Archive for the ‘Knitting’ Category

Bram Stoker’s Whitby

As you know I’m currently listening to Dracula courtesy of Craftlit, so when the opportunity to visit Whitby came up last weekend, I was only too happy to take it.  I love Whitby anyway, it’s a pretty place with excellent fish and chips and some good pubs but the chance to walk the Dracula Trail and take the route that Mina and Lucy would have walked each day was just too tempting for a geek like me.  This blog post is mainly for the benefit of my Craftlit friends on Ravelry who do not live in England so won’t have the pleasure of visiting Whitby and seeing these sights for themselves.  I hope you all enjoy the Mina and Lucy experience!

We arrived on the Sunday lunchtime and it was very misty so my first photos were not very exciting I’m afraid.  Lots of white stuff with some shadowy blobs in the distance!   A walk around, a look in the gift shops and couple of pints of Theakston’s Old Peculier in the Duke of York pub and then it was back to the hotel for dinner.  We were staying in The Royal Hotel which is at the top of West Cliff by the Whalebone Arch.  The original Whalebone arch was erected in 1853 so I’m rather surprised it doesn’t get a mention in the book as the girls lodgings were very close to it.  This replacement was donated by Alaska in 2003 with a previous one donated by Norway in 1963 (what the hell do they keep doing to them?!)

Whitby fog

Whalebone Arch

As we set out in the dark, for an evening visiting the local hostelries, I couldn’t help but think of Mina, on that fateful night when discovering Lucy missing from their room, running through the deserted streets, over the bridge and up the 199 steps to the churchyard to rescue her friend.  Craftlit people, you will totally understand but for those of you who don’t, yes I do know it’s not real but  if you can’t use your imagination, there is little point in listening to a story and I really found myself imagining myself as Mina, running frantically all the way round from the West Cliff to get to Lucy up there on the East Cliff.  We had a most enjoyable evening in a few local pubs and then slept well with no nightmares or sleepwalking!

And so to Monday which was a little brighter.  After breakfast, we set out to find the Bram Stoker Memorial seat to start our walk.  We couldn’t find it and I’ve since discovered that we were looking in completely the wrong place!  However, from photos I’ve seen online, we didn’t miss much.  It is just a very ordinary bench but with a plaque saying that the view from there was what inspired Stoker to include Whitby in his book.  I did spot East Crescent which was originally called The Crescent and is where Mina and Lucy were lodging during their time in Whitby.  I couldn’t quite fit it all in, there were I think nine houses in total.

The Crescent

The first view we have is the one Mina had when searching for the sleepwalking Lucy.  Across from the West Cliff over to the churchyard and Abbey.   This is also the top of the steps that the girls would have walked down each day to go over to the East side.

From West Cliff to East Cliff

From West Cliff to East Cliff

Of course there wouldn’t have been a Patrick (who doesn’t normally look like a chipmunk, he’s pulling a strange face!) or a litter bin and benches in Mina’s day!

Down the steps and along past the Fishmarket to the Swing Bridge.

Then down Church Street toward the 199 steps up to the churchyard.  Before tackling the steps though, we went onto Tate Hill Pier and Tate Sands which unsurprisingly is the little beach area next to the pier!  This is where the Russian schooner Demeter, with Dracula on board, crashes into the pier in a storm having been driven through the entrance to the harbour.

Whitby Harbour Entrance

Stoker based this storyline on a real-life incident involving the Russian schooner Demetius which had floundered off the coast of Whitby in 1885.  In the Dracula story, all the crew are missing and the captain is dead having tied himself to the wheel, when the ship crashes a huge black dog leaps from the bow and bounds up the steps to the churchyard.  Dracula had arrived in England!

Tate Hill Pier and sands

The pier is the concrete structure at the bottom of the picture, just sticking out from beyond the second rooftop from the left and Tate sands lies to the right of it as you look at this picture.

Having looked around to make sure there were no large black dogs around, we took to the 199 steps.  That’s quite a long way up that our Mina ran you know! Here is the view from the very top of the steps.

Top of the steps

Once at the top of the steps and when I could breathe again, we headed off to the churchyard.  There are several seats all around and for good reason, the views are stunning and I can really see why this spot was a particular favourite for our heroine and her friend.

View from the churchyard seats

Enjoying the view (and the breather!)

We didn’t go into the church and unfortunately the Abbey site was closed because it is out of season so we couldn’t get up close and personal with the ruins which was a disappointment.  I took a few pictures of both though.

St Mary's Church, Whitby

St Mary's Church, Whitby

Whitby Abbey

And of course, I was wearing my Wilhelmina Shawl and so had to have some modelled photos taken in the favourite spot of the heroine who inspired the pattern.  Please excuse the second photo…I appear to be in mid-blink!

The Wilhelmina shawl

The Wilhelmina Shawl

After all that walking about I thought Patrick deserved a drink so we went back down to the Duke of York, situated at the bottom of the steps, for a well earned Old Peculier.  The site of the Duke of York has had an alehouse on it since the Doomsday book, I think it’s probably because the monks  needed a pint or two to help them up those steps!

We had a lovely weekend and Patrick was wonderfully patient with my current Dracula obsession, never once complaining about all the walking around and random photos.

For those of you who are not Craftlit people, I really cannot recommend this reading enough.  Heather has found some wonderful readers and each character has their own voice.  If you are not a crafty person and don’t want to listen to the knitting chat, Heather now has another site called Just the Books which, as it says is just the books with no craft talk beforehand.  Go on, listen to it, I dare you!


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WIPs and on the horizon

I currently have a fair few projects on the needles and am still wanting to cast on more!  There are just so many things I want to knit and as usual, not enough time to fit everything in.  I’m still working on the baby knits, I’ve now completed one jacket, two hats, the backs of two more jackets and a pair of mitts.  As everything in the pattern is written for knitting flat and seaming, I have converted the hat to be knit in the round and that has worked well.  However I thought I was being really clever and converting the mitts to be done bottom up, magic loop and two at a time!  Woah, learning curve overload!  I’ve found it to be really fiddly and awkward and they’ve taken me much longer than a tiny pair of baby mitts should have taken.  I think I’ll just follow the pattern for the other two pairs.

In between the baby knitting, I’ve been working on the Wilhelmina Shawl KAL that I mentioned last time.  I am really enjoying knitting this, it’s a very easy lace pattern to follow and it’s looking good.  I also decided to swatch and cast on for the Maude Louise cardigan by Knitting Kninja.

Maude Louise - back

This one has been started before actually and abandoned, over two years ago I swatched for this, couldn’t get the tension right and lost patience.  Someone else on Phoenix knitting forum  has knitted it recently and made an excellent job of it which gave me a kick start again.  I’ve finished the back but I’m spreading myself so thinly with knitting at the moment that I haven’t yet had time to cast on for the fronts. It’s a really pretty cardigan and looks nice in the sky blue Patons Jet that I am using.

The last of the WIPs (not counting the hibernating ones of course ;-)) is yet another Horatio.

Horatio brim and yarn

My 91 year old mum told me last week “I’ll let you knit one of those hats for Andy, I’ll buy the wool”.  Gee thanks mum, you’re so kind to me!  I don’t mind at all of course, it’s a lovely hat and mum’s friend Andy is very kind, visiting her when she was in hospital and taking her out in her wheelchair.  I just found it very funny to be told that I was to be allowed to knit a hat for someone :-), older people have such a way with words sometimes.  I bought some yarn from Kingcraig Fabrics on Ebay.  It was such good value at £3.00 for a 100g (200m) ball of Merino/Cashmere Aran weight.  I’m very pleased with how it is knitting up.

Coming up soon, in 5 days to be precise, is the annual Woolly Wormhead Mystery KAL.  I really enjoyed last years and despite being rather busy on the knitting front, I can’t resist joining in this year too.  I shall be knitting pattern A, in the very lovely King Cole Baby Alpaca in a brown shade.  I swatched the other night and am all set to go.  Another KAL I really, really want to be a part of is another one from WWMDfK.  The Van Tassel Mittens KAL in the Ravelry group for the book is now underway but as I’m still working on the previous KAL from that book, I think I really should finish something off before starting anything else.  These are so pretty though and I’m wanting to practice colourwork, and I have yarn that I could use so I’d be using up stash, and did I mention that they are so pretty and…and…and…I just know that I won’t be able to resist and will have them OTN before too long 😉

I have given up on the idea of knitting the Spock hats for Patrick and his friends for Christmas,

Live long and keep warm hat

I worked out the time it would take and Patrick agreed that it’s a waste of good knitting time for something that will be worn once for a novelty and then probably stuffed in a cupboard and forgotten about.

How fantastic is this hat?

You can find the pattern on her blog here.  It’s also a download from Ravelry here.

So wish I could spare the knitting time for this!

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Hats and a shawl.

I mentioned last week that I was test knitting a hat design for Knitting Kninja, well I finished it and my son immediately claimed it, declaring it to be the most comfy hat he’s ever worn.  Here it is

Horatio hat

I love how it turned out and he is right, it is such a comfy cosy hat.  I had sort of promised it to Patrick but Mason got in there first so I’ve had to knit another one for Patrick.  I’m not complaining because it is a nice hat to knit and very quick too.  I knit the second one in the same yarn but in a lovely shade of brown, kind of reddish brown almost and Patrick is very happy with it.

I also finished one of the baby hats I’m knitting for my work colleague.  I converted the hat pattern to knit in the round on magic loop because it was written to be knitted flat and seamed.  The seam would have been up the back of the hat and I really didn’t want to think of a tiny baby having to lie on a seam, it might be uncomfortable and they can’t tell you what’s hurting, only cry.

Now, I have cast on for another shawl, I probably shouldn’t because I have lots of things I need to get done but hey, it’s my hobby and I’ll do with it what I want!  I decided to go for it because a group I am part of on Ravelry is having a KAL (knit-along for the uninitiated).  The group is called What Would Madame Defarge Knit, named for the book that it is centered around.  WWMDfK is a great knitting book, first thought up by podcaster Heather Ordover of Craftlit.  It features over 20 knitting and crochet patterned inspired by classic characters in literature.  The shawl we are knitting at the moment is called Wilhelmina’s Shawl and is named for the heroine of the book Dracula.  We are currently listening to Dracula over on Craftlit so this is fun to do. I’m using some Aruacania Ranco Multy in an orange/purple colourway and it’s looking good so far.  I’m only going to knit on this for the hour a week I listen to the podcast though because I do have other things I want to get on with.

If you fancy listening along to Dracula, I really recommend it!  It is such a cool and creepy book, none of your Twilight rubbish here.  Just click DRACULA.

UPDATE:  previous link didn’t actually link to the Dracula post on the Craftlit blog, I’ve fixed it now! (note to self; check  links before publishing posts ;-))

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Never too late.

To let the world know that you are still around that is.  I’ve been procrastinating on this blog for weeks now, it gets kind of where you have missed so much that you don’t know how to get started again.  I mean, do I attempt to back-track and  tell of the events that have taken place chronologically?  I think not, it would come out like a list rather than a tale. Or do I jump right in and start from now?  I suppose so, after all that’s how it started in the beginning, I didn’t attempt to go back over my whole life to get it down on record or anything!  You just have to start where you are at I suppose.

I am not a good blogger, I don’t plan what to write, I just start writing and see what comes. Don’t get me wrong, I do read it through and make changes, it’s not completely ad-libbed but when I start, more often than not I don’t know where it will take me.

So, I’m going to jump in and start from now, if I track back and tell you about my summer, then all well and good.  Summer haha…try to cast your mind back, summer fell on one day in June this year I think 😉

Right now, we’re in the midst of selecting Universities with my youngest son, who will be applying this autumn to go next year.  He wants to study Maths and is looking at Nottingham, Lancaster, Leeds and York in the main.  Of course mum gets the fun job of driving him to open days but I believe it is important to make the right choice based on your feelings when you visit a place and not just from reading marketing blurb in a prospectus so I’m not complaining about it. 

On the needles ATM is a hat that I am test-knitting for the wonderful Knitting Kninja.  It’s a nice watch cap with just enough pattern detail to forestall the boredom usually involved in knitting hats for men (Why do they always want dark colours and stocking stitch or ribbing?)  It’s called Horatio because  it has a nautical look to it, I had a hand in naming it so I’m feeling quite proprietry about it :-D.   I’m using the Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran in Navy that I have left over from my FLS and I’m please with it so far.  Also OTN, I’m knitting baby things 🙂   I have a lovely work colleague who after many years of trying, is pregnant and expecting triplets!!  I’m knitting three identical layettes from a Sirdar pattern book but I won’t be posting pictures on here, that would spoil the surprise.

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FOs and Startitus!


Well, I say FOs…there’s actually only one Finished Object which is the very lovely (if I do say so myself) February Lady Sweater as pictured above.  Please excuse the crappy photo (the white dots are light shining through the holes in the lace pattern I think), I will post a better one after the weekend hopefully but I am just so happy to have finished this never-ending project that I just had to share it.  Knitted in Debbie Bliss Rialto Aran in Navy blue, the yarn shows off the lace pattern really well and the stitch definition is really crisp and suits the garter stitch yoke very well.  I did enjoy knitting this but just got side-tracked so many times that it took much longer than it should have.  I’m sure I will wear it a lot, it is very comfy and cosy as well as looking quite stylish I think.

As for startitus, well I just haven’t been able to make up my mind what I want to do, so I’ve cast on for several projects and have been matching yarn to projects with no thought to how much time all of these things are actually going to take!  I had tried to continue with my Dreamy Ishbel, the Ishbel shawl in the gorgeously soft Dream Lace but I really am going to have to be in the right mood for that.  I don’t think Laceweight yarn is going to be my thing unfortunately, as beautiful as the results are, I’m not enjoying knitting with something that is as fine as sewing thread.  I know this will be a beautiful shawl someday but I’m just not in the mood for it right now. 

So with that in mind, I started on no less than three different projects in one night!  A lacey keyhole scarf in some beautiful Louisa Harding Grace hand-dyed which was a raffle prize for Patrick’s sister Coral.  There is such a small amount of yarn, only 100m, that Coral said she had no idea what to do with it.  I have always wanted to try this particular yarn so said I would look for a pattern and knit it for her.  I think I may be able to do a small version of this scarf which will look pretty.  Other options were fingerless mitts or headbands and believe me, Coral is not a fingerless mitts or headband kind of girl!  Next up was a shawl in my grey Shetland 4ply, I chose Willow (Rav Link) by Vikki Harding because it looks to be a nice simple pattern.  I had a copy of the Yarn Forward magazine featuring the pattern so away I went.  The charts in the magazine are so small though that I was soon going cross-eyed with the effort of following them so I gave up on that (I have now enlarged the charts on a photocopy so can continue….at some point!).  Rightio, what to do next…..continue with the lacy scarf or one of my other WIPs?  Don’t be silly, startitus is a control freak and it made me cast on Ysolda’s Cloud Bolero (Rav link) in the Marble Chunky that I have in stash.  It was a tricky pattern to get my head around at first because there is lots of counting and stitch markers involved.  However once you get going it’s fine and amazingly fast!  I’m almost finished, in fact if it wasn’t that I’m doing it slightly longer than the pattern states, I’d have cast off by now.  I think it’s going to be very pretty and I’m sure I’ll be knitting more of these in different yarns.  I now have a use for the two skeins of Rowan Summer Tweed that I have in stash that I’ve been struggling to marry up to a project! 

In other news, we went Elderflower gathering last week and have 3 gallons of Elderflower wine fermenting nicely in Patrick’s kitchen.  Along with the Dandelion and the Hawthorn Blossom we’ll be having a merry old time of it next summer 🙂 .  I think that’s us done with wine for now until the brambles ripen in August when we’ll be gathering enough for a nice lot of Blackberry wine (and bramble and apple pie of course).

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The End is Nigh!!

Don’t worry, not The Rapture again but instead, my February Lady cardigan.  Yes, I have actually cast off the body of this long running saga and made a start on the sleeves so the end is indeed in sight for this project.  I have enjoyed knitting it, once I got into the lace pattern it has gone fairly quickly.  I expect to finish the sleeves over the next couple of weeks but here is a progress picture to be going on with.

I haven’t made any more progress on Hampton though because I got caught up in a shawl (more of that later) and a couple of items I needed to knit for a swap I took part in on Ravelry.  I really enjoyed this swap, it’s the first one I have ever taken part in and is run by the Outlander fans group on Ravelry.  For the unititiated Outlander is a series of books by Diana Gabaldon about Claire, who after walking into a stone circle in Scotland in 1945, comes out the other side in 1743, her subsequent adventures and relationship with highlander Jamie Fraser.  They are the most compelling and addictive books I have ever read, they just completely suck you into the lives of the characters.  Jamie and Claire have legions of fans who are now anxiously awaiting the completion of book 8 in the series.  Anyhow, this swap as I say, was fun to do, we had to ‘stalk’ our spoilee (the person we are giving gifts to, hence spoiling) to discover the things they like to wear, eat, knit, other hobbies, favourite colours etc.  The parcel we make up for our spoilee  had to contain certain types of items, a handcrafted gift, some yarn, small things like stitch markers, tape measure etc and any other treats.  For my hand made gifts, I made a cowl and some cotton face cloths.

Nemetona's Cowl


 These were both fairly quick and easy to do and I enjoyed choosing the colours that I knew my swappee liked through my Ravelry stalking!
The aforementioned shawl is the other reason I haven’t made any progress on poor old Hampton and so, here it is.

Summer Flies Shawl

The pattern is Summer Flies by Donna Griffin of HollyandEllaknits.com.  I knitted it in Sirdar Just Bamboo which is a bamboo tape yarn.  I had my doubts as I was knitting because it seemed to bulky a yarn for a shawl but I have to say that I am delighted with how it turned out.  It is fairly heavy and drapes beautifully, the shape is quite a wide crescent so the fronts of the shawl are fairly long which makes it look lovely from the front as well as the back.  I wore it to go out on Saturday night with a beige/brown patterned dress and got lots of compliments on it so I was thrilled about that.

In other non-knitting news, Patrick and I had another trip down the Real Ale Trail on the train in West Yorkshire a few weeks ago, we have some wine brewing and I have started going running!!  More about that lot in another post I think, so that’s about all for now folks.

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Not blogging is the obvious answer here.  So much for a post a week, I haven’t posted for what…5 or 6 weeks!   It’s that old thing that we never have enough of again – time.   So, what have I been up to?  I can’t honestly remember a lot, that’s what happens if you don’t blog it you see.

One thing I do remember is that Patrick and I went to see the wonderful Gordon Giltrap at the beginning of March.  He was playing in the area again at a charity gig organised by a friend of his, we saw him last summer for the first time and I wasn’t really familiar with his work before then. The only track I knew of his was his most famous hit Heartsong, which was the theme of the TV show Wish You Were Here.  I have to say I was completely awestruck during the performance.  The skill with which he plays is amazing.   He is an incredible guitar player and a very humble and entertaining man and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

In knitting news, I have finally finished the green jumper.  But…and it’s a big but after about 5 weeks of knitting, I’m not happy with it :-(.  It doesn’t fit quite as well as I would like, being a little bit loose.  I could live with that but the main problem is that I cocked up on the tops of the sleeves and the shoulders stick up a little.  I think it can be fixed but at the moment, I can’t face it.  It is in the naughty corner until I can be bothered to unpick the offending bit and re-do it.  I will, at some time, because it was an awful lot of time and yarn to have wasted if I don’t….but not just yet.  I’ve picked up my Hampton Cardi again, that of the 4 row, 9 stitch pattern that had me flummoxed a few weeks ago.  That worked out fine first time when I had another go at it.  Sometimes it pays to just put something aside for a while until it learns its lesson and decides to behave :-).  So, that is on the go at the moment but will be a few weeks in the making yet.   I have also made some progress on my February Lady cardigan and am knitting that as well as Hampton.  I’m enjoying both of these projects a lot now.

Patrick and I had booked a couple of days off work this week and had decided to go to York for an overnight stay.  We love to go to York, primarily because of the huge number of fantastic pubs to visit.  On the York Camra website, there are mini-guides to download and the one for York centre has no less than 82 pubs selling real ale from independant breweries.  I do love to try beers that I haven’t tried before and to visit pubs that I haven’t visited before and there are opportunities in abundance to do both in York.  Arriving on Sunday afternoon in glorious sunshine, we checked in the Travel Lodge in York Centre and set off for a little walk towards the first of our target pubs.  I took this picture of the beautiful daffodils around the walls on the way

Daffodils in York

Our first pub then was The Rook and Gaskill.  Just outside the City walls and named after two 17th Century sheep thieves who were the last people to be hanged at the St Leonard Gallows nearby. A real beer lovers pub with a selection of 12 beers and a friendly barman.  It was a struggle to just have the one in there I can tell you!  We had more pubs on our radar though so we next crossed Hull Road to visit the Waggon & Horses, a pleasant pub with 3 distinct rooms, sun beating through the windows at the front made for thirsty drinkers.   Back to the hotel after this to freshen up for the night ahead.  The very convenient Posterngate pub right next door to the Travel Lodge was our first stop for a meal and a beer.  A Wetherspoons pub, where you know you are going to get value.  I am a huge fan of Wetherspoons pubs.  The food may not be gourmet but it is good value and their commitment to Real Ale is second to none in the pub chain industry.  After that, we visited a further four pubs that we hadn’t been to on previous visits to York.  The Punch Bowl just outside Micklegate, which is another Wetherspoons,  Brigantes, a cafe bar type establishment, then Ackhorne, tucked away down a little cobbled street.  We would never have found it by accident and now we’ve been in, we certainly won’t be finding it again on purpose anytime soon.  After trying out one more new one, Maltings, in the shadow of Lendal Bridge we finished up with two of our favourite pubs, The Yorkshire Terrier and Ye Olde Starr, both down Stonegate.  A catfood-like burger on the way back to the hotel finished the night off nicely!  Monday dawned bright and sunny again and we had a little wander around before heading off to the Castle Museum.  Neither of us had been there for years and we had a good day.  I had a strange experience in one of the police cells in that as I stepped in the door, I got an overwhelming feeling that I just shouldn’t be in there.  I can’t explain other that it was a kind of panicky feeling and I just couldn’t bring myself to go right inside, I hovered near the door as Patrick went in.  Later, speaking to one of the staff in another exhibit, the sweet shop, he was telling us about ghostly goings on in the place, including the time that a child who was visiting the museum had said that he wanted to go back into the police cell to talk to the lady who was in there!  Needless to say, Patrick then wanted to go back and see for himself.  We went in, I was a bit apprehensive to say the least but the feeling wasn’t there on the second visit.

I’ll leave you with another couple of pictures from York,  the first, a lovely little old building, I can’t remember for the life of me where it was but I thought it looked very pretty with the blossom trees outside and the second picture is of Clifford’s Tower.  Just look at those daffodils!

Blossom and Beams

Clifford's Tower, York

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