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!

Testing, testing…

Remember this?

Strawberry Faroese shawl in Coolree lace

My Strawberry Beds Coolree lace design? Well, I have finally got my act together and written it up sufficiently well to submit it for testing, and I have found several helpers already! There was a huge psychological barrier there which I finally managed to break through- handing my “baby” over to experts to dissect and examine for flaws is really scary for a perfectionist like me. You’d think I’d have grown out of it after years of professional scientific writing and translation, but this is the first pattern I’m putting up for sale, and I’ve reverted to adolescent pangs! Still, it’s out there amongst strangers now, and I’m feeling relief, too.

It’s an incredible amount of work, and it’s not over yet- I’ll be at the receiving end of a lot of feedback from my testers, so I’ll be spending a lot more time on the internet (DS will hate that, but tough!). Plus, after setting ball ball rolling last night (yes, finally, I know I’ve been procrastinating..), I woke up at 5,30am, worrying that no one would want to knit it and am consequently wrecked. But happy- I did it, I did it, I did it!

So what did I do all week, apart from everyday stuff? Actually, spare moments were gobbled up by the design. I taught a couple more kiddies to knit, both of whom caught on very quickly and were delighted with themselves- and so was I!

I’ve worked on the Pensieve Shawl, cos the centre is a really easy knit, very relaxing.

St st in fine mohair unblocked

See how irregular the stocking stitch is before blocking? It looks sloppy, but I blame the contrary pure mohair.

Carved Rim of Pensieve Shawl

In this pic I blocked the centre before I started adding the “basin rim” in Cigno by Yeoman (70% mohair, 30% synthetic), and the unblocked rim sts in the mohair blend look better than the blocked pure mohair in the centre! It’s the iron for this one-it can’t say it hasn’t been warned.

New Estonian shawl design

I tried out a swatch of a new design with my alpaca fine lace- never did get around to using it for a crochet shawl- but the Estonian st patt required too much concentration for the week that was in it. I’t have to wait- also because I’ll have to buy new, super-pointy needles for it. I consider myself reasonably well equipped with needles at this stage, but hit a wall here. See the crossed-over X-shape just above the centre of the photo? Well, that involves making 5 sts out of 7 sts, which are first knit together. Now that’s challenging, at the best of times, but I definitely need the assistance of sharper points. I did manage it a few times (obviously, says you), but it was not fun! This has nothing to do with my wanting to treat myself.

Well, hardly anything.

Distraction time:

Memorial Quilt for Dad

This is Exhibit A from my patchwork phase. I made it as a kind of memory quilt after my Dad died suddenly, using shirts he had never got the chance to unpack, and a collection of madly colourful and flamboyant ties he had collected on his holidays. He used to tease us that he would wear them in public someday, maybe in front of one of our new boyfriends  for maximum mortification (4 daughters, therefore lots of boyfriends), but he never did.

Stained glass Cathedral Window Patchwork

I dyed white shirts terracotta in the machine- they came out different shades, although the labels promised the same composition. The ties work well as stained glass, I think. I was going for the look of a beam of light through an otherwise dark window.

Patchwork Cathedral Window Corner

That’s why I put the cooler, darker colours at the corners.

This quilt lives on the back of of my favourite couch. You can see the back of it below (machine stitched), and I couldn’t resist showing you an old Donegal Tweed design in lace:

Donegal Tweed crescent scarf

Now that I’ve broken through the psychological barrier, maybe I should publish this, too?

By the way, I’ve been playing with the idea of designing e.g. a very, very simple beginner’s shawl and starting a Knitalong (KAL) on Ravelry to make sure that everyone can get the support they might need to knit it- anyone interested?

I’m off now to look after my testers; more news next week, I hope!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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….

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!

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:

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!