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Unfortunately, I’ve spent most of this week nursing a massive headcold and feeling sorry for myself, i.e. an utter waste of space. You really don’t want to know…. So, with major help from my favourite technical assistant/nurse/graduate Darragh, here are some photos from Slane (NNW of Dublin) to let you know you’re in my thoughts, even if they’re not very coherent!

There’s a ruined church and graveyard on top of what is referred to as Slane Hill. This being the Midlands, which are flat as a pancake, even a glorified pimple like this counts as a hill….

…..and to be fair, it does have a view. Welcome to the Midlands!

Note that the VIPs got buried inside the church.

We were there to look at the geology of the area (very interesting, trust me!), but grasped the opportunity (i.e. the rain had stopped) to take some photos of a few designs in Cushendale Lace that I’m working on.

The following photos were taken in the ruined monastery.

More details will follow when I’m no longer a vegetable.

This Cushendale Lace comes from Irish sheep and is like Shetland yarn in many ways, for example, it blocks beautifully!

I only beaded the edge of this stole, ‘cos I didn’t want it too fussy.

There’s a huge variety of lichens on these old walls.

I’m proud of the way I got the leaves to start falling in the opposite direction in the middle of this stole,that was a challenge!

And now, the grand finale:

And now I’m off to bed with a hot water bottle, a girl’s best friend at times like these. See you in October!

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Yarn diet- my style!

Whew! It’s been a madly busy week. It started with my first photoshoot ever, with Niamh and Nessa and their mammy Breda from my knitting group, some of my first designs, and a camera in the park. Niamh was my official model, but we were having such fun that Nessa joined in too, and happily shared my Pink Heather shawl (one ball of Cushendale boucle mohair/wool, fits 2 children or one adult). The pattern has been in preparation for an embarrassingly long time, but I’m nearly there, I promise! There’s been so much family/health stuff going on for the last year, I’ve been like a headless chicken trying to juggle. Hands up, every mammy who knows that feeling!

I got a lot of knitting done in waiting rooms, and designing is good for the soul (and sanity!), but translating my pencilled notes into patterns people other than me can understand requires a non-medical ambience, so I’ve a backlog…

Still, thanks to my lovely models, you’ve an idea of what I’ve been up to!

There’s no denying it’s the time of year for woolly slippers and socks, at least in this part of the world, so this week I raided my stash for charity shop trophies and produced these two pairs of tweedy slippers. Thank you, Yuko Nakamura, for the free Ravelry pattern, it’s quick, easy and cosy! I modified the patt to fit a ladies size 39 (European)  by casting on 58 sts, and a mans size 45 (do.), 72 sts. We both have narrow feet (I prefer “slender”, myself, but the Son and Heir doesn’t….), so I left out a few rows in the soles. P.S. Used several fine, strong acrylic strands with the tweed in the soles, so they don’t wear out too quickly. Life’s too short for darning!

Just in case there’s someone out there who hasn’t yet noticed, Knitty Deep Fall 2012 is out, yay! I found these Stitch Surfer socks by Louise Robert irresistible, and my son is brave enough to wear them- what more excuse do I need? By the way, the blankie in the background is based on the Grandmother’s Garden patt in Claire Crompton’s Knitters Bible, and the edging I developed by simplifying the Great-Grandmother’s Edging in Barbara Walker’s second Treasury. Have I mentioned how much I admire BW? Let me count the ways… I have been her fan since I hit my teens, which was neither today nor yesterday.

The lavender cotton for the blankie was given to me by Eunice, a kind friend who was moving house and had to part with some of her stash (hug!). I had no stash of my own at the time, after moving back to Dublin from Germany, so I felt her pain and did my best to give it a good home…

The cockleshell swatch is a tangible result of my busiest weekend in a long time. Friday evening was Dublin Culture Night, when museums, galleries, exhibitions and buildings of historical interest fling open their doors for free until 11 or 12 pm, and half the population of Dublin takes to the streets to gallivant and absorb as much gorgeousness as possible- the craic was mighty! The patron saint of culture was doing overtime, obviously, because not one drop of rain fell- definitely a minor miracle.

I could write a guide book about the evening, but this is neither the time nor the place, so youse will just have to come and see for yourselves! However, I got a very knitterly thrill (as opposed to all the others, heehee!) in the Georgian House Museum in Fitzwilliam Street. This is one of a terrace which housed wealthy merchants (as opposed to the landed gentry in Powerscourt Townhouse) and has been renovated, complete with original contents of the period. And in the master bedroom there is a knitted openwork cotton bedspread in an interlocking cockleshell pattern, still in perfect condition!  No photos allowed, groan! In retrospect, I shouldn’t have asked first, even if it would have got me kicked out on my ear. I’m obviously too law-abiding, I’ll have to work on developing a brass neck. So when I got got home I did a sketch, slept for a few hours, then headed off for the Weekend Marathon, part II.

HandmAid Craft Day: basically, a fibre-filled craft fest for knitters, crocheters, weavers and learners, in aid of the Dublin Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and I had volunteered to help with the yarn stall. Yes, I had an ulterior motive! Of course, I had an ulterior motive! Yarn was involved, and I’m a knitter, so join the dots! Culture vulture on Friday, stash vulture on Saturday: well, I’m a complex person. So yes, I swooped happily on bargains from my advantageous position on the right (i.e.uncrowded) side of the stall, until I had spent next weeks’ housekeeping money and had to stop (plus I couldn’t carry any more home on the bus). But the great thing was, there were so many donations that everyone went home with bags bursting with bargains; ” oh, I really shouldn’t, but…” was the phrase of the day, as my fellow fans caved in to the delights of everything from raw silk and hand-painted lace weight to cones of sufficient pure wool to knit a sweater for modest sums.

It was a long, busy, friendly sort of a day and I think we all limped home exhausted but happy. All I managed yesterday was the shell swatch above (in new mystery bargain yarn).  I haven’t got it right yet, but I consulted Horst Schultz’ “Patchwork Knitting” for the shape (if you don’t know his stuff yet, have a gander an Ravelry, I love his designs)- I’d love to re-engineer a Georgian bedspread….

And then there’s the cone of Donegal Aran tweed in pink, which will make a lovely Curve of Pursuit afghan (Pat Ashforth & Steve Plummer, aka Woolly Thoughts on Ravelry). The deep mauve is left over from my hooded coat (see Construction Site).

So that’s my yarn diet: spend the housekeeping on yarn, then knit instead of eating! Do you think it’ll catch on ?

Local Colour

Oh yes, I did say I’d share the atmosphere of some of my favourite parts of Dublin, didn’t I? Well, at a lot of that ambience has been too plain soggy to come across well, but how’s this, for a start? The Powerscourt Townhouse Centre is what good shopping centres look like when they go to heaven, and it houses one of my favourite yarn shops too! The townhouse is a Georgian hollow square around a (now glassed-in) courtyard which belonged to the Powerscourt family (yes, they had a country house, too, and an estate which includes the highest waterfall in Ireland, etc. etc.) and now contains a multitude of tempting little boutiques and restaurants.

Up the steps, thru the main door, into the porch where we encounter what must be the prettiest flower shop ever. Not only are the windows and doors gorgeous, the floor consists of trompe-l’oeil marble (the pattern of tumbling blocks is of course familiar to all needleworkers!), and the ceiling is simply splendid…

Back in Georgian Dublin it was decided that all townhouses should be built to a certain format, especially their facades. This meant it was quite difficult for the owner to express their individuality to passers-by. Not to be denied their right to flaunt their wealth shamelessly, homeowners lavishly decorated their front door and the ceilings of their front rooms. These were the two surfaces visible from the street which were not under the control of the planning regulations, so they went all out!

On we go through the stairwell- sigh! – onto the main gallery, where “This is Knit”, my LYS, awaits like a casket of jewels (yep, just being in here makes me feel creative, it’s like a charm…..).

The shop is owned by a mother and daughter team, Jacqui and Lisa, who are passionate knitters, and it shows. They have everything a knitter’s heart desires, including generosity with tips and help (no, I’m not getting a kick-back for this, I just like to share the good news, because not so long ago it was hard to find designer and hand-painted yarns in Dublin, so there!).

This is what I like most, that they showcase indie yarn artists working in Ireland, as well as companies producing unique Irish yarns such as Cushendales and Donegal Tweed. It means support for tiny start-up businesses, and gorgeous one-of-a kind woollies for us.

Summer at Last!

Occasionally, I get distracted from knitting, maybe once in a blue moon. And this week, two special occasions combined to separate me from my circulars. Firstly, the sun shone for six consecutive days, which constituted the most summer I remember for along time (there’s a reason Ireland is so green!). Most Irish people have been wandering around, smiling at everyone and celebrating  their good fortune. If the sun weren’t already so low in the sky we’d all be in hospital by now with sunstroke… Of course, I’ve been out there stocking up on vitamin D with the best of them. Secondly, see above. Yes, Darragh graduated this week (hurray!) and I admitted, in public, that I was old enough to be the mammy of a graduate. Talk about mixed feelings. Anyway, I donned my shining armour, aka Mwaa’s gorgeous EZ 100th Anniversary Camping Half-Circle (shawl, free on Ravelry), assembled the folks, and had a lovely day in the sun.

I used a ball of Midara “Roma” (750m/100g, 100% wool) which I got on sale. Up to recently, I’ve tended to stay away from bright colours,as a result of being conspicuously red-headed all my life, but I find they give me quite a boost, so flamboyant, here I come! I had to search for a dress to go with the shawl (note priorities) and found this one in a charity shop, along with enough lovely grey merino for another shawl. What luck!

Because I had some yarn left over I added another band to the shawl before the edging: 3 repeats of Milanese Lace (on the left side of the photo). To keep the slope consistent with that of the Branching Twigs (right side of photo) I charted the Milanese Lace as a mirror image of itself. The edging doesn’t look as pretty as the original, I think that’s because I used a springy pure wool which objects to being firmly blocked. The body is grand, though, and drapes very well.

So this week I’ve simply been putting the edging on the Froth cape (from Victorian Lace by Jane Sowerby), which is almost a hyperbolic curve at this stage! This would make a great bed-jacket substitute, but I think the number of patt. repeats in the body could safely be reduced for a slender or small person and still make a generously luxuriant garment.

It is the way of edgings to gobble up yarn, and this one has already used the same amount again as the body, with a fair bit to go (note: yarn ca. 930m/100g, 4.5mm needles for body but 4mm needles for edging). It’s very easy and relaxing, though, and non-slippery yarn adds to that (the yo’s used to leap off my needles like lemmimgs during my Ravellenics cardi, but that’s silk-alpaca for you!). Mind you, a couple of times I’ve knit into the fuzzy halo rather than the stitch itself, resulting in an unravelled stitch discovered much later. However, they don’t get far in mohair, get lassoed by trusty safety pins and will be dealt with later (hence pin at corner of cape above). Other emergency gear used: rubber bands on needle as stopper -inelegant, but effective.

Once more, in close up because I love to look at faggotting in fine mohair; those airy curves are so elegant!

Well, as it’s now bucketing down again outside as usual, I think it’s safe to say that Froth is due to get finished and modelled shortly. Yep, the glass is half full!

Construction Site

No hard hats required!

This is the relaxing, colourful project I started after the Ravellenics ( you didn’t think I’d been sewing up all this time, did you? Life’s too short!). This is “Cropped Jacket, no. 26″ from the recent first issue- I beg your pardon,” Premiere Issue”, no less- of Noro Magazine. All garter stitch, with plenty of short rows for me to practise that new-to-me technique of German short rows (see thread on subject under Techniques Discussion Board on Ravelry, v.v.gd) . Stop press: I am a convert! Not only do they look good, they’re easier and therefore quicker than the wrap-n-turn method I’ve been using up to now. And, let’s face it, a top-heavy girl like myself really needs her short rows if she wants to avoid looking like a sack of potatoes…

Now this pattern has one aspect that I consider a major flaw: it’s written in the dressmaking style, with all pieces knit separately then connected in a bo-o-o-oring sewing session long enough to give anyone grey hair. I can’t be having with that, so I constructed the jacket by knitting or grafting all the pieces together (this also made the colours flow more smoothly around the body). And before you quibble, no, I don’t count grafting as boring sewing, because I still get the same thrill out of it as I did as a nine-year-old finishing the toe of my first ever sock (pistachio green). A mysterious, undetectable join not even the grownups could find, whee! So I knit the first sleeve directly onto the top of the first side, leaving half the stitches on a provisional crochet chain (see above). By the way, note the three wide wedges before the shoulder indent above, demolition and reconstruction will be shown here soon! Next step, the back was knit on, first to the sleeve (below right), then the shoulder, then the collar- no sewing required!

The pattern requires that the left side be knit from the top down, in order that the short rows will still be worked from the right side of the piece, so I started the second sleeve at the cuff and knit straight through to the waist. By this stage I’d realised that the ease in this pattern is minimal, so I was going to need space around the bust. I added in a fourth wide wedge while knitting, then went back to the right front and constructed one there too, using the same basic approach as EZ’s Afterthought Pocket. I cut into the selected row about 5cm from the edge, so that rows above and below wouldn’t be affected.

I wouldn’t like to have to do this in a silky slippery yarn, and I hate cutting into my knitting for any reason, but now I feel like a nine-year-old again: spot the join! Once I’ve darned those ends away, it’ll be grand…

Finishing the back involved grafting the collar join, knitting on at the shoulder and grafting to the sleeve, all the while juggling the colours so that the transitions would be smooth. It was fun!

P.S. FYI, I used Kureyon Sock from my stash (the “Atlantic” muted colours, see ball at bottom right of 1st photo) and Drops Delight (warmer colours), and a 3.75mm cicular needle. Beware, the sleeves are positively slender, check measurements! I plan to try this out again in fine Donegal Soft Tweed,  I think it would be very cosy and I love the shape…

There’s a good reason I haven’t done the side/sleeve seams yet, one any knitter will understand; on Tuesday I was given a present of Jane Sowerby’s book on Victorian Lace! Three cheers for Julian, patron of the fibre arts! So of course I had better things to be doing than sewing seams, such as….

This frivolous foamy froth is a circular cape, utterly decadent and irresistible. I just need a boudoir to go with it!

It’s cast on provisionally at the neck and worked in a variation of Old Shale which widens downwards and is very addictive, really.

A couple more rows and then a wide lace edging is to be added all around. Are there any limits to what I’ll do to avoid sewing seams? I’ll let you know if I ever find out!