Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Knitting - My Teal Lace-Trim Jumper

My new cotton jumper
 This is a jumper I finished in time for the Immrama Launch in Lismore Castle so you've seen it being modelled if you read the blogpost on that event - and it's also on my Facebook profile pic, as it was taken by the pro photographer on the night and the quality is great. Better than my Panasonic Lumix point'n'shoot or my iPhone pix!

I thought to share this project with the various knitaholics among my blog readership, apologies to the rest of you who find knitting up there on a par with watching paint dry, but that's the joys of blogging - anything goes.

I got the pattern from the March 2012 edition of Let's Knit, a UK knitting mag, which was new to me, but has lovely patterns in it. I get a lot of American crochet and knitting mags, and find the crochet ones easier if they're American as I use the American stitches in crochet, which means the UK crochet mags wreck  my head. I have to do a translation of the pattern as I go along, and often mess up, and even though I am totally baffled  by pattern charts in crochet, which the Americans favour, I am getting used to reading knitting charts for lacy projects, as in the cast of this jumper.
Bathroom mirror modelling - to show neck detail!

It was designed by Anniken Allis (her Ravelry link) and it was a first for me, working from a lace chart. Also the shoulders were not cast off, just  left on a stitch holder and they involved the Wrap and Turn technique to slope them, and then they were joined by the 3-needle cast-off (bind-off for my American readers). This is a technique I was used to from my sock knitting, as I always use it for the toes, and my iPhone cosy too. It leaves a lovely neat finish, and I will use it ad infinitum!

Another first for me was knitting the three-quarter length sleeves in the round, which meant they were seamless. I was chuffed with that as it wasn't on the pattern, and I managed to incorporate the sleeve shaping with no problems. I also blocked the pieces, which was  a step I've never done before - all those knitting books are paying off - and it really gave it a neat finish.

Detail of neck back
My favourite part of the jumper was the lace detail, especially on the neck back. It is a little triangle, and it was easy enough to do once I could concentrate on the counting. The same trim was in the pattern for the sleeves, and I adapted the pattern to include the same trim on the front and back hem. I think that enhanced it and it turned out lovely. What do you think?
Note seamless sleeve: pre-blocking, a bit too blue.
Swanky launch at Lismore Castle - with hubby Jan

The yarn was adapted too - as long as it was cotton 4-ply (sportweight for American knitters) I was happy to go along with it. I had lovely teal cotton yarn from Lidl, called Lima - but I only had 250gm. That should have been enough, but that wasn't applicable to this yarn, and I ran out before the front was done! Disaster loomed as Lidl only bring out wool about twice a year and don't always run the same ranges from year to year, so I thought I'd  have to park the project. Then an angel of mercy appeared, in the person of Annie, one of the Tuesday Knitters at Angela's Design Workshop. She heard of my dilemma and offered me a pack of the same colour yarn she had bought last year! It was called Spring, and it was a 5-ply yarn with a slightly larger gauge, however, I decided to continue on the 3.5mm needles and it wasn't discernible. So unless you look with a gimlet eye for flaws, and spot a tiny discrepancy at the neck, it's totally fine by me.
Border detail - colour very hard to capture but this is it!

I wore the jumper for the launch of the Immrama Festival in Lismore Castle, and it got many compliments. The photos from the launch have been in the local papers so everyone can see my lovely jumper. I hope you like it too.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Celebrating a Decade of Travel Writing in Lismore - the Launch of Immrama 2012

Me and Jan at the launch (photo by David Clynch)
Last Thursday saw a landmark day in the evolution of the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing in Lismore when the 10th festival was launched to great anticipation as to what the line-up would be for such a momentous anniversary.  It was a special occasion for hubby Jan and the Immrama committee who have done trojan work for the past 9 months to bring this year's festival to fruition; a fitting gestation metaphor for this baby, whose birth is always the fruit of much hard labour.

The 2012 festival will be held from June 7-10, and bookings are already flooding in.  Jan is the administrator and this was his first year doing the presentation for the launch, announcing the speakers and presenters. In previous years the manager of the Lismore Heritage Centre did the announcement presentation, but as she has moved to greener pastures as Tourism Officer for Co. Waterford she is no longer involved in Immrama. So this was a new challenge for the committee as they did all the preparatory work themselves. Jan has been working hard at contacting the speakers and arranging the logistical minutiae of travel, accommodation and venues right from the end of the last Immrama in June 2011.

Immrama Committee at the Launch
Another first for Immrama is the commemorative book they are publishing for the 10th year of the festival. It's a compilation of essays by former presenters and speakers and will be a classic collectors' item, with much local interest as it portrays their individual impressions of Lismore and/or Immrama. It will be ready for sale during the festival, and Jan co-edit it with Paul Clements, a stalwart of Immrama from the outset, as he returns year after year to run Creative Writing Workshops or to just soak up the ambience. The book is called "The Blue Sky Bends Over All" which is the motto of Immrama and is attributed to William Makepeace Thackeray who, when visiting Lismore in the 1800s, noted that while Protestant and Catholics are buried in opposite sides of the same cemetary, the sun shines equally on both and "The blue sky bends over all". It's a lovely image and even if the story were apocryphal it has become embedded in local lore.

Theme of Immrama 2012
Back to the launch of this year's festival. It was held as before in the Pugin Room of Lismore Castle, where Devonshire Day takes place, and thanks to the generosity of the Duke of Devonshire's son Lord William Burlington, who spends a lot of his time here with his wife Laura Lady Burlington and their children Maud and James, the Castle has become synonymous with these events. The Burlingtons were at the launch, as they are in the final stages of preparing the summer exhibition of the Lismore Castle Arts gallery, which will  be opened on May 12th. No doubt there'll follow a blog post on that next month! As there was much interest locally in who'd be coming to the festival this year, there was a nice crowd of locals and "blow-ins" at the launch, and we all enjoyed the cheese and wine while we chatted and smiled for the local photographer, who very kindly sent  me the pic of Jan and myself, as it's often the only one of the two of us I end up with, as I'm so busy taking photos of everyone else.
Lord William Burlington and Jan

After the President and Chairman of Immrama spoke, and the County Manager officially launched the Festival, Jan presented the 2012 programme. There's a great group of speakers this year, with the theme of the festival "In The Footsteps of Marco Polo" and will feature a tribute to the late famed travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, who died last June and news of whose passing filtered through during Immrama 2011's Friday night talk and was mourned by many of the speakers who felt they'd lost a friend and mentor.

Tony Wheeler, co-founder of Lonely Planet, and Colin Thubron, the renowned travel writer who has written on The Silk Road and Siberia, will  be the main speakers on the Saturday. There's a panel discussion on the Legacy of Patrick Leigh Fermor on the Friday night with Jan Morris making a return visit to Lismore after two years, and the aforementioned Colin Thubron and Tony Wheeler, who will also be joined by Leigh Fermor's biographer Artemis Cooper, who is married to Antony Beevor, and this will be a fascinating evening.

Jan presenting the programme
Patrick Leigh Fermor has connections to Lismore Castle, as he was a personal friend of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, the former Deborah Mitford, youngest of the famous - or infamous - Mitford sisters, and her niece-in-law, Charlotte Mosley (yes, that Mosley; she's the daughter-in-law of Diana Mitford who was married to fascist leader Oswald Mosley) compiled their correspondence over many years in a fascinating book "In Tearing Haste: Letters between Deborah Devonshire and Patrick Leigh Fermor". Coincidentally I got a present of that book for my birthday and look forward to reading it before Immrama. I suppose there's a certain complacency in Lismore over the Devonshire connection and the castle, as we live in its shadow, and it's only when we are shown it through the eyes of outsiders we see what a magical and beautiful place it is and indeed Lismore as well!

Audience at the launch in the Pugin Room
Mary Russell will also present at Immrama on the Saturday at a lunchtime talk. She wrote The Blessings of  Good Thick Skirt, a book that I read in Tanzania and which I gave to Dervla Murphy when she visited Iringa and came to dinner with us while she was researching The Ukimwi Road back in 1993. I absolutely loved that paean to women travel writers, and it marked my introduction to Freya Stark, Mary Kingsley, Isobel Burton and of course our own Lismore heroine Dervla who featured in it. Mary has recently published her latest book on Syria, My Home is Your Home and it's very topical with all its current tribulations.

Anthony Sattin will speak at the Sunday Breakfast in Ballyrafter, a year late as he was scheduled for 2011 but fell ill at the last minute and had to cancel. The final speaker on Sunday night is Diana Gleadhill who met some Lismore friends when travelling in Ethiopia last year, and who has written on her travels on the Silk Road including a trip to the Kamchatka peninsula.

Mike Foley serenading Niamh in his bar!
Sunday afternoon is an afternoon of family fun, music and circus acts in the town's Millenium Park. That's become a fixture of the festival from its inception and draws crowds of children and their parents from far and wide. The Sunday will have the Farmers' Market, and there will be a great  buzz around town all weekend culminating in the fun day. I look forward to another great weekend and even though I end up wrecked  by Monday, after being on First-Aid duty in my Hi-Viz jacket all weekend at every event, I am blessed that I get to see and hear all the speakers, even if I have to keep a vigilant eye out for any untoward incident.

Donal, Edward and Jan in Foley's on The Mall pub
After the launch at the Castle, we repaired to the pub, and spent the next few hours enjoying the craic in Foley's on The Mall, where we were entertained by the proprietor Michael Foley, who's a wonderful tenor, and gave the launch a fitting finale. Roll on the second weekend in June, and if you can make it to Lismore, why not drop in on one of the many events during the festival.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Lismore's First Sit'n'Knit - The Tuesday Knitters at the Farmers' Market

The Tuesday Knitters - on Saturday!
Today was the first Sit'n'Knit session of a number that may take place over the summer in the run-up to the inaugural exhibition of Knit One, Purl One planned by the Tuesday Knitters from the Design workshop run by Angela Nevin. The exhibition will take place in the off-site gallery of Lismore Castle Arts at St. Carthage's Hall in November 2012.

We have been meeting as a Knitting Circle since late 2010, shortly after the Design Workshop opened, and it is very pleasant to get together every Tuesday evening with fellow-knitters and crocheters, and occasionally I go to the morning session if I'm off, as it's not really an option for those of us working outside the home. As a result, a lot of the morning knitters are retired, and as I wrote before in this blog, some are retired nurses, which shows what a crafty crowd we are! Also that generation knitted regularly and it had none of the cachet that it has today, where it has become practically a celebrity must-do in some circles. I read in one of  my myriad knitting  books that Hollywood stars can now be seen knitting away in the downtime between takes on set, so that can't be bad! There is a children's knitting circle running on Tuesdays as an after-school club which attracts a group of enthusiastic early knitters - the future is safe in their nimble fingers!

Farmers' Market on Lismore Castle Avenue.
Anyway, recently we decided all our multiple and diverse talent should be shared with the wider world and with that end in view Angela hit on the great idea of an exhibition in November. We'll try to do some events in the meantime to shamelessly self-publicise, like getting involved in Knit-in-Public International Day on June 12th, and maybe some guerilla yarn-bombing activities. Of course  by their very nature they have to remain secret and surreptitious till the community awakens to an explosion of colour in their public spaces!

Knitting and cakes - note needle box- not whiskey!
Knitting away! 
The Sit'n'Knit yesterday was the second activity in the past week - Easter Monday saw some wonderfully clad ducks infiltrate and visit the charity Duck Derby in the Strand, Lismore's watering hole for generations of children and indeed where I learnt to swim with an old inner tube, in the shallow waters below the salmon weir waterfall. There was a salmon hatchery in Lismore back in the days of yore - my childhood - and the waterfall was integral to that as it had a sluice gate  nearby that diverted the water to the hatchery. Blackwater salmon were famed far and wide and indeed still are though for the chosen few who have salmon fishing licences. Luckily one of our friends is in a syndicate that fishes the Blackwater and we are always blessed with a couple of fresh caught delicious salmon every year.

The poster for our exhibition
The Duck Derby pretenders wore hats and scarves knitted by stalwarts of the knitting circles, especially Dairiona and some of the children's circle; there are numerous photos on Facebook, and even a videoclip which you can see on the Facebook page.

The afternoon went very pleasantly, with a group turning up in the Millenium Park in the afternoon, with their WIP or their stash to make whatever took their fancy, and we repaired a few yards down the road to the Castle Avenue where the Farmers' Market was in full swing. Normally that takes place on a Sunday but as this is the weekend of the Waterford Festival of Food, it was held on Saturday.

We commandeered a table and chairs in the sunshine by the Castle wall, and we had tea, coffee, and carrot cake from the delicious cake stall run by Helen Fitzgerald, who makes the most yummy carrot, coffee, lemon and other madeira cakes, soda breads and scones. We had chocolate biccies, and passed a very pleasant hour and a half. We attracted some curious visitors, who were probably unaware of our existence, and we had a great laugh with everyone. We even made some  headway with our knitting, and everyone was wearing something they'd knitted themselves.
Farmers' Market Lismore - cakes and fudge and lots more!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Lavender and Old Lace - Spring into Summer Socks

Lavender and Old Lace Socks
I finished these new ankle socks a few days ago and I absolutely love them. They have a lacy Feather and Fan or Old Shale Cuff - the name seems interchangeable but I've made a scarf and a cowl in that design in recent months so I'll stick to Feather and Fan, which describes the lovely lace design perfectly. 

The pattern comes from the aptly named Stitches of Violet Blog - and it was an adaptation in this wool as I had no plain colour sock wool.  I got the wool in Angela's Design Workshop in Lismore where our Knitting Circle meet every Tuesday evening. It's King Cole brand, Zig Zag 4-ply Sock Wool.

Cuff and Eye of Partridge Heel Flap
This is the first pair of socks I'd made in this lovely lavender and violet self-striping wool. Most of the socks I've made in the past year and a half have either been double knitting acrylic - not good as they fray at the  heel after a few week's wear - or pure wool which promptly felted as I didn't realise it wasn't machine-washable superwash wool. The most successful were made with Lidl Sock Wool, which has been terrific value and made comfy hard-wearing socks that have kept me going for over a year now. 
Showing cuff rib on left
Eye of Partridge Heel & Gusset - soft light
Cuff and Rib detail
Modelling the socks - soft lighting.
I think I'm officially a Sockaholic - I have to have a pair on the go at all times, along with any other WIP I'm  busy with. I used to use 4 DPNs (Double-Pointed Needles) but then about a year ago I learnt how to use the Magic Loop with circular needles and haven't looked back. 

Here are some links to YouTube Video Tutorials on the Magic Loop. It is the easiest method and make socks more portable than ever with no fear of losing a needle. I am to be found knitting away in the passenger seat of the car as we drive anywhere - Cork or Dublin mostly - and hubby Jan is used to it now, having a knitwit beside him getting odd looks at traffic lights! 

I would love to try these in the pattern colours, with a plain sock and a patterned cuff, heel flap and toe. It's just harder to get plain yarn than patterned or self-striping for socks, but I'll get there eventually. 

There's been great intercontinental collaboration in the world of sock-design and knitting lately as Stephanie over at Hookin', Knittin' and Livin' took my photo of the Lismore Cable designed by Cyril Cullen and adapted it to the most wonderful socks - which you can see on her blogpost here - aren't they gorgeous? I hope to make them one day, and you'll be the first to know! 

Meanwhile I hope you like my photos - they show the socks in daylight and under soft lighting taken at night - what a difference the light makes! Of course the daylight is the real deal - and they are a lovely colourway that is currently a favourite of  mine - going with my frilly scarf and my Rathcooney hat and mitts.  By the way, my Ravelry name is LismoreLady if you want to visit me there!

Monday, April 2, 2012

On My Bike in the Spring Sunshine - Out and About Around Lovely Lismore

At Ballyduff Bridge in Hi-Viz!
The past week we have had fabulous summer weather in late March and this unseasonal weather was such a treat that everyone tried to make the best of it.

We did some gardening and planted some new shrubs in a bed near the patio and I finally got out on my bike for some longish cycles around the beautiful countryside. I've been very bad with getting going on the bike and hubby Jan's put me to shame by keeping up his cycling during the winter, but this is my first week of proper cycling, apart from trips to the shops for the messages (a Hiberno-English expression for grocery shopping).

Like everything I tend to defer the moment but once I get started I'll  be on track for a few times a week and aim at the Sean Kelly Challenge 50km charity cycle in late August. This will be the third year I'll  be doing this event and I've enjoyed it immensely for the past two years. You can read about 2010 and 2011, and watch this space for 2012.

I came home from work two consecutive evenings and went out on the bike for about an hour,  doing the same circuit of 15.2km both evenings and glad to see I'd knocked a  minute and a half off my time the second day. Yesterday I went for a longer cycle of 22.5km and didn't expect to do too well time-wise as there was a strong headwind on the home stretch, so I was pleased with the end result.
The River Blackwater at Ballyduff - towards Fermoy
River Blackwater at Ballyduff - towards Lismore

Cappoquin - R. Blackwater and the old Railway Bridge

New Cordylines and old banana trees
The Knockmealdown Mountains from Glencairn
There are some wonderfully picturesque cycling routes around Lismore, with the river valley providing circuits out one road and home another, with no major hills to wear down the weary start-up cyclist.

I only wish I had the stamina of our world-renowned cycling author and travel writer extraordinaire Lismore resident, Dervla Murphy, whose exploits on her various bikes and other modes of more exotic transport have been documented in her numerous books for the past almost-fifty years, since Full Tilt - from Ireland to India on a bicycle was published in 1965. 

Rozinante was the name of that bike and she surely was an Irish Don Quixote tilting at more than windmills, certainly she threw the book at the stereotype of Irish womanhood in those pre-feminist wave days. We are very pleased and proud to call her a friend and have spent many a pleasant evening in her company.

Here are some of the lovely scenes around Lismore and Cappoquin and Ballyduff, and our newly planted shrubbery out in the back garden. Hopefully the banana trees will flourish again this year with a nearly-frostfree winter, and the cordylines will thrive and grow.

My trusty steed - nameless
Ben and our newly planted garden
Dromana House at Villierstown
Horses on R.  Blackwater Inches

Enjoy the beauty of our Blackwater River Valley - and if we only had this kind of good weather here we'd be living in the best place on earth - in fact it's pretty good as it is despite the weather, as it's the rain that help the Emerald Isle live up to its name!
River Blackwater from Cappoquin
Reflections from the Kitchen Hole, near Cappoquin