Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finished items

I've been on a bit of a knitting roll recently. I took the socks that I was knitting in Swansea in August away with me to Yorkshire and Yarndale, as a straightforward portable project. And they were perfect for this. The pattern is Basic Ribbed Socks by Kate Atherley, and they fit really well. The yarn is Bergère de France Opal, which is lovely and thick knitted on 2.5mm needles.

Then last week I finished my not nautical or striped, but now with stripes, nautical striped sweater. This used almost all of the 15 balls of the Debbie Bliss Cotton Denim Aran yarn I had in my stash. I'm really pleased with this. Despite not getting gauge and deciding to wing it a bit (I knitted the smallest size, and made the body longer than in the pattern), this fits really well. The "design feature" of stripes on the upper body when I realised I had two slightly different colourways in my stash, rather than 15 balls of one, also seems to have worked. There is also one sleeve each in the different colourways.
 This means I'm doing really well on my four-garments-in-different-yarn-weights-in-a-year challenge. That's chunky, 4ply and aran all completed. The DK one, the Garter Yoke Cardigan is coming along well, and I just have one sleeve now to finish on this.

As the number of projects I've got on the go was getting worryingly low(!), I thought it wise to cast on for something else. I always like to have a smaller, more portable, project on the go for things like taking to knitting group or travelling by train. I couldn't resist winding up the set of Knitting Goddess mini skeins I bought at Yarndale, and casting on for a hat for the OH. I decided on the Mini Roni hat, which comes in all sizes from premature baby to absolutely huge adult. It turns out the OH has an absolutely huge head so I hope it's going to fit.

I love the colour of these mini skeins

And don't they look cute wound into little balls?!

Of course, those projects aren't going to keep me busy for long, so I'd better get deciding what to make next.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Books read 2014 #4

#16 Emma Healey Elizabeth is missing
Another book I saw in a bookshop on holiday, then ordered from the library! This is a murder mystery story, but with a difference, as the main character has dementia. I thought the author did a pretty good job of describing how bewildering it must be from the point of view of the person with dementia, who is trying to find out where her friend Elizabeth has gone, but no one seems to care that she is missing. The action jumps between the present-day, and her childhood, when her sister also went missing. Intriguing angle for a story, and it kept me captivated anyway.

#17 Andrew Atherstone Archbishop Justin Welby: the road to Canterbury
This is a shortish biography of Justin Welby, published just as he became Archbishop of Canterbury. I don't agree with all of his views, but I like what he's done so far as Archbishop and I think he could be a very positive force, so this seemed like a good idea to read. It did help me fill in a lot of the background to things that I'd read in the media. It covers everything, from childhood, through to Archbishop, explaining things along the way, such as his education and how he came to faith and what he did before ordination, and got involved in various initiatives at the churches he worked at after ordination. A good introduction, which has given me the background to help understand more about what I read elsewhere! It's written in a very readable way, and only took me a week to read, so well worth dipping into.

#18 Stephanie Pearl-McPhee Free-range knitter: the Yarn Harlot writes again
Another amusing collection of anecdotes from the Yarn Harlot. These are the perfect thing to dip into at the end of a long day. Some observations are longer than others, and some are tinged with sadness, as well as amusement.

#19 Clara Parkes The yarn whisperer: reflections on a life in knitting
Borrowed this from a friend, and it was read almost overnight when I couldn't get any sleep when I had a cold. It's in a similar vein to the Yarn Harlot books - reflections on knitting, and is a very enjoyable read.

#20 Wendy Moore Wedlock: how Georgian Britain's worst husband met his match
This was from a display of books by the issue computer at the library, which I picked up as the title intrigued me and ended up borrowing. It's the biography of Mary Eleanor Bowes and was fascinating. Mary Bowes wasn't someone I'd heard of before (she is actually an ancestor of the Queen Mother, and I'd heard of the Bowes Museum). She was an incredibly wealthy girl, who was married twice, neither time particularly well, but the second was a disaster, when she married a fraudster and experienced what we would now recognise as domestic violence. In those days women had very few rights, and weren't allowed to own property (it passed directly to their husband on marriage), but Mary managed to pull off the almost impossible and get a divorce. It was interesting finding out how the very beginnings of equal rights for women began, and made me very glad I live now!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Salisbury holiday 2014

Last week we had a few days away in Salisbury, staying at the very comfortable Rose and Crown Hotel. This was the view from our hotel bedroom, straight out onto the River Avon, with Salisbury Cathedral just visible through the trees. The restaurant was also on the banks of the river, and we enjoyed having our breakfast looking out over it. We ate in the hotel one night too, but it was too dark to see anything then!

The hotel was 10 minutes walk from the city centre (about 20 minutes' walk from the railway station), or a longer route over the water meadows with beautiful views of the cathedral on the other side.

We'd already done some exploring when we visited Salisbury for the day whilst we were on holiday in June, so we quickly got reacquainted with the city centre. This is one of the routes out from the Cathedral Close.
On the first day, after we'd got settled into the hotel, we visited Mompesson House, an 18th century National Trust property within the Cathedral Close. The Sense and Sensibility film starring Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet was filmed here back in 1995, so some parts may look a bit familiar.

There was a modern sculpture exhibition on inside the house, which included the occasional knitted/felted object too.

The rooms were all beautiful, and it was fairly quiet so easy to see everything and photos (without flash) were allowed. This is the OH looking at some of the books in the library. There are more photos of Mompesson House on Flickr.

On the full day of our holiday we decided to visit Stonehenge, after lots of umming and ahing as the only way to get there by public transport is on the Stonehenge Tour bus, which costs £14 for an adult! In the end we decided to go, as we could get free admission to Stonehenge itself as we're National Trust members. Otherwise the outing would have cost nearly £60, which would have really put us off going. I was also interested to see what they'd done to Stonehenge, as I knew a new visitor centre had been opened.

Stonehenge was actually better than we'd been expecting. The visitor centre building is a bit jarring and modern, but isn't within sight of the stones. More importantly it houses plenty of loos(!), a café, a very over-priced shop and an exhibition. Outside, there are a few replica neolithic houses to go inside. The exhibition was quite good, if not very big. It was definitely designed to get as many people through in as little time as possible!

The stones are a short distance away, and you can either walk to them, or catch a shuttle bus/land train. As it was rather a wet and windy day, we caught the bus. There is an accessible path up to the stones, and then plenty of space to walk around them, with good views of the stones, both reasonably close to, and further away. I know some people were complaining that they couldn't actually go up to the stones themselves, but that seems a bit unrealistic considering the fragile ground and the number of visitors. Also, seen like this, it was possible to take good pictures of the stones without people in the way.

Halfway round viewing the stones it started raining in earnest so we got totally drenched!! There is no shelter at the stones themselves, so we just carried on walking round them, then caught the bus back to the visitor centre! It was very windy so the rain was blowing sideways. Always fun. There are more photos from Stonehenge on Flickr.

On our way back towards Salisbury the tour bus stops at Old Sarum, which was what we'd really come to visit. This is the original site of the city, and was an Iron Age hill fort, and where the castle and first cathedral once stood, but the site had little access to water and was abandoned in the 13th century in favour of the current site of Salisbury. It's easier to get a sense of the site from the aerial photo on the Old Sarum website.

This is the view from near the entrance, over towards Salisbury itself. The site was first used in the Iron Age, and first appears in documentary records during the Roman occupation. After the Conquest, William the Conqueror built the castle on the site.

Inside the castle, the remains of the Courtyard House. The walls were demolished when the city was abandoned, and the stone taken away to use in building the new Salisbury.

This is the view from what remains of the ramparts, to the remains of the cathedral. The first cathedral was begun in 1075, but was damaged in a thunderstorm in 1092, only five days after it was consecrated. Work on the extended cathedral began in 1130. I found it rather odd that they put so much work in over so many years, only to move the cathedral (and tombs) to the new Salisbury site in 1226.

There are more photos from Old Sarum on Flickr.
And that was about it. We returned to Salisbury for another night at the hotel, before catching the train back to Staines the next day.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Yarndale 2014

This year I just happened to be going to visit Mostly knitting the same weekend as Yarndale, so, of course, I just had to accompany her there. It was my first visit to Yarndale and I was really impressed. Apparently last year there had been problems with parking and not enough loos. This year however a park and ride was laid on from the Skipton Building Society HQ car parks, using minibuses, and which raised money for a local charity.

Yarndale itself is held at Skipton Auction Mart, a huge set of buildings, more usually the location for livestock sales.

Fortunately we'd bought tickets in advance so only had to queue for a few minutes to get in. But even the queue had a sheepy theme.

The local brass band played outside the buildings

and the trees outside had been decorated. Apparently the walk from the train station (there was also a shuttle bus there if you didn't want to walk) through a park had also been yarn bombed, but I didn't see that bit.

Inside the buildings had a distinctly rustic feel compared to other yarn shows I've been to, but this was a lot more fun, and also meant there was plenty of space to sit and knit, eat a packed lunch and catch up with friends, as several of the sheep pens had been given over to seating. These seating pens were distributed amongst the stalls, so it was never too far to have a bit of a sit down (I had a total stinker of a cold whilst I was there, so was going flump quite often). Although the whole venue is covered by a roof, it's open at the ends, so it didn't get too hot, like some exhibition halls I've been to for other shows. There were lots of loos this year too, and two cafes so it didn't take too long to buy a cup of tea and some cake for extra energy during the afternoon.

This is the Knit and Natter area at the centre, where there were also lots of seats around, and also the Wool Warehouse stall, selling Attic 24 yarn packs like they were going out of fashion. Apparently Lucy from Attic 24 was there as well, but I didn't spot her. I did find a librarian friend here, and was able to hand over the odds and ends of yarn I'd promised her (she only lives 30 minutes from me, but, of course, it was easier to bring it Oop North where I knew I'd see her).

There were LOADS of stalls, and so much to see. We headed over first of all to the Knitting Goddess/NicsKnots stall, where we found Nic (who I hadn't seen for years).

I bought one of the mini skein packs from the Knitting Goddess. This is "Shades of Grey". There's enough there (70g) for a pair of socks, or I thought the OH might like them for a woolly hat.

I kept forgetting to take pictures, so there are only a few pics of stalls, I'm afraid. It did get quite crowded in the middle of the day, which made it harder to take photos, but the beginning and end of the day were fine.

It's also hard to give an impression of the scale of it. There were rows and rows and rows of stalls, and so much colour and texture to take in.

There were also ANIMALS to stroke! These are Shetland sheep.

Alpacas. Amusingly I first saw these as I rounded the end of some pens in search of a stall, and they were looking very very woolly indeed. The next time I went past they'd totally vanished and there were just two small toy alpacas in the pen. The next time I went past the alpacas had just returned, looking rather bare!

Angora bunny!

At one end of the show is a ring used to show livestock off in the auction, but for Yarndale the seats around the ring were available to anyone who wanted to sit and knit. People were very friendly and I got chatting to quite a few people whilst I sat there. In the centre tables were set up for the workshops, and there mostly seemed to be two workshops running at a time.

This is my knitting on the one we took - Latvian knitting techniques, were we learnt how to cast on in two colours and how to make our braids go one way and then the other.

Oh, and what did I buy? Well, I am on a yarn diet, but I also knew there were various things I was keen to acquire, so I had a Strategic Yarn Acquisition Plan (I knew that leadership and management qualification I did earlier this year would come in handy, it's all about thinking strategically, you see). I'd like to make another shawl, but in 4ply yarn this time, but most of the shawls I've looked at need more than 100g of 4ply, and, of course, I've been acquiring it with socks in mind, so most of the sock yarn I have is only one 100g skein. So, I wanted to get 200g of sock yarn in a semi-solid or plain colour. I went all the way round all the stalls, squishing and stroking yarn as I went, and there were several I was very tempted by. However, it was the Triskelion yarn I fell for. I just loved the saturated colours and the man on the stall was very helpful whilst I wittered on about what colour to choose. So, I chose two skeins of the Taliesin 4ply (a superwash 100% Blue Faced Leicester yarn) in colourway Raspberry.

I also quite fancied some undyed yarn, as the kind person at knitting group who offered to bring me back some Kool-Aid from her trip to the US brought me back LOADS of it. Apparently it's very very cheap over here, whereas it seems to cost at least 50p a sachet here. So, working on the same principle of getting 200g of 4ply so that I could make a shawl, I revisited the Laxtons stall. They seem to have brought all their yarn manufacturing back to Britain, and had loads of lovely undyed yarns to choose from, in particularly gorgeous combinations. I chose two skeins of Falkland Fine Merino 4ply wool, which also seems to be available on their website, although you have to buy at least 500g there. This is slightly thinner 4ply than normal, as it has nearly 500m in a skein.

Finally, I got some new 4mm tips for my KnitPro interchangeable needles from the Knitting4Fun stand, as my current 4mm tips are now over eight years old and showing serious signs of wear. They had loads and loads of needles and gadgets on display. And I got some sweet little greenish bird buttons from Injabulo, which should work perfectly for my garter yoke cardigan.

Phew, I think that's everything blogged about. I wish I'd remembered to take more pictures inside the show. Would love to go next year as well - it had such a different atmosphere to the other shows I've been to.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Garden at the beginning of October 2014

The garden's definitely got an Autumnal feel to it now. Yesterday was the last day of warm weather, and it's distinctly colder today, and we've had some foggy mornings too.

I'd sown another pot of lettuce seeds, although I'm not sure how much more we'll get from it this year. I'm pleased with how the salad containers worked though, the three bowls were more than enough to keep us in salad throughout the summer, and I'll be able to start it off earlier this year too.

The Nemesia I planted in the border is still going strong, although this new cold weather will probably be the end of it.

The hydrangea is developing really pretty leaves as the temperature drops.

This is a mixture of fuchsia, and an Abelia Grandiflora I planted last year. Really impressed with how much it's grown over the last year.

Another fuchsia, absolutely covered in flowers. Last year it was so mild these kept flowering up until Christmas.

Another flush of flowers on the foxglove.

The Chelsea chopped sedums have now all flowered and are really popular with the insects!

And two apples from one of our apple trees. We had another two which the OH ate whilst I was away, so these two were mine. There were two more, but we think the squirrels got there first...