Polar Prep

For a lot of Wisconsin/Illinois/Minnesota residents last winter was a test of patience, stamina, and good old fashioned Midwestern stubbornness. The term ‘polar vortex’ was born and those who experienced it firsthand grew a new layer of already frostbitten skin. Throughout the summer I’ve run into people already complaining about the potential cold of the coming winter and they’ve run away from me in shock and horror when I respond with “I actually really enjoyed the cold last winter.”

Strangers don’t know the context of my liking of the cold weather and generally if you aren’t complaining about the weather in the Midwest you are seen as inhuman. Of course negative thirty degree temperatures are awful and undesirable but those days also gave me a few weeks of excuses for why I would rather stay home knitting and drinking coffee from the comfort of my bed.

IMG_20140906_191720Through these last couple of months of summer I have been prepping for the coming winter by both making garments to be worn in the event of a polar vortex sequel and building a stockpile of supplies to keep me entertained.

This extra wooly vest is made from my souvenir yarn from my trip abroad to Ireland. It is from Kerry Woolen Mills and is delightfully rustic and insulating. The flecks of blue and red tweed against the base purple color add warmth in a visual sense while those colors are complimented by rich leather buttons. The pattern ofIMG_20140822_165835 the garment itself is one I made up as I went along, my first wearable personal design of something other than an accessory. I love its simplicity because it lets the yarn take center stage and as a souvenir piece it personifies my trip to Ireland. I cannot wait to don it over a flannel button up this winter and have already picked out the outfit I will wear with it on the first really cold day of the year.

Apparently I am in a purple groove these days as my three most current projects deal with the entire purple spectrum. I am nearly halfway through with Hillary Smith Callis‘ design Hawkes. It is a youthful pullover with tons of IMG_20140906_155033texture. I’m using Berrocco Ultra Alpaca so the resulting piece will be beyond just warm. This is a really simple pattern and the broken rib texture is a test of my patience at this point but with four inches of the body left to go I think I can make it to the end of the piece. Plus, I know the work and slight tedium of one by one rib stitch rows over about 180 stitches will be worth it once it is blocked, dried, and tried on.

I have a few more sweaters for myself in the works, a sweater for my boyfriend and socks and hats for us both yet to make this winter. I don’t know if I could squeeze all that making into the coming season unless there is to be another month of paralyzing chilliness so bring on Polar Vortex Two, because I have work to do.

Advertisements

The Aran Islands

Last Friday I skipped the last day of class to explore the main island of the Aran Islands Inis Mor. I hadn’t been out on a tourist adventure for some time and desperately needed to get away from the impending pressure of Final essays for a few hours. I woke up at seven that Friday morning and it was as dark as I had woken at three in the morning instead. The lack of sun in the winter is something I both appreciate and detest. I love that it stays cool and dark deep into the morning hours and then sets when I’m ready to relax for the day around four or five in afternoon but waking up when it is still dark will always fill me with confusion and dread.

The journey to the island was not a short one. It began with a thirty minute power-walk, carried on with an hour long bus ride, and then an hour long ferry ride. For those who know me well, they know I am not a huge fan of boats in general but I learned to trust the ferry once we began moving. The weather was crisp and clear so I had the opportunity to check out the Galway/Connemara coastline from the deck of the boat.

Once we arrived on the island I decided to rent a bike and break away from the group I came with and explore the mid range trail on my own. The trail was about 10km in length, so relatively short, but the majority of it was at a steep incline on a rocky, muddy, cow poopy, path. Of course this meant I had to push my bicycle uphill for about forty-five minutes of walking. The trail wound through cow and donkey pastures and I still cannot get the judging looks of the cattle out of my mind as they watched me slowly push my bicycle up the hill while eating gummy bears.

I have never felt so small as I did when I reached the top of the hill. Though the island is only about ten miles in length the landscape is woven with famine walls, vegetation, massive cattle, and is edged with cliffs. All of these things combine to remind you how miniscule you are in the grand scheme of things. If a tiny island off of the coast of another tiny island makes you feel small then by god you are mighty small indeed.

After I finished the trail I headed back to the little village to explore and find some food. The town seemed deserted and every restaurant was empty. After a weird lunch in an empty pub that smelled of pine sol and stagnant water I went off on my bike to circle the village once more. I stopped at the Aran Sweater Market and touched every piece of textile in the building. The upper level was all hand knit pieces made by artisans of the islands the bottom level was packed with machine knit beauties and rugged Aran weight yarn from Kerry Woolen mills, an old and still functioning wool mill in County Kerry. Of course, I had to have a couple of skeins to play with on my own.

The little village on the island really isn’t much to look at but I did manage to find a cafe that made the best mocha I’ve had since I left the USA. It was deliciously bitter and the foam was solid and warm. The cafe was super tiny, warm and full of locals. It was the perfect way to close out the day.

Catching Up

Last week my good friend Lara joined me in Galway for a weekend of exploring, pub hopping, and sweater shopping. Lara was a German foreign exchange student at my high school when I was a junior and over that year we became great friends and it was so exciting to reunite with her after three years of separation! We spent some time in Galway and then embarked together on a journey to Dublin for a couple of days. We had a fabulous time catching up, walking around the city, and eating amazing food.
The next time I will be in Dublin will be for the Knitting and Stitching Show!

On the knitting front, thanks so much for all of the lovely comments on my last sweater post! I want to update you all on my latest progress on Sweater #2 Jared Flood’s Slade. I have chosen this yarn.

DSCN0665

It is an aran weight charcoal toned tweed. It is 75% acrylic and 25% British wool. The resulting fabric is really fun but still very sophisticated and smooth. So far I have finished the back and left front pieces of the sweater with the right front soon to be completed as well. I can’t wait to see this piece all worked up! I’m a sucker for simple cardigans.

DSCN0668I’ve also managed to make some major headway with my socks in progress (for my boyfriend). I mainly knit on these whenever I am away from my home base so they have been knit with stolen time between classes, at my knit group, and at cafes alongside a pot of tea. They have been a lovely companion project that I can rely on to entertain me when I have some down time. They also have been in progress since the day I left the US so I am ready to complete them and ship them to their recipient.

The Bay, The Cliffs, The Strangeness

I’m used to being alone. I spent a lot of time absorbed in solitary activities as a kid and even more time alone when I began college. When I began college I found that I had a great time exploring new places by myself and figuring out life on my own time. Now that I am in an entirely different college environment here in Galway I find that I still love to explore on my own but  am really missing my favorite people. I am constantly wishing that my boyfriend and family were here to see all of this with me. Alone time is great but when you have no one close to share these incredible things with it gets old very quickly.

With that said the past two Saturdays have been spent seeing some of the most spectacular things I will ever see in my life. Though it pains me that I can’t share this personally with the people I love most I am glad to have been able to see these things at all.

Inside a massive shopping centre on Shop Street.

Inside a massive shopping centre on Shop Street.

Last Saturday I walked the 3km to Galway Bay with a few detours along the pedestrian only, Shop Street. First of all, Saturdays in the city of Galway are pretty impressive for such a small (by comparison to Chicago) city. Shop street is packed with tourists from every country, locals, musicians, human statues, students, and elderly couples out for a stroll. The restaurants nearby are obviously overflowing with patrons and the street air smells of powerful coffee, fresh grilled fish, seasonings from around the world, and hearty stews. Laughter leaks out of these pubs and cafes and infects the bystanders outside.

The last remaining bit of the Galway city wall.

The last remaining bit of the Galway city wall.

Once you step off this street the mood shifts. It is still jovial and comforting but the press of people is gone and so are the dueling scents. The calm that the mild weather of Ireland creates returns and it is easy to lose yourself in thought since there is no bright sunshine to distract you from the conversation in your head. At the end of this street lies the Galway Bay and the last remaining bit of the original city wall. As you transition from the over stimulating consumer-focused environment of Shop Street to the historical and natural environment that is the bay area it is jarring to say the least.

The first view of the Galway Bay.

The first view of the Galway Bay.

From what I have seen this clash of old world versus new is the way the entire country is. This is a country of immense history and natural beauty and luckily a lot of that has been preserved. Seeing so much of this then makes coming across McDonald’s and giant shopping centers all the more strange.

I spent a couple of hours around the bay just soaking in the random bits of sun, watching the father and his daughter feed the gulls bits of bread and the older gentleman walking with his sausage shaped dog.

The Cliffs of Moher

The Cliffs of Moher

After a stressful week of my first classes at the university I needed a break from the city and being lost on campus. A week of being lost for at least half of each day can frazzle your brain like nothing else. I decided to get out of the city and take a tour of the Cliffs of Moher.

I ended up on the same bus as a group of 10 year old Italian children on a school trip. They had no interest at all of the history the driver was spewing at us on our extended journey. I had to force my ears to hone in on his voice over the intercom so the details of everything I saw are a little bit hazy.

Rural Ireland

Rural Ireland

I went on the tour by myself and expected to spend much of my time in solitude taking all of the sights in but I ended up striking up a partnership with an older Turkish woman named Ria. She was in Galway to visit her son, an electrical engineer. She was alone also as her son ended up not wanting to go on the tour with her. Though we had some language barriers to break through we had a lovely time eating lunch together at the designated lunch stop and fighting the huge gusts of winds at the Cliffs of Moher. Her pink polka dot umbrella was our only casualty.

The High Cross

Kilfenora Celtic Crosses

The Cliffs and other stops along the tour really cannot be described well by words as it was all an experience that had to be seen to be believed. I will say that the rural pieces of Ireland we toured through were so astounding in their lack of modernity. The streets were old and winding and the buildings were crooked yet solid. Years of hard work and oppressive history went into crafting these places and I am so glad to have seen all that I did.

My time in Galway so far has brought every range of emotion. I am still looking for that cliche enlightenment that so many students have when they study abroad but I’m not keeping my hopes up for it to happen anytime soon. I am torn between wanting to go home immediately and staying here forever to see

Dunguaire Castle

Dunguaire Castle

as much of the country as I can on my own schedule. For now I will stay here and chip away at my reading list for class, missing the people dear to me, and seeing as much of Ireland as I can.

Let The Sweater Knitting Begin

Here in Galway, the weather is cold, damp and downright fall like. The cooler it is the larger the knitted pieces I want to make. While everyone I know at home is suffering through 100 degree plus weather I am enjoying a drizzly extended stay in one of the many knitter paradises around the world.

I promised my family I would make them all sweaters this year for Christmas (or birthday in the case of my sister) so it is time to begin. Within about three and a half months I have to knock out two adult sweaters and one brother sized sweater along with a couple of pairs of socks.

My family just moved to Wyoming so they are going to be needing some extremely warm sweaters to combat the fierce winds out there. These sweaters should do the trick since they will all be knit from a 20% Irish wool 80% acrylic blend yarn. They need warmth, durability, and machine washable capabilities so this yarn should work just fine.

Here are the sweaters I am going to be making.

For my Mom: Zephyr by Tori Gurbisz in a similar taupe color. This should be quite versatile and layer-able.

zephyr

For my Dad: Slade by Michelle Wang in a heather-y black or deep green. The new Brooklyn Tweed collection is the best smattering of men’s patterns I have ever seen. If I had the time I would make all of the pieces for both my dad and boyfriend.

slade

For my Brother: Shapely Boyfriend by Stephanie Japel in a deep green color. Of course this is going to need a lot of alterations to make a suitable boy’s sweater. There are next to no simple boys cardigan patterns available so I will be using this as a base.

boyfriendBEAUTY_medium

Then if I have time I’d love to whip up this simple pullover entitled Brick by Clare Lee for myself in a cream Irish tweed.

brick

This list is pretty ambitious but I’m hoping they will all go quickly thanks to the worsted and aran yarn weights they call for. Now to head to the yarn store and pick up my materials!

 

 

 

From Wyoming to Ireland

Gallery

This gallery contains 24 photos.

The month of August has been nothing but nonstop motion. I have been ping ponging around the world from Wisconsin to Illinois to Wyoming to Illinois once more and then finally to Galway, Ireland. All of this constant moving has … Continue reading