Saturday, June 30, 2007

The Aran Islands

Not much tatting done this weekend!
We celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary on Sunday last 24th June. Daughter and son in law (of the wedding at the start of this blog) took us away for the weekend to the Aran Islands. The islands are just a stones throw from their house, well a long stones throw as it takes about an hour by ferry. This is Inis Mor from Spiddal, Galway where they live.

The islands lie in the outermost part of Galway Bay and are of course the home of the famous Aran Sweater. If you want to see where they are located go to for maps and more info.

Of the three islands we went to Inis Meain (Inishmaan) meaning middle island. Although bigger than Inis Oirr (Inisheer, east island) and way smaller than Inis Mor (Inishmore, big island) it is the least populated. There are now only 170 permanent residents on Inis Meain. Repopulation is being encouraged by the government.

There are a couple of small hotels with restaurants a pub, and a sprinkling of Bed and Breakfast establishments to stay at. The one we stayed at was excellent, lovely room with panoramic views of the island, the best full Irish breakfast you could wish for and a very good evening meal if desired, highly recommended.

This is the view from our bedroom window at the top of the house.

Each family on the islands had their own distinct pattern of cables and diamonds etc. on their sweaters. As most families were fishing folk should anything bad happen to them they could be identified by their sweaters.
The island has a modern Aran knitwear factory producing stunning pieces.

On arrival at the island it was 'shank's pony' for the walk of over a mile to the B&B reinforcing the old adage 'never take more than you can carry!! I'm sure that we could have been met at the ferry terminal if we had wished, but as it wasn't actually raining (well not all the time!! )we were OK.

The island is three and a half miles long and two miles wide and we were centrally located with shortish!! walks going in all directions. Our first walk was to the west to the most inhospitable part of the island taking the brunt of the Atlantic weather.

The Aran Islands are a continuation of the limestone pavement found in the Burren Region of County Clare cut off from the mainland at the end of the last ice age by rising water levels.

The fields in this exposed area are just a thin covering of soil on the limestone.
We had taken our own picnic fodder including the bubbly for the occasion as shopping is limited to a couple of small shops selling basics and snacks for tourists. We ate our picnic in the shelter from the wind given by a dry stone wall, just before the rain came down again.

Another walk led to a pre Christian ring fort. Within the tiered stone walls would have been a group of dwellings, with lookouts posted on the walls prepared for invasion.

Contrasting sharply with this was a modern church with beautiful stained glass windows by Harry Clarke great shelter from another rain shower.

A mix of old and new, in general it was like going back in time a hundred years. This house was almost next door to our B&B. It's garden wall covered in sweet smelling honeysuckle.

An after dinner game of Mahjong while watching the many bonfires on the island and mainland,(it was midsummer bonfire night when traditionally one is allowed to burn freely). Next day we were greeted by morning sunshine so headed down to the beach.

This relatively unspoilt island is like Ireland used to be and how many tourists still think of Ireland.Heading east this part of the island is much more sheltered and hospitable. We heard many birds including a cuckoo, the wild flower meadows were a delight with wild orchids in abundance. Cinnabar moths were everywhere and a field of Pearl Bordered Frittillary butterflies found only in the Burren and parts of Britain was a rare treat. We had never seen this butterfly before.

The long black sandy beach was a magnificent foreground to the ever changing sea and sky. The weather changed every few minutes, we got soaked and sunburnt in the same day!

Overhead the Terns were divebombing us indicating that there were nests nearby.

There in a small depression in the middle of the beach totally exposed was a nest with two eggs.

Alan was sitting on the edge of the dunes also being mobbed and when he got up not more than a foot away was a small chick! I suppose that exposure of the nests like this allows the parents to see when predators approach and they certainly did their best to see us off zooming within inches of our heads.

All too soon out time in this haven of peace was over and it was time to roll the suitcases back downhill this time to the ferry.

Was the rain approaching faster than the ferry? We just made is before another downpour.
Sad to say goodbye to this beautiful island, a harsh life in the winter months,we were not tempted to move there. An experience to be remembered for a long long time.

I hope you have enjoyed this little glimpse, so many photos had to be reduced to just a few.

Honour amongst geckos!

OK the last of the silly gecko photos. Glad to see that the little one finally got a lift!!

Jane Eborall has designed a gecko tatting pattern for me. Go look at my 25 motif challenge blog to see my first tatted geckos and read a bit more about geckos.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Geckos coming home!

Well it's dusk and the geckos are wending their weary way home after going to see Jane's gecko (no they didn't call at the pub on their way Jane!). They seem very tired and don't seem to have much consideration for the poor little chap at the back.
They seem to have encouraged Jane to keep tatting the gecko.

One more piece of gecko memorabilia was staring me in the face all the time, our wall mirror, made in Indonesia was a gift from a friend who came to stay.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Geckos on the move!

I was sitting having my lunch today when I suddenly noticed that the geckos that I had casually put down on the sideboard after I had photographed them had suddenly become organised and were on the move!

This really gives a feeling of their size and variety. I wonder where they are heading so purposefully. Perhaps they heard that Jane has nearly finished the tatted gecko and are off for a peak!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A Celebration of 'Gecko-ness'

I am sure you know by now that hubby and I are nuts about geckos.
My friend Jane Eborall is designing a gecko in tatting for me and was asking me should her design have skinnier legs, longer legs or what.
Well geckos come in the most extraordinary shapes and sizes so hers is going to be a sort of generic gecko that can be tweaked in to a number of different specific geckos.

When you are gecko mad you begin to see geckos everywhere you go and I don't mean living ones. It seems that the whole world has a love affair with the cuteness of the gecko and so it is easy to find a gecko momento wherever you go.

Not that we actively go out looking for them they seem to find us!! as well as family and friends finding them the perfect gift.

So this article is a celebration of some of our Gecko collection.

The smallest is a tiny beaded gecko I made, just under 4cm he would make a lovely earring. the pattern is in 'Beadlings How to Make Beaded Creatures and Creations' a Klutz book.

Another beaded gecko is a key ring that I came across in Germany, here he is together with the little one to show the size (about 10cm). A very clever design of beads and wire.

The largest ones I have are a pair of cast iron geckos at 30cm which looked great in the garden until they showed signs of rust and had to take up residence on a windowsill.

They came from the gecko meeting in Germany that we go to every year along with is my latest aquisition, another large metal one with an eyelet underneath so he can be hung on a wall.

Almost every market stall wherever we go has paperweight geckos, brightly coloured materials filled with sand. We have these too but they seem to have gone walkabout.
A variation on this theme was given to me by a friend and is a stuffed gecko sewn onto a zipped purse.

Of course I know you all will want to know what is so special about geckos apart from their cuteness. The answer lies in their feet.
A gecko can run up a vertical sheet of glass holding on by means of it's 'sticky' foot pads. But they aren't really sticky at all, the underside is covered in millions of tiny hairs, down to molecular level and they interact with the walking surface, kind of like 'velcro' except that they can release a lot easier.
There is a lot of research ongoing to try to find out exactly how this works and if it can be of use to mankind.

Geckos are the only vertebrates that can bend their toes upwards as well as downwards.
This is a great advantage if they are walking over a dusty surface and don't want to get dust between the tiny hairs they can curl their toes upwards as they walk to keep the pads of the ground.

The ability to walk up a shiny surface enables them to walk along shiny leaves or up a tree with very smooth bark. A great help in running away from predators.

For realism it's hard to beat the rubberised gecko here, you can almost see those toes curling up.

Now for something unique, this is a handpainted gecko mug commissioned in England by my son for his dad, geckos solve a lot of birthday problems.

Here is my gecko plate that I painted at my daughters hen party last year, it looked wonderful until it had an accident in the firing, still you can't win them all!

Cute! yes we do cute too. Here is my favorite fridge magnet, a little gecko with magnets in his feet, he is a real poser and lives on the cooker hood at the moment, tho we never know where he will turn up next.

This tiny little resin gecko is sitting on a real nut and I think was made in South America.

Finally some more unusual hand made geckos, staring with a hand carved painted gecko from Mauritius This is characteristic of the brightly coloured 'day geckos' found on the island.

A beautifully carved specimen, 21 cm long, look at his lovely eyes.

Saving the best 'til last, here is a recent gift from an Australian friend.

12 cm long and made from 'Fimo'clay isn't he exquisite. he is the work of Jon Anderson of Fimocreations, go and have a look at his work.

Hope you enjoyed seeing these, you should see the T-shirt collection!!!!!!!!!!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Festival of Lace

This Easter weekend my lace guild 'The Traditional Lacemakers of Ireland' are having an exhibition of lace made by the guild members and also some antique lace.
Guild members were asked to put two pieces each into the exhibition.
Although I am learning Carrickmacross, Bandon and Bobbin lace I wanted to exhibit some tatting.
My first piece was a framed bonsai tree from a pattern by Lindsay Rodgers in 'Tatting Collage'.

The second piece I have been working on this year is a collage of tatted animals.

I think I will have to explain the reason for this one.
The exhibition is being held in Fota House a beautiful Regency style 18th century house, restored and reopened to the public in 2002. A perfect setting for a lace exhibition.

Fota is a small island in Cork harbour connected to the mainland by a causeway. The estate, former home of the Smith-Barry family is also the home not only of a beautiful arboretum but also Fota Wildlife Park, and this is the reason for my tatted animal display. All of the animals with the exception of the Meerkat are to be found in the park. They do have Meerkats in the Dublin Zoo though.
We have two black swans in the park that swim in their own pond together with a rescued seal so they had to have their own little pond in my display.

The lace exhibition was superb. What a talented lot!

Unfortunately Easter Saturday the day that I went to work at the exhibition, was so sunny that few visitors to the estate came indoors to look around the house. They don't know what they missed. We did also have to compete with the Easter Bunny who was having an egg hunt outside the window of the room we were working in!

During the afternoon we had a lecture on The History of The Limerick Lace School given by Veronica Rowe a lace historian. Her Grandmother started the Limerick Lace School in the 1890's. At the time there were many lace schools throughout the country as lace was very much in demand. The Limerick School continued until 1923 when hand made lace was no longer in great demand.
Her slides and display of antique Limerick lace was superb.