Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Adventure Knitting goes to the Races August 30, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 16:23
Just in case you didn't check your plane ticket!

Just in case you didn’t check your plane ticket!

No canals today!

I’m going to take a several-blog digression from my canal ramblings to share a few highlights from our recent Adventure Knitting trip to Manitoba. Judy Fawcett and I have been coordinating these biannual exotic knitting holidays for more than 12 years now.

Our past destinations have included White Point Beach in Nova Scotia, Saltspring Island in British Columbia, the Îles de la Madeleine by ferry, the Galapagos Islands,  and Whitehorse in the Yukon Territory. PSST…insider tip: We will be heading for Nelson, BC, in September 2017. Lots of time to get ready!

This year we went North, very North. Our starting point was Winnipeg. Prior to this trip I had never so much as changed planes in Manitoba, so I was excited to finally visit!  As usual, Judy had conducted a thorough reconnaissance trip in anticipation, and we had a great time.

The plan was to use Winnipeg as a staging post for our travels further north, and to explore as many sights and yarn destinations as possible.  Thanks to Judy’s resourcefulness, the diversity of our travel experiences never ceases to surprise.

The first night of camp, after distribution of our goodie bags and camp knitting kits (containing custom dyed luxury yarns), we were all whisked off to Assiniboia Downs Racecourse, where we had dinner and.. Surprise–a behind the scenes visit with the horses and jockeys!

Dinner and a little flutter overlooking the track.

Dinner and a little flutter overlooking the track.

Meeting the mounts (surprisingly slender and petite)

Meeting the mounts (surprisingly slender and petite)

Interestingly when we were all clustered in the winners enclosure, the photographer carefully arranged us so that no one tall should stand near the horses!

Awaiting the winner

Awaiting the winner

Here they come

Here they come

Information on past and future trips can be found under the Info tab on my home page. Adventure Knitting

To be kept updated as plans develop, please email me.

Our thanks to our very generous Goodie Bag sponsors:

PS Craftsy have a sale on colourwork knitting classes this weekend! My affiliate link.


The light at the end of the Tunnel… August 16, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 07:05
Tags: , , , ,
Our little boat is about to emerge into the light

About to emerge into the light

There are expressions we use every day, almost subconsciously, but quite often, until you have a certain life experience, you really don’t fully get them.

An expression often heard in my old family home was ‘backing and filling’, used in the context of fiddling around, not really getting anything done. It comes directly from yachting, and I suddenly recalled this when out on a sailing dinghy: alternately ‘backing’ the jib (wind on the wrong side) and ‘filling’ the jib (wind on the power side) was a way of holding a sailing boat more or less still whilst waiting on something. Link

I have encountered several of these delightful moments of sudden insight on the canal. It is very likely that canal terminology permeated the language in the early 1800s, but the experiences have vanished in modern times! The first of these ‘Aha!’ moments for me was ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’. We all know what it means, but nothing can prepare you for the sense of joy and relief as you actually see the imminent possibility of emerging from a long dark canal tunnel into the light. At first you glimpse the light in the distance; you chug your way closer through the clammy, dark murk, under the drips, as the glimmer of light grows larger. As you reach the end, the world re-appears, with the glorious light and the colours; it’s even more enchanting than you would have expected!

Awaiting our time slot to traverse the tunnel

Awaiting our time slot for the tunnel

Tunnel information

Tunnel information

Our trip this year began with a couple of modest tunnels on the first afternoon. The usual tunnel etiquette is to tie up just before the tunnel, send a minion to look through, and if you cannot see any boat or headlight at the other end you are safe to switch on your headlight and proceed.

Our first tunnel was too long to be able to see the other end, and for such tunnels there are time slots allocated to north- and south-bound boats to ensure no head-on crunchy encounters in mid-tunnel.

This is what it feels like in a tunnel: There is very little to see apart from the odd stalactite and ventilation shaft, sounds are strangely ghostly, and the air feels thick and cool. I always find myself thinking of the workers that dug them with pick and shovel. What an amazing amount of hand labour these watery highways demanded!


The Adventure Begins! August 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 16:14
Route planning

Route planning


This year I was determined to extend the pleasure and anticipation of our trip to the maximum (and blogging about it afterwards lets me savour all the delights again, at no extra charge).  I began by ordering a couple of detailed canal guides to areas that we might wish to cruise.


Our starting point was settled fairly quickly: we needed it to be close to Manchester airport so that we could return our hire car (rental car) there before we headed off on the canal.  These wonderful guides show the distances and approximate times between points on a route. Better yet, they also show pubs (yes, a necessity), watering points, locks, winding holes, tunnels–everything you need to know.


A look at the detailed canal guide.

A look at the detailed canal guide.


We would be starting just slightly north of Anderton (at the top of the map above). After a short debate, we settled on doing the Four Counties Ring. Having amicably settled on heading south from our starting point, of course we discovered that our dear 60 foot boat was determinedly pointing north.


Yes, there turned out to be a solution to this: The first thing we had to find was a winding hole (the consensus is that this is pronounced like wind as in gale, rather than winding a ball of yarn).


A very smart winding hole on the left.

A very smart winding hole just ahead on the left.


These are marked on the map as a circle with a number in it. Thus a winding hole marked 60 is not wide enough to turn a 70 foot boat! Watching boats make turns is a matter of considerable amusement for the onlooker, and is just slightly stressful in the doing  for the novice helmsman!

Short course in winding: You have to try and turn the bow into the dip in the bank, and then shuffle backwards and forwards performing a 17 point turn, whilst fervently hoping hoping that there are no boats coming, that the wind will let your bow around, and that you don’t run aground (the epitome of embarrassment).

We successfully achieved this, greeted with modest applause from a nearby moored boat!  We were on now properly on our way.


Our first bridge of many!

Our first bridge of many!

On our way at last

On our way at last




I have been getting some lovely reviews on my new Fearless Knitting class – this class is not just for beginners, btw! Craftsy is having a holiday special, too: Get better-than-ever results with the newest classes at $19.99 and below with my affiliate link! Break through your creative barriers today. My affiliate link!


Special DVD Offers: Have your cake and eat it, too! August 4, 2015

Filed under: DVDs,General Musings,Patterns,Sale,Teaching — happystitches @ 10:19
Filming the

Filming the “Learn With Lucy” series came with a unique set of Challenges and Joys!

When we first started filming the “Learn with Lucy” DVD series, we never thought there would be more than two or three titles, certainly not the eventual sixteen action-packed titles!  Though the process was sometimes grueling, and we did have obstacles to overcome (The great DVD disaster, Spunyarn 27),  the project has been a great success.

The dream team!

The dream team!

We have been selling the DVDs for 9 years now, as one title at a time or through our subscription service.  DVD subscription customers  sign up to receive one or two titles monthly until their collection is complete.  This, too, has been a wonderful success from the start.

My longtime friend, and now committed tech nerd, Corrie, foresaw that physical DVDs, as a means for sharing large amounts of video content, were on their way out. Computers, in happy homage to Moore’s Law, were getting faster very fast, and the price of computer memory was dropping like a stone (or a feather in a vacuum). She took on the challenge of finding a way to convert the information on the DVDs into a video format that could be used for on-line streaming and downloaded for off-line viewing.

Suffering for my art!

Suffering for my art!

This was a nasty exercise, but had to be done, since we did not have the original filmed production tracks. Did you know that web browsers are not in any agreement with each other as to which video format they will show or dis-allow?  After the pain and suffering, all 16 titles were completed, and tested on many browsers (!), so we could now provide knitters with a choice of medium.

The great thing about the video versions is that, once purchased, your videos are stored indefinitely in your Notebook at LucyNeatby.com.

Lost all your downloaded Lucy videos in your Great Computer Crash of 2013? No problem! Login on your new computer: all your things are still in your Notebook and ready to be downloaded anew.

For the above and other reasons, our Video Download versions have become very popular, their sales increasing  all the time. Our Video subscription customers make up about half of those sales now, as well.

While some knitters still do prefer the benefits of a physical disc (can be played on computer and tv screen, better image quality–we are still waiting for less expensive server storage space to happen, so we can afford to store the MUCH larger HD files for you), the trend is towards downloadable products.  This is something that has happened everywhere: to patterns, books, movies and educational courses. Just look at Youtube videos and newer Video Blogs, and the hugely successful courses offered through Craftsy, Coursera and others. Instant gratification is lovely.

Knitting Essentials 1

Knitting Essentials 1: our first monthly DVD Special!

In the wake of this technological tsunami there has been an inevitable decline in our “real” DVD sales. We have not ordered a new crate of “Learn with Lucy” DVDs in quite some time, yet we still have plenty of the titles in-house.  In our ongoing mission to downsize the brick-and-mortar aspects of the company, we have decided that a DVD sale was in order!

  For those of you who want the best of both worlds, we have launched a monthly DVD special, whereby you can get a DVD title with its accompanying Video Download version, for a specially reduced rate.  Our first title is Knitting Essentials 1.  Through the month of August 2015, this real-DVD-plus-video-Download pair will be on sale for $19.99 (plus shipping and tax where applicable)!  

A new sale title will be announced in the Newsbox at the beginning of every calendar month. (Is it too early to think about stashing holiday gifts?) If you already own the disc but would like the virtual version too, this offer will give you a present to bestow on a friend, or guild gift exchange, for the same price as a virtual disc. You’ll just have to watch the offers to complete your set!

Happy Stitches and enjoy Learning with Lucy!

We’ll be back to the narrowboat chronicles next time. (I’m loving reliving the trip for you.)


Have Canal Map, Find Boat! July 27, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 15:22
Taking on stores

Taking on stores

At last, canal trip time arrived! We made it from Nova Scotia to England, and out of the airport. (The anticipation of our ‘messing about with boats’ holiday made even the airport look lovely.)

The very first stop was at Sainsburys for essential supplies and rations; good food makes for good boating.

This was much more fun for us than a typical Nova Scotia shopping trip, due to the novelty of shopping in a UK supermarket and rediscovering all kinds of forgotten favourite foodstuffs–remembrances of ‘foods of yore’ engulfed us.

Action Bridge Black Prince depot.

Action Bridge Black Prince depot.

Half a dozen boats tied alongside the wharf

Half a dozen boats of various lengths are tied alongside the wharf



First Pick Your Canal! July 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 08:56
Tags: , ,
A map of most of the UK canal system.

A map of most of the UK canal system.

One of the hardest decisions about planning a canal trip to the UK is to settle on a particular area to explore. There is a map available that just shows the canals, and the extent of the canal system is quite surprising! The canals started being built in the late 1700’s to facilitate the transportation of heavy cargoes between ports and industrial centers. For us, the choice is slightly assisted by the location of our UK relatives, and we’ve only visited the Liverpool, Manchester, North Wales area as yet. You don’t travel very far in a day, however, you travel at an intimate level with the environment: rapturous birdsong, the scent of roses, glorious wild flowers, eyeball to eyeball with cows, industrial and domestic architecture, local pubs with excellent warm bitter –all can be enjoyed at leisure. We covered about 130 miles in 13 days of cruising!

Our canal choice the first year was settled by the desire to transit the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct in North Wales. This is a justly popular engineering marvel. Link

Crossing the Pontcysyllte aquaduct over the river Dee.

Crossing the Pontcysyllte aquaduct over the river Dee,126 feet above the valley floor. Still super cool, even in 2015!

This year we found a circular route known as the Four Counties Ring that looked appealing and also had the possibility of using the Anderton Boat Lift to lower us down to the River Weaver, 50 feet below the Trent and Mersey canal.

Anderton Boat from the canal

Anderton Boat Lift from the canal

Anderton Boat - going down

Anderton Boat Lift- down and sailing onto the River Weaver

The recently restored Anderton Boat Lift from the river

The next stage of planning is to find an available boat. There are many narrowboat rental companies on the internet. We have used Black Prince twice now, and have been very happy with their boats. More on our trip in the next bucolic installment!The hire company we used.

I’m heading to Tancook island today; I’m taking the “Artisan Bread in Minutes”  Craftsy class with me. This is a great method for making bread with very little work! Zoe’s recipes are easy, and there’s nothing like taking fresh-baked bread with you when you visit friends. Try the class with a discount through my Affliliate Link


What I did during my summer holidays! July 16, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — happystitches @ 13:57
Tags: , ,
Off on an Odyssey

Off on an Odyssey

Please excuse the longish intermission between blogs! I’m back in the ‘land of speeding Internet’ after an all too brief odyssey along a few gorgeous canals in the UK. Now that I’m back, I’m hoping to share with you some of the sights and sounds I experienced along the way. (I’m determined to make this holiday experience last as long as possible.)

Since anticipation can be a delightful part of a trip,  this year I took more time to study the maps and potential routes before we left. There is a large network of historic canals, most of which are navigable. The map shows only canals – no roads. They were the heavy freight highways of the  1800s.

A map of most of the UK canal system.

Canals, no roads, on this map!

It’s hard to decide on which area to explore, but it was made a little easier by the anchoring geography of our various relatives who planned to join us. Last year we completed the Llangollen Canal , lured by the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct. This year our main options were two circular routes, either the Cheshire or the Four Counties Ring. There are a number of excellent guide books with detailed information about the routes, the number of locks, the estimated travel time, the availability of water, canal side pubs, shops etc.

The decision was made and the boat hire location chosen. Then the wait. Ooh, the wait…The hire company we used.



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