Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The sea on our right

It is my daughterly duty to take my father for A Walk, whenever possible when visiting home so on Saturday we sallied forth to do battle with 'the hills'.

To describe the coast path between Kingswear and Brixham as hilly is to suggest that the Grand Old Duke of York took his men for a gentle stroll along a road with speed bumps.

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We may not have been walking all the way to Brixham, but the four (ish) miles along the coast to Coleton Fishacre can feel like a never-ending series of ups and downs, from sea level to the top of the cliff and back again in one easy calf-busting manoeuvre.

There were steps:
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And steps:
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And even more steps!
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But the views make it all worthwhile. Heading out of the estuary you can see over to the castle and St Petroc's church at the entrance to the harbour, looking very picture postcard with the dinghies and yachts (drifting and motoring respectively!)

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Leaning over the wall, we also caught a glimpse of something I have seen many times from the other side when coming into Dartmouth at night;

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One of the leading lights the marks the safe passage between the rocks just off the mouth of the river.

We also picked up some decorating tips - if you have a spare turret, suit of armour and metal hawk, now you know just what to do with them

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Personally I think this guy needs a cannon to defend himself against the long guns at the castle on the other side of the river which are fired every year as part of the Regatta celebrations in August.

Once you get out of the river there are wonderful tiny nooks and crannies with just enough room for a smattering of shingle.
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As we trekked up hill and down vale, the sun started to put in an appearance and chase away the early morning cloud.

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Dad, standing below, is actually on the same path which snakes its way up the hillside in a lazy zig zag, and we're both looking down into Newfoundland Cove
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Turquoise, untrodden, and empty but for a solitary yacht - bliss!

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Once we got out of the Dart estuary the path evened out a little (although there was one memorable moment where we went all the way down to sea level only to climb right up again and discover a path that stayed high and linked the two). This is taken from Inner Froward Point which was the site of a WW2 battery, much of which remains today, and some of which has been appropriated as a useful spotting point by the volunteer Coastguard.

Because its Devon, and logical like that, the next outcrop of rock is Outer Froward Point, and here the sun burst forth, dazzling as it sparkled off the water, and lending a very picture postcard air to daisies, more daisies and lichen!
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Further along the coast we discovered that the National Trust has introduced some deliberately lost Dartmoor Ponies, brought in for grazing without damaging the pre-existing plants (I'm guessing the goats on Prawle Point have not been an unbridled success). Electric fences have been put up along the cliff edge to stop them getting stuck on narrow inaccessible ledges
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- yes that's clearly worked well!

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For a child well versed in Jim Davis, Richard Hannay and Davies and Carruthers, this was always near enough to a smuggler's cave. I was always disappointed that the hill on which my grandparents lived did not reveal secret passageways to the pirate lair, as described with so much geographical accuracy by John Masefield. I live in hope that one day my mother will pull up a lettuce for lunch and discover a tunnel down to the water's edge many feet below.

Puddlecombe bay also marks the start of the bluebell wood (wonderful smells) and the start of the Colerton estate;
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And a blessed relief for sore feet and tired legs!

Way down south ...

A little knitter sat on a terrace

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And knit!

H and I have returned from the deepest sunniest south after a wonderful bank holiday spent with my parents to celebrate a family birthday.

In our (combined) families we feel that to have just the one birthday on a day is under-egging the pudding, and that all birthdays should have at least two birthday girls or boys for full effect. In the combination of the two families we have only added to the mix and so Friday saw birthdays for my Mum, H's brother and my aunt.

Tophy was the happy recipient of the red and blue stripy bamboo socks from a previous post and when they (finally) arrived in Scotland he tells me that they fit and he likes them very much. Sadly they do not appear to have been enough to save his team (Middlesborough I believe) from relegation.

Mum had dropped a few hints a little while back about a need for cream lacy socks to compliment the rest of her sock drawer and as all dutiful daughters do, I set to work with alacrity.

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If you have been reading my blog for a while, or are a Socktopus devotee (and if not, why not?!) you will recognise last summer's sock pattern - Fiori di Zucca (Courgette Flowers). I loved it in the pistachio green of the sock original but rendered in cream (002) Regia Silk the stitch definition is even crisper and there is a subtle sheen that gives the socks a warm glow.

Needles to say, they met with approval - and a willingness to model them around the garden:

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(and yes, as an illustration of the socks this photo is useless; as a picture of my mother I like it!)

All this sock finishing spurred me on to finish H's second Fibonacci sock - to avoid him only being able to perform the 'one flying foot' sock picture pose.

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I cast off to the closing refrain of the credits of our evening film of choice on Friday (Goodbye Mr Chips - the Martin Clunes version - highly recommended); and H popped the socks on and refused to remove them for the following 24 hours.

It did mean that I got lots of opportunity to take photos with a more than usually scenic backdrop:

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And see H's attempt at the two feet flying foot pose!

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I adjusted the socks to make a size mid-way between the medium and the large by increasing up to 72 sts (my normal count for H's socks) at the toe and simply increasing by 12 sts at the next two stages.

I found that the pattern as written, even for the large size, was a lot shorter in the foot than even I need so I carried on with the stage 2 of the foot pattern until I had 12 repeats, and then did the increases as written (or at least, as written with my adjustments). Confused? yes, me too - I left too long between the first and second sock to work out exactly what I'd done and had to reverse engineer off the first sock - clever no?

Anyway, H likes the socks - they have a clever feature on the feet that produces diagonal stripes across the feet which is a bit of fun, and although on the lighter end of sock weight yarn, they held up well to a good cliff walk on Saturday - success all round.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


We've just got back from a weekend spent with my parents-in-law in The North, and as well as a most delicious steak pie (sadly now all gone), my MIL sent me back with these:

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Her first pair of handknit socks - now sporting extra ventilation on one foot and about to follow with the second.

Now whilst I might ordinarily subscribe to the quick and easy method of darning (hold sock over bin, say "darn", let go!), my MIL has just the two pairs of handknit socks and loves them dearly. I hadn't realised until very recently that her handknit socks are her nightly treat for her feet after a bath and so although we gave her a second pair for Christmas, we chose something different for her birthday this year, not wanting to overwhelm with the wool unless we knew it was truly wanted.

As it takes me a while to knit up a replacement pair of socks, I grasped the sock by its frayed, fuzzy ends and boldly declared it fixable - and it was. There are probably a myriad of different fixing techniques available on the internet but as it was sunny and I was sat in the conservatory I just went for it - and here's how:

First, I picked up the first row of whole (ie not frayed) stitches below the hole.
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In this picture the sole is facing towards me and the heel and the back of the sock is uppermost. You can see it a little better here.
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Happily this was the first row of knitting in the round again after the original heel turn.

Then I unravelled the loose ends and ripped back the heel turn; the little semi-circle of knitting that sits on the sole of your foot. Fortunately, all of the wear was in the heel turn, all of the heel flap stitches were intact, I just had to pick up some dropped stitches.

When I had ripped back, I picked up the heel flap stitches so that the sock looked like this:
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Heel flap on two needles to the right, sole to the left. There are a lot more heel flap stitches (30 in this case) and at this stage I had only picked up 16 sole stitches which was just fine.

As these socks are Colinette Jitterbug - with the oh so long yardage - the original socks used up every last scrap of Raspberry yarn so H and I went through my box of bits to find some sock yarn that would be a near enough match and found the leftovers from a pink and red stripy pair of Jaywalkers - Regia yarn I think, certainly something with a bit of nylon to give the new heels a longer lease of life (the originals having only lasted a year).

I joined the new yarn and, ignoring the sole stitches, worked a normal heel turn over 30 sts, ending with 18 sts on the needle.
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I picked up an extra stitch at either end of the sole stitches to get 18 sts on each needle, and kitchenered the two together.

And after I'd darned in the ends - voila:
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It isn't a perfect match by any means but this is a part of the sock that will be underneath Beth's feet most of the time, and is certainly passable by candlelight.

Wash, rinse, repeat and what do you have:
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Yipeee - two socks

And a little crinkle of yarn
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The socks are winging their way to Beth (and I will be seriously cheesed off if the Royal Mail eats them after all that work); and the yarn ....

...I held it over the bin, said "darn", and let go!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stripy Boy Socks

It seems that despite my best intentions there are two things that do not change and shall not change in my life at the moment.

1. My job will try to suck up all available time in a way that reaps me great reward and acknowledgement with my bosses; and really cuts into the knitting time. I enjoy my job - but I like knitting so much more!

2. Despite all endeavours to knit things that are not socks (and occasional success in the form of small soft elephants), I seem only to knit socks!

Most recently, I've been exclusively knitting stripy boy socks.

H received his second installment from the Rams Sock Club - a pattern called Fibonacci de la Linea - which as the name suggests, uses the Fibonacci sequence to set the stripe repeats; and as we both think the colours are awesome, they were straight on the needles:
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I've done one sock and I'm taking a little break at the moment to do some birthday knitting - I like the effect of the pattern but the pattern itself seemed to overcomplicate the desired effect. It's also missing row gauge which I find I need when knitting toe up socks; not so much to match it exactly, but to know whether I'm knitting longer or shorter and to adjust accordingly. Needless to say, there has been much ripping back and re-knitting before I got this sock to fit H's foot - the second one should be quicker though.

The intermission knitting is my second pair of stripy boy socks.
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These are vanilla socks, for mindless restorative knitting; to keep me sitting still while my tired brain catches up with the day.

The yarn was an impulse buy last autumn - it's Wendy Happy 4ply which is a 75/25 bamboo/nylon mix; not an ounce of wool in sight. I was pleasantly surprised with the yarn, I thought it might be too splity to knit without looking at it but it's soft, smooth, and well twisted together so it knit up pretty easily.
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The colourway is Aries, so hopefully the Gemini for whom they are intended won't mind too much - he's been dropping hints left right and centre for more socks!

And now, if you'll excuse me - I have another sock on the needles!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

By my hand

"Robin's here in coat of brown
and scarlet breast-knot gay" (William Allingham)
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I've been wondering for a while just why I chose to knit a hat in April when all around me the magazines and yarn shop shelves are bursting with cotton tank tops and little summer cardies. My good friend L, seeing me knitting it on the train, thought it would be perfectly sensible if she were making it, because it would take her until the winter to finish - but as you see, I have finished in time to catch the last breezes of spring - a Robin's final fallah before summer (hopefully) descends breathlessly on us.

My model (George) is apparently not averse to wearing girls' hats in a good cause although I am reliably informed that he would prefer a boy's hat, and could I please make one. I am also told that he likes oversized hats, about the size that would be just right for H. Hmmm - I didn't cast on yesterday so I think both H and George will have to wait! H's hand needs to get better soon - I miss my photographer.

The pattern is Robin by Kim Hargreaves and the yarn is the very first installment of the Socktopus Fibre Academy - 100g of Polwarth, spun into a 4ply-weight 3ply (there has to be a better way to describe that but you know what I mean), which turned out to be more than enough for the hat.

It is not getting a bobble. I have decided that at almost 29 I have (just) gone passed the age at which I can carry off bobbles. Yes, even though very few people would be tall enough to see it!

The only alteration to the hat (apart from the declaration of a bobble free zone), was to knit it in the round to save on seaming which is very easy to do and I highly recommend it.

My spinning wheel has not been idle this last week either - somehow it's easier to spin than knit when I'm really tired because you don't have to follow a pattern for spinning, you just make the fluff into yarn and all is well. It's also really tempting if you just happen to have been to Wonderwool and just happen to have some lovely fibre to spin.


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Started life as 100g of superwash merino from Freyalyn.

I split it into three, spun each section almost as fine as I can with plenty of twist and then plied the three bobbins together. It was an absolute dream to spin; it just drafted so smoothly.

The mini-skein is the leftovers, navajo-plied as an emergency mini-skein. I must be getting more accurate at dividing equally and then spinning consistently because my mini-skeins are getting smaller all the time.
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The colourway is Peacock but to me it's the ocean - can't you just see the curve of a breaking wave on a sunny day?
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I have 404 yards which should be perfect to try one of the patterns from Cookie A's new book - now all I have to do is (a) decide which one and (b) manage to hold off from diving into the new Socktopus Fibre installment for long enough to cast on!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Wonderwool 2009

Captain's Log: 25 April 2009
Location: The Royal Welsh Showgrounds, Builth Wells - a place cleverly designed to be hidden to outsiders by being approachable only down increasingly narrow and twisty lanes. With sheep on them. Actually, we didn't mind the sheep.
Occasion: Respite from the outside world, a trip out the house, or as H put it: "time to find people that are as crazy as you!". I think he meant crazy about knitting!

My 2009 wool show resolution (what? doesn't everyone have one) was to go to a show with actually animals this year; which narrowed it down to Woolfest and Wonderwool. Wonderwool is (a) nearer and (b) coincides with the Mid Wales Mouthful food festival which was a distinct selling point when pitching the idea to H - somehow, come and watch me shop for yarn for a day just doesn't quite swing it.

The original plan was that H would drive, giving me a good 2 hours knitting time each way, but alas he spiked that plan so I bravely got behind the wheel with the world second-worst passenger sat beside me and set off in the pouring rain.

Two and a half hours later, and in need of restoration by wool fumes, we arrived
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The showgrounds at Builth Wells have a wonderful feeling of being hidden in a hollow of hills, tucked into the palm of a giant green hand, and as we arrived, the clouds had scudded away and it was bright and sunny, if a touch breezy.

The show itself was set up in one of the long sheds, away from the main parade ring, with foody things at one end and yarn all the rest of the way down.

And, most importantly, yarn in it's natural state:
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We saw Angora Bunnies (one of which was very camera shy), from Easter Bunnies and Crafty Angoras;

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Teeswater Sheep - who have wonderful crinkly dreadlocks - from Teeswater Wools
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Wensleydale Sheep, who are not quite as crinkly as the Teeswater, but almost;
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Alpacas from Black Mountain Alpacas, who kept giving each other kisses, but never when I had the camera out, or pointed at them; and
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Hebridean sheep
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From the Hebridean Sheep Society - who just happened to be selling some of this wonderful rusty black fleece that may perhaps have come home with me! But more on that later.

A little shopping later - well it had been a long car journey so I required quite some reviving - it was time for the woolwalk, a chance for some of the exhibitors to show us their favourite things:
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A handwoven blanket in colours that I adore;
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Incredible freeform crochet
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Beautiful colours - I think this is all hemp
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The best hat seen all day - and there were some good rivals including these girlsApril 169
Raggedy & Wench. And finally, no wool festival would be complete without ...
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a Tiger!!

Lest you fear that I merely abducted my husband and held him ransom to yarn the whole day, we did spend much time appreciating the joys of the Mid Wales Mouthful, including what was possibly the nicest hog roast that I have ever had for lunch.

The cookery demonstration area was great for sitting down and having a breather in the middle of the day, and we learnt how to cook lamb wrapped in Camarthern ham (like Palma ham but from Camarthern) which was delicious, and later on we saw a butchery demonstration, and won a little joint of lamb noisettes in the raffle.

I also have the nicest cheese ever:
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Cheddar with whisky and ginger - I swear it melts in the mouth; it's pure cheesy heaven.

And to round off the day of pure indulgence - we had raspberry pavlova ice cream:
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In cones with dragons on them - how brilliant is that!

It was a wonderful day, not too big, not too crowded that you couldn't take the time to stop and look at the stands and chat to the exhibitors and answer the inevitable question of just what H had been doing to himself (answers ranging from having been bitten by a very tiny shark, to too much knitting, which had a few people worried)
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Oh yes, and we did a little shopping along the way! For all H claiming that he was going to a wool festival under protest, we appear to have come home with just as much sock yarn for him as for me! On the left is my stash, and on the right is his!

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I have three skeins of Artist Palette Yarns because having finished the Socktopus club socks I am totally nuts about it, and the bottom one is Malabrigo sock yarn in Lettuce - so soft it's untrue.

H has a wonderful red that I've lost the label to, a skein of Artist Palette Yarns' Sweet Feet, a skein of Malabrigo in Stone Chat and the wonderful Rainbow skein at the bottom!

We were just as fair with the fibre:

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I have the Peacock in the back left and the yellow and peach in the front, and H has the purple and the blue/green - I'm going to be busy for quite some time to come!