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!

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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!

Thank goodness that’s over!

Waterlily pattern

I’m referring primarily to 2012, which was a difficult year for me from start to finish and I am GLAD to see the back of it! My war wounds are still with me, but not acting up so badly, so fingers crossed…. And 3 cheers for 2013- I embrace it wholeheartedly. My Christmas tree has really cheered me up this year, so I think I’m going to be decadent and leave it up for a while. Yes, I know it’s 12th Night, but I’m feeling rebellious. Next thing you know, I’ll be knitting a “Born to be Bad” sweater and dying my hair purple…….

Waterlily Faroese Shawl

These photos show that the Faroese lace shawl has turned out nicely, even though I was making up the blocking procedure as I went along- remember I showed you it pinned up in a folded position? Well, the foldline just needed to be dampened and spread out flat once the rest of the shawl was done, and now it sits firmly on my shoulders and drapes really well, so no complaints!

Waterlily pattern

Another thing I really like about Faroese shawls is that there is plenty of lace at the front of the body, without having to pull it around from the back.

Christmas outfit

And this photo is just an excuse to show that I fit into my Christmas dress again- remind me to patent my yarn diet, it’s responsible for the shawl, too!

Despite the vicissitudes of the last few weeks, I managed to comfort myself with some more knitting- I just couldn’t lie down all the time.

Sock-weight wool

This stole is a belated gift for my Godmother. It’s a sock-wool version of the Lilac Leaf  Shawl from Knitted Lace of Estonia by Nancy Bush, which I really like as a beginner’s introduction.

Diamonds with nupps

Sorry, the focus isn’t great, but this shows the classic style of lace with a border and an edging, very luxurious- and makes for interesting knitting, as the centre piece doesn’t go on for ever! The border diamonds contain smaller nupp diamonds; again, great for a beginner who might be overwhelmed by the fine shawls with literally thousands of nupps.

in Coolree silk-alpaca lace

Remember my fabulous semi-solid coral pink silk-alpaca lace from Coolree? Well, since the waterlily lace stitch pattern in the green shawl actually looks like a strawberry, too, I decided to combine  the two to make a shawlette (800g/100m hank, used it up). This is it, unblocked. It didn’t photograph well, but it actually looked so nice I was tempted not to block it. Before I made up my mind I had to fix two holes caused by dropped stitches which unravelled down several rows before I caught them and arrested them with safety pins. So here’s a mini phototutorial on mending lace:

Surgery needed for shawl

Prior to surgery: st is secured on safety pin. It unravelled down the side of the petal above, where it should have been caught into a knit-4-together, and wasn’t (I think the painkillers and related dopiness contributed here!).

Pick up st wih crochet hook

So here the wandering st has been reworked up the side of the petal with a crochet hook, and the blunt wool needle approaches with a length which had been used to tie the hank together for dyeing (with yarn like this, I save every inch, just in case, and this was one of the times I was really glad of it).

Mended lace

So here’s the mended st (needles are pointed at it). I used the blunt needle to sew it in place, then the sharp needle to secure the tail ends by piercing the knit sts on the wrong side (just weaving in isn’t secure enough, because yarn containing silk is slippery and the ends would work loose).

Wrong side after darning ends

This is the mended st on the wrong side- I don’t think it’ll show….

Strawberry  Faroese lace shawl blocking

I decided to block this after all. The shoulders are less tailored than in the green shawl. I must think of a better way to deal with the foldline, though. I think that sounds like a good excuse to design another Faroese shawl, as if I needed one!

Strawberry shawl neck and Faroese shoulder shaping

The neck details don’t show as clearly as I’d hoped, but I’m still pretty fuzzy around the edges myself, too!

Strawberry Faroese shawl in Coolree lace

Once it’s on, I’m delighted with it, though- they do look like tasty strawberries, don’t they, although they feel like angels wings. (Now there’s a name for the next shawl, don’t let me forget)

shawl Coolree lace

This shape wraps very well. The colour does not go well with the dress, but all my other gowns are at the cleaners, heeheee.

I read The Hunger Games recently (they’ve been on the reserve list in the local library non-stop since they were published, so I was curious). Anyway, there’s a lot in there about propaganda, creating an image and costume. I felt challenged to translate the iconic image of the fiery “Mockingjay”, since my flame-coloured yarn-diet cotton lace was pleading to be used, so here we go:

Oliver Twists cotton

This turned out quite wide, athough I only used 74g of Oliver Twists hand-dyed cotton. Mind you, it’s very fine (almost 1200m per 100g), so this represents approx. 880m of yarn.

Mockingjay tail feathers

I used Estonian leaf patterns for the body of the shawl, changing them to look more like feathers.

Mockingjay neck

The insertion at the back, plus a tiny bit of shaping at the neck, give a nice Faroese touch to help it stay in place- always a good idea with cotton, as it can be pretty slippery too, especially if mercerised, as this one appears to be.

Mockingjay lace shawl full size

Ready for take-off! I deliberately haven’t watched the film yet (and I don’t think the heroine would be wearing a shawl during her ordeal, anyway), but this is where my imagination took me….

Back detail Mockingjay lace

Now all I need are more gowns, and parties to wear them to- how’s that for a New Year’s Resolution?

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  the 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  the 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.