Last time I was in Sussex, two years ago, the Ditchling Museum was only just getting ready for opening. I’d been through the village so many times in the car before, while and after I lived in the county, and spent the brief passages through gazing out of the car window at the beautiful, old, timber-framed buildings. So, time to actually go there and wander round, looking at the buildings up close and exploring the few lanes behind the main crossroads and, of course, the pond.
This time I’d heard that the Museum was now open and had an exhibition of Ethel Mairet’s works – a handweaver and dyer who joined the artists’ community in Ditchling early last century, soon afterwards publishing a book on dyeing (even though you can download it, an actual published edition in the museum shop was too good to miss) and later teaching weaving and dyeing. It was a short train ride to Hassocks, then a half-hour walk along a country lane full of brambles, hemp agrimony, chamomile, wild carrots and other dye plants, not to mention the drying buddleia heads in the gardens and alongside the train tracks. The museum itself is small enough that you don’t get tired walking around, but with just the right amount of exhibits that you feel you’ve spent a worthwhile and very educational trip. Yes, I’d go there again!
After lunch in one of the village pubs (I’d recommend the elderflower beer to wash it down), I sat on the green, doing a bit of drop spindling. After a while, a girl who’d been sitting a distance away came by and asked in a delightful Sussex accent, “Whaat are you doin’?” Truly a day in the country!
I took advantage of cheap airfares to go to Dublin for a few days. It’s always been an ambition of mine, also to walk into a pub an order a pint of Guinness in Gaelic. I managed to do a lot of sightseeing – not all that I’d planned – but that leaves plenty for the next visit – and Dublin is a very walkable city. It was as I was walking to St. Patrick’s Cathedral that I passed, by pure chance, The Constant Knitter. I’d seen it online, so didn’t think twice about entering for a look around.
Rosemary was extremely friendly, welcoming and informative, and also gave a hint on where I might actually be able to order that pint. I could easily have spent a couple of hours there. I guess I’d describe it as a well-stocked shop with everything you’d need, one that invites you to linger while you think of projects to come. Also, no funny looks or even the hint of suspicion for being a male in a yarn shop. I’d whole-heartedly recommend The Constant Knitter as part of any trip to Dublin. Thanks, Rosemary!
I came away with two balls of Donegal Aran Tweed in white and some hand dyed Galway Cheviot fleece in greens and blues for some drop-spindling. That’s Cheviot fleece from Galway, not a cross-breed, we decided. There were other gadgets that I could have acquired, save for security restrictions on pokey, metal things on flights.
And the Gaelic? The guy behind the bar clearly understood me, but answered in English. If you’ve seen No Béarla, you’d understand my frustration. I had a slightly more linguistically rewarding experience in the Gaelic bookshop An Siopa Leabhar, so all was not in vain. I think my request for bilingual books was a little shaky, but is fearr Gaeilge briste, ná Béarla clíste.
Instead of a snow dome with Big Ben and a Royal Guard, the souvenirs of my recent holiday in England were all fibre-related. I bought a small Turkish spindle from IST Crafts last year and found it a dream to spin fine yarns with, especially yak down and ahimsa silk. This year I decided to get a larger one for spinning sock yarns and the like. The choice was simple: bog oak. After all, who could resist wood from one’s birth country’s national tree, especially when the wood is about 5,000 years old? Easy. The brass weights at the ends of the arms are a bonus.
I’m still getting used to larger Turkish spindles, as I’ve found the ratio of initial spin to spindle size as the latter increases is different to that of round, top whorl spindles. However, it’s all good and the spindle has already produced a couple of balls of 4-ply equivalent Finnish Humbug.
I also took the opportunity (combined postage cost) to get an IST penny tahkli. The fact that the coin is dated with my birth year was the icing on the cake. I should add here that I’m only just pre-decimal. Anyway, this one, too, is a pleasure to use and I look forward to comparing results with a fellow Guild member who also has one.
And here’s the grey-blue and birch version. The diamond pattern is more evident due to the light and angle of the camera. Although the birch yarn felt a bit stiffer both before and after laundering, the wibbly-wobbly effect is the same and the finished article has all the drape and comfort expected of tencel.
The birch yarn by itself is interesting in that sometimes it looks more silvery, sometimes more golden. Definitely, however, a good match for the grey-blue.
The dahlia/henna/pomegranate-dyed blanket was also fringe-twisted just in time and was equally gratefully received. Now to make a similar one using eucalypt dyes (in the next school holidays when I can boil gum leaves with all the windows open and air the house before anyone notices…).