Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Daytripping: Victorian Manchester. . .

This post is mainly to extol the virtues of the many volunteers that work so hard to keep England's literary and historical heritage alive and accessible.  Earlier this month I made a day trip to Manchester with my bookish friends to visit two such sites that have been saved from demolition and decay by the hard work of many passionate people.

Our first stop was the recently reopened house of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.



I blogged earlier about a trip to Knutsford, the town that inspired Gaskell's Cranford, but she actually wrote the book, along with North and South, Ruth, Wives and Daughters and her biography of Charlotte Bronte, in this house - 84 Plymouth Grove.

While there is still a lot of work to be done on restoring the house, you will not meet a nicer, enthusiastic or more knowledgeable group of volunteers, greeting you at the door, answering questions in each of the period rooms and taking their turns serving tea in the delightful basement tea room (you get to pick your own china tea cup).  Most of the ground floor has been restored and they are working on recreating one of the bedrooms upstairs.  Plans are also well under way on the garden as well; a place that Gaskell loved for its privacy as this plaque celebrates. 



Just a short walk from Gaskell's house is another major restoration work in progress - the Victoria Baths, originally opened in 1906 and left to decay after it was closed in 1993. The Friends of Victoria Baths have worked tirelessly to save the building.  We managed to get a glimpse inside on the last weekend it was open to the public before shutting for the winter.

The building has a gorgeous facade and originally had three separate entrances; one for First Class Males, one for Second Class Males and the final one for Females.


This is the Females Pool which was the smallest of the three.


I love the beachy feel of the change rooms that lined the side of the pool.


The whole building has remnants of beautiful decorative features from distinctive tiles along the landings and stairways to mosaic floors and stained glass windows.  There is a workshop in the basement where volunteers are learning how to repair and restore the stained glass.





Even the old supervisor's rooms have some gorgeous features like this beautiful fireplace.



The basement also houses the Turkish Baths with their beautiful blue and teal tile work.




Both sites are well worth a visit if you are in the Manchester area.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Out of My Colour Comfort Zone: Clue #1. . .


I've decided to go in a completely different direction with Stephen West's Exporation Station mystery KAL.  After knitting for about two hours and discovering I'd made a silly mistake and a RS became a WS, I couldn't face ripping back about twenty rows of mohair!

On to plan B.  I've changed the border colour; the dark teal is Titus Eccup.  And for my three contrast colours, I've used a ball of Louisa Harding Amitola which has long colour changes.  The wedges aren't as defined as some of the lovely projects I've seen on ravelry - there are some with really bold colours outlined in white that are fantastic looking - and these colours are a little out of my comfort zone but I'm liking the look so far and absolutely loving the knitting process.  As always, Stephen West has delivered a really unique and interesting pattern, so I'm trying to embrace the odd colours and see where they (or Stephen) will lead me.

The next clue has just arrived and it's brioche stitch - a completely new technique to me.  Dare I switch up some of the colours or even add a new one into the mix?  I'm looking foward to experimenting this weekend. . .

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Keeping Up With the KALs. . .

I am a sucker for KALs (knit-alongs), especially when they involve a pattern or designer that I really admire.  I'm very good at getting myself psyched with anticipation and then casting on with hundreds of others on ravelry and then. . . and then. . . well, life intervenes and I end up having too many projects on the go!  But I am getting them slowly under control.
 
I have finally finished my Lush cardigan, designed by Tin Can Knits. This was a KAL begun by several British podcasters, starting with Knit British and I tried to keep up but there was the matter of that Martin Storey blanket to complete.  I've finished nearly two months after everyone else, but hey, it's now done and I have a new autumn cardigan.  The yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers and it's a bit more orangey-red than the photo shows. 
 


The fit is perfect even if this rushed photo shows it to be a bit wrinkly.  I also have to reblock my button bands as I'd made a silly mistake and had to reknit both of them after I'd sewed the buttons on!


I'm also working on Rowan's Kaffe Fassett KAL.  Since I can't quite face another afghan, I've opted to do the small cushion and am being even lazier by knitting just one out of the two squares specified for each clue.  I'm guessing the second square is for the back of the pillow and I prefer to use fabric instead.  I do have some Kaffe striped material that will be perfect.  Each square follows the same pattern and sequence of stripes; the mystery is how all the colours will work together in the end. I'm following the pattern's placement but using some 4ply from my stash.  Here are my first three squares and I'm not at all sure how this will turn out colourwise.  There are some fabulous photos on ravelry from knitters doing the whole afghan.


And then this Friday is the start of Stephen West's next mystery shawl KAL, Exploration Station.


I've knitted his last two KALs and really loved the process. They were creative and original and so much fun to knit.  I learned a lot of new techniques too.  This was the first - Rockefeller - which I still trot out frequently.


 And then came Colour Craving.


This last one was so huge that to be honest, I don't wear it that often. So for this new KAL, I'm going with laceweight.  The pattern calls for four colours, one main, border colour and then three good contrast colours.  I'm torn at the moment between two options from my stash.  I could add some texture by throwing in some mohair.


Or use this raspberry Madeline Tosh as the main, with three balls of Lousia Harding Amitola that has shades of gray, chartreuse and deep forest green in it.


I have until tomorrow to decide.  So excited to see the first clue!

Friday, October 17, 2014

An Autumn Shawl. . .

I have lots of works in progress on the knitting front these days (and am signed up to too many KALs!) but I did recently finish my Delita, designed by Nadia Cretin-Lechenne


The pattern is from the latest issue of Pom Pom Magazine, a charming indy publication which I subscribe to as I absolutely love the photography, styling, articles, feel and look of it.  There are recipes too!  And the patterns are always original, slightly quirky and very appealing to knit.


It was the border of this shawl that really caught my eye. After a body of mesh, there's a row of bobbles in a contrast colour and then two triangular lace borders, one on top of the other.  I chose to make the larger one in the contrast colour.


The wool used for the body is most of a skein of Freia Handpainted Lace that I picked up at the Knit Cafe when I visited Toronto last summer.  The colourway is Maple and I liked the gradations from the smoky brown to an almost dusty deep rose.  The green is some Madeline Tosh lace from my stash.   Though the pattern called for 4ply, I preferred to make it with the smaller yarn to create more of a scarf than the initial generously sized shawl, although in hindsight, I should also have adapted it to be a bit more crescent shaped.


It still works nicely as a shawlette however, and keeps my neck cozy if I wrap it around a few times.  It certainly feels and looks very autumnal to me.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Daytripping: Conwy and Llandudno. . .

Whew - it's been a busy two weeks hosting my friends from Canada but we had a lot of fun exploring Liverpool and the environs, as well as having a Yorkshire weekend taking in Saltaire, Haworth, Leeds and York. 
 
One of the best places for a simple day trip out of Liverpool though has to be Conwy in North Wales, and this was one of the first places we took them.  I blogged here about the gorgeous walking in the hills just behind the town  but you can easily spend a day exploring the streets contained within its walkable walls.  It's an extremely pretty town sandwiched between the mountains and the sea. 
 


First up, you definitely must visit the castle. Built by Edward I in the late 13th century, it is absolutely magnificant.  Usually all that remains of most castles is the shell of the outer wall, and perhaps a tower or two. But when you are walking around this one, you really can get a sense of the dimensions and layout of the inner rooms. As ever, I'm always amazed at how much has lasted for so many centuries on this island.


You can also climb several of the towers - be careful if you suffer from vertigo - and the views in every direction are just fantastic.


 
The jackdaws seem to like the view too. There were several perched on the battlements.
 

And where modern meets medieval: I loved this huge sculpture of Edward I entitled The King's Head by Gideon Peterson


In complete contrast, Conwy also hosts The Smallest House in Great Britain.  I love the traditional Welsh fabric used as a curtain.  It hasn't been lived in for over a hundred years, but still has all the essentials, and is quite fun to quickly peep into.


There are lots of good fish and chip shops in Conwy along with delicious ice cream parlours and quirky independent shops. Walking along the quayside looking at all the boats can't help inducing a holiday mood. Fortified by a good lunch, we then drove a few miles to the seaside resort of Llandudno which claims to be not only where Alice Liddell went for childhood holidays before inspiring her namesake in Wonderland, but also Bill Bryson's favourite seaside resort. To get the best view, we took the tramway up the Great Orme.  You can also go up by cable car.


Here's the view at the top looking roughly south east.


And roughly southwest.  We didn't have time to play, but isn't this a fabulous mini-golf course?  Or crazy golf as they call it in the U.K.


Llandudno also has the longest pier in Wales. The arcade was sadly shut by the time we arrived, but it was still fun to stroll along the planks.


And here's two beautiful views of the town from the pier.





For geographical and historical impact, these two towns certainly gave my guests the wow factor and put us all in the holiday mood!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Among the Heather in North Wales. . .

North Wales continues to astound and delight me with the beauty of its coastline.  Our walking group recently went to Conwy and started climbing the hills above the magnificent castle.


Sea, sand and sheep!


And lots and lots of gorgeous heather.  I couldn't stop gazing at it all; it's as if a tweed factory exploded all over the hillside.








And then the heather mixes with the yellow gorse and you get this:


I'm knitting the perfect accompaniment.  The shawl (about 60% done in this photo) is now finished, but I haven't been able to take proper photos of it yet.


Lunch was by a neolithic stone circle.


Where wild ponies also roamed and were not in the least spooked by us.


This is a view of part of our route back to Conwy.


We went via the Jubilee Path, created to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee.  These pillars mark the beginning.


And it edges around this hill en route to the next climb.


And more stunning landscape tapestry.


We didn't get back in time to really explore the streets of Conwy, but the little I saw was so lovely, I knew it would be the perfect place for a day trip out with my Canadian guests.  More soon. . .