Saturday, March 8, 2008

Trip pics

Sorry it’s taken me so long to post about the trip. It’s been a tiring week, working and dealing with jet lag. My camera wasn’t working during part of the trip but I did get a good number of photos – at least enough to give a quick overview.

My first 2 days were spent either on the way to Bath, being lost in Bath and exploring Bath. Stayed in a wonderful B&B just on the outskirts of the city center and had beautiful weather for the day of my wander. I could definitely live in Bath, I’ve decided, and would absolutely love to return. If anyone has read Jane Austin, you’ll meet her at every turn – the Royal Crescent, the Marlborough Buildings, the Baths and the Pump Room. Here are some pics:

(a view over the river; the statues overlooking the baths and the Abbey behind; steam off the baths; roman-era mosaic floor; roman-era spinning and weaving tools)

I went on to visit my friend Val just outside of Cardiff. She and her husband, Peter, made me feel right at home and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with them and finding that we’ve been going through a very similar sort of experience. They definitely have the gift of hospitality, I must say. One my way out of town, I did take a couple of hours to visit the city center of Cardiff where I took this (rather poor) photo of the Cardiff Market. Seems it’s been around since the middle of the 19th century.

Here’s a photo of the sort of countryside I drove through in the southern section of Scotland on my way to West Kilbride. It was, by this time very stormy and gale force winds so I didn’t stop to take many photos!

Here are a couple of pictures – the first of West Kilbride, the village I lived in for several years, and then the view from West Kilbride/Seamill. This is the view I used to see everyday from my bedroom window. If it had been a clear day you would be able to see the Isle of Arran on the horizon. I know I keep saying things like how wonderful my friends are and how thoroughly I enjoying them but I’m afraid those are the only terms I can use for the whole trip. I had a great time catching up with my friends Katharine and Wade and having a look over the training school building that I spent 3 years of my life in. I have to admit I cried leaving Seamill – the only time during the whole trip that I cried. I so miss living there and would go back in a heartbeat. I love the west coast of Scotland.

I decided to brave the weather and make a trip over to St Andrews and Perth the next day. Made for quite an exciting driving, seeing that all the bridges were closed to high sided vehicles because of the wind. I wasn’t in such a vehicle but just goes to show how strong the winds were. My camera was not working at this point so no photos (sorry) but it was my first trip to St Andrews – a most unique place. I did get to find the shop/studio of Di Gilpin and had a very nice chat with her. She has some very interesting plans for providing training from her studio – makes me wish I was going to be near enough to take advantage.

From St Andrews I went on to Perth for the evening. The plan was to visit Di’s wool shop in Perth. The reality, however, was that I got trapped in a hotel car park and decided to just not fight it and stay there! Fortunately it was a reasonable rate and, although I had a stroll through the town center, I was too late to make it to the wool shop. I had spent quite a bit of time in Perth before I left Scotland and I have very fond memories of that time and the folks that I got to know. Unfortunately, I never kept up with any of the contacts but it was nice to be there again.

This brings us to Saturday and to Glasgow to spend time with some of my favorite people on the entire planet – the whole Bridgeton clan. It was really the highlight of my while trip and was quite amazing that it was so comfortable and like I’d never been gone 10 years. There’s just not enough to say about them except how special they all are to me and how much I have to be grateful to them for. Here's my teddy bear and bagpipe magnet which says "Clan Smith" given to me by my friends Robert and Ann. The magnet plays Scotland the Brave - the whole song! The whole long song which made things interesting when it got knocked in my bag!!

On to Paisley, another place I lived for about 5 years of my life. It’s another of those things where you know the place is going to be changed after 10 years but it still felt so comfortable and so much a part of me. My friend, Lynne, has a fabulous work with international students in the university there. It’s very enjoyable to see someone working so hard at something they so evidently love to do. I know she’s having an amazing impact on these young students.

From Paisley (after an entirely too short visit) I began the march south. Cutting through the Yorkshire Dales was not entirely planned but it provided a most satisfying surprise. I drove through tiny country roads that threaded through farms and tiny villages that have been there longer than anyone can remember. Towards the end, the road took me up and up and up to the top of these barren, alone hills. It felt like being on the top of the world with no one and nothing else existing anywhere nearby. There were no people and no cars and for part of it, not even any sheep. Quite eerie really but pretty breathtaking all the same.

I eventually made it to York. A place, like Bath, that I went away from thinking I could totally live there. Amazing. I even made it to an early morning service at York Minster. I was too late for the Matins service but walked in as the boy’s choir was finishing a hymn. Breathtaking. Here are a few photos from around the city. My B&B was in an old coach house right outside the city walls (called The Coach House Hotel, oddly enough!). The city walls still stand and I could look right over them to see the top of York Minister from my window. I just can’t explain how beautiful it was, all lit up at night. Of course, not quite so beautiful was being almost thrown out of my bed at 1am when the largest earthquake in years hit the UK. I had no idea what had happened until the next morning. I've been in tornados but never an earthquake. It was something like 5.7 on the Richter scale and centered not too far from where I was. Quite a moving experience!!

(York building; York wool shop - Sheepish - just missed getting in as had to be out of B&B before they opened; York Minster - side view; York city wall; view of Minster from my room)

From York, I made my way back to the Gatwick area so I could return the car and make a foray into London. The first place I headed was the Victoria and Albert Museum and, of course, I never made it anywhere else! If I lived in London, I would be at that museum every Saturday all day. All.Day. Don’t want to bore you too much more but here are a couple of photos of textile things I had the pleasure of seeing. Sorry the quality’s not so good. The textile rooms are kept darkish and I had problems with my camera. But seeing just the little bit I saw was really overwhelming. Really. All day, every Saturday. Just wait and see if I don’t, should I ever end up in London. Really.

(beaded bag and 19th century knitting at V&A)

I have never had such a vacation – 2 weeks of everything going absolutely perfectly and having wonderful time with people I care deeply about and then seeing things I’d never seen before. Absolutely perfect. I feel quite in awe that I received such a wonderful gift – in fact, as I told my mother, it was so perfect that I didn’t ever mind coming back and going immediately back to work. There were things I didn’t get to see and certainly not enough time in any of the places I went but I couldn’t ask for anything more. I told someone that I thought I would need about 2 years and unlimited finances to do everything I want to do and see everyone I want to see so I’ll be sure to let you know when my ship comes in and that happens!!

Anyway, that’s probably a lot more detail that most wanted and much less than others wanted. Quite a trip!!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Things I learned while knitting a sleeve

1. Don’t rush into important decisions

I finally finished the body of my Skrå Trøyer sweater and it fits PERFECTLY. It was finished just before I got to Scotland to make the rounds seeing friends. I knew that the sleeve needed my attention to get started for a number of reasons:

· It starts with twinned knitting and I had no idea how the gauge for twinned knitting would work out so knew I would have to experiment with it to make sure it didn’t end up too tight. Also I had to work in the button hole so it would be on the right end for the overlap (see next point).
· It starts flat and must have the seam section positioned correctly so when you put it into the round with the seam section overlapping the other end of the knitting, it will open the right way round and the button hole will be on the outside flap.
· The right number of stitches have to be on the needle for the 10-stitch repeat cuff pattern.
· Once back into the regular pattern (a 16-stitch repeat), the center star, ideally, should line up with the cuff pattern below it.

These are all things that just take time to work out. Some can be done on paper but I’m much better figuring them out on the needle. It was definitely not something I could do on the run so I waited until I had some quiet time towards the end of the trip. I didn’t get all of them right so will probably start this sleeve over again but it was worth doing to learn what I learned.

2. Pay attention to the little things

The body of this sweater was knit on a US size 1 (2.5mm) Addi Turbo needle. When I got to the sleeve, I went into the little stash of needles I had taken with me (just in case I had a knitting emergency) and found size 1 needles and got started off on the sleeve. After knitting for a little while, I realized that it was working even more tightly than the body. Hummm….Then it came to me – there are 2 different size 1 needles. Don’t ask me who the blankety blank thought it would be a good idea to have 2 different sized needles called size 1. You’ll notice above that the circular needle I was using was a 2.5mm. My double pointed needles were 2.25mm. You wouldn’t think that sounds like much, would you? Well, you’d be wrong. I think if you were talking about a 6mm needle vs a 6.25mm needle, the difference wouldn’t be so noticeable but when you’re talking tiny needles and big yarn, even that small difference made a difference.

I have been knitting in denial for a little bit but, together with the issues from above, I know in my heart that I will redo this sleeve. As with the body, if I’m going to put this much into it, I’m going to make sure I’m happy with it. If that means knitting 2 bodies and 3 sleeves, then so be it!

3. Remember which side of the fence you’re on

I decided that on the increase rows, I would just increase at the beginning and end of the seam section instead of increasing at the beginning of the row, knitting around and then increasing at the end of the row. It has to do with my attention span. I can never remember by the time I get to the end of the row whether I’m supposed to increase or not. Now I’m sure there’s some huge, terrible consequence to my compromise but you gotta work with what you got.

So the way I’ve got it set up is this: I have the seam section. To increase properly to the right of the seam section, I have to work from the beginning of the chart and increase towards the end of the chart. To increase properly to the left of the seam section, I have to work from the end of the chart and do the increases towards the beginning of the chart.

What I mean by this is that the first stitch of the new star after the seam section has to be the last stitch of the chart and as I add increases, I’m basically working towards the beginning of the chart. The reason for this is that I want to pattern to be consistent going into the next pattern repeat. To know where I am, I’m counting backwards on the chart for the increase section ONLY. Once I get to the first full repeat of the star pattern, I just knit the chart as normal.

It’s the same concept on the other side of the seam section but reversed. Once I finish the last full repeat of the pattern, I’m into the increase section. On the right side of the seam section, I’m working the chart from the beginning and increasing at the end just before the seam section so that the new star patterns are sort of growing out of the seam as I work up the sleeve.

All of this takes a little bit of attention as you begin and end the round. Before the seam section, I’m ending one row of the chart but after the seam section I’m starting the next row. It pays to remember which side you’re on! Trust me, this is the voice of experience.

Remember, too, that this seam section will run up the back of the arm rather than under the arm. Doing this allows the overlapped cuff with the button to be at the side of the wrist.

4. Listen to those around you

As mentioned, I started this sleeve on 2.25 double pointed needles. Because the fabric is so dense, it’s really not a comfortable thing to do. I was trying different things because I knew that the dps would only hold so many stitches. Doing the magic loop sort of thing didn’t work either as the needle sections were too long (and I hate those little circs). While at Knit Wits, Bonnie suggested I use 2 circulars. I, to may shame, must admit that I argued and wasn’t at all convinced it would work. But I went away with a second 2.5mm circular to try it out. Now, to my credit, I have to admit that I was completely wrong to doubt. It’s working a dream.

5. Follow your passion

On the plane back, I had been working on my sleeve most of the way over when a guy across the isle tapped me on the shoulder and asked me what I was making. When I told him that I’d finished the body and was now working on this sleeve, he made a comment about how complicated it looked and how I must be sick of doing it. I thought for only a second before telling him, No, I’m just as enamored of it now as I was before I started and I’ve enjoyed every stitch. He sort of looked at me as only a muggle could before he shrugged his shoulders and said, Well, good for you.
For the next 50 years, every time I wear this sweater I’m going to be reminded of all the wonderful time spent, not only knitting it, but getting it right. And I’m sure I will smile every time I put in on.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Home again, home again, jiggity jig

Well, it had to be really, didn't it.

Just a quick post to say I'm home after about 2,000 miles driving and 10,000 miles flying. I didn't wreck the car (driving on the other side of the road with a stick shift car) but, as I feared, now I feel very uneasy driving in the US. This happened to me before. When I first began driving in the UK it all felt very natural and easy (other than trying to roll down the window instead of shifting gears a few times - other side, other hand for shifting - ha!). When I had problems was when I came back to the US. It all feels very strange but I suspect it will clear up before long.

I ended up going to these places - more detail later.

I flew into London and drove (albeit the unintended scenic route) to Bath.
From Bath I went to a little village right outside Cardiff.
Spent a couple of hours in Cardiff city center before heading north.
Stayed a night in Blackpool.
Arrived in West Kilbride (Seamill)
Went across (in gale force winds) to St Andrews and then to Perth
Spent the weekend in Glasgow
A day in Paisley
Made my way south to York via the Yorkshire Moors
Then to London to turn the car in, wander in London and rest a bit before my 22 hour travel day.
Back to Springfield from Chicago.

It was a wonderful trip made up of catching up with special friends and seeing places I'd never seen before and remembering why I love the UK so much. Two years and unlimited resources. That's what I reckon it would take to do everything I want to do and see everything and everyone I want to see. So when my ship comes in, I'll be sure to let you know!

I'll try to post some pictures later to give you a taste.