Friday, July 14, 2017

Museum Waistcoat

It's taken a while, but I finally have a finished waistcoat.  Now I just need to wait for the autumn leaves to provide a suitable matching backdrop.  It will need something very plain under it.

You may remember that the basic concept here is drawn from a sweater in the museum in Lerwick which has different patterns for each lozenge in a horizontal row.  There the peerie bands were just about the only thing that provided a bit of continuity. I chose to use a range of peerie patterns as well.

Early on I decided to use a rich golden brown as the back and bands.  This is something Sacha Kagan used to do with her waistcoats and I feel it tones them down a bit.

I always feel that in Fair Isle the eye seeks out rhythm and repetition, either in repeated shapes or in bands of colour.  Fair Isle patterns are symmetrical and often very simple in their geometry.  I decided to use only two lozenge patterns in each horizontal band, but this still added up to a lot of variety.  I used the same colours throughout to provide some continuity.

I was aiming at the same sort of rich nut-brown palette as in the long-line pullover designed by  Lesley Stanfield  in  "Traditional Knitting from the Scottish and Irish Isles".    Mine does not quite achieve this.  In fact, the fawn background colour seems to read as a) vintage and b) masculine.  It is the sort of waistcoat one of the men in "The Imitation Game" might have worn.

As an exercise in sampling different designs it worked very well.  Some of the lozenges work much better than others, and could be used for a whole jumper by themselves.  This is particularly so when the colour changes coincide with the pattern elements.

It was certainly interesting to chart out the designs row by row and then to see them knitted up.  The finished item has that timeless quality which was apparent even as I was knitting it.  I hope that it will be enjoyable to wear.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Talking textiles with a friend recently, I was reminded of this little bag which has been in my collection for many years.  My friend is interested in historic embroidery and had attended a course where they had examined an antique sweet bag.  This was the essential item for the fashionable young woman in Elizabethan England.  

My bag is made up of smaller pieces stitched on to a lining of quite open weave linen.  The main design is almost certainly meant to represent strawberries. Where there are grey patches, that is in fact metallic threads.  The base fabric is yellowed with age - but could it be as old as it looks?

This has been an unusual year for us in terms of weather.  In a normal year we would be able to eat supper out on our patio only a few times through the whole summer. The rarity made it a great treat. This year we have eaten out there almost constantly for several months, leaving our table and chairs in position ready for use.  Enjoy it now, as it will never happen again, we feel.

Many years ago - it must be at least ten, or possibly fifteen - we bought a clematis from the village market and planted it to grow up through our pear tree.  It was called Madame Grange, a lovely deep maroon.  It flowered for a couple of years before failing to appear. For several years now,
shoots have grown at the base of the pear, but have always come to nothing, certainly not flowers.
This year, I noticed a spray of buds.  And now these flowers are opening, a wonderful, almost luminous maroon.  Could it be the hot, dry conditions?

Friday, July 07, 2017

Easedale Tarn

The good weather continuing, we looked for a less strenuous walk than the Crinkles.  Parking in Grasmere, we began the walk to Easedale Tarn.

Rhododendrons, often in quite lurid colours, are a feature of Lakeland gardens.

The path leads out across fields leading on the right to Helm Crag, the famous Lion and the lamb profile above Grasmere.

Soon the path began to climb, revealing this waterfall.

Eventually we reached the tarn itself, a wonderful sight on a very hot day.

We sat down to eat our sandwiches and were soon attended by these two gulls, very polite in their behaviour.  The black-headed gull came in close to beg and retrieve crusts, while the herring gull kept his distance but was assertive in claiming fragments thrown out to him.

On the way down, we noticed this evidence of recent severe weather scarring the hillside.

We passed this curious barn, note the date over the door.  So what might solar panels be doing on an agricultural building like this?

  We crossed paths with three intrepid ladies from the States who were on the Coast to Coast and determined not to miss their way.  Down the valley we heard them asking everyone they met for reassurance that they were headed for Grasmere.  We wondered how they got on over the Pennines.

It was very enjoyable to have a decent teashop to hand at the end of our walk.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Crinkle Crags

Thank you, Marilyn in Minneapolis, for your kind comments.

Langdale Pikes from the Crinkles

After a dampish start, our week in Langdale was marked by uncharacteristic very hot weather.  The local shop, which had been displaying a sign offering waterproofs, changed it for one offering sunscreen.

We planned a Big Walk to Crinkle Crags - number 17 on Wainwight's list of 214 fells  - and possibly on to Bowfell - 6 on the list.

First, we had to drive up the valley and on to the Wrynose road to the Three Shires Stone.  This was less like something by Tolkein than it sounds.  We found ourselves following a convoy of Mountain Goats - minibuses for tourists - which pulled off at a viewpoint to disgorge trippers with cameras all over the road.

The Stone marks the former intersection of the counties of Cumberland, Westmorland and Lancashire - it's all Cumbria now.  It also marks the start of a very useful path leading to Red Tarn and on to the Crinkles.  Turn right before the tarn and you reach Pike o'Blisco, which we climbed last year.

The names of tops are often misleading.  The word "Crinkle", for example, suggests some small, barely- there fold, of a jolly nature.   Wainwright, in his guide, states that this is an easy one for the non-mountaineering motorist. We had been warned about the "Bad Step" of course, but we are not masochists and saw no reason to take that particular route.  The regular route over this seemingly endless series of rocky outcrops was quite bad enough as the sun beat down on us.

Usually, in a high place, the view from the lunch stop is dramatic and awe-inspiring.  But here, for some reason, we found ourselves plagued by black flies of a biting tendency.  We hurried lunch and moved on.

In the back of our minds all the time was the thought that clambering over these boulders was not just a one-way business - we had to take the same route on the return.


Eventually, we reached the final Crinkle from which we could see Bowfell and the steep, eroded access path to its summit.  That would have been a further three miles there and back.  We decided to leave that pleasure for another day.

On the way down we detoured to Cold Pike, which was anything but cold on this occasion.  Later, I discovered that slathering on the sunscreen and wearing the obligatory peaked cap still left the tips of my ears out to burn.  I'll know for next time.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Little Langdale

From where we were staying in Chapel Stile, a number of lovely valley walks are on offer from the door.  The Langdale Pikes form an instantly recognisable backdrop to pictures.

On a glorious Lakeland day we set out across the valley, up through the working quarries and the woodland and over into Little Langdale.

We crossed Slaters' Bridge which was infested with a whole crowd of photographers on holiday - not that you would know it from this picture.

Then we entered Cathedral Cave, one of the Little Langdale quarries bought by Beatrix Potter.  One giant spar of rock supports the roof which encloses a huge space.

And then it was on up the valley, past traditional Lakeland farms, many owned by the National Trust.

Around this outcrop, reputed to be an ancient tribal gathering place

 Past this waterfall

Over this bridge

And we arrived at Stickle Barn, a watering hole up the valley from which you can catch a bus back to Chapel Stile...if you are lucky, which we weren't on this occasion, so it was a couple of miles along the road back to base.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Progress Report

Some progress has been made with the waistcoat.  The notion here is drawn from a sweater in the Shetland Museum which uses a wide range of lozenge patterns in each horizontal band.  I have simplified this by choosing just two in each band, and even so the piece looks very busy.

By now, I have knitted the other side of the front, until I ran out of fawn yarn.

It would seem counter-intuitive to use different lozenge patterns for the matching side, so in total I have now used six patterns.  The museum sweater would have had six different patterns in each band.

However, I'm pleased with the warmth of the colour mix I am using.

We've been up to Cumbria, first to the Langdales and then to our own cottage in the little town of Maryport.  In a little junk shop up the coast we found these two chairs.

These may look like ordinary kitchen chairs, but they are a little more interesting than that.  They were made of beech, with elm seats, probably in the late 19th century.  While giving them a coat of polish, I came across these initials on the back of each chair. 

This is the maker's stamp; he has signed his work.  I just love them - the colour, the grain on the seats, the whole thing.  They are very comfortable to sit on, which has to be important too.

Some harbour scenes at Maryport. An old capstan.

A pretty ancient looking trawler

One which looks more like the business

And, this haunting reminder that stormy weather makes fishing still a dangerous business.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

OXO patterns

Remember this?  This started life as the first part of a front for a Fair Isle pullover, but morphed into a hat when I realised that using cream, bright yellow and red looked far too Spring-like for the autumnal richness I had in mind.

So now I have been following Jean's adventures in lozenge knitting with interest.  First, I obviously needed more yarn, as I had only scraps on each colour.  Meadow Yarns were able to supply a lovely golden brown J&S jumper-weight, which will be the ribs and the back of my waistcoat.

Then I used my old favourite, Sheila McGregor.  She provides two pages of 17 row lozenge patterns to choose from.  I was surprised to see such a random mix in Jean's source, the Museum Sweater.  I know that Fair Isle can have different patterns in each band, but different patterns in the lozenges within each band?  That would be counter-intuitive somehow, as it would be hard to establish a rhythm to each row. 

I already have a Fair Isle waistcoat that fits, so I got my stitch counts from that one.  Then I charted out the pattern for one front.

I did actually try a little swatch for the background and pattern colours, but that mainly served to rule out certain combinations.

So then, what about the central row?  I tried a row of bright yellow which just disappeared into the background.  So, it was back to the box of scraps where a range of greens seemed like possibilities.  I went with this mid-green.