Aran Brew Has Moved

Hop on over to the new website, I'd love to see you there.

Crochet Headband and Summer Holidays

Link to this post at new site. Please update links and rss feed readers, thanks!

Here's my latest crochet creation, it's a dinky little headband with a flower on. I was in Penneys the other day and they have loads of headbands which are just a bit of elastic with a fancy flower on it. I thought I could do something similar in yarn.

I mentioned at the very end of this post that I was trying out Aoibhe's Rasta Kitty hat. I'm using mini mochi yarn and while it's supposed to fingering weight I think it's a lot lighter than the yarn used in the pattern so it was turning out more like a beany than a floppy beret and I want a floppy beret. When I ripped it back I was left with the grey band that was the brim of the hat and I thought it could be given a new life as a headband. I crocheted a little flower using the grey yarn and a contrasting purply pink yarn and sewed it on. I think it looks quite well. I must make more of these as they are quick and look great. I might even write up the pattern too.

I'm off on my holidays on Thursday. We're off to the Passy/Chamonix area of the Alps in France. We're getting the ferry and driving through France. There was a bit of drama this week as I have some sort of lung infection and I had really bad chest pain. I then became allergic to the antibiotics the doctor gave me which isn't surprising as I've reacted to all the antibiotics I've ever taken. A trip to the A&E yesterday confirmed I have nothing major wrong. I still have other stuff that needs to be checked out so the battle with the Irish health system and waiting goes on. The A&E doctor was very nice and she is also a mountaineer so she gave me some good advice and most importantly told me to go on holidays. I may have to take it a bit easier than planned. Sitting in a nice house in France knitting and looking at mountains while eating mountains of cheese still sounds good to me. I've even discovered there is a Phildar yarn store near where we're staying.

Today I've been figuring out what knitting to bring on holiday. I may have no other packing done but I know what knitting I'm bringing, my priorities are straight! I'm going to knit the Gaia shoulder hug shawl (Ravlery Link) using a ball of Noro sock. It was either that or Damson by Ysolda using my Malabrigo sock yarn. I think the Gaia is a bit easier and I won't have to be constantly looking at the pattern so that swung it. I'm also bringing the scribble lace shawl which is easy mindless knitting so I should be able to finish it. I'll bring along my spindle as you can always find time for some spindling. I'm also taking my knitting without tears by Elizabeth Zimmerman so I can buy yarn to make something from it. Why? Check out Knitting Elizabeth, a blog where Irish knitters are knitting their way through the Elizabeth Zimmerman books. I'm hoping to join in and maybe even design my own jumper.

Talk to you all when I get back and happy knitting.


Link to new site.

I love Neil Gaiman. Though you guys already know this after the presenting Neil Gaiman with a crocheted bee incident. I've read almost all his books at this stage. I do like to space out the reading of Gaiman as when I've finished them all I'll be bereft. I still have Good Omens left to read. A recent read was Stardust which I really loved, it's a great all ages story. I watched the film too and loved that as much as the book which is rare for me. I prefer books to film versions of books and also if I've read a book I know what happens so why see a film of it too? Stardust was an exception as they really captured the spirit of the book and there was some great acting too. I loved the section with Robert De Niro most of all.

Anyway all this rambling brings me to the Yvaine shawl that I mentioned briefly here. I saw this pattern when I used Ravlery's snazzy search feature to search for patterns that used about 330m of sport weight yarn. It's really useful to be able to search like that especially when knitting with handspun as you only have a limited amount of it. You can't go and get more of the yarn if you run out.  Yvaine is a versatile pattern and I thought it would suit the texture of the handspun well. Also since there is no lace or patterning I could just keep knitting until I ran out of yarn. There are supposed to be moss stitch panels on the shawl but I was lazy and just did some garter ridges instead. I have a problem with moss stitch even when knitting it in a rectangle shape I usually get it wrong. I tried a row of it but couldn't work out how to deal with moss stitch and increases so I just left it. I think it looks fine without the moss stitch. I finished it this week so that's another quick knit. At this rate though I think there might be another force at work. I think after all this time and practice I might be getting quicker at knitting. It certainly seems so. I'm pretty happy about that as I've always been a slow knitter. Even as a kid I didn't get my regulation tea cosy done in time for parents night, I think my Mum finished the last few rows for me!

I liked this pattern a lot, it taught me how triangular shawls are constructed, it's always nice when it clicks in your brain how it works and I'm pretty sure I could knit a shawl with no pattern now. This project perfectly filled the gap between finishing my Easkey wave wrap and going on holidays next Thursday. We're off to Chamonix and the Alps and I can't wait. The Yvaine shawl is blocking so hopefully I can get some nice photos of it with mountains in the background. I've picked up a nasty lung infection of some sort and that's why I'm here blogging instead of busily packing for the trip. I'm on antibiotics and strong painkillers so I'm ensconced on the sofa. I've started watching Doctor Who though so that's cheering me up. I've also made a sneaky start on a project I was saving for the holidays, the Rasta Kitty hat from Aoibhe. Maybe I'll finish that in time for wearing on my trip to the Mer de Glace.

Blog Migration

Plans have been afoot for a while now to redesign the blog and move it to it's own URL. I got the URL ages ago but didn't manage to move the blog. I'm quite good at computers but for some reason web design and css evade me. I decided to try out wordpress and found it's pretty easy to design a blog that looks well. In an evening I managed to get the blog looking better than it ever has on blogger. Wordpress has a few other advantages, images seem to behave better and the whole layout is nicer. Another big plus is that there is a very nice android app which makes it easy for me to blog from my phone. I wonder why there is no nice blogger app, blogger and android are both run by google so you'd think they would integrate them a bit better. I decided to pay wordpress to redirect to the URL as working out how to host it would take another three months.

Now that is all done and I've moved I have to ask you all to point your links this way and update your rss feeds and all that jazz. I'll still blog a link to new posts for a while in blogger and put in a big arrow pointing here. I'm hoping to work out how to get blogger to redirect here for old posts but again that may take me some time to figure out.

I'm hoping you will read the posts over at the new and comment over there. I'll still be importing comments over there but hopefully everything will move to the new URL.

Thanks for reading the tech post!

A Star Is Born

I fell out with crochet some time ago and ever since we've been on the rocky road to reconciliation. I wanted it to do things it wasn't comfortable with, it accused me of not understanding it. I've come to accept that crochet was right all along. I was trying to bend it to work in ways it didn't want to. Crochet and I have accepted this and we're ready to move on. I used to subscribe to Interweave Crochet and while it has nice patterns I think it is too focused on jumpers. Lace is where crochet shines, there are so many beautiful knitted lace shawls but more beautiful modern crochet lace designs are needed. After all isn't Irish crochet lace one of the most beautiful forms of lace in the world? Dora Ohrenstein explains all in this wonderful article. I promised crochet that I would go and learn more about it's roots and also my own as the history of crochet is tied up with Ireland's history. I started Aoibhe's rose rock which is an ideal first Irish crochet project. A trip to the Sheelin lace museum is also on the cards when I'm next in Fermanagh visiting a friend who lives near there.

I recently got the happy news that my sister in law is pregnant! Obviously a baby gift needed to be made. They live in Jamaica and post there is very unreliable, anything good is likely to be swiped and I wasn't taking that chance with something hand made. Luckily they were over visiting last week so I decided to make something quickly in time for the visit. So what to make? I couldn't make a wool jumper or a hat now could I? The poor baby would melt. I decided to make a blanket, I figured blankets are always useful even if they're not needed for warmth they can be used as a rug or even a sun shade. Now a blanket is a bigger project than I'd usually take on and I hoped I could get it done in time. I decided I'd crochet the blanket as it would be quick. I found the cutest baby blanket in Beth's little star afghan. It's actually a very simple pattern but it looks really effective. If you can make a chain and a double crochet you can make this blanket. I used Patons baby fab DK yarn in green and grey and I changed colour every five rows. I used a 5mm hook. It worked up really quickly and I managed to finish it in a mere three weeks. Last week my niece and I went to Dublinia and the zoo so there was some frantic hooking when I got back from days out. The zoo is really good these days, I loved the new elephant enclosure.

I've noticed that this year I've been making a lot of larger projects and managing to finish them pretty quickly which I'm really pleased about. This blanket turned out pretty cute but I'm sure it won't be a patch on how cute the new nephew is going to be. He'll be arriving in November!

Mittens With Pints On

Mittens with pints on
I don't usually do 'here's a cool thing from the internet' or 'I want to  make this' type posts. Today I make an  exception to bring you both a cool thing on the internet and something I really want to knit.

I discovered Spilly Jane a few days ago and I've been oohing and ahhing over her designs ever since. She has the most wonderful colour work mitten patterns. There are ones with gnomes, cupcakes, strawberries and all manner of whimsical little things. For obvious reasons I've fallen for the ones on the left and I must make them. I don't have the yarn to make them though as I don't have a collection of lots of yarn all of the same weight in different colours, I can only wish! The pattern calls for knit picks yarn which isn't available in Ireland. I think I've found the perfect substitute yarn in Jamieson and Smith though.

Jamieson and Smith are a yarn company that are based in Shetland, one of the Scottish islands which is famous for knitting and for their native Shetland. Their jumper weight yarn spun from Shetland fleece fits the bill perfectly. It's fingering weight, 100% wool, comes in smaller 25g balls, has a brilliant colour range and is really cheap. It's designed for fair isle colour work jumpers after all. I suppose I could go entirely mad and attempt to dye some yarn I have into enough to make these but I'm not confident enough of my colour matching skills to do it. I think I might just have to order the yarn if there is to be any hope of these mittens getting made in the next few months.

I posted a link to this pattern on facebook and it made me smile that the people who liked and commented on the mittens with pints on were people who are interested in beer. It made me think about how knitting acts a kind of filter for people. Many of my non knitting friends send me links with knitted and crocheted things they think are cool. Or they mention something they saw about knitting being trendy again as they know I knit. It sometimes says more about them than me which I find interesting. A friend Luke (who writes and hopefully won't mind me using him as an example) sent me on a very cool knitted R2D2 pattern he found. Luke is into sci-fi and gaming so of course he finds this cool. I am nerdy person but I'm not into Star Wars as I didn't see it until I was an adult so it doesn't mean as much to me as it does to someone who grew up with it. Another friend obsessed with cycling sent me a photo of a knitted bicycle. All the cavers love my crocheted caving helmet.

It's funny that people who aren't into knitting will notice it when someone knits something that touches on a part of their life, where knitting intersects with what they think is cool. They then pass it back to me. It's maybe their way of saying wow you knit and I never realized it was cool and useful to stuff in my life. But still I wonder do they really understand what I love about the knitting process. I don't really do it because I think I will end up with a finished product that reflects my interests. Though that is part of why I do it. I love beer and knitting and a pair of mittens with pints on are what I dream of pulling on after a fun night with friends at the Bull and Castle. But if I just wanted some clothing with beer on I could get it without going to the trouble of knitting it. I like the whole process and creative design parts of knitting just as much as the finished product. Picking the perfect pattern like the mittens with pints on. Then picking out the perfect yarn to make it with, choosing my own colour palette for the project, maybe even deciding that I should spin the yarn for it myself. Then the technical side of the knitting. A plain knitted item is much easier and quicker to make but I don't usually do that. Lace and colour work or an interesting construction always make a project much more interesting to make even if it is more complicated and takes longer. Learning something new with each project means I don't get bored of the knitting. The fact that I end up with something cute and wooly that I can wear to keep my hands warm is just the icing on the cake.

One shawl doesn't make a summer

Recently I told you about my Easkey wave wrap knit using Carol Feller's lovely captiva wrap pattern. Progress went very quickly after my last blog post. I almost didn't know I was knitting it. It knit up so quickly and easily and then...

This happened. I did the ninth repeat and and ran out of yarn just as I finished the decreasing for the last few scallops. I needed three scallops and only had enough yarn for half the first one. I didn't have any more yarn and it had been discontinued at This Is Knit where I bought it on sale ages ago. I tried it on to see if it looked ok but really it was just that bit small. So what to do now? I remembered a lady at my knit night had mentioned a website called odd balls where one can buy left over balls of yarn. I searched the website not really expecting to find the yarn. As luck would have it someone was destashing a skein of the yarn I needed in the exact same dyelot as the yarn I had. Needless to say I ordered it and it arrived really quickly. I definitely recommend checking out odd balls if you need some yarn to finish a project.

While I waited for the yarn to arrive I started a crochet project which I've also finished. I won't show you guys any pictures as it's a present for someone so I don't want to spoil the surprise. Pictures and details next week when I've handed it over. I'm really pleased with how I've been finishing things so quickly lately. Sometimes I look at the list of things I need to make and it seems like fun having a queue then at other times the queue of things to make starts to weigh heavy on my mind. So it's nice to finish things so that I can plan what to make next.

When the yarn arrived I ripped back the decrease section and added another pattern repeat. I'm really glad I did now as it made the wrap that little bit bigger. I finished it off with only a small amount of yarn left over. I blocked the wrap and it really made a big difference, it opened out the lace and made the garter stitch less scrunchy.

I really enjoyed knitting this pattern. Some designers seem to focus on the end result and their patterns can be quite boring to knit as sometimes the plainer knits look better as a finished garment. Then there are designers who focus solely on the technical parts of the pattern and the finished garment isn't really the point. Which you prefer probably depends on whether you like the process or the end result. This project was for me one of those happy times when the process was great, I enjoyed the bit of lace and the short rows. But there was also the added bonus that the finished garment turned out so well. It's quite girly and pretty and the shape means it looks great draped over a shoulder. Carol is obviously a very talented designer, I must check out more of her patterns. I've already added eilonwy to my mental queue, I think it would be fabulous knit with handspun.

I got to wear the wrap on Sunday when I finally got to have a good chat with Fourboys and Undermeoxter who I know from Ravelry. It's probably the first time I've been recognized because of the knitted garment I was wearing. We spent a really pleasant afternoon sitting in the sun in Avoca knitting. I even got to see the famous glenvaragin cardigan, D you can finish it, you're almost there!

Having finished two projects that were both pretty big I decided to cast on for something new. Did I pick a hat, gloves, a bag? No I cast on yet another shawl. I think I see a theme developing here. This is the fifth shawl I've cast on this year so far and I'm not getting tired of them at all. A summer of shawls it is. This one is being knitted with my Betsy Doodles handspun. The pattern is the Yvaine shawl from Feministy. To continue the nod to Neil Gaiman and Stardust I cast on for this while watching the film on RTE last Saturday. I adore knitting this yarn, just adore it. With every stitch I start thinking that I should give away all my commerical yarn and just knit with handpsun from now on. It's just so lovely to knit something you have spun and have picked the perfect pattern for. Anyway I'll leave you with a picture of the perfect Sunday afternoon. Just add friends and knitting.

Raspberry Mead

I've tried to make mead on a number of occasions and try is the operative word. It just never turns out quite right for me. I have bottles of mead stashed away on my brewing shelves and I keep them in the hope they will age up into something nice. Any bottles that I've sampled don't taste great so I have my doubts that age will help.

I decided to brew mead again with cheaper ingredients and on a smaller scale. It's been pretty warm here this summer which has been great but it's not ideal beer brewing weather. I've heard from a few of the home brewers that their beer fermentations have been very warm. One of my pet hates is beer that has been brewed too warm, I can taste it a mile off. When beer is fermented too warm the yeast can produce higher weight fusel alcohols which don't taste good, they're sort of harsh and nasty. I'm hoping that mead won't really suffer the same problems and maybe a warmer fermentation will give some fruity flavours to the mead. 

I dug out my copy of Making Wild Wines and Meads by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling. I like this book a lot, it gives a simple run through of how to brew at the start and the rest of the book is recipes. They're divided up into sections and include fruit wines, wines from nuts, flowers and vegetables, meads, melomels and metheglins and wines from herbs. I followed the raspberry melomel recipe exactly as it appears in the book in the hope that this will make it turn out right. I used honey from Lidl and frozen raspberries.  I meant it when I said cheap ingredients. I mixed up all the ingredients and added campden powder to kill any nasties. After twenty four hours I added some red wine yeast. 

The primary fermentation has just finished and I'm glad it has. It was quite vigorous and made the house stink. On most home brewing forums you'll find a thread where someone is complaining that his wife is giving out to him about his brewing and the smells. In my case the opposite is true but thankfully my husband likes the results of my brewing experiments. Though this mead has turned out a lurid pink colour so maybe he won't like this one as much. I'll rack this mead into a one gallon glass carboy tomorrow and then cover it up and forget about it for a month or two before I bottle it. Fingers crossed it will turn out ok this time.

Knit Nation, London, July 2010

Knit Nation. I wish every nation was full of knitters, then we would have world peace, solutions to all problems and lots more smiling happy people in the world. There would also be a lot more sheep but then that's a small price to pay. I'm just back from Knit Nation in London and I had the most fabulous two days and I'm now sure that knitters are the nicest people.

I got a plane early on Friday morning to Gatwick and got some trains and ended up arriving at Imperial College, the Knit nation venue just in time for the opening of the marketplace at 11.00. Most of the knitters in the queue made a beeline for the Wollmeise stand. I decided to join them for a look. I heard an Irish accent and recognised Jo from Celtic Memory Yarns. I said hello and we chatted while she was deciding what colours to buy I hope you got some you loved Jo! I bought two skeins just in case they all sold out but I needn't have worried as there was loads. Wollmeise is a phenomenon, the web shop sells out like lightening every time there is an update. Having seen all the colours all at once I will say that some of the hype is definitely justified. The colours are bright, clear and well separated. Having tried some dyeing myself I can appreciate that it's amazingly well done. I got two skeins. One is a beautiful autumnal skein called Paul which may grow up to be a clapotis. The other was a mostly purple yarn called grapes for sheri. I have no plans for it yet but I seem to be on a shawl roll recently so it may end up being another one. 

I then went to the p/hop. P/hop stands for pennies per hour of pleasure and is raising money for the wonderful Medecins Sans Frontieres. Various designers have donated patterns and you donate money based on the hours of pleasure you get from the pattern. At the stand I met Clare who I have known online for some time, she helps out p/hop in the UK. I love meeting people that I know from the web though it can be funny as you try to explain who you are. Maybe there will be new etiquette books explaining how to deal with these situations.  Clare very kindly offered that I could stay with her Friday night so thanks a million for that Clare. At her place I had the privilege of meeting the black cat, if you follow Clare's blog or twitter you will have heard of the black cat that visits her. He's a funny cat who came over and immediately demanded attention from me.

At lunch I met Sinead who had been at a sock knitting class with the famous Cookie A for the morning. We did some yarn shopping and got some food. Then it was off to meet yet another generous and fabulous knitter, L. On Ravelry I had complained that I didn't know I needed a wheel for my class and L offered to lend me hers as she was taking a class that morning and didn't need the wheel for the afternoon. So a big thanks to L if you're reading this. I could have done the class with no wheel but it was much better to have one.

The class teacher was Judith Mackenzie McCuin and she is a spinning genius. I learned more about spinning in the three hours of this class than I have in the last few months of spinning combined. Judith explained all about how spinning wheels work and all the tricks that you can do to make them work at their peak. She then explained how to make the spinning wheel do the work for you. Most spinners produce a default yarn meaning that they draft and treadle at a certain rate which then produces a certain weight yarn. I definitely do this and recently I've been trying to produce different yarn and was advised that I would have to treadle faster and draft finer to produce a laceweight yarn and I wasn't very successful at it. Judith says that you can't change your default yarn and when you get to that stage that it's a good time to learn what she teaches so it seems I took this class at the right moment.

She got us to use the wheel to change the yarn we produced so by changing settings on the ratios and brake band we were able to get different weights of yarn as you can see in the picture. I didn't change how fast I treadled or how fast I drafted to produce all these different yarns I just changed the wheel set up. Well it was like a light bulb went off in my head. It was like I didn't really know how to spin at all before this class. I now have a much better understanding of how my wheel works and how to use it. It was a fantastic class and well worth going to London to take it. Judith is a legend. 

After all that excitement it was time for dinner and pints with Sinead and Viola. We had great fun in the pub and there was even Fuller's London Pride on cask for me. After that I met up with Clare and some knitters I know from twitter so it was great to met them in person.

Now to shw you all the rest of my shopping loot. The marketplace was really well set up just like the whole event. It all ran so well and so smoothly. Well done to all the organizers and volunteers. I got my two skeins of Wollmeise. I got a skein of green laceweight from Krafty Koala. From Juno Fiber Arts I got some dyed Wensleydale and Teeswater fiber, I haven't tried either before. From Baby Long Legs I got some lovely smoky blue BFL fiber. From John Arbon I got some undyed yarn so I can play around with some dyeing. I also got an issue of Inside Crochet which you can't get in Ireland for some reason and a Knit Nation bag. The Loop bag was free. I also met the lovely Ysolda Teague and tried on some of her designs. I got a snap with her in her fun photo both too. 

On Saturday I dropped back into Knit Nation for a bit before I went to meet A from Impy Malting. I made a detour to the Hummingbird bakery for a delicious cupcake and some coffee. Impy and I had a great chat over some tasty beers at the Market Porter. It's great to go out with someone local like Impy, I'd never have found these great beer pubs on my own. I really liked the Harvey’s Bitter being in the mood for light hoppy beers at the moment. I don't know why but dark complex beers just aren't my thing at the moment, maybe it's the weather. The pub was busy but we got a seat and talked life, beer and knitting. Us knitting, brewing, beer blogging girls have to stick together you know.

We then headed to The Rake which is the beer pub you always hear about on UK beer blogs. They have a cool selection of beers on cask and many in bottles. I looked at their bottled selection and was surprised at how many of them are available in pubs in Dublin like The Bull and Castle, The Porterhouse and L. Mulligan Grocer and the quality off licenses. I always think that in the UK you can get lots more beer than here, it just shows how much the selection in Dublin has improved in recent times. For US and Belgian beer we're actually pretty well served. Of course we don't get as many English ales or cask beers which is a pity. Sadly I couldn't stay long and being sensible left for my train back to the airport in plenty time. Thanks Impy and hopefully I can return the favour with beer tour of Dublin soon. All in all it was the most fabulous two days. Knit Nation? Definitely. 

More photos of the trip are here. I apologize for the quality of some of them. Usually this is where I say I took them on my phone not my camera but this time the reverse is true. My camera isn't focusing properly and seems to be crap with knitting things, maybe it's the colours. The ones I took when I got home with the phone are much better. 

Trouble, the brewery cat

Recently Trouble Brewing invited Irish Craft Brewer to a barbecue and tour of their new brewery in Co. Kildare. Trouble along with Dungarvan is one of Ireland's newest craft breweries and both breweries are run by Irish craft brewer members. When I first joined Irish Craft Brewer a few years ago I went along to the first tasting night that they held in The Bull and Castle. That night I met Thom an enthusiastic home brewer who was studying brewing and hoping that one day he would open a brewery. Most home brewers have fanciful day dreams involving their very own brewery and brewing batches of wonderful beer but very few ever actually make that dream a reality. Thom along with Paul and Stephen who are also ICB members have done that very thing. I loved reading their blog as they battled with equipment, red tape and electrics while setting up the brewery. It certainly gives an insight into all the hard work and dedication it takes to turn the day dream into a reality.

Last Saturday we went along to L Mulligan Grocer where we boarded a bus bound for Trouble.  

The brewery is compact and they've really worked wonders getting all the necessary equipment into the building. Of course all us brewing fans were checking out the shiny mash tun and kettle and looking at all the pipes trying to work out what went where. We spotted the white board that we gave the guys as a present being put to good use. A white board is a handy thing in a brewery, it helps one keep track of what's in each fermenter and when it was put there. The festival bar that they use at events was pressed into service to slake the thirst of the home brewers. Many pints of Trouble's ├ôr were poured. It's a fabulous beer, I really like it. I think it is pretty much the perfect beer for summer drinking. There's a lovely soft malt profile with a fabulous slightly fruity hoppy bite. You should definitely try it if you get the chance. As always the Irish Craft Brewer list of pubs that stock Irish beer should help you find it.     
Paul worked his magic with the barbecue doling out burgers and sausages to some hungry home brewers. As he said you can't go wrong with beer and burgers. It was a great day but every great day can be made better with the addition of a kitten and some serious cuteness. Shortly after we arrived B spotted what she thought was a kitten running across the car park. She eventually arrived back with a small kitten. A mother cat was nowhere to be found and the guys said there are no houses nearby so the poor little thing was lost and abandoned. Milk was found and he lapped it all up so he was obviously hungry. Thom is a fan of cats and said if they were in the brewery more regularly he could have become the brewery cat. Thom eventually decided to bring the little guy home to see how he got on with his own cat. If they don't get on he'll find him a home. I'm hoping that the kitten will be called Trouble. From the pictures below you can see he definitely wants to be a brewery cat. 



Easkey Wrap

After finishing up Annis I started knitting away on my summer cardigan. I think it should be finished just as we come into the autumn which is fine as for once we're enjoying summer weather in Ireland. It would be too warm to wear the cardigan just now. Since I'm in no rush to finish the cardigan I started thinking of projects new and decided to cast on using some old stash. I feel I'm doing quite well with my stash recently. I've been working with what I have and giving away stuff I definitely won't use. I had five balls of salmon pink mirasol cotanani that I got on sale in This Is Knit ages ago  and was planning to use for some sort of vest. Plans changed however when I spotted Carol Feller's captiva wrap on her blog just after she published the pattern. I fell in love with the pattern and there was just enough cotanani to make it so I ear marked the yarn to make the wrap.

I cast on last week and am in love with the pattern and the yarn and how it's all working up. The pattern is wonderful, it's just so cleverly put together. It's worked side to side and the edging is worked along with the pattern. It's a very satisfying knit as you see the lovely scallops emerging and it's going so quickly. The yarn is lovely too, the mix of wool and cotton give a lovely crisp stitch definition. It's probably the perfect antidote to the intricacies of Annis. I love how it's turning out and can't wait to see it finished as I think it will be really wearable.

The scallops along the edge of this pattern and the shape of the wrap remind me of a wave as it’s just about to break. So I’ve named my version of this pattern Easkey after the famous wave break in Sligo. There’s a famous Irish surfer called Easkey Britton who was called after the wave so maybe it’s no wonder she grew up to surf. I’d imagine her throwing on this wrap in a casual way to warm up after catching a few waves in the cold clear water off the west coast. I might use it for the same thing even though I'm really terrible at surfing. I usually flop around the place on my boogie board getting odd looks from the real surfers, probably because my wetsuit is a state as it's more a canyoning wetsuit. It's got holes and is ripped from catching on rocks while abseiling down waterfalls.    

I also crocheted up a quick phone cover using some Kilcarra Donegal tweed for my husbands new phone. Crochet covers are great, so quick and easy. This one was done by chaining the right number of stitches to go along the bottom of the phone then double crochets all around the chain and working in the round until it was big enough to cover the phone. I've been crocheting some small things recently and have enjoyed getting my crochet mojo back. I think I'm ready to move on to something bigger. I'd love to do a shawl or something but I'm going to keep searching until I find a really nice pattern. 

Here's some dyeing I did recently. It's 100g of shetland top I got ages ago and was hoping to dye. I think it turned out really well.  I think it will look really cool when I spin it up.

Typical me, I started something... And now I'm not too sure

I think all my blog post titles should be Morrissey lyrics from now on. Yesterday I finished my Annis shawl. It took me about a month to do it which is not bad considering I missed a few weekends of knitting. I blogged about starting it here when I thought it would go quickly enough. In this post the sad tale of the nupps emerged. I really struggled with them and so I left out the second row of nupps. I then avoided the project for a bit as I didn't want to do the next row of nupps. Luckily someone on Ravelry suggested this video which uses a crochet hook to do the nupp stitch all in one go. This eliminated the need to purl seven together and may have saved my sanity. Even though the nupps were easier the row still took ages.

I was very happy to reach the stocking stitch short row section. I'd been told the short rows really flew but I wasn't convinced as I was so slow knitting the lace section. I was proved wrong and knit the short row section really quickly. I think I got most of it done at the cookie exchange night last week. A cookie exchange night you say? A few of us knitters including R from she knit up that ball, Tea and Cakes and K from chocolate bunni crafts met up for some knitting and chat with a batch of cookies each. We then exchanged cookies so everyone went home with a selection of cookies. I've been munching tasty home baked cookies all week. It was such a fun night and coming home with yummy cookies and some new stash (thanks R!) was a bonus.

Back to Annis, here it is all finished and blocked. The malabrigo laceweight was really lovely to knit with and I love the colourway, which is olive if anyone is interested. The pattern suggested 5mm needles and I used them after my first cast on and the fabric seemed very loose and floppy so I went down to 4mm when I cast on again. I usually need to go down a needle size for most patterns anyway.

I'm not entirely sure why I didn't really enjoy knitting this but for some reason it was more an exercise in perseverance than enjoyment. Hence the title of the blog post. I loved knitting my Ishbel shawl and the Storm Cloud Shawlette but for some reason this didn't float my boat. I think it might be because it is done from the outside in rather than inside out like most shawls. It starts with so many stitches that by the the time I got to the shorter rows I was already a little sick of it. The lace part isn't difficult and there are only eighteen lace rows but it is very time consuming because of the nupps. Maybe I thought that after spending so much time on the lace I'd have more to show for it at the end. I'm not very keen on the look of the nupps in the end either. They're just bobbles with a fancy name and they're not that special looking for all the work that went into them. I think I would probably use beads instead of nupps if a pattern requires them in future. It also turned out smaller than I thought it would be, maybe I should have used sock yarn or used the needle size recommended in the pattern. The picture of the shawl in Knitty looks a good bit larger than mine. It's really more a scarflette than a shawl.

Saying all that though I don't dislike the end product, it is what it is and given some time I'll love it despite my slight disappointment about how it turned out. It's pretty and delicate and will be lovely draped around the shoulders. I probably won't wear it much as a shawl but more as a sort of short scarf/cowl type thing.  Here's some more pictures of the finished Annis.

As always all my craft projects are collected in this picasa album.

Tour De Fleece, First Week

The first week of the tour de fleece is over and I've finished my first yarn. It's the trick or treat batt from Laura Hogan core spun around a cotton thread. It's chunky weight and there's just about 170 m of it. I think this will be made into a scribble lace type scarf. It's so soft and the colours are fabulous, I love it. 

Crimes against crochet

I went to the library last night and was browsing the craft section when I found a real gem of a book. Without delay I decided to get the photos I took of the works of textile genius contained in the book onto the blog. I figure it's Friday and everyone could use a good laugh before the weekend.

I've rarely laughed as much at a book before. The front cover is on the left and reveals that the book is called 'Glorious Crocheted Sweaters'. Glorious indeed. The model does look a little dubious though don't you think? Maybe that is because of the giant colourwork cardigan she is trying to rock. The neck tie isn't really adding anything here is it? To me it looks like a paper napkin that she forgot to remove after having some lunch.

Anyway onwards and upwards we have many more 'glorious' sweaters to see...

This looks warm but that's about the only thing you can say in it's favour. And if you have a thing for crocheting crazy clashing tartans then don't worry you can also clothe your children in them. You can use a lovely fuzzy mohairy yarn too and don't worry it won't fit them either. I'm sure these jumpers weigh like a million kilos as well as being stiff like a board due to the colourwork.  

Now on to something a little lighter and more suitable for summer.

Words almost fail me. What sort of a pose it that? I'm no fan of yellow and red together and this ensemble really isn't going to convince me. Also this is supposed to be a summer garment. I'm sure it's made of acrylic yarn too, this means if you wore this on a hot day you'd most likely melt and die both from embarrassment and heat exhaustion.

I love the look of the model in this picture. You can almost hear the thoughts inside her head. 'I'm sorry my child but yes I did crochet us matching pastel chevron stitch jumpers and now I'm trying to pretend to everyone that this was a good idea and that we look fabulous but I know we are living a lie. You poor innocent thing, you did nothing to deserve this.'

An aran style jumper is necessity in the snow and when teamed with ear muffs you will be warm and stylish. Sadly your dog on seeing you will slump into an existential ennui and lie on the ground and refuse to move.

Sadly we're at the last photo I took of the 'glorious' crocheted sweaters. I think I have saved the best for last though. By best I actually mean damaging, if you saw this picture and decided that really it would have been better for the world if crochet was never invented I can't say I'd blame you. The world might have been better off if we were all still wandering around butt naked than clothe ourselves in sweaters such as the ones you are about to see.

These poor poor children? Where are they now? What untold damage did this modeling assignment do to them? Did they ever get counseling? Are they sitting forgotten in some mental institution blabbering to themselves about the pain and trauma of being made dress like this? I wish I knew.

I suppose I must now provide you with a link to Amazon should you wish to rush out and purchase this classic of textile design. Actually for further laughs read the reviews. Most of them are positive! I hope there aren't people out there inflicting these designs that time forgot on their loved ones in this day and age.

L. Mulligan Grocer

Last Thursday we went along to the opening of Dublin's newest craft beer pub. The special thing about this pub is that it's owned and run by friends of mine, Seaneen of 9 Bean Row and Colin of California wine imports. They've been working away frantically to open the pub for the last while and Thursday night was the first night they opened their doors.

The pub is called L. Mulligan Grocer and is located in Stoneybatter just across from the beer tardis that is Drink Store. Stoneybatter is now quite the destination if you like craft beer. The pub is still in the process of being finished so there is no food yet but I'll definitely be back to try it when there is.

We got a very warm welcome and some nice cold pints of Trouble Brewing Or. Well Dave did, I was driving. It's a lovely cosy old school pub with nice wood panels to split up the bar. The beer range is already fantastic with a large selection of Irish beers on draught and no Guinness, Carlsberg or any other mass produced beer. There is a large selection of bottled beers from all over the world too. There's also an extensive whiskey menu.

What struck me about the place was that it had only been open a few hours and already there was a lovely busy vibe from the place. It felt like a local with people chatting away. Long may it continue that way. Congratulations guys, the pub is fabulous and I wish you every success in the world with it.

Tour De Fleece 2010

The start of the Tour De France signals the start of the Tour De Fleece for spinners. Yes it's yet another odd event that fiber loving folks participate in because of Ravelry. Every day the tour rides you spin your wheels too, or spindles. The Ravelry group is here. I spun my spindle every day last year as I was away on holidays during the tour and looking back I didn't blog about it.

I haven't been spinning so much of late and I'm really looking forward to spinning every day. I hope I can watch the Tour De France too. I remember always seeing it when I was young and went to visit my aunt. My cousin was and still is obsessed by cycling so he was cheering the Irish cyclists on back in the days when Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche were on top. My cousin went on to became a pro for a while racing in Europe and he still races in Ireland.  

Back to the spinning. I started core spinning this lovely batt called Trick or Treat from Laura Hogan. I'm hoping to finish that fairly quickly. My plan after that is to finish off the laceweight alpaca I've been doing and maybe start on some merino and silk mix.

The Yarn Room, Ashford, Wicklow

A little while ago we went on a camping trip to Wicklow. On the Saturday I decided to call in to The Yarn Room which is located in Ashford. The Yarn Room began life selling on the web and also as a stall in the market in Dun Laoghaire at weekends. That's where I first met the lovely Stephanie who runs the shop.  She has since gone on to make The Yarn Room a reality. It's a perfect little yarn shop and a yarny oasis.

As luck would have it I dropped in on a day when Stephanie was having a felting and spinning day. I learned how to felt a flower. I can't remember the ladies name but thanks to her for showing me how. I also spun some lovely colourful Icelandic fleece on an Ashford Traveler wheel. It's a lovely smooth wheel and I had a lot of fun spinning and then stopping for a cup of tea and some biscuits. I also loved the look of the plotulopi yarn which is unspun roving that can be spun or stranded together for colour work. As well as the fibre the shop is also filled with fabulous yarns. There's also a whole table of pattern books where one could lose a lot of time.

I did a bit of shopping too. I got a tiny 0.75mm crochet hook, a pack of merino fibre and a gauge for measuring the weight of spun yarn. I can totally recommend a visit to The Yarn Room. Thanks Stephanie!    

Last weekend I visited more yarn shops so I'll tell you about those soon. Work continues on my Annis shawl. It's going really really really slowly. I cast on but had to rip back and cast on again as the cast on edge wasn't looking very nice. The new cast on looks much better. It was going along quite nicely but progress is slow as I'm a slow knitter and there's 363 stitches in a row. Notice the 'it was' in the last sentence. Progress has now slowed to almost non existent. I'm knitting away but well nothing much is happening. I think I've spent the last few days on a purl row. The reason is the nupps, or little balls of screaming annoyance as I like to call them. They are fine to do on the right side but then when it comes to purling seven stitches together it's horrid. It takes forever, I'm even using the aforementioned tiny crochet hook to help. I think I will leave them out on the next row (row 11) and then do them on row 13. I know it's not correct but it may help me to finish the project with my sanity intact. I keep telling myself I only have eight rows to go until I reach the stocking stitch section. Watch this space.

Get Your Knit On!

With the title of the last post I couldn't resist. So why should you get your knit on? Well it's world wide knit in public day tomorrow. I'm going to the event in Stephens Green hosted by the wonderful Sinead of Knit Inc. I've even baked a batch of cookies, they're pecan, sultana and cranberry and hopefully they'll be gobbled up. WWKIP is great fun so come along, it's a chance to meet lots of knitters. It's also fun to see everyone stop to ponder why a load of people are sitting round knitting.

While at WWKIP day or knit night a nice easy project is a must. My current large cardigan, Summer's end, isn't suitable for social kntting at all. With all the talking I do I know I'd come home and have to rip it all back to fix the many mistakes I'd surely make. Enter the scribble lace stole by R of She Knit Up That, this must be the perfect mindless knitting project. It's garter stitch on large needles using kidsilk haze and noro blossom. Even though it's a simple project it's massively effective producing a gorgeous stylish stole that is perfect for summers evenings. I'm hoping to have mine done soon.

I've also been crocheting the odd block from 200 crochet blocks for blankets throws and afghans. This book is great, I like to pick it up and a make a quick block from it. This particular rosette was supposed to continue to become a square but after this much I decided I liked it and finished it off. I have a plain white jumper and think this would brighten it up. I also think a load of buttons sewn on to the jumper might be nice too. Maybe I can do both.   

In my last knitting post I was telling you all about the Summer's end cardigan and I was hoping it would be my main project for a while but I've been distracted! This Is Knit are running a summer knit a long (link to ravelry thread). I really enjoyed the last one where I finished my owls jumper in double quick time. This time they're knitting the annis shawl from knitty. It's a lovely pattern and there's even help sessions in the shop to help everyone with any tricky bits. I'm hoping I won't get too badly stuck but that's the beauty of a knit a long, there's always someone who is ahead of you so they can help you out. The yarn on the left is Malabrigo lace in the olive colourway. I have a skein of malabrigo sock in rayon vert but I thought it was a little too variegated for this lacy shawl. I also had this idea that it should be green so when I saw this fabulous dark olive with hints of brown I had to have it. The cast on is huge, 363 stitches! Thankfully there is only one repeat of the lace section and then it's short row stocking stitch. So look out for progress on that in the coming weeks.

Lastly I'll leave you with the latest batt to come from Louie the drum carder. It's called Ondine and was inspired by mermaids and the rusalka. It's blue alpaca with various sea and seaweedy colours of merino. There is sparkle and ribbon to represent the turn of a wave. There is also thread and netting to catch the mermaid in a wool woven spell. I'll spin it into a special yarn.