Inside I’m Dancing

Knitted doll, Arne and Carlos

Self- portrait of me feeling more perky!

Well, actually, this is Veena, a doll I knit as a Christmas present for my Princess- niece, who is now a curly-headed strawberry blonde toddler and more adorable than ever. I used the basic pattern from Arne and Carlos’ book, and really enjoyed making it, because there are no seams to be sewn up and I was finished in no time, thanks to its well-thought-out construction. This was a lot more fun than my Nativity figure, that’s for sure! Using Cushendale boucle mohair for the hair was my own bright idea, though- it adds a certain liveliness, doesn’t it?

Knitted-on undergarments, Arne and Carlos

Again, this could be me, propped up on the couch as I still am -although I have no intention of trying to become so slender! After all, once older than about 30 or so, that kind of weight loss tends to make the face look haggard while the stubborn bulges persist anyway, and I prefer the healthy, curvy look. I’m nearly there, and my back will eventually thank me for it.

Anyway, I had a red-headed doll as a child, and my brother had one that looked just like him, called Vee- hence Veena. I’ve made for some pyjamas, and there’s an entire wardrobe in the book just waiting for Princess to get old enough to manage dressing a doll…

Lava with flow texture

This is basaltic lava from the Moon, isn’t it lovely? These geological photos are posted in honour of Mr S. Handimouse, the winner of my last post’s puzzle (runners-up are Malcolm, who came close, and Susan, for imagination, and making me laugh when I sorely needed it).

The reason we see these rainbow colours in some of the crystals is because the photo was taken through a special microscope (petrographic microscope, FYI) equipped with 2 polarised lenses, one on either side. It’s like looking through a sandwich with a 30 micron thick slice of rock between 2 Polaroid lenses from those expensive sunglasses, which “sieve” light coming from below. The end result is that different mineral crystals bend the light by different amounts, giving characteristic colours which help identify them, and are incidentally addictively pretty, if you’re a geek like me! The skinny white and grey rectangles are plagioclase crystals, which are all pointing in roughly the same direction (of flow) because the liquid lava froze suddenly to glass as it arrived at the surface of the Moon. The black background is all glass- in ordinary , unfiltered light it would look golden, like the drops in the last post, although the actual rock looks black and pretty boring.

1.23 12005 basalt x4 xp equant olivine enclosed within interstitial plagioclase; plus cpx

If science doesn’t interest you, just enjoy the view! This magma didn’t make it to the surface of the Moon, so the crystals had time to grow throughout the rock. The stubby rainbow crystals are olivine (you may be more familiar with the gem variety, peridot), the angular black clumps are metallic ore and both are embedded in a single large white-and-grey-striped (twinned) plagioclase. The 4 and a half billion-years-old crystals are still clear and beautiful because the Moon has no atmosphere, so they haven’t been broken down by chemical reaction with oxygen or water. Nothing this old has survived in the dynamic system that is Earth.

A24 Epidote amphibolite zoned epidote - xp.JPG

One more, because it’s so pretty. This crystal is “zoned” because the chemistry of the magma changed while the crystal was growing, so ┬áthe composition of the crystal had to change systematically from the centre outwards, depending on what was still available to it (just like a medallion worked in colour-change yarn!). See why I like this stuff?

Also, dealing with things this old helps me gain some perspective on everyday worries…

Now, how about some more lovely colours, this time from closer to home- Santa brought a present from Coolree, and I’ve been playing with it:

Hand-dyed alpaca-silk lace, Coolree

It gave me an immediate yen for home-made strawberry ice-cream, as if we didn’t have enough food in the house!

Rosy Coolree Ball

I decided to swatch a couple of alternate edgings for my knitalong vintage shawl, as I will definitely not have enough yarn for the original one and, to be quite honest, I don’t particularly like it anyway.

Willow leaf (left) , Spider lace with insertion

I started with a willow leaf edging, from Jane Sowerby’s Victorian Lace Today, then tried the wider spider lace one, with an insertion which of course could be omitted (also Jane S.). I did this at about 2 in the morning, as a form of pain management, so there are a fair few mistakes, but you get the general idea! I still haven’t decided, but since the KAL is only starting officially on New Year’s Day, so what? Inspiration always comes when I relax, anyway.

I’m looking forward to the KAL. There are nearly 450 people taking part, from all around the world; as a newbie in cyberspace I’m getting a big thrill out of being involved, and interacting with so many people on a regular basis.

Today is my blogging half-anniversary, by the way. I’ve been at it for 6 months, and never dreamed how good I’d feel about it, way back what seems like an age ago! I remember my DS sitting me down for The Talk, warning me about spam, and Trolls, and other lurking dangers in cyberspace, in a weird sort-of mirror-image of That Talk, the one where I was the gentle guide/expert (we’ve definitely entered into the Accept-the -occasional-Role-rRversal stage of parenting!). He prepared me for the eventuality that no one would even realise I was here, and then proceeded to teach me so well that, well, here we are, you not only reading my stuff but giving me feedback and ideas, and cheering me up when my war wounds give me grief. At the risk of sounding sentimental, I consider myself a fortunate woman!

Vintage KAL Medallion in Coolree lace

Is this photo blurry, or is it me? Ooops, sentiment alert!

I haven’t forgotten the scarf pattern I promised, but I’ve been sitting too long. More anon.

Happy New Year, everybody!


Spanner in the Works

Guess what?

Guess what?

My back has gone on strike this week, so sitting and typing, knitting or indeed anything has been stricken from the agenda. So much for my “best laid plans” for timely publishing of seasonal goodies- sorry, folks, I’m out of action for a while, so here’s a mystery picture for you to puzzle over in the meantime. Whoever provides the best guess as to what is depicted here will be honoured accordingly; “best ” does not necessarily mean “accurate”, just cheer me up!

I think it’s time for me to learn how to podcast….








Herding Cats

Happy Blanket beginning

Where did the last week go? And why do I always forget that this country totally loses the run of itself for at least a month around Christmas? What with all the parties, concerts, shopping expeditions and general mayhem, it’s like herding cats trying to get anything done that involves scheduling more than one person (moi!) at a time. Now of course you know that I never exaggerate, except as a form of artistic expression, or if there’s an R in the month, or maybe if the mood takes me- but this time I’m serious. It took four attempts to have a one-on-one meeting with the headmaster of the school next door about my starting to teach the sprogs to knit in January, and I’m the one doing him the favour! I don’t mean to boast, but being stood up is a new experience for me, and not one I’d have repeated if I didn’t feel strongly about bringing the good stuff to the kiddies.

Alright, I was boasting, I need the boost. My assorted war wounds have been acting up, and the downstairs neighbours threw a party last night that continued (loudly) until breakfast time, so I completely overslept and missed the one hour of daylight when I was planning to take some FO photos for you… (Did you notice how I casually slipped the “FO” bit in, as if I’d always had a clue that it stands for “finished object”? I’m working on my coolth).

Ah well, all the more pics next week, hopefully by then University life will have calmed down a bit and I’ll be able to access the beautiful mineralogical samples I wanted to show you, as well as some lunar rock if you like. Yep, sorry if anyone’s disappointed, no green cheese at all, but still very pretty under the microscope. Which reminds me, I have been warned by my DS that the world is scheduled to end in less than two weeks, again, so I’d really better make next week’s post good, and go out with a bang, along with the rest of the planet…. Sounds like the perfect excuse to open your presents early!

In the course of this week I accepted a challenge from my dear fellow blogger Susan, to get her knitting chunky lace, so I’m working on a pattern for a very straightforward scarf. Watch this space, and ask Santa for a ball of Cushendale Boucle Mohair (200m/100g) and some very fat needles. Susan, I’m leaving you no loopholes!

Did you like the colours above? me too.

Camilla Gugenheim's Happy Blanket

I was looking for a nice relaxing longterm project, the kind I need to have on hand to pick up occasionally in between more cerebral projects, and one that is indubitably practical as well as decorative. This Happy Blanket by Camilla Gugenheim (free on Ravelry) leapt out from the screen and hugged me, so here we are. My stash contains leftovers of Drops Delight (remember my Noro jacket?), so my conscience is clear so far. However, the terms of my yarn diet do not allow buying any more until I have a) used up my bribe stash while b) continuing to approach a healthy weight, so this blanket will experience a long gestation, just like an elephant ( have you ever seen baby elephants out side the zoo? I have, in Sri Lanka- they are adorable, especially when they go swimming in deep water and you can only see the tips of their trunks…) Ok, I’m back, blame the lack of sleep. Did I mention that I’ve lost over a stone/10kg, and gained three shawls, so far? As my compatriot Liam Neeson says (in “The A-Team”), I love it when a plan comes together!

So, apart from a whole pile of admin, work , financial stuff and other mundane things that insisted on cutting in to my precious time, what’s new? Well my vintage lace shawl is shaping up nicely, if slowly.

Triangular medallion Shawl

It’s going to be triangular, so that’s the bottom tip on the lower left, and the neck edge is still under construction. The second-last medallion is still on DPNs (double-pointed needles) waiting to be joined on. The ruler is approx. 18 in./ 45cm long by the way, but the lace will stretch hugely when blocked, just wait and see. I love that bit, when it stops looking like a stringy jumble!

Unblocked medallion Lace

I am try not to think about all those ends to be darned in- I’m usually quite pernickety about weaving them in as I go, without a needle (as in the Happy Blanket above), but in this case they need to be left to the end, to avoid puckering during blocking.

lace half-medallion

Because of the triangular shape of my version of the shawl, half-medallions like this are needed all along the neck edge (6 of them; there are 15 full-size ones).

2.5 lace medallions

These knit up really quickly on a circular needle, I had quite a production line going at 4am this morning, as the beat vibrated up through my toes. It was either that, or stomp down stairs and commit manslaughter. By the way, it is really not true that I use these useful pointy sticks called knitting needles to chastise antisocial neighbours or wannabe sex fiends!

I have a perfectly good geological hammer for that.

Half-medallion inserted

There are 5 separate operations involved in inserting the half-medallion: the centremost 17 sts are knit as part of a filler motif, and 19 sts on either side of that are grafted to other medallions, leaving 2 groups of 9/10 sts at either side to be knit into a half-filler motif, which I have yet to devise…..

Half-medallion joining

See? There are 5 rectangular gaps like this along the neck edge, like a jaw in bad need of a dentist. They are just going to have to wait until my overworked brain starts working again!

However, here’s a sneak preview of ┬áthe edging that goes with the shawl:

KAL Lace Edging Swatch

I don’t think I’ll have enough yarn to do such a deep edging myself (diets only work if you’re consistent!), but all that faggotting is truly pretty, maybe I’ll just leave out the central leaf pattern….? I’ll let this simmer in my subconscious , I think, the perfect solution is down there in its shadowy depths.

So now it’s 10 minutes before my – admittedly self-imposed – publishing deadline, and it occurs to me that all I want for Christmas, apart from sleep, more yarn from Coolree (and of course World Peace) is: time. Time relaxing with my DS, time to catch some fresh air and maybe even sunshine, and time to learn Tunisian crochet and finally get stuck into one of Aoibhe Ni’s sumptuous designs which are sitting in my Ravelry library waiting to make me happy. I am counting my blessings and running out of fingers.

Oh, hang on. Some new neighbours would be nice.

Yarn Quest

Advent Wreath

Well, this has been a busy and productive week, hurray! How do you like my budget Advent wreath? Ingredients: one basic wreath acquired last January in the sales for 2.08Euros (90% off), some poinsettias and Christmas roses made using patterns from Lesley Stanfield’s lovely books, some ribbon from the local supermarket, et voila! A bit fiddly, but worth the effort- for once I hope to be ready in time for the holidays. Mind you, if I manage that, it’ll be because my present-knitting is going to be severely rationed this year- I need to be concentrating on designing.

And now, I have a confession to make. Look at this:

Coolree Yarn

Sumptuous hand-dyed alpaca-silk-cashmere lace yarn: Reader, I bought it! Remember I mentioned that my LYS This is Knit showcases the best in indie-Irish yarns? Well, a few months ago I wandered in there to drool and dream, as is my wont, and there, seductively coiled and gleaming, were a collection of delicious Coolree yarns pleading to come home with me. Now I have years of practice at resisting the siren call of such goodies, which is why I allow myself near TIK in the first place, but this time I was lost. Do you know how difficult it is to find the perfect shade of teal? Well then, I rest my case! I decided that “early Christmas present” was sufficient justification ( it was July at the time), and decided to find out who was responsible for making my resistance crumble.

The culprit turned out to be a young Wexford man, Alex Mc Leod, who learned to knit last year, graduated to spinning and dyeing this year, and is now producing subtly coloured masterpieces for sale. This I had to see, so this Thursday I went on a fieldtrip to Wexford (SE corner of Ireland), a combined mineralogical and yarn quest. They go very well together, honest. The mineral in question was lithium-bearing spodumene (for e.g. energy-saving lightbulbs), I’ll have some photos for you next week, ok?

Wait ’til you see where the yarn is dyed, it’s hard to imagine that something so delicate comes from a centuries old outhouse without electricity or running water (except for the rain coming through parts of the roof….). Here’s Alex, warmly wrapped up to prevent his turning into an icicle, in his workplace:


Alex's Logo

He and his new sign share the space with kayaking gear.

The Beginning

The first skeins were produced using pretty basic equipment…..

Work in Progress

…..but now, with the addition of slow cookers, the process continues to be refined. I particularly liked the concern Alex shows for the environment: note the white vinegar and bicarbonate of soda, which he has chosen to use as being by far the most environmentally friendly way of fixing the dyes.

Teal Yarn

I think this kind of subtle colour blending is just perfect for lace, because it gives an extra liveliness to the stitches without distracting from the pattern- some hand-dyed yarns completely overwhelm anything more complicated than stocking stitch!

Silky Green Yarn

Here are a few colourways, drying in the conservatory, alongside the geraniums:

Skeins Drying

and just one more close-up, ‘cos the colours are so cheerful:

Skein Rainbow

Now, I know my photos aren’t doing the yarn justice, so if by now you’re thinking “early Xmas present” too, have a gander here.

And bye for now to Alex, relaxing at his spinning wheel (and before you ask, only very lucky family and friends receive the results, which are predictably rare but stunning!). I for one did not want to leave, I was having such a good time.

Alex Spinning

Nevertheless, back in Dublin, progress has been made. I’ve tried out some new ideas, like this teal sock-yarn shawlette based on an Estonian lace stitch pattern, a variation of Lily-of-the-Valley.

Teal Lillies Shawlette

The edging still needs tweaking though, before I’ll be pleased with it!

Teal Lillies Detail

The Waterlilies stitch pattern below is also Estonian, and I’m experimenting with a Faroese- style shape, which is why the shawl is being blocked doubled (shoulder shaping so it doesn’t slip off ). I used a single 1000m/100g skein of hand-dyed Fyberspates merino(55%)-silk(45%) -blend lace, from my yarn diet/bargain stash (all but approx. 5m- that was an exciting finish!).

Waterlillies Shawl Blocking

I’ll have to steampress the sides of the shawl once I’ve unpinned it tomorrow morning, but I’ve no idea if this is going to work, never having attempted a shape like this before. Wish me luck!

Waterlillies neck blocking detail

You must be sick of the sight of these by now, but this time I have really, truly finished testing my Gothic baubles, and will get that pattern published in time for Xmas, I promise, regardless of health or domestic crises.

Gothic Bauble Finale

Yes, THIS Xmas!