Thursday, 28 March 2013

All The Colours of Yorkshire. . .

Here's some really exciting wool news (at least for me).  One of my favourite wool shops in the UK is Baa Ram Ewe on the outskirts of Leeds, and their latest newsletter is full of exciting updates about Titus, their very own yarn.  I'm a huge fan of Titus, which is part Grey Wensleydale, part Bluefaced Leicester and part alpaca, and is really soft and lovely to work with. I used it for the background of my too-small fair isle hat.  Being a Yorkshire lass by birth, I'm also quite sentimental about Titus, named after Titus Salt, the mill owner who also founded Saltaire, his attempt at creating a utopian village with good working and housing conditions for his workers, now a Unesco World Heritage site.  It's also the place where my grandparents lived for decades and what I think of as my spiritual home in England.   And the restored Salts Mill is well worth a visit.

Titus has been hard to get; it's always sold out.  But the shop seems to have secured a production deal that will ensure that more stock will soon be readily on hand.  Plus they now have a distributor in Canada, so shortly it should be available in yarn stores over there. PLUS, they are going to introduce some new colours, inspired by all things Yorkshire.  Take a look at these; I'm swooning.

I just love, love these colours, particularly parkin, chevin and eccup.  I want to do a fair isle sweater with all of them.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Winter Walking. . . in Spring!

Yesterday, as the coach travelled north, I was really doubting my sanity.  The Royal Navy helicopters had been called out to rescue four hikers in different parts of the Lake District on Saturday.  The weather was calling for gusty winds and -22 degrees windchill on the top of the hills.  But the sun was shining and I made sure I was well bundled up (long-sleeve base layer, wool sweater, fleece on top of that, and then my windbreaker, with fleece tights under the walking pants).  I also finished my new woolly hat in time (and it fit!!!!  - the pattern is the Check Slouch by Triona Murphy)

And you know what?  It was one of the nicest walks I have ever done.   Yes, the wind was fierce but the paths were good and it's actually easier to walk on snow than in mud or bog. Our leader wisely decided to alter the route and not climb too high to avoid being blown over, but the wonderful thing about the Lake District is that the scenery is just as stunning from the valleys looking up as it is from the tops looking down.  This northern part of the Lakes is one that I hadn't walked before and I definitely want to return and explore it more thoroughly. We started just outside the village of Threlkeld.

And then made our way through the lovely St. John's in the Vale.

The sheep were enjoying the scenery too.

And clearly in this region, hikers are always expected no matter what the weather.

We skirted around High Rigg with Skiddaw (England's fourth highest mountain) then coming into view.

We then detoured half a mile to see a wonderful stone circle.  Now there are many of these all around Britain, but you'd be hard pressed to find one with a more beautiful 360 degree view.  Stonehenge has nothing on this!

Then it was downhill toward Derwent Water,

en route to the town of Keswick and a well deserved shandy.

And a day that I was half dreading turned out to be a very enjoyable one indeed.  Unfortunately, not all of the country has fared as well during this unseasonable snow storm.  Lots of people are still without power and especially on the Isle of Man hundreds of sheep and other livestock have died in the snow drifts.  I'm definitely ready for spring now.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Comeuppance. . .

This post is for all my Toronto friends who have had to endure me blogging about spring weather and daffodils.  I was sharply reminded of home yesterday as fierce winds and snow blew into Liverpool.  Here's the "spring" camellia bush in our backyard this morning:

And I'm scheduled to go walking in the Lake District tomorrow!  That should be interesting.  In a perfect world, I'd wear my new fair isle hat which I finished this week.  But. . .

. . . my hat curse continues.  Despite aggressive blocking, the darn thing is too small!  Sigh.  Yes, I should have done a gauge swatch. Looking for a deserving kid with a small head now.  Still, it was good practice for fair isle and I feel I can confidently tackle other fair isle projects.  But for the moment, I'm trying to finish a new hat in time for tomorrow.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Bleak and Beautiful Bronte Country. . .

Scenes from our latest walk on the moors near Haworth. I absolutely adore this type of landscape although it would look even more stunning in the autumn when the heather is in bloom.

It's been eighteen years since I last visited Top Withins, but it still gives me a literary thrill.

And the view from the ruins is incomparable.

It was a long 14.5 mile walk through a lot of bog and mud and I was completely knackered and sore by the end, but it was worth it.  Plenty of sheep to see too.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Going Underground. . .

While I'm waiting for a chance to get some Mind the Gap yarn (the dyer can only do so much at a time and it sells out quite quickly), I'm also coveting this boxed set of twelve books, by twelve different writers, all celebrating 150 years of the London Underground.   The writers include John Lanchester, Lucy Wadham, William Leith and John O'Farrell, and each has written about one of the tube's lines.  I really like the design of the collection.  And I want to knit a colourful scarf with the yarn to go along with it.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

I Love, Love, Love Lemon. . . (and Lime). . .

I've finally got around to trying the recipe on the cover of the September 2012 issue of Delicious magazine (which is why I bought it).   So this is what Rick Stein's version looks like. 

And here's mine:

I still have to work on my pastry; I find it really hard to roll it out thinly enough.  However the filling was absolutely delicious with just the perfect balance between tart and sweet, (it contains the juice of three lemons and one lime) and it was very simple to make.  This has become my new favourite lemony dessert.

Monday, 11 March 2013

Fair Isle. . .

I've had a fascination with Guernsey ever since reading The Book of Ebenezer Le Page by G.B. Edwards, which looks at life on the Channel Island through most of the twentieth century and features a wonderfully cranky and astute narrator. 

So I was really pleased to find a new crafty podcast called iMake, created by Martine, a knitter and all-round crafter living on Guernsey.  She also has a great blog and regularly posts pictures of life on the island. One of her new year's resolutions was the same as mine - to finally tackle fair isle and stranded knitting.  And she led me to a great pattern - the Selbu Modern hat, designed by Kate Gagnon Osborn.  It took a bit of time to get used to holding the two strands of yarn at the same time and I'm not sure about my tension at times, but hey - I'm about a quarter of the way through and a pattern is definitely emerging!  It's really fun to do; I can easily see myself getting addicted to fair isle. 

Friday, 8 March 2013

I Wonder. . . .

The only moment that I laughed during Terrence Malick's new movie To The Wonder, was when the credits were rolling, the lights had come on and an elderly woman with a loud voice and quite a distinctive Scouse accent bellowed out, "What the hell was that all about???"

Fair enough. It's not a comedy. And if you didn't like Malick's previous film Tree of Life (I was lukewarm) then this probably isn't your cup of tea either. Given a choice between the two, I prefer To The Wonder although parts of it left me yawning. I had high hopes with the beginning, suggestive of one of those French movies that loves to intellectualize relationships. We have a woman's voice-over in French, (Olga Kurylenko) talking about the deep connection she feels with her lover (a rather bland Ben Affleck - the guy really is no good at brooding) as the two cavort around Paris and take a trip to Mont St. Michel. The scenes at this medieval landmark are truly beautiful and haunting, especially those where the couple are wobbling precariously on the shifting sands as the tide comes in. We then shift to a sterile suburban neighbourhood in the U.S where the couple live in a large empty house with minimal furniture and absolutely nothing that denotes any personality whatsoever.  Meanwhile Javier Bardam plays a priest who has lost his faith and is trying to find it amongst his most downtrodden parishioners. Affleck tries to find love amongst the buffaloes, with an old flame played by Rachel McAdams.  All four characters mostly speak inaudibly but it might just be that the wind -  which is constantly blowing -  is taking any dialogue along with it.  There are some lovely shots, but to be honest in the second half  I found myself more interested in Kurylenko's knitwear (gorgeous sweaters and wraps), than any plot development, such as there was. I can appreciate the ambiguity and the questioning of faith and human connection, but surely love (or the search for it) is more wonderful than that.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

My Perfect Night at the Theatre. . .

Remember Edward Petherbridge who portrayed Lord Peter Wimsey in the BBC series?

He's one of a handful of British actors (well, there are scores actually) with such a smooth musical voice that if he were reading the shipping forecast, even I would find it mesmerizing.  And last night I got to see him live in Liverpool!

He's performing this week at the Unity Theatre with Paul Hunter in a brilliant two-hander called My Perfect Mind that recounts his experiences having a stroke just before he was due to play King Lear in New Zealand.

Alongside flashbacks to his childhood growing up in Bradford, reminiscences of his mother who had a stroke two days before he was born, and his deceased brother who worked as a policeman, there were also plenty of entertaining and wry observations about the crazy world of theatre with some particularly hilarious encounters with Laurence Olivier (Hunter plays all the secondary characters with enjoyably manic aplomb and the simple use of props).  We also get a taste of what his Lear would have been like as the audience are treated to plenty of scenes from the play,  including a surreal storm scene, after which Petherbridge (who flits back and forth between himself and Lear) turned to the audience and remarked something along the lines of: "This isn't the production of Lear that I wanted to be in. It's the Tate Modern on a really bad day." Which rather sums up the zaniness of the production that was mostly conducted on a stage tilted at a 45 degree angle. 

It was great fun and that voice has not lost any of Wimsey's drollness.  I absolutely loved it.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Obsessing About. . .


I really want to knit a cape. They are coziness personified, perfect for transitional weather, for keeping my shoulders warm while reading in bed and for hopefully giving me Super Knitting powers.  Look at these lovelies, starting with the Solfar designed by Stephen West.

 And I love the collar on this elegant Careen Capelet, designed by Louise Zass-Bangham.

But just as I was fantasizing about capes, who should come out with the most gorgeous design of all?  None other than the amazing Kate Davies.  Check this out (and see more stunning photos on her blog here.) It's probably not the project I should be tackling for my first ever attempt at fair isle, but it is just so gorgeous, I may just dive in. At any rate, I'm definitely purchasing the pattern.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Things That Make Me Happy. . .

Another glorious, mild and sunny weekend with absolutely nothing planned. Never really having had a garden before, I'm fascinated to go out each day and see the progress of what's growing.  Not long to wait now for the daffodils.

And soon the camellia bush will be in full bursting bloom.

My tulips continue to grow.

And Sponge is back, basking in her favourite sunny nook.

I've also finished two knitting projects.  The first is my Leftie scarf, designed by Martina Behm, which I've been working on for months. It was probably crazy to do this in laceweight, but now that it's done, I love the softness and drape.

I also knit a hat for the Liverpud taking a Woolly Wormhead pattern from the latest issue of Simply Knitting.   It's a teeny, weeny bit small, so I may redo it and knit him the larger size, as it was a fairly quick knit.  He seems to like it, just wants it to cover his ears.