Knitting With A View: Hulne Park

This was my view for most of today. We were stewarding at a pleasure ride in Hulne Park. Horse riders were able to ride a set route through the Duke of Northumberland’s Estate here at Alnwick, either a shorter route of about 7 miles, or with an additional loop across the moors to give them a 10 mile ride. I mainly sat in the car and knitted while K pointed the riders in the right direction!

The estate is kept in pristine condition, with perfectly maintained fencing and immaculately mown verges. Some is kept as farmland with grazing sheep, but much of it is used for shooting: there are pheasants everywhere.

The park is open most days from 11am for visitors on foot. No vehicles (including cycles) are allowed (we had special permission) and no dogs are permitted (in case farm stock or game is disturbed) There are marked trails to follow. The park is occasionally closed to the public but details of closures are on the website.

Sometimes the views are just a little too perfect to be natural, then you remember that in the 18th Century the park was redesigned by Lancelot “Capability” Brown, who was famous for exactly that! There are beautiful specimen trees and well-constructed stone walls hidden in dips so they can can enclose farm stock without obscuring the view. The buildings are pretty special too, including Brizlee Tower, an 87 ft high, six storey gothic folly, designed by Robert Adam, and completed in 1783.

We were stationed at the point where riders had to decide on whether to take the long or short route. Apart from gusty winds, it was a lovely day, so most opted for the longer ride.

We saw everything from tiny children”s ponies to a massive Shire horse taking part, and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves.

There are worse places to spend a Sunday!

Have you visited anywhere interesting this weekend?

Christmas Comes Early

Every December I think how lovely it would be to have a hand knitted Christmas jumper, by which time it is or course far too late to do anything about it. I set some knitting-related New Year resolutions back in January and making a Christmas jumper was one of them. I cast the Frosty’s Christmas jumper on early on in the lockdown and wrote a blog post about it at the time.

Since then I’ve fallen in and out of love with knitting a few times, so progress has been sporadic, but I finally finished it tonight! I love it!

It’s knitted in a gorgeous light fluffy alpaca/silk mix, which has been lovely to work with and as well as the cute snowman design it features this moss stitch rib on lower edge, cuffs and neck.

I decided that it needed something more to add a bit of Christmas sparkle (because a Christmas jumper needs bling). I found these iridescent white sequins and sewed them on to add a snowstorm, which took a while! I’ve had clothes with sequins on before and they always seem to come off so I made sure these were sewn extra securely……all 300 of them!

I love that the back view of the snowman is on the back of the jumper

Snowman’s face includes a knitted carrot nose and black sequin eyes and mouth. he also has a cosy scarf.

I’m rather looking forward to wearing him this December!

Have you started making anything for Christmas yet?

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Casting on for Christmas

At the turn of the year I made some knitting-related New Year resolutions (for the full list click here). One of these was to make a Christmas jumper. For several years running, as the Festive Season arrives, I’ve thought about how great it would be to have a really nice hand-knitted Christmas Jumper and promptly forgotten about it until the following year, when it’s far too late to do anything about it. With this in mind chose a pattern and ordered yarn a while ago. With social activities and trips out curtailed in the current lockdown, what better time to get started?

I found the Frosty’s Christmas pattern for a snowman jumper on the Drops Design website – one of thousands of the free patterns on the site, which also includes tutorials, hints and tips, an online shop and list of stockists.

Photo by Drops Design

It also has a yarn converter – all the Drops yarns are divided into groups: every pattern will recommend a yarn and provide alternative yarns – all yarns from that group can be used, sometimes using a double strand – the converter works out the weight/number of balls needed in your chosen yarn. That’s what I did. I fancied treating myself to something more luxurious than the 100% wool Drops Eskimo recommended but found that I could also knit this design using two strands of Drops Brushed Alpaca Silk (a 77% alpaca, 23% silk blend) so I bought that. This means that I’m also sticking to my “green” resolution to try and buy natural fibre yarns whenever possible.

The sweater is knitted in from the top down in stocking stitch, with raglan sleeves, constructed with separate front and back, rather than knitted in the round. It uses nice chunky needles (7mm) so it should take shape quite quickly. The details on the snowman’s face and the snowflakes are added afterwards. You have the option of knitting the snowman on the back too – you just don’t add the nose, scarf etc so you get the back view of him!

Now I’ve cast on the back and got started I’m really enjoying this. I did spend some time before I got to the snowman design rewinding the black and white yarns – the pattern only uses one ball of each and it is to be used double-stranded. The yarn is feather-light and super soft. I like the way it’s knitting up.

I’m really looking forward to wearing this at Christmas….and let’s face it we all need something to look forward to right now!

Busy with Brioche and Buddy Bedding.

I’ve been keeping busy this week, though I’m missing trips to the beach and visiting local cafes for coffee and scones. I’m still involved with online choir and ukulele sessions, virtual coffee mornings and quizzes.

This week I’ve upcycled an old duvet to make liners for Buddy’s basket – I chopped it into six rectangles and machine-stitched the edges.

Buddy seems to like his new bedding! – at one point he dragged in into another room and cuddled it!

I’ve also finished my first brioche project – a pair of wrist warmers. I have quite short arms – well it certainly seems that way because sleeves on clothes I buy are way too long. I tend to buy three quarter length sleeves, but sometimes these leave a cold gap so I wanted some extra-long wrist/arm warmers. I sort of made these up as I went along.

I can also roll the cuffs back to show the reverse.

They are lovely, warm and squishy. I’ve really enjoyed learning how to do 2-colour brioche. This was one of my New Year Resolutions.

Another resolution was to make a Christmas Jumper. Every year I think about how lovely it would be to have a hand knitted festive sweater, and then I forget about it until the following December when it’s far too late to start. I now have the yarn and the pattern and am looking forward to starting it soon.

What have you been doing to keep busy?

Blue Sky in Bamburgh

It was a glorious day today: sunny and almost warm! We headed up the coast to Bamburgh, with Son at the wheel. He’s learning to drive, so it’s a good way for him to practice.

Bamburgh is a pretty village, with plenty of pubs and cafes to visit. There is a historic church and The Grace Darling Museum. Grace was a local heroine, daughter of the lighthouse keeper on Longstone, one of the Farne Islands, just offshore here. In 1838 father and daughter famously rowed out in high seas to rescue the passengers and crew of a stricken vessel, the Forfarshire. The village is dominated by the magnificent Bamburgh Castle.

We drove along The Wynding (the lane leading to Bamburgh Golf Club), where there is car parking, and stopped at the end of the bay, by Stag Rock.

No one knows why there is a white deer painted on the rocks here – there are lots of stories. It gets a regular coat of paint to keep it looking pristine. In the distance you can see Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle.

There are usually eider ducks swimming by the rocks here, and oystercatchers feeding. In summer the terns that nest on the Farne hunt small fish here. Occasionally you can see dolphins further out. Today’s sign of spring was the sound of skylarks soaring above the fields behind here.

Son and K took Buddy for a walk from here.They had plenty of space – Bamburgh Beach is huge and stunning.

The Farnes looked really close today.

While they walked, I knitted. I’m working on brioche wrist warmers. I couldn’t have asked for a better view.

Any more signs of spring where you are?

Brioche Breakthrough

I hadn’t intended to post on the blog tonight but I can’t contain myself!

Back in January I set myself a list of knitting resolutions for the New Year. Learning how to do brioche was one of them. I’d seen so many pictures of the most gorgeous brioche knits, – those two colour ones and branching patterns are just to die for!

I’d mentioned it to a friend (who I refer to as a ninja knitter) and she actually showed me one of her brioche projects – a single colour scarf – I’d heard how squishy and cosy brioche stitch work is but when I felt that scarf I knew I’d have to try this and soon! It feels amazing! Tonight I sat down to watch some You Tube Tutorials (there are many).

I started with single colour brioche. First attempt went horribly wrong and I had to pull it out and start again. Second go went much better.

Apart from somehow acquiring a couple of extra stitches at one end, my little swatch came out ok. I love how it feels!.

That done, I thought I’d start another swatch and use two colours. This went even better at first attempt.

I love how it is reversible and it feels just as soft and squishy as the single colour version.

I’m feeling very pleased with myself and I’m so glad I had a go. The next step is to find a pattern I like and make something useful, maybe some fingerless gloves or wrist warmers?

Are there any knitting or other craft techniques that you are dying to try?

Knit and Natter Friday: 6th March – Knitting is Good For You!

We loved looking at this big colourful haul of gorgeous knits from the Knit and Natter Group, who meet at Alnwick Medical Group on Friday afternoons. At the top of the picture are baby jackets, mostly premature size. I love the contrasting edges on the ones at the top right. We also have some beautiful blankets and premature baby clothes from a lady who loves knitting but doesn’t come to the group. The multicoloured blankets left and front are knitted in beautifully soft chenille yarn. The pink/purple baby clothes and blanket were all made out of one big ball of ombre wool. The blanket is knitted in a design of alternating stocking stitch and moss stitch with a moss stitch edge. Isn’t it effective?

We were joined by a couple of members of staff from the practice today. Of course, we can’t let anyone visit us without doing any knitting so we found them some wool and needles and got them started. One had knitted before and soon picked it up again. The other was a complete beginner and after a bit of tuition she was doing brilliantly.

They were there to gather information for Social Prescribing Day (next Thursday, 12th March. Our knitting group was set up as part of the medical practice’s social prescribing work. At the end of the session we took part in a video interview and answered questions about the knit and natter group and what we get out of it. It was interesting to reflect on why we enjoy doing what we do. From my point of view……

  • It’s good to interact with a friendly, supportive group of people with a shared interest. We enjoy each other’s company.
  • We can share skills and learn from each other. There must be several centuries of knitting experience in the group!
  • There’s a shared sense of achievement in completing a project or learning a new skill.
  • Knitting for charity is a worthwhile use of our knitting skills to help others.
  • Communal knitting is fun!

One question that really made me think was about the importance of holding a knitting group in a doctors surgery. I think it legitimises knitting as a worthwhile activity that’s good for physical and mental wellbeing. I know that those of us that knit have known this for years, but there are still people out there that consider it to be a boring solitary hobby, primarily for elderly women! Nonsense!

There are real benefits to mental and physical wellbeing

  • The repetitive action of knitting has a calming effect, lowering heart rate and blood pressure (like stroking a pet or doodling)
  • It’s a mindful activity. By concentrating on the activity of knitting you can slow down, focus on what you are doing and reduce stress and anxiety.
  • It keeps your hands moving, good for the blood supply and muscle tone in the fingers.
  • There’s always something new to learn. Learning new skills encourages the development of new neural pathways, great for maintaining a healthy brain and improving memory.
  • Knitting groups are a great way of combatting social isolation and its effects of mental and physical health.

Now that this is being endorsed by healthcare professionals maybe more people will take up knitting!

What do you think are the benefits of knitting?

Knit and Natter Friday: 21 February (Part Two)

This afternoon was the weekly meeting of The Knit and Natter Group at Alnwick Medical Group, which is held every Friday from 2.30-4pm in the Lower Building Meeting Room.

This week’s completed charity knits include a hat, and some baby clothes, along with my twiddle mitts. We’ve also been working on some of our own projects, including socks, a baby cardigan for a group member’s first grandchild, due in May. One of the practice staff popped in for some advice on a top-down baby jacket they are about to start, also for an eagerly awaited first grandchild. There’s always some advice available and the little pink and turquoise top in the picture is a top-down construction too, so we had an example to show her!

I’d love to hear about any knit and natter or craft groups you are involved with.

Knit and Natter Friday: 21 February (Part One)

It’s the third Friday of the month and that means I spent this morning at the Amble Pincushion. Recently completed work by group members includes a toy cat, a cobweb scarf and some baby blankets. There’s a lovely sweater on the go too, in pretty heather, pink and cream, being knitted in a lovely light, soft alpaca mix boucle yarn.

We all fell in love with the stripy cat, made with yarn and magazine pattern won in a raffle held at a previous meeting of the group. He’s a cuddly toy, but could have a weight put inside to make him into a doorstop.

There are some great courses coming up at the shop in the next few months: I’ve booked on to the mosaic one. We’ve also arranged a trip to a knitting-themed show at the Alnwick Playhouse next month.

After meeting K for a lovely lunch, I took a leisurely drive to Alnwick, so I could pop to the shops before the second knit and natter group of the day. The wind was really getting up as I was leaving Amble and I pulled in by the river Coquet as there is a great view of Warkworth Castle.

The birds had come quite a long way up the river where it is more sheltered. I watched a couple of cormorants feeding. There were mallards and black headed gulls too. Usually you can see herons on this stretch of the Coquet. Today I could just make out three of them sheltering among the trees on the opposite bank.

Pretty well hidden aren’t they?

Double Twiddle

I made a couple of twiddle mitts this week. It’s been a while since I made any charity knits and the members of my Knit and Natter Group put me to shame with all their lovely work.

Twiddle Mitts are given to Alzheimers patients to distract them from picking at dressings and canulae when in hospital. Also, repeatedly twiddling the buttons and other adornments and stroking the different textures of yarn can have a calming effect. I was inspired to make these when a friend donated a pile of yarn which included some really interesting textures:there were fluffy mohairs, eyelash yarn, metallics, ribbon yarns and all sorts.. They are dead easy to make, so I thought I’d include a bit of a tutorial on here.

Using two strands of double knitting (or the equivalent) and 6.5mm needles, cast on 40 stitches and continue in stocking stitch (it’s easier to sew the embellishments on later if you use straight needles, but you could use circular). Change the yarn every so often to incorporate different textures. You could also vary the stitch to change the texture by using eg moss stitch, blackberry stitch or cable. When the work measures 23 inches, cast off. You end up with a long rectangle like this.

I use the duller colours for the first half which will form the inside of the mitt and save the colourful stuff for the outside.

Next, you add the embellishments…..beads, buttons and so on. I also added some tiny jingle bells and a crocheted flower.

It’s important to add embellishments to what will be the inside of the mitt too.

The most important thing here is to sew the items on very securely.

When everything is in place, sew the side edges together to form a tube (if you used circular needles you’ll already have one!)

Then, fold half to the inside and sew the cast on and cast off edges together.

I finished off by adding a little crocheted edging.

All done!

How do you use up your oddments of yarn?