Saturday, March 22, 2008


I feel strongly that we (as in the UK) ought to boycott the Olympic Games in China if the violence continues in Tibet.

For an update on what's happening, Joy (Indiajoy on Ravelry) lives on the Indian side of the Himalayas and is getting reports from friends in Tibet - see Joy's blog. My heart aches for Tibetans and I feel helpless to do anything except wring my hands... the very least I can do is help spread the word.
I just signed an urgent petition calling on the Chinese government to respect human rights in Tibet and dialogue with the Dalai Lama. (though I'm not sure how effective petitions are!) But it is really important so here are the links:
After nearly 50 years of Chinese rule, the Tibetans are sending out a global cry for change. Violence is spreading across Tibet and neighbouring regions, and the Chinese regime is right now making a crucial choice between tougher crackdown or dialogue.
President Hu Jintao needs to hear that "Made in China" exports and the upcoming Olympics in Beijing will have the support of the world's people only if he chooses dialogue. But it will take an avalanche of global people power to get his attention. Click below to sign the petition - in just 3 days, the campaign is almost half way to the goal of 1 million signatures! Thank you so much for your help

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Walking Women Lake District Holiday Part 1.

Saturday 16th February

I should have dropped off the dogs at Karen's en route, but I didn't, so, of course, I was running late. My train pulled out of the station as I was passing the main entrance. I was so close the time of departure was still up on the TV screen - but had gone by the time I reached the platform. And the Station Clock was 5 minutes slow!

Eventually caught the 11o3 train to Lockerbie via Birmingham, instead of the 1022 to Carlisle and had a breakfast roll and a decent cup of coffee (I do believe us Brits have finally got the hang of making coffee!) whilst I was waiting.
This all meant I was about half an hour on my connections for the rest of the day - and missed supper and introductions at the Glaramara Centre in Borrowdale. But I did get to sup 2 and a 1/2 pints of good ale in the pub at Keswick, in front of a roaring fire, and chat to Debbie and Richard (some walkers I met) instead.

I've walked 'the mile' which is a path on top of the sea wall sandwiched between the beach and the railway line between Teignmouth and Dawlish many a time, waving at the passing trains. It made a change to be on that train watching the surf instead of paddling in it. I also saw a heron in the marshes as the train passed the Double Locks in Exeter.

Got a deal of knitting done whilst reading Stephen King's "The Good Guy" - suitably light and engrossing. Wouldn't want anything that needed concentration, particularly as a load of inebriated football supporters boarded my carriage at Crewe, waving cans of Newkie Brown, and singing very different versions of "Show me the way to go home" to the one I know. One of them must have been rude to a WPC as he got strong armed off the train at the very next stop: seemed a bit OTT as they were all quite merry and not at all belligerent. A British Rail Transport cop offered to escort me to another carriage - but I'm not at all bothered by a spot of insobriety and a few rude, boisterous songs (I've heard worse language in the labour room!). Anyway, I took my HAs out.
Coming in to Penrith, I could see mountains, hills in the distance - all a bit steeper than my beloved Dartmoor. The picture is of the ruined castle opposite the railway station, lit up by the setting sun. By the time I got off the bus at Glaramara - pleasantly tiddly and ready to socialise some more all my fellow walkers, bar a couple, had gone to bed! Dirty Stopins!
I have a room to myself here, and get to bed earlier than I have done in months. I'd forgotten my toothbrush and the sink made gurgling noises. I've decided to go 'high' tomorrow!

Woke up on Sunday 17th February to a glaringly frosty scene outside the window and peaks with snow topping. My first time in the Lake District and the weather looked to be amazing! There was a choice between a 'Intermediate' and a 'High Intermediate' walking group - so I joined the 'high' group with our guide Polly and her dog Dylan. Poor old Dylan had had to have a pin put in his back leg as a pup, and it was giving him arthritis at the tender age of 3 1/2yrs. The vets had recently operated in an attempt to remove it, and failed - but despite this he had plenty of Spring as you'd expect from a Springer - just had a noticeable limp by the end of the day and a bald patch.

Here we all are gathering outside the Centre...
WE were the largest group today, with a much smaller group walking the 'Intermediate' hike. There was a large range of ages on the holiday, with the youngest woman in her 20's and the oldest in her 70's. The majority had come unaccompanied (lots of women had left partners and children at home!) and many were returners - Walking Women's Holidays (WW) are ideal if you want organised walks with congenial company - I often like to go off on my own, but this adventure took the effort out.

The walk was fantastic: up the road to warm up, (the picture looks back at the outdoor Centre) past Stonethwaite School (lots of 'thwaites' around here) and then gradually climbing up through the trees, to open moors and icy streams tumbling down...

all the way up to Dock Tarn.

We stopped here for a midmorning snack. Then on over the hill to be confronted by glorious views.

On down the hill, with the ice making so many different sculptures for us to admire, to a frozen lake where we stopped for our packed lunch and went in to the lakeside cafe for hot chocolate. The ducks were performing that entertaining activity of trying to land on the frozen surface - digital cameras have that frustrating delay after you click the button, so I missed the action shot. There were also lots of children and grownups smashing the ice at the edge and sliding large chunks across the surface - we decided it's probably such fun because it's like harmless vandalism!

See the little teddybear above the door?

And off we go again, to walk alongside a river and into the woods...
In the woods there was a river that had to forded: some folks had trouble and got their socks wet. I crossed further back upstream - deeper water but bigger rocks!
The path led us down through a steeply wooded valley to emerge by Lodore Falls - and the Hotel by the same name, on the shores of Derwent Water. This is a picture of the falls themselves, but it was getting dimpsy and they were in heavy shade. The sheep are Herdwicks - they were all over the place. And that's a picture of the Hotel Lodore with the wooded valley that we clambered down behind it.
And so we wended our way back along the flat valley to Glaramara, with Polly tempting everyone with the bus: nobody took her up on the offer, but I wonder how many would have followed if just one had caved in? We'd hiked somewhere between 9-12 miles: Kathy and Alison tried to work it out with a map and a wheelie mileage calculator thingie later that evening. I thought it was a great walk - varied terrain, fabulous views and the weather was perfect. Even better - we've got two more days of similar walks to look forward to! WE had a good three course supper and I finished off the evening with a pint of beer (keg, but beggars can't be choosy) and knitting in front of a log fire (there were four of us knitters). You'd think I'd have slept like the proverbial log, but the room was too hot and there was a huge mirror on the wall by the bed which was most off putting - who knows what lurks in that land of Alice? I didn't figure out how to turn the radiator off until the next morning so had to resort to opening the window wide...

Monday, March 17, 2008

Skip North addendum...

But hold on there one cotton pickin' moment - I didn't finish confessing telling you what was in my bags, diddle I?
Besides the rainbow from the Yarn Mountain and the drop spindle and fluff, there was this: Sock yarn and dishcloth cotton from the Skep.

And this wonderfully coloured cotton from Coldspring Mill will become a rooster jumper for a friend's new baby son Toby. Only there IS just a tad more than I need.

And finally (yes really) there was the yarn in the picture above, which is three skeins of Noro Kureyon for Bettna and enough Debbie Bliss Aran Tweed to make Rogue - and both at half the original price. Got to be done.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

I adored Philip Pullman's 'His Dark Materials' trilogy. I'm not sure, even having read the books, if I followed the movie - they had to leave so much out it became meaningless.
I've been allocated a crow (called Myron) as my daemon. Before he takes up permanent residence, do you agree that this is an accurate representation of me?

Saturday, March 15, 2008

SKIP NORTH - summed up in a rather protracted and garbled fashion because if I don't write it up NOW it'll never get done.

I hadn't packed and was fiddling about on the computer (drooling over yarns and patterns on Ravelry as usual) so didn't leave till late on Thursday to get to WyeSue. I also spent half an hour driving around Exeter looking for the Tesco garage I knew was there so I could spend my 5poff voucher on diesel. Never found it and wasted so much fuel that I could have just gone the nearest petrol station and saved POUNDS. Am I daft or what?
SO it was getting on for midnight by the time I arrived in Herefordshire to be greeted by a cold filled, sinus blocked, panda eyed WyeSue, who would probably have been tucked up in bed with a hot water bottle and fast asleep if it hadn't been for me! (Sorry, Sue!). The directions to her stash filled house were perfect and easy to follow. I slept well, despite the avalanche of yarn filled bags from the top of the wardrobe (knocked over by a curious marmalade cat).
MY mission was to keep WyeSue awake whilst she drove to Haworth and I knit. I think I fulfilled this task admirably by caterwauling intermittently.

I was startled to note how urban West Yorkshire appeared - I was expecting windswept moors and hills - but althought there were plenty of HILLS, there were also lots of buildings in a grey green stone to match the grey green fields and plenty of dark satanic mills around every bend. It was also plenty blowy - and we were amused to see plenty sheep being blown around like tumbleweed.

On arrival we were greeted by Nickerjac who was being a very organised organiser and asking us what we wanted to order for lunch the next day as well as filling us in on the itinerary and sleeping arrangements... She was accompanied by a very cute and active liddle Pete.

The Youth Hostel is amazing - and must have been splendid when it was built and stood in grand isolation overlooking the Mill in the Worth Valley below, but it's now surrounded on three sides by new houses, which detracts somewhat. It has many stained glass windows depicting various citrus fruits, and a wooden frieze of disturbing looking gargoyles around the skylight at the top of the grand staircase.

(The second picture is of the view down into the valley - you can see the chimney of the Mill just to the right of centre - the Mill is now a 'Spring Factory'. )

WE didn't hang around for long, as there were three workshops to participate in - I learned how to knit mitred squares as a building block for modular knitting, to dye sock yarn with koolaid and a little more about colour theory - great fun and thanks to WyeSue, Lixie and Nic.

And this was the result - not bad for a couple of minutes of paddling about in and inhaling fruity flavoured powders. (minor panic when I couldn't find the hot little microwaved clingfilm package in the kitchen - but Lixie found it for me!)

That night I was taken aback by the sheer wealth of skill and inspiration and talent amongst this small (24 of us) band of fibre enthusiasts. The energy and enthusiasm was contagious and we knit and spun and exchanged skills and showed off and chatted. Everyone was friendly and willing to share - a real inclusive group. It was also fascinating to put faces to names that I already 'know' from blogworld.

Next morning the excitement woke me up early, so I went for a walk down the hill in the drizzle. There must have been at least half a dozen hairdressers all in a row - how do they all stay in business? There was a Steam Engine puffing out steam in the railway station at the bottom of the hill - the Worth Valley steam railway line is open from Easter so it looked as if the Engineers were overhauling the trains in time for the new season. I had to make my way back to the youth hostel for breakfast, before I could work out a circuit - but I saw a runner turn off right so I determined to investigate the next morning.

A coach turned up after breakfast, and Andy drove us to Coldspring Mill first of all, then on to a tiny little shop called the Skep - with a quick turn up the hill to a fascinating haberdashery (RL and CM Bond ltd) filled to the BRIM with buttons, zips, threads, ribbons and implements of torture. I spent far more than I had intended. In fact, 'The' Sue (as opposed to WyeSue) after glancing at my stash enhancement bags, decided I needed a counsellor to off load my addiction problems - She decided to act as the collective conscience of my family to 'save me from myself' and proceeded to reduce me to fits of giggles with just a stern glance my direction as we emerged from each venue. The Sue was part of almost the entire Golders Green Stitch N Bitch who Skipped North: what a fab group that must be...
The coach moved on with many socks being knitteth on board - and we arrived at the Knitting and Crochet Guild's collection and infamous YARN MOUNTAIN - all donated by folks to be sold to raise funds to help the Guild maintain their textile collection. I bought a 720 gram rainbow of dk weight yarn for 1p a gram - can't be bad and destined to be some kind of beloved fairisle. Rumour has it that some of this may originate from Rowan, which isn't that far up the road in Holmfirth. I also bought a book or three.WE all got to fondle some amazing handknitted items (with white gloves donned) dating back to 18th century and beyond - some of it so fine you could hardly imagine anyone having the eyesight let alone the patience to knit it.

We retreated back to the Youth Hostel to drool over everyone's purchases and bargains: 'The' Sue had found an alpaca jumper - knee length, with four dpns still in the unfinished sleeve - AND not forgetting a safety pin, all in a bag for £5. WE convinced her that the best thing to do would be to chop off the length and use the yarn to finish the sleeves. She wasn't entirely sure this was possible I don't think. For a picture of this bargain see WyeSue's blog.
Just look at what Chris had bought! I think she got the record for most yarn puchased...
Makes my booty look quite meagre!There were bags overflowing, bags everywhere!
In the evening after the usual tasty three course supper (during which The Sue had to take a break to listen in to The Archers - a much hyped instalment where a divorce is threatened and a premature birth occurs)( I think she could do with some counselling to help her deal with her addiction, personally ;-),we convened in the dining room, as there had been an invasion of 'Peace Jammers' (average age 11years). WE ate cake. Spinning Wheels also materialised and I got to have another go on 'Morris' - WyeSue's wheel. I didn't have much joy on Natalies's new Majacraft Susie Pro Wheel but it sure looked beautiful - a sight to behold. There was also much amusement when Julie - who had bought a couple of humungous skeins of pastel multicouloured yarn earlier - untied one and then threw it across the dining room. Unfortunately one end caught as she did so - result - a gorgon knot.

Isabella and Natalie showed a huge amount of patience in untangling and balling it up...

Later, in back in the lounge, Natalie showed me how to use her Ashford Top whorl drop spindle and also how to andean ply - I spun up a small ball of Jacob fleece, and got a round of applause for my efforts. There were several spontaneous rounds of applauses for achievements - Ann-at-work completed a scarf over the weekend - only her fourth completed project, and Jane learnt how to make a granny square (to think of but two - I'm sure there were more) from Julie, who also got a round of applause for finishing a cabled jumper whilst she was on the coach on Sunday. She took off the beautiful Colinette jumper that WyeSue had given her (as part of her MAJOR destash) to show it off.

I loved seeing what people had made - Kate is enviably proficient and spent the weekend picking up stitches for the last sleeve on her Kauni-like fairisle jumper whilst wearing a beautiful aran jumper, and another knitted shadow kimono (which can be seen on her blog) and a beautiful lace shawl. Rachel wore a gorgeous fairisle cardigan (oh so fine!). Dianne was knitting a fingerless version of the same Karen's KAL gloves that I've been trying to finish. There were two (really well behaved) babies also modelling knitted items - when they weren't eating the yarn...Max wore a pilot helmet that mum Heather had knitted him, whilst Pete sported a jumper knitted by WyeSue. I hanker after a hat that Rosie had knitted to a personal design - I'm hoping to create my own version some day...

Oh, just too much to mention, and I'll no doubt remember some more beautiful FOs as soon as I publish this post - suffice to say the fibrey enthusiasm was contagious!

I can't emphasize enough how inspirational this weekend was.

On the last day, I'd brought my running gear, so of course I had to use it. I got up and took the right turn down the hill that I'd seen the runner take the previous morning. YES - it took me down to t'river and a muddy footpath running alongside crossing over it a couple of times. I could see the remains of the mechanical waterwheels that must have helped power the Mill. Back up the hill to the youth hostel in a circuit, and dramatic clouds forming overhead - shame I didn't take my camera.
After packing up and vacating dormitaries we piled on the coach for a longer trip to Wingham's Wools - Now this place was set in surroundings more like what I had expected - Wentworth is really pretty - AND had a good pub (serving real ale). The sun was shining as we prowled round the sheds eyeing soft rovings. With remarkable self restraint, I bought myself a drop spindle like Natalie's, and some 'rainbow merino' fluff to spin with. There's Jael in the pink hat, and Fred's ponytail in the background - exploring the treasure trove. I also bought the latest issue of 'Spin Off' for inspiration.
I've been obsessed with spinning since I got back home. I peeled off slivers of the 'rainbow merino', to control the colours a little - then I spun up enough to knit some Saartje's bootees - which I finished last night... Here they are, sitting on the magazine.I'm in love with spinning - and thanks to Natalie and Sarahw for starting me off!This pic doesn't do the colours justice - the bottoms of the bootees is much redder and the tops much greener - but you get the gist.

There's a good picture of everyone waiting for the coach to take us back to the Youth Hostel on Natalie's blog...

I took three projects with me - and managed to finish two: This doggy jumper, pattern by Zoe Mellor, for my friend's daughter's son. We played 'spot the difference' as I've changed the dog in some subtle ways. (There are about 7 differences for anyone interested). I also finished a pair of socks in Opal self patterning 6ply. These socks were doomed. I'd already frogged one completed sock because they were too small for the recipient, who I assumed had small feet. Assume makes an ass out of 'u' and 'me'. Then the pooling in the second sock was COMPETELY different to the first sock. I was totally bemused by this - but the mystery was solved by Natalie and Isabella putting their heads together - they worked out that I'd used a different set of needles on the second - which made it infinitessimally bigger - just enough to alter the pooling completely. Great detective work. So I finished the second sock on the coach. And promptly left them behind. duh. I haven't even got a photo of the finished item! Fred can witness their completion - as can Jael. I guess they just weren't meant to be! (sorry Karen - I'll knit you another pair, promise). I did ask Lixie for the name of the coach company - "Hunter's of Haworth", she says. "Google it", she says. Well, there ain't no Hunters. There's a Hodgson's, but they didn't do 'Skip North'. So, if anyone can remember the name of the coach company, give me a bell.
AND so, back at Haworth and people are packing up ready to go and the sight of sooo much yarn in carboots is a hoot. We had a show and tell of the all the little articles destined for the local SCBU. That's Lixie looking pensive on the left.

Bags of attitude - aren't they great?
Time to go home, and then there were three - WyeSue giving Rachel and me a lift home. We spotted a REAL nodding dog in the back of this Robin Reliant wobbling up the road:
After picking up a takeaway ready meal from M&S and dropping Rachel off, WyeSue and I stayed up till 2am (gasp), drinking Bucks Fizz and continuing the fibrey banter - Sue has a fantastic library and so many wips, yarns, buttons, ideas etc etc, I just didn't want it all to end.

Next morning, WyeSue allowed me to lie in - which was just as well as the weather was deteriorating - seriously - with gale force winds of up to 82mph reported to be lashing the coast of Devon and Cornwall. Sue took me for a wet and windy walk to visit 'her' sheep down by the River Wye. Here you can see the sheep in the various stages of growth - sprouting out of the ground and complete with legs, before they start blowing around like tumbleweed - those small fluffy whitish things in the background, behind Sue. We also went into the wee church of ST Tysilio (him of Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch fame) in the background.

More fabulous stained glass windows: I'm detecting a theme. And here is Sue pontificating on the building of this bridge by the Bishop of the aforementioned church. All very edifying and the walk blew the cobwebs away before the blowy drive home. I had a wonderful time, and thanks to LIXIE and NICKERJAC and WYESUE for organising it and putting me up and I want to come again next year please.

Chivers (or was this Dundee?) saw me off the premises.

Just to finish - here is a picture of my all time favourite knitted item - say hullo and goodbye to the Lady of the seven veils - isn't she a VENUS? (as knitted and birthed by WyeSue).