Wednesday, 22 February 2017

More Knitting Fun To Be Had. . .

Just when you think you have all your current knitting projects sorted, along comes a trio of new and exciting knit-a-longs to make you cast-on with complete abandon and foolishly increase that pile of WIPs with no concept of how long it will take to knit all the things!  I just can't stop casting on.

Tin Can Knits has just released a wonderful new e-book of eight sweater patterns, Heart On My Sleeve with all of the proceeds going to the Against Malaria charity which buys mosquito nets to help reduce this preventable disease.

Each sweater is designed by a different designer, but they are all knit from the bottom up and basically follow the same body instructions (there are choices for different hems and cuffs).  Then you can choose which yoke you prefer.  Thus, if  - like myself - you keep changing your mind, you can just start knitting and worry about the rest later. This can provide a great template for future sweaters and each pattern is sized from baby to adult.  There are also eight mini-patterns to create your own heart on a sleeve in, for example, lace, fair isle, duplicate stitch or crochet.  It's a really wonderful and very useful book. 

There is a KAL going on over in the Tin Can Knits ravelry group with some very lovely prizes. You have until April 18th to finish your sweater.  I've cast on with my WYS Blue-faced Leicester undyed DK. I'm torn at the moment between Crazyheart (featured on the cover), designed by Tanis Lavallee, and Hearthstone, designed by Ysolda Teague which has beautiful cables on either side of the raglan sleeves. 

Starting March 1st, A Year of Techniques will release its first pattern.  This is a great project by Jen Arnall-Culliford  and her husband Jim Arnall-Culliford to help build knitters' confidence and introduce them to new techniques.  Each month a new mystery design will be released that will highlight something new to try (you can see a list of the techniques here - I know I definitely need to improve my intarsia and steeking) and there will be online tutorials and KALs in the ravelry group.  You can purchase just the e-book, or the e-book and print book (which will be released in September). There will also be quarterly kits with the yarn to knit three months of projects. As of writing this, the spring kits have sold out, but you can find out when the summer kits go on sale by signing up to Jen's newsletter at the bottom of her website's home page

Full disclosure - I help moderate Jen's ravelry group, so I've known about this project for a little while and had a sneak peek at what is coming up.  Below are some of the amazing designers lined up, several of whom are real favourites of mine and also helped make The Book of Haps such an enjoyable and challenging book. I can't wait to see some of these designs.  For more on the designers, see this post

And just when I thought it was safe to ignore Stephen West  for a bit until his next mystery KAL in September, darn it all if he didn't go and post about a new spring one!  How can I resist?  It's aimed at using up all sorts of oddment leftovers of yarns; it promises a marled shawl, suggesting several ways to achieve it; and it's going to be another crazy and fun knitting adventure. Sign me up. 

I've already been digging out the stash but he suggests throwing in some mohair for texture, so I will have to find my odd balls of Kidsilk Haze too.  I'm quite excited about this one.  Kick off is March 3rd.  More information here.

It's never dull in the knitting world. . . 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Hap #8: Lang Ayre. . .

It's still my intention to knit every hap out of The Book of Haps, but other knitting projects keep getting in the way.  I have however, just finished my eighth one - Lang Ayre, designed by Gudrun Johnston.

This was a deceptively simple knit - lots of rows of simple garter stitch, but the stripe placement is so clever and I love how the colours bounce off each other.  I had to make one modification in that I didn't have enough of the main colour in the center diamond (the dark grey) to carry over into the two side triangles, so substituted a lighter grey.  But I think it works.

I really recommend this pattern for telly knitting and also its versatility. The hap's construction allows you to wear it with either the stripes showing vertically. . .

. . . or horizontally.

I'm really chuffed with it.  It's extra squishy and warm, knitted in various stash skeins of Blacker Yarns and in time for the BlackerPodKAL.   All the details are on my ravelry page here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Knitting Trials and Errors. . .

I suppose the more confident you get as a knitter, the more picky you are. And -  luckily - also a lot more patient.  This year I really want to challenge myself as a knitter, try some new techniques, spend a little more time on the fit of garments and while using up stash, try to be a little more canny and adventurous with my colours.    Alas, sometimes that means re-evaluating your yarn choices.

This is the first bit of my Uncia knitted up in a lovely, Orkney Texel wool.  I've seen this beautiful shawl mostly made with a yarn that gives more drape; something usually with silk in it.  However, I though I'd emphasize the cables instead, hence my choice of a more rustic, crisp wool.  Turns out, I really want softness and drape for this pattern. So - it will be frogged for another day.   I will use this wool for a different project and search in my stash for some Fyberspates or MadTosh instead.

Then there is Fox Paws.  I thought that using my five colours of St. Kilda lace weight would be perfect for this scarf, especially since I didn't want it to be as big as the original.  However, trying to do a k5tog with lace weight involves a lot of squinting and cursing.  And there are a lot of k5togs in this pattern!  After spending about ten hours to knit only a centimeter, I have decided that I love the pattern, have got the hang of all the increase and decrease techniques  and definitely want to make itb someday. But in 4ply.  So - another rip. Back to stash and picking out colours.  This will be on hold for a bit. 

My next attempt at trying to get a project going for the BlackerPodKAL - you have to use all Blacker yarns and finish your knit by March 4th - was Kate Davies' gorgeous Carraig Fhada vest.  Trouble is, I only have four balls of the main colour (the purple).  The pattern calls for five, so I used the mustard yellow for the ribbing instead to compensate.  I think I'm still going to run out. And I may have knitted it a bit too big.  Not entirely ready to rip this out yet, but it's been put in the naughty knitting corner to chill while I re-evaluate. 

As you can imagine, all of this was getting me a little frustrated.  The only solution was to whip up something quick and satisfying.  So I turned Kate's Singing Sands scarf pattern into a cowl and used the cheeriest colours of Buachaille to knit it.  It is so warm and snug and perfect for walks.  I did a two colour i-cord bind-off which gives it a nice edge.  Love it.

Then along came her gorgeous Kildalton cabled cardigan.  I had already ordered enough Buachaille in her new, deliciously deep blue colourway for Finlaggan, but decided to cast this on instead.

There is something so satisfying about creating a lovely textured fabric. This is slow knitting at its best (although I'd love to finish it by the Edinburgh Yarn Festival). 

And finally, I have a project for the BlackerPodKAL that is working.  I scrounged around in my stash and pulled out various skeins of Blacker yarns to cast on the Lang Ayre hap, designed by Gudrun Johnston.  There is some Tamar, some classic 4ply, Cornish Tin II,  pure breed Manx Loagtan and some of the St. Kilda laceweight from the abandoned Fox Paws, held double.  I have just started the last triangle and am loving the colour combinations. 

The ups and downs of a knitter that wants to knit ALL THE THINGS.  But some of it is working. . . 

Friday, 10 February 2017

A Sunday Walk From Staveley. . .

For those that don't like climbing the higher fells, there are still lots of wonderful walks and countryside to explore on the outskirts of the Lake District (see earlier posts about Broughton-in-Furness or Arnside, for example).  Staveley, which is between Kendal and Windermere, but still in the Lake District National park,  is another great starting point for a lovely ramble.

Last Sunday, our group did a ten mile circular from the village.  Very quickly you are among the rolling foothills.

Which then leads to moorland, still beautiful in its wintry desolation. I want to knit all the colours in the photo below.

Despite the emptiness, the paths were fairly visible and the ground quite springy, although there was a bit of mud here and there.

While the Herdys rule the Lake District, it's nice to come across some other breeds/cross-breeds of sheep.

And then to stumble across a surprise tarn is always lovely, especially when there is no wind and the water is still and reflective.

Beautiful isn't it?  And yet it has the rather undignified name of Gurnal Dubs.  No idea where it came from or if it is named after someone, but it seems too lovely to be called that. Apparently it is a quite popular place to go fishing, but we didn't see a soul about.

A few minutes walk along and we descended down to Potter Tarn.  Named after Beatrix perhaps?

And from there it was a gradual descent back to Staveley. . .

. . . and one last look west towards the rest of the Lake District.  I couldn't capture it in any of my photos, but we definitely saw the higher mountains in the distance, completely snow-covered.

I'll stick to the lower ground for now.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Signs of Spring. . .

This Saturday I woke up to the most glorious sight in my back garden.

Of all the bulbs we planted in containers and in the back yard, I was definitely not expecting this iris to bloom first.  Isn't it lovely?  There are nine others in the same pot, all sprouting up.  I can't wait to see the whole group of them in full flower.  This may be the most lovely thing I've ever grown - amateur gardener that I am.  It just made my weekend.

Saturday was crisp and sunny so the Liverpud and I walked into town.  We saw other signs of spring too.  Crocuses were in bloom in Princes Park.

And we spotted this gorgeous bank of snow drops in the St. James Gardens beside the Anglican Cathedral.

This weekend was also the start of our hiking season proper.  On Sunday we had a lovely walk around Staveley, but I'll save that for a future post later in the week.  Even after almost five years of living in the U.K., I still can't get my head around flowers in February.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

A Knitting Weekend in Northumberland. . .

Knitters are great company.  And they make things happen.

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Lucy decided to set up a Knitter's Brunch on a Sunday; just an informal opportunity to meet up with some other knitters, have some nice food, and then a quick pop over to a local yarn shop.  Sounded great - only it was taking place on the other side of the country.

I wasn't the only one lamenting the distance.  No problem. Lucy knew of a hostel nearby with beds that only cost £25 a night and she could pick us up at the train station.  Would we like to make a weekend of it and spend an evening in our jammies knitting?  Oh, yes, we would!

And so on Saturday, I was up early and on a train bound for Morpeth in Northumberland while Kelly was heading in the same direction from Birmingham, Deb from Bolton and Sarah from near Leeds.  Lucy picked us all up at the station and we first headed for a legendary secondhand bookstore in nearby Alnwick.  Barter Books is housed in an old railway station and was the place where the Keep Calm and Carry On poster first got its second wave of popularity.  It is a delightful treasure trove of a place to explore.

With a lovely cafe too and tables to hang out and knit.


I found a lovely volume of short stories by Elizabeth Gaskell.  I love the title - it just seemed to set the tone for the whole weekend.

Then it was off to our accommodation. I was expecting a bare bones hostel but couldn't have been more delighted to find our digs were previously a quilting shop.

How beautiful is this self-catering kitchen?  On the other side were comfy couches and a log burning fire.  Bliss.

And it was only five minutes from the beach!  This is Druridge Bay which was definitely worth getting up early for.  I caught the most beautiful sunrise on Sunday morning.

Later on we went back for a short walk. The beach stretches for miles and is relatively deserted,  Just sand, sky and water.

Following the tide line, I was mesmerized by all the gorgeous colours of the pebbles and sea glass that washes up.

I saw colour palettes for future knitting projects everywhere.

I could have stayed on that beach all morning, but brunch was calling.  Lucy drove us to the village of Felton where we met up with other local knitters at the Running Fox Bakery.

If you want to sit outside, they will even provide hot water bottles for you.

Brunch was delicious - I had organic sausages from the local butcher on French Toast.

It was then off to Fine Fettle Fibres, a tiny, but well-stocked shop located in a building with lots of other craft studios.  I bought some of my desert island yarn (West Yorkshire Spinners' Blue-faced Leicester DK),  a skein of Dovestone DK in their new colourway "Heathcliff" and a skein of beautiful marled Jacob yarn from Jessie's Field, located right in Felton. 


It was a wonderful weekend mini-break with lots of knitting time on the train too.  Northumberland is definitely an area of the country that I'd like to return to.  I didn't even have time to explore a castle!  Thanks so much Lucy for making this weekend a reality.  And do keep an eye out on her website - she has plans afoot to offer budget knitting retreats using the same venue that we stayed in.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

2017: It's Going to Be All About Colour. . .

Hello again.  Happy belated New Year.  I can't believe that January is almost over, but I had a bit of a ten day hiccup in my usual routine. I had to travel back to Toronto to help my Mum move up to Sault Ste. Marie, where my brother lives.  It all was a bit sudden but definitely the right move; her new apartment is gorgeous and while it will take a little while to settle in, my brother is only ten minutes away and everyone I met was so incredibly friendly.  There is a lot of snow and winter can last into May, but the summers will be lovely without all the humidity and smog that has become the staple of a Toronto July.

This is what the St. Mary's River looked like when I was there, although I thought the grounded tugboats looked rather jolly in the bleak landscape.

There's quite a nice cultural scene in the Soo (Mum has already been to a concert), and there is a lovely yarn shop - Shabby Motley - located on the main downtown street, which also includes a cafe. I took Mum there when we were exploring downtown and we had lattes and homemade raspberry scones.

Shabby Motley carry a Canadian brand of yarn that was new to me - Sugar Bush Yarns.  I couldn't help buying two balls of their soft, chunky Chill.  Okay, I fell for the name as much as the colours.

It was then slightly surreal to get back to Liverpool and see my back garden; the camellia bush is already starting to bloom.

These may not be far behind. . .

The Liverpud and I -  amateur gardeners that we are - bought about two hundred bulbs of varying kinds last autumn and just scattered them around the backyard and in a few containers.  There are definitely daffodils, bluebells, snowdrops, tulips and some irises.  No real pattern, we just planted them and we'll see what comes up.  I am hoping for constant colour all spring.

And speaking of colour, that is my mantra for 2017.  Which is not to say that neutrals and greys won't still feature in my knitting.  I was thrilled with my final knit of last year, which I've forgotten to post here.  I have worn my Snowflake sweater by Tin Can Knits constantly this winter and just love the pattern and how the speckled Hedgehog Fibres and the Rowan Tweed work together so well.

But I'm equally in love with my first knit of 2017 which I finished just before heading to Canada.  This is the Lausavisa Jumper by Karie Westermann, knit in Ístex Léttlopi.

It was a really quick knit on 6mm needles, knit from the bottom up and I had such fun knitting the yoke. The yarn is airy and so, so, warm and light.  It was the PERFECT travel jumper, keeping me cozy on the plane and keeping the windchill out when I was in Canada.  Ironically, I felt colder in Toronto than further up north in Sault Ste. Marie, because the wind tunnels created by all the skyscrapers is just bone chilling.  This Icelandic yarn also blocks beautifully and all the stitches smooth out to really show the pattern.

I have caught the colour bug AND the colourwork bug.  My travel project was the First Fair Isle sweater from Amirisu magazine.  There are some beautiful colourways on ravelry but I really wanted to use some stash so am knitting it with Rowan Felted Tweed (the stone and dark green colours) and some Scottish Rowan Tweed (the more vibrant green).  This is a great design - it's knit top-down so there is no steeking involved.  At the moment, I haven't yet decided whether to make it a short-sleeved top, or to do the full fair isle long sleeves.  I will finish the body with its' colourful ribbing and then make a decision.

But before I could finish it,  Kate Davies' next pattern in her Inspired by Islay project came out - the Carraigh Fhada vest.  Oh MY!  I had to cast on right away.  Originally, I wanted to knit it with Buchaille in the exact colourway that Kate presented, because quite frankly, it's perfect.  But the BlackerPodKAL was also starting up and I hadn't yet picked a project. So I did a little stash digging and (hopefully) have found enough Blacker DK to knit this beautiful pattern.  For my main colour, I'm using 4 balls of Westcountry Tweed which I've had in my stash for at least five years.  The newer version of this yarn has far more flecks of different colours in it; my earlier version is quite smooth and uniform in colour.  For the contrast colours, I'm using Tamar in Camel and Gwindra, and the dark black is a ball of Pure Breed Zwartbles.  Here's how it looks knitted up so far:

I know I need to get back to my First Fair Isle, but I'm just having so much fun with this vest.  I'll be going to the Shetland Islands for the first time in August and all I want to do these days is fair isle.  I'm hoping that after these are finished, I can also tackle the Crofthoose Yoke sweater, designed by Ella Gordon and then  Next Year in Lerwick, designed by Tori Seierstad, which just seems so appropriate for this trip.  I know a few of the women I'll be travelling with are planning to knit this too, so it would be fun to see all our different projects together.

I am going to be busy!