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. 

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Skye Cardigan and Signild

Both of these use the top-down set-in sleeve method described by ByGumByGolly in her tutorial.  It makes for a very neat finish. Oh, except that I just joined the shoulder seam and knitted the sleeve flat.  Then I seamed the sleeve and the body at the same time.

No doubt there are other methods for the same process, but this one worked well for me.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sheepy Books...

This last week I've enjoyed two quite different books set on sheep farms. Now, I reckon to know a bit about sheep-farming, since I spent my childhood on a farm on the edge of the Cumbrian fells with an ancestral flock and a grazing right.  But time passes, and it is all of fifty years since I left that farm.  A lot of change can happen in fifty years - and this is what these two books deal with - change and its impact on rural lives.

"Towards Mellbreak" by Marie-Elsa Bragg is a curious book, half novel, half prose poem.  What it is certainly is a tragedy, which deepens as the story goes on.  The book is set on Ard Farm, starting in 1971.  The writer moves between her characters, depicting an ancient way of life in which the turning of the year is marked by ancient traditions and by church attendance, more significant to some of the characters than to others.

Although this is a remote valley, the outside world is present to the characters. A brother has served as a missionary in China; his ancient letters are stored as treasures and gifted to chosen individuals. 

Soon the menfolk are discussing government initiatives, all of which are seen as ill-thought out and intrusive.  It becomes clear that no good will come of it. Sheep dip starts off benign and becomes a major player.  As the inevitable descent happens, so the pathos increases.

Quite different in tone is "Addlands" by Tom Bullough, a novel set in the ancient county of Radnorshire in the Welsh Marches.  This covers a seventy year period from 1941 onwards, the lifetime of the central character, born and raised on a sheep farm, although not conceived there.  One of the features of the book is the interrelatedness - everyone is your second cousin here.

This is a much more rollicking read, but with real depth to the local knowledge in the narrative.  The writer does not confine his use of dialect words to the dialogue - local words occur naturally in the narration.  Bullough's characters are not saints to whom awful things happen, they are people who make mulish choices, choices which have lasting consequences for them and others, but which they refuse to regret.

Change happens in Bullough's book too, but not always for the worse.  The passage on how the annual ordeal of hay-making was no loss was particularly telling.  But this is a comedy, so when the farmer decides to spare his mother the chore of washing at a wash-tub, he is too mean to buy the washing machine and ends up with a dish washer, because it was cheaper. She appears not to know the difference.

Bullough pulls no punches, and neither does his central character.  This is farming red in tooth and claw.  But he also does not flinch from the sex lives of his people, where humour replaces what could have been tragic. 

It was a great reading week.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


A sense of deja vu?  This may look very similar to the last item I knitted, Nurmilintu, but it is a completely different pattern - similar but different.

I had half the Drops Alpaca left, so I looked for a new pattern.  This has the same basic shape of a long, thin triangle, and the same idea of alternating bands of garter stitch and lace.  The edge increases are done in a more sophisticated way here, producing a little rolled edge.

I also prefer the lace pattern here - it's more open and airy.  The final ten rows or so shift to a proper edging, so it blocked out better.

Now I am beguiled by a box of Shetland yarns.  In full sunlight, the blended colours really gleam.  Perhaps another waistcoat?