Category Archives: Travel

When in Rome…

Hi everyone! I figured this is as good a time as any to come out of hiatus. Usually when you see a blogging lapse like this either something bad happened (it hasn’t, thankfully) or the blogger reappears with an addition, like a baby (let me check…nope!), or a new job. I’ve been preparing for some competitions. I did some small Irish ones in March and April. Now, this month (like, right now), I’m doing a small one in the south of Italy. Next month, in about three weeks, I’m doing another, bigger one in Milan in June. I figured if I’m putting so much effort into preparing the music, I should do more than one while I’m at it.

So, today I’m en route. This is my little postcard from Rome airport while I wait for my connection down to Bari. I think it’ll be fun to show you what it’s like to ‘do a competition’. (Some native readers might be wondering why I am traveling to do a competition when the Dublin International competition is on at the moment – I’m too old to participate. I did it in 2006 but didn’t pass the Irish round.)


I’ll spare you the tedium of negotiating airports, save that they are all the same – I fly south to Bari in about an hour and then take the train even further south to a little town called Taranto. I guess it’s about the size of Galway. I booked a room in an apartment through Air B&B. I’ve never used this before so I’ll let you know how it works out.

Tomorrow, I report at 9am for the lottery (I’ll explain in better detail after it happens). Everyone plays in the first round tomorrow, too. We all get to play for 15 minutes. Thursday, about half of us will pass to the second round and you play 45 minutes for that. Only a few will pass to the final on Friday, which is a free programme of 30 minutes. I don’t expect to be a finalist but I would love to pass the first round. Keep your toes crossed for me!

Postcard from Vienna

Alb and I are in Vienna for a few days before I go back to work. It is quite the city. I think if I had to describe it in one word, I would call it ‘gluttonous’.

The city centre is full of buildings such as this:


And this:


Everything is lavishly detailed and every building is different. You have to stop looking after a while.

We’ve seen some ridiculously ornate churches. Although Stephansdom is impressive due to it’s extravagant size, its interior is forgettable. Peterskirche, just down the street, is in another league. Take a look.


This is the main altar. Following is the lectern so covered in gold, it dazzles even the most gold-adjusted eye.


Above the exit were many beautiful murals…


…outdone only by the extraordinary ceiling.


We visited the Imperial Palace and since no photos were allowed inside, you’ll have to believe me when I say that it is the most impressive palace I have ever visited. It was remarkable on a number of counts. Firstly, the guy who ruled predominantly from there, I think it was Franz Josef – his office and bedroom were extremely plain. Not just ‘I’m a king’ plain, I mean 14th century monk plain. It seemed he worked crazy hours to keep things in ship shape. A family tradition was that each child learn a trade and so portraits depict gardeners, musicians and artists, not just princes and princesses. Many of their excellent drawings were incorporated into the decor by the family. In one little room, the walls are decorated with needlepoint done by one family member.

Our ticket covered the palace and grounds, which are extensive and pristine. We did the zoo, too, and barely made it home, our legs were so tired!

The following night, we went to an open air screening of ‘Tosca’, the Puccini opera. It was the final night of the summer-long film festival at the Rathaus (parliament). As you can see, it’s quite the location!


After the screening, they lit the building back up.


There has been a little bit of shopping (souvenir wool and the obligatory fridge magnet) but mostly our stay has consisted of excellent coffee, good food, taking it easy and looking up!

More to follow as we went to Bratislava yesterday…stay tuned!

Brief dispatch

I am aware that my home country is covered in horrid, unfair, unseasonal snow so I won’t dwell too much on this… I am away. I am on the sub tropical island of Madeira. There are bananas, rum, the sloshy sounds of Portuguese, a little knitting and crochet, a lot of hills, and most importantly this:


Pics of my project progress to come!


Definitely time for some ketchup (catch-up… get it?!). I’ve been away! I went back to Switzerland to take the same masterclasses that I took last year. I had a great time! When I got back, I had a day to wash all my clothes and repack because Alb and I set off for Iceland. We had talked about going for a good while, and we didn’t feel like going so far away after all our travelling last year, so it worked out well. We got cheap flights via Edinburgh and we stopped off there on our way back.

Iceland is an extremely interesting country. It is a quarter bigger than Ireland but, with a population of about 300,000, it is very sparsely populated. The highlands dominate the centre of the island and are largely impassable with a regular car. So, they’ve built a ring road that goes around the coast. It’s well maintained and very, very scenic. We rented a car and drove the whole thing. It is something else. The landscape changes constantly, from volcano, glacier, mountains, valleys, fjords, lava fields, black deserts, millions of waterfalls and random holes in the ground puffing out steam. The weather, like here, changes constantly, but was more extreme: very hot in the sun, bitter sub-zero winds, driving rains, blinding fog. We lost about a day and a half to rain but otherwise were very lucky. We took a LOT of photos so, rather than write about it all at once, I think I will post photos as I process them and write a little bit about our experience.

For now, I’ll show you what I picked up. Wool, of course. Sheep were prevalent and wool was available in pretty much every supermarket in every village.

Laceweight Lopi, about 250m per ball. This was about €3-4. I got this in a supermarket in Hofn where the selection of yarn was far superior to that of fresh fruit.

DK Lopi, about 100m per ball. I think this came to about €10. I have no idea why I only got 4 balls of brown. I want to make a circular yoke vest with a pattern on the yoke; I don’t think 4 balls of brown will make it. Maybe if I knit loosely? I didn’t buy any more yarn than that because they only sold Lopi and it is very, very scratchy. I daresay it will be really warm but I only have so much room in my wardrobe for scratchy jumpers!

We had two full days in Edinburgh and it was lovely. We got good weather and had such a good time just wandering around. I found a weavers making proper wool tartan. This is so hard to find and even the polyester sort tends to be quite expensive here. The problem with tartan is that the patterns tend to be completely mental. This is lovely if you’re going the route of making a clan kilt and it’s your family pattern. I, on the other hand, was looking for something suitable for every day wear. After a long time looking, I came up with this.

It is quite dark so the colour did not come out very well. It is dark navy with a dark green, the highlight is bright blue. I think it will match a lot of my other clothes and shoes. At a mere 114cm wide and with such a broad check, I went for 2m out of the fear that I would not have enough to make anything substantial. This cost me the princely sum of £47. I would love dearly to eke a tunic or pinafore out of it but a skirt with an inverted pleat would be good too. I want to pick a garment that I can use a lot because the fabric is really fantastic; light, smooth but hardy. A pinafore with a dark green cardigan would be great, right?

There was a John Lewis right beside where we were staying so I went in for a look. I wish we had John Lewis here! I didn’t see anything in their knitting section that I couldn’t get at home but I spent a long time in their notions department. I came away with a packet of canvas webbing – something I have found impossible to get here – and a variety pack of snaps. Both were something like £1 each. The fabric is cotton from Tanya Whelan. I used another from the same collection for a Wiksten tank and have been so impressed with its quality. It washes and presses marvellously, and is so soft that it has become my go-to summer top this year. The Wiksten tank is quite wide so I bought the same quantity again, 1.5m, with the intention of a top not so wide but with some sort of sleeve. Maybe a neat blouse; I need to peruse my patterns.

Some retail therapy is always fun, of course, but really it was scenes like this that recharged my batteries:

Stay tuned for more!

Le Weekend

This weekend has had a little bit of everything. We’ve spent it in Galway. It was really good to get away for a few days. There has been some practice, some running, lots of tea-drinking, idle chat and a lot of snoozing. Yesterday I made the best of the good weather and had a browse around town.

I stopped by Pippa Blue to see their new space. They have moved across the road from their previous place on Middle Street into the Cathedral Building (directly opposite). They’re up on the first floor now but this has the massive benefit of greatly increased space and wonderful light throughout. Of course, I totally forgot to take any photos but take it from me, it’s lovely. They’re running all manner of classes and workshops now, as well as offering their studio space for hire, along with the use of a sewing machine and serger.

I picked up some Tanya Whelan cotton (the print) and some Klona cotton (the solid) for spring tops…

…and a fat quarter of Japanese Echino. The other stuff is two types of interfacing. I poured my zip-on-the-bias woes out to Eva, who proceeded to furnish me with two samples of their interfacing. One is a medium-weight sew-in interfacing, which I’ve never used before but should definitely do the trick, and the other is of the lighter iron-on sort. I can’t wait to try them out.

My mum has requested a pencil skirt for her birthday so I went to Hickey’s. It’s nearly as good as the one on Henry St but tends to have more things on sale. I dislike shopping in Hickey’s. It is the perfect example of how simply filling a shop full of yarns and materials does not make an inspiring environment. Anyway, after a long time digging around, I found some ivory ‘panama’ (polyester) that fit the specs. The lining is only acetate but the panama is quite light so it should be ok.

In the course of my digging, I found a few different knits. I bought the Renfrew Top back when it first came out because free international shipping was offered if you pre-ordered. It struck me as a most useful pattern, with different sleeve and neck-line options. It’s quite hard to find a decent knit and it’s not something Murphy Sheehy tends to stock a lot of. I stumbled upon this, a wool jersey.

At €15 a metre, I classed it as expensive but when I went to buy it, I found out that it had been marked down to €10. It’s not mega-stretchy so hopefully it will be nice to work with.

I wandered around the town and took a lot of photos (I have a photoblog here and also have been posting to Instagram under ‘knittingneels’ so follow me if you’d like to see more of my other photos).

The highlight of the weekend was definitely the gluten-free! cake brought to Sunday dinner by Alb‘s brother’s girlfriend.