Friday, 25 January 2019

Winter Hues at Arnside. . .

I have yet to climb Arnside Knott and get a perfectly clear view (in which you'd see a number of the Lakeland Fells and Morecombe Bay), but given the hazy light last weekend, this was the best on offer. Still, it stayed dry the entire time of our 14 mile hike, there wasn't as much mud as I'd feared, and really, one can't ask for more on a winter walk.  Usually when we embark on a hike in this area, Arnside Knott is the last hurrah, so it was quite novel to tackle the climb at the beginning and get it out of the way.

The rest of the walk was through fields and a lot of woodland, taking in Arnside Tower. . .

. . . the Pepperpot (a monument celebrating Queen Victoria's jubilee) . . .

. . . an old quarry ( apparently the stone for the promenade in Blackpool came from here) but it's now the Trowbarrow Nature Reserve. . .

. . . views of a small lake. . .

. . . and the Fairy Steps.

Below is the view from the top of the Fairy Steps - you can see Arnside Knott in the distance, showing you how far we've come.

And we ended up walking back to Arnside via the shore of the Kent Estuary - you can see the Knott again in the distance.

These sheep graze on the salt marshes which are supposed to add to their flavour.

A decidedly subdued and soft palette but an enjoyable walk nonetheless.

Monday, 7 January 2019

A Post About a Walk and Some Cowls. . .

Happy New Year to all and I hope everyone had a great holiday season.

We spent it pretty quietly, watching a lot of telly and eating far too much.  So it was great to get out on the hills again.

Yesterday, our rambling group headed to Ambleside, a place I have walked from many times, and know well,  but I was delighted to find out that part of the intended route was going to be new territory. We hiked a nine mile circular from Ambleside, starting off very gradually on flat paths around Rydal Water.

The air was possibly the stillest I've ever known it to be in the Lake District.  As a result the water was like glass and beautifully reflected the surroundings.

We then headed up above Grasmere, towards Alcock Tarn. This part of the walk was new to me, but as I have probably mentioned before, stumbling across tarns in unexpected places is one of the great pleasures of walking in the Lakes.

And here it is.  Not the biggest or the most spectacular but pretty in its own way. Had the day been brighter, there would have been a lot more of the fells reflected in the water.

Here's another shot of it from above as we started our return journey along a pleasant high ridge.

We descended back into Ambleside via Nab Scar, part of the Fairfield Horseshoe. This is looking down on Rydal Water again.

Spending five hours on the coach travelling up and back is perfect knitting time.  This is one of the projects I'm currently working on - a very simple cowl called Polkamania by Felix Ford.  I'm using some Shetland 4ply as the background colour and a crazy Zauberball for the dots - I love seeing all the colour changes. And don't those dots look right at home in landscape?  I should probably call this my camouflage cowl.  Once I reach halfway, I will probably reverse the two yarns just for some variety.

I love to photograph my knitwear as much as possible outdoors, so I also took the opportunity to wear my first finished object of 2019!  This is the Midwinter cowl by Laura Aylor,  knit in a variety of yarns from deep stash.

It's bulky weight so it knit up very quickly and while it looks a little odd just worn on its own (I knit it at a slightly tighter gauge, so it would be firmer around the neck), tucked under some outerwear, it's a really cozy, splash of colour.  It is also very warm - almost too warm for UK winters but will serve me very well for Canadian cold.

I seem to be a bit cowl obsessed lately.  Just over the holidays, I completed the Poza cowl by Ysolda Teague.  This was knit using just one 25g ball of cashmere lace from Yarntelier.  It was a bit of an impulse buy at a yarn show; I fell in love with the colour and I'd never knitted with cashmere before.  This pattern was perfect for a one-skein bit of luxury.  Ooooh, and it is so lovely and soft.

I'm also becoming slightly obsessed with mohair.  The trend these days is to knit a strand of mohair together with wool for a softer,  more muted look.  I plan to test this out later in the year.  But first, I completed my Birds of a Feather shawl by Andrea Mowry. I paired some hand-dyed mohair from Qing Fibre with my favourite Daughter of a Shepherd hebridean/zwartbles 4ply and I love the rustic deliciousness against the fluffy warmth of the mohair.  This looks perfectly at home in the woods.

My knitting resolutions are fairly simple for 2019.  I just want to cast off more than I cast on (i.e. start attacking those WIPS!).  And I want to knit more stash than I acquire. I shall be carefully weighing both.  We'll see how it goes. . . .

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Double Standards. . .

I feel a little cheeky at the moment because as I write this, my partner is out leading this walk in what has proven to be rather awful rainy weather.  I chickened out as the alternative of a lazy Sunday at home, knitting while listening to the Archers omnibus and Desert Island Discs on Radio 4,  proved too strong a pull.  I did accompany him on the recce with him last weekend however, so I have contributed a little bit to the final walk.

This walk is an eleven mile plus circular from Kirkby Stephen, a town which is very close to the county border between Cumbria and Yorkshire.  We'd done half this walk over six years ago when we'd completed the Coast to Coast (it's roughly half way); I chiefly remember this bit being rather boggy and that was in the middle of summer.  Not much has changed.

Leaving Kirkby Stephen, you start a gradual ascent up to the Nine Standards. We were lucky in that there was only one ten minute shower last Saturday, otherwise it stayed dry.

Most of the way is along paths that cut across moorland with the Nine Standards (large cairns) gradually getting closer. 

While bits of these are crumbling, they are said to have been around at least a few centuries, showing up on 18th century maps.   You get wonderful views from the top, especially of the Howgills.

Leaving them behind, we crossed a rather sparse path over boggy moorland.  I stupidly stepped on some pristine snow and went down to my calf in bog.

Coming off the hills, we then crossed a few smaller hills and some green fields.

We then headed for a river path that ran alongside Ewbank Scar. It was fairly muddy along this stretch - I can't imagine how bad it might be today as there has been a lot of rain all this week.

We met lots of sheep along the way.

And ended up coming back to the town along a river path as the late afternoon light was reflected in the River Eden.

I do feel bad that I backed out of today's walk, but when winter comes, I am definitely a fair-weather walker.  It wasn't even the rain that put me off, but the ensuing mud that I knew would constitute too large a percentage of the walk.  I will make sure that the Liverpud comes home to a nice, warm dinner however.  And I did have a constructive day - I knitted a hat.

Friday, 23 November 2018

Roll on the Knitting. . .

I haven't blogged about my knitting for a while (too busy knitting, really), but when I look back over the last couple of months, I'm quite proud of all that I've completed.

Back in September, I was test knitting this Maranta Tee , designed by Sonja Bargielowska It was a fun construction whereby the back is wider than the front and so the colour wraps around and peeks out from the side seams.  I didn't have enough of one colour to knit the back in a solid, so I striped it which I think works well with that wrap-around effect.  The revelation with this project was how absolutely gorgeous John Arbon's Devonia 4ply is to knit with.  Oh my, this blend of three sheep breeds is so rich in colour and depth and  Pollen Gold is absolutely my favourite shade of mustard.  I knit the back in two shades of Blacker's Tamar 4ply.  I am very happy with the fit on this but I have to reknit or possibly crochet the sleeve cuffs; I've picked up too many stitches and they look floppy.

If you haven't yet seen a copy of the new book Strange Brew from Tin Can Knits then check it out immediately!  What a fabulous resource to add to your knitting library.  It teaches you how to completely design your own yoked sweater in several different yarn weights, and if you don't fancy that, there are several patterns for some absolutely gorgeous sweaters.  I couldn't wait to cast on Mountain Mist in several shades of Cascade 220 Heathers from deep stash.  Such a quick and easy knit and I have my eye on several other designs as well.  Plus, the photo shoot was in Iceland so it's a stunning book to look at too.

Last month also saw most of the knitting done on Stephen West's Mystery KAL. This shawl is called Texture Time.  It has brioche, latvian braids, and some lace and was an incredible shawl to knit from beginning to end. It's also made me fall a little in love with combining mohair among other firmer yarns.  West is a genius - I think this is a very art deco looking type of shawl and was again a great stashbuster.  I knit mine in laceweight instead of the 4ply the pattern called for, but as you can see, it's plenty big enough.

Sometimes it's nice just to have a quick weekend project.  I whipped up this cute Momo hat, designed by Jen Arnall-Cuilliford,  mostly while watching Grand Prix figure skating for several hours.  It uses a technique called helical knitting to avoid those colour joins when knitting in the round.  This is quite a bright colour for me, but I have an equally bright winter jacket that this should be perfect for. I may still add a pom pom. 

And I finished this just a few days ago.  This is Doocot by Kate Davies but looks very different from the original cropped sweater that she designed.  As it was knit top-down, I knew I could customize it easily enough. I added about five inches to the length and added a contrast colour for the hems and cuffs. I love the yarn I used - the body is knit in Fras from Uist Wool.  It has all these threads of darker Zwartbles wool just randomly woven into the white Cheviot for this striated effect.  The contrast colour is Countess Ablaze English Gentleman 4ply, held double.  It was left over yarn from my Rubrication shawl.  The fit is perfect - enough ease to layer up, but so cozy and warm. I am going to live in this sweater over the winter.

And I have a few wips (as always) in the project bags.   Continuing my fascination with mohair, I've started the Birds of a Feather shawl by Andrea Mowry.  I'm loving the delicacy of both fabric and colour against the rustic hebridean chocolate of Daughter of Shepherd's 4ply

And when a co-worker walked in with a shop-bought sweater, covered in an all-over pattern of textured squares,  I knew I had to cast on for something similar.  I am nearly finished with the back of the Eleanor Cardigan, designed by Francesca Hughes.  I am using three really yummy, woolly yarns for this project.  The red is Ullcentrum 2ply which I bought from Midwinter Yarns at the Perth Wool Festival.  The blue is from Wensleydale Longwool and has been in stash for years. And the mid-brown is Exmoor Zwartbles DK from John Arbon. 

Bring on winter!

Friday, 9 November 2018

Dyeing For Colour. . .

Last month, I attended a really fun workshop at Ovis Yarns in Liverpool.  In celebration of Wool Week, we got to test out acid dyeing on mini-skeins of different breeds of British wool, finishing up with the chance to dye a larger quantity on our favourite base.

There are lots of different techniques to hand-dyeing;  we dipped, painted, splashed, speckled, and smooshed the dye - both in powder and liquid form -   onto our wool.  Below is a mini-skein of Wensleydale that I dyed.  Once you are happy with the result, you wrap it up in clingfilm like a sausage and put it in the microwave to set.

And this was the finished result. The setting softens the colours and brings out more depth.  I was very happy with my efforts.

We dyed a mini-skein of Jacob - the natural brown of the wool  goes really well with the greens.

And this was a mini-skein of superwash Bluefaced Leicester.  I'll admit to going a little bonkers with all the colours, but it'll make a nice contrast toe or cuff on a pair of socks. 

I wasn't at all happy with my initial attempts on this mix of Bluefaced Leicester and Masham - I was going for teals and mustards and it ended up becoming a really insipid limey-yellow.  So I overdyed the lot with a mossy green and it turned out fabulous!

Practice skeins completed, we were then let loose on some full 100g skeins of 4ply. I had ordered a few extra skeins of the BFL/Masham blend (my favourite) in advance to get a garment quantity. I really wanted to try speckling and though it looked okay initially . . . 

. . . a little of the powder goes a long way.  It got too squished in the rolling stage and when it was set, it came out more variegated than speckled.  I still like the colours though and I think these are destined for a striped garment of some sort.  I have several undyed skeins of BFL/Masham in my stash. 

Then I tried to replicate my mossy green practice skein, but dyeing is a precise recipe and this was as close as I could get. I am still pleased with them however - I did get the deeper greens in places, and I quite like the hints of turquoise and yellow that pop out every so often.  I think I will turn these into a summer top and alternate the skeins while knitting. It will be fascinating to see how they knit up.

There were five of us in the workshop and part of the fun (apart from getting to know some very friendly and inspiring knitters), was seeing all the different colour combinations that we came up with. We all had very different palettes and were drawn also to different styles of dyeing.  These group shots do show however, the similarities in tone and undertone that the different sheep breeds offered.



BFL superwash: 


But my absolute favourites were these gorgeous skeins dyed by Jane. They look so professional and she nailed the soft autumnal colours that she was going for.  I can't wait to see these knitted up.

If you are in Liverpool, do check out Becky's workshop schedule here.  She's also starting to offer drop in dye sessions where you can bring your own skeins or purchase some from her.  I will conquer those speckles yet!