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

Afetos


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? 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Walking

The weather on our recent trip to Cumbria was not of the best: overcast and chilly, although rarely actually raining.


However, we managed some of our favourite walks.  This one starts near to the chapel at Wythop and winds round the base of Sale Fell, past the old stones of the ruined Wythop chapel in the woodlands, a favourite place to stop for lunch.


The path rises steeply to begin with, but soon levels out.


Now that the forestry people have cleared some of the dense coverage, there are spectacular views over Bassenthwaite.

Another day we lunched at the Pheasant and then walked up through Dodd woods to try to catch a glimpse of the ospreys from the vantage point across the valley from the nest.  This was not to be, but we did see this little fellow.  He looks bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, but a closer look reveals that he has a bad case of mange on his back.  Let's hope it is not itchy.


A couple of birdy pictures; birdsong was very much in evidence.

A stone-chat displaying in the coastal scrubland.


And a yellow-hammer, catching the low evening sun.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Spring cruise

This Saturday, to London, to celebrate the thirtieth wedding anniversary of two of my oldest and dearest friends.


This took the form of an afternoon cruising on the Regents Canal, past moored barges and some seriously swanky gin palaces.


It was a bright, sunny April day.  Among the guests were a number of Australians, easy to spot because almost every one was wearing a woolly hat.  This was unexpected, but our friends explained that to the Australians it was actually winter.


At one point we traversed the zoo.  Here we have an enclosure of painted dogs, a species at risk of extinction in the wild.  We are fans of "The Secret Life of the Zoo", which featured a very small pack of these same dogs recently.  Watching them savage each other to establish a clear hierarchy of dominance even among the four of them was very instructive.


Meanwhile, on the barge, we caught up with long-lost friends, scanning each other's faces to recognise the familiar under the ravages of time.


The boat passed through Little Venice before turning and travelling to Camden Lock.  This involved passing through several dark and narrow tunnels.


On the way back, we were in one of these for some time, the barge making slower and slower progress.  Once out in the open, the steersman opened a hatch and used a boat-hook to prise layers of debris - bin-liners and discarded tights - off the propeller.  We made faster time after that.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Feathering the nest...


To Cumbria, for an early Easter break and a little further progress on the refurbishment of our front room.


It was a time of baby lambs, huge banks of gorse in bloom and lovely evening light before sunset.


We took with us a tiled hearth, constructed by my husband, and bought a small electric stove to stand on it.  We ordered carpet and waited for it to be fitted.  And we located a "new" gate-leg table to replace the frankly ancient one we inherited from my mother. 


This is a real find: a solid oak table with a lovely golden sheen to it.  We spotted it in the front window of an organisation run by Age UK called "Men in Sheds".  The notion of this is that they take in items for repair or updating, and it provides an activity for the older male.  I was amused to see a poster in the window advertising a "Women in Sheds" group, which is apparently well-attended.  West Cumbria has an unsophisticated line on gender diversity.


Our table has yet to be refinished - we did take some steel wool to a couple of minor cigarette burns on the surface, and there are some pale water marks.  But this was a bargain at £35.

Later, we made a trip to the Honister slate quarry, to pick over their spoil heap.  This has the notice "Fill ya boot - £20".  We were looking for some polished off-cuts for my husband to use in the fire surround he is planning for our front room.  We did not fill our boot, partly because some of these pieces must weigh a ton.


While there, I watched as a workman demonstrated riving slate with a chisel.


Notice how a crack has appeared.

And then the slate splits.


He was wearing steel toe-capped boots, probably wisely.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Happy Christmas

Last Christmas we were surprised to receive a voucher for an "Experience" from my elder sister and her family.  We normally enjoy a hamper of smoked fish and meats which they have sent us for many years.  So this "Experience" came out of the blue.

The Shard

We checked the weather forecast anxiously: we were booked to enjoy lunch on a Thames cruise followed by the View from the Shard.  High winds, or worse, fog, would have spoiled the day.

Tower of London

We travelled in to Tower Bridge, where we met my younger sister and her husband who had been given the same voucher.  It was overcast, but not worse than you might expect in March.

London Eye

We embarked on the lunch cruise, down the river past all the redeveloped warehouses and wharves, then back up through Tower Bridge and up-river as far as Westminster.


All the while we were being served a  really delicious lunch of chicken breast, dauphinoise potatoes and plenty of fresh vegetables.


Once off the boat, we had to decide whether to cross by Tower Bridge, or by the plainer London Bridge, which is the one we chose.  Then we were whisked up to floor 68 of the Shard and climbed the stair to the viewing platform on floor 69. 


It is a strangely moving experience to see the city laid out before you like this, its railway routes exposed.  Those curious pockets of historic buildings marooned among all the spanking new developments of the last twenty years.


We climbed three more flights to floor 72 which is open to the elements.  It was quite a windy day and up here it felt like being in a forest, a sensation enhanced by the astroturf underfoot and the fake evergreens along the inner walls.

Tower of London from the Shard

It was a memorable day out, and a great Christmas present.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Nurmilintu

I've finished this asymmetrical scarf in Drops alpaca. This is Nurmilintu.
 

It features alternate bands of garter stitch and a simple lace.


I'm very pleased with how blocking has straightened this out and opened up the lace.


Snowdrops in full bloom at Mark's Hall arboretum.


And a heron looking hopeful on the banks of one of the man-made lakes.






Saturday, March 04, 2017

Works in progress



First daffodil, almost ready to bloom.
With the weather variable, I am still spending time on my indoor hobbies - the allotment must wait for now.

Around my living-room I seem to have accumulated a number of works in progress, some only at the development stage and others in active progress.  I like to be able to move from one type of handwork to another, not least to rest my thumbs.


So, actively on the needles, is this asymmetrical scarf in Drops Alpaca.  You knit a long tail and then begin bands of simple lace alternating with deep bands of garter stitch.  I'm not sure how big it was meant to be - the designer seems to have just knit until one skein was used up.



At a much earlier stage is Lindisfarne by Lucy Hague.  This is also knitting, but pretty far removed from those garter bands.  The design hinges on 1-7 increases from which all the Celtic cables grow, but also includes some other tricky manoeuvres on dpns.  I won't be knitting an entire throw, but wanted to see how the technique worked.  There is an even more challenging square which I would like to try.


In the bag are two partially worked fingerless mitts in crochet.  I'm basically using up tiny ends of yarn on these, but also trying to develop some new skills, as my crochet is at beginner level.


Finishing the Celtic needlework bag spurred me on to consider some more pieces.  Someone at my knitting group, who likes to make small items for her grand-daughters, commented that my bag looked more like jewellery and that she could see herself making neck-purses.  Well, I just happen to have some small scraps of canvas handy, and I like a challenge...  This is another design from Co Spinhoven's "Charted Celtic Designs."  Then , how about wrist-bands, or cuffs, from the narrow strips?


The last one in plain sight in my living-room looks less promising.  These are scraps of fabric hand-woven by me in two different combinations: plain purple and purple warp with a variegated weft.  I'm thinking that these oddments might be sufficient to construct a small bag on similar lines to the one I have just finished, with the calico lining providing some stability to the hand-woven outer.  This one might just be tidied away instead.   And soon it will be spring...