Thursday, 28 April 2016

A Model Yarn Shop and A Model Village. . .

There are yarn stores that you enter and immediately feel at home.  The Liverpud and I were in Oxford last weekend visiting his cousin and in my never ending quest to check out new yarn sources wherever I go, I knew I had to take the opportunity to visit the Oxford Yarn Store.

It's located about a ten minute walk from the centre of town on a small side street called North Parade Avenue that has other independent shops and cafes. There was a market on too when we visited.

This shop may not be the largest I've been in, but for its size, it is extremely well stocked with lots of lovely skeins.  Plenty of British yarns are represented - West Yorkshire Spinners, John Arbon, Jamiesons, and some local spun alpaca. They also carry Rowan. Isager, Malabrigo, Noro and Sweet Georgia Fibres among many other brands and a good selection of books and knitting magazines.  I had a lovely chat with the owner (who lived in Canada for ten years), and she seems to have created a vibrant knitting community around her store. There are some excellent workshops on offer so do check out their website if you live nearby.

I was quite restrained - I bought some Rowan Pure Linen which was on sale as it's being discontinued. I've heard great things about how the yarn knits up so am eager to try it in a garment.  Perhaps even the one on the cover of the book I also bought.  Classic Knits is an older book by Marianne Isager, but she's a designer that I've long admired and some of the designs in this book are gorgeous.  She likes to use two yarns held together for many of the patterns and since I have quite a bit of laceweight in my stash, this might be a good opportunity to use some of it up.

Of course there are other things to do in Oxford as well. This was the Liverpud's first visit so I gave him a bit of a walking tour after a lunch of yummy Pieminster pies in the Covered Market.

Nearly fifteen years ago, I spent three weeks at Oxford taking a Continuing Education Literature Course.  For an anglophile, I was in heaven.  I stayed in Exeter College and my room was at the top of a tower. I had to write two papers (one on Woolf, the other on Austen) and so I spent many glorious hours in the Bodleian Library which remains one of my favourite places in the world. 

I suggested that we climb up the tower of St. Mary's Church.

For one of the best views of the city and Radcliffe Camera.

We also took a walk along the river and had an absolutely delicious meal at the Red Lion pub.

On the drive home, I suggested stopping at Bourton-On-The-Water, a picturesque village known as the "Venice of the Cotswolds".  Near the carpark is The Bourton Basket which caters to all sorts of crafts - quilting, needlepoint, peg weaving.  Most of their yarn is acrylic although they do sell a selection of West Yorkshire Spinners.

But I did spy some local yarn in their window.  These balls come from Portland sheep which are one of the oldest breeds in the UK, mixed with some Black Welsh Mountain.  The flock is part of the nearby Armscote Manor and the shop owner told me the woman who raises them donates all the profits to charity.  She just wants to support the breed.  From the ball squish it seems to be a very strong and robust yarn.

This is the village of Bourton-on-the-Water.  Not the actual one, but a 1/9th scale model, first built in 1937.  I thought it was absolutely delightful.

Over the years they have tried to update the model by adding actual stores in the real village.

I love how the stone has aged; it just adds to the realism.

Since it is a model of the village, it naturally had to include itself, so here is the entrance to the display, in 1/9th scale.

With a model village within the model village.

And a model village within the model village within the model village.

I felt the real Bourton-on-the-Water was a bit of a letdown after that.

There was lots of bunting leftover from the Queen's birthday.

But apart from a very nice bakery, an interesting church and the stone bridges over the River Windrush, I can't say there was much tempting me to linger.  It felt to me like an artificially constructed tourist version of what an idealised Cotswold village should look like, even though the village has been around for centuries.  Perhaps it was all the stuff being sold in the stores that was 'Made in China' and the lack of any real attempt to showcase anything authentically British.  Which was a little sad.  I loved the model village though!

Monday, 25 April 2016

The Flags of Spring. . .

How gorgeous are the colours of spring?

Thursday, 21 April 2016

A Walk from Rhyd Dhu to Beddgelert. . .

We have been very lucky with the weekend weather lately.  Last Sunday promised another sunny day, so I went off with my rambling group to Wales.  I decided to do the medium walk as I didn't fancy a fast pace and I just wanted to enjoy the fresh air and views.  This was a linear walk from just outside the Rhyd Dhu railway station, to Beddgelert, some ten miles away.  Though we started on the established gravelled route, which is quite pleasant and easy, especially through Beddgelert Forest, the leader did deviate to add a bit of height and mileage. Unfortunately, I didn't really follow his route on the map, so just going by what I remember from the photos.

This is the beginning of the path but instead of climbing the hill ahead, we veered off to the left, going up about a third of the way, and then entering Beddgelert Forest.

Emerging out of the forest, we had great views of the surrounding hills, including Snowdon (the one with the snow still on the top).

We then ate our lunch at the top of this gorgeous valley.  You can see right out towards the sea.

The valley led down to the remains of one of several abandoned slate mines in this part of Wales. Usually I find these remnants fairly ugly to walk through (the descent from Old Man Coniston is a good example,) but this had a certain beauty to it.  The loose slate seemed more integrated with the surrounding landscape, as if the mountains were being eroded, rather than brutally gouged. Maybe it was just the sunshine making everything look nicer.

The old train tracks used to transport the slate have long gone, but you can see their traces in the grassy path that remains.

It was a glorious day for walking.  Blue sky, hills all around, and plenty of sheep too.

We climbed up to a col in between two mountains. It was a tough ascent as there wasn't a discernible path and the terrain was full of boggy tufts of grass.  The views when we neared the top were fabulous though.

And then we crossed a stile over a drystone wall and a whole other vista of mountains opened up to us.

In the distance was Cnicht, known as the "Matterhorn of Wales".  This was what the hard walkers were tackling and I was glad I'd decided to pass.

We headed down into more forest and followed quite a few muddy paths downhill.

We then emerged onto the pleasant road to Beddgelert.  I would have loved some time to explore the village a little (and perhaps find a fish and chips shop - I was so hungry), but the coach was shortly leaving. It took quite a long time to get back to Liverpool; I wasn't home until after 9:30pm, but it was worth it.  I really enjoyed the walk and wasn't as shattered as I usually am after doing the hard walk. Just seeing the tops of mountains can be as rewarding as actually climbing them.  At least on this day.

Monday, 18 April 2016

A Week of Finishing Projects and Casting On New Ones. . .

I'm trying to use my knitting weeks to finish up projects before casting on new ones and my discipline is improving.

Before starting my socks for the no-nylon KAL, I wanted to finish my second Inglis Mitt.  And here is the pair.  I just love them. They are knit with Blacker's new Tamar DK yarn and are very,very cozy. The stitch definition is great as you can see.

It's a very clever pattern by Ysolda Teague.  I love how the inside rib runs right up into the thumb increases.

While not quite evening gloves, they still feel quite glamourous to wear.

I've had the pieces of this Driscoll  jumper by Martin Storey hanging around in a basket for some weeks, so it was time to take tapestry needle in hand and get seaming.  This was basically a stashbuster.  I had a few skeins of New Lanark DK lying around and I wanted to see how it knitted up. I've changed the pattern somewhat, adding a different colour on the ribbing (as I didn't have enough of the main colour), and knitting a much plainer neckline (the original pattern has a funnel neck which didn't appeal).  It's a wee bit cropped for my liking, but I do love the colour and it will work well as a casual autumn sweater.  And I did get to practice seaming set-in sleeves which is probably my least favourite thing to do in knitting.  Especially, as in this case, there is slightly more sleeve fabric than the arm hole seems to require.  That excess fabric needs to be "eased into the space" but I've never really understood the best way to do this.  Usually I just start at the middle point, pin it out and hope for the best.

Two projects done, I allowed myself to cast on two more.  I've decided to go with the Sea Wall socks by Tin Can Knits for Joeli's No-Nylon KAL.  This will take a while on 2.5mm needles but I'll do a few rows a day.

And I cast on an Inspira Cowl with some of my precious Daughter of  A Shepherd yarn. It has such a strong sheepy smell, that I thought a large cowl I could pull up and snuggle my face into would be the perfect project for it.  As always, I'm waffling over the contrast colours.  I want some beautiful, indie British yarns to accompany it and I've started with some Howgill Tweed BFl from Laura's Loom in the Dark Bracken colourway.  She has stopped creating this lovely marled yarn, so it too has to be used for the perfect project.  So far, I like how the two yarns work with each other in the corrugated rib, but I may try reversing them, so that the rich hebridean brown pops more in the knit stitches.  It could create an effect very much like Anna Maltz's marlisle,  which she uses in her Humboldt sweater.  I think I need to play around with this a little more, but this week is my non-knitting week, so it can simmer in the back of my mind while I work on other crafty projects.