Friday, August 22, 2014

An explosion of projects

So, in my last post, I'd had to start a new sock pattern so that I had some train knitting to do whilst I was away. The first of those socks (Wise Hilda's Basic Ribbed Socks, in Bergère de France Opal)
is now complete and I'm pleased with the fit- my heels are very narrow so this is a great pattern. If you have wider heels you might want to knit the heel on more stitches.

Then I've been working on my Not Nautical or Striped Nautical Striped Jumper. You might remember that I was working out whether I could get gauge or not. Well, I didn't, but I decided that I'd try knitting the smallest size and it should work out at about the right size for me (this is already sounding ominous, isn't it?). So, I'm knitting away. It's 100% cotton, so quite hard work to knit with, although beautifully soft.

The slight flaw with this one is that I then discovered my 15 balls of yarn are two different colourways - they were all in a bargain bin at a massive discount, and I suspect were also seconds. But the colours aren't drastically different so I'm going to do alternate rows and call it a design feature. On the left in the photo below is one colourway, and on the right is the other. So the difference isn't huge...

But, of course, then I got intrigued by another pattern, as Iris (whose blog I've read for years, and who I'm really pleased to see back on the blogging scene) inspired me join in the Garter Yoke Cardi Knit-Along, as I'd admired the one she was starting, and she was using Rowanspun DK, which I also had in my stash. And which also counts towards this year's target as I needed an adult sized garment in DK to knit for this year's challenge. The pattern is Melissa LaBarre's Garter Yoke Cardigan, which should hopefully produce a practical cardigan that I can wear for work once it gets colder. I got gauge on 4.5mm needles, and am knitting the smallest size (I hope that was the right thing to do, but I didn't want positive ease with this pattern as I'm intending to wear it mostly unbuttoned).

And, of course, I still have my leftover sock yarn blanket to get on with! 

Still, that's only four projects on the go...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Gower peninsula

Last weekend I went to Wales on the train to visit the Gower Peninsula, where my brother's family live.

It's an area of beautiful beaches as well as countryside and history. We did a lot of walking in the area, this is the Mumbles Lighthouse, which was unusually accessible as the tide was really low (don't think I'd have risked going over there though!).

It was raining on my journey over, but after I'd arrived the sun came out and we could enjoy the scenery. This is another view of Swansea Bay, looking over towards Swansea from the Mumbles side.

We visited the new Mumbles lifeboat station. This lifeboat is absolutely huge and can apparently carry over 100 people should it need to.

The next day, whilst my brother was at work, the rest of us climbed over a big hill to Langland Bay. This one used to be really sandy, but lots of pebbles were washed up over the winter, so it's much more of a pebbly beach now. It also had some really smelly seaweed!

And that evening we went to Caswell Bay. We walked down to it through Bishop's Wood nature reserve. This bay is a lot more sandy, and my nephews enjoyed kicking a football around whilst the adults had a cup of tea on the beach!

We left it just as the tide was coming in and the sun going down.

That afternoon I'd also found the Red House Quilting shop, on the way to the park, which had a lovely range of quilting supplies, plus a room with yarn at the back. I found this ball of Regia 4 ply sock yarn, in plain purple, which should be useful for socks with intricate stitch patterns.

And, of course, I needed a project to do on the train there and back, and the existing cardigan project is quite big. So, having read on Roobeedoo's blog about knitting the Wise Hilda's Basic Ribbed Socks, and how the heel turned out quite narrow on this pattern, I thought this might be the one for me as I have the world's narrowest heels... I paired it with a ball of sock yarn from my stash, Bergère de France Opal (which seems to have been manufactured by the makers of Opal sock yarn, just branded differently). I think it looks even better knitted up than it does in the ball! Love those stripes.

So, I got as far as the leg and turning the heel whilst I was away.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Bradford-on-Avon holiday 2014: the history stuff

Still getting caught up with blogging about our holiday. I have finally finished all the coursework assignments I've been working on since January for a leadership and management qualification, which means I now have more time to do important things like blogging, and knitting(!).

These are the history related things we did whilst we were away in Bradford-on-Avon. I can't believe it was two months ago now. Better get planning the next holiday...

On the Sunday, after I'd been to church (Holy Trinity), we visited places in Bradford itself. This included the Saxon Church of St Laurence a tiny, cool (literally) little church tucked away behind Holy Trinity. It's possibly about 1300 years old (well, bits of it anyway, but probably more like 1000 years), and amusingly was "lost" for quite a while, which is the reason it's survived at all! It is still occasionally used for worship.

Entrance to the Saxon Church
Looking towards the altar

Then we crossed the river, admiring the views of the old mill buildings as we went

and walked up to the Tithe Barn and Barton Farm - a lovely collection of old farm buildings with workshops and craft studios nestling alongside them. The Tithe Barn itself dates from the 14th century. It's huge and very cool inside.

After lunch we decided to go a bit further afield and visited the Courts Garden, at Holt. This is a National Trust property, but the garden is the feature, and it is spectacular. There are more of my photos of it on Flickr.

After that we visited Melksham, which wasn't very interesting (despite what someone at church had told me that morning about it being better than Trowbridge. I think what they meant was it had a Waitrose, which Trowbridge doesn't), and then onto Trowbridge, which looked better, especially as I spotted a knitting shop. As it was Sunday it was closed, but we decided to return for a visit later in the week!

We spent the day in Bath, enjoying revisiting old haunts from last year's holiday, which I don't seem to have written up as a blog post, but here are some pics on Flickr.

We visited the American Museum in Britain (well worth a visit, particularly for the quilts) to see the Kaffe Fassett exhibition I wrote about previously. That was followed by a visit to Downside Abbey to see a friend, before we dropped in to have a cup of tea with another friend, before we drove back round to Trowbridge to get something to eat.

A bit more of a history day, as we spent the day in Salisbury, exploring the town and cathedral. More photos on Flickr. Salisbury was lovely, and I think we'll have a long weekend there at some point.

Our wedding anniversary! We visited Bradford-on-Avon Museum (tiny but worth a visit as they pack a lot into the space, and it's quite a quirky mixture of stuff) and Trowbridge Museum (bigger, and cunningly tucked inside the shopping centre), before heading over to Bath for the afternoon. Trowbridge Museum was fascinating, with a lot of displays about the local woollen industry. There was a school group there at the same time as us, so we had to skirt round them, but it's a lovely museum. We were also impressed with the way the Shires shopping centre had managed to incorporate bits of the old mill building (which the museum is in) fairly seamlessly into the centre - there is also a cafe in the middle of the shopping centre with a whole facade from the old building there.

Fibre feelie box at Trowbridge Museum

Our last day on holiday. We explored Chippenham a bit, before heading to the gorgeous Bowood House. This is what's left of a much bigger house (demolished in 1955), although what's left is still pretty big! What's left is what was known as the "Little House" (these things are relative). There are three floors of rooms and exhibitions in the surviving house to see, including the chapel and library, plus huge gardens and parkland to walk through. More photos on Flickr.

View across the terrace. Yes, that is the 'Little House'.

Some of the parkland, looking back towards the house

The lake, with more park in the background

A grotto

The waterfall
 So, a great holiday, plus some ideas for places to visit in the future. I'd love to go back to Salisbury again, for instance.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

4ply jumper finished, dyeing and some new stuff

I got my 4ply jumper finished, and braved the heat to try it on for a photo. I did take it off again very rapidly afterwards and put it away for when colder weather is here! I really enjoyed knitting the Bello jumper pattern. It's a clear and well-written pattern, knitted in the round from the top downwards, so I could try it on as I went. This really helped me achieve the fit for it. The cable down the front, and the side shaping really help to keep it interesting (I'm surprised how little time it took considering it's knitted with 4 ply sock yarn!). It also only took six balls of Regia Design Line Garden Effects sock yarn, which I bought in the Hobbycraft sale at £1 a ball, making this my cheapest jumper ever knit (it normally retails at £4.70 a ball). I still have four balls of it left (in two different dyelots) too.

Having done a bit of a stash sort-out, I decided to do some dyeing as well. I had a ball and a half of RYC Cashsoft 4ply in cream left over from a project from years ago, and I thought I would be more likely to use it if I dyed it a different colour. Plus, of course, dyeing is fun.

I skeined it up ready for the dyebath, and bought some Kool Aid online from DT Craft & Design. There is a garden centre about 10 miles from me that has an American food section, which I thought might have Kool Aid, but no one answered the phone when I range to check, and I wasn't going to do a 20 mile round trip on the off-chance that they had some! Plus, it doesn't seem to be sold for human consumption in this country, so I'm not sure if they'd have been allowed to sell it as food at the garden centre anyway?

So, I mixed up some Kool Aid in a microwaveable bowl. I can't believe how strongly this stuff smells! This was two 50g sachets of "Polar Blast" flavour.

Added the pre-soaked yarn and then nuked it in the microwave. There are instructions for Kool Aid dyeing on Knitty.
This is the yarn that resulted. I knew it would be quite pale as it has some acrylic in it which wouldn't have taken the dye. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out, and I still have two sachets of "Black Cherry" flavour to use on something else!!

Plus, Mum came to stay, and she'd been on holiday to a couple of places and brought me back stuff from both of them! First up is two skeins of gorgeous Crookabeck Angoras Young Goat Mohair from the Woolclip in the Lake District.

And some groovy ceramic buttons

And, she'd also been to the Holy Land (just before the current Situation started) and brought me back various things, including some sheep made out of wool balls. I have put them away with the Christmas decorations.

Finally, I've been getting organised with a new project, another one for the year of projects. This time it'll be aran weight, and I decided I wanted to use up the 15 balls of Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Aran which I bought in a sale on Skip North back in 2007. Eeek, that means it's been in my stash for 7 years?!?! I was hoping to make the Lace Edged Cardigan, but was three balls short, plus I'd have had to have bought the pattern book. The yarn is discontinued, and I think mine may have been seconds originally, so attempting to buy an extra few balls would have been tricky. Instead I have settled on Louisa Harding's Nautical Striped Sweater, although mine won't be nautical or striped. I already own the pattern book for this, but need to do a gauge swatch.

I'll let you know how I get on...