Thursday, August 28, 2014

Liebster award

Ages ago, I was nominated for a Liebster blogger award by Una, but life got in the way and I never got round to doing anything about it. The idea is to post 11 random facts about myself, answer 11 questions set by the nominator, nominate 11 blogs with under 200 followers and then set them 11 questions to answer. 

So, eleven random facts about me. Some of them I've borrowed from 2 years ago when I did the Kreativ Blogger thing, which is kind of similar.

  1. I didn't know I liked gardening until the last few years. This was a bit of a surprise. It's amazing how few plants I've killed so far.
  2. I really hate bread and butter pudding.
  3. I had my tonsils out when I was 27.
  4. I've never broken a bone.
  5. I used to be horse-obsessed, until my mid-teens. But I've ridden at some point in almost every place I've lived since then, including in Hyde Park in London and in Windsor Park.
  6. I've lived at sixteen addresses, for time periods ranging from 1 week to 18 years (and, yes, that doesn't count going on holidays, my shortest time in lodgings was a week!).
  7. I've been a Christian about as long as I've been vegetarian.
  8. I think the smell of bacon cooking is one of the most disgusting things on the planet.
  9. I used to be a cross stitcher, until I got the knitting bug nearly 10 years ago! I still have some cross stitch I never got finished then.
  10. I've started three knitting groups.
  11. Erm, I can't think of another one.
 Then my 11 questions to answer, set by Una:

1) What is the last thing you knitted or crocheted?
A sock - the Wise Hilda basic ribbed sock pattern.

2)Where would you go on holiday if price was no object?
Hmm, not sure, there are still so many parts of the UK I want to explore. And I'm not keen on long journeys and the carbon emissions from flying... I have really enjoyed visiting the places I've visited overseas though.

3) Do you think there is intelligent life on other planets?
Probably. Maybe they knit too?

4) At what age did you learn to knit or crochet?
Knit aged about 8 (my Gran taught me). Crochet I was about 29 (late starter).

5) What is your natural hair colour?

6) Which is your favourite season?
Autumn - don't like too hot or too cold, plus my birthday is in the Autumn!

7)  Are you a books or e-reader fan?
Books all the way, I don't have an e-reader.

8)  Do you prefer curtains or blinds?
Depends on the window and whether I'm aiming for privacy or insulation! Or both. We have both on some of ours.

9) Are you wearing earrings right now?
No, I had my ears pierced in my teens, but I kind of got out of the habit of wearing earrings so I should think the holes have closed up by now.

10) Do you have a special crafting area at home?
Not really. My end of the sofa has lots of knitting stacked next to it, and I have my sewing machine in a bedroom upstairs, plus a couple of shelves of crafty books in the same room, but it isn't exclusively my crafting area. 

11) If one person could rule the world, who should it be?
I think that would be a bad idea...

I'm not sure who to nominate though, as I don't know how you tell how many followers a blog has (I don't follow blogs, I use The Old Reader to keep track of them), and I nominated some people last time, so I'm going to leave that part out! Also means that I don't have to think up 11 questions to ask. But feel free to join in if you're so inclined.

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...

Friday, August 01, 2014

Garden at the beginning of August 2014

Thanks to some cunning lawn mowing, and despite the heat, the lawn is still looking relatively green. We followed the advice in various places about raising the height of the cutting bar on the mower, and leaving it longer between cuts, so it stays green, rather than looking like a scalped hay field.

The late summer flowers are now well and truly here. The Eryngium is huge this year, I actually had to chop some of it back as it was hanging over into our neighbour's garden! Lots of the flowers have been really popular with the bees, the Eryngium is usually covered with them. This was a bargain £1.50 plant from the garden centre near Mum a couple of years ago, now sadly closed down.

The Echinacea is flowering well too, this is another popular one with insects. I grew this one from seed.

Some of the lilies have survived, after much picking off of lily beetles when we spotted them in time! I'd forgotten I'd planted these - they were a free offer in the newspaper a couple of years ago, but I don't think did as much last year. Think they must like the sun we have this year.

The Rudbeckia is beginning to flower. I divided this in the Spring, so it's quite small (but in three sections) and will probably take a while to build up again.

The Japanese Anenome is huge too, and another one that attracts the insects. I can't quite believe how big this one has got, I planted it three years ago after buying it with some garden gift vouchers I was given on leaving a job.

The Echinops is also huge and absolutely covered in bees most of the time. This is another one I've grown from seed.

The first ripe tomato! The cherry tomatoes are now ripening a few at a time each day, but no sign of the cordon tomatoes being ripe anytime soon!

The sweet peas I planted in a container have been covered in flowers for weeks now. It's quite hard to keep on top of the deadheading to keep the flowers coming. Here I've taken pre-emptive action and snipped off more flowers to have in a jar inside the house in the hope of not having to deadhead quite so soon again.

The raspberries are now ripening at full tilt. These are Autumn Bliss variety, and we're getting about double this quantity every week at the moment.