Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Fox and the Bicycle

I made this fox for my brother at one of the gazillion gift giving occasions this month. I don't know how, but somehow almost everyone I know -or, at the very least, everyone in my family- has their birthday in that one month between the mid of July and the mid of August. I suspect the birthday gods have a laugh over my inability to come up with so many presents in such a short time.
I decided to knit my brother a fox, because he happens to be a huge cycling and cyclo-cross fan (as long time readers may have gathered by now). One of the biggest stars in both sports is Marianne Vos. She's reigning World Champion in both sports, won the Giro Rosa, the biggest event in female cycling, and won La Course last week, a one day course finishing at the Champs Elysee alongside the Tour de France. Her name, Vos, is Dutch for Fox, so my brother now has a mascot to wear to the cyclo cross matches.

Pattern: Mini Fox
Yarn: Jamieson and Smith 2 ply Jumperweight

 The mini fox knitted up super fast, I casted off the same day as I casted on. In fact I finished it so fast that I almost forgot to blog about it, had I not conveniently stumbled upon the photos just now.
 It's the second time I made the mini fox pattern. I made a Fennec fox a couple a years ago but this time I stuck to the traditional red fox colours. The red fox is the only fox that still lives in these woods and we've stumbled on one during evening walks a couple of times.

I'm extremely pleased with the colour. Jamieson and Smith 2 ply jumperweight has the perfect foxy colours. I used colourway FC38 as a main colour, because that's what I had in my stash, but I think colourway 122 would probably work as well.  Speaking of which, the yarn to finish my Shetland Cardigan has not arrived yet. Though it should arrive any day now, I started to get a bit impatient so I've casted on for something to keep me occupied in the meantime. What are you working on this summer?


Monday, July 21, 2014

Shetland Cardigan in Progress

I thought I'd share share what I'm working on right now!

I'm working on a Shetland yoke cardigan! I had some pauses in knitting on this one, as I didn't take the work-in-progress with me to Scotland, and later I mysteriously lost my DPN's! I had to wait a bit for new ones to arrive, and now I'm waiting a bit again, as I've run out of the main colour (with only a button band left...boohoo!). It's okay though: I'm enjoying knitting on this one.

I'm knitting it in Jameson's and Smith's. It's a pattern they published themselves and the sell a kit combining yarn and pattern. I did change the colour combination a bit.

For the first time in a long while I don't really have a plan as to what to knit next. Normally, when I cast on a project my mind has allready decided on the next thing to knit. Perhaps it is the high temperatures we've been having, but this time I can't seem to settle on one thing. I'm very much in a knitting mood though, so I'm curious which project will catch my fancy after I finish the buttonband!


Thursday, July 10, 2014

A wee bit of nostalgia

Now that the Scotland blog series is over I thought it was time to reveal to you what I was knitting on in the pictures. The inspiration for this project brings about a wave of nostalgia and takes us back
 to the days when I just started knitting and I thought that an unblocked shawl on top of a staple of moving boxes made for good project photos. Ahh...those were the days, weren't it?

Well hello old student house and moving memories!
Despite its rough start, the shawl in this picture has proven to be one of my all time favourites. I wear it on cold days, brought it with me to every festival I went to and some sharp-eyed blog reader may have seen it in the Scotland pictures. The problem is, it's starting to show. I thought that it was time to knit a new one. I didn't want to make the same pattern again, but it did have to meet the same requirements. I wanted it to be made in worsted weight (for warmth), it had to be fairly large, textured and I wanted it to be green. With these requirements in mind I went on the hunt for yarn and a pattern.

Pattern: Terra
Designer: Jared Flood
Yarn: Malabrigo Worsted
Soundtrack: Simon & Garfunkel - The Boxer

For the yarn I wanted to try one of the thicker options of the Malabrigo family. I used Malabrigo sock for shawls before and it is one of my favourite shawl options. Sock would be too thin so I went to have a look at the thicker options. I knew Malabrigo Worsted weight is one of the most popular yarns on Ravelry, but it is an unplied yarn which does not have my preference. Rios, the plied option for a worsted weight yarn looked much better. However Rios is available in less colourways than Malabrigo worsted, and the shade of green I wanted was not one of the Rios colours so in the end I did go for worsted. Should horrible pilling ensue, I will report that immediately.

The pattern is Terra by Jared Flood which was exactly what I was looking for in a replacement shawl. I thoroughly enjoyed knitting this shawl and might make it again in a different colour. I was a bit bummed that the lace bit was only charted and not written out. I'm not sure why that is, as in my experience most independent designers both chart their lace patterns and write them out. In any case, for this pattern it was not really a problem for me personally, as the lace is easy, but I do wonder if Brooklyn Tweed doesn't miss a bit of a market here since there is quite a number of knitters out there that only work with written out patterns and refuse to touch anything with a chart.

I ran out of yarn, even though I did buy more than was specified in the pattern, so I skipped a bit of the lace chart. I was not super bothered by this, as my shawl was already more than large enough, so I decided against buying another skein of yarn to finish it according to the instructions. In case you do want to make this shawl in full, be aware that you need more yarn than specified in the pattern.

I'm really happy with the outcome of this shawl. The colour, size and thickness of the shawl is exactly what I wanted and it will make a suitable replacement for my poor old tattered shawl.
Looking forward to be wearing it come Autumn.


Monday, June 30, 2014

North Berwick: Rant and Roar across the Salt Seas

Not far from Edinburgh is the town of North Berwick. It's a coastal town, part of the East Lothian Council area. Although they say you're never far from the sea in the Netherlands, I actually hadn't seen a beach in years. North Berwick and the waves of the North Sea managed to ensorcell me completely. The town is shaped by it's two long bays, with the harbour jutting out between the two.

North Berwick looks and feels like a bona-fide Victorian seaside resort, though it's history actually goes back much further. This is evident from the two photographs below: the first is Berwick Law, a low but steep hill overlooking the area. On top of it are the remains of an Iron Age hill fort, while in the town itself, the remains of the St. Andrews Church still linger since the twelfth century.

St. Andrews church is on a small peninsula between the two beaches. The peninsula also houses the very colourful harbour and the Scottish Sea bird Centre.

The Scottish Seabird Centre is a visitor attraction dedicated to preserving endangered wildlife in the area. Contrary to it's name, the list of animals also includes seals, but the focus is on the many birds that populate the Lothian Area in very large numbers. Some of these birds we saw in the wild, but their main mascot are, naturally, the puffin and the gannet. Though we haven't seen any puffins, we have seen some hints to their existence.

There's a hint in here. Somewhere.

After crossing the East Bay, we decided to take a walk eastwards away from the town. Although there was a beautiful castle to be seen a stiff walk away if you used the pathway going over a golf course, we were drawn to the sea. Leaving the path, we started climbing the cliffs instead. Choosing this route means you will never arrive anywhere (unless you've got a whole lot of time to spend), but the seaside cliffs, beaches and nooks are capable of making you forget any pre-intended destination.


Finally, this is Bass Rock. Although we managed to get this close, from a distance, this rock looks very different. From far enough away, the rock looks completely white, because it is completely covered in gannets nestling there.

When we finally got back from our refuge amongst the cliffs, North Berwick was setting into a positively laid-back evening atmosphere. We returned to Edinburgh for a very late dinner. At the dinner table (in, honesty obliges me to say, a fast food pizza chain), one last prejudice about the Scottish was confirmed: they're positively knit-crazy. This was exemplified by a long chat with the serving girl who had recognized the Owls Cardigan by Kate Davies that I was wearing.

This will be my last post on Scotland. I loved the place very much, enough to still blog about it two months later. Perhaps for the blog, it's better that I can finally resume blogging about the knitting projects I finished in the meantime or the knitting books I've found, but personally, it feels like finally saying goodbye to the trip for real. Edinburgh; thank you for the great inspiration, blog readers; thank you for the patience, and Scotland: I will be back!


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Scotland: The bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomond

Of all the things we did and saw in Scotland I was most looking forward to going to Loch Lomond, where I could see Scotlands famous lakes and Highlands. And yes, that's Loch Lomond of folk music fame

We decided to go for a walk in the picturesque town of Balmaha. Generally, Balhmaha is noted in tourist guides as little more than a car park, but the town has a tiny harbour and a pretty decent pub, but more importantly, Balmaha is the point of departure for several walking routes.

The route we took first was the Millennium Forest Path, a short route that takes you by the coast of the lake and into a quite young patch of forest.

All through the day, we had a magnificent view on Ben Lomond, the mountain that shares its name with the Loch.

 The Millennium path takes you on a round trip back to Balmaha, but there's another route passing the village: the West Highland Way, a long distance route through the Highlands. Near the town, it passes over a hill called Conic Hill. Although the hill pales in comparison with the Ben Lomond, it is quite a climb in its own right, and a stunning sight for two tourists used to the flat, Dutch fields.

Very near to the top, we were surprised by a flock of sheep, lazily grazing as if they did not even realize they lived in the most beautiful landscape on earth.

A last look at the Ben Lomond before descending back to Balmaha.

While the top of Conic Hill might feel like somewhere completely isolated of all civilisation, isolation has created an unique civilisation along the south-eastern shore of Loch Lomond. The only train arrives at Balloch, a water sports resort on the southernmost tip of the lake. If travelling by public transport, the only way to get to Balmaha is a bus that only departs once every two hours. The bus is usually driven by a local driver, as is made apparent because at every stop, there's someone stopping the bus just for some small talk with the bus driver, at times not even bothering to actually ride on the bus at all. 

It's impossible to sit on that bus, and not hear politics. The group of men and women sharing our ride back to Balloch had a very passionate debate on Scottish independence, and everyone getting on the bus had to show their colours first. As arguments and insults were traded ("But he slept with your wife!"), the debaters kept a friendly attitude. After an early lead for the yes camp, the debate seemed to end in a draw, until the bus driver (who had initially proclaimed "I'll have nae politics on my bus!"), decided the issue for all of them. And that is how I ended up in a crowded bus, slaloming a country road, with the bus driver slamming the horn and repeatedly yelling 
"Yea! Yea! Yea!"

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Scotland: Yarn Stores : I went to Scotland and I brought back....

It's been a while hasn't it? The past few weeks have been ridiculous at university. I seriously never had such a busy period in my life. The worst is behind me now, so I have good hopes that things will improve in the next few weeks. I had hoped to have finished the Scotland blog series by now, but because I was so busy things went slower than I had anticipated. In this blog post, we're talking yarn in in Scotland!

Before I went to Scotland I did some research as to where the wooly goodness was to be found. To my utter delight there are a lot of yarn stores in Scotland. Not only in the bigger cities, like Edinburgh, Glasgow and Stirling, but the smaller places as well. A big change from what I'm used to, here in the Netherlands. I visited some stores in Edinburgh, because that was were we stayed, and one in Stirling. I had lot's of opportunities to quickly whip into a store when I was in the area anyway. 

Knitting in the Highlands

Kathy's Knits

This was the first yarn store I visited. It was a bit of a hassle to find her (advise to other tourists: the store is located on Broughton Street, but not on street level. You have to go down the stairs, so when in doubt: you probably are going in the right direction, you're just looking at street level instead of down). Broughton is at the edge of the New Town, a small area with lot's of bars and small shops. I really liked this yarn store. Kathy's Knits stocks  a wide range of British yarns, some notable brands are Jamieson and Smiths, Blacker yarns, Hebridean, Titus, Yarnpony and New Lanark. She had a large amount of patterns and books on display as well. I was quite impressed with the amount of yarn Kathy was able to fit into her relatively tiny store. There were a lot of patterns, books and sample knits from Scottish designers on display (lots of familiar faces there). Kathy was very kind and helpful and we spend quite a lot of time just chatting about places we had visited and still planned to visit in Scotland. Ultimately this was my favourite yarn store of all the once we visited.

K1 Yarns

Beforehand this was the yarn store I was most looking forward to. They seemed to have a decent range of yarns and offered some yarn brands I had never heard of before. However, when I visited them in person I was a bit underwhelmed. Instead of the promised range of yarns they really only had their own yarn brand, and even in that brand, they had very little actual stock in store. It was a bit surreal to walk into an almost empty shop. I was just looking up their website to link to for this post and have found out the reason as to why the shop was so empty, which explains a lot. They'll quit their brick and mortar shop in June to focus on their online shop. In hindsight it is logical explanation,  but I would've expected a sign or something. I was not super impressed with their own brand, called Old Town Yarns. K1 Yarns was however located in a very great location, on the W Bow right at the foot of the castle. They're actually closing down this very day, so I wish Katherine lots of luck with her new focus!

Other Edinburg Yarn Stores:

There are more yarn store in Edinburgh, but I only gave them a brief visit so have less to say about them. There's big warehouses that stock some yarns, like Jenners and John Lewis Edinburgh. Be Inspired Fibres, a short walk south from the Old Town, offers a wide range of exciting yarn brands. They stock some of the big yarn brands such as Malabrigo, Istex, Artesano, Cascade, Lang Yarns, Host and Shoppelwolle, but the shop also stocks quite a number of independent and/or less well known yarn brands, such as Shilasdair, Lotus Yarns, Yarnpony, Fyberspates and ITO. Located on London Street, the Ginger Twist Studio has a logo that features a ginger cat with glasses playing with a ball of yarn...need I say more? You probably want to know the details about the yarn brands. The store sells, amongst others, Exelana, New Lanark, Cascade, West Yorkshire Spinners, Brigantia Luxury Yarn and their own Ginger's Hand Dyed Yarn,

I visited one other yarn store in Scotland: McAree Brothers in Stirling (and the yarn fairy knows I would have hopped into that store in North Berick  as well, had we not visited it on a Sunday). McAree Brothers is a huge yarn store which sells a lot of Rowan (I suspect all of their varieties), Sublime, Patons, Sirdar and Artesano. We had a friendly discussion with the shop lady on the size of pennies. Can someone explain to me why the 50 and 20 pence are smaller than the 10p? It makes no sense! 

Now you're probably wondering whether I brought something back... Which I should probably note is quite a self-explanatory question. The actual question ought to be what I brought back.

First up is some Jamieson and Smith Shetland Surpreme Jumperweight in sweater quantity. This is yarn is made up out of hand sorted Shetland fleeces. It comes in nine sheepy colours and is completely dye free. They all have fabulous names in Shetland dialect representing the traditional Shetland sheep colours. I wanted to try this yarn since forever and was really happy when I spied it on the shelves at Kathy's Knits.  I got three different colours and want to use it for a yoke sweater, with yuglet (the darkest colour) for the main colour.

Next up is yarn from the Hebrides; Shilasdair from the Isle of Skye. The yarn is a mix  of 10% cashmere, 10% baby camel, 40% angora, and 40% lambswool, which makes it the most diverse fibre mix I own. What makes this yarn special is that it is naturally dyed with locally sourced dye materials. I heard about this yarn before and was very excited to find it there. I brought back yarn for a shawl as well as some yarn as a present for my mum.

Shilasdair in colourway blackberry.

Finally I brought back some more Hebridean yarn skeins, which I plan to use for one of Kate Davies' stranded colourwork hat. I have not yet decided on which hat it's going to be, but for now I'm happy to just stare at these gorgeous little skeins, and occasionally pet them.

Well that rounds up my Scottish yarn post, looks like I got my work cut out for me for the summer.
 I hope you enjoyed it and perhaps find it useful when you visit Edinburgh yourself. As you can see I only brought back Scottish yarn. Both because they are difficult to come by in my own country and because I've been meaning to try these yarn brands for a while. It is a welcome added bonus that they are sourced locally...from the same country that is, because while Shetland is a Scottish island it it still a 12 hour boat trip away ;) Do you look out for yarn stores when your on a  holiday?