Re: Baby Christening Shawl


How does one follow a post like this? Except to blog about the one project I couldn’t blog about for years.

Way back in 2012, when I was planning my wedding, I decided to knit a wedding shawl. I picked out a pattern, but for the yarn I was less sure. I ended up buying two lots of undyed yarn, some silk laceweight and some merino laceweight. In the end, the shine and the lighter colour of the silk won out over the softer, creamier merino and half of the yarn went into my own hopes for the future.

Afterwards, I was left with a reasonably large, shawlish quantity of lovely laceweight wool, and a scheme was hatched. Although Cathy and I never really spoke much about it directly, I suspected that, with luck, within the next few years there would be a tiny baby in the mix. And tiny babies need snuggley blankets.

I had already fallen in love with A Stoir, a shetland style baby blanket (and free!). The shetland construction is so satisfying and lovely, and the humour and whimsy of A Stoir, with it’s ducks and little z’s, suited my idea of a tiny person’s blanket better than a traditional stitch pattern. According to Ravelry, I added the pattern to my library back in October 2013, and I’m certain I cast it on immediately because that’s how I roll.

Of course, I couldn’t blog about it because that’s how surprises work. So I worked away in secret. The blanket itself was actually a breeze to knit. A nice, well written pattern, good yarn, probably some good tv, and a good reason make for good knitting conditions. I finished the centre, picked up the boarder stitches and knit that, and knit on the lace boarder. I’m not sure when I actually finished it (super secret project means no ravelry project page and I didn’t write it down anywhere), but it probably only took a month or so.

And then it went to live in a Ziploc bag.

2015 rolls around, and Cathy shares her exciting news with me.

2016 rolls around, and little Ciarán arrives.

April 2016 arrives and we plan a very short flying visit for me to meet with wee man.

A few days before I fly over for that first visit, it occurs to me that I should probably block the blanket. Because it wouldn’t be a truly heartfelt gift from me if it wasn’t at least partly last minute.

Unfortunately, I never actually took any photos of the blanket myself, but I’m not sure it could look any better than it does right here.

Worth every stitch.

Baby Christening Shawl

I’ve struggled to find the right words to write this so please bear with me as I try to express the love and gratitude I feel for my amazing friend and co-blogger Stew. I’ve known Stew for a *long* time now – coming up on 20 years! We met at a Mathematical Olympiad training session in UCD and hit it off right away. It was such a breath of fresh air to meet like minded people and we had such fun together as mathletes. She has been the wonderful friend that you read about in Maeve Binchy novels – funny, caring and always at the end of a text/email when you need her. We had a standing arrangement to meet in the Science Fiction and Fantasy section of Easons, in the days before mobile phones, so that if one of use was late the other could at least browse happily. When gmail came along we could send over 50 emails in a day, nowadays we have WhatsApp.

We’ve been through all the ups and downs of life that have hit us so far, supporting each other as we go. She inspired me to learn to crochet while studying for my PhD and taught me to spin, so she is entirely responsible for my addiction to Fibre Crafts. And so the ultimate cause of this blog, not just a partner in crime! Although our lives have taken quite different paths in recent years, and work has taken us to different countries, Stew is still the best friend I am so lucky to have.

Never has this been more obvious than in this last year (or two) of becoming a mother. Stew listened to my complaints about morning sickness, asked me about what fruit the baby was this week, sent me funny memes and kept me going when moving house and working three jobs all became too much. After he arrived she went to great lengths to show how much she cared. To talk me down and distract me when the hormones got too much! Always there to listen to the minutiae of life with an infant – feeds, nappies, sleep or the lack thereof. She flew over to visit in a way that would be most helpful for me without being an additional stress. She has showered my little boy with the coolest thoughtful gifts (too much!! he’ll be spoiled!)

Not least of these was the most amazing (that word doesn’t even begin to capture it) christening blanket for Ciarán. I was thrilled to pieces when Stew and her husband made the extra effort to fly over for the Christening. And absolutely astounded when, at her previous visit (so that I had plenty of notice – how thoughtful!), Stew presented me with the most beautiful hand knit lace shawl. The kind of glorious work and detail that you admire on Ravelry and accept you will never knit or own. A piece so fine, so perfect that it is an instant heirloom. Something so special that the thought of putting it near a baby is terrifying! Don’t you agree?

Just look at the intricacy! All those little sleepy Zs and beautiful flowers. That edging! It’s knit with the most delicate natural wool, soft but crisp, perfect in fact. I can only imagine how long it must have taken knitting something so huge and delicate with tiny needles. The very idea that someone else would do this for me and my little one is just overwhelming. That someone could knit such a work of art, and then give it away (to me!) is simply stunning, much like the shawl itself. Even a year later I’m at a loss for words. So all that I can say is Thank You Stew, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness as evidenced by this stunning shawl. Thank you for the patience it must have taken, the steadfast nature you have always shown. Thank you for sharing your talent and time with us. Thank you for your friendship and for being Ciarán’s special Aunty. As you can see he is very happy about it :)




Recovering Physicist

I gave a talk on Monday night about physics and was a bit at a loss of how to describe myself, professionally speaking. I’m not a physicist anymore, I lost that label when I finished up my last job with no intention of returning to physics research. It’s weird after ten years of having a noun and an affiliation to fall back on to float free, but I’m so happy to be starting a new chapter on my life.

And that chapter starts today, with my first day at my new job. I’m not a physicist anymore, I’m an outreach assistant, getting to devote myself fully to STEM outreach in exchange for money. As a bonus, my new job is just across the road from my old physics job, so it’s a good excuse to keep in touch with friends, something that does not come easily to me.

Of course a job means a commute, and a commute means train knitting! I have plenty of WIPS I could work on, but decided to treat myself to some sock yarn and cast on something new. I got some Schoppel-Wolle Jeans Ball, which I hadn’t come across before. It’s a little more sedate than their delightful Zauberball offerings, but still with a bit of interest. I got the green colourway, which looks a bit like a sprout to me.

2017-05-17_08-46-24My phone isn’t great at picking up the colours here, but think fresh sprout rather than overboiled sprout!

Pattern-wise, I wanted something with enough interest to keep me engaged but something that would be doable on a crowded train, so I went with Boddam. The pattern is based on the gansey traditional knitting patterns, which is something I’ve never tried before. From my limited knowledge, ganseys are pretty much the next door neighbours of aran jumpers, knitted on British island communities and worn by fishermen. You can read a little bit about the similarities and differences here. 2017-05-17_08-45-25

I’ve already cast on and finished one cuff (because nobody wants to cast on on DPNs on a train), and am about to embark on the leg. It’s worth also noting the lovely bag these socks will travel in, which was given to me by my lovely co-blogger Cathy.


A New Chapter, and Old News

One of my last posts before the blog entered hibernation was to announce the new house, new job and impending new baby. Well he arrived safe and sound (over a year ago!) and was promptly wrapped in handknits. It was a tricky enough time, for far longer than I had anticipated. But now I finally feel like I am coming back to myself, albeit a new (and sleep deprived) self. Part of that includes re-engaging with the world and all of you lovely crafters in particular by re-invigorating the blog. In between keeping you up to date on my (scant) new adventures in crafting I’d like to reflect on some of the craft-related news of that dormant time.

Let me start with little C’s first knits. He’s seen here on his first day at home modelling his Puerperium Cardigan, Cable Baby Hat and Undercover Blanket. The house was freezing on a bitterly cold day. He obviously was very snug however – as we couldn’t rouse him at all after several hours. It took a scary hour of every trick in the book – the joys of jaundice! The cardigan and hat were knit using what had been the all-time favourite skein in my stash, Hedgehog Fibres sock in ‘Eel’ colour way. I wish I had more of it. They were a joy to knit, apart from the time pressure of knitting them in the final few weeks of pregnancy. I hadn’t wanted to knit anything specifically for the baby before then, and this skein was never going to be a gift knit! He got fantastic wear out of both the jumper and hat. Despite growing out of *everything* else constantly (he never even fit the ‘newborn’ size clothes) these lasted right til the summer (about 5 months). I was so desperately sad washing them for the last time and putting them away. I’ve knit these patterns before as gifts and will definitely knit them again based on my own experience of their utility.

The blanket I’ve blogged about before – its the undercover blanket by Hedgehog Fibres. I made one for my niece also. This is knit from 300g of hand-dyed gradient merino and silk 4ply. It’s amazing yarn but not the most suited for a baby blanket! I adore it though and the size and snuggle is just perfect for the pram, car seat etc. Even now he wears it tucked in over his legs in the car when it’s cold. Wool and a lace pattern are a fantastic combination for keeping a baby warm but not sweaty or overheated. Just typing this I have the urge to knit another one of these! Ha ha ha as if I’d have the time!


Now and next

After my spectacular display of pattern-reading skills last week, I’m on the home stretch on my waiting for rain. The garter ridges are behind me now and it’s on to the edging.

One nice thing about this pattern is that it comes as two files. The first is the pattern itself, and the second is a document dedicated to “hacking” the shawl. I love the idea of having instructions and guides for adding stripes or extra short row sections, without cluttering or confusing the main pattern itself.


One of the hacks is a lacy picot edging. Although it means a significant increase in time over the vanilla bind off instruction, I prefer the knitted-on border option. I find that the fit between bind off and the shawl is never quite right, and a small discrepancy in a sightly too tight or slightly too loose bind off can add up to a lot over the course of such a long edge. Of course, each to their own and I can definitely see the appeal of the clean, crisp line that the bind off offers.


Of course, I will eventually finish up this edging, and more importantly I have less than two weeks before I start my new job, so I’m already planning my next knitting adventure. I’m thinking socks will make for some solid train knitting, and I have my eye on Smaug Socks as something with enough to keep me interested but not too much for a commute.