Monday, 26 December 2016

Sabbatical Part 2: The booking, packing and patterns

And so, to the most selfish part of my sabbatical. A whole week dedicated to myself and something I really wanted to do. When I first started thinking about what this might be I had Shetland in mind as I have longed to go to the Shetland Wool Week festival for the last few years. However, the timing of my sabbatical didn't work out with the festival dates and Shetland in November seemed like a pretty wet and windy option. I decided that going on an organised knitting tour would be best for me, mostly so that I didn't have to think too hard about what to do each day, but also so that I could meet other likeminded people. I really am a social person and don't much like spending long periods of time on my own - especially in a foreign country. After a bit of searching the most perfect trip came up: The Icelandic Knitter's Knitting on Ice. I took the plunge and booked it.

Planning for the trip was stressful for me. I'd never been anywhere like Iceland before and couldn't quite get my head around what I was supposed to wear each day to keep the weather out. The advice that 'there is no bad weather, only bad clothing' kept springing to mind. I didn't own any hiking clothing or equipment, but thankfully friends let me borrow key things like a super-warm coat and hiking boots, and then Sports Direct had everything else I needed to buy like a sleeping bag, waterproof trousers, base layers, hiking socks, etc., at a pretty reasonable price. Packing was then another nightmare with so many bulky warm items to fit into one bag. So I ended up borrowing a proper traveller's rucksack from my brother. Lugging that thing through London I felt like I was going on a real adventure.

For the trip I had knitted two jumpers and a hat. The first jumper was the Swirled Pentagon Pullover by Norah Gaughan. I found this in a book I bought for my Mum years ago. She has knit lots of projects from it but I always thought they weren't for me. But this one looked like just the kind of warm and cosy knit I needed in Iceland, especially with its thick roll neck. My first attempt at knitting it was a true disaster. The thing came out HUGE and looked a really strange shape. With a bit of help from my knit gurus I settled on knitting the small size, going down a needle size for the main part of the jumper and down another needle size for the pentagons. Once I had sewn it up I realised that I much preferred it without the roll neck and that I would probably wear it more after the trip, so omitted it. I really like the pentagon neckline construction and the colour of the yarn has received many compliments. If I were to knit it again I would add a lot more waist shaping and try to adapt it to be made in the round for ease of knitting.

The second jumper was a total panic knit. When the Swirled Pentagon Pullover was going so terribly wrong I completely lost my nerve and bought the pattern for Owls by Kate Davis and some New Lanark Chunky yarn to knit it with. My theory here was that if the first jumper wasn't ready in time this thick-and-quick knit would be. And I was right, it only took a few weeks to finish and both the yarn and pattern are absolute superstars. It fits me like a dream, it is warm in that temperature regulating way that wool is and it still looks great after many, many wears. This is unlike the previously mentioned Swirled Pentagon Pullover that was knit in Mondial Bio Lana which, although is much softer than the New Lanark, has pilled terribly and the jumper is looking very worn after only a month or two of wear.

The hat I made was a very last minute knit but has been the item that I have been most complimented on whilst wearing. The pattern is Cable Hat by Dora Stephensen which is a free pattern on Ravelry. The yarn is Third Vault Yarns Gytha Worsted in the colour way Bulbasaur. This was a gift from my friend Wendy at Yarnsub who saw the colour and thought of me. I seriously love the deep green shininess of it. To top it off I chose a Rico Faux Fur Pom Pom in a coral colour to really stand out. I also thought that this colour would be nice and visible should I fall down a crevasse on a mountain or glacier.

As you can see from my photos above I had THE BEST TIME. More on that in Part 3.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Sabbatical Part 1: The Magic

I am so fortunate to work for a company that values its employees and this year after five years of service I was able to take a month long sabbatical. This was such a great opportunity that I wanted to do it right. The majority of the people I work with don't have kids and so all of them instantly suggested I go traveling for a month to South America! Japan! Thailand! But I knew that I wouldn't feel right leaving the Mr. and Flo for a full month and so I planned as best I could to make the most of it, incorporating spending time with my family and myself.

As there is so much to tell you about during the whole month of adventures I had, I thought I'd break it down into its different parts so that it doesn't become a monster to read. Here's a very magical part one.

I began my sabbatical during the UK October school half term and decided to do the trip that I had always wanted to do with Flo; Disneyland Paris. I had visited the park once before when the Mr. had taken me for my 18th Birthday. Yes, we have been together that long. And so this was also a slightly romantic walk down memory lane to return, but this time with our excited six year old in tow.

The best part was that we didn't tell Flo that we were going. So in the dead of night we woke her up and told her to get dressed as we were "going on an adventure". I was expecting her to kick up a fuss and demand to know where we were headed, but surprisingly she went along with it without any bother. When we arrived at the Eurotunnel she asked if we were going to France, as we'd driven there earlier this year. We confirmed that we were, she seemed happy with this as the destination and asked no further questions. It wasn't until we got past Paris and began to see the signs for the Park that the Mr. and I decided to let her know what was going on. I pointed out the sign and asked her to read it. I asked her if she'd like to go to Disneyland and she replied yes. When I told her that this was where we were indeed going and that we'd be staying there for a few days she screamed with joy! Check out my Instagram for the video.

Knitting-wise I cast on a new project in the dark on the drive to the Eurotunnel. I was surprised by how well this actually worked out. I was working on a Secret Santa gift so I won't give away the pattern just yet. All you need to know was that it was worked in SweetGeorgia Yarns Tough Love Sock on 2.5mm needles. I thought this would make good car knitting and I got a large chunk of the project done on the drive to and from Paris. Once in the park I only managed to knit a few rows before bed and a few times in the queues for the character met and greets (man, they were long). But I was glad of having something productive to do rather than just standing there.

Needless to say we had a magical few days in the park and were truly exhausted at the end. The health app on my phone informed me that we did on average 18,000 steps each day. We met princesses, did all the rides, got character autographs, screamed, laughed, cried on occasion with either the overwhelming magic or the overwhelming tiredness and I loved every minute of it.  This was the perfect way to kick off the month; together with my family, doing something of pure childish pleasure and fun. The next instalment as you will see was a lot more personally indulgent!