A Thousand Miles to Get to the Beginning

It all started with a fleece.  It always does, I suppose, whether we know it or not.   My pal Carson made me buy this one.  He is the second worst enabler I know.  And I know quite a few string-loving yarn-enablers, as you may imagine.

I bought the fleece at the Black Sheep Gathering.  And it's a Black Sheep.  I named her Caora Dubh (pronounced "Kway-ruh Dew"), which is Scots Gaelic for - you guessed it - Black Sheep.

I had to learn how to scour fleece.  And comb fleece.  And spin about a kabillion miles of it.

And as I neared the end of the project, which was not unlike eating an elephant with a shrimp fork, My Darling Husband accidentally threw away the remainder of Caora Dubh.  You will remember that I DID let him live.  For some reason.

I made 5-ply sportweight yarn.  Quite a bit of it, as it turned out.  Which was exactly enough to make this sweater, with bobbles and cables and collar, oh my.

And that's when the Yarn Gods really blessed me, because as much as I loved Caora Dubh, it turned out my knitting friends did, too.  And one of those knitting friends, the delightful Marilyn King of Black Water Abbey, said she'd really like to see it done up in her dreamy Irish yarn.  And so my fabulous pal Lisa made this gorgeous reproduction, following the pattern that I wrote.  I think Lisa's knitting and Marilyn's yarn are just about the Living End.

And now you can have the pattern for your very own Caora, either Dubh, or some other color.  Click "back to main page" up above, and then choose the patterns tab to download it.  And then you will be - at long last - at the beginning.  

Thanks for sticking with me, my friends.  This was a long journey, even for me.  I'm so happy I took the trip, and I'm even happier you were along for the ride.  

                                            The Beginning

Caora Dubh, in Blackwater Abbey 2-ply sportweight, colorway "Jacob", 1750-2100 yds.  Pattern available on Ravelry.com, and at Black Water Abbey.


Happy Ending

You know what it's like when you get really involved in a great book?  You start to view necessary activities (eating, sleeping) as intrusions.  Anything that takes you away from the compelling nature of you, and the pages, and what will happen next is an extreme inconvenience.

That's what knitting Caroa Dubh has been like.  Will I have enough yarn?  Why can I not make a shawl collar in fewer than eight tries?  Will this even fit me?  Will I have enough yarn?  I just kept turning the pages, fully embroiled in the story.

And it did fit..

And I did have enough yarn.

And even though I still don't fully understand the collar I made, I really like it.

Even the buttons are exactly what I would have hoped for. (Get some for yourself here )

Remember when I said I had only just begun to think about what it would be like to actually wear this yarn?  I didn't know the half of it.  It's hefty.  It's comforting.  And this is a big surprise:  It's silky.  For all its fuzzy hand-spun-itude, this yarn, when knit, is silky and drapey in the way that fur would be, if a person were to wear it.  It's luxurious and indulgent, and downright sexy.

There was just enough chill in the air this morning for me to wear it to the bus stop with the kids.  The breeze was knocking the first of the yellow leaves out of the trees.  The sun was coming up pink over the mountain.  I waved to the Smallies as their bus pulled away from the curb. Then I threw my arms around myself and hugged tight, breathing in the cool morning air and thinking how lucky I am that my job is to make beautiful things, and then share them with my friends.

And, just like when I finish a book I've been deeply engaged in, I am more than a little melancholy to have finished Caora Dubh.  I have that sense of emptiness you get at the end of a really great project.

Of course, there is still the pattern for me to write, should anybody be interested.  Drop me a line if you are.  Ever wonder what the characters in the story do after you close the cover on the last chapter?  I think the rest might be yours to write.


Good as a Feast

Today I've been dwelling on the nature of Plenty, and the nature of Enough.  Turns out that in certain circumstances, the two are the same.  But let me back up...

There I was, with one sleeve knitted, and one to go.  I had no idea how sleeve #1 was going to fit into the already-completed armscye, and wouldn't until I had blocked the sleeve and sewn it in.  But I couldn't block/sew sleeve #1 until I knew whether or not there was enough yarn left to complete sleeve #2.  In which wretched case, I would be frogging sleeve #1 to change its design to one requiring less yarn.  And then I would be frogging sleeve #2 to match the new sleeve #1, and still hoping that there would be enough yarn.  And perhaps throwing my feeble self under the next bus.

And that's when it happened.  The Knitting Genius, who is my dear friend, KT said this:  "Weigh the first sleeve, and then weigh all the yarn you have left."  And then she actually waited while I did it.  Sleeve #1 weighed in at exactly 6 oz.  Sleeve 2, plus the remaining yarn, came in at 6 7/8.  Genius KT judged it to be close enough, and advised me to knit on with confidence. 

Scales are so fabulous.  Almost as fabulous as knitters who know how to use them:


That wee ball in between the sleeves is the remaining 1 5/8 oz of yarn.  Which means that in spite of Phillip throwing away the second half of my fleece (yes, he still sleeps in the garage), in spite of my lack of restraint in adding a boatload of cables to the design, and in spite of my inability to guess how much yarn is required for a sweater to fit me, I caught a break.  Oh, and did I mention that my collar-knitting odyssey resulted in a collar that swallowed over 300 yards of yarn?  All I can think is that the science of yarn measurement/estimation is flawed, at best.  I know darn good and well that 1600-odd yards of sport-weight should not have been able to afford this garment.  I also know that the same 1600-odd yards that I measured by length also weighed over 2 1/2 pounds. which should have been enough for all the sweater I could want, and a toilet paper cozy to match.  So which estimate was right?  Where did my lukewarm relationship with math fail me?

After all this pondering, and the resulting nosebleed, I decided that it really doesn't matter.  What counts is that I have a whole sweater (or I will, once the seams are sewn), and even a wee bit of yarn leftover with which to sew the seams.  And in the words of Caroline Quiner Ingalls (Laura's Ma), and probably her Ma before her, "enough's as good as a feast".  It doesn't matter if your leftovers fill a teaspoon or a snow shovel, as long as the amount you really NEED is there.

So I'm going to make it a point at this, the time of harvest, to be thankful for both Plenty, and for Enough.  God knows there are many in this world who have never known either.  Take a moment with me, won't you, and express a bit of gratitude for whatever it is you've got?  Sometimes we don't need our cups to overflow.  Sometimes having something in the cup at all is a triumph.

And in case you are wondering, the super-wide sleeve cap is on purpose.  Stay tuned to see if it fits.