Happy Stitches

Keep your stitches smiling!

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: Along the Grand Union Canal July 1, 2018

After having spent some time on the Grand Union Canal, John, Ali’s Dream and I are back on the top half of our canal map!

When we reached Norton Junction, we might have turned left and gone to Braunston, Napton and the Hatton locks on the Grand Union, where we were a month or so ago.  Instead, we turned onto the  Leicester length of the Grand Union. There it magically turned back into a narrow  canal until we reached Foxton Locks.

 

 

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Flowers and cattle! A cloudy but warm morning on the Grand Union

 

Almost immediately, we were out into beautiful unspoiled Leicestershire countryside, with often not a building in sight. Huge fields of very dry arable land. We noticed cracks in the soil in the fields, and maize crops that didn’t seem to be getting much taller. That particular  section was closed last autumn due to lack of water, although we were assured that the near continuous rains of February to April had refilled the reservoirs. Despite that, every time we dropped a double wide lock 70 x 14 x8’, in volume, it felt like a lot of water going downhill. We met up with other boats occasionally and shared a few locks, but were alone for the most part.

Along our way, we took every canal side spur that presented itself. We took the Wendover arm: 6 miles up to a dead end, a windy narrow little channel that suddenly took you past a modern working flour mill, and later petered out in a small turning basin in a field.

The next one was the Aylesbury arm: after many narrow locks we reached a turning basin in the middle of the town that appeared to have been bulldozed and rebuilt without any soul. There were visitor moorings and services there, but we felt no inclination to stay.  After a quick raid on Waitrose, we were on our way.

 

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the irresistible Hambleton Bakery

 

Our next detour was to Market Harborough, which was quite a surprise: a lovely basin at the end, beautifully redeveloped but in keeping with the former port and wharves. We found excellent moorings and services, too. John and I took a short walk through town to the wonderful Hambleton bakery, a butcher, fishmonger, hardware and all sorts of excellent small shops.

 

 

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Halfway down the famous Foxton Locks

Foxton Locks are famous, with two 5-step staircase locks with a small pound between them. There were many gongoozlers milling about.   The locks are interesting in that they let any excess water out into a series of side pounds as you go down. This saves water but makes for a more complex operation. Fortunately there are volunteer lock keepers to keep track of both boats and people!

 

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Beautiful sunset on the Grand Union Canal

The weather continues to be extraordinarily dry and hot.  I have discovered the delights of dipping my feet,  socks and all, into a bucket of canal water.  What a relief, especially when they feel that they might catch fire! In the evenings, we endeavour to moor in the shade.

We are headed towards Nottingham now, then the Erewash canal before heading east towards Shardlow.

 

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Happy Canada Day from Ali’s Dream, John and me!

Hoping that summer has found you wherever you are, Happy Canada Day!

 

 

This week’s sale pattern:

 

 

Happy Canada Day to our Canadian friends and Happy Fourth of July to our American ones!
To celebrate, my  Zinnia DK Blanket and its accompanying Tutorial are our very special downloads of the week.

The Zinnia is a spectacularly beautiful double-layer blanket; something lovely to knit on, whenever you need it. Knit a smaller Zinnia and create a lovely chair pad or coaster!
The Zinnia DK Blanket and its accompanying Tutorial are both half-price until July 5,
Happy July Stitches!

 

Narrowboat Adventures 2018: Our Last Days on the River Thames June 23, 2018

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We enjoyed our last few days on the River Thames, which was busier and busier the further down it we went. We enjoyed viewing all the crazy houses, castles, follies, and wide varieties of boats while also looking forward to more mundane, workaday peace of the canals to come.

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One magical day stood out! We leisurely cast off from our bank in Windsor in the morning (aka, not quite at the crack of dawn), watching  the castle looming larger and larger, then disappearing behind the trees. The canal then looped around behind the Home Park (or castle grounds), giving us a lovely view from the opposite side. The bank was clearly marked: no mooring– trespass being a criminal offence.

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We chugged on as the skies slowly cleared and tied up at Staines-Upon-Thames, where I had a quick meet up with a knitter who lives near the canal!

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We headed on out, past many houseboats of all shapes and types of grandeur, cottages on the little Thames islands, loads of folks out enjoying a beautiful Sunday.

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In one lock which, on that day often had 7 or 8 boats in at a time, we were the largest by miles, with a wooden speedboat, an inflatable canoe, a lovely launch, and a be-fendered plastic boat. We have grown accustomed to those crafts all giving us a wide berth, as we are 20 tons and steel with no brakes. We nearly collided with a thoroughbred  rowing scull awaiting their race at a regatta! There was nothing more I could do than stay in the Channel. Fortunately, they finally noticed our hoot and  looming bulk and realized there was no contest.

 

Shortly after that, we came around a bend to see a very odd craft. Upon closer inspection, we realized she was the Royal Barge Gloriana!  Decided not to take her on (even though she was on the wrong side of the river. You’ll have to take my word for it, she really is spectacular.

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We’d been looking for somewhere to tie up for the day and had been failing for the last couple of hours. I had hoped to moor near Hampton Court but had doubted this would be possible. Then we found one spot that might just be long enough. The boat is 57’. We squeezed in, the gap was 56’ 9”. With a slight overlap of rudders we managed it. Imagine my delight when I looked across the footpath to find that we were right by the golden railings of the back garden of Hampton Court Palace! We went for a little stroll and were surprised to find we could freely stroll around the grounds, rose and kitchen garden. We even saw a flock of green parrots in one of the trees.

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As we were returning to to boat we found we had been locked in at the side gate. Luckily we could see the main entrance and headed that way and were politely let out by a uniformed gent!

Only wish we could have stayed another day to check out the Royal School of Needlework.  I guess it’ll just have to wait until next time.

 

This week’s sale pattern:

#443 Faroese Flower Shawl

The graceful, shoulder-hugging Faroese Flower Shawl is knit in one piece from the neck down. This gorgeous, airy piece features floral lace stitches and an unusual petal trim at the bottom.
A beautiful summer project!
The Faroese Flower Shawl is half-price ($6.00CAD) until June 28,
Happy Stitches!

 

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Lucy’s Advent Sales! December 1, 2017

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

 

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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!

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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!

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Domino Baby Blanket June 25, 2017

Filed under: Pattern highlight,Patterns,Sale — happystitches @ 09:51
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Lucy’s Domino Baby Blanket

 

Have you checked out this week’s sale pattern? Lucy’s Domino Baby Blanket is a straightforward project, resulting in a practical gift with serious heirloom pretensions, suitable for treasures of all ages, newborn to sage.

Perfect carry-around knitting, this blanket may be worked from a single yarn, several yarns or from small quantities of many colours of similar weight yarns. It looks ten times as much work as it is, making it one of those high-yield-of-elegance-per-unit-effort projects. This versatile pattern can be knit using any yarn weight.

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The Domino Baby Blanket pattern is half-price ($4.50 CAD) until June 28!

 

 
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