Sunday, 30 December 2012

Feel no regrets!

Feel no regrets!

“Life is short, Break the Rules.
Forgive quickly, Kiss SLOWLY.
Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably
And never regret ANYTHING
That makes you smile.”
Today, after a busy mornings work, I did the unthinkable. I took to the bed at 4pm (that’s in the afternoon). Truth be told, it started as a quick lie down with two used teabags resting on my eyes. I woke up a couple of hours later, under the covers with thoughts of Mr.? playing on my mind. Despite looking the worst for wear, I felt no guilt! I felt slightly naughty, squandering two hours of a working day on beauty sleep, interjected by thoughts of a certain…. However, I felt completely invigorated to have wasted this time so blissfully. My mantra: nothing is wasted if you can truly justify its worth.

So, what with that ever increasing stash of once off, hand dyed, spun by a virgin bathing in a lake of asses’ milk, yarns which you felt were a must buy when you spent your bread on them? Do not fear! Keep your secrets closer than your friends and all will be well. 

Concealing your stash...
Concealing your stash can be difficult. I suggest finding some excellent mini projects to treat your friends to instead. Giving is always so much easier than receiving. One-ball projects are most definitely the way to rid you of that guilty stash. Incorporating stripes, intarsia, Fair Isle, pom poms, finger puppets, the list is endless. Find new, innovative ways to dispel that unnecessary guilt and all the while, increasing your actual friend stash. Blossoming motifs and flowers are a great way to use up little bits of yarns. Not only can the fuzzy flora be used to adorn necklines, hairlines and even cheer up the breadline, if you are there!

Knit One, Stripe One

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Scrooge! Who me?

Scrooge! Who me?

"That does it," said Jace. "I'm going to get you a dictionary for Christmas this year."
"Why?" Isabelle said.
"So you can look up 'fun.' I'm not sure you know what it means.”

Honey, it’s cold outside. Its also raining but then again, this is Ireland and its winter. Despite the monopoly on rain in this green Isle, memories of growing up in here always seem slightly deceptive. The summers were long and sunny and spent outdoors with my five siblings and a smattering of the forty-something first cousins. The winters, specifically Christmas time, were cold, white and magical.

Christmas at Fairy Lawn was often spent in darkness. Who would have thought if you lit your house up like an airport runway that it would cause a regional blackout? To add guts to misery, the water would often go on strike too due to solid, frozen pipes and an iced over well. It was nothing short of making one feel like a Charles Dickens character.

Despite the Dickensian context, Christmas at Fairy Lawn was fun. It must have been as despite my best efforts, I foresee, I will be home for yet another one. The dread one feels for the onslaught of the New Year festivities is played out to the backdrop of silliness that Christmas brings. To help maintain sanity over Christmas, I bring home my knitting.  Them indoors have become accustomed to my quiet solitude sitting in the corner, knitting furiously during a re-run of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom while, a deft hand takes hold of a couple of Milk Tray chocolates, eyes sweeping the room before dropping back down to knitting at hand. Ah Christmas: Baileys for breakfast, 12 hours of TV a day and a time to re-fuel, put on those extra pounds that got lost somewhere on a trip to the gym.

I remember ….. this is why I keep coming back.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

We must never, ever be boring!

“… an audience of about 500 mostly 20 & 30-somethings were listening with careful amusement as a dapper young man talked about toast. … he was clicking through a series of photographs of toast slices, ranging from the entirely burnt to the effectively untoasted, in order to demonstrate what he called “the confusing, non-regulated series of toaster settings on the market.” His manner of weary, slightly apologetic pedantry seemed to be going down exceptionally well with the audience …”

A dispatch from the 2012 Boring Conference’ By Mark O'Connell

I read this article while on an early morning train to Dublin. Apart from being a great  morning read, it made good sense and touched on a subject I am all too familiar with. I have no bones about what is boring, lets say, knitting! But boring is good.

A man walks down the street... 

Across from me, a woman dressed completely in blue, faces a copy of the Times, a laptop and is holding two mobile phones in front of her. Opposite her is a young man dressed in a Burton suit, who is tapping manically at his laptop. There is an invisible chap, a few seats back, who hasn’t stopped talking since sitting on the train. It’s all too much for this time of the morning so I pull out my needles and choose blissed out knitting.

Why do we find such repose from the mundane? How can a conference on Boring triumph over a conference on Interesting, which, had been dropped due to lack of interest? Personally, I can only describe boring as coming in from the cold, eating a big bowl of hot, buttery pandy & having a good knit while watching re-runs of Murder She Wrote. It’s comforting. Nothing will happen, that's out of the ordinary but that’s good. Modern living can be draining. The constant pursuit of happiness is depressing. While sitting and knitting, you can be pretty damned sure, nothing much will happen. Apart from a dropped stitch, the worst case scenario: The phone unexpectantly rings. You forget which line you were on!

For further reading (and a bit of a laugh) try this for Boring! 

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Brave New World

“A smiley was first developed in the year of 1982 by Scott Fahlman. This occurred at the Carnegie Mellon University when this person used a simple form of a smiley like :-) on the bulletin board of computer science….they [emoticons] are probably the easiest way to express your feelings without spending a single precious word from the mouth….”
-Unknown Source

Now, I embrace technology as much as the next person, but there are certain aspects that I won’t cuddle up to. Along with shorthand texting, I have a real beef about Emoticons. Sure, I get their efficiency and their ‘cleanliness’ but I can’t love them. It’s not them. It’s me. 
My dating life had not so much reached a crossroads, but had taken a wrong turn someway back and was now lost on a country by-road, with grass growing down the middle. So, I took two steps into the underworld of online dating, I.M. and Emoticons. Here is an excerpt from an actual conversation I had online:

Me: So tell me in plain English….what do I do now?
He: ok. Well go to ****, log in, and then you will notice a chat box in the left hand column. You’re supposed to see my contact there
Me: Yes, I see your contact and the chat icon but nothing happened
He: you should be receiving instant messages…..
Me: Where? Where are these messages?
He: there is a popup window appearing on the bottom right corner of the browser otherwise we can go on chatting as usual :-)
Me: No, I need to be able to do this. I found your messages but I can’t reply. There is no popup on the right hand corner. Just leave it with me, I will figure it out. What’s with :-)??
He: I was sending you a smile  ;-))

Online dating didn’t suit me….I could argue, its an age thing  with T-internet but IT and ITs Emoticons have been in existence for some thirty years. Well, things do move slower in Ireland.

1984 - Long distance communication of the past!

I have managed to re-create my own knitter savvy emoticon jargon:

:) x            Knitting happily
:[ x            Oh…something has happened!
:(  (|          Ooops….I sat on my needle
)(               Needles, overused & abused
}:|             mmm….something’s not right
§§§           Knots in the yarn!
-------          Erm….kind of got the knots out
}:(              Oh Balls!

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Give it away!

Give it away!

“Sacrifice is a part of life. It's supposed to be. It's not something to regret. It's something to aspire to.”

Growing up on a farm, in rural Ireland, had its ups and downs. As a child, you didn’t get to see your friends as often as you would have liked. There weren’t shops nearby to stock up on goodies. However, there was a mobile sweet shop run by ‘Scully’. That’s what he was called. He would arrive at the house any day at anytime. At the sound of his sweet shop, pulling into the yard, we would all scream “Scully!” before running amok in his tiny van. After a good feed of sweets, we would amuse ourselves amongst the farm machinery and vast open spaces. It was the 80’s so health and safety wasn’t talked about! There was one afternoon, when we stumbled across a small open, car trailer. “Speed Wheels!” We poured on, with the trailer poised at the top of a hill with the open road in front of us. One sat on the back, Mai (another of the Middles) sitting on the front, to balance things out and a couple on either side. Speed, apparently, is fun but fear is the getaway. When things got scary, we all jumped but Mai, ill-advised, felt she better stay and steer. We found her at the foot of a large tree, her ankle wedged between the trailer lip and gnarled tree trunk. She took a bullet for us, saving that trailer from destruction at the expense of her own legs! Bless!
An able-bodied Mai, today
There is something about giving a gift, which gives you that warm fuzzy feeling inside. Mai, sacrificing her legs was admirable but giving a gift of knitting is much more 2012. On finding that perfect shade of yarn, the creativity bubbles rise to the surface and project ideas start to flood in.  Although, my presents have become a bit ‘old hat’ and predictable, knitting still takes over! Well, for sure, your boyfriend/ girlfriend, partner, newborn, neighbour, friend or even your own feet will appreciate the gift of a hand-crafted knit. 

Never underestimate the power of giving!

Sunday, 18 November 2012



"Now the skillful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic. He will have nothing but the tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order."

In all professions and hobbies, your tools of the trade are of the utmost importance in helping you achieve success. Whether it’s your brain, your computer or your hands, looking after what’s important is priority. With regards to knitting, your needles only come second to the care of your hands so take your time when choosing which needle suits you best. 
I first started knitting on metal needles. Generic metal needles are cheap and plentiful but can be noisy and hard on your hands. Modern metals are made to be more user friendly and do not break easily, if at all. Good quality metal needles are more beneficial when knitting socks or fine lace due to the sheer thinness of the needle required. Plastic needles are fine for chunky knits. They are lighter, warmer but can become a bit ‘sticky’ with use. When knitting, you should be able to run the stitches smoothly up and down the needle, without them dropping off. There should be no space between the stitch and the needle. This is also a good indication that your tension is correct. Again, the only comfort I found in plastic, was the price. 

Late into my knitting years, a friend, kindly give me a gift of a set of bamboo needles. Bamboo is a great material to work as its warm and almost noiseless. They will bend over time but this doesn’t seem to weaken them. They may split at the points over time especially if you are a frequent knitter. I find using a nail file to smooth out any rough edges helps prolong their life.

While on a trip to London, a few years back, a good friend in the know escorted me to a fabulous little knitting shop. It was the equivalent to stepping into ‘The Land of Take What You Please’, which nestled atop ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’. the feeling was as though you were walking into one’s dotage’s abode, greeted by yarns, needles, accessories and everything else you could possibly want and make believe, you really needed! It was here, I was introduced to Swallow Casein Knitting Needles. Swallow produce ethical, natural, eco-friendly needles from their hub in Australia. These adorable creamy, pastel coloured needles are in fact, made from Casein, a milk bi-product. The health benefits of these little gems can be read here at Casein Knitting Needles.
Needles made from Milk!

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Ying, Zen & Tao!

“The place to improve the world is first in one’s own heart and head and hands, and then work outward from there”

-Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig

How to change your world in three easy steps: listen to your elders, read a good book and start knitting. Is that too broad? For sure, but it was worth a try, nonetheless. As an advocate of the fine art of knitting, I harbour strong impulses to shout its worthiness and importance amongst & against its peers. I would stand behind any art or craft, whether it is gardening, cooking, photography or reading. Creativity is important, whether its your own or your enjoyment of someone else’s efforts. Overlapping hobbies is even more fun! Sewing up cakes (Mollie Makes, Issue 14), photographing books, or landscaping your wool stash. That’s even a new one on me, but I’m open-minded.

There are some excellent books available that can help re-ignite your passion for knitting. Here are some oldies but goodies:

  •   Zen and the Art of Knitting: Exploring thLinks Between Knitting,    Spirituality, Creativity by Bernadette Murphy, which explores the reasons why we knit
  • Knitwear in Fashion by Sandy Black, a beautifully photographed book, made for the coffee table depicting high-end fashion knitwear through the ages
  • The Art of Knitting: Inspirational Stitches, Textures and Surfaces by Francoise Tellier-Loumagne is a fabulous example of knitted textile designs to wet your appetite.

With regards to “how to’ Lit., the Internet, bookshops, newsagents are awash with books and magazines. When starting to knit, its best to find a book with clear images, as words can be difficult to translate! Aim for simplicity and choose what you like. One good comprehensive book is invaluable such as The Ultimate Knitting Bible: A Complete Reference with Step-by-Step Techniques by Sharon Brant

As you progress, you might find you only like knitting socks, for example, so aim to narrow your search. A lot of money can be wasted by well meaning family and friends buying books that have no place on your shelf. Being selective will make you a better knitter. You Tube has some excellent tutorials. Better still, find a knitting friend, or knit group and get some real, hands on advice. It’s more fun than grappling inevitable complications and mistakes, on your own, but that’s just my opinion!

My Zen Moment!
A view from The Cottage at Burren Alpacas

Sunday, 4 November 2012



"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 
"What! You too? I thought I was the only one."

Describe knitting. What makes knitting so pleasurable? Apart from some needles clicking furiously together (making ‘those’ wish you would spend more time reading), knitting is creating.

I first fell in love with knitting while watching Caroline, one of the Middles (the now Married One), tackle a school, knitting project, which eventually was to became a bag. I remember the concentration behind those eyes, making each stitch was one step closer to having a finished piece. What could be more satisfying than creating pure art, using your hands and sheer will, to sculpt yarn into a body of work. The outcome so often is not the prize but the act itself, taking you away from the worries of the day, through the repetitive mantra of ‘knit one, purl one…’

For those just dipping their toes in, the journey ahead should be sweet. Find a spot in your home, the park, up a tree, wherever you can make your own. Settle down, having not the end in mind, but the moment. Comfort and good lighting are as important as your yarns and needles. Try doing a tension swatch before beginning your project. A swatch is a sample piece of knitting allowing you to gauge your tension in comparison to that recommended by the pattern. The swatch should be blocked (pressing the piece with steam from your iron, while not putting the iron directly on the piece). Take a measurement, 10cm x 10cm, counting the number of stitches and rows within this range. You should aim to match the tension square stated in your pattern to achieve the best results. It is also helpful to knit a sample swatch if starting a new stitch that has not been tackled before. I would even recommend practicing more difficult stitches on scrap yarn (cheap acrylic would be fine). Mistakes will be made at the beginning of every new project, so keep in mind, if you think you haven’t hit a few glitches, check your work!

Don’t be tempted to buy lots of knitting equipment at the start. You won’t use a fraction of what is being sold to you. Pick small, quick projects that will allow you to see results relatively quickly. Above all, enjoy what you are doing, no matter how badly you believe you are doing it. You should try to keep all your starter projects and swatches as keepsakes and for a good a laugh when you need one.

Last but not least, join a knit group. If there isn’t one locally, start your own. Get some friends together or advertise for an open knit group. Local businesses such as cafes, pubs, libraries, should welcome you with open arms as nothing gets the atmosphere going like banded creativity. Group knitting is a fantastic way to share information, teach, learn, swap wool and above all, make some great new friends.

Now, tell me, why do You love Knitting?

Check out ‘KnitWits’ group on Facebook!

Saturday, 20 October 2012

Do you remember the first time?

Do you remember the first time?

“Do you ever feel like running away?"
"Of course... Sometimes I feel like I want to run away from everything."
"I remember having that feeling once when I was at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm... I climbed over the fence, but I was still in the world!”

It has been said, starting a business is one of the most difficult things one can do, and however, I must disagree, for today, writing my first ever blog post has to surpass that. However, instead of running away, I was advised to put my sensible hat on and open a new chapter.

Let me introduce you to an idea I had just two years previous. As a lifetime knitter, I recognized a huge gap in the yarn market for a luxury Irish yarn. Fast forward, two years later, here I am, making feeble attempts at putting words to keyboard and trying to make sense of that idea.

FairyLawn alpaca was born out of an ideal, an Irish farming childhood and the pure love of knitting. Alpaca yarn is one of the most luxurious, beautiful yarns to use. It’s three times warmer than sheep wool, hypoallergenic and has up to 22 natural shades. It smells like hot tea and digestive biscuits. To work with such a gorgeous product, one feels they have stumbled across a little gem and are truly lucky! The Alpaca originated from Peru, however, these animals are so adaptable, they are able to thrive in our climate and even survive our summers, outdoors! In comparison to Peruvian climes, Ireland feels more like a long holiday in the South of France.

Growing up in rural Ireland is an actual adventure. Being the youngest of 6 (with over 40 first cousins to boot!) school holidays were on a par to spending a season on the Lost set. Imaginations were much helped by parents who not only encouraged playing outdoors, but also reading, while indoors.  Knitting became a healthy obsession, alongside the books. For my dolls and teddies, 
I became the House of Missoni. Eventually, I moved onto life size sweaters, creating a dark blue and red Dennis the Menace, oversized jumper, which I wore religiously, to school. Oh, I felt I were envy of others. . . . .  but the best was yet to come!