Sunday, September 24, 2006

Credit where credit is due

The equinoctial gales tore into town last weekend, ripping trees down and scouring my patio with rain, and finally the eerie eternal summer that we've been living through all September broke, bringing with it proper cool weather. Not very crisp, now, just about fifteen degrees centigrade; but fifteen is a lot more sensible than twenty for this time of year. Suddenly, there is a sense to all the piles of pure wool in my stash. And suddenly, my neck started thinking about feeling cold...

This is the lovely Herringbone Diagonal Rib pattern, as designed by Li, of Life's a Stitch. Alas, I have had to rip this back since, as the pattern is for a DK weight yarn, and I'm using a chunky weight. Four repeats of the rib is far too wide, so I'm doing three. I love the pattern all the same - the perfect balance between knitterly and unfussy.

I'm knitting it in an Irish yarn, Kilcarra Tweed, which has the most sumptuous colours, even if it is a little stiff. But that is one of the problems with pure wool, after all. I haven't seen Kilcarra in Dublin ever; I picked six balls of it up in a yarn shop in the little Cork town of Clonakilty last Easter. It feels good to be using a local yarn, and frustrating that Irish yarns are so ridiculously hard to get hold of. Which is why it felt so damned good to go out to visit the This is Knit stall at the Blackrock Market today.

I had heard good things of it from Aileen, and she was so right. The stall has a small but exquisitely chosen selection of luscious designer yarns, and Lisa and Jacqui were unbelievably friendly and enthusiastic and kind. Better yet, they have the same approach to knitting as mine: it was fab to talk to another Irish knitter who mostly learned off the internet after having produced a few dolls' blankets in primary school, who knew all about the patterns in the latest Knitty and Magknits, but who would prefer to knit them in local yarns, if possible; who is excited about socks and knows that most Irish knitters are likely to be only just learning to make them, and sources luxury foreign yarns while trying to track down local wool.

The knitting revival has only just taken off here, I think; only about five years ago, the last yarn shops in the centre of Dublin shut down, and an Irish Times article declared the craft of knitting dead in today's cash-rich-time-poor (bleech, horrible phrase) Celtic Tiger Ireland. As this article from 2004 shows, a few suburban shops struggled on, but knitting as a popular craft for young urban women had yet to take off. It's so fun to be able to hook up with people who are providing services and products for selfish knitters like me, who want to knit delicious stuff for themselves, not for babies. Hooray! I really, really hope that this means a revival in the fortunes of Irish sheep farmers, too, and that I can start buying locally produced yarns rather than buying imported goods from the big British craft empires.

Mind you, the new Irish knitting circle doesn't appear to be all that huge just yet... as soon as I put down my email address to be added to the This is Knit list, Lisa said, "Oh, you were living in Germany, weren't you! You took Aileen to the yarn shop in Kreuzberg!"

Yes. Ireland. About as large as a... not very large sheep farm, and Irish knitting bloggers are about as anonymous as sheep dyed luminous pink. Or something.

It would have been a sin to stroke all that lovely yarn without buying any, wouldn't it?

Lovely, lovely soy silk and merino mix yarn, destined for some handwarmers.

And some insanely soft alpaca silk in teal as a present for my lovely ladyfriend. She did get me that amazing yarn from Toronto, so it is only fair that she get something back, no?

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I finished the Snicket socks! And don't they look gorgeous?

Pattern: Snicket, from Magknits.

Yarn: Schoeller and Stahl's Fortissima Colori, in colourway Turf, 75% wool 25% polyamide

Needles: 2.5 mm Addi metal double-pointed needles; 2 mm DPNs for the ribbing

Time sucked: A week, I think. Standard sock obsessive length...

Modifications: Ribbing done on 2mm needles; toes done with a Kitchener stitch finish, rather than a simple pixie-toe decrease.


Oooh, these were persnickety. Very, very much so. I tried using the useful cabling without a cable needle technique promised by so many websites, but at this tension, a cable needle is easier. Four sock needles AND a cable needle AND two extra for the heels? And yet... and yet... I do love them. And I did love knitting them, in a self-hating way. I also have a fair bit of that gorgeous subtle yarn left over, which makes me cross: these would have been gorgeous three inches longer. Motivation to learn toe-up knitting!

Best knitting in public experience yet

I was sitting on the Luas (the Dublin tram), fretting over a purl stitch on the cable needle as we zoomed over the Nine Arches at Milltown. My tongue was stuck out in unflattering concentration when I heard a voice:

"Miss one! Miss one!"

I looked up: it was the ticket inspector, gazing at my knitting in awe and wonder. "Oh - just wait till I've done this, and then I'll get my ticket out!" "Oh no no, please don't!" he said, panicked. "I wouldn't want to be held responsible for you missing a stitch! Keep knitting!" And he walked off.

I did have my ticket on me, because I am a Good Citizen. But this is a useful trick to remember for future necessity, no?

And in other news...

I am flying through the neck and waistbands for my Debbie Bliss biker jacket. Yes, yes, I know: a biker jacket in purple tweed is as silly as it gets. But it's pretty damn queer, isn't it, at least?

Here is a (slightly glorified) closeup of the body yarn (a vintage eBay alpaca/wool mix) and the darker neckband (in Tivoli luxury aran tweed). A tiny colour variation between the two, a bit like a Siamese cat: and then each yarn with its own gloriously bright flashes of primary colour. I am going to love wearing this.

Monday, September 11, 2006

terrible confession

Here is a thing I have not yet admitted to you yet. Well, I haven't really admitted to myself yet. Being home in Dublin means being home with a vast, extravagant stash, a squiggly sad frog pile... and also a shameful pile of unfinished objects. A huge one, I mean. I think that now is not the time to admit to its full horrors. I think that I will introduce you to my little UFOs, one at a time, so that you do not think too badly of me.

Yesterday saw me revisiting Dublin's dirty old city centre, now furiously piling on the expensive makeup as fast as she can muster. I was wandering around Henry Street, and thought, Why not just look at the sale table in Hickey's of Henry Street? They're more or less rubbish, but they are the only yarn shop in the city centre that ever stock wool yarns, and well. You never know.

And look! On that very same sale table, alongside scary giant 400g balls of acrylic yarn, was some absolutely gorgeous mixed-fibre Tivoli aran tweed...

which cunningly matches a UFO that I have sitting around at home, i.e. a Debbie Bliss pattern for a knitted tweed biker jacket. I know. I know. It's ridiculously silly. But I ordered this amazing alpaca/wool purple tweed yarn on eBay, and it just seemed right at the time.

Sadly, the yarn ran out before I could complete the whole jacket, but what remains to be knitted are the cuffs, neckband and waistband, which can be done in a contrasting colour. Originally, I thought I'd do them in Kureyon, for full-on boho craziness. But this yarn matches almost exactly, and is almost too close in colour - in some lights it looks almost identical to the original, in others about two shades darker. Now to hope, of course, that the jacket actually fits. I am not sure that I'm really a biker jacket person, and Debbie Bliss patterns, stupidly enough, do not have a schematic, so I'm not even sure of the shape.


Oh and by the way: that looks very like a respectable Snicket, doesn't it? Now for number two.

I am deriving ridiculous comfort from my Jaywalkers as the weather grows colder, and can't wait to own more handknitted socks. Yes, I have a sad, sad life. I know.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I Swore I Wouldn't Sock Again

Hello, all! My profile is telling you lies, first off. I am no longer in Berlin, home of Fadeninsel and myriad wild and wonderful knitting magazines: I am back home in Dublin, where there are huge numbers of sheep but strangely enough hardly any yarn shops. Work is crazy busy, as is trying to move my head from one of the most chilled and scruffy cities in Europe to one of the most commercial and hectic. Little time for knitting.

But - but - have you seen the new Magknits? The prettiest accessories ever! I was only browsing, I swear, and then I suddenly saw the prettiest socks ever: Snicket. Lovely, fancy socks that wree neither lacey (who wants woolen winter socks with holes in?) nor frou-frou: just a lovely simple-looking lace pattern. Simple-looking, that is.

This, now this is the heel, done in a new-to-me funky double-stitch method. ANYTHING to avoid the heel-flap picking-up-stitches vale of misery. ANYTHING. Even knitting on six, count them, needles with a seventh to boot AND - AND - at one stage - cabling every so often too. I didn't feel the rage quite as badly as when I was doing the heel-flap on the Jaywalkers, but I made horrendous mistakes. And yes, there is a weeny hole where the gusset joins the heel. Again.

Heel turned! I do think I like the look of it better than the heel-flap misery, nonetheless.

It looks like such a simple sweet pattern, but oh no: the twisted cabling, one stitch at a time, is deceptively tricky. No television-watching while knitting this one. It's worth the messing around, though - look at that gorgeous transition from the twisted rib to the lattice pattern! I'm not sure that the marled yarn I'm using shows the twists to their best advantage, but oh well.

And here is Snicket's leg, showing the gorgeous subtle, subtle transitions of the yarn. The designer says that the pattern is intended to mimick net sleeves, but I think that in this yarn (Fortissima/ Socka Colori, 75% wool 25% polyamide), whose colourway is after all called "Turf", the pattern looks more like an artefact that's been preserved in a peat bog: an ancient branch, perhaps, that shows its ring pattern when it's dug up, or perhaps even the half-erased half-uncials or leather tooled binding of a long-buried mediaeval psalter.

If one is to be fanciful about so mundane an object as socks. Which, it appears, is actually de rigeur, in the strange strange world that is internet sock knitting....