Sunday, June 24, 2012

Knitting Surprises - Yarn Bargains and Blog Prizes!

Thank You Kathy! 
Last week I got a delightful surprise - no, make that two delightful surprises - when I won a blog prize from Kathy B at IrishEyesKnitters Blog , and I found a great yarn bargain in Kinsale.

Firstly the yarn prize came as a complete surprise, as I hadn't expected to win the competition. All I did was post a comment linking to another blog on knitting that maybe needed more visitors and comments, so I trawled a bit and thought of Irish Knitting and Crochet which is a great resource of all the Irish crafty sites, although they don't update too often. Anyway KathyB informed me I'd won and asked for my address so she could forward my prize. So I sent it off and forgot about it till a box with an American postmark arrived during the week. I had to think what it might be and wondered then if it was my prize, which it was - all the way from Illinois! I had missed the blogpost that showed the prize, so it came as a real thrill to see all the lovely yarn! I got 2 x 50g skeins of Berocco Denim Silk, which I'd never heard of, and 3 x 50g balls of Tivoli Cotton and Linen slubby boucle yarn in a nice creamy colour.

My lovely prize from Illinois! 
The irony of the airmiles undergone by the Tivoli didn't escape me as it started life in Cork about 50 minutes drive away from Lismore! In fact my son and his family live in the suburb of Tivoli, near the original woollen mills. Sadly now most of the yarn is made in Turkey but still marketed out of Cork as one of the oldest most regarded Irish knitting brands. Thanks KathyB for making my week a  lot brighter - especially given the foul weather we're enduring in pursuit of our Irish Summer, which is making a mockery of us! I have yet to decide what to make with this fab prize but I'll let you know in good time! This yarn is now discontinued so I will make sure I use just enough!

Beautiful Silk/Wool blend Sock Yarn
The second surprise which actually preceded the yarn prize, was this find of a ball of 100g Noro Silk Garden Sock Yarn Colour 301 in Vivi, a lovely crafty shop in Kinsale where I went last Saturday. I wandered around the pretty seaside town while hubby Jan attended a town councillor's national meeting in the Blue Haven Hotel, and as I'd never  been to Kinsale before I figured I'd make like a tourist and do all the touristy trail things. Like wander the narrow streets, visit the shops and go down the quayside to the plummy Kinsale Yacht Club and gawp at all the recession-busting yachts in the Marina, which were the ship equivalent of bumper-to-bumper (stern-to-stern?).

The Yarn shop in Kinsale
Kinsale Marina
A colourful Kinsale street

Along one narrow winding lane I saw this shop which was manna to any knitter, and I browsed covetously for a while, like I do in bookshops, not buying but loitering with guilty intent. I had taken my stash-busting pledge seriously, or maybe I thought I had; well I had told hubby not a drop ball of wool would enter the house till the stash was diminished to virtually nothing, but like any self-respecting knitaholic, I was only one  ball away from falling off that wagon, and the temptation of a lone ball of Noro was too much, and I caved in. The real lure was the price tag - a fiver, that's 5 Euro or about $6, or £4, anyway about a quarter of the normal price. Seems it was the last of the lot and the saleswoman didn't seem to make much of my enthusiastic reaction to my find, as she told me she wasn't a knitter herself.

I have spent the past week deliberating over what to make and while it's sock  yarn,  all 300m of it, I think it's far too pretty to hide in my boots, so I'm going to make a scarf/shawl in a chevron pattern that'll show up the stripes beautifully. I know it'll have a right and a wrong side but I don't think that'll matter as the reverse stocking stitch will be lovely with the lacy design. I have decided on a pattern I found in Pinterest, as it's simple and easy.

Source: via anemone on Pinterest

I think it's very delicate and hope it does the Noro yarn justice!  It's also on Ravelry as a free download.

Right now I don't have time to work with complex charts as I've a wedding in a week and a bit. Our eldest son Shayne and his fiancee Jany are tying the knot after 4 years together, and regular blog readers will know they have two beautiful daughters, Sofia and Livia. So I have a cake to bake and decorate, albeit simply, and a frock to find, again not getting too stressed about that, as I'm not going the whole mother of the groom thing with hats and shoes and bag matching a serious rigout. More like a summery frock and a shawl or bolero and I'll be grand. I got nice white sandals in New Look in Cork today so that's a start!

Enjoy the photos and be sure to visit Kathy's blog and all the blogs people in the competition recommended to her and thanks again for thinking up a lovely surprise to make my week!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Immrama 2012 - Celebrating Lismore's 10th Travel Writing Festival - Part One

Jan and me with Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron
 I will blog about Immrama in two parts as there is far too much to report for a single post. This was a very special anniversary for Immrama as it was the 10th festival. We marked it with the publication of a very special book called "The Blue Sky Bends Over All" which is a quote from William Makepeace Thackeray that Immrama adopted as its motto at the festival's outset in 2003. It was his remark on the Catholics and Protestants being buried in opposite sides of the Church of Ireland cemetery which he visited in the 1800s. He noted that the sun didn't shine more on one side than the other and "The blue sky bends over all", an early nod to ecumenism that deserves to be lauded. Paul Clements, a long-time friend of Immrama, was the editor of the book along with hubby Jan, and it comprises essays from around 20 earlier speakers at Immrama from the first decade. I already blogged about the Yarnbomb homage to Immrama here.

Prof. Eoin Burke at the launch
This year's festival was another successful milestone on the literary calender. Immrama has become recognised nationally and internationally as a world-class literary festival, a boutique festival that has a global reach far exceeding its perceived niche of travel writing.  Visitors come from as far afield as Vancouver and Melbourne, and from all over Ireland and the UK and mainland Europe.

Ciaran Murphy at the book launch
The participants and speakers always love the hospitality and Lismore welcome they get, from the preparations for their journey to and from Lismore to the attention lavished on them by the committee during their stay. They will be looked after and brought to see local sights like Ballysaggartmore Towers, a local folly, or The Vee up in the Knockmealdown Mountains, or Mount Melleray, a local Cistercian Abbey. And if they want to chill and do nothing, that's fine too. The fact that after each evening's event we all repair to the festival club in a local pub, a different one each night to keep everyone happy, means the speakers get to chat with the locals and there's very little standing to ceremony, which they all seem to enjoy.

Catherine de Courcy at the launch
Jan, me, Paul, Peter, Claire, Catherine and Bernard
Story Trail led by Bernard and historical Lismoreians!
Thursday evening saw the launch of three books in the prestigious Lismore Castle Arts Gallery. First was "What Happens on Tour|", Waterford man Ciaran Murphy's adventures in Australia and New Zealand, followed by Galway University Professor Eoin Burke's tome on German travellers in 19th Century Ireland in translation which is quite academic but fascinating, and finally our own Immrama book which Catherine de Courcy launched, as she was at the festival as a returning visitor, having been a speaker and creative writing workshop faciliator other years. That event took place in the Castle Arts Gallery amid the massive sculptures of Hans Josephsohn, whose work adorns the gallery and the gardens for the summer exhibition.
St. Carthage in his Cathedral in Lismore

Friday was a busier day with the school children doing the Story Trail with local characters like St. Carthage and Robert Boyle of the eponymous Law who was born in Lismore Castle, as his father Richard was the Earl of Cork. The weather held despite vile weather earlier in the week and a bad forecast.

That evening the first main event was held in the Courthouse Theatre. It was a panel discussion on the Legacy of Patrick Leigh Fermor, an acclaimed albeit little known travel writer. The panel consisted of Colin Thubron, the legendary Asian and Silk Road travel writer, Artemis Cooper (wife of Antony Beevor the historian), Jan Morris on a return visit to Lismore, and Tony Wheeler, the co-founder with his wife Maureen of Lonely Planet, the gold standard guide series.

Robert Boyle explains Boyle's Law
The topic was timely given that Leigh Fermor's death occurred a year ago on the same Friday night of Immrama, when it was announced during that evening's event in the same venue. There's a Lismore connection too, as he was a great friend of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, formerly Deborah Mitford, the youngest of the famous Mitford Sisters. She is now in her 90s and her grandson Lord Burlington is a frequent visitor to his home in Lismore, where he established the Castle Arts exhibitions, always highly regarded internationally even if a tad avant-garde.

The panel discussion was chaired by Paul Clements and was riveting as Artemis Cooper introduced the man she called Paddy and knew as a dear friend. She is his biographer, and Jan Morris and herself and Colin Thubron are all involved in administering his estate on Crete, where he called home for many years. It was a fascinating insight to a dashingly handsome boys' own adventurer who had a somewhat rocky childhood - parents left him behind in England when they headed off to India, and when they returned as strangers he was uprooted from the only home he knew.

The Panel discuss Patrick Leigh Fermor
Jan with Colin Thubron
He hated school and when he was about 18 he headed off on foot to walk from the Hook of Holland to Istanbul or Constantinople. The diaries of this journey are in two books while a third will be posthumously published when completed. He had a penchant for parties and seemed to fit in wherever he went, and I'm looking forward to reading his two books and eventually the third. I also have the book of letters between him and Deborah Devonshire, In Tearing Haste, which I got for my birthday and which Artemis Cooper and Colin Thubron both signed.  The Q&A Session after the discussion was animated and showed the knowledge of an informed and erudite audience that packed the theatre to capacity and beyond.  Easons  as the main sponsor of the festival ensure a wide range and good supply of books of all the speakers and the entire panel were happy to sign books after the talk, a great chance for informal chat with the public, to be continued in the pub or hotel.

Artemis, Tony, Jan, Colin and Paul

I'll continue with the events of Saturday and Sunday in the next blogpost.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yarnbombing - for Immrama and Lismore's Travel Writing Cyclist

A colourful attraction!
I just had to share this with you all in the blogosphere and knitting and crocheting community - a craftosphere perhaps - as it is the coolest thing to hit Lismore since the Barber of Seville Yarnbombing of the previous weekend, which you can see here.

An unlikely Urban Guerilla.
In the Tuesday Knitters at Angela's Design Workshop we had a plan afoot for the Immrama Travel Writing Festival, especially as this is the 10th Festival and has just concluded last night after a very successful weekend. I will blog about the festival anon. Meanwhile, a bicycle yarnbombing seemed most appropriate given that it's the preferred mode of transport of our own renowned traveller Dervla Murphy. Dervla is world-famous is travel writing circles as an octogenarian who has written of her journeys through life from her first book, Full Tilt: Ireland to India with a Bicycle, through her autobiography Wheels within Wheels to her latest work The Island that Dared - Journeys in Cuba and she is soon bringing out her book on Palestine. She has a wonderful body of work, Lismore is very proud of her, and we are delighted to have her as a friend. She visited Laos after we told her what a wonderfully unspoilt place it was back in the 90s, and she is a real inspiration to all generations.

My crocheted contributions
Street art!
So this is the outcome of our endeavours! Angela kindly supplied the bike, which was somewhat past roadworthy and its prime, and we embellished it with love and lots of crochet and knitting and weaving to make this fabulous work of art. Many Tuesday Knitters made various parts - mine was the half-moon rear-wheel "skirt-guard" which is a peculiarly Dutch innovation - "Jasbeschermers" or coat protectors. I found these wonderfully colourful embellishments online and on Ravelry and adapted one to my end procuct, which I love. Then Dairiona made the beautiful front-wheel covers in crochet shades of blue, while sisters Annie and Agnes made the basket - in basketweave stitch with a pre-patterned yarn. I can't name each and everyone as I'd be sure to omit many but suffice to say there were myriad contributors!

The ornate basket - bees making honey!
Last Friday, coinciding with the Immrama Festival, the bike was placed on the steps of the Heritage Centre, a nerve centre for tourism in Lismore, and the visitor numbers were certainly up this weekend, due to the festival but of course we take some credit with our own visitor-magnet! I saw lots of people photographing it, being photographed beside it, and in one case, in it! A little  baby was placed in the basket for the sweetest photograph, which I saw on Facebook! Some people thought it was Dervla's iconic bike, Roz (Rozinante, the Quixotically named bike that took her to India and beyond in 1963 and which found a home in the Lismore Library, where her father was once County Librarian).

So what do you think? We are totally biased and love it and hope it finds a long-term home in Lismore, as a tourist attraction in its own right. Who knows, it might even go down in history.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Yarnbombing The Barber of Seville - A First for Lismore

Lismore's "Opera Lane" aka The New Way
Angela, Brian and Minnie
This June Bank Holiday weekend was marked by the staging of Rossini's The Barber of Seville by the Lismore Music Festival in Lismore Castles's salubrious setting. The Opera was staged outdoors, a risky venture in itself given our unpredictable climate and indeed it didn't disappoint as last  night's performance took place in a veritable deluge. Luckily they had the presence of  mind to erect a tent to protect the audience and hopefully the stage could be covered as well. The previous night was the dress rehearsal which I already blogged about in this post about the visit of our President Michael D. Higgins to the Castle, where we met him afterwards at a reception. 

A yarnbombed pole
In Angela's Window - Mary's knitted banner!
All roads lead from Lismore! 
The Tuesday Knitters from the Design Workshop, our self-styled Knitting Circle, decided a while ago to get into the whole yarnbombing movement, which seems to be a global phenomenon. As the name implies, items made from yarn either knitted or crocheted are bombed into public spaces to decorate street furniture, and it can be themed or random. We decided to mark the Opera weekend with yarnbombing on the theme of Barber poles - lots of red and white stripes along the lamposts of Lismore especially en route to the Castle from the town - our very own Opera Lane.
My Granny Squares pole
What makes Yarnbombing special is the surprise element - not for nothing is it also called Guerilla Knitting - so nobody outside the select members of the Knitting Circle morning and evening groups were told what all this frantic red and white knitting or crochet was about, and it was assumed we were knitting up the Cork colours, our rivals on the fields of sport, who are always pitched against the blue and white of Waterford. Alas no, it was much more than an homage to Cork, and by yesterday morning the town was blitzed. 

En route to the Castle Avenue
Like a duel of old, it was up at dawn for Angela of the Design Workshop and some other trusty members who were out in force with the lengths of knitting and crochet, cable ties, stepladders and darning needles.  Sadly I slept it out till 8:30 by which all the hard work was done and I went around taking photos feeling rather sheepishly guilty for not having been there - but Saturday mornings are sacrosanct and the alarm is silenced - I forgot to reset it.
My crochet stripes - concertina-ing!
My yarn bombs pre-deployment! 
So when I arrived on my bike Angela and fiance Brian and trusty dog Minnie (who is a prima donna star in her own right, with a whole range of greeting cards in her image) were breakfasting on the terrace of the Lismore House Hotel, and I was delighted to see the end result of the poles draped in Barber Pole stripes - some quirkier than others. Mine included a length of granny squares in alternating colours and they looked lovely on the pole, and it was great to see them on the corners of the Main Street too. 

The Barber's this way!
We have plans afoot for next weekend and the Immrama Festival of Travel Writing, so watch this space! Like Arnie, we'll  be  back - and it's gonna be fun. I hope you enjoy the photos of our venture into this brave new world of knitting and crochet! 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A Presidential Moment - Meeting Michael D. in Lismore

Meeting the President - local Labour Councillors and wives!
(Dan McGrath photographer)
Tonight was very special as it marked the visit by our President, Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina to Lismore for the first time in his new role. We had a visit in 2004 from President Mary McAleese, his predecessor, who came to unveil the Tidy Towns' commemorative plaque in the Millenium Park. That was a special occasion too and we all enjoyed it. This time it was different - firstly as a former Labour Party President, this was a whole new elevation to the President of our Country for the very affable and much-liked Michael D. He is a poet, politician and academic, and he is an erudite speaker and a wonderful orator. At previous Labour Party Conferences I have seen him hold the audience spellbound while he debated some moot point. Now of course he is apolitical in his Presidential role, but I think Labour members will always lay claim to him as one of our own!

The Tricolour flying over the Castle
Lismore Castle Courtyard
We were privileged to be invited to the reception in the Pugin Room of Lismore Castle where he was attending the dress rehearsal of the Lismore Music Festival's The Barber of Seville, which is running for two nights this weekend, as the main part of a broader festival. A number of guests were at the reception from Lismore and the surrounding area, and we enjoyed a chat and a glass of wine or the Castle's own delicious apple juice while we waited for the Presidential party to arrive. He had a busy day, firstly going to Clonmel where he was made a Freeman of the town, and thence to Waterford where he opened Waterford nature park at Kilbarry on the site of a former landfill, and finally to Lismore for the Opera and reception. Here's his official engagements for last week - exhausting to even read it!
Jan presenting the Immrama Book to the President

It was a beautiful balmy evening, with cloudless skies as we entered the castle grounds via the Greenroad, or the tradesmen's entrance round the back where the old sawmills once whirred and where locals could go to buy vegetables from the head gardener back in my childhood days, David Montgomery, a taciturn Welshman, long deceased. I used to go there with my mother to get lovely early salad and veggies from the Paxton greenhouse which is now sadly defunct, awaiting a substantial grant-aid to restore it to its former glory.

Jan sharing a laugh with the President
Me and Ann Hanley with Sabina Higgins
We passed the marquee housing the punters at the Opera, a wise move given our unpredictable weather, and heard some of the lovely arias. We weren't able to crash the gig though so we continued down to the Pugin Room and chatted out in the courtyard until we were ushered in by Denis, the head butler, who announced the arrival of the President in both Irish and English. It was lovely to meet Michael D in this role, and we were delighted last year when he was elected, as he was the only candidate to retain his dignity and while he's apolitical in the role, it's more than ceremonial as he has to sign off on new legislation.

President and Sabina Higgins with Robert O'Byrne, art critic
We were lucky to meet him as it was a bit of a scrum like a Jedward concert to get up close to him, and as we chatted to him he remembered us from his former Labour life, and hubby Jan presented him with the book the Immrama Festival Committee published this year to mark the 10th Immrama Festival (more of which anon!) and he seemed pleased to get it. We had a longer chat with Sabina, his wife, and I managed to get a photo with her, and we could tell her we'd met their daughter at a Labour function in Dublin some months back. We had a press photo with the President which might be in one of the local papers next week.

Altogether it was a very pleasant evening and we are delighted that Lismore featured on the Presidential itinerary, and maybe Michael D will make it back here another day. Meanwhile enjoy the photos and share the event with us all!
The guests at the reception for the President