Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Holiday Knitting. . .

Not too long now before I'll be on holiday and I'm excited that I finally have enough hand knits to take a whole wardrobe with me!  I'm planning on packing at least ten knits - tops, cardigans, shawls - and wearing the heck out of them with pride.  At least I won't bump into someone with the same outfit. 

Of course, I'll be taking some holiday knitting with me.   I've joined the Scollayalong over at Knit British and BritYarn, and cast on for the Scollay Cardigan, designed by Karie Westermann.  I'm knitting it in Wendy Ramsdale, which is 100% British wool and very, very soft and cozy. I want this to be my go-to cardigan for the autumn so I am making a few modifications, adding pockets and knitting most of the body in stockinette rather than reverse as I just like the look better.  I'll revert to the reverse when I hit the yoke as the lace pattern has a bit of texture that will show up well on the reverse fabric.  I've knitted the body and will hopefully knit the sleeves on holiday.

And then for some mindless knitting and a project I can whip out at any time, even for the briefest of moments, I'm about 40% through Viajante, designed by Martina Behm.  This is an enormous cowl/poncho/shawl knit in laceweight.  After a garter stitch triangle, you basically join in the round and knit the rest until it's the size you want.  I'm using two yarns - a variegated Madeline Tosh and this gorgeous almost midnight blue laceweight from Natural Born Dyers that will pick up some of the blue in the other yarn.  It's taking forever but is strangely addictive and I can't wait until I'm ready to start with the blue. Still ruminating over how to handle the transition - perhaps stripes, perhaps some pixelation.  We'll see.  At any rate, I've got more than enough to occupy myself for a few days.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Knitting Procrastination and How I Finally Got a Lovely Cardigan Out of It. . .

I think there are a lot of reasons why knitting projects languish in the WIP pile for ages.  In the case of this cardigan, a look on ravelry reveals that I started it in March 2012.  I remember buying both the pattern book and the yarn on one of my early visits to the Liverpud (so it was probably the first yarn purchase I ever made in Liverpool)  and casting on right away.  The lace pattern on the bottom of the cardigan is fairly straight forward and then it was stockinette with a few decreases and I was off.  I knit the body and even blocked it.  And then put it in a bag.  And left it.  For months and months.  I remember packing it for my move to the UK and thinking, I MUST finish this someday.

Eventually I took the pattern out again and decided to knit the sleeves.   And the niggling voice at the back of my mind that said, "I think you are going to run out of yarn" became louder as I neared the end of the second sleeve.  I think this inner knitting devil is a big factor  in why we never finish some projects.  As it turned out, I did run out of yarn about two rows before the end of the sleeve, meaning one was now shorter than the other.  So I put the project away again in despair.  For months!

However, at the start of this year, I decided to challenge myself and see if I could knit 12 garments in 12 months and WIPs counted.  I have several WIPs in various stages of completion and it was always part of my plan to pull one out when it looked as if I were falling behind schedule.   I had nearly given this up for good though - in my head, those two shorter rows had built themselves up to be this huge insurmountable challenge. I'd have a totally wonky cardigan.  I'd never be able to match the sleeves correctly.  And how would I seam it all up without any more of the same yarn? I now didn't even like this cardigan and should I even bother since I really hate seaming set-in sleeves anyways?

Guess what?  Two rows of stockinette at the top of a sleeve is a pretty minuscule shortage, and easy enough to fudge.  And I found a yarn in my stash that was close enough to the magenta colour that it didn't show, especially as most of the sewing up was using mattress stitch. Yes it took time and all the way through the process, I was still grumbling that it would be all for nought.  Yes, I had to rip out the seaming of one sleeve and start again.  But it was so totally worth it and I love this cardigan now! 

The pattern is Wytham by Jeni Hewlett and the yarn is Fyberspates Scrumptious DK which is 55% merino and 45% silk, hence the gorgeous sheen.  It's a really intense colour and I have nothing else like it in my wardrobe. but I think it will look equally good over jeans or a black dress.

I am just so pleased that it's FINALLY done! The moral to this story is don't give up on your poor projects.  If you are still drawn to the pattern and yarn, there WILL be a way to make it work.  Above all, don't let the frustration of a problem fester in your head or WIP pile until it becomes a much bigger obstruction to finishing in the imagination than it is in reality.  I'll remember this lesson when it comes time to dig out another WIP which I've put on the back burner (again for years) because there's a tricky bit with sleeve caps in the pattern.  Which is silly.  There's a woman in my walking group who has knit it and she advised me to just read and follow the pattern carefully. I can do that.  I will do that!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kiku: Another Summer Tweed Garment Off the Needles. . .

And here's my sixth garment of the year,  and my third out of Rowan Summer Tweed.  I am really pleased with this summer top - it was very quick to knit; it only took about five days as I was using 5.5 mm needles and most of it was stockinette.  The pattern is Kiku by Sarah Hatton and it works very well with the texture of the summer tweed. 

I really love the lace detail on the yoke and sleeves. I didn't even block it as I don't want this garment to stretch too much, and it came out really well.  I knit it slightly bigger than my size because I wanted the feel of a loose, comfy t-shirt, but I brought in the yoke so it wouldn't hang off my shoulders. There were a few tricky bits in the pattern regarding the sleeve decreases but I managed to work it all out and so far, this is one of my favourite knits this year.  I will get a lot of use out of this top all summer as it goes great with jeans or a more dressy skirt.  Really chuffed with this one!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Scout. . .

Here's my fifth garment of the year.  The pattern is Scout by Julia Frank and I used close to seven skeins of Rowan Summer Tweed that I bought at a sale earlier this year.  This yarn which is 70% silk and 30% cotton really stretches which had its good and bad points.  The cabling was tough - I really had to stretch the yarn and at one point it broke causing me to have to do some fancy repair work several rows down.  On the positive side, however, I knew it would stretch to give me some extra length (the original pattern is more of a cropped top).  I soaked it and then just hung it on a hanger to dry, letting the weight of the water pull and lengthen the garment.  It fits just perfectly now and I'm really chuffed with it.

At the Black Sheep sale back in May, I ended up buying four ten skein bags of the Summer Tweed in four complementary colours (it is being discontinued and was 50% off).  I'm challenging myself to get at least six garments out of the lot and maybe even an accessory.  It is lovely yarn to work with during the summer months and feels lovely next to the skin.   Scout was my second garment and I'm well on my way to finishing my third.  This is the back of Kiku by Sarah Hatton

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Back on the Welsh Coastal Path: A Walk on Anglesey. . .

Anglesey is an island on the north west coast of Wales.  The town of Holyhead is where you catch the ferry to Dublin as I did over twenty years ago.  I hadn't been back since, but tagged along with the Liverpud as he did a recce for an upcoming walk.

We started at Breakwater Country Park where you can quickly access the Welsh Coastal path.  Here it is quite rocky, but the views are lovely.

What I can't convey in this post is the cacophony of seabirds that you hear continuously all along the coast.  They breed on outcrops such as this one.

Not far along the walk and you get your first glimpse of South Stacks and its famous lighthouse.

But first we turned inland and climbed Holyhead Mountain.

Here's the view from the top looking east.  You can see the mysterious outlines of the Snowdonia hills in the distance.

And to the south you can see the headlands that we'll be going along towards the end of the walk.

But first it's off to South Stacks.

As you descend the steps towards the lighthouse you see lots of different breeding grounds.

And the most amazing striations of colour and texture in the cliff faces.

The lighthouse is still a working one and we got the chance to climb up to the top.

And see the light itself.  The lighthouse has been in operation since 1809.

A view of the 400 steps we'll need to climb back up.

Here are some closeups of the birds - I believe these are guillemots, though there are also puffins and razorbills nearby.

Further along the path is this look-out tower run by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB)

I had despaired of coming across any sheep on this walk, but then we entered this field full of Black Welsh Mountain sheep.

They look a bit fierce but although curious, they quickly scampered away from us.

The last bit of the walk was along the headlands on the way back to Holyhead.  From the top of the mountain, they looked fairly tame, but there was still some spectacular cliffs and hidden coves to be seen.

And there was some beautiful moorland to walk past once we headed inland.

I enjoyed the walk, although I do think there are far more spectacular coastal walks in Wales.  Perhaps the day was dampened by having to walk several miles through rather blah and grey housing estates in Holyhead to get back to the car park.  If you are a twitcher though, you'd love this part of the coast.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Hey, I Can Now Crochet. . .

For the past few months, I've been participating in Rowan's crochet-a-long, designed by Lisa Richardson. and happily tackling each of the seven motifs as they came along. 

I was originally going for the cushion option, but when I laid them all out, I just fell in love with the colours and the wool (Jillybean Shetland for the variegated, Blacker's Shetland and Classic 4ply for the solids) and wanted to wear them around me.  And so, in the middle of a heatwave, I've finally seamed, edged and blocked my new winter scarf. 

In the end I chose the best 24 hexes (out of  28) and just seamed them in two rows of 12 as that made more than a long enough scarf. I then did the trebles edging which ties it all together.  Oooh, it is very warm and cozy but I'll be putting it away now until the winter.

This CAL has boosted my crochet confidence enormously and I'm very proud of having been able to follow all the instructions. Some of these motifs are so pretty I'm sure I'll be using them in future projects.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Celebrating British Wool at Woolfest 2015. . .

Woolfest 2015 was amazing.  I've been twice previously but both times it poured cats and dogs, and I was with the Liverpud who -  bless him -  tried to look interested and to save him from boredom, I hurried myself along and tried to do the whole show in less than two hours. You can't do it justice in that time.

But this year, the sun was shining, the Liverpud dropped me and three knitting friends off at the venue and took himself off for a walk, and we had over five glorious hours to explore the show.  All of us, Liverpud included, had a great day.

Going on Saturday made a big difference too.  It was less manic and I really got the chance to look at every booth and have longer and really interesting conversations with the vendors.  And I even got to try drop spinning which has re-awoken my desire to learn how to do it properly.

I even bought some fibre from Skybluepink Designs to induce me to watch the Craftsy course I bought,  and to get out that drop spindle lying in a box under my bed.  I just fell in love with these colours!

I may have gone slightly overbudget (well, that was a given), but I did keep to my goal of only buying British wool - not difficult when there was so much fantastic yarn on offer.  I also wanted to challenge myself by buying wool I'd not tried before so even though I love, love Titus and John Arbon, I was able to restrain myself in their booths and bring home something new instead.

My first purchase was two skeins of Susan Crawford's Excelana 4ply in this glorious limited edition colourway called Coral Lombard.  How could I resist?  The name alone had me smiling, not to mention the rich colour.

Oooh and then look at the deep purple in these skeins of aran wool from the Hebridean Islands, bought at the Sheepfold booth.  There are flecks of blue and brown in there too and I think these are destined to become winter mitts and cowls.  I have some dark brown Herdy wool in my stash that would complement it perfectly.

I've not tried any wool from the Falkand Islands before but I'm a big fan of Blacker's yarns and so these two skeins came home with me.

And then there's Jillybeans.  Sadly due to family circumstances, she wasn't able to be at Woolfest but had given a friend a lot of skeins to sell on her behalf.  I absolutely adore how she dyes her wool - all of which is 100% British, a mixture of Shetland and BFL.  Look at how rich her colours are!  No idea what I'll do with them yet, but I always like having her yarns in my stash; the right project is sure to come along.

And then I fell in love with these two beauties.  I love the colour and rustic feel of these organic skeins from Garthenor.   This will definitely become a shawl. Perhaps Lucy Hague's Taliesin or Karie Westermann's new design Mahy.

And then there was a booth called Riverside that was selling huge skeins for hand or machine knitting.  They didn't come with information tags, but the company write-up in the brochure said all their wool was sourced and spun in the UK.  I got this enormous 1000g skein for only £20 and since I regularly use grey as one of my "neutral" colours in knitting, I jumped at the bargain.  It took me three hours to wind it up (no, I don't have a ball winder).  It seems to be fingering weight and this is what it looks like - the biggest ball of wool I have ever wound.  Should last me quite a while.

Apart from all the yarn, I was really delighted to come upon these unusual buttons from the Wool Clip collective.  They are made from Cumbrian slate and I think they would look fantastic on a rustic wool cardigan.  I am so, so pleased with all of my purchases.  That should tie me over at any rate until Yarndale!