In praise of wool in Wovember

Welcome back to business-as-usual Dublin.

Here’s a nice pub, O’Neill’s, to take a break from sight-seeing or yarn-buying, and have brunch. It’s just round the corner from Trinity College, and across the way from…..

..a lovely display of hyperbolic crochet, much admired by maths-lovers and used to teach environmental awareness in a very immediate way.

I love the attention to detail and , having studied marine ecology for years, I must say it’s pretty realistic, too!

Did you know that Ireland has its very own offshore coral reef in the Atlantic? Well, now you do! It’s a relatively rare cold-water type; when I was doing my first degree (in geology), its existence could only be deduced from the small bay on the west coast whose white sand, on closer inspection, turned out to consist 100% of recent (i.e. fresh) coral debris. As that stuff is not only fragile but also easy to dissolve, it was clear that a living reef had to be nearby, but it took a while to pinpoint it. See how fascinating geology can be?

When things go wrong: a bleached reef has been almost completely killed off by dissolved pollutants- a graphic argument against waste disposal at sea….

Very beautiful skeletons, but it’s still a graveyard.

This toxic reef was constructed entirely out of plastic rubbish (my hands twinge just to think of working with that stuff!) that ends up in the oceans.

Apparently, there are huge rafts of stuff like this floating around out there, accreting new garbage into them as they are carried on oceanic currents and blocking sunlight from the phytoplankton as they go, with knock-on effects for the foodchain…

Oops, must be the rain, I’m getting dismal here- let’s have another healthy one, because it’s so pretty:

…. and speaking of healthy (though pretty is not an appropriate word), here’s a prime example of why wool is wonderful:

I knit this gansey for myself over 2 decades ago, from a Christian de Falbe pattern (Designer Handknitting Collection no. 2), using original accept-no-substitutes Donegal Tweed, back when big sweaters were in and I was still doing my best at camoflage in the all-male work environment of field geology. It has withstood field work in many countries, kept both of us warm simultaneously during my pregnancy, functioned as an improvised blanket for small DS, been through the washing machine countless times and now, in its third decade, looks better on my DS than it did on me! I can’t think of any fibre that might rival that …..

(Spoiler Alert: more photos of my WIP for the Vintage Mystery KAL are approaching!)

No, I didn’t fill this one out, either, even at 9 months. Truly.

After all the interesting times this gansey has lived through, it has only needed a little mending. See the neckline? Back then, I had no clue that there were different cast-ons for different purposes, and I used a knit- (aka lace- )cast -on for everything, even necklines and hemlines. Boy, what an innocent I was…. Anyway, after a decade or so, even my beloved wool cannot take that kind of misuse, so I mended the frayed bits by crocheting around all openings (crab claw st: it’s just a row of double crochets (American: single c.), worked backwards i.e. left to right).

This is another Christian de Falbe design from the same era, which of course had the same construction flaw:

This one is done in a handspun pure wool thick-n-thin yarn found in a Donegal grocery shop, tucked in next to the fishing tackle, with recently reknit cuffs and the telltale round of crochet at the neck. No washing machine for this old dear, though- there are limits to my adventurousness!

To top it all, I introduce the NorOShea hat, made out of one hank of Noro Blossom, a large selection of scraps and a dash of gay abandon while knitting! This one practically made itself up as I went along…..

Mind you, the tension was a bit dodgy, so I had to add a wedge in the seam so it would fit, and then a turquoise tree silhouette started twining around it- don’t ask me where that came from, it just took on a life of its own!

Now for some technical lacy stuff, primarily for all those doing the vintage medallion KAL ( by Christeleb78, free on Ravelry), or anyone who likes lace knitting:

first, a couple of picture of how not to do the central motif between the roses. This experiment may have failed, but it clarified my ideas, and confirmed that it is a very good idea not to fasten off any ends until the entire project has been assembled and blocked!

Note that round 42 (plain knit round) has not been worked, so that yo’s will be grafted, as well as ordinary sts.

This means that there isn’t a skinny band of stocking stitch (a total of 3 rows) between motifs, which is what I wanted to avoid by leaving out round 42- see? It’s just a matter of taste though…

Please note that the grafting isn’t perfect, and that I have since abandoned the idea I had, of placing the rose petals at the corners of the motifs:

It was worth trying, but not keeping.

Yes, frogging was scary, but I tinked the last couple of rounds and didn’t lose any stitches, yay! A certain amount of bad language was involved, but nothing that I hadn’t learned from my DS when he was in Kindergarten!

So here’s attempt no. 2:

I’m happier with this one, but it still needed tweaking, so no instructions yet!

Version no.III is now in the final testing stages (it has to work for the edges and corners of a triangular shawl, too), but my recent political activities, some  of which I touched on in my last post, have interrupted work: we all have to prioritize, on occasion…

More next week, I promise!

18 thoughts on “In praise of wool in Wovember

  1. Oh, so good to see our perky Pauline return! And your son, what a champ he is modeling for you. As I am no idiot, I must assume a “gansey” is a sweater? As to the knitted coral reef? Wonderful, delightful, sad and meaningful. Thanks for sharing… Sue

  2. That Gansey is just gorgeous, wow, what amazing wear. I’m tickled your locals knit a reef and how fascinating that you have one off your coast. That display they made is really amazing.

    • This project was inspired by the Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef Project- google this for an array of sites with stunning crochet reefs! These cold-water/ deep-water reefs are still being discovered around the world with new technology- not all coral reefs are tropical!

  3. I love the sites. Your sweaters have realty sold the test time. Your son is such a champ to model them for you. Also, I love the spoilers of the MKAL from Ravelry. Happy stitching.

  4. I don’t suppose your country celebrates Thanksgiving as we do, but I had to send out a quick Hello and wish you good things, Pauline. Tomorrow, we will eat way, way too much, visit with family and laugh and share a meal together. I hope you have a wonderful day and that it’s filled with love and blessings.
    Tomorrow, I’ll raise my glass in thanks to you and all the cyber friends I’ve made over the past few months.

    • It’s true we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, but I love to think of you, and my other new American cyberbuddies, all cozily celebrating in the bosom of your families, reflecting on all that is worthwhile in life. In fact, DS and I have decided to have our own mini-Thanksgiving in sympathy with y’all! Slainte!

  5. Okay, you did know this was coming, right? Sorry, but I had to pass along another one of these danged blogging awards because… well you deserve it. Just wish I had one to pass along to your son for being such a good sport in modeling your creations. If I could name one it would be something like “Best sport for modeling a mummy’s creation.” Anyways, hope you had a great meal together. You can see the nomination at:
    Take care!

    • Wow, thank you- I am delighted to accept on behalf of my DS, who has consistently shown bravery above and beyond the call of duty, and whose technical support has been invaluable too. I am a very fortunate Mammy!

  6. Ha, I really am laughing right now, Pauline…. you’ll know why when you see that I’m passing along another award. Poor you! Anyways, just think of them as a way to drive people to your site. If you want to see it, you can go to: (it’s nothing, really, just the 2012 blogger of the year award)

    • Hi, I’m reeling! Sorry I haven’t replied earlier- I’ve been taking my new duties as moderator very seriously! As soon as we can figure out the technicalities, both awards will be proudly displayed- thank you so much, you’re right, I’m dead chuffed!

    • I believe the idea originated with a mathematician, Daina Taimina, who realised that crochet was the ideal medium to physically model hyperbolic maths, which occurs in real life in many lifeforms which make up coral reefs. Us fibre fans are a clever bunch!

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