Aran Brew Has Moved

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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.