Friday, 6 July 2018

Knitting in a Heatwave. . .

For the last couple of weeks, most of the UK has been living with an unusual heatwave (unusual in its length).  There's been very little rain, the usually green grass is parched everywhere, sadly there are fires burning on the moorlands near Manchester and Bolton (those firefighters are heroic!), and for once it's been far too hot to be knitting with wool.

This has hampered a few of my ongoing projects. No way am I crocheting a huge wool rug with the majority of it lying on my lap.  And my rescue attempts from Sleeve Island are also being hampered. Most of my wips involve picking up stitches and knitting the sleeves down from the rest of the sweater which means constantly turning all that wool around and around.  It's not going to happen. 

I did however, finish the one project where I could knit the sleeves separately and then seam them to the body. Here is my finished Spin Me Round top by Francesca Hughes.  I made a lot of modifications to this pattern - I knit it several inches longer, omitted the patterning from the back and the sleeves and changed the neckline.  These changes were all necessary because of the yarn that I chose - West Country Tweed by Blacker Yarns.  I absolutely LOVED knitting with this - the fabric is smooth and soft and the rainbow flecks of colour are fun but subtle enough to keep this a neutral top.  Knit at the pattern's gauge, the fabric comes out much thicker and denser, giving it a very different look from the original, but I think the unusual cable/lace pattern shows up well and then the plain stockinette allows the yarn to shine too.  I am very happy with the result, although I could only wear this for the minute it took to snap the photo - it is a really, really warm top. 

Time to turn to cotton and something more loose and airy.  I have cast on Anni by Gina Röckenwagner from the summer issue of  Pom Pom Magazine, using some deep stash - two colours of Rowan Pima Cotton DK and then a skein of Sugar Bush Cabot, leftover from my Pabaigh top.  This involves a lot of slip stitching on 6mm needles so it's knitting up quite quickly. 

I have also embarked on two mystery shawl projects that should see me through the month.  This is the Gloamin-tide MKAL by Ysolda Teague. It uses three colours that ideally should fade into each other, although mine are a little more defined. Again, going deep into the stash, I pulled out these skeins all from Northbound Knitting. Two of them were part of a yarn club a few years ago so have a similar, complimentary tone.  This photo shows the shawl at the completion of Clue 2 where we suddenly increased stitches in an interesting way. I'm excited to see what happens next.

There is some subtle but lovely slip stitching in this pattern too.

And then I've started my first ever mystery crochet-a-long.  This shows the first two clues finished of the Skimming Stones shawl by Joanne Scrace of the Crochet Project.   Each clue is supposed to take only three hours, but I confess to having had to rip back a number of times as it involved some new-to-me stitches and it took a while to get the hang of it. I'm enjoying the challenge now. Fortunately two of the members of my knitting group are also doing this and they are very good crocheters so have helped me with that tricky center stitch. It's been fun to see this grow, but because there isn't a ravelry group for the Crochet Project, most of the discussion is going on over on Facebook and I'm not on it, nor plan to be. I still think it will be a lovely shawl though and it's allowing my crochet mojo to return.

Maybe it's time to finally crochet the sleeves on this longstanding cardigan wip?   

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Stuck on Sleeve Island. . .

What is it about sleeves and my aversion to them? In theory, they usually aren't hard to knit, especially if they don't have a pattern beyond some ribbing at the cuff. If it's for a seamed garment, they are a perfect portable project to take to knit group.  Same if it's a sleeve knitted in the round that will later be attached to the body before knitting the yoke.

And yet.

A recent rumble through my various wip project bags turned up all of these. Notice something they all share in common?

I'm embarrassed to admit that at least two of these projects were started when I still lived in Toronto. That was over six years ago.

And so I am committed to a Summer of Sleeves (SOS) and rescuing these poor castaways on Sleeve Island. If I can just knit ten sleeves this summer, I will have five lovely new garments for the autumn months. Heck, I'd be happy with three.

SOS has not been without its pitfalls.  I started with my Spin Me Round top.

The sleeves are knit flat, starting with some ribbing at the cuff and then I decided to omit the pattern and just knit the rest in stockinette. I dutifully cast on and knit almost up to the armhole. It was only then that I remembered WHY I had abandoned the project at the sleeve stage.  I didn't have enough yarn to knit two full sleeves and I wanted to re-write the pattern so I could knit it from the top down and stop when I was sure I could finish both of them with the yarn I had left.  I ripped it out and started again.

I now have one sleeve done.  It will stop just before the elbow which is a nice length.   I have absolutely loved knitting this with Blacker Yarns' West Country Tweed. It is so soft and yet creates a really firm fabric that I predict will relax and get even softer with age and washing. I think it will feel like a favourite, comfy sweatshirt to wear against your skin.  Very excited to be nearing the finish line on this one.

But let's face it, sleeves can be boring. Part of my strategy to get these sleeves finished is to alternate between projects so that I am at least working in different colours and yarns. This may backfire and I'll be back in six months showing a bunch of one-armed sweaters that still aren't finished, but let's see how it goes.

I approached my Dorothy. I actually really like the sleeves on this - you pick up stitches around the armhole and then knit a band of the same lace pattern that is around the neck, before knitting stockinette in the round with decreases until you reach the ribbing on the cuff.  They aren't even full sleeves!

And so I knit down to the cuff. And then tried it on.  And realized that there is far too much material under the arms for my liking. It really bunches up.  So back to the drawing board - I'll need to rip back and pick up fewer stitches and try again.  I'm just not having a good sleeve week; you can see why I've been avoiding the darn things.

Of course it isn't helping matters that while struggling with sleeves, I've also been casting on some new patterns. What is the best procrastination project of all?  Why, to knit a dress in 4ply of course.  This is the Lotta dress by Marie Greene from the latest issue of Laine magazine.  It's a very clever design. Knit top-down, there is a pleat that incorporates all of the extra fabric that you'd normally need for your hips. So once you've reached that point, it's just plain stockinette until the rib at the bottom. No increases or decreases to worry about.

I am knitting mine in deep stash - some Swan's Island organic merino in their Indigo Watercolours Fingering.  I am using a darker indigo yarn from the Border Tart for the horizontal dividing line and also the ribbing.  This is the perfect project for watching the World Cup.  But please do notice that I have finished the sleeves.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Travel Knits For the Family Volume 1: Into the Cold. . .

Travel and knitting are two of my passions, and knitting while travelling is even better, so I was delighted to come across this new book of patterns by Kate Bostwick, inspired by the European cities that she has visited with her family.

Kate is a fellow Canadian who lived in London for a few years and seems to have discovered - as I increasingly have done - that while we may have grown up with cold and snowy winters back home, we have underestimated how cold and damp it can get in both the UK and Europe. You definitely need your woollies here too.

The book contains seven lovely patterns and several are small accessories that are easy to pop into carry-on or to dig out on a train.  They are also items you'd definitely want to pack for a winter holiday. There is also Journey - the huge and colourful blanket that you can see on the book's cover. It's knit in squares that are then seamed so it's also eminently portable, and I like Kate's suggestion of using souvenir yarn from your travels.

Here are my favourite patterns from the book:

I really like Oslo - cabled mittens that can be thrummed, made as fingerless mitts or as mittens with a flip top. They look cushy and warm and fun to knit.

Then there are these attractive, cozy Copenhagen slippers -  perfect to wear on a long flight or to bring a bit of home to a generic hotel room. As with the mittens and hat pattern, these are sized from baby up to adult.  I think they'd make terrific xmas gifts too.

There are several sweater patterns in the book.  Paris is on the left - two styles of kid sweaters with a waffle stitch body sized from baby to teenager.  If I have one quibble about the book, it's the wish that these two were also sized for adults.  With a few modifications,  I could just about get away with the 16 year old size and I may try it because these look fun to knit and I can already think of a few mini-skein sets that would be perfect for those stripes.   However, there is also Dublin  on the right - a stylish cardigan with a pretty lace pattern on the sleeves and hem. There are both written instructions and charts for the lace.

The proof is in the pudding though, so I cast on for a pair of Oslo thrummed mittens.  I found the instructions very clear to follow, even with all the multiple sizing.

It was my first time trying the thrummed technique and I think I've knit my first mitten a little clumsily (no fault of the pattern).  The bits of roving I've used have been far too large and uneven. I thought they might felt a bit after blocking, but I think I will need to start again with a slightly tighter gauge and more consistent thrums.  It knits up quickly though.

I really liked the thoughtful inspiration behind this collection and I can see myself knitting more than half the patterns in the book which is always a good sign. The layout is clear, there are lots of photos of the projects and I enjoyed reading Kate's little travel snippets along the way.  I'm intrigued too by what she'll come up with for the next volume which explores knitting for places in the sun - always a tricky one that.

Travel Knits for the Family is currently only being sold as a physical book (that comes with a digital download code) and the patterns aren't sold individually.  You can purchase it directly from Kate's Etsy shop here or appropriately enough at the Travel Knitter's online shop here (she also sells the best little travel tin with stitch markers and a tapestry needle, great for slipping into project bags).

Disclaimer:  I was kindly gifted a copy of the e-book to review but all words and opinions written here are my own.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Three Dodds and a Pass. . .

It's not something that we're fanatic about, but at some point over the next ten years or so, the Liverpud and I would like to have climbed every Wainwright fell in the Lake District.  There are 214 and we have a little scratch map on the wall at home.  He's done a few more than me - I've climbed just over fifty -  but when planning a walk, he tries to incorporate a few new ones each time.

Last Saturday on a hot and hazy day, we set off to do a recce for an upcoming walk that he is leading for our rambling group and it was to include not one but three new Wainwrights!

We started from Glenridding and made our way up the Sticks Pass. This is the view looking back at the valley once we've hit the beginning of the pass.

And this is where we're heading - you can just see the path going up in roughly the middle of the photo.

Very near the top, looking back.

From the top, we can turn to the right to go up our first new Wainwright - Stybarrow Dodd. The path as you can see is good and it wasn't too steep (we'd already done a good deal of climbing already to get here).

But first a look ahead at the other side of the pass.  This is looking west over Thirlmere. I wish it hadn't been quite so hazy as we'd have had a good view of lots of other fells.

At the top of Stybarrow Dodd, it's a short jaunt off to the left to Watson's Dodd and then up to Great Dodd which you can see on the right of the photo.

Here we are on the top of Great Dodd - you can just about see Keswick and Skiddaw in the distance.

We then made our way down and spent the next hour (in the rain no less), walking over tufty bog. Still the colours were quite vibrant.

The sun came out eventually though we could still hear thunder in the distance. This is looking back at Great Dodd.

We crossed more moorland.

And made our way up to the valley that is just behind Sheffield Pike.  We walked to the edge and starting descending. About halfway down, you meet a path that takes you to the right and all around this horseshoe.

This is the view halfway around - you can just see Ullswater in the background. We then descended to roughly where the Sticks Pass begins and retraced our steps back to Glenridding.

It was a long walk - over 14 miles and it took us about seven hours with all the ups and downs.  I don't fare well in the heat and I probably didn't drink enough water during the hike.  A hot bath sorted out my sore legs and then I slept about ten hours.  Unfortunately, it's too long a walk for the group as we are bound by a coach schedule, so the Liverpud is going back to the drawing board.   And I went to our map and scratched three more Wainwrights off.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

The BIG Stashbusting Project. . .

Six years of going to yarn festivals in the UK has resulted in quite a large stash.  Too large.  So large it's now really bothering me every time I pass by the tower of plastic bins in my spare room, or trip over another jute bag filled with overflowing skeins. It especially bothers me when I know I have a specific skein stored somewhere. . .  and I have to search through piles of yarn to find it. 

Time to get serious.

I have picked up a project I started months ago and am crocheting a rug for the living room. I started with some balls of rough wool that I picked up for 50p each at Woolfest a couple of years ago. I had intended them for weaving as they are far too coarse to wear against the skin, and these are proving perfect for this rug.  I then pulled out lots of skeins bought during various sales and now languishing because I don't really want to knit anything with them. Some of these yarns are akin to roving and I know they will pill if I knit them as is, but paired with a strand of the rustic yarn, they are crocheting up into a study fabric with just a touch of softness. Perfect!

I am not attempting anything fancy; I am just doing rows of double crochet. If I run out of a colour mid-row, I'm just adding another one.  As this thing got bigger, I've been spacing out the more colourful rows between neutral brown/grey/cream ones.  It is crocheting up fast - each row is at least an inch high and I can usually get two or three rows done each night while watching telly.  I'm aiming for a 7 x 8 foot rug and I'm about halfway there.  It also feels great underfoot. 

Best of all, I reckon there's about thirty balls/skeins of stash in just what I've done so far.  So liberating!

Friday, 1 June 2018

A Walk Up the Mighty Great Gable. . .

We spent the second May Bank Holiday weekend up in the Lakes with our rambling group. The Liverpud and I were lucky enough to bag one of these pods at the hostel. They are simple, but much quieter than being in a room of bunk beds with potential snorers.  Each pod comes with two single beds, a small heater and a lamp. There is an outlet to plug something in, such as a phone charger. On the outside of the main hostel building there are showers and one toilet for the use of the pods and the campers on the field just in front. You can also use the facilities in the building as well.  I found it quite soothing and relaxing to sleep in, although it did get hot, despite a window in the back, which I only had partially open as I didn't want a ton of midges descending on us either.  I would definitely book hostel pods in the future.

One of the tough walks we did was up Great Gable. I had only hiked it once several years ago,  but it was in the rain and visibility was nil, so I was eager to give it another go; it's such an iconic mountain.

We started on easy bridle paths through the lovely Borrowdale valley.

This led us to the Honister Pass and the slate mine/museum where we stopped for a latte and a slice of cake in their cafe.  Below shows where the road heads down but doesn't at all convey the steepness.

We headed off on a steep path to the left which took us up Grey Knotts to these stunning views.  Looking west, you can see Ennerdale Water on the left and Crummock Water on the right.

Great Gable (the domed mountain in the middle below) beckons, but we first have to descend Grey Knotts, go up Green Gable, then down again and then up for the final ascent.

 Here, we are about to ascend Green Gable.  It was very hot this weekend, but the real challenge was the wind. And this was before hitting Windy Gap which lies just between Green Gable and Great Gable.

On top of Green Gable.

And the top of Great Gable. I couldn't take a photo at Windy Gap - I could barely stay on my feet.

This is the very poignant and beautiful WWI memorial on the top of Great Gable.  A remembrance service is held here every year and I can't think of a more beautiful and peaceful place to reflect.

 This is the view from the top, looking east.

And the fabulous view looking southwest over Wast Water.

We then returned, skirting Brown Base and descending a rather treacherous path down to Seathwaite.  This bit wasn't so bad, but I have since learned to be wary of paths beside waterfalls - they are often very steep and uneven and scrambling, or sliding on your butt may be required for some stretches. Very hard on the knees and tired soles.

We were out for about seven and half hours and what with the sun and wind, I was fairly exhausted by the time we returned. I certainly slept well that night in the pod.