Sunday, August 15, 2010

UK Knit Camp

This time last week I was wondering if it was going to be worth travelling to Stirling or whether I'd get there only to find the whole thing cancelled. A whole load of stuff had gone on that I and many others really weren't interested in but the lack of communication was a very real problem.
However decided that best course of action was to set off and make the best of it and had a wonderful time because:-

The location - who could not enjoy staying here
The masses of rabbits and squirrels that were found hopping around these perfectly manicured lawns and generally unphased by the proximity of people (if only my lawns looked like this).

Of the brilliant classes I attended:-

Becs who opened my eyes to the possibilities of knitting and crocheting with wire and taught me basic wire work- I need some more Habu steel and silk yarn and have a clear idea of how to now use this.

Di Gilpin who had the uneviable task of trying to squeeze a 2 day class into a morning - didn't quite complete making a personalised pattern but the class was so inspirational and got lots of tips and ideas of simple things that can make a difference. Also gave me some personal advice on how to use the wonderful silk Aran singles that I bought from her some years ago.

Lucy Neatby - a truly professional teacher. Her classes were intense but learnt the most incredibly useful things and it was worth travelling to Stirling to have learned how to do the Garter Stitch Short Row Heel. Also determined to sort out making scallops.

Should have taken a class with Lorilee but was really disappointed that this got cancelled however was lucky enough to be in self-catering accommodation with 4 continental knitters who made it their mission to teach me how to knit in that style. Now all I have to do is practice!

My flatmates at Alexander Court - Katrin, Kristen, Stephanie, Malin and Sarah Jane (I'm on the end with the red Clapotis). Their company was great and hopefully we'll all meet again at Knit Nation. From reading other people's comments on Ravely meeting other knitters from other countries was a highlight of the event and this common aim of just getting on and enjoying ourselves (along with the classes and the wonderful setting) is what has ultimately made the event a success.

It was so nice having the choice of yarn and effort that had gone into knitting this Clapotis recognised by other knitters.
New Lanark - what a place and it was incredibly frustrating not to be able to spend more time exploring.
However really look forward to returning with Mark and exploring at length.

One of the unexpected effects of the week is not being able to get the sound of bagpipes out of my brain. When they all got together and actually played a tune through these guys were incredibly competent but when they were practising alone or in small groups and at 7.00 am wasn't feeling quite so charitable.
Picking out a ring from The Fotheringham Gallery - it's taken me a long time to find something that is totally different and what I really want but at last!

It was a good break away but it was also good to return home to Mark and the animals.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

To the Lighthouse

Had the best holiday for many years and not been so relaxed for a long time. After lots of faffing around because my car had a gearbox problem and getting extra insurance to cover taking out the garage courtesy car so far and for a week eventually got away. Were due to go to Scotland on the Whitsun Bank Holiday Saturday but due to the car problems and fact it was lashing with rain decided to leave on the Sunday.

It was a really good decision because we had a lovely relaxed drive up to Scotland with little traffic on the road. The 10 roundabouts with lots on the Dumfries by-pass made us thankful that we weren't driving our own car. Eventually got what was to be home for the next week.

Our cottage was the building on the left and is Kittiwake Cottage and was one of the Lighthousekeeper's Cottages at the Mull of Galloway Lighthouse. Our front door opened opposite the lighthouse door. Went up the lighthouse and could see over to the Isle of Man but unfortunately it wasn't clear enough to see out to Ireland. Although there was a small museum and RSPB visitor centre they were closed up at 4.00pm and we then had the whole place to ourselves. There was also a cafe within a stonesthrow which did good All Day Breakfasts.

Part of the reason it was so relaxing was that we were able to do good walks directly from the cottage. It was great being able to walk along the cliffs and watch birds and saw a small number of Puffin and Black Guillemot which were a new sighting for me.

Also had some good days out including Logan Botanic Gardens who provided good deep shaded parking, so could leave the dog in the car whilst we went around the garden. Due to the Gulfstream got loads of exotic plants, especially trees and shrubs and an especially good range of Eucalyptus
This is the Chilean Flame Tree - aptly named
It's amazing how these Himalayan Poppies start out this purple colour and then develop into
this bright blue colour - you can just see the first bits of blue on the above pic

This azalea was such a bright orange colour that it was almost painful but contrasted brilliantly with the bronze foliage
We have avenues of trees leading up to houses in this country but this avenue of palms was something else
Because of the Gulf Stream get lots of warm moist air so get loads of lichen developing on the trees and just loved the way this had developed on this branch
Loved these gardens and would certainly visit them again and the inclusion of a really good tea room where we had an excellent crab salad made the visit complete

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Brand New Year & New Start

Ok so it's a month in but despite a mediocre Xmas due to a stonking cold the New Year did get off to a good start. Sat up to watch in the New Year then went to put the dog and out and it was the most amazing night - snowy, clear skies and bright, bright moon. So dashed in, put on boots, duvet jackets, woolly hats and went for a walk down the towpath in bright moonlight - magic!!

Had some of the coldest weather and most snow for approx 20 years - even recorded -13.5 degrees at 9,30am on Fri 8th. Went for a walk and got these pics which are self explanatory.

The canal was frozen over for weeks and there was a deep layer of snow over it and even saw sheep walking across.
This and the cow parsley shot shows how low the temp dropped and the formation of snow crystals on this fence post.
Due to the eye operations which have led to such a dramatic change in my eyesight read very few books last year but determined to get back to regularly reading this year. Already got off to a good start. Marianne loaned me The Road Home by Rose Tremain which is the best thing I've read for a long time. I've read her historically set books Restoration and Music and Silence which I enjoyed but this is the best yet and offers an interesting view of contemporary London.
Currently reading Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky which I've picked up several times but for some reason had never bought. Don't know why because really enjoying it and the fact that some of the chapters are really short which means I get to read most nights before going to sleep.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Wild and Windy

After weeks and weeks of dry weather at last we have some typical autumnal weather ie it's wet and windy so a good time to catch up. Think 2009 is going to stick in my mind as the year of decorating and moving - not for us but helping out my mum and sister. Were incredily lucky to get my mum into sheltered accommodation back at the end of June. However the lady who had lived there previously had been a chain smoker so the whole place was smoke stained therefore needed to decorate the whole flat. Fortunately the weather was dry and hot so ideal for painting. Was also good in that it meant I got to spend some quality time with my niece who's a really great kid. Of course the day we had to move my mum was one of the hottest of the summer but she's settled and much happier now. Seems mad that when surveys are showing that so many old folk are really lonely and we have an ageing population this kind of accommodation is becoming increasingly scarce.

Then spent yesterday decorating at my sister's house. However it didn't go so well but got there in the end and DN has extremely good taste and her room looks good now and hopefully she can start making it her own.

The foul weather outside also gives me the perfect excuse to catch up on some knitting. Have done loads of spinning this year but enthusiasm for knitting seems to have waned a bit. Took part in Tour de Fleece - the discipline of having to spin practically every day was really good for me. Spun up loads of my stashed fibre and although there was the odd day when it felt a bit of a chore don't know that I'd have had the patience to spin up enough for a sweater otherwise.

This is what I started with approx 600g Turquoise Ashland Merino/Silk mix, 200g Lime Green Jelly merino/cashmere/silk mix fibre, another 100g Blue, Green, Purple mix Ashland Merino/Silk and some turquoise, green and purple Wensleydale locks.
I didn't quite finish it all but got pretty close. Got a bit fed up of spinning so much blue fibre so did this as a quick spin
This is Spindlefrog Falkland which I picked up at Wonderwool - and spun up into

300 m of 2 plyed yarn which I've called Sunny Delight and 20m N ply.
DH really wanted some bright and blowsy Dahlias and was so pleased with these - unfortunately they didn't flower until last week. Loved the way the colours match the colours of the yarn above.
Besides decorating, moving and clearing and sorting my mum's house and all the spinning also did lots of sewing and gardening over the summer. It was so good to be off work and felt that I achieved something every day which is something I rarely achieve at work these days. Also felt a lot fitter and certainly eat much better.
My Pioneer then had a catastophic failure and had to have the crank replaced and on receipt of my Southern Cross Fibre club September bump decided it was so nice had to spin it up quickly. It was a lovely mix of Polworth and Silk and super soft and shiny.
The fibre photographed on the beautifully sunny evening it arrived.
Plaited up which shows the colours more clearly.
Singles again photographed and spun during a lovely sunny evening

The end result 545m of the loveliest sqooshy singles which I then knitted into
an Ishbel shawl
Although I spun loads during the late Spring and Summer have knitted very little however really enjoyed knitting this and got it done in a fortnight. It was so good to knit something out of my handspun and it's certainly got me back into knitting again. Got a pair of socks on the needles but really keen to knit another shawl and more things out of my handspun.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Offa's Dyke Walk

We're lucky that this long distance footpath goes through the village and if you take the canal variation right past the back gate. It's one of the national long distance footpaths and runs all the way from Chepstow on the Severn Estuary and follows Offa's dyke an ancient border earthwork. It roughly demarcates the Welsh uplands to the West and lower ground of the English Plains to the East. I walked it from Chepstow to Montgomery several years ago but had to pull out of completing it due to strained ligaments. It's always been my aim to walk more of the northern sections if not the whole lot.

Fortunately Mark was able to drop me off at the County Boundary Bridge just outside Montgomery and started off from there. The path sets out along 2 fields where the battle of Montgomery was fought and I should have had wonderful views back to the town and castle which stands prominently above it. However could hardly see to the end of the field for mist. Path soon runs past Rownal Covert which is supposed to mark where all the dead were buried after the battle. Mark was under the impression this had been cleared but this was not the case and there was a really good mix of shrubs, mature and young trees so it is being well managed. Going past Rownal was sad to pass 2 unused old cottages either of which would have made a lovely house if restored. Ok they were a bit out in the sticks and didn't have a road to them but should have been easy to put in a track.

Along from here and for bits along the back of Forden follow the Dyke plus stretches of lovely old 'green lane'. Finding and walking along these always feels special since they're usually lined with hedges and/or really old trees, can be edged by high banks and it just feels as if you've following the footsteps of others and over several centuries. These stretches were the highlight of the day along with the section through Leighton Park. It was certainly a relief to be in woodland at times because when the mist did burn off it was extremely hot. Leighton Estate is the most amazing place dating form the time of John Naylor a Liverpool banker who took posession of the estate in 1849. He built a Gothic mansion but what is more interesting is the fact he made farm improvements so it's a 'model' farm. Looking at it in today's terms it was so far ahead of it's time and if running today could be considered totally sustainable. It had it's own gas works, a complex engineered water system and even a funicular railway. Walk past the remains of one of the pools and can see the enormous wall that held water back however it's now empty. From the estate there's bit of a hike up to Beacon Ring hill fort. Now from here one is supposed to be able to have wonderful views of the Severn Valley and the mass of the Breidden Hills. However in reality it seemed even murkier than these photos suggest

By the time I'd walked around the hill fort and out of the Cwmdingle Plantation I was desperate for lunch. However it had suddenly got a lot chillier, windier and I wsa convinced there was a storm brewing up so bolted my lunch down and thought I'd better get moving quickly as there was still a long way to go. It's an easy but very steep descent back down into the Severn Valley and Buttington followed by a short boring bit that follows argaes along the River Severn.
By the time I'd got back down into the valley a lot of the cloud had burnt off and it was blazing. Walking along argaes is incredibly boring and I would have roasted so followed the canal which is much more interesting and there was hope of cover along some stretches. There are some lovely stretches and some that are wider more open and a bit boring. I'd promised myself that if I got to Pool Quay by 2.00pm I'd dive down into the pub and treat myself to a pint of fruit juice and lemonade. Never has a drink been so well appreciated. Also had an interesting chat with the landlord and another old guy who had walked from Welshpool along the towpath and had stopped for lunch at the pub.
Then it was the long walk home - some bits I enjoyed especially those in the shade or when the sun went behind the clouds and others not so much. Had hoped Mark would pick me up at Burgedin Lock but he hadn't got home and since it was only 2.45 pm thought I might as well complete the whole walk. However didn't appreciate what a nightmare it would be crossing the main A483 and what a slog the bit from Arddleen to Penthryn Fawr would be. Got to the stretch that leads up to home and it was so hot covered myself up put my head down and just got on with it and never even noticed Mark and dog coming to meet me. I've never been so glad to have someone take my rucksack and to get home. However after lots of tea and a long cool shower was pleasantly physically tired but really happy.
From the guidebook worked it out as 17.5 miles - not bad for a day and haven't walked that kind of distance for years.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Life of an escapee

Not having been in work for 2 weeks and still having another 8 weeks off really does make me feel like an escapee. What is a little worrying is how quicly the time is going. The weather was horrible, really wet and cold the first week so hunkered down and got lots of things done. Also had a day out driving around North Wales with Mark whilst he was doing site visits.

There are some days that are spent at home but I seem to pack so much in to them in comparison to being at work or over weekends. Like Thursday, cleaned the whole house top to bottom and it's amazing how nice it is to have a clean, tidy house, went shopping including getting non-household things, did a couple of loads of washing, ironing, cooking and got the loft ready for use as a work room during the summer and even managed to pack a load of spinning in during the afternoon!!
I never ever would have thought about spinning or even knitting anything orange until relatively recently. However having knit orange Pomatomus socks for the October sock challenge I'm hooked on orange things. Interestingly it was also the colour that I got for my first Colour Swap partner. S0 I couldn't resist this Merino/Tencel mix fibre from All Spun Up - unfortunately I couldnt' get a decent pic of the fibre. Here it is all spun up - approx 600m 2 ply which has the most wonderful sheen and drape.
And here's some more orange yarn - 377m of 2ply New Day spun from Corriedale which was the March shipment of fibre from Spunky Eclectic.
Knitting has been severely limited this winter and early spring due to eye problems however it has meant that I have spent my spare time spinning.
Yesterday did an approx 15-18mile walk from Montgomery all the way home following the Offa's dyke path and then the canal from Pool Quay. All I can say is thank goodness I did it yesterday and not today - it is so hot here. After 2 horribly wet and cold summers we're just not used to the heat!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Happy Holiday

Well I'm now into the middle of the second week of ten weeks of extended leave from work. this is leave that I've built up over the last six years and just not had the time to take. I haven't got the spare cash to go on a big life changing trip and don't know that I'd necessarily want to. So going to be based at home most of the time and enjoy sorting and tidying the garden, walking and doing lots of sewing, knitting and spinning.

Since my last entry featured the purchase and first spun yarn thought it might be worthwhile showing some of the things I've spun since then:- This is the yarn I spun up from the singles shown in the previous post. I N-plyed it and then knitted this

Robin's Egg Blue Hat by Rachel Iufer - I love this and wore it lots over the winter. Although it's quite thick wool it's little on the big side and therefore for some reason doesn't seem to get too hot.

This was some BFL I got from Spindlefrog Cherry Blossom colourway.

Again I N-plyed it to give

3 skeins of lovely soft yarn which ranges from an orangey pink through to pinkey pink and then through to purpley pink but don't know how many yards I have. This has been sitting in my wooden bowl for ages and not sure what to do with it but at last have an idea.
I then had an eye operation mid Nov which severely limited what I was able to do craft wise.
Will post up pics and details of the other yarns I've spun since Xmas over the next few entries.
Last week was my first week off and spent much of it spinning and finishing off stuff for a Colour Swap. I sent a package of yellow goodies out to Anna in the Netherlands. Hopefully I'll manage to work out how to post a pic of it.