Tuesday, 28 February 2017

From Grasmere and Back With a Detour to Easedale Tarn. . .

Another weekend, another recce for a future walk with our rambling group.  This time it was a trip out to Grasmere on a day that promised rather iffy weather with some potential fog.  This is Helm Crag, our first climb, taken from the parking lot.  I was very eager to get up there while there was still some visibility.

This is one of the easier climbs in the Lake District. The first bit takes you through some forest and while the path is always going up, it's quite gradual.  Nevertheless, it doesn't take long to gain some height.

And this is what you start to see. I love the vibrancy of the green against the dead winter foliage.  This is why you won't ever hear me complain about U.K. winters.

We are at the beginning of what will be a circular route.  Across from us is the waterfall that we'll see near the end of the walk.  It flows down from Easedale Tarn.

Nearly at the top of Helm Crag. You can just see a peek of Grasmere, one of the smaller lakes,  in the distance.

And this is taken further on looking back at Helm Crag.  We are now embarked on an undulating ridge walk that will take in Gibson Knott and Calf Crag.  I love ridge walking but this really has its ups and downs, so take your time and know that it will be a bit of a workout on the legs.

Across the way, you can just see a peek of Easedale Tarn.

Looking back again as we continue along the ridge and you can see all of Grasmere now.

We stopped for lunch as the clouds started descending.

Not many Herdys around - the females will have come down from the slopes in preparation for lambing season.

I was feeling rather pessimistic that we'd see anything after lunch, but there started to be breaks in the mist.  This is a little unnamed tarn seen from Calf Crag, just before we turned left to start the return journey.

Looking back from the turning point. On the left is the ridge we've just walked. Straight ahead is the valley in which we'll descend for the second half of the walk.  This valley path is also part of the Wainwright Coast to Coast walk in the stretch from Borrowdale.  When I last walked it, it was in pouring rain.

Here's another picturesque waterfall at the head of the valley.

About three quarters of the way back to Grasmere, we detoured to go up to Easedale Tarn. We probably won't have time with our group to do this on the day, but we'd started very early on our recce and I can never resist a tarn.  It's a wee bit of a climb up, especially for tired legs, but it is so worth it, especially if it's clear. Below you can see where the waterfall that we spied near the beginning of our walk, flows out of the tarn.

As tarns go, this is quite a big one. I wish we'd had time to walk around it, but we did stop to have a snack and enjoy the view.

We then crossed over the waterfall and continued on the path back to Grasmere.

Here is that same waterfall at its most forceful.

And another view at the ridge we've walked.

It's the beginning of walking season for us and so we're still a little out of shape. I was quite tired at the end of this nine mile hike, but the weather co-operated and I was able to tick a few more Wainwright fells off the list. So all in all, another successful day out among the fells.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

More Knitting Fun To Be Had. . .

Just when you think you have all your current knitting projects sorted, along comes a trio of new and exciting knit-a-longs to make you cast-on with complete abandon and foolishly increase that pile of WIPs with no concept of how long it will take to knit all the things!  I just can't stop casting on.

Tin Can Knits has just released a wonderful new e-book of eight sweater patterns, Heart On My Sleeve with all of the proceeds going to the Against Malaria charity which buys mosquito nets to help reduce this preventable disease.

Each sweater is designed by a different designer, but they are all knit from the bottom up and basically follow the same body instructions (there are choices for different hems and cuffs).  Then you can choose which yoke you prefer.  Thus, if  - like myself - you keep changing your mind, you can just start knitting and worry about the rest later. This can provide a great template for future sweaters and each pattern is sized from baby to adult.  There are also eight mini-patterns to create your own heart on a sleeve in, for example, lace, fair isle, duplicate stitch or crochet.  It's a really wonderful and very useful book. 

There is a KAL going on over in the Tin Can Knits ravelry group with some very lovely prizes. You have until April 18th to finish your sweater.  I've cast on with my WYS Blue-faced Leicester undyed DK. I'm torn at the moment between Crazyheart (featured on the cover), designed by Tanis Lavallee, and Hearthstone, designed by Ysolda Teague which has beautiful cables on either side of the raglan sleeves. 

Starting March 1st, A Year of Techniques will release its first pattern.  This is a great project by Jen Arnall-Culliford  and her husband Jim Arnall-Culliford to help build knitters' confidence and introduce them to new techniques.  Each month a new mystery design will be released that will highlight something new to try (you can see a list of the techniques here - I know I definitely need to improve my intarsia and steeking) and there will be online tutorials and KALs in the ravelry group.  You can purchase just the e-book, or the e-book and print book (which will be released in September). There will also be quarterly kits with the yarn to knit three months of projects. As of writing this, the spring kits have sold out, but you can find out when the summer kits go on sale by signing up to Jen's newsletter at the bottom of her website's home page

Full disclosure - I help moderate Jen's ravelry group, so I've known about this project for a little while and had a sneak peek at what is coming up.  Below are some of the amazing designers lined up, several of whom are real favourites of mine and also helped make The Book of Haps such an enjoyable and challenging book. I can't wait to see some of these designs.  For more on the designers, see this post

And just when I thought it was safe to ignore Stephen West  for a bit until his next mystery KAL in September, darn it all if he didn't go and post about a new spring one!  How can I resist?  It's aimed at using up all sorts of oddment leftovers of yarns; it promises a marled shawl, suggesting several ways to achieve it; and it's going to be another crazy and fun knitting adventure. Sign me up. 

I've already been digging out the stash but he suggests throwing in some mohair for texture, so I will have to find my odd balls of Kidsilk Haze too.  I'm quite excited about this one.  Kick off is March 3rd.  More information here.

It's never dull in the knitting world. . . 

Friday, 17 February 2017

Hap #8: Lang Ayre. . .

It's still my intention to knit every hap out of The Book of Haps, but other knitting projects keep getting in the way.  I have however, just finished my eighth one - Lang Ayre, designed by Gudrun Johnston.

This was a deceptively simple knit - lots of rows of simple garter stitch, but the stripe placement is so clever and I love how the colours bounce off each other.  I had to make one modification in that I didn't have enough of the main colour in the center diamond (the dark grey) to carry over into the two side triangles, so substituted a lighter grey.  But I think it works.

I really recommend this pattern for telly knitting and also its versatility. The hap's construction allows you to wear it with either the stripes showing vertically. . .

. . . or horizontally.

I'm really chuffed with it.  It's extra squishy and warm, knitted in various stash skeins of Blacker Yarns and in time for the BlackerPodKAL.   All the details are on my ravelry page here.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Knitting Trials and Errors. . .

I suppose the more confident you get as a knitter, the more picky you are. And -  luckily - also a lot more patient.  This year I really want to challenge myself as a knitter, try some new techniques, spend a little more time on the fit of garments and while using up stash, try to be a little more canny and adventurous with my colours.    Alas, sometimes that means re-evaluating your yarn choices.

This is the first bit of my Uncia knitted up in a lovely, Orkney Texel wool.  I've seen this beautiful shawl mostly made with a yarn that gives more drape; something usually with silk in it.  However, I though I'd emphasize the cables instead, hence my choice of a more rustic, crisp wool.  Turns out, I really want softness and drape for this pattern. So - it will be frogged for another day.   I will use this wool for a different project and search in my stash for some Fyberspates or MadTosh instead.

Then there is Fox Paws.  I thought that using my five colours of St. Kilda lace weight would be perfect for this scarf, especially since I didn't want it to be as big as the original.  However, trying to do a k5tog with lace weight involves a lot of squinting and cursing.  And there are a lot of k5togs in this pattern!  After spending about ten hours to knit only a centimeter, I have decided that I love the pattern, have got the hang of all the increase and decrease techniques  and definitely want to make itb someday. But in 4ply.  So - another rip. Back to stash and picking out colours.  This will be on hold for a bit. 

My next attempt at trying to get a project going for the BlackerPodKAL - you have to use all Blacker yarns and finish your knit by March 4th - was Kate Davies' gorgeous Carraig Fhada vest.  Trouble is, I only have four balls of the main colour (the purple).  The pattern calls for five, so I used the mustard yellow for the ribbing instead to compensate.  I think I'm still going to run out. And I may have knitted it a bit too big.  Not entirely ready to rip this out yet, but it's been put in the naughty knitting corner to chill while I re-evaluate. 

As you can imagine, all of this was getting me a little frustrated.  The only solution was to whip up something quick and satisfying.  So I turned Kate's Singing Sands scarf pattern into a cowl and used the cheeriest colours of Buachaille to knit it.  It is so warm and snug and perfect for walks.  I did a two colour i-cord bind-off which gives it a nice edge.  Love it.

Then along came her gorgeous Kildalton cabled cardigan.  I had already ordered enough Buachaille in her new, deliciously deep blue colourway for Finlaggan, but decided to cast this on instead.

There is something so satisfying about creating a lovely textured fabric. This is slow knitting at its best (although I'd love to finish it by the Edinburgh Yarn Festival). 

And finally, I have a project for the BlackerPodKAL that is working.  I scrounged around in my stash and pulled out various skeins of Blacker yarns to cast on the Lang Ayre hap, designed by Gudrun Johnston.  There is some Tamar, some classic 4ply, Cornish Tin II,  pure breed Manx Loagtan and some of the St. Kilda laceweight from the abandoned Fox Paws, held double.  I have just started the last triangle and am loving the colour combinations. 

The ups and downs of a knitter that wants to knit ALL THE THINGS.  But some of it is working. . . 

Friday, 10 February 2017

A Sunday Walk From Staveley. . .

For those that don't like climbing the higher fells, there are still lots of wonderful walks and countryside to explore on the outskirts of the Lake District (see earlier posts about Broughton-in-Furness or Arnside, for example).  Staveley, which is between Kendal and Windermere, but still in the Lake District National park,  is another great starting point for a lovely ramble.

Last Sunday, our group did a ten mile circular from the village.  Very quickly you are among the rolling foothills.

Which then leads to moorland, still beautiful in its wintry desolation. I want to knit all the colours in the photo below.

Despite the emptiness, the paths were fairly visible and the ground quite springy, although there was a bit of mud here and there.

While the Herdys rule the Lake District, it's nice to come across some other breeds/cross-breeds of sheep.

And then to stumble across a surprise tarn is always lovely, especially when there is no wind and the water is still and reflective.

Beautiful isn't it?  And yet it has the rather undignified name of Gurnal Dubs.  No idea where it came from or if it is named after someone, but it seems too lovely to be called that. Apparently it is a quite popular place to go fishing, but we didn't see a soul about.

A few minutes walk along and we descended down to Potter Tarn.  Named after Beatrix perhaps?

And from there it was a gradual descent back to Staveley. . .

. . . and one last look west towards the rest of the Lake District.  I couldn't capture it in any of my photos, but we definitely saw the higher mountains in the distance, completely snow-covered.

I'll stick to the lower ground for now.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Signs of Spring. . .

This Saturday I woke up to the most glorious sight in my back garden.

Of all the bulbs we planted in containers and in the back yard, I was definitely not expecting this iris to bloom first.  Isn't it lovely?  There are nine others in the same pot, all sprouting up.  I can't wait to see the whole group of them in full flower.  This may be the most lovely thing I've ever grown - amateur gardener that I am.  It just made my weekend.

Saturday was crisp and sunny so the Liverpud and I walked into town.  We saw other signs of spring too.  Crocuses were in bloom in Princes Park.

And we spotted this gorgeous bank of snow drops in the St. James Gardens beside the Anglican Cathedral.

This weekend was also the start of our hiking season proper.  On Sunday we had a lovely walk around Staveley, but I'll save that for a future post later in the week.  Even after almost five years of living in the U.K., I still can't get my head around flowers in February.