Monday, September 1, 2014

Summer's end

The end of summer is drawing nearer and nearer. The first signs of Autumn have already made their appearance. The first leaves are falling, the ground has been taken over by fungi (and more gnomes than ever, I suspect) and the forest grounds are littered with acorns. I love this time of the year for many reasons, and I think it's the best season to be out and about. Unfortunately saying goodbye to summer means saying goodbye to summer holidays as well.

Today the academic year started and I am back on the grid. I'm not going to pretend I'm glad about saying goodbye to all that knitting and sewing time, but I guess it had to end someday.  Summer holiday seems to have flown by faster than ever. Perhaps because this coming year has got a lot in store for the Treehouse. The good, the bad and the scary.  One of the things that will happen is me writing the most important thesis to date (you can place that in one of the categories yourself). It's always strange the start of a new year after the summer holidays. It seems so so far away until the actual day it all starts again, when everything swings back to normal again and it (almost) is as if summer holiday never even happened and you only laid down pens and papers yesterday.

Well.... Let's get busy.

Xx Nisse

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Tantallon Hat

The end of summer is drawing nearer and nearer. The first signs of autumn have arrived. The sunny weather has made place for overcast, windy weather. We've had quite a few rain showers, followed by deceptively bleak sunny weather over the past week as well. This kind of weather is typical for the transitional period from summer to autumn where I live, though usually it doesn't set in until the end of September. The past few days I've spoken to lots of people who hate this period in the year, but personally I love it. Autumn is my favourite time of the year. Really, it's the perfect time to show my latest make, which is particular suited to this time of the year.
Pattern: Tantallon
Designer: Kate Davies
Yarn: Hebridean 2ply by Alice Starmore
Soundtrack: Privateering - Mark Knopfler
Raveled here 

It's Tantallon by Kate Davies! This is the first design by Kate that I can remember wanting to knit. It took me a while, as you can see, and I've knitted other designs by her first, but I couldn't be more pleased with the result. I wrote my opinion about the yarn in my previous blog post. I like the colour combination, it's very suited to autumn. I read on Ravelry that some people had problems with the sizing of the hat, resulting in the finished project turning out to big. This made me a bit weary about the project, however since my gauge was spot on I decided to go on with it. I don't regret it a bit, as the hat fits perfectly! Thought because of the sizing issues I was a bit more careful with blocking as I usually am, because I wanted to help the stitches set without making the hat bigger.  

The hat is part of the Hats of Midlothian collection, and the pattern itself is named after a beautiful castle ruin near North-Berwick in the Midlothian area. The castle is from the fourteenth century, and it makes Kate's own project photo's a delightful sight. When I was in Scotland I was very close to the castle, though ultimately me and my boyfriend wandered of, taking a walk along the cliffs instead. It did spark a slight debate between me and the boyfriend on the topic of pronunciation: which of the syllables of this castle's name is stressed? If you know do tell!

All in all I'm really pleased with this project. I look forward to wear this when proper cold weather arrives here! How are things in your part of the globe? Enjoying the last days of summer, or like here dipping your toes in Autumn already?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Starmore Yarns

I recently completed my first project knit with Virtual Yarns Hebridean 2ply, Alice Starmore's yarn brand. I'm a big fan of Starmore's books. I was not around when she first published her work, so got converted when she republished some of her work a few years ago. Someone of a local knitting group I used to go to brought along Starmore's Fishermen's Sweaters the moment it was republished. It was one of those mind boggling moments when I first browsed through the pages. My mind was blown by her colourwork designs, and her cable designs. The wealth of information she provided on aran, fair isle and fishermen sweaters fed my initial interest in these traditional crafts.

The recent project was my first time knitting with Starmore's yarn, as I only recently found out that she had her own brand. I had read about it in her books and vaguely remember registering it when I read it, but somehow it didn't really hit home, or somehow I convinced myself that it probably wouldn't be available to people outside the UK. Ha...what a mistake on my part!

It's a wonderfully bouncy yarn. It's one of the stickiest yarns I've knitted with, which makes is perfect for stranded knitting. It is slightly thicker and stickier than Jamieson and Smith 2ply jumperweight but not as sticky as Lopi (the stickiest yarn I've ever knitted with). The yarn is a tad bit softer then both of these yarn brands as well. If you're looking for a yarn that's suitable for colourwork, but find J&S or Lopi too scratchy, you might find this a good option. I find that weaving in the ends with sticky yarn is less tedious and more enjoyable as well. I had to weave in a lot of ends for my project and didn't find it as tedious as I normally do.

Each of the yarns and each of the different colourways has a unique story about the inspiration for the colour. Usually, this is story inspired by Alice's Hebridean background. The Gaelic fishermen community Starmore grew up greatly inspired her work. For example, if you buy a skein of the yarn, you get a small card explaining Selkies, or describing a certain type of moss.   Personally, I'm a sucker for yarns with a story and I love those details.

 Lastly, the colours are magnificent. Starmore is, in my humble opinion, a colour magician. She somehow managed to capture the landscape of the Hebrides in her yarns. I couldn't stop marvelling at the rich colours when I first saw the yarn in person. Alice Starmore made an appearance on BBC's Coast in one of the previous seasons, in which she talked about and demonstrated dyeing with natural dye materials. Again she made evident how concerned with the landscape and the history of the Hebrides she is and this passion is reflected in both her designs and her yarn.

Aside form the Hebridean 2ply yarn I used, she sells Hebridean 3 ply, the same yarn but in a worsted weight and yarn called Scottish fleet, a 5 ply fingering yarn, specifically made for fishermen sweaters. So lots of options left if I feel like trying different yarns!

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!