A few interesting details that we learned from our local guides:
-It isn't too difficult to buy land on the Island but in order to receive a permit to build on the island, you have to have lived there for 7 years and be a fluent Gaelic speaker.
- Unlike many of the areas of Ireland, they recycle and reprocess almost everything that can possibly be recycled right there on the island. The small amount of waste that doesn't fall in to that category has to be transported to the "mainland", which of course is the island of Ireland.
- Dun Aengus is the largest of the prehistoric stone forts left on the Islands. Our guide helped us situate it in time by saying that it predated the "Braveheart" area.
And there can be no question that stone is their most plentiful resource. Here are pictures of the countryside with uncountable kilometers of "dry stone walls", incredible feats of engineering whereby rocks from a field are piled strategically to create a freestanding division of fields to keep animals enclosed to protect the adjacent grazing lands.
As we drove by that former pub, we were told that it was now the local KFC outlet.
This picture shows what appears to be a palm tree in the front "garden", as they call it here, but it's actually a form of Australian Yucca tree which flourishes in this weather but does make a rather odd sight
As for the shopping part of the journey, there were a few sweater outlets, including An Tuirne, where we met Rose (how I wish I had had the presence of mind to take a picture of her) who is one of the youngest traditional knitters left on the Island. We may have left our mark on the Aran tradition of knitting by introducing Rose to Ravelry and showing her a few of our Canadian interpretations of the Aran traditional knitting. It might be a portal through which young Aran residents can be enticed to become knitters.
Down by the ferry docks there are a series of shops, including the Aran Sweater Store where Jen displays what appears to be a replica of our Block Afghan back at WOOL-TYME Kingston. We were amazed!
There is no question that one has to be very careful when choosing a sweater to buy. Like in any other tourist centre, there are different levels of authenticity and quality offered in some of the shops, but without question, the real McCoy is easily available on the Island.
Anyway, all in all it was a "grand day", as they would say, and we had a "good crack", mixing with folks from all over the world on the ferry and on the walk up to the fort, then lunching with the locals at Ti Joe Watty's pub , with the best seafood chowder that I have ever had.
Muckross House , a typical grand home where Queen Victoria visited for 2 days in 1861. It took 6 years of work to complete the preparations for her visit, including the weaving of 2 rugs for her bedroom suite.
The Ring of Kerry is Ireland's version of the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton, but as I mentioned in an email back home, the road through Killarney National Park
makes our Canadian trail look like the 401. This is a picture of one of the wider stretches of road. As they don't have snow to plow here, there are barely any shoulders to the roads, perhaps 18 inches. This view shows cliff rock on either side, but just around that bend is a sheer drop of hundreds of feet on the outside of that tiny road edge. And remember, this is a wide section of the Ring's roadway.
One of our group asked the guide if there was anywhere to camp in the National Park. He was completely perplexed at the question; what on earth would possess anyone to want to pitch a tent on this land?
Kinmare is the home of the world famous Kenmare Lace, a tradition established by a convent of nuns who spent a good part of their lives learning and creating these beautiful details. The curators of the exhibit found a prize book with a note to the Mother Superior, who was astute enough to recognize that to promote the sale of their magnificent work, it was important that it be seen in competitions around the world. The note in the book said that as the sisters were not interested in receiving the prize medals for their work , would they accept this commemorative book.
While in Kinmare we did some shopping in a wonderful Irish craft store. I was speaking with a lovely young lady there who told me that she had come to Canada for a visit when she was ten. She went on to say that they first arrived in Hudson's Bay at Churchill, Manitoba. I was thinking: "How sweet, but she must have made a mistake." She then went on to explain that they were on a "cruise" that went from Iceland to Greenland into Hudson's Bay, then they "paddled" (she said) on to Vancouver. I was amazed by visions of this little 10 year old with her family, paddling voyageur style through the waterways of Canada to the West coast. I was relieved when I realized that she must have meant that the cruise ship brought them around to Vancouver. What an experience either way.
After leaving Dublin, our bus driver was a real trooper in accepting to do a little detour to Cushendale Wollen Mills. Well, actually it was more than the bus driver who was a bit inconvenienced. Imagine the mill owner receiving a call at about 4:55pm to warn him that a bus load of Canadian knitters was on its way for a visit...when he generally closes at 5:30!
I bought some of this interesting fibre. It's cut from the edges of the woven mohair blanket/shawls from Cushendale's. I'm not sure what anyone else would do with it, but I made a scarf in literally 10 minutes by making an open chain stitch of the entire 140g of it, then I cut the chain in 3 equal lengths and tied the ends in to a large knot and braided it very loosely. Voila!
In Waterford, we toured the showroom of the Waterford Crystal factory. When I first saw the details of the tour that our travel agent, Pam had put together for us, I was thrilled to see that rather than being a retreat, exclusively for knitters, there were many quintessentially Irish attractions that had been built in that would appeal to anyone, the tour of the crystal factory being one of these activities. Consequently we have enjoyed the company of 4 non-knitting spouses and a non-kniiting sister, all of whom seem to be enjoying themselves tremendously.
Here is a picture of one of the prototypes of pieces being worked on at the Waterford plant, which will be used as gifts during the 2012 Olympics in London.
At Blarney Castle a good number of our stalwart gang actually climbed the 140+ stairs up to the top of the castle to hang upside-down over the side in order to position themselves to do the requisite kissing. I took pictures from below looking up at their gymnastic efforts but they didn't turn out very well. I decided to share instead this nice picture of the castle (which, through the magic of digital photography and photoshop, I was able to straighten the towers so that they would be perpendicular to the ground, and not leaning as they seem to do in real life. )
This beautiful garden on the grounds is deceptively peaceful looking. In fact it is the Poison Garden with signs like the one below posted everywhere describing the poisonous properties of each of the plants featured, including Mandrake of Harry Potter fame.
My favourite part of the Poison Garden was the giant iron web which enclosed but 2 little poppy plants. I was confused, especially when I read the horticultural sign, which identified the exhibit as cannibis. Then I read the other sign that said that the marijuana plants had been confiscated by the Garda (police) and they were hoping to replant the exhibit next season when the licensing issues had been taken care of.
A lovely flight and a busy first day, especially considering that most of us got minimal sleep time on the overnight flight, but we had a great time today anyway.
First of all, let me tell you about the serendipitous situation that happened with Lisa, from This Is Knit, the only and loveliest yarn store in central Dublin. I had made arrangements several weeks ago for us to see Lisa and her staff in her shop then on Saturday, she emailed me to say that due to some odd circumstances they would be moving their store on the very day we would be arriving, but that we would still be welcomed and she would keep the traditional Irish section of her "old" store intact for us to visit, which we did. We also got to stick our head into the new digs which opened at noon today. It's absolutely wonderful and happens to be next to a fabulous tea room which we also visited. What a feat to have accomplished their move all in just a few hours. Link here to their blog to see more pictures and read about it.
Here are a few other things that we discovered about Dublin on this first day:
They LOVE beer, which is synonymous with Guinness here.
They are a bilingual country, with the Irish Gaelic appearing everywhere above the English on their signs.
They love their stories and folklore here, as seen in the statue of Molly Malone, of song fame, and the street musician sitting at her feet, and in this other beautiful sculpture at the Garden of Remembrance where the Queen, during her historic visit to Ireland earlier this summer, laid a wreath to remember all those who died in the conflicts with Britain in the past.
On to Waterford.
Linda from Rose Haven Farm has arranged for a whole weekend of activities and workshops with Ireland's knitting queen, Maggie JacksonThree days of immersion into Maggie's world is a very special treat.
The following is the full scoop and registration form. Don't miss out.
...Big news for knitters and fibre artists. We have Irish knitting diva, Maggie Jackson of Maggiknits, here for a Fashion Show and 2 days of workshops in October from October 7 - 9. Mark these dates if you wish to have a fun knitting experience. This is her first time in Eastern Canada. See www.maggiknits.com.
Maggie will be coming to our shop in Picton for 3 events. You can come for any or all them. All will be held in our shop. For those who wish to stay over night we can offer accommodation ideas, although we have tried to schedule the events so you have options.
Maggiknits Fashion Show & Wine & Cheese ~ Maggie Jackson, October 7
Fashion Show with Wine & Cheese: Friday, October 7, 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.; Fashion Show at 5:30 sharp. Wonderful opportunity to see and try on many kinds of Maggiknits garments and to share time with Maggie herself. Check out the books, materials, kit options and which work for you!
Cost: $20.00 including wine & cheese. Max. 50.
Workshop 1 ~ Saturday, October 8 Oh No Not another Scarf
•Determine your body’s inherent shape
•Discover how the visual elements of clothing alter that shape’s appearance
•Achieving a custom fit.
Having developed my own "fashion sense" based on my adolescent shape, which was more like a bottle of Perrier than a bottle of Coke, (look them up, you'll see what I mean) I resolved that my image would be best served by covering everything up with an army jacket, a poncho or very loose fitting tops, which - I kid you not - sometimes had fellow passengers on the subway looking at me sympathetically, and asking when the "little one" was due. At 23, I lost 40 lbs but never did develop the bust or the curves that most people consider desirable when choosing their fashionable wardrobe.
At 12 when I knit my first sweater for myself, I was probably not as big as I felt that I was, but the concept of fashion was way down on my list of goals for this project. Completion, cost and coziness were prime. Every Saturday I would take the bus to Freeman's on Rideau St in Ottawa and purchase another skein of bulky royal blue pure wool to complete the next segment of my sweater. I can't remember how much wool went into that sweater all together, but it did take up most of my babysitting money for several months. The result was that I achieved all 3 of my goals, but it was obvious that fit had not made it onto that list. I would guess that the finished chest was close to 55" and my brother and I could easily have fit in it if we were standing back to back. But that was of no consequence...I wove a long red shoelace through the cast on edge to give it some sturcture, and proudly wore my sweater whenever I was cold in the house. (I think that I realized that it was not a design worthy of sharing with the public, no matter how proud I was of its completion).
This experience taught me 2 very important lessons that I've used both in life and in knitting over these past 35 years: Go head first with what motivates you. And don't ever be disappointed - there is always a way to fix results, or at least perceive them, even if it isn't in the manner that you expected.
Well, that led to a life of knitting for other people: family, friends, and eventually for the store. As recently as last night at knitting class, I justified this situation by affirming that I prefer to knit for others because I get to see the finished project more than I would if I was wearing it. I believe that is probably a cover up for the fact that in the venn diagram of my knitting life, what I like to knit and what I like to wear have very little overlap.
I can justify the time that I'm spending learning these fashion precepts by calling it professional development. At the store, we are often asked for opinions as customers choose patterns that may be gorgeous on the model, but it would be nice to have some sense of confidence in discerning whether it will suit the intended recipient.
But truly I just want to feel a bit more confident in my own choices. I don't have time to be knitting sweaters that I don't want to wear once they're finished.
A word of warning...You will notice that I mentioned that the full tutorial runs 123 pages. I have been studying each of the first 30 of those pages that I've printed off to carry with me to review and ponder as I stop for a coffee, or go through the car wash for a couple of weeks already.
In other words, this is not the on-line version of a little magazine article. There is information there that I'm sure is spread out over semesters of design study at any good college. But for me, and I'm sure for many others who would like to take the time, it's time and $10US very well spent.
Don't have time for the full "kit and kaboodle"? If studying 123 pages of excellent but intense concepts is a bit overwhelming, come and join Deb White's class, KNITS THAT FIT YOU! at WOOL-TYME Kingston on Wed. Sept. 28th, from 6:30-8:30pm. Deb will be teaching how to make the knitting pattern that you choose work for you with particular attention to "tweaking" the original to make it fit the way that you want it to.
Call the store at 613-384-3951 to register.
Now if that wasn't reason enough reason to head out up Hwy 38 to Bellrock Rd to immerse yourself in the beauty of all that you too can be, once you get there you are surrounded by the magnificence of Kim's greatest work of art: BLUEROOF FARM.
Acres of beautifully landscaped terrain, with the greatest respect of an artist working with nature. Any of you who are willing to own up to a creative bone in your body, owe it to yourselves to make the short trek. Link here for details of a VisionTV feature episode of Recreating Eden, featuring BLUEROOF FARM.
When Kim first told me about the show she said: " Don't come alone. Find an artistic friend with whom to share the experience. But do come." What a great idea. Furthermore, as Kim notes, she is of a certain fine "vintage", and recognizes that she isn't likely to be on the farm for many more years. This is an opportunity of great value that we have been offered. I can't wait to get out there in the next couple of weeks.
"Three-year-old Stevie Primera hangs onto a sheep during the Mutton Busting event at the 2011 GMC Truck Rodeo Roundup presented by Rodeo Alaska at the William Clark Chamberlin Equestrian Center in Anchorage, Alaska." photo by Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News/AP