Wooing The Muse: Trust The Process

Ah Twitter, you let me down!

I appealed to the oracle that is Twitter, looking for details of a poem that I remember studying in Secondry School – though I don’t remember whether it was for Leaving Cert. or Intermediate. So much for my education! I don’t remember who the poet is either, though I’m pretty sure it was male and I think he was Irish. I don’t even remember whether this poem was written in Irish or English. Yet, I did expect someone in the Twitter-verse to be able to track it down for me… not unreasonable, was it?

I do remember what the poem was about, though: it was the poet’s reflections on his relationship with “The Muse”. The crux of it was that he saw “Inspiration” as a butterfly. If he tried to grasp hold of it, he would crush it. But if he waited it would, like a butterfly, descend on his finger and he could pay homage to it.

And if I could only remember the poem it would be *perfect* for today’s Muse on Monday!

One of the areas that Mary discussed at the Quilting Workshop, was how she works through a project from initial inspiration to finished quilt. She showed us one of her (I suspect, many) notebooks where she was working through one particular idea. This was one of the portions of the day that I was thrown – with delight – back to my college days of sketching and designing.

Her friend Liz, who is a tutor in an Art college, recommended the book “Trust the Process” by Shaun McNiff.

The following image was her starting point – a photo from National Geographic of a decorative, tropical fish (I’m going to go on a limb here and say “Tiger Fish” though I’m sure I’m not right).

From there she worked on some details and colours from the picture in various media and with a variety of techniques. All the while, she would repeatedly work on similar motifs – not necessarily certain of where it would all lead; not necessarily determined that it would lead anywhere at all. Just working and re-working and allowing the hand/eye co-ordination to become so immersed in the motif that making it became second-nature.

The photo, above right, is the result of this process – for now. It is beautiful piece; done in machine-stitching with beading and embroidery on black felt. You could frame it as it is.
Mary’s not sure where this will end up but it waits for insprition to land.


It is accomplished

Where Oh Where have I been?

“It is accomplished” – a Death

On the 24th June last I got some devastating news. A dear friend of mine died suddenly while he was on his holidays in Lanzerote. I’ve been wondering about how to blog about this for ages. I wanted to be able to give you all a feeling of what this man was like and how much he meant to me. But words fail me. I don’t have the eloquence to convey his brilliance. 

He was a shining light snuffed out too soon and I’m still foundering in the dark. 

Once I realised that I’m never going to be able to give an adequate impression of him or what his loss has meant for me I realised I just have to blog-on regardless. 

Why Oh Why am I back?

“It is accomplished” – an FO!

It would have to be a biggie that would get me back to my blog again after such a hiatus, wouldn’t it? Yoouuu betcha! 

One happy customer!

“It is accomplished” – an Achievement!

The completion of this cardigan signifies the huge journey that I have made in my knitting knowledge and ability. A journey that started over three years ago. 

When I knit this cardigan the first time I spent two months knitting; slavishly following the Glenvar pattern as written. The pattern itself posed no challenge: knitting on-the-flat using cables, increases and decreases was very familiar to me. So I spiced things up by learning a few new techniques: 

  • As I came close towards the end of all the knitting I learned about spit-splicing from Lisa in TIK – very effective in the 100% wool Kilcarra I was using.
  • When I had all the pieces ready for sewing, I discovered, through the power of d’Interneh (Knitty’s coffeeshop mainly) a concept I had never come across before: blocking. I did this fastidiously, measuring out all the pieces according to the schematic and waited days for them to dry.
  • When it came to sewing-up all the pieces, I researched widely, bought “Knitting for Dummies” and became adept at invisible seams. I was very impressed with all my attention to detail: you couldn’t tell where the seams were and the sleeve caps melded beautifully in to the armholes.
  • Then when it came to the zip I bought “Domiknitrix – whip your knitting into shape” by Jennifer Stafford and followed her instructions to the letter. Steam it? Check. Pin it? Check. Fit it on again as a double-check? Ah… disaster.

The Behemoth of Epic Proportions

I learned the harsh reality that many a knitter learns only the hard-way: pieces knit to the correct dimensions does not guarantee a well-fitting garment. Later I learned why it is that so many patterns are written in pieces rather than maximizing the benefit of construction through knitting: editors of ladies magazines, where patterns were published, had more understanding of sewing-based construction for garments. Hence all the pieces were knit into the fabric shapes rather than the knit stitches being manipulated to mould the fabric.

Enter: Elizabeth Zimmermann and Barbara G Walker into my life and my knitting. Enter: radical new ideas such as knitting-from-the-top, calculating gauge, charting my own design, customizing my knit to fit. Oh! and with a few short-rows thrown-in – always with the short-rows! 

The subtle benefit of Short-rows

This project has tested me at every turn. I have documented before how much more it and my knitting conspired to teach me – whether I wanted to learn or not. Even at the very end, when all the knitting was done and all that was left was the zip, I was very nearly thwarted: the original zips went AWOL and a special trip into Dublin City Centre was made to buy a long-enough zip.

And I’m still learning. Even now, as DH is giving the cardigan its first outing in public tomorrow, I’m still thinking I might re-do the cast-off on the cuffs because I’ve just learned Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Cast-off  (JSSBO) from my latest Cat Bordhi book. However, Bootie (the Ever-wise) pointed out the more likely explanation is that – after three years – I’m not yet ready “to break-up with the cardigan”. 

But, let’s face it: The Behemoth has been vanquished. Debbie Bliss’s Glenvar pattern has been conquered. And what’s more: 

I did it MYYYYYYY Waaaaaaay!

Trip down Memory Lane

Recently my mother was having insulation installed in her attic under some Government scheme. This meant her attic had to be divested of its contents. There were a lot of folders full of gardening magazines which my father had collected. They dated from circa 1982 so it was an easy choice to dump the lot considering they would contain nothing you can’t now get on the Internet.

Last Saturday all of my siblings converged on our mother’s house to go through any remaining items. We each came away with a small collection of items that we couldn’t bring ourselves to throw away.

Other than a collection of children’s books, that I didn’t want to part with:

…my little bundle mainly dated from my college years. Come with me as I take you on a tour:

On the left is an extract from my 1st year sketchbook showing sketches for the final project that year; in the centre is a study of a Housing Scheme by Utzon – I got the chance to visit this many years later which was a real treat; and on the right is an extract from my fifth year sketchbook showing sketches for my thesis project. That the quality of my sketching ability does not change much between 1st year and 5th year is a sad reflection!

I took a year out from college and worked as a draughtsman in the Heating & Ventilation (HeVac) section of a large engineering firm. The HeVac engineers affectionately nicknamed me “SheVac”! They were very impressed at my ability to follow and draught ductwork as it changed its proportions through several floors. However, I was gaily inventing my own transition pieces for several months before anyone mentioned that these would be stock pieces and showed me a catalogue. Amongst my sketchbook was one I filled during this “year-out”:

On the left are plans of an unidentified processing plant. I worked on two main projects during my year out: one was always called “Wyeth” and the other “Swords”. The names didn’t mean much to me at the time but I now realise that “Swords” must be part of the Chemical plant that I can see from my workplace. On the right above is a study I made of Lambay Castle by Lutyens also during my year-out. Co-incidentally, I get a clear glimpse of Lambay Island every day I drive home from work. Oh the serendipity!

Last but not least, a sample of some of my needlework from that period:

Take a parachute... and jump!

And, before you ask: yes, I used to wear this jacket – all the time!

I am a WIP

Yes, I said I am a WIP not wimp! Considering I had the cahoonas (or bare-faced cheek) to tell Annie Modesitt that we’d love to see her when I saw her tweet that she was coming to Ireland. Turns out: she’d love to see us too and she’ll be here from 1st to 23rd May. She then sent me a “DM” with her email address so I replied. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens but it pretty-much made my week!

I’m a Work-In-Progress. The older you get the more you realise how true this is. I am ever-changing, ever-evolving, ever-maturing, ever-mellowing. The more I learn the more I understand how little I know. I rarely talk about work here. In part it’s because Ireland is a small pool and – as my old boss was fond of saying – everything you write is “discoverable” (He was referring to the Freedom of Information Act in Ireland but it’s sage advice re the InterWebs too – one you’d wish more people would take heed of!) These days I don’t feel like talking about work because lately it’s just “Shitty-shitty-Crap-Crap”.

One thing I know about myself is that a high proportion of my self-esteem is tied up with how much job-satisfaction I’m getting. And the big-thing that gives me job-satisfaction is getting my job done well and being acknowledged for it. The latter only comes very rarely  – most managers forget to say thanks or to even notice if you pulled out all the stops – so you make do with what little you get. Lately, I’m getting nada, zip, zilch. The former – getting to do my job well – has been made nigh-on impossible for me lately, by the powers that be. I’m at the point where I’m throwing up my hands and I’m dangerously close to throwing in the towel altogether.

I’m trying to flag as clearly as possible that certain tasks, which have been requested by our clients, will not get done unless we put staff against them. I’m being really clear in my language too. A recent, direct quote from me: “the priorities in this team are arse-over-tit!” You couldn’t get clearer than that. What do I get in return? A vague promise that Architect F will be assigned to X-project in the future, whenever he finishes the project he’s currently working on. Has that happened three weeks later? No. What am I doing about it? Well, ranting here… at DH… at my Knitting Buddies… at my close work-friends… and otherwise simmering just below boiling point.

And it’s not just having the rug pulled out from under me regarding X-project, which is – by the way – an extension for a family who are living in dire conditions of over-crowding and with a severely debilitated grand-mother (hence my vitriol about the skewed priorities in the team). I’ve recently realised it’s pointless to draw-up a work-plan for my own week’s work because of the amount of fire-fighting my boss (oops, nearly typed “superior” – HA!) likes to engage in. Picture yourself and how you behave in a recently-stocked yarn-shop. Everything’s shiny and distracting and squee and you dart from one squeeze of squishy to the next. Imagine now, trying to have a debriefing with someone who will answer any phone that rings, start reading any email that flashes up, engage with anyone who comes up to his door to ask him a question and who is quite likely to get up and walk away to deal with their query instead.

With my old boss, I’d bring him a list of queries; we’d run down through them and he’d give me a steer, guidance or advice on each item. I’d be out of his office after ten minutes and ready to work my way through my list, acting on his advice. I’ve given up bringing a list of queries to my new boss because I get as far as item one and he’ll lift the phone to try to deal with the whole issue there and then. One word I’d love for him to get to grips with is “Delegation”. That, and “Focus!”

Another thing I know about myself is that I won’t put up with crap for very long. “Grin and bear it” just doesn’t wash with me. In the past I’ve jumped ship altogether and I’m already considering a few options in that regard. In the meantime, in a move to do something constructive and positive about the situation, I started seeing the counsellor that my workplace provides. I had my first session with her this week and it was really useful to talk to someone who – unlike DH or my knitting buddies – knows some of the characters involved and has an insight into the environment that a public sector job entails. At the same time it’s not like talking with my work friends about the situation because that usually just turns into a bitch-fest about the main “villains” of the piece: a rewarding activity but not necessarily productive.

I’m having another session with her in two weeks so it’s a Work-In-Progress. Who knows how it will finish up. Now, aren’t you glad I rarely talk about my work?

Serial Adultery

The other day I had cause to introduce one of my work-colleagues for the first time to a senior manager in our client department. Upon shaking her hand, he said his name and added “Serial Adulterer”. My work-colleague didn’t know where to look or what to think; and I quickly launched into some work-related topic to spare her blushes. Afterwards, we both agreed it was the most bizarre way to make a first impression.    

However, it got me thinking about being a serial adulterer and has caused me to fess up! While the cat’s away; the mouse is at play: DH is out of the country on business at the moment and meanwhile I’m being unfaithful – to his cardigan. I think when I realised that there was no chance of getting it done by January my eye started to wander and my fingers started to itch. Last night I knit a swatch for a Calyx Hat in Noro Big Kureyon and cast-on for a pair of fetching. I got a bad dose of “Startitis” – I thought I was immune!    

To prove to you – after such a sordid confession – that DH is truly the apple of my eye, the F.O. I present to you this Friday is his Christmas present: socks. Quelle suprise!    

Cat Bordhi's Ridgeline Master in Jawoll Silk by Lang


  • Pattern: Cat Bordhi’s Master Ridgeline sockitecture on either side of the racy-lace detail of Oriel stitch pattern from Charlene Schurch’s book “Sensational Knitted Socks” up the front ridge and the leg above the heel to the rear.
  • Yarn: Jawoll Silk by Lang in Blue (Colour no. 130.0035)
  • Size: 9&1/2″ feet
  • Verdict: loved this yarn and look forward to using it again. I loved how the lace pattern was mannish but a bit racy at the same time. DH is delighted with them.  

Racey-lacey detail

Oriel Stitch Pattern from "Sensational Knitted Socks"

In the spirit of full disclosure, however, I have to admit that DH was not the original intended recipient. I started knitting these intending them as a birthday present to a friend of mine & DH’s but I didn’t finished them in time. I’m glad I didn’t post them to him, as it turns out, as his parcel went AWOL in the postal system – very frustrating!

Then I decided I would give the completed socks to one of my Clerk-of-Works. He’s been a fantastic help to me over the past year and is someone I rely on and trust to steer me right. At the same time, I worried about doing this because I’ve another Clerk-of-Works that I also think very highly of. The faux-jealousy between the two of them is great source of banter between the three of us. One feigns umbrage if I interrupt our discussion by answering the phone to the other; I can wrangle a slice of a cream bun during a site visit by mentioning I got chocolate biscuits when I visited the other’s site. 

In the end, DH got them by default or by subterfuge – you tell me: as I was finishing them off, I asked DH to try one on to check the fit. He did so, all the while remonstrating me, playfully, because he wasn’t the intended recipient. Then, as I was weaving-in ends on the second sock, he forgot he was wearing it and went outside to check something – without pausing to put any shoes on! That brief excursion was enough to make one sock look decidedly worn in comparison to the other. Given my concerns about upsetting the delicate balance between my two main Clerks-of-Works, I decided Fate had come in to play and my own true love was the most deserving of all.

Sunday Miscellany on 03/01/10

Let me start by saying – somewhat belatedly – Happy New Year to you – before I quickly move along to the apologies.

What must you think of me? No Happy New Year greeting for three days?  No posts at all, in fact, for three days! No Guided Tour of my mittens, as promised! No F.O. post on Friday about either the mittens or the year that was 2009??? And, lest I think I’m getting away with it – no list of January’s Gardening jobs for the 1st of the month, as previously promised.


It’s like I was leading you along, posting like that on a daily basis; only to abandon you, leave you in the lurch – high and dry – just when you were getting used to me being around. And what do I have to say for my self? Er… Sorry…???

So here’s what’s going to happen around here.

Yes, I had great fun posting daily since 21st November 09. I did it as a kind of experiment. On the one hand, I was having a mini-competition with myself to see if I could carve out a little bit of blogging-time each evening or to schedule posts I’d set up in advance. My other motivation was much more Machiavellian: around the time I started posting daily, I joined up for the Irish Knitters Group Annual Swap. I thought by dusting down my blog and being more active on it, it might help my upstream pal get a picture of who I am. That didn’t quite work out – mainly because I forgot about my devious and cunning plan as I got more engrossed in posting. Also, I’ve yet to receive my parcel (sniff!) and only then will I be able to tell then whether it was a daft idea in the first place.

Whatever the genesis of my motivation, it has been great to get back into blogging. I’ve enjoyed getting feedback and reading all of your comments. And it’s thanks to you guys that The Ban-zai Bonanza was such great fun. After all, how bad is it if you decide to throw a party and nobody turns up? So, I’m encouraged to keep up posting, just not daily. What I would like, and hope, to do is to continue to post every second day.

So today, being Sunday, it’s Sunday Miscellany. I should explain to my readers who live outside of Ireland that Sunday Miscellany is the name of radio programme that’s on RTE Radio 1, quite early every Sunday morning. The radio programme is a mixutre of short-stories (read by the authors, I think) with pieces of music interspersed. In the same way, my post on a Sunday will be a broad, catch-all type post for anything that doesn’t fit into the rest of the structure – which is as follows:

  • Muse on Monday – Muse as in inspiring, Muse as in contemplation, Amuse, Bemuse
  • Choose on Tuesday – in which I grapple with some decision – life is a series of decisions
  • WIPs on Wednesday – a showcase post for Works In Progress (I realise, pedant that I am, that it should be WsIP but I allow myself poetic licence  from time to time!) 
  • Tours on Thursday – in which I post a tutorial or a guided tour of how I made something – possibly even patterns might pop-up here, but I’m not promising anything! I’ve previously also used this post to showcase websites that I’ve found, which I think you’d be interested in.
  • F.O. it’s Friday – a showcase post for Finished Objects
  • Stash on Sat – a showcase post for existing stash or any S.E.X. (Stash Enhancement Xpeditions) or U.S.A. (Unexpected Stash Acquisition i.e. gifts) Considering I’m putting myself on a strict yarn-diet this year I will – hopefully – only be showing you stash I already own. And there’s enough of that to keep me going throughout the year.
  • Sunday Miscellany – miscellaneous (see above)

So – if all goes according to plan – the next time you’ll hear from me is Chooseday (see what I did there?). In the meantime, since this is meant to be a Miscellany – and I’ve got a bit of catching up to do – here’s a few things I should have been doing / saying over the past few days.

Gardening Jobs for January

(coughcoughcough – sorry – just loads of dust built up on the book over the past month – teeheehee!)

  • Spread well-rotted manure or compost over empty vegetable beds
  • Warm up areas of your seed beds by covering them with sheet of polythene, carpet or cardboard.
  • Winter-prune estalished apple and pear trees.
  • Devise your sowing and planting plan for the year
  • Divide and re-plant old rhubarb crowns
  • Sow some seeds indoors – radishes, salad leaves, spinach, onions, peas?

That all sounds achievable. However, add to that the digging-over of raised beds from last month’s list, which we had put on hold due to the cold-snap. Hopefully, the frost will break up the soil sufficiently so as to make the job easier. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Finally – an F.O. – the first of 2010!

I finished the mittens just in time to give them to my sister yesterday, along with the Elsica Hat. She was delighted with the matchy-matchy combo and impressed at receiving a dmaxi original / prototype. I’ve still got two-thirds of a ball left-over, though.

As soon as I completed the first one DH commented that it looked like a famous building in the London Skyline. Can you guess which one? Here’s a hint…

I don't wan' a pickle! Just wanna ride on my Motorcycle...

FO on Friday = Nollaig

The Big Day has finally arrived!

Nollaig is not just the Irish word for Christmas. It is also the word for the whole month of December. Considering how December gets swallowed up in preparations for today, it’s entirely appropriate, isn’t it?

After all your hard work through-out this month – knitting, shopping, cooking, baking – in preparation for today, I hope you’re getting to put your feet up finally and do whatever it is you do to relax. And if that includes “Read my blog” then good on you! Raise a glass and cheer: “Here’s to lots-more-of-this in 2010!” (Don’t worry: I scheduled this post days ago! I’m relaxing and spending time with my family today)

Nollaig Shona dhaoibh go léir agus gach dea-ghui i 2010

The Knitted Crib you see in the photo was knitted by two members of staff in the Planning Department of the Local Authority I work for . They made it and donated it to be a prize in the Raffle for the Sale-of-Work Charity Fund-raiser earlier this month. It’s fantastic, isn’t it? I didn’t win it – despite spending €10 on Raffle tickets – but the Librarian in my town did, so I’m sure I’ll get to see more of it. My guess is she’ll put it on display in our local Library the next time Nollaig comes around.