Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Five and Six October 17, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Sale — happystitches @ 21:07
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We offered our guests an unparalleled experience on the canals

My friends and I had a happy reunion at Heathrow Airport after my brief sojourn in British Columbia, Canada (see my October Spun Yarn for details).  They joined John and me for a most enjoyable week on the canals before continuing their own UK adventure. We offered them an unparalleled guest experience: sleeping together in maximum intimacy, strenuous exercise, lock wheeling, floor sweeping and learning the art of living with a sewage holding tank…
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A working holiday!

…On a narrowboat you have to unlearn everything your mother taught you about always ‘going’ before you leave the house. We have quickly learned to visit the facilities both on arriving and departing a pub, the supermarket or any other designated place in order to save room.
Queen Bee has a fairly large waste tank, hardly situated under the fixed double berth. We have been carefully monitoring the level and pumping out as needed.  While the tank  does have a gauge, we were warned of its sudden leaps from empty to the red zone – with no interim progression.
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Stocking up on coal from the fuel boat

We were very organized, stopping for fuel and a pump out on our first day out from Ellesmere.  Chugging along the Llangollen canal just a couple of days later, the gauge suddenly took off. A visual inspection of the tank was immediately undertaken – it was 7/8 full. Evidently we were short-pumped at the last stop. A swift consultation of the nav book and we found a hire base, just 2 hours away.  Off we went.  Imagine our predicament when we arrived and found it to be long-since ceased operations!
Our next possibility was another 3.5 hours away and we couldn’t make it that day. We took our chances and made an early start next morning.  All was eventually well – we checked the tank visually this time. It’s amazing how rapidly boat conversations sink to plumbing and electrics. 
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We didn’t find much time to knit, but made the best of it when we could!

Despite the more “back-to-the basics” elements of our time together, we had a most enjoyable visit.  On our last day together, we coasted into town on fumes, dropping our visitors off in Llangollen 
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Starting to feel a chill in the air

Autumn is setting in seriously now.  The air is a confetti of leaves with each wind gust, we see skeins of geese in the sky daily. I’ve been finding myself thinking  about gloves whilst on the tiller in the mornings.
The canals are becoming leaf drifted and we have to stop the engine and reverse to shake them off the prop from time to time. The weather continues to be intermittently showery, we try to shelter the flowers in the worst winds – nearly lost the parsley overboard. The hydrangeas on the foredeck are very popular with passing boaters and walkers, we’ve received many compliments. John says hydrangeas are the new orchids!
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We have established what passes for a routine to our days – up early before first light and underway. By  0730 we are quietly having breakfast (or even tea in bed) and one of us suddenly leaps up starts the the engine, lets go the lines and we are off. We generally travel all day, apart from necessary stops for groceries, water, fuel and pump outs every few days. It’s definitely about the journey; the destination is largely academic.
I find it very hard to be below once we are underway. Although you still have a great view, you can rubberneck better from on deck.
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We seem to have brought a stowaway with us–all the way from Nelson, BC!

Equilateral Hat

This week’s half-price pattern is my Equilateral Hat! This highly unusual but easy construction for a hat may be made from oddments of wool or out of a variegated yarn with a long color gradation. Work a strip of triangles, fold, and mattress stitch into an amazing hat. The Equilateral Hat pattern is half-price ($3.75) until October 19!

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Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks One and Two September 16, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 16:32

Week One:

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Two days before we set off!

We had an interesting and busy few days after reaching the UK: pre-boat shopping and provisioning whilst we still had a car.

I knit quite a few rounds on the Ice Dragon blanket between Heathrow, Somerset, Merseyside and Oxford. And not a stitch for a whole week after having embarked on the Queen Bee!

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Our beautiful home for these three months: The Queen Bee

We arrived on QB with all our provisions and worldly goods in garbage bags (no room for suitcases on a narrowboat). Steve, Queen Bee’s owner, met us for a handover and we moved in. This felt roughly like getting a quart into a pint pot. The boat has plenty of equipment and every locker had something in it.

We sorted ourselves out bit by bit whilst heading to Oxford. The canal and homes alongside were beautiful, but without tying up and going into the city, you really couldn’t see much of the Oxford of dreaming spires, etc. We did get one brief glimpse of Jericho – familiar from Inspector Morse! Next, we started heading north, with one of our first stops just north of Banbury.

After only 4 days, it felt like we’d dropped off the planet.

 

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Heavenly Warwickshire countryside, winding along the contours on the Oxford canal.

 

Internet is tricky and I’m trying to conserve! I’m not getting much time to knit a stitch, but the journey has been nothing but enjoyable so far.

 

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This is my view as I answer my Craftsy class questions!

 

You will laugh, but never have I felt the urge to be so tidy! During the whole first week, in between steering, locks, taking on water, finding fuel and pump-out facilities, shopping for additional gear (bath mat, a few extra towels) and groceries, we sorted cupboards and lockers so that we could fit everything in (and find it again). There is plenty of equipment on the boat: 3 dustpans and their accompanying brushes are handy, but the duplicates and other things we don’t need can be stowed deep in the most convoluted of the available spaces. Tidying up reminds me of the game with 15 squares in a 16 square grid: you have to move one thing to get to another.
J has been entertaining himself by gradually puzzling all the systems out and making fixes – all four burners on the stove now work (and the radio). I’m getting unnatural urges regarding Brasso and polishing.

Having fun on the cut.

 

Week Two:

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I find myself juggling taking photos on my phone while trying not to use too much data. It’s bit tricky to get lock photos and action shots with just the two of us – we are both kept pretty busy.

 

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Hawkesbury Junction, turning on to Coventry canal.

 

After an intermittently rainy morning with a bunch of locks, which run through several appealing historic villages, we entered Warwickshire.  Here the canal meanders along a contour line in an apparently aimless fashion. With many 180 degree bends, it takes 11 miles to achieve 4 as the crow flies. The scenery was magnificent – too expansive for an iPhone. Next, we had a full day with many locks ahead to get through Napton.

The hedgerows are brimming with wild fruit The wild fruits are stunning: hawthorn berries, hops, rosehips, elderberries, sloes, curranty-looking springs, to name only the ones I can name or describe. One morning, I picked a basin of blackberries – they are everywhere along the canal but not often convenient to pick. There are apples, plums and pears in profusion, in canal side gardens and many gone feral.  The fields all look very smart and stripey in their recently harvested condition. The smells and scents of the countryside are delightful. The Oxford canal meanders along the contour lines, so not many locks. It’s such a pleasure to get away from the drone of motorways, hooting of trains, it’s just sad to know that the new planning white-elephant high-speed train will soon be cut through this extraordinary landscape – all to save a mere 20 minutes travel time.

 

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End of the day bliss.

On September 11, I finally knit one round on my Ice Dragon DK Blanket.  I’ve either been too busy, late with dinner, or the evening light on the boat hasn’t permitted knitting or any fine work. We’ve found a solution, though.  There is a small rocking chair on board and, if carefully angled (in the minute available space) so that I can put my feet up, I can then knit by the light of J’s headlamp.  It’s very focussed but works. I’ve got 2 x 40” needles in the work now and a third one to knit with. J has got the radio and DVD player working and the boat has an eclectic supply of discs aboard.

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Enjoying some highly anticipated knitting time!

Of course as soon as I picked up the blanket I discovered a FTRC (failure-to-read-chart) mistake from the road travel knitting, and had to change the colour of the centre line increases from 5 rounds back in eight places on both sides. Grr. Once I had that fixed I was able to proceed. One afternoon we had enough sun, and no locks so that I was able to sit on the stern deck and make my fixes as we transited Nuneaton. However I was exceedingly careful with my short fixing needles and crochet hook not to lose them overboard.

 

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On we go… we have found a good rhythm and are enjoying every moment!

 

 

Not Quite Round the Horn! February 19, 2016

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You probably know that I adore boats, right? Long thin narrow ones on the UK canals, great big seagoing cargo ones, ferries both large and small, and especially ones with sails. Anything boat-shaped really. In spite of that, for a number of years I’ve been resisting various tempting offers to teach on cruises to appealing destinations, on the grounds that they don’t really offer enough working days for the length of time away.

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Woolly excursions!

But now, as part of my newly adopted life policy of  “Sod it, have more fun!”, I just had to say YES to this trip. Imagine my delight at being invited to teach on a 3 week cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, taking the inside passage around the tip of South America! Just the names of the ports of call  give me goose bumps; I recall them from my reading the many tales of the old clipper ship days.

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Woolly excursions!

Just to make it even more wonderful, I’ve been given the freedom to make the subject of the classes my favourite topic: Double Layer Knitting. This is the perfect venue to learn and practice, concentrating either on the basics or taking your DK adventures to a new level. The small class size and long duration of the trip will give us lots of scope.

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Delicious Malabrigo yarns!

We will be making knitterly trips while in each port, including to Malabrigo for essential supplies. My delectable project design yarn has just arrived, and I’m hatching up two projects, one small and one larger, so we will have something for everyone!

The larger project will likely be a blanket design. I’m debating as to whether it should be flat or in the round? What do you think?

Craft Cruises Itinerary

I hope you will be able to join me – this is going to be a trip of dreams!

 

 

 

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.

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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.)

 

A Cautionary Tale…please share January 31, 2015

Filed under: General Musings,The Tradewinds Team — happystitches @ 14:13

You may have seen my Tweet about re-starting my new work year on Jan 26th? The visitors had gone home, family members were back to work, the laundry was even under control, and I was ready to roll. I had a long list of projects to complete and workshop notes to write. I was ready and excited to get going, with creative juices flowing swiftly. Well, the whole thing got off to a very tough start.

I collected the mail (remember those messages that come in envelopes?) from the box on Jan 5th 2015 and began working my way through the correspondence. The bombshell looked every bit  like a mass marketing letter. I opened it, and the world changed colour. (It makes me feel ill writing this even now.)

To preface what follows: At Tradewind Knitwear Designs we totally support copyright rules and policies, obey them, and will support those whose copyrights have been violated.

It was a letter from gettyimages in Seattle, dated Dec 24th 2014: Unauthorized Use Notification ‘copyright infringement’… This was followed by  7 sides more of verbiage that I found very intimidating and a demand for $910 in settlement for the unlicensed use of one of their images from mid Nov 14.

That’s is HUGE sum for the inadvertent use of a picture of a pile of parcels for 6 weeks.

They included a screen shot of our home page, showing the image that they claimed to be theirs. Yes, we had used an  image which we believed to be free of copyright.

I’m shaking even now. I’d rather not relive this, but I feel it is important. There is a lesson here!

We IMMEDIATELY removed the offending picture as instructed. We made sure it was removed from our server as well. We began researching on line. I have only ever used pictures taken by one of the Tradewinds team or paid for and taken by Hillary for us, but in prettying up the home page News box Stephanie had in all innocence found an image on the Internet on a page of Google images–of a pile of parcels–and used it. (Please note, this is not in any way a criticism of our wonderful Stephanie. There are things that she should have been told, and wasn’t.)

There was no indication of any copyright – no watermark, no text; we’ve clicked on it exhaustively since and can find nothing. I failed to pick up on this stray picture (the buck stops here), and it sailed under our radar and onto the home page in mid – late November 2014. So here we had someone demanding money for this.

Did they really have any rights to it? How could we check? It smelled very like a scam. We searched on the company’s website high and low and couldn’t find the image. I even in desperation checked with our US lawyer for her opinion on this situation. “this is horrible, but it is legitimate.”

We called them to see if we could verify that they had the rights to this image and hopefully negotiate a lesser amount. We had used the image in all innocence and would have paid a modest penalty without argument. If their intention was to bring this to our attention and limit the length of time we accidentally used their image, surely an email notifying us to remove it with it would have done the trick and it would have saved two weeks? Even if they promised a letter to follow up the matter of compensation.

They were polite but intransigent, this was very highly valued picture and it had been used for 6 weeks and although they agreed to reduce the total by a small amount, we paid in excess of $700 in the end. That is a large part of our monthly earnings. We have learned an expensive lesson.

Please be warned: there are images lying around on the Internet with hidden identifiers. Use your smartphone–take your own pictures of everything. There are web crawlers out there detecting hidden data so that the pictures can be traced. Read more about this on-line, there are many other sites that have articles too.

Be careful when a third-party uses a picture on your behalf – you are the one that would be liable. Be cautious about re-blogging. Having said that please feel free to share this, it our photo and you may share it with our blessing. To cheer you up after this miserable saga, here’s Poseidon the cat, hard at work.

Poseidon taking on the cares of the world!

Poseidon taking on the cares of the world!

 

Long-Tail Cast On Revisited January 26, 2015

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

I love Long-tail cast-on! It’s so versatile and very easy to control. I opted for showing Knitted cast-on for my Brand New Knitter DVD as it includes so many elements that are repeated in an actual knit stitch and it will form stitches no matter how randomly they are made. But as soon as the basics are established and the knitter is comfortable with stitches, it will be time to explore the Long-tail method. This method is, in essence, a series of stitches (made with the ball yarn) knitted through a series of loops (made with the tail yarn).

It is otherwise known as Continental cast-on – but the name “Long-tail” reminds the knitter that a long tail of yarn is needed. I’m all in favor of helpful names!

In this video I demonstrate Long-tail cast-on and explore some of its many attributes!

I  demonstrate this cast-on by using two colours to differentiate the functions of the tail and ball yarns. It’s important to understand the role of the two yarns. If you use your tail yarn to make the twists around the feet of the new stitches, it can be unpicked or cut away at a later time as a form of provisional edge (not the most convenient one, but it will work).

Estimating the tail length is often cited as a problem with this method.  I recommend 4 times the width of the edge, which is usually perfect. You don’t want to have to economize on tail yarn length because you are running out, else your edge will wind up too tight. The tail yarn controls the spacing between the stitches (and YOU control the tail yarn).

Fear of tangles in the tail yarn sometimes leads knitters to economize on the length, too. No problem dealing with that: If you wind the tail into a butterfly, it keeps it tidy and allows it to turn and release the twists that tend to un-ply, and hence weaken, your tail yarn.

Long-tail calls for a little finesse from the knitter in balancing the tension between the two yarns. There is no reason why the new stitches should ever be tight. There is no need for a larger size needle to be used, either, as this only leads to baggy stitches and won’t affect the width of your edge.  You are in control of the tension and of the spacing of the stitches.

You’re the boss.

If you enjoy my You Tube videos – please tell your friends and sign up for my channel lucyknit

The Air Conditioned mittens pictured above in Abstract Fibers yarn, used Long-tail cast-on before the “holey” edge. This pattern is available in my ebook A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

 

A New Year is Blooming January 16, 2015

An array of double-knitting, from medallions to blankets.

An array of double-knitting, from medallions to blankets.

It’s been a rocky start to the New Year around here and I just can’t seem to get un-mired from all sorts of nonproductive stuff. After a lovely family Christmas, I was all set to get creatively busy, then was suddenly hit by a fusillade of enthusiasm-sapping nonsense.  I just haven’t been able to focus.

However, today a breath of fresh ocean breezes has blown the cobwebs away.

And so, for you, I share a couple of Hillary Dionne‘s wonderful photographs of Blossom and Zinnia. I love her creative staging and use of colour coordinated lobster traps!

A magnificent Zinnia blanket knit by Arden.

A magnificent Zinnia blanket knit by Arden.

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A bouquet of Blossoms.

Blossom medallion showing both sides.

Blossom medallion showing both sides.

Zinnia on the beach.

Zinnia on the beach.

 

 
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