Janet's thread

A weblog, mostly about knitting but other topics appear

I Do Other Things in addition to knitting scarves but … January 14, 2015

You might think that all I do is sit around knitting scarves but quite the contrary.  Actually I’ve joined Facebook and that is a big time consumer.  It is easier to interact with readers through Facebook and also to expand one’s circle of friends, both new and old.  Still, blogging is useful in a different way.         That said, here is Scarf Number 11      IMG_5209   After I finished this scarf I found a small sample I made in a knitting workshop – note that I used similar colors.  I can also think of a rug I wove many years ago and I used a similar combination of colors.  That rug was chosen as a present to the owners of a “magic cottage” down in the west of Ireland.  My sisters and I had a marvelous visit to the cottage in 1995.

p.s. In my ongoing reorganization and tidy up of our belongings and the house, I just came a tapestry I wove when we were in Kenya for the second time (1989-1994)        IMG_5223              IMG_5226     familiar colors?






A Voyage of Discovery September 3, 2011

Filed under: Ireland,Poetry,Sailing — Janet @ 11:16 pm

  This book has been in print for a while – and also sitting on my shelf of unreads.  But I have finally got around to reading it and it was most enthralling.  On Amazon.com I found the following review from the Scotsman.

Theo Dorgan’s gripping account of a transatlantic voyage on the schooner Spirit of Oysterhaven-from the Caribbean to the coast of his native Cork-is both travelogue and meditation, interior journey and outward voyage of exploration. Dorgan’s meticulously exact account of the labour and skills involved could well act as a handbook for anyone prompted to repeat the adventure. His feel for the history of the sea and sailing, drawn from wide reading, is tested against the practical realities of what is involved in such an ambitious undertaking. The qualities of endurance and willingness he must find in himself, the shared experiences that make four individuals into a crew, all these come as a succession of revelations. He brings a poet’s eye to the immensities of the ocean, its lore, its mysteries and its secrets. As so many before him, he will learn that what you find on the journey, not the destination, is what matters. “A book for everyone”-Doris Lessing “This book exerts a form of curious hypnosis which stealthily insinuates its rhythms into your mind. It keeps you alert while somehow lulling you into a drift of easy reading. This enticing travelogue’s curious spell is slow and incremental, yet all the more potent for being stealthy.” -THE SCOTSMAN

So I recommend the book to anyone with an interest in distance sailing, or Ireland, or self-awareness/examination. 

Lupins in Ireland June 11, 2011

Filed under: Gardening,Ireland,Seasons — Janet @ 12:53 am

  Lupins at the National Garden Exhibition Centre, County Wicklow, Ireland

The past few weeks have been particularly spectcular here in the Seattle area, despite or maybe because of the long wet and cold delayed approach of Spring.  I don’t seem to have any good photos to show you yet but in my sorting of my belongings I have come across this photo taken a few years ago of Spring in Ireland.  There’s no date on the photo, but that is one of my sisters on the left and we were visiting the National Garden Exhibition Centre in Kilquade, County Wicklow.  To me, the lupins were especially striking.  This photo would have been taken in May or June.  It was a cold day.  Lupins are one of my favourite flowers/plants.

This year, so far, I think the iris is my favourite.  The azaleas and the rhododendrons are gorgeous and lush, but the iris is to me a little bit more delicate and yet very beautiful.   Photo to follow.


Swimming In Cold Water February 25, 2011

Filed under: Books,Dublin,Endurance sports,Ireland,Swimming — Janet @ 3:32 am

A few days ago I wrote about the Forty Foot in Dublin – a popular swimming spot for hardy souls year round.  A few pictures of swimming there in July 2009 can be found here.  Even on that sunny, warm day – the swimmers found it COLD.   Hardy friends of mine in Dublin go there to swim even on the coldest of days – a cold day, cold water.  Brr.  I never did it.  Even in the west of Ireland in the summer I was a reluctant swimmer.   But when I spent the summer of 1957 in Ogunquit Maine I did get used to that cold water in July and August and I grew to like it – at least when the sun was shining, but not when water temperature dropped below 60 degrees.

My new-found Book Group chose a book with an intriguing title but I didn’t hold out much hope for enjoying the read.  Swimming to Antarctica by Lynne Cox.  One of the members of the group knew the author personally and it was she who recommended the book.  And it turned out to be quite an inspiring read.

  Swimming to Antarctica

Lynne Cox’s swimming achievements really are quite something.  At the book group meeting I was asked what was my favourite part – I didn’t have a good answer at the time but upon reflection I think it was the English Channel swim that she did, twice.  My mind kept reflecting back to an image from my childhood of the first woman to swim the Channel – Gertrude Ederle in 1926.  Not that I was a child in 1926 but 10-20 years later when I was growing up it was inspiring to read of achievements by women.  I wasn’t a feminist but there was a degree of identification there in reading about an achievement by a woman requiring great courage and endurance.

To read more about the English Channel go to this link.

  from Wikipedia

As to Lynne Cox’s achievements – well, I have great admiration for her dedication and her accomplishments and I enjoyed reading about them.  She has set personal goals for herself and achieved them.  The goalposts have been high – and quite unusual!!  I couldn’t relate to the geography though and I think that remains a problem for me in thinking about the book.  The Bering Sea in Alaska, the Straits of Magellan, the Cape of Good Hope, the Catalina Channel, the Nile (that was pretty disgusting), Cook Strait New Zealand.  What was interesting though about the discussion was the fact that one of the women in the book group knows Lynne and had such nice things to say about her and her family.  And that also comes across in the writing of the book.


Daily Photo February 21, 2011

Filed under: Ireland,Memoirs,Memories,Photography — Janet @ 10:01 pm

There are several photography blogs that I read either regularly or occasionally.  Seattle Daily Photo is one, another is One a Day – Mostly Seattle, and Dublin Daily Photo.  And from these blogs I occasionally branch off onto others.  A rather fun way to indulge my photography and travel interests.  Today I’ve been continuing the unending task of going through old photos and miscellaneous memorabilia and trying to find a place for everything, and put everything in its place.

I came across the above photo and puzzled over it for a long time.      Is it Ireland, Dublin, Sandycove/Dalkey, near the James Joyce Museum and the Forty Foot?  It was with other photos of that part of the coastline.   I think the photo below was taken at the same time, looking toward the swimmers easing themselves into the water at the  Forty Foot in the distance.                another photo in the same group was this one –  the pink mallows growing by the side of the road as you walk up the hill toward the James Joyce Museum.  These photos would have been taken on Bloomsday, June 16 – sometimes a lovely day, some years cold and overcast.

  I know for sure that this blue house, note the cat on the doorstep, is a house in the area;  as is this one with the yellow door and the random flowers – one of my favourites.    


Thinking of Things Irish February 14, 2011


In sorting through some of my postcards this morning, I came across this one of the Zetland Hotel, overlooking Cashel Bay in Connemara, Ireland.  The Zetland Hotel is where relatively new husband Ian and I spent a lovely weekend in December 1968, only a few months   after we had moved there from Kenya.  It was such a treat to find this hotel.  We had a very spacious room, reminiscent of the rooms in the old hotels in Kenya, particularly the Outspan Hotel in Nyeri, where we spent part of our honeymoon.   Since our honeymoon incorporated Valentine’s Day 1968, in a convoluted way that makes this a good card to post on Valentine’s Day – yes it’s still Valentine’s Day here in Seattle, even though it’s almost over in Ireland, 8 hours ahead of us.

The Zetland Hotel is still there in Cashel Connemara.  A very popular spot.  What struck me then in 1968 when I was a newcomer to Ireland, were the lovely peat fires and the friendliness and casualness of the hospitality.  And I particularly remember the open door to the office and the huge pile of money just sitting there on the desk.  I could hardly believe it, particularly coming from Kenya, or anywhere, where such a trusting situation would not have occurred.

The other memory from that hotel was the bright full moon, a clear crisp night, and daylight not until about 10 a.m.  This was December and  my birthday weekend so I have a few anchors there to pinpoint the Zetland in my memory.

A few years later French President De Gaulle came to Ireland and he too stayed at the Zetland.  I wonder if he had that nice front room that we had occupied.

A bit of postal history also from that card.  I like the address to which it was sent.  Roger Casement Street in Cavan.  I can’t make out the postmark.  Maybe my friend Maire can help me here. It looks like CONAGA…..I can’t make out the rest.  The website showing the Irish names for places in that part of Connemara doesn’t have anything resembling that.   But the stamp – the green 2 penny stamp – the first stamp issued by the new independent country the Irish Free State, 1922.  Note that the stamp shows the entire island of Ireland.  The North of Ireland was not officially recognized as being a separate entity.    A lot of history lies behind the design of that stamp!  A history I might add that is very complicated and I still have much to learn in trying to understand it.


More Postcards – These Ones Relating to WSD February 13, 2011

As readers of this blog know, I collect postcards, and one of my themes is postcards relating to weaving, spinning, and dyeing.  My friend Bettina of Woolly Bits  – in the west of Ireland –  recently sent me a few cards to add to my collection.  Thank you Bettina.

The cards are from the National Museum of Ireland, Country Life,  near Castlebar in County Mayo.  A wonderful museum if you ever have a chance to visit.

  this card is of an Aran sweater but a most unusual colour.  I know red was worn by the women in the Aran Islands but a red gansey I have never seen.

     the caption on this card is Spinning and Carding Wool, but as Bettina has pointed out, this caption is incorrect.  Only one person is spinning and the other person is beating flax, I think.  Is that retting?

  the caption here is Carding wool, Connemara.  She certainly is carding wool – and looks very hard done by.  Poor woman looks very care worn.


A London Postcard

Filed under: History,Ireland,Postage stamps,Postal history,Postcards — Janet @ 5:49 am

A postcard from 1957.  Rather nice images of London.  A House of Commons postmark and a 3 penny purple stamp with a very young queen.  And addressed to a Dr. John Mackey or MacKay on Carysfort Avenue in Blackrock County Dublin.  No relation that I know of.

A link regarding the stamp explains that this stamp was known as one of the Wilding issues – they were based on photographs by a Dorothy Wilding.


Generations Past February 3, 2011

Since 2002 I have been a member of the Online Guild of Weavers Spinners and Dyers.  Each month the Guild has a workshop on an appropriate theme.  I have followed each of these workshops with great interest even though I have not necessarily been an active participant step-by-step.    This month’s workshop is on wool combing.  I have been involved with textiles for many years but it is really only fairly recently that I have become more aware of some of the processes involved with wool.    So what is meant by wool combing?  I knew about wool carders but never thought about wool combs.  And now I find that I indeed have an ancestor who was a wool comber, in Edinburgh in Scotland and then in Limerick in Ireland.  According to one of those little blue books that my sister is guarding closely, back many generations on my paternal grandmother’s side, there was a John Murdock who is described as being a wool comber.  Following the loss of his property in Edinburgh, he emigrated from Scotland in 1690 to move to Limerick in Ireland.  Reading between the brief lines in the family genealogy I gather that my great great great…. was a Jacobite.  Following the Siege of Limerick in 1691   in which the family lost property again, my Jacobite ancestors emigrated to the United States, settling on Long Island and then later in Saybrook Connecticut. 

So what did it mean to be a wool comber?  According to a link in Wikipedia giving explanations for old occupations:

Wool Comber Worked machinery combing – separating – fibres for spinning


Well, in the late 1600’s my ancestor would not have been operating machinery – he was living long before the industrial revolution.  So wool combing for him probably meant a lot of washing and cleansing of the fleece by hand and then preparing the fibres for spinning by using handheld carders or strong combs made of wire.  According to this link, he might also have been called a Carder. 

•[L. carduus = a thistle] a cloth-worker who untangles shorter fibers with a wire brush or similar instrument prior to spinning as a step in cloth-making, a/k/a scribbler.

From a site regarding Medieval London I found an illustration of a leather comb  with wires that would have been used further back in time, maybe in the 1500’s.

and from this site I found this illustration:

  woman spinning and carding wool, artist george walker 1814

 And from another site, I found out a bit more about George Walker, as follows:

Walker developed a reputation as a good artist and in 1814 and a local bookseller commissioned a series of paintings for the book Costume of Yorkshire. The book contained forty pictures of local people including: The Horse Dealer, Cloth Makers, The Collier, The Cloth Dresser, Stone Breakers, The Milk Boy, Whalebone Scrapers, Wensley Dale Knitters, Leech Finders, Sheffield Cutler and Factory Children. The book also included the first ever painting of a locomotive. The picture was of Salamanca at Middleton Colliery that had been produced by John Blenkinsop and Matthew Murray.


The Big Chill in Ireland December 10, 2010

Filed under: Ireland — Janet @ 6:29 pm

Am I ever homesick!  Follow the link below to see a wonderful slide show.


Maybe snow and ice are more enjoyable when viewed from 6000 miles away.  I wouldn’t be so enthralled if I were planning to fly back to Ireland for a visit right now.  During the snow and ice time last year we got well equipped and even had a ski pole type thing to keep from slipping.  The beauty of the snow on the trees and the Wicklow Hills in the distance was just magical.  Of course the flip side of this is that if you and your friends are trapped in your respective houses and nobody can get out and all usual activities are cancelled – well then, snow and ice lose their magic.