Thursday, 4 December 2014

Big Sky country

Hello there!
I think it's time I shared some more of our travels with you, now where had we gotten to last time? Oh yes, we had just arrived at my cousins' farm in Montana and I can tell you after a busy week covering hundreds of miles it was so nice to spend a whole week in one place!
Montana is called Big Sky Country &, although the scale is hard to capture with a camera, views like this kinda show you why...

This area has a special place in my heart, if things had worked out differently I would've grown up here & I still have quite a bit of family living around here. We split our week between family, friends & getting to know the area slightly better (and yes, of course this involved checking out some of the local craft stores!). This is the road into Great Falls, the nearest city to my cousins' place, one slightly hazy morning...

Great Falls has a population of just over 59,000 and was named for the series of five waterfalls within a ten mile stretch of the Missouri River found here by Lewis & Clark in 1805. The city was founded in 1883 by businessmen who realised the hydroelectric potential here & by 1890 the first dam was up & running...



Spike & Soph wanted their picture taken here too!
We also explored downtown Great Falls...

... and found a great yarn & needlework store (Pam's Knit 'N' Stitch) & a wonderful quilt store (Big Sky Quilts) where I found some cute Halloween & bear print fabric...
Star Trek fabric (to keep hubbie happy!)... 
... and this panel of the Declaration of Independence which just had to come home with me! 
By this stage I had seen so many beautiful fabrics & quilts my fingers were beginning to itch for my sewing machine! (Can anybody spell withdrawal?!) I think it must be something in the genes as on a visit to my aunt & uncle's I was extremely happy to see this quilt, the top embroidered with 48 State flowers by my grandmother...




All in all we had an awesome week in Montana & were very sad to see it come to an end, but all things do & we headed north... I will be back soon with our tales from "Beyond the Wall" but will leave you today with a stunning Montana sunset & moonrise... have a great week folks!


Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A good yarn...

Hello there!
Today I want to take a break from the travelogue & share with you some of the other yarny projects I worked on over the summer. It will come as no surprise to long time readers of this blog that one of these is a new blanket ;-)
Way back when I started making blankets Hubbie asked if I could make one for him. In fact I started some squares for one back here but he didn't seem particularly taken with them so I stopped & started the rainbow flower circle blanket for my daughter instead. Every now & then Hubbie comments on how everyone else gets blankets & he's still waiting, & I promise him that I really will do one for him soon!!!!! so after I finished the little squares of happy blanket I decided it was time to finally make good on that promise! There are many gorgeous blankets pinned on my Crochet Blankets board on Pinterest but Hubbie particularly liked the Tetris blankets. So I picked some bright Tetris colors...
...and we worked out a layout on the computer. I chose to make my version of the Tetris blanket using solid granny squares and they started working up nicely. The only slight problem I am having is that the colors don't play nice with my digital camera! I have tried setting after setting, in various places. Out in the garden...
...and inside...
I can't seem to do the rich colors justice, and that bottom row in particular bugs me - you can barely see that four of those squares are royal blue & four of them are a rich purple! Oh well you will just have to believe me it looks so much better in the flesh ;-) Anyways, this blanket is growing quite nicely & I took a ball of black yarn away with me to carry on working up some squares while we were traveling. I hooked up quite a few  sitting in the airport, while Hubbie drove down the Interstate, or on evenings we spent hanging out with family & friends. All too soon my ball of yarn ran out... There is no real clock on this project, at one point I had hoped to have it ready for Christmas but now I have realised that isn't practical so I will just enjoy the journey & I will keep you posted...
There were two other knitty projects I managed to finish before we left, one was this little sweater for my grandson...
I was glad I had taken a few photos while it was on the blocking mats because I found it's quite hard to get a lively two year old to hold still & model his new sweater for you!!

The yarn is Sirdar's Snuggly Crofter Baby Fair Isle Effect so it does all the work in this pattern which is actually pretty simple (an all over rib which makes it very stretchy so hopefully it will fit him for a while...). The pattern was in Love Knitting for Baby magazine April/May issue & I used the suggested yarn, just in a darker colorway. It's a very soft yarn to work with but (as a gran of two boys) I wish there were more colorways for boys as the majority of them have pink in. 
The other project was a sweater for me. I bought the yarn for this when we were down in the Lake District earlier in the year & have been itching to start it! This is the pattern I used...
...and this is the yarn I picked...
I know, it has that dreaded word "Merino" on the label! But this time round it is only 10% merino, the rest of it is an acrylic nylon mix and the end result is really gorgeously squishy & soft! Now thanks to this chunky yarn & the fact that I really enjoyed working on this pattern it worked up really quickly - just one month which is definitely a record for me! It's also the best fitting jumper I have made for myself so far, the arms are long enough, the neckline is nice (not too scoopy), and it's not too baggy overall... would you like a look?


It's lovely & warm & snuggly to wear & it has washed several times now with no problems so I think I might well be knitting another one of these in a different colorway at some point ;-) James C Brett yarns are not stocked by any of my local stores so this is the first time I have used one - but I will be tracking them down online because I really love this yarn!!! I'm looking forward to finding out what other goodies they might make :-)
Thank you for visiting with me here today, I will be back soon with the next part of our travels to share with you. Until then I hope you have a lovely week full of things which make you smile :-)







Monday, 24 November 2014

Devils to Angels

Hello there!
It's been a rather grey week here in the north of Scotland but I have been dreaming of the blue skies of the Mid West that we were enjoying up until so recently. Would you like to see some more of them?
At the end of my last post I showed you some photos of the cozy hotel we stopped at in Hulett, Wyoming. In one of the photos you can see it is called Devils Tower Inn. That is because it is just 13 miles away from Devils Tower National Monument. This was declared the first ever US National Monument back in 1906 by President Roosevelt and is a place with an interesting history amongst both the Native tribes and the more recent settlers to the area.
It was another cold morning when we set out from the hotel...
We drove through beautiful countryside, these are the eastern plains of Wyoming...
... complete with grazing longhorn cattle...
Then we saw it...
Rising 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain - WOW! It just got more impressive the closer we got. Spike & Soph wanted their picture taken with it too...
We parked in the parking lot of the visitors center run by the Parks Service...
... and went inside to learn more about this atmospheric place. It is considered a sacred place by the Lakota, Kiowa, Arapahoe, Crow, Cheyenne, & Shoshone tribes who all have ties to this area. One of the native legends about the tower's origins tells of seven girls who were playing outside their village when a great bear came on them. They ran from the bear & climbed on a rock praying to the rock to save them. The rock grew upwards & the bear jumped up to get the girls scratching the sides of the rock, which continued to grow pushing the girls into the sky where they became the constellation The Pleiades. In the winter night skies this constellation is right above Devils Tower. 
Today many people come to climb the Tower - can you spot a group of them in the photo below?
How about the tiny figure on the summit?
Down the road from the visitors center is a fairly new installation. It is known as The Sacred Circle of Smoke and is by Japanese artist, Junkyu Muto. Carved from white marble & standing 12 feet tall when viewed from the right angle it frames Devils Tower like this...
The trail out to it goes through a large prairie dog town - because this is National Park land they are protected so very plump and unconcerned about humans! They just carried on with their day as we walked past a few feet away...
Well although we could've spent much longer here in the peaceful park it was time to get on the road because we had over 500 miles to cover to reach our next stop - my cousins' place in Montana (the angel in our title ;-)). Wyoming is the tenth largest state in terms of area but has the smallest population - just 582,658 lucky folks live here according to the 2013 census. This translates to miles & miles of stunning, empty countryside, vistas that stretch for miles, like this...
Although this isn't totally representative as there are two other cars on the road in this pic ;-)
About 3 hours up the road we came to the state line...
A big part of my roots are here as this is where my dad's side of the family come from. We headed north through more beautiful countryside, is it just me or does this grain elevator look like an Enderman?
Longhorn Nation? We must be getting close!
We turned onto the dirt road leading to my cousins' farm. It is stunningly beautiful out here...


Round the last bend and there, nestled in the trees, is our destination...


Home sweet home for the next week! It's also the new home for this little guy...
He's a wee MacScarecrow boy I made for my cousin's daughter from a Jean Greenhowe pattern. I think she liked him ;-) 
Well I'm going to leave it there for today... I hope you enjoyed this leg of our journey - I'll be back soon with some crafty goodies to share with you! :-) Have a great week!








































Thursday, 20 November 2014

The Dragon returns!

Hello there! I'm back!! How are you all???
Plans to blog while we were away were foiled by technology, but now we're back in Scotland & I'm starting to feel right way up again... We had a fabulous time, a mix of sightseeing, visiting with family & friends, & one or two craft shops along the way! We drove over 7,000 miles and took over 4,000 photos over the six and a half weeks - would you like to come see where we have been? Be warned these posts will be photo heavy!
As with most trips these days our "kids" Spike & Soph came with us, here they are waiting in Glasgow airport for our first flight...

It was a long day of travelling complicated by delays, our checked luggage not making the connecting flight, and the car hire company computer being unable to process a rental lasting longer than 30 days (despite the booking being made in February!). However everything looked better after some sleep when we could look out the hotel window and say "Good morning Denver!!!" 
We headed out of the city to the farmland & dirt roads where my sister lives...
A few farms over this HUGE display of pumpkins & squashes had recently been erected at the side of the road...
There were all sizes of pumpkins & a large array of weird looking squashes for sale. We chatted with the farmer & his daughter who explained how the following weekend they would begin the hayrides & taking folks out to the fields to pick & cut their own if that was their preference.
The next day we headed up to Estes Park, the road leaving the flat farmland behind, following the path of the Big Thompson River up into the mountains...

It doesn't look so big right now but last year this river flooded very badly washing away people's homes and businesses and causing over $2 billion in damage. Major rebuilding work along this route is still in progress and will be for quite some time yet.
At 7,522 feet up we reached the little town of Estes Park which is set in a stunning location...
This spot is about 100 yards from shops & restaurants! 
 Thursday morning dawned cold and clear... 

...our checked luggage had finally rejoined us and it was time to head north again...
Can you spot Spike & Soph at the bottom of this photo? 
Wyoming is a beautiful state, this being typical of the countryside we drove through on this day...
We headed east now, on across another state line into South Dakota, Spike & Soph getting in on the act again ;-) 
It had quickly turned into a beautiful warm day as you can probably tell by all these clear blue skies, here seen behind the US & State flags...
We headed into the little town of Hot Springs to visit Heartsong Quilts, one of the stores featured in Quilt Sampler magazine's Shop Hop this summer...
Inside was a world of color & for the most part bright modern quirky fabrics, my photographer had wandered off  was busy outside but you can see more about the store at their website here. Ann and her staff were very welcoming & friendly & I couldn't resist buying a few items including this rich autumnal fabric...
 ...and this cowboy one...
We continued north into open country soon coming across buffalo at the side of the road... 
...and also some smaller mammals - prairie dogs!
It truly was a beautiful drive!
We were headed to a place visited by millions of tourists each year, created by this man...
Never heard of him? No, nor had I! He is the artist responsible for the carving of Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota. It truly was a stunning place to see in the flesh! You approach it down this walkway lined with the flags from every state... 
...under one last arch onto an appropriately named terrace... 

From left to right Presidents Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln. I love how Jefferson (principal author of the Declaration of Independence) seems to be gazing further up than the others, perhaps envisioning a bright future for this new nation? Meanwhile Washington has the gaze of a General surveying his men and the terrain ahead. I found it a really awe-inspiring sight. Of course Spike & Soph wanted their photo taken too...
After this it was a couple more hours drive back west into Wyoming to our stop for the night, a place full of character...



Boy were we ready for our bed that night!

 Well I think that's a good place to stop for now, I hope you have enjoyed our trip so far! I will be back soon with the next instalment, have a great week folks!