Sunday, January 31, 2010

Bizarre Love Pentangle

I have had an official request for more fun witchy things, in anticipation of the publication of Petty Magic in October. So here's a gem—I rediscovered this newspaper clipping from 2007 in my notes, from a newspaper Ailbhe brought with her when she came to New York for the Mary Modern book launch.

How to win over an Elizabethan woman with a frog, an ant hill and a ring

Daily Telegraph, 26 June 2007

As a sure-fire way to win a woman's love, it lacks credibility and could lead to a charge of animal cruelty.

An incantation that surfaces at an auction next month in a unique handwritten manuscript of magic spells advises late-Elizabethan males: "Take a frog and put him in a pot and stop it fast."

The anonymous author then advises the love-seeker to bury the pot in an ant hill at a crossroads for nine days. Then the two bones remaining should be put in running water.

"One of them will float against the stream ... Make thee a ring, and take the part that swum against the stream and set it in the ring, and when you will have any woman put it on her right hand ... she shall never rest till she hath been with thee."

The obscure "manuscript grimoire", written between 1590 and 1620, contains a vast range of conjurations, incantations, signs, portents, spells and folk remedies. It was found among the effects of the artist Robert Lenkiewicz, who died in 2002, aged 60.

The painter once faked his own death and kept the embalmed body of a tramp in his studio for 20 years.

Now the slim volume, which includes angelic seals with coded messages, is expected to fetch up to £12,000 at a Sotheby's literature sale in London on July 13.

Dr Gabriel Heaton, a manuscripts specialist at Sotheby's, said yesterday: "This is a richly illustrated Elizabethan anthology.

"Much of the text is set within a Christian framework - but there are also signs of an older and darker tradition in the use of blood rituals and, on one occasion, a reversed pentangle."

Saturday, January 30, 2010


Look, look—a stellated dodecahedron! I know, I'm a big nerd, but I think nerdiness is kind of a prerequisite here. It's got bells in it too. I hope my little nephew gets as big a kick out of it as I do.

(Pattern from Berroco, raveled here.)

Friday, January 29, 2010

Adventures in London, part 4

(Here is the fourth and final installment, unfortunately rather short in the picture department.)

I'd been hoping to meet up with the lovely Emma of quelle erqsome, and we finally managed to get together for coffee at Foyle's when I got back from Rye (the day before I flew to Dublin). When Seanan got off work the three of us went to this amazing vegan Asian buffet before catching The Woe Betides at Bush Hall. We felt very old in the midst of so many scantily-clad fourteen-year-olds chugging from vodka bottles stashed in their purses (heck, I would have felt old if I'd been fourteen myself), but it was very good fun and of course The Woe Betides are terrific. (Check them out on iTunes too...I hope that link works.)

Anyway, Emma is one half of Made by Loumms, and I have admired their sock patterns and Etsy goodies for awhile now. I finally treated myself to a sock WIP bucket bag, which came in the mail the other day. It's awesome—really well made using adorable fabrics and nifty buttons, and each bag comes with a little lavender sachet (which I could smell as soon as I opened the envelope). I love that they use every last scrap of fabric to make these sachets—very make do and mend-y of them!

(The project inside the bag is my almost-finished Julia Socks, and the two hanks next to it are my prize yarn (squee!) from the Electric Sheep podcast for being The Funniest Person on the Internet.

Er...okay, One of Two People Who Submitted a Link to The Funniest Thing on the Internet, to be slightly more accurate.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I'd had a vague and way-too-ambitious notion of going to both Oxford and York while I was in England, but in the end I just decided to spend a couple nights in Rye, which is about two hours south-east of London. I'd read a little about medieval churches dotted along a spooky coastal marsh, though in the end I couldn't travel any farther because of the weather.

Rye is enchanting, especially under a liberal dusting of snow. I went to St. Mary's, but the tower was closed for fear of ice on the steps; all the most interesting shops (antiques, secondhand books, vintage clothing, YARN) were closed; and Lamb House (where Henry James lived while writing The Wings of the Dove) doesn't open until March or April. So there was absolutely nothing to do but walk around in the snow taking pictures, but that suited me fine.

Above: St. Mary's churchyard, mid-morning.

Below: the Landgate right after it had started to snow again; another view of the churchyard; at the bottom of Mermaid Street, mid-afternoon; the view from the top of Trader's Passage at 4:30pm; the Old Borough Arms (which I can't recommend highly enough).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Olivia's Birthday Cardi, take 2

This child is destined to become a knitter, don't you think?

Knitting sweaters for kids is tricky. Ideally you want the garment to fit them for more than one winter, but you don't want to knit too big a size either.

I wanted to make a cardigan for my niece's third birthday, decided on a pattern—Alice Starmore's Secret Garden—and got halfway through knitting the 4/5-year-old size before I realized that, lovely as it is, it would truly look like a big purple sack on her. But if I'd knit the 2/3-year-old size, it would have been quite a bit of work for something she won't fit into this time next year. So I decided to finish the Secret Garden cardi for her fourth birthday, and knit her something quick in time for her party.

Which leads me to the other tricky thing about knitting for kids: there aren't enough patterns out there! I guess I'm just used to having tons of choices when knitting for myself or another adult. I had it in my head that she'd like a top-down garter-yoke cardigan (she's very fashionable, for a toddler), but I couldn't find anything to suit the yarn I had in my stash. So I winged it.

It's basically a downsized version of Melissa LaBarre's Garter Yoke Cardigan from Knitscene Fall '08, although I substituted the short-row instructions from the Sweetheart Cardigan by Laura Brown. I'd originally bought this Knit Picks Swish DK to make me some witches' britches, but I can always buy more when I eventually get around to knitting them. Or not, because the quality of this yarn is ridiculous—at several points it frayed to a hair's thickness, and I had to cut the yarn and start the ball again from the beginning of the row. (I've used Swish Worsted on several projects, and I like it, so I don't know what the deal is with the DK.)

I used buttons from my grandparents' tin—not the cutest option, but cute enough given that I had the right number. I have a half dozen heart-shaped buttons, but I'd rather save them for a project where I can use all six.

(Olivia's birthday was back in November, but I only got a chance to snap some photos just before Christmas, and when I went to Ireland and England I left my camera cable at home.)

Raveled here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Adventures in London, part 3

(A view of St. Paul's from the Millennium Bridge.)

On Seanan's day off we went to the Victoria & Albert. I spent the most time at the fashion exhibit, which was of course fantastic, although it was pretty hilarious to see a pink velour hoochy tracksuit behind glass like it was some precious artifact. When you go to the V&A you must have lunch (or at least tea) in the cafeteria, which is full of splendid tilework and stained glass windows featuring clever quotations about food. The other really memorable thing was Elizabeth Parker's needlepoint autobiography, which I feel sure I read or heard about in a blog or podcast awhile back, because reading the embroidery felt awfully familiar.

Then there were incredibly delicious fruity cocktails at Beach Blanket Babylon in Notting Hill, which were worth every cent of £9. (Just don't pay by credit card, because the waiter will try to confuse you into leaving a bigger tip than he deserves.)

The next day I went to the National Gallery expressly to see Venus & Mars (not that I didn't see a lot of other amazing paintings too—being able to view The Ambassadors in person was a really cool experience!), and then to the Royal College of Surgeons Museum, which is the final resting-place (er—of sorts) of the 'Irish Giant', Charles Byrne. (I'd recently read The Giant O'Brien by Hilary Mantel, a fictionalized account of Byrne's life as a professional oddity in London. Very well written, of course, but stinkin' depressing—his "friends" were all sitting around waiting for him to die so they could sell his body to John Hunter for an exorbitant price.)

Now to the meat of this post: the magical print shop that is T. Alena Brett on Cecil Court, off Charing Cross Road (there's no website). Thousands of odd or otherwise special little antique prints, most of which are £3-5. I can't say enough good things about this place, or its owner. The building has a fascinating history as well—a long time ago it was a barber's shop, and as a boy Mozart had his hair cut there; and in the early 20th century it was a tea room frequented by several of the war poets (Rupert Brooke, et al). The tables were set up along the tiny balcony where I took the photo above.

Above: the Christmas window display at T. Alena Brett. Below: two of the prints I bought, 'Princess Fiorimonde' and 'Fair at Westminster in the Fourteenth Century'.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Adventures in London, part 2

New Year's Day was pretty lazy—after hanging around Foyle's for awhile (Seanan was working), Deirdre and Diarmuid and I went to The George for some mulled wine. The building dates to the mid-1600s; Dickens drank there, and Shakespeare at an earlier tavern on the same site. Very quaint and surprisingly untouristy.

On the 2nd we went shopping at iKnit (Diarmuid was a real trooper) and Persephone Books, and eventually we got to the British Museum. I picked up some violet cremes (out of this world!!) at Hope & Greenwood to have at The Woman in Black, which was every bit as spooky as we hoped. Afterwards we met Seanan (who was just getting off work) and had a terrific dinner (with margaritas) at some Mexican place I can't remember the name of.

Above: a medieval grotesque at the British Museum.

Below: the main hall, and the Easter Island statue.

Deirdre and Diarmuid had to leave early on the 3rd, and Seanan was working, so I spent the day (mostly) browsing. There was yarn shopping—oh my, was there yarn shopping—and there was fabric, too, at the hallowed Liberty's, although I didn't end up buying anything because that place is so overwhelming it's impossible to make a decision!

Above: the Columbia Flower Market on a Sunday morning; graffiti art on the back of a truck at the Brick Lane market; Regent Street just before 5pm.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hat for a Wise Man

This is one of my favorite pictures of my grandfather—it conveys his personality so perfectly. He is playful and loving and unself-consciously wise; my favorite expressions of his are Don't take no wooden nickels! and What God's got in store for you ain't gonna pass you by.

I've made him two sweaters these last two Christmases, so this year I thought I'd make him a hat, since he doesn't seem to have a proper warm-and-wooly one. I've found a couple of simple hat patterns I can use for quickie gifts, but his hat has to be special.

(Kate is modeling—haven't gotten any shots of him wearing it yet.)

Pattern: a mash-up of the Norwegian Star Earflap Hat and Sally Pointer's Owls and Flowers chart (both Ravelry links); I changed the earflap shaping though, and added the chin-strap and buttons.
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, one skein each of galaxy, turtle, and straw
Needles: #6s for the strap and #7s for the hat itself.
Gauge: 24 sts and 32 rows over 4” on #6s; 20 sts on #7s.
Raveled here.

Most ear-flap hats have long i-cord, chain-stitched, or twisted ties, but I couldn't really see him using the ties on a hat like that. I like it this way because the earflaps can be kept close to the ears using the strap, or held up by fastening the strap over the head, or the strap can just be fastened up on the button on the same side.

If I could knit it over again I'd probably use a finer yarn, cast on more stitches and knit three full repeats. As it is, I ought to have cast on a dozen or so extra stitches, because truth be told it's a little too snug.

(No, he is not having a convulsive fit.)

Grandpop to Grandmom: Turn off the damn light!
Kate: You two are cursing up a storm tonight.
Grandpop: That's married life for you. Now hand me that shoehorn.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Adventures in London, part 1

On the 31st I flew from Knock to Stansted. Seanan, Deirdre, and Diarmuid met me at Liverpool Street station, and after I'd dropped my bags we romped around town for a bit—browsed at The Tea House and Hope & Greenwood, which has to be THE best sweet shop in the whole world.
The amusements at Leicester Square.

Then we went to Fortnum & Mason, the poshest department store ever, where I felt like a street urchin drooling over the candy counters.

Then we went home and Seanan cooked up a delicious dinner (spicy parsnip soup! in a bread bowl! an olive bread bowl! and filo pastries with spinach and brie and apples and pine nuts! and some no-doubt-yummy chocolatey thing I was way too full for! and he even got me amaretto and cranberry juice!!) It was a lovely laid-back New Year's Eve.

Friday, January 22, 2010


Shelley and James had their wedding in Westport on December 29th. She wore the shawl I knit her, which was perfect because the church was positively glacial. I had a fantastic time getting to know Shelley's friends from Dublin, Arizona, Michigan, and New York. Also, the Wyatt Hotel is outstanding—the staff were nice, the room was lovely (a double bed in a single room, yay!), and the food was much better than I expected. (The vegetarian breakfast came with fried goats cheese. Squee!)

(I love this picture. Most of my photos weren't very good, so I got this one from James' Facebook album. Shelley's friend Carolyn Tacey was the official wedding photographer.)

The day after the wedding a bunch of us drove out to Croagh Patrick (thanks for driving, Lorraine!)—after a delicious lunch at The Tavern, we just walked up to the statue of St. Patrick at the foot of the mountain—and after that we ambled around Murrisk Abbey for a bit.

Next post: adventures in London, part 1.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Welcome to Babyville, part 2

I'm home! Been anxious to blog about this:

It's a zig-zag quilt, directions courtesy of Purl SoHo, measuring 40" x by 54" because I didn't want the baby to grow out of it right away (the sample quilt measures 32" by 44").

Ailbhe and Christian want to be surprised, which made choosing colors and fabrics slightly more challenging. Nothing too flowery, but I didn't want something too overtly boyish either. (I couldn't see giving the orange-and-blue Purl sample quilt to a little girl, for instance.)

I found this thoroughly adorable Alexander Henry owl fabric for the backing (from Fabric Worm on Etsy), and I think it's perfectly unisex. (This is what I told my mother, who was surprised to learn that owls are hermaphrodites.) (Edit: this was a really dumb joke!)

I chose the zig-zag colors to match the backing fabric, and decided that using salmon (it's not pink!) and blue would balance each other out. The fabrics are mostly fat quarters from Jo-Ann, though I did pick up two of the three salmon fabrics (and the quilt batting) from Purl SoHo while I was in New York. I used this handy tutorial to help with the binding.

It's not perfect, but it's only the second quilt I've made—this project was definitely an exercise in anti-perfectionism. I'd never have finished it in time otherwise! There are definitely more quilts in my future...

Oh, and here's the baby heffalump with his sweater vest.

His name is Edmund (pending baby's approval).

Friday, January 15, 2010


Happy New Year, everyone! I've been traveling in Ireland and England the last few weeks, and naturally I left my camera cable at home. I'll have lots to blog about when I get home next week.

But here's something I can share now—awhile back Ailbhe had asked if I'd make her a menagerie of knitted animals for her little one when the time came. Menagerie member #1 was Mr. Penguin, and here is his first comrade:

It's Ysolda's Elijah, a terrific pattern I've knit once before, using Knit Picks Swish on #3s. I also made him a little vest with leftover Cascade 220 Superwash, but that photo will have to wait until I get home...

(Raveled here.)