Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Lakes in February

Hello and welcome!
Today I thought I would share some photos with you from our recent travels to the Lake District. Some of you know this already, but between Hubbie & myself we take a lot of photos. I mean seriously LOTS. I am going to try and whittle down our hundreds from this trip so that you don't fall asleep, but be warned, this is going to be a photo heavy post ;-)

OK then, this is the wee cottage we stayed in for the week...
...and this is the beautiful view from the front door. 
One of the places I most wanted to visit in the area was Hill Top, the former home of the author Beatrix Potter. It is owned by the National Trust & inside it is as though Beatrix has just popped down the lane to run an errand. Her possessions & furniture are still in situ, her letters & drawings are strewn on desks, oil paintings by her brother & drawings by her father & mother hang on the walls. Her "little books" are on display in various rooms, left open at specific pages so you can see where she used a particular view from a window in the illustration on that page. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the property due to copyright issues but we did take some outside...
Hill Top Farm.
This is the gate into the vegetable garden (as seen in The Tale of Jemima Puddleduck), and here is the vegetable garden itself. Rather bare at this time of year of course, but I was happy to see the terracotta pots & the watering can Peter hid in!
Within a few hundred yards of Hill Top you can see a variety of properties Beatrix used in illustrations in her books, and also a very familiar letterbox used by a certain rabbit!
Next we traveled on some very narrow roads around Coniston Waters... 


For me this is another place that will always be inextricably linked with a beloved book, or rather a series of books - Swallows & Amazons written by Arthur Ransome. He went to school in Windermere, lived in the area later in his life, and is buried in the churchyard at Rusland. Five of the books in the series are set in the Lake District & in the photo above you can see Wild Cat Island (or Peel Island as the OS Map calls it ;-)). 
In our travels around the area we saw many of these...
They are Herdwick sheep, a breed almost exclusively found in the Lake District. They are born black (you can see a younger one behind the white one above) and with each passing year they get whiter. With these rather distinctive faces they are cute right from the get go! We also saw a LOT of these...
... dry stone walls absolutely covered in lush mosses - can you tell this is a wet part of the British Isles?!
Many of the small towns and villages have old fashioned buildings now inhabited by modern businesses...
There were a huge number of outdoor clothing stores, Costa coffee shops, & Tesco Expresses pretty much everywhere we went! 
One place where we seemed to leave 21st century life behind was Hardknott Pass. Even this sign doesn't really prepare you for the "road" ahead! (And to be fair we saw a lot of signs warning of "narrow route, unsuitable for caravans" etc. on other roads we traversed during this week!)  
 
Now why, you ask, would we take on such a road? Well Someone remembered something about stunning views (apparently you can see the Isle of Man on a clear day) and a Roman Fort that she'd seen on a tv program? She forgot the bit about it being at the top of the steepest road in England!!! I took one photo on the way up... 
...then shut my eyes as the poor car labored to climb the 1 in 3 gradient complete with hairpin bends & potholes lurking to take out the bottom of your vehicle... Finally over the top and down the other side we found the Roman fort and pulled over. This is the view back up to the top (yes that narrow winding ribbon is the road) ... 


Only the Romans would build a fort away up here! Actually for them it controlled a key route to the sea port of Ravenglass from their garrisons at Ambleside & Kendal, but your mind boggles at the physical labor required to build a Roman fort 1,200ft up in this countryside! At least they didn't have to worry about a surprise attack from this side of the fort... 
On another day we headed north to the pretty town of Keswick & it's neighboring lake, Derwentwater where we enjoyed a trip around the lake on a launch... 


This is the Victorian built Lodore Falls Hotel on the southern banks.
Thirteen miles further west we visited Aira Force, one of the most visited waterfalls in the Lakes. The name comes from Old Norse and the area is full of interesting history, including links with Wordsworth (the falls are mentioned in three of his poems). 
So are you still awake??? 
Well done you!!! ;-)
I think you can tell we had a great time exploring the Lake District, but I'm glad we went slightly out of season as the narrow roads were easier to navigate without the hoardes of caravans & bicycles that the summer brings! My next post will update you on some crafty projects I have been working on, until then it's so nice to be home! 




Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Spring has Sprung!

Hello there!
This week it feels as thought Spring has really arrived here in the north of Scotland. Today has been a glorious day; the sky has been a crisp, cloudless blue the entire day (which really doesn't happen here all that often!). On my morning walk with the dog there was frost everywhere the sun had yet to reach & the Ben had a pure white cap of snow - just beautiful! During the morning the cats joined the crocuses enjoying the sunshine in the garden, this year the crocus blooms seem HUGE compared to previous years'...
...except for these little creamy yellow ones which are rather sweet...
Today they all looked as though they were glowing in the sun! 
 The snowdrops down by the greenhouse looked rather happy in the sun... 
 ...and the Hellebores are also blooming now...
 They are so beautifully detailed inside, I just wish they would hold their heads up by themselves!
This morning I started the washing/drying/ironing of the fabric I bought at the Quilt Show in Edinburgh at the start of our holiday. While it dried on the line in the breeze I decided to make a start on a little bit of weeding. It was lovely to feel the warmth of the sun on my back while I worked! What a huge change in weather from the snowflakes & hail we had just five days ago! 
The day we visited the Quilt Show was cold, grey, & wet but none of that mattered as we were going to be occupied inside all day. It was my first time at one of these shows but I think it's highly unlikely to be my last! Oh boy what an experience! As soon as we got inside the door there were beautiful quilts on display...
 




This was one of my favorites...
 
These four are seasonal variations on a theme which I could have stayed in front of for hours looking at all the little differences! They also demonstrate just what a difference color choice makes in the overall appearance of a quilt... 

Spring... 
Summer...
Autumn...
and Winter. 
Then there were all the stalls tempting you with fabric, patterns, notions, buttons, ribbons..... and a lot of them had special offers on for the duration of the show. I tried to be good (I really did!) but I ended up throughly spoilt with new fabrics for several quilts I have on the "must make" pile, along with a few other goodies that jumped in while I wasn't looking ;-) I'm sure you know how that goes! So would you like to see my whole ironing board full of new fabric?? 
WOW! I don't think I have ever purchased so much fabric in one day! Some pieces are whole metres, some halves, and a whole bunch are fat quarters (mainly down to the Seattle Quilt Company stall having a deal on 12 fat quarters for £10 - I mean HOW is a girl supposed to say no to that???!!!!). I was "good" in as much as 99% of everything I bought I know exactly what it is going to be used for. For example these fabrics are going into a scrappy Autumn quilt which will be the next top I piece (once I quilt the two finished tops I currently have sitting patiently waiting on me)...
These fabrics are going to join my red white & blues that I'm collecting for a patriotic quilt at some point (maybe even this year!)...

It was a day that overloaded your senses with so much to admire & choose from, needless to say I won't be going anywhere near a fabric shop for a long time!! I feel so lucky to have a hubbie who is happy to go to along with me on a day like this, take photos, offer an opinion on prospective purchases, and carry the bags! After the show we met up with our younger son (who is studying at Edinburgh University) for pizza & a dvd - the perfect end to a lovely day :-) 
In my next post I will share some pics of where we headed to the following morning. Thank you for visiting with me today; I hope spring has reached your corner of the world too, but if it hasn't quite made it yet I promise it is on it's way!!   






Friday, 7 March 2014

The good, the bad, & the ugly...

Hello hello and welcome, especially to my new followers!
Hubbie and I have been off on our travels again, a couple of days in Edinburgh and then a week exploring the pretty Lake District. I will have a load of photos to share with you as we went to the quilt show in Edinburgh *squee!*, but I promised you some yarny action last time around didn't I? OK then, first I would like to share something I have learnt a lot from, my biggest yarny disaster to date...
Back in May last year I shared the start of my knitting journey with you. This was the start of a HUGE learning curve for me! This project took me from pure enjoyment to frustration, from confidence to "oh what the heck did I ever start this for?" and back again. Several times. But eventually I finished it, sewed the buttons on (about the only bit I had known exactly how to do before I started!) and actually wore it!!
It was very warm & snuggly, overall I was happy with it :-)
Then I needed to wash it. I checked the yarn bands (I keep one band from every ball I use with a wee sample of the yarn tied around it), it said it could be machine washed at 30 degrees so I figured it would be perfectly ok in my machine on a cold hand wash setting and popped it in. BIG MISTAKE!!! To my horror it stretched & came out looking like it would fit a very long armed gorilla :/ I asked a wise yarny friend who suggested a couple of options to me. Well three actually... 1 - I could try wetting it in cold water again and then blocking it smaller, 2 - I could try washing it with a little warmer water & then block it smaller (after all it said up to 30 degrees), 3 - I could pull it all out & start over.
I thought this through over & over, putting off making a final decision & chickening out from actually doing anything to it for months. In the end I couldn't face number 3, and I figured it was so stretched that number 1 wouldn't be enough, so I opted for number 2... the other week I put it back in the machine & crossed my fingers (and everything else!) Unfortunately that was the wrong choice :/ This is what greeted me when I opened the door of the machine...
Not only had the red completely felted but the color had run badly too & the creamy white was now a horrible pinky peachy color :/ The light for photos has been terrible but I took another picture of it with an ordinary white envelope so you can see a little bit "better" (I still don't know what part of this is "better"!)... 
So friends... what I have learnt from this...
1) I will NEVER be tempted to wash merino or anything like it in a washing machine even on cold no matter what the ball band says!
2) Even if the fibre content is supposedly identical there can be a big difference between how different brands of yarn will behave. The red & green yarn (which felted) is Sublime merino & the cream & pink yarn (which didn't felt at all) is Wendy merino. Both yarns had the same washing instructions on the bands & the same fibre content but if this had been made of just the Wendy it would have survived the second wash! Maybe it wasn't even those parts that originally stretched? Maybe it was just the Sublime that didn't like the washer? We will never know now...
3) I think I am going to play it safe & stick with acrylic yarns in future. I have had no problems washing any of my blankets made with a variety of brands of acrylic yarns in my washing machine on the same cold water setting as I originally washed this cardigan on. So if I am going to spend months making something I am not going to be seduced by a clearance bargain no matter how soft it is, I am going to stick to what I know works! 
I could've unpicked all the "cream" and pink and kept it for using in a future project but it was such a weird color that I couldn't think what on earth I would want it for & it would take hours of work. Plus the way it looked now I couldn't bear looking at it so I cut the buttons off & it went in the bin. (Yes, that's how bad it was folks, I actually put something in the bin!!)
Well lessons learned & on to the good...
In your travels around the internet have you come across Stacey at Fresh Stitches? She designs cute & cuddly amigurumi & writes a fun & informative blog here. Last year she designed a GoRgEoUs unicorn ami which I spent a lot of time admiring, so when she had a birthday sale at New Year I could resist no longer & bought the pattern! I needed to finish Yoshi first, but once he was with his new owner I got out the unicorn colors... I had never bought a pdf ami pattern before & if, like me, you are a little wary of buying a pattern in this way (as opposed to buying a book in a store where you can have a good look at all the instructions) may I recommend Stacey's site? I can honestly say that this comprehensive and clearly written pattern was easily the best ami pattern I have ever followed! I am going to be going back for more...  I have been doing a bit here & a bit there, thoroughly enjoying the process, and I finally attached her last strand of tail the other night. Would you like to meet her?  


Meet Sofluffy, or Soph for short. (If you have seen the movie Despicable Me this will make sense - "It's SOFLUFFY!!!!" If you haven't seen it you really should, it's a brilliant film!) I'm now making a second unicorn for a special someone who has a birthday a little later in the year...
Once Soph was finished I gave in and also started a new crochet blanket! This time round I am making a mixed stripe blanket, inspired in a great part by this  blanket. I will take a few photos of my version soon to share this new blanket journey with you :-) Thank you for visiting with me today, I hope to be back with some stitching, scenery, and quilt show photos soon, until then have a lovely weekend folks!