Ballybeg Shawl

Ballybeg is my first knitting laceweight project. It is also the shawl I will wear for my wedding. The shawl is named after the venue we are getting married in, Ballybeg House in Wicklow.

I chose Fyberspates Scrumptuous Lace in Oyster. It’s a 2ply silk merino blend and I’m not ashamed that the one kilometer yardage terrified me. This yarn is indeed scrumptuous, it is so lovely to knit with, so soft with just the lightest sheen to it.

I also wanted to use some beads to give it the wow factor. I chose 4mm clear AB Swarovski crystals and I’m using a .5mm crochet hook to add the beads to the stitches as I go along.






I had initially swatched for Cold Mountain by Kieran Foley. I really like the geometric patterns in this shawl and also like the idea of choosing an Irish designer. But once I had chosen my dress I realised as beautiful as cold mountain is, it wouldn’t suit the dress. The photos below show the blocked and unblocked swatch.

Another Kieran Foley design caught me eye, Echo Beach. The pattern uses “shifting columns of dropped stitches” that flow through the pattern like little rivers, I chose to do the column of two dropped stitches version. I’m a tight knitter so am using 4mm needles for this project.

The chart is repeated three time across the shawl so I’m adding three beads to every second row, on the wrong side. I’m adding these on the purl rows, to the stitch immediately after the yarn over (YO).

This is costing an absolute fortune in Swarovskis but I think it’s worth it. I tried out some Bonarski crystals I got in Winnie’s Wool Wagon. These are considerably cheaper but I can see the difference in the sparkly-ness , so will switch back to Swarovskis.

So far I have 7 and a half pattern repeats done and pinned the shawl out this morning to get an idea of how it’s coming along and to take some photos.

Giving isn’t just about money

So, when I started this blog I promised I wouldn’t say “I’m sorry I haven’t blogged in ages” so lets just say the dark mornings are taking their toll and move on, shall we?

Goodwill to all men (and women, children and animals etc.)

Santa Coat 009Christmas is a time of giving and sharing, of friends and family, and reaching out to those less fortunate than ourselves.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the giving aspect recently, particularly since most of us have very little extra to give this year, especially in monetary terms. But there are other things you can give that are just as valuable.

As many of you will know already the Dublin SPCA, where I volunteer, have found this last year particularly difficult. It’s no secret that they are ending the year with redundancies and somewhat curtailed services, particularly when it comes to healthy stray dogs, because of a lack of funding. Donations have dropped dramatically, which is unsurprising and understandable giving the Current Economic Climate*. I’m sure most other charities are facing similar problems.

Angel working at the Dublin SPCA

Angel hard at work at reception of the DSPCA

So back to Christmas and the charitable spirit it inspires in many of us. Giving is about more than just money. I’m sure to many charities the gift of time is just as valuable as the gift of money. The DSPCA rely heavily on volunteers to run the shelter and I am lucky to have the time to donate one morning a week to them. But time is another luxury most people don’t have to give.

Hang in there, there is a point to all this.

If you can’t afford to donate time or money, there are other ways of giving charitable donations. At any time of the year.

The pond at the Dublin SPCAThe DSPCA have a wish list on their website of supplies that they need to help run the shelter. This includes dog and cat toys to help stimulate the animals, as animal mental health is so important. They also use a large amount of newspapers in the cattery to line the litter trays. Old (untorn) towels are also vital to help keep the place clean and dry as all kennels, pods and every surface is cleaned daily with disinfectant to keep it clean and the animals healthy. (It is after all essentially a working animal hospital.) Nappy bags are also used in huge amounts for – scooping the poop, as it were. The list goes on and on, many of them items you might have lying around at home unused.

A foster kitten at the DSPCA being bottle fed

A foster kitten at the DSPCA

Oxfam Ireland launched a campaign in November 2011 called Make Space for Oxfam to highlight Oxfam’s shops urgent need for donations. Over the past year donations to Oxfam shops have reduced by up to 40% and stock levels are now critical in many shops. I’m sure this is the same for practically every charity shop.

St. Vincent de Paul run a food appeal and Giving Tree every year. I’ve seen areas set up in many shopping centres where you can donate an extra gift you have bought. From memory they are often looking for gifts for teenage boys. For me, if I buy 3 for 2 in Boots or somewhere I try to give the third (free) item to charity and it technically doesn’t cost me anything.

Do anything, just do something

If there is a charity you are particularly interested in, why not contact them to see if they have a similar wishlist. Or if you know of any other charities that take non-monetary donations please mention them in the comments.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Mia wearing her Christmas coat*My official Most Overused Phrase of 2011.

Better late than never? That remains to be seen.

(I know, two blog posts in two days!?!)

Back in October I lamented the lack of regulation in the puppy breeding sector in Ireland, after TV3 aired a special report on puppy farms in Ireland. Ireland is know as the puppy farm capital of the world, as some puppies are bred in horrible conditions with little or no contact with humans, filthy living conditions and little or no medical care.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

Dogs Trust Ireland Call to Action to shut down unscrupulous puppy farmers.

The Dublin SPCA recently issued a warning after receiving a series of calls about sick puppies. They said “Every day, we deal with people regarding animal welfare issues and it concerns us greatly when we receive calls from pet owners; especially at Christmas time, who tell us they’ve purchased their pet from the back of someone’s car or boot, only to find the animal has become dangerously ill very quickly, often dying within 24 hours of them getting it home.”

Back in October Phil Hogan, Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, said he would not sign the Dog Breeding Establishments Act into law until the completion of the Welfare of Greyhounds Bill is completed by the Oireachtas. Utter BS if you ask me.

Before the red mist descends again, let me get to the good news.

Today, Minister Hogan FINALLY signed the commencement order for the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010.  The Act will come into force on 1 January 2012.

The majority of dog breeding establishments in the country are well run and the owners and operators maintain high standards.  However, I am well aware of problems with a small number of establishments.  This legislation will deal with these operators, who seem to have no respect for the animals that they use for breeding purposes” said Minister Hogan.  He went on to say that owners and operators of good quality establishments where dogs are well treated have absolutely nothing to fear from these regulations.

The Minister said that establishments will have a lead in time of six months to apply to their Local Authority to be included in the register of dog breeding establishments.  As with other dog control issues, Local Authorities will be responsible for the implementation of the legislation locally.

The Dublin SPCA has welcomed “this signing and would like to thank the Minister most sincerely. It’s been a long road, however, today marks a positive outlook for Irish dogs and animal welfare.”

Dogs Trust Ireland has hailed this as “a historic day for dog welfare. We welcome today’s signing and believe it heralds a new dawn for Dog Welfare in Ireland.”

Where did you get that gorgeous puppy?

Well, where DID you get that gorgeous puppy? Don’t get me wrong, there are reputable breeders out there. But unfortunately there are also those who take advantage of consumer demand and the lack of regulation in the puppy breeding sector.

Ollie and Mia cute rescue dogs

Ollie and Mia are rescue dogs

Puppies are always popular Christmas presents (although don’t get me started on the idiocy of getting a living, breathing animal as a present!) but as the saying goes a puppy is not just for Christmas. If you are going to get a dog for Christmas do some research on your preferred breed and ask the right questions to ensure you’re not buying from a puppy farm.

Puppies from these ‘puppy farms’ are predominantly sold through classified ads online and in newspapers, and to some extent through pet shops. If you buy a dog from a puppy farm through a classified ad there is no means of comeback if the dog becomes ill or even dies. These deals are often carried out in a car park, with a disposable mobile phone number as the only means of contacting the seller.

In fact the Dublin SPCA have issues a warning after receiving a series of calls about sick puppies. They said “Every day, we deal with people regarding animal welfare issues and it concerns us greatly when we receive calls from pet owners; especially at Christmas time, who tell us they’ve purchased their pet from the back of someone’s car or boot, only to find the animal has become dangerously ill very quickly, often dying within 24 hours of them getting it home.”

Buyer beware

If you do want to get a dog there are ways you can ensure you are buying your dog from a reputable breeder.

The Dublin SPCA would advice you to first of all consider adoption. There are animal shelters across the country with hundreds of dogs looking for their forever homes at any given time. These include the Dublin SPCA, Dogs Trust, the Irish Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) and A Dogs Life, to name a few.

If you are interested in a particular breed, up to a third of dogs available for rehoming with the Dublin SPCA are pedigree dogs.  There are also breed specific rescues that you can contact and adopt through. You can contact the Irish Cavalier Rescue, the Japanese Spitz Rescue or Westie Rescue Ireland, for example.

Ask the right questions

If you really want to buy a puppy, it’s essential to ask the right questions. There are many breeders out there who are in no way connected with puppy farms, and these breeders will be happy to answer your questions. The Irish Kennel Club (IKC) maintains a database of breeders, and these breeders are bound by a code.  Once the new legislation comes into force, breeders will have to display a certificate of registration.

A good breeder will also want to ask you lots of questions. They will want to know where the dog will be sleeping, how much exercise you will give it and may even want to see your home before selling you a puppy. They will also want to ensure that you have thoroughly researched the breed of dog you are buying.

  • You should ask to see the puppies with their mother. Ideally a puppy would be well socialised with a family, but if a breeder is reluctant to let you see the mother this should set off warning bells.
  • You should ask to see the environment the puppy is kept in and NEVER agree to meet someone half way in a car park.
  • Ask about inherited conditions from the animal’s parents/grandparents.
  • You should ask for the vaccination certificate for the puppy and also the name of the vet.
  • Reputable breeders will also microchip puppies.