Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Knitting Smithereens. . .

My Shallmillens Snood (the Shetland word for smithereens) designed by Donna Smith is finally done and this may well be my favourite knit of 2016.

I have taken this project on numerous trains and planes, and into hotel rooms, over the last few months. It's been the best travel companion; each row is easy to memorize and when you get a wee bit bored of a pattern, it's not long before a new one comes your way.  The size is perfect too - I can easily loop it twice around my neck where it is snug and warm but doesn't strangle me.

The yarn used is Brooklyn Tweed's Loft.  The lighter beige is Woodsmoke and the darker brown is a delicious colour called Truffle Hunt that incorporates greys, browns and a hint of bluey-grey too. It was a lovely yarn to knit with but really difficult to graft with as it breaks easily.  When washed and blocked though, it blooms into an absolutely soft and smooth fabric. Here is a close-up.

This took a long time to knit, but I'm really pleased with the result.  I've also seen some stunning projects done in gradient yarns or using different contrast colours for each section.

As I'm writing this, exciting plans are underfoot to visit the Shetland Islands next year. This cowl will definitely be coming with me, but I think I need to cast on some colourful fair isle projects in the new year.  i need to get my xmas knitting done first and finish what I hope will be my go-to winter jumper.  I've started Snowflake by Tin Can Knits which I've wanted to knit for a long time; I was just waiting to find the perfect colour combination.  I've been obsessed by the colourway Typewriter in Hedgehog Fibres' sock yarn and when I bought a couple of skeins, it occurred to me that it would perfectly match some discontinued black Rowan Tweed in my stash.  So I've made a start on the very pretty lace yoke:

Once the yoke is done, it'll be a matter of separating for the arms and then a lot of stockinette in the round which should go fairly quickly.  I'll be chuffed if I can finish in time to wear for Christmas.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Sunday Walking: From Hebden Bridge to Haworth. . .

When out with my walking group - and especially when doing the harder walk - it's all about the walking, not the stopping.  This is a shame when you go through a pretty town like Hebden Bridge. Nestled in a valley, it was hard hit in the floods last year but hopefully seems to have recovered. From what I could see - as our leader frogmarched us through the streets -  there were lots of lovely shops and cafes.  I think a future day trip needs to be planned to explore in more detail.

Our twelve and half mile walk was a linear from Hebden Bridge to Haworth, home of the Brontes and one of my favourite places to visit. I had never approached it on foot from the south though, and it was a very pretty walk. The first part took us through Hardcastle Crags - mostly woodland owned by the National Trust. We followed this river for a mile or so.

There's still so much vibrant colour in the landscape this time of year.  I don't even mind a bit of mist and grey skies - the other colours seem to pop against it.

About half way through the walk, we reached the moors (my favourite bit), joining the Pennine Way as it snaked around the three Walshaw Dean reservoirs.

And then the sun came out.  Isn't this gorgeous?

This is the approach to Top Withins, the "inspiration", more in location than actual building, for Wuthering Heights. You can just see it nestled near the back of this photo.

Here's a closer shot.

We stopped for some lemon drizzle cake, but it was getting cold, so we marched on.  I had to take one more look back.

I was wearing my toasty Latvian mittens.

And here, in the ever-changing light, are some photos of the famous moors between Top Withins and Haworth itself.

We arrived just as it was getting dark. Haworth is all decked out in its Christmas finery with a big tree at the bottom of its famous, steep hill, and xmas music playing.  We even saw some Morris dancers who were calling it a day after entertaining tourists.

And you can easily catch a bus back to Hebden Bridge if you want to make the trip a circular.  I think it would be a wonderful walk in either direction. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

As Christmassy As My Knitting Gets. . .

While waiting for Kate Davies' next book, Inspired by Islay (the patterns will be released once a week for twelve weeks starting mid-December), I signed up to Knitvent 2016, created by Helen Stewart of the Curious Handmade Podcast.  For under £10, I'll receive six accessory patterns over six weeks, all with a mountain theme which is what really sold me on the package.

The first pattern - the Alpine Sunset Shawl - arrived three weeks ago and I immediately thought of knitting it in colours to remind me of my recent train trip through the Canadian Rockies.

This is the skein of Riverstone 4ply that I  picked up at Wet Coast Wools in Vancouver.  It has all the greens of the acres of forest that we passed.

I paired it with some Hedgehog Fibres in the colourway Typewriter, which mimics the snowy tops of the mountains and the snowstorm we came through en route to Jasper from Edmonton.

The pattern also called for some beads - I had these bronze ones in my stash just waiting for this project. They are subtle (which I like), but when the light catches them, they remind me of the sun peeking through the trees. Or maybe pine cones.

Then I added some golden brown Ripples Crafts BFL,  left over from my Building Blocks shawl.  This reminded me of the needle-strewn forest floors.

These are definitely not colours that I would normally knit with, but I'm really happy with the overall effect; it's a good winter colour shawl.

Two more Knitvent patterns have subsequently been released: The Boreal Forest cowl and  The Juniper Socks.  These both look lovely and I do plan to knit them in due course.  I'm especially eager to try the socks; I'm in a bit of a sock knitting phase at the moment as I try and get some xmas gifts finished.  One pair down. . . another cast on.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Winter Woolies. . .

Brrrrrrr, it's turned damp and cold the last few days and I've been pulling out the winter woolies. I'd forgotten all about my Fraxinus cowl, designed by Ysolda Teague and part of her 2016 yarn club.  I knit this several months ago and then put it away and forgot about it. I used a skein from a previous club package - sportweight Swedish wool from Skein Queen specially dyed for this club.  As it was a heavier weight than what the pattern called for, and because I like my cowls quite tight against the neck, I took a chance and knit one third less stitches and it hugs my neck perfectly snug, without being suffocating.  Most importantly, it keeps the wind out; this will be ideal to take hiking in the next few months.

The pattern is quite ingenious.  You don't do any increasing or decreasing of stitches; the shape is caused completely by spreading out the cables as you knit downwards.

Another warm project finished just this weekend was my Tallat sweater, designed by Justyna Lorkowska from the latest issue of Pom Pom Magazine.  Yes, that's a sprinkling of snow you can see in my backyard.

It's a big, bulky type sweater but it is extremely warm, which is just what I was craving.  The yarn is Briggs & Little chunky, in a colourway called Red Heather and I used just under six skeins.  I picked it up during my recent trip to Toronto at Romni Wools.  I LOVE this yarn - it's firm and crisp but with absolutely no itch factor at all and very easy to knit with.  I even spit spliced my ends while knitting the body so I had less to weave in afterwards.  This is the first time I've used Canadian yarn for a garment and I'm thrilled with how it turned out.  Looking at my wardrobe, I've knit far too many cropped sweaters in the past but this feels so much more comfortable to wear and the split hem and collar details (I think), takes the potential frumpiness out of this jumper.  I did omit the thumb hole in the sleeves; I always like to push them up anyways.

Now, a word on the collar.  Even though the yarn is firm and I went down two needles sizes in knitting it, I guessed it would never stay up as nicely as it does in the magazine.  I'm not bothered at all though; I can wear it turned out, or tucked in, and both look and feel fine.

And did I mention how warm this is?  It will definitely be getting lots of wear this winter.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A Reddish Hue in Wales. . .

Last Sunday it was rather grey and drab for our walk in North Wales.  But that just allowed all the various shades of rusty red that were so prominent in the landscape to dominate.  The colour palette of the day was clearly foreshadowed as we were walking up a country road and passed this chicken up a tree. (Who knew chickens perched in trees?)

Our coach dropped us off several miles down the road from Conwy, in Llanfairfechan.  We then walked back through the hills incorporating bits of the North Wales and Wales Coastal paths.  All around us were reddish brown patches, mostly of dead vegetation, but still beautiful to look at.  I love these circular tufts of gorse too.

I love it when you can't tell where the sea and sky meet.

This is all heather, well past its prime.  Can you imagine how gloriously purple it would have looked at the end of the summer?  Two years ago, our group came here in September - take a look at the difference.   I love seeing how an area changes with the seasons, the light, and the weather. Walking outdoors in the countryside never gets boring.

The tide was out as we approached the coast - I love the patterns made on the sand banks.

Here you can see Llandudno and the Great Orme.

We ended our walk on the top of Conwy Mountain and then started heading down towards the town with its beautiful castle.

And one last look back at the mountain from the city walls, which you can walk along, although it is quite steep in places.  Time for a coffee and a quick look around the town (there's an excellent ice cream parlour!)