Tuesday, 14 November 2017

A Summary into Winter

Yeah - my aim at posting once a week has rather fallen by the wayside.  Since coming back from Iceland, I had a couple of months of horrible stress.  It's levelled out a bit - but I suspect it'll be back soon.  

  • I spent a weekend with my sister (which will be a separate post, somewhen). 
  • I had a birthday.  I hate birthdays, but even by my standards, it was hideous this year.  To add insult to injury, I didn't get a birthday cake.  
  • Mr Knitty and I spent a weekend in Salisbury; he thought I needed to be cheered up a bit - and he was right. 
  • Aunt S and I went to a recording of The Last Leg on Friday.  Apparently if you stay in the restaurant having another glass of wine, and only arrive at the studio ten minutes before the deadline, you don't actually get in to the audience.  Oops! 

  • For reasons beyond this blog - one of my colleagues has gifted me a bracelet, I'm also starting a new pair of socks.  You'll notice what they have in common. 

Meanwhile, last weekend I spent the best part of two days feeling ill.  (I'm not 100% recovered.  I did try some knitting, but it was sporadic.  It's really difficult to concentrate when you just want to be asleep. 

Whilst scrolling through Netflix, I found the National Knitting Evening broadcast in Norway in 2013.  Oh, I so want to visit Norway now.  I'm wondering if I could persuade Mr Knitty to come with me on a knitting tour of Norway for my next Big Birthday. 

During the evening, people were sharing their knits, via social media.  This was my favourite:

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Suddenly September?

Well, we had the 31 days of Aug as a warning & the 31 days of July before that. Then there were the 30 days of June, preceded by.... Well, you get the idea.

Greenwich Park
Last weekend was a bank holiday in the UK, meaning we had a three day weekend, which is as long as it took to recover from the craziness of the week before. Working in the NHS under a Tory government is as bad as the press tell you it is. It just surprises me that more people aren't making a noise about it. Mr Knitty was working Saturday & Sunday, so I was kicking around on my own for most of it. On Monday, we decided to be tourists in our own city & went to Greenwich.

Greenwich Royal Observatory, showing the time ball, which drops at 13:00 local time

First stop was the Royal Observatory, famous for the prime meridian and the Harrison clocks. I read Dava Sobel's book about the Longitude problem, many years ago, and watched the respective TV adaptation. I loved the spirit of teaching yourself and working it all out; so different from our culture of needing a certificate or qualification to prove that you know something. I was less impressed at the way the Admiralty kept changing the goalposts to stop Harrison from claiming his prize.  Coming from a Naval family, I love a that historical watchmaker had a direct impact on the working lives of my relatives. It makes my head spin, slightly.

One of the Harrison chronometers

Mr Knitty & I had a discussion about whether the clocks worked l or not. I said that they all worked, apart from the last one. He wasn't so sure.

Greenwich Royal Observatory is also home to a camera obscura, using the same scientific principles as the modern camera. It's very easy to forget that you're looking at a live picture, until something moves.

Of course, the socks had to make an appearance

Notice the people on the pathway (left hand side), who weren't in the picture above

Then, the thing that Greenwich is most famous for: the prime meridian. Any line of longitude going from North to South is a meridian, it's just that ours marks the 0 point, from which all others follow. On one side you have the East, on the other, the West.

After lunch in Greenwich park, we went to see the Cutty Sark, which I have never visited before. It's famous for being the fastest tea clipper in the world. 

The Cutty Sark - looking up
Mmmm. Tea. 

The layout inside was built to look like tea crates, and actually smelled of tea. From what I could see, it looked pretty child friendly, with stamps to collect as you go around & exhibits that you could pull out and look at. Although Cutty Sark is known as a tea clipper, I didn't realise that she brought wool back to the UK on her return journey. 

Australian merino, to be exact. 

And, what kind of wool are my current socks made of?  Merino.  Since the yarn came from New Zealand, there's a high chance it's Australian merino.  Mr Knitty rolled his eyes slightly, but it was too good an opportunity to miss! 

Yarn - Stray Cat Socks yarn, orange and purple striped. 

I think the bit downstairs, under the ship, has previously been used as a theatre space - complete with its own audience of figureheads:

Downstairs also has the cafe, with some very tasty cakes.  The only downside, was that we visited at the end of the day, by which point the cake was a bit dry, after being in the sun all day.  

Today, I mastered the Fish Lips Kiss Heel on one of the socks.  I'll wait and offer an opinion once I've used it a couple of times.  With a bit of luck, these socks will be finished this week.  Next week, I'm off to see my sister and nephew, so lots of knitting time on the train. 

Friday, 11 August 2017

So much to say.....

I'm back from Iceland and there is so much to say, I'm not sure quite how best to process it.  So, I'm going to start by listing all the places I found to buy stuff.  Put the kettle on, it's turned out longer than I expected!

A good map will tell you all you want to know
Within Reykjavik

For those outside Iceland, there's always excitement at the thought of being able to buy wool in the supermarket.  I can confirm that all the myths are true!  The only supermarket I found in Reykjavik with wool was the branch of Netto near the Saga Museum.  It had Alafosslopi, Einband (single ply), KambgarnLettlopiPlotulopi and Spuni  There were also some pattern books, although I can't remember if they were in English or Icelandic - or had a choice of either.

Netto, Reykjavik

Arguably the most famous place for wool is The Handknitting Association of Iceland which has two locations in Reykjavik.  The one I spent most time in was on Skolavordustigur.

The correct pronunciation of the street name! 

As well as the yarn available in Netto, it also had Hosuband (worsted weight sock yarn), Icelandic one ply which wasn't made by Istex and I also found a bit of two ply.  The prices were more expensive than Netto, but it had a much better range of colours for the einband.  They also had a yarn which was a blend of Icelandic wool and alpaca, which I didn't see anywhere else.  Oh - and there were all sorts of knitted goods; hats, mittens and loads and loads of sweaters!

I just loved the displays in the windows - this is at the Handknit Association of Iceland

The logo outside the building - partway between a bit of knitting and a ram

The other place I read about was Alafoss.  I think I went around in slight circles trying to find it, and then got distracted by the Christmas shop - before realising the Christmas shop is right next to the shop I was looking for!

Alafoss yarn shop on the left 
They also had Lettlopi and Alafosslopi, as well as quite a few patterns and kits to knit your own sweater (yarn and pattern all together), as well as a rack of sweaters for purchase - all of which had a label with the name of the knitter.  There is a factory outlet outside of Reykjavik, but I ran out of time to go and visit it.

Kits for sweaters can be seen on the right

On my first day, the first place I found by accident was Icewear Woolhouse.  I can't remember how much it cost per ball, but I remember it as being at the more expensive end of the scale.  They also had the Istex Lopi pattern books (like this one) in both English and Icelandic, as well as copies of Knitting with Icelandic Wool (which I decided was cheaper and lighter to buy in the UK, should I want to).

There are branches all over Reykjavik; list here.  The memo I made on my phone noted that the branch in Austurstraeti has yarns and patterns downstairs; from memory this was a better selection of patterns than some of the other branches.

The next place I found by accident was Rammagerdin - again with lots of different branches around the city.  

Cute knitted bow-ties in the Bankastræti branch
Not every branch has everything on offer.  This sells double point bamboo needles, Lettlopi and, I think, Alafosslopi.  More importantly, it also sells Einrum - the yarn which combines Icelandic wool with Thai mulberry silk, as well as hand dyed kits by Guðrún Bjarnadóttir.  Guðrún is a botanist, who dyes her yarns with plant dyes, using traditional methods.  (For those interested, there's an interview from earlier this year here, her Instagram is here and her Etsy shop is here)  The other thing I found in some of the branches, was a how-to book on how to knit your own Icelandic sweater.

The Einrum in the shop window of the Skólavörðustígur branch

Finally on the list is the Nordic Store - again with more than one branch across Reykjavik.  The main branch is on Laekjargata, which was just around the corner from where I was staying.  

Rack of wool in the main branch of the Nordic Store
Given the amount of other places I'd seen yarn - this wasn't one I investigated in any massive depth, other than to know that it sells wool and patterns.  

Picture on the Laugavegur branch of the Nordic Store. 

Woolcano is a gift shop, which doesn't sell wool.

Don't be fooled by the name - this does not sell wool! 

If you don't want to buy the yarn and knit your own - almost every other shop sells the traditional lopi.  I would suggest going in to shops and checking their comparative prices.  The Handknitting Association of Iceland had sweaters for about £120; one of the other gift shops had them for about £150.  Personally, I would suggest The Handknitting Association of Iceland, as the money goes back to the people who knit them - ditto if you buy any of the hats or gloves that they also sell.

Handknit Association - view through the window

Some of the sweaters they had on sale

There are second hand lopis for sale at the flea market; rumour has it that this is the cheapest place to buy them.  Unfortunately I didn't realise that it only opens at the weekends, so I missed visiting it, after being on a tour on Saturday and asleep for most of Sunday.  Oops!

Outside the flea market in Reykjavik
Outside Reykjavik 

Kronan in Selfoss has yarn - found after a trip to the swimming pool.

There is a branch of Icewear in Vik, which I found on the South Coast tour.  I went on the tour because I particularly wanted to see the black beach (more in a later blog).  

It has all the usual yarn and sweaters that you would expect (as well as a whole load of other outdoors-y stuff and souvenirs.

Lopis for sale in Icewear Woolhouse, Vik

Plotulopi in Icewear Woolhouse, Vik
Then I saw this:

Annoyingly, I was only there for an hour so couldn't investigate further - but is one to go back to, should I ever be in Vik again.

I spent my last night in Keflavik to be close to the airport.  En route to buying dinner from the local supermarket, I found not one - but two shops.  The first was closed - which could only be a good thing.  From an internet search, I think it's called Skartsmidjan

It is a general craft store, but peering through the windows showed a lot of yarn.  I'm not convinced that all of it is Icelandic - but it's a heck of a range available.

Inside the craft shop - lots of lovely yarn! 

The second shop was another gift shop - which was open.  All the yarn was behind the cashier's till, so I wasn't really able to do a lot of poking and squishing.  There was a decent wall-full of yarn, but I have no idea of prices.

Stapafell Gift Shop, Hafnargata 50, 230 Keflavík, Iceland
That is my round up of where I found to buy yarn in Iceland.  If you've visited the country too, where did I miss?  Not that I'm planning my next trip back there, oh no.

Friday, 21 July 2017

I hear they make good ice-cream there

This morning, I fly out to Iceland, and I cannot wait.  The first part of the trip is for The World Scout Moot.  This is an international event for young people aged between 18 - 25.  The general format is that everybody starts off in one location, then move to a second location, known as an expedition centre (Kenya in 2010 had three or four; Iceland has ten) before all joining back up together in a final location.  In this case, our final destination is Úlfljótsvatn Scout Centre (where my friend Amy will be staying with a group of Guides just after we leave).

I've spent most of the prep time (up until the last fortnight or so) feeling entirely under prepared.  I didn't go to the first briefing weekend and I slept through half of the second.  I hadn't slept well on the Saturday night, woke up with a headache and halfway through breakfast felt like I was going to throw up.
Half asleep in a tent; exactly how I expect to look in Iceland

I have a two bag allowance for both the outbound and homebound flights.  On the way out, my tent will be my second bag, and I'll be taking this pouch in my rucksack.

On the way back, this pouch will be opened out into my second bag, containing my tent

Oh look - lots of lovely space.  What on earth could I put in there?!   Since my friend Jane wants to knit this sweater (PDF) from Istex and I want to knit the Lauvisa jumper by Karie Westermann I don't think filling the bag is going to be much of an issue. If I can find any Icelandic related stitch markers, or nal for nalbinding, then so much the better.

Of course, I've prepped all the essentials:

Yarn: Opal 20 Years, Kerzen/Candles colourway
Patter: Flying North by Maria Montzka
The pattern is free on Loveknitting and is called Flying North which is exactly what I'll be doing.  As we're above the Arctic circle, there'll be a lot of orange and yellow sun, and orange is the colour of the moot, so it all works out quite nicely.

I've got a list of stuff to do - including a thermal spa (it's been a horrifically stressful week; I'm surprised I've cried as little as I have).  I've been told about the Icelandic Phallalogical Museum which sounds right up my street.  As part of the trip, I'm going to be snorkelling in (or near) Thingvellir National Park.  As it's a Scouting event - there will be badges.

Naturally, I'll be visiting The National Handknitting Association of Iceland.  This blog mentions wool being available at the grocery stores, which is something I want to see for myself and this blog mentions Icelandic yarn with silk.

 I need to be on the train in about an hour and still haven't bought my insurance.  (Yes, I've sorted my knitting, but not the important stuff; priorities!)  I've got a three hour flight which will be dedicated to sleeping rather than knitting.  I have no idea how all my gear fitted into the rucksack, but it did.  

Let's do this.  See you on the other side - with photos and yarn! 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Flying out on Friday

I'm flying out on holiday on Friday and have an overwhelmingly long to-do list.  So, of course the most important thing to be doing is writing blog entries!  

The multi-coloured fraternal socks are finished, and I had a happy yarn accident, courtesy of Phileas Yarns (with a 10% discount, it would be rude not to).  I went for the yarn/colourways of: Explorer - ReynisfjaraRambler - Hot Dog in Coney Island and Rambler - Bac Ha.  There were at least three others I wanted, but I was being restrained.  There will be photos...

Pattern - Time Traveller Socks by Liz Sedmak
Yarn - King Cole 50 50 (discontinued)
I did try to make sure that both socks were started at the same point of the colour patterning, but somehow it didn't work as expected.  I guess that's part of the fun of knitting; seeing how it all turns out.  I also did a garter stitch gusset for a bit of variety. 

The toe-up Hermione's are going better than expected.  I was going to wait until after holidays to make them, but what the heck.

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson
Hermione's Every Day Socks - yarn: West Yorkshire Spinners

The Gender Games by Juno Dawson is the book I borrowed last week - and it seemed the perfect book to start reading over Pride weekend.  I don't always like the style of writing, but I agree with the points that she's making - so am sticking with it.

 Look at the waffle-y lusciousness of these socks:

Just look!

I love them - and I cannot wait to knit another pair (or several) after coming back from holidays.  I think I've worked out how to do the waffle pattern on the toes as well.

Yesterday, we went to a barbeque, held at a colleague's house, the other side of London and then some.  (Hertfordshire, to be exact).  That meant train journeys, which meant knitting time.  I decided to take the blue and red socks, on which I'd turned the heel too early.  Sock one has been sorted and knitted up to the point that I can do the gusset increase - but hadn't quite steeled myself up to sort out sock two - until yesterday.  On the down side, it's fiddly sorting out mistakes on socks.  On the plus side, I could get rid of this:

Sock heel, showing a hole
Remember - mistakes remind you that it's hand knit by a human.

I have no idea how it got there, and I had begrudgingly accepted it was there.  However, the perfectionist in me is pleased to get rid of it.

I put a lifeline in, trying to catch every stitch:

 and then pulled the needles out and ripped.  It's only on doing that, I found the two stitches that I hadn't caught on the lifeline.  Such is.

Counting stitches on the Thameslink platform at St Pancras railway station holds no fear for me.

59 stitches.  No, 61 stitches.  What ?
So - 59 stitches. Does that include the dropped stitches or not? 
No photos of the party - I was too busy having fun.  I knew a grand total of three people at the beginning of the party, and several more by the end.  We discussed French politics, built a fire and toasted marshmallows.  I also found out that one of my consultants is also a knitter.  We've already bonded over sharing a name and now this!  She's only been in our department five days and I already like her.

Do you have a summer holiday planned?  What's on your to-do list, and what have you been knitting? 

A Summary into Winter

Yeah - my aim at posting once a week has rather fallen by the wayside.  Since coming back from Iceland, I had a couple of months of horribl...