Unravel 2015

I recently made a road trip from London to Farnham with three friends to attend Unravel at Farnham Maltings.

Unravel is an annual yarn and fibre festival, and as it’s at the end of February, it usually  kicks off the UK yarn “season”.  Farnham is a pretty town a little way south-west of London, and Unravel is held in a lovely old maltings building (where barley used to be prepared for brewing), which is now home to an arts centre, café and all-round creative hub.  I’d not attended Unravel before, but had always heard great things about it, and so I was excited to go for the first time.

I wasn’t disappointed.  The whole building had been transformed with yarn and knitting-related displays everywhere, from sweaters on the walls of the café, to knitted arrows pointing the way to the venue.


The marketplace was spread over several floors, and the winding nature of the building makes it into a bit of a treasure trail, as you wend your way through the different spaces, discovering new vendors around every corner.  Although it was busy, there was still time to chat to vendors and other attendees, and a lovely convivial atmosphere.

My friends and I hadn’t booked for any of the talks or classes, but I did get the chance to meet Annemor Sundbø (who had given a talk on Norwegian knitting traditions) and to see her wonderful collection of old Norwegian mittens, which were strung around the walls of one room.

Mitten Mittens

I really enjoyed looking round all the stalls in the marketplace.  There was a really inspiring selection of yarn, fibre, patterns, notions, tools and other lovely things.  There was so much to admire on the beautifully-presented stalls.

aTaxidermy crochet aYarn aVintage beauty Fibre

Marketplace photos – top to bottom above: knitted taxidermy from Sincerely Louise, Kaffe Fasset-inspired crochet blanket at The Natural Dye Studio’s stall, a tempting table of Skein Queen yarn, beautiful vintage objects from Eliza Conway, and Spin City’s stunning hand-dyed fibre.

There was so much to see that I took the approach of taking a full tour round at a leisurely pace, and then going back to a few stalls towards the end of the day to make my purchases.  In the end, I bought Annemor Sundbø’s book, Knitting in Art (which I had been coveting for some time), three skeins of John Arbon’s Viola yarn to make a big shawl (so hard choosing between the gloriously complex colours), some very luxurious ruby-toned lace weight yarn from Skein Queen and a skein of gorgeous green Stein Fine Wool from The Little Grey Sheep (who produce their own hand-dyed yarn from their own herd).


While I’m very pleased with my purchases, it wasn’t just about the shopping.  Unravel 2015 was full of inspiration: lovely knitwear, new and familiar vendors, lots of products to explore in the future and lots of catching up with other knitters.  Thanks to the vendors and organisers for a brilliant event, and I’m already looking forward to next year.

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Winter inspiration by the sea

A long weekend away provided a welcome opportunity to recharge my batteries and get plenty of visual inspiration.  Although London hasn’t been cloaked in a Narnian snow blanket (like many other parts of the Northern hemisphere), it’s still pretty dark and cold, and I’m definitely at the point where I feel that the days have been short for too long.

So it was a real tonic to have a few days by the sea, staying in a cottage in Southwold, a little town on the Suffolk coast.  I don’t think cold weather is a problem if you have the right clothes and don’t have to travel too far.  Obviously, I was well-equipped with handknits, so I wrapped up snugly and went out for lots of walks to make the most of the winter daylight.

Southwold is a beautiful place, with an excellent beach and pier (with handmade automata as amusements)

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and colourful beach huts (each with its own name).

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There are so many interesting buildings and features in the town, with gorgeous details, both old and new:

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I also took the chance to warm up a little on a tour of the Adnams distillery.  There was lots of beautiful copper distilling apparatus, a little museum, which featured a handstitched bottle cover, and a wonderfully-fragrant gin laboratory (where they experiment with different botanicals).  I wish you could smell it now…

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I’ve been to Southwold many times, and one of my favourite nearby places is the huge RSPB reserve at Minsmere.  I’d never been there in winter before though, and although it was quieter than at other times of year, there were still deer to be spotted in the woods and a bittern preening in the sunshine in the reedbeds.

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A wintery walk round Minsmere also provided a wealth of inspiration in terms of different textures and colours in the landscape.  I enjoyed having time to observe and to take photos of some of them.  Here are some of my favourite details:

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Lots of them make me think of textured knits or embroidery stitches, and there were some surprising flashes of colour.

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Of course, I made time for some knitting while I was away.  I did some swatching for a possible Coronis sweater (which I will make longer than the original) and also worked on the Beetlebum lace shawl I’d just cast on in Madelinetosh Prairie yarn (in the Tern colourway).  It’s been a while since I’ve knitted any lace, and I’m really enjoying this lovely new pattern from EastLondonKnit.  Mine won’t look like anything much until it’s finished and blocked, but if you want to admire the stunning original shawl, here’s where Renee from EastLondonKnit blogged about it.

The combination of daylight, fresh air, lots of walking and so many interesting sights, smells and tastes was really invigorating.  I hope I can hang onto that feeling of inspiration and energy.  What are you doing at this time of year to beat the winter blues?  Or if you’re in warmer climes, how are you making the most of summer?

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Being kinder to myself (or how it’s really not right to rush when knitting with cashmere)

I hope you’re having a good 2015 so far.  I spent the start of mine very quietly, as I was laid low with a chest infection.  When I felt up to knitting, I had a lovely soothing project to work on: the Arboles Cowl by Sashka Macievich.  It was my post-Christmas knitting, cast on after all the rush of gift-knitting and general festive activity, using two skeins of beautiful plant-dyed cashmere yarn from Elisabeth Beverley that I had been looking forward to using.  I had bought the first skein (a yellow, dyed with daffodils) at a Selvedge fair a couple of years ago, and then bought a soft grey skein (dyed with brambles) to pair with it at the PomPom Christmas party in December.  (It’s okay to buy yarn to help you use existing stash, right?)

Working on the project highlighted a habit of mine that I’m determined to break during 2015.  I had no deadline and as I was ill, I wasn’t really up to doing anything very strenuous.  I was enjoying the pattern, and for goodness sake, I was knitting with cashmere!  I should have been relaxing and enjoying the buttery softness of every stitch and the pleasing way the grey and yellow were knitting up together in the slipped stitch pattern.  Yet I found myself rushing through my project, simply to tick another “job done” off my list!

I’m all for goals and planning.  In fact, I generally live by my to-do list and take a great deal of satisfaction from the fact that I manage to juggle all the things I do.  It enriches my life, and if I didn’t push myself sometimes I’d probably still be saying “maybe I should buy some yarn and needles and learn to knit one day”, but sometimes  I take it to extremes.

Luckily, that time I caught myself and gave myself a bit of a talking to.  After that, it was a very relaxing knit.  There are times when I want or need to push on through the to-do list like a person on a mission, but there are also times when I could stop and take more pleasure from small things.  This year I’m hoping to balance a bit more of the latter with the former and to be kinder to myself when I can.  Oh, and I haven’t written that on a list. 🙂


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Knitting thrums: a how-to guide

Do you knit patterns more than once? I usually prefer to knit something new, but sometimes a pattern begs to be knit more than once, often because I finish it for the first time and think someone else I know might like one of those.  Ishbel by Ysolda Teague is a shawl I’ve made a few times, and I’ve recently made the Brighton Beach shawlette by Dieuwke Van Mulligen for the second time as a birthday present for a friend.  Bella by Dani Sunshine made a lovely matching set of cardigans for a new baby and her big sister.  The Meredith Baby Cardigan by Ruth Maddock created two very different finished objects using different colour combinations: a warm cream with pale blue buttons for a baby boy, and navy with Liberty print floral buttons for a baby girl (which I wrote about here).

My most recent repetition of a pattern has been the Cadeautje slipper socks from Ysolda Teague’s Knitworthy collection, although this one is starting to look a little like a production line.  I wrote here about starting my first pair on a recent knitting weekend, and they are a lot of fun to make.  The first pair was a gift for a friend, but I immediately embarked on a second pair to keep my own toes warm.  I’ve now just finished my fourth pair in time to post off for Christmas!  I think that they will make good presents, but they are also just satisfying and quick to knit, and it’s hard not to smile when you’re making something that looks like this:


That’s the inside of the sole, which is covered in the fleecey ends of pieces of unspun fibre (or thrums) which are knitted into it as you go.  They make a lovely, warm and squishy lining, which felts together with wear.  There’s a photo at the end of this post which shows the outside of the sole.

I made my Cadeautje using rainbow thrums, with twelve different hues painting a rainbow from toe to heel.  I bought a mixed selection of coloured fibre from World of Wool in the UK, which has a really wide range of different coloured dyed merino tops (as well as other wool breeds and natural tops).  The main yarn I used is New Lanark Chunky yarn in the neutral grey, Pebble.

This was the first time I’d made thrums, and it’s a really fun technique. The instructions in the pattern suggest that it’s a good idea to make a batch of them at a time so you don’t have to keep stopping between stitches to make each thrum as you go, and I think that’s a really good tip.  If it’s your first time making thrums too, I thought some pictures of the process might be useful.  Below I’ve shown how to make a thrum and how to knit it into your fabric.

Gently pull off a length of fibre to make your thrum. Fold the ends in so that you have a loop at either end.  The chunkier the width of your thrum, the larger the coloured stitch will appear on the right side, and the longer the piece of fibre is, the more fibre you will have lining the inside. If you want a uniform effect, you should try to keep the thrums a similar size.  I tended to use any slightly smaller ones nearer the edges of the sole, as there would be less need for padding there.  The one I’m making below was for the cuff of my Cadeautje.  I made them longer and wider for the sole so it would be more cushioned.

pull thrum thrum length

When you come to add your thrum to your knitting, you will have the right side of your work (i.e. the outside of the sole, if you are making Cadeautje) facing you.  Insert the working needle into your stitch and wrap the yarn round it as if you are about to knit.  Lay your thrum around your needle (over the wrapped yarn) so that the two looped ends hang along the wrapped yarn (first picture below).  Then, holding the two loops of your thrum and your wrapped yarn, knit them as one stitch. Your knitted thrum will look like the second picture below, with the yarn and fibre lying close together.

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On the next row (working on the right side if you’re knitting in the round, such as on the cuff of the Cadeautje slippers or on the wrong side if you’re knitting flat, such as on the Cadeautje sole), when you get to the thrummed stitch, you knit (or purl on the wrong side) the yarn and the thrum fibre together as one stitch (see first picture below).  Once knitted, your thrum will look like the second picture below (where I’ve knitted three stitches past the thrum).

About to knit row 1 Finished thrum

If you’re racing to complete Christmas gift knitting or craft projects, good luck with them, and I hope you have a very happy festive season.

Cadeautje finished

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Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood – exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum

I recently enjoyed a long weekend of playing in my own city, London, when my sister came to stay.  I’m often guilty of not making time to enjoy the rich variety of what London has to offer.  Having a motivated visitor is a great reminder that there is so much going on and a great excuse to get out and enjoy it!

Over my sister’s four-day stay, we visited a different exhibition each day (for more details of the other exhibitions, see the end of this post).  One of the exhibitions we visited was the Fashion and Textile Museum’s current show, Knitwear: Chanel to Westwood.

The exhibition showcased developments in knitwear design from the 1920s to the 1990s. There was a stunning array of garments displayed, which are taken mainly from the private collection of knitwear enthusiasts Mark and Cleo Butterfield.  It was a very diverse range of garments, ranging from 1920s knitted swimwear to “novelty” pieces from the 1970s which were loudly embellished with embroidery, applique and crazy prints (including a Scottie dog jumper which reminded me of something I wore as a child!).  Some of the pieces were everyday wear, both commercially-made and in some cases handmade (such as in the WW2 “make do and mend” section, which featured some beautiful hand knitted sweaters using lots of scraps of different coloured yarns to great effect).  Other pieces were designed for evening wear, including a selection of 1950s embellished cocktail jumpers (which is definitely a concept that isn’t used enough now!) and a breathtaking 1920s beaded cape. The exhibition showed the impact on fashion designers of traditional techniques, such as fair isle, folk embellishments from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, and also how innovations in construction and fibres inspired designers such as Mary Quant, Sonia Rykiel and Vivienne Westwood to create ever more experimental knitwear designs through the 1970s, 80s and 90s, ending with Julian Macdonald’s stunning and innovative knitwear from the 1990s.

Photography wasn’t allowed in the exhibition, so unfortunately I can’t give you a visual flavour of the exhibition to entice you to go.  Here are some of the postcards that I bought:

Chanel to Westwood

(Postcards L-R show 1980s Escada sweater, handcrafted 1940s cardigan and handknit Edwardian petticoat.  All pieces from the collection of Mark and Cleo Butterfield.)

For a fascinating snapshot of how knitwear developed during the 20th century or even just to look at lots of lovely clothes, if you are in London before the exhibition closes on 18 January 2015, I recommend going along.  Details of opening times and ticket prices are available here.

Other things that my sister and I did over the weekend included visiting the Wedding Dresses 1775-2014 exhibition at the V&A (until 15 March 2015), the exhibition of Yoshitomo Nara artworks at the Dairy Art Centre (which finishes on 7 December 2014 – if you read this in time, go now! – it was brilliant) and the Art of the Brick lego art exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery (until 12 April 2015).  We also found some Paddingtons out and about on the streets of London, drank cocktails on the roof of Selfridges department store in a very Christmassy mock ski-chalet, walked a lot, and did a fair bit of our Christmas shopping.  Oh, and my sister met Take That, which was also very exciting!  It was a lovely few days, and reminded me that I really must take time more often to be a visitor to my own city.

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A knitting weekend (and measuring my progress)

Last weekend, I enjoyed two days of lovely company, delicious food, beautiful countryside, excellent conversation and lots of knitting with a group of friends and friends-of-friends.  Six of us stayed in Swallow Barn Cottage in the lovely village of Hartpury, near Gloucester for a knitting weekend.


We spent much of our time sitting around the huge fireplace, with our knitting and cups of tea/glasses of something stronger to keep us going…  I can now highly recommend Winter Pimms (oh yes) and hot apple juice as the perfect drink to accompany cosy autumn/winter knitting.  Although it was actually too mild for us to light the fire, even though we’re now into November.


I took a few projects with me and worked on my Cedar Shake fingerless gloves (a pattern from the book Juju’s Loops, which I’ve had my eye on for a while).  These knit up fairly quickly, and the stretchy lace and twisted stitch pattern, combined with decreases towards the wrist make them fit really well.  I also started working on one of Ysolda Teague’s patterns: the Cadeautje slippers from her new collection, Knitworthy.  Cadeautje are chunky slipper socks with a secret.  The insides are thrummed (which means that they have bits of wool fibre knit into the fabric, so that on the outside the fibre appears like a bigger stitch, but on the inside the ends are loose to create a lovely fleecy lining which looks like a clown wig or a muppet.  Like this (which is the inside of the finished sole):


I had got really excited by this pattern as they look incredibly cosy, and I also liked the idear of playing with colours for a rainbow of thrums.  I took a selection of dyed merino tops with me, and the wisdom of my fellow knitters was invaluable in working out the right combination and order.  Here’s what we went for after much group debate:


I’m still finishing the second one, but they are turning out really nicely.  I may end up making more than one pair, as I think they will make excellent presents.  It’s the first time I’ve made anything with thrums, but they are very satisfying to do!

As well as colour advice, knitting in a group brings so many advantages.  It was really interesting seeing what everyone else was making and having the chance to compare notes and tips.  Between us, we managed to solve quite a bit of swatching-related maths, find just the right size needle for every eventuality and share lots of pattern inspiration.  With lots of knitting time, we managed to make good progress on our projects.  Here’s the group project photo of everything we worked on (mainly knitting, with some patchwork quilting and a rag rug).  Some projects were just starting, while others, such as the lovely baby blanket, were virtually finished.


For me, the weekend was also a real marker of my progress as a knitter because my knitting journey really started on a similar weekend with almost the same group of people just over three years ago.  Back then, I was more of a general crafter, sewist, and jewellery maker and had never really knitted more than a few rows.  When my friend Jenny invited me on the weekend, I realised that everyone else who was going was a knitter and decided it was the perfect opportunity to improve my very rudimentary knitting skills.  I took some yarn I liked the look of and some needles, and I started a Christmas present scarf in double moss stitch.  I only made a few inches worth of slow progress that weekend, but I had long enough to get into the rhythm of knitting and I loved it.  At one point, one of the others, Cat, said to me “I’m not sure you’ll finish that by Christmas”.   It was a very fair observation, but when I got home her comment spurred me to get up 20 minutes earlier each day to work on my scarf. Here is that first scarf:

First scarf

I not only finished it, but also ended up making another two similar scarves before Christmas!  It was that daily knitting that really turned me into a knitter and I can’t really imagine life without it now.  (Thank you Jenny and Cat for what you started!)

Sitting with the same people three years on enabled me to measure just how much I’ve learned.  I was no longer sitting there baffled by the use of unfamiliar (although actually quite simple) terms such as “knitting through the back of the loop” and “slipped stitches” which I remembered not understanding on that previous weekend.  It’s now my language, and my knitting no longer feels clumsy but utterly familiar in my hands.  I was able to admire everyone’s projects even more now that I have a good understanding of what they are doing and I’m now not phased by mistakes because I am (usually) able to fix them.   It was good to take stock of the progress I’ve made and the way knitting has become part of my life, as sometimes it’s easy to forget where you started from.

In other news, if you visit Hartpury, make sure you go to look at the bee shelter which can be found in the churchyard.  We had seen the signs for it and were intrigued.  It was built in the mid-19th century by local stone mason and beekeeper Paul Tuffley.  It is a rather impressive construction which houses 28 straw skeps (which are the dome shaped bee houses that bees were kept in before modern beehives were invented).  If you are wondering what a bee shelter looks like, here is the Hartpury one:



All in all, it was a really enjoyable weekend.  We’re already thinking about the next one!

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A knitting emergency

This week I had a knitting emergency.

I had nothing to knit…

By that I don’t mean that I had no yarn to knit.  Far from it – this is the pile by the sofa at the moment, and I’m sure you’ll agree that I have plenty of lovely yarn:


And I don’t mean that I had no ideas for what to knit.  I always have a huge backlog of potential patterns in my mind’s eye that I haven’t started yet.  Potential projects that I want to cast on at the moment include Dani Sunshine’s gorgeous new pom pom hat Puck, possibly more than one pair of Ysolda Teague’s super-cosy thrummed slippers Cadeautje, a blanket for my living room, striped plain socks, at least half of Rachel Coopey‘s sock patterns, Joji Locatelli’s Magnolia Cardigan and Japan Sleeves sweater, some Cedar Shake wristwarmers from the book Juju’s Loops, Tincanknits’ Lush cardigan and Justyna Lorkowska’s Alecia Beth cardigan.  So I’m not short on things I want to knit either.

No, my problem was that I had NOTHING on the needles that I could knit.  I’ve got a pair of socks that I can’t find.  I had my second Brighton Beach shawlette also on the needles, but couldn’t knit on that because the gorgeous soft yarn had somehow got into a huge sticky alpaca tangle and I knew it would take me a good hour to untangle it.  All the other projects I had been working on were finished and all the projects I wanted to start required colour choices or maths or yarn winding or swatching or some other preparatory tasks which required daylight or a bit of time and concentration before I could cast on.  This week I’ve been having early starts and late nights at work, so that I couldn’t do those and get something onto my needles.

So I found myself with no knitting for four days.  And even though I had very little free time this week in which I could have knit, I was surprised by the effect it had on me.  I began to get very tetchy, and any period of sitting still, even to drink a cup of tea in the morning before rushing out of the house, became a source of immense frustration.  Which lead me to wonder whether knitting improves me in some way…

I normally knit everyday, and normally any sitting still time is also knitting time.  Even when I’m too busy for much dedicated knitting time, those few minutes before I leave for work or that half hour watching television with my knitting in my hands add up and incrementally my knitting will lengthen on my needles and I’ve made something.  It’s incredibly satisfying and this week I’ve really missed it.  I also think that in some way the repetition and working with the textures and colours in the yarn is both soothing and stimulating in a way that I’ve realised I really need.  Without it I was rather lost this week, and I began to realise that it had quite a powerful impact on my general contentment levels (and possibly on how nice a person I am to be with…)

Last night I didn’t get to sit still until quite late, so decided to tackle my tangled Brighton Beach yarn first.  After an hour of untangling I now have a knittable project going again and it was lovely to wake up this morning and know that my knitting cold turkey period has ended.  What a difference a few rows of garter stitch can make!


Am I alone in this knitting dependency?  I definitely need to make sure that I don’t end up in this position again.  When I find that lost pair of socks I may install them on the wall in a glass box with a sign saying “In case of emergency, break glass and knit.”

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Ripening fruits: knitting for new babies

I find the potential contained in the tiny, scrunchy bundle of a new baby absolutely fascinating.  Beyond the initial statistics of “Girl or boy?” and weight, and trying to spot a resemblance to family members, there are so few clues as to who they will become, and it’s very exciting to look at a person who hasn’t yet made any decisions or ruled out any possibilities.

Towards the end of the summer, I realised that four of my friends were expecting babies in the early autumn, so took lots of yarn away on holiday to knit baby cardigans.

Holiday yarn

Baby knits are really satisfying, as you get a really quick knit with all the elements of constructing a larger garment.  I chose to make cardigans as I think they can often last a bit longer in terms of fitting a growing baby than a pullover-type sweater, and I knew that I wouldn’t have time to make four blankets (which are the item which probably gets the longest period of potential use.)  Choosing designs was quite tricky.  I wanted to use stash yarn and needed three of the cardigans to be gender-neutral.  There are lots of lovely designs out there.

I knew that one of the babies expected is a girl, so I decided to use some pale pink speckled Koigu KPPPM for her cardigan and having chosen the yarn, I decided that it would work well in both garter and stockingette, so Linnie (a free pattern by Justyna Lorkowska) would be an ideal choice.  I used some shell buttons from my stash, which pick up some of the non-pink colours in the yarn.  I’m really pleased with how it turned out, and the pattern was incredibly clear and quick to knit.


I also wanted to use a lovely skein of hand-dyed yarn from Fyberspates that was in my stash, and chose Eole, by Nadia Cretin-Lechenne because it has such a simple shape but lots of lovely detailing.  I really enjoyed knitting this, and I think it makes something very special out of a plain cardigan.  As Fyberspates is no longer doing hand-dyes, I wanted my yarn to be used for something worthy and I think this pattern was perfect.  In keeping with the simplicity of the cardigan, I used some grey shell buttons from my stash.


For my other two cardigans, I wanted to use some of the Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino yarn in my stash.  This yarn is great for baby knits, as it’s cosy and washable, but I probably wouldn’t use it for anything bigger than a baby garment because I find it a bit splitty to work with.  I decided to make two cardigans using the Meredith Baby Cardigan pattern by Ruth Maddock.  The pattern is another fairly simple shape, but has a nice lace leaf pattern around the yoke.  The sleeves need seaming under the arms, so there’s a little bit more finishing on this cardigan than on the other two, but it’s a nice clear pattern.  I made one in cream (with blue gingham print buttons) and one in navy (with Liberty print buttons).


These knits made great holiday projects, as they were very portable.  Three of the babies have now arrived, and the fourth is due very soon!  I’m hoping that the babies (and their parents) will like their cardigans and I’m looking forward to meeting them.  I also enjoyed working on these as part of the Harvest CAL (craft-along) #harvestcal14, on the A Playful Day blog and podcast.  This has been a great celebration of autumn, which included lots of inspiring food and craft ideas and had a category called “Ripening Fruits”.  What can be more apt than knitting for a new baby?

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We came, we crawled, we conquered: Great London Yarn Crawl 2014

Out and about in London yesterday (20 September 2014), there may have been higher concentrations of yarn fumes than usual, as over 100 knitters, crocheters and spinners took part in the Great London Yarn Crawl.

Nine groups, shepherded by intrepid volunteer leaders, travelled different routes around the city.  Each group visited four yarn shops, knitting on public transport as they went and ending up at Kings Cross for the after-party.

I was part of Team Cheviot, a lovely group of yarn enthusiasts from London and further afield.  We met in Lazy Social on Stoke Newington High Street for some pre-Crawl caffeine and knitting, before visting our first shop.


We were also given our goody bags, which contained beautiful mini-skeins from Countess Ablaze, Lioness Arts and Whimzy, a skein of Rowan yarn, a project bag tag from Kettle Yarn Co, beads from Inspiration Knits, a Pom Pom Quarterly badge, a pattern from Rock and Purl, a sample of Soak and vouchers from some of the shops taking part.  Team Cheviot also received a special gift from one of our team members: a mini-skein of yarn which she had dyed and spun from Cheviot wool (mine was the lovely pink skein below).  So even before we started we had each amassed a very respectable haul.


Our first shop, Knit With Attitude (also on Stoke Newington High Street) gave us a fantastic welcome to start off the day.  They had a lovely selection of yarns and some other more unusual objects such as gorgeous handmade ceramic buttons and giant knitting needles!


They share their space with another shop, Of Cabbages and Kings, who sell beautiful prints, pictures and cards, and we enjoyed having the run of both shops.

From Knit With Attitude, we made our way to our second shop, Prick Your Finger in Bethnal Green.  Prick Your Finger is a tiny treasure trove of a shop, with yarn, vintage buttons and patterns, notions, and yarn-inspired art covering virtually every surface.


Everything in the shop is made in the UK, and much of the yarn is hand-dyed by the owner.


After Prick Your Finger, we headed for Islington and had some lunch in a pub close to our third shop: Loop.

Loop is a bit of a London knitter’s institution, known for its diverse selection of beautiful yarn from all over the world.  It’s probably the closest yarn shop to where I work, so I know it well, but it’s always a pleasure to visit there.


By that stage, Team Cheviot had bonded to the point where we were making colour choices by committee and several members of the team enlisted the help of the whole team to chose beautiful yarn in Loop to make sweaters.  Some vowed to wear their finished sweaters on the yarn crawl next year!  We also bumped into another Yarn Crawl team outside as we left.


Our final shop of the day was Nest in Crouch End.  Nest has a really wide selection of yarns and also some great non-knitting gifts such as pretty brooches and Moroccan handmade bags.


It’s a really friendly neighbourhood yarn shop, with a big table at the back where we were very glad to have a cup of tea and a rest with our knitting after all our shopping.


Revived by the tea at Nest, we made our way to the after-party at The Parcel Yard in Kings Cross, organised by Pom Pom Quarterly magazine.   As well as a quiz, there were lots of door prizes and a raffle to win a basket of yarnful goodness.  The room was soon full as all the teams made it back and people caught up and compared experiences (over the gentle background hum of knitting needles).  It was lovely to see people I first met on the GLYC last year, as well as other knitting friends, and also to relax with my team over a few drinks.  We were delighted that four members of Team Cheviot won door prizes.

And of course, the whole day had been in aid of the domestic violence support charity, Refuge.  The final total raised is yet to come in, as there were lots of raffle ticket sales on the night, but as well as raising money, the GLYC had been asked by Refuge to donate handknitted items for women and children affected by domestic violence.  By the end of the evening, there was a huge pile of hats, scarves, mittens and other cosy handknits which had been donated.  Some items were even finished at the party!


Thank you to the organisers, volunteers and sponsors who helped to make the yarn crawl happen.  I had a fantastic day, and it’s great to know that others will also benefit from our adventures in London.  The Great London Yarn Crawl organisers, Allison and Rachel of Yarn in the City, have exciting plans for next year.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with.

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Tales of Sardinian weavers

A recent holiday in Sardinia provided an excellent last farewell to summer.

While I left the UK feeling as though autumn was arriving, Sardinia was still hot and bright, with big skies and dramatic scenery.  I stayed in two places (Stintino and Isola Rossa) on the north coast of the island.  Amongst some lazier pursuits, such as gelato-sampling and plenty of knitting (of which more another time), I enjoyed exploring stunning coastlines, gorgeous beaches and dramatic mountain landscapes in two national parks and elsewhere on the island.

Here’s La Pelosa, one of Italy’s most famous beaches, early one morning:

La Pelosa

and a quiet cove in the national park of the archipelago of La Maddelena:

La Maddelena cove

While the beaches draw many visitors to Sardinia, they say that the heart of the island is to be found in its inland communities, where shepherds are still making an increasingly difficult living in remote, often mountainous landscapes.  Of course, with all those shepherds, there are an awful lot of sheep.  Sardinia is well-known for its pecorino cheese, made from their milk, but I was happy to have the chance to find out more about what happens to some of the fleeces, in the little town of Aggius, nestled in rugged mountains in northern Sardinia.

Aggius has long been a centre for rug weaving.  The excellent Museo Etnografico Oliva Carta Cannas, the largest ethonography museum in Sardinia, is based there and tells the history of how local people lived, and many of the local crafts.

The museum shows what life was like for a typical shepherd family in the Gallurese region between 1600 and the present day, including a recreation of the simple two-room living that such a family would have had around 1900.  Most families would have had a loom like this in their home, so they could use local wool to make woven cloth for clothing and household use.

Old loom

They would have carried out the whole process of preparing the fleece, spinning, dyeing it with plant materials and then weaving the wool within the same close community

Plant-dyed wool

Plant-dyed Sardinian wool.

Weaver photo

Archive photo of a weaver in Aggius.

Sardinian woven fabrics

Traditional woven fabric.

Today, Aggius still has artisans using traditional methods to dye wool and weave rugs with looms which are similar to those used by those shepherd families.

Today's weavers

It was interesting to see how this process was so rooted in people’s everyday lives then and is still carried on using traditional techniques.  Sardinia has a very deep rooted folk culture, with its own language (Sardo, which is apparently very similar to Latin), as well as fascinating music and dance traditions.  I wished that my Italian were better so that I could ask more questions, and I’d love to go back to find out more.

“What about knitting, with all those sheep?”, I hear you ask.  I wasn’t able to ask about local knitting traditions, although there was no real evidence of knitted fabrics in the examples of traditional costume that I saw, other than a very fine pair of “matrimonial socks” in the Museum:

Sock "Calze di Matrimoniale"

Sardinia provided a wonderful holiday, and left me ready to embrace autumn and the shiny new pencilcase feelings of September.  Bring on autumn knitting.

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