10.10.2011

Dublin - Part two and finale.

ee One could be excused for wondering if any actual knitting got done on the Irish Knitting Tour when reading these blog  posts. Well the answer is that yes, some of us got a fair amount accomplished but there were also games of bridge, pints of Guinness, glasses of Jameson's, shopping and just some good ol' chin wagging that had to be accomplished as well.  

Here are some pictures to prove that I did take my knitting quite seriously while I was there. This is the lower body of a jacket that I'm making for my sister-in-law who turns 50 next summer. Those of you who follow this blog may remember that I have committed to knit each of my siblings and their spouses a sweater for their 50th birthday. As my youngest brother turns 50 in Dec. 2012, and he is 6'5", I decided that I would try and get a head start on his wife's sweater as his will probably take me a good long time.

I also brought one of the kits that we had in the store for one of my favourite patterns: The Ridged Baktus Scarf. I chose this one because the colours were just so darn Irish. It is made of 2 different bamboo yarns and I had not have much chance to knit with bamboo. I'm loving it, and although I'm not sure what I'm going to do with this particular scarf I might just keep it as a souvenir of these 10 days on the Emerald Isle.



On our last morning in Dublin Abbey Tours, who had done such a wonderful job of organizing all of our travel, had set up a fabulous workshop at Winnie's Craft Cafe with Pauline Gallagher to teach us the basics of Irish/Aran knitting through her pattern for the  Oisin Owl (pronounced Osheen owl) which can be found on Ravelry.
Pauline's handout has an absolutely fabulous history of the Aran sweater, showing how inaccuracies and creative interpretation of half known facts lead to a world of "Blarney". It is so good and concise that our guide, Gerry asked at the front desk of our hotel to make a copy. The front office manager was so impressed that he also made a copy for himself, as he said he was never sure what to tell people when asked about the truth about these gorgeous but often misrepresented garments.  

 Although all of our members look like are very dilligently at work in the picture here, what you may not notice right away is the EAT sign in the back. Just to the left of this picture is actually the most magnificent array of baked goods that you can imagine, and we were all treated to a tea/coffee and traditional scone as part of the workshop. We just felt so spoiled. After all of this wonderful knitting activity everyone got to go into the store part of Winnie's Craft Cafe to do a little shopping.

 
Marina Hand (in white) is the owner of Winnie's. An accountant who, by virtue of the recession, was forced to make some life changes and difficult choices and now finds herself having the time of her life greeting people and helping lots of young mom's and others who come in to sit at the cafe and work on their knitting projects.

I had assumed that there was a human Winnie involved in this story somewhere but was surprised to learn from the website that Winnie has an interesting history herself:  
Meet WINNIE, the Wool Wagon.
Winnie lives outside the Craft Cafe in Booterstown district of Dublin. Winnie, the wagon originally came to help Marina in her effort to bring beautiful wools and other yarns to the masses in local fairs and markets. She and Marina have now found a lovely home together, serving the knitters of Dublin.
Before I leave my tales of Dublin and Ireland, I must tell you of my most amazing discovery. On the first day of the tour I heard someone mention Tim Hortons. Gerry, the guide asked nonchalantely: "Oh, do you have Tim Hortons in Canada?" I couldn't understand the question, it seemed so odd. Then we discovered that "SPAR", the Irish equivalent of Mac's Milk, has a coffee service in many of their stores that is supplied by Tim Hortons. This one happens to be in the SPAR store just next to Winnie's, and having been so royally treated to goodies at their cafe, I didn't get a chance to try it, but I'm told that it's just like home.

So on Wednesday evening we were driven to the Abbey Tavern for an evening of traditional Irish food and entertainment. We returned to the hotel with way too much packing and organizing to do. But all got attended to and somehow all 32 of us managed, with our guide, Gerry and our faithful bus driver, John to line up for one last group picture. I'm almost reticent to see that picture as it was such a bittersweet time of parting.

It's funny. My nature and my personality is that I'm always up for the next thing. I love change, I love new things. Yet, this was a hard goodbye to a land that is struggling in the face of grave economic uncertainty with a brave and willing smile. It was an honour to have spent this time in such a wonderful land and with such a rich and resillient group of people. 

The last days in Dublin - part one.

I've decided to share a bit more of the non-knitterly lore that we absorbed while in Ireland, and this is one of my best finds: Banoffee pie. As you can see, it is a pie formed with a biscuit crumb crust topped with Dulce de lece or cooked caramel pudding, then a layer of sliced bananas and finished off with meringue or whipped cream. It is truly a work of genius (and this from the woman who isn't even that fond of bananas).

If you link to the recipe above, you will not come to the one pictured here, but I chose this illustration because it looked most like the piece that I had at Moll's Gap, an absolutely amazing gift shop and tea room deep in the heart of the Killarney National Park. The ingredients to make this particular Banoffee pie were a bit too foreign for what we could find here in Canada, so I opted for a more achievable recipe that I found on the UK Food Network.


 I will now share with you some of the Irish Gaelic that we picked up:
As you have probably learned by virtue of repetition each St Patrick's Day, a very popular term and one of the only Gaelic words that most of us know is slainte, which is actually pronounced a lot like the French: "sante", both of them meaning about the same thing - a good wish with which friends toast each other when sharing a drink. (You will excuse the lack of accent marks as I'm not sure how to make them work on this keyboard.)

We were also told that if 2 friends meet each other, the first would say to the second: (phonetically reproduced here) Dia Gwich, or "God be with you". The respondant, not to be outdone, would say (again, take my Gaelic with about a shovel full of salt) Dia Maire Gwich, or "God and Mary be with you". A 3rd person joining the group would be greeted with the addition of St Patrick or one of the other saints being added to the list, and on it would go.

As the daughter of two Cape Bretoners, I've been exposed to a fair amount of Scots Gaelic on trips to the maritimes and immediately recognized Failte as meaning "Welcome", but I'm embarassed to say that I never learned how to pronounce it. I now believe that I wouldn't embarass myself too much if I were to say "Falcha" to a Gaelic speaker who came into my store.

And easiest of all, Galore simply means "lots".
******************************
Now back to the final days of our time in Dublin:

While planning this trip, I had made contact  with members of the Dublin Knit Collective through Ravelry. We were going to join them at their regular Tuesday evening meeting at the Moda Cafe in South Dublin, not too far from the Mespil Hotel where we were staying. When they heard how many of us that there were, they offered to come to us. So at 8pm on Tuesday, October 4th, about 35 knitters swarmed the lobby of this relatively classy hotel, moving furniture, bringing in chairs from the bar, chattting, laughing and generally having a great knitting sharing session.

We met Ger, Olive, Mary, Anne and many others. It was absolutely fabulous. The most amazing thing was that although we were planted right in front of the hotel's relatively busy front desk, people checking in just simply went around us, all the while trying to figure out what this gaggle of women of all ages was doing. We actually had several other women who were staying at the hotel with other tour groups, join us too. Knitting...the universal language.

Next post will be the about the lovely time that we had at Winnie's Craft Cafe. What a home away from home. Everyone on the trip was trying to figure out how I could incorporate such a cafe in our store.

10.07.2011

Connemara and Strokestown

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I am writing these last 2 posts about our Irish Knitting Tour from home. I've been telling people that I'm being dragged back into the real world kicking and screaming, not at all ready to let go of the magic of these 10 days.

Just look at this picture taken in front of the Leenane Sheep and Wool Centre. It was an absolutely stunning drive north from Galway through sparsely populated countryside. The steep hills on either side of the road (with but a mere 4" of shoulder on either side of a single generous lane) were marked with traces of "lazy beds", the completely inappropriate name for the hand built furrows in which potatoes were traditionally  planted before the famine of 1845-49.   

As we arrived at the centre, we were met with the great news that all merchandise in the  store was 20% off as an end of season clearance incentive. This call to retail action did not go unheeded. And although it was not a very sheepy treasure, I did buy myself a bracelet of silver and beautiful Connemara green marble. I love it!

Patricia, our guide at the museum, gave us a great demonstration on everything from shearing to weaving the wool from local sheep.  

 Don't you just love this magnificent piece of fabric art. It was made by a French artist for a local woolen mill from pieces of "jumpers" made by the company. When the mill closed, they asked if the museum would like to purchase the piece, and it holds a prize place at the museum's entrance. Too bad you can't see much of the detail in this less than adequate photo, but the aran fleece on the ram and the texture in the rocks can give you an idea of the detail of execution.

The next day, we made one final stop on the way back to Dublin at the Strokestown Park and Famine Museum. This is a picture of Deirdre. I don't think that it's an exageration to say that Deirdre pretty much ran the whole show while we were there. As we arrived, she was working in the gift shop and setting up displays. She led us on the tour of Strokestone House, a faithful preserving of a way of life that was coming to a shabbyish end for some of the great families of Ireland in the 20th century. It was fascinating to see, not just a hint of the oppulence of their glorious past, but the sad decline as times and resources changed.

After the house, Deirdre introduced us to the only museum in the Republic that houses the few remaining documents of the years during and after the great famine. What was particulary impressive was the link that was made between the conditions that led to the famine in the mid 19th century and its dire consequences, and the famines that plague different areas of the world today.

Then we went to the centre's most excellent cafeteria where I had a tuna salad with real fresh tuna, that was definitely the product of false advertising...they absolutely should have noted that it was Salad For 4! Amazing. Oh, I forgot to mention that Deirdre was on the cash register in the cafeteria and then ran back to the gift shop when all were served. She was a wonder, and a beautiful one at that.

After lunch I took a walk through the walled garden of Strokestown House. Since reading The Secret Garden as a child, I've always wanted to see a real walled garden, and this one is a prize. Again in keeping with Strokestown House's commitment to portraying life as it really was at the end of the era, the garden has been allowed to grow beautifully wild around the perimeter while the croquet lawn in the centre is immaculately groomed by the full time gardener.

Just before leaving for the airport, we found out from our very favourite bus driver on earth, John, that we had completed 1800km of driving in the 10 days in Ireland. Now you must realize that only about an hour of that was at our habitual North American speed of about 100km/h. I figure that the distance of 1800km probably represented about 30-35 hours on the roads. That which kept us cheerful and sane were the stories that our guide, Gerry, shared with us as we passed different points of interest. History, geography, botany, geology, current events, all manner of Irish lore and a good crash course in Gaelic were what we were treated to. Gerry knew it all.

So we were a little surprised when we drove through Longford later in the day and Gerry commented: "Ah, yes, the town of Longford...What can one say about it?...Not much actually." But then he remembered about a lovely young woman from the town who moved with her new husband to Chicago (I think) and had a son before they moved on the Australia. They named their son after the patron saint of the Longford: St Mel. You guessed it. Mel Gibson's mother came from Longford. Unfortunately, St Mel's church burned last year and they are in the middle of a campaign to rebuild it. You would think that it's namesake would foot the bill. 

The last post will cover our wonderful time in Dublin before we headed back to Canada. I'll try and get to it tomorrow, before my brain gets too pulled back in to the swing of the old life and loses touch with the magic.

10.05.2011

A knitter's Mecca: The Aran Islands

This was one of the days that we were all awaiting with great anticipation,  the Aran Islands being the birthplace of  traditional Irish knitting patterns. But it really must be said that the Aran knitting tradition must be one of the most myth surrounded types of knitting ever. We really weren't sure what to expect on Inis-Mor, the largest of the 3 islands steeped in Gaelic tradition.

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.

10.03.2011

Bunratty to Galway

The problem with having more fun than you believe possible is that it leaves very little time to get on the computer to blog about all the fun that we're having.
Here we're at Durty Nellie's pub, (est. 1620) just outside of  Bunratty Castle. The unusual thing about Bunratty is that unlike most of the ruins of ancient castles and forts that we passed along the way, this is a fully restored "tower home" which shows how the family would have lived over 500 years ago. Most of the furniture is actually from that period, and unlike many curated exhibits, most of it is still in use and fully available for visitors to investigate. The concept of sitting at a 500 year old table really boggles our relatively young North American minds.  

Making our way towards Galway, which we will use as a base for the next 3 days, we stopped off at the Cliffs of Moher. Absolutely stunning, and the "access ramp" that was along side the 300 odd steps to the top was a bit of a joke. I couldn't imagine any electric wheelchair or human pusher who could make it up those hills. We did however see a fellow with a golf cart, which explained that what we took for a  "ramp" was more likely a small track for the few motorized vehicles on patrol. 

 
Besides being distracted with exciting activities that keep me away from my blogging duties, the only other problem that we are encountering are that our guide, Gerry and our bus driver, John have completely spoiled us for any others who will ever try to fill their shoes on future tours. They have both gone way beyond the call of duty when it comes to being flexible about changing routes and plans. And add to the mix that they're both as funny as can be, well, we're trying to figure out how we can kidnap them and bring them home with us. It was particularly wonderful  to have them join us for a REAL Medieval Feast in a 17th century castle where King Jason and Queen Tammy presided over the company.

10.01.2011

The Ring of Kerry

Killarney is a wonderful city for tourists: it's small and gentle enough to feel wonderfully welcoming and authentic, populated with locals who love to meet people from away, yet it offers everything that you could imagine. Here we are visiting
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.

9.30.2011

Waterford to Blarney


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.

9.28.2011

In Dublin Fair City

Here we are in Ireland on the first day of the 2011 WOOL-TYME Kingston Irish Knitting Tour.  32 of us from Montreal to Hamilton are on the tour, with Gerry, our guide and John, our bus driver.

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.

9.21.2011

MAGGIE JACKSON is coming soon to ONTARIO

For those of you who aren't able to join us this year on the 2011 Irish Knitting Tour, here's a great way to console/treat yourselves and get a bit of a taste of what the new Irish Knitting is all about.
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.

See over for the 2 days of workshops.


Registration Form (pre-registration by phone, email or email is required)

Name:  ________________________________________________________
Address: _______________________________________________________
Phone #: _______________________________________________________
Email: _________________________________________________________

Please indicate which event you wish to attend.  Payment can be by VISA/MC, cheque, or if in the shop, debit or cash.  The 2 workshops will have a $30 deposit on each required to insure attendance.  Should you wish to attend all 3 events there is a savings, as the package fee will be $200.00.

Fashion Show with Wine & Cheese  $20.00                                  ____________
Workshop 1 Oh No Not another Scarf with materials  $100.00  ____________
Workshop 2 Wearable Art with materials $100.00                                ____________
Package – all 3 events $200.00                                                                     ____________

Please make cheques out to: Rose Haven Farm and mail to Rose Haven Farm Store, 187 Main Street, Picton, ON K0K 2T0.  Call for VISA / MC 613-476-9092.

Workshop 1 ~ Saturday, October 8   Oh No Not another Scarf

Garments will be available during the day.  
10:30 - 4:30, ½ hour lunch break
Cost: $100 includes class materials.  Max 20

By the end of this class Maggie hopes the piece you will make will NOT go towards a scarf but one of the other design options she shows in a table runner, a pillow, a purse, a shawl, a wall hanging, etc.  Maggie will have you thinking "outside the box" by making holes in your work, joining her renown tubes and working a Ladder stitch.  She will show some finishing techniques for the project and give advice on what she learned from being a Fashion Designer doing Ready to Wear for 25 years selling to emporiums such as Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom and having 45 knitters.   Samples of these stitches will be shown on garments to stretch your creative thinking.

Needles 4.5 - 5 mm, preferably wooden, bamboo or plastic to work with the linen and others (as metal needles are slippery). Scissors, darning needle.

Workshop 2 ~ Sunday, October 9     Wearable Art

Garments will be available for viewing during day.
10:30 - 4.30, ½ hour lunch break
Cost: $100 includes class materials.  Max 20

This class is a combination of various small squares which can be put together after class to make a scarf or towards a larger project.  We will make knitted and fabric bows on a square, a ruffle stitch with a tube and 2 coloured picot tube, knotting yarns to make a loopy stitch, to name a few.  Samples of these stitches will be shown on the garments to stretch your creativity.

Needles 4.5 - 5 mm, preferably wooden, bamboo or plastic to work with the linen and others (as metal needles are slippery). Scissors, darning needle.

Please note that refreshments will be provided but lunch will be at the cafe of your choice in Picton. We will provide a list of nearby places.  Food may be brought back to the shop.  All events will be held at the shop.

9.07.2011

EXTRA EXTRA, Read all about it.

Who says that summer is a slow time for knitting? We've been busy all summer with new customers discovering us, tourists and cottagers making their annual pilgrimage to see us, stocking up on some of their favourite yarns.

The press also seem to have caught on to the impact of knitting. Or could it be that it has just been a slow news summer? Of course not, it's because the most important thing happening in the world during the week before Sunday, Aug. 7th was the 2011 Sock Summit in Portland Oregon, which found its way to the front page of the Toronto Star on that day.

Quoting people like Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Anna Zilboorg, reporter Kenneth Kidd proclaims that sock knitting is dorky, absurd and silly, but 6000 knitters still showed up at the convention to share their love of sock knitting with others. Designer, Cat Bordhi had a cute way of expressing it. She sees sock making as the sports car driving of knitting: "A sock is like a curvy mountain road. You can't see around the corners."


Then we have the rather odd situation of the duel going on between Margaret Atwood and Mayor Rob Ford about the relative importance of libraries to Canadians. At one point the author suggested that she would knit a likeness of the mayor as a form of protest, I believe.

I wasn't quite sure what the meaning of knitting a person's likeness was, but it did seem significant in the way that she phrased it. That being said, you can link here to the interview she gave to Canadian Living some time back where she speaks a bit about her knitting.


A bit later in the summer, we had a chance to take some holidays out west and upon arriving in Victoria, my brother gave me a copy of the Monday Magazine that he had just picked up, which featured a cover story about the coolness of knitting.

The pair in the photo are Ryan Davis who I met on my trip out west last year, and Stephanie Papik, co-owners of my favourite knitting shop in Victoria: Knotty by Nature. (Don't you just love that name?)

The article included something that I've never seen in print before...a list of tips for those who are hoping to continue being on the receiving end of a knitter's gift. Here they are:
-Treat the gift with the utmost respect- Don't lose a mitten or get a hole in the sock. (I would add, being the fallible sort myself, that you should act at least as horrified as possible if you do misplace or overuse said gift.)

-Thank the knitter profusely for their time and effort. I asolutely agree that only people who appreciate the real time cost should receive such gifts.

-Don't look at knitters in public like they're lost and can't find their way back to the nursing home.
Now, here I take exception. The author of this statement, a cute little 20 something who is pictured knitting in a local cafe, goes on to say: "I think the biggest misconception is that knitters are all 50-year-old women. There's this stigma attached to it. It's really fun and it's modern and vintage at the same time."

WELL! I can only hope that there was a typ0, and that she was not suggesting that 50-year-olds aren't cool and belong in the nursing home. I knit in cafes, I can be cute, if I try. These young'uns...

I must leave you know, my walker needs oiling and my dentures need a bit of polish too.

8.05.2011

Fit to Flatter - Amy Herzog


Everyone, I'd like to introduce you to Amy Herzog, my very own Oracle at Delphi when it comes to choosing styles that look good on a given body. Doesn't she look marvelous in this lovely blue deep V-neck sweater with the elbow length sleeves and the subtle horizontal striation in the colouring. There's a reason why Amy looks great in a garment incorporating these design elements, and you too can discover these secrets and make them work for you.
So, before I end up sounding too much like a late night info-mercial, let me explain that I was introduced to Amy's on-line tutorial, Fit To Flatter, through the latest edition of Knitscene Magazines. I was hoping to, once and for all, eliminate some of the styles that I shouldn't even look at when clothes shopping. What I found was the true motherlode of fashion sense, and 123 pages of how to feel good about and work with your body, whatever its shape and/or size.

In Amy's words, these tutorials cover basic principles of knitting to flatter your figure:

•Determine your body’s inherent shape
•Discover how the visual elements of clothing alter that shape’s appearance
•Choosing patterns and making modifications to those patterns that will change the appearance of your shape in the ways you desire
•Achieving a custom fit.

This is a comparison picture of Amy wearing her good sweater and a bad sweater, which looks a lot like one of my choices over my knitting career. Read on:

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.

7.13.2011

The Creative Process

THE CREATIVE PROCESS
at Blueroof Farm


Showing works of the past 50 years by Kim Ondaatje


Until Oct. 31st, by appointment: 613 374 2147



My blog and what I write is not just about knitting. It's about what I find interesting in the world around me, and what motivates me to keep searching for the best possible way to enjoy my life. This task obviously includes running my knitting store with the most fun, enthusiasm and creativity that I can muster.








I don't know about you, but every now and then I look at my life and have a sense that everything that I've lived has led me to this particular situation. All my experiences (well, those that I can remember anyway, being in my 50's) are feeding how I see the world, how I respond to it, and what I bring to it creatively.






This is exactly the point of Kim Ondaatje's exhibition at her magnificent Blueroof Farm, near Verona.



Kim is one of our faithful customers, and she is the first to tell you that her patronage has nothing to do with her skill or love of knitting; we, at WOOL-TYME Kingston just happen to be the logical source for her most recent medium of choice...yarn to knit afghan blankets based on the colours of the four seasons, the collection of which is on display during the show.


This is how Kim describes the presentation now on at the farm until Oct. 31st:

The Creative Process


Certain experiences - even moments - in our lives cling to us like burrs. They drop into memory, a storehouse for our imagination and inspiration. If we are creative, they find their way out into our music, writing, performing or visual work. We are often unaware of this process.


Years may pass before we realize where the inspiration and feeling in a particular work originated. As an octogenarian, I realize that the longer we live, the more we understand what we did and why...



In the 2009 Kim was honoured with the Governor General's Award. In the awards catalogue, then Governor General MichaĆ«lle Jean states, ”It is that collection of signs left by artists and artisans, both tangible and intangible that constitute the timeless heritage of humanity”.

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.

6.24.2011

Only in Anchorage, Alaska you say?...Pity.






















"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


This is an example of why I now love the Globe and Mail newspaper.

A couple of years ago we received a call from the subscription office at the Globe and Mail in Toronto, extending an offer that we couldn't refuse. They were reaching out to small businesses as a way to increase their distribution numbers and looking for a wider readership per newspaper delivered. Since then, we've been getting the paper at the store every weekday morning. By the time I get in to work, bring the paper home and get to read it the following morning, most of what's on the front page is old news but there's still lots to read that is current.

One of my favourite features is a daily photo pick (backed up by on-line notes of why the photo editors picked that particular picture). Mutton chops, pictured here, was Wednesday's feature that I had to share with you. Don't you love the kids face? Can't you just picture Sarah P. off to the side?

Here's another picture that I have spoken of previously in this blog but until recently Icouldn't find. Well here it is - a picture from October of 2000. That's me with my "little" brother and my Mom. I'm wearing a Kaffe Fassett inspired sweater that I made during the 1994 Winter Olympics. (It just goes to prove that knitting Olympics was around long before the Yarn Harlot so cleverly turned the idea into an international avalanche of mutual supporters) I remember one of the actual events as my 3 1/2 year old commented while she watched Tonya Harding performing one of her figure skating routines, that she didn't like her, as she pointed to the television. "She looks mean." From the mouths of babes... You will remember Tonya resorted to some pretty nasty tactics to lessen the competition from her team mate Nancy Kerrigan.




Needless to say that Tonya and Nancy's spat has little to do with my sweater, or does it? It is a rather strident looking garment, don't you think?


In my defense, I remember that we didn't have a real yarn store in Cornwall, where we were living at the time and I had to resort to cobbling together yarns and colours that were available to me in a chunky weight. I also remember that winter I was feeling a need for BRIGHT colours as the winter dragged on. In hind sight, I believe that one of the reasons that I wore the sweater sparingly over the years was that I had to feel in a very out-going mood to sport it as it was the kind of garment that had people looking at you.



You will notice that my mild case of ADD is apparent in that I seldom knit the sleeves to match the body of a sweater in those days. My point being that I was usually bored with the body pattern and wanted something easier and/or more interesting for the next part.



As for fit, well, we did like our clothes baggy in those days, but that one was a bit excessive. I loved the coziness of it, but I do believe that it measured out at 62" chest. (I filled out about 40" of it.)



As for what I've been doing lately in knitting, I'm having a great time assembling first the actual afghan for our upcoming BLOCK AFGHAN PROJECT, which is going to be a sort of on-going Knit Along, featuring a series of knitted squares of different stitch patterns. The squares were knit by a couple of my faithful knitters, then I got to put it all together...all 25 squares. I love it.




The kit will be available (for delivery beginning Sept 1st) in 3 sizes from shawl/baby blanket dimensions to a full 25 square double bed size. It can also be done in CASCADE 220- pure wool, in Cascade's brand new PACIFIC 40-60 wool/acrylic blend (which they say absolutely cannot pill), or in Patons DECOR.


It's a big project - even now that the assembly is complete I'm working at putting the pattern booklets together and organizing the promotion for it, but this is all part of what I really enjoy of having the yarn store (and a good example of what I'm doing when you don't see me in the store.)