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!

 

swappingplacesinastaircaselock

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!

nantwichwaitingintheshade

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: Daily Life June 19, 2018

We retraced our route somewhat at the beginning of the month, and perhaps even enjoyed it a bit more the second time around! The weather was clearer and the views better. The addition of our boarding plank has widened our options for mooring, too.

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Good morning! Beautiful wild roses on the towpath.

Our days are full, and we are usually underway by 0700. Tying up at the end of the day depends on conditions and objectives.

 

Once the engine has been started, one of us heads out and prepares the first lock, and we are off.

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a beautiful day, swing bridge in the distance

Apart from a couple of notable flights the locks have been about every 20 mins, with another 20 spent negotiating the upcoming one.

Between locks we: eat breakfast on the deck. Boil the kettle. Make a cup of coffee.  Clean teeth. Wash up the dishes. Put away the dishes. Clean the bathroom- it needs regular maintenance!  Make another cup of canal coffee. Tend to the plants. Dead head and water the flowers (feed on Fridays). Plan and make water/sanitary/ garbage stop.

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our bed doubles as the charging station!

Tidy up the bed and prep the items for charging (we only have a cigarette lighter adapter to a small inverter- that can only be run after the engine has charged the battery for the engine start for an hour.)

chargingstation

 We can only charge devices whilst underway. Part of the daily routine. Works surprisingly well.

The one battery is reserved entirely for starting the engine, and we always ensure that it is fully charged before charging the domestic ones or the plug in the inverter to charge the devices.

 

Usually only one item can be achieved between locks or swingbridges. No wonder it takes all day!

 

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dinner prep

By 4 or 5pm we are ready to stop, eat, drink and fall asleep. The sun insists on staying up later than we do!

 

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we enjoyed dinner with our friends, who generously shared their laundry facilities. A nice evening for drying, as well!

We had a lovely invitation from friends in Woolhampton. They offered us both dinner AND a washing machine. We couldn’t resist, and luckily caught an excellent drying evening, too.

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lovely temporary mooring stop at Tesco–we were able to shop and load our groceries easily!

 

 

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Still looking down at the water and continuing along our way.

And hardly a stitch knit!

 

 

 

This week’s sale pattern

#662 Celestial Baby SwaeterMy Celestial Baby Sweater is a lovely gift for the newest addition to your family! An easy-fit, easy-knit sweater with button-shoulders for a baby or toddler. Knit yours out of machine-washable yarn, and it will become a treasured garment!
The Celestial Baby Sweater is half-price ($3.75CAD) until June 21,
Happy Stitches!

 

 

Narrowboat Adventures 2018: First Days May 21, 2018

These first three weeks on the canals have flown by!  John and I are having fun on the cut, we found ourselves dropping back into our canal routine rapidly.

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First Glimpse of Ali’s Dream

We found Ali’s Dream easily. We met her owner Jackie  and the rain eased off for our move in with our garbage bags.  Once again, we felt like we were playing a life-size game of tiles: move something to one place, then  move it again for the next item.

We set out early next morning for a full on shop at Tesco, we needed food and various boat-hold items to make life more comfortable!  And then we were off, on the canals…

A quick little diversion onto the Llangollen to meet up with our friends on Willow

A quick little diversion onto the Llangollen to meet up with our friends on Willow

First off, we took a short detour up the Llangollen to meet up with our friends from Willow (we did the Rochdale together last year).  After all, they were only 4 miles, 5 locks and 2 lift bridges away!

We successfully found them, went on a little further to the next winding hole and turned around so as to be facing the way we wanted for the morning. That night, we moored up next to Willow and caught up with news.  Our friends were delighted that we had come to visit.

 

After that, we headed south in our intended direction.

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Blissed out on the canals…

…and suddenly, May was upon us!

Spring arrived late this year. Cows have only just gone out to pasture (they look joyous), trees are budding, and green is the colour of the moment. The first fluff ball ducklings are hatched, swans are nesting and the birds are very vocal. We’ve seen our first kingfisher. The spring flowers are a delight: occasional daffodils ( have they escaped or do they exist in the wild?), celandine, primroses, bluebells, cowslips (haven’t seen these in years), pussy willows all turned to pollen, glorious blossoms on the trees.

The best evenings are spent outside.  One evening I heard a cuckoo calling in the late day sunshine and calm. I hadn’t heard a cuckoo in years.

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We explored a new-to us canal: the Staffs and Worcs, which proved surprisingly rural after an urban start outside of Wolverhampton. The ingenuity of the original canal builders- here James Brindley and the Bratch locks- is astounding.

 

newplantsMay15

We found a Sainsburys store close enough to the canal to come back with more plant pots and compost (and food). John fitted a new water pump and nearly has the boat to to his satisfaction

 

We moored up just outside of Stourbridge More for the  bank holiday on May 7, with unaccountably good weather for the long weekend.

Stourport basin, entering the Severn, reaching Worcester and heading up the Birmingham and Worcester canalMay6

Stourport Basin, entering the Severn, reaching Worcester and heading up the Birmingham and Worcester canal

Stourbridge was very pretty and our gateway to the upper reaches of the River Severn on a glorious day. The River was flowing gently and was mostly wooded on both sides.

We had to turn back off the river at Worcester: a sharp left hand turn, but the river was wide and it was easily done. The first two locks on the Birmingham and Worcester Canal were very wide, giving access to the town dock basin for much bigger river boats. We then began our journey towards the Oxford Canal back on narrow channels.

 

Bank holiday Monday turned out to be a scorcher. We went from bringing the plants in for fear of frost to midsummer temps. This was also the day when there appeared to be a problem with the charging of the domestic batteries. The fridge shut down, the newly installed water pump gave up, and on and on! We called in to a small boatyard for confirmation of the diagnosis and the aid of many fuses, a work-around, and some shore power to perk things up we were eventually back underway.

 

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Readying ourselves for 36 locks in one morning!

Next day, we completed the Tardebigge Locks – a personal best with 36 locks before lunch!

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at the top of Tardebigge Locks

We started very early in case it should be as hot as the day before.  There were was no one ahead of us and, amazingly, almost all the locks were set in our favour. This meant that the last boat through had been downbound the day before, leaving all the locks empty (except for a couple that had filled or partially so owing to leaks). A huge saving in time and effort for us! The weather was cooler, the heatwave over thankfully.

36lockslaterMay8

This saw us onto the Grand Union Canal and into double wide locks. This was the last leg of last year’s journey but, unlike last time, there were other boats around with which to share some of the locks. This can be fun, as you meet and chat with other boaters, exchanging jibber-jabber. Or you can catch up with a single-handler who has been out so long that he has apparently lost the ability to speak, and end up doing twice the work to help him through. It takes all sorts on the canal!

interiorMay3

the interior of Ali’s Dream–home away from home!

We’ve had a few fun nights with squeaking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors and I’ve become expert at finding them and replacing batteries! Otherwise the engine controls are working like silk, the fridge is staying frozen, the shower can get both shoulders wet simultaneously, the new water pump is working and life is good.

tiedupMay17

On the bank, the moorhen chicks are hatching, the mallard babies are getting bigger (but still insist on trying to race the boat – whilst peeping frantically for mum), the yellow iris are appearing, the lambs are getting tubby. Sheep are nothing but eating machines. We’ve seen two batches of cygnets. The new flowers are planted (we might need a longer boat to accommodate them all!) Now headed for the Thames and new waters in a day or two.

 

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Some evenings, I even find time to knit!

 

 

 

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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.
ukprep

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

 

snowfire

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.

 

 

knitcircus

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: Week 13 November 25, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 19:36
almostinStratford
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!
locks
We are meeting up with Sam and Cherrie this week: we have a major flight of double locks in mind for them.

 

 

rainy

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!
Lucypull

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

sayinggoodbye

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

 

 
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