I fell in love with the Lake District well before I had ever been there. From the seclusion of my childhood bedroom I admired the fells and the watery beauty of this landscape through the paintings of Beatrix Potter. I also enjoyed the excitement and pure escapism of the world of Arthur Ransome and yearned to be an Amazon sailing on the lake. Many world renown poets have written some of the very best poetry about this little corner of England. I cannot and will not even attempt to match it. But their compulsion to capture its beauty is easy to comprehend when you are here.
My first in-person visit followed my graduation. As a family we made a pit-stop on our way home to the West Country. I can remember sitting beside my father on the lakeside of Windermere. The peaceful view of the water was before us, with the grandeur of the Langdale Pikes behind. I breathed out. We can only have stayed for a couple of days, but is was one of those breaks which seemed so significant. I was conscious that I was in one of those ‘in-between’ times. A chapter had closed and a new adventure was about to begin. I was happy to have the Lake District as a backdrop to that transition. At that point, the Lake District wielded its way into my heart.
Since that time I have lived in the North West. In my early twenties I would often make day-trips with friends to the fells. We would get up early and head for the hills. With Wainwright as our guide we would try a new route up a mountain and stand on-top of the world admiring the view. Fortunately I married a man who has a deep love of hill-walking, even if a busy life makes it an unusual event.
We made another very significant trip to the Lakes only 3 weeks after the birth of Little B. I have no idea why we were so gung-ho, but we stayed in a lovely hotel with a very tiny baby and made it our mission to walk in the snow with our tiny bundle. He was so small and his snow suit was so large, that you could barely see his tiny face. I have a significant memory of changing his nappy in what seemed like a blizzard. Under my breath I protested vehemently about the ridiculousness of such a trip. But from this late winter trip two things have sprung. We love to visit the Lakes in winter and an adventure which appears challenging rarely seems quite so daunting when compared to snow based nappy changing.
So here we are in another February, enjoying the rest and beauty of this astonishing landscape. We will not see the famous daffodils and the rhododendrons are very much in bud form, but we love it still. The bare trees make it easier to see wide views. The bronze bracken matches the colour of our son’s hair. Plus, there is snow to be found.
We have established such a tradition of our winter break, that plans are made of places we will visit and things we will do. You will not be surprised to know that this extends into yarn-based activity. I knew weeks ago that I would be making my third ‘Steiger Hat’, designed by Juliet Bernard for Yarn Stories. My first was made two years ago on the same Lakes break. I gave this blue and white beauty to my good friend Sally. She can wear a beanie hat like no other person I know. It was a special hat and it needed a special owner.
My second version is now owned by Big B. This year I knew I wanted to make a version for myself. This time the making would be different. I determined I would force myself to make the hat in the round, continental style and use the two handed method of fairisle. Have I lost you? Yes well, we are talking a technical challenge, which requires a holiday to master. But what a joy to finally ‘get it’. Juliet has shown me how to knit continental style – a number of times…. finally I have worked it out and using the two handed method to make colour changes. What a revelation. I will not go back to my old ways.
In less than a day my hat was finished and I wore it proudly on the snow-capped mountains. Knitting or crochet can be your best souvenir. Making and creating items that hold memories of a special time. The third version of this pattern will be for Little B. He has already chosen his colours and his commission will mean that I can perfect my technique. So if you spot a family of three skidding their way up an icy mountain in matching jaunty hats, you will know it is the Varnam Family in pursuit of a glorious view.