Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Happenstance: The Evolution of a Hap When Things Are Happening. . .

This has been my strange progress on Hap #2 from The Book of Haps, edited by Kate Davies and Jen Arnall-Cuilliford.  The pattern is Happenstance, designed by Rosemary Hill.

The first step was to choose my colours - in this case I had three perfect shades of Knitting Goddess Wensleydale/Shetland 4ply in my stash.

You start by knitting the garter stitch center which is a large triangle, increasing to its mid-point and then decreasing. Perfect telly knitting. 

 I tried not to get distracted by the other haps in the book, but cast-on for Houlland anyways. I seem to need to be working always on two haps at a go.

Then the day of the UK referendum on whether to stay in the European Union or not arrived. It was an historic vote, so I decided to stay up all night waiting for the results thinking it would also be the perfect knitting time. I finished the garter section but as it was then about 2am, I decided to hold off on picking up the stitches for the next step until after I'd had some sleep.

I wasn't at all prepared for the vote to go Leave and after the shock wore off, I felt rather bereft and tired and angry and so, so sad, though I could take some small comfort in the fact that Liverpool at any rate voted to Remain.  I'd booked the next day off but basically spent most of it lying on the couch in a daze feeling really unmotivated to do anything.  Knitting however, is always a nerve soother and so I picked up the stitches.

And started the wavy border.  I'd had my Houlland nearby the whole night as well, and just loved the combination of turquoise against the plum, so decided to add some blue (in this case Tamar 4ply from Blacker Yarns) and use the yellow for the garter edging.  And then I realized I was using the colours of the EU flag, and the two colours that the  BBC had been using in their coverage to denote the Leave (blue) and Remain (yellow)  campaigns/votes.  And I felt a bit of despair come on.  Did I really want this to be a constant reminder of the referendum? Was it subliminal resignation  that I'd chosen to knit more blue stitches than yellow? Did I just need several hours of sleep? 
I couldn't leave it just at those two colours and so added the grey for the final lace section symbolizing (in my mind at least) threatening and uncertain skies for the foreseeable future, even though I normally really love to knit with grey.   But I really didn't like this hap anymore - it was feeling too weighed down with all the emotions I was undergoing. Post-referendum events haven't been encouraging - the economy is sliding, politicians are resigning and bickering, and hatred is rearing its ugly head.

But knitting, the feel and texture of beautiful, hand-dyed wool, creating something - these are all good things aren't they?  This book of haps features designs by wonderful people from around the world including several Europeans. The hap-alongs that are coinciding with this book are filled with gorgeous projects and supportive global knitters. 

I kept knitting. 

And when it came time for the picot bind-off, I decided to re-introduce the cheery yellow.  The sun will come out; we have to remain optimistic.  Yellow is always my happy colour. 

I need to soak and block this hap which I imagine will take a day or two.  I hope to look at it with completely new eyes when it's finished.  Here's to hope. 

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

The Shore Hap. . .

One down, twelve to go. . .

This is my completed Shore Hap by Martina Behm, knitted in Wollemeise Pure and Old Maiden Aunt Merino/Silk 4ply.

I think we all started our knitting journeys with a simple garter stitch scarf.  What I absolutely loved about this pattern was how Martina elevated this concept into something really original and unique.  The whole piece is just garter stitch with a few increases and decreases.  Here is the full shape of the hap.

It's a great pattern for showcasing a really beautiful yarn and I was relieved that there wasn't any awkward pooling of the colours.  I quite like the splodges of browns and blues that emerged and they really add interest to the shawl.  Due to its unusual shape, you can wear it a lot of different ways too.  Kate Davies modeled it in serveral ways on her blog  here  and it was this versatility that made me want to cast on this hap first.  These are the two ways I'll mostly be wearing it.

It's quite a light shawl/scarf and I think the colours work equally well for summer and winter so this will be a very useful addition to my wardrobe.

And work is progressing steadily on my next two haps: Happenstance (more garter stitch), and Houlland.  I am absolutely smitten with the yarn I'm using for the latter - it's a Gotland lace by The Little Grey Sheep and though it doesn't show up that well in the photo, it has subtle greens and blues running through it.

Friday, 17 June 2016

A Ramble from Ambleside. . .

Last weekend's walk was made up of bits from two different walks I've previously done, but this scenery never gets old.  There are so many fantastic walks you can take from Ambleside, so I always love it when our group goes there.  Just a short walk out of town and you are surrounded by fields and mountains.

One of the harder walks you can do from Ambleside is going up Red Screes and then coming down the beautiful Scandale Valley.  But I'd never gone up the valley before and that is also a lovely walk. We were heading for Little Hart Crag which is the peak you can see here, at the head of the valley.

Nearly there, and this is the view looking back where you can get a teeny glimpse of Lake Windermere in the distance.

But still a short climb up to the crag for a spot of lunch.

And some hap knitting.

And looking north, you can look over Brothers Water.

After lunch we then turned west to return via one half of the Fairfield Horseshoe. Looking back you can see Little Hart Crag.

But looking ahead, it's a gorgeous descent, if a little steep at times.

And you are rewarded by lovely views looking towards Loughrigg and further.  I love how the landscape seems to ripple.

Another beautiful day in the Lake District.   And four hours in total on the coach to knit!

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Addictive Knitting. . .

It all started with a mini-KAL popping up on Instagram.  A bunch of knitters were making Vivid squares, from the blanket pattern by Tin Can Knits.  I thought it would perfect for a British Breed swatch, in this case using some lovely Polwarth.  I had to increase the border slightly though, in order to make it the same size as my other blanket squares.

But as it turns out, just doing one square is not enough.  I don't know what it is about this pattern that is so addictive, but there is something so appealing about seeing the lace pattern emerge.  Then before you know it all you have to do is five rounds of garter stitch and you have a square.  The pinhole cast-on was new to me and once you get the hang of it, it's a really fun and easy way to start knitting from the center out.  Tin Can Knits has a tutorial here.

After doing a bit of stash diving, I found this lovely skein of fresh green sock yarn from Araucania that I've had for a few years. I also have two skeins of white.  I started with one square, but loved the colour so much - doesn't it evoke a cup of refreshing green tea? - that I just kept on knitting them.

And knitting them.

I now have 12 squares and probably enough of the green to knit twenty.  Then I'll have to see if I'm happy with a 4 x 5 blanket or I need to find another complimentary colour.  I have dreams of getting a charcoal grey sofa this summer and all I can think about is how good this green would look draped over it.

The only thing that has stopped me from casting on another square is the arrival of The Book of Haps, because a garter striped hap is ALSO pretty addictive!  I've knitted the first half of Martina Behm's Shore Hap and am loving the unusual shape and the colours of the Wollemeise yarn.

Even one half is enough to wrap around your neck as a scarf - can't wait to see how it looks when it's all done.

These are the days when you wish you had two pairs of hands to work on multiple projects.  I don't think any other WIPs are going to get my attention for some time. . .

Monday, 13 June 2016

The Haps Are Happening. . .

If you are a knitter on Ravelry or any other social media, you won't have been able to escape the excitement over the weekend as Kate Davies' new book, The Book of Haps started landing through people's mail slots.

I can't think of a recent knitting book project that has been so inspiring and so anticipated.  Kate and her co-editor Jen Arnall-Cullifordhave assembled a stellar list of designers from around the world to interpret the Shetland hap, defined as an everyday shawl.  This includes several designers whose patterns I've previously knitted - Veera Valimaki, Martina Behm, Lucy Hague, and Kate herself - and several whose patterns or books are sitting on my shelves and in my Ravelry queue - Romi Hill, Carol Feller, Bristol Ivy, Jen Arnall-Culliford, Helene Magnusson, Gudrun Johnson.  And then throw in Shetland residents Donna Smith and Hazel Tindall and the inventive Tom van Deijnen (aka Tom of Holland) and you have one extremely talented bunch of contributors.

I just love the collaborative nature of this project, the wonderful essays about the history and heritage of haps, and simply how original and inventive all these patterns are. The photography is gorgeous and almost every hap has an interesting and new-to-me construction; lots of exciting new techniques to try out which will make knitting these very enjoyable.

There are several hap-along KALs taking place on Ravelry, including one in the Knit British group and honestly, I really want to knit each of the 13 haps in this book.  In fact, I think I WILL challenge myself to knit them all and do so entirely from my stash which, let's face it is getting out of control.  I may change some of the sizes to better suit my tastes, and I may have to adjust colours if I run into yarn shortages, but I think I have enough yarn somewhere to complete them all, and it will be fun to give it a good try.  I spent this morning stash diving to come up with possible combinations.

Definitely my Wensleydale/Shetland blend from The Knitting Goddess is calling out to be a Happenstance.  This yarn just gleams and I think it will be stunning.  Haven't yet decided on the order of colours though.

I love the Hexa Hap and the fact that you can knit it in several different sizes.  The original is knit in Kate's own Buachaille yarn and I have enough in my stash to at least knit parts of it.  I'd love to get my skein of Daughter of a Shepherd yarn in there somewhere too.

Love, love, love the lace pattern in Donna Smith's Houlland and I have two skeins of Organic Shetland lace weight from Garthenor that will be ideal for this one.

Carol Feller's Montbretia incorporates some lovely short rows that evoke for me the hills of the Lake District.   I'm thinking various shades of green and grey will be perfect.

And wouldn't Lang Ayre by Gudrun Johnson, look terrific in different shades of Blacker's Tamar 4ply?

I love a bit of grellow and this combination of dark purpley-grey sock yarn from The Knitting Goddess and some mustard Texel would work really well for Theme and Variation.

More Knitting Goddess sock yarn (love her stuff)  - I'll have to see how this self-striping yarn, called Laughing Herdy,  knits up, but I think it would turn the Hapisk into a cheery shawl paired with some grey Wensleydale from John Arbon and some Excelana from Susan Crawford, in her limited edition Coral Lombard colourway.

Not sure whether to go rustic with Lucy Hague's gorgeous Uncia shawl, in which case this deep orange Finnish wool from Midwinter Yarns might do the trick, or to go more luxurious with a silk blend. Will need to think about it some more, but the possibilities for this and some of the other haps I haven't yet got to are endless.  Also, I'm realizing that my stash is a little out of control - this will be a terrific stashbusting project.

And I have already cast on for my first hap - The Shore Hap by Martina Behm.

I had four hours on the coach yesterday with my rambling group,  so a simple garter stitch pattern was ideal.  The construction, like so many of the other haps,  is unusual.  You knit both long sides and then join them up for the square at the back.  Here's my progress so far, knit in Wollemeise Pure (a brand that is often used by Behm for her designs), and some Old Maiden Aunt wool/silk blend that co-ordinated beautifully.  So far, it's been a lot of fun and quite addictive to knit. Have I mentioned how much I absolutely love this book?

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Daytripping with Fibre: The Leeds Wool Festival. . .

Another wool festival, another excuse for a day out with knitting.  Last Saturday was the Leeds Wool Festival at the Leeds Industrial Museum at Armley Mills.  In its day, it was the largest woollen mill in the world and it made for a fabulous venue for a wool show.  We got an early train into Leeds (two hours of knitting time), and then walked half an hour along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal to the mill. Someday we'll take a week and walk all the way home.

Lots of knitted and crocheted bunting greeted us along the way.

While there were only twenty vendors compared to some of the larger shows, they were local and varied and lovely to talk to.  The museum is laid out on three floors and as you walk through it, the vendors were tucked into various corners.  I found the museum itself to be quite fascinating. One can only imagine what it would have been like on a working day with all the fibre dust and noise of the machines.  There were big ones. . .

. . . and small ones.  I love this little handkerchief loom and how fine the weaving is. 

There was a great cafe with homemade cakes, a lovely garden where you could sit and knit and meet other online friends, and there were also adorable alpacas which you could take for a walk. 

Among all the history, I also indulged in some knitting nostalgia.  One of the great delights of the day was to look over the schedule of events and see that Melanie Gall, a fellow Canuck, and half of the Savvy Girls podcasting duo, was scheduled to sing in the tiny historic cinema that is also part of the museum.  I blogged several years ago about her first CD of World War I knitting songs, and she sang a few of these, along with selections from her follow-up of WWII knitting songs.  She has a great voice and told some very amusing stories. It was lovely to meet her and I've been listening to her WWII CD over the last few days.    In particular, I love the title song, "Sweeter in a Sweater", which was actually an ad jingo used for an American yarn company.

At the Todmorden Books stall that specializes in antique craft books, I was delighted to pick up Weldons Encyclopedia of Needlework which I will really enjoy perusing in more detail when I have time. Knitting, crochet, dress-making, embroidery and mending are all covered with lots of diagrams and photos. I should pick up a few tips.

There was also yarn.  Of course there was yarn! Resistance is futile; I just have no self-control.  Some sock yarn from The Knitting Goddess and some gorgeous cobweb lace from Natural Born Dyers came home with me, along with a two more mini-skein pops from Baa Baa Brighouse.

And then I also bought some fibre because I am NOT giving up on the spindle spinning. The top is some dyed Shetland from Freyalyn Fibres which I am going to try and blend with some chocolate brown Zwartbles roving in my stash, and then I picked up some undyed Shetland and a bag of dyed Corriedale and Shetland fibre from a vendor that I can't remember the name of. But I'd love to get a skein of yarn with all those colours in it.

It was another fabulous day out with friends, chatting to knitters, getting inspired, and soaking up the fibre atmosphere. Next month it will be Birmingham and Yarningham!

Friday, 3 June 2016

Three Walks from Buttermere Day Three: Fleetwith Pike, Dale Head and Robinson. . .

The last day of the long weekend dawned bright and sunny and I may just have eaten an extra sausage at breakfast to give me some additional energy for the three mountains I was going to climb.

Here's the approach to Fleetwith Pike, the first climb of the day.  It's often pictured in walking magazines, one of the iconic views of the Lake District, so it was exciting to have the opportunity to finally ascend it.

It is quite a deceptive mountain, with many, many, many false tops.  Just when you think you're near the end, you look up and see this:

The views are definitely worth it though. Here I am on the top looking down the valley at Buttermere and Crummock Water . . .

. . . and the many other surrounding peaks.

After a brief break to soak in the views, it was off down the other side.

We headed for the Honister Slate Mine, remnants of which are fairly visible along the route.  You can stop and have a coffee or a cold drink from their cafe.

Taking the Honister Pass is also a dramatic way to travel by car to Buttermere from Keswick, but it's a bit of a steep and precarious drive. I wouldn't want to attempt it in bad weather.

Crossing the road, you can immediately start climbing Dale Head, a rather nondescript hill that also has a few false tops (don't they all?), but is grassy and relatively easy to climb.  What I didn't know until I got to the top was that it leads to the middle of the Newlands Horseshoe and this magnificent view! This is the mid-point of one my favourite all-time walks in the Lakes.  In the distance is Skiddaw and Blencathra and if it weren't so hazy, you'd be able to see Keswick and Derwent Water. This moment made all the sweating worth it.

We then headed back, towards the left and there was still Robinson to climb, which I didn't get a shot of as I was tiring.

But on the way, you get a lovely view of the side of Fleetwith Pike and you can see the multiple "tops".

On the top of Robinson and on the way back to the hostel, with one final view of Crummock Water.
It was a fabulous weekend and how lucky were we with the weather?  Who says it always rains in the Lake District?