Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dreaming of Donegal

Last year at this time my man, my kids, and I had just returned to Dublin from a two-day trip to the Isle of Man and were starting a seven-day bus tour of the southern half of Ireland. Both places stole our hearts and we'd all love to go back. We'd live there if we could. The yellow bush is Gorse and it grows everywhere in the Isle of Man and Ireland. It's so pretty against all that green, but it's nasty stuff up close: full of large thorns. There were lambs everywhere.

As I approach the end of the Kilcar sweater, and as I gaze out at the X#@%!!*#$! snow outside, sigh, I'm especially nostalgic for Donegal, Ireland. This is the view from the window of the bed and breakfast we stayed in there.

That's Lough Eske and the Bluestack Mountains. This bed and breakfast is called "Ardeeven" and by some freaky magic of a loving Universe, out of a book advertising thousands of Irish b&bs, I picked one that's owned by Sean and Mary, who also own a lovely little wool shop in Donegal. This was the first real lys (local yarn store) I encountered in Ireland, and I went crazy buying up all the wool I could possibly cram in my suitcases and then a few kilos more for good measure, sending my husband into apoplexy, and causing my children to wonder if, now, for sure, Mom had lost it. This is where the deep purple Donegal Tweed found me and pushed me over the wool-buying edge.

I wistfully daydream of owning that little yarn shop. My husband could run the online store and I could spend my days in the shop, buying and selling wool and roving, chatting with the locals, spinning and knitting when I was able. The kids could run the shop every other weekend while hubby and I tour the island on our motorcycle, seeking ever more yarn stores and wool mills. After closing the shop at 6:00 every day we'd all hoist a pint of Guinness in a nearby pub...

Ah, well, daydreams are wonderful little escapes, aren't they? On these snowy days in April, who can help daydreaming of lovelier places and warmer climes. This is a great day for staying in and playing with sticks and strings. Maybe I'll finish the Kilcar today...

Monday, April 14, 2008


The Internet was down on Sunday night when I was trying to upload these photos. The first is the haul that I bought at Pam's Woolly on Saturday. The second is the test swatch that I knit and blocked in preparation for knitting the Agatha Shawl.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Pam’s Woolly Revisited

Some of us Edmonton Ravelers road-tripped again yesterday at Pam's Woolly in Stony Plain. We went to Boston Pizza for lunch and then to the store to drool and inhale the yarn fumes. Some of us inhaled deeply. I bought more practice roving, some in a deep green and some in a purply blue.

I also settled on some Patons Classic Wool Merino to knit an Agatha Shawl. Agatha was designed by our own ThatLoganChick. It's so beautiful, it swayed me into trying shawls on for size. The designer's Agatha was knit with Shibui Knits Merino DK, but that was a bit precious for my bank account. (My credit card's on life support.) So I lucked out with the Patons. It was only 6.99 a ball and I only need 3 balls. If I love the pattern (like there's a chance I wouldn't?) I'll knit it again on some more glam yarn.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I'm spinning! The pre-drafting is very relaxing and it's easy on my hands. The spinning is fun and a great challenge. I can't wait to have enough wool spun to put on my swift and then into a center-pull ball. This is my spindle.

Here's a few shots of me spinning. My 15-yr-old daughter took these. She's got a creative streak that shows in her angles.

This is the final product.

I hope to make a warm scarf.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Road to a Friend's is Never Longer Than When You Have to Pee

Yesterday, we drove to Andrew, Alberta to take our friend Tamara home. She's been staying with us for a couple of weeks while her class went to Europe over spring break. It was lovely having her but we couldn't keep her forever. The trip takes about an hour-and-a-half each way and I can't travel more than an hour before I have to stop somewhere to pee. We were planning a stop at our favourite store in Mundare but it was closed. It was open Good Friday but it's closed on Sundays...go figure. Anyway, everything on Mundare's main street was closed so we headed back to the open road toward the Village of Andrew. I wasn't sure I'd make it, but what's a girl to do in rural Alberta. There's a gas station in Mundare, but I avoid those whenever possible. Some of the things I've seen in small town gas station bathrooms have scarred me for life. So we're back in the country, passing a farmhouse here, a field of cows there, a buffalo herd way back there, but no sign of a village anywhere. With every little hill we climbed I waited to see Andrew just over the rise. Minutes dragged like decades as we traversed little hill after little hill, and still no sign of Andrew. I was knitting up a storm to distract myself but even that loses effectiveness after a certain point.

Finally, after forever, the Village appeared and we made our way to Tamara's house where I was able to use her washroom. Whew, is all I can say.

On the drive I was able to knit a few inches of sleeve for the Kilcar sweater. All I have left to do is this sleeve and the collar. Sweaters take sooooo long, especially when you break up the monotony with eighty other projects.

On Saturday, I went on a Ravelry excursion to Pam's Woolly Shoppe in Stony Plain. It was great fun fondling wool and meeting other Ravelers in person. While I was there, I was shown how to spin using a top whorl spindle. I'm in love! Just not sure when I'm going to squeeze spinning into my already full schedule. I stuck to my yarn diet like a good girl but I came home with a spindle and some practice roving. In my defense, the restraint I showed in not buying the lace weight Malibrigo was tremendous and taxing so the purchase of a tiny little spindle was highly understandable.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Accomplishment at Last!

I finally finished the Serendipity socks.

They're lovely and were great fun to knit. I like the pattern; it was neither too hard nor too easy. And I learned new things such as a new kind of toe, and a new kind of toe finish. The short row heel wasn't completely new, but I was reminded again how easy it is to make holes at the sides of the heels. Then I learned how to patch such holes when the sock was complete. I hope that on my next short row heel, I'll remember what to do to avoid the holes in the first place. I love the way the heels and toes make a bulls-eye pattern with the striping.

On another note, I followed the advice of a couple of fellow Ravelers on how not to have "row out" in your stocking stitch fabric. Rowing out is caused by imbalance in the tension of your knit and purl stitches. One is tighter or looser than the other which shows in a distinct horizontal line across the fabric. In my case I purl waaaay too loosely. You can see these horizontal lines in the baby cardigan I frogged a couple of days ago.

In order to fix this, I made a swatch where I knit only into the back of my knit stitches and I reversed the direction of the throw yarn around the right needle on my purl stitches. I can see how this method tightens up the fabric: my stitches were getting so tight that I almost couldn't move them on the needle. For me, tighter is good when attempting to get gauge. But DANG! Too tight stitches are what drove me to abandon knitting when I was 10--the tighter the stitches got the more my little hands sweated and the more my little hands sweated the tighter the stitches got in a never-ending descent into knitterly madness! 10 is waaaay too young for madness of any kind. I was being driven there daily by my little brother.

Anyway, back to the present. With this now too tight swatch, I still had the "rowing out"!!! sigh... I think I'll go back to plan A: use a smaller needle for the purl rows and forget there was ever such a thing as row gauge. Thanks anyway to the Ravelry buddies who offered the solution.