It’s spring. The calendar says so. The deep snow, freezing temperatures, and cold wind will clear out in no time, I’m sure of it. I won’t wait for bare ground and warmer days to get some dyeing done, I’ll just set up my little Irish woodstove, find one of my big pots and start dyeing wool. I need to make an infants sweater for a friend’s baby girl that is expected soon. Soon enough to need a little warmth and coziness before all that other stuff I was talking about “clears out”. I am planning on a little handspun and handknit cardigan….. knit in a light shade of pink then finished with some adorable buttons. But first I need to dye some yarn, soft and lustrous Blue Face Leicester, spun from last springs lamb fleeces.
This little woodstove I use to heat the dye pot has a story. I brought the stove back with me from one of my trips to Ireland. The getting it back “as luggage” is a story in itself. Sally and I were at the Gap of Dunloe horse fair, selling books and trying to avoid coming home with any animals in tow. We didn’t quite manage the “not coming home with an animal in tow” part. That’s another story. The stove, which is called a shepherd’s hut stove, was sitting amongst a collection of items ….cast iron cooking pots, firplace tools, an anvil or two, lots of horse tack. I spotted it immediately. A woodstove that I can carry? That’s for me. The man who was selling the stove saw that I was oogling it and came right over to try and strike a deal. Keep in mind, at the Irish horse fairs, dickering, trading, bargaining and striking a deal are all part of the mix. Fortunately, I had a friend and seasoned horse trader helping me with negotiations. The trading goes something like this; first there’s a bit of discussion about the item for sale ( often this is a horse or donkey……or a puppy and that’s part of that other story), then you might start haggling about the price. At this point there is a lot of head nodding ( both the yeh’s and neh’s of head nodding) and whispering, like the deal is top secret and not to be overheard……it’s the kind of whispering that involves leaning your head very closely in the direction of the other person. Quite intimate, actually. Often at the fairs you may see whole groups of men with their heads leaning into one another, no doubt negotiating the terms of some hopeful trade. Occasionally, you may give a quick and seemingly determined nod, then walk away ( a very effective bargaining tool). You do this knowing you will be back to revisit the negotiations, but don’t want to give the seller a sense that you are too eager to make a sale . Eventually, buyer and seller come to an agreement. At the Gap of Dunloe fair we walked away with the sheperd’s hut stove, 4 plastic light up Virgin Mary statues ( don’t ask), and a small, very wet, wire haired terrier.
The stove made its way back home to Maine and has become the perfect stove for heating dye baths. I think we will be able to haul it out onto the ice during ice fishing season too. Perfect for a big pot of chili. On this warm, yet snowy spring day, I took advantage of the sunshine and the need to be outdoors. With a nice little fire burning in the stove, a pot of yarn was soon simmering on top. I will think of my days roaming the horse fairs of Ireland as I dye wool on my little stove.