September 16, 2015

Happy New Year!

I adore this time of year! It is a time for fresh beginnings, new leaves, revised strategies and revitalised plans! The summer was a busy one for me – lots of playing and not much else. In June, I competed in another competition outside Milan. Amusingly, many people there knew each other from other competitions, and I met a few who had been in Taranto with me. I had mutual acquaintances meet at later competitions. The music world is very small, even on an international level. Again, I was eliminated but had the opportunity to speak with most of the jury. This was quite revealing. I learned that juries, by and large, want to hear standard competition repertoire – you know, the big, heavy, flashy stuff – and absolutely do not want to hear a piece that they do not know. I was told by one jury member that a piece I played – which is ferociously difficult, by the way – was not competition repertoire. I told her that I didn’t pick it for her, I picked it for me. This had an amusing reaction and our conversation did not last much longer.

I learned two other things. Firstly, it is a deeply chauvinistic world. As a woman, I cannot see how it would be possible to please a jury. If you play in a masculine style, it just doesn’t have the same effect as a man playing. If you play in a feminine style, it’s too ‘weak’ (big repertoire etc.). It would seem that you would need the magical combination of a good repertoire choice, a pleasing style, and the jury on your side to progress in any way. Secondly, it is an ageist world. They will always give the younger musician a prize in order to help a career. So, in both competitions, I saw young Italian men win quite a few awards when there were umpteen other pianists more worthy. I quickly saw that as an older woman, my chances of even progressing to the next round were practically nil! But I also saw that this had nothing to do with how I played! I think that if I were younger, this would infuriate me, but I have done enough competitions to really not care anymore. It was a fantastic experience and it gave me a huge confidence boost, funnily enough.

The rest of the summer was busy, but fun! I went back to Switzerland and played a Mozart concerto with the orchestra there (it’s a music course where you can play with orchestra). And then, when I returned, I played ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ with the Irish Youth Wind Ensemble in the University of Limerick concert hall. This was an incredible experience – such an overwhelming level of talent in the ensemble! – and I look forward to sharing the recording with you. I was really very pleased with how it came off.

I have even more news! I got a new job in a university. I used to work there a few years ago so I am delighted to be returning on a full-time basis now. I have a contract but I am hopeful that it will develop into a more permanent position. There are two aspects of this that I am thrilled about: working daytime hours and a short train commute. I have worked vampire hours for the last few years and let me tell you, it wears thin. You never get to go to concerts or socialise at normal times. As for the commute, I have the perfect combination of a little daily exercise getting to the station and KNITTING TIME!

This brings me to the most important part: actual knitting! I have a completed cardigan that I will show you shortly, but today I have a WIP and future plans to share.

First up is a round yoked sweater in Fyberspates Cumulus. I adore the shades of this yarn. One of my most-worn tops is a similar colour to this, so I thought a cropped pullover version would be useful.


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The pattern is the Basic Unisex Pullover from Hannah Fettig’s Knitbot Yoked. This collection of five yoked sweaters (with a bonus hat and mitts) sat in my shopping cart on Ravelry for about a year. I finally broke down and bought it. I want to knit them all! In fact, I have a lovely dark teal yarn that would be perfect for Kaye’s cardigan. Would those little dots be perfect in angora or alpaca? Something sort of fluffy?!

I am almost finished the second sleeve (sleeves! Ugh!) and I have my sights on the next item. Are you susceptible to bizarre, but unmoveable desires like me? I bought a short sleeved ribbed sweater from Gap about three years ago. It has diagonal shaping on the body and I love it. I have searched high and low on Ravelry for a pattern for something similar to no avail. Until I found Newsom! I have this Donegal tweed 4ply/sport in my stash for over a year now (maybe two years?) and I am dying to use it. This will be the perfect pattern to show off its tweedy goodness.


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Don’t you love when you knit a good-sized swatch, lay it down, steal the needles for another project, assure yourself you will totally remember what size you used, then totally forget, thus rendering the swatch useless? I love that!

Lastly, I have a deep need for cream cardigan. I have a fair few dark dresses and skirts and this would fill a considerable wardrobe gap. This is the Cushendale Mohair Boucle. Isn’t it awesome? I love how loopy it is. It isn’t at all annoying to knit, either. I don’t really have a plan for this one. I changed needles quite a few times on this swatch just to see how the textures would change. It could take quite a large needle. I think perhaps just a simple round-necked cardigan would do it, with garter borders.


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The other publication I have been sorely tempted by is a new offering by Elizabeth Doherty, called Top Down: Re-imagining Set-in Sleeve Design. It’s about $25, which isn’t cheap, considering there are only 6 patterns, but by all accounts there is a wealth of information contained therein. I am a long-term fan of the top-down set-in sleeve but there are issues with matching the look of picked-up stitches. I’m not convinced, either, by the look of the contiguous shoulder. I will think about it and get back to you.

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May 28, 2015

The First Day

Filed under:News! — Aileen @ 11:48

Hi everyone! It’s been quite the adventure already. My flight to Bari was delayed about an hour and a half while we waited for some little old ladies to be delivered on wheelchairs. I had been worried about getting from Bari airport to the main station but the airport is tiny and there a good reason service into the main station, where I easily got another train onto Taranto. That would have been perfect only the train broke down halfway there and we had to wait for a bus. I got to the apartment where I stay at about 8pm. Phew!

So you can imagine that it’s a little nerve-wracking, travelling all day before a competition and not getting to practice. What I like to do in these situations is revise my score: I get a cup of coffee, find a quiet place and think through all my notes. I try to imagine myself in the hall and imagine the sound. It works well for me.

The building where the competition is, is about 2.5km from where I stay so I left about 45 minutes before I had to be there. It’s a nice walk along the sea. The rules say, you present yourself with your ID at this room in this building at 9am. I had done my research and had marked the exact building on Google Maps and thank goodness for Street View! I could see what the building looked like. Which is just as well because outside, there was no sign whatsoever! In through the main door, to one side, was this:

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See that small poster? That’s the sign for the competition. No information, mind, just the poster. In you go there, up to your left, down the hall, there’s a room with a door open – this is where we go. Here is a small room with two big tables, about three chairs and a lot of tired-looking, silent young adults.  We queue to show our documents and sign the roll.

We wait about ten minutes to make sure everyone who is coming has a chance to arrive, then a person is asked at random to pick a name from the jar. This person’s surname starts with P, so the running order starts with him and progresses alphabetically from there.

The people who do not play immediately are divided into groups and taken to another building where we can practice. The groups are small so I shared a room with another girl, we each had about 90 minutes. I was playing before her, so I went first, and then when we swapped I went to find something to eat. Then I changed beside the main hall, I warmed up on the piano provided downstairs and then played just before the jury took lunch break.

I was mostly happy with how I played, though it wasn’t perfect. The piano was quite deep and hard to manage – repeated notes became stuck, things like that. But you can’t complain because everyone is the same and nobody got to try it out beforehand. That said, it was an old Steinway and I liked the colour very much.

After lunch, I stayed quite a while and listened to others. Some were marvellous, others were awful. By this stage, a lot of the people I had been chatting to in the morning had also finished and we grew into a little band – I had second lunch with a Lithuanian and Italian, and shared a lovely late afternoon coffee with another Lithuanian, and dinner with a German. We all have a good laugh together, the camaraderie is fantastic.

Eventually, the results were posted at *11pm* – only eleven out of fifty passed to the next round. Even some of the fantastic playing I had heard earlier in the day didn’t pass. Needless to say, I also didn’t pass. The only solution?

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Drinks with new friends! I’m here until Saturday so I look forward to listening to all of the others in the next rounds.

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May 26, 2015

When in Rome…

Filed under:Music,Travel — Aileen @ 12:10

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.)

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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!

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February 19, 2015

FO: Carme blouse

Filed under:Blouses/Tops,Finished Objects,Sewing,Stash Down — Aileen @ 13:09

Hi everyone! I’ve a lot on my plate these days so forgive my infrequent posts. Between concerts, competitions (small, local, soon and big, in Italy and later) and actual work for money, there’s a lot going on! Well, no, not right now, but there will be. Mostly it would be fine if I wasn’t doing competitions abroad, but I am!

Anyway, I have for you today a blouse I finished before Christmas. I wore it once but the cuffs were far too tight and narrow, so it sat in my mending pile until January.

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It’s the Carme blouse by Pauline Alice patterns. She’s sort of the Spanish equivalent of Deer and Doe. I bought the Alameda dress pattern as well, as I have a wonderful check will that would look fabulous with those bias panels.

I digress! I used a plain polycotton that has been sitting in my stash for ages – I needed a blue blouse and this wasn’t so precious that I wouldn’t mind if it didn’t work out perfectly. I didn’t have quite enough for the sleeves and that meant that when I put on the little cuffs, they were finishing higher up my arms than intended and so were too tight. What I did was replace them with a pair of cuffs from another blouse. I also left out the gathers and just did a normal pleat instead.

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As for the body, I didn’t cut a straight size as it’s kind of oversize – I cut my proper size for the top, tapered into the smallest size at the waist and then a size bigger at the hips. It looks like an extreme curve but when on is just fine.

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You can see that there’s still plenty of room in the body. You might spy, as well, that I have a collar on my blouse when the pattern has none. The pattern has the important bit – a collar stand – so I just popped a collar from another pattern into it.

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The placket and bib were really straight forward and well explained in the instructions. It’s a nice pattern, with lots of options for variety, and it goes well over leggings or jeans.

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January 22, 2015

In progress, a sneak peek and a new shop!

Friends, I discovered a new shop today quite by chance. I went to Phibsboro to buy rice at the Indian shop and whilst three, I went up to the post office to post a letter. Coming back, I spied through a window some wool nicely arranged. Then I saw cross stitch kits on the wall – obviously I had to go in! This is what greeted me:

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The shop is called Be Creative – Be Unique. The yarn you see pictured is a good mix of cheap’n’cheerful acrylics and some much nicer Bergere de France yarns. They have a good range of crochet cottons and weights from sock yarns up to pretty chunky. Basically, if you’re not looking for something extremely specific, you’ll find something to scratch your itch!

They have addi needles and hooks, as well as bag handles and those awesome little leather soles that you can knit socks on to.

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Hmm, what else? Oh yeah, they sell quilting fabrics and some cotton poplins, too!

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(There’s a lot more than pictured). And if course there are ribbons, trims, needles and whatnots.

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I’m just so happy that if I need lining, thread, interfacing, spare needles…that kind of thing, I don’t have to go all the way into town and support a shop that doesn’t care if I shop there or not (Hickey’s). As it turned out, I needed interfacing and thread but I couldn’t go home without a sample of new things…

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I have a deep desire for new socks and incredibly, have nothing in the stash. What perfect excuse to try out a new kind of sock yarn! I look forward to reporting.

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I couldn’t resist this fabulous vintage Japanese print! I got some cream flannel to back it with and I plan on making some kitchen cloths. Look at the eggs!

In other news, I just cast on a Seven Sisters Cowl in Malabrigo Rios.

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It’s to match a hat I just finished so I hope to show you the set soon. And speaking of sets, I started this shawl over Christmas to match a dress I’m making!

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The dress is a lighter version of the same shade and I’m excited to finish it. The shawl is made from the new Fyberspates ‘Cumulus’ alpaca mohair so it’s very snug and warm. I’ll write more about it when I post the outfit.

I hope you’re all staying snug these days, or at the very least, crafting your way towards that state!

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