Celebration in the Rain!

Today, in honour of my first four months of blogging, and all the good guys I’ve met on this page (take a bow!), here’s a rare photo of some October sunshine in Dublin. Savour it while you can, we won’t see its like for a while. I’m also going to present my first free knitting pattern, later on.

The sun is shining on Dublin Bay, with Howth head in the background on the far (NE) side and the tidal inlet that is a major sanctuary for migratory birds in the foreground. In between the two is the railway line, so we can’t get to the shore here, but I’ll take you for a paddle on the beach another time, promise.

Directly behind us and 5 minutes walk away, in the heart of suburbia, we will find another yarn shop I love- Winnie’s.

This is Winnie, in her comfortable Dublin suburb, recharging her batteries (she’s the environmentally friendly type).

These are some of her suppliers! They travel to fairs, dispensing woolly goodies as they go.

This is Marina, Winnie’s human, whose great idea it was to combine a craft shop with a cafe, and do both equally well. It is hard to leave this place…

See what I mean? Park the non-knitters happily with ice cream, or a three course meal, while the craft fan browses. This works, trust me!

Jewellry makers are catered for, too, and of course there are lessons…

So that was part II of my ” where to go in Dublin if you’re a knitter” review, featuring Winnie’s Craft Cafe, Woodbine Park, Booterstown. Part I featured This Is Knit, in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, I hope you enjoyed the contrast! There will be a Part III, when the Muse moves me…

Now for my Celebration Scarf freebie- it’s the first time I’ve attempted to publish a pattern, so feel free to offer suggestions for improvements, ok? It’s a straightforward lacy scarf which can easily be turned into a cowl (wraps comfortably up to 3 times around the neck). It uses 50g ( c. 400-440m) of mohair-blend laceweight yarn (I used one ball of Rowan Kidsilk Haze Stripe, colour Twilight 00200), although you fellas might feel more comfortable in a Donegal Soft tweed version- also a good option for anyone with sensitive, itch-prone skin. A budget option would be to use up various oddments of single-colour lace mohair yarn (doesn’t have to include silk), if like me you hoard every last scrap of expensive stuff. I treated myself to the Rowan extravaganza as a reward for surviving my taste of jury duty in Dublin Criminal Courts- now that was unexpectedly harrowing, wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy…

Anyway, have a look at the photos first, before I get down to the technical details, which are a lot easier than it looks- really! A brave beginner with a bit of patience can do this, I know 10-year-olds who are well capable of it. I hope this pattern will give you an idea of how to work out simple patterns of your own.

I believe it is very important to think about how the finished project is going to be finished off and used, before getting stuck into the actual knitting, so here are some options:

As a scarf it’s long enough (c. 210cm/7ft, width c. 25cm/10in.) to drape decoratively, and both sides look attractive;

…as an infinity scarf/cowl it reaches to the waist,

…. or it will go three times around the neck, and head if you want it. As it was raining during these photos (Darragh standing on the doorstep to keep the lens dry, me standing outside getting soggy), I was glad of the head-covering option! Honestly, the things I do for art… Alright, to be honest, this was nothing compared to the climbing, caving and struggling with barbed wire I used to do as a geologist, but allow me a little exaggeration once in a while…

It is designed to be knit lengthways, so it can be knit flat, preferably on a circular needle because of the large number of stitches, or it can be knit as a loop, if you just want a cowl.

The ruler is c. 60cm/2ft long.

The edge is pulled into scallops by the stitch pattern- you just knit straight, and the curves appear after you’ve completed a repeat or two of the pattern, because the rows, and therefore the stripes, start to curve like waves, or fans. The cast on is a simple knit-on , which is very stretchy and airy, therefore perfect for lace.

To finish, I used the Russian cast off (American: bind off), because it’s easy, stretchy and fits the stitch pattern. In case you’re wondering, the colour changed during the  very long cast off row, that’s why either end of the scarf is slightly different.

If you want to able to convert your scarf into a cowl, or vice versa, you could sew little buttons which fit through either the stitches or the eyelets of the opposite end in order to form a loop. In this photo, the 5 buttons above are functional; the 4 on the opposite edge are simply there to give a balanced look when it’s being worn as a scarf, and are offset so that they will be perfectly spaced between the 5 working buttons when the loop is closed. So they’re completely optional, and you could vary the number of functional buttons, depending on what you have handy, though I don’t think less than 4 would work. And of course, the buttons could be a lot more discreet (I got these in an everything-must-go sale and just had to show them off!).

You will need:

  • 5mm (US: size 8) circular needle (60 or 80cm(24/32in)) long is comfortable, but a longer one will do fine. Long straight 5mm needles will also work, but could get uncomfortably crowded: I wouldn’t.
  • 1 50g (1.76 oz.) ball of Rowan Kidsilk Haze Stripe (421m/460yds), or two balls (25g each) of Rowan Kidsilk Haze (you can sometimes get great bargains in this when they’re phasing out old colours), or 50g 0f a less expensive mohair blend laceweight yarn (200-230m/25g or approx 460yds in total).  For a more rugged version, try original Donegal Tweed:I suggest “Donegal”, brand name Lang, but it’s made by Donegal Yarns (100% merino, soft and non-scratchy) – you’ll need at least 2 50g balls (189m/207yds each), and to do a swatch on 4 or 4.5mm (US 6 or 7) needles.
  • yarn needle for darning in ends
  • Stitch markers to be placed between repeats, to stop you getting lost. You can make your own by using leftover or horribly coloured cotton yarn (firmly twisted, colour fast, smooth dk/worsted weight is best). Cut c. 12cm/5in. lengths, double each one over and tie a knot, leaving a loop that will fit loosely onto the needle (have a look at e.g. my Ravellenics post). Just slip (slide) them from left hand to right hand needles as you encounter them.
  • Optional: small buttons, sewing needle and thread to match. Don’t buy these until you have finished, or can bring the project along with you to try out the “buttonholes”- you may laugh, but I had a summer job in a wool shop once, and you would be amazed at the number of people who come in to get stuff like this without the actual garment. Try remembering a particular size or colour when surrounded by hundreds of slightly different examples; it’s a very rare talent!

The stitch pattern used is often called ” Feather and Fan”, although as it is very old it has also been given other names, such as “Old Shale”. It comes from the Shetland Islands.

The pattern repeat is 18 stitches wide and 4 rows high. This basic building block is used 18 times lengthways in this scarf (18 times 18 stitches is a coincidence- this just happens to be the best result I calculated to prevent the scarf from being short and fat or long and stringy, as well as using every last bit of that very expensive yarn). I knit a swatch (=trial piece) first, measured and weighed it, then did the sums. If you want to change anything, as you will need to do if you use the tweed, for example, then do a swatch, measure how wide your repeat of 18 stitches is and figure out how many of them fit in to the length you want (in the tweed, you probably won’t need the same number). From here on, I’m just going to give instructions for my version of the scarf in stripey mohair. If you come across a technique you don’t know or have forgotten, try Youtube or Ravelry.com for video tutorials or advice.

Scarf: cast on 328 sts using a knit/lace cast on. This number of sts. comes from 18 pattern repeats, each containing 18 sts, plus 2 extra sts at either end, which will be knit on every row and give a neat edge.

Abbreviations: Knit = K; Purl = P; yo= Yarnover= lay the yarn over and around the needle from the base at the front over the top and back to the rear of needle- from there you use it to make the next st, whether knit or purl. A yo makes one of those little lacy holes, and you knit or purl into it on the next row as if it were an ordinary stitch. It won’t unravel. Try a little swatch first, if you feel nervous- you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Row 1 (right side): Knit.

Row 2: Purl

Row 3: K2, place a stitch marker on the right hand needle, * (K2 together) 3 times, (yo, K1 ) 6 times, (K2 together) 3 times, place a stitch marker on the right hand needle, repeat from * 17 more times to last 2 sts, K2.

In other words, for those of you who are bravely trying lace for the first time, in between the first stitch marker and the next you do the following:

K2 together (tog, from now on), K2 tog, K2 tog, yo, K1, yo, K1, yo, K1, yo, K1, yo, K1, yo, K1, K2 tog, K2 tog, K2 tog.

This uses 18 sts, and you have 18 sts afterwards too (if at any stage you have more or less than 18 sts between two stitch markers, you can pin down the glitch quickly).

Row 4: Knit.

Repeat these four rows until you have reached a height you like or have almost run out of yarn, whichever comes first. You will need to have yarn c. 4 times the length of the scarf left, at the end of a row, to be sure of having enough for the cast/bind off. I managed to squeeze 16 4-row repeats out of my ball, but it was a nerve-tingling finish.

Russian cast/bind off: it doesn’t really matter which side you do this on, as it looks grand either way, but keep it loose. Don’t forget to remove the st markers as you go!

* Purl 2 together, place resulting st back on left hand needle, repeat from * to last 2 sts, P2 tog, cut yarn (not less than 10cm/4 in.) and pull through the st to fasten it off.

Darn in ends (more than two, if you’ve been using up scraps), and try it on . Congratulations! I think this scarf looks better without blocking, so that’s it (you can think about buttons tomorrow….).

Cowl: for the cowl, cast on 324 sts and join into a circle, making sure the cast on stitches aren’t twisted. You may find this easier to do  after working the first row (stretchier and easier to see). You can use the yarn tail later to make a tiny stitch, sewing the cast on ends together. Because this is tube knitting, with the same side always facing, the st pattern is written slightly differently:

Row 1: Knit.

Row 2: Knit.

Row 3: *Place  a stitch marker on the right hand needle, (K2 tog) 3 times, (yo, K1) 6 times, (K2 tog) 3 times, repeat from *17 more times.

Row 4: Purl.

Now carry on just as for the scarf above. Throw it over your head and take it for a walk!

I’d love to see a photo of your finished project. Why not post it on Ravelry , or get in touch – my username is paulineOS. I’ll try to get this pattern up there too, with a chart, when I figure out how to do it, because it’s easy to download from there. Watch me clamber up that steep learning curve!

But not right now- time to put the feet up and watch Sherlock Holmes again…..and again…..

Sorry, I was drooling on the keypad, the combination of Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr. shorts out out my circuits and is responsible for more dropped stitches than I could possibly admit. So my lips are sealed. Bye!



Although there’s not always an obvious link between the sights of Dublin and my knitted designs, my subconscious clearly flourishes when I treat it to a wander around, so I like to switch of my analytical brain and just potter where my legs take me. Plus, I love hearing from non-knitters who enjoy the same sights as I do, so here are a few pics for youse…

There’s just no point waiting for a blue sky to show you some more of Dublin, and besides, this is a more realistic view of the city- nobody comes here for the weather! This is Christchurch Cathedral, originally founded c. 1030, although it has obviously been modified since.

It’s relaxing, just to stop by and think of those 10 centuries of history right on this spot  (even if you haven’t any knitting with you).

I particularly like the little gargoyles (e.g. centre left, above), they look as if they get a lot of job satisfaction from spitting on people.

Saturdays (in season), market stalls are set up in the grounds and weary sightseers can partake of assorted local delicacies. If , however, like me you prefer not to swallow live animals whole, I suggest you head off down Dame St…..

…taking one last glimpse back at Christchurch, …

….. a close up look at the lamp posts with their shamrocks and Dublin’s coat-of-arms ……

….and away we go down Dame St., and left into Temple Bar, in search of wholefood that doesn’t wriggle.

I couldn’t resist taking this photo of City Hall, with the European flag flying on the right, and the golden Harp of Ireland on a green background on the left. Yes, you’ll have to take my word for that, I know they’re not clear, but I’ll have you know this photo was taken at risk of life and limb, in the middle of Parliament St. traffic, and I had to promise my poor son not to give him any more grey hairs by trying for a second one. It was either that, or he’d have confiscated the camera. So, stop for a second and appreciate this once-in -a -lifetime photo, this is as good as it gets!

Here we are in the quiet back roads of Temple Bar, noting in passing the beautiful proportions of the Georgian shopfronts. I think a lot of those bicycles were parked here at the beginning of the cobblestones, because they are truly uncomfortable to cycle on (trust me on this).

A few more steps, and we’re at Saturday’s Temple Bar Market, abounding in healthy snacks for all tastes, organic whatever-takes-your fancy, and designer crafts. It was so crowded I decided to leave it to your imagination and focus on the umbrellas over the umbrellas- which is a fair metaphor for the last few months/ years!

It feels as if it’s been grey and rainy forever, and that is why this post is entitled Wanderlust- I’ve decided I just have to go travelling! Writing this blog and hearing from you people all over the world has underlined the fact that I haven’t been away by myself for over two decades (well, apart from work, geological conferences and such, and they don’t count). Mind you, wanting a holiday and affording one are two separate things, especially for a lone parent whose offspring has another four years to go at college. Still, the decision has been made, so the way will be found- I’ve got us this far!

Ok, back to real life for the moment. Most of my best ideas come to me while I’m knitting, and most of my Leafy Canopy shawl variation (original by Anniken Allis) was knit while my head was in Thailand (how’s that for budget travel?). I’ve had some queries about finishing or blocking shawls once they’re knit (or crocheted), so here’s a mini-tutorial for ye!

This shawl was knit from the bottom upwards, and before being finished looks misshapen: this is par for the course with lace shawls in particular, so don’t panic! The top edge is composed of what were the two sides while it was being knit, and should form a straight line. The shawl will be (gently!) pulled into shape after being washed,and held this way by nylon yarn/cords and lots of pins while it dries.

Before washing (or more accurately soaking), the strong synthetic yarn or cord is threaded once through each pattern repeat (through the the same stitch, in the same direction, for best results). Each of the three sides of the triangle has its own separate cord.

Note that there is only one cord at the top edge (see pet rock), even though it’s very bulgy at this stage. The spine of the shawls is almost as long as the ruler (60cm / 24 in.).

Here you see two loose ends which have been woven in- don’t trim them now, but wait until the shawl has been stretched and dried, as they may well be pulled and shifted during the process.

Now it’s time to soak the shawl (c. 20 min, cold water and a preparation such as Eucalan or Soak). If you forget the cords before you wet it, you can still put them in afterwards, but it may drive you demented….. Or you could leave the cords away entirely, but it’s very difficult to pin the project out evenly without them. Some people use blocking wires, but I’ve never really seen the point in investing in them, so I can’t help you there.

Now you see the point of the cords- they distribute the stretching evenly and prevent individual stitches or strands from being snapped (alpaca is particularly vulnerable when wet, but this applies to all lace). Nice straight edges, and evenly-spaced points, are easily attained- just pull out and pin the straight top edge first, pinning the cord rather than the lace stitches which are on the cord. Then pull the spine straight down, adding a few pins (see how it’s grown?), and gently straighten out the sides, enjoying the lace pattern as it is clearly revealed…. (If you had knit a curved shawl, then you’d pull the cords into the appropriate curves at this stage)

The pins are actually pulling on the cord, so they are taking a lot of the strain off the stitches (this will be clearer when you are doing it yourself). By the way, I once invested in these extra-long and -strong quilting pins and never regretted it- they not only do the job really well but are also difficult to overlook, which is very important if you’re using somebody’s bed as a blocking board and don’t want to lose their friendship!

By the way, this is Angelina the Andesite. Now, I know it’s completely naff for a structural geologist to have a pet rock (as opposed to a truck-load of specimens), but, in my own defense, she was given to me…. To rationalise further, she’s not just any pebble, she was originally part of the riebeckite-granite which makes up the island of Ailsa Craig, off the west coast of Scotland. She hitched a lift with a passing glacier and was deposited near the eastern shore of Ireland when the ice melted. Subsequent millenia of turbulent adventures in the storms and waves of the Irish Sea knocked the sharp edges off her, transforming her into the smooth and elegant entity who now resides with me.

So there! And if Angelina can be so adventurous, then why shouldn’t I? Excuse me, I’ve got to go and raid my piggybank….

Back in the saddle

This beautiful statue is Rendezvous, by Bob Quinn. It’s sited in a bower of trees on one side of Belfield Lake, on the University College Dublin campus (my alma mater). There are many pieces of sculpture dotted around the campus, but this is one of my favourites.

I couldn’t resist draping her in a few of my designs -in-progress. This one is in single-ply Donegal Soft (Donegal Yarns), because I’ve been experimenting with lacey tweed recently. The next one is Kureyon sock (Noro), with very fine Alpaca Light (Lang):

And just to show that Niamh’s pink boucle shawl (Cushendale, see Local Colour) isn’t skimpy on an adult:

Let’s hope whoever she’s waiting for turns up….

By the way, I’ve been wondering what to do about pronunciation guides. Some of the names I write about are Irish, and are not pronounced using English rules of pronunciation. It strikes me as a bit pedantic (and irritating!) to put pronunciation tips in brackets every time, and probably no-one cares much , anyway, but maybe my followers (big hugs, lads!) would like to know? Some feedback on this question would be welcome! For example , my son Darragh is pronounced Da-ra (a “g” at or near the end just emphasises the vowel), my young model Niamh is Nee/av and my favourite crochet designer Aoibhe Ni is Ay-veh Nee (and I agree with her decision not to use her full surname, because that’s actually complicated!)

And I think it’s clear by now that Dublin English has its own idiosyncrasies, but I trust you to figure it out by yourselves…

Remember the Curve of Pursuit blanket (Pat Ashworth) I started when I was sick and dopey? Well, it has grown considerably, and the ever-longer knit rows practically knit themselves while I’m watching anime with Darragh, which is just as well, because I’m glued to the subtitles while he , enviably, hardly needs them anymore. My latest knitting-induced daydream: I travel to Japan as an established designer and tour the country, with Himself as translator….Hmmm, all that yummy food, too!

I’m working on the last pink square now, and the sides as you can see are longer than the needles (rubberbands would have been a good idea).

Me, rescuing imperilled stitches- D took these 2 photos, so I could also show my waistcoat design! This is a prototype and needs tweaking. Cushendales gave me the yarn specially (pure Irish wool, 400m/100g), it’s not commercially available yet (thanks, and watch this space..).

In response to requests (I love hearing what you’re interested in, lads!), here’s a brief tutorial on German short rows in garter stitch. When working short rows in garter st, knit to the end of the short row according to the number of stitches indicated in the pattern, including the stitch you would have wrapped, if the pattern calls for the wrap-and-turn method. Don’t wrap anything!  Note: the first pink ridge continues across the top of the purple wedge, the other (short) rows simply stop neatly above it, without leaving holes. Have a close-up look between my thumbs. Leave the yarn dangling at the back, then turn the work.

The working yarn is now hanging down in front of you: leave it where it is and insert right-hand needle purlwise to slip first stitch.

Now slip that first stitch and at the same time pull the working yarn straight up and over the top of the right -hand needle to the back of the work (away from you). Then insert the needle knitwise to knit the next stitch. When knitting this stitch, keep a firm tension, so that the turning stitch is pulled up a little and you get what is called a doublestitch (it looks like 2 sts interlocked at the top of the needle):

Knit the first st.

Now the turning or double stitch has been completed while knitting the first ordinary st of the return row.

When the time comes to knit across the short row, just knit the double stitch as if it were an ordinary single stitch- easy peasy! And it looks even smoother in stocking stitch…

And now for some non-technical gorgeousness:

This is the Leafy Canopy Shawl by Anniken Allis (The Knitter, Issue 49), made in so soft Drops Alpaca. It’s a real lace pattern, so I had to wait til recently to get back to it, but it’s worth it.

In fact, it’s so lovely I’m continuing the lace through out the shawl, not just as a border as in the original. Playing around with other people’s patterns = a sure sign that I’m back to myself again!

My brain is back!

and the grass is greener:

The virus is gone, the cotton wool between my ears has reverted to functional brain cells, and I can think straight, thank goodness. Mind you, now Darragh’s come down with it, and it’s his turn to be thrun on the couch under a heap of afghans and shawls, of which there is of course no shortage in this household. It’s autumn, alright!

Thanks to my dopey state, all I’ve been able to knit recently is the Curve of Pursuit throw by Pat Ashworth that I started last week, it’s been a great comfort, especially as it now keeps my legs nice and warm while I knit. I’ve been making quite a few mistakes, but it’s easy enough to catch and reverse them early on, without stressing out the invalid i.e. me. It’s a perfect design for a convalescent with the fidgets!

So, for want of knitting adventures to share (but tune in next week, I’m bursting with ideas now!), you are cordially invited to Clogher Head, to the north of Dublin, for some fresh air, and just a little bit of geology.

Clogher Head is a rocky promontory which is very geologically significant: it is thought to be part of the suture zone between two continental plates which collided when the Iapetus Ocean closed. Before this happened, the NW part of Ireland was connected to Newfoundland, and the SE half to what is now Europe.

These rocks used to be Iapetus ocean floor sediments which got squashed in the middle. A long time later the Atlantic Ocean opened up as the North American and Eurasian plates started to move apart (and are still doing so today).

Had enough science? I try to remember that not everyone is as inspired by rocks as I am, honest, but I admit that I have been known to get carried away (just ask my long-suffering son!).  These outcrops, for example, tone in with my projects because the people at Cushendales’ choose their colour palette from their natural environment, which is one of the reasons I love their yarns.

By the way, please note that I have my son to thank for a lot of these photos, there’s a lot of teamwork involved in the photographic part of my posts, ‘cos he’s my teacher when it comes to publishing the pics, even when I take them myself.

These rocks have a turbulent history, despite their calming colour.

This one even looks like lace to me: after being compressed it was also sheared, opening up regular arrays of cracks (FYI: these are called en echelon tension gashes, if anyone wants to look them up…).

This is a good way to get ideas, I find.

Here I can see a shawl in green silk, and a textured scarf in brown and gold.

Time to say au revoir to the Irish Sea for now, and the last of the rock roses for this year.

A quick close-up of the pink heather which inspired the Cushendale Lace I used for my Rose trellis shawl (remember last weeks’  Slane pics?):

And now for some lovely feedback, that really cheered up when I was at my most sneezy- thank you to Susan Bahr for all the encouragement and this token of appreciation:

As a new blogger, and one who is not at all social media-savvy, it means a lot to receive such support, and I am thrilled. I get a real kick out of hearing from people all over the world, and discovering how much we have in common (and I don’t mean just knitting!).

So here’s my short list of blogs that help me, make me smile, give me ideas and are generally good for me:

www.aoibheni.com/blog.htm      Aoibhe is the only crochet designer who can tempt me away from my knitting needles, because her designs are gorgeous. Her posts are practical and great fun to read, and she has been a huge help to me in getting started here. Thanks, Aoibhe!

 knitlab.wordpress.com      Kieran Foley posts loads of marvellous photos which I find inspiring, and I love his designs (knitting), too, because he combines colours and curves in a particularly sensuous way….

By the way, both Aoibhe and Kieran are on Ravelry, as well.

katedaviesdesigns.com       Kate posts great photos of Scotland and writes beautifully on many aspects of the history of knitting- addictive! And her designs are legend.

malcolmscorner.wordpress.com      I recently “met” Malcolm and am enjoying the series of short essays in his archives, which cover a wide range of topics which provide me with plenty of food for thought about life, the universe and everything, while I’m knitting up the straightforward bits.

And now for the requested seven things about me:

  • I love dark chocolate with chili
  • I am an avid reader of science fiction
  • A holiday spent sitting on a beach would bore me to tears(yes, even with my knitting)
  • Ditto a cruise (well, maybe in 30 years time I’ll reconsider…)
  • My idea of fun is heading off into SE Asia with a map, plenty of time and no fixed destination
  • The last time I did that was 4 years ago, and I’m raring to go again.
  • I am the proud Mammy of The Best Son in The World TM!