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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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!