Sunday, April 20, 2014

New Mystery Afghan KAL. . .

 I love participating in mystery knit-a-longs so when Rowan announced a free afghan KAL designed by Martin Storey, I was itching to join in (we'll just ignore the ongoing hexi-puff and mitred square blankets that are also in the works).  There will be eight different square patterns released over the next eight weeks and then some trim. You knit six squares of each clue, ideally in two different colours. The design is meant to showcase Rowan's new Pure Wool Worsted,  a lovely line of wool that comes in some really amazing colours.   However, I'm still committed to just knitting from my stash this year so I can't use the recommended yarn.

This has posed some interesting challenges for me as most of my stash is fingering weight, so I will either end up with a smaller blanket or have to knit a lot more squares.  Digging around in my stash, I came across two skeins of Jillybeans wool that I picked up at Woolfest and really want to use. However, both are variegated (in lovely shades of hazy purples, greens, blues and grays)  and when I tried knitting Week 1's square, the pattern and texture were completely lost.  Undaunted, I found a lovely dark purple that makes those muted colours pop.  So I've done some colourwork instead.  I'm really happy with the result and plan to line the back of the blanket with fabric to hide all the stranding. 

My square measures 5 x 5,  quite a bit smaller than the worsted wool 7.5 x 7.5 squares but I'm going to wait for a few more clues before deciding whether to knit more squares or perhaps to do a larger trim.  There's a great group on ravelry knitting this blanket and it's not too late to join. I'm having fun with this already and what a great stashbuster!  Now off to knit five more squares before the next clue comes. . .

Friday, April 18, 2014

I'll Settle for Settle. . .

Much as I love the Lake District, I'm a Yorkshire lass, born if not bred, so I'm always happy when our rambling group heads east. Last weekend's walk was a circular one from the town of Settle, taking in gorgeous views of the Yorkshire Dales.  And a bit of Yorkshire humour.

There are lots of waterfalls in this area. This is Stainforth Force on the River Ribble where we had an early lunch.

Our walk then took us over the Settle to Carlisle railway line which is a lovely scenic route and one I'd highly recommend.  It's celebrating its 25th anniversary of being saved from the railways cuts in the 1980s.

I haven't been in this area since last summer when we did the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. It was lovely to see two of the peaks in the distance. There's Pen-y-Ghent . . .

. . . and in the other direction is Ingleborough.

A large part of our walk was on moorland with the dales in the distance and tiny, quiet, meandering streams such as this. . .

. . . which suddenly tumble over. . .

. . . and become another picturesque waterfall.  This is Catrigg Force, just outside the village of Stainforth.

The way back to Settle, high up on the moors, takes in some of the limestone outcroppings.

And the beautiful undulating countryside.

There's nothing better underfoot than a soft, grassy path (when it's dry of course).

The sheep love the grass too except when they think the farmer has something better in store (he didn't - he was just returning some naughty sheep who had learned how to jump over stone walls.)

And look how green and lush the springtime landscape is.  Balm for the soul along with lots of fresh, bracing air.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Counting My Sheep. . .

We spent a rainy weekend in the Lake District completing one long recce for an upcoming walk that the Liverpudlian is leading at the end of the month (I was following, trying to make notes in the rain), and enjoying a couple of nice meals and a lovely B & B.  But by Sunday we'd only just dried out our boots and gear and it was just too wet to contemplate another walk.  We read the paper in a cafe and did a little local shopping in Ambleside.  At Fred Holdsworth's Bookshop I couldn't resist buying Counting Sheep: A Celebration of the Pastoral Heritage of Britain by Philip Walling.  It's the perfect bedside book don't you think?  And I loved that the bookseller was knitting a gorgeous purple cabled sock behind the counter.  We had a chat about how Ambleside really needed a good yarn shop.

I counted dozens of pink sheep near Hartsop on our walk  - a whole flock of them dotting the hillsides.  I don't know if their markings had run or if they were dyed for a special purpose but they were certainly a sight to see. 

And they probably unconsciously led to my other lovely purchase - this pink and gray wool felt bag from Urban Country.  I bought it in a new shop called GEAR in Ambleside. Despite its name, it does not sell walking paraphernalia, but is a gift shop full of lovely things. These bags were in their front window and I just couldn't resist.  And it's definitely big enough for all my daily bits and bobs, my lunch, a book and a large knitting project. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Motivating Tea Towel. . .

When the amazing Kate Davies posted her latest creation on her blog, I smiled and immediately ordered one.  How fabulous is this tea towel with drawings by Felicity Ford of several of Kate's terrific sweater designs? She's never designed a garment that I haven't wanted to knit and I already have the patterns for several of these - Warriston, Catkin, and Boreal perching at the top of the list. 

And it's motivated me to get my long-languishing Deco out.  I don't know why I stopped; I was nearing the end of a ball of wool and I was reading comments on ravelry about a tricky bit to come and just lost my confidence. It's been packed away since I moved to England but I love the wool ( Blacker's Corriedale Organic which is now discontinued - fingers crossed I have enough) and my knitting mojo has never been stronger. This will be my major April knitting project and I'm determined to get it done.


I love the idea of the tea towel as a visual checklist and instead of hanging up in the kitchen, it's going to be prominently displayed in my spare bedroom (aka the knitting den).  And once I finish each sweater (she writes confidently), I'm going to use some strands of the project wool and fill in the corresponding sweater diagram with some embroidery. Check back in about 40 years to see the completed tea towel.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

A Walk Without a Lake (Almost) . . .

It's rare to go on a walk in the Lake District and not come across, well a lake, or at least a tarn. I had to settle for a river last Sunday as we began our hike from Threlkeld, about fifteen minutes away from Keswick in the northern bit of the National Park.   Quite frankly, I'd have settled for anything so long as it was outdoors - the weather was absolutely gorgeous, a bit hazy, but 14-16 degrees and most importantly dry! 
This is the intimidating range known as Blencathra or Saddleback, but fortunately our route wasn't straight up. Instead we followed a river path off to the right which skirted the steepest part of the mountain and we spent the majority of the day in and around the middle heights behind it.  

Which is not to say we weren't still climbing; we did over 2000 feet in total on this walk. Below, you can see the river we walked beside on the bottom left as we were about half way up Scales Fell.

But diagonal paths are always a bit easier on the legs.

Around the corner and a bit higher up, we came to this flat bit with a great view of  Foule Crag and Sharp Edge, that ridge that dips down from the summit.  You can go up it but it's quite narrow and there's a rocky scramble at the end of it.  Today's weather was probably ideal for the attempt, but we walked through the beautiful valley below it instead.

Getting closer, you can just make out a few dots, i.e. people, doing Sharp Edge.
Lunchtime and this is our view of the valley we've just travelled through. There is nothing better than eating a sandwich with a thermos of tea beside you, awash in the sunshine and fresh air.  Very Famous Five. 

Now we turn and head towards the back of Skiddaw feeling very much like little hobbits in this vast and lonely landscape.

And we turn again for the walk back through a different valley. . .

. . . always remembering to occasionally look backwards to see how far we've come.

And finally at the last stretch, a tiny view of Derwentwater with its surrounding fells looking very much like a smudgy watercolour.  So we got a teeny bit of lake after all.

And a lot more mountain - as far as the eye could see. A super day and a super walk.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Crocheted and Knitted Cushion. . .

It was a really good idea to dedicate this month to finishing up works in progress. I've dug out several projects that have been languishing and it's made me feel so productive.  I may do this for every month with 31 days although with April around the corner, I am itching to cast on something new.  Here's my latest project - a doublesided cushion.  On this side, I used up a skein of WYS Blue-Faced Leicester and the same crochet stitch that I recently used for my cowl (in fact this was the practice piece and when the skein was used up, I had a complete square, perfect for a cushion).  I really like all the natural colours in the wool.

For the back, I rummaged around my stash and found two skeins of Erika Knight Fun Wool that I'd bought ages ago on a whim. At the time, I had absolutely no idea what to make with it, but I was chuffed to find some novelty yarn that was mostly, (in this case 97%),  made up of wool instead of the acrylic.  The colour was a perfect match and I just roughly estimated the size, used 10mm needles and plain garter stitch and started knitting away. I added a button hole to one piece and found a great use for this gigantic wooden button that I got free with a magazine.  I'm really pleased with the squishy, shaggy result.  Two cushions in one and another WIP off the needles!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Not So Mellow Grellow. . .

When I received my latest Rowan Magazine 55 in the mail, I immediately fell in love with Dia by Martin Storey.  If I'd had the colours in my stash, I would have knit it exactly as it appeared.  I really like warm colours for a summer top.

However, since I'm trying to do some serious stashbusting this year, after going through my cotton, linen and hemp options this was the best colour combo I could come up with:

It is very, very bright.  Maybe too intense for me. I think using the zingy, almost neon yellow made the pattern go from a spicy Spanish/Moorish feel to a pop art geometric one,  and it seemed more appropriate to go with short sleeves, which was fairly easy to adapt.  I just measured where I wanted the sleeves to be, sewed up the sides and picked up stitches, doing six rounds of 2 x 2 rib to match the neck.

It definitely was a satisfying and fun pattern to knit and I do think the colours go well together; I'm just not sure that they really look well on me.   I wore it today when it was cloudy and gray and a bit chilly and I felt very self-conscious that I was somehow too bright.  I may change my mind on a sunny summer afternoon though - it could look nice over a flowing cotton skirt.  Someday I will knit this again in wool with the full sleeves because it would make a lovely fall sweater.

Monday, March 17, 2014

A Walk in Wales. . .

Walkers in the U.K. are usually torn between their love for the Lake District and Wales. I've not spent enough time walking in the latter to choose a favourite, so I was pleased that our walking group was heading out to North Wales yesterday.  And the weather was all set to be nice and dry.  It was a lovely drive along a coastal road past Conwy and several castles.  The morning coffee stop was in the tourist village of Betws-y-Coed which provides this interesting signpost in case you're a Canadian who needs to situate herself geographically.

But no time to stop and enjoy the sunshine. A fifteen minute drive away and it was gray and slightly misty when the coach dropped us off near the banks of Lake Ogwen.

We headed to the northern side and up.  I'm not sure which mountain we were climbing, but it's part of the Carneddau Range.

This part of Wales felt very bleak and stark to me. The terrain - bits of bog and tufts and stony paths - wasn't too hard underfoot, but it was fairly steep.  This is a view looking back at the lake once we'd begun our ascent.

A little bit of sunshine does wonders for the surrounding views though.

We could have kept going right to the top but it would have involved a rocky scramble and the summit was hidden in cloud anyways, so we decided getting up to this hidden tarn was good enough. It provided a suitable place to have lunch and was very peaceful.  The bleak can still be very beautiful.

We came down the same way we went up and proceeded along a lovely path to Capel Curig.  On the drive up I saw lots of meadows with newly born lambs but the terrain we were walking through was a bit too wild for them.  Fine for these hardy fellows though.

And here was our path to Capel Curig both looking ahead. . .

. . . and behind. 

Isn't it lovely? There's something very satisfying at the end of a day's walking, to just follow a winding and well-tread road. No worries about getting lost, just walking, chatting with your companions and enjoying the fresh air and views. It's one of the best ways to spend a Sunday.

Just steps from Capel Curig is this view down another valley. If you headed in that direction, you'd eventually come to Snowden, the highest peak in Wales and definitely on my list to tackle.  But that's for another day.