Drowning or Waving?

View from drillsite at Moylisha

Actually, most of the time I’m waving, but a passing lifeboat would still be welcome…

The last two months could be visually portrayed as the slow- motion toppling of a long line of dominos;  just as one crisis seemed to be over, the next began, and I’m fed up with feeling overwhelmed! I would love to just freeze-frame my life, take time for myself to regroup, then come back and count my blessings. They call this notion holidays, I believe – not a concept that is very familiar to lone parents such as myself, but a great idea in principle. Daydreaming while knitting is the closest I’ve been able to get, but is doesn’t last long enough (a fortnight would be favourite…).

Ah well, sure it could be worse.

Oh Lord, I’m turning into my mother- I always wanted to scream when she trotted that one out, and I’m very sorry for all the starving babies in Africa, and I know I have the use of my eyes and limbs, and haven’t been run over by a bus or kidnapped by white slavers or whatever, but is it so self-indulgent to wish for a bit of good luck? For that generation of Irish Mammies, it was- or at least, saying it out loud was close to jinxing yourself entirely (you never knew when Himself Upstairs might be listening in and give you a clip around the ear for ingratitude, if The Mammy hadn’t already done it for Him).

View from Moylisha

Mind you, every now and again,  a ray of sunshine/hope has been piercing the clouds: GF had an appointment with a mining company in south Wicklow (south of Dublin, on the western side of the Leinster Granite/mountains), so I was invited along on another mineral and yarn expedition a couple of days ago. It was great: away from the city into peaceful countryside which, as you can see, is not particularly exciting or photogenic, but full of undulating green calmness. Very soothing, I loved it, especially as all sorts of buds and blooms were just unfurling- really late, thanks to the harsh late winter we’ve had (see, the whole country is miserable, I think it’s catching…).

Spring is late

Primroses in May! Believe me, that’s unusual.

Primroses in May

Aren’t they lovely, though? I felt myself smiling right back at them, the brave little dotes.

Darling buds of May

And the trees are recovering too, three cheers!

Gorse in bloom

Even the scary gorse is looking lovely at the moment, though childhood trauma prevents me from getting too close….

Desirable residence

 

And how do you like my latest “this is the house I want when I grow up”? It’s built of the local granite and looks so snug….  A lot of the houses that were built down the country during the Celtic Tiger, when quite a few people suddenly had a lot more money than sense, are huge, pretentious, tasteless monstrosities, but this one gets my seal of approval. It’s right beside the swath of national forest where we were to have a look at the drill site and local geology- the couple of lumps of bedrock that aren’t covered by said pine forest.

Setting off into the forest

Our colleague L collected us at the gate, as of course we weren’t allowed to drive in, and off we went. I should mention that unfortunately in Ireland “national forest” almost invariably translates as “pine monoculture”, as biodiversity was an almost unknown concept when the State finally started its reafforestation projects (back in the 60’s and 70’s, I think), the original oak-ash-mixed deciduous forests which blanketed Ireland having been cut down by the English to a) build ships for the Royal Navy and b) flush out the rebels hiding in them (think Sherwood Forest times 100, without any Hollywood actors prancing around in tights). So now we have huge areas of depressingly dark and boring scratchy pines, brr! No outlaws though (those pine needles are murder on tights).

Collecting a sample

If you’ve ever been to the Black Forest in Germany, you’ll know what it’s like: they have to carve lumps out of the forest so that you can see the view, otherwise you wouldn’t know whether you’re on a hill or in a valley, the visibility is so poor. Luckily for all concerned, this part of the forest had already been designated a “regeneration area”, where a genuine forest is to be allowed to develop, even if it does take a couple of hundred years. In other words, it had already been felled, so the mining company is not causing environmental damage (they’re not always bad guys, you know, even though no-one wants them in their backyard).

Drilling the core

The actual drillsite is pretty small.

Collecting Water from Spring

Collecting water from a stream, so we can look at the core samples- they’re easiest to see properly when wet.

Geological Treats

Inspecting the sticks of rock, aka core.

Inspecting the core

I can’t show anything closer up, because of confidentiality issues (industrial espionage is not a career path that has ever attracted me), but I can show photos of the type of thing we were looking at, lying around at the surface:

Cataclastic deformation in Leinster Granite

Major shearzone-related deformation has affected these rocks, and presumably the way the valuable minerals have been deposited- the thin sections will be beautiful!

Graphic texture quartz and feldspar Moylisha Ireland

Now I’m in complete nerd-mode, but the graphic texture at the top of this photo fascinates me, and it’s going to turn into a great knitting pattern, I can feel it wriggling in my subconscious (in a nice way)!

Muscovite in Leinster granite pegmatite Moylisha

And for those who like their minerals extra sparkly, here’s some muscovite mica.

Happy geologists

And finally, some happy geologists in their natural habitat!

But what about the yarny part of the expedition, you (patiently) ask? Well, I had planned to explore The Yarn Room in Ashford, and do you a report, because I’d heard great things about it, but they’ve gone online only, to my disappointment, so as a default option we dropped in to see Aimee Rose in the City West Shopping Centre. It has expanded hugely since the only time I was there (ca. 2 years ago), when I discovered Midara yarns from Lithuania (remember the magenta shawl for DS’ graduation?). Well, I love to hear of a yarn shop doing so well, when the entire country seems to be groaning under the recession, so I had high hopes. However, almost all the yarns were synthetic or at best blends with up to 20% natural fibres, because apparently that’s what is selling in the current financial climate, though not to me. Even the very inexpensive yet natural Midara range is not stocked regularly any more (and now I don’t know where else to find it!), but there is a happy ending. A few balls were tucked away and almost forgotten in a far corner, until I liberated them.

Midara Happy Shiny Cotton

“Happy Shiny Cotton”- how could I resist, even if the colours weren’t so pretty? It might just as well have been labelled “Cheer Up Pauline”! We are now engaged in creating my variation on Marianne Isager’s Waves summer top, from her excellent book “Classic Knits”- this is one of the first knitting books I ever bought myself, and I love it. Knitting therapy is working, can you tell?

 

 

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News from the coalface

Pensieve Shawl before blocking

Oh Lord, what a week! It is so much easier to think up designs and knit them than to write them down understandably- I am frazzled! Only doing a round or two inbetween times on the Pensieve Shawl kept me sane, I’m sure of it (above, whee!).

It started last Sunday evening, when I finally sent a draft pattern out into the world to be judged, having screwed my courage to the sticking point after months of – let’s face it- being plain scared. I really thought I’d made a fair fist of it, that it was at least intelligible, but unfortunately, in my desperation to finally just get something Out There, my first draft was a disaster area. I knew what I meant, but nobody else did. Monday was a deluge of messages on the testing thread on Ravelry, as private messages on Ravelry, and even emails! All – appropriately- filled with news of problems, errata, confusion and so on. Throw in back pain, a sick DS and very limited access to the Internet, and honest to goodness I was ready to run – or hobble- away from home and change my name.

(Just out of interest, completely out of context, anybody out there open to the concept of couch surfing?)

Where was I? Oh yes, feeling sorry for myself. Well, years of training as a Mammy stood me in good stead, and I’m still here, struggling up my latest steep learning curve – no Alzheimer’s for this woman, if we can believe popular science.

Of course, part of the problem is that I started with one of my more complex designs- Strawberry Beds is not easy, even without the shoulder shaping (and with it , it takes no prisoners). But it’s the one I knit with Alex’s Coolree Lace, and I want him to have a pattern to illustrate his lovely yarn “in action” at the Knitting and Stitching Show in London next month, as most potential customers like to see an example. So there I was with a deadline and a dilemma, until my Inner Adventurer surfaced, roared “Carpe Diem!” and jumped into the deep end. And I’ve been doggy-paddling around ever since….

Centre of Pensieve Shawl

Meet the sanity-saving project: believe it or not, this central spiral of the Pensieve Shawl was very easy and soothing to knit. I love patterns that appear so much more difficult than they are!

Edge of Pensieve Shawl

The border requires more attention, and has to be worked from a chart, but is quite straightforward. I used approx. 85g of Yeoman Cigno (70% mohair, 30% acrylic, 933m/100g) for the border; I knit the centre using 3 balls of pure mohair (total: 75g/675m) until I ran out- it’s a very stash-friendly pattern, or will be when I write it!

Yes, I did not go through this pretty horrible week just to withdraw back into my shell- I’m out now, and if I start chickening out again and not publishing, I hereby by give you permission to nag me.

I mean gently remind me.

Soft encouragement should do it actually, for the moment……

But the next pattern is going to be a much easier one! The Mockingjay will have to wait ’til I’ve completely bounced back.

Pensieve Shawl wide Border

This border represents the carved edge of the Pensieve basin. I had great fun checking out runes on the Internet, because the books refer to runic carvings, but in the end I decided not to over-complicate the design (not to mention run the risk of employing a rude word or two! – have you ever wondered about the random Asian symbols scattered over some T-shirts, what they might actually mean as opposed to just looking cool? I mean, it would be hard to resist adding the occasional cheeky message. Hard for me, anyway… It’d be like telling tourists that “pog mo thoin” means ” gimme a kiss” in Irish, which in a way it does, but neglecting to mention where the kiss is to be planted… )

I’m rambling again, the stress is showing.

2 Cushendale Cushions with Fabeel sockyarn

GF fed me lunch in Winnie’s Craft Cafe on Friday (yummy, as usual), because I couldn’t eat for a few days and he decided that I needed Care in the Community. For dessert, to cheer me up, I received a copy of Knit Red, the knitting book that is part of the American campaign to raise awareness of heart disease in women, and its prevention. Lots of lovely patterns that I don’t have to proofread- bliss! He’s a clever man, our GF. One funny thing I noticed: there are 13 patterns in the book with chest measurements (cardi and suchlike) but only 6 of them are sized/designed for people with size X or larger. Now, no offense, but aren’t those the very sizes that just might be in need of the useful diet advice in the book? Or are they meant to knit skinny things in advance as a form of motivation? I must say, I prefer my YarnDiet – have I mentioned that as of last Tuesday I am only 3kg away from my healthy weight? Yippee, and after this week I’m probably down another kg without even trying!

Marina had also ordered in all sorts of goodies, including the sockyarn above (and below) from Drops. Thinking of my promise of a really straightforward beginners shawl, I got 3 balls (50g/1.76 oz; 205m/224yds each). Thank you for the excuse!

Cushendale Cushion with Fabel sock yarn

Those are Cushendale cushions in the background by the way, aren’t the colours great?

Now before anybody panics at the sight of the skinny yarn (I’m looking at you, Ms S, with the Mammy Eye at the back of my head!),  the pattern will be designed in such a way that you can use whatever weight of yarn you want, even super-double bulky if you want to knit with broomsticks. Yes, some people do that, and enjoy it- my wrists ache just thinking of it, but if it makes them happy….

Mini bottom-up Shawl

This is your absolutely basic bottom-up triangular shawl pattern:

Cast on 1 st, knit into the front and back of it to make 2 sts.

Next row: Yo, k2.

Starting with a yo may seem strange at first, but it’s no different to a yo in the middle of the row- just keep it nice and loose. This is what gives the loopy finish along the sides).

Next row: Yo, k3 (the third k is knit into the yo of the previous row)

Next row: Yo, k4

Next and all following rows: Yo, k to end.

Continue until you reach the desired size, until you run out of yarn, or get bored.

Cast off/bind off loosely (using a larger size needle for this helps keep the looser new sts nice and even).

This basic pattern can be decorated with lace or colour motifs, wherever your imagination takes you…

Girlie Bunting free knit pattern

I made the little shawl model while I was doodling some bunting- this week wasn’t all bad. My library knitting group has been asked to do another yarnstorming to decorate the library, because the Sabina Higgins, the wife of Michael D. Higgins, our President, is coming on a visit in a couple of weeks to give a poetry reading. She’s very well-known in her own right as an important and effective promoter and protector of the Arts in Ireland, and for major contributions to the educational system. I suppose in the States she’d be known as the First Lady, and their children as First Daughter and First, Second and Third Sons, but here in Ireland it would be considered in bad taste to invade their privacy by drawing any sort of attention to them, unless they perform a public function, as Ms Higgins has done throughout her career. Anyway they have twins- would that make them Joint-First Son and Other Joint-First Son?

Be that as it may, the lady has great charm and presence, and we’re all thrilled, hence the girlie bunting and whatever else occurs to me in the next 2 weeks- a welcome counterpoint to my poor little beleageured pattern. I’ll chip away at the coalface for another week, and knit another little flag whenever I need a quick pick-me-up. Or sneak another look at my new book- it’s even more fun now that I fit comfortably into the medium size category once more!

Good quality yarns

Coolree Shoulder Flashlight

This has been another week of tidying up loose ends and finishing off miscellaneous tasks. Remember the luscious Coolree alpaca-silk-cashmere lace I turned into the Strawberry Beds shawlette  (called after an area on the left bank of the River Liffey)? Well, I had to block it while folded, because of the built-in Faroese shoulder shaping (see above, moulded around the end of the ironing board). This left a bumpy crease down either side- not a good look- so I had to bend my cardinal rule of never letting an iron anywhere near one of my knitting projects.

Puckers in Faroese Strawberry Beds

See that line of puckers? Sorry about the photo, it was much worse than it looks here, honest! so I dug out the ironing board, dusted off the iron- that’s right, I don’t iron, life’s too short- and I soaked a little towel to protect my delicate creation from the worst of the dragon’s steamy breath. Seriously, it’s so easy to spoil textures, never mind ruin weeks worth of work with an iron- I am definitely not a gambler. As you can see, simply holding a warm iron in the general vicinity of the fabric did the trick nicely, and my nerves have almost completely settled down again, thank you very much, though I still haven’t managed to capture all the glorious shades of colour in this yarn….

Strawberry Beds Shoulder shaping

..and the strawberries are standing on their heads. But they’re the right way round when worn, so that’s all right. By the way, if any of you are going to the Knitting & Stitching Show in London next month (14-17th March), keep your eyes peeled for the Coolree stand- Alex will be there with a selection of his latest goodies.

Orchid Thief Isolda Teague

I finally blocked The Orchid Thief (Isolda Teague), which I knit up using a (100g) ball of Jawoll Magic sockyarn (Lang). This is very soft to the touch, and the colour transitions are long and subtle, which I like, but I don’t think this yarn would wear well as a sock, despite its 25% synthetics. I had to rip some of it, and afterwards it looked the worse for wear, which shouldn’t happen, if this was actually meant for socks. I think it was designed for lace that would be treated very gently, and was only called sockyarn because of its weight.

If you’re thinking that it looks crooked, that’s because it is- I was away with the fairies while I was knitting the body of this (diamonds are boooooring), so the fronts ended up different shapes and I can’t have you thinking Ms Teague is the root of the problem. If it was my own design, mind, I wouldn’t let on (design feature, challenging orthodoxy, blah, thinking outside the box, blah, you know the guff..).

Orchid Thief Lang Jawoll Sockyarn

I obviously wasn’t at my best while blocking  either, was I?

But I didn’t manage to banjax the neck:

Orchid Thief shawlette neck detail

Alright, I’ll admit it, I’ve had other things on my mind- my DS is not at all well, and there’s no end in sight, so while knitting is a very therapeutic help at the moment, the finished product is definitely showing signs of fluctuating concentration.

Part of the time I’m fixing stuff: a quick boost to morale is guaranteed!

Darned glove in Woven stitch

I made a pair of fingerless gloves for my DS years ago- this one has been worn while cycling approx 10,000 miles, and this is the first time it needed darning! Now that’s good quality yarn. It’s 100% merino 4ply by Yeoman and I heartily recommend it (even though they’ve never given me any freebies). The other glove of this pair got lost, and I offered to knit an exact replica (no, I don’t spoil my DS, but he’s usually really careful with things I make him, so I couldn’t be cross). DS asked for the exact same pattern (woven st), but different colours; the chartreuse and purple are from Yeoman too, but the grey is a different brand, and within one week of wear it looked like this:

Poor quality grey wool

While knitting the grey appeared just the same as the Yeoman yarn, but after a little bit of friction it fuzzed and pilled as if it were felting wool- I was disgusted!

Wool Quality contrast

You can tell the glove on the left has been using the expensive revitalising serum, can’t you?

Japanese laceweight Mohair

In order to cheer myself up, I’ve been re-reading the Harry Potter books, and of course new designs have been popping into my head. I decided to start a nice’n’easy project, using 75g of pure mohair from Japan – part of my yarn-diet stash from the sale in aid of the Dublin Society for prevention of cruelty to animals. You can tell that pure mohair yarn is made from goats: it’s got a mind of its own and is willfully contrary. See how smooth, sleek and well-behaved it sits there in its ball? Well, no sooner is it on the needles than it starts to fight back, doing its best to unravel itself and kinking at every opportunity. My stocking stitch generally looks fairly neat, not in need of much blocking, but this may be the one project I’ll happily take an iron to- I haven’t produced such irregular-looking stitches since I was five!

Pensieve shawl in progress

And this tangled web is supposed to turn into a Pensieve shawl- uh oh!

Mind you, one project did eventually go right this week, though I had to rip back a good 50% first. This is called Martina, after the dear German girl in my knitting group, who not only recommended this excellent sockyarn ( Aktiv silk, from supergarne.com) but also carried bushels of it back from Germany for us to save costs (Danke, Martina!).

Martina Sockyarn Shawlette

I was playing around with a motif from an old doily, and an Estonian lace stitch (Tower pattern), and some graph paper, and here we are:

Martina Shawlette Edging

This one turned out much better than I’d dared think- let’s hope it’s a sign….

One of those weeks

Irish-Japanese Fusion Blanket

Did you ever have one of those weeks, that feel really busy and tiring, on the go the whole time, yet feel at the end of it that nothing much has been accomplished? Well then, you know what this week has been like. It wasn’t bad, I got all sort of fiddly little tasks done, but it was somehow unsatisfactory, full of minor irritations. For example, my stashbuster Applecore Blanket (Frankie Brown), combining the best of Noro and Donegal Yarns (54 patches of each), is now in one piece. I had 2 balls of ancient single ply tweed in dark brown, one of which I used to crochet strips together and the other earmarked for the edging. The joining up went more smoothly than I’d dared hope: on wrong side ( slip st joining the thread between 2 garter st ridges on one patch and its equivalent on the other patch, chain 1), repeat all along the strip- it’s really quick and neat.

Strips of patches joined with crochet, Applecore Blanket

See those wiggly seams on the wrong side? Much more fun than sewing!

But then, just as I was feeling satisfied with what has been a really all-round enjoyable knit – frustration!  – that 2nd ball of dark brown has disappeared. Now I know this apartment is in a state of creative chaos (oh alright, pretty messy), but it’s also very small, and I’ve been searching to no avail, so that I’m beginning to consider hallucinations or early- onset Alzheimers’.

Noro and Donegal Yarns harmonising

I can still snuggle up and enjoy the colours without an edging, but I wanted to get just one project done and dusted! I’ve several others on the needles which need revision, or a very clear head, or lots more time, and this is the one  that was meant to be for pure straightforward enjoyment…. Aaargh, don’t mind me, I’m just cranky! I’m just going to fondle the original a bit more…

Stashbusting Apple core Blanket (Frankie Brown)

….mmmm, that’s better! The colours are even richer in real life, too. The sun actually shone for a while yesterday, so I nipped outside to take photos for you, but the sunlight had a slightly bleached effect on my woolly stained glass-style creation, so you’re not getting the full benefit. I think the Donegal and Noro yarns go so well together because the are each adventurous with colours- unexpected contrasts and combinations make them particularly lively and distinctive. You can always tell imitation Donegal tweed by the boring flecks that are added- a green yarn will have a light green and a dark green fleck, with maybe a bit of brown thrown in-ooh, how daring! My original green here has pink, purple, and turquoise, and is very pleasing to the eye without dazzling it…

By the way, I deliberately haven’t blocked or pressed this, cos I like the 3D undulations. I think they go well with the rugged outdoorsy texture. See the way some of the patches are stripey, cos they are made up of the last remnants of different balls (just like original patchwork quilts, where every scrap of precious fabric was used up)?

Close-up of crochet seams on WS of Donegal Tweed-Noro afghan

I like the “wrong ” side too. FYI, I wove in the ends of the knitted-together short seams as I went along, and I crocheted over the remaining yarn tails in the long crocheted seams, so that was pretty painless!

Now I’ve seen on my blog stats that quite a few people have been googling Dublin suppliers of Donegal Yarns/ Soft/Tweed/Studio Donegal/Kilcarra, so I thought I’d introduce one more source. This is Knit, The Constant Knitter and Winnie’s all have a selection, but Springwools also has cones for (very) large projects.

Springwools premises, Ballymount Road Lower, Dublin 12

Springwools is to be found on the edge of an industrial estate ( Lower Ballymount Road), near Walkinstown Roundabout (handy for buses from the city centre), in a modified warehouse.

Springwools entrance

It’s a lot roomier than it looks on the outside, and there is a lot of space inside for essentially a bit of everything…

Springwools Open sign

I really like this sign.

Large assortment of yarn on cones, Springwools

I really caught them at a bad time: to be fair, the shelves are usually a lot more orderly, but on Saturdays the ravening hordes generally descend on the place and stir it up quite a bit, as you can see. This is where I acquired the cone of fine mohair blend for my Froth cape, and some excellent quality Yeoman 4-ply (stunning colours!) for assorted hard-wearing garments for my DS.

Donegal tweed (original), Aran and sportweight, Springwools

And here there is space to stock a selection of Donegal (tweed) Yarns on the cone, which work out at good value if you’re planning a big project, or sharing with a friend.

Donegal Yarns, 2kg Aran weight

For example, I got one of these 2kg Aran weight cones in purple for 80 Euros, which was enough for my version of the Susie Hoodie (Mandy Moore, More Big Girl Knits) and for a goodly part of my Windmill Blanket (Curve of Pursuit, Susan Ashforth), both of which I’ve already shown you.

Donegal Tweed single ply, 1kg cones, Springwools

Then there are the 1kg single-ply cones (100% merino), for 50 Euros: one of these (the silver grey) was enough for my welted coat, a shawl, and I still have some in my stash for a rainy day, so that was a good investment. This stuff is “in oil”- I think that makes it suitable for machine knitting, too, but don’t quote me- that is definitely not my area of expertise (imagine letting a machine have all the fun)! Anyway, it smells “sheepy”, which takes me straight back to childhood summer holidays in Donegal and adds an extra dimension of enjoyment to knitting for me. The smell disappears after soaking or washing, though. This yarn (washed) is also marketed in balls as Lang Yarns “Donegal”- I’ve no idea who supplies it though.

Remember my “Little’n’Large” versions of Yuko Nakamura’s slippers? Well, I have been wearing mine almost non-stop since I finished them, even to bed on cold nights, so they were in need of some TLC, even though I’d mixed a synthetic -mix yarn into the soles. I was invited to lunch in Winnie’s on Friday by GF, so I knit little synthetic-only patches during the bus journey, and sewed them on when I got home.

Patched slippers (Patt Yuko Nakamura)

GF, by the way, stands either for GodFather ( he’s DS’s) or Good Friend (to both of us)- he’s the one who gave me access to the Moon rocks (lecturer at UCD). He likes to take me out to lunch and catch up on his godson’s progress, and supports my yarn diet by treating me to a zero-calorie, high-in-fibre woolly “dessert”- this time it was some more Drops Delight for my Happy Blanket (Camilla Gugenheim), which is growing slowly but surely:

Happy Blanket, Camilla Gugenheim

I started into the other Donegal stashbuster blanket I’ve dreamed up, but it turns out I haven’t got enough of some of the colours to do  it the way I’d planned, so that has to be ripped back and started again. Like I said, it’s been one of those weeks….

Mind you, knitting in the school is starting to gather momentum, as at least some parents are quite supportive. The “boys don’t knit” attitude is stamped into some of the kids though, it’s sad that such limitations are being placed on them at such an early age by their upbringing. However, their class teacher is very keen on equal opportunities for all her students, too, so we’re soldiering on!

It’s a sure sign that it’s time to stop and take a deep breath, when I unearth an old project that I’ve never found time to block- the Orchid Thief shawlette (Ysolda Teague). This turned up when I was searching for that runaway?/imagined? ball of dark brown tweed. At the moment it’s a perfect example of how most lace looks like a dog’s dinner before it’s blocked, but it’s a pretty little pattern and the Lang sock yarn is very soft, so I’ll block it as soon as I can find/uncover enough clear floorspace.

Orchid Thief pre-blocking (Ysolde Teague), Lang sock yarn

But don’t hold your breath!

So far, so good

Howth Harbour and Ireland's Eye2

Thanks to my war wounds, I haven’t been gallivanting much recently, but my DS was showing a friend from his UCD Kung Fu club some of the sights of Dublin, and kindly volunteered to provide some photos so we can all enjoy the view vicariously. As she’s from Madagascar (now there’s another place on my must-visit list!), the fishing village of Howth, now part of Dublin’s Northside, seemed like a good contrast. Howth village and harbour (on the left, looking north) are situated on a flat isthmus of Carboniferous sediments, which end abruptly at a fault zone, with a steep hill of intensely deformed and much older quartzites on the other side of the fault. Because they are much harder they form the high ground. The island in the background is called Ireland’s Eye, and is also formed of the same tough rocks of almost pure quartz which have been tempered at high pressure and temperature like a samurai sword, wiping out evidence of their exact age and origin- very mysterious, but picturesque!

Beach at Howth, Dublin

Howth beach formed on the weak fault zone, and the cliffs of Howth Head rise steeply on the far side of it.

Ancient Quartzite Cliffs of Howth Head, Dublin

This is a truly lovely route for a walk, all around the Howth coast in an almost complete circle.

Ireland's Eye viewed from Howth, Dublin

The Irish Sea is unusually calm here…

View south from Howth Head

Looking south from Howth Head, past the lighthouse, we can see the Wicklow mountains (Leinster Granite) in the distance, across Dublin Bay. The furze is indeed that intense golden colour in real life, but so thorny that it’s best enjoyed at a safe difference….

Pier, Howth Harbour,DublinIMG_0985

Howth Harbour is worth a closer look, not only because it’s pretty, but also because the best of the catch is on sale in a row of specialist shops at the landward end, and some of the best fish’n’chips ever. This harbour was meant to be much busier, but unfortunately the tricky counter-clockwise currents of the Irish Sea caused it to silt up to such an extent that only small craft can use it. So the atmosphere remains cosy and somewhat parochial, while international shipping business is conducted at Dublin Docks and further south in Dun Laoghaire (Dunleary for English speakers).

And now, as a grand finale to the tour, a panorama composed of five photos:

Howth Harbour, Dublin 1

Thank you, DS, I think that’s captured the atmosphere of the harbour!

What have I been up to? Well, it’s been a quiet week, complicated by a headcold and the on-going saga of getting hot water restored, but I am delighted to report that this week’s session in the school went much better than the previous week- the new selection of kids actually sat down, stopped talking long enough to listen and promptly learned to knit! One of the Mammies came in to help, and having a second adult to demonstrate on a one-to-one basis made a big difference. That same evening there was a large influx of newbies to the library group, so even though I didn’t get any knitting done myself, I felt that the teaching was really fulfilling. Now I just need to find a paying gig- the cost of living has soared again this month, while my income remains static….. Still, I’m working on a couple of ideas, now that my back is getting a bit better.

I used up my Noro bargain stash (a total of 400g in assorted worsted weights, on 5mm needles, made 50 patches).

Noro patches for Applecore Blanket

Once I’d arranged them on the carpet I started knitting them together with transverse patches in Donegal Tweed (Kilcarra or Donegal Yarns, they’re basically the same).

Joining patches with Donegal Tweed

These patches (Applecore Blanket by Frankie Brown, Ravelry) lived on the floor all week, and if either of us wanted to use the computer, well, we had to sit in their midst (hence the chairleg). Par for the course, in this household…

Applecore blanket in progress

See part of my Donegal tweed stash by the wall? I arranged it in a rainbow- yes I know it’s a lot, but the leftovers have added up over the years, and they keep bringing out rich new colours and it’s inexpensive and how’s a knitter to resist?

Donegal Tweed rainbow for Frankie Brown Blanket

I decided that the purple and red end of the rainbow was a good place to start, and as I was knitting I decided to limit myself to that end of the spectrum and save the blue-greens and neutrals for the inspiration which struck about halfway…(yes, there’s another afghan on the way, this time of my own design).

That meant I had to head off through the rain to Springwools, my local tweed supplier, to acquire an orange shade the blanket was demanding. I know I’m not meant to be buying new yarn (my weight is constant, not decreasing), but after all those patches can’t stay on the carpet much longer or they’ll put down roots, and it ‘s just one ball….

Noro on Cushendale cushions

…except of course it wasn’t! I picked up my three Euros worth of tweed as required by my Muse, then was ambushed by a goodie-bag on my way to the cash register. There was a time, Springwools would sell off individual oddballs at bargain prices which was dreadfully seductive and led to my stash getting pretty overweight, I must admit. Then they started compiling goodie-bags containing several balls in generally offputting or downright hideous combinations, which were easy to resist and made me feel thoroughly virtuous. But this week, for the first time I succumbed- two 50g skeins of Noro for 4.95, I ask ye, how could I say no?

P.S. do you like the Cushendale cushion covers in the background- that yarn wears really well!

Are you distracted from my self-indulgence? Good- now look how I’m getting on:

Playing with colours, Frankie Brown design

There’s my new orange, right in the centre. Before I forget, one 50g ball of aran weight Donegal tweed makes 4 and a half patches 19cm/7.5 in ( long axis).

Applecore construction pattern

I intend to crochet the strips together now, because it’s high time some vacuum cleaning was done around here…..

Not to mention spring cleaning, no rest for the wicked!

First Snow

DS Irish Cottage Model

How do you like the holiday home I got for Christmas? Well, the scale model designed and constructed by my DS, based on a traditional Irish cottage but with added 21st century mod. cons. This is not to be confused with my main house, you understand, which he designed a year P.B. (preBlog) but won’t allow me to show off now because he’s improved on the original blueprints several times since then! That one’s positively palatial, with a studio, office, Japanese garden…. now all he needs are a couple more degrees (architecture’s like medicine, it seems to take forever), and all I need is to get rich- anyone got a lonely single millionaire uncle who loves handknits?

Ah well, it was worth trying.

Seriously, folks, I think I’m getting the hang of writing my patterns so that non-mindreaders can follow them, but it’s certainly more difficult than I expected. Still, as my war wounds continue to calm down, my concentration’s getting better, so fingers crossed!

DS Cottage Model Interior

See, inside are living room and two bedrooms, as well as scullery, bathroom and tiny stairs up to the attic- isn’t it sweet? I prefer to start the New Year with a goal, rather than a fistful of resolutions- it’s more motivating. Did you recognise the boucle scarf from last week doubling as one of Ireland’s famous green fields? By the way, they’re still green- a first bit of snow may have fallen, but it’s only sticking in the mountains and not affecting us coastal dwellers (yet!).

I was feeling an urge to take a break from lace knitting this week, probably due to the sudden drop in temperature, so I’ve been playing around with 2-colour patterns. I’m not a great fan of Fairisle knitting (although I’ll always make an exception for a really good pattern),  but when I discovered Barbara Walker’s 1st Treasury of Knitting Patterns in Terenure library as a child, I was immediately charmed by her chapter on slip-stitch colour patterns, and I think I’m about to go through another phase of exploring them.

Swatch close-up

These two balls of (I think) sock-weight alpaca were another happy find at the HandmaidCraft sale last year. Together they weigh 120g, so I thought “snug shawlette”, and set out merrily. However, it would appear I’ve become so accustomed to lace knitting that I need to work on getting the proportions right in firmer fabrics…..

Two colour swatch

because even though I love the look and feel of this….

Huge Swatch

it has turned out completely the wrong shape and is currently my largest swatch ever! I’ll have to rip it eventually, but I’m keeping it to fondle and admire a while longer.

This was not the only hiccup this week- I’m finding it quite difficult to teach the schoolchildren. Their attention spans are pretty short, and some of them seem to find it impossible to sit down and/or stop talking while they’re being shown something. I’ve never had this problem before, and I’ve taught all sorts of people, but at this stage I’m open to suggestions, people…

My Wed. evening with the knitting group in the library was a great pick-me-up, though- so chatty and relaxing, with the usual laughs and being the last to be practically pushed out at closing time- we’d happily stay much later, if only we could. For New Year, the library even organised a surprise party for us, and one of the librarians baked us a cake, with sweeties on it for the children- it’s great to be appreciated!

Speaking of appreciation:

Facade, The Constant Knitter

this is The Constant Knitter, a lovely wool shop in Francis Street, just around the corner from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which I’ll show you when it’s defrosted.

Felt Dolls in the Constant Knitter

It’s run by Rosemary Murphy, who is the Constant Knitter, but wasn’t feeling photogenic (I disagree!), so you’ll just have to drop in and meet her yourselves. This Aladdin’s Cave is full of lovely natural fibres (synthetics only where they serve a purpose, such as percentages in sockwool), and there are many inspiring projects on display- felted dolls, lacy shawls, decorations…

Display in The Constant Knitter

I found the perfect yarn and needles for the kiddies here, and at least they all like them, so I suppose there’s hope yet!

Stairs, The Constant Knitter

That’s me in the background, investigating a new yarn containing several percent of steel. I suppose that’s only a natural fibre in the same sense that viscose is, but that’s good enough for me, I have to try it. It’s a geek magnet, so watch this space.

Up those stairs we find a spacious workroom covering the entire first floor.

Multi-purpose workshop, The Constant Knitter

Dressmaking and -designing classes take place here, as well as spinning lessons and courses in knitting and crochet.

Workshop, The Constant Knitter

And there’s still room for a knitting group to relax and enjoy a cup of tea- the pot is of course dressed in style, in a rosy cosy!

Knitting Corner, the Constant Knitter

One last peek from the top of the stairs (there’s a great selection of Donegal Soft tweed by the front door for souvenir hunters) – I know where my next yarn diet treat is coming from….

View from the stairs, The Constant Knitter

Right now, I’ve started into Frankie Brown’s Applecore Blanket (see Ravelry). Yes, another blanket, but this one is Aran-weight Donegal tweed, like my Windfall blanket, which is what is needed to combat current weather conditions (Arctic gales, horizontal sleet). Camilla G’s sock-weight Happy Blanket, though beautiful, will have to wait a little. Anyway, I’m stashbusting, and that’s virtuous, right? Not to mention reducing fuel consumption.

And anyway, why am I justifying it? It’s fun!

Noro apple-core patches, Frankie Brown

I’m using up a half-dozen assorted balls of Noro, each acquired during sales for their lovely colours, but to be honest, not sufficient for a proper project (even I don’t need that many gloves). I’ve nowhere near enough to make a blanket on their own (and that stuff is much too expensive to buy a sufficiency), so I’m going to embed the Noro patches in a matrix of the Donegal tweed colours that have  seduced me over the years (yes, I’m a slave to my passions, but you knew that anyway).And I’m going to knit, rather than sew, them all together so I don’t go demented.

Operation Slipstitch Colour Patterns will resume once I’m warm again!

Battling the Backlog….

Cushendale Free Scarf Pattern (2)

Well, since 2012 was , on the whole, pretty much a wash-out thanks to my banjaxed skeleton and general ill-health, I am in arrears with a collection of patterns I wanted to have published by now. So here I am, doing my best to catch up with myself. Note: it’s pure coincidence that it’s January, I haven’t made a resolution or anything. In fact, after reading a selection of published New Year’s Resolutions, all those lists had me so exhausted I felt like crawling into the scratcher and not reappearing until Spring! Me, I’m delighted with myself if I get up-at least once- every day in January (most depressing month of the year, after all), pay my bills and renew my library books punctually. Anything else is icing on the cake.

So it is with appropriate pride that I introduce a snuggly unisex scarf/muffler/cowl made from a single ball of Cushendale Boucle Mohair yarn (see Cushendale.ie ). And the pattern is free for your delectation!

Shetland Fir Cone   Scarf Free Pattern

The idea is to add a dash of colour and warmth to dismal old January, without breaking the bank- cos let’s face it, we’re all broke after December (and if you’re not, give a donation to a charity of your choice!). See, even my DS is smiling, though it’s just as well you couldn’t see the faces I was pulling….

Cushendale Keyhole Muffler

The stitch pattern is a very old Shetland lace pattern called Fir Cone. It’s garter-st. based, so the scarf is reversible, and it’s approx. 27 cm/10.5 in. wide and 135 cm/ 4.5 feet long, depending on how hard you block it. I inserted an optional keyhole or slot, so that one end can be pulled through the other to keep the scarf in place on windy days. As you can see, both the sides and the ends are wavy, so there’s no need to add an edging. And even though the stitch pattern is called “lace”, it’s actually quite an understated openwork pattern suitable for men, too. So here goes:

1 100g (200m) ball of Cushendale Boucle Mohair (70% mohair, 30% wool)

8mm (US size 11) knitting needles- circular or straight

Cast on 35 stitches, using stretchy cast-on such as knitting-on/lace cast-on.

Row 1 (Wrong side) and all other wrong-side rows: Knit

Rows 2, 4, 6 and 8: K3, *yo, k3, slip1- k2tog- psso (pass slipped st over), k3, yo, k1; repeat from *, end k3.

Rows 10, 12, 14 and 16: K2, k2tog, *k3, yo,k1,yo, k3, sl1-k2tog-psso; repeat from *, end k3, yo, k1, yo, k3, k2tog, k2.

Repeat these 16 rows until you’ve run out of yarn ( I had 10 pattern repeats, with enough leftover for a loose cast-off).

If you want to make a keyhole: work 3 pattern repeats (48 rows).

Next row: work 17 sts in pattern, then knit front and back into the next st (an increase of one stitch), which is at the centre of the row. Turn the scarf and work back (19 sts). You are about to knit a vertical buttonhole by knitting on half of the scarf sts- just leave the other half waiting on the needle.

Next row:( you should be starting at the edge of the scarf again) Work 18 sts in patt., and turn (the newly increased st joins the 17sts waiting on the needle). You could place a st marker in the gap between the two sets of 18 sts if it helps remind you to turn in the centre of the scarf.

Now complete one patt  repeat on the first set of 18 sts. Break the yarn, leaving a tail of  10-15cm for darning in, and rejoin it in the centre to the other set of 18 sts and work one patt repeat on them, too.

To close the slot: continue knitting the final row of the second side of the keyhole across all sts, knitting the two centre ones back together again (35sts). Then just keep knitting in pattern, as above.

Cushendale Free Scarf or Cowl Pattern

If you’d prefer a cowl, this will go twice around an adult’s neck, comfortably. Just sew or knit the ends together, with or without a half-twist, whichever you prefer.

There, did you know lace could be so quick and easy? And don’t tell me you can’t find a colour here to tempt you:

Cushendale Boucle Mohair Colours

I fell in love with these colours and their purity the year before last, and paid a visit to Cushendale, a family firm based in Kilkenny. Their woollen mills is one of a rare few which still produce yarn from Irish sheep (although the mohair has to be imported). The intensity of the colours they produce can be attributed to the perfectly soft water flowing down off the mountains of Leinster Granite right through their mill, waters which have not been tainted by peat deposits either.

2. Duiske Abbey, Graiguenamanagh

Cushendale Woolen Mills are in Graignamanagh, which translates roughly as Monastery Rock. This is Duiske Abbey in the centre of town.

5. Street in Graiguenamanagh

The streets are hilly, winding and narrow, for the most part, and I fell in love. When my DS builds the house he’s designing for me (i.e. shortly after we win the Lottery!), I want him to put it here.

6. Shop front in Graiguenamanagh

Not only the yarn comes in glorious colours here! And look at the Georgian fanlights…

Cushendale Woolen Mills Kilkenny

This is the mill on the left- Genuine Irish yarn and woven goodies wait seductively behind that red door, and I of course had a great time, coming away with yarn samples for patterns which are now overdue for publication. Still, today I managed a start, so watch this space…

4. Stream feeding woolen mill, Graiguenamanagh

This is the crystal-clear stream leaving the mill- as you know, I like to source my yarn from environmentally responsible producers!

A1 Leinster granite large muscovite showing cleavage, inclined - xp.JPG

I couldn’t resist this one: it’s the aforementioned Leinster Granite under the microscope. Quartz, feldspar (grey stripes) and mica (the colourful crystal in the centre). It’s a variety of mica called muscovite, which causes a silvery glitter in the rock and makes it such a popular building stone.

8. Kilkenny side of Graiguenamanagh and River Barrow

The river Barrow separates the older part of town, on the Kilkenny side, from the more modern part in County Carlow. It is broad, beautiful and very popular, especially with bargees.

9. River Barrow facing north, Graiguenamanagh

This photo was taken just a hop, skip and jump away from a prize-winning seafood restaurant which deserves all the praise it gets- yummy! I really like this town….

10. Riverside house on Carlow side of Graiguenamanagh and River Barrow

I know, a bit too big for me, but no harm dreaming….

Meanwhile, back at the ranch it’s been busy. Apart from the ongoing saga of my back, it’s been interesting too. I started teaching at the school next door last Wednesday and boy, things have changed since my day! At this stage, I’ve plenty of experience teaching adults, and children one-on-one, too, but a roomful of 29 7-year-olds was a totally new adventure. I seem to remember spending a lot of schooltime in terrified silence at that age, thanks to the nuns (there was a particularly virulent strain at my old school- there is a reason I sent my son to a mixed, secular school!). But nowadays the classroom seems to be a much more lively place, which is great, but the noise level will take some getting used to on my part. I find the class size horrendous- 29 small children, with a few doses of learning disabilities, ADHD and major sugar rushes thrown in…. But the class teacher is a dote, and enthusiastic about the knitting, so I’m looking forward to my next lesson, and to learning a lot about teaching such a lively bunch!

Eyelet Pattern in Hand Dyed Silk

I’m experimenting with an eyelet pattern in some of my yarn-diet hand-dyed silk from Oliver Twists, because I think an allover pattern would be too busy. I put on a pound or so over Xmas- immobility, mainly- so I was required by the terms of my agreement with myself to start using up my old stash until I got back on track (alright, I admit it, not much of a hardship, but it worked). I’ve now got a small pile of patches made from scraps of Donegal Tweed, because I find that stuff irresistible and have a rainbow of remnants. This is a very long-term project though, to be tended to when I’m in vegetable mode and need soothing. It occurs to me that the numbers of patches would directly reflect my stress levels, but counting them would be stressful and therefore counterproductive, so forget it.

Shawl in Oliver Twists silk WIP

I’m just enjoying being back in contact, thanks again for all the kind wishes! And let me know if you have any problem with the pattern- good luck!