at last I uploaded – Spring & Summer fruits!

at least that’s what the colours read like! Raspberry, cherry blossom, honeysuckle, hot pink, fuscia, fuzzy peach…
either that or a list of cocktail names!

They’re now on Etsy and the next warp (in slightly darker shades of pink) is on the loom.  As we’re potty training this weekend, I have my doubts about how much weaving will get done – we’ll see

Going back to my Roots – deep and muddy

This has very little to do with weaving, but perhaps it warrants a bit of space on my blog as it took up so many of my evenings in January and February this year (time when I could / should have been weaving!).

In December last year (that would be, “super freezing December”), when I was home, I needed keys cut, so I went very early in the morning to a key cutters in Newry – while waiting for them to get organized, I noticed a brochure for an exhibition in the local museum, on the Merchant Navy and Maritime History in Newry & Mourne.

Are you still with me?!

This was curious, mainly as my grandfather and great-grandfather had been in the merchant navy – and the best thing about this little brochure was that it had lots of old pictures. Newry from its hay-day and photos of seamen long dead.

So, back to the key cutting shop.

They couldn’t help me with my keys – but that didn’t matter, the brochure sparked interest as I found a picture marked “lamp trimmer – “Patrick O’Neill – Fathom”. I’m from Fathom (a wee townland on the side of an inhospitable hill that is now called “Fathom Mountain”). The curious thing is, my grandfather was called Patrick O’Neill, and he hailed from Fathom. And O’Neill is not the most popular name for Fathom (“Hollywood”s on the other hand, are as populous as the rabbits!…I’m also a Hollywood – so I can’t say much, can I) He didn’t completely look like my grandfather – but there were similarities, and the ears were definitely O’Neill ears!

So, armed with knowledge that there had been an exhibition, I headed up to the museum in Bagnal’s castle to see what I could see… (and to warm up, as it was bloody freezing).

The exhibition was long gone, but I did get my own brochure which started a curious paper trail.
The nature of Newry, and probably most of Ireland, is still quite insular – families have been there for, literally, generations. We might be potato eating peasants, but most of us can easily trace back 4 generations or more. I knew we were no exception to this rule, but it was a curious thing to find out the details. Something I’d never been too bothered about.
The Patrick O’Neill in the picture was not my grandfather, but either an uncle or an older cousin (unfortunately Irish are not very inventive about their names, and believed in big families – hence “Patrick” occurred regularly in multiple generations…I’m sure at the time they all knew each other apart!)
My grandfather’s father, Hugh, was also in the merchant navy and served as a Fireman on the SS Scotia, he never seemed to be home during census time though and popped up in boarding houses in Dublin or onboard ship… (No bad thing according to accounts from my mother and my uncle, he was not missed – but that’s another story).
My great-grandmother ran the small farm they had on Fathom (where our house is built now), and raised 3 daughters and a son (my grandfather).
Her parents lived in the farm across the lane. In fact the land her farm was on was given to her by her father in the late 1800s. Her brother lived next door (in the field that we’ve always called “the bramble field” – it’s just full of bucky briars and blackberries). Her mother, (so, my great-great grandmother), née Jackson, came from the other side of the hill.
The land my parents live on now, was owned by my great-grandmother’s grandmother – who probably got it from her father. Her name is on the freeholders list for the Griffith’s tithes for 1861; and her father’s name is listed as freeholder for most of the surrounding land.

You see, little or nothing to do with weaving. (They had sheep, maybe they wove or spun…that link is tenuous though).

I started to understand the fascination that some people seem to have for tracing back their ancestry. It was like digging in a Lego box for that ONE brick you know is in there somewhere! With clarity, I could go back as far as 1861, to find weddings, births, deaths, census records and freeholders list. Beyond that there was sketchy information going back to 1811.

What I did discover overall, was that the Fathom peasantry were well fed, long-lived (living well into their 70s, 80s and in some cases, 90s) and held relatively large pieces of land. They were a mix of Catholic and Church of Ireland – and (by their names) appear to have intermarried more than modern history might lead us to believe. Some families (both Catholic and CoI) had servants and farm hands listed in the censuses – indicating that they were not exactly living on the bread line. The names of the servants / farm labourer were local to Newry, but not indigenous to Fathom…funny though that you can see there names there now – so a few of them got lucky! My uneducated guess is that this trend started during the famine (the “Famine” is to blame for everything in Ireland!), cheap labour in need of food and work.

Another curious thing – they married late, had relatively moderate sized families (for the time) of 4 – 8 children AND (and this was surprising to me), from correlating the births / marriages / deaths and the census records from the townland, you could see that the infant mortality rate appeared to be relatively low. The most poingant of these facts for me were looking at the details for my great-grandmother Lyons (née Campbell) who lived in Newry. In the 1901 census, she’d delivered 7 children with only  3  still living.  My Fathom g-grandmother delivered a total of 5 children – 4 lived to old age and grandparentage. This issue wasn’t specific to Mrs Lyons, it appeared to be an unfortunate trend.  

On this I have no concrete evidence, but for myself, I concluded that healthy woman, NOT marrying in their teens or early 20s, who worked on a farm, had slightly smaller families, but healthier pregnancies / babies…(either that or as a lot of the men went to sea, it acted as a natural birth control method). Was this a backlash to the famine or a regional trend? Healthier environment, diet, quality of life?  No idea.

The names from the early records of the late 1700s and the early 1800s (PRONI freeholder records) are the same family names as appeared in the Griffith tithes of the 1860s for the region – so my simple conclusion was that these people survived the famine relatively well. Relative, that is, to the surrounding counties and Newry Town which was decimated by the famine – I’m not saying any of these people had it easy – Fathom is an inhospitable granite hill, covered with heather, gorse, forest and bog – on paper, you wouldn’t have thought it was a place to thrive.

So, why am I boring you all senseless with this (eh, “all” – 3 or 4 people?!) – well, as my grown-up paid job involves research and digging for information, it naturally armed me with a wee bit more cunning when it comes to rooting out information – and for this reason I’m listing here the sources I used and some tips on how to use them efficiently before you have to start putting money on the table.


Direct search link to the Freeholders records in PRONI

The Irish census of 1901 and 1911 which greatly enriches any details you can get from the above sources.

Griffith’s Valuation (All Ireland, detailed by family name, individual, townload, parish, county – Also has an exceptional map overlay function to display old tith maps with current maps – truely an online gem and free)

Free site, that is apparently global – I’ve only focused it for Ireland. Results are poorly displayed but resources are very complete and comprehensive. DON’T refine your searches too much or you will end up with nothing, as the source is free, it’s easier to start broad and browse through the results. Best used to clarify or refine details you get from the Census, Griffith, PRONI and Roots Ireland. (specifically searching within Irish records)

Selection of pictures and records of Irish merchant Navy.  There are a few images, all very interesting – but there are more details in the records database.

Place names, family names and other little interesting details – A useful site to augment the hardcore records from official sites: Relevant to Co.Down ONLY

Place name search in Ireland, will also search (very accurately) Townland names, both anglicized spelling and gaelic

Irish ordnance survey Maps – interactive Online, with visible layers of older maps,591271,743300,0,10

Ulster ONLY townloads (This is NOT complete…my own little townload is missing!) but it’s free, and if your townload is here, it’s a good start.’s_townlands_exhibition.htm

PAY for Actual Records:

Now, you need to put money on the table here – but if you maximize the sources above, you can get the most bang for your buck from this site:

Registration is free, searching is free, and basic listing results are free. IF you filter accurately by parish, townload, county, name (remember the variation in spellings), you could be lucky enough to limit results to 3 or less. Correlate your results with a further search in the page (based on names / dates visible here).
I’m sure you’ve heard this before if you are looking for ancestral records, but from my experience here are the main kickers:

  • The general populous of Ireland – and notaries alike – were inventive about how they spelt their names, and the same person could exist with 3, or more, different spellings for their surnames.  Try multiple spellings, with spaces and without (where Mac / Mc / o’ is concerned it becomes more work – but stick with it)
  • Remember that lots of christian names were abbreviated too – or changed slightly if there were multiple people in one family with the same name (Patrick, big Paddy, Paddy Og, wee Paddy, Pat – they could one person, or 5 “Patricks” within the same family – You need multiple pieces of evidence to cross reference your names) OR (and this is worse!) children named for their parents, but were actually known by their second name – i.e. “Ellen Rose” named after her mother Ellen, but all her life called “Rosie” or “Rosaleen” (wee rosie): Her birth cert, would say “Ellen Rose” but a death cert., or grave stone record might say “Rosie”…you need to collect all the evidence and then work out age, marriage, parentage etc to confirm they are who you think they are.
  • Townlands and parishes are very important for Irish records. Unless someone actually lived IN a town, they are of less importance for classifying residential location – and may or may not appear after the Townland, but before the county in an address – IF they appear in the information.  The Griffith’s site has the map function that can show you Townlands, but it can be tricky, if you are outside Ireland, to know what TL your family would have hailed from.  I would recommend, IF you know the full name of a person, then use the census search, along with County to filter and find the townland, and maybe parish. This will then allow you to refine your searches in the Roots Ireland and Family Search pages. Basically if you can’t confirm a townland, you’ll have difficulty confirming you’ve found the right person!
  • People may be buried, married or baptised in parishes other than their own. Keep in mind that if you are looking at records from the late 1800s and then records from the early 1900s and comparing things with modern times, then churches may have been built or destroyed, meaning people would have had to travel further (or not) for their religious activities.
  • Actual birth date, date of registration and date of baptism might not all happen together. In rural areas a baby might have been born in January, but not registered until February, March, April (depending on weather and available transport). The same for baptism…Don’t look at the date of registration, but at the actual birth date.

Read your subtitles!

As important a phrase as “eat your greens” and “brush your teeth” – it’s just that it’s not bandied about as much.
The Danish programme – “The Killing” is breathtaking. Anyone contemplating watching (oh God, I can hardly say it),  a REMAKE, is doing themselves a big disservice…and watching something dubbed is nauseating – (unless it’s a cartoon in the first place, in that case it’s forgivable).  It’s been hard to focus on weaving when Nanna Birk Larsen’s killer was running around (eh, in 2007!) and our domestic disputes usually started (and ended) with discussions on who the killer might be.

Back in the real world… 
Weaving is coming along nicely, I have another warp in the planning and I managed to photograph the two spring / summer wedding scarves I was making (see previous dyeing / warping pictures below).  Updated pictures to follow.

When I started writing this there was a royal wedding happening, but only  a few days later and all the umph seems to have gone out of that theme now…ahh, how quickly things pass! I’m not what you would call a royalist, but you can’t not wish people well on their wedding day…and be a bit curious and gaupy about all this! My mum said that the bride wore Carrickmacross lace – Sr. Aloysius taught us carrickmacross lace making in primary 7 (age 11) an experience and a half to be sure! I think I still have a couple of lace doilies I made as samplers, lying around my parents house! I very much doubt I could have been a lace maker though – it just looks a right state when you wash it…not my cup of tea at all.

What have I been doing ? – no idea

Life seems to pass in  a whirl these days – without any Walnut on top (for those of you who know UK chocolates, you know what I mean).

It’s just been busy, family visiting (still here), work, finding schools, taking Hannah to the park – and then when there is that precious hour after dinner in the evening, all I want to do is crash in front of the TV. Some little part of my brain keeps screaming “GET UP! – this is burning less calories than SLEEPING and is WAY LESS productive!”…but the part of my brain that is the majority shareholder after 9pm is not interested in how many calories I’m burning, nor productivity nor anything else that would make a valuable contribution to society. It’s interested in lying on the sofa with the remote control.

I have been weaving though – inspired by spring – and the 2 wedding we’ve been invited to in June and July in England and Wales respectively –  (the expense of which I won’t think about as I just start to tremble) – and also by the overwhelming sense of deep PINK that has been coming through the air (eh, sorry  – Honeysuckle).
So, I got my dye pots out, my pixeloom fired up, and I got to work.

I worked on a random warp, with the idea of weaving 2 scarves – which I’ve done. Both have come out longer than I’d calculated as I forgot to account for the fact that the warp yarns had already shrunk due to the dyeing process – yea, I know – ARSE – but anyway, they are looking quite good. Lots of cherry blossom / spring time / sakura / honeysuckle flavours going on. And at least one of them will go with my Boden jacket and dress for the wedding(s).

The slacker returns

yea – no need to say it…6 months?! They passed in the blink of an eye.

It’s no consolation but I had some great and passionate ideas for blog entries over the past 6 months…here’s a summary of my mental rants that never made it to a keyboard in their full glory:

  1. Complaints and bitches about low crafty sales online…my mental note to self on that – and others, if I’d bothered to make a blog post  – was – “don’t make crap” followed by “For GOD sake, take better pictures” and finally “pick a reasonable price” – would be a good start
  2. Super crappy postal services to the USA – yep, this was at an all time low in December (just when you needed it most) and doesn’t seem to have improved. There is a lot I could say about this, but I don’t know if it’s worth it or not. “Post to the USA is severely delayed due to extra security.” This has been in place since  end of October and shows no sign of improving…triple and quadruple ARSE… but there we have it.
  3. Christmas snow, mega freezing weather (eh, -20ºC is “normal” for Canada, but not for Northern Ireland). We made it home, we had a lovely Christmas, so no point in whittling on about that one.
  4. Finding a brochure for an exhibition at a local museum for the merchant seamen, only to end up spending quite a few evenings (late nights and early mornings) – A picture of my great-grandfather’s brother (eh, or cousin) appeared in the brochure. This would have been a nice rant, as I collected a lot of information on my families history, and a lot of links – free and with small fees – which provided a lot of genealogical information…maybe I’ll come back to that one later.
  5. SCHOOLS – and the school process for Spain. Mmmmm, this one is still quite recent in my rant-memory, so it’s pretty fresh and might provoke further unsolicited outbursts, ranging from “HOLY CRAP we have  2 weeks to visit 10 schools, make a decision and complete paperwork for school applications” to “so, Catholic Schools are all PRIVATE and the starting price is 300euros a month…even if I’m a practising Catholic and the school is right in front if my apartment…and ‘officially‘ it’s one of the 10 available schools for H in our catchment area  – but although the schools are Catholic, catechism is not taught DURING normal school hours and would be ‘extra escolar’ and would be effectively an evening class, as the CATHOLIC school doesn’t want to offend all the people who want their children to have a CATHOLIC education without the “CATHOLIC” part – How in the name of Fxxk does that work?” (“Hello, I’d like to be a vegetarian but I don’t want to give up meat, can you sort something for me?”) ……As you can see, still too fresh in my memory so I won’t go there.  I’ll come back to the School saga later – it’s not over yet!
  6. Weaving – So this blog is supposed to be about weaving so I should maybe mention it. I did a lot before Christmas, and was lucky enough to have some modest success with it too, but since Christmas things have stagnated a bit, mostly due to points 4 and 5 above – alternating between school chaos and family history websites my loom has a wee bit of dust on it.

TODDLERS…and other weapons of mass destruction

An update is long overdue – and to avoid this being very dull and just a whole pile of words, I’d better put some pictures in here too.
(SWEAR-WORD), it’s been a bit of a hectic to say the least. (Is my life any other way?…Would I want it any other way…?!) Yea, well – it would be good to not be running around like a lunatic all the time, but I’m not sure what that feels like!
Where to start?
I’ve finished “Tokyo Autumn Chocolate”. Mohair, mohair-boucle, lambs wool, ribbon, velvet ribbon – all in honeycomb weave. A very sumptuous, fluffy, warm experience! The client was also very happy – so that’s what counts.
I’ve put on a lovely linen warp, that feels like a “purge” – a truely cleansing experience after the sensory over indulgence of mohair. A joy to thread up…now I need to get weaving


The pile of woven “thingies” in the spare room (you need to say this like Mr Tumnus “Spare – ooom”) seems to grow ever bigger, with 2 baby blankets in white chenille; 2 scarflets; a shawl and a set of place matts.
Christmas Presents:
Yep, the season of total insanity is soon to be upon us, and I’m determined not to panic – which means that everyone is getting some kind of charitable offering (“you’ve given a present of a goat to a family in XXX”). And something small to go with it. For the “something small”, I’m voting for handmade wash mitts (hence the linen warp). This will have to suffice as I suspect we’ll be carting H’s presents halfway around Europe and I’m not in the mood for “being of good cheer” and carrying a whole pile more crap besides.
To add to my irritation for the festive season, Etsy seem to be sending out lots of peppy-preppy-perky-plastic emails about gearing up for the Holiday Rush – While it’s true that crafters are on Etsy to promote their wares and sell things, I couldn’t help feeling that all the hyper-genki mails were more about Etsy counting in the cash than really motivating designers for the designers’ sake – or even the sake of good design. After all a % of nothing is still nothing, so “sell sell sell!” (even if it is crap? Isn’t there a chance of flooding the market with any old rubbish?)
I’m probably just getting cranky over nothing, but I’ve been deleting these mails within minutes of opening them. I’ll get my mum or Matt to give me a pep talk if I think my motivation is lacking – and if Hannah, cleaning the apartment (HA! I laugh derisively here), cooking, “the-day-job”, family, sleeping or watching-TV should get in the way of weaving then maybe it’s one of those days when that’s what’s meant to be…I read a brilliant blog title a few days ago “so much to do, so little motivation”.
Or maybe it’s a toddler in the house that is teaching me the ways of obstinate belligerence.
Bloody hell – It’s not even December and Christmas has my blood pressure up already.
Now I need to mention my other non-weaving projects that are non-the-less crafty:
A cover for the sofa (as Hannah has plastered the 2 year old IKEA one in mushed biscuit, milk, juice and other things we won’t mention).

Making and covering a head-board for our bed and one for the spare room. I bought enough fabric to match the curtains in both rooms, and a lot of foam…Now the roll or foam just gets moved from the hallway, to our room, to the spare room depending on how much in the way of other things it is. Action is needed. Luckily its covered in plastic so my tardiness is not effecting the foam!
Framing the collection of prints, drawings and Chinese stencils we’ve collected from our wandering that now sit in the spare room (I’m talking a lot about our spare room here – I never realised how much credit it deserved!). We did frame the collection of pen-&-inks and watercolours we’ve amassed from the cities we’ve been to, and they look lovely in the hall (all positioned just out of reach of very small fingers), but I discovered an old art portfolio bursting with Chinese stencils, shadow puppets from Malaysia and Singapore, prints from art galleries, 3 scrolls from a Sunday junk market in Ueno and gawd knows what else from the days when we just thought “ash, let’s go to Berlin for the weekend” – yea – I know – those days are definitely OVER!
At some point I need to finish painting the window frames – but as these are over 100years old (really!) and we can’t actually decide if we should have them replaced or taken to an acid bath to strip off all the old paint, I’m not really rushing into this one. And I doubt it would get started before 2011…It’s in the big picture but not now, only when I happen to see the window/door in the kitchen – about 10 times a day – and I think…”mmm, that’s a bit of a state”!
Somehow I need to persuade Hannah that 12 hours of playing/park at the weekend is not really possible. 2 year olds aren’t really so easy to convince though, they have their own plan on how the universe works, and DaVinci, Galileo and Stephen Hawking can all go and boil their heads – as far as toddlers are concerned the universe revolves around THEM! (And usually this is pretty funny to watch).
A lot of pictures are needed with the blog entry as it’s a lot of old waffle and pretty damn boring to read otherwise.