Thursday, October 30, 2014

Keeping Up With the KALs. . .

I am a sucker for KALs (knit-alongs), especially when they involve a pattern or designer that I really admire.  I'm very good at getting myself psyched with anticipation and then casting on with hundreds of others on ravelry and then. . . and then. . . well, life intervenes and I end up having too many projects on the go!  But I am getting them slowly under control.
I have finally finished my Lush cardigan, designed by Tin Can Knits. This was a KAL begun by several British podcasters, starting with Knit British and I tried to keep up but there was the matter of that Martin Storey blanket to complete.  I've finished nearly two months after everyone else, but hey, it's now done and I have a new autumn cardigan.  The yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers and it's a bit more orangey-red than the photo shows. 

The fit is perfect even if this rushed photo shows it to be a bit wrinkly.  I also have to reblock my button bands as I'd made a silly mistake and had to reknit both of them after I'd sewed the buttons on!

I'm also working on Rowan's Kaffe Fassett KAL.  Since I can't quite face another afghan, I've opted to do the small cushion and am being even lazier by knitting just one out of the two squares specified for each clue.  I'm guessing the second square is for the back of the pillow and I prefer to use fabric instead.  I do have some Kaffe striped material that will be perfect.  Each square follows the same pattern and sequence of stripes; the mystery is how all the colours will work together in the end. I'm following the pattern's placement but using some 4ply from my stash.  Here are my first three squares and I'm not at all sure how this will turn out colourwise.  There are some fabulous photos on ravelry from knitters doing the whole afghan.

And then this Friday is the start of Stephen West's next mystery shawl KAL, Exploration Station.

I've knitted his last two KALs and really loved the process. They were creative and original and so much fun to knit.  I learned a lot of new techniques too.  This was the first - Rockefeller - which I still trot out frequently.

 And then came Colour Craving.

This last one was so huge that to be honest, I don't wear it that often. So for this new KAL, I'm going with laceweight.  The pattern calls for four colours, one main, border colour and then three good contrast colours.  I'm torn at the moment between two options from my stash.  I could add some texture by throwing in some mohair.

Or use this raspberry Madeline Tosh as the main, with three balls of Lousia Harding Amitola that has shades of gray, chartreuse and deep forest green in it.

I have until tomorrow to decide.  So excited to see the first clue!

Friday, October 17, 2014

An Autumn Shawl. . .

I have lots of works in progress on the knitting front these days (and am signed up to too many KALs!) but I did recently finish my Delita, designed by Nadia Cretin-Lechenne

The pattern is from the latest issue of Pom Pom Magazine, a charming indy publication which I subscribe to as I absolutely love the photography, styling, articles, feel and look of it.  There are recipes too!  And the patterns are always original, slightly quirky and very appealing to knit.

It was the border of this shawl that really caught my eye. After a body of mesh, there's a row of bobbles in a contrast colour and then two triangular lace borders, one on top of the other.  I chose to make the larger one in the contrast colour.

The wool used for the body is most of a skein of Freia Handpainted Lace that I picked up at the Knit Cafe when I visited Toronto last summer.  The colourway is Maple and I liked the gradations from the smoky brown to an almost dusty deep rose.  The green is some Madeline Tosh lace from my stash.   Though the pattern called for 4ply, I preferred to make it with the smaller yarn to create more of a scarf than the initial generously sized shawl, although in hindsight, I should also have adapted it to be a bit more crescent shaped.

It still works nicely as a shawlette however, and keeps my neck cozy if I wrap it around a few times.  It certainly feels and looks very autumnal to me.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Daytripping: Conwy and Llandudno. . .

Whew - it's been a busy two weeks hosting my friends from Canada but we had a lot of fun exploring Liverpool and the environs, as well as having a Yorkshire weekend taking in Saltaire, Haworth, Leeds and York. 
One of the best places for a simple day trip out of Liverpool though has to be Conwy in North Wales, and this was one of the first places we took them.  I blogged here about the gorgeous walking in the hills just behind the town  but you can easily spend a day exploring the streets contained within its walkable walls.  It's an extremely pretty town sandwiched between the mountains and the sea. 

First up, you definitely must visit the castle. Built by Edward I in the late 13th century, it is absolutely magnificant.  Usually all that remains of most castles is the shell of the outer wall, and perhaps a tower or two. But when you are walking around this one, you really can get a sense of the dimensions and layout of the inner rooms. As ever, I'm always amazed at how much has lasted for so many centuries on this island.

You can also climb several of the towers - be careful if you suffer from vertigo - and the views in every direction are just fantastic.

The jackdaws seem to like the view too. There were several perched on the battlements.

And where modern meets medieval: I loved this huge sculpture of Edward I entitled The King's Head by Gideon Peterson

In complete contrast, Conwy also hosts The Smallest House in Great Britain.  I love the traditional Welsh fabric used as a curtain.  It hasn't been lived in for over a hundred years, but still has all the essentials, and is quite fun to quickly peep into.

There are lots of good fish and chip shops in Conwy along with delicious ice cream parlours and quirky independent shops. Walking along the quayside looking at all the boats can't help inducing a holiday mood. Fortified by a good lunch, we then drove a few miles to the seaside resort of Llandudno which claims to be not only where Alice Liddell went for childhood holidays before inspiring her namesake in Wonderland, but also Bill Bryson's favourite seaside resort. To get the best view, we took the tramway up the Great Orme.  You can also go up by cable car.

Here's the view at the top looking roughly south east.

And roughly southwest.  We didn't have time to play, but isn't this a fabulous mini-golf course?  Or crazy golf as they call it in the U.K.

Llandudno also has the longest pier in Wales. The arcade was sadly shut by the time we arrived, but it was still fun to stroll along the planks.

And here's two beautiful views of the town from the pier.

For geographical and historical impact, these two towns certainly gave my guests the wow factor and put us all in the holiday mood!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Among the Heather in North Wales. . .

North Wales continues to astound and delight me with the beauty of its coastline.  Our walking group recently went to Conwy and started climbing the hills above the magnificent castle.

Sea, sand and sheep!

And lots and lots of gorgeous heather.  I couldn't stop gazing at it all; it's as if a tweed factory exploded all over the hillside.

And then the heather mixes with the yellow gorse and you get this:

I'm knitting the perfect accompaniment.  The shawl (about 60% done in this photo) is now finished, but I haven't been able to take proper photos of it yet.

Lunch was by a neolithic stone circle.

Where wild ponies also roamed and were not in the least spooked by us.

This is a view of part of our route back to Conwy.

We went via the Jubilee Path, created to celebrate Queen Victoria's Jubilee.  These pillars mark the beginning.

And it edges around this hill en route to the next climb.

And more stunning landscape tapestry.

We didn't get back in time to really explore the streets of Conwy, but the little I saw was so lovely, I knew it would be the perfect place for a day trip out with my Canadian guests.  More soon. . .

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Some Easy Stashbusting Blankets. . .

I've been on a roll with blankets lately.  My huge granny square has now become big enough to cover the double bed so I'm calling it done for now (just a few ends to weave in). It's heavy, but very cosy to snuggle under and I love all the colours.  I used just bits and bobs of leftover stash and it was the perfect project for telly watching.  I basically used mostly DK weight, but threw in the odd chunky yarn (just did three doubles instead of four for each space) and a few fingering weights held double. I really like being reminded of previous projects when I look at this blanket and also really happy that I finally found a use for some odd skeins that I just couldn't find a project for. 
This week I also finished this throw for the spare bedroom. The pattern is adapted from Stephen West's Garter Squish blanket (free on ravelry) and again, it's a great stashbuster. You just knit as many rows of garter stitch as you like with chunky yarn (or DK held double), along with a contrasting colour of lace or 4ply which creates this lovely mottled, tweedy effect.  I just did two separate lengths of differently sized stripes, crocheted them together and added a crochet edging.  I have guests coming from Canada tomorrow (hooray!) and as the nights are getting a bit chilly, this will hopefully keep one of them warm.


I would love to be able to say that these two blankets have made a significant dent in my stash but alas (hangs head) they really haven't. 

Monday, September 22, 2014

Walking in Rogue Herries Country Part Two: Up Skiddaw

This is Keswick with the imposing Skiddaw rising above it.  One of the key characters spanning the books in the Herries Chronicles is the fiery Judith Paris who has to constantly battle between her love of living wild and isolated among the fells at Watendlath, and her desire to manage the lives of the more civilised Herries' living at Uldale, just on the other side of Skiddaw.  Keswick plays a recurring role in the books; indeed when we visited, there was a market down the main street and while the wares may have been different from centuries ago, (though there was still wool!), you could certainly squint and picture it as it might have been.

Every time I've visited Keswick, I've wanted to climb Skiddaw, which is the 6th highest peak in England at just over 3050 feet. It's also covered in beautiful heather at this time of year. The first part of the hike is quite a gentle.

Looking east towards Blencathra, one stumbles on this lovely memorial to two 19th century shepherds, father and son, who were also breeders of prize Herdwicks.  I can't help but think of Wordsworth's poem "Michael", hoping this had a happier ending. 

Looking back from the slopes of Skiddaw, you get an amazing view of Keswick, Derwentwater and Catbells and the Newlands Horseshoe prominent among a wave of amazing fells.

Then further up there are more great views of Blencathra or Saddleback as it's also known.

Like many high mountains, Skiddaw can be a slog at times.  And it does have one of the worst false tops I've ever encountered. We're already fairly high up in the photo below and it looks as if there's just one more steep climb ahead of us.

But no - here's what greeted us. Down and up again!

But the views are worth it.  This is almost near the summit, looking west towards Bassenthwaite Lake.

And once down again in the late afternoon, a final smug look back.  Yep, that's another peak crossed off.  And we got back with an hour still to go for browsing in the market.  I did mention a wool stall!