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….

11 thoughts on “Wanderlust

  1. Love the soft colors of your pics – sorry that all that gray comes from non-stop rain! Amazing the history and to think that Christchurch is 10 centuries old…the oldest buildings in the US are infants in comparison. As to the “wriggling” food – my husband grew up on the New York shore. He says it “sounds good”. Ick!
    And now you’ve solved the mystery that is curled-up knitting! Blocking. What a concept.
    I leave you with this, my wandering cyber-buddy… you are welcome to visit Vermont anytime.

    • My Dad used to love “poor man’s oysters” as well: cockles. When you get here, you can dig them up yourselves on the strand…

    • I’ll show him how and where, but he’ll have to eat them by himself while I introduce you to some marvellous fish restaurants, OK?

  2. Deal. Only I don’t like fish – well I do like white fish – you know as in fishsticks? Sad, but growing up rural Vermont, you don’t develop much taste for seafood. I am a sorry lot.

      • Okay, you’ve sold me… but let’s just plan on a restaurant that has surf and turf … for while I may be willing to try new foods, my youngest daughter will not.
        Oh, yeah, and forgot to mention. Love the pet-rock thing. Got one myself.

    • Now there’s an idea-it’s high time I visited my brother in London..

      Non-comment-related: (I can’t figure out how to send you a separate e-mail) a couple of weeks ago I received a “Reader Appreciation Award”, which I was supposed to pass on to 3 “young” blogs I like, so I nominated you, but forgot to notify you officially-sorry! If you want to accept it, you should copy and paste it to your page, nominate (and post links to) 3 blogs you like which haven’t already got a lot of traffic, and list 7 things about yourself (personally, I’m hoping that my liking for dark chocolate with chili will be remembered at Xmas….). “See” you soon, Pauline

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