Irish Crochet Coral Reef

There are rare occasions in ones life when you hear an idea that gets you inspired and excited and gets your brain firing on all it's cylinders. For me Saturday was such a day. Margaret Wertheim of The Institute for Figuring  gave a talk at the Science Gallery in Dublin about her work and the possibility of setting up an Irish Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef.  

I've talked about the crochet coral reef before so when I heard that Margaret Wertheim was coming here to talk I immediately applied for a ticket, the workshop was full in the end so lots of others obviously find the idea as fascinating as I do. A number of fellow Ravelry members like IreneOrla, Fish and Mairead came along and it was great to meet them. Orla is a woman obsessed with hyperbolic coral, I think the organizers were stunned when she produced a large bag of fabulous crochet coral.

Margaret spoke about hyperbolic geometry and how crochet was used to make a mathematically correct model of a hyperbolic plane which had never been done before. Many people switch off when maths is mentioned but that wasn't the case with this talk. Margaret is a great communicator, she explained the maths by asking us questions and showing us real crocheted examples of what she was talking about.

She then explained how coral has a hyperbolic structure and that she and her twin sister decided to craft a coral reef based on hyperbolic crochet. Like a real coral reef which is made up of millions of individual corals the crochet coral reef is made up of bits donated by lots of people. Like a real reef the crocheters adapted and evolved the basic pattern to give a huge variety of forms. Margaret also talked about how global warming and pollution are affecting coral reefs. Reefs all over the world are dying, sadly they turn from beautiful vibrant reefs into sad bleached places. In response to this a toxic reef has been created made from recycled materials and plastics to raise awareness of how waste can have a devastating effect on these fragile natural ecosystems. You can watch Margaret talk in this TED video.

After the talk we did some crochet. Those of us who can crochet started making hyberbolic planes and pseudospheres. Those who couldn't crochet started learning. The hope is that we will organize workshops and get others involved so that we can all build an Irish reef. A Ravelry Group (Login Required) has been set up to help with this, so come along and join. The reef will be exhibited at the Science Gallery. I've already made two small bits of coral. I think I might spin some plastic yarn and make some toxic coral with it. It was such an inspiring day. After it I got out my books on the emergence of biological forms to see what other kinds of things I could possibly crochet. I saw a cool article about nudibranchs in the National Geographic, I think they could be crocheted in some wild colours. I think crochet coral will be coming up again on the blog, watch this space.

My talented friend Eddie from Beanstalk has promised to help out with my blog. He's going to redesign things so I'm really looking forward to having a shiny new look.

Knitting fever and a parliament of owls

I mentioned in my last post that thoughts of winter always make a knitter happy as it's time for them to take out their needles once again and wrap up in cozy hand knitted clothes.

I seem to be taking the coming cold days very seriously this year and I've knit lots of things in the past few weeks. I knit a calorimetry headscarf to go with my merino wool mittens. It's a lovely pattern and just perfect for small amounts of handspun wool. It gives you just enough warmth without being too big and bulky, just the thing to wear while walking the dog in the current weather. I know my Mum would love one so I might have to get spinning to make another. 

I have another finished object to show off, yes show off as I'm really pleased with this and how it turned out. It's a cabled beret, the Rangoli hat. I knit it using handspun blue faced leicester, I had just about enough yarn to finish it, there was very little left over. I love the flower pattern on the top. It's a well written pattern with a great chart. I haven't used many knitting charts and I think this one is a good one to get started with them. I was worried when I first started this hat that it was a bit white aran Clancy brothers looking. The pattern saves it from that fate and makes it into a more modern take on a white aran hat. I think it looks quite chic when on especially as it's a bit slouchy. I can imagine me wearing this with my long black coat and boots in the winter.

As if all these new finished objects weren't enough I've started yet another new knitting project. It all started with this thread on ravelry (log in needed) where someone said they wanted to knit the owls jumper. A few other people said they wanted to knit it too and the idea of a knit-a-long formed. A knit-a-long is where lots of knitters knit the same pattern so they can help and encourage each other to get it finished. I've wanted to knit an owls ever since I saw Aileen's owls and everyone is fond of owls aren't they?

So it was that I found myself in This Is Knit buying balls of Louisa Harding's Hulda yarn for an owls jumper. I'm allegedly not spending money on yarn at the moment, if I want yarn I use my stash or spin it myself, thems the rules. The get out clause was provided by tea and cakes who had the great logic that if I really wanted the jumper and cast on for it straight away then it was ok to buy yarn for it. I figured it would cost about as much as buying a nice jumper in a shop so that was ok then. By the way the Hulda yarn is really nice, it's a wool, acrylic and linen mix and is really soft when knitted up. I'm using the black colourway as the flecks of white linen in it remind me of feathers.

For help with starting the pattern I went to Friday Fibre Fun at The Tea Garden organized by Playing with Fibre and Thread Bear. The Tea Garden is one of the cooler places I've been to in Dublin, they have lots of lovely nooks and crannies to sit in and it's very relaxed. They have wonderful posh teas, yes they're expensive but they leave you sit there and enjoy them for the whole evening. I had a fabulous darjeeling served in a lovely cute tea pot. It was a lovely evening hanging out and meeting new knitters, some of whom I'd known from twitter and ravelry, it's nice to put a face to the names. I think I will be back to Friday Fibre Fun as it's just that, fun. I get the feeling more help might be needed with my owls jumper too. 


White Gypsy Brewery Tour

At Septemberfest Cuilán Loughnane brewer from the newly opened White Gypsy brewery asked if we'd like to come visit his brewery for an open day. Who could turn down such an offer?

The new White Gypsy brewery is in Templemore, Tipperary. On entering the building I first noticed the two large gleaming copper vessels. Cuilán revealed that they had been cleaned especially for the occasion. The equipment came from the old Kinsale brewery which is no longer operating. These are the kettle and mash tun. There's also a fermenting room and another cold room with a lot of conditioning tanks. 

As if a tour of the brewery wasn't enough there was a further treat in store.  Cuilán had brewed a stout and it was time to transfer it to secondary. This however was no ordinary stout and no ordinary secondary.

It's an imperial stout which are usually strong, rich, dark, aged beers. Cuilán gave us some of the history of stout and beer in Ireland. There was a great history of local beers before the all conquering Guinness changed everything. Cuilán wants to get back to that tradition, using the old recipes, having local people drinking locally produced beer and the beer being made with locally sourced ingredients that the farmer gets a fair price for. It's a great vision and I wish him every success with it. Listening to him talk you get the feeling that here's a man who knows his stuff and will make it work.

But back to the stout, we had a quick taste of it and it's quite harsh and strong, it's not going to stay like that though. It's going to be aged and this is where some timber based alchemy will happen. We watched as the stout was filled into three oak casks, one french oak, one american oak and one a cask that previously held Bushmills whiskey. That one in particular smelled amazing, just like whiskey even though it has been empty for a year. The stout will age for six months and will make it's debut at the easter festival at the Franciscan Well. I can't wait to taste it to see whats happened to it.

After this we went outside to the marquee that had been set up for the occasion. There was a pig roasting away in the corner, it had been fed on the spent grain from the brewery. A lot of local people had come up to the brewery to check it out and sample the beer. Hopefully they were impressed and make a success of the beer in the local pubs.

I even learned how to pull a proper pint from the cask under the watchful eye of Paudi from the Franciscan Well. It's White Gypsy's IPA which is really tasty. It definitely went really well with the pork roll. What more could you want of day, sitting in the sun with friends, drinking fresh cask IPA and eating proper roast pork? I also sampled the Dunkel and the Blonde, both are nice beers but I think the Dunkel is my favourite of the lot.

It was a great day out and many thanks must go to the Loughnanes for inviting us and showing us such great hospitality.