Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Planes, Trains and Narrowboats! Part 1 February 22, 2018

sy94_beautifulNelson copy

Beautiful Nelson, British Columbia

I realize that my husband’s retirement shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but even two years out there were no formal plans. It was business as usual for Judy Fawcett and me: Plans had been hatched for our next biannual Knitting Adventure Camp in late September 2017, and Nelson, British Columbia was our chosen destination.


Life moved on and, somehow, the idea of a long apres-freedom narrowboat trip intruded into our consciousness and wormed its way into being. DH was set loose on the world in mid-August. We’d both been so busy with work that we hadn’t had time to take our customary two-week boat trip earlier in the season.  This left us with only the autumn months if we were going to cruise the canals in 2017.  September to December seemed perfect… apart from the Adventure Knitting commitment from September 24 to the 30th.

The Queen Bee: our home-away-from-home!

After much discussion, it was determined that the only way to have my cake and eat it too was for me to leave for our UK journey at the end of August, temporarily return to Canada, teach the workshops, then head staight back to the boat as though nothing absurd had just happened. Problem solved!


This manoevre took on the nature of a military operation.
There were several steps to be taken in Canada before the September departure:
Step 1 – May – June: prepare the workshop notes, design, knit and write the Selkirk Mittens pattern.
Step 2 – July: order the yarns for the class knitting kits.
Step 3 – August: pack a large box with my teaching clothes, projector, and knitting kits; ship it out to Judy on the West Coast.
Step 4 – Find a 10 day berth for our boat and book it.  As our rental agreement precluded single-handed operation of the boat, we’d have to find somewhere within 19 days cruising range of our starting point near Oxford. This mooring would also need to be near a railway station, be pleasant for DH, and secure for the Queen Bee.
We hit upon theNational Waterways Museum in Ellesmere Port, conveniently near DH’s mother. Could we book a berth there for the period? Luck was with us – yes, we could! All locked in (both by canal locks and padlocks), she could safely be left unattended if needed for a few days.
Step 6 – Plan the voyage to reach Ellesmere Port in time to catch a train to London to get to the airport to fly back to Canada. We would be picking Queen Bee up from just north of Oxford, and estimated that it would take 15 days cruising to reach our destination.   Bearing in mind that a cruising day may not go according to plan, and that time  also has to be budgeted for food shopping on foot, taking on fresh water, pumping out the sewage holding tanks, picking up diesel, or for canal lock hiccups, we gave ourselves 20 days. We even worked in a contingency plan that I could be dropped in Chester near the station should we be delayed any further.
With all this in place or planned, we were ready to head to the UK.
 Move-In Day
Space is at a premium on a narrowboat (they are not called narrow for fun), so we decided  to empty all our worldly goods into plastic bin bags to take on the Queen Bee, with the exception of one carry-on size suitcase for me to use on my return to Canada.
On the water, at last!
In high spirits and with much anticipation, we set out on our voyage.
Check out our weekly half-price patterns at LucyNeatby.com.
This week we are featuring my Selkirk Felted Mittens!
These mittens are named for the Selkirk mountains that surround Nelson, British Columbia, the venue for my Adventure Knitting camp 2017. This speedy and warm mitten incorporates a number of interesting techniques: a ‘reducing’ waste yarn opening for the thumb, an un-fulled cuff (for maximum draft exclusion) and a tubular bind-off!
The Selkirk Felted Mittens pattern is half-price ($4.50) until February 27,
Happy Stitches!

The SnowFire DK Blanket January 31, 2018



Knit yourself an heirloom with this spectacularly beautiful and warm double-layer blanket!


I’m so thrilled with the responses I’ve gotten to  my newest dk blanket design which was pre-released last week!


I’ve been working on the SnowFire Blanket for many months–I started this project at home in Nova Scotia, it was my constant companion throughout John’s and my time on the UK Canal system, and I’ve been happily knitting on it since my return.


This project makes for wonderful travel knitting: interesting, colourful, technically pleasing, but still portable and fun.  My blanket is certainly well-travelled: as a matter of fact, it is with me in Quebec right now!



The SnowFire DK Blanket pattern is more of a workshop-in-a-pattern, as it includes 15 instructional videos and detailed Stitch-Maps charts.




I had such fun choosing the KnitCircus gradient yarns I would use for the blanket, and am thrilled with the results.  The yarn is gorgeous, a treat to work with and so extraordinarily soft.

How exciting, too, that the good folks at KnitCircus Yarns have put together a yarn pack based on the colours I used for my blanket!




I am nearing the end now, and am applying edge treatments as we speak.  It’s been a gloriously enjoyable project, one which I will miss.



For more tips and techniques in double knitting, please consider joining my Double Knitting Technique Club.  This is the club for all who have discovered the magic of double knitting and are now lusting after more advanced forms of DK sorcery!
My Double Knitting Technique Club is full of an ongoing supply of new techniques in video format supplemented by workshop-style notes.


SnowFire and I on Big Tancook Island in January



Please note that the SnowFire DK Blanket is currently a pattern-in-progress.
While it is still on my needles and the pattern under construction, it is fit for use. I will continue to update it until it is complete with final pictures, video links and layout.


Happy DK Stitches!


Lucy’s Advent Sales! December 1, 2017

Filed under: Advent 2017,home,Sale — happystitches @ 10:11



Today’s half-price pattern is Lucy’s Igloo Hat! Check at LucyNeatby.com daily until December 25 for more Advent Specials!

Join the festivities as we count down to the holidays!
We’ve created a 2017 Advent Calendar Sale and will be featuring one half-price pattern per day until December 25.
Our first door opens to Lucy’s Igloo Hat!
You’ll have plenty of time to knit this delightfully warm, top-down, fully reversible, double knit gift: one side of the hat features a rippling texture pattern and the other sprinkles of colour!
The Igloo DK Hat pattern is half-price ($3.75CAD) until the end of the day!

Check back at LucyNeatby.com daily for more Advent Calendar Specials!




Narrowboat Adventures: Week 13 November 25, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 19:36
John and I achieved a achieved a personal best the other day – we did 16 locks into Stratford-upon-Avon. Not wanting to stay overnight,  we took a quick stroll, had lunch and turned around and went back to just beyond where we had been before, making a grand total of 32 locks. I might need a holiday from my holiday!
We are meeting up with Sam and Cherrie this week: we have a major flight of double locks in mind for them.




No good photos of the gongoozlers or any entertaining jibber-jabber, so this will have to do: as canal boaters, we are ready for any type of weather!

I have some more answers to the FAQS:
What is a gongoozler?
This is the term used for folks not actively on the canal, spectating the activities of boats and boaters. Locks are frequent point of contact where you often interact with people. They will often have many questions. In cities, people peer over bridges and take photos.
Canal conversations are known as jibber-jabber. Boaters love to jibber-jabber with other boaters – often a source of useful information regarding pubs, moorings, tricky locks etc.
amomenttoknit betweenlocks
How are we keeping warm?
Queen Bee has diesel fired central heating, which is independent of the engine. In theory, this is great,as there are radiators along the length of the boat.  However, it has to have a 1/4 tank of fuel available.  If not, it will try 4 times to boot up and then shut you out forever (or until you can find a authorized agent–which might take an equally long time). We’ve had a few issues with this unit – none of which have been caused by lack of fuel!
Our main form of heat is a solid fuel stove – very tiny but then, so is the boat. The stove will burn wood or coal.  Luckily, it’s easy to buy coal as we travel. It’s tricky not to get the little stove too hot or cool, but it is reliable. In any case, the weather hasn’t really been cold thus far, although we are starting to feel the colder weather come in. Frequent work at the locks have me shedding my many layers of clothes very quickly. Standing at the helm, you don’t notice yourself getting cold, until you find that your core temperature has dropped!





Sadly, this will probably be my last epistle from Queen Bee, 😦

We are into our last week on the boat.  We plan to be at the appointed marina on November 29th, for a big spring clean and tidy up for handover on the 30th. We’ll have to find a hire-car and move out. We’ll then head to visit with John’s mum for a few days and then southwest-ish for our eventual departure to Canada on December 10th.





We will be sad to end our fantastic journey in the next few days: what an enjoyable trip this has been!


Narrowboat Adventures: Week 12 November 20, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 17:34
It’s becoming frosty in the mornings, the ropes are rather stiff.
We were lucky with our visit from Elly and Brian last week, with a couple of unseasonably warm days  to cruise up to Shardlow. We also managed to pick them up on time  and didn’t lose them whilst they were with us!  Now John and I are headed towards Birmingham and then onwards to Stratford.

Urban boating south of Birmingham onto the Grand Union.

I have been asked a number of questions and have found some time to answer a few of them today:
Who gets the lock first?
The vast majority of locks are manually operated by the boater. It’s first come, first served, except when the water level is better suited to the boat in the opposite direction. If you are coming up and the lock is full, then the down-bound boat has priority. If no down-bound boat is visible, you may empty the lock and use it. The idea is to not waste water.  Everyone starts from different places each day so there isn’t often a queue – -except at difficult locks and near hire bases.

Into the narrow locks on the Trent and Mersey canal

Is there a time of year when the locks are closed?
The locks are generally available year round, unless there is emergency maintenance. Scheduled maintenance begins in November.  A plan for this is published by early autumn, so journeys can be planned to avoid any major holdups. 

crew at Shipley

Some of the big river locks have automated control boxes for which a waterways key is required. Turn the key, follow directions and press buttons! Other big locks are manned with lock keepers, some of whom are full time staff while others engage volunteers to help out. Starting in November, manned locks and tunnels must be booked in advance, which is not always easy to coordinate.
Do you pay at each lock?
No, the use of the locks and swing bridges is covered with the boat’s licence. Licence costs are based on boat length and other factors — a hotly debated topic amongst boaters. It takes a huge amount of maintenance to keep the system running. At this time of year, scheduled large maintenance work is undertaken, causing closures, known as stoppages for weeks/months to repair and renew lock gates and banks. We have had to adjust our plans to allow for for these. All of that information can be found online.

Bonfire Night November 14, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 19:05



In all of the excitement, I didn’t have the chance to take any decent photos, so this one will have to do! Autumn has arrived: the leaves are gone from the trees and fields are bare. A beautiful scene.

 I’ve always missed the rituals of Bonfire Night (commemorating Guy Fawkes’ failed attempt to blow up Parliament) right back to my first November at sea. I have fond memories of the weeks leading up: the damp  leaves stuffed into old clothes to make a Guy; hauling him around in a barrow in order to solicit pennies; damp, dark nights, with garden clearance bonfires; sparklers and old milk bottles set in sand to launch rockets; the smell of burnt gunpowder; Catherine Wheels that wouldn’t spin; splitting sticks for toffee apples, making and devouring them.
This year John and I scored. We tied up just outside Dunham Town (a very elegant village) and found ourselves adjacent to a field in which a large bonfire had been built. It was November 4th – would they have the fireworks on an non-school night – or wait for the better weather promised for the actual day? Fortunately for us, they were eminently sensible. A shelter was erected and they proceeded (between showers) to give us an excellent show. From the banging and popping further afield, it was apparent that much money was being burned all around. We even had a more distant but repeat performance by full moonlight on November 5th.   I am please to report that Bonfire Night is not dead!

Onward, ho! Only one month now before we head back to Canada.


Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Nine And Ten November 11, 2017


Our beautiful home away from home. There is a lot of hard work and some days are challenging, but this experience has been one for the books, we are loving every moment!

The start of this month found us chasing diesel – not sure how far we could go without running out and unable to purchase a jerry can for emergency supply (not to mention organizing a way to carry it back from a garage) – diesel stockists are few and far between at this time of year.  It was our very dear plan to take the Huddersfield Narrow Canal back south (many, many locks but narrow) and go through the Standedge tunnel  (the longest in the UK) but the vagaries of the Canals and Rivers Trust thwarted us thoroughly and we decided to continue along the Rochdale Canal in the company of our canal-exploring coconspirators aboard the Willow.

Traveling in tandem with our friends aboard the Willow

Traveling in company is fun provided they are compatible – luckily we are! We leapfrogged each other on the run up to Leeds both heading for the one open day at the lock stoppage and both getting caught up at the jammed swing bridge – adversity unites. 
The Rochdale! It’s spoken of with trepidation, and we found out why.  Since the Summit, it was challenging with both excesses of water and shortages. Going downhill is easier than uphill, but many of the overflow sluices are blocked with twigs, which then catch the leaves and effectively impede the water that needs to escape, leaving the locks brimming over at both ends. The canal itself is very shallow, with very few mooring spots and none of them dredged.
Frequently we had a challenge to get alongside at the end of day. The locks came thick, fast and heavy but we had a good system going.

A gruelling but satisfying day transiting Manchester. Disappearing under the arches.

The final day on the Rochdale saw a target of 29 locks to reach the middle of Manchester and a reasonably secure overnight mooring in Castlefield. There are many spots en route where it was not possible or wise to stop. The homelessness visible in Manchester is depressing. One lock in particular was inhabited under the bridge by a full on encampment constructed of umbrellas and tents with all the occupant’s clothes hung on the lock mechanism.
Luckily we were able to get both boats out of the lock using only one gate so didn’t have to disturb or dismantle the residence.

Moored in Castlefield after 29 locks; early to bed!

We made our goal, setting off at first light and tying up in the twilight.

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