Category Archives: Inspiration

A trip across the pond

The last year hasn’t been one of marvellous health round here. I have been struggling with iron-deficiency anaemia, which has made me very tired and a bit prone to getting other infections. Luckily I think things are looking up now so time to dust off the blog and try to find my brain πŸ™‚

In October we were fortunate enough to be able to spend nearly 3 weeks in the USA. We started off in Maine for Amy Herzog’s Make Wear Love retreat. The retreat was held at the Sebasco Harbor Resort, a lovely peaceful area with beautiful views. On the day after we arrived we went for a little walk up the hill behind the resort, here is the view back down, the building on the right with the solar panels is where we were staying.


I really enjoyed the classes and am slowly re-reading the class notes and the notes I made. I am part way through exploring some of the ideas from the cable class with Fiona Ellis, I’m on my second sample and think that there are some interesting ideas, but there may well be a third sample after this too.

After the retreat we spent a week further north in Maine looking at all the beautiful scenery.

P1010335Then went down to southern New York state and spent a lovely weekend with my sister and her family.

P1010410As you can see my niece is a girl after my own heart when it comes to fashion choices. If in doubt wear all the colours and all the patterns, all at once πŸ™‚ (though she is more into pink than I am)

We then spent a week in New Jersey where Paul did some work, and I did a bit of shopping. Then up to Rhinebeck for the New York State Sheep and Wool Festival for the last weekend before flying home.

The festival was good fun! We had a good look round all of the yarn and fibre, and the animals too:

P1010437There was some beautiful fall foliage at the fairgrounds.

P1010433 P1010441It even snowed on the Sunday which was very exciting! I totally failed to manage to capture any pictures of the snow falling, and there wasn’t very much, but it added to the atmosphere.

We sampled the freshly made pretzels (yum!) and I treated myself to some fibre in breeds I haven’t tried before. Some coopworth, some rambouillet, and some cormo. I have just started spinning the coopworth, it is destined to be sock yarn, and I am hoping it will work out well. The fibre is quite long and robust which I am hoping will be good attributes for a sock yarn.

P1010447All in all a very fun trip.

It is feeling quite wintery now we have got home. It hasn’t been that cold, but it has been dark and rainy. All good weather for catching up on the knitting πŸ™‚

Knitting interesting shapes with Alison Ellen

A couple of weeks ago I spent a lovely day at a workshop with Alison Ellen organised by the New Ashgate Gallery in Farnham.

Our topic was knitting interesting shapes, and it was wonderful to spend a whole day playing around with increasing, decreasing and short rows to see what would happen.

This shape was the first one I tried, and uses short rows to create a circle out of simple wedge shapes:

Then I tried another shape, using the same principles but adding casting on and decreases, Alison called this shape a star, mine has come out looking rather like a mutant starfish:

And lastly I had a go at creating a 3d shape using increasing and decreasing, and joining the sections as I went along:

This one reminds me of Snake’s Head Fritillary flowers (although my terrible photograph makes this a little hard to see).

A really enjoyable day, and I am looking forward to experimenting more with the techniques we were practising.

A nephew, a workshop, a conference, and some mittens

I do still exist! As you have probably already guessed August and September have been rather busy, so time for a bit of a catch up with what has been happening.

First and most excitingly, we have a new nephew! Aaron is now 6 weeks old and we have waved to him on the skype several times, and he has made the grumpy face back at us. I had better get a move on with designing his Christmas stocking, especially given the speed of my knitting.

At the beginning of August I helped Jill Brownjohn to run another Patchwork knitting get together. Here we all are getting a bit of direction from Jill:

This year we went for a more relaxed get-together rather than a formal workshop. We had a discussion about joining techniques for pre-knitted shapes, and those who wanted to had a go at the methods that interested them most. It was lovely to catch up with everyone and see what they had been making over the last year, and I think the format seemed to go down well. We are not sure what will happen in 2013 since the hall we have been using for the last several years in Marlow Bottom may be closed for renovation.

A couple of weeks ago I went to the In The Loop 3 conference at Winchester. A wonderful three days, full of interesting and varied speakers and a lot of cake πŸ™‚ I completely failed to take any photos at all πŸ™ I am looking forward to having some time soon to see if I can decipher any of the notes I made. Over-excitement and terrible handwriting are not a good combination. It is a good job there is the conference programme to at least tell me who was speaking so I can always google them when my writing of their websites is incomprehensible. I really hope they will run another conference in a couple of years. I thought the programme was very well thought-out and included a lot of different angles on knitting. Lots of food for thought.

And finally I have finished some fingerless mittens:

The pattern is Wrought Mitts, and I used 2.25mm needles and some orange merino/silk handspun that I had left over from making a couple of pairs of socks. In the end I used about 37g which is about 142m. I still have a tiny amount of the yarn left over which I think will be going in the bag for making City and Guilds samples.

My hands are right at the top of the size range of what the mittens would fit. They are ok, but I think if there had been a larger size I would have knitted that. Over all I am very pleased with them, and think they will come in handy now that the weather has turned a bit cooler.

As well as everything else we have been having a bit of a go at tidying up the garden. It has been biting back, in some cases literally, but luckily the latest batch of nasty insect bites are getting much better. I think I need to find a way to make me taste less nice, I manage to get bitten even when I am covered in insect repellant! Today I had a bit of a go at the pond, clearing out some of the mass of weeds. I managed not to fall in but did get covered in smelly black mud. The poor washing machine will be on overdrive tomorrow.

Jenny’s Christmas Beret

The cyclists are having a rest day today so I thought I would have a bit of a break from the spinning and do a spot of catching up and tidying up. Luckily I am feeling much rested after a good night’s sleep, but I think I am starting to come down with a cold, I shall make myself a nice cup of tea in a minute and I’m sure that (along with a bit of trombone playing at band this evening) will make everything better. Trombone playing is surprisingly good for stuffy heads, though I haven’t got to that stage with the cold yet, and I’m not sure it is that useful against a sore throat … hopefully the tea will work for that πŸ™‚

I have been shockingly organised this year and have actually finished the hat for my niece’s Christmas present already. This is a definite improvement on last year when she received her Christmas cardigan in February. Jenny if you are reading, look away now!

The yarn is Bergere de France Sport, and is 51% machine washable wool, 49% acrylic. I used 3.25mm needles for the ribbing, and 4.5mm needles for the main body of the hat. The pattern is one by Fiona Morris which was part of our class notes in France, it is also available here on ravelry.

I hope that she will like it! and that it will be at least approximately the right size. It is a very international hat, the yarn is French and bought in France, the stitch patterns are German, it was knitted in France and the UK, and will be going to my niece who lives in the US.

I have sorted out my photos of the National Exhibition, and hopefully got my head round Picassa Web Albums, so hopefully you can see more of the exhibition here (click on the picture to go through to the album I think).

National Exhibition of the Association of Weavers, Spinners, and Dyers 2012

Let me know if not, and I will try again! I’m afraid I don’t have as many general photos as I would have liked because I ran out of camera batteries, but it gives you an idea of the sorts of things that were on display. There is an awful lot of skill and creativity that has gone in to all these things. I have come away very impressed and with lots of ideas πŸ™‚

Unravel 2012

This weekend was the annual Unravel festival at the Maltings in Farnham. It is great to have a woolly festival so close to us, and this year there was even more fun stuff to look at.

As in previous years I was helping out with demonstrating and teaching spinning and knitting with the West Surrey Guild of Spinners Weavers and Dyers, and with the Surrey Knitting and Crochet Group. Members of both groups lent a wonderful selection of things they had made for our display table. We had our usual corner of the Cellar Bar which was handy as we knew the lie of the land beforehand. Here it all is on Friday afternoon after we had set it all up:

A good number of members of both groups volunteered so we all managed to have a good look around the show too which was excellent, and I also managed to hear Lesley Prior‘s talk about the Campaign for Wool which was very interesting.

This year’s January competition at the knitting and crochet group had the theme of sheep, and we had all the entries on display for the weekend. I made a Shetland Sheep out of some natural black handspun Shetland, although I didn’t manage to finish him in time for the competition:

He is made entirely out of bobbles, which nearly killed me. He wont be having any friends! I find bobbles very hard on the neck and shoulders, and had a headache for a week after finishing him! Luckily I am pretty much better now.

Sue made the most wonderful life-size model sheep which was then covered in knitted squares by members of the group, and hung in the entrance of the Maltings:

He is called Norman, and will be coming out with us to more exhibitions later this year.

And there were even real live sheep, I think from Well Manor Farm in a pen outside:

There were even more stands at the festival than in previous years. A great selection of things to see and have a go at. There were workshops and talks on both days, and a lot of enthusiastic people.

I had a fabulous time πŸ™‚ It was great to see loads of friends, and to meet lots of new people too. I spent a lot of Saturday extolling the virtues of knitting socks with one long circular needle, and Sunday talking about spinning and different wheels and helping new spinners get started. They were all sickeningly tallented, and grasped the principles very quickly, even those who were rather tired after having a long day round the show πŸ™‚ We had a lot of families around on the Sunday which was fun, and we did some great team spinning. My little victims got the hot seat (although some of them were a little short to sit on the chair and reach the pedals so had to stand up), and they were in charge of the treadle, with their accompanying adult in charge of checking that the wheel was still going in the same direction. Then I did the hands, and when they had had enough I did a little ply-back of the yarn we had been spinning so they would have something to take away with them. I think there will be quite a lot of orange merino featuring in show and tell sessions at Surrey and Hampshire schools this week πŸ™‚

I was also thrilled to win the Best in Show exhibition with my Autumn in Anatolia jumper.

I am looking forward to the prize which was a subscription to Selvedge magazine. Our knitting and crochet group were well represented in the Best in Show competition, Kim came second with her crocheted Dalek Tank top:

Sue also entered her wonderfully witty knitted sheep portraits,and Mary entered her Noah’s Ark.

A show would hardly be complete without a bit of stash enhancement and there were lots of lovely things available to buy.

The first things I bought on Saturday morning when the show had barely opened were Knitting with Two Colors by Meg Swansen and Amy Detjen, from Tricia Holman, and an Unravel bag (which came in handy to put things in all weekend). Here they are with my first issue of my prize Selvedge subscription:

It took me all weekend to decide on which colour of Deepy Wicked sock yarn (100% superwash Merino, 100g, 400m) to buy from EasyKnits – too much choice! Too many lovely loud colours! They humoured my indecision, and in the end I decided on this lovely semi-solid green called Astro Turf πŸ™‚

It is a bit grey and gloomy here today so the yarn is actually even bright than my photo suggests πŸ™‚

I also had a lovely time at John Arbon‘s stand, squishing all the lovely tempting fibre. It was nice to see John and Juliet and catch up with them too πŸ™‚

I bought 200g of white 70% Exmoor Blueface, 30% Bluefaced Leicester fibre:

I am planning to dye this and then spin it into socks. We were using some of this fibre for spinning demonstrations and for the new spinners to learn with, and it is very nice to spin, it drafts very smoothly without being too slippery.

I also bought a kilo of chocolate 80% fine alpaca, 20% merino fibre:

This is a gorgeous colour, very reminiscent of a good milk chocolate. I think this will be a jumper or cardigan but I haven’t thought much further than that.

I also got some lovely Cappuccino Alpaca and something, but I now can’t remember whether it was Alpaca and Merino, or Alpaca and BFL, or Alpaca, Merino, and BFL, or something else entirely. I think my brain may be a little full.

I’m not sure what I am going to do with this yet. I think not lace, because the colours are quite strongly contrasting. Perhaps a 4ply kind of a weight, and then maybe mittens or something. Or I may mix it with some other fibre I already have to eke it out a bit.

All in all a very good weekend πŸ™‚ I woke up at 5.30am yesterday and couldn’t get back to sleep because I was too excited, so I have been enjoying a bit of a quieter day today. Roll on next year, but I shall try and catch up with my sleep before then!

Knit Nation 2011

Back in the middle of a rather wet July I spent a very enjoyable three days up at Imperial College in London for Knit Nation. I had booked a hectic schedule of classes which were all great fun.

On Friday I had an all day class with Anne Hanson on Sweater Fitness. This included taking a full set of body measurements and then looking at how to adapt existing patterns to our measurements. All useful stuff. I have been quite successful in designing garments from scratch using my own measurements, but less successful in adapting already existing patterns, so there were a lot of useful tips to be gleaned. The penny really dropped when we were looking closely at the schematics of our chosen patterns, and I realised that a lot of my problem was not just that I usually need a different size for my chest than for my tummy / hips (this is something I have been aware of for some time and so am used to compensating for), but that my shoulder measurement matches up with a completely different size. I am shaped rather like a pyramid πŸ™‚ So many garments hang from the shoulder line and if you don’t get that right the whole garment looks badly fitting. This was amply demonstrated by the T-shirt I was wearing to class. In order to get a size which was comfortable around my cake-storage areas the shoulders of the T-shirt extend past my own shoulders by a good couple of centimetres and droop in a not terribly flattering manner.

We covered lots of useful tips on how to transition from one size to another at strategic points in an existing pattern. I shall definitely be putting this information into action, and taking a very hard look at the schematics of the future patterns I knit. She also had some very interesting things to say about different ways to reduce the stitches from the bust line to the shoulders, whether you opt to decrease in the armhole area or do darts which go up to the centre of each shoulder. I look forward to doing some experimenting with this to see which works well for my shape.

On Saturday morning I went to a class on Vintage Fit and Finishing with Susan Crawford. It was very interesting to learn how fashions in ease and fit have changed over time. Very valuable information when knitting a vintage pattern. I am not sure I will ever go for the full vintage re-creation garments which seem to be popular, but I can certainly see me using some aspects of vintage patterns as inspiration.

On Saturday afternoon it was The Many Faces of Cashmere with Clara Parkes. Fantastic stuff! She manages to be hilarious and extremely informative and interesting all at the same time, and three hours of cashmere can never be a bad thing πŸ™‚ We had lots of little samples of fibre and yarn to feel and knit with. It is constantly amazing how many different yarns you can make from the same fibre.

Here are all my little samples before washing (click to make huge):

Top row L to R:

  • Schulana Cashmere Moda, 100% cashmere, caged construction (so fibre is blown through a type of thin Icord-type tube), 4mm needles.
  • Knitwitches Seriously Gorgeous Swiss Mountain cashmere / silk lace, 65% cashmere, 35% silk, 3.25mm needles.
  • Habu Cashmere Lace, 100% cashmere, 3.25mm needles.
  • Colourmart 100% cashmere, Cable (or crepe) construction, 6mm needles.

Middle row L to R:

  • Classic Elite Posh, 30% cashmere, 70% silk, S on S cable construction, 5mm needles
  • Laines Du Nord Royal Cashmere, 100% cashmere, knitted tube construction, 4mm needles.
  • The bottom of the sample is Filatura Di Crosa Superior, 65% cashmere, 35% silk, brushed, and I used 3.25mm needles. For the top of the sample I used the same needles and as well as the Superior I added Filatura Di Crosa Nirvana, 100% merino, so the two yarns were knitted together.
  • KFI Textured Cashmere, 100% cashmere, 4mm needles.

Bottom Row L to R:

  • Hemp for Knitting Cashmere Canapa, 10% hemp, 60% cotton, 30% cashmere, 3.75mm needles.
  • Carded cashmere fibre.
  • Combed Mongolian cashmere fibre.
  • Falkland wool fibre.
  • The yellow slightly above is silk fibre.
  • The white below is fake cashmere fibre, I think this is nylon.

Here are the knitted samples after having a wash:

All of the samples fluffed up a bit on washing. Cashmere is often oiled to stop it hairing up the machines when it is processed so you don’t get the full effect until you have given your knitting a wash.

I loved the opportunity to sample all the different blends of cashmere, and different ways of spinning. There are some very inventive manufacturers out there. I am still a bit afraid of spinning cashmere because of the short staple, which is better suited to long draw, which I am not very good at. I am hoping to do some practising soon though so I can overcome that.

After Saturday’s classes I went to see the film about Bohus knitting, not a subject I knew much about before, although I love their patterns and have the kit for the Wild Apple around here somewhere.

Sunday morning was Photographing Your Fibre with Franklin Habit. Again lots of interesting and useful information. Some of it about how to set up your scene for your photography, and some on how to actuallly use the camera. I shall be spending some time with my camera manual soon! I only have a little point and shoot, but even that I don’t really use to its full potential.

As is often the way with these events there was a very tempting market place. I came home with two books:

Little Red in the City by Ysolda Teague, and Going Straight by Woolly Wormhead. I am looking forward to finding some time over Christmas to read both of these properly.

I also found a fabulous skein of yarn:

This is merinoΒ  / nylon / stellina, 100g,Β  400m, 4ply weight in colour Mermaid from Krafty Koala. It was green and purple and sparkly, so I could hardly be expected to resist.

I had a great time and it was a wonderful opportunity to catch up with lots of fun knitting people. I was a bit tired by the end and managed to get completely drenched on the way home – you could literally wring the water out of my trousers from the knee down where my umbrella didn’t cover them.

I think there isn’t going to be a Knit Nation next summer because of the Olympics, I am looking forward to one in 2013!



Just when I was nearly caught up things became busy again. They are calming down a bit now, so I shall plod on with the catching up, like the tortoise I shall get there in the end πŸ™‚

At the beginning of June we had a lovely week’s holiday up in Orkney. It was the first time we had been, and it was lovely. Beautiful landscape, and interesting things to visit, and we were very lucky with the weather. The light up there is really beautiful, though it takes a bit of getting used to that in June it only gets dark for a couple of hours a night. We had to hang a blanket up over our window in order to sleep. I’m not sure I would fancy it in the winter though. I think it would get a bit depressing with only a few hours of light each day.

We stayed in a cottage about a mile outside Kirkwall, the capital, and this was the view from Scapa Bay just a short walk from the cottage:

The light seemed to make the seaweed glow.

We visited a lot of the typical tourist things. All the neolithic remains are very impressive, and well worth visiting if you are in the area. Also the advantage of going before the school holidays was that most things weren’t too crowded.

The air up there is very clean, and the most amazing lichens grow. These were on a grave stone at the Brough of Birsay:

The landscape was not as barren as I had been expecting. I think I had been picturing something more windswept and moor-like, but actually most of the mainland is gently rolling, and very green. Also there are trees, they are just not very tall. This is the Ring of Brodgar, one of the stone circles:

We spent most of the time on the Mainland, but on one day we had a trip out to Rousay, one of the closer islands. We had a moment of excitement on the way there, when we realised that we would have to reverse the hire car on to the ferry. The ferry is quite little and only takes about 9 cars, though it had fewer when we went over because a lorry carrying what looked like road surfacing stuff was taking the space of about 6 cars. Luckily the hire car was quite titchy, and the ferry staff were very friendly and experienced. Since there is only one hire car service at the airport, and the vast majority of their cars are the same, the ferry staff were well practised at the exact instructions they needed to give in order to get the desired outcome. I also got the impression that if one had had a total melt-down about it, they would have driven the car on for you. At least we had been driving the car around for 4 days at that point so were also quite familiar with it. The Antipodean lady we were talking to in the queue had literally just arrived by plane and picked up a car and driven straight to the ferry.

There were several cairns on Rousay, and a very impressive broch and tomb at Mid Howe. This is the broch, to give you an idea of the scale, the two little blobs at the bottom left are people:

And here is the tomb, protected by a building which has been built round it:

Unfortunately it is hard to tell the scale, but it is really massive. The walls are seriously thick, at least a couple of metres, and the whole tomb is enormous. Very impressive, especially considering how long ago it was built.

After visiting Mid Howe we drove round the rest of the island, and were delighted to find a bay where we could watch seals swimming around, really close to the shore. They are very graceful in the water, and surprisingly ungraceful out of it.

Here are some flopping around and sunning themselves on a shelf of rock near the shore:

And here are a couple playing in the water:

It was wonderful to watch them.

On our last full day we went into Kirkwall and had a look around the Orkney Museum. They had quite a bit of knitting, and a couple of spinning wheels on display, including these lovely stockings:

I found a couple of nice fibre-y things on our travels to bring back and remind me of a lovely holiday. We didn’t manage to get up to North Ronaldsay this holiday, but hopefully might make it up there to see the sheep another time. I got these both from The Woolshed, who I don’t seem to be able to link to at the moment.

First 100g of hand dyed North Ronaldsay fibre:

I haven’t decided on the best way to spin this yet, but I love all the colours.

And also some DK weight North Ronaldsay yarn in natural white, and natural dark brown:

I am thinking about making a two-coloured hat with these though I haven’t totally made up my mind yet.

Devon Fibre Weekend 2010

The cyclists are having a well-deserved day off today, so I thought I would have a break from the spinning and catch up with some other bits and pieces from the last six months.

Back at the end of October I went to Devon for Terri‘s second lovely Fibre Weekend. The Friday starting early with me packing all my stuff in the car, having a think and then re-packing. Then I finally set off to collect Marty, and re-packed the car, and then down to collect Joanne, and you guessed it, re-packed the car again. I was quite impressed that you could get three people, three spinning wheels and their luggage including bedding in a Nissan Note, and no-one had to be strapped to the roof or balance their spinning wheel on their head, though Joanne was squashed in the back with a wall of stuff along side her.

Luckily the drive down was nice and uneventful, and we arrived at Sheldon in time to unpack the car and eat our packed lunch before the afternoon’s workshops started. I had signed up for natural dyeing with Amanda Hannaford, which was great fun, and very interesting. Amanda sent us the mordant recipe so we could mordant our yarn before we arrived. I used some 4ply weight superwash bluefaced leicester wool, and made myself a selection of mini skeins so I could try the different dyes.

Here are some of the skeins we dyed drying outside:

And here is everybody’s skeins laid out for everyone to admire:

Here are my 12 little skeins:

From left to right they are: madder x 3, weld x 1, goldenrod x 3, logwood x 1, indigo x 2, and cochineal x 2, all using an alum mordant. I like some of the colours better than others, but it was fun to try it all, and interesting to see the results.

After Terri’s fantastic cooking for dinner and a bit of knitting and spinning we all fell into our beds in time to get a bit of sleep in before the excitement of Saturday’s outing.

Saturday was our busy day, lots to do, so we set off early to go to the David and Charles book shop. There didn’t seem to be quite as many craft books this year as previously, but I did find a copy of Girolamo Cardano’s Ars Magna (English translation) for Β£1 so I was happy πŸ™‚

Then back in the minibus and on to Coldharbour Mill, where we were treated to tours of both the upstairs machinery open to the public and John Arbon‘s machines in the basement which aren’t normally viewable. I love all the machinery, and it is amazing how so much of it is recogniseably the same process as hand spinning just on a much larger scale.

In the shop at the mill I treated myself to 600g of 70% alpaca, 30% merino fibre, in Cappuccino:

After lunch at the mill it was back in the minibus again to go to Westcott Farm to see Lesley Prior and her Bowmont sheep and Cashmere goats.

Here are some of the sheep:

And here some of the goats:

It was great to see Lesley again and catch up on what is happening on the farm. It is always interesting to talk to someone so passionate about what they do.

After the tour of the farm Lesley very kindly made us all tea and fantastic scones. I couldn’t resist buying some of her lovely cashmere:

This is 4ply cashmere, 25g, 116m. I’m not sure what I am going to do with it yet, but it is such a lovely colour and feels very soft and squishy.

In the evening we all went out for a delicious dinner at the Nobody Inn, there were enough of us that we got our own room πŸ™‚

Tired and very full we trundled back to Sheldon.

Sunday was less formal, but still packed full. In the morning we had a go at blending different colours of fibre on drum carders and hackles.

Here is some of the carding in action, with the enormous pile of fibre to choose from behind it.

And here is Terri having a go on Rachel’s hackle.

I spun up my efforts when I got home:

The red is merino blended on the hackle, and the greens are a mixture of merino with a little bit of silk carded on a Minty Fine Carder. I enjoyed having a go at this, particularly because I don’t own a carder or a hackle, it was very useful to be able to compare. I prefered spinning the fibre from the hackle, in general I prefer a combed preparation and like to spin smooth yarn, although I prefer the colours I chose with the carder. I love playing with colours and seeing the different effects you can create and would like to have more of a go at this soon.

After the tables were cleared away the floor was used to share out the two enormous bags of waste fibre John Arbon had given us, a mixture of alpaca and different wools. I decided this was best as a spectator sport!

And this is my share:

I’m not quite sure what I am going to do with it yet, but I think it will come in really handy for learning new techniques.

After a delicious roast dinner, there was just the clearing up to do, and then all too soon it was time to pack everything back in the car and say goodbye.

Very kindly Joanne gave me this sheep for doing the driving:

He has a lot of character, and is currently keeping an eye on me from on top of the printer.

And Marty gave me a skein of 4ply Alpaca/BFL which I am looking forward to dyeing:

The drive home went ok if rather slowly, there is always a lot of traffic on a Sunday afternoon.

In all a wonderful weekend. Lovely to see so many old friends and make new ones, and to have such a fun time.

Skip North 2010

Last Friday I packed the car well before my normal getting up time and trundled over to pick up Joanne (only 5 mins late, I am improving!) to head off for a weekend of knitting fun in Haworth for Skip North 2010. The drive up went surprisingly well considering that there were roadworks every couple of miles all the way up the M1 (and on the M3 and the M25 too).Β  We arrived at our B&B at lunchtime, and discovered there had been a mistake with Joanne’s booking, and that although there was space for her on Friday night, there was no room on Saturday. Luckily a spare room was found at the Youth Hostel for the Saturday, so after unloading our stuff from the car (I seemed to have brought a greater volume of knitting than I had clothes) we trundled up the hill to the Youth Hostel to check in and get our acts together for the afternoon workshops.

I did Sue‘s workshop on shadow knitting first. I had read a bit about shadow knitting (also called illusion knitting) before, and seen Steve’s fabulous work, but never given it a go, so this seemed the ideal opportunity. It is great fun, and I love the moment of discovery when you tilt your work and see the pattern appear.

Here is my sample as seen from above:

Can you tell what it is yet?

I am looking forward to having more of an experiment with this technique.

Then I did a workshop with Jane on different kinds of colour knitting. Here is the cup cosy I knitted:

The two coloured braid is a Twinded Herringbone braid, and the single coloured braid is a Vikkel braid. I am definitely looking forward to incorporating these in something in the future. There is also a bit of mosaic knitting, and a double strand cast on using two strands the same colour, and a double strand cast off using one strand of each colour.

After tea was the P/Hop swap. People brought along yarn, needles and books they no longer wanted, then other people could claim it in exchange for a donation to Medecins sans Frontieres made later through the P/Hop website. Here is Nic presiding over the chaos.

After the swap we all sat around knitting and chatting. It was lovely to see old friends and meet new ones, and to spend time with other enthusiastic and knowledgeable knitters.

Luckily after all this excitement Saturday featured a bit of a lie in. We had a fantastic cooked breakfast at the B&B and then made our way up to the Youth Hostel to catch the bus at 11am. First stop was Coldspring Mill, a strange combination of camping shop upstairs and bargain yarn basement downstairs. There were lots of lovely cotton yarns, although I managed to resist. I actually have a lot of cotton yarn still despite giving a lot away last year, and find that it is a bit painful on my hands to knit with, I think from now on I shall stick with blends. They had quite a selection of other yarns too, there seemed to be a lot of pale yellow about, unfortunately not really my colour.

Then it was back on the bus, where we ate our sandwiches, despite thinking we would never need to eat again after breakfast, and headed off to the Knitting and Crochet Guild. Liz gave us an interesting talk and showed us a lot of things from the guild collection, then it was time for a spot of shopping with KCG Trading. Unfortunately the book I was hoping to look at hadn’t arrived yet, but I did manage to get a skein of wonderful radioactive green sock yarn πŸ™‚

This is Trekking Hand Art, 100g, 420m, 75% superwash wool, 25% nylon, the colour is officially called Brazil.

Tired but happy after a hard days shopping we piled back on the bus back to the Youth Hostel and yet another great meal πŸ™‚

In the evening we were treated to a talk by Shaun and Julie of County Alpacas. A very interesting talk about the history of alpacas in the UK and the situation currently. I loved this opportunity to hear more about the fibre industry, and their alpacas are very cute! They also brought with them some lovely fibre and yarn from their own animals, so I bought a 250g bag of black fibre. I haven’t quite decided what I am going to do with it yet. It is special so I want to do it justice, I shall think on it for a bit.

Sunday was a bit of an earlier start with the coach departing at 9am. I was cutting it a bit fine as I screeched into my parking space just after the bus drew up, and had just enough time to dash in and grab my packed lunch while everyone else started to board the bus. The early start was because Sunday was Wingham Wool Works day, which is about an hour to an hour and a half from Haworth, depending on the traffic.

Despite having been there a couple of times before, and the last time only in November it still took me a while to stop being overwhelmed by all the fibre and actually start to look at everything properly! We were very fortunate that the weather was lovely. Great for standing outside in a daze while contemplating more different colours of fibre than you know what to do with.

I managed to fill my bag with a few little goodies.

I got three different colours of rainbow merino / silk tops. I think this blend is 70% merino, 30% silk. I got somewhere between about 150g and 200g of each (I wasn’t being terribly accurate with my measuring).

These are all going to be sock experiments. I am going to try and spin a tightly twisted 3ply and see how they wear.

I also got a little selection of their sample fibre bags.

Corn, ramie (nettles), milk protein, two kinds of tussah silk, and banana fibre.

These little sample bags are such a great idea, you have enough fibre to play with and see whether you like it, without having to have 100g of something which it may turn out you are not that keen on.

After we had shopped until we dropped, and had a quick drink in the pub down the road, it was back on the coach to the Youth Hostel for the final tea and cake and goodbyes, and then time to wedge all our new purchaes into the car.

I had a wonderful weekend, and have come away with so many ideas, as well as some rather yummy yarn and fibre. I love these opportunities to spend time with so many lovely knitty people. A big thanks to Alex and Nic for all the organising and cat herding. There are better photos than mine on the flickr group.

The trip home wasn’t quite as smooth as had been hoped. Not awful, but there was a lot of stopping and starting and traffic as we made our way through the many roadworks. We made it home fine if a bit tired, and not too late in the end.

New York

As I mentioned in the previous post I missed the first half-day of Unravel due to being stuck in the US. This was a bit of a last minute trip, booked only the week before we went out there. Paul was sent out for a work trip, and I went along for the first week so I could go and see my sister Annie.

The travelling was also the reason behind the hastily cast-on portable projects. I didn’t take the jumper with me as I didn’t want to risk it being either confiscated or lost by the airline. We were staying in New Jersey, a 1 hour train ride from New York, so that gave me a good bit of knitting time on the journeys into and out of the city on the days I went to see Annie.

While we were there we did a mix of typical touristy visiting, and helping Annie and her husband Andy move into their new appartment and generally hanging out with them.

On the tourist front we went down to Brooklyn and walked back to Manhattan over the Brooklyn bridge, you can see the bridge in the background here behind Paul, Annie and Andy.

And we went to Thomas Edison’s factory and house in Orange, New Jersey (this is his house).

The house was interesting, and the factory definitely worth visiting. Edison was a man with many interests.

On my last day going in to the city Annie and I went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I have been once before about 12 years ago, and was keen to see it again. It is a fascinating museum and I am looking forward to going again next time we go out to visit them.

As well as all the wonderful exhibits (including a whole temple from what is now the site of the Aswan dam) they have fantastic tiled mosaics on the floors in the Greek and Roman art section. There are 8 different mosaics, 4 circular, and 4 square. I love symmetrical patterns like these, particularly tiling patterns. I am hoping to do something on symmetry for my City and Guilds Diploma course (the Diploma is the course after the Certificate course I am currently doing), and so am collecting inspiring images.

As you can spot here one of the mosaics is in twice to make a nice grid.

We had a great time visiting the city and seeing Annie and Andy again, and were really lucky with the weather at the start of the week. It was colder than home, but warmer than New York had been the previous week, and lovely and sunny. Unfortunately after the first three days the rain started, and on the day I was due to come home it snowed all day and then there were high winds in the evening, so finally after attempting to take off once my plane was cancelled and we were all rescheduled to the day after. The next day was much better weather-wise and although we were a bit delayed it all went fairly smoothly, and I even managed about three hours sleep on the plane (this is quite good for me, I am not a very good traveller).

My travel socks are motoring along, although they have been abandoned now I am home in favour of the jumper. Pictures of knitting will come soon!