Quick! To the Fibre Festival!

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • Two crochet cotton collars
    I’ll be honest, I kinda worked out of my head for this.  I bought a pretty blouse in the M&S sale, and wanted to make it more ‘vintage’ with a matching collar.  Now I have two.
  • Mini Skein Jars
    Saw this idea on etsy and had half an hour to kill.  Might do a tutorial on how to make these with stuff you can buy in discount craft store ‘The Works’.

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (PSurse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
    This is my ‘desk’ project so only gets worked on in my lunch hour at work. Only a couple of rows further on.
  • Tirrold Sweater – came out of long term hibernation to become my ‘purse project’.  Have completed the first diamond of the lace pattern of the back
  • Spectral – got another few repeats done. Having spent what seemed like a long time getting a colour change every 2 or 3 segments I’m now upto 10 or 11 segments all the same colour. Luckily it’s a beautiful purple, but still a bit odd.

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • There is joy in being a beginner
    It can be useful to relearn or learn something completely new to remind yourself what it’s like to feel all fingers and thumbs and get that buzz of ‘mastering’ a new skill or technique. This month I’ve been playing with really looking at how my stitches ‘sit’ on the needles in my knitting – and how that affects the stitch – and also if wrapping clockwise or anticlockwise for crochet actually matters (short answer is yes, yes it does)…

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

Hmm. It started going wrong when The Works had the Caron X Pantone yarnspiration at just £5 a set.  I was good – I only bought 2, and I deliberately tried to buy colourways with at least one colour that I wouldn’t normally go for. But then Fibre East happened. Sigh.

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance

Oh Shiny…

The source of my chronic startitis – covering everything from planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye to subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

So I spent a little bit of time this month making some cute mini skein ornaments (and a lot less time than you would think) so I could have written about that, but I also did a little bit of dyeing with food colouring (having *so* much fun with this)  so I thought about writing about that, but then, in the midst of the hottest week of the year, there was Fibre East 2019!

My first yarn festival ever was the almost mythical Knitnation in 2010.   I was a brand new knitter and got to attend a workshop on casting on and binding off – and massive thanks to the lady who sat next to me and accidentally taught me how to read my knitting (a fundamentally essential skill in my opinion).  I was also introduced to the stampeding knitters attacking the Wollmeise stand – I still have the skein I bought to make Arlene’s World of Lace Sleeping Beauty, and I’m still amazed at how tight she manages to wind her skeins. It was also something of a baptism of fire into yarn that wasn’t 100% acrylic, how much yarn actually costs, and how to work out pence-per-yard!

After that came KnitNation 2011 (and memorable workshops with Franklin Habit and Susan Crawford), yarn-something-or-other in Brighton, three knitting and stitching shows at Alexandra Palace (just awful, I was talked into going twice more than I really wanted to) and my first attendance at Yarnporium 2018 (which is a lovely ‘little’ show run every other year in London).  There have also been four visits to Fibre East. My last visit was in 2017 as I couldn’t make it last year and this year didn’t disappoint.

I also got to take a friend (‘D’) to her second ever fibre show – and the biggest one she’s been to.  I met up with friend (and fibre east show regular) ‘R’ with her two boys, and unfortunately plans to meet up with new friend Melanie_Odell from the dyeing course (check out her beautiful work on Instagram) failed, but maybe next year!

Having had the hottest day in the UK on record (38.7C) on the Thursday, it was thankfully quite a bit cooler by Saturday (just 23C) – though I could have lived without the rain.  We arrived early (as the doors opened) and had a wander through all that was on offer. 

D tried her hand at drop spindle, I had a go at weaving on an 8 shaft loom and the boys had a blast trying out block printing.  The show was bigger again this year, and it took us nearly 4 hours to amble around and have a nosey at most things (remember we had two small children in tow).  Lots and lots (and lots) of hand dyed artisan yarns, quite a bit of felting on display and the guild’s hall showcased some very impressive work.

Changes to the catering this year meant that there were huge queues and a mediocre (at best) offering for food – I think next year will be a bring-your-own picnic – but it must be difficult to feed and water a crowd of a couple thousand people.  My one ‘beef’ was with the shoppers who felt the need to keep their new purchases ‘safe’ by putting them on chairs at their tables. I’m sorry but when you can see people standing trying to juggle a sandwich and hot drink and bags then taking up seats for your new stash is just ignorant.  Particularly during the really busy period between 12 and 2.

It was a delight to see ‘old friends’ (I’m not sure they really are friends if you see them once a year in order to buy yarn from them but I’m going with it) and to make some new ones.  Special shout outs to the lovely people who I didn’t buy anything off this time but have in the past or will in the future… Ducky Darlings where I admired their beautiful Navelli tee sweater (sorry for not linking to the project in Ravelry – I can’t find it!), Jon at EasyKnits who is always awesome and doing really creative things with sock blanks and interesting colourways and Sue at SSK (Sue Stratford Knits) with her lovely drink inspired designs and badges.

I have to say I was very reserved and only picked up a ‘couple’ of things; 

  • It started with 423gms of undyed lambswool with a tweed fleck for just £10 and a single skein of undyed mohair for £3 from AC Wood speciality fibres.
  • Followed by the Strange Brew book from TinCanKnits (I see yoked patterned sweater designs in my not-to-distant future) bought from Ewe and Ply
  • Tim and Denise at WilloFibres were happy to sell me some new acid dye colours that I am not confident making myself,
  • Sarah and Jon from Purlescence were as wonderful as always and added to my Chiaogoo interchangeable collection with some 6mm tips and yet another cable (why do we never have enough?)
  • The intriguing  Ribbonesque pattern might have fallen into my bag – thought up by the talented Tanja at The Knitting Swede
  • little tiny bee stitch markers and a lovely 1/2 sized gauge measure arrived via Emma at Yarnistry (and some distinctly not safe for work stitch markers for one of D’s crafting friends)
  • And finally after much cooing and indecision (and technically after the show had closed)  the very patient Tara and her mother at Irish Artisan Yarns (IAY) parted with the most amazing orange/blue ‘Ballyholme’ colourway (seriously check out the watercolour soft colours on her baby alpaca silk blends)

And before you think ‘gosh, that’s a lot!’ I have come back from other yarn shows with over 20 skeins of yarn plus ‘trinkets’.  3 skeins, 2 patterns, a set of stitch markers a gauge measure and some dye does not constitute ‘a lot’ in my universe at least ; -)

Another special shout out to  Alls Wool that Ends Wool.  D picked up the most amazing sparkle cosmic colourway (which isn’t currently on their Etsy shop for me to link to) from Emma & Hubby (thanks for being so patient with all the questions guys).

So a long day (I set off at 6.20am and got home just on midnight) but Fibre East is genuinely a lovely show to attend. Are you picking up the courage to attend your first show? Or are you an old hand at this and what’s your favourite show?

Finally, a little side note: if you want a giggle, apparently crochet garments are in again – Kenya Hunt of the Guardian newspaper is most taken with her £295 granny square dress and she’s managed to get an entire article about how to wear this dress with two different pairs of shoes and accessories.

I’m all for hand crafted garments (and you don’t get much more handcrafted than crochet as there is no machine that can do this) but I do wish crochet would move past the granny square! Knitting has developed so much from the monstrous clown-barf mohair stuff I was forced to wear in the 1970s and 1980s, but crochet garments really do seem to be stuck in the 70s (with the exception of the amazing avant-garde stuff that the Russian bloc and Japan seem to be producing)

Stash-ay Away?

FOs (Finished Objects)

What’s been finished since my last post

  • Nothing Knit or Crochet
    Had a busy month and lots of my projects are large projects, however
  • Project Bags
    I had a whole raft of linen/canvas shopping bags that for one reason or another I didn’t want to use as shopping bags (sentimental, unique, wrong size, handles not long enough or too short,..) so I spent a happy afternoon with a needle and thread and seam ripper making very easy project bags.
converted linen shopper to project bag
Convert Linen Shopping bag to project bag – remove handles, thread ribbon through top seam (I opened one side seam and hand stitched the loose ends) then add simple box folding to bottom to give a bag that will stand up.

WIPs (Works in Progress)

Works actively being worked on – (not hibernating or we’d be here forever) including my PP (Purse Project or the project that is living in my handbag)

  • Spiderweb Skirt, Hook 5mm, Knit Picks Dishie in “EggPlant”
    This is my ‘desk’ project so only gets worked on in my lunch hour at work.  I’m about 30% through and about to start the base of the skirt
  • Tirrold Sweater – came out of long term hibernation to become my ‘purse project’
  • Spectra – gets a few rows (1 ‘panel’) a week but frankly I’m bored with this again
  • I worked a little more on my swatches but am now playing with different fibre content to get the best blocking for the modular shawl and doing a lot of ‘thinking’ about the project rather than actual working on it.

Every Day’s a School Day

What I’m learning from my crafting this month..

  • Perseverance
    I seem to be very good at starting a project and then getting distracted by something else -resulting in lots of half complete items in my WiPs (also known as working on my PhD  – Projects Half Done!). Making more of a concerted effort to finish things before moving on
  • Techniques.
    As the Spectra is only 40 stitches long and involves short row shaping I decided to uninvent (to quote the great Elizabeth Zimmerman) how to knit and purl backwards.  To my great surprise, this is not the same as knitting left handed! It’s actually very easy and fun to do, and made easier by an ability to ‘read’ your knitting so you can see how you can ‘force’ each stitch to be what you want it to be.  Really enjoying the process – but there’s a lot of very same-y stitches that just don’t hold my attention for long.

Bits of Sheep

Stash reduction or enhancement

Having a very reserved month – my only slip was a skein of a beautiful soft reddish brick color of a wool linen blend that might be perfect for my modular shawl design..

MonthBalls/Skeins InBalls/Skeins OutNet Balance

Oh Shiny…

The source of my startitis – for example planned projects , inspirations or ideas that have caught my eye or subjects or topics that have snagged my attention..

There are two things I’d like to talk about this month so I’m going to actually post twice this month!  My next post will be all about the ‘dyeing for knitters’ course I am completing this weekend and deserves a post all of it’s own.  That post will appear in a couple of weeks.

So this week I’d like to do a book review – 

A Stash of One’s Own – an anthology edited by Clara Parkes

The blurb on the dust jacket says: 

In tales from twenty-one knitters, Clara Parkes examines a subject that is irresistible to us all: the yarn stash.

Anyone with a passion has a stash, whether it is a collection of books or enough yarn to exceed several life expectancies. With her trademark wry, witty approach, Parkes brings together fascinating stories from all facets of stash-keeping and knitting life–from KonMari minimalist to joyous collector, designer to dyer, spinner to social worker, scholar to sheep farmer.

Whether the yarn stash is muse, memento, creative companion, career guide, or lifeline in tough times, these deeply engaging stories take a surprising and fascinating look at why we collect, what we cherish, and how we let go.

Contributors include New York Times bestselling authors Stephanie Pearl-McPhee and Debbie Stoller, Meg Swansen and Franklin Habit, Ann Shayne and Kay Gardiner, Adrienne Martini, and a host of others.

I will be honest, I bought this on impulse in the KnitPicks sale – and I am very glad I did.  

Each unique take from 21 different points of view, written over a few pages each, on what is a stash and it’s psychological meaning helped me clarify and identify my own ideas – from the relief my own stash doesn’t match the nearly 12,000 skeins of one Ravelry member to the moments of stressed caused by the acknowledgement that somebody (who doesn’t appreciate this stuff in the way I do) will have to deal with all my stash when I shuffle into the big yarn store in the sky.

New voices I hadn’t read before came across eloquently about their own experiences and journeys with their stash (or lack of!) and old friends reassured me that I wasn’t thatdifferent to other crafters.

I highly recommend this light read as a reassurance that no matter what style or type of stasher you are (no yarn at all to thousands in a special room) there’s more than just you in the world.  Stash, and yarn stash in particular, are far from essential to a crafter’s life – but if you like to have a few ‘comfort balls’ around then grand. If you prefer to only have yarn in the house that is being used for your current project and you’ll buy what appeals for your next project then that’s just dandy too.

I read this over a couple of days (I am a fast reader and have a long commute when I don’t cycle to work), but because of the essay style and short ‘chapters’ it would be easy to read this one essay at a time and then take a couple of days to process the ideas presented – I fully intend to re-read most of the essays again at a more considered pace.  However the book had an immediate impact on me both physically and in my mental approach to my ‘craft collection’.

Most of you will have worked out I have a stash.  I hadn’t considered that all the accoutrements also counted as stash – my needles, hooks, threads, little pin looms, books, patterns, project bags… and I was inspired to finally get my yarn stash (most of, I think I’m missing 3 balls)  onto Ravelry. It took just under 9 hours but I got there! I once worked out that if I gave up my day job and took up knitting 8 hours a day I had 3 solid years of work without buying another ball. I’ve got faster since then – but I think I still have a safe 18 months to go at without worrying overly.

Do have I stash I will never use?  Absolutely. Those ‘souvenir’ balls and those ‘it’s just too pretty…’  Have I bought stash for a specific project and then gone off the idea?  Indeed, and those balls and skeins sit and wait patiently, without judgement, while I decide what it was the universe actually wanted them to be.  Could I give away the stash I have fallen out of love with? Probably. But I’m not quite there yet – my stash diving showed there is very little I am not in love with, and that which is ‘unloved’ is my oddments that I use for swatching ideas.

Having examined my buying habits, it appears I am a combination stasher.  Most of my purchases seem to be bought for the ‘potential’ of what that skien all could be.  Often I have a project type in mind, and several purchases are for specific projects that I had carried in my head for several years before committing (even if I haven’t started the project yet!).  But I also ‘adopt’ yarn. Those skeins that just need to be looked after and come home with me. Now, sure, in the long run this is cheaper than adopting, say, kittens who need shots and feeding and stuff – but it has resulted in a goodly percentage of my stash that has no purpose other than for me to occasionally get them out and ‘squee’ over them.  Finally there is the Exotic Fibres Collection – those skeins bought for no other purpose than for me to be able to say “I have yarn made of…” (banana, 100% milk, possum, seaweed…)

I tend towards the hyper detailed in my mind, so the fact I am in love with possibility of my yarn, with the potential captured in the fibres rather than the actual concrete results has surprised me. My stash is not there to soothe the panic of “I must cast on x at 3am..” or “in the event of the zombies, I can at least hole up and not need yarn for a couple of years” (though there is definitely an element of that). My stash is a comfort blanket of latency.  A smorgasbord of dormant possibility. That jewel like ruby 4ply silk could be a vest, or a beaded evening bag or an elegant lace insouciant scarf. That dove grey mist of cobweb weight mohair with the pale lilac core could be a snood, or lace cuffs or a frothy collar. That petrol sheen bulky acrylic would shine as a simple long sleeved shrug, or maybe a hat and gloves – or slippers…

I enjoy my finished projects, I love picking a shawl to match an outfit or presenting new parents with a blanket they can use, or showing I care with a well thought gift.  But I really get a kick out of selecting the perfect yarn for the perfect project, paired with the perfect tools. I don’t need my needles to match my yarn colour (like one of my yarnie friends) but I will select my stitch markers to match my mood and project – often with a little private in-joke that makes me smile when I see it.

Could I live without my stash?  Sure (she’s says while she doesn’t have to test it).  I’m in the enviable position of having enough disposable income that I could create a new stash over time.  Would I miss some of the irreplaceable items in my stash? – yes, absolutely! But more the books and vintage tools than the yarns themselves – and the universe is always providing new ‘irreplaceable’ things for us collectors of beautiful moments and trinkets.  My relationship has sifted subtly as a result of reading ‘A stash of one’s own’ It’s gone from being a reserve yarn shop to being acknowledged as a representation of the potential I am capable of. That each skien has a place and means something (even if that something is ‘don’t buy this yarn ever again’).  It was a nice surprise to discover that part of me still believes that I can be anything I want to be, and my stash is my metaphysical representation of that.

What does you stash mean to you?

Scandi Cuffs

So I finished my little cuffs (yesterday in fact) and thankfully I do indeed have a matching pair.  Phew! Given I have to give these away tomorrow I’m delighted I have a two that look like they belong together.

twos a crowd

close up of stitches

and i know you all wanna see inside…

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned I was working on a baby blanket (or rather needed to start a baby blanket).  The advantage with working a stash busting blanket (in the rather fun block stitch) is that the colours change every row and it’s a wonderful rainbow.  The downside is *ends*!  Oh my word, the ends! Finally for today I just had to mention the clocks changed, the weather warmed and 4 days later my jasmine is in full flower and as I cycle home in the evenings I can smell my own little garden from about 150yards away.  How wonderful!

Are you feeling tense?

So my current little pet project is a gift.  My boss retires at the end of the month and I wanted to give her a little something.  She is another crafter so I know it will be appreciated, and I wanted to do something knit as she can crochet her own stuff that she wants.

Another friend had given me a craft magazine, and nestled in the pages was a pair of knitted cuffs (Arrow Cuffs from Knitting from the North by Hilary Grant – and if you want the book there’s a matching cowl)

you can click the photo to be taken to the free pattern

I haven’t done stranded work before, and had some Fyberspates Scrumptious yarn left over from the Foolproof cowl I made and this little project appealed.

As you know I love learning new techniques, just for the sake of it.  I had a blast doing a little bit of colourwork and stranding – working out how not to end up with a massive tangled knot of yarns and carrying two yarns at the same time while working on dpns…  However, to be completely honest I’m not sure this is the best application of this technique for me.  And here’s why…

one of these things is not like the others…

The first cuff I did is the one on the right.  Once finished I discovered that I can get it over my relatively small knuckles and thumb.  Just.  It’s snug.  However as a gift there’s a worry that you might damage them taking them on and off so I needed to have a looser tension for the second cuff.  That would be the one on the left.  Erm.  Ah.

So now we are making cuff number 3.  (isn’t there supposed to be a problem with starting the second item of any paired project?)

hopefully the tension will match ONE of the exisiting cuffs. Either one will do!

TED Tuesday – Gratitude

I have so many of these talks to share with you, and am looking forward to getting some of my favourites up here.

Last month I shared the concept of TED talks with you, along with my suggested ‘starter talk’.  If you missed it, it’s here.

This month, take just 12 minutes out of your day to find out how you can permentantly change your brain chemistry to feel happier!   (I know, this one is in French, but it’s subtitled so don’t panic – and it really is worth it)

There is a lot of stuff floating around about gratitude and making lists about the small things that make you happy and journalling about the good things……  this is where it all started – and gives you the reasons WHY it’s possibly a good idea to note that really good cup of tea or coffee you had today.

I’ll be honest.  I’m not as good as doing 3 things a day like she suggests, but i try for one a day, and have been for the last 6 months or so, and I have noticed that I am a bit more positive and a bit less inclined to ‘the sky is falling!’ than I used to be.  Baby steps n’est pas?



Invisible crafting still counts right?

It feels like a while since I updated – and to be fair it is.  Half term descended upon me from a great height, and then I trapped a nerve in my upper back resulting in varying levels of mobility for the last few weeks.

Naturally I haven’t been doing much crafting – inbetween dashing up the country to visit the smaller people while they were off school and lying flat on the floor saying ow – there hasn’t been much chance.

I’ve started the second of two small ‘wrist warmer’ mitts in left over yarn.  A reasonably quick little stranded project during which I have discovered that I carry my floats WAY to tight.  Bah.  Photo’s to follow…

I also took up adult Irish Step dance – much to the amusement of my largely unco-operative body.  Seriously I thought I was going to die after the warm up in the first lesson.  Having a blast though and really enjoying getting back to dance – albeit a compeletely different form to what I have done before.

I have a  baby blanket to start – and that due date isn’t getting any further away, but it will be an excuse to use up some of my mega stash of cottons, so looking forward to that.

I have a whole list of blog posts to share with you – and I’ve started diarising when I need to do them, so hopefully I shall be a bit more consistent in posting!

Keep crafting till next time (hopefully with pictures!)

Knitting makes you less lonely

Just a quick post this week as I dash from pillar to post.  I wonder if there are actual places called ‘Pillar’ and ‘Post’?

Anyway, the BBC reported this week on things to do to combat loneliness – and top of the list was knitting!

If you want to make your hobby count twice against loneliness, then getting involved in the Big Knit with your local Age UK could be something to consider.  If you make a few hats (and seriously any number is gratefully received) then Innocent (of Smoothie fame) gives the local Age UK 25p for every hat.

That 25p is then used to fund befriending services which pays for volunteers to go into people’s homes and give them companionship, company on outings and a weekly chat to look forward to.

Each beginner hat can be done in about 25 minutes (or faster!) but there are some amazing patterns out there!  To make sure that money goes into your local area, see if your local Age UK is involved with the scheme and send your hats directly to them – rather than it being distributed across the country by the National Office.

Tonight is wet and windy – so my own knitted hat was much appreciated!  Keep warm and I promise to post soon!

Who invented 1.5mm needles anyway?

A very quick update my lovely reader.  I’ve been furiously making little crochet flowers for a ‘secret’ project for my family Christmas (which is in February this year, all families have their little foibles don’t they?) so I can’t show you those.

I’ve also been working on my ‘desk drawer’ project.   Due to the fact I cycle to work I don’t want to carry more than I have to, so I have a project I leave in work so I always have something to work on at lunchtime as the mood strikes me.  My current ‘desk drawer’ project is the Norweign Mittens.

I did work out that if I do two rows *every* lunch time, I’ll be finished the first glove (but not the thumb) in 8 weeks!

What possessed me to do my first stranded project on tiny needles in the round I’m still at a loss to explain, however it is fun doing my first stranded project and I’m slowly learning the best ways to hold the two strands of yarn so I don’t end up with a knotted mess after each session.

Today I am hoping to pull out the yarn stash and start the ‘longer-than-today’ task of sorting it into something a bit more organised. I currently have two official 65ltr plastic storage bins and several ‘unofficial’ spots, WiP bags, temporary boxes and bags… I have bought some more storage boxes so hopefully I’ll be able to split it down into something a bit more ‘findable’ – update to follow!

Have you met TED?*

If you don’t already know about TED Talks, it’s sufficent to know they are AWESOME and cover a world of subjects and topics from the best way to tie your shoelaces to the latest information on cutting edge technology (the first conference in 1984 included unveiling the brand new Apple Mac).  If you want to know more, I’ve included loads of info after the video.

I’m a HUGE fan of these informative, interesting and thought provoking talks (never longer than 20 minutes) and often do a sort of wiki-links thing following random talks and subject hopping losing hours and learning loads!

I decided that I wanted to keep a better track of my favourite talks, and also that I wanted to share them with my lovely readers, who are by definition, intelligent and have enquiring minds.  So this is the start of a new monthly feature – TED Tuesdays!

So, here’s a starting point for you, one of my favourite talks that may well change how you work with your google searches and social media….

Extra Info about TED

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design, and began in 1984 as a conference to share ideas across a broad range of subjects.  It became a regular conference in 1990, and gets speakers in a vast array of fields (including scientists, philosophers, musicians, religious leaders, philanthropists, and many others) to give some of the best talks in the world.

Lucky for us, their tag line is “ideas worth spreading” – which means all their talks, since 2006 are shared on TED.com and YouTube for free.  That’s currently over 2,400 talks on every possible subject from Adventure to Wikipedia.  Which is just as well as a ticket to the conference will set you back a cool $17,000 this year.

This is just a starting point.  Along with the sister conference; TEDGlobal, TEDx events (free under a licence to be organised by anyone, anywhere), TEDMed (medical and health based talks), TED Radio Hour (using several talks to theme an hour discussion on a single topic – my new favourite podcast) and TED Open Translation Project (which is translating TED talks into 110 languages to improve accessibility) there are literally thousands of talks on top of the core talks.  There is also books, studies, blogs, newsletters…..

So.  Look out for my favourite talks each month and let me know – what are YOUR ideas worth sharing?  I’d love to know what you think of this talk – let me know in comments!

*yes, it’s a ‘how I met your mother’ reference.