Still standing

Pensieve shawl Yeoman Janeiro

Sorry I’m late, but you can probably guess why; yes, the testing saga continues. It’s been a rough two weeks, and I’m not very good company at the moment, so this is just a quickie to let you know that I haven’t forgotten the fun side of the Internet, I just haven’t had time to enjoy it. Look how far I got with my beginner’s version of the Pensieve shawl (above)- I’ve been too tired even to knit! Now that is a sure sign of a lack of work/life balance….

However, there is light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s not an oncoming train. One tester has almost finished (and is still happy she took it on!), so hopefully by the end of March at the latest I’ll be a published designer, bouncing around happily with not a bother on me…. (just quite a few new white hairs).

Templeton Square competition Donegal soft

Now this is a teaser: this yarn is Donegal Soft single ply merino tweed (from Donegal Yarns), and I’m using it to knit an entry for a competition in Knitty.com, but I can’t show you yet what I’m at, because that would probably disqualify me (because a photo here would count as a publication). Anyway, Franklin Habit (yes, the Franklin Habit) announced a competition (Templeton Square, Knitty Winter 2012) and I had an idea, so here goes. Of course, the world and his wife would give their eyeteeth to get published in Knitty, so the standard will be sky-high, but this is part of my getting-back-on-the-horse therapy and I’ll still have something pretty at the end of it. Still, you may wish me luck!

One thing I particularly like about this competition is that the results will be made known really quickly: in the Spring/Summer 2013 ed. Now that’s considerate! Last year, I entered two designs in a Rowan competition (deadline was end of April or May) and they still haven’t bothered to announce the winners, or even that the winners have been selected, so no one who submitted a design can do anything about publishing it. Again, I didn’t expect to win but needed the practice, and yet I’d like to be able to follow up on the hard work that went into my entries. So 3 cheers for Franklin and Knitty, and I promise I’ll show you my attempt soon!

By the way, you still have a week or so to enter. Go on, keep me company!

Swatch for Hermione textured hat

I really only have been fit for swatching and the like this week. This one’s an idea for a Hermione-style hat that came to me when I was re-reading (and watching) the Harry Potter series. You know the fuzzy bumpy mauve one she wears in the graveyard in Godric’s Hollow- that one. I have a ball of Cushendale alpaca which is sumptuous and should do the trick, when life returns to normal again.

Vogue Scarf pattern in Cushendale Alpaca with Hermione swatch

Here’s the swatch on top of a Vogue scarf  I did a while ago in the same yarn (Cushendale 70% alpaca, 30%wool, 200m in 100g). You can see that it is best for very simple stitch patterns, because the wonderful halo blurs stitch definition- but it is incredibly soft and warm and I love it!

Actually, what with all this planning a life after testing I’m feeling chirpier now, thank you very much! I’m going to devote the evening to my Knitty Mystery project and a healthy dose of Star Trek (well, Jean-Luc Picard, mainly…..)

and I’m looking forward to being better company next Monday- it’s a date!

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

In praise of wool in Wovember

Welcome back to business-as-usual Dublin.

Here’s a nice pub, O’Neill’s, to take a break from sight-seeing or yarn-buying, and have brunch. It’s just round the corner from Trinity College, and across the way from…..

..a lovely display of hyperbolic crochet, much admired by maths-lovers and used to teach environmental awareness in a very immediate way.

I love the attention to detail and , having studied marine ecology for years, I must say it’s pretty realistic, too!

Did you know that Ireland has its very own offshore coral reef in the Atlantic? Well, now you do! It’s a relatively rare cold-water type; when I was doing my first degree (in geology), its existence could only be deduced from the small bay on the west coast whose white sand, on closer inspection, turned out to consist 100% of recent (i.e. fresh) coral debris. As that stuff is not only fragile but also easy to dissolve, it was clear that a living reef had to be nearby, but it took a while to pinpoint it. See how fascinating geology can be?

When things go wrong: a bleached reef has been almost completely killed off by dissolved pollutants- a graphic argument against waste disposal at sea….

Very beautiful skeletons, but it’s still a graveyard.

This toxic reef was constructed entirely out of plastic rubbish (my hands twinge just to think of working with that stuff!) that ends up in the oceans.

Apparently, there are huge rafts of stuff like this floating around out there, accreting new garbage into them as they are carried on oceanic currents and blocking sunlight from the phytoplankton as they go, with knock-on effects for the foodchain…

Oops, must be the rain, I’m getting dismal here- let’s have another healthy one, because it’s so pretty:

…. and speaking of healthy (though pretty is not an appropriate word), here’s a prime example of why wool is wonderful:

I knit this gansey for myself over 2 decades ago, from a Christian de Falbe pattern (Designer Handknitting Collection no. 2), using original accept-no-substitutes Donegal Tweed, back when big sweaters were in and I was still doing my best at camoflage in the all-male work environment of field geology. It has withstood field work in many countries, kept both of us warm simultaneously during my pregnancy, functioned as an improvised blanket for small DS, been through the washing machine countless times and now, in its third decade, looks better on my DS than it did on me! I can’t think of any fibre that might rival that …..

(Spoiler Alert: more photos of my WIP for the Vintage Mystery KAL are approaching!)

No, I didn’t fill this one out, either, even at 9 months. Truly.

After all the interesting times this gansey has lived through, it has only needed a little mending. See the neckline? Back then, I had no clue that there were different cast-ons for different purposes, and I used a knit- (aka lace- )cast -on for everything, even necklines and hemlines. Boy, what an innocent I was…. Anyway, after a decade or so, even my beloved wool cannot take that kind of misuse, so I mended the frayed bits by crocheting around all openings (crab claw st: it’s just a row of double crochets (American: single c.), worked backwards i.e. left to right).

This is another Christian de Falbe design from the same era, which of course had the same construction flaw:

This one is done in a handspun pure wool thick-n-thin yarn found in a Donegal grocery shop, tucked in next to the fishing tackle, with recently reknit cuffs and the telltale round of crochet at the neck. No washing machine for this old dear, though- there are limits to my adventurousness!

To top it all, I introduce the NorOShea hat, made out of one hank of Noro Blossom, a large selection of scraps and a dash of gay abandon while knitting! This one practically made itself up as I went along…..

Mind you, the tension was a bit dodgy, so I had to add a wedge in the seam so it would fit, and then a turquoise tree silhouette started twining around it- don’t ask me where that came from, it just took on a life of its own!

Now for some technical lacy stuff, primarily for all those doing the vintage medallion KAL ( by Christeleb78, free on Ravelry), or anyone who likes lace knitting:

first, a couple of picture of how not to do the central motif between the roses. This experiment may have failed, but it clarified my ideas, and confirmed that it is a very good idea not to fasten off any ends until the entire project has been assembled and blocked!

Note that round 42 (plain knit round) has not been worked, so that yo’s will be grafted, as well as ordinary sts.

This means that there isn’t a skinny band of stocking stitch (a total of 3 rows) between motifs, which is what I wanted to avoid by leaving out round 42- see? It’s just a matter of taste though…

Please note that the grafting isn’t perfect, and that I have since abandoned the idea I had, of placing the rose petals at the corners of the motifs:

It was worth trying, but not keeping.

Yes, frogging was scary, but I tinked the last couple of rounds and didn’t lose any stitches, yay! A certain amount of bad language was involved, but nothing that I hadn’t learned from my DS when he was in Kindergarten!

So here’s attempt no. 2:

I’m happier with this one, but it still needed tweaking, so no instructions yet!

Version no.III is now in the final testing stages (it has to work for the edges and corners of a triangular shawl, too), but my recent political activities, some  of which I touched on in my last post, have interrupted work: we all have to prioritize, on occasion…

More next week, I promise!