Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Some Northern Stripes. . .

I'm taking a small break from the garments to knit something smaller and definitely faster.   You can never have too many pairs of mittens when hiking in English rain. Even though I have a pair of high-tech waterproof gloves, the water inevitably finds its way in, soaking your gloves from the inside out which leads to very, very cold hands.  This makes for utter walking misery.  If I know it's going to pour, I've gotten into the habit of always bringing at least three pairs with me.  

This pattern is by Sarah Hazell from the March 2015 issue of Knitting magazine. It was called "Cozy Angora Mittens" but these were knit with the Peer Gynt wool I bought in Norway.  It's a very decent, hardworking yarn that isn't the softest, but feels quite durable.  I changed the stripe sequence and omitted the tree pattern on the front, but kept the slip-stitch cuff.  It forms a lovely texture and feels quite snug against my wrist which will hopefully keep those pesky raindrops from sliding inside.  I have plans to knit a larger pair of mittens with some Herdy wool, reputed to be very waterproof, but rather coarse against the skin.  The plan is to wear these mitts inside the other pair for some added warmth and protection.   We shall see if that works. One member of our club swears by her black dish-washing rubber gloves which she wears over a pair of mittens. 

I've also cast on for Karie Westermann's Mahy Shawl (I just can't keep away from her patterns!).  My main colour for this will be some gorgeous J.C. Rennie Shetland in the deep purple Ivanhoe colourway, that I bought when I was up north for the Edinburgh Yarn Festival.  I'd love to make the whole shawl in it but I think I'm going to fall short in yardage so for the beginning garter triangle, I'm striping it with some of the Norsk Pelsull yarn I bought in Norway.  It's a wee bit thicker but not noticeably so. and its mustardy-green colour goes really well with the purple.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Garments Number 8 and 9. . .

I have been on a knitting roll this summer and really happy with my finished garments.  I'm well positioned with my major challenge this year - to knit twelve garments in twelve months -  and quite chuffed that this week I finished two more, giving me a grand total of nine, and well ahead of where I wanted to be going into the autumn. 

Incidentally these are both patterns by Karie Westermann; I really like her design aesthetic and her patterns are very well written.  First up is my Scollay Cardigan.  I made a few modifications - I knit the body and sleeves in stockinette rather than reverse stockinette; I took out the lace pattern at the hem and bottom of the sleeves, and added pockets and two rows to the button bands.  It was my first time attempting pockets so that's a new skill learned and it makes this very cozy cardi perfect for work as I always need to have a small bunch of keys on hand. The wool is solid Yorkshire Wendy Ramsdale and while it is a bit fuzzy and has a distinct halo, it is enormously soft and really warm.  I will get a lot of wear out of this cardigan come the winter. 

The yoke is in reverse stockinette and while the yarn doesn't show up the lace pattern as well as it could, it does have a nice texture. I decided to have some fun with the colourful buttons which I picked up at a yarn show some years ago.  I'm guessing they came from Textile Garden as I always stop at their booth.

I'm really pleased with the fit and the length. I knitted it on slightly smaller needles than called for (3.75mm) to try and tighten the fabric and hopefully reduce any pilling.

And the top I'm wearing underneath?

This is one of Karie's newest patterns: Chard.  I knit it out of my sale stash of Rowan Summer Tweed.  It was a very quick knit and fun to do. You knit it top down and I like the look of the lace on the garter stitch yoke. There is some nice detailing - short rows on the back and little side gaps on the bottom hem.  I'm off to the seaside shortly and this will be the perfect summer top to take with me.

Now I just need to get back to my tricky fair isle cardigan.

Friday, 14 August 2015

The Birmingham Quilt Festival 2015. . .

Last weekend, my mum and I headed off to Birmingham for their annual Quilt Festival.  As usual it was pretty crowded and chock full of inspiration and artistry.

This was not only the winner for Best Traditional Quilt, but also won the grand prize of  Best in Show - Kaleidescope by Janette Chilver.  At first glance it might just seem like a very beautiful but nothing out of the ordinary type of  quilt.  But take a closer look. . . 

. . . at all the intricate stitching!  So precise and neat. You can see more details of the work, including the back of the quilt (also gorgeous), at her blog here.

Other amazing quilts that made me stop and stare were Earth Bones by Dianne Firth.

And this is (I think - my photo of the label was a bit fuzzy so apologies if I've gotten this wrong) Wheel Star by Liz Hands,

It really shows how playing with different coloured threads can add a whole new dimension to a quilt.

You'll Never Sleep Alone by Valerie Abbott,  an homage to Liverpool FC,  was bound to catch my eye.  This is her first quilt.

 And keeping on a sports theme, I absolutely loved Le Peleton by Wendy Kennard.

The landscape quilts were absolutely stunning. This is Horizon by Kerstin Andersson.

And Marshwood Vale by Kate Dowty.  I love the horizontal stitching along all the fields. And those trees?  All created with stitches and black thread.

And this is Safe Harbour, Robin Hood's Bay by Nancy Wren. I love how she's captured the colours in the cliffs.

And then I was introduced to the work of Gillian Travis.  She makes these lovely jumper quilts out of felt squares with stenciled designs and embroidery stitches. This is a mini quilt called Wear a Woolly Jumper.

Her larer, full size quilt, Scandinavian Jumper won 2nd Prize in the Art Quilts category.  I absolutely love it.

Here are some close-ups of the various blocks.

I was only able to visit the show for about three hours so missed tons of the exhibits.  I didn't even see that Travis had her own booth and was selling her new book on her jumper quilts.  She lives in Yorkshire and does a lot of teaching around the country so I will definitely be on the lookout for one of her workshops. I did manage a really mad twenty minute dash around the marketplace and found some Moda packs of plain grey and cream squares to balance all the Kaffe Fassett material I got last year (and still haven't used).  And Mum was inspired to start her first quilt. We found some lovely pre-cut packs, again from Moda, in her favourite British colonial colours/prints - navy, burgundy, cream, mustardy yellow and grey.  We're assembling them now so that I can help her sew them up with my machine and she can quilt them over the winter months.

At one of my favourite booths - The Eternal Maker - I picked up some jazzy Japanese mix and match zippers, and found this fantastic material which is just calling out to be a project bag or tote.

Now if  I can only put the knitting down for a moment and pick up a sewing needle. . .

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Searching for Wool Shops in Bergen and Finding Some Unexpected Knitting Along the Way. . .

Bergen was my favourite stop on the cruise.  After all that water and isolated (if beautiful) scenery, it was good to get back to civilization.  And it's a lovely city with its historical waterfront and buildings, and a bustling marketplace with the expanding city working its way up the surrounding hills.

Our first stop was the funicular railway that takes you up Mount Floyen for spectacular views.

There were interesting craft shops nestled in these quaint alleys, just off the main road towards the center of town.

There were lovely churches such as this one - St. Mary's - which is the oldest surviving building in Bergen, first constructed in the mid-twelfth century.

There were elegant statues such as this one of composer Edward Grieg who was born in Bergen.

And this rather startling one of Ibsen (I rather like its directness), which stands in front of the theater. Ibsen spent several years living in Bergen.

The main art museum, KODE, is comprised of four different buildings dedicated to different periods of art.

In every art gallery, isn't there's always a piece that's just a huge (they are always huge) square painted in one colour?

Sure enough there was a big grey square in the KODE as well, which I nearly just walked past, rather dismissively.  But there was something about it that drew me closer  This piece is titled Grey Writing by Heidi Kennedy Skjerve, and guess what, it's not paint.  It is one giant square of KNITTING!   You can see a close-up on her website here.  I was impressed; at least it was a different take.

No trip to a new country, especially one with a knitting tradition,  is complete without trying to find some local wool.  On the main tourist street near the old part of Bergen,  you pass a shop called Nilssen.  Their front window is devoted to displaying cross stitch and embroidery but I went in to ask if they sold wool and they directed me to the back and down a set of stairs where there is indeed a wool shop.

How could I resist getting a DK yarn that's called Peer Gynt?

I also picked up some silk mohair produced by the same Norwegian company, Sandes Garn.

A little further on, heading towards the gardens in front of the art gallery, I came across this store.

The store windows were a bit deceiving as they were filled with traditional Norwegian costumes and indeed the store sells the materials and trimmings to make them, but once you step inside, you are greeted with a wall of yarn.

With more upstairs!

They also sold yarn suitable for weaving and had some gorgeous samples on their looms. I was obviously too excited to hold the camera straight, darn it.

I could have bought out the store, but limited myself to three skeins of this worsted wool. 

I have to add that Norway is the best country I've visited in Europe for getting your tax back.  You fill out the forms as usual but especially on cruises, they have someone at your last port of call who will not only collect them, but often give you the money back on the spot in your choice of currency.  It's an extremely efficient service.  In my case I chose to have my credit card refunded and it went through in about four business days unlike the three months it once took to get the VAT back from a trip to the U.K. or the time it never showed up at all.  Which clearly justifies my yarn purchases even more!

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Cruising Through The Fjords. . .

This is where cruising makes the most sense. You really couldn't appreciate the beauty of the Norwegian fjords from any better vantage point than the deck of a ship.  This was taken early in the morning as we were making our way through Nordfjord towards our first port of call.

Later in the morning we docked for the day at Olden. Unless you are going on an excursion to see glaciers, there's not a whole lot to do in Olden, especially on a Sunday morning when everything is closed,  but we went for a nice walk through the quiet town.

These were the only sheep I encountered on the entire holiday, though I'll have a post about the wool I found later on.

Then we sailed in the afternoon towards Flam.  A gorgeous sunny day with beautiful scenery; this is slow living at its very best.

We arrived in Flam the next morning.  It too is a very small town catering almost entirely to tourists.  Essentially everyone is there to take a trip on the Flam Railway, which is one of the steepest in Europe, and regularly makes the list of top ten best railway journeys in the world.  It certainly is a marvel of engineering with twenty tunnels through the mountains including one that turns 180 degrees inside.

We went up as far as the second last stop, where there was a hotel that served us waffles.

Both on the way up and back down, the train stops for five minutes at a platform so everyone can get out and see. . .

. . . Kjosfossen.  The waterfall cascades down over 700 feet.

If you are lucky, music will start up and you'll be able to see a dancing Huldra - in Norwegian folklore a magical woman that men need to appease in order to maintain good luck.  Okay, it is a bit cheesy touristy, but it takes a bit of guts to dance in front of all that power and noise, not to mention the spray.

Sailing from Flam to Bergen along the Sognefjord was one of the most scenic parts of the whole cruise. Just breathtaking.

I love the deep emerald and forest green shades of the water at different times of the day.

The last stop was Eidfjord.  How still and beautiful is that reflective water?

The perfect surface to try kayaking for the first time.  And yes, I was rubbish and very sore afterwards, but it was the highlight of my holiday.

Call me crazy, but I got up at 3:30am to watch the ship sail down the Mersey.  It was very dark but calm and quiet with no wind, and eerily beautiful. It's amazing how many sandbanks appear during low tide and yet the cruise ships can still sail very close.  At any rate, as much as I enjoyed the trip, it was also lovely to come home.

Next up: Bergen which was my favourite port of call and thus needs a blog post of its own.