Wednesday, February 22, 2006

It's contagious!

So the other day, I was sitting around crocheting an edge onto a sweater. Just the really simple crochet chain stitch, or whatever they call it. I don't really actually know how to crochet; I just learned enough to do this to stabilize some edges on my knitting. Looking through the huge-ass needleworks book that's the most useful present I've ever received, the Limey, who was just around to drop off some of my stuff, have a cup of tea, then go home to nurse his cold, sees the crochet section and says, hey, this looks cool and pretty easy- just one needle! Could he borrow my crochet hook? So I give him the (my only) hook and the book open to the crochet section. Two hours, the whole mug of tea and some cake later, he's still sitting around trying to get it right! Eventually he left, but not without taking the crochet hook and some practice yarn with him. The next day, he tells me he was up 'til the wee hours of the morning trying to get this crochet thing down. Then, yesterday while I was browsing the library for knitting books, I come across the Crochet Stitch Bible, which I show the Limey, who immediately insists that I check it out for him.

This morning, he announces that he has mastered the chain stitch, the single and double crochet stitches.

Ha! I should start warning all my co-workers.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Two recent obsessions

I have in the past couple of months become totally and inexplicably obsessed with two things:

1. Really nice underwear; and
2. knitting

(And I will pre-empt your comments by saying, right now: No, I'm not going to knit my own underwear.)

Now, obsession #2 is kind of a continuation of a knitting phase that started in Seattle, and which had been in dormancy for the past couple years, only to flare up again a couple months ago. However, whereas in Seattle, I was merrily knitting a couple hours a week, doing things like simple hats and scarves and basically using knitting as an excuse to fondle soft fuzzy skeins of yarn, here, I think of nothing else all day except for how much knitting I can get done that evening, after work (with some brain time set aside for obsession #1). While at work, I spend all my time on and knitting pattern central, among countless other websites of knitting patterns and techniques. And it's embarrasing how many on-line yarn sellers I've browsed through. With yarn shops so thin on the ground in Dublin, I'm reduced to drooling over yarn on the web, which at least keeps the yarns more hygienic. I'm thinking of flying over to London again in a couple of weekends, to visit the yarn shops there. I only got to one last time. I'm also entertaining a trip to Galway, 'cause I read somewhere on the web that there's a new yarn store in town. This weekend, I corralled the Limey into driving me out to a soulless commercial/industrial estate in feckin' Walkinstown, for Christ's sake (no, there's no need for any of you to know where that is) because Springwools is there. I bought 6 balls of a cashmere/cotton/angora blend that I don't even know what the hell I'm going to do with. I also ran out of the lovely GGH Soft Kid (which I'd bought in London last time) about 12 rows from finishing a cardigan I started on last week, so I went to to buy another ball. (12 rows! And you just KNOW the new ball is going to be from a different dye lot, and my lovely soft mohair cardigan will look like I spilled tea on the top few inches.) And while on the website, I thought, Well, it's silly paying all that shipping and handling just for one ball of yarn, isn't it? So I ordered 5 skeins of a lovely yellow wool that I also don't know what the hell I'm going to do with. I went to all three of the biggest bookshops in town on Sunday, to see if their stash of knitting books had expanded at all in the last week. (No, they hadn't.)

Now, obsession #1 is a surprise for me. I mean, up 'til December or so, my idea of great underwear was the cotton ones my mom had bought for me in a 25-pack at one of those Asian random crap stores that you find on Clement St. in SF. Fit OK, four or five colours so you don't get bored, a teeny bow at the front so it's not completely featureless. Most of my underwear still consists of these, and my mom died 7 years ago, for Pete's sake! This tells you how often I thought of underwear and how often I bought new ones. (Hey, they're sturdy cotton and wash well, okay?) But now! If the price tag on a bra has fewer than 3 digits, I sneer at it. I only want underwear with lace constructed of silk from hand-fed silkworms and satin that's been woven by fairies from pixie hair. Or at least, that would be the only things that would justify the prices on some of this stuff. I slink around the Agent Provocateur shop in Brown Thomas, in my Zara jacket and cheap jeans and try not to call attention to the fact that I can't afford to even look at the merest sliver of silk in there. The Myla people sent me a catalogue (thus ensuring that, should I ever move away from this address, future residents will never be able to use their bathrooms, which will be constantly occupied by their heavily-breathing 14-year-old sons), which I leaf through at night when I'm done leafing through knitting books and patterns. I had to stop myself from browsing this stuff on-line during the day, 'cause all my co-workers would then think I'm browsing porn, which is basically what some of this stuff is. Hey, at least it's expensive, high-class trash.

When I walk around town nowadays, I stop at the window of every knitwear shop (of which there are lots in Dublin- why the hell don't they have some decent yarn stores, then? Makes no sense) and scrutinize their stock. I have come to the conclusion that Aran sweaters are just absolutely hideous. I mean, the cabling, the diamond patterns, the heavy in-your-face Oirishness of it all is just disgusting. And it's not like Aran jumpers are easy to knit (although they're probably all done by machine). It would take forever to knit one of those- why waste your hours just to make something so ugly? Maybe there are simple Aran-style jumpers out there, that are nicer? There must be. In between knitwear shops, I look in the windows of lingerie shops (of which there are also lots here...hmmm...maybe I'm just obsessed with these because that's what there is to obsess about here?) and sniff at the quality (acetate lace? rayon? Pah.) and design (brown and aqua blue? Really? Together? In a bra designed with the structural engineering of bridge scaffolding?).

This is all very bad. I've spent a whole bunch of money on yarn and knitting supplies; I'm constantly disappointed at my underwear drawer; I'm not getting any work done. Even worse, since my evenings are all knit-obsessed, I haven't read a book in ages! This is bad.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Happy birthday to me!

Because of that stupid-ass sappy Valentine's Day crap, the flights to anywhere even remotely nice were totally expensive for the weekends around my birthday (but, hey, I could still go to Liverpool for cheap!). Instead, the Limey and I drove out west, to the Dingle peninsula. I'd been to the town before, but didn't have much chance to look around the area, so this time, that's what we were going to do.

We took off work early on Friday, and were heading out from my place at around 3:30. We were hoping to make it to Dingle town (or An Daingean, as it's been rechristened (or re-rechristened, I guess, as this is its original Irish name)) by dinner time, as we'd been told it would take 4-5 hours of driving. Hahahahaha! No way! We made it to Tralee at 9:30. Traffic out of Dublin was, true to what we'd been told, absolutely horrible. But even if it had been clear, we'd never have made it to Tralee in less than five hours, and it was another hour, at least, to Dingle. Instead of arriving at Dingle and trying to get a room and dinner at 11 o'clock, we decided to stay in Tralee for the night. We drove around a bit until we found a B&B that looked okay, inspected the room, agreed to pay €30 each for the night, dropped off our bags, and went looking for food. The first two places we stopped in at were packed. The third place, The Cookery, seated us after we promised we'd be quick, as the kitchen was closing. The food was good, verging on very good.

The next day, we had breakfast and drove straight out to Dingle. Unfortunately, I had a horrible headache, so couldn't enjoy the drive along the south side of the peninsula. Luckily, the headache cleared up a little bit after we arrived. We walked around town a bit. I went into every shop that looked like it might sell yarn, and hit jackpot at a little place called Commodum, which sold Aran weight tweed yarn from a Kerry mill that, the proprietor claimed, was the last place in Ireland that still spun and dyed yarn. I bought 400g of the darkest red they had. I should have bought more, and it was very hard choosing a colour from all the ones they had. They will mail stuff, though, and the proprietor dude very thoughtfully checked the colour number for me before we left, in case I wanted more later. There was also another little shop that sold yarn, but it mostly had eyelash and other novelty yarns; not quite what I was looking for. I did buy some knitting needles from there, though.

After a bit more walking, we stopped by a couple B&Bs, which turned out not to have opened for the season yet. (Dingle's pretty touristy in summer, I think, and a lot of places close for the winter. We passed few tourists on our walk around town.) Eventually we got a room at An Caball Dubh, dropped our stuff off, and decided to drive out to Slea Head while the light and weather remained favourable. The drive was gorgeous; the coast is lovely. We found a little beach that only had a couple of surfers on it and walked around, poking at things with sticks. (Hey, we're scientists.) We took the long way back, along Slea Head drive, and got back to Dingle in time to have some tea and cake at a cafe, then went back to our room to change for dinner.

The Chart House had been recommended to us, and I'd called them Friday during the drive up to book a table. It was good I had, 'cause when we arrived, people without reservations were being turned away right and left. And the food was just absolutely wonderful. I had mussels to start, and herb-encrusted skate on risotto for my main course. The mussels were pretty good, but the skate was done perfectly. The Limey had duck confit to start and a filet of organic, free-range Kerry beef (we probably passed the cow it came from during our drive) which looked amazing, even to me. I tasted a bit of it, and it was indeed good. We finished off with chocolate terrine and a glass of port, for him, and muscat, for me. We were so stuff that we could probably have rolled back to the B&B, if it hadn't been uphill.

The next day, after a small breakfast (still digesting from the night before) we drove around the peninsula some more. Connor's Pass took us through the mountains to the north side of the peninsula. It was properly, San Francisco foggy and misty at the top of the pass, which was fun to drive through, and the other side had beautiful blue water and green fields. (And hillsides dotted with sheep! Who knew that actually existed outside of schoolbooks?) Drove up to Brandon Point, with a great view of the Atlantic and the bays along the northern peninsula. After that, we started our drive back home, this time at a much more leisurely pace. Stopped in Adare for a late lunch. We tried The Wild Geese, but it wasn't open, so we had some blah lunch at a non-descript place a few doors down.

Got back to Dublin at 9 or so and collapsed. It always amazes me that I can get tired just sitting in a car all day. And it's not like I was driving.

But the whole weekend was lovely, all around.

Um, and yeah, neither of us remembered our cameras.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Lookee what I did!

Look! I knitted a whole sweater!

Okay, it's not the most flattering picture of me, but you get the idea. The pattern's from the first Stitch 'n' Bitch book and I knitted it with Rowan's Kid Classic yarn. The blocking went okay, but I didn't manage to get the sleeves any shorter. The sleeves kinda have a bell shape at the bottom, which I really like.

Anyway, it's totally wearable, and everything!

Edited, a year later, to add: I've frogged this sweater because, let's face it, it's hideous. I mean, I'm proud I knit it and put it together and that it was -barely- wearable, but it's not my style at all. That loose fabric, those huge bell-shaped sleeves when I can stand stuff that drags and inhibits movement? The upside is that now I've got some lovely yarn to work with again.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Yay me!

I actually finished knitting my first sweater! (Well, my second sweater, but we won't talk about the first one I attempted.) I finished sewing it together last night, and tried it on, and it actually fits and everything. The sleeves are a little long, but that's okay. I still have to crochet the neckline a bit to stabilize it, and then block the whole thing, which I'm hoping will shorten the sleeves up a bit as well. The first long seam I did was joining the two sides of one of the sleeves, and it was a horrible job- uneven and a bit bumpy. Then I redeemed myself with an absolutely beautiful, can't-tell-where-it-is side seam. When I went to do the second sleeve, I started at the top end instead of bottom (as was recommended by the pattern) and this one turned out waaaaay better. I sewed up the second side seam, and, taking a good long look at the finished thing, decided I'd take out the first sleeve seam and re-do it.

No no no no no! Disaster. I sewed up the sweater with the same kind of yarn as the knitting was done in, so I had no clue which bit of yarn was the seam and which was bits of sweater. After pulling at various bits and scrunching up the sleeve even worse, I wisely decided to quit while I was ahead. I pulled and stretched the bits of damaged yarn back into something resembling a sleeve and called it quits. So, some advice: sew up your work with another kind of yarn! You won't be able to see it if you've done it right, but you'll be able to pick it out if you haven't. Horrors.

Will post a picture when I've done the blocking. Despite slight sleeve problem, yay me!

Reading: Watching the English, by Kate Fox. It's a study of English behavior as documented by an honest-to-goodness anthropologist. Plus she's English, so she gets to take the piss out of her countrymen. Anyway, it's hilarious. The way she describes them, the English sound very much like me.