Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

Narrowboat Adventures 2018: A Fond Farewell July 22, 2018

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It’s over. We have departed from Ali’s Dream.

We made our way super, extra, very slowly the last 1/4 day, stretching it out as long as possible.  We meandered back to Swanley BridgeMarina, to allow time for a last canal coffee, and to savour the last 5 locks.

In total, we completed 939 miles and 874 locks in 81 days (not to mention several bottles of Baileys – the essential ingredient in our canal coffee).

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a last bit of knitting while enjoying another glorious sunset

We filled Ali up with fuel, did a few pirouettes and backed her into a very slender berth. Then followed 24 hours of washing, polishing and sorting. I achieved my Fitbit goal and then some just on dashing to and fro between the boat and the marina laundry!

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Jackie-the-Boat-owner made a few queries about us being happy to get back to a flush toilet and ample water flow but, honestly, a washing line and good Internet connection were all I’d missed.

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Our last was another stunningly beautiful morning but, strangely, between locking the boat and reaching our hire car, there were raindrops. Actual rain drops. This turned into a light shower, requiring windscreen wipers and creating modest puddles. Not enough to break the drought, but it did help to make our departure easier.

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Thanks for reading and joining in John’s and my summer adventure. And now I’m signing off from the cut…

I’ve started putting out feelers for next year’s boat.

 

This week’s sale pattern:

 

 

The  versatile, multi-size Lighthouse Bag is another fun summer project! It is worked in the round in a spiraling lacy pattern that gradually decreases as it winds its way up the bag to finish in a short-row Spider strap.
This quick project requires very little finishing and can be felted to make it resistant to stretching.

The Lighthouse Bag pattern is half-price ($3.75CAD) until July 26,
Happy Stitches!

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Narrowboat Adventures 2018: Along the Shropshire Union Canal July 16, 2018

 

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Our last week has been just about ‘perfic’- warm but shady, a breeze, a view, cows in the distance, knitting, feet up, dinner cooking!

We took a little side trip along the Middlewich Branch the other day. This east-west canal usually connects two major north south canals, the Shropshire Union and the Trent and Mersey. Months ago, there was a major breach near Middlewich, draining the canal.  It’s going to take a lot of time and funds to fix it and is causing a lot of problems to boaters,  the businesses situated on the canal, and hire boat companies who promote the Four Counties and Cheshire cruising rings.

 

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along the Shropshire Union Canal

 

You can go along the canal as far as the temporary dams.  You can only get to the the last winding hole before the problem, unless you like going in reverse.  So that is what we did! We met up with some friends at an excellent pub walking distance from the canal. The canal was noticeably lifeless.  Apart from regularly moored boats, there were just a couple of visiting boats in the whole length that we traveled. The water, not moving much now, had become distinctly scummy and the two marinas, normally bustling,  were ominously quiet.

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Back in Chester after a day on the locks!

We then returned back to the mainline Shropshire Union and continued on up towards Chester. Here we devised a plan to get John’s mum to the boat so she could spend a day with us. Deciding that a tour of all the locks in Chester would be ideal, we cruised through the 8 locks. These are big and heavy and it was hot work. After going down the 3 step staircase lock, we turned around and went up again, returning back to where the hire car had been left.  We had time for a drink at the pub,  dinner on the boat, and then John took his mum back home!

 

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oncoming traffic

Yesterday marked Day 70 on Ali’s Dream.  We had an early start, completing 25 locks before lunch. The flight was fairly busy and we had a good number of locks.  This was very easy, as an uphill boat would exit the lock as we left each downhill one. Going downhill in narrow locks, after entering and stopping the boat, the helm can close the back gate and wind up one of the two paddles, and then hop back on the boat before it gets too low. The half-width gates can be opened, first the towpath side, then hop across the lock and open the far side, boat exits, whilst the far side paddle is lowered, far side gate closed, hop back and repeat and on to the next one. It appears that some 700 locks have honed us into a slick team!

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No need to warm up with soup during this hot summer1

Things are starting to wind down.  We are beginning to whittle down our supplies. However, the cans of soup purchased for a quick warm lunch on a cold day, will remain in the cupboards for Ali’s next journey.

 

This week’s half-price pattern:

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Socks are a fun, portable project!
Lucy’s charming bead-topped Double Diamond Socks feature a choice of two different diamond patterns. The Diamond Lace gives a traditional lacy effect, while the Waffle pattern gives a denser, more textured look.  A lovely treat for your feet!
The Double Diamond Socks pattern is half-price ($4.50CAD) until July 19,
Happy Stitches!

 

 

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Narrowboat Adventures 2018: Cruising into July July 8, 2018

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Breakfast on the sun deck!

July made its appearance in the midst of a heat wave. A UK heat wave usually only lasts 2 days, but this one has held out. We’ve adjusted to the weather by setting off even earlier in the mornings to catch the cool bit of the day.  It’s too warm to do anything other than read, and definitely too sticky to knit.

 

 

 

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Langley Mill at the top of the Erewash Canal

 

We celebrated Canada Day by doing 16 wide beam locks, making it up to Langley Mill, at the end of the navigable Erewash Canal.

The Erewash was rehabilitated from a stagnant swamp in the late 70s, and what a transformation it is! The water is crystal clear (you can see right to the bottom), with a disconcertingly vast number of fish. It’s hard to stop gazing at them and pay attention to steering! The fish are mostly 6” and smaller, but when walking up the towpath between locks I did spot a couple of pike at least a foot long lurking under the lily pads.

 

 

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We took a diversion the other day.  We were going to head north at Autherly Junction and get onto the Shropshire Union, but then I received a message from Riverknits on instagram that we were very nearby one another. It appeared that, if we turned left onto the Staffs and Worcs canal and headed down about 12 locks, we might be able to meet up. John and I decided to give it a go.

 

Becci and Markus arrived a hour or so after we tied up. Their range of mini-skeins dyed in 72 colours was most impressive. All of the dye-work is performed on a 60’ narrowboat (with a 2 1/2 year old underfoot)! Formerly conventionally employed engineers, maternity leave and a redundancy payout spurred Becci and Markus into trying yarn dyeing full time. I’d say they’ve found their niche! They sell the prepared skeins at shows and through their web site, taking parcels to the post office nearest to where they happen to be tied up!

 

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25 hot locks before 12:30!

We’ve had our conference with Ali’s owner, and she’d like the narrowboat back at Swanley  in about two weeks.  It’s a bit shocking to have such a finite period, but now we can plan our final couple of weeks (assuming we don’t succumb to heat stroke).

To finish our trip off we plan to head up the Montgomery Canal. This is a fairly newly reopened branch off the Llangollen that we have never had time for on our other trips.  We have to book passage through Frankton Locks in advance.  This is limited to 12 boats a day, so we have to determine when we will be there and when we will return.

 

 

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This week’s sale pattern:

Wow, it’s hot out there!
Lucy’s cool cotton Swirling Sun Hat is a quick summer knit requiring little finishing. Knit the lace brim to fit the head, pick up sts around the brim, and work in the round up to the crown.

A quick and satisfying hot weather project!
The Swirling Sun Hat is half-price ($3.75CAD) until July 12,
Happy Stitches!

 

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

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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.
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Preparations

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.
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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.
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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

 

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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!

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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!

 

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

 

 

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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!

 

 

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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.

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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!

 

Narrowboat Adventures (and Beyond!): Weeks Three and Four September 28, 2017

The time is flying by and suddenly, Week 3 has morphed into Week 4 and I am back in North America!

I won’t be on this continent for long, though.  I’m spending the week with my Adventure Knitters in beautiful Nelson, British Columbia.  More on that later…

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approaching Chester in the fog

 

Into our 3rd week, we were settling into a slightly more leisurely pace.
Leaves were beginning to fall from some trees. On one lovely evening, we tied up under an oak tree and spent the night listening to the staccato machine-gun style rattle of acorns with every gust of wind. Our lesson: on nights when there are strong winds forecast, we won’t plan to moor under any type of tree in case of larger things than acorns breaking loose! 
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my last day on the Queen Bee, working the locks

For the last two weeks on the boat we’d been setting our sights on reaching Ellesmere Port or Chester on September 20th – not a tall order by car, but on a narrowboat (traveling at walking pace) you have to allow time for lock delays or other unexpected happenings and you can’t just hurry up.
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Chester Locks

 I had a train to catch that Wednesday to get to Heathrow – hard to take a break from your journey, but needs must! John’s plan was to visit his mum and clean and do laundry. We also planned to offload any summer or unwanted gear – anything for space.
We had gradually been learning how long we can go without taking on potable water, fuel, and how to judge the holding tank gauge for just-in-time pumpouts! Finding garbage drop offs can prove challenging, the Canals and River Trust have been removing skips from some of the watering points …. there is a quite a bit of fly tipping in evidence under the railway bridges.
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all moored up, Ellesmere Port

We’d taken Queen Bee to Ellesmere Port National Waterways Museum, to moor up whilst I’m away. The museum is situated on a basin accessed by a couple of locks and offers a snug protected berth.  In fact, we’ve become part of the exhibit!  Gongoozlers were busy taking pics as we came through the locks. We offloaded bin bags full of laundry  and excess gear.  John is taking the opportunity to stock up with dry goods and tonic water, which we constantly run out of! 
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Chester Train Station

I was prepared with clothing and a small carry on case to be able to leave the boat as we passed through Chester and walk to the railway station.
As it happened we had a day in hand and decided to moor up Queen Bee and rent a car (had to walk to get that), and visit my mother in law for a night before my departure.
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All my connections worked and I had a really good journey to BC, using boat, car, train, tube, taxi, plane, feet for transport!

Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Nelson.
I was dropped at Chester station and caught a train to London. This was a little like narrowboating in reverse, as the train line frequently criss crossed the canal that I had spent the previous 2 weeks on – it looked very tranquil on the cut. 
This felt cruel, having chugged alongside train tracks on many occasions over the previous couple of weeks.  Now I found myself on a train, catching glimpses  of the canal. It all looked so peaceful, rather like looking at a model scene. I saw the locks we’d recently been through and several boats on the move.  I couldn’t exactly identify them without a map and they look so different from inside a train.

I then caught the tube across London during rush hour to get to Heathrow.
Next I had to find the hotel that I had booked! Couldn’t locate the shuttle buses so took a taxi. In the morning I was successful in catching a bus back to LHR and flew to Vancouver.
Here I was picked up by Judy, my Adventure Knitting co-conspirator, and conveyed to a very welcome bed and hot shower. We set off early the next morning on the 10 hour up-and-down car journey to Nelson, crossing several mountain ranges. The huge trees and craggy mountains were quite a contrast to the flatness of canal travel.

And now that I am here, let the Adventure Knitting begin!

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I felt like I’d just taken part in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but here I am in Nelson, BC!

An afterthought…

My Almost Saintly Socks is our half-price pattern of the week!
An entertaining project for the ardent sock knitter, for those in search of an interesting foot-suntan pattern, or those with naturally hot feet! The scallop holes stitch pattern sets off hand-painted yarns beautifully.
The Almost Saintly Socks pattern is half-price ($4.50) until October 3!

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Half-price pattern of the week!

 

 

 

 

The Mardi Gras DK Blanket July 23, 2017

The Mardi Gras DK Blanket is only the second of Lucy’s double-knit blankets that we’ve featured as our 1/2price pattern of the week and it’s a real beauty!

Lucy Neatby's Mardi Gras DK Blanket

 

 

 

A spectacularly beautiful and warm double-layer blanket, this engaging knit will hold your interest. The linear nature of the motifs makes the pattern easy to follow, and any portion may be used on projects of all sizes, from coaster to blanket. Small ones are great fun, but a blanket is lovely to knit on; a dependable companion to work on whenever you need it.

Lucy’s Mardi Gras Blanket was knit using Malabrigo Yarn, but any fingering-weight yarn will suit this project. This pattern features detailed written descriptions, as well as diagrams and graphs, as well as PatternGenius and Stitch-map-style charts!

 

 

Here is Part 1 of the Circular Tubular CO method that Lucy uses to begin top-down double-knit hats and all of her DK blankets. It’s so elegant!  See Lucy’s  free YouTube Channel for parts 2 and 3!

 

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Some of you may remember this blanket from our last Pattern-In-Progress Club: it’s hard to believe the official pattern was released over a year ago!

 

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The Mardi Gras DK Blanket is on sale until July 26!

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