Wednesday, 10 June 2015

FO: Fish Lips Kiss Heel Sock

Last month, news reached me of an unfortunate Amtrak accident near Philadelphia.  

"Gosh, I hope I didn't know anyone on the train", everyone thinks.

Knowing lots of people who work in Sales and travel the East Coast corridor almost constantly didn't help my chances and I did end up knowing someone who was gravely injured on that train.  

Third hand news of a long-term ICU stay, surgeries, concussions and broken bones reached me but ultimately a long and painful recovery was in store.  It gave me nightmares for a week.  

Once I was assured that he wouldn't be an amputee (a very real possibility) I set to work on a pair of socks.  Dapper, simple, comforting warm socks.   

This might sound new-agey, but when you are knitting something specifically for someone in mind, you are thinking of them subconsciously or consciously with every stitch, and whatever you thoughts are towards that person gets woven into the fabric of your garment, much like a protective amulet or magical armor to keep that person safe and well.  

Big man feet, loads of stitches, loads of healing thoughts.  

Once modeled by a for-hire foot model, I packed them up sent them off with well wishes and healing universal vibes to my friend, who I am certain is in need of a bright day here and there.  I told him "wear them with Birks, you'll be a star!" knowing that it will make his blue blood curdle.

New technique:  the Fish Lips Kiss Heel, a nice way to avoid gusset shaping and keep your stripes consistent on your self-striping yarn, and not having a heel flap to pick up stitches- Thanks, Sox Therapist!  I think it worked- they seem to fit and the unique short rows made for a flawless gap-free heel.  I'm making another pair right now to fit them to the next recipient better as this pair required a little guesswork as far as foot size goes.

Yarn is Online Supersock 4-ply "walking color".  I think it looks quite dapper, Birks or no.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

fo: Plain jane socks

I've changed gears and started making socks again.  I love the usefulness of jumpers, but I have much sock yarn in my stash that needs to be turned into socks, and those socks make for wonderful gifts.  Maybe someone particularity cold-hearted might turn down a pair, but what ice queen wouldn't want a pair of these?

Quick, plain jane socks.  The yarn is Online Supersock 4-ply City Color.  This yarn is fantastic- it's affordable and the 75% superwash 25% nylon blend is just the easy-care hard-wearing for non-knitters who can't be arsed with handwashing their precious.

The colors are fun.  I didn't bother trying to line them up, giving them a charmingly mismatched quality.

Pattern is my basic toe-up two at a time sock with the Fleegle heel, and a couple inches of ribbing at the top.

Best part, they took me all of 8 days to make.  I'm not a speedy knitter, but that's really fast as far as sock knitting goes.  For me, anyway.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

FO: Buchanan Tee

I finished a fantastic little summery top a couple weeks ago.

It's the Buchanan sweater from Kate Davie's wonderful little book appropriately titled "Yokes".   The last sweater I made of hers was the whimsical Owls pullover.  Sadly, I left it in storage and I want it back (along with that denim pencil skirt, ugh, sometimes I just miss my stuff).

There are several winners in the Yokes book.  Loads of simple, creative designs that would be flattering to most- there is quite a bit of waist shaping worked into these patterns, which, hello, I can't do without.

This was designed with a heavier wool in mind- a mohair blend!- but I couldn't do a short-sleeved top in wool.  In my mind, it called for cotton, specifically some of my jealously hoarded long-discontinued Rowan Calmer.  It behaves like wool but it's nice and light weight, making it perfect for summery little tops that you dream of wearing.  Lately, I've been in a "suns out, why am I freezing?" sort of place so it hasn't gotten any real use yet.  I can't wait.  Tomorrow is a warmer day according to the Met office.

I loved the colorwork on the Yoke of this.  It's much bolder and graphic than traditional fair-isle yokes.

All-round, a winner.

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Sad Trombone

A couple weeks ago, I was dutifully scooping up clothes off the floor and throwing everything in the wash.  A 50 minute 30c cycle later, I hauled everything out and started hanging it out on the clothes line outside, when I came across something balled up in the middle of the laundry bolus that puzzled me greatly.

What on earth was it?  It looks like flat bread or a nacho or something.

Oh.  I somehow managed to not notice my Damask lace shawl had been wrapped around the shirt I had been wearing the day before, and in my overzealous laundry-doing it ended up in there with the unwashed masses.

This had become a wardrobe favorite.  While I normally don't like really lacy frilly things, this shawl was manageable, and I would draped it around my neck a couple times and it was so soft and warm and elegant, and the YARN!  Sundara silk merino, with a beautiful peachy blush.  It was my favorite and I wore it quite a bit.

It was a bit of work, but I loved every second of it.  It also brings back memories of living in Paris- I sat in the Tulleries in the late afternoon sun and plugged away at this, and blocked it on my futon before donning it until it got too cold to have holey-lace around your neck.  

And now, it's about a 18" across and a solid, unbendable mass.  But look, you can still see the perfect nupps!  It's like a archaeological dig to find ruins and then piecing it together and theorizing what it looked like back in its glory days now.

Rather interestingly, because the silk didn't felt, it kind of looks like boucle yarn.

I'm a bit sad about it, but somewhat amused.  In all my years as a knitter, this is the first such accident to take place.  I know from rumors and secondhand information that many of the gifts I had sent on have ended up in this state, but I've never self-sabotaged.  This is an epic fail.

Lesson learned.  I was going to give it to a friend with cats for bedding, but someone else at the pub chimed in and grabbed it.  Novelty fabric perhaps?

Well, I loved it enough to want to make another one, perhaps in blue.

Monday, 18 May 2015

FO: Circle Socks

It's been a while since I've made a pair of socks.  This is an odd thing since most of my yarn stash is sock yarn.  I should probably make more socks.

They are still my go-to for travel projects.  If I have a long train journey in store and I'll be hiking around a bit then I always have a pair on the needles.  It's much easier than having a adult-sized sweater shoved in my bag while walking hill and dale.  

I made these for a guy-friend who is generous and gregarious.  He's had us over for dinner more times than I'm comfortable with before making a grand gesture of thanks.  So here they are:  a pair of socks that he can wear with his crocs while out back brewing beer.

I started a basic toe-up, two at a time sock while on the train to Exmouth last month.  When I got to the heel I tried something new:  Fleegle's No-flap-no-hassle sock.  I really liked the heel it made- smooth and flat- and once that was done, I chose a pattern to compete the cuff- the Circle Sock, modified to work with my sport-weight yarn and stitch count.   It's a simple slip-stitch pattern that adds a little bulk and texture to the cuff.

I'm modeling them here, so they are much bigger than my foot.  I used a skein of Online Supersock Murano color, and they do look a bit like Venetian glass.   Except they are wool and sock-shaped.  Even though I don't know the recipient's dressing habits intimately, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't wear handknit socks with shoes, but he does keep a cold house and a no-shoes policy, so I think these will nicely fit the bill for house socks.  Sport weight yarn is a bit thick to shove into shoes, but they make a cushy and warm house sock.  It's also very durable- the superwash wool/nylon blend means this will last a good long while.  They aren't precious at all.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Osterley Park Bluebells

The bluebells have been really fantastic this year.  I've been seeking them out- on a sunny late afternoon (or morning, if you are up with the larks) the light filters through the forest just right and the forest floor becomes awash with the stunning purple blooms.  

After a rather intelligent google search (bluebells near london) I settled on a trip out to Osterley Park, a National Trust site out by Heathrow.  

It did not disappoint.   

The grand mansion house was closed when I was there but the gardens and grounds were open.  I was hoping my sunshine would last, but it soon became overcast and the light muted.  (ah, and they had used the interior as the set for Wayne Manor in the latest Batman movies).

It was a lovely garden walk though.  The spring blooms are such a relief and still a novelty after a drab winter.  

I didn't get too much info about the history of the estate.  Queen Elizabeth was a onetime visitor.  Thomas Jefferson was as well.  I guess he wasn't on the no-fly list like I would expect an American patriot to be.    There were several posh outbuildings on the grounds.  I mean, this.  This was where they kept the cold-intolerant plants:

And this elegant little outbuilding was described as a place where people could come in if they got caught in the rain while walking in the gardens:

The real stars were the flowers.

While I didn't get the beams of sunlight throwing streaks across the forest floor that I kept dreaming about.  Going through a quiet forest carpeted with bluebells is pretty much magic at any hour.  Well, except for midnight.  Then it's just inky.

I didn't even "touch up" this picture, but it looks super fake:

It wouldn't surprise me at all if tiny sprites appeared.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Pennine Way

When I first started looking into hiking in the Peak District, my first thought was to do the first leg of the 268 mile Pennine Way.  The high-level foorpath starts in Edale at the base of Kinderscout, goes through Yorkshire Moors, Northumberland before terminating just over the border in Scotland along the backbone of the Pennine hills.  It can be broken into pieces with the help of trains and buses, but from start to finish, it would take me about 3 weeks.  

The first day is especially brutal- it's near 17  really rough miles to your first overnight.  

Instead, I decided that a leisurely explore through the Peak District would be a better way to spend 3 or 4 days.  I was right!  Having the flexibility to get out of the rain and have a lazy morning indoors was much better than pushing through it to get to your end destination.  We did a good amount of walking anyway, and we took our time and went at a leisurely pace.   

The final day of our walk would take us to Hadfeild, where a train would take us to Manchester and another train would whisk us the two hours back to London.  It was 17 miles from Hayfield if we took the route I wanted:  back up Kinderscout and follow the Pennine Way across the empty moors before descending back down to civilization.  

So we woke up early.  It's not hard in May- the sun is up at 5:30 now and the birds will let you know even when the blinds are drawn.  I had told the pub landlord we'd be out before breakfast and to just leave us milk for coffee and cereal and we'd be out.   

I do love getting up with the lark.  Starting a walk on a beautiful early morning is really one of those times to love and appreciate life.   

Plus, the birdlife is astounding.  Curlews, grouse, skylarks, wrens, all letting you know they are alive before spending quiet afternoons tucked into the heather.

 Our path took us back to the shooting lodge, and then continuing up the Snake Path via William Clough, a steep and sometimes scrambley path that follows a rushing stream to the top of Kinder.

At one point, we lost the trail as we followed the stream a bit too closely, and ended up on a sheep-trail on a high ledge with wonderful views back down the valley.

It was rewarding to get to the top, where the summit of Kinderscout is there to greet you, and a nice stone-slab path takes you across the open expanse of Black Moor.

Red Grouse

For years, trail improvements have meant that as long as you stick to the trail, your feet will stay relatively dry.  The Peak District and all its streams was once the centre of the cotton textiles industry.  The dismantled factories now provided the paving stones to keep dry on your way across the moor.  While I normally prefer less pavement hiking, it was a real treat to not be sunk into the bog up to my armpits as legend has most ramblers doing.

We were up early enough to not have a soul on trail with us.  Most people start from Edale anyway and were probably just having breakfast by the time we got this 6-mile jump on them.

The north side of Kinderscout was a lovely way to view it.  It's not the tallest hill in the world, but the high moorland plateau on top is really a unique place.

The Peak District isn't as breathtaking as the Lake District, but it has a quiet emptiness to it that is beautiful in its own right.  

Without the stone slab trails, it would be really easy to get lost up here.  Everything in all directions looks the same.

Our first companions of the day:

Wander off the trail and you have this lovely to contend with:

We crossed the A57 at Snake Pass and continued on across Shelf Moor and Bleaklow.  This is where the paving slabs ended and you got a bit of bog walking in.  The trail twisted and turned and climbed and dipped, following a stream.  Sometimes, it was easier just to walk through the stream than sink in the mud.

The water flowing through peat bogs is quite tannic and takes on a yellow-brown color.

At the edge of Bleaklow, we stopped for a rest.  It was hard, challenging walking.  We had carried around a good deal of the bog with us.

Soon we were following the course of a stream down off the high moors down to Torside reservoir.  Despite exhaustion, I wasn't ready for the ramble to end.  A warm, sunny spring day is something I don't take for granted.

We parted ways with the Pennine Way and followed an abandoned railway track the three miles into Hadfield.

The ride back to London was rather lonely as I think we won the "High Stink" award.  The seats around us remained empty, with a lot of people taking a sniff and then backing away.  Despite trying to freshen up in the train station sink and changing shirts and socks, we were ripe in a way that needed a power-wash and industrial strength cleaner.

That was a lovely toe-dip into the Peak District.  I'm planning on going back- the two hour train ride makes it an easy weekend from London and there is plenty more to explore.