Thursday, 25 September 2014

Some Easy Stashbusting Blankets. . .

I've been on a roll with blankets lately.  My huge granny square has now become big enough to cover the double bed so I'm calling it done for now (just a few ends to weave in). It's heavy, but very cosy to snuggle under and I love all the colours.  I used just bits and bobs of leftover stash and it was the perfect project for telly watching.  I basically used mostly DK weight, but threw in the odd chunky yarn (just did three doubles instead of four for each space) and a few fingering weights held double. I really like being reminded of previous projects when I look at this blanket and also really happy that I finally found a use for some odd skeins that I just couldn't find a project for. 
This week I also finished this throw for the spare bedroom. The pattern is adapted from Stephen West's Garter Squish blanket (free on ravelry) and again, it's a great stashbuster. You just knit as many rows of garter stitch as you like with chunky yarn (or DK held double), along with a contrasting colour of lace or 4ply which creates this lovely mottled, tweedy effect.  I just did two separate lengths of differently sized stripes, crocheted them together and added a crochet edging.  I have guests coming from Canada tomorrow (hooray!) and as the nights are getting a bit chilly, this will hopefully keep one of them warm.


I would love to be able to say that these two blankets have made a significant dent in my stash but alas (hangs head) they really haven't. 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Walking in Rogue Herries Country Part Two: Up Skiddaw

This is Keswick with the imposing Skiddaw rising above it.  One of the key characters spanning the books in the Herries Chronicles is the fiery Judith Paris who has to constantly battle between her love of living wild and isolated among the fells at Watendlath, and her desire to manage the lives of the more civilised Herries' living at Uldale, just on the other side of Skiddaw.  Keswick plays a recurring role in the books; indeed when we visited, there was a market down the main street and while the wares may have been different from centuries ago, (though there was still wool!), you could certainly squint and picture it as it might have been.

Every time I've visited Keswick, I've wanted to climb Skiddaw, which is the 6th highest peak in England at just over 3050 feet. It's also covered in beautiful heather at this time of year. The first part of the hike is quite a gentle.

Looking east towards Blencathra, one stumbles on this lovely memorial to two 19th century shepherds, father and son, who were also breeders of prize Herdwicks.  I can't help but think of Wordsworth's poem "Michael", hoping this had a happier ending. 

Looking back from the slopes of Skiddaw, you get an amazing view of Keswick, Derwentwater and Catbells and the Newlands Horseshoe prominent among a wave of amazing fells.

Then further up there are more great views of Blencathra or Saddleback as it's also known.

Like many high mountains, Skiddaw can be a slog at times.  And it does have one of the worst false tops I've ever encountered. We're already fairly high up in the photo below and it looks as if there's just one more steep climb ahead of us.

But no - here's what greeted us. Down and up again!

But the views are worth it.  This is almost near the summit, looking west towards Bassenthwaite Lake.

And once down again in the late afternoon, a final smug look back.  Yep, that's another peak crossed off.  And we got back with an hour still to go for browsing in the market.  I did mention a wool stall!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Staying Together. . .

On top of the Scottish hills near Glencoe in 2010

I woke up this morning to the same relief I felt in 1995 when Quebec voted (very narrowly) to stay in Canada.  The vote wasn't as close in Scotland (45% voted for independence) but all week it was impossible to know which way it would go.  I have a strong love for Scotland and the Scots (Glencoe was where I met the Liverpud and so was ultimately responsible for my having moved to the UK) and I really didn't want to see it leave the union. However the referendum has fueled an increased interest in politics (always good) and it will be fascinating to see how events unfold as various debates over how separate areas of the UK can gain more control over local policies get underway

Knitting - apart from yarnbombing - isn't often seen as political but I couldn't help but grin at the latest issue of The Knitter.  I have a subscription to this magazine and I really love it as it always seeks out really interesting and challenging designs.  Take a look at this UK intarsia dress that was on the front cover, called Britannia and designed by Belinda Harris-Reid.   Topical coincidence?

I find the actual design of the dress a bit too loose and awkward for my tastes but I'm definitely motivated to use the chart to knit perhaps a sweater or a cushion in celebration of last night's vote. Maybe in Shetland wool? (Shetland by the way voted No).

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Walking in Rogue Herries Territory Part One. . .

I've spent a good part of the summer slowly reading my way through the Herries Chronicles by Hugh Walpole (I'm currently on Volume Three, The Fortress).  These sagas were written in the 1930s and they chronicle two hundred years in the lives of various branches of the Herries family starting from the 18th century.  Most of the tales are set in the Lake District in the Borrowdale Valley and the hills and fells around Keswick, and along with the dramatic story, I'm just loving Walpole's passionate descriptions of the area. He is fantastic at describing the landscape, vividly capturing it in all its varied seasons, amidst the incredible changes of light and the indomitable weather.  If Sir Walter Scott had tackled the Forsythe Saga, you might get an approximation of what Walpole has accomplished in this series which is so much fun to read. 

My immense enjoyment of these books is only enhanced by my growing familiarity with the places in which they are set, so I was more than happy to accompany the Liverpud on a recent weekend to Keswick to do a recce for one of his upcoming walks.  We started in Braithwaite with our main climbing objective being Causey Pike, that little pimple - or nobble as they call it -  that you can see on the top of the mountain at the left.

Starting our ascent up Rowling End, you can see straight down the beautiful valley.  The colours of the heather and other fall foliage is really remarkable and absolutely lovely at this time of year.

Still climbing up and we came across this lonely tree.  No others at all on the mountainside.

From the top of Rowling End, you can see the last bit of the route up to Causey Pike.

Right near the top you need to do a little scrambling. Normally this terrifies me, but it's fairly straightforward and there are lots of little routes to choose from, so it wasn't too bad especially as the weather was sunny and dry.

I knew the views would be stunning.  I can't capture the full 360 degree experience in photos, but it's amazing. There are mountain ranges all around you as far as the eye can see;  you feel a tiny speck among all the grandeur but also on top of the world.

We then walked along a lovely ridge path enjoying the views.  We had woolly company too.

Our way back to Braithwaite took us through a lovely valley towards Barrow which was our last climb of the day.

And to the right you can glimpse the route we took at the beginning - see the lonely tree? There's something so brave and stoic about it. 

We didn't come across any mad Cumbrians, gypsies, witches or scar-faced riders on our walk, all of which populate Walpole's novels, but I suspect the landscape that he loved and feared hasn't changed a bit.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Martin Storey's Mystery Afghan: It's Finally Finished!. . .

After five months, eighty squares, an endless cable trim, a crochet border around each square and then another row of crochet to seam each square together, and what seemed like thousands of ends to weave in. . . 

. . . and here finally is my finished afghan in all its wonky glory. 

The wool is almost 95% British starting with two variegated yarns from Jillybeans as the inspiration, and then trying to pick out complimentary colours from my stash, mostly using Titus, and Alpaca yarns from John Arbon,  all of which are lovely to knit with. I think there's a bit of Rowan 4ply wool in there too.  Since several of Martin Storey's square designs used texture as a key element (which didn't show up in the variegated yarns), I tweaked most squares by using colour to make the pattern pop and cobbled a few square designs of my own from stitch dictionaries. And as I was using 4ply, I had to knit almost double the squares; this has clearly been the biggest knitting project I've ever completed.

I wasn't sure at first if all the squares would go together but I am loving the final look despite my somewhat lopsided crochet  (I tried to block all the squares to the same size but there were slight variations).  And even though I was using 4ply, the blanket is surprisingly warm - perfect for cosy autumn nights watching movies on the couch.

So then I was quite chuffed about finishing and looking forward to tackling some other projects, but first I took some photos and went to post them on ravelry. And wouldn't you know, THIS was just announced:

It's Kaffe Fassett.  It's colourwork.  Resistance is futile.  Fortunately, there is an option to do a small or an oblong cushion as well as an afghan.  I will definitely do the cushion while cheering the afghan knitters from the sidelines.  Now the only question is - do I use more 4ply from my stash (yes, I still have tons).  Surely it couldn't take that long to do a cushion in 4ply. . .