Year of Projects – week 34/52

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Knitting

I have finished Lintilla and wore it on a walk on Friday where I didn’t even need my coat it was so mild out!!! In mid-February!!!!   I also wore it all day Saturday.  It doesn’t unwrap itself which is great, even when I was walking and it was blowing a hoolie (Scottish for strong winds).

Some progress made on my Void shawl, but only a little.  On the photo below I have included a black and white image so you can better see the pattern on Void.  Also the marker shows progress since my last photo.  It is hard to photograph as its a dark purple alpaca yarn.  I still have just over 3 balls of yarn left….this thing gets so much wider each pattern repeat; I am not sure I will do it full sized.  I was considering making some wrist warmers and then just making Void as big as the yarn that is left over…we will see.

I did a little more sock knitting and although I still have some concerns with it looking small I am sticking with the same pattern and needle size.  I basically haven’t stuck to the grocery girls sock bash KAL at all…I am just going to try to do one pair of socks a month and they may well all use the same pattern!  I am on the heel flap of the first sock.  I should have split this ball in 2 so I could knit 2 at a time, I can’t use the centre pull for the other pair as I have seen too many yarn barfs on others’ blogs so I am too scared.  So I will have to hope 2nd sock syndrome doesn’t strike.  I think it is going to be tricky getting a perfect pair…but we shall see.  As this is my 3rd pair using the Hermiones Everyday sock pattern, it is well on its way to being mindless knitting.  I rarely need to look at the pattern.  I have made some slight amendments that hopefully I will remember on the 2nd sock.

Spinning

I spun the merino, silk and mohair blend into a 3 ply (chain ply).  It is much harder to keep a consistent width of yarn when woolen spinning from rolags.  Before setting it, a quick check against my gauge showed the yarn as fingering weight in some places and worsted in others!  Hey ho!  It is still wet after setting it, so I don’t have a photo.  Once it is dry I will measure it and take some photos for next week.

Other crafts 

No felting or dyeing this week.  I have spent some crafting time reading the Yarn-i-tec-ture book by Jillian Moreno.  It is about spinning the yarn you want.  I also have some editions of the Ply magazine to read and a blog post I found about tips on spinning sock yarn.

The only other crafting I did was to make some more sea glass stitch/progress markers.  Some are already in my project bags, but these are extra ones I may sell at some point.

So it feels not as productive a week as normal, but I am learning from the book and articles, so it isn’t time wasted.  I just wish I could read and knit at the same time, and apparently some people can spin and read at the same time!!!  With this month’s Audible credit I have bought the Sherlock Holmes: The Definitive Collection read by Stephen Fry.  It is about 70 hours long!  This should help me be more productive around the house and garden than I have been watching box sets on Amazon Prime!

My weight has been creeping up and up over the last couple of years and I’m at my heaviest at the moment.  So yesterday and today I climbed the hills behind our house. There aren’t any sheep in the lower fields at the moment, so Ylva and I walked up 5 steep fields yesterday, and today with my husband we did another couple of steep fields beyond…only to find when we got to the ‘top’ that in fact there were even more steep fields beyond!  One day we will keep going and take a picnic.  My heart rate was in cardio for a far longer time than walking the dog anywhere else, so whilst the sheep aren’t about I will keep climbing.  Here’s a photo taken at the top of the 3rd field yesterday…when I didn’t need my coat!  The water is the Cromarty Firth.

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P.S.  I found my non-slip gel, so slippers from last week are now in use 😁

Year of Projects – weeks 9 & 10/52

Not much done…in fact nothing on my YOP list, but I have expanded my stash, which was definitely not on my ‘to do list’ oops!

But whilst in Orkney for a week, you HAVE to buy some wool from the rare North Ronaldsay sheep, which eat the seaweed on the coast of North Ronaldsay and Isle of Auskerry, which are the only 2 places they live.  So when I say ‘some wool’, what I mean is…

  • Enough undyed wool to knit a jumper (6 balls in Seal Grey and 1 in Slate Grey)
  • Enough dyed wool to add some interest to the jumper or for accessories
  • Enough fibre (in 3 different natural colours) to spin goodness knows how much more yarn
Oh and…
  • some silk hankies and silk in colours that will go on the scarf I am going to make for my sister’s 50th birthday (hand dyed on Orkney)
  • And while I’m at it I may as well buy 200g of sari silk because it was too beautiful and reasonably priced not to..despite having nothing to do with Orkney!!!
Hopeless!!
 
Anyway, I did manage to knit a bit of my 3rd hitchhiker scarf, using home spun yarn and did some spinning of one of my first dyeing efforts.
 
If you are interested in seeing some pictures of Orkney, please check out my Week in Orkney post.
 
3rd Hitchhiker scarf (with eyelets on 8th rows)

British 56s spun from first dyeing and drum carding practice
 
North Ronaldsay Aran Yarn

 

 

North Ronaldsay dyed yarn

 

North Ronaldsay fibre

 

Sari Silk

 

Silks

 

 

A week in Orkney

The Orkney Isles are located off the North Coast of Scotland.  Some of its Isles can clearly be seen from the North Coast, like at John O’Groats, where cyclists set off to (or arrive from) Lands End (on the South Coast of England).  For more than 10 years we have looked across and said ‘we must go there one day’…Orkney I mean…never have we thought we must cycle to Lands End 😉

With our reduced income we are exploring more of Scotland with our dog and our tent.  So, finally, we booked ourselves on a week long trip to Orkney.  

We based ourselves at The Orkney Caravan Park in Kirkwall.  A great location as we can easily walk into the town centre, its close to 3 supermarkets and its a lovely campground with lots of ‘extras’, like a campers kitchen with everything but an oven (so microwave, toaster, kettle, fridge, freezer etc.).  Its shower cubicles have sinks and toilets within, plus spare sink and toilet cubicles.  It is next to the leisure centre and you even get 2 free passes if you want to go swimming or play racket sports.

Kirkwall is the capital of the Orkney Isles and is on the Mainland.  There are various ferry ports across the Mainland giving you access to some of the other Isles:

  • from Kirkwall you can sail to the isles of Stronsay, Eday, Sanday, Westray and Papa Westray
  • from Stromness you can sail to the isles of Graemsay and Hoy
  • from Tingwall you can sail to the isles of Rousay, Egilsay and Wyre
  • from Houton you can sail to the isles of Flotta, Hoy, South Walls (there’s also a causeway from Hoy to South Walls)
  • there is also a causeway you can drive across to Land Holm, Burray and South Ronaldsay
So The Mainland seemed ideal to base ourselves for the week.  The most northerly isles are not feasible to do in a day, but we hoped to add to our list of Scottish Islands visited.
 
With the North Sea to the East and the Atlantic Ocean to the West the crossing was a wee bit choppier than we experienced visiting the Inner and Outer Hebrides Isles.  Our steward at the campground said the West side usually has the best weather, so if we encounter rain head West. 
 
Anyway, that’s more words than I usually write, so I’ll get to the pictures!  
 

The Mainland

Kirkwall 

Capital of Orkney, population 10,000.  Lots of 17th and 18th Century houses.
Kirkwall

 

 

 

 

 

St. Magnus Cathedral

The most northerly cathedral in Britain.  Romanesque architecture, built in 1137 and additions made over the next 300 years. It was built for the bishops of Orkney when the Isles were ruled by Norse Earls.

St. Magnus Cathedral

 The Bishop’s Palace built in the 12th Century and the Earl’s Palace built in 1607.

Peedie sea and the Bishop’s and Earl’s Palaces

Stromness

Notice the side street called ‘Khyber Pass’!
Stromness

 

Ring of Brodgar

A neolithic henge erected between 2500 BC and 2000 BC! A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
   
Ring of Brodgar


The Standing Stones of Stenness

A neolithic henge, erected ~3100 BC…wiki says this could be the oldest henge in the UK!  
 
The Standing Stones of Stenness
 
 
 

Scara Brae and Skaill House

Scara Brae is a village (well 8 houses) which pre-dates the pyramids of Giza and Stonehenge, occupied 3180 BC to 2500 BC. A UNESCO World Heritage Site. Skaill House was built in 1620.
Skara Brae and Skaill House

East coast 

East coast facing west!

Mull Head Nature Reserve and The Gloup (sea arch)

The 2nd picture on the left is Auskerry Island, where the wool I have bought comes from.  They are the only other place to have the North Ronaldsay sea weed eating sheep.  There’s just one family on the island.  Gloup derives from Old Norse ‘gluppa’, meaning chasm, it is a collapsed sea cave.
Mull Head Nature Reserve and The Group

Yesnaby

There are some very interesting information boards here, which explain how this used to be part of a lake (below the equator!) millions of years ago and some of the cliffs were sanddunes on the edge of the lake!  That’s my husband and our dog on the top left picture.

Yesnaby

Brough of Birsay

This is an uninhabited tidal island.  The 3rd image is of a settlement, originally Christian (6th Century), then a Pictish settlement (7th-8th Century) and finally Norsemen (i.e. Vikings 9th Century).  The beach is full of beautiful shells, as shown in the bottom picture.
Brough of Birsay

Land Holm

A miniature Isle which is home to the Italian Chapel.  The chapel was built during World War II by Italian prisoners of war, who were there to construct the Churchill Barriers.
 
The Italian Chapel
 

Glimpse Holm and the Churchill Barriers

Glimpse Holm and shipwrecks at the Churchill Barriers

 

South Ronaldsay

Tomb of the Eagles

No photos inside the tomb, but we did crawl in.  16,000 human bones and 725 bird bones were found here.  The tomb dates back to 3500-2000 BC.
 
Tomb of the Eagles
  

Isle of Shapinsay

Balfour is the only village on the Isle of Shapinsay.  Balfour Castle, its gatehouse and douche, privately owned unfortunately…well not for the owners but for visitors to the Island.  RSPB Mill Dam site had lots of birds to spot from the bird hide above the loch.  The Smithy tea room had the best Orkney Fudge Cheesecake and ginger bread…so good we bought more cake to go!  We went on the ferry as foot passengers and it worked out a great half day trip.
Isle of Shapinsay

So to sum up our Orkney holiday…we really enjoyed the Mainland, so much so we only ended up doing one ferry trip to another isle, but we did explore all the ones joined by causeways.  We were blessed with the weather really, it rained some nights but days were mostly beautiful sunshine.  We visited lots of bird hides and spotted some new birds we haven’t seen before.  We ate loads of cakes!  Goodness knows what the scales will say when we are home!  Lots of places were dog friendly and the cafes that weren’t had picnic tables outside if you could cope with the wind!  Allistar did lose a bit of lettuce off his plate outside the Orkney Brewery.
 
I wouldn’t say that history is really my thing…but I am interested in the Vikings and the Norse history of these Isles.  I think we will likely come back and stay on one of the more northern isles, but we think we will rent a cottage and not camp next time.  We slept fine, but as I write this, on our last evening, it is blowing a hoolie and we are in a sheltered spot in the town!  

How craft making and Scotland rescued me

Life before…

My life was consumed with working hard and very long hours to earn money for a few weeks a year of international travel.  We went to many fabulous and breathtaking places around the world including Hawaii, the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Australia, various US states and parts of Italy.  I also travelled to Peru and Bolivia for 31 days as a mix of holiday and unpaid leave (Follow links to see photo highlights).  And so I thought my blog was turning into a travel blog…

The breakdown…

At the end of 2016 I started to burnout and lose control of my mind, I wasn’t coping at work despite (or perhaps because I was) working almost every waking hour and not making enough progress to satisfy my own high standards. By early 2017 I was a jibbering wreck, unable to stop crying all the time and was eventually signed off with anxiety and depression.  When my sick pay ran out I couldn’t face returning to work, stressed at the thought and afraid that my resilience was too weak and I would return to old habits of working every hour and so I requested a 12 month sabbatical (unpaid leave).  So I am due to return in September, unless I resign.

My new life…

Whilst off work I have started doing more craft type things, I have wet felted a hat and a handbag learned how to knit, made some sea glass jewellery, bought a spinning wheel and I’m now learning how to spin.  We bought a tent last autumn and instead of international travel we have been exploring the North of Scotland and some of its many Isles either with the tent or renting small cottages.
I have been blown away by the scenery that we have seen…and with my calmer mindset I can actually be present and fully enjoy being in the moment and after walking 20k steps enjoy an evening sitting in our tent with my husband and dog and knitting another hitchhiker scarf! Scotland has white sandy beaches and turquoise water, okay you need to wear layers, not a bikini…but then you often get a beach to yourselves!
As for my future…we shall see!
October 2017  
Isle of Eriskay, Western Isles, Scotland
 March 2018
Coral beach, Isle of Skye 

 

June 2018
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Sango Sands beach, Durness
Balnakeil beach, Durness, North Scotland

 

A perfect day on the Isle of Skye

We headed to Skye for a week to celebrate our 10th Wedding Anniversary.  I first came to Skye on our 1st Anniversary and we have been many times since, but usually just for 1 night and so we wanted to stay longer to explore areas we haven’t seen yet.  On our first full day we headed to the North West, beyond Dunvegan Castle and up to see Coral Beach.  We were up and out early, so fortunate to be the first ones there, although there were others shortly behind us.  The walk to the beach is only 1 mile each way, we walked a little further around the coast and saw an eagle perched on a rock.   We could also see some seals across the water on a tiny island.

The weather was my idea of perfect, cold enough to need a hat and scarf (made by me!) but sunny and blue skies.

We stopped for our picnic lunch at Dunvegan Pier, and then drove to the Duirinish area and explored the peninsula and walked to Neist Point lighthouse.  This is a tougher walk, it was fine heading out to see the lighthouse but goodness climbing back up was taking my breath!  I say this but a guy walked past us and climbed all the stairs and was then chatting to an elderly couple and he wasn’t out of breath at all…clearly I am not very fit. On our way back we saw a herd of deer.  The only thing missing was sight of an otter…but we have the rest of the week to keep searching for one.

I kept saying to my husband, shall we retire here?  He replied that if it rains the rest of the week I won’t be thinking that.  But on a sunny day Skye really is hard to beat.

 

 

Pre-Christmas trip to Edinburgh

It had been far too long since we had last visited Edinburgh, so Allistar decided to book a last minute trip for a night at the Holiday Inn next to Edinburgh Zoo. We had recently re-joined the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) and so we maximised our visit by going to the zoo on the Friday afternoon and the Saturday morning. On the Friday the pandas were awake but with no tripods allowed and me just using my happy snapper camera and no flash being allowed my pictures aren’t great but I have included one in the collage photo with this post. The Penguins were busy showing off their handsome tuxedo look!

We also had a look around the Christmas market which was a bit disappointing this year, as although it looked large it was just the same stalls repeated multiple times. They were serving tasty hot toddy drinks and I had a lovely mulled cider. Instead of giving out plastic cups they were renting mugs, so that was lovely to be able to wander around warming our hands on our mugs.

We had dinner at our favourite Mexican restaurant, http://www.miroscantinamexicana.com on Rose Street. They have the world’s tastiest nachos. This time I thought I was being clever by sharing medium sized Nachos with Allistar followed by another starter, but I was still full after the nachos….next time I will just have nachos and hopefully have room for dessert!

A lovely 2 days spent and I felt like we had been there longer. Next planned visit to Edinburgh is to see Dynamo Live towards the end of the year.

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Isle of Staffa

Staffa collection

 

We visited the Isle of Mull for the August Bank Holiday weekend.  We stayed in the Pennyghael Hotel, http://www.pennyghaelholidays.co.uk/ , which is under new management and they have a lot of work to do on the hotel rooms to tidy them up (lick of paint, new carpet and replacing some wood in the bathroom etc).  Our room had a good view out to the Loch and there is allegedly an otter that plays opposite, but we seemed to keep missing it.

We took a boat trip to the Isles of Staffa and Iona, on the Iolaire Iona boat.  The water was pretty calm, the main guy who I suspect is the owner came round and talked to each couple on the boat and pointed out different Isles and we could even see the top of Ben Nevis, which is on the mainland.  We really were lucky with the weather.  We got off for a walkabout on Staffa, walked along to Fingal’s Cave and it is interesting to be stepping on these hexagonal basalt formations that were created millions of years earlier.  They are pretty uneven and although I was holding on to the handrail I still managed to twist my ankle, so walking boots would have been a better idea than trainers.  Allistar explored the top whilst I sat and took some photos.  the boat then took us to Iona and we had a wander around the Isle and had lunch in the St Columba Hotel garden looking out across the sea to other islands and Mull.  We went in the Abbey on Iona and had the audio talks, I sat and listened to most of the options in one spot to rest my ankle, but did manage to make it around and see everything as well.

Other activities we did included an eagle watch with the forestry commission/RSPB which would have been better if the eagles had not just fledged the nest a few weeks earlier.   There are white-tailed sea eagles and golden eagles on Mull and we saw the sea eagles, although they were tiny specs even through our binoculars, so would have been good if they had flown a bit nearer to us.  Next time to Mull we will go when the chicks are still in the nest.

Whilst on Mull we also went to The Ninth Wave restaurant in Fionnphort, where we had lobster, which is the first time for me.  We also went to Cafe Fish in Tobermory where I had a smoked fish platter.  The seafood on Mull is a must but I think if we went for a week it would end up being fish overload, but for a mini break it is hard to resist all the seafood.

On our journey back home we stopped at the base of Ben Nevis and had a burger in the Ben Nevis Inn.  As we were sitting eating we kept seeing people coming in all sweaty and hot from their climb.  Loads of different nationalities in there, we enjoyed our food and there is a nice atmosphere in there, fuelled by the sense of achievement of those who had done the climb which was infectious.