Category Archives: Knitting

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!

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!

Dear Green

I’m not a huge fan of classic triangular shawls – I’ve found that crescents or semi-circles or long shallow triangles are easier to wear – but as I am a huge fan of knitalongs I couldn’t resist when it was announced that there would be a knitalong of the Dear Green Shawl in aid of P/hop, timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

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The Dear Green Shawl was a prizewinning entry in the design competition at the Glasgow School of Yarn a couple of years ago, and the lace motifs are based on the legend of St Mungo which is commemorated in the city’s coat of arms. The pattern has three sizes, the smallest of which is a shawlette designed to be made out of one skein of sock yarn, and I had a skein of merino/bamboo 4-ply in “Bitter Bug” from Old Maiden Aunt (who is based in West Kilbride, not far from Glasgow) which had been in stash for several years and which I thought would be perfect for it, so while I wasn’t sure I could knit a shawl in ten days I cast on on the morning of day the Games started and knitted away.

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As you may be able to work out from the fact that the lower edge of the shawl is purple rather than green, it wasn’t all plain sailing; by the time I got to the bell motifs I was definitely running low enough on yarn to be rather worried. So, being the Excel geek that I am, I put together a spreadsheet of total stitches per row and worked out that I had 38% of the total left to knit…which was a bit of a problem given that I only had 20g of my yarn left! Happily, a bit of browsing on the Old Maiden Aunt site and a Twitter conversation with Lilith asking for her advice on how she thought the colours would look together later and a skein of the merino/bamboo in “Pretty Floral Bonnet” was on its way to me. I switched to the new colour at the start of the fishtail edging and I actually really like how it looks – I think it’s more interesting than a plain shawl would have been. And I did manange to finish on the Sunday when the Commonwealth Games ended, though it’s taken a couple more weeks to get it blocked and photographed.

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It’s a pretty shawl, and a fairly straightforward knit, but a lot of people in the knitalong had similar issues with running out of yarn so I would suggest anyone else planning to make it would do well to have a spare skein to hand – I did knit it on 4mm needles rather than the suggested 3.75mm, because the yarn was quite plump for a 4-ply, and my yarn was only 400 yards to 100g rather than 400m, but I ended up using 468m of yarn and I don’t think I would have got away with one skein even on the smaller needles.

Slow socks

It seems to have been quite a while since I last posted here, though I have been knitting away. (I haven’t touched my spinning wheel since the end of the Tour de Fleece, though – must rectify that tomorrow – and I seem to have lost interest in sewing again. Apparently sewing is something I get into every spring and fall out of love with again come July. And I haven’t been taking outfit photos because I’m bored of my summer clothes and can’t wear handknits when it’s this warm and am longing for boot weather again.)

I finished my latest pair of socks this week: Rachel Coopey’s Pavilion socks.

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This pattern was released in June as a mystery knitalong, but but the time I cast on in mid-June all the clues had already been released (I was going to start earlier, but wanted to finish the socks I was working on first). The yarn is Twistle, a now-discontinued high-twist wool/nylon sock yarn from The Yarn Yard. I love the rich colour and the way the cables pop in it.

I wish I could say that I really enjoyed knitting these socks, but I didn’t. It’s nothing to do with the pattern, which is complicated enough to be an interesting knit but never too complicated to knit on the bus, and is awfully pretty to boot. Nor is it anything to do with the yarn. No, the problem was that I decided to knit these socks on a KnitPro Karbonz circular needle I’d bought to try out, and I hated knitting with it. The carbon-fibre needles have metal tips at the points, and I found that the contrast between the slippery metal and the grabbier carbon fibre made every. single. stitch feel as though it was catching as it slid between the two, which was somewhat maddening and stopped me getting into the flow of the knitting. And then, one morning when I was knitting on the bus, this happened:

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One of the metal tips popped right off! On that occasion I managed to retrieve the tip from the floor of the bus and pop it back onto the needle; I carried on using them as I was worried about my gauge changing if I switched to different needles, but I wasn’t so lucky the second time it happened, just after I’d started the toe decreases on the second sock, when I couldn’t find the tip at all and ended up spending the rest of the working day without access to knitting before coming home and switching to different needles (and it felt to nice to be knitting without that little “catch” every stitch). So the broken Karbonz needle has gone in the bin and I don’t think I’ll be buying any more. I’ll stick to my wooden KnitPro sock needles in future!

Green and purple, and a new necklace

I love my Lyttelton shrug. It’s a really nice shape, perfect to throw on when I want a bit more than just a dress but it’s too warm for a cardigan.

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I think that what I like about the shape is that unlike a lot of shrugs, it isn’t just a pair of sleeves without a jumper attached – you knit a few inches of the back before casting on more stitches for the sleeves, and cast off the sleeve stitches and then knit the same length again on the fronts. I’d like to knit more shrugs, because it is very wearable, but there seem to be very few patterns that have that; most are basically a rectangle with the long side seamed at the outer edges to create sleeves, and they tend to have a rather stretched look at the armpits which I don’t particularly like. Maybe I should just substitute another stitch pattern, and maybe rework the stitch counts and shaping for a different gauge, and make another Lyttelton…

I also wore my new necklace, which I bought on Saturday from Yellow Bear Wares.

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Because really, how could I resist a green and purple knitting needle necklace?

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

This weekend I headed down to Brighton for Unwind Brighton, a new yarn festival organised by Dani Sunshine of Lioness Arts. I was a little bit wary about this, given that my mental state hasn’t been great recently and there seemed to have been so much buzz about the festival online that I thought it might end up being really crowded, but I needn’t have worried as it felt surprisingly relaxed, and the marketplace was set out with a wide enough aisle that even though individual stalls were often crowded it was never hard to make my way around.

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It wasn’t a huge marketplace – certainly nothing like the scale of something like Woolfest or Unravel – but I thought there was a nice range of stalls, all selling lovely stuff.

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I was particularly taken with Yarn Garden‘s stall, which had a grass-green carpet and all the yarn laid out in seed trays.

I managed to spend all my yarn budget and then visited the cashpoint a second time to buy even more. These are my initial purchases, photographed as I was trying to convince myself not to get more cash out:

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There was a great programme of workshops as well, but as I’d only made the final decision to attend two weeks ago everything that really appealled to me had sold out, and I didn’t want to spend £50 on a workshop that I wasn’t really interested in, so I gave that a miss. I did attend an interesting talk on colour theory by Felicia Lo of Sweet Georgia; she discussed primary, secondary and tertiary colours and explained about hue and tone and saturation, and gave some helpful tips on selecting colours to knit with and knitting with variegated yarns. It did leave me, once again, trying to work out whether according to seasonal colour analysis I’m an autumn or a winter. (None of the tests ever make any sense to me: do your veins look blue or green under your skin? Well, mine look kind of turquoise and I’m not sure if that counts as blue or green. Do you look better in white or cream? I hate how I look in either. Do silver or gold suit you better? I have some silver jewellery, don’t like gold, but prefer brightly coloured beads to either.) Not that I think it really matters; I generally like how I look in pretty much any strong colour and dislike how I look in pale and pastel colours, and if I happen to pick an outfit that makes me look less than stellar it’s not as if anyone gets hurt by that, is it?

Of course, despite the bulging bag of yarn, I don’t go to yarn festivals for the shopping so much as for the socialising, and Unwind was brilliant for that. Wandering around the marketplace in the morning I bumped into so many people I knew, including some I was meeting in person for the first time (and who recognised me from the blog, which was just as well as I’d completely forgotten to bring a Ravelry namebadge, despite having about half a dozen scattered round the house!), and then at lunchtime I went to the podcaster meetup where I got to catch up with the lovely Louise from Caithness Craft Collective and say hello to A Playful Day, both of whom I’d met before, as well as getting to meet Martine and Charles from iMake, Jo from Shinybees and Nic from Yarns From The Plain for the first time. I was very pleased to find that they are all just as lovely in real life as they sound on their podcasts, and I managed not to be too star-struck at them.

From left to right: Jo Shinybees, Charles, Martine, A Playful Day, Rachel from The Good Yarn Guide (which I don’t listen to because it’s a video podcast and I normally listen to podcasts while travelling), Helen from Curious Handmade, Louise, Nic, and some more video podcasters: KnitRunDig (whose name I didn’t catch), and CeCe and Damaris from Geeky Girls Knit.

It was also a lovely surprise to meet Kris, who regularly comments on the blog, and who had brought Louise a bottle of Canadian whisky to try.

All in all, Unwind was a fantastic day out and if Dani decides to make it an annual thing I’d love to go again next year. It may be my favourite yarny event, because the location meant that not only did I get to have a wonderful day of yarn and friends, but I was at the SEASIDE!

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We’d decided to stay in Worthing rather than in Brighton itself, which I think was the right decision; Brighton seemed lovely, but very busy and achingly trendy, and we are quiet and middle-aged and don’t like crowds. Worthing had reasonable restaurants (we had Indian on Friday night and Thai on Saturday) which weren’t too crowded or too noisy, and we got a room in the Travelodge there which was comfortable if basic and a lot cheaper and quieter than hotels in Brighton would have been. And best of all, when I got back to Worthing at about six o’clock yesterday evening and decided to go for a walk on the beach, I practically had it to myself.

The tide was a long way out, but that was all to the good, as the bit above the tideline was all shingle, whereas further out there was sand and I took my shoes off and walked barefoot out to the edge of the water so I could paddle. You can’t beat sand beneath your feet and the sound of the waves and a salty sea breeze as a way to relax!