Friday, March 16, 2018

Every Library in Northern Ireland has a Knitting Group!

With a tear, we took one last look at the Roscommon Castle and boarded a train for Northern Ireland.

We had a bit of a shaky start in Belfast. As Cathy arrived at the train station, she learned that she did NOT have the AirBnB reservation she had counted on. It was 7:00 at night, but she steadfastly walked to the local hostel hoping there was a bed. Sure enough, the hospitable receptionist was soon leading us up the stairs to our room. We could only be there for one night because the hostel was booked up for the weekend. But Cathy located another AirBnB home for the following four nights and we were set. But first…

…she googled “knitting groups Belfast” and learned that ALL the libraries have weekly knit and crochet groups and she located TWO that meet on Friday—the next day! So, in the morning, we walked the couple miles (Well, Cathy did the walking.) to the Whiterock Library. As usual, we were welcomed by a fun group of women busily knitting, crocheting, and chatting. A cup of tea was offered and Cathy introduced me to the group. Everyone oooohed and ahhhed me and we were off!

 (L to R) Betty, Brenda, and Dolores happily added some rows.

When it was time to go, with help from the knitters, Cathy figured out the bus that would take us to the afternoon knitting group on the other side of Belfast’s city center at the Woodstock Library. Again, hearty welcomes, tea and cookies, and more knitters and crocheters! Now this is what I call being a “traveling scarf!” 

The Woodstock Library Knit and Natter Group

Gloria’s guide dog sat
patiently alongside us.
Joan (left above) knit some stockinette of her variegated blues and yellows while Gloria (right) crocheted a nice long piece of lacy triple crochet stitch on the other end. Margaret (not pictured) also added a lovely bit of Moss stitch in an ecru wool.

Because we had to move from the hostel to the AirBnb room, Cathy had to return to the hostel to pick up her bags that she had stored there for the day. But while re-arranging all her stuff (!) in the hostel’s lounge, another hostel guest told us that she crochets. And before you knew it, I got pulled out AGAIN and Vita added some stitches with some of Cathy’s orange handspun art yarn.  It was a busy day!

Our lodgings for the rest of the long weekend was at the sweet home of Anne Marie. She and her daughter have been welcoming visitors for over nine years. Each evening in the winter, there is a warm fire in the living room and welcoming conversation. Nella, another visitor from Finland, shared her wine with everyone while we relaxed and chatted near the coal fire. Not only did Anne Marie knit some garter-stitch rows with bright red yarn, but Nella found some lovely Finnish yarn in her stash, Novita 7 Veljestä Aurora, for her contribution. Margaret and her husband from Vancouver, B.C. were also staying with Anne Marie and she added some rows of garter stitch from her traveling stash. Unfortunately, Cathy did not have her camera that evening, but you can see their contributions here:

This includes some of the contributions from Roscommon knitters as well. 

All in all, although it was a short stay in Belfast, it was rich in knitting and crocheting companionship! So glad we went!
On a rainy day down by the Belfast docks, Cathy encountered this
sculpture honoring Irish shepherds and their sheep.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Roscommon, Part 2: So Many Knitters, So Little Time!

This ewe was so curious (or maybe
cautious) that she would hardly look away
from Cathy, even though her friends
were eating all the dinner.
One day, while we were staying with the Gerry and Caitlin Browne in Roscommon, Gerry took Cathy out to the property where he keeps a few sheep and cattle. He is raising the Zwartbles breed of sheep, a black variety with a white face, feet and tail. They originated in the Netherlands. He is hoping that all seven of his ewes are bred and will lamb this spring. They are known for bearing twins and triplets. We will hope for 14 lambs this year, Gerry!

A few days later, Cathy was hiking up in the hills near the Browne’s home and met Dorrie, who told her about another knitting group that meets at Gleeson’s Restaurant in Roscommon on Fridays. She agreed to meet us there and sure enough the next day, I had more contributors…Anna was created a double-moss stitch in vari-colored brown/tan yarn while Marion crochet the other end (AT THE SAME TIME!) with a dusky rose yarn. This was the first time knitters/crocheters worked at both ends at the same time. 

At Gleeson's Restaurant in Roscommon, Ireland, Marion crochets while Anna knits
at the same time!

Bridie added some white garter stitch and Dorrie, some plain rows of garter stitch in a lovely gray yarn.

Later in the week, Marian surprised Cathy by bringing by the house a cute gift from the knitters, a little sheep mug cozy in Roscommon’s colors!

Back at the Browne household that same evening, while waiting for dinner, Cathy started talking to Coman, Caitlin and Gerry’s son, and learned that he had known how to knit back when he was seven in primary school. He very gallantly volunteered to be the first man to contribute to me! Yay! I knew we would find one eventually—a male knitter, I mean. He was a bit tentative at firstnot sure if he could remember but Cathy made two knit stitches for him and it all came back. He sat by the cozy kitchen wood stove and added some rows of garter stitch. 

His dad, Gerry, sat down beside him and recollected that he might be able to knit, so Coman demonstrated for him and Gerry took up the needles as well. What a sweet sight!

At the last minute, the night before we had to leave Roscommon, Caitlin added her part to my knitted end using some of the grey llama yarn that comes from Kelley Hubbell’s fiber llama herd back on Vashon Island, Washington. I am such a global being!

So many thanks to all the folks in Roscommon who made Cathy and me feel so welcome during our sojourn in the heart of lamb country in Ireland. We can’t wait to return later in the spring.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

From City to Country: Galway and Roscommon, Ireland

We returned to the Irish mainland via ferry from Inish Mor and made a quick two-night stopover in Galway so Cathy could find a few new clothes. It is about time—she has been wearing the same two pair of pants and three shirts for over four months now. She has got to be the most unstylish traveler in the world! (Well, except for the fact that she does wear that luscious lace alpaca shawl as a scarf every day.) But even after perusing five or six “charity shops” (that is what they call thrift shops here), she only bought some new tights and underwear. I swear, she is so picky!

Nicholas looks on with interest as Camille knits in some rows.
Maybe he is a future knitter. 
But we did meet up with a sweet couple, Camille and Nicholas, in the hostel in Galway. They are from Quebec and very delightful. Camille added a few rows of 2x2 rib stitch to me while they chatted. I am certainly becoming the international favorite of the ladies. Now if we could just find a few men who knit. I know they are out there!

On January 12, we boarded a train to Roscommon. Cathy had met Caitlin and Gerry Browne on the Camino de Santiago (Remember that?? when she left me to wither in her bag that was stored for TWO MONTHS in Santiago?? Well I don’t forget, believe me!) Anyway, all was much better now that we had our own little cottage behind the Browne’s house to spend almost two weeks. Cathy had lots of space to spread out all her knitting and fiber and explore using it to make hats and bookmarks. She had time to finish some projects and start new ones. And you know what? There are LOTS of knitters in THIS part of Ireland.

Gerry and Caitlin’s daughter, Katie, knows how to knit and while her children visited Grandma, Katy added some of that fancy sparkly yarn that Catherine Henry donated way back when we were in the Shetland Islands. 

Katie's sparkle addition--I think a little "bling looks good on me!"

Caitlin took us to visit the amazing weaver and fiber artist Frances Crowe at her studio. She is working on a commissioned tapestry commemorating the Irish Potato Famine. Her studio is so colorful—with fiber everywhere! She also knits and added some rows while visiting with Caitlin and Cathy over tea. We will be seeing her again in May. (More about that later.) 

Frances's Studio....look at all that luscious yarn!

Later in the week, we got to meet the many knitters and crocheters who are a part of the neighboring Knockcroghery Knitters. We got a warm welcome and many wanted to get their hands on me. Ahhhh….

Eliona really liked me!
Brigid added some red moss stitch; Breda added some garter stitch; and Eliona (a stain-glass artist) knitted in some turquoise yarn. And then Mary, who crochets, worked on the other end, with V-stitch crochet in blue.

A crochet addition. I don't have too many crochet stitches, so it is a
treat to sport a different look. 

It was a large group and everyone was so hospitable! We hoped to get back the next week, but just did not make it. We ended up being very busy in Roscommon, as you will see in the next post.

Here are my latest set of contributors:

Monday, January 8, 2018

A Clear Day in January: Inishmore, Aran Islands, Ireland

The weather has been shivery cold here on Inishmore in early January, but we are intrepid travelers and made our way to this westerly Irish outpost right after the new year. The ferry ride from Galway was a bit bumpy—and for good reason: we got here just in time for a fierce winter storm. Ninety-mile-per-hour winds hit the islands on our first night. But in the evening Cathy took me next door to Kilronen Hostel where there is a wee pub. Inside was a fireplace still decorated for Christmas and radiating warmth and good cheer. “Cozy” is an understatement!

Cathy found out that Bairbre, the bartender, is a knitter and since it was a slow night, she consented to add a few rows of traditional Aran patterns to me: Diamond, Tree of Life, and Moss stitches. 

After that, it took a couple days for Cathy to locate some Aran yarn so she could start knitting a cap. Equally elusive seemed to be the knitters. She asked everyone she met if they knitted, and no one seemed to know how. Even in the local sweater stores, the clerks were not knitters. It was a bit of a disappointment. We were told that at Kilmurvey—about 4½  miles away—there are craft shops where the women demonstrate knitting. But on our second day here the storm was still howling and the shops were closed. So we did not get a chance to walk to Kilmurvey until Sunday—five days after we arrived...but, then we hit the jackpot!

The first store we walked into held a treat. When Cathy introduced me to Bridie in the Teak Péat Pháidí shop to see if she would like to add a few rows, Bridie surprised us with the store’s own scarf to which traveling knitters could add rows! We were so amazed and excited. It must be my long-lost cousin that I did not even know existed! So Bridie added some lavender knit-and-purl rows to me and Cathy added rows of lace to my sweet cousin!

People from all over the world had contributed to that scarf: Finland, South Africa, New York, Tasmania, Dublin, New Jersey, Montreal, Brazil, Argyle (Scotland), Michigan, Embrun (Canada), Japan, Conemara (Ireland), and many, more. Each little tag attached to the scarf represents a different knitter.

Cathy perused the nice selection of Irish yarn the store had for sale alongside locally made sweaters and other apparel. She had planned to purchase only one skein, due to space constraints in her bag. (I do have to say it is getting pretty cramped in there.) But she succumbed to temptation and bought three skeins instead. This was on top of the large hank of natural Aran yarn she had purchased a few days earlier. Back at the hostel (and pub) she has been knitting furiously, but it all still takes up space. She and Bridie chatted a bit and then we said goodbye and Cathy made her way up to visit the nearby Dun Aonghasa (an ancient fort) before returning to Kilronen hostel. 

Near the forts museum, were a couple more sweater shops, and inside Dun Angusa Knitwear, Sarah sat at the counter knitting away. So, she too added some rows of Aran stitches to me while they chatted.  

Contributions from Inishmore

Family photo: Me and my New-found Cousin!
While walking around the fort site, Cathy realized that she had neglected to pay for the yarn she purchased from Bridie! Mortified, she scooted back down the road, but the shop had closed. She left a note on the door and promised to call in her payment the next day. She hopes she does not have to walk the 4½ miles back to the shop!

We arrived back at Kilronen Hostel just after dark. The sun had shone all day and the wind had kept itself abated, so it was good winter walking weather. But by the time we got back, the cold had set in, and another half-pint of Guiness at the wee pub sounded like a good idea. 

And it was there that Cathy completed her own Aran cap.