Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Woolly news: November 2014

Lots of woolly / knitting things seem to have happened since my last Woolly News mainly as a result of my holiday.

As you will know I recently returned from the Isle of Lewis and before leaving gave careful consideration to my holiday knitting projects.   One of my projects was nearly scuppered when two hours into our journey we discovered that my birthday presents had been left at home.  I was obviously upset but then released that I had asked for some new 4.5mm circular needles.  The size I needed for my Vaila shawl......... Luckily I found a charity shop after getting off the ferry and purchased some plastic straight needles.  Problem solved!

I started and finished two of my holiday knitting projects and I am still working on Mr D's socks.  I didn't get around to starting my gloves.  

The first project started (on my birthday) was my Dufton hat in Eden Cottage Whitfell Chunky.  I finished this the following day and then wore it pretty much everyday during the holiday.  The pattern was easy to follow with extra tips if you wanted to make the hat longer, which I did.  The Whitfell Chunky knitted up really well and despite it being amazingly soft has stood up to some pretty harsh treatment / weather.  It still looks and feels great.  I highly recommend both the yarn and the pattern!

On the journey up to Lewis and throughout the holiday I kept working on Mr D's socks.  Whenever I picked up my other projects I think he got a bit jealous!  I reached just after the heel on the first foot while away.  Thanks goes to Mr D for helping me with the maths for the heel.  While the pattern gave some advice on making different sizes it gave no information on the heel section!  Luckily Mr D worked it out and it seems to have worked ok.

My final holiday project was my Vaila shawl designed by Clare Devine.  This was cast on with a glass of whisky to hand while it rained cats and dogs outside.  Again this was a great holiday pattern - easy so I could gaze at the view but with a bit of lace to keep the mind focused. The pattern was written in a very friendly style with lots of additional information (including to to use charts) and space to write out your rows and weights.  I was a bit gutted I was not able to wear it while on holiday but it needed a good block.  Fizz very kindly modelled it once home and blocked. I would love to knit this again perhaps in an aran weight.  

Now holiday purchases...... there were quite a few!  I bought a lot of wool from the two Harris Tweed and Knitwear shops (The purple skein top right is an example).  Their wool is all DK and sold in weight rather then per ball.  It is a very woolly wool and not to everyones taste.  I am not even sure I could wear it directly against my skin.  I have cast on Bru by Amanda Collins (as part of her Glasgow Kal) (Ed its finished and blocking, I will update you next month) with one of the skeins.  So it will be interesting to see if it softens up with washing / blocking.

I also made a few special purchases including some hand spun (the grey with pink, blue and green flecks) and hand dyed (the rest in the photo)!     

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Post holiday blues

We arrived home last Sunday having spent an amazing two weeks on the Isle of Lewis.  I always feel a bit down at the end of a holiday so to cheer me up I thought I would just share a few of my holiday thoughts and photos.

Landscape - Its got to be said it's a pretty harsh landscape.  There are lots of rocks and areas were only the toughest heathers and ferns can grow.  Mr D commented that there were practically no trees but I found it stunning to look at.  The colours were mostly a deep golden colour which reminded me of my graduation cowl.  The beaches were something else...... the sands were powder white and the seas, even in the rain and gloom, were a vivid blue.  

Entertainment - There was nothing around us apart from a few croft houses and a few people living in the old RAF buildings.  The nearest pub was a hour and a half away but it didn't bother us!  I had my knitting and Mr D had lots of books.  The Longhouse where we stayed also had a really good selection of history books about Lewis and a small selection of DVD's including Whisky Galore.  We watched it one evening and I loved it so much I insisted we watch it again the following week!

Weather and Wildlife - we expected the worst but in fact the weather apart from a few days was alright.  Let's just say I only had to wear my unflattering waterproof trousers a few times when the rain was lashing down!  I did have to fight with the wheelie bins in some strong winds one afternoon which was fun.  I had visions of being carried off into the distance.  While not strictly wildlife I loved the local cattle and the could not care less attitude of the sheep which graze in common grazing areas.

Islanders - It might have been a coincidence but the majority of people I chatted to were English!  From the owners of the local croft (who also owned our Longhouse), to the postman we spoke with, to the gentleman I chatted to in a Harris Tweed shop!  

Sites - During our two weeks not only did we have lots of Fizz walks on the beaches but we visited many of the sights on the Island.  Unfortunately Lewis closes down in the winter for tourists so not everything was open (including tea
rooms).  Some of my favourites are the Callanish Standing Stones where we walked to the three different sites despite the boggy conditions and had some very yummy soup in the visitor centre afterwards.  The Blackhouse Museum was very interesting.  You are able to go inside a Blackhouse which had a peat fire lit in the centre.  I wasn't entirely happy inside as there were massive cobwebs (obviously) but I stuck it out.  From there you can then go into a Whitehouse which the islanders were forced into.  I also went into three very different churches, (one a ruin) but all had some really detailed tomb carvings.

Monday, 10 November 2014

The Year in Books: November

Once again I am joining in with Circle of Pine Trees and The Year In Books. My October read was one of The Man Booker Prize Shortlisted books - We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler.

The Good
I knew nothing of the storyline before I began the book so was entirely surprised when the twist came about a quarter of the way through!  Without giving the story away the book is about family relations and how an event can effect different members of the family in different ways.  It's told from the viewpoint of Rosemary, one of the daughters in the family, and explores how she understands her family life.  There are some very thought provoking chapters along the way!

The not so good 
I was not a massive fan of the final part of the story.  It seemed a bit too straightforward.  However, it did tie everything together so perhaps I'm being too picky!  The other thing which might bother some people, but I didn't mind, is that the story jumps backwards and forwards in time a lot which, if you think in a chronological way, might make it hard to keep track. 

I would recommend We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves - its a book based elements of fact and I thought it was an interesting read. I would be interested in your thoughts if you have read the book.  Did you know about the twist before you started reading it?

Next Up - November reads 
The Year in Books November readsI had just about finished the book when the winner of The Man Booker Prize was announced.  So Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep South is my current read.

Also coming with me on holiday this month will be another shortlisted book Neel Mukherjee's The Lives of Others.  For a bit of variety I will also be taking two books I have recently purchased - Playing to the Gallery by Grayson Perry and Laura Cumming's A face to the World On Self-Portraits.  It is unlikely I will read everything while I am away what with all the knitting projects I plan to take!  I will let you know how I get on next month!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Holiday greetings

Hello from the Isle of Lewis

I thought I would share some photos with you of our holiday so far. 

Our holiday home - I wish it was mine!

First holiday knitting project finished. Dufton hat by Victoria at Eden Cottage Yarns.

Fizz exploring the Callanish stones

A broch