Thursday, 29 January 2015

My Colour Exploration Ends. . . Finally!. . .

I wrote previously about the trouble I was having choosing colours for this darn pattern.  And then shortly afterwards, I scrapped yet another version and cast on again with a whole new palette.  And finally finished  my Exploration Station.

I was helped in my indecision by the fabulous finished shawls that I saw on Ravelry.  In the end, I went back to fingering weight as the shawl is big enough to wrap around the shoulders nicely.  And I decided to add a fifth colour and do a contrasting colour bind-off. Nothing like 1700 other projects to inspire and motivate you.

All the yarn is British.  The white, oatmeal and green come from Blacker Yarns; the dark grey is Titus in the coal colourway, and the orange is a lovely hand-dyed skein of Jillybeans.

I absolutely love it, whether as a shawl or bundled up around my neck. The colours seem to go really nicely together and once I made a decision, the knitting was interesting and fun to do.  I think I've finally cracked the brioche stitch.

I love these KALs - so much so, that I've decided to complete the set, so I've just cast on for Stephen's first mystery KAL which I never participated in at the time.  The pattern is Earth & Sky and it will allow me to practice my intarsia.  I'm using some Madeline Tosh, some natural dyed purple British wool which I picked up at a show last year, and some Noro Taiyo sock in shades of browns and greens.  I'm only four years late on this one, but it's simple telly knitting, so should knit up quickly.  As long as I stay happy with the colours!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

A Walk Up Pendle Hill. . .

This is the infamous Pendle Hill in Lancashire, full of witchcraft lore and history, although the only thing brewing on the day of this walk was some foul, windy weather.  I've passed Pendle's distinctive shape so many times on the motorway and have always wanted to climb it, so when it came up on the walking group's schedule, I was definitely going - no matter the forecast!

We started from the tiny village of Downham and were soon climbing the slopes.  The first bit is the steepest, after that the path evens out and it's quite a quick ascent. . .

. . . at least to the false top.  Still a bit to go. . .

Despite 40 mph winds, it's not the type of hill that one worries about being blown over (although people often get lost if the mist comes down).  The top is flat and full of moorland.  The downside of course is that you are completely exposed to the elements.  The windchill and stinging, freezing rain on my face that day was something I hadn't experienced since leaving Canada.  Ooh, it was strong!

Thank god for a shelter in the middle of nowhere, where we sat for a soggy lunch despite the rain and the wind that still attacked us through the open top.

But this is what British walkers love; huddled up in the cold, with muddy boots and overtrousers, enjoying a cuppa.

After lunch, we set across the moorland, beautiful and bleak in its own way.  I kept thinking how lovely this walk would be on a sunny summer's day.

There were still some views to see through the haze.

And then the surprise descent was through an absolutely lovely and colourful valley.

This led to the Ogden Reservoir.

And some interesting and unexpected architecture to allow the water to flow down.

From there, it was a pleasant walk to the little village of Barley, along bits of the Pendle Way, with these signs the only witch we encountered.  This is definitely a walk I'll be repeating when the weather turns fair.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Happy Wear. . .

I am completely obsessed by this spring coat from Marks and Spencer.  It stopped me dead in my tracks when I first passed it on a store mannequin. I love the collar and especially the yellow accents which are also on the lining of the coat's fastenings. What fun to open up and flash yellow!  It is such a happy coat; perfect for these dull, gray winter days and there's a good percentage of wool in its fabric.  Had it been 100% wool, I might have broken down and pulled out the VISA card right away.

But, but, but. . . we're only two weeks into the year and I have sworn not to purchase any clothes in 2015. My closets are full.  I have an abundance of wool and fabric and patterns and ambitions to make my own clothes this year.  So no, I will not be buying this lovely, grellow coat (though I will admit to visiting it still whenever I'm in the store).

But then I thought of this pattern in the 2014 holiday edition of Designer Knitting (Vogue Knitting in North America).  What if I did the body in gray and the sleeves in mustardy yellow?  I have skeins of both in my stash.  Wouldn't that somehow approximate the feeling of the coat?  Have you seen these amazing sleeves from blogger Cozy Things

Ribbed sleeve pullover by Zahra Jade Knott

Something to definitely add to the queue.  I especially need a happy project right now having completely frogged by Big Wool Drift after knitting both the front and the back.  It was just so unflattering on me.  I still love the wool though and will just have to find another project for it.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

A Winter Walk. . .

There is something so magical about winter light even though the days are short and chilly.  This is the view around 11am above Grange-Over-Sands, overlooking Morecombe Bay,  where we began our walk last Sunday.  Though the weather forecast had promised blue skies and sunshine, it ended up fairly gray all day.  The only weak sunlight getting through seemed to stay over the water but it gave it such a wonderfully silver lustre.

Turn away from the water towards the Lake District and you can see how misty it was.

About three miles away from Grange-over-Sands is the tiny village of Cartmel, where our group did a similar walk over a year ago in very different weather.  We headed down the hill towards the village. . .

. . . passing the most amazing front yard with its own maze . . .

. . . and Cartmel Priory, built in the 12th century. . .

. . . and L'Enclume, one of the most expensive and acclaimed restaurants in the U.K. . . .

. . . and then through the medieval arch (as you do) . . .

. . . to emerge on the other side of the village and a climb up to How Barrow for more great views of Morecombe Bay. . .

. . . and the railway bridge over the River Leven to the west.

Our walk continued over tufty ridges. . .

. . .and through mysterious woods.  I wish my camera was better at picking up subtle colours; this photo looks bleached out, but with the late afternoon sunlight, the wood was full of beautiful shadows.

We then visited one of my favourite places - the summit of Hampsfell where the views are stunning. I love all the patterns created by the tides and sands.

It's a windswept and lonely place but the stark winter trees against the clouds and limestone are endlessly fascinating to me.

This is Hampsfell Hospice built in 1846 to shelter travellers.  You can climb its steep stone steps for great 360 degree views.

Or take shelter within and read the witty warnings.

By now the light was waning so it was time to turn our backs to the water and head back to Grange-Over-Sands, enjoying how the sun's dying rays lit up the surrounding hills. . .

. . . and gaze on the higher peaks in the distant, just popping up above the mist.

The final stretch was a lovely wooded path down through Eggerslack Wood.  Twelve miles and a proper country tramp to shake off the Christmas sluggishness and get the legs moving again.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

And I'm off. . .

Right - this is a picture of some of my wips and stash.  I'm hoping at the end of the year to put a nice pile of twelve sweaters and tops on my bed and photograph that instead.  I'm feeling really motivated. One of my wips just needs seaming.  Another just needs some sleeves and a collar. A third is progressing nicely on the back. A fourth again, just needs sleeves.

But did I start on any of those?  Oh no - new year, new cast-on.  And to ease myself into this 12 sweaters in 12 months project, I'm beginning with an easy knit in super chunky wool.

The pattern is Tender by Marie Wallin and I'm using Rowan Big Wool.  Ever since I saw the colourway Jamboree, I've been dying to knit a garment with it, so when I saw some on sale (at the end of 2014 - I haven't broken my yarn diet yet), I pounced,  and I really love how soft it is and how vibrant the colours are. It's like knitting confetti and it is knitting up really quickly.  I've decided to do the rib in black in order to extend the length. I'm taking it easy today - listening to podcasts with a cup of tea and my knitting, so who knows, I could wrap this baby up in just a few days!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Knitting Resolutions 2015. . .

Here we go again.  Looking back one year ago, I had decided just five resolutions were enough. But did I keep to them?  Alas, no, but I'm not going to beat myself up, because I had a lot of fun with my knitting last year and am proud of what I did accomplish.

My worst resolution failure was trying not to buy any yarn, though I did hold out until July.  And then went absolutely crazy. I did knit a lot from my stash though I'm still fairly sure I've ended up with twice as much yarn at the end of the year than what I began with.  I did finish three blankets though, including the huge Martin Storey knit-a-long which is my own personal knit of the year.  And it let me practice intarsia which was a new skill for me - I'm certainly not perfect at it, but it doesn't scare me anymore. 

I still have four cardigan WIPs, but did finish three garments that I'm very pleased with. In particular, I'm chuffed that I had the confidence to make some modifications from the pattern and they worked out.

And my other big accomplishment was to learn how to crochet!  It's such a useful and fun skill that has really added to my knitting, especially with seaming.

Edited to add:  Yikes - how could I forget about my Latvian mittens that took ages! (thanks for the reminder Sallyann)

So just for fun, and with all the optimism of a brand new year, here are five more knitting resolutions for 2015.

1. Knit from stash only.  I MEAN it this year.  I have some fabulous stuff in my stash and I need to save money this year, so I'm putting myself on a strict yarn diet.  With one exception:  Every time I get a two pound coin in my change, I pop it in my Herdy money box.  This is my budget for any yarn shows. I am planning on going to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival in March and would love to go to Brighton for Unwind if it's held again this summer.  I will allow myself a souvenir skein or two at shows, but I will only spend what is in the yarn bank.

2. To help knit from stash, I've joined a group on ravelry that is challenging knitters to knit 12 sweaters in 12 months (wips count!).  I doubt I'll get to 12 but if I can finish those 4 wips I've had hanging around for years now, I'll be happy.

3. I really want to improve my crochet skills. I've just bought a masterclass at Craftsy which I'm looking forward to, and I've had a go at tunsian crochet which is a lot of fun to do. I really want to learn how to better read a crochet chart and maybe have a go at crocheting a garment.

4. Steeking.  Time to get over my fears and try it.

5. I would like to try some other woolly skills.  I still haven't touched my hand spinning kit from last year, and I've added a needle felting kit to it.

Happy New Year to all - it does feel wonderful to start planning for new projects again.