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. 


Get Your Kit On

A while ago a friend of mine asked if I might be able to make some beer for his birthday party at the end of this month. It sounds like great fun, we're all off to Sligo and camping in his large garden. With exams and projects I didn't have a day to devote to brewing. I find that all grain brews take a good while to mature. If I brewed now it might not even be properly carbonated at the end of the month and it would still be very green.  Even an extract beer might not be ready so I was wondering if I'd get to brew for the party at all.

Ed recently invited us to his house for a tasting of some beers he'd brewed. It all started with this thread on Irish Craft Brewer where Ed decided he was going to make a kit, an extract and an all grain beer and do a blind tasting to compare the three. Brewing wisdom says that kit beers are like a ready meal, you mix them up and you get beer very easily. You are limited to the kits that are available though. Extract beers are like a dolmio sauce, you're still using malt extract but you have more control over the final flavours. All grain brewing is like making the meal from fresh ingredients in that there is complete control over the final product. The trade off is that all grain is that bit more complicated and takes longer.

We assembled at Ed's house to taste his three beers. Beer one was lovely with great fresh hops though it was a little thin. Beer two was nice too not as tasty as one but still a good sipping beer. Beer three wasn't great at all, it tasted oxidized. So my guesses were that one was the extract, two the all grain and three the kit. I assumed that since many kits taste bad that the one that was oxidized must have been the kit. It turned out I was completely wrong. Beer one was the kit, beer two was the extract and beer three the all grain. I think something must have gone a bit wrong with Ed's all grain. The main surprise to me was that the kit beer tasted so good. Often with kit beers there is some oxidation which gives a certain taste called kit tang but I couldn't detect it at all. You can read Ed's very entertaining account of the experiment here.

All this convinced me I should make a kit beer for the party. A kit would probably be ready in time too. I ordered the same kit that Ed used from The Home Brew Company. I was so impressed with the service from these guys. I ordered the kits on Tuesday evening and on Wednesday morning they arrived. Tonight I mixed them up. It was so easy and only took about 40 minutes! I felt like a brewing fraud.

First I sterilized my better bottles and everything that would be in contact with the beer. I poured the kit into a pot and added 500g of malt extract, 300g of sugar and 2L of boiling water. I mixed it up then poured it into the better bottle and topped it up to 23L with water. I added the yeast that came with the kit and was done. Easy peasy.

I made a Coopers IPA kit and a Coopers wheat beer kit. I'll dry hop the IPA with some Cascade. I'm thinking adding a load of raspberries to the wheat beer. I just hope these turn out as well as Ed's kit. I didn't have much luck with kits when I first started brewing but these should be fine.