Friday, July 25, 2014

And There Goes the Yarn Diet. . .

Well, my willpower lasted six months.  I was very good and knitted entirely from stash (and had fun doing so);  I stayed away from the January wool sales at John Lewis and  I kept away from online sales. I organized all my skeins by weight and marvelled at how many lovely ones I had and how I really. really, didn't need any more wool. I felt confident and rather smug because I was solidly keeping to my new year's resolution.
And then I went on holiday. 
Sault Saint Marie's downtown main street has seen better days, but it has a lovely yarn shop/cafe. I had a great time browsing with a latte in Shabby Motley.  It has a truly cozy and inviting elegance with its textured wallpaper, dark beams, chandelier, velvet couches and big wooden tables. Friendly staff and of course all the colourful yarn on display.

Unfortunately most of their wool was British or international brands that I can easily get in the U.K. I did enjoy looking at all the colours of Rowan's new Pure Wool Worsted displayed on the bench at the entrance. They carry every single colour, much more than my local John Lewis.

So I was able to avoid yarn temptation, but splurged instead on magazines, some needles, a book of crochet patterns and lots of crochet hooks (my new obsession), and then later in Toronto found this perfect little travel case from the Umbra shop to carry them in.

It was in the Toronto yarn shops that I got into trouble, though in my weak defense, I didn't just idly buy the odd ball just for the heck of it (okay, execept for a very pretty blue skein of Madelinetosh sock yarn on sale at the Knit Cafe) but focused instead on project quantities.  The three balls of alpaca chunky in the lefthand corner (so soft) are earmarked for a big, cozy, burberry-like winter cowl. They were on sale at Romni Wools and I crumbled at one touch.  I bought a sweater's worth of Cascade Ecological Wool there as well (very economical and I need a cream sweater - don't we all?).  The bottom skein of Freia handpainted lace ombre yarn was called Maple and I thought it would make a stunning fall shawl if I can find the right pattern for it.  And I was in Canada - how could I not buy a color called Maple?

I arrived at the Purple Purl quite hot and sweaty as the Queen Street streetcar was diverted many blocks away due to road construction and I only had 20 minutes to spare.  I fell in love with these skeins of Juniper Moon's Zooey DK, a blend of cotton and linen. It looked so nice and cool to knit a summer top with.

Yes, I know I can talk and justify myself into buying anything where yarn is concerned but my next "purchase" doesn't count as the Liverpud had promised to buy me a sweater's worth of yarn for my birthday.  I chose several skeins of an old favourite - Cascade 220 heathers - in this cherry red with bits of orange in it.

And it was just the perfect yarn to embark on a new KAL with, one that was starting the day I arrived back in Liverpool.  Knit British, along with several other podcasters are co-hosting a knit-a-long for Lush, by Canadian designers, Tin Can Knits.  It's in their book, Handmade in the U.K.  which I used last year to make my Bonny.  Their patterns are very well written and easy to follow. This cardigan has an interesting construction. 

You start by knitting a long strip of lace.

And then you pick up stitches along the side for the yoke and the rest of the body.  This is how far I've gotten and I'm really enjoying the process so far. After months of knitting blanket squares with 4ply wool, it's a delight to be knitting with a heavier weight.

I haven't forgotten the blanket though - still knitting the never-ending trim and am starting to seam the squares together.  I placed them all on the bed last night to arrange them and I'm really liking the haphazard, patchwork look to it.  Still a long way to go though. . .

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Busy City and an Escape North. . .

The Liverpud and I just got back from a two week holiday in Canada and it was so fantastic to catch up with family and friends and reassure myself that in this ever-changing city, some of my old haunts are still there - my favourite restaurant (Golden Thai on Church Street), my favourite bookstore (Type Books on Queen St. West), my favourite yarn shop (The Purple Purl on Queen St. East).  Even the Eaton Centre seems like an old friend.

It always feels a bit strange to return to Toronto - the city is growing so quickly that my visual pointers seem to all be disappearing behind yet another huge glass condo building.  I came up from the underground path onto Adelaide Street at one point and was completely disconcerted by not being able to tell which direction was east and which was west as I couldn't see the CN Tower.  Also rather disturbingly, I found myself forgetting certain street names and I lived in Toronto for more than 30 years! At one point I seriously considered getting a map but thankfully didn't need to; habit and the homing instinct started to kick in.

We did go up the CN Tower as the Liverpud loves the view and it definitely does show how congested  the cityscape has become.

This is pretty much the sight and sounds of Toronto in the summer - construction everywhere, not to mention all the road closures and detours.

In order to see the CN Tower in its full glory, you now have to find a spot where the condos don't grow, such as the Bathurst Street bridge over the railway tracks.

But the best view of the skyline is still from the ferry returning from the Toronto Islands - still such a refuge from all the noise and dust of the city, even though my favourite Skyline ride at Centerville is gone.

I was pleased to see that they've renamed the ferry terminal in Jack Layton's memory and I love this statue of him just outside it.

And there's something a little surreal about Sugar Beach, perched next to a sugar refining factory and more condos.

We also went back to the aquarium (another peaceful oasis) where I snapped this fish's grimace as it was swimming above us in the glass tunnel.

As a welcome contrast to the city, we flew up for a few days to visit my brother in Sault Saint Marie. He drove us up to Lake Superior Provincial Park for a breath of fresh air, waterfalls and peaceful views of the lake. 

Then we took the famous Agawa Canyon train ride that takes you about 100 miles north through Canadian Shield country and the landscape that inspired the Group of Seven painters.  Though the trip is at its most stunning when the fall colours are out, there were still some spectacular views from the train windows.

Here is A. Y. Jackson's painting of Agawa Canyon where the train stops for an hour and a half.  You can do some short hikes along the river to view some waterfalls.

And as it looks today from the top of the Lookout tower. 

The trip gave me a new appreciation for the landscape captured by the Group of Seven and I went to see the collection at the Art Gallery of Ontario when we were back in Toronto.  I also bought two prints in the gift shop as I have some ideas about decorating our guest bedroom with a subtle Canadiana theme.  Yes, I did get a little homesick, even with all the mosquito bites!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tour de Yorkshire. . .

What a fantastic start to the Tour de France. I've been glued to the telly all morning/afternoon watching the first stage from Leeds to Harrogate amid all the bunting, signs, works of art and colourful costumes. One farmer had dyed all his sheep yellow.   The enthusiastic crowds have been huge all along the route and the crush at the top of the hills looked almost equal to the numbers on the Alps.  Plus it's just been a joy to watch the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales from the helicopter photos.  I'm so pleased that the weather has been perfect and has shown this very beautiful county in its best light.  Well done Yorkshire - you've done the tour proud.  What a shame about Cavendish's fall at the end though.

Don't you love this enormous jersey hung on the side of the church in Skipton, just beside the castle? 

The Tour has also given me plenty of knitting time to finish my last afghan square - hooray! As some of the other knitters in the KAL have been doing,  I decided to put my own little signature on the project.

And now it's on to the endless border trim. . .

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Nearly there. . .

And the endless Rowan Mystery Afghan knit-a-long continues. . .

Square 7 was a nice sequence of cables and I was able to highlight the variegated yarn with a few of the squares.  I also reversed the direction of the cables in a couple of squares just to keep things interesting.

I really liked the last and final mystery square #8 - a very pretty mix of cables and lace.  While I'm not using the Rowan Pure Wool Worsted that this KAL was designed for, I do have some Rowan 4ply wool in my blanket and of all the yarns I'm using from my stash, the Rowan has the best stitch definition.

In the end I've decided to knit 80 squares in total so I've done a few extra of my favourite patterns and quickly whipped up a few different designs that I think will go well with the other squares.   Inspired by this blog post, I've thrown some easy striped squares into the mix.

And then found this lovely and easy slip-stitch ladder pattern from Barbara Walker's Stitch Dictionary.  One of the joys of doing this blanket has been to throw random colours at each other and then be pleasantly surprised by the combination.  I would never have previously paired this rich burgundy with my green/blue variegated yarn but this may now be my favourite square in the whole blanket!

I have three squares left to knit and then a LOT of sewing up and then a cabled trim to knit. Still trying to decide on contrast colours and whether to do a mattress stitch seam or to crochet with a visible ridge.  But I think I'm on track for a September 1st finish date, fingers and needles crossed.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Conquering the Old Man. . .

Coniston has the reputation for having its own weather system within the Lake District - and it is usually a lot worse than whatever the rest of the region is undergoing.  The last time our walking group attempted going up Old Man Coniston, this is what happened

Several months later, we headed to Coniston again (walkers are nothing if not eternally optimistic), but this time the Liverpud was leading the medium walk.  We'd got lucky with dry weather on the recce the week before - could it possibly stay dry two weekends in a row? 

Well this is what it looked like, leaving Coniston Water behind and making our way towards the Walna Scar Road through the fields just behind Heathwaite Farm. 

We decided to ascend the Old Man from the back, via a lovely ridge walk to get the maximum views.  Our first main climb of the day was Brown Pike which you can see off to the right. The gradient on the path is not too bad this way up although there is a very steep bit just at the end.

Going up with the natives. . .

From the top of Brown Pike, you can see the lovely path leading to the next peak, Buck Pike.  Ridge walking is my absolute favourite type of walking and such a reward for the climb.

From the top of Buck Pike, you can look back, with a proper view of Blind Tarn and further away, just a glimpse of Morecombe Bay leading out to the sea.

The next peak was Dow Crag which Wainwright described as second only to Scafell in "the magnificence of its rock architecture."

After a brief scramble up Dow Crag, you can see Old Man Coniston opposite in all its glory, along with the path that we'll be taking to get up it.

And here's the view on the other side of Dow Crag - fell upon fell.

After a brief descent down half of Dow Crag, prior to going up the Old Man,  we reached Goat Hawse looking down on Goats Water. This is an alternative way up to the Old Man path, but you miss the views on the other side of the ridge.

And now we're nearly at the top of the Old Man.  Our group was quite chuffed - it had been decades since some of them had been at the top in decent weather.  The Liverpud and I had jokingly subtitled this walk "Unfinished Business" and it was a great feeling to get the job done.

And of course there's always great satisfaction in looking back at the ridge you've just walked.

Here's the view from the other side of Old Man showing our path down the mountain with Low Water in the foreground and Levers Water in the distance.  I have to say it's not my favourite descent; there's a lot of loose shale so you definitely have to pay attention to where you are placing your feet.  It also seems to go on forever. . .

The bottom half is just plain ugly with remnants of the area's mining history on view everywhere - rusty cables criss-crossing the path and huge piles of shale everywhere.

Still, we made it to the pub with an hour to spare and it was cheers all around for a grand walk and for finally conquering the Old Man!