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Narrowboat Adventures: Week Eight November 5, 2017

Three days in Leeds. We timed our arrival at Hurst Lock perfectly, arriving in the morning of the day before opening. We tied up for the day, conveniently near to a pub (great wifi) and took a taxi into Saltaire. This model village was built by the wealthy and philanthropic industrialist Titus Salt, his huge main factory building is now being restored and turned into art galleries and designer shopping. The workers houses of the village are privately owned homes and all look very much as they originally did. It’s a magnificent place to walk around.
There were three boats now gathered awaiting the one day lock opening. 
Saturday morning saw all the boats easily through the the partially restored lock and on our way until two hours later … People on the towpath started to call out to us that the next swing bridge was broken and couldn’t be made to open. Sure enough, the other two boats were tied up waiting. The electrically controlled swing bridge wasn’t responding to commands. A canal and river trust guy was already in attendance, but the bridge remained steadfastly closed to both road traffic (the gates were down) and boats.
Eventually at about 1600 it was decided that the bridge could/should be manually hauled open to let the boats through, before the technicians called it a day. 

Here we are off the L&L canal and on the Aire river,  moored up by the Armoury in Leeds Dock. Still waiting.

We headed on our way to our evening rendezvous with John’s sister, after losing most of that overcast but dry day,  then things went downhill as drizzle turned to rain, and the breeze picked up into a hooly. It was one of the forecast “named” storms arriving. We looked for somewhere to moor but were defeated by concrete ledges along the canal edge and had to keep going. As the wind strengthened and we became completely soggy the need to tie up became urgent. We eventually blew into the one remaining berth just outside Apperley Bridge and gratefully called it day. We cancelled all attempts to meet up and hunkered down by the fire.

found some time to work on my aqueduct tea cozy!

I finally had a moment to pull out the graph paper  (Stitch maps printed blank before I left) and began working on the design for next section of pattern for my DK blanket and began the arches on my Aqueduct tea cozy.

taking on water in Leeds

Leeds was getting closer, mile by mile. The L&L is 127 1/4 miles in total. 
We pulled into the Granary Wharf to overnight before tackling the River Aire. We’d been told that the river was running high (as a result of the storm draining off the Pennines) and knew that we would have to wait until the water gauge was at least in the orange (ie. proceed with caution). 
We waited. The Granary Wharf gradually filled up with the other boats met at the bridge hold up. It was a convenient place to wait, other that there being no potable water or diesel available nearby. We were right in the old heart of the city, surrounded by restaurants, pubs and a wonderful market. We were also almost underneath the railway arches. The first morning the gauge dipped into the orange and we walked along the river to check the navigation challenges that awaited and by the time we returned, the gauge was back in the red again. 



Narrowboat Adventures: Week Seven October 25, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Travels — happystitches @ 20:00

A detail of the Leeds mural

 The Leeds & Liverpool Canal is 127 1/4 miles long and by last Friday, we only had 19 1/4 miles to go.  What adventures we have had on this stretch of the UK waterways!

I’m very familiar with the mileage as every milepost along the route shows the L’pool distance on one side and the Leeds on the other (always including the 1/4).   We were at the halfway mark about 12 days ago.

We successfully met up with our friends from Denver last week (they managed to spot several birds that we didn’t know existed, including a chough), and weathered the winds from Hurricane Ophelia that raked Ireland.

We made it to Skipton AND had our pork pie!

We spent a lovely day in Skipton, a beautiful city with enough bakeries, chocolatiers, and pie makers for an armada of boats. It’s hard to not overbuy with more food than we can store or eat! Later that week, we finally gave in and carried out a washday in Silsden, taking it in shifts to monitor the machines which all took different kinds of coins and tokens.

Boating in the rain is more fun with friends!

We then completed another successful rendezvous for our friends to be whisked on their way to York. We’ve had some heavy rain of late but have been managing to stay warm with the coal stove.

Standing at the top of the Bingley Five Rise locks: 60 feet in 5 staircase locks.

We came down the Bingley Five Rise staircase locks on Friday morning –  an impressive 60’ drop in only 350’ distance – I was glad of the on-duty lock keeper to assist. This is not the place to make a mistake. Some very substantial timbers are used to hold back the massive weight of water.

Knitting at Leeds station: I have actually started on knitting an aqueduct tea cosy.  Whilst waiting for the river level to subside, we made a quick visit with relatives, laundry in tow. 

 We arrived in Leeds on Monday!
After Leeds, the canal magically turns into the Aire and Calder and we will continue on towards the junction for the Huddersfield Broad Canal.

Flowers on the canal, Leeds

We are about at our halfway point now after having lost 10 days in September. We have managed to reach the damaged Hurst Lock 19 in time for the one day opening before they continue the repairs for another week – this has been our goal time-wise. However it looks as if we will have to go back via Manchester as the Marple flight is still out of action.

swing bridge in Skipton

Approximate figures to date: Distance 480 miles, 6 1/4 furlongs, 259 locks – not to mention 80 (24 usually open) movable bridges, 13 tunnels and 126 aqueducts or over-bridges.

Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks Five and Six October 17, 2017

Filed under: Canal boat,General Musings,Knitting Travels,Narrowboating,Sale — happystitches @ 21:07

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…

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.

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. 

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 

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!
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.

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…


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! 

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.

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.

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! 

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.

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!


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!


Half-price pattern of the week!





Narrowboat Adventures: Weeks One and Two September 16, 2017

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

Week One:


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!


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.



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.



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:



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.



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.



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.


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.





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



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!




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!



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



Domino Baby Blanket June 25, 2017

Filed under: Pattern highlight,Patterns,Sale — happystitches @ 09:51

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.


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


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