Tag Archives: days out

Socks and geeks

I haven’t been knitting on the bus to work lately; I’ve gone back to walking half the journey and am finding myself tending to read for the other half, so in nearly two months I’d only managed to knit one of my Dunkerton Sweet socks and the cuff and half of the first leg pattern repeat of the second. And then I went to Nine Worlds yesterday and after knitting my way through panels on Historial Headcanons, Women and Fanfiction, Unlearning Bias and Doctor Who and transhumanism I had finished the second sock and had to sit through the panel on the Fantasy of White History knitting-free (result: one chewed thumb, because I am a fidget and can’t keep my hands still).

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I actually had to start these socks twice; the first time I used a 2.25mm needle, as recommended by the pattern, but the yarn I was using (Brown Sheep Wildfoote) is quite a substantial sock yarn and on a 2.25mm needle it was really hard to work the lace pattern, especially the centred double decreases, so I ripped it out and started again with a 2.5mm needle which was much easier. I found the heel flap a bit fiddly the first time round, but much easier the second time; I also struggled slightly with the question of how to rearrange from having 33 stitches on the top of the foot and 27 on the sole to 30 on each for the toe, though this is mainly because I didn’t follow the pattern’s suggestion to place a start of round marker in the middle of the sole and therefore couldn’t do as suggested and just count stitches from there. In the end I opted to move one stitch from the inside of the foot (where the pattern goes furthest down towards the toe) and two from the outside on each sock, which seems to have worked, but I should probably have used the marker.

As for my first con experience, it was fun but exhausting. Partly that was because I only went for the day, which entailed getting up at 6am, leaving the house at ten past seven to get a bus into town for the 8am coach to Heathrow and getting to the con at 10am, then doing the whole thing in reverse in the evening (though it was quicker then, and I ended up home only two and a quarter hours after heading off at 8pm) which made for a long day. Partly it was because there were so many people around, and there didn’t really seem to be anywhere to just sit and breathe for five minutes; the panels were scheduled with half an hour between them but that really only seemed to be time to find the room where the next panel was, with maybe time to say hello to a couple of people in passing, or go to the loo or get a cup of tea if the queue wasn’t too long, so it very much felt as though I spent 10 hours alternately rushing around and listening to intellectually stimulating discussions. There wasn’t any downtime, and I was glad I’d brought sandwiches with me because not only did there not really seem to be anywhere to buy food (short of a full sit-down meal in one of the hotel restaurants, which I wouldn’t have done on my own, or the McDonalds next door) but there wasn’t time or space to eat it; I ended up eating my first sandwich while standing in a corridor waiting to get in to the Women in Fanfiction panel and the second while sitting in the room for the Fantasy of White History waiting for it to start. It was also a lot less of a social experience than I’d expected it to be; I saw lots of people I knew, but mostly it ended up being hellos in passing while heading in opposite directions, or occasionally ten minutes’ chat while waiting for a panel. I can see that staying in the conference hotel (or one of the other hotels nearby) would have helped a lot with the length-of-day and no-quiet-space problems, although being there for longer would have made bringing food more problematic and I can’t see that it would have helped with the lack of time to socialise. And, of course, it would also have been a lot more expensive.

Still, exhaustion and introvert ambivalence aside, I really enjoyed the day. It was nice to see various people, albeit briefly, and to meet one long-standing internet friend in person for the first time. I loved seeing the various cosplays people had come up with (in the absence of getting to see Liwella‘s Missy costume in person, my favourite was the woman who had knitted her own Wonder Woman outfit, closely followed by the bowl of petunias), and the panels were interesting and seem to have reawoken a critical part of my brain which had been dormant for far too long. With the result that I’m having all kinds of random thoughts, which you lucky people get to hear! (Or not; if you’re only here for the chat about what I’m making you may want to click away now, assuming you didn’t already do that several paragraphs away.)

One thing that impressed me was the democratic nature of fandom. Of course, there were some people on panels and some people listening to panels, but the membrane between “people on panels” and “people listening to panels” was clearly permeable, and in most cases about 40% of time in any session was devoted to audience questions/contributions to the discussion (the exception was the Fantasy of White History panel, where the panel ended up having a fascinating, incredibly enthusiastic discssion among themselves for the whole session; given the topic, and the overpowering whiteness of the audience, this didn’t seem like a bad thing at all). I was particularly struck by some of the comments from the panellists in the Women and Fanfiction panel about how, for them, writing fic was about creating a community of people who loved the same fandoms and characters as they did, and not about “practicing” so they could become professional writers. Somehow, this reminded me of the negative feelings I’ve been experiencing about the knitting world recently (see my post from a few months ago lamenting the decline in amateur blogging and podcasting, if you want the details) and it struck me that maybe the problem is that (even though yesterday was my first con) I’ve been on the outskirts of fandom for longer than I’ve been knitting and I’ve absolutely internalised the idea that activities which are ancillary to the production of the thing the fandom is about (blogging, fic, podcasting, running meetups) should be about creating community and sharing the love, whether that love is for a book, a TV series or a craft, and that I see people who decide to monetise those activities as betraying the community. But then, this morning, I followed a link to this terrific post by Kari Sperring, and I was particularly struck by this:

We are, as I said, an institutionally sexist culture. Women are embedded in this, too. I have had to have brisk conversations with myself more than once as to *why* I find self-promotional posts by women more worrying that those by men, for instance.

It made me ask myself whether, by resenting the monetisation of activities ancillary to my favourite hobby, I’m really being complicit in a culture which systematically devalues women’s inputs to the status of “hobby” rather than accepting them as “businesses” and valuing them accordingly. And then I read this by Maureen Kincaid Speller, which suggests that “ancillary activity as a method of building community” is maybe not as unproblematic in the world of SFF fandom as yesterday’s panellists may have made it appear, and that there are plenty of people there who are blogging as a step to professional reviewing gigs. So maybe the lovely utopian community-creating ideal is one that belongs to the past, or maybe it was always something that happened mostly in female spaces, because culture tells women that (unpaid) community-building is more important/valuable than using our talents to earn a living. (The giant Metafilter thread on emotional labour probably refers here, though I’m afraid I haven’t yet managed to find the time to read all of it.)

So, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, women using their skills and talents to find ways to support themselves financially which work for them and their families? Ways which take crafts which were traditionally seen as female and systematically undervalued because of it and actually make money out of them? Well, that’s great. I ought to be happy about it. But on the other hand, I don’t feel as though the knitting community is a community any more. Obviously, there have always been designers/dyers and then the rest of us, who are “just” knitters, just as in fandom there are authors and fans, but the membrane was permeable: desigers and dyers are also knitters, just as many authors are also fans of other things, and we were united by our common passion. Now, it feels as though a new divide has emerged, and on one side are the people who see knitting and knitting-related activities as their business, who have carefully curated online identities and use their blogs and podcasts and social media to promote each other’s businesses, and on the other are those of us for whom knitting is still just a hobby. I don’t want to make my hobby my business; I happen to be very happy in my job, and I don’t want the thing I do for fun to be tainted by the frustrations attendant on any money-making activity. But the trade-off for that seems to be that I’m no longer a member of a community; over the last six months or so, it’s become increasingly clear that all I am is a consumer, and that’s been making me very sad (and has also been tainting my enjoyment in knitting as a hobby, because that was so bound up with loving being part of the community).

TL;DR: capitalism ruins everything. Bah.

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.


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.


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.

GSoY marketplace

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

Prick Your Finger

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.

Wild and Woolly

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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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.



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.


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:


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!


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!

The Great Scottish Tapestry

While I was in Glasgow last month I took a trip over to Paisley to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland at Paisley Thread Mill. (I have delayed writing this post for so long that the Paisley exhibition has now finished, but the tapestry will be at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh over the summer and at New Lanark in October and November, and if you have a chance to see it you really should go.)

The tapestry (which isn’t actually a tapestry, because tapestries are woven and this is embroidered, but then again so is the Bayueux Tapestry) consists of 160 panels which were embroidered by groups of volunteers around Scotland, depicting scenes from the history of the country from the Ice Age to the present day. I couldn’t hope to photograph half of it, but I did take pictures of some of my favourite details.


I love this squirrel’s bright eye and bushy tail!

This panel celebrates Scotland’s involvement with India (although not the delight that is the haggis pakora) and I loved the colours.

The peacock represents the peacock-tail of Paisley designs, on a panel commemorating the mills of Paisley (including the one where I saw the tapestry).

I can’t resist a puffin! This one was on the Shetland panel.

And penguins are almost as good. Not a native Scottish bird, but this panel is about Shackleton.

And finally, I was just amazed at the detail of the embroidered sock on the Fair Isle panel – the way the outside looks like knitting and the inside looks like the inside of stranded colourwork is just incredible.

Rainbow hat

The rainbow hat I made last weekend is now blocked and has its pompom sewn on.


I love it, it’s such a fun hat and the pompom makes me smile.


I wore it yesterday when I went to Unravel for the day, but sadly it was far too warm inside the hall to wear a woolly hat. Luckily I was still wearing a handknitted cardigan (my Cria, which got a lot of compliments) and a shawl, so my credentials as a knitter were never in any doubt. I had a lovely day catching up with friends I haven’t seen for ages, and even though it was so busy it was sometimes quite difficult to get at the stalls I seem to have managed to spend all the money I took with me without too much trouble!


I was also very impressed with the signage that had been put up along the road from the station to Farnham Maltings where the event was held!

Sheep sign

Given that I was out all day yesterday, it’s not that surprising that I don’t have much crafting to talk about. I am knitting more walking socks, which I took with me yesterday and made good progress on; today I finally started the final clue of the Ysolda mystery shawl, and also spun a bit more of the batt from the Hilltop Cloud learn to spin kit. It’s coming out much finer than I’ve managed to spin before, though I’m always getting quite enough twist into it. I’m pleased with my progress, though.

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:


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.


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!