Holiday knitting

Yes, I know my holiday was two months ago, but then I stopped knitting for a month because of my elbow*, so I have only just finished my holiday knitting projects.

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Stefanie Bold’s Berlin socks, in the oldest skein of yarn in my stash, a skein of Opal Handpainted which I bought in 2007, years before I discovered indie dyers. I really like how this pattern works in varigated yarn and I’m very pleased with the socks.

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And Martina Behm’s Brickless in Wollmeise merino superwash. I’m less pleased with this; it’s a lovely pattern, and beautiful yarn, but the pattern is written for a much heavier yarn and although lots of people have knitted it in 4-ply I’m not sure it really works. After knitting the specified 6 repeats I had a shawl that blocked out to 8 feet long but is mostly really, really skinny in a fine yarn; I’ve got it wrapped twice round my neck in the photo which is wearable but a bit of a faff to get right, and I would have preferred a shorter, wider shawl.

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As you can see, it’s significantly longer than the width of our double futon, but even at the widest point it doesn’t come all the way down the back and is mostly signficantly narrower. Which just goes to show that even where gauge isn’t critical, using a different weight of yarn to the one specified in the pattern can produce a less than ideal result.

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*I eventually cracked and went to a private physio about my elbow, and she diagnosed it as not being tennis elbow at all, but a combination of a pinched nerve and a strained bicep muscle. I have been doing my exercises, which have definitely helped, and have come to the conclusion that knitting doesn’t actually make it worse so I might as well start again. Still, I don’t suppose I’d ever have finished Wolf Hall if I was knitting as normal, and it is a very good book, so I don’t mind the month off that much.

Glasgow School of Yarn

Last weekend I went to Glasgow for the fourth Glasgow School of Yarn, run by The Yarn Cake (link not working at the moment as they’re having website problems, but it should reappear at some point). The School of Yarn is held in the beautiful Rennie Mackintosh church in Glasgow; I have been every year, but this is the first time I’ve had a phone with a camera good enough to take blog-quality photos.

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Not only is the church beautiful, but it has lots and lots of space for people to sit and knit and chat, which is a big part of what makes the School of Yarn such a wonderful event.

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The marketplace is small compared to many shows, as space in the church is limited, but it was full of beautiful things and wonderful colours.

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This year’s stallholders included Abstract Cat, Jess of Ginger Twist Studios with her lovely hand-dyed yarn, Susan Sharpe Ceramics, A Peppermint Penguin, Easyknits and local woodcarver Wood Ewe, as well as The Yarn Cake itself with Drops, Jamieson and Smith, Malabrigo, Rooster and Baa Ram Ewe’s Titus yarn.

As always, p/hop also had a stall, and I had volunteered to spend Saturday morning looking after it.

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It was really busy on the stall and by the time the next volunteer came along I was utterly worn out by the effort of interacting with so many people (yay introvert issues – there is a reason I could never ever work in a customer-facing job), but it was worth it as we raised over £700 for MSF over the weekend, and after some delicious Yarn Cake stew, a piece of cake and a quiet sit-down I felt refreshed enough to embark on some shopping (I had resisted buying anything at all on Friday, as I knew that if I did that I would only end up doing even more shopping on Saturday, and there’s only so much I can carry with me on the train…)

Because I’m still not able to knit, I didn’t buy much yarn (though I couldn’t resist one skein of Ginger’s Hand Dyed), but having discovered that drop spindling is a portable craft that doesn’t hurt my elbow and that after nearly a year of wheel spinning I have a much better idea of how to do it, I did buy two spindles from Wood Ewe (a 22g Turkish spindle and a supported spindle to try out) and some fibre from Easyknits.

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I also bought some more bobbins for my wheel and a lazy kate so I can attempt a three-ply yarn sometime, and a lovely pendant from Susan’s stall.

There were not one but two TV crews filming short pieces about the event, which you can see here and here – the second one even features me and my spindle. As always, it was a wonderful weekend, helped this year by glorious sunny weather, and wonderful to catch up with the friends I’ve made on my trips to Glasgow over the years. Congratulations to Antje and her team on another fantastic School of Yarn, and roll on the next one!

In which tax is definitely taxing

I was skimming Twitter yesterday when I saw a link to an article entitled The horrible implications of the EU VAT “Place of Supply” change. Obviously, that’s just the kind of catchy title that gets me clicking through, so I read the article, which is written from the perspective of freelance web designers and software developers who also make supplies of “digital services” (ebooks, software licenses) to EU countries other than the one they reside in. And I thought, hmmm, where else do you find a lot of freelancers making supplies of digital services? Why, in the knitting world of course! My Ravelry library and Paypal transaction log are testament to just how many independent designers there are out there selling pdf knitting patterns, and those sales count as supplies of digital services.

Without getting too technical, the change basically means that from 1 January 2015 digital services will be considered as being supplied in the country where the purchaser resides, rather than where the seller is based as at present. Because VAT is charged in the country where a supply of VATable goods or services is made, that means that patterns sold to customers in the UK will be subject to UK VAT, patterns sold to customers in Germany will be subject to German VAT, and so on. And that means that sellers face having to register for VAT and complete VAT returns in all 28 member states of the EU. (HMRC are running a “mini one-stop shop” which will simplify the process for VAT registered businesses by allowing them to submit a single return and payment to HMRC, who will then deal with making the payments to the VAT authorities in other countries, but that isn’t available to business which aren’t VAT registered.) And, as far as I can tell, at present the supply of digital services doesn’t count as “distance selling”, for which there are VAT registration thresholds in each country which most freelancers would fall well below, but as supplies made by a non-resident business, for which the threshold is 0 in almost all countries.

(There is a point to this change, which is to stop big businesses like Amazon making all their digital sales from Luxembourg where the VAT on ebooks and music downloads is 3% and thereby avoiding an awful lot of tax on sales made to customers in other EU countries, but the unintended consequences for small businesses are fairly horrible.)

The issue is now being discussed in the Shopkeepers group on Ravelry, and people are talking to contacts and trying to find a solution. I have also sent the following email to my MEPs and MP:

I am writing to you to express my concerns regarding the new EU rules regarding the place of supply for digital services for VAT purposes. While I support the legislation’s intended purpose of curbing tax avoidance by large corporations supplying digital services, I fear that it will have a devastating effect on small businesses and particularly sole traders who also supply digital services on a worldwide basis. The example I am thinking of in particular is designers of knitting and sewing patterns which are sold as pdf downloads. Thanks to websites such as Etsy.com and Ravelry.com, there is a substantial and growing market for these downloads, which have the advantage for producers of significantly lowering production costs over printed patterns and eliminating delivery charges, while consumers benefit from receiving their purchases immediately and not having to pay shipping costs. Many of the producers in this market are sole traders or hobby producers with only a handful of patterns available. Even among the professional designers it is rare for turnover from pattern sales to reach the VAT registration threshold, which means that they cannot take advantage of the mini one-stop shop for EU VAT and would instead face the prospect of registering for VAT and making returns in all 28 EU member states. This would make continuing to sell patterns uneconomic for most designers and would almost certainly force a great many out of business.

I am sure that the purpose of this legislation was never to force small entrepreneurs of this kind out of business, and I am writing to ask you to lobby for a change in the regulations to implement a de minimis level of digital sales to EU member states other than the one the seller is resident in before VAT registration is required.

Thank you in advance for your assistance with this matter.

I don’t suppose it’ll do any good, as they’ll probably just wonder why this madwoman is writing to them about knitting patterns, but you never know. I would be very sad if this means that I have to live in a world where I can’t access a huge range of knitting patterns at the click of a button or two!

Not knitting

When I finished casting off my Neverendng Nuvem I noticed that my right elbow ached a bit, but I didn’t think too much of it; everyone gets random aches and pains occasionally. And then I went on holiday and dragged my wheelie suitcase around behind me, which my elbow didn’t seem to like at all, and then I got back to work where my desk was not set up particularly ergonomically (I think I’ve improved it now), and spent last Friday evening and most of last Saturday knitting away, lengthening the arms on my Lush because it was clear to me that it was going to be much more wearable with long sleeves. And when I tried to pick up my Brickless and knit during last week’s Doctor Who, I realised that my elbow hurt quite a lot and that I needed to stop doing the things that make it hurt until it’s better. And sadly, the things that make it hurt appear to include knitting and crochet.

So ever since Sunday I’ve been trying to find things to do that keep my hands busy and satisfy my need to do something creative but that aren’t knitting and crochet.

I tried spinning first of all, and finally finished the rainbow gradient yarn I started for the Tour de Fleece (and hadn’t touched since it finished):

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I’ve got just over 300m, I think, which really is enough to do something useful with. When I can knit again, anyway.

After that, I started a new spinning project, some BFL/Ramie from Hilltop Cloud:

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Spinning isn’t really the kind of thing I can just pick up and put down the way I do with knitting, though. The wheel takes up too much space to keep beside my chair at the kitchen table, so I need to move it there when I want to spin and back when I’ve finished, and it just somehow doesn’t seem like something that can be multitasked with chatting online, having a conversation with T, listening to the radio and cooking in the way knitting can. (I also can’t spin comfortably sitting on our sofa, which means it’s not really something I want to do watching TV.)

So I bought an origami kit, and made several penguins and something that was supposed to be a swan but looks more like the Loch Ness Monster.

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It was quite good fun, but there are only so many slightly lopsided origami penguins any house needs, and it didn’t quite feel creative in the right way, so I decided to have a go at patchwork.

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So far, basting fabric hexagons to backing papers seems to be the best thing I’ve found to fill the gap left by knitting (though I suspect it wouldn’t really be feasible on the bus and have been reading instead). I do miss knitting, though, and I really hope my elbow is better soon!

Great London Yarn Crawl 2014

It’s been a busy couple of weeks; having just got back from holiday, we went to spend a couple of days with my parents in Norfolk and then we’d only just got back from there when we were off again, this time down to London where we had tickets to see Kate Bush at the Hammersmith Apollo on Friday night (and she was just as incredible as all the reviews say – we were right at the back but it was still amazing) and then on Saturday morning I left T sleeping in our hotel room and headed off bright and early to my first stop on this year’s Great London Yarn Crawl.

As some of you may recall, I went on last year’s crawl and really enjoyed it. This year I signed up for the Bluefaced Leicester route, partly because I love BFL yarn but also because none of the four shops on that route were ones I’d been to before, and when I got to the meeting point (the lovely Owen’s Cafe in Muswell Hill) I was delighted to find several familiar faces from last year’s purple route who had done the same thing.

Our first stop was Fringe in Muswell Hill, a lovely craft and haberdashery shop with a nice range of yarns including Rowan, Debbie Bliss, MillaMia and possum yarn from New Zealand as well as needles, accessories, fabric, sewing patterns, notions, ready-made garments and handmade jewellery.

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They also had an exhibition of beautiful felted art by Cathy Needham. We had half an hour to browse, and I ended up buying a couple of balls of merino/possum blend yarn to make a new hat for T before we headed off to catch the bus to Crouch End for our next stop.

Nest is a shop I’ve wanted to visit for a long time; I was sorry to miss it in last year’s crawl so was very glad to get to this year.

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It’s a lovely little shop, specialising in natural fibre yarns, as well as stocking lots of beads, some kits and some lovely handmade jewellery. I didn’t buy any yarn here but I did buy a wooden feather pendant, which seemed like a perfect memento of the whole weekend as there was a feather theme to the Kate Bush show too.

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We had somehow managed to get to Nest early so we had time for a spot of knitting and chatting on the sofas at the back of the shop.

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From Next, we walked into Crouch End where we had lunch before catching a bus to Seven Sisters and then a train to Cambridge Heath to visit Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green.

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Prick Your Finger is part yarn shop, part artist’s studio, run by Rachael Matthews (who was wearing amazing Arts and Crafts print Doc Marten shoes). The yarn she sells is all British and includes John Arbon, Excelana, West Yorkshire Spinners, Wensleydale Longwool Sheep Shopa and Jamieson’s of Shetland, as well as some lovely hand-dyed yarns. There was also this rather charming rhino in a woolly jumper:

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I hadn’t been planning to buy much yarn on the crawl, because the stash is reaching ridiculous proportions, but the wall of John Arbon’s Knit By Numbers merino DK, and particularly the six different shades of purple, was just too much for me.

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Yes, I ended up with one of each. I’m not sure whether to knit a large shawl/small blanket or to be more ambitious and try to make a gradient-shaded jumper or tunic.

From Prick Your Finger we headed to our last stop of the day, newcomer to the London yarn scene Wild and Woolly. Because we were running a bit late at this point we ended up getting there just after the next group, who were running early, so the shop was pretty packed, but the owner was smiley and friendly and there was tea and delicious cake.

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I loved the yarnbombed bicycle in the window, and there was also a knitted vegetable garden.

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I bought two skeins of sock yarn from a new-to-me UK indie dyer, travelknitter.

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The colours are beautiful together so I suspect the yarn will become a two-coloured shawl.

And then, at last, we headed to King’s Cross for the afterparty, organised by Pom Pom Quarterly. Unlike last year’s party, this time there was plenty of room and it was nice to sit down with a refreshing pint of lime and soda and knit and say hello to friends who’d been on other routes. I even won one of the door prizes, though as fate would have it I ended up winning copies of both of Kathleen‘s Silver Screen Knits books which she’d generously donated as a prize, and given that I already have signed copies in any case I offered them to the other members of my team and ended up giving them to Helen from Curious Handmade who said she’d use them for a giveaway. Hopefully this will introduce someone new to the books!

I ended up rushing off as soon as the final raffle prize had been drawn, as by this point I was tired and just wanted to get home and was hoping I could make the 1918 train (I didn’t, mostly because I had underestimated just how long it takes to get from the concourse at King’s Cross to the Circle Line platform, and then I’d just missed a train and there wasn’t another for seven minutes so I arrived at Paddington with only three minutes to spare and actually, that isn’t long enough to get from the underground to the platforms). I’m sorry I couldn’t stay longer to chat, as I know there were people who were on other teams I’d have liked to speak to but didn’t have the chance. Still, it was a brilliant day out again, and many thanks to Allison and Rachel for organising it. I’m looking forward to next year already!

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Not so neverending

I seem to have been neglecting this poor blog lately. In my defence, I have been away for the last week and a half. We went to Berlin, where among other things I saw this lovely piece of fabric graffiti:

Fabric graffiti, Tempelhof

as well as this Mesopotamian figurine which I swear is a meerkat:

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But before I went away I finally finished the no longer Neverending Nuvem!

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After fairly gentle blocking (I soaked it and laid it flat and pulled it into the right shape, but didn’t use wires or pins) it’s about 6′ long and 2.5′ or 3′ wide. The cobweb yarn makes it very light, but it’s a good-sized wrap.

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It also scrunches down to make a lightweight scarf.

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It was a bit of a marathon to knit but it’s very pretty, though because the yarn is so fine I’m a bit worried about snagging it when I wear it – I actually already managed to snag a bit on one of my needle tips while I was casting off, though I pulled the yarn back through and I don’t think it really shows now. It is difficult, though, when you have something so delicate and which took a long time to make – I kind of want to keep it for “best”, rather than wearing it and risking it wearing out. But then I almost never actually wear “best” clothes so really that would mean all the effort I put into it was wasted if it just sits in the drawer!

Lazy Sunday afternoon

I spent this morning writing a job application, which was dull and tedious (all the more so because on current form I’m not remotely confident of even getting an interview), but at least I got it done by lunchtime and had the afternoon to do fun things.

I made a new and improved case for my phone, with penguin-print fabric and a tab and popper to fasten it rather than elastic and button.

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(The tab is a little bit wonky, and the perfectionist in me is rather disappointed and wants to declare it a failure, but the pragmatist in me says it’s fine, and I can always claim it’s deliberatly asymmetrical, and PENGUINS, and lalalala SHUT UP PERFECTIONIST I CAN’T HEAR YOU.)

And then I went for a walk, and saw a lovely butterfly.

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And, more importantly, I picked 250 grams of blackberries, so there will be blackberry and apple crumble tonight.

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And yet…I can do all the fun, relaxing things I can squeeze into the days, and I can be feeling better than I have done in years (and I am, truly), but that still doesn’t make me OK. Getting over a breakdown (and I think reaching the stage where you can’t get through a day at work without crying and have become convinced that people are out to get you counts as a breakdown) is hard, especially when the professional help available is more or less the equivalent of telling someone with a broken leg to rest and not put too much weight on it for a while, rather than re-setting the bone and fitting a cast and offering physio to help regain a normal range of movement. So I still have moments of feeling very low, I get tired very easily, and I’m worried about what the future holds. The days have got noticeably shorter recently, the weather is cooler, and even though autumn is my favourite season I’m worried about how I’ll cope with another winter. I’m applying for jobs, but I’m worried that I won’t get another job and will have to go back to the stressful job that was a major factor in the current bout of mental ill-health, or that I will get a new job and find that I can’t cope with that, and then I don’t know what I’ll do.