A long, hot summer?

I’m still cold most of the time…

My Loopy Ewe May sock club package came last week, and it was so good the stuff got pressed into service before I got a chance to take decent pictures of it. This is the yarn, in all its summery glory:

May TLE Sock club yarn

It is soft and wonderful and while the shawlette pattern this month didn’t immediately excite me the sock pattern May Flowers looks intriguing. Just like last month, I’ve set it aside as enticement to finish one of the many other projects going on at the moment. Even though the colours aren’t so much my thing (yellow? maybe not), the whole thing wrapped up together looks cheerful and summery. The good kind of summer, like an Irish summer, with rain and cool breezes and sun. Not like LA summer with furnace-like heat and fires, or DC summer that’s so humid that drying off after a shower is an exercise in futility. The kind of summer people write songs about.

As I write, there’s a stack of knits and yarn next to me that needs photographing. I’ll be off to do that now, hoping for some of that summer sun to help out.


Roscommon Lamb Festival, part 2

As you might expect from the name, the Roscommon Lamb Festival is about lambs. Well, lambs and sheep. I learned that County Roscommon “has the highest lamb output in the country,” and that the festival itself is meant to showcase the benefits of locally produced food and craft. Whether you’re concerned about ethical treatment of animals, your carbon footprint, or supporting your local economy, there is some compelling reason to consider buying and eating locally. Combine that with the slow food movement and the increased interest in crafts, and it’s clear that the Lamb Festival is tapping into some timely concerns.

I’m a unapologetic city girl. I have minimal experience with sheep, and while I am aware of and appreciate the hard work that goes into animal husbandry I haven’t actually witnessed any of it. (Petting zoos do not count.) About as close as I’ve gotten to any of it is watching my sister muck out a stall at the barn she took horseback riding lessons at. I certainly don’t raise the sheep that produce the wool I enjoy knitting with. So I was excited when I found out that one attraction of the Wool Craft Village would be a demonstration of the path wool takes through the various crafts I take advantage of. There was a stage with a shearing machine, professional sheep-shearers, and a bunch of sheep to be sheared:

Sheep pen

Every so often, they’d bring out a sheep and shear it while all of us gawkers watched:

Sheep being sheared!

The sheep were surprisingly unconcerned about the entire affair. A few of them kicked a little when they were turned on their sides, but for the most part they were pretty chilled out. They didn’t look sedated, so my guess is that the shearing procedure has been developed to cause the least amount of trauma possible.

We also met Lorraine, a customer who heard we were coming to the festival and came to the booth to meet us. After chatting a little, we found out that she has her own sheep and had brought them to the festival. So I headed out and met her sheep and took a picture:

Lorraine and her sheep (bad picture, blame me)

We learned a little more about the ins and outs of raising sheep. I asked what happens to the wool after she gets her sheep sheared, and she (a knitter herself, remember) replied, “It goes straight to the wool merchants.” For the past few years, the cost of wool in Ireland has been incredibly low, so low that it costs more to shear the sheep (paying the shearers) than farmers can recover by selling the wool. There is a little buzz this year about prices going up a little, but it’s still astonishingly cheap right now.

After you shear the sheep and process the wool, you have to spin it. So there were spinners:


One of the spinning wheels had been custom made by the spinner’s husband, but that one is (I think) an Ashford Traditional, the same kind I have. (Have I been spinning on it? No. One of these days.)

After you spin the wool, you make it into stuff. You can weave it, knit it, crochet it, felt it, make rugs, etc. So there was a knitting circle:

Knitting circle

That’s Michelle standing up in the middle. She organized the Wool Craft Village, and I thought she did a great job. There was a nice mix of vendors, the demonstrations were interesting (judging by the crowds of people around the shearers and spinners!), and she was available for us in case we needed anything. I think she also managed to have fun, so everyone won. We were grateful for the invitation to participate in the festival, and it seemed like a lot of people had a lovely day out as well.

Roscommon Lamb Festival, part 1

The shop received an invitation a few months ago to participate in this year’s Roscommon Lamb Festival, the first to feature a Wool Craft Village. Kheldara (Rav link) and I volunteered to staff our table, so it came to pass that the weekend before last I drove out Wesht and discovered all the delights the Wool Lamb Festival has to offer.

Since the Village didn’t officially open until 2-ish, we got a late start and hit the road with a carfull of stuff around 10:15. We set up as soon as we arrived:

Ready to sell...

I had my Irish radio debut while we put the finishing touches on the table. One of the presenters, Eugene from Shannonside, was set up in the station’s truck outside and asked a few of the vendors if they’d like to chat. I balked at first, fearing my telltale accent would mark me as a carpetbagger, but Eugene assured me it was exactly what they wanted. We chatted about the festival, about knitting, and about how the downturn in the economy was focusing people’s attention more on creative endeavours.

The Wool Village itself ended up being several straight hours of fun — we chatted with visitors, spotted a few shop customers who were delighted at being able to see us without having to make the trek to Dublin, and met some of the other vendors. I didn’t get a chance to talk to everyone, but I did snag a picture of one of the weaver’s tapestries in progress:

Woven tapestry in progress

She uses natural dyes in her work, and had a demonstration of the dye process at her booth. It threw me for a moment when I saw the dye pots — I’d thought they were vats of the fabled lamb stew. (We never did get any lamb stew. It was in a different location.)

There were a few yarn vendors at the Village, and a few people selling finished objects. We had a felter on one side of us who sold beautiful and practical felted pieces including purses, scrapbooks, fingerless gloves, and wraps. I couldn’t get good pictures of her stuff, but it was amazing. She confessed it was hard to sell some of her finished goods sometimes, and I can definitely relate. On the other side of us, a crocheter sold finished items, mostly baby blankets and clothes:

Crocheter selling her wares

Clearly, the fibre crafts are alive and well in Ireland.

Could you spare some mojo?

I remember the last time I hit a knitting slump. Well, I think I do. It was towards the end of my third term teaching freshman chemistry. It was a year and a half after my boss started calling surprise meetings that sometimes happened on weekends. It was well after I’d gone sour on every aspect of my life, frustrated with my house, my work, my relationships, and my knitting. So I made socks. Lots of them. Eventually I came out of it, though not before dropping a lot of money at The Loopy Ewe and accumulating a really crazy amount of sock yarn leftovers.

These leftovers are slowly making their way into an epic blanket project.

While I am not nearly as miserable now as I was then (in fact, I’m really not miserable at all!), I seem to have hit a wall with my knitting. In the case of my ill-fated Constantine socks, literally. After a repeat and a half, I faced reality and tried them on. Despite working the largest size, they were too small. Ah tension, thou art a harsh mistress. Within a few hours of the frogging, I stupidly left the bag with the ball of wool in the living room, which is the signal to the cat that it’s okay for him to play with it. The ball is a little worse for wear, but I think it’ll live to be knitted another day.

So, the one project (other than the ongoing leftovers blanket, which is also stalled) that’s going okay? That’s right, it’s yet another pair of plain socks:

These will keep me going until I get my mojo back.

On finishing

Many knitters have issues with starting too many projects at once. While I recommend having more than one project going at a time so one may knit whenever the opportunity arises (that heirloom shawl project is not going to be appropriate for Knit Night, so it’s good to have a pair of socks going as well), I also try to keep things under control so I can finish projects in a timely manner. This allows me to stare down any and all issues I may have with getting things finished.

I used to have problems finishing things. Any kind of thing, in any part of my life. Either I’d get attached to whatever the project was and not want it to end (and leave my life), or I was so sick of it I was unwilling to put in the extra effort to get it done right. Knitting definitely put the kibosh on that, and that’s just one of the ways this particular vice has made me a better person.

Even still, I sometimes find myself stalling out towards the end of a project. I don’t think I’m the only one either. Lots of people relish the opportunity and freshness of a new project more than the finishing touches of an old one. I find that when I’m having project finishing issues, they tend to be one of two types. The first type, the most common one, is that I’m sick to the back teeth of a project and can’t bear to look at it anymore. Even though it only needs a tiny bit of effort, just a seam here or a tricky cast-off there, I can’t bring myself to look at it anymore.

The other type is the reverse. I love a project so much that I don’t want it to end. I want to keep knitting it forever, working on it has become part of the way I am, and to finally cast off and have an object would be to siphon off a part of my soul and leave it draped over a chair to be abused or forgotten. I’ve managed to get over this, though sometimes it’s less because I’ve dealt with my issues and more because I’ve obsessed over a project so fiercely that it falls into the first category of Nearly Finished Project rather than the second.

This is all a really long way of saying that I need to finish seaming up Gloriosa, knit a collar and a buttonband, and get it out of my life.