Tag Archives: shopping

I may be building a yarn fort

Every winter, as the days get shorter and the temperatures drop, I find myself buying more yarn (and now fibre). I think that I’m just trying to surround myself with soft, squishy, brightly coloured stuff as a protection against the cold and dark and bleakness outside. Basically, I’m building a pillow fort out of yarn.

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This is the last couple of weeks’ acquisitions. And there is more on order. It’s mad, really, as I already have more yarn than I really know what to do with. And I’m not entirely sure it really helps, as the black dog seems to be slobbering all over me right now. One consequence of which is that I don’t feel I have anything interesting to say right now. It’s taken me over an hour to write these few words, and I’m not convinced there’s any point hitting publish because I can’t imagine anyone will want to read them.

Basically, SAD sucks. If anyone wants me, I’ll be hiding in my stash with my daylight lamp on.

Yarn crawl

Yesterday I went to London for the Great London Yarn Crawl (kind of like a pub crawl but with yarn shops instead of pubs – far more civilised and much more appropriate for those of us who don’t drink alcohol).

Yarn crawl

There were five routes, and I had picked the purple route (what a surprise!). Each group visited four shops during the day, travelling between them by Underground, bus and train; there was probably as much time spent travelling, knitting and chatting as there was shopping, but the other knitters in the group were lovely and great company and it was fun to see the surprised looks of other people at the sight of a group of thirteen women all knitting on public transport. I completely failed to take any photos during the day, but there are lots on the flickr group for the day, including several of our group from Katheleen.

Unsurprisingly, I did manage to buy quite a lot of things.

Yarn crawl haul

We started the day at Loop, which was the only shop I’d been to before, where I couldn’t resist some Madeline Tosh Tosh Merino Light:

MadTosh

From Loop, we headed up to Finsbury Park and the Handweavers Studio, where I went a bit mad over the little sample bags of different kinds of fibre they had.

Fluff!

Well, everyone says that when you’re first learning to spin you should try as many different fibres as possible! I even got a tiny bag of qiviut, which is very soft but does remind me rather of the lint that we empty out of the vacuum cleaner, and I also bought a niddy-noddy to make it easier to skein yarn after I’ve spun it.

We then took a rather circuitous route (south to Green Park then about the same distance north in a slightly more westerly direction) to West Hampstead where we stopped for some lunch before visiting the Village Haberdashery, a lovely little shop as much devoted to sewing as knitting, where I bought the new Colette Patterns Zinnia skirt pattern. And then, finally, we caught the Thameslink train to Herne Hill and visited Sharp Works. I was flagging a bit by this point, but still managed to buy a skein of Manos del Uruguay Alegria sock yarn for T (never let it be said I go on yarny days out and don’t think of him!).

Manos Alegria

(I also had another present for T when I met up with him in the evening; a finished pair of Earl Greys from the stripy Sparkleduck yarn I bought for him at Woolfest:

Stripy socks

I was knitting on these on the train down and the various bits of public transport, finally kitchenering the toes and weaving in the ends on the Jubilee Line to West Hampstead.)

At the end of the day we all headed back to Waterloo for the “afterparty” in the upstairs room of a pub. For me, this was the only (comparatively) low point of the day; I was physically tired and had also reached the limit of my capacity to socialise with people and even if I didn’t find pubs difficult places to be anyway what I really needed was some quiet time by myself, and it turned out that the room was really not big enough for all the people trying to squeeze into it and the bar was very small and had a long queue and I really couldn’t be bothered to stand around waiting for my turn so I could buy a lime and soda, and with hindsight I should just have skipped it completely and found a quietish corner of a cafe to sit down with a cup of tea until it was time to go and meet T. But that’s really just me, and nothing at all to do with the organisation of the day, which was terrific, and I will definitely try to go along again next year, time and budget allowing!

What I did on my holidays

We spent the last week in Cumbria.

I finished my Mixalot socks:

Mixalot

(I also finished my Bigger on the Inside, though it still needs blocking, and knitted enough of my Lady Heather that it feels as though the end is in sight.)

T did jigsaws, including one based on a popular and long-running radio series.

Ambridge jigsaw

We walked from St Bee’s to Whitehaven over the cliffs.

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We didn’t see any puffins, but there were lots of gulls and guillemots perching on the cliffs.

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I even got to paddle!
Paddling

(We also managed to get rather sunburnt.)

And I went to Woolfest, where there were sheep and goats and alpacas and angora bunnies.

Jacobs sheep

And lots of gorgeous yarn and fibre and other craft-related things, some of which came home with me.

Woolfest haul

And, most importantly, I got to spend yesterday with friends I haven’t seen in person for far too long. I know that lots of people are a bit sceptical about internet friendships and see them as in some way lesser than friendships made offline, but while I have been burnt a couple of times I have been burnt just as badly by “real-life friends” who turned out not to be quite as much of friends as I thought they were, and for me being able to talk to people through various online services and get advice and support or just distraction and pictures of cute animals when I’ve needed them has been incredibly valuable; I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say that on occasion it really has been a lifeline. But however wonderful it is to have such fabulous people living inside my computer, it’s even more wonderful to get to spend time with them in person and I hope it won’t be too long until the next time!

Purple and orange

It appears that my uniform this spring is a three-quarter-sleeve top, a summer skirt with opaque tights, and a shawl. Well, why not?

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Shawl – Isaura
Top – M&S
Skirt – vintage fair
Tights – M&S
Shoes – Clarks

I also managed some substantial updating of my summer wardrobe in the local charity shops at lunchtime; not one but two linen jackets and an Anokhi by East dress (which needs the original modesty panel replaced with something rather more modest, but is fine otherwise). This is probably just as well, given that I appear to have spent all my money on shoes, yarn and fabric…

Retail therapy

This week is turning out to be rather difficult for a variety of reasons (though most of them boil down to People). So perhaps it’s not surprising that when I popped into Darn It and Stitch at lunchtime for some ribbon I ended up wandering out with a skein of the new Vivacious 4-ply from Fyberspates (it may be more of a surprise that I managed to restrict myself to one skein!).

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And at one point in the afternoon I decided to take it out of the paper bag and sit it on my desk where I could pet it. Maybe I should have a permanent petting skein on the desk? Though that might make people think I was weird(er)…

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2012 in clothes

Roobeedoo has made some interesting review-of-the-year posts this week, looking at ready-to-wear clothing purchases and the clothes she’s sewn and knitted, and then reflecting more generally on how her handmade wardrobe fits in with the need to project a professional image. I’m not quite ready to do crafting review-of-the-year posts (I’m still hoping to sneak a few more finished objects in before January!) but given that I’ve finished work for the year and my outfit-blogging is pretty much workwear only this seemed like a good time to reflect on what I’ve worn.

Generally speaking, I think that I’ve got better at dressing for a middle-management role. A year ago I was still very much feeling my way having previously been in a job where I could wear whatever I liked; the outfits that worked were the ones that felt a bit too dull and conservative, while my attempts to continue to keep my clothes feeling fun resulted in my feeling too casual or too fussily dressed. I’ve made a Flickr set of outfits for the year; looking through it, there’s a mix of outfits that I think worked and ones that didn’t, but there are definitely fewer misses as the year goes on.

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First work outfit of the year

One of the reasons for the improvement is that I have thrown quite a lot of money at my wardrobe over the last twelve months. So many of my staples in my old job were charity-shop stalwarts or chunky handknits that just didn’t look smart enough in my new role. I’ve spent about £1,600 on clothes in 2012, which seems like an awful lot, though it averages to less than £150 a month and there are some big-ticket items in there – two pairs of Duo boots, just for starters, and my Doc Marten wellies and two Boden Rainyday macs (both on sale) which are definitely playing to my quirky side. Having realised quite early on that the dress-and-jacket combination was a good one, I bought two winter dresses last January and have bought another four and a jacket this autumn, and I also bought two linen summer dresses. The only summer jacket I bought was actually secondhand, and I bought some secondhand blouses which actually got a lot of wear, but I did buy four fine-gauge cotton cardigans. I bought two pairs of summer shoes, though neither was really quite smart enough (I have to say, this was a dreadful summer for shoes because it was almost impossible to find anything I liked the look of even without the question of comfort and fit). And I don’t think I bought any utter disasters, apart from the M&S tights which wouldn’t stay up; most of the things I’ve bought have had a lot of wear (except the fleece-lined Boden mac, which only arrived on Friday, but I have worn that three times already so I’m sure it’ll get as much wear this winter as the one I bought in April did over the summer) so it was probably worth spending the money (though grr that the mac is now considerably cheaper than it was a week ago, but on the other hand if I hadn’t bought it then it might have sold out and I wouldn’t have had it in time to wear over the Christmas break).

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Last work outfit of the year

I’m also starting to get a feel for what counts as quirky-but-still-professional and what just ends up looking a bit odd, at least in the context of my general style, and have come to the conclusion that interesting jewellery, handknitted shawls and wraps, bright tights and colourful prints, especially in co-ordinated outfits, are all perfectly good things to wear. Meanwhile, I think one of my resolutions for 2013 should be not to default to jeans, a t-shirt and a cardigan at the weekends but to actually wear and enjoy the clothes I can’t wear for work any more!

Comfort shopping

Whenever I’m feeling stressed, run-down or generally just more depressed than usual, one of my coping strategies tends to be to make lots of online craft-related purchases. As the shiny, squashy parcels drop through the letterbox each one feels like a lovely, cheering present I’ve given myself. There was one particularly difficult January a couple of years ago when I’m pretty sure that subconsciously I was trying to acquire enough yarn to build myself a fort to keep the cold and dark and stress out.

The last couple of weeks have been massively busy at work; I’ve got three major deadlines this month; the clocks have gone back and the days feel so short; and to crown it all, I’ve got a cold. So it’s probably no surprise that several rather lovely things have landed on my doormat recently.

Purchases

The yarns are a skein of Wollmeise laceweight, which is actually greener than I was expecting (the description said teal-green, and I’d call it green green), but it’s still a lovely rich shade, and so much of it, and some Tibetan Cloud yak from Skein Queen which I had to buy because I was so curious about what it would be like.

I also ordered a set of the new Chiaogoo Twist needles from Purlescence; I liked that they go down to 2.75mm and have been getting increasingly fed up with how badly my knitting catches on the joins of my KnitPros, so I got the small set (2.75mm – 5mm tips) and so far I’m really loving them – they’re wonderfully smooth to work with and the stitches just slide across the joins with no catching at all. I think I’m really going to enjoy knitting with them.

And finally, how could I resist a Doctor Who themed project bag from The Undercover Owl? Practical and totally geeky!

Hopefully all of these will go some way to keeping the darkness and stress at bay over the next few weeks, anyway!

Fibre East

Having seethed quietly with jealousy at the blog posts and tweets about Wonderwool and Woolfest (neither of which is really feasible for me without at least an overnight stay) earlier this year, I was determined not to miss Fibre East, given that it’s only about 60 miles from me. So yesterday morning I set off, despite the rain and warnings of dire conditions on the roads (I was very pleased to hear that the A45 was closed due to flooding near Northampton just before setting out, as I had been planning on going that way but went via Milton Keynes instead), taking Laura and Irene from the Archers Listeners group on Ravelry along with me. We arrived at about midday and although the site was quite muddy a good time was had by all. (On the subject of mud, I had planned to wear hiking boots, but chucked my wellies in the car as well, and was jolly glad I had done as just walking to the top of the car park was enough to convince me to go back and change into them – in places there were ankle-deep puddles so it was nice not to have to worry!)

I’m terrible at blogging about events, because I never remember to take pictures, but there were three large marquees full of stalls, as well as a catering tent doing a roaring trade in bacon butties, tea, coffee, jacket potatoes, cake and more, some smaller tents with sellers of looms and spinning wheels, sheep-shearing demonstrations and places to sit and chat, try out spinning and help to stuff cushions for Woolsack. It all seemed very well-organised; the squelchiness underfoot was unfortunate but generally didn’t seem to be dampening spirits, and obviously the weather was somewhat outside the organisers’ control!

For me, the best thing about knitting shows is the chance to socialise and catch up with people I normally only manage to interact with on Ravelry or Twitter, and yesterday was no exception; I saw Jane running the p/hop stall, Sarah and Anna, Joy, Debbie and Heather all had stalls, and there were plenty of other friends wandering around, including several other members of the Archers Listeners group. We had failed to arrange a time and place to meet, but we had at least agreed to make badges that would allow us to recognise each other:

Oooooh nooooo!

It was also particularly nice to catch up with Sarah Abroad, who I talk to on Twitter a lot but had only ever met in person once before, at the Bothered Owl Christmas party the year before last.

It’s funny; I’m definitely very much an introvert, but I love knitting events and bounce around waving at people and introducing myself to people I’ve only met online with cheerful abandon, while Laura, who I always think of as being far more of a social person than I am, often says she feels shy and nervous of approaching people. I suppose the thing is that while spending time with people (even lovely people, and while I don’t buy into the ‘knitters are all lovely!’ meme – knitters are people, just like others, and some are lovely and some aren’t – I do know lots of lovely knitters and there’s a lot to be said for the pleasure of interacting with people who you have a major passion in common with rather than people you struggle to find anything to talk about) is definitely something that takes energy from me rather than renewing it (yesterday was fantastic, but did leave me feeling pretty drained), ‘introverted’ isn’t thre same thing as ‘shy’ and while I used to be terribly shy it’s one of the childhood difficulties that shaped who I am but has ended up leaving me in adult life. And I rather like having my chance to be bouncy and Tiggerish and feel like I’m surrounded by friends :-)

Of course, even though socialising in the main point, I did make some purchases (though I actually managed not to spend all the money I had with me, because I was trying very hard not to come home with even more random skeins of sockweight and laceweight yarn that were really quite similar to all the other random skeins of sockweight and laceweight yarn in my craft room):

Fibre East haul

From left to right, a kit to make Anna‘s Greenwitch gloves (because not only are both the gloves and the Yarnscape yarn beautiful, I absolutely adore Susan Cooper’s Dark Is Rising sequence which inspired the pattern), a skein of Skein Queen Delectable (merino/silk laceweight), because the colourway was just too lovely to resist, some Artisan Yarns linen laceweight because I want to see how it will knit up (it feels a bit like very fine, staggeringly expensive string, but I’m assured it softens up with washing and handling!) and a skein of sock yarn from Boo’s Attic, just because I loved the colours.

I thought it was a great day out, and am definitely hoping to go again next year!

Spring is in the air

The weather today was very mild for February, and I thought pink and green might make a spring-like outfit. It did, though I still miss my olive-green shoes that died last summer; they would have been better than the brown ones.

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Necklace – Oxfam fairtrade
Cardigan – clothes swap
Top – Gap
Skirt – Boden
Tights – M&S
Shoes – Clarks

I’ve been trying to do more interesting things in my lunch breaks, rather than just mooching round the shops. Yesterday I went to the Ashmolean and looked at mummies; today I was going to go back but remembered the regular ‘antiques and crafts market’ (posh title for what I’d call a flea market, really – some actual antiques, lots of second-hand tat, a clothes stall that seems to specialise in cashmere jumpers in various states of wear) and thought I’d have a wander round. It’s a while since I’ve been, and the last time was before I sewed, so I hadn’t registered that there were stalls selling vintage buttons, sewing notions and fabric remnants, so I was very pleased to find a couple of metres of deep fuchsia fabric for £3. It’s got a nice drape and a visible weave, kind of twill-like; it’s probably polyester but might be a poly-wool blend, and in either case it feels nice enough. I had been keeping an eye out for fuchsia fabric for a shortish skirt for next winter, after trying on a fuchsia pencil skirt in the Monsoon sale which didn’t fit me at all, so I’m very pleased with that find!

That’s the way the money goes

In a discussion the other day I happened to mention the amount of money I have left to spend on myself every month, and that I thought that I was really quite well off. ‘Ah’ said someone else ‘that’s why you have all those lovely clothes’.

Now, I am quite well off, and I do have a fair amount of money to spend on myself every month, but actually I don’t think I spend that much on clothes. I was thinking about this earlier, and thought I’d probably have estimated that I spend a little more than £100 a month, on average, and maybe £1,500 a year; in fact, having checked my financial records, in the last year I’ve spent just under £1,400, so I wasn’t far off. I think I’ve made five purchases costing over £50; two of those were knee-high boots (my Timberlands, which were half price, and my new Duo boots), a third was my Merrell walking shoes, and the others were my winter coat and the dress I wore for my mother’s 60th birthday party. I’m sure I do spend more than a lot of people (and I do also spend a fairly eye-watering amount of money on haircuts, which is an unfortunate side-effect of having a cut which needs six-weekly trims and living in an expensive area), but I don’t think it’s really that extravagant. It’s quite rare for me to buy new full-priced clothes, and mostly if I do they’re basics like t-shirts, underwear and tights which are hard to find in sales or second-hand (and I do draw the line at second-hand underwear!). Mainly, I shop in sales and charity shops and get clothes at clothes swaps. I also keep clothes for a long time – I still have two tops which I’ve had since I was a student in the early 90s, though they’re quite shabby now – so my wardrobe represents several years’ worth of shopping.

What about everyone else? Is this fairly average, or am I really far more extravagant than I think?

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Necklace – Oxfam Trading (bought new, about five years ago)
Jacket – bought second-hand from friend
Top – Per Una sale, three or four years ago
Skirt – Per Una, a rare full-price purchase, three years ago
Tights – M&S
Shoes – Clarks sale, about 18 months ago