Sunday, 28 December 2014

It's Knitting Time. . .

Whew!  December has been a busy month.  I started a new job (far more interesting than my last two, and much better hours) worked quite a bit of overtime, got caught up in all the craziness of the holidays, whipped back to Canada for a week to help my Mum move flats, whipped up my only knitted gift and even though I was a few days late with the post, it fortunately arrived just in time for Christmas.   This is a trinity stitch cowl made with two strands of Wendy Ramsdale DK held together.  I love the texture and coziness of it and really need to make one for myself.

One of the things I did knit up for me was a new hat.  This is the Stovetop Hat from Tin Can Knits' new book Road Trip.  The wool is Debbie Bliss Luxury Tweed and it was a fun and relatively quick knit.  I made the medium size but perhaps the smaller size would have been a wee bit more snug.  I'm always hopeless at getting the sizing right for hats.

You can wear it a bit slouchy, or pull it right down to cover the ears.

The hat has been worn quite a lot as it's turned a little chilly in Liverpool.  We actually got snow on Boxing Day, but not enough to stick around.  This is what it looked like in Sefton Park on Christmas Eve as, shopping all done, the Liverpud and I took one of our favourite walks through the parks and down to the Mersey.  I still can't get over how green everything stays through the winter months.

The tide was high and it was very windy by the water but the hat stayed on!

I also wore my new tunisian crocheted mittens made by my friend S.  The tight weave created by this technique really makes them warm.  I love the festive embroidery on them.

And now it's time to relax and get on with some new projects.  I have this crazy ambition, fuelled by an enabling group on ravelry, to try and knit 12 sweaters/jumpers in 2015.  You can include wips and I have four of them; this challenge might just be what I need to finally finish them.

This is my latest work in progress - Sous Sous by Norah Gaughan.  The cabling is just gorgeous. I'm using Bluefaced Leicester DK from West Yorkshire Spinners.

Knitting, reading, watching DVDs, baking and taking long walks - this is my plan for the week ahead.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Ten Miles Around Grassington. . .

Our last ramblers' walk was to the lovely Yorkshire town of Grassington which I definitely would like to explore in more detail. Walking through it, I was constantly distracted by the shop and cafe windows.   Oh, how I'd love to visit during their Dickensian Christmas festivities

Situated right in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, there are plenty of good walks just outside the village with lots of typical Yorkshire dry stone walls on display.

Soon our walk took us on to part of the Dales Way, a long distance walk that I aim to do in full one day.  I loved how the clouds ahead looked like mountains. 

Some people find this type of landscape very bleak but I love it.  The air was very still, fresh and dry and it feels great to breathe it all in and get the lungs and legs working.

In the 19th century there was lots of industry -  limestone quarries and lead mines.  This is a lime kiln built over 150 years ago.

And the limestone is very evident in the surrounding landscape.

The light was fantastic and the trees so very still.

Our way back to Grassington took us down old mining tracks where there are still remnants of buildings and shafts.  Not a place to stray off the main road.

The final bit was a lovely path along the River Wharf.

The days are so short now so our walks are accordingly cut by half an hour to an hour but the upside is that we do get to glimpse some lovely sunsets.  We made it to the pub just before it went completely dark, but alas, after all the shops had closed, including the wool one.  Next time.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Third Time Lucky?. . .

I'm persevering with this Stephen West KAL because I absolutely love the pattern, but it's been really tough to get my colours right.  This was the first incarnation and my border colour just didn't have enough contrast (along with having mixed up a RS with a WS).  Scrapped.

For my second endeavour, I got as far as halfway through Clue #2.  These colours go together much better, but they really aren't my colours.  I'd end up never wearing this.

Also my brioche went quite wonky.  Love the springy fabric that it creates though - I just needed more practice.  Version 2 scrapped.

This is version 3  - back to lace weight, using a skein of Noro Sekku with some Debbie Bliss laceweight as the white border.  This is Clue 1 finished and I'm really happy with the colours.

I finished Clue 2 on the train to Harrogate for their Knitting and Stitching Show this past weekend. Still made a few mistakes with the brioche, but they are on the edges and I can live with it.  I really want to knit a whole brioche scarf now.  I feel very chuffed to have learned this new technique. 

Working madly on Clue 3 now which is just rows of garter stitch, before tackling the final clue - a border of chevrons which I may stripe.  The whole shawl is looking a little Christmassy to me, but I think I'll like the finished project.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Daytripping: Victorian Manchester. . .

This post is mainly to extol the virtues of the many volunteers that work so hard to keep England's literary and historical heritage alive and accessible.  Earlier this month I made a day trip to Manchester with my bookish friends to visit two such sites that have been saved from demolition and decay by the hard work of many passionate people.

Our first stop was the recently reopened house of novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.

I blogged earlier about a trip to Knutsford, the town that inspired Gaskell's Cranford, but she actually wrote the book, along with North and South, Ruth, Wives and Daughters and her biography of Charlotte Bronte, in this house - 84 Plymouth Grove.

While there is still a lot of work to be done on restoring the house, you will not meet a nicer, enthusiastic or more knowledgeable group of volunteers, greeting you at the door, answering questions in each of the period rooms and taking their turns serving tea in the delightful basement tea room (you get to pick your own china tea cup).  Most of the ground floor has been restored and they are working on recreating one of the bedrooms upstairs.  Plans are also well under way on the garden as well; a place that Gaskell loved for its privacy as this plaque celebrates. 

Just a short walk from Gaskell's house is another major restoration work in progress - the Victoria Baths, originally opened in 1906 and left to decay after it was closed in 1993. The Friends of Victoria Baths have worked tirelessly to save the building.  We managed to get a glimpse inside on the last weekend it was open to the public before shutting for the winter.

The building has a gorgeous facade and originally had three separate entrances; one for First Class Males, one for Second Class Males and the final one for Females.

This is the Females Pool which was the smallest of the three.

I love the beachy feel of the change rooms that lined the side of the pool.

The whole building has remnants of beautiful decorative features from distinctive tiles along the landings and stairways to mosaic floors and stained glass windows.  There is a workshop in the basement where volunteers are learning how to repair and restore the stained glass.

Even the old supervisor's rooms have some gorgeous features like this beautiful fireplace.

The basement also houses the Turkish Baths with their beautiful blue and teal tile work.

Both sites are well worth a visit if you are in the Manchester area.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Out of My Colour Comfort Zone: Clue #1. . .

I've decided to go in a completely different direction with Stephen West's Exporation Station mystery KAL.  After knitting for about two hours and discovering I'd made a silly mistake and a RS became a WS, I couldn't face ripping back about twenty rows of mohair!

On to plan B.  I've changed the border colour; the dark teal is Titus Eccup.  And for my three contrast colours, I've used a ball of Louisa Harding Amitola which has long colour changes.  The wedges aren't as defined as some of the lovely projects I've seen on ravelry - there are some with really bold colours outlined in white that are fantastic looking - and these colours are a little out of my comfort zone but I'm liking the look so far and absolutely loving the knitting process.  As always, Stephen West has delivered a really unique and interesting pattern, so I'm trying to embrace the odd colours and see where they (or Stephen) will lead me.

The next clue has just arrived and it's brioche stitch - a completely new technique to me.  Dare I switch up some of the colours or even add a new one into the mix?  I'm looking foward to experimenting this weekend. . .

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Keeping Up With the KALs. . .

I am a sucker for KALs (knit-alongs), especially when they involve a pattern or designer that I really admire.  I'm very good at getting myself psyched with anticipation and then casting on with hundreds of others on ravelry and then. . . and then. . . well, life intervenes and I end up having too many projects on the go!  But I am getting them slowly under control.
I have finally finished my Lush cardigan, designed by Tin Can Knits. This was a KAL begun by several British podcasters, starting with Knit British and I tried to keep up but there was the matter of that Martin Storey blanket to complete.  I've finished nearly two months after everyone else, but hey, it's now done and I have a new autumn cardigan.  The yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers and it's a bit more orangey-red than the photo shows. 

The fit is perfect even if this rushed photo shows it to be a bit wrinkly.  I also have to reblock my button bands as I'd made a silly mistake and had to reknit both of them after I'd sewed the buttons on!

I'm also working on Rowan's Kaffe Fassett KAL.  Since I can't quite face another afghan, I've opted to do the small cushion and am being even lazier by knitting just one out of the two squares specified for each clue.  I'm guessing the second square is for the back of the pillow and I prefer to use fabric instead.  I do have some Kaffe striped material that will be perfect.  Each square follows the same pattern and sequence of stripes; the mystery is how all the colours will work together in the end. I'm following the pattern's placement but using some 4ply from my stash.  Here are my first three squares and I'm not at all sure how this will turn out colourwise.  There are some fabulous photos on ravelry from knitters doing the whole afghan.

And then this Friday is the start of Stephen West's next mystery shawl KAL, Exploration Station.

I've knitted his last two KALs and really loved the process. They were creative and original and so much fun to knit.  I learned a lot of new techniques too.  This was the first - Rockefeller - which I still trot out frequently.

 And then came Colour Craving.

This last one was so huge that to be honest, I don't wear it that often. So for this new KAL, I'm going with laceweight.  The pattern calls for four colours, one main, border colour and then three good contrast colours.  I'm torn at the moment between two options from my stash.  I could add some texture by throwing in some mohair.

Or use this raspberry Madeline Tosh as the main, with three balls of Lousia Harding Amitola that has shades of gray, chartreuse and deep forest green in it.

I have until tomorrow to decide.  So excited to see the first clue!

Friday, 17 October 2014

An Autumn Shawl. . .

I have lots of works in progress on the knitting front these days (and am signed up to too many KALs!) but I did recently finish my Delita, designed by Nadia Cretin-Lechenne

The pattern is from the latest issue of Pom Pom Magazine, a charming indy publication which I subscribe to as I absolutely love the photography, styling, articles, feel and look of it.  There are recipes too!  And the patterns are always original, slightly quirky and very appealing to knit.

It was the border of this shawl that really caught my eye. After a body of mesh, there's a row of bobbles in a contrast colour and then two triangular lace borders, one on top of the other.  I chose to make the larger one in the contrast colour.

The wool used for the body is most of a skein of Freia Handpainted Lace that I picked up at the Knit Cafe when I visited Toronto last summer.  The colourway is Maple and I liked the gradations from the smoky brown to an almost dusty deep rose.  The green is some Madeline Tosh lace from my stash.   Though the pattern called for 4ply, I preferred to make it with the smaller yarn to create more of a scarf than the initial generously sized shawl, although in hindsight, I should also have adapted it to be a bit more crescent shaped.

It still works nicely as a shawlette however, and keeps my neck cozy if I wrap it around a few times.  It certainly feels and looks very autumnal to me.