Sunday, February 1, 2009

Tales of Ireland - Part 1

Ireland was - in one word - FANTASTIC. A week just wasn't enough for vacation, though Sean and I did our best to cram sights and fun into every minute we spent on the Emerald Isle.

While I took a ton of photos and had many great adventures throughout the country, I'll limit my discussion of it here on the blog to that which was relevant to craftiness.

We arrived at Shannon airport on Sunday, January 18. Due to the weather (rain and ice) we traded in the trip to the Cliffs of Mohr and instead went to Bunratty Castle and Folk Park.

Bunratty Castle

It was here that I had my first encounter with craftiness in Ireland. Inside one of the castle rooms was a swift and spinning wheel.

Swift and spinning wheel at Bunratty Castle

I do wonder if these items were original to the castle or not. Regardless, it was fun to see them be on display in the castle.

I made my first craft related purchase of the trip in the Bunratty Castle gift store. The shop was full of the usual tourist-type fare but I was immediately drawn to the display of colorful sheep. I just had to have this.

Sheep Pencil Case
Sheep Pencil Case - Original use

Why would I want a pencil case, you may be asking yourself. I didn't see a pencil case, I saw it's true potential. Behold! The best crochet hook case ever!

Sheep Pencil Case - Preferred Use

Later that evening, with the excitement of my new crochet hook case in my head, I had hoped to get started on my next crochet project. But the jet lag was rearing it's ugly head. In the hopes of getting some much needed caffeine into my system, I opted to enjoy a cup of coffee and read the local paper.

Coffee and the news in Ireland

On Monday, we jumped in the car and headed down to Killarney. It was here that we encountered our first real snowfall for the year.

Winter weather in Ireland

The roads were even worse when we made our way from Killarney to Midleton on Tuesday. The locals said it was the worse winter weather in decades. Weren't we so lucky to get to experience it?

But I'm jumping ahead...

When we got to Killarney, we drove onto the grounds of the Europe Hotel for a glimpse of the lake up close.


Right across the roadway from this scenic view of the lake was a field full of sheep. This one sheep was right near the fence so I walked up to take a photo. He quickly ran away with a quick bleat of annoyance. I then waited with my camera pointed on him. He refused to look at me. "C'mon, little guy," I nudged. He did eventually humor me.

Sheep in Killarney

Next stop was the Kerry Woollen Mills. Hidden from the main roads, I was so very excited to have not encountered any big vehicles on our drive to the mill. The mill has been in business for over 200 years.

Kerry Woollen Mills outside Killarney

Sadly, this was the only photo I took while at the mill. I know - BAD, SAM! But I was just so preoccupied with the contents of the little mill store that I completely forgot to photograph the interior. I hope my description will suffice.

We walked into the courtyard and were met by the friendliest little feline. He or she was black and white and had this pathetic little meow that you could barely hear. It was as though s/he had a sore throat and could not muster more than a scratchy hello. S/he made his way over and was delighted when I extended my hand. Such a nuzzler, that one. I haven't been a cat person in a number of years but this little guy/girl was just too cute.

The little cat followed us into the one room store of the mill. It was a long room filled with lots of sweaters in numerous colors, piles of woven blankets and a significant number of shelves filled with yarn. The room smelled of wool - clean, not dirty - but definitely "sheepy". It was modest and lovely in the presentation of goods. No fancy lighting or slick signs. The prices and descriptions were hand written on bright paper. The shelves were filled with some sort of logic if only to separate the sweaters from the blankets. There were also kilts and hats for sale as well as some sheep knick-knacks. It was truly charming. While the young girl who was working there needed some significant training in customer service, the little cat continued to be our tour guide. S/he weaved between my feet as I looked through sweaters for the right size and color. S/he followed us from section to section as we wove our way through the store. S/he was the perfect little tour guide and made us feel quite welcome in the store, even when the human employee did not.

We bought Sean's Mom a hand-knitted, 100% wool, traditional Irish sweater for her birthday.

Kerry Woollen Mills Sweater
Kerry Woollen Mills Sweater detail 1Kerry Woollen Mills Sweater detail 2

I bought myself a sweater - though not hand knit and with a blend of cotton. It is the best sweater I've ever owned. So warm and comfy, a perfect shade of green, and it smells like real wool. Which it is. But you know what I mean.

Kerry Woollen Mills Yarn and Sweater

You'll also see my other acquisition from Kerry Woollen Mills. Some fabulous green Aran wool yarn.

Kerry Woollen Mills Yarn
Kerry Woollen Mills Yarn detail 1Kerry Woollen Mills Yarn detail 2

I still need to decide what I'll actually make with this fabulous yarn. But if it just stays as a skein of souvenir yarn, that will be cool, too.

Later that day, we made our way over to the Muckross House. Sadly, we arrived too late to get a tour of the interior of the house (guided tours only) but we did get to walk around the exterior. As you can see, the rain was unrelenting.

Sam at Muckross House

To escape the rain, we went into the gift shop. It had the usual tourist-type selection. I was excited to see a display of mugs, each one displaying a particular hobby. From gardening to sewing, painting to birdwatching but not a mug for knitting or crocheting. I would have spent a few Euros if they were there. Combining my love of coffee with my love of crocheting and knitting is an easy sell for me.

Adjacent to the gift shop was the Mucros Weaving Studio. There was a large loom in the middle of the room and a few work tables around the periphery.

Weaving Studio at Muckross House

I looked around the room at the garments and scarves for sale. I was not impressed at all. The designs were too simple and the color selections were boring. The yarn used was unimpressive. It all seemed to be synthetic and cheap. Did I mention how freakin' expensive everything was? There was nothing I found impressive in the shop at all. (Seriously - Queen - you need to sell your woven scarves. You could make a fortune!) Needless to say, I didn't buy anything.

After a wonderful night enjoying authentic Irish music in Killarney, Sean and I made the trip to Midleton to the Jameson Distillery. We then made the trip up to Blarney where we spent the evening at Muskerry Arms where we watched the end of an error as President Obama was sworn into office. It was a wonderful evening!

Stay tuned - Part 2 of Tales from Ireland will be posted soon!


CHo Meir said...

Wow, it all looks great so far. Looking forward to Pt. 2.

the mistress said...

Love it. Your photos are lovely.

laughingmuse said...

Great photos - and I'd love to read more, we're headed over there in a few months!

Sam said...

Thanks, Ladies.

LaughingMuse - you will have a WONDERFUL time no matter where you go! :)