Thursday, 21 July 2016

Haps Still Happening . .

In the midst of all the walking, lots of hap knitting has also taken place over the last two weeks.  This is my finished Happenstance, designed by Romi Hill.  I now love the colours and how they all came together.  The yarn - a Wensleydale/Shetland mix from The Knitting Goddess is very, very warm, so this has been put aside until the autumn.



I'm about half way through Houlland, a gorgeous lace shawl, designed by Donna Smith.  The rows from here get smaller so I hope to finish this in about a week or so.  I love this pattern; the lace repeats are quite simple to memorize, so if you place lots of stitch markers, you should be able to keep track easily of where you are. The wrong side rows are all knit, giving your brain a lovely break. It looks like one big fuzzy lump at the moment, but can't wait to see how this Gotland lace from The Little Grey Sheep blocks out. 
One of the more intriguing hap constructions in The Book of Haps is the Hexa Hap by Tom van Deijnen.  This thing is huge, so I'm doing half a Hexa and using Kate's own Buachaille yarn. Each triangle takes about 1.6 skeins. Not sure yet if I will add a fourth colour for the i-cord edging. This is lovely telly knitting; once you have your head around the pattern, it's very simple to follow.  I love these three colours together. 


Last weekend I went to Birmingham for Yarningham, an inaugural yarn festival held at the Stirchley Baths in Bournville. I had signed up for a steeking class with Ann Kingstone whose gorgeous stranded knitting patterns I have long admired. We had to do some swatches ahead of time so I thought, why not kill two steeks with one cut?  So I cast on Hazel Tindall's Hamegaet Wrap. This is a very innovative design which starts with these two fair isle shoulders.  Stitches will then be cast on and picked up for the resulting shawl.  I think it will look fantastic in red though I may have to bring in another colour, as I only have about 500m in my stash.  I'm using Isager Tvinni Tweed which is a good sticky yarn that gave me extra confidence at the cutting stage, though I nearly cut through my provisional stitches. I'm really thrilled to have mastered this skill - my languishing Bowland, which stalled at the steeking point, can now hopefully be completed by Yarndale.


I'm loving all the projects from this book that are popping up in ravelry and in two current KALs.  There are some fabulous colour combinations out there and some imaginative knitters who are adapting these already very original patterns into new and exciting projects.  I'm hoping to finish these three haps in progress and then take a bit of a break and finish some cardigans in time for autumn.  But I think I will have a hap on the go for quite some time yet (13 in all to knit!)

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Walking Along the Colourful Assynt Coast. . .

Great Britain has some pretty gorgeous coastlines but I think the Assynt coast in the Northwest of Scotland must be a contender for one of the best coastal walks, if only for the incredible spectrum of colours that you encounter.

It's also one of the world's most interesting spots geologically. I won't pretend to understand all of it, but scientists can tell a lot about the earth's mountain ranges and how they were formed from examining the rocks and ridges in this area.

I just love the changing colours of the sea. We started our walk at Achmelvich Bay.


There was an early type of heather out in full glory too, wherever we looked.


We encountered several Cheviots who kindly waited for us to pass on the path before continuing on their way.



Fields of bog cotton.


We were heading for the split rock you can see on the headland but because there are so many beaches/inlets,  the path is a lot longer than it looks.


But oh, the colours!   So much to examine, so many flowers in bloom in the tiniest of fissures in the cracks and interesting lichens on the rocks.


And every beach had its own colourful character.





We make it to the split rock and clamber on top. It's bigger than it looks from this photo.  I love the thin line of deep blue on the horizon.


And then we turned inland and followed a track through the hills back to our starting point.  The ridges in this grassy field were caused by long ago potato fields a century ago.


An absolutely fascinating and beautiful place.

Friday, 15 July 2016

Conquering the Mighty Suilven. . .

There are some mountains that are just such iconic shapes in the landscape that you have to climb them.  Such a mountain is Suilven. You can't miss its distinctive rounded shape, even when it's partially in the clouds.  I'm recounting the holiday a little out of chronological order but if you only do one summit while visiting North West Scotland, this is a really good one to do.  This shot was actually taken the day before, at the end of a coastal walk. We were taking our final break on top of a hill and getting excited about the next day's challenge.


The day itself started out sunny and breezy.  The approach we took was to go up the side of the mountain, where you can see that tiny v notch and then turn right to head up to the top of the domed summit. First you have to walk several miles along quite a good track to get anywhere near the mountain.


I feel the climbing gods were with our group today.


Once you feel you've gotten close, you really haven't.  There are still some small ascents to go up and over.


And a few lochans (what the English would call tarns,) to walk by. This one was filled with trout which would occasionally leap out of the water to snatch at midges.  The breeze kept the pesky critters off us though.


And then the steep climb begins.  Fortunately it was dry and the path was relatively good.  There is a bit of loose stone, but lots of solid footholds.  And it zigzags which makes it slightly easier on the legs and cardio.


 Up on the notch and great views all around.  And I'm gobsmacked to find a drystone wall up here.


It goes down both sides of Suilven for hundreds of feet.  Just amazing.  As are the views of the sea, summer isles and more mountains in the background.


Here we are nearly at the summit and looking back at the other part of the mountain. You'd need some serious scrambling to get to the top of that peak. 

And here's just one of the views from the summit.  Rain could be seen approaching from the distance so alas, we only had about ten minutes at the top before our leader was urging us to move on so we could descend (the same way we came up) in safety.


It was a tough climb but an exhilarating one. It's not the highest mountain in the area; it's not even a munro. But there is something very special about climbing Suilven and it felt an immense privilege to be on the top.  And even though we had to slog back along the track in the rain with tired legs (I thought it would never end!), looking back, Suilven looked absolutely magical in the mist. And I was up there. Brilliant.


Tuesday, 12 July 2016

In Love With a Town Called Ullapool. . .

Last week the Liverpud and I, along with two dear friends headed up first to Edinburgh, then Inverness, then Ullapool in the north west of Scotland for a hiking holiday.


Our base for the week was Ullapool and the minute I saw the town laid out on this tiny penisula, I fell in love.  Could there be a nicer setting?  (I didn't know at the time that we'd be climbing Beinn Ghobhlach which you can see in the distance.)



It is a quirky town of about 1500 residents, but has such a wonderful array of shops and restaurants, a small museum in a grade 1 listed church, and some really beautiful galleries full of paintings and textile art.  This town is clearly a community of very talented, creative people.


I recommend Tea by the Sea for a cuppa if you are also in the mood for a friendly chat with the owners. And I can also vouch for the lattes, cakes, strawberry tarts, homemade soups and dinners at the Frigate Cafe which had such a lovely relaxed and cozy interior. 


And for such a small town, it supports, not one but two really good independent bookstores.  Ullapool hosts a literary festival every May with some big names attending.  Definitely a reason to return. I also loved that the bookstores stayed open late.  My friend Ann and I spent quite a bit of time browsing (and buying) both in the Ullapool Bookshop  which stayed open until 9pm . . . 


. . . and the Ceilidh Place which had a bookshop attached to the hotel/cafe/pub and stayed open as late as the pub did. Both bookshops stocked lots of books by local authors and about Scottish history, geology and the landscape,  but they also had a great selection of staff picks and tempting tomes just a bit off the bestseller track.  In short, my types of bookstore.


We arrived late on Saturday afternoon, just in time to catch the last fifteen minutes of the weekly market where lo and behold, it took me about five minutes to spy a large basket of wool. The vendor takes strands of Harris tweed wool (on a clear day you can see Harris from the tops of the mountains around here,) and plies them into cakes of gorgeous colour.  While the yarn is a bit rough, it will be wonderful for weaving and so I got a little excited and brought a few home with me.

And then I found a cone of Harris tweed in a dark charcoal-green colour in an antique shop for £5.  The beauty and ruggedness of the surrounding landscape that we walked through (I'll write about that in upcoming posts,) left me with a thirst to read more about the history of the area and its people.  Several books were recommended to me by our very knowledgeable guide who was also a big reader. I'm enthralled particularly by the poetry of Norman MacCaig, known as the Poet of the Assynt.


With the sun not setting until well after 10pm this far north, it was a lovely town to stroll around after dinner. Occasionally live fiddle music could be heard from one of the pubs.


And the sunset gave the hills and quiet loch a warm glow.


While its fiery centre was reserved for the other side of the peninsula where you can see the fullness of Loch Broom looking out towards the Summer Isles.  I really didn't want to leave.


The walking was fantastic too.  Stay tuned.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Happenstance: The Evolution of a Hap When Things Are Happening. . .

This has been my strange progress on Hap #2 from The Book of Haps, edited by Kate Davies and Jen Arnall-Cuilliford.  The pattern is Happenstance, designed by Rosemary Hill.

The first step was to choose my colours - in this case I had three perfect shades of Knitting Goddess Wensleydale/Shetland 4ply in my stash.


You start by knitting the garter stitch center which is a large triangle, increasing to its mid-point and then decreasing. Perfect telly knitting. 


 I tried not to get distracted by the other haps in the book, but cast-on for Houlland anyways. I seem to need to be working always on two haps at a go.


Then the day of the UK referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or not arrived. It was an historic vote, so I decided to stay up all night waiting for the results thinking it would also be the perfect knitting time. I finished the garter section but as it was then about 2am, I decided to hold off on picking up the stitches for the next step until after I'd had some sleep.

I wasn't at all prepared for the vote to go Leave and after the shock wore off, I felt rather bereft and tired and angry and so, so sad, though I could take some small comfort in the fact that Liverpool at any rate voted to Remain.  I'd booked the next day off but basically spent most of it lying on the couch in a daze feeling really unmotivated to do anything.  Knitting however, is always a nerve soother and so I picked up the stitches.


And started the wavy border.  I'd had my Houlland nearby the whole night as well, and just loved the combination of turquoise against the plum, so decided to add some blue (in this case Tamar 4ply from Blacker Yarns) and use the yellow for the garter edging.  And then I realized I was using the colours of the EU flag, and the two colours that the  BBC had been using in their coverage to denote the Leave (blue) and Remain (yellow)  campaigns/votes.  And I felt a bit of despair come on.  Did I really want this to be a constant reminder of the referendum? Was it subliminal resignation  that I'd chosen to knit more blue stitches than yellow? Did I just need several hours of sleep? 
I couldn't leave it just at those two colours and so added the grey for the final lace section symbolizing (in my mind at least) threatening and uncertain skies for the foreseeable future, even though I normally really love to knit with grey.   But I really didn't like this hap anymore - it was feeling too weighed down with all the emotions I was undergoing. Post-referendum events haven't been encouraging - the economy is sliding, politicians are resigning and bickering, and hatred is rearing its ugly head.

But knitting, the feel and texture of beautiful, hand-dyed wool, creating something - these are all good things aren't they?  This book of haps features designs by wonderful people from around the world including several Europeans. The hap-alongs that are coinciding with this book are filled with gorgeous projects and supportive global knitters. 

I kept knitting. 


And when it came time for the picot bind-off, I decided to re-introduce the cheery yellow.  The sun will come out; we have to remain optimistic.  Yellow is always my happy colour. 



I need to soak and block this hap which I imagine will take a day or two.  I hope to look at it with completely new eyes when it's finished.  Here's to hope. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Shore Hap. . .

One down, twelve to go. . .

This is my completed Shore Hap by Martina Behm, knitted in Wollemeise Pure and Old Maiden Aunt Merino/Silk 4ply.


I think we all started our knitting journeys with a simple garter stitch scarf.  What I absolutely loved about this pattern was how Martina elevated this concept into something really original and unique.  The whole piece is just garter stitch with a few increases and decreases.  Here is the full shape of the hap.


It's a great pattern for showcasing a really beautiful yarn and I was relieved that there wasn't any awkward pooling of the colours.  I quite like the splodges of browns and blues that emerged and they really add interest to the shawl.  Due to its unusual shape, you can wear it a lot of different ways too.  Kate Davies modeled it in serveral ways on her blog  here  and it was this versatility that made me want to cast on this hap first.  These are the two ways I'll mostly be wearing it.



It's quite a light shawl/scarf and I think the colours work equally well for summer and winter so this will be a very useful addition to my wardrobe.

And work is progressing steadily on my next two haps: Happenstance (more garter stitch), and Houlland.  I am absolutely smitten with the yarn I'm using for the latter - it's a Gotland lace by The Little Grey Sheep and though it doesn't show up that well in the photo, it has subtle greens and blues running through it.