Saturday, January 31, 2009

Of Fibre Hunts And Knitting Discoveries in the Rhodope Mountains

It might seem a little daft to head for the snow when you're trying to recover from the flu, but the big advantage of Bulgaria was that there was a direct charter flight from Cork. And there were two seats left. And it left the next day. And it was unbelievably cheap. To get all four factors together is not a common occurrence here so we organised boot camp for the dogs and packed the woolly sweaters.

Pamporovo, high up in the Rhodope Mountains of southern Bulgaria, exists for skiing and there isn't a lot more going on - it's not Davos nor yet St. Anton. However, it is considerably less demanding on your pocket than either of those august places, and the snow is beautiful - dry and powdery.

Travelling on the ski lift is always lovely: you're alone in this white silent world with all that blare and noise and loud jolly music and kerfuffle magically removed, drifting peacefully, high above the ground, on eye level with squirrels and crossbills. Unimaginably cold of course, but it's worth it for the peace.

Ceci n'est pas un snowman. It's a snowwoman. The genius loci if you like, the spirit of this silent space in the pine forest. The urge to create her, like a Greenwitch or other powerful symbol, was too strong to resist. Dry powdery snow is surprisingly difficult to shape into a snowwoman, but it was managed at last, and the current sock put into her hands to link West Cork and the Rhodopes. She was still standing there as we left, a small figure in the drifting snow but strangely powerful. She might still be there. I'm glad I played a part in her making. It felt like I was carrying on some unknown but instinctive tradition.

After that long time outdoors, restoratives were called for, and fortunately The Eagle's Nest wasn't far away.

The cheery landlord was quite pleased to hold the sock, and even checked out the circular cable with interest - clearly he'd seen his granny, if not his mother, knitting socks before. I suggested I should make a pair for him and he said carefully, 'Yes, but I am size 48 European', whereupon I dropped the idea.

If you can't discern all of the legend on that T-shirt by the way, it says, 'If U Can Read This, You Clearly Need Another Beer.' Me, I was drinking hot spiced wine. Good for the throat, y'know.

The view from the window at dawn each morning was heartstopping. But apart from that, and the skiing, there was very little going on in Pamporovo so we hired a car and headed off into the snowy side roads, deep into the mountains which border Greece and Turkey, to see what we could find.

Life doesn't look to have changed much in these mountain villages over the past century. Firewood is stacked everywhere, underneath houses, alongside, in neat piles on the streets. At the time we were there, Bulgaria was suffering the effects of a cut-off in gas supplies from Russia, but up here wood still clearly rules.

Hay for the animals is cherished too. There is a cat ensconced comfortably in this pile - if you look closely, you might be able to see a little white face on the left of the heap.

- and here is a haystack, carefully gathered on a steep hillside, and not yet brought into the village to feed the cattle.

Every back road we travelled (sometimes having to take it fairly carefully in the heavy snow and ice), we discovered more remote villages, looking beautiful under their white covering.

When we found this frail footbridge spanning an almost-frozen river, it had to be crossed, however dodgy the exercise. This was by way of a tribute to my father who died at this time last year. He would have leapt across delightedly, and probably stood on his head in the middle, to show how easy it was (yes, I did spend a lot of my childhood picking myself out of rivers or caves, mountainsides or forests and vowing disgruntedly to spend my entire adult life safe in a warm luxurious hotel). Thanks for everything, Papa, this one's for you!

Now what do you think of this? We had stopped by the roadside to listen for birdsong, and saw these scraps hanging from bushes in a little grove. Clambered up and found that they were woven bracelets or strands, some with beads, some crocheted, some twisted, carefully positioned on the bushes around this little glade. Of course you can see the same thing in Ireland at the so-called 'holy wells' which are everywhere and which were centres of worship for the old goddesses long before Christianity reached our island, but I hadn't expected to find them here. I don't know why not - these ancient beliefs are universal, I suspect.

Now you will have noticed something missing from this travel post so far, and by then I was beginning to miss it too. Shopping. Of any kind. Not necessarily the Champs Elysees or Kartnerstrasse, but some shops. Of any kind. And perhaps, just perhaps, some yarn?

It didn't seem very hopeful. Places selling anything were few and far between in these mountain regions, and when you did see one, it tended to stock plastic basins, coils of rope, buckets, and not much more. Of handcrafts, handwork, there was very little evidence (well, no evidence really, let's be truthful). But finally, at Chepelare, I saw for the very first time someone actually knitting!

Was so thrilled I burst into the shop and assailed her with questions - none of which she understood of course, until I hauled out my own knitting bag and revealed myself as a fellow fibre fiend (Celtic Memory's Bulgarian is rudimentary in the extreme and she has enough trouble coping with the shaking of the head for 'yes' and the nodding for 'no' without going into detailed discussions of LYSs).

What was clear was that she didn't sell this jolly fun-fur yarn (never was I so glad to see a novelty yarn in my life!) Crochet thread yes, severe underwear, certainly, basic toiletries, perhaps, but not yarn. Nor could she tell me where it came from - she gestured vaguely in the direction of Sofia, about a hundred miles to the north. But it was a start. Knitting and therefore yarn of some kind did exist.

You wouldn't believe where I finally found some. Talk about unlikely locations!

This is Pavelsko, somewhat off the beaten track. DH wanted to drive through to get some shots. As we skidded down that icy street, something bright pink caught my eye in that green window to the left of the picture. Was it? Could it be? Surely not...


This general purpose store, which sold all the aforementioned buckets and basins and coils of rope, as well as farm implements, plastic flowers, and colouring books for children, had a stack of yarn on the windowsill!

There were novelty yarns (hi to you, orange Chepelare fun fur!) but also some genuine Bulgarian wool, all of it in good hefty skeins (well lookit, a piffling little 50g ball wouldn't cut much ice, literally or metaphorically up in these mountains, would it?) And he had aluminium circular needles for an incredibly low price - about 50c each. Bought several.

Here, with triumph, I present: two skeins of thick dark grey/brown homespun-style, enough for a woolly shepherd's vest, I would think; and above those, two skeins of fingering weight, one black, one red, each with enough for a good shawl or even a vest. ALL GENUINE BULGARIAN YARN!


Of course with hindsight, I smack myself on the head and ask exasperatedly why oh why Ravelry had not been checked out before the trip? Well, there hadn't been time - it was a last-minute, split-second decision, grab the passports and run - and in Pamporovo the Internet access had been vague and unreliable. Plus, I hadn't thought there would be any Ravelers in that remote corner of Bulgaria.

Wrong! I could have met up with gorgeous Ana from Smolyan just down the road and she would have been pleased to show me her local yarn shop and tell me all kinds of things about Bulgarian knitting and knitters. Idiot! I'll know better next time, surely I will. And in the meantime, Ana and I have set up conversation and are going to exchange goodies, so that's a pleasure to come, isn't it? If you're on Ravelry, you'll find her there as Shenevski, so go and check out her gorgeous projects - what a girl.

Things definitely got better after the discovery of Pavelsko, though. In the village of Narechenski Bani we found what could be described as 'the strip' in a similar American town: one side of the street had a traditional restaurant, while the other side was entirely taken up with a long roofed stall on which were displayed all kinds of old objects - the kind you'd kill for back home. Butter churns, old carts, boxes, hand-cranked sewing machines (Russian ones too, oh my, no I could NOT, can you imagine security at the airport, not to mention weight restrictions?)

Now this was a find indeed! I worked my way carefully along, knowing by the things I was seeing and the twitching of my fingers, that I was getting closer to some really good discoveries...

Here were old weaving tools, shuttles, spindles, as well as those fascinating little finger tools for thatching roofs.

Here is a whole bundle of well-used, hand-carved drop spindles. Minus whorls, but I suspect from their shape, some of them were spun in a bowl or on the knee.

And here is the flyer from a long-gone spinning wheel. Did I buy this? Of course I did. What do you take me for? (Actually DH unearthed this specific one and pointed out the spun yarn still on it - he was as thrilled as I was.)

Spinners will know what this is. A simple traditional distaff for holding fleece. Have a closer look.

See the old wood, polished by years of use? And where it has split at the crook,, and been carefully bound with string? That was very touching. It's got a good home now.

And the traditional cafe across the road was a find too! They valued their old crafts and showed me that they knew how to use the drop spindle. Here the girl is fixing a wodge of fleece on to her own distaff, made of new wood quite recently, but in exactly the same way as the older one I'd just got. She even gifted me the bundle of rough brown fleece to take home, and wouldn't hear of being paid for it (we paid about 50c each for special local herbal tea with pine honey and she gave me a bundle of that herb too). They had so many wonderful things hanging up around the cosy woodstove-heated room that I can't show you them all. Rough wool shepherds' cloaks. Traditional dresses. Felted jackets. A treasure store.

Here is a sock made by her grand mother. Stunning colourwork, isn't it? She wouldn't sell me that -

- but I persuaded her to sell me these. Old, well used, many times washed, mended, utterly traditional Bulgarian design.

Eyelets are worked into the ribbing at the top, and there is a nice little twisted stitch panel running down the length of the sock. Don't you love those Bulgarian roses? (I remember buying a tiny phial of attar of roses down on the Bulgarian plains many many decades ago, when hitchiking through Eastern Europe in student days, and carrying it carefully all the way home in my rucksack to give to my mother.)

Clearly it was a good day so we kept going as long as the light lasted. Way up in the hills, on the way to the Trigrad Gorge, we met a lovely old lady with bright green socks keeping her feet warm.

She was puzzled at first (well wouldn't you be if a weird foreigner leapt out of a car and started waving her hands and pointing at your feet?), but when I produced the cure-all knitting bag, she was delighted. Kept patting me on the shoulder and saying 'Good, good'. I like to think she was pleased that someone from far away was keeping up with the old ways.

The best was yet to come. We were trundling through yet another mountain village, DH with his camera at the ready to shoot informal pictures of people, animals, anything. We saw this group of women sitting outside a shop and automatically slowed to capture them on camera while still moving (avoids problems that way).

We were ten yards up the street when it hit me.

Richard! She's knitting!

Screech of brakes, roar of car reversing rapidly.

Again, the knitting bag worked wonders. They all exclaimed, laughed, patted me on the shoulder, admired the Fleece Artist Carnival colourway (I think that's what it is). But I wanted to see their knitting.

And this excited me tremendously. They were using hooked needles!

Look, can you see them? Isn't that great? As I saw how she worked, it seemed so much more practical than the straight points on our usual needles - easier to grab the yarn by far. Why don't we all have them? It was the very first time I'd ever seen them used and I was entranced.

Incidentally, she was working a sock in exactly the same way as the old pair I had bought - eyelets at the top of the ribbing, for elastic or ribbon, and, as far as I could see, in virtually the same woollen yarn. Which I hadn't managed to find.

Making a discovery like that adds such a lustre to a trip. Hope you enjoyed it too.

Since then, my good Sock Madness comrade Leslie has obligingly messaged me to say that these are in fact known as Portuguese needles, and you can buy replicas at the Lacis museum in Berkeley, CA. Isn't this fun? How many more discoveries are there waiting out there? If I can't get a set from Bulgaria, I will certainly get some from Lacis. Yes, Celtic Memory may have to open a handicraft museum. Sort of seems to be progressing that way, doesn't it?

Heavens above, do you realise I've spent almost three hours on this post? Uploading all those pictures, removing the huge sections of blank space which Blogger always insists on inserting between each paragraph, uploading more pictures... Still, I know DH spent a lot longer sorting and filing all his images when he got home, so I shouldn't complain. Hope I gave you a taste of being there.

Postscript. Was a bit worried about getting that old distaff home. Simple length of forked wood I know, but security can be a bit funny about what it considers to be a dangerous weapon. Thought about it, then remembered tips from Angeluna on another occasion (no, neither of us will tell you about it, some things are best kept secret) and looked around for ways to disguise its shape. Found a pair of little woolly dolls that I'd bought in the hotel shop for want of any other fleecy souvenir (this was before we'd hired the car and gone exploring). Hacked a piece of ribbon from a decoration. Took a scrap of wool from that gifted to me by the cafe in Narechenski Bani...

This charming traditional ornament, bedecked and beribboned, got safely on to the plane and home to West Cork where you see it leaning against the spinning chair. There was a moment at the airport when the security guard picked it up and asked puzzledly, 'Where you get this?' After all, he probably knew he hadn't seen anything like it in any of the airport shops. 'It's a wedding ornament,' I said confidently. 'Good for fertility', said DH helpfully, nudging the guard who laughed uproariously and handed it back to me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

It's Windy And Wet and Cold And I Want A Nice New Project!

Thought it was about time for a quick update: 'twasn't just the 'flu keeping me offline, 'twas also a spur of the moment trip to a particularly remote corner of Eastern Europe, in the hope of finding dry cold weather to cure the lingering cough. Back from there with some glorious pictures but they're going to take so long to sort out and process and resize for posting that things were getting to that tricky stage where you can't really face doing the whole thing at one go.
You must know the feeling. At first, you think you'll do it tonight. Then you remember how many pictures there are to choose and work on. Then something else gets in the way. The next morning you feel somewhat less enthusiastic. By that evening it has assumed the semblance of a real headache. Only thing to do - tackle a portion of it at least. So housekeeping issues and nice happenings now, and the full travel post tomorrow (or maybe later tonight if there is surplus energy).

It really has been wild and woolly here (just looked out the window and the gales are now hurling the clouds from the north east, whereas half an hour ago they were driving them from the south-west, what is going on here?) DH has been marooned in France for the last two days (yes, I wish I were there too, but he says it's not all that much fun) because a major rugby fixture had to be postponed until today owing to the storms and gales (Jocerane, JudyMac, hope you're OK over there).

There have been some nice little rays of sunshine though, one of the most delightful being this unexpected gift from Dez , all the way from Louisiana:

Look at that! Divine Louisiana coffee, a pack of jambalaya mix, and the most delectable length of turquoise roving with an adorable little sheep sitting on top of it. Roving and pet mascot sheep are on my desk as I type, the coffee is going to be sampled this very afternoon, and DH is going to get a treat tomorrow night with a genuine jambalaya (or as genuine as I can make it up here in damp West Cork). Dez, as I am sure some of you know already, is going through serious worries of her own at the moment, so to find time to post this to me was the generous act of a good friend indeed. My thoughts are very much with you and Dave at the moment, Dez - the rest of you, go on over to her blog and leave good thoughts too. Or if you happen to be anywhere in the Deep South, go check out that lovely shop of hers and buy something!

You remember those gorgeous stitch markers Linda sent me? Well look at these incredible Horselords of Rohan creations she's come up with:

These came about because we'd been talking of linking our themes, and I'd mentioned that I would shortly be working on a spring Magic Skein, to mark Imbolc, or Candlemas, or Brigit's Festival with the beginning of February. Greens, we thought, since everybody yearns for the first signs of new growth, and some gold for the first flowers, and perhaps some icy whites and silvers too.

And here is the first trawl through my stash to start on Brigit. Can't you just see those markers against a shawl or wrap or throw made in these? She's even ahead of me, is Linda, since she's already got going on Lady of the Lake which will match with my Beltane or Bealtaine for the beginning of May with its water-inspired hues of blues and pearly tones.
(I just love those tiny horses she has on the Rohans - can you see them? Oh incidentally, that's Linda's own picture from her blog - I know she won't mind my showing it here too.)

Memo to self: stop blogging and go start on Brigit. You know it always takes far longer than you think, and February is only just around the corner. And while you're at it, isn't it time you did a new lot of hand-dyed sock yarns in the Lord of the Rings theme? Yes, thought you'd forgotten those...

I was very honoured to be advised recently that this has been chosen as one of the hundred best blogs dealing with Celtic culture. Normally I try to sidestep awards, since they generally require that you immediately pass them on to five or ten more, which puts them in the 'pyramid letter' category as far as I'm concerned, but this one didn't ask me to do anything, just let me know that I'd been selected. So it was nice. Must go over and check out all the others now, and see what I can find out that I didn't know about Celtic culture!

Thank you all very very much indeed for the good advice on E-k-y, hereafter referred to as the E-number. That tip on working back and front separately for a few rows is excellent - wish I'd known of it before. Now, as I said (and Celtic Memory never changes her mind, not nohow), the E-number and I are now officially strangers. I have no intention of ever testing the Fates again by deliberately and knowingly straying into that territory.

However.... I have been playing around with a very nice cone of fine Shetland spun in a lovely petrol blue shade with flecks of colour, and thought I might as well do some swatches in it. Very wide swatches, with a lot of stitches. In k1, p1, ribbing. Got one completed, but thought I needed a second. To compare, you know.

When the second swatch is completed, I might try joining them together and working in the round for a few rows. Just for fun.

It is only swatching. It is an Unidentified Swatch Of No Importance. But the wind is from the north-east, and storms are forecast - now let's see, what islands lie north-east of Ireland....?

Progress report later.

Trouble is - with all this freezing wet and windy weather, the urge is growing ever stronger to cast on for a self-indulgent, quick, easy, cuddly and comforting project. Something that feels wonderful, works up quickly, and will look stunning on a depressing Monday morning. Never mind the Unidentified Swatch Of No Importance, bother the similarly secretive piece of work not entirely unrelated to another very famous Starmore pattern which could in turn be linked to the beginning of February, never mind the seventeen pairs of socks currently occupying most of the finer circulars.

Inner Child shows every sign of starting another major tantrum.

I just happened to remember this batch of suri alpaca.

The two cones at the back are the originals (no, I won't tell you where I got them, you won't get it out of me, no you won't, no matter how hard you try), and the three at the front are variations from the dyebath (funny stuff to dye, alpaca, doesn't take colour like wool, but you can get some rather nice results if you persevere).

What do you think? I'm considering a cabled vest (easy quick project) worked with doubled yarn, on nice thick needles. One that would hug the body in the cold mornings and impart a warm glow.

I wanna make it NOW! I wanna make it NOW! I don't WANT to do the ironing or the washing up or the vacuuming! An' I don't wanna blog no more NEITHER!

There are times when I do sympathise with Inner Child. But I can't let her know that.

I promise - a full, picture-heavy posting shortly of that trip to an undiscovered corner of Eastern Europe. Where at first glance any chance of finding fibre or indeed fibrecrafts seemed as remote as the location. But where perseverance and determination paid off in the end.

Here are a couple of tasters to whet your appetite:

Friday, January 09, 2009

Twelfth Night Gone - And So Is The First Challenge

That does not mean that Eriskay is done, dusted, blocked and e'en now being shown off to an admiring public. Quite the opposite in fact.

Take note that this carefully assembled picture is the last you are going to see of said Eriskay and the poppy-red Shetland for quite some time.

Celtic Memory can be dense at times. She can persist in a patently disastrous course of action when all others have abandoned ship and swum for shore. She can persuade herself that something inherently hideous is really beautiful and worth making. She can even dispense vast amounts of coin of the realm in the purchase of yarn which is never likely to be made up into anything. Ever.

But even Celtic Memory gets the message finally.

You will recall the cheerful tone of my last posting of 2008. New challenges were needed, I declared, and therewith I pledged my troth to two in particular: to spin enough fleece for a sweater, and to try again with the fated Eriskay.

Well the spinning is going just fine, you'll be glad to hear. Slowly, due to unforeseen circumstances (of which more later) but going fine. Could have saved myself the agonising over how to spin finer or thicker yarn. Turns out Celtic Memory's yarn comes out the same every time, whether she tries to create laceweight or bulky. Sort of middle-of-the-road worsted-to-Aran, so that's OK anyway. Just hope there will be enough for a sweater when the 600g of Corriedale is all gone, but if there isn't, then it will be an ornately cabled vest. That's OK too. There are times when you just don't have the energy to worry any more over the small stuff.

Which Eriskay isn't. Wasn't. Observe deliberate amendment to past tense.

The yarns were wound and ready, the terrifyingly small gauge needles were to hand, and on New Year's Day the casting on began. It's a long job casting on for Eriskay, but CM was wise enough to take the advice of good friends like Ruth and placed little markers every 20 stitches or so, to make sure she didn't lose count and have to start all over again (you really don't want to do that with this number of stitches and they are all so small, so small - sorry, they were all so small.)

It took half the day to get the correct number cast on and then came the careful joining, ensuring that the stitches were not twisted in any way. Must have laid them out on the table, checking and re-checking, half a dozen times before making the final join.

By 6 pm, two whole rows had been worked in that eyestraining rib. Two whole rows! At this rate, the telegram marking my 100th birthday would arrive before Eriskay. But it was New Year's Day and a start had been made.

January 2, and the work was taken up with renewed vigour. Only... after working a few miles within Row 3, an unease was felt, began to grow, to deepen...

No, surely not. Couldn't be. Not this time. Look, you're an expert in this, OK? You're just imagining things.

Work on a little further. No, can't ignore the sense of impending doom any more. Take a deep breath. Get up. Spread it all out on the table and turn all the little stitches neatly in one direction...

Yep. The work was twisted.

How? How the heck should I know. Didn't I take care? OF COURSE I DID. YOU THINK I DO THIS FOR FUN? Didn't I look to see - yes I did. But did I - YES I DID THAT TOO SO STOP ASKING DAFT QUESTIONS!

And so, as I mentioned earlier, there comes a time when even Celtic Memory gets the message. The work was put gently down. The needles were gently tugged from the stitches. Each and every little stitch marker was removed and put away in the correct little bag. The yarn was gently rewound on to the ball (had to go round the outside instead of back inside, but that was OK. Who cares?)

This is definitely time, I thought, to forget all about besting Herself of Stornoway. Put it away, think of something else, forget you ever thought it attractive. Carefully composed that picture for you and you alone, and then banished book to shelves and yarn to stash.

OK, she can't do anything more to me now. Start the New Year afresh.

Did I think I'd get off so lightly, after that blatant attack on the outer bulwarks of Starmore Castle? Foolish Celtic Memory.

The headache which had been ascribed to eyestrain got worse. The snuffles which had been put down to over-attentive fluffy small dogs got even worserer. Aches and pains which could hardly be explained away by sitting stiffly over millions of tiny stitches, became impossible to ignore.

Within an hour it was clear that somehow I had been blasted right from the Hebrides by the flu bug to end all flu bugs. Nearly ended Celtic Memory, that's for sure.

Yes, those of you with good recall will query this. 'Surely you got exactly the same bug at exactly the same time last year?' they will ask disbelievingly. Yes, I did. And I'll give you three guesses what I was working on at the time. Predictable or what?

It has been a pretty bad week since then. After four days of no sleep, incessant coughing, and an inability to eat even a grain of muesli, gave in and went in search of a doctor. A cheerful young Australian locum checked me out and gave it as his considered opinion that there wasn't too much wrong with me at all. Readers, at this point I was slumped in a heap on the floor, quite incapable of rising without assistance. I was a wreck, alternately feverish or icy cold, totally choked up, and feeling that death would be a release.

'Oh in a week or two you'll probably think, yes I'm coughing less than I was back then,' he said gaily, waving me out the door and trousering my not inconsiderable contribution to the medical fund. And DH drove me home and put me to bed and administered hot honey and lemon, and wiped away my tears, bless him.

So bad indeed was I that knitting seemed a vague triviality. Who cared? (There was one point when, feverishly unable to sleep, I got up in the middle of the night and cast on for a violet guernsey, from a Japanese pattern book. Next morning I realised the error of my ways and frogged that too.

The remains of what will definitely NOT be a Japanese guernsey. With or without flu bugs.

January 6 was Little Christmas or Women's Christmas and no way was I going to miss that. Grannies, girls, mothers and daughters, women all over Cork were heading out for a great evening on the town and I didn't want to be left behind. DH took my bedraggled shadow into the city for a cheer-up dinner which included a seriously strong hot toddy.

DH was the only man in Luigi Malone's that night, apart from the waiters. Every table was jammed with women of all ages having a wild night out and enjoying exactly what they wanted, from steak to creamy desserts.

By way of distraction from my miseries, I went on DH's jobs with him that evening, to all the different events being put on for women around the city. When we got to the Abba tribute show at the Opera House though, I decided to stay put for a while and enjoy the atmosphere. Whatever you might think of their music, you can't deny it's eminently suitable for dancing along to. Which women were doing. In the aisles. Great fun.
'Does your mother know that you're out?'

When DH was carting me back to the car to go home to bed, there were cheerful groups heading to all the pubs, to continue the celebrations. It's a great idea. Why don't we have a virtual one online next year? You know, like the bleachers in Sock Madness?

I had a lovely surprise yesterday when a package of exquisite stitch markers arrived from my good friend Linda Burklin. Linda's designs are always in demand and I know she was rushed off her feet over Christmas meeting orders, but she still found time to make these beautiful ones for me, all delicate green leaves and pearly beauty.

She always makes one that is a little bit different to the others, stands out as the 'lead marker'. In this set it's one on the right that has a gold bead at the very tip of the leaf, like dew with the sun on it. We're talking, Linda and I, about theming hand-dyed sock yarns to her stitch marker designs and bringing them out at the same time - say a Lord of the Rings theme or similar. That would be fun.
Enough. I'm recovered to the stage where I think I just might go on living. And that at some point in the future knitting might even be fun again. But it's slow work.
And you will oblige me by not enquiring after that particular ornately-patterned gansey. Please do continue with your own interpretations of this. I imagine yours will turn out just perfectly. Peg, you emailed to enquire if it were possible to use any other than AS's own yarn for this particular project. At risk of inviting a relapse into that ghastly flu, I would declare truthfully and bravely that of course it is possible to use other yarns. Any yarn that gets you gauge is just fine. Why wouldn't it be? There are so many lovely lightweight Shetlands out there, in every colour of the rainbow. And smoother yarns too, if you don't like the fluffy halo look. Just go for it!
(Might be an idea to lay in stocks of flu remedies first though...)