with a feast by the fireside, and I'll raise a glass to every one of you (no, no, not a separate glass for each one, be serious!) And there will be knitting, and maybe some more spinning, if I can work out what I'm doing wrong (maybe it would help if I had a clear idea of what exactly it was I wanted to achieve?)

Joys of Midwinter to you all!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Stopping By Snowy Woods To Knit

Guess where I've been!

Yes, it was cold. Extremely cold. And I couldn't make head or tail of the language, despite months of keeping a list of useful phrases posted on a cupboard door. Not good enough, Celtic Memory.

Ma ei raeaegite ehsti kehlt, I'm afraid.

Yes, Estonia. And it was wonderful. Fell in love with that delightful little country on arrival, and didn't want to leave at all, three days later. Estonia has all the nice things of Austria without any of the over-development and crowds. Cafes. Cakes. Amazing medieval architecture. Plus lovely friendly people, wonderful restaurants and - and -

I'm sure there was something else...

Oh of course. Yarn! Estonian yarn. Yearned for ever since that trip to Norway in June when Marianne introduced me to this genuine folk product.

Wasn't that easy to find though. Oh no, there were wanderings and searchings and panics and shrieks aloud to the grey snowy skies and the uncaring streets. But all was well in the end.

If you've been to Tallinn, you'll know already how spectacular it is. If you haven't, then get there before it becomes too Westernised.

It sitll has its city walls, for heaven's sake. Tough medieval stuff, built to keep out invaders, and a nice big door to clang shut and bolt at night. 13th century gated community you might say.

The view over those steeples and spires and towers at sunset is heartstopping. Across the water there to the north is the coast of Finland. Very strategically located is Estonia, an unfortunate fact which has made its history more than somewhat exhausting, not to say tragic. When you're ideally set between East and West, suddenly lots of big people are demanding a forced marriage. Plus ca change...

Fortunately, most of its original walled town has survived down the centuries to be enjoyed by today's visitors.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, for example.

And beautiful towers everywhere, guarding the city walls. The sunset is imparting a rosy glow to these old stones which could tell a few tales, one imagines.

Of course they're geared up somewhat for tourists in the old town now. Why wouldn't they be - it's a chance to get ahead a bit, catch up on the rest of Europe. And I have to say they do it exceptionally well. Nothing plasticky, nothing tacky, nothing mass-produced or bulk-imported. Just lots of hand-made local knitwear, clothing, shoes, carvings, pottery, glassware - it was a delight to wander around the cobbled lanes and peer into brightly-lit windows.

Just look at this medieval shop, housed in an original medieval house! The staff are all dressed absolutely correctly in the garments of the period, even to their head-dresses, and they aren't just playing the part of 13th century men and women, they are 13th century men and women. Celtic Memory once spent several years hidden in the depths of the Bodleian Library in Oxford, studying the minutiae of medieval life, and believe me, these good folk of Tallinn have it right, down to the last laced bodice. I wanted to take the whole shop home with me.

And this amazing restaurant where the staff again were clad in medieval garments and served rough pottery jugs of beer with herbs or honey (very strong both of them, don't say I didn't warn you). That map painted on the wall behind is a 13th century rendering of this part of Europe, complete with sea serpents and mermaids.

The Christmas Market was in full swing in Tallinn Old Town, with little wooden booths set up in the market place, a huge fir tree in the centre, and lots of glogg on sale (grog, gluhwein, spiced wine, different names but the same lovely warming drink on an icy evening).

Doesn't she look great? You know, swashbuckling warriors heading for the Crusades must have stopped to buy a warming drink from just such a one as this stallholder.

The range of knitwear was staggering. Local people must knit nonstop all year round to produce these wonderful socks and scarves and caps and jackets. There were really sensible baby outfits too, thick wool from head to toe, little tights and long jackets and mittens and ear-flapped hats. I looked for those Estonian lace shawls, and saw one or two at the back of stalls, but the stallholders were disinclined to hold them up for photographs. They were a little protective, perhaps.

Did I mention cakes? As something of an expert in this field, Celtic Memory can report that Estonia certainly has the right idea when it comes to patisserie. Delectable, every one of them. And the cafes are wonderful too. Found a couple of really old-world ones, like Demel's in Vienna used to be before it turned into an automatic bus-tour stop. Here you still find elegant old ladies gossiping over glasses of tea or gentlemen reaching for the racks of newspapers displayed on reading batons.

I rather liked the glimpse I got of this lady's wool jacket and got DH to take a discreet shot of it across the room. Nice blend of cables and lace.

By heaven, it was cold when we were there! Fortunately I'd managed to finish the latest pair of warm socks on the plane, and they were put into use immediately we got to the hotel.

These were worked in the Oblique Openwork rib from Sensational Knitted Socks, using Fleece Artist's Somoko. Extremely cosy.

We really felt the cold when we took a tram out into the countryside to visit Tallinn Zoo. The wind was whistling down from the north, you had to keep your face shrouded for fear of frostbite (well, this tender Irish skin did anyway) and when you saw gentle spirals of blue smoke rising from a bonfire in the woods nearby, you went looking for it pretty darn quickly.

This was one of those wonderful happy moments that you are fortunate to get now and again in life. The warmth of a bonfire of brushwood, the scent of woodsmoke, the closeness of an old forest all around - it seemed the right place to knit on a warm shawl. Could have stayed there for hours, but there weren't in fact many hours of daylight left, and DH had spotted some wild boar he wanted to photograph...

All very well, I hear you cry, but less of this woodsmoke and wild boar. What about the yarn?

Celtic Memory had done her research before the trip. The Travelling Knitters group on Ravelry, and also the Estonian Knitters had been checked out. A list of the most likely places had been compiled. Karnaluks, everybody seemed agreed, was the best shop of all. So after the woodland idyll, we caught the tram back to town and started looking for Karnaluks.

We walked miles (well, probably a kilometre). We got into the rather greyer suburbs, well beyond the old town walls. We found the right street. But no yarn store beckoning with its bright window.

It's got to be somewhere here!

Dusk was falling rapidly. Blood pressure was rising, also rapidly. Asked passers-by. Showed knitting in pocket. Mystified shakings of heads. Very willing to help they were, but yarn? Vill? No, they regretted it exceedingly, but they could not recall ever having seen such a shop.

Now Estonian knitters are doubtless laughing their heads off at this point, knowing what I didn't know, and what they don't tell you on the helpful threads about best yarn shops.

This unpromising entrance leads to a Fitness & Beauty Centre. It has a notice on the door saying so. You have to believe. You have to push open those doors, walk right through the entrance to the Beauty Centre. Then (and only then) you find a stairway leading upwards. You ascend one flight. You ascend a second. (You may possibly ascend a third, but being considerably stressed at this point, Celtic Memory doesn't actually remember.) You find a blank double door. You push it open.


Of course it is on the top floor of a grey building in a grey street, with no visible advertisement anywhere on the outside or, for that matter, on the way up. Doesn't everybody know that?

Listen, Estonian knitters, have pity on those of us who come from clearly idiot-helpful countries that need signs and posters and window displays. Just give us the occasional clue, will you? We're not all as experienced as you are at finding sought-after items in unpromising surroundings.

So how did I know to go in that door and up those stairs, even while expecting at every moment to be challenged by a terrifying lady in charge of Beauty or indeed Fitness? I used the oldest instinct in the book. I wet my finger and held it up, and then followed the vibes. (Used to use this for finding pubs in older, more wild days, but now it works pretty well for yarn and fibre, I've found).

They have an amazing range of yarns here. And fibre too, although that was only in small nests, for felting, rather than great big bags for would-be sweater spinners. Yarns from virtually every country in the world.

Except - Estonia.

Having hunted high and low, having discovered some very interesting facts (like where some major household names in yarn actually source their products, you'd be surprised, I'd known about Turkey but not that Romania contributed so much, must go there again soon), I challenged a delightful young assistant who was wearing big soft felted slippers.

Alas, no Estonian yarn.

But why not for heaven's sake?

'I know, I have said it to them, and visitors always ask, but no, we do not. Perhaps the Christmas Market...?'

Bought just four balls of Austermann Inverno in a nice blend of blues and greys, to make a vest, but no more yarn than that. Had a lot of fun looking around though - it's not just yarn, they have an incredible range of findings and bits and needles and zips and trimmings and fabrics too.

If you think you can detect a smile on Celtic Memory's face here, you're right. This was the moment I discovered that they stocked my absolute favourite circulars of all time, no contest, no question - Colonial Rosewood. The few pairs I possess of these came from America, whither they were imported from India, and I paid a small king's ransom for each pair.

They were a lot less here. A lot less. And being wood, I could get them home in my rucksack (can't do that with steel Addi Turbos, alas). The reason Colonial Rosewoods are favoured chez CM so much is not only because of their gorgeous wood and silky polish, but because just before the join 'twixt cable and needle, there is a little bump, which slides the stitch up and over and completely does away with that irritating drag you get with lesser circulars. Colonial are the only ones who provide this little extra and it makes all the difference.

So no Estonian yarn. But remembering what the girl had said, I searched the Christmas Market more carefully that evening. And alleluia, at last, in a dim corner of one candle-lit stall, I saw a little basket of skeins.

Genuine Estonian yarn! And exactly the two colours I needed for those lovely Snowy Woods socks referred to in my last posting.

The luck continued. Wandering back towards a restaurant we'd spotted earlier in a sidestreet, my eye was caught by the window of a shop on the corner.

It's that right-hand window, just next to where I'm standing, staring. Oh you can't possibly see it from where you're sitting, hang on a minute and I'll try to blow up that segment of the picture. It'll probably be a bit blurred, but you won't mind.

Can you make them out? There under that orange felted hat? Several skeins of yarn!

Rushed in of course, and threw myself on the floor in front of a whole display unit of yarn, uttering cries of delight. DH reassured the shop lady with gestures and smiles (he may have tapped his head to indicate my state of mind, but I can't be sure, I was busy at the time).

Oh what a wonderful display. Spent ages sorting and cooing and making little heaps and then changing my mind and occasionally getting panicky and hauling out great armfuls of skeins in case they all disappeared.

Mary Lee, you're the one who told me there was a yarn shop on the corner of the town square. And so there was. It's just there were a lot of corners to this square - dozens of tiny alleys and streets leading off every which way. So I was very very glad to have found the right one at the eleventh hour.

Last minute checking of blogs and emails on the baby notepad at Tallinn Airport. I like this one because the book I was reading on the trip was Medieval Travellers. Nice blend of the old and new.

So what loot came back to West Cork in the end?

How all this got stuffed into one small rucksack I do not know (don't even think of checked baggage on low-fare European airlines, believe me). DH may have helped - lenses and electronics, although appallingly heavy, aren't all that bulky - as did capacious pockets in vests and warm jackets.

I love this almost-unspun soft yarn although I have no idea what one makes with it. The lady in the shop said helpfully, 'Knit very big then much hot water' which sounds sensible.

And when we finally got home, exhausted, there was a package on the doorstep.

The rovings from lovely Warren at Craftspun Yarns had arrived! At the back, two natural shades of BFL, at the front, Wensleydale, and on top, a little sample nest of space-dyed roving. 500g of each, and beautiful all of them. We are lucky to have Craftspun Yarns here in Ireland. Why don't you order something from them? They're nice people.

That's it. Celtic Memory is now definitely going to swing the town gate shut, shoot the bolts, lower the portcullis, and devote herself to preparing for the festive season. Knitting, spinning, felting, dyeing. No more travels.

Until the next time.