Sunday, 30 September 2007

I'm back! Holiday snaps part one

Wow! What a week! I'm back on planet earth (just about!), seriously sleep deprived (and coming down with the sniffles) but with an amazing set of photos from the new camera and an unbelievable set of memories so it was definitely a trip to remember.

We started way too early, wheeling suitcases (noisily) through the village to pick up the feeder coach at 8am, only two pickups on the way (which was nice) and into Stretton (near Warrington) then after a wee wait onto the coach all the way up to bonnie Scotland (with extra pickups at Lancaster and Gretna).

It's funny how your mind plays tricks on you, imagining that the journey is nowhere near as long as it actually is, my hat really goes off to those dedicated professional drivers who put in so many hours behind the wheel and still have their faculties about them- I'd be a basketcase! It doesn't take forever to get to Gretna Green (famous as the border town to Scotland and hence the place in years gone by where runaway wedings took place); but Scotland is a really big place!

This little character is called Hamish.

He's the star attraction at our second pit stop, outside Sterling. We got there around 4.30pm and still had a couple more hours to go before we reached Fort William and our hotel for 2 nights. After a substantial dinner (with a little air of farce of the service!), we had a walk in the town centre then crashed out in our room which was at the back of the hotel, a little dark in the day but lovely and quiet.

Our hotel was really close to the shops and the first night it was really busy, there'd been a world rally cycling race so the town was decorated with bicycles strung across the road! The atmosphere was a little surreal, as is the thought that they'd been biking all the way up Ben Nevis only to throw themselves down again at frightening speeds! Not my scene at all!

The next day (after a giant bowl of Branflakes!) we spent time around and about the area, starting with Fort William itself, just outside the main town is the start of the Caledonian canal which stretches all the way from west to east saving ships from travelling around the tip of Scotland.

The canal joins up the lochs that stretch across Scotland but as some are much higher than sea level, it was necessary to make a set of staircase locks (in the centre of the pic) to bring ships to the right level. In the background you can see the Nevis range with the tip of Ben Nevis shrouded in mist (there was quite a bit of that!). The weather really added to the atmosphere making things really mean and moody and bringing out the colour in the foliage.

Next we travelled the few yards down the road to the Treasures of the Earth exhibition to see all the amazing gems and minerals (and pick up a few little ones for the collection!). We'd been there before a couple of years back but it was still nice to look at the exhibits once again.

Next, we followed the road to Mallaig, stopping en route at the Glenfinnan visitor centre where the monument of the Highlander (often mistaken for Bonnie Prince Charlie) is located. There's an interesting walk up the hill to this viewpoint.

Here's part one of Sweaters on Location! A little speck in the distance is the viaduct that anyone keen on the Harry Potter movies may recognise, it's the one that the Hogwarts express travels along! A lot of Harry Potter has been filmed in this region, either filming a place then CGI'ing the castle etc. in the background or using it in its entirety.

This is the Highlander monument looking out over the loch and the mountains that crowd together in the area- it's a particularly beautiful route especially at this time of year when Autumnal tones are starting to creep in. The road leads to Mallaig, a fishing port but more excitingly, the site for the short ferry crossing to Skye! We didn't see the ferry in action that day (it was Sunday!) but we strolled down the pier to snap this..

Aren't they colourful? Mind you, the view of the town wasn't too shabby either!

You'll have to excuse the slant, I'm still breaking in the new camera! It was a lovely if quiet village and we had a lovely bowl of cullen skink for lunch. Unfortunately, the mocha coffee I had with it set to haunt me on the winding and bumpy journey to the next pic. Being on the last row of seats and in line with the rear axle, we got the worst of the twists and turns and I was rather green by the time we snapped this shot! I blame the trees planted by the roadside, rushing past at speed, your eyes can't process the blur fast enough and make you travel sick.

We stopped to watch the little ferry travel across Loch Linne before reboarding the coach and travelling the few minutes to the other side saving roughly 4o miles?

Understandably, I was somewhat glad to get off the coach back at the hotel! We did a quick turnaround (after some antacid!) and scoured the local shops, picking up a smart new jacket (which you will see in later photos) and some pretty celtic jewelery that DH bought me.

We had another huge evening meal before turning in early to pack our cases and set the alarm for the early up and out travelling up to Skye before taking the ferry over to Harris and then Lewis, more about that next time!

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Another week and what a lot to blog about! Twinkle, Ganseys, Invaders and Clippers too!

In my defence, we are in the rundown to the aforementioned holiday and things have gone beyond frantic! I did however manage to have some time out last weekend...

...I finished the "I Love Gansey" socks...finally! (For the record, they are not ACTUALLY evil, you just need to READ the pattern occasionally, not just blithely think 'cos you've done one already you know the score!). I haven't used the heart pattern on the back of the heel, as they get skinned v. easily and the toes are tweaked a mite too (personal preference) but I'm pleased with the overall finished look, even if I DO know the mistake at the beginning of the first sock (like I'm going to correct THAT one!).

Sunday afternoon, we walked down to the front to see what all the fuss was about.

We walked as far as Seacombe ferry, waiting for the 3pm "kick off", it didn't disappoint.

It was the start of the round the world Clipper race which finishes in JULY 2008! At 3pm, the boats sailed up the river, either side of one of the fire barges which was pumping out water either side for all it was worth!

They circled around it then sailed back towards the Albert dock, ready for the start of the race.

This old tea Clipper was around to see them off, the helicopter kept circling, no doubt beaming images all around the globe. We watched them sail down towards the river mouth and then something else happened...

...We were treated to another aerial display! In truth, I don't know who this team were, not the distinctive Red Arrows but they still put up a great display.

Of course, Floppy was terribly distressed when we got home!

In other knitting news, I HAVE started the Christmas sock mountain...just about!

Can you tell what it is yet?

Actually, I do have to confess something, in amongst my myriad of projects, I had to sneak another one in! (therapeutic value, obviously!)

It's the Skating Sweater from Twinkles Big City Knits, it was started yesterday morning and worn from this lunchtime, total knit time 1 and a half days- personal record?

The yarn differs from the Best Friend cardi (which is so cosy, it really is my new friend!). I used Sirdar Bigga this time which is why it looks chunkier but there's still plenty of negative ease, I knitted the size small to make up for the larger gauge but unstretched, it's around 24"!

The slightly bizarre thing is, this had nearly half the stitches on the circulars than the BMP sock did! (until I meddled with it!). So, a quick knit, very warm and I don't think it makes me look like the side of a house, does it? (or do I care if it does?).

This is likely to be the last chance to blog for a week or more, I shall catch up with you all on my return with plenty of piccies and possibly a project or two?

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Phew, where do I begin?

...First with thanks for all your kind comments about my swatches. Trawling in my stash, I happened upon a dark dusky pink/pale plum semi solid laceweight that I swatched and decided as it had the same yardage as the Jaggerspun that perhaps that'd be the one. Now, however I'm prevaricating between that and the cashmere which, after all, is cashmere and has been endorsed by no less than the Nautical Knitter herself! Still, got to have something to prevaricate over!

That said, it really meant a lot to me that so many of you took the trouble to make a comment. The gorgeous blue, I think will be reserved for a garment where stretch will not be a problem. The handdyed laceweight does look nicer on smaller needles but drove me up the wall both times I swatched with it due to its fineness so will be reserved for a later date, that way I only have to flip-flop between two choices!

Anyway, the needles have been busy with other things..

...This is the design-from-scratch cardi I've been blogging about. I spent most of the weekend frogging and reworking the first sleeve (it has eyelets up the centre for increases, v. pretty but difficult to photograph!); Knitted up the second one in no time on Sunday, then was up to the wire Monday night sewing up. Sorry the pics are so dark, it's been night each time I've had a second to snap a shot and the old camera can't cope well in low light.

Anyway, here it is worn (somewhat unflattering photos taken after copious amounts of fine Indian dining hence somewhat wider than normal physique!).

This is with the notched flaps down, they also look pretty up. I've learnt a hell of a lot from doing this, particularly working my way through notched collars- could I find any examples in my copious library? Nada, scratch, they're not THAT difficult, just something to get your head around but designers seem to avoid them like the plague!

Anyway, after nearly killing myself to finish THAT cardi, I decided I needed a day what do I do on my day off?...........

...............I knit Twinkle, of course!

Here it is in the flesh, the Best Friend Cardi from Twinkle's Big City Knits, knitted in two strands of Sirdar Nova Super chunky on 15mm needles. Armed with the somewhat copious errata, I thought that all the errors had been sorted, however, one extremely large error still remains.

The issue I have is with Gauge. Now, perhaps I'm a little quicker on the uptake after the Jackety Coaty thing pattern debacle which meant I had to rewrite it in its entirety. However, I was disappointed to find that I could only get 7 sts to 4" when the pattern stated 9 1/2. HOWEVER, using my maths, a sweater that was 56 sts wide (all around) would come out at 25", NOT 33" as stated- even before you decrease a bit more for the pull of the cable.

Unfortunately, I swatched with four different needle sizes before it hit me the next morning - the gague is WRONG, mine is closer, if not RIGHT! Doing the maths again, 56 sts into 7 then times by four equals 32"!

Of course, as usual, I knitted the middle size aiming for a 30" and ended up closer to a 32" which looks like this on me...

...(By the way, I AM a bit P****d off in the photo as himself was being a MAN!).

I'm still deciding about the overall look but so far, I think I like it! Somehow, the giant cables do seem to shrink you down somewhat although there ended up being only 3-4" of negative ease and the front stitches did look a little open with the stretching. I am tempted (time permitting!) to try something else from the book to see if it's not a fluke, maybe after I've knitted a few pairs of socks?

Anyway, this morning in between sewing up the Best Friend Cardi, I've been playing with this...

...It's my new camera! The first BFC was taken with it, the second with the old camera, difference? It's only got a weeny card at the mo. so it's 8 pics then upload but in the next few days I'll be getting a nice big 2GB card and a set of batteries and charger, so holidays, watch out!

And as if that wasn't enough. I've managed to squeeze in another quick project too!

Sweet, isn't it, a pretty, innocent, felted bucket bag with an embroidered swirl on the side...

...A cute little glass pendant heart tucked into the rear...pretty......

...And then you see the lining!

....Not so innocent now!
(I'm quite proud of that one though!)

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Secret of the Stole Swatches

I've been swatching...with the assistance of alcohol...last night.

I started by swatching this one...

...This was what I'd originally planned to use, I'd bought a skein of undyed pure wool laceweight which actually had masses of dye thrown at it TWICE but it's still lightly variegated (it gets less so as you knit). It's actually a blend of navy, black and purple but it goes great with the beads I've chosen. I stuck a couple of rows of stocking stitch in between the pattern repeats on this one but didn't bother on the others, alcohol etc...There's 1200 yards to a 100g skein so it's a bit tight on the yardage, especially if it's shrunk any and I'm not too sure if its a bit too lacy.

Then again, there's always this one...

...It's from the Colourmart suitcase, (don't ask!), this one's a blend of an off white and denimy blue strand of cashmere twisted together. Their yarns are generally on the lighterweight side so this is classified as 2/14 which they call 4 ply. It's meant to bloom and fluff up a bit after washing so would look better then. It also goes well with the beads but I'm not sure if the colour is quite right (or appropriate!).

The third choice (so far) is this one...

...Another from the humble cones pile, a 2/16 plied yarn with a smidge of mohair that gives a slightly fluffy halo but not enough to distort the design. It's a not-quite navy yarn with a lot of acrylic but the design stands out well and the beads being paler would definitely stand out too.

Most of my other laceweights are highly variegated or fluffy so unsuitable.

I'm really undecided as to which yarn to go with, I'm no fibre snob, It doesn't matter to me what it's made of as long as it looks good. Any suggestions/preferences welcomed!

Friday, 7 September 2007

This is the main reason I'm snowed under with projects at the moment...

...I snaffled this copy on which even with the postage still came out cheaper than the cheapest U.K. copy. I LOVE it!!

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of patterns that have been in the other books I've bought but what makes it stand out against anything else are the beautiful pictures. It brings the garments right up to date and gives them a fresh new look. Plus, it's a cracking read, there are few knitting pattern books that have so much heart and soul poured into them and the stories and asides just raise it to a whole new level.

So, I decided I needed to start designing for myself, warts and all. And it has been warty recently! The fronts and back are now ready for the collar and as far as I'm aware, should work as planned. The sleeve however has been a whole new ballgame!

I'm now on my fourth?fifth? revision, refining as I go, the key learning issue being that no matter how much you swatch and calculate, once you start fiddling with the stitch pattern, things go wrong.... Or not necessarily wrong as much as not right....First time around the sleeve was too tight, or rather too stretched for the yarn I used. So I added more stitches at the beginning, then it was too we go for somewhere in the middle then start altering the stitch patterns a time or two...

Essentially, it's all part of the design process and whilst a few days ago, I would have moaned about how "work" knitting wasn't as much fun as following a pattern, it's now at least challenging so more interesting. The rewrites do slow the timetable down a bit though so I'm hoping it'll be more plain sailing soon. No camera at present so you'll just have to wait a wee bit longer for some pics.

Friday has been cool as Hubbie has been off, we've been to the cinema and stuffed ourselves on ice-cream and popcorn and we did a flying visit to Borders to pick up the latest Knitter's magazine. It's been a thoroughly indulgent day and I'm settling down withgh a good glass of plonk as I type - hope I'm still fit to knit to morrow!

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Almost Forgot!

...To mention about the fab yarn I got from my swapmate in the Sock yarn and Pattern swap!

Sorry the pic's a bit lousy, but you get the idea! The Pattern Deb had put in with itn was Hedera from Knitty which I thought was great as I LOVE cookie a designs and aspire to the hard stuff!

BUT then it hit me...on the way to the bank...FAWKES SOCKS!!!!

It's a fab blend of red, yellow and orange, just perfect for the fiery phoenix...So thanks Deb, I'm so sorry I haven't had a second to look at your blog yet, it's been crazy!

Pity it's way down the list right now, I've just posted on the UFO knitalong that I've had to add extra UFO's as I have so many projects on the go right now, especially with knitting stuff for my secret pal. We've worked out that she'll get two parcels to save postage but I really wanted to get the first one off soon and take advantage of surface mail. Still, I found a quick knit amongst the buys from the fair (sorry, I can't show it yet!). With a little embellishment and a parcel or two through the mail, I should be ready to go with phase one.

There was an advantage to a little judicious buying..I picked up some laceweight undyed yarn at the same time ready for a colour change (and a spare one in case I muck it up!). I want to have finished a fair few projects before the starting date of Secret of the Stole but that means some stuff just has to take a back seat.

Eek!...Mel, you are a bad influence...I've just signed up to Sock Wars too! (definitely cuckoo in the head!).

Monday, 3 September 2007

Well, another packed weekend!
My very first wheel, a Kromski Minstrel went to its new home on Saturday. I was sad to see it go but it really wasn't being used and it was, literally, a third wheel! Still, the pennies will come in useful towards a new camera, or a trip to a local fibre venue... not quite decided which yet!

Anyway, as promised, the spoils of Sunday aka Manchester GMEX stitch fair. It was the last day of the show, definitely smaller than the last one we went to and unfortunately my bargain yarn man wasn't in evidence. However...

...That doesn't stop me spending money! There were five yarn stands in all, I ended up buying from 4 of them. There was a full pack of Rowan Chunky Print and All Seasons Cotton from The Black Sheep...

...Oodles of Twilleys Freedom Spirit at only £2 per ball! This shall remain anonymous until I buy up their entire stock!! I now have enough for that jacket (even though I don't actually have the pattern yet!), some pretty pink for a felted thing (maybe bag, maybe not); and enough for a full other garment in one of the new shades (blues/purples).

Web of wool had a final day offer (which, I'm sure had nothing to do with the fact that the bloke a few stalls down had it at £2.99 a ball, cheaper than their original price!). Anyway, there was a third off their original price (which escapes me) so I picked up 11 balls of this gorgeous superwash yarn for around £28!

I don't ACTUALLY have a pattern for it yet, though I can think of a few, it may be another designer inspiration, wait and see!

The picture's a bit rubbish, so I took another to show the depth of the hues, gorgeous Autumn shades! A ball or two of Noro might have slipped into my bag too (along with some undyed BFL sock yarn!). This was from a shop local(ish) to me that I MUST visit soon,

Freakily, I was recognised by a lady on that stall! We're in the same UFO knitalong and unfortunately, our knitting nights are the same day or I might have met up with her by now.

I didn't know she ran the shop though, so I can still catch up there. Blog communities are funny things, it's the first time I've been recognised but it was exciting somehow! She told me about a knitting group at FACT, a Cinema in Liverpool on Thursdays, the next one being the 17th? The lights are kept up during the playing of the film so you can watch and knit, and tea and coffee are served. Must investigate further...

I also bought some beads to go with my next lace project.

They're actually purpley with irridescent(ness) so I thought black or charcoal laceweight but I might just use the bluey/black skein that I'm also using for the SP stole. Again, something to mull over...

Ooh, not to be forgotten...

...8 balls of Louisa Harding Kimono Ribbon? for only £2 per ball, a pretty big discount as they were originally a fiver each! The colours were dull even after I hiked the brightness so you'll have to use your imagination! They were from the Black Sheep too.

Knitting news- the designathon continues to be a quick knit, and the yardage on the ball is fantastic! I've knitted all of the back and probably all one front from one 200g ball!. I'm just about to start the v neck shaping so hopefully, I'll have a completed front this evening.

The bad news is the Gansey Sock, you know the saying "pride comes before a fall"?

Meet Gansey Sock 2. After the 3 hours knitting to and from Manchester. Pretty much at the heel. Damn.

I began to study first sock on the journey into Liverpool and noticed a wee fault in one of the early cables. Never mind, I told myself, the other one's fine, I'll just make it always face the inside. I blithely carried on knitting all day, it was only when I seperated stitches out for the heel that I noticed the big gaping difference...I never cast off 2 sts after the rib. SO, I'd been gaily knitting along with a 4 stitch gap on one side of the cable and 2 everywhere else. It might not sound like much, but when I handed it to my not particularly observant husband and he spotted it without too much prompting, I knew I'd never be able to live with it so, off to the frog pond it went!

I was sort of hoping I could cross this one off the list considering how much knitting I've got planned between now and Christmas, especially SIX pairs of socks to knit. A little lateral thinking needed...hmmm.....................................................