Ravelympics Winter 2010

Who am I to fight against weird internet memes? The knitting Olympics has been run for many years by the Yarn Harlot. Then Ravelry got in on the act setting up the Ravelympics. The idea is that you cast on at the opening ceremony and finish a whole project by the closing ceremony challenging yourself in the process. I was on holidays during the last olympics so I didn't quite get my mittens knit on time and missed out on a medal.

This time there would be no mistakes, I had put in the training and I was going to get a medal if it killed me, well perhaps not kill but major RSI was a risk I'm telling you. I decided to do two challenging projects, one spinning and one a lace shawl.

The lace shawl would be the famous and fabulous Ishbel by Ysolda Teague. I cast on the day the olympics started in The Bull and Castle pub with a pint of Galway Hooker to steady the nerves. I was there to meet the wonderful Irish members of the all conquering Ravelry group, Lazy, Stupid and Godless. I love that group of crazy beatchs. I got to meet my fibre dealer Laura Hogan too, go to her Etsy shop and she'll sort you out with a fiber fix. Kneehigh brought a date, her Mmmmalabrigo scarf, she knows how to show yarn a good time. The distractions of great conversation, a rugby match and beer were all too much and I had to start it about five times before I figured out what I was supposed to do. I then had trouble with the purl yarn overs so I put the knitting aside and concentrated on the fun day out part.

It transpires that I'm not the only one who had problems with the yarn overs and this helpful post explained the problem. I used the large holes solution and that worked perfectly. The yarn is a lovely merino, cashmere, nylon mix from Old Maiden Aunt that I dyed myself during the course I did with Lillith in Scotland last year. The stocking stitch part went really quickly and then I got into the lace. I haven't done much lace knitting before so doing a big project with charts was a challenge. When I figured out how the charts worked I found the charts much easier to follow than written lace directions. In future I'll definitely be doing all lace from charts. I really enjoyed knitting the lace. I made a couple of mistakes but I noticed them and was able to either tink back or in the case of a missing yarn over a row down I used this handy method to fix it.

I knit most of the shawl while actually watching the Winter Olympics on BBC2. I love the winter games, as a kid we had Eurosport and I got obsessed by watching ski jumping on it and I still love it. This time I really fell for the new discipline of ski cross. The first set of obstacles are called Wu-Tangs after the Wu-Tang clan, bringing some much needed gangsta to proceedings. I also got to dream about being as cool as Amy Williams and throwing myself at race car speeds down an ice slope on a glorified tea tray. In fairness the closest I'll get to emulating the athletes is by trying my hand at curling in Chamonix later this year. Here's the Ishbel blocking on my bright blue yoga mat. When it's dry I'll take some glamorous shots of it and post them up. I've been looking at it not quite able to believe I knit it in just over two weeks. I love it.


The spinning part of my Ravelympics was a challenge too. I wanted to spin up the lovely merino/tencel fiber that I dyed as part of my dyeing course at Old Maiden Aunt. I had ideas about what I wanted this yarn to be. The fiber is a grey/purple mixed with white. Tencel being a plant based fiber doesn't absorb the acid dyes one uses on wool based fiber so it stays white which gives a fantastic effect.

I wanted to corespin the fiber but my last corespun yarn ended up very over twisted and not looking too happy. There's a great group called Novelty and Art Yarn Spinners on Ravelry where I found a link to JazzTurtle's fantastic blog post about core spinning. I tried her technique and it worked much better this time, it's almost balanced in the end. I wanted this yarn to be bulky and thick and think. I also autowrapped the yarn with black lurex thread. Autowrapping is a fun technique where you leave a thread to do it's own thing while you're spinning so it wraps around the spun yarn at the wheel's orifice. The yarn ended up bulky weight and I have about 70 metres of it. I think it will look fab as a funky hat or cowl. I might combine it with some left over black Hulda from my Owls jumper. I named the yarn Bill Compton as I've been watching rather a lot of True Blood lately. I think it suits, it's dark and twisted and all that.

Crochet Coral Reef

Since finishing off my hats I've been busily crocheting coral for the Irish Crochet Coral Reef which will be exhibited in the Science Gallery soon. On Saturday the 20th Feb from 1-3pm Margaret Wertheim will be back to talk about the submissions for the reef and finalizing the project before the exhibition. Go here to book tickets, they're free.  Margaret is a fantastic speaker so if you have an interest in the project you should go along.

Above is a photo of some of the coral I saw while snorkeling in Jamaica. It really made me think more about the crochet coral reef and how it's raising awareness about the disappearance of these amazing ecosystems. The coral I saw definitely provided inspiration for my own crochet. I used a lot of plastic which wasn't the easiest to crochet with but the effect is great. I like the recycling aspect of taking something that is destroying reefs and using it to raise awareness of the problem. The black coral below is made from Jamaican black plastic scandal bags. You can see some of the coral posing for pictures below. I particularly like the blue and green one that reminds me a bit of some amazing nudibranchs I saw in the National Geographic.

I made another large floppy white plastic coral which isn't pictured at Make night last week. This was also held in the Science Gallery. It was a fun night where lots of people turn up to make stuff. There were robots, electronics, origami, cupcakes and crochet. I also got to play with sugru which is one of the very best substances in the world. 








Irish Beer and Cheese Evening


I've talked before about the joys of beer and cheese on this blog. Dave happened to buy some Irish cheese in the shops and we had some Irish beer so the idea of having an Irish beer and cheese night formed. We rang some people and Thom and Séan and his wife agreed to come over for a night of beer and cheese. 

The beers were all Irish, we got a selection of almost all the bottled craft beers you can get in Ireland. There was Porterhouse Hophead and Plain; O'Hara's Stout, Red, Curim Gold and Aldi Ale; Whitewater's Clotworthy Dobbin and Belfast Black; Hilden's Belfast Blonde and Cathedral Quarter. 

The cheese came from the supermarket and Sheridans Cheesemongers. There was Cashel Blue, Tipperary Camembert, Wexford cheddar with chives, Knockanore smoked, Mileens, Coolea mature and Ryefield Goats Cheese.

All this was served with homemade brown bread, cheese crackers, chutney and grapes. Sean also brought some tasty olives and chutney. I can recommend a beer and cheese night if you don't like cooking much but still want to invite people over for food and drinks. It's really easy to prepare. All you have to do is unwrap the cheese and lay it all out on some nice plates.

We tasted the lighter beers with the lighter cheeses first then moved on to the stronger darker beerswith the stronger cheeses like the cashel blue. The knockanore smoked was especially popular, it was all gone by the end of the night. I liked the Mileens cheese a lot, I thought it went well with the Curim Gold but others didn't. That's the funny thing about beer and cheese, I could recommend lots of matches here and you could try them and be wondering why on earth I thought they went together. Much better to have your own beer and cheese evening and find your own perfect match. I usually try a few cheeses with each beer as the tastes change with each different cheese.

The best Irish beers on the night were agreed to be Porterhouse Plain, Carlow's Aldi Ale and Porterhouse Hophead. So the Porterhouse are obviously doing things right with their new bottling line. Very disappointing was Hilden's Cathedral Quarter. It really didn't taste right and we wondered if we'd gotten a bad bottle but I remembered I had this recently in a pub and it wasn't right then either. So perhaps there was a whole bad batch or maybe it's supposed to taste like this which isn't a good thing.

Thom brought along a few beers which were duly tasted. He also brought an experimental beer of his which had been left sitting on the yeast for ages. This is a big no no in brewing as it leads to autolysis which can lead to off flavours. Not so in the case of this beer, it was fantastic and I look forward to tasting a carbonated version soon. 

First Dublin Spinning Meet Up

The first Dublin spinning meet up happened last Sunday. The plan is that spinners will meet on the balcony at the Powerscourt Centre in Dublin's city centre on the last Sunday of every month. I loaded up the car with Gloria the wheel and set off. I walked in to see wheels, spindles, fibre, biscuits and many happy spinners. 

Above you can see Thread Bear's wheel Daisy in action. Also Handspunheart was there with her Louet wheel, Louie. There were many spindle spinners including the ladies from Playing With Fibre, Hooks Law, She Knit Up That Ball, Chic With Stix and others. Many of them were dab hands and a few people were just starting out on the road to spinning obsession. It was lovely to sit and spin with people who understand the obsession. I also had some lovely coffee and an oreo cupcake which pretty much made it into a perfect day.

Strangely enough with all the chatting and admiring other peoples fibre and wheels I managed to spin up the BFL fibre I dyed with kool-aid. It was agreed that due to the colours it should be called Wibbly Wobbly Wonder after the ice-cream. It's a single, sport weight and about 60 metres. Not sure what it wants to be yet but it's pretty.