Monday, 22 August 2016

A Weekend of Colour: Wool and Walking. . .

Despite rain on both days (Saturday, especially), it was a weekend completely filled with colour.

On Saturday, I traveled the short distance over to Port Sunlight for the Pop-Up Wool Show.  It was held in Hulme Hall which was a lovely venue for a small but really great collection of vendors.  In particular, I was really chuffed to see so much British wool on display. I picked up two skeins of tweedy Hebridean mixed with Whitefaced Woodland from Gam Farm Rare Breeds, two skeins of WYS signature 4ply and the Yorkshire Shores pattern book from The Loveliest Yarn Company, and a skein of dyed Corriedale from Coastal Colours. They don't sell online but do several shows - they will next be at the Bakewell and Kendal wool gatherings - and I love the feel of this yarn and the muted yellowy-green-brown colours.  That gorgeous Rhubarb and Custard Shetland roving is dyed by Yarns From the Plain and as I was walking through the gardens towards the Lady Lever Art Gallery, I couldn't help but stop and take the above picture.

Then I got home to a lovely package from the Countess Ablaze.  She's recently introduced a fingering version of her English Gentlemen yarn. It's 75% BFL and 25% Masham and is absolutely lovely. It has a bit of a rustic feel, but is soft and springy.  I think it looks fantastic, undyed as in the far left, but equally takes dye beautifully.  The other colourways from left to right are Stardust, Grey Skies in Manchester and Shiver.  And these are pretty tame compared to the really vibrant colours the Countess comes up with.  I'm really excited to knit with this wool - it may well be my new favourite yarn; I've been squishing it all weekend.

On Sunday the Liverpud and I were off to North Wales to recce an upcoming walk.  We did a circular along parts of the North Berwyn Way, starting in Llangollen.  The heather was out in full force and stretching as far as the eye could see.

Intermingled with the vibrant green grasses - this is nature's palette at its very best.

And below is my favourite photo.  It's not been retouched in any way - these truly were the colours of the Berwyn Hills in dappled light and shadow.

These shorn sheep just popped against the colourful landscape.

After the walk, we took a short drive to the nearby Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, the longest one in the U.K. You can walk across it.

Or stand and wait for a canal boats to go across.

The day ended with heavy rain, but the head is buzzing with all sorts of colour inspiration.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Blown Away Again in Birmingham: The Festival of Quilts 2016. . .

This is becoming an annual pilgrimage and a happy one at that.  Even though the crowds get bigger each year and the venue becomes hotter, I absolutely love this show and always come away completely inspired and eager to get sewing.  Here are just a few of my favourites, among the many, many, many amazing quilts that were on display. If you want to see more, just head over to instagram at this link.

To begin with, this was the one that took first prize by Laura Kemshall. Yes it is a quilt.  What you can't see that well in the photo are the various words and phrases interwoven among the landscape. Just amazing.

As is this one - The Photographer by Constanze Botel and Britta Beutnagel.   I took a close up of that "knitted" sweater cuff, but there's nothing knitted about it - that's all clever fabric choice and stitching.

Loved this huge quilt too: Ruins 6 by Leah Higgins.

Below are a bunch of other jaw-droppingly beautiful pieces.  I'm sorry I forgot to write down the names of all the artists, but you can see the variety of styles and stitching techniques on display.

The one in the top left corner is Tartan Tatoo by Linzi Upton.  Below is a close -up of some of the amazing stitching in each square.

This was my favourite in the Pictorial Quilt category: Harbour at Low Tide by Kate Dowty.  I love how she even got the shadows of the balls into her quilt  (that long diagonal shadow in the top left corner actually is a shadow - it was a bad angle to take the photo, sorry.).

There were some smaller quilts in a display by the Yorkshire Quilter's Guild inspired by Charlotte Bronte and created to celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth.

And some very colourful quilts from Japan and Korea.

Heather, Peat and Lichen by Julie Bower used woolen tweeds and some very impressive stitching to create all this texture. It reminds me of one of those miniature Buddhist sand gardens,

Kaffe Fassett was also there, with an exhibit of quilts from his own collection - ones that have inspired his design work. I caught a glimpse of him later at a book signing where he was knitting a striped sock. He'll be giving a talk in Liverpool later this year - already have my ticket!

I loved all the colours in this one.

Of course there was also a marketplace but I was relatively restrained.   My favourite booth was Linladan Embroidery with their gorgeous selection of flax threads.  I bought a book of Swedish historical embroidery patterns that would also work well for knitted colourwork.  I couldn't resist - look how beautifully they packaged it, with a little bundle of free tapestry wool thrown in,

I also got some wonderful 100% wool felt to back a crocheted cushion, some sashiko samplers and thread, some calico for an upcoming eco-dyeing workshop that I'm very excited about, and some fun fat quarters. I particularly like the "paint by number" fabric which could look fabulous with some embroidery dotted here and there, Swedish or otherwise.

All in all it was a great day out.  I'll be back next year for sure.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Five Little Haps, All in a Row. The Sixth is Steeked and the Seventh's a Go. . .

And here's my finished Houlland, all blocked.

The yarn - Gotland lace from The Little Grey Sheep - blocked out nicely although it has a slight halo so the pattern isn't as defined as it would be with a smoother yarn.

I still think it looks quite elegant and it is very, very warm. And no itch factor at all. 

It can also be worn quite casually around the neck and the colour will go quite nicely with my dark brown winter coat.

I've been absolutely obsessed over the last two months with knitting haps - they've been such interesting and fun projects and I now have plenty of stylish warmth on hand.  The two KALs on Ravelry have been full of inspiration and encouraging tips and chatter - such a lovely group of knitters -  and I hope the threads will continue well past the KAL deadlines.  I certainly still want to knit all 13 patterns in the book, although I will slow the pace down a little now as I have quite a few sweater wips on the go.

But I've steeked the shoulders on the Hamegaet Wrap.

And cast on for the Nut-Hap with some Noro Taiyo lace.  This will make a much smaller scarf, rather than a large shawl, but I'm happy with that as I really want something more summery to wear. It means knitting a lot more rows to get a good width though.

Now I just have to think about outfits for all of these haps.  No problems with my Happenstance - I recently ordered a new dress when Seasalt had their sale, and the colours are a perfect match. Happy happenstance indeed.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

And Then There Were Four: A Variation on the Theme and Variation Hap. . .

At first glance, I wasn't that excited about the Theme and Variation Hap designed by Veera Valimaki, even though I am a fan and have knitted several of her patterns previously.  It just seemed very basic and simple and I wanted a bit more of a challenge.

However, (and this is what is so great about The Book of Haps)  every pattern challenges your assumptions of what a hap can be. As knitters started posting pictures of their finished T &  V haps, I noticed people were having fun playing with colours and the stripe sequences. I needed an easy garter stitch project to take on a coach trip and so I cast on.

I decided that my lovely Daughter of A Shepherd hebridean wool would be the perfect main colour.  I love this chocolate brown woolly goodness so much, I wanted to let it really be the star of this shawl, so I reduced the number of contrast stripes. This also lets them really pop against the deep brown. The green and light grey are both Ysolda's Blend #1.  Since I bought all three yarns at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival, it's been really nice to use them all in the same project.

The right side of the hap is lovely in its own right.  But this pattern has one clever trick up its sleeve, or I should say edging.  On the first row, you almost double the number of stitches and then through a series of slipped stitches and rows of ribbing, you end up with a substantial edge fabric and more stripes!  I opted for a third pop of colour - this sassy pink is Triskelion Branwen DK,a mixture of Falklands merino and silk. It was from stash; I'm not sure he is dyeing this base anymore.   I tweaked the pattern slightly using short rows so that none of the pink would be seen on the right side.

And this is what it looks like when you flip one side over your shoulder.

I have absolutely loved knitting this - the yarn, the stripes, the surprise twist edging.  Ingenious. And  this hap has gone from being ho-hum to the one I'll probably reach for the most come the autumn months.

When I've had some time to concentrate, I've also been working steadily on Houlland, designed by Donna Smith. This is a gorgeous lace hap and I'm using some fuzzy but beautiful Gotland lace from The Little Grey Sheep.

This is yet another hap with an intriguing and new-to-me construction.  Most shawls I've knitted have been from the top down. You start with a few stitches and every row grows. With Houlland, you knit the bottom edge first, then pick up stitches and knit from bottom up, so that every row becomes a little shorter.  I finished this morning, and it's had a soak and is currently blocking.  Finished photos soon.

Can you tell how much I'm loving The Book of Haps?