Thursday, April 19, 2018

The End of a Very Knitty Week! Knit, Crochet, and Eat Cake!

As related in the previous post, while I was being passed around in front of the Scottish Parliament, Cathy was finding out about more knitters, spinners, and crocheters in Edinburgh. Frieda told her about a spinning group at the Gorgie Farm and Joan said that she definitely should not miss the knitting and crochet group that meets on Saturdays at the Akva café.

So, on Friday, we attended the Gorgie Farm Spinning Group. This is a demonstration and working farm right in the middle of the city and there are lots of animals and great gardens here. The spinners use one of the community buildings to share their skills.

Check this out! The women used their own handspun for the rows they added to me—oh too very special!
(1) Handspun camel and silk; (2)Moorit handspun by Joan; (3) Gotland handspun from the fleece; (4) Handspun black Shetland from Smaise the sheep who lives on the Gorgie Farm.
And they were FAST knitters. In that one session I grew by five inches! Isn’t that luscious? I am so lucky! 
The Gorgie Handspinners: Kim, Frida, Joan, and Denise 
The next day Cathy braved the cold, windy, rainy streets to make our way to the Akva Swedish café to meet up with the lively Knit, Crochet, and Eat Cake! group that meets there on Saturday mornings. What a GREAT name for a fiber group, don’t you think?

Sarah and Steph used some of their own yarns. Sarah’s was called “Head-over-heels-variegated” and Steph added some burnt-orange acrylic. 

She had been using that chunky yarn to turn out these cute fox wrist warmers. 

While Sarah’s needles whistled along, Lucy crocheted a “front post treble” stitch on the other end. Whoo—hoo!

The ladies sent us off with a hearty goodbye and Cathy stepped out into the pouring rain. Nice that she packed me up all snuggly and warm in her pack. 

After drying off and warming up in her hostel room that evening, she encountered a roommate from Brazil, Jurema, who loves to crochet, so she added some more crochet stitches as well. She wrote in my journal: “Thank you for the opportunity to restart crochet after so long a time.”

There just seems to be no end to the fiber people in this country—both locals and visitors! 

On Sunday, March 11, the next day, we boarded a train to the small town of Berwick-on-Tweed in the far northeast of England—right across the border. Cathy just had to get out of the city—she really does not like cities much. We would end up staying in Berwick for a full TWO weeks!

The very next day, upon visiting a yarn store in Berwick, Cathy learned of a weekly knitting group that meets in the local library every Monday afternoon. Of course we went! It was a lively group of knitters who laugh as much as they knit and crochet. Anne added some “pink sparkles” to dress me up a bit, and Maureen contrasted that with a lovely gold. Oooh-la-la! 

Anne adds some rows to me while the other ladies laugh and knit. 

Later that week, Cathy met Fiona, another traveler at the Berwick Hostel who knew how to knit. She added some rows of garter stitch using some of the Aran yarn Cathy had purchased in Ireland.

It is almost time to return to Edinburgh for the YARN FESTIVAL…I am so excited!

Contributors so far in Scotland: 

And we need to catch up on the crocheters! So that we don’t have to change the set-up between knitters and crocheters, we ask crocheters to add stitches to the beginning end. We have quite a variety of wide and narrow stripes, resulting in some gathers here:

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Scotland: Old Friends and New…and Many More Knitters and Spinners!

You may recall that last July 4, Cathy and I met and spent time with the fiber magicians of the Haddington (Scotland) Spinners and Weavers at the Poldrate Mill Arts and Crafts Center. (You can read about that visit here.)

Debbie adds a few rows to me while
Marie works at her loom in the back
Well…we returned to Haddington in early March! On Tuesday, the 6th we spent the day in their studio, and a few people, including Debbie Zawinski, author of In the Footsteps of Sheep, added to me. Master weaver Marie Lindqvist was teaching a weaving class in the afternoon and we got a chance to see the looms in action!

Debbie had a friend take a photo of me being held up by these incredible women! So much fun to be with them again! 

Left to Right: Catherine, Debbie, Marie, and Cathy

The next day, back in Edinburgh, we visited the Ginger Twist Studio yarn shop and Jess, the shop owner who was so busy getting ready for exhibiting at next week’s Edinburgh Yarn Festival, was able to break away for a minute to knit a few rows for me! Thanks Jess! Cannot wait to see you at the Festival! 

Cathy has been suffering from some kind of malady that comes on when she has not had some ridiculously complex lace project on her needles. She has been on the lookout for a special yarn to knit a pattern called the Scottish Thistle Shawl, which I guess is pretty appropriate, since we are here.  She spied the perfect almost-cobweb-weight yarn in Jesss shop and refused to leave without it. It was organically grown in the Falkland Islands, spun in Yorkshire, and dyed by Jess. Special, indeed! We barely made it back to the hostel before Cathy had one hank balled up and cast on!

And then, a very special event… One of the reasons we returned to the Edinburgh area at this time was that the Haddington group was going to be demonstrating their crafts on March 8. So, I was taken to the International Women’s Day Weave, Knit, and Spin-in in front of the Scottish Parliament! While Cathy visited with knitters, several sat down to contribute—I am growing so FAST here in Scotland!!!

A large contingent of University professors and employees were protesting changes in pension rules that day, and the group kind of swallowed us up. But the Haddington group supported the strike/protest and stayed put—glad to be a part of it. As a result, we had lots of people interested in the fiber artists and several Traveling Scarf contributors. Among them were Jess who did some yellow and white stranded colorwork, Joan who added a fisherman’s knit diamond design, Joe, a professor and avid knitter who created some garter-stitch rows, and Frieda who used some of her Massum handspun. Massum sheep are a cross between longwool and mountain breeds. They are bred for meat and a tendency for multiple births. A bi-product is a soft, multi-colored fiber with barely any lanolin.

Left to Right, Frieda, Joe, and Jess

Marie brought along a small backstrap loom, attached one end to the building’s post, and stood weaving the entire time. 

We had great weather for the event. Only a week before, almost the entire UK had been ground to a standstill by a brutal winter storm. But we were still a bit cold by end of the day, so afterwards, we went across the street to the Holyrood Palace Café to warm up. Holyrood is the place where the Queen stays when she comes to Scotland!

While visiting with fiber folks in front of Parliament, Cathy learned from Frieda that the Gorgie Farm Spinning Group meets on Fridays. And Joan told her that she absolutely could not miss the knitting and crochet group that meets at Edinburgh’s Akva Swedish café on Saturdays. 

This was to be a very “knitty” week, indeed!

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Back to Scotland: Quiet Sojourn in Oban

We flew from Dublin on February 21, and after a one-night stay in Glasgow, we made a bee-line to Oban. It is a beautiful train journey along the West Highland Way to the west coast. It turned out to be a good choice, as you will see. 

Cathy settled us in the Oban Youth Hostel, one of the best we have stayed in during our 9-month sojourn. We had a beautiful bay-window view in our room overlooking the harbor and we watched the Cal-Mac ferries come and go to many of the western islands, including the Outer Hebrides. 

Yarn bombing seems to be a lively pastime in Oban. Even though we encountered few knitters and could not find a knitting group in town, the knitters are here and apparently knitting in secret guerilla yarn-bombing clans. Many poles throughout the town are covered with colorful and whimsical jumpers. Perhaps to keep them warm? 

Val, who shared a dorm room with us, was a knitter and she was able to add to my length. She was so sweet to write in my journal: “Every now and then I come across someone who reminds me why I travel—you are that person!!

Cathy got in one nice hike in the nearby mountains. You can read about that special day here on her travel blog.
(She did not take me with her, however.) 
Cathy encountered a lot of sheep on her walk...ahhhhh source material!

On March 6, a huge snowstorm smothered almost the entire United Kingdom with snow and wind. Most of the country came to a standstill—no trains or buses; businesses and schools closed; and many rural folks were stranded behind snowdrifts the rest of the week.

BUT…not in Oban. The western coast of Scotland had barely a few flakes of snow and very little wind. It did get very cold—down to below freezing, but there just was not any precipitation! So, Cathy and I missed what came to be called the “Beast from the East” (so-called because the storm originated in Siberia). Of course, we could not leave Oban, but that was no problem—it is a very special town to spend extra time in. 

The sunsets from our window were phenomenal!

In the cozy hostel, Cathy was able to finish her bookmark commission. You can access the free downloadable pattern for her Celtic Knot Bookmark here on Ravelry. She is hoping to have more of the patterns for these quick-to-make items published soon. 

I will keep you posted as she uploads more  of the patterns.

One benefit of the snowstorm: When we finally boarded a train to cross the Highlands in route to Edinburgh, the snowy views from the train were stunning.

At our next stop, spinners, knitters, and weavers were waiting for us to visit. Wait’ll you see what happened next!

The Last Hurrah in Ireland: Glendalough, Killarney, and Ennis

From Belfast, we traveled directly to Glendalough in the Wicklow National Park via Dublin. 

One night at the Glendalough hostel, Sara from Solvenia said that she had not knitted in a long time, but would like to contribute to me. Sitting by the cozy fireplace, she enjoyed being reminded how much fun it is to knit. Later, she asked Cathy if she had any spare yarn for her to knit with for a bit. When she finished knitting for the night, she unraveled it all and returned the yarn to Cathy. For many knitters, it is not about the end product, it is about the knitting.

Process not product!
Moving on to the sweet town of Killarney on the edge of the Killarney National Park. We were guests at the Black Sheep Hostel—just blocks from the Killarney National Park. 

Cathy asked Blaine, the host at hostel, if he knew any knitters. “My mom is a knitter. I’ll phone her up!” And before you knew it, Cathy was invited to Phil’s house to meet her and some other Killarney knitters. True Irish hospitality!!

Blaine's mother, Phil provided some real
Irish hospitality--knitting and tea with
friends in her lovely home.
Phil, and her friends Margaret and Trinette knitted with Cathy for several hours! They drank lots of tea and ate Phil's delicious homemade scones. When Cathy left, Phil insisted that she take a bag of scones. How could Cathy refuse?

Then, one night at the hostel, Nádia who worked on the hostel staff, said that she liked to crochet. I was handed over for her to add some of Cathy’s blue handspun art yarn in a double crochet pattern.

The next day, Phil called again and invited Cathy to accompany her to the Kenmare Lace Center 
in Kenmare. Although the Center is closed in the winter, Phil had called and made a special appointment for a tour and demonstration at the center expecially for us! We felt so priviledged! 

We boarded the bus for the hour-long ride and Cathy and Phil chatted all the way there and back. I remained quietly in my bag. 

Nora Finnegan runs the Lace Center where she teaches and demonstrates traditional ways to make different types of lace: needlepoint, crochet, tatting, bobbin lace. The Carmelite nuns used to teach young women how the make lace so that they had a way to bring income to their households. Sometimes it was the case that a girl would never marry and she had a way to support herself. Some young women emigrated to the United States and the funds they earned, and the skills they had learned, helped them be more independent when they reached their new country. 

Of course, we had to have Nora add a few rows!

Nora with her projects demonstrating how needlepoint lace and bobbin lace are made.

Samples of Irish Lace at the Kenmare Lace Center.

 at Even though Cathy enjoys making knitted lace, there are obviously many, many other ways to make these “beautiful holes,” as she likes to call it.  
Thank you, Phil, for arranging this very special day for us! 

Back at the Black Sheep Hostel, Blaine, Phil’s son who introduced Cathy to his mom in the first place, recollected that he had knitted once as a kid and wanted give it a go. After a fabulous Irish Stew dinner he prepared on Sunday night, he got a little coaching from Cathy. Then he knitted two rows using some white Aran yarn that Phil had donated to my stash.

I have had so many people creating me that Cathy ran out of pages in the little journal that records all the contributors—one page per person. In Belfast, she had more pages and a new cover printed up to create a volume two journal, but the printer could not bind it. So, she was carrying around loose pages until she finally found a place in Killarney that could do the binding. 

She walked the two miles out to the industrial park on the edge of town and back in order to have a new small journal bound just for me.  
Thank you, Cathy.

Killarney was a wonderful venue for knitting and crocheting; Cathy got in some great walking in the Irish hills; and we truly enjoyed our stay at the Black Sheep Hostel.

The hills in the Killarney National Park provided some walking respite for Cathy.

After leaving Killarney, we went back to Ennis for a few days and Cathy spent much of that time on a knitting a bookmark commission of 36 lacey bookmarks. Here are a few of them:

They are all made from yarn that she collected during the trip and was a fun way for her to sample stitches with the different materials before committing to a larger project.

After two months in Ireland, we boarded a plane in Dublin…bound back to Scotland—land of knitting heaven!

The last Irish knitting contributors before we went to Scotland:

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: