When I first showed up at our twice monthly meet and make at the local craft store, I was asked if I’d bought new shoes.
Then I showed them what was inside the box. Now, I get the comment “you’ve brought your shoes again”.
Last night was make and meet again. I love hanging out with everyone and have made some good friends. Lately we’ve been having the tables full, with a good 15 or so people showing up. Last night was kinda quiet with “just” 9 of us. It’s always fun to see what everyone is working on and the progress on longer term projects. And to see people wearing garments that they had been knitting on in nights past.
Last night I was working on my baby quilts. I had previously managed to sew all those pieces together I last showed you into quarter-blocks. Well, except where there were no matching pieces because of running out of pre-cut black. Last night’s task was to start sewing them together into half-blocks. I got quite a bit done, even with all the chatting.
There are still a few in the box pinned together ready to sew, but there is this little bundle that I left sitting on the couch at home. More quarters to sew together and some pieces that are waiting on the next cutting session to be able to get to this stage.
I am continually amazed with how quickly this project is coming together. And I still smile every time I look at the geckos
Here you go stupid bloglovin…
We had our Spring bank holiday today and what a day it was. Spring came out in all her glory.
I decided to enjoy the weather with a walk to work. By road, work is about 5 miles away (that’s about 8km for those of us who speak metric). But no one really wants to walk via the road as there are no footpaths. This last week, I’ve been told by a few people about how you can match up several public footpaths to walk to work. It’s a longer trip but is supposed to be a nice walk. I picked up a couple of OS maps this morning (yep, Saffron Walden is at the top of one so I needed two) and headed off.
I’ll be heading out across these fields.
At the moment all the rape is blooming. It’s gorgeous, but is causing havoc with everyone’s hayfever. For me, I usually only get really bad hayfever my first spring in a new place and then I usually get used to the new types of pollen. I’m really hoping that continues to be the case as my reaction is a little different from the norm: lots of heavy bleeding noses. Yes, yuck. Unfortunately I have a golden staph infection in my sinuses, a gift from a hospital when I was very little, and when this flares up, the blood flows. Luckily, today it was behaving, even when I was walking next to these fields.
Isn’t that house great. I’ll live there please. It was lovely walking through these fields of yellow, feeling a little like the only person in the world even though I was just 10 minutes out of town.
At one point, the ground I was walking on was much lower than the other side of me. I got a fantastic view of the ground. Wow, there really isn’t a lot of soil there is there.
In some parts of the walk, the direction to take was nice and clear.
And in others, not so much (I had to turn left here).
While much of the way was yellow to begin with, as this view back to town shows nicely
Not all of the farmers had planted rape when they harvested the wheat fields last autumn.
Then later, the crops change to something else, that obviously bunnies like. I’ll have to wait and see what the crop turns into so I know what is so tasty and worthy of protection.
Eventually, you get to a point in the walk where the start/end of the path is not a farm, but a village. This cute little church was in Little Chesterford, just as I was exiting a paddock.
And this one was in Ickleton, just before I went into the nature reserve at the back end of work.
2.5 hours after I set off from town, I was sitting at a picnic table at work having lunch. Not that it took that long to walk there. I just found a cool little place with pocky little crafty shops (art, framing, jewellery, craft supply shop) next to a tiny little lake. It was like finding a secret place – I had no idea it was there. So I stopped for an ice cream and had a look around. While I made it to work, I wasn’t actually going to go to work, so this was the closest I got – looking across the fields at the buildings.
A nice stop for lunch then the return trip back. It took 2 hours to get back to Saffron Walden town, by which time I was getting really tired and my legs and lower back was starting to really ache. Going for a long walk in joggers is not a good idea, so I really need to get my new hiking boots before I try a day of walking again.
And of course, this walk was out the north side of town and I live on the southern edge, so there was the extra walk home. Which took twice as longer as usual as I was walking slower and slower as I got closer and closer to home. But it was a great walk, and luckily my sinuses didn’t realise how much pollen I was breathing in and so behaved. Well, until the start of this paragraph, that is. They’ve just caught up..
Those of you in the UK, hope you had a great long weekend. Those of you not, hope your week started well.
Earlier this year I started thinking how I’d like to make quilts for two of my cousins (both sisters) who were expecting their first babies. The first had hers just over a month ago. The second is due in June. I was wondering if I’d have the time and put the idea aside though. Fast forward to the Duxford quilt show and the very cool gecko fabric I found there (with the frogs and fireworks to keep the geckos company) and the idea came back full force. I bought a metre each of the fabric with no idea what sort of quilts I’d make except that I knew that the colours would be “black and brights” and they would use this fabric. Then went hunting through my book for blocks. Now I could’ve picked something faster to make, but I like how these will look.
The plan: make two cot/play quilts, about 50-60″ square, by July. Oh yeah, and I want to hand piece them. Ok, maybe that’s insane but we’ll see. I’ve made some pieces for these quilts before, and shown them to you, but the other week I decided to have a cutting marathon so that I could work on this quilt whenever I had some time. A great idea as it’s growing faster than I expected. Even with a major brain fail which required a fair bit of unpicking and resewing, I still managed to sew together the precut pieces quite quickly.
But I obviously didn’t cut enough black, so these will have towait until I’m ready for another big cutting session.
Last night I pinned a single colour bundle together
And started sewing them into their quarter block pieces
They will eventually be sewn together into full blocks like these I made from the first pieces I cut.
So maybe the idea of having two quilts pieced by hand by the end of June isn’t such an insane idea. We’ll see.
Remember all those pieces I had cut out? Well I’ve packed them all into a shoe box and have been diligently sewing them together in the evenings. I’ve managed to sew together this stack since Sunday afternoon.
Impressive, right? No, not really. You see only half of those were supposed to be sewn together, the other half were supposed to be sewn to adjacent sides of the resulting square to give a bigger diamond.
Ok, so I know that a couple of people who read this post go hiking. Who knows, maybe more of you do and you might find the following information useful too. If not, feel free to ignore this post – I’m sure you will anyway, but just don’t feel even the teensiest bit guilty about it
Over the last 15 years or so, there have been a lot of changes in packs – options, fit, etc. For example, you never used to be able to get a women’s fit pack. I don’t know if the manufacturers didn’t get that women are different shape or just didn’t care. Thankfully, that’s now in the past, but all of the options available does make it a tricky question when trying to decide which is the best pack to get. What I was after was one for multi-day trekking. And what you want in this sort of pack is very different from what is more important in packs for day walks or mountain climbing.
The fit is the most important concern, regardless of which type of pack you want, but if you’re going to be carrying a lot of weight for several consecutive days when on a multi-day hike, the fit become crucial. This is where if you’re a female, look at the female packs. Some sales assistants will try and tell you that there are unisex packs. No. This just means that the manufacturer hasn’t advertised a male and female version of the pack, and this pack is a male one.
So what is different about a female pack? Well, the biggest point is that they start with shorter torso length. But they also generally position the shoulder straps closer together, as women generally don’t have as broad shoulders as men. The chest strap is also in the right position for us, given we’re not flat chested. And even those of us who don’t protrude in the chest area as much as some, will be grateful that the strap doesn’t sit/rub on more tender areas. Each manufacturer has their own take on the female frame and might make other slight alterations to the structure of the pack to suit us better than the packs designed for men.
So other than going for a female pack, you also want the right size. It seems that the good packs will come in either two sizes (short/medium or tall/large) or three sizes (small, medium and large). Now this sizing is just a starting point. What you really want is a pack that can be adjusted to fit you.
Here’s where I introduce the packs that I was looking at. During my online research on packs, I found a great site that ranked mens’ backpacks for multi-day trekking: outdoor gear lab. Looking at the top three, I found the female versions of these. So starting the day of pack shopping, we had:
1. Arcteryx Altra 62 Women’s
2. Gregory Deva 60
3. Osprey Arial 65
I should probably point out that the order of these packs listed here is also the order of their price (highest to lowest).
Snow and Rock stock Arcteryx and Osprey, so I headed to their huge store in Covent Garden to try these. Before I mention the packs, I have to say that the staff at Snow and Rock were great. So very helpful, knew their stuff and were very friendly.
Arcteryx Altra 62 Women’s
The Arcteryx pack comes in two sizes, so we started with the short/medium pack as I have a short torso, and am not all that tall to begin with. What is great about this pack is that it has fully adjustable shoulders. They can actually detach and be moved into one of three height positions and one of five horizontal positions for each shoulder strap. Yes, the shoulders are two separate pieces. This pack definitely wins hands down for adjustability. We managed to get a pretty good fit for my frame. It has a comfortable hip strap that is one piece but sits on a swivel, so moves with your body as you walk. There was a gap between the small of my back and the pack, which should allow for nice airflow during a warm walk, but didn’t feel like the gap shouldn’t be there.
In addition to adjustability and the swivel hip belt, this pack also has a good number of straps around the pack for compressing the load. It’s really important when you’re walking, especially over uneven terrain and when traversing climbs/descents, that the pack is packed tightly. You don’t want anything moving around and getting you off balance. Also, the tighter the load is packed into your back, usually the closer it all is to your centre of gravity and therefore the load doesn’t feel as heavy and is more manageable (and comfortable) to carry. Packs can be notoriously hard for getting things in and out of, with the old packs requiring you to empty everything out each evening to be able to cook dinner. This pack has a great zip that opens up along the length of the pack like a suitcase, allowing easy access to everything.
When getting a pack fitted, it’s also important to try it with some weight, not just a stack of padding. Snow and Rock were able to put 12kg into the pack, which will be less that what I’ll be carrying most likely but gives me a good idea of how it feels. With this pack full to the brim and fully compressed using all the straps, I tried it out. The pack was comfortable and didn’t feel heavy. The top was swaying a little as I walked but I put that down to the weight added in the top to get it to the 12kg and figured this would be fine when I’m actually hiking as I won’t have anything heavy up the top of the pack.
You can find out more about this pack if you’re interested here. In all, I’d say the only downside of this pack is that it doesn’t have an integrated rain cover. Though it’s not that big a deal to get one separately. This pack is pricey, selling at £280 RRP, but that’s to be expected from the top pack on the market.
Osprey Arial 65
The Osprey pack comes in three sizes so we started with a small. This pack does have adjustable shoulder height but the shoulder span is fixed. On the shortest setting, there was still a small gap between my shoulders and the straps. This isn’t a good sign, but there were other fit issues with the pack. This is where it’s hard to describe what was wrong. It just didn’t feel right. Maybe it was because I tried it on after fully testing the Arcteryx, but either way if a pack doesn’t feel right when nothing is in it, it’s not going to feel right when it’s loaded.
The other downside of the pack was that the hip belt was fixed. There will be no movement of this with your body.
We did try an Osprey Xenon 70 as well, but had the same issues. The race was clearly down to the Arcteryx and the Gregory.
But if you want to find out more about the Arial, because it’s a good pack and at £160, is substantially cheaper than the Arcteryx, you can read about it here. Maybe it will be a better fit on you.
Gregory Deva 60
Gregory packs have a good reputation for being able to carry heavy loads comfortably. The Deva has a lot of padding, which makes it a more comfortable wear, but also adds to the weight of the pack. To try out this pack I went to Ellis Brigham, also in Covent Garden. Before I get on to the pack, I have to say that there was a massive difference between the service here and at Snow and Rock. The assistant was not friendly nor was he very knowledgable. I was instructing him that if a women’s fit small pack did not fit, a “unisex” short pack would not fit better. Not to mention what he didn’t know about boots and Goretex vs leather (but lets not go into that here).
So, onto the Deva. This pack has no adjustment at all. I picked a small, but there was no way to shorten the torso length. This left quite a gap between my shoulders and the straps. We managed to offset this a bit with adjusting the straps attached to the bottom and top of the shoulders to get it closer fitting, but still they weren’t right. What I did like was the curve of the frame. It fit my back nicely with the curve moulding in to the curve of my spine. My only concern was that it would get very hot as it was a hard frame along the back and there would be no airflow.
Like the Arcteryx, this pack also has a swivel hip belt, though this time the belt is not in one piece, and instead the two hip parts move independently. This would be very useful over uneven terrain, really moving with the body.
Despite my misgivings about the fit through the shoulders, I decided to try it with some weight. Ellis Brigham was able to load it with 9kg. Oh shit, did that hurt. All of the weight was carried in the small of my back, not my hips as it’s supposed to. Did I think that curve of the pack to my spine was a good thing? Hell, no! As I can only assume that this is why the weight was carried in the wrong place. In less than a minute my back was starting to ache. I couldn’t keep the pack on for 5 minutes and when I took it off it then took the rest of the day for the ache to go away. Massive fail!
I can’t see why this weight distribution problem would only be with me. I’m more inclined to think that it is an inherent flaw of the design, but it was so very noticeable to me because I have lower back problems. So I would not recommend this pack to anyone, even if it doesn’t cause you pain in the shop. But if you are interested in reading more about it, you can do so here. Retailing at £200 it’s also on the high end of pack prices, but still falls far short of the cost of the Arcteryx.
Well, as you would have been able to tell from above, there was a clear winner of these three packs: Arcteryx Altra 62 Women’s.
Yes it cost a lot, but in this instance, the day clearly showed that you get what you pay for. And I can now understand why this brand is known as the top of the range pack. I can tell you that now that I’ve discovered them, they will be the only brand I buy.
I hope this review of my day trying out packs was useful to any of my regular readers to whom this subject matter is relevant, and also to anyone who has found their way here while searching for information about these packs.
Ok, so my attempt to get back online didn’t really work. Let’s try that again shall we. Meanwhile, what have I been doing while I haven’t been online? Good question, what HAVE I been doing?!
On the craft front, I finished the pieces for Alta (the multi-colour jumper I was knitting), but haven’t gotten around to blocking the pieces and sewing it up. That seems to be a theme for me, which is really why I should stick to one-piece knits.
I’ve been doing some work on those baby quilts I’m making for my cousins. But mostly in terms of cutting pieces. Man does that take a bit (draw and scissor cut). You can see I’ve been busy with this lovely little pile that was on my living room floor earlier in the week.
Which, of course, I kept trodding in and tracking around the house. But this did eventually result in a nice bundle of pieces ready to start sewing together. There should be enough pieces here for about 20 blocks.
I’ve also been doing more planning for my trip later this year, mostly with trying to track down the right pack and boots. So after having narrowed down the pack to three via lots of online research, I went to London yesterday to try them on, get them fitted and buy one. My next post will be all about the packs, what I did/didn’t like about each, which I chose and why. While I brought a pack home with me, the saga that has become my search for a good pair of hiking boots did not end yesterday. I need to think about that for a little and hopefully will get a pair in the next week or two – as I’ve been without hiking boots now since Jan.
One of my friends from work is having a baby in the next few weeks, so we’re throwing a baby shower for her. She is happily having a boy. Not that I don’t like little girl babies, but now that they make decent boys clothes, it’s so much fun buying for them. I like the types of clothes that make them look like miniature men. And since I always buy size 6-12 months since I know the mum generally has lots of smaller stuff, and bub grows out of the smaller stuff so quickly, I had plenty of choice. A quick visit in Baby Gap yesterday while in London (handily right around the corner from my new favourite outdoor shop), and score!
You also can’t go to London without catching up with Charlotte. I think it’s a law. She was stuck at home on dogsitting duty, so we visited her house instead. And force fed her cake. I don’t think she’ll ever let me come over again
I love her house, it’s in a perfect location and I loved seeing all of her quilts, cushions and other homemade goods around the house. It was a lovely, if short, visit. Next time I’ll try and come to London with just visiting in mind and no pesky shopping trips. As I was leaving though, she did give me a slap on the wrist for not blogging lately. So Charlotte, consider it successful
And as everyone else in the UK has already blogged – Spring has finally arrived. Like everybody else, Macros is enjoying the sun
Yes, I went silent again. I was in a bit of a funk leading up to Easter. That time of the year. We passed the one year anniversary of Granny’s death, and my niece’s birthday. Or what would have been her birthday. If I counted correctly, she would have been 11. Instead she will always be three. So, anyway, that’s why I was in a funk and not online much.
Then, over easter I spent several hours each day online planning, juggling and booking things for my big trip later this year. I’m getting there and will fill you all in once I have the rest sorted out. It’s costing a bit, but this will be my last big spend before I get serious about saving for a house deposit. And my last trip down to Australia and NZ for several years. I’m really looking forward to it.
When I wasn’t online over easter, I started work on the quilts I want to make for my cousins’ babies. I’m sure you recognise the fabric from my recent show haul.
And in the week and a half since easter? Busy with work and stuff. Have hardly been online and am still way behind on my blog reading. That’s what happens when you go mostly offline for a couple of weeks though.
Am on my way to Cardiff today for a meeting regarding my last job. So if I get sick of doing the work I brought with me, I can use some of the long journey each way to start catching up with what you’ve all been doing.
I went for a walk at lunchtime today and took my camera so one of my workmates could take a photo of me wearing Cora to share. Now, I’m really not photogenic, but she did get a nice photo.
You can’t see much of my new jumper here though. So I’ll show you one of the ones where I’m looking and feeling like a dork. This is me laughing at myself. But at least you get a good view of this looking and feeling like a dork. But at least you get a good view of this gorgeous pattern.
Oops, I disappeared there for a bit didn’t I. I think I’ve mostly caught up on blog reading, though to do so I was very economical with commenting. Looks like you’ve all been up to loads.
My time offline has been well spent though. I finished that jumper I was knitting and have worn it a few times. I need to get a pic of me wearing it and will share once I have.
The day I finished that one, I cast on a jumper with my other birthday yarn. A pattern that had just been released a couple of weeks earlier and that I loved: Alta.
I do like this yarn and how it’s knitting up, but I’ve also started thinking that I’d like to make this again with a single colour tonal yarn. Plus, there’s an error in the chart for the front. I spotted it when I started but didn’t follow my gut and instead followed the pattern. By the time I was sure my gut had been right, there was too much to undo. So I’d like to make it again correctly and with a yarn that will showcase the pattern more.
Making these two jumpers I’ve discovered I really like knitting garments with thicker yarn: they knit up so quickly!
I’ve also started planning the two quilts I want to make for my cousins. They are sisters. One has just had her first baby, the other is due with her first in June. I want to make play/cot/lap quilts. You know, a quilt that baby can play on on the floor, that could be used in a cot and later has a quilt to snuggle under on the sofa when they’re a but bigger. I’ve made this sort of quilt before and I love knowing that it’ll be used for at least 5 years. I’m going to make one for each of them probably the same or similar (from the same fabrics at least), aiming to have them done in June/July. I’d like to try and hand piece, but will machine quilt (for speed).
I renewed my NZ passport. And got it one week after I sent off the application. That’s a far cry from the 6 weeks my UK passport renewal took in Australia a few years ago. But given the price has gone up and the passport is now only 5 years instead of 10, really, they can afford to be quick.
Work is going well. Very busy, but I like it. This is the first job I’ve had where the weekend comes around very quickly. Week time is still not as fast as weekend time, but the gap has narrowed significantly.
I’m heading to Cardiff in a couple of weeks for a meeting tied up with my old job. Might have to visit a couple of my favourite shops while I’m there. Though it’s a quick trip with more time spent getting there and back than will be spent in Cardiff.
I was asked if I’d like to take a day off work in May and go to France for the day. Trick question? Guess I’d better finally finish putting my kitchen in order so I can let myself buy some le creuset. Now to just whittle down my list. I think at the moment there are 4 of us going. And the whole purpose of the trip is to shop. Looking forward to it already, but something tells me there’ll be no savings that month
I’ve almost narrowed down my itinerary for my mega holiday in Nov-Dec. Am going to try and book flights next weekend. Very exciting.
Think that sums up what’s been happening here. Now off to get ready to visit with friends this afternoon.