Friday, 24 March 2017

My Shivery Dunyvaig. . .

I have another finished shawl!  Or scarf.  Or both. This is Dunyvaig, from Kate Davies' new book, Inspired by Islay.

It's knit in Countess Ablaze English Gentleman 4ply, in a skein of the undyed and a colourway called Shiver. The yarn is a mixture of BFL and Masham and it is really soft, but also shows the gansey-inspired texture beautifully.

I made several changes to the pattern apart from choosing to stripe it. I made decreases at the end to mirror the increases, and also didn't start the textured patterns until I'd increased to the full width. I also knit less pattern repeats and it has definitely ended up wide enough.

It's now shortly off to Canada as an early Mother's Day gift - there is still another month of winter to go.  I think Mum will also find this useful to throw over her shoulders on chilly spring or fall days as she sits on her balcony or goes for a walk. But I may just have to knit another for myself! The Countess Ablaze has just opened a new store in Manchester and I feel a visit is imminent. And I will definitely be tempted by her bolder and brighter colours. 

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

First The Rain, Then The Rainbows. . .

You might remember last month, the Liverpud and I did a recce for an upcoming walk near Grasmere.  The following week, he went off with a mate and decided on a different route which he assured me I'd like better.  So on Sunday, it was time to for him to lead the walk with our rambling group. It had been raining quite hard - and was still raining - in the Lake District.   This was the overflow near the White Moss car park where we left the coach.  The water was knee-deep over many of the paved paths resulting in a few detours.

Head for the hills! The higher paths definitely were better.  This is the famous view of Grasmere, unfortunately most of it made obscure by the rain and mist.

Things got better as we continued up Silver How.  Essentially we're walking on the other side of the valley, opposite Helm Crag and the ridge we hiked back in February.

Halfway up Silver How and you have a lovely view of Grasmere with Rydal in the background.  It was still raining though.

And from the top, you can also see Windermere off to the right in the back, and Loughrigg Tarn just peeping in view.  We had lunch here and while Silver How may not be the highest hill around, it's an underrated view.  The whole walk was very different in feel - more gentle ups and downs and lots of tufty mounds.

The road ahead - full of rich colours and mysterious mists.

And here was our first rainbow.

Followed by another.  You've never seen such glee among hardened and soaked walkers.  We were all kids again, ooohing and aaahing.

And one more.

I also love coming across unexpected tarns, especially when the water is clear.

And speaking of tarns, here's our first view of Easedale Tarn. In our previous walk we'd climbed up to it from the valley on the right. In this walk, we're descending down towards it.

The waterfall was fairly fierce - there was no way we could safely cross it. So we stayed on the near side and headed back to Grasmere. This cut the walk by about half an hour, but we were all ready for a warm fire and the pub by then.

Only we still had a few more challenges before making back to Grasmere.  These fast flowing streams are actually the paths we're supposed to be walking on. I don't think any of us avoided that squelchy feeling of having the cold water run over your boots and into your socks.

We got there in the end and it was lovely to end the walk by the Wordsworth Daffodil Garden in full bloom.

But primarily this walk will be remembered for those rainbows!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Experimenting With Colour. . .

I wanted this year to be all about colour in my knitting and lo and behold, two surprise projects have been providing me with lots of opportunities to play.

The first pattern in The Year of Techniques was the Hyacinthus Armwarmers, designed by Jen Arnall-Cuillford. This uses a new-to-me technique called helical striping which removes the jog you can get when changing colours while knitting in the round. The original pattern uses a brightly coloured ball of Zauberball fingering weight which has long colour changes.  I decided to tone it down by striping it with another colourway full of chocolate and coffee browns and creams.  Basically, I wanted to see what would happen when I dipped a rainbow into a mochachino.

I love this technique - it's very simple to do and addictive. I don't think I've ever had so much fun with endless stockinette.  I knew early on that I wanted to knit every single bit of both of these balls, so ripped out the small bit of armwarmer I'd started and cast on for a cowl. The Zauberball is surprisingly soft and this will be very cozy around the neck.  My yardage should allow me to make it long enough to wrap around the neck twice. This was my major train knitting up to EYF and back.

Stephen West's Marled Magic Mystery Shawl KAL has proved surprisingly fun.  In every section you hold two different strands of colour together for different colour effects. I am knitting mine in odd balls of laceweight from stash and previous projects, and just going for it. There will be so many colours in this shawl that if I don't like one pairing, I'm sure it will either disappear among the others, or hopefully bounce against and compliment another clue in the future.  Below is Clue 1. On the right, I did the lace mesh bit in Steady Marl - I held one grey strand all the way through and then striped it with alternating colours.  On the left, the seed stitch section was knit with the Fading Marl technique: Start with holding colours A and B together.  Then drop A and add C for the next section, knitting with B and C together.  Then drop B, add D and hold C and D together etc.  I really liked this effect and how the one colour could completely change when held against something very different, yet blending in nicely at the same time.

Clue 2 brought us brioche and I chose Classic Marl for this, holding the same two colours together for the entire section.

And the second part of Clue 2 brought us garter stitch. Again I used the Classic Marl technique but added some mohair.  This shawl is also full of textures - the brioche is wonderfully squishy against the nubbly seed stitch, which butts up against the softness of the mohair.  This is the shawl with the first two clues finished - can't wait to see where he takes us next.

I am having so much fun seeing how the different colours play with each other.  Look at how different this turquoise changes when paired with a lime green in the brioche bit. . .

and some light blue Kidsilk Haze in the garter section.

I was originally thinking this would be a study in various greens but I can't resist adding some punches of brighter colours. This will be a patchwork type of shawl but I don't have one of those in my wardrobe, so why not?  Looking forward to the next clue on Friday.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

A Whirlwind Edinburgh Yarn Festival 2017. . .

What a wonderful two days I have had in Edinburgh, starting with my wardrobe.  It came down to the wire, but I finished my Kildalton just in time.  The pattern is by Kate Davies, from her new book Inspired by Islay, and knit in her Buachaille yarn which really highlights the cables.  This was the first time that I knit set-in sleeves using short rows and it's a really effective technique.  The buttons are from the Border Tart which I bought at last year's Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

I absolutely love everything about this cardigan - the fit is just perfect.

It was a good sign when I arrived in the city, checked into my hotel and saw that this was my headboard! (The hotel was the budget chain Ibis, just off the Royal Mile).

I arrived around noon on Thursday and spent some time walking around. This beautiful city was just blooming and the weather was perfect.

I would have loved to have walked up Arthur's Seat but I didn't have time. So I did the next best thing and climbed up the Scott Monument on Princess Street.  I remember my first visit to Edinburgh - over twenty years ago - and being completely awed and delighted that there was such a huge monument to a writer.  But until now, I'd never climbed up.

It is definitely worth it, although I did get a bit dizzy coming down. There are four levels of viewing platforms and as you climb higher, you see more and more of the city and especially the water surrounding it.

Sorry for the bad photo below - the sun was in the wrong place - but from the top platform, you get a wonderful view of the castle and the Pentland Hills rising behind it. 

And Sir Walter looks even better at night!

The festival started with a lovely knit and natter at Akva, a Swedish restaurant that had been reserved for all of us eager knitters.  I was able to chat and knit with many friends - new and old - from ravelry and instagram.  We were all working on our helical stripes from The Year of Techniques (more on that later in another blog post).

Then it was fairly early to bed to prepare for Friday and the first day of the marketplace.  I didn't have an advance ticket, so got up early to queue for one.  This festival has gone from strength to strength and its reputation (deservedly so) for being one of the best yarn festivals in the world attracts a really international attendance.  I chatted with lots of Scandinavians, Germans, Aussies, French and many North Americans too. It was the busiest I'd ever seen it, but the organisers were fantastic and I only waited about 45 minutes before I got in.  I didn't take that many photos inside, but here is just a teeny bit of what was on offer.  The big non-British booth was definitely Brooklyn Tweed with their colourful wall of fabulous yarn.  It was hard to resist grabbing several sweater quantities, but I already have at least two in my stash, so just bought one skein of Shelter to use as a possible future contrast colour. For something in the future.

The Crochet Project had a new book out and I was in love with several of their new shawls, including the blue one on the bottom which is actually Tunisian crochet.  The construction just looks so interesting.

Garthenor has the most beautiful organic British wool.

And John Arbon, which is always a must see booth for me, was debuting their new Devonia yarn - 50% Exmoor Blueface, 30% Bluefaced Leicester and 20% Wensleydale.  Just gorgeous colours and a really beautiful lustre .

I was only able to stay for about four hours before heading back to Waverley to catch the train home but managed to bump into most of the people I was hoping to have a chat with.  It was very crowded, but I probably got to about 90% of the vendors and for the first time at a yarn show, I was actually able to stay on budget.  I had made a list for the must-buys and then allocated some money for the inevitable temptations, and that seemed to do the trick.  Here is my EYF haul:

In the back, the greeny-blue Skein Queen Voluptuous yarn has great yardage and those two skeins will easily knit up into a sweater or cardigan.  The grey and tan skeins to the left of the Shelter are from Uist Wool and they are so lovely in sheepy texture and colour - they need to be smelled to be believed. I'll be hiking on both North and South Uist in September so it's lovely to have some of the island's wool in my stash. The deep red in the middle is Blacker Yarn's new Samite silk/wool blend.  It is gorgeous.  I've been given a small skein to swatch with and a shade card, so will do a full review of it shortly but I am really looking forward to knitting this up.  I couldn't resist a skein of the Devonia and it's the same colour as Baa Ram Ewe's new Brass Band colourway for their Dovestone.  This mustard/gold/harvest colour was really on trend throughout the marketplace.  And I love the little 10gram balls of laceweight from Garthenor - perfect for shawl borders.

Whew - it all went by so quickly, but such a satisfying visit, although next year, I really must book more days in Edinburgh.  No one wants it to end - there were impromptu meet-ups and brunches happening all over the city.  And for those who couldn't make it - there was always the #bedinburghyarnfest which is also well worth searching out on IG.  It will put a smile on your face.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Greatest Glacial Hits of Malham. . .

Malham, a tiny village tucked away in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is a place that lots of walkers mention and love.  So I was delighted when the Liverpud signed up to lead a walk there for our ramblers group.  I convinced him to make a weekend of it and so we booked a lovely hotel and had the time to leisurely recce two different walks.

On the Saturday during a thirteen mile circular walk, we basically covered all the scenic places that Malham is famous for.  This area has been spectacularly shaped by glaciers and glacial retreats thousands of years ago, and the remnants are everywhere to see.  We first set off along the path towards Gordale Scar, a huge ravine, left after the Ice Age.  You first walk through a lovely forest area.

I loved spotting these bee book-nests, hanging from the trees.

Soon you come to Janet's Foss, rumoured to be home to the queen of the local fairies.

Then you head towards the ravine itself.

And here is Gordale Scar in its glory.  You might just be able to glimpse two intrepid hikers near the middle of the bottom waterfall.  The ordinance map actually shows a path going up those rocks to the top of the scar.  This is all limestone however, and it's very slippery when wet.  We definitely didn't fancy trying to climb and we would never lead our group up there, so we retraced our steps.

Fortunately, you can still get to the top of the scar and pick up that path by climbing a neighbouring hill.  Here you get a great glimpse of those dry stone walls so famous in Yorkshire. They can be - and are - built on every type of terrain and they really merge into the contours of the land.

Here we are looking down at Gordale Scar.

Once up on the plateau, the path consists of tufty, springy and occasionally muddy grass, but quite pleasant to walk on.

You then encounter fields of limestone grykes such as this. It's such an awe-inspiring landscape.

And you can see for miles.

We walked up past Malham Tarn and then turned back for the return journey through the nature reserve that is maintained by the National Trust.  Look at this gorgeous spread of snowdrops.

And here is the tarn  - quite huge as tarns go - viewed from the wooden Bird Hide.

This is Malham Tarn from the other side.

We then began the last leg of our walk, following this rocky path downwards into another ravine.

We then emerged on top of the famous limestone ridge at Malham Cove. If you've seen Michael Winterbottom's movie The Trip, this is where Steve Coogan was standing.

It is quite amazing and fun to walk on.  You do need sensible footwear though, as the rocks can be very slippery.

Descending a set of rocky stairs, you come to the bottom of the Cove and can see all the wonderful textures and colours where the limestone has worn away.  The stream actually originates partly from Malham Tarn, several miles away, and flows underground and then under the Cove.  If you peer really closely, you can see a tiny dot of red just above one of the branches of the tree on the right.  That's a brave climber.  Definitely not for me.

On the last bit back to the village, you can look back and see Malham Cove and also more of the dry stone walls.

Back at the hotel it was time for a cuppa.  I loved the sheepy tea cozy on our tea tray.

There is quite a variety of walking to be found in and around Malham.  The paths to both Gordale Scar and Malham Cove are well trod by tourists. They are paved and relatively easy to walk on, although the steps up and down the Cove can get muddy and slippery.  But there are also lots of more traditional footpaths and bridleways for hikers in the surrounding hills.  On our second day, we took a less crowded route that didn't take in Gordale Scar, but traipsed over more empty countryside.  That's Pen-y-ghent, one of the Yorkshire three peaks just poking out behind that hill.

And we approached Malham Tarn from a different direction, before taking the Pennine Way back to Malham Cove.

On this route, you come on to the limestone pavement from above, but it's still a magnificent end to a walk.