Monthly Archives: October 2011

Horsey, Horsey don’t you stop!

Posted on 31 October, 2011

Just let your feet go clippity clop
Your tail goes swish and the wheels go round
Giddy up we’re homeward bound

I went for my first horse riding lesson at the weekend!  It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for quite sometime, as my daughter has been riding horses since she was six (she’s now fifteen).  My daughter makes it look so easy . . . I wasn’t long in finding out, it is anything but!

This is Charlie from Darwhilling Equestrian and he was the pony that I rode for my first lesson.  He has such beautiful eyes, doesn’t he?  He doesn’t look very big, but when I sat in that saddle for the first time it seemed a very long way up!

After leading him into the indoor school, the first difficult task was climbing on.  It wasn’t a pretty sight.  I almost had a panic attack when the instructor told me to take my feet back out of the stirrups so that she could adjust them and then again when she had to tighten the girth.  Sitting way up there just didn’t feel natural at all.  It probably didn’t help that I had that one piece of advice my daughter had given me beforehand ringing in my ears:

“The hardest part of riding a horse is the GROUND!”

I know it was covered in sand, but I’ll bet it’s still hard when you hit it!

Stirrups and girth adjusted and we were off.  After a few times round the school with the instructor by our side, me and Charlie were allowed to go round on our own.  I thought we were going at a good pace, but when I watched the videos later that night I realised that there were snails moving around that school faster!

After walking around the school a few times with Charlie on my own, we went for a little trot, led by the instructor of course.  I was too much of a big fearty to go on my own!  I must’ve looked like a big sack of tatties getting thrown about at first, but I got the hang of that rising trot in the end (I think).

It was a very quick half hour with so much to take in and try to remember . . . straighten your shoulders, push your heels down, try to stay relaxed, keep your thumbs pointing up, look ahead and not down at the horse . . . I hope I haven’t forgotten it all when I next go along.

A final wee pic of me with Charlie . . . see, I didn’t break him!

My daughter had a lesson on him the next day, and that wee show-off had him cantering and jumping over poles.

I had a great time and can’t wait to go for my next lesson xx

My Winning GSoY Designs . . . oh, and the event!

Posted on 25 October, 2011

WOW!  What a weekend!  Not only was the Glasgow School of Yarn event totally amazing, but I also WON the Design Competition!!  I found out on Friday evening that I had won . . . it’s now Tuesday afternoon, and I’m still feeling slightly giddy.

This is my winning  designs . . . my Beloved Rose Beret and Beloved Rose Bag.  The judges couldn’t decide between the beret and the bag, so they grouped them both together into a set and made that first prize!  Words can’t describe how I feel about winning this competition.  I’ve been on Cloud Nine since Friday evening.  I woke up on Saturday morning and thought it had all been a dream . . . a very, very fabulous dream.

I knitted my own initials into the rose motif.  As my first name is Amanda which means ‘worthy of love’ or ‘beloved’, I called these designs the Beloved Rose Bag and Beloved Rose Beret.

My 3rd entry to the competition was my Shoji Bag . . . named after the Japanese shoji screens from which I took my inspiration from.

I love this photo . . . it’s my favourite of all the photos taken that day!

My OH and daughter were the only 2 people to see my completed designs before the hand-in date.  I didn’t show them to anyone before handing them into The Yarn Cake, as I was so worried that they wouldn’t be good enough for competition entry.  I’m feeling kind of silly about this now, and wish I had taken them along to my local knitting groups more during the design and knitting process.

Here’s a pic of me getting my goodie bag on Friday night from Antje and Amy Singer (taken by SarahLouise).

Thankfully, I had a few good knitting friends there that evening to remind me of everything that was said and happened, as my brain kind of turned to mush after Antje picked up my beret just before announcing the winner.  She could’ve been speaking German for all I remember!  It was an amazing evening, and not just the winning part, I also got some very nice comments/feedback from Amy Singer, Ann Kingstone and Carol Feller.  I still find it hard to take in that knitting celebrities were talking to little old me!!

Here’s a photo of all the entries to the competition, and as you can see there was a stunning collection of knitted items. . . scarves, hats, gloves, socks, shawls, a cape, handbags and a needle roll too!

Earlier that day, I was one of the volunteers during the morning session before attending the Stephen West workshop: Color Play, the Westknits Way!  The workshop was fantastic . . .  I spent 3 hours in the company of the fabulous Mr West, I picked up a few hints ‘n’ tips and got to squish Stephen’s wonderful knitted garments (oh, and see them up close too).  I’ve looked at Stephen’s patterns on Ravelry and thought all the colourwork would be difficult with lots of ends to sew in.  How wrong was I?!!  I’ll be trying out a few more of his shawls soon and playing more with my knitting the Westknits way.  Thank you, Mr West.

Here’s Stephen explaining the construction of his Daybreak Shawl (quality not great on these next few pics . . . sorry, they were taken with my iPhone).

I loved these Diamondback Mitts and Thornton hat, and would like to knit them . . . maybe even for my OH!  He never lets me knit for him, but I may be able to talk him into wearing these.

Mr West again in front of that fantastic stained glass window!  There’s a tiny, little Ann Kingstone hiding just behind him.

Stephen was signing books at the event on the Saturday.

You wouldn’t believe how many handknits he brought along with him!  There was something different to wear every day for at least a month.  There were also loads of his shawls being worn by knitters at the event.  The Yarn Cake should have run a competition . . . ‘How many Stephen West shawls can you get into one church?’  He’s obviously very popular and his designs are well loved by the knitting community in Scotland . . . and quite rightly so!

The market place was like a little wonderland filled with loads of yummy yarns in the most scrumptious of colours.

I didn’t get a photo of the Colorimetry stall, sorry!  I really liked this two coloured shawl on the Skein Queen stall, and that Yarn Tree . . . I wish I had one of these growing in my garden!

I didn’t take any photos of the interior of the Mackintosh Church as I was there a few weeks ago on ‘Doors Open Day’.  You can see those photos here.

Thanks to Antje, the staff at The Yarn Cake, all the volunteers, the traders, the knitting designers and the Mackintosh Society for a totally amazing couple of days.  Looking forward to next year already!

The Glasgow School of Yarn

Posted on 15 October, 2011


It’s less than a week until this event takes place, and there’s only a few days left before I need to hand in my knitted designs for their Design Competition.

I’ve been working on a few different designs over the last two months and have four completed items.  Unfortunately we can only hand in three designs, so I now have to decide which one to leave out!

I’ve been very busy over the last couple of weeks knitting up my designs, writing up the patterns and taking photographs of the completed designs.

I went over to Eglinton Country Park with my OH yesterday to take photos.  It wasn’t the best of days weatherwise, but the park has lots of nice areas.

There’s the ruins of the old Eglinton Castle,

a beautiful tree lined walkway,

and also the recently renovated Tournament Bridge.

This bridge is one of my favourite spots within this park and I was delighted to see that it has been renovated.   Eglinton Castle was the scene of the last great medieval tournament in Britain in 1839 and Tournament Bridge is the only surviving relic from the time of the Eglinton Tournaments.

They’ve made a fantastic job of the renovations, and have even re-decked the walking surface of the bridge.

It must have been a magnificent sight during the medieval tournaments to see the knights coming across this bridge on horseback heading to the jousting field next to the castle.

Now when I publish my patterns, you’ll be able to spot all the areas where the photos were taken inside Eglinton Country Park! x

Pumpkin PicKnit

Posted on 11 October, 2011

On Sunday, I met up with my fellow PicKnitters for our annual Pumpkin PicKnit!  Here are just a few of the pumpkins that were made to decorate Kibble Palace in the Botanic Gardens, Glasgow.

They look pretty good adorning the statues, and it’s lovely to see the public not only stop and look, but quite often take photos of the pumpkins too.

The little family of pumpkins had been left togehter, but as we were leaving, we noticed that they had been moved.  Some of the kids that were visiting must have gotten creative with them.  A little bit of public interaction, that’s what we like to see.

One of the highlights of picknitting (well, for me anyway) is the home baking, and there were some scrummy desserts on offer this time.

Muffins, flapjacks, tea bread, fresh fruit and a pumpkin pie were just a few of the treats on offer!  One of our members is Canadian and she brought along a homemade pumpkin pie as it was Canadian Thanksgiving that weekend.  It was still warm and has to be one of the best pies that I have ever tasted.  She even brought along a can of squirty cream too . . . drooool!!

Some of our members knitting and chatting inside Kibble Palace.

As I was leaving, I noticed this very unusual plant.

Isn’t it lovely?  It’s called a bottle brush plant and it’s fairly obvious why it’s called that.

If you’d like to come along to our next picknit, it will be on Sunday 13th November (location TBC).  Have a look at the Glasgow PicKnitters website or our group on Ravelry if you want to find out more about us.

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

Posted on 5 October, 2011

On the final weekend of ‘Doors Open Days‘ (Saturday 24th September), I went to Edinburgh with my OH and daughter to visit some of the buildings open on Calton Hill.

As we looked up to the top of Calton Hill from Waverley Station, we could see the Martyrs’ Monument in Old Calton Burial Ground and the Governor’s House.

To get to the top of Calton Hill, we walked up the steps of Jacob’s Ladder.

This is one of the things that I love about Edinburgh . . . these little hidden staircases that transport you from one area to another.

As we were walking up the east side of Calton Hill, we came across this cairn built by the keepers of the Vigil for a Scottish Parliament.

And just past the cairn, were the Nelson Monument and the National Monument.

Yes, you are seeing that photo correctly . . . it’s a little elephant!  Isn’t he lovely?

The views from the top of Calton Hill are stunning and I was surprised by how far we were able to see that day.  Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags in the first photo and if you look closely at the second photo, you can see the Forth Bridge (in the middle, along the horizon).

The first building we were there to visit that day was the Old City Observatory.

This building was designed by Scottish architect William Henry Playfair in 1818 and was inspired by the Greek temple of the Four Winds.  This observatory is where the first Astronomer Royal, Professor Thomas Henderson worked from 1834 until his death in 1844.

Inside there was so much to see: the original telescope, the original pulley system for moving the telescope and observatory dome and the original clock.

I was particularly fond of the old photographic plate at the end of the telescope.

You wouldn’t believe how much I learned in this observatory!  First of all, that astronomers use stars to tell time as the sun isn’t always precise, but the stars are.  I also found out that there was a time ball installed in 1853 on the top of the Nelson Monument that drops every day at one o’clock and was originally used by ships in the Firth of Forth to set the time on their clocks.  I did know about the One O’Clock Gun that is fired most days from Edinburgh Castle, but hadn’t realised that this was added later as ships couldn’t see the time ball on foggy days.

On one of the outer walls of the observatory, there’s a memorial plaque for Professor Thomas Henderson, first Astronomer Royal appointed in 1834.

Not only is the observatory itself beautiful, but the view of the city from the side of Old Observatory House is quite something, too.

As we walked from the observatory and onto our next location, we passed these two monuments:

The first one is the Dugald Stewart Monument.  Another design by architect William Henry Playfair, this time inspired by the Greek Monument of Lysicrates in Athens.  Dugald Stewart was a famous writer and philosopher and was also a key player in the Scottish Enlightenment.  The second one is the Nelson Monument, a commemorative tower built in honour of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson to commemorate his victory over the French and Spanish fleets at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and his own death at the same battle.  The time ball was installed on top of here in 1853.

Next building on our agenda that day was the Burns Monument.

This monument was completed in 1831 to house a life-size marble statue of Robert Burns.  The statue is no longer inside the monument and is now kept in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  The design for this monument was again based on the Greek Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, but this time the architect was Thomas Hamilton who had designed the Burns Monument in Alloway.

Next stop was the Old Calton Burial Ground.

The burial ground was opened in 1718 and is the resting place of several notable Edinburgh persons.

The burial ground is also the site of the Political Martyrs’ Monument . . . a 90 ft obelisk of grey-black sandstone inscribed with the names of the Scottish Martyrs (five men who were imprisoned for campaigning for parliamentary reform in the late 18th and early 19th centuries).

The last building we had planned on visiting that day was the Old Observatory House.

This was was built by James Craig between 1776 and 1793.  It was the home of the Astronomer Royals after briefly being used as an observatory before the completion of the new building (Old City Observatory).  It was based on the idea of a romantic picturesque castle occupying the site of the present walled enclosure.

I fell in love with this building and took a lot of photos of the interior!  This is the downstairs sitting room:

I don’t think I could get fed up looking at the views from those windows.

The other two rooms on this floor were the dining room and the kitchen.  The dining room was a large circular shaped room with windows all around and a large table in the middle.  The kitchen was fairly small though.

Upstairs on the top floor, there was a second sitting room

and two bedrooms

I would love to sleep in that 2nd bedroom . . . the view out of the windows are just wonderful!  The next three photos were also taken on the top floor and show the hallway between the sitting room and one of the bedrooms, the bathroom and the staircase.

Down on the ground floor, there’s another two bedrooms

This building is available to rent through the Vivat Trust, so if any of my knitting friends would like to book it and invite me there for a knitting retreat, I would be most grateful!

After lunch, we walked down through North Gray’s Close to get back to the car.

Just like Jacob’s Ladder, this is another one of the things that I love about Edinburgh.  I could wander up and down these closes in the Old Town all day long.  I always find myself peering in the buildings and wondering how old they are and what it must have been like to live there.  This probably isn’t the best close to show off, but there was a bit of a ‘disagreement’ taking place in the next one along, so we couldn’t walk through there.  One of the better known closes is Mary King’s Close under the Royal Mile.

And the last couple of photos of Calton Hill, taken as we were walking across North Bridge.