Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Along the Anglesey Coastal Path. . .

It's been two years since we did this walk on the north-western edge of Anglesey, near Holyhead, but last weekend, our rambling group tackled another ten miles of the coastal path on the south side of the island.

We started inland in the village of Maltreath and headed through fields and meadows towards the sea.

Here's the first glimpse of the coast and the moment we all started to feel like school kids on a summer holiday.

There are some gorgeous beaches along this coastline - sandy, enclosed and quite sheltered.  This is the beach near Aberffraw.  A good place to stop for lunch although I always feel quite conspicuous in my hiking gear among the sunbathers and hardy swimmers.

I brought along my summer beach knitting since the colours seemed so appropriate.

We then joined the Anglesey Coastal path which winds its way west and north.  We couldn't have asked for better weather - a really perfect summer's day and lovely coastal breezes.

Ahead is the medieval St. Cwyfan's Church, known as the Church in the Sea, built in the 12th century.  It's located on a tiny tidal island, but there is a rocky causeway connecting it to the mainland and it is still used for services.

As we approached the end of the walk in Rhosneigr, you can just see the top of Holyhead Mountain in the far distance.

And another lovely beach.

Can't have a day by the sea without ice cream.

 I think there are more stunning bits of coastline and on the whole, I preferred our first Anglesey walk, but this one was pleasant enough - good company, sunshine, and walking over the sand gave a decent work out for different leg muscles.

Friday, 14 July 2017

One, Two, Three, Cast-on!. . . .

My resolve is holding firm against my insatiable need to cast-on ALL THE THINGS.  I vowed to finish 3 WIPs for every new cast-on and so far, this seems to be working. In my last post, I showed you my completed Vatsland Jumper (No. 1).  I then finished this fun Talmadge Cloche, (No. 2) designed by Romi Hill, which was July's project for  A Year of Techniques.   I didn't think I'd enjoy knitting a lace hat as much as I did, but the pattern is lovely.  It was knit top down using a pinhole cast-on and then a knitted seed stitch border was added.

Keeping with a lace theme, I also finished my Waterlily, (No. 3) designed by Meghan Fernandes and featured in Pom Pom Quarterly.   I used only two skeins of Juniper Moon Farm Zooey DK which is a cotton/linen blend. I really like the fit but was quite exasperated with the lace top. Had to do a bit of fiddling with the pattern and then folding over and sewing down bits of the back edge as it gaped quite a bit. It still gapes, but it's not nearly as bad as before.  I think I will get quite a lot of use out of this top over the summer.

So three projects off the needles and now the fun part.  I think I've found the perfect project for this
gradient yarn from Canadian dyer,  The Blue Brick.  I picked up two skeins at Yarns Untangled, the last time I was in Toronto - the colourway is called Ocean Fortress.  After knitting several neutral-coloured items, it's fun to contemplate that bright blue on my needles.  I'm not sure it's going to work out yet, so will hold off posting until I get a little further along.

Now, what other teeny, tiny wips do I have hanging around. . . . there are tons of new patterns vying for my attention right now.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

A Tale of Two Sweaters. . .

There are sweaters and then there are sweaters.  Last Sunday I had a rare day at home all to myself with no distractions, so used the opportunity to crack  on and finish the body of my Next Year in Lerwick.

I have really challenged myself with this pattern, beautifully designed by Tori Seierstad, both in trying to use up my stash and in making a few alterations.  I didn't plan all the colours in advance -a  few of them were dictated by what I had on hand, but I think they've worked out.  Now that the body is finished, it looks completely different to what I had initially envisioned in my head, but that's not a bad thing.  I always knew I wanted to use the Daughter of a Shepherd hebridean 4ply as the main background colour with bits of Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumper weight for the contrast colours.  I have a cone of FC65 which is the dark turquoise, and I initially thought it would be the main contrast colour.  But as I worked through each band of motifs, I was using lighter shades of turquoise, on the outsides, building up to the dark in the middle. Now I see that it probably should have been the other way around as there are far more rows of the lighter shades.

I'm not unhappy with the results - just bemused that I got it so wrong, but when you are in the midst of knitting it, sometimes it's hard to see the big picture. I do admire knitters who will swatch with all their colours, or at least use pencil crayons and graph paper to work out all the shading and gradients. I am not one of those knitters, as I'm usually too impatient to get going but I've definitely learned a lot from this project.

My other big alteration was to the neckline, which in the pattern is more of a boatneck, but which I've converted to a smaller scoop neck.  Since this is knit top-down, I used the beginnings of the First Fair Isle jumper that I knit earlier this year and then fudged a bit of the stitch count to get to the same number as the Lerwick pattern when it came to starting the colourwork.

I also omitted the waist shaping so again, had to play with some of the motif numbers with varying success; the sides of this sweater aren't really consistent, but I keep my arms down most of the time, so hopefully it won't be too noticeable.  The dark hebridean yarn is a wee bit thinner than the J & S so I may rip out the hem and redo it in a 1x1 rib with smaller needles. It's flaring out a bit with the 2x3 rib and I'm not sure blocking would solve it.

Spending several hours doing this type of colourwork is hard on the hands so I've put Lerwick aside for a few days before tackling the sleeves (never my favourite bit - it's far too tempting to turn this into a short-sleeved top, but I've come this far, so full sleeves it will be).  For a complete contrast, I picked up and finished my Vatsland Jumper, designed by Ella Gordon.  This was a joy to knit, even the sleeves. I would definitely recommend this pattern for anyone who is new to knitting jumpers.  I added one of the contrast colours to the sleeve cuffs and did an extra row of decreases around the neckline, as well as adding another inch or two to the body.  I think it stretched out a little in the blocking stage, but that can be fixed.  At the moment it's too hot to wear, but this will be the perfect everyday, go-to sweater for the autumn and winter.  It is so cozy and the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter blooms wonderfully after a soak, which really smooths out any tension inconsistencies in the stockinette.

Plain and fancy.  Intricate and basic. Fingering versus Worsted.  Colourful and muted.  We need all of these in our wardrobes and I love being able to create such different looks and types of garments, all through this magical power of knitting.   And another WIP off the needles!

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

In Which I Give Myself a Stern Talking To. . .

The WIPs are piling up.  And piling up.  I've been busy trying to sort out my ever-expanding stash and in doing so have come across quite a few bags with half finished projects going back at least six years.   Blimey.

Here's the problem.  I love to start new projects. It makes me feel virtuous to be using up stash and it's exciting to venture into a new knitting experience. It doesn't help that I subscribe to a number of knitting magazines and there are just so many beautiful publications coming out this year.  The inspiration and temptation is overwhelming.  These are just a few that have popped through the mail box in the last month.  I want to knit about a dozen things from this lot alone.

And so, in a burst of creativity and optimism and quite frankly, smothering myself in a cloud of delusion, I happily cast on. And I get so far.  And then I get bored, or tempted by another project, or I pop it temporarily in a bag and forget about it.  Yet,  I still really, really, want to finish these projects.


It's time to get tough with myself.  I have some absolutely lovely knits on the go and I am determinedly pledging to get at least three WIPs - any three - done before I cast on anything new.  I can see myself trying to get smaller projects done first, but that is fine - I have socks and wrist warmers and hats, all in various stages of completion.  And if nothing else, I need to free up those needles.

So here are my most pressing WIPs and the ones I will be trying to finish first.

#1.  My Next Year in Lerwick jumper by Tori Seierstad.   I'm off to Shetland in just over six weeks and I really need to get this done.  I have the bottom third to knit, two sleeves and the neckline. It's doable but I need to get cracking.

#2.  The Talmadge Cloche.  Designed by Romi Hill, this is June's project for the Year of Techniques and it's so modern and stylish.  I never though I'd go for - let alone knit -  a lace hat, but I've seen several finished projects now and it's the type of design that suits a lot of different heads.  I'm nearly at the brim so one more push and a block and I'll be done, although I'm reminded I still have May's mouse to finish too.  But I won't cast on July's project until my three WIPs are done.

#3. When the heatwave hit last week, I went scrambling in my stash for some linen or cotton to knit with (another excuse to cast on something new).  I'm half way up the body of Waterlily by Meghan Fernandes and it would be nice to wear this before the end of summer.

#4.  Another Shetland jumper.  As soon as the pattern was released, I knew I wanted to knit this, also in time for Shetland as we'll be meeting up with the designer, Ella Gordon.  This is the very pretty Vatsland Jumper and whew, I've been having a time trying to decide on my colours.  I had enough Brooklyn Tweed Shelter in my stash for the main body and this was my first version - just pulling some scraps from stash.

But Brooklyn Tweed yarn has a very distinctive, soft, mottled look and the different yarns just weren't playing well together. It also had too much of a Ronald McDonald look for my liking.  So on to the second incarnation.  This time I used a few colours of Brooklyn Tweed Loft held double, along with the main colour.  It was an improvement but I wasn't in love with it.

Just as I was pondering whether to continue or rip back and have another rummage in the stash, as if by magic, there was a thump on the door mat and this lovely box arrived.

I have long heard knitters rave about the legendary Alice Starmore's Hebridean 2ply yarn and since I'll be heading to the Outer Hebrides later this year on holiday, it seemed only fitting that I try it out. I ordered a few skeins for some different projects entirely, but as soon as I held the Pebble Beach colourway (in the middle), I knew that this was exactly what my Vatsland had been waiting for.   And so Version 3 was born and this one is a keeper. The Barn Owl colourway of the Shelter really responds to a lighter colour palette and the Hebridean looks perfect next to the other Brooklyn Tweed shades.  In fact, the texture and airiness of the Hebridean is surprisingly similar to the feel of Shelter and Loft, whereas I'd expected it to be a bit stickier, more like Jamieson and Smith's 2ply.  I am delighted with this discovery as it's much cheaper and quicker for me to order from Virtual Yarns and so far I really love knitting with it.  This has a simple stockinette body and three quarter length sleeves. I so hope I can also finish this in time for Shetland although my Lerwick remains the priority. 

#5.  My Firth O' Forth Cardigan by Kate Davies.  This is my latest cast-on, which I am knitting with Portland Lace in a beautiful deep teal blue colourway called A Day in the Woods.  I won't be finishing this anytime soon as it's knit in lace weight but it's a fairly easy pattern to memorize and so could be a good portable project. I'll be crossing the Firth of Forth by train on my way up to Ullapool so I must get a few stitches knitted on the actual bridge. 

I won't bore you with the many other WIPs I need to tackle, but hopefully they will be making an appearance on this blog as Finished Objects before too long.  I must stay strong. . .

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Five Year Anniversaries. . .

This week marks five years since moving to the U.K.   I can't believe how quickly the time has flown, or how much has happened to me over the years.   I can say, without any hesitation, that moving was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  Yes, I definitely miss friends and family back in Canada and in many ways in terms of day to day activities that we often take for granted, Canada just works better as a country to live in (don't get me started on U.K. banks or U.K. politics).  I certainly still get homesick for the strangest things and miss that feeling of just being a Canadian. Hard to explain but I know my fellow Canuck ex-pats will understand.

But I feel really settled in my new home. I initially moved to be with the Liverpud and we're still together, still having tons of laughs, and still planning and enjoying the ongoing adventure. This island remains one of the best places in the world to be a walker and I continue to be awed at the infrastructure available for hikers and the amazing and beautifully varied countryside and coastlines open to all. I have a good, non-stressful job that I enjoy and which allows me to work part-time -  a complete switch in the life-work balance game -  something I feel so profoundly grateful for. I've made some really good friends, I have good neighbours, I actually know my neighbours (never did in a busy city like Toronto), and it's been wonderful to have a proper backyard and to indulge in some amateur gardening (haven't had one since I was a kid). I planted some lettuces this weekend - never thought I'd ever do that.  And of course, I now feel really connected to the British knitting and wool community and have met so many amazing people from all over the U.K. through Ravelry, at wool shows, at knit and natters and on social media. It's a fabulous community and through it, I'm even going to be visiting the Shetland Islands later this summer with seven fabulous knitters.

But I'm not the only one celebrating a 5th anniversary.  Pom Pom Magazine is also 5 years old.  I've been subscribing since Issue 6 and they just published their 21st.  I've loved them all;  it's so encouraging  to see a print journal be successful, but they've really found the perfect blend of original indie designs, interesting articles, and a good recipe or two. It's also filled with beautiful photography and design elements.  I think they've been the perfect model for other really creative and beautiful magazines now publishing such as Laine or Making. I was never a fan of self-publishing in the book world but there's a lovely revival going on in crafting that I can certainly get behind and love to support.

I knew I wanted to knit something out of this anniversary edition and since one of my favourite yarns - Baa Ram Ewe's Titus 4ply -  is also celebrating its 5th anniversary, it seemed only right to cast on and combine the two.

I chose Jamboree designed by Francesca Hughes. Her original version shown below is knit in lace weight but it was a bit too wispy and see-through for my liking.  Knitting it in 4ply created a much firmer texture but the alpaca and BFL in the Titus still keeps it soft. 

The garment is knit sideways so it's very easy to work out the width that you want.  Unfortunately, in my eagerness to cast on, I didn't swatch so didn't really pay attention to the length.  Thus when I'd joined the shoulders, it was far too short. 

I nearly despaired at this point.  I didn't want to rip it out and start again and I was so in love with the look and the feel of the top. The arm holes were already finished nicely because they incorporated the cast on and bind off so it was easy to go for a sleeveless option.  But what to do about the hem?

I tried various forms of ribbing and mesh but nothing seemed to look just right. Originally I was knitting it in the dark grey and it just emphasized the mistake in length.  It was only when I switched to the blue and made a mistake doing a twisted rib (instead of twisting both the knit and purl stitches, I was only twisting the knit ones), that I felt it was going to work. The more circular-looking rib stitches tied in to the overall pattern and I was finally happy with the look.  I decided to knit a split hem.

I then finished off the neckline with a few rows of simple garter stitch, decreasing stitches evenly around to pull the neckline in.

And here is the final top - I am so glad I didn't give up on this. I love the colours, the texture and the hem.  It's a nice - if warm - summer top and I can also wear it over long sleeves in the winter.

And if you want to hear more about why I love Titus 4ply so much, check out Episode 85 of the Knit British podcast.   Apologies if I accidentally blast your ear drums - I do get very excited - and loud -  when talking about wool!

Happy Anniversary to all of us!

Thursday, 15 June 2017

A Windy Wales: Blown Around in a Circular Route from Trawsfynydd. . .

I don't have the greatest photos to show you from last Sunday's walk. It was grey and raining in the morning and then all afternoon the wind, while not particularly cold, was battering us from all directions, high and low.  It got so bad at times, I was afraid of getting my phone out in case the wind snatched it from my hand.

Still, it was a new-to-me area for walking, in the north Rhinogs part of Snowdonia.  We started in the village of Trawsfynydd and crossed the lake of the same name on one of the longest footbridges over water I've ever been on.

That hill range in the distance was what we were heading towards.

And this is the view halfway up the hill, looking back at the lake.

It was quite steep but the journey up was made harder by the boggy paths. You really had to be careful where you placed your boots.

There was a bit of scrambling on the rocky tops.

I have to admit that every summit we gained looked a bit like this.  I know we got to the top of Moel Ysgyfarnogod where apparently you can see the Welsh coast around Porthmadog. But clearly not today.

However, all was not lost. It was the perfect weather to test out my new Bousta Beanie, designed by Gudrun Johnson for this year's Shetland Wool Week.  It's a free pattern for a year and I knit mine using Jamieson & Smith 2ply jumperweight. Not only did it keep my ears warm, but it stayed on my head the entire time! You really can't ask for more from a hat.  Lots of fun to knit too, and you can add a pom pom if you so wish. 

Coming down, there were glimpses of magical light.

This is really wild country - very few paths and kudos to our leader for his navigational skills.

The wild ponies seemed right at home.

And so we ended back where we started from.

And then the sun decided to come out.   Sigh.

I think we all fell asleep on the coach back. While not the hardest of walks, the constant wind created quite a workout and I was yawning well into Monday morning.