Something for the weekend


Ely was shrouded in an eerie mist when I set off last Friday for I Knit London‘s Weekender. It was the perfect chill morning to don my Alpine Frost for the very first time – a gorgeously soft scarf crocheted from one skein of luxury yarn purchased at last year’s event. By the time I set foot inside the Royal Horticultural Halls, however, I was sweltering, for the haze had given way to the most glorious sunshine, which was to continue all weekend.

And this is a glimpse of the riot of colour that greeted me.

Among the exhibitors was Anita Bruce, whose knitted and crocheted plankton and starfish, fashioned from fine wire, were laid out like specimens and had a delicate beauty.

There was much else to do see and do, but Friday for me was mostly about fondling yarn and spending money, as well as hooking up with friends from the KnitCambridge group, including Rosie, Jackie, Liz (who surprised me with a belated birthday present of three skeins of Mirasol) and the two Heathers.  I also pounced on fellow Twitterer Cat the moment she stepped into the building, startling her and doing little to convince her that I wasn’t some kind of insane stalker. 

Having declared 4pm to be wine o’clock, three of us repaired to the downstairs café for light refreshments. I have pilfered this next image from Liz, who caught me in the act of using a DPN to Twitter on my new Nokia.

I was desperate to Twitpic the day’s haul, which you can see here amidst the forest of glasses and knits in progress: one EasyKnits sushi sock roll in the “Zippy” colourway, a skein of Anna’s Palette handpainted lace yarn in subtle purples and apricots (it’s a blend of baby alpaca, silk and cashmere, soft as feathers, and probably destined to become a crochet scarf) and Cookie A’s excellent book, Sock Innovation.

After my annual visit to the BP Portrait Award at the National Portrait Gallery, I arrived in Trafalgar Square in time to witness a sunset, a 9/11 protest rap and a plinther doing something to a tree.

I spent the night at the Hoxton in Shoreditch, a hotel so trendy it’s not even a hotel, but an “urban lodge”. The whole place made me feel old and unhip, but I loved it. My room was large and comfortable, with simple décor and the cleanest, shiniest black-tiled bathroom I’ve ever seen.

Breakfast was a very fine full English, washed down with a mug of tea at Islington’s The Elk in the Woods with Jo & Anna, after which the three of us took a lovely long bus ride through the city, down to Victoria for day 2 of the I Knit show. My afternoon was then taken up with a workshop by self-professed “mad hatter” Woolly Wormhead, who spent three hours teaching us how to design and knit a custom hat: taking measurements, finding stitch patterns that would work with our size and gauge, and contrasting approaches to different hat styles (beanie, beret and chullo). I had wrongly imagined that knitting on circs using the magic loop technique would be not unlike working in the round on DPNs. Having found out the hard way that this wasn’t the case, my learning curve became ridiculously steep, but thanks to the kind lady sitting next to me, whose name was Karen, I started to get to grips with my circular needle, even if I didn’t have much of a hat to show for it by the end of the afternoon. I learnt tons over those three hours, and the knowledge is stuff I can apply not just to future hat projects but to my knitting in general. I do suspect, though, that my learning was taking place on a much lower level than that of everyone else in the room.

The weekend left me shattered, but excited about the possibilities for developing my knitting skills over the autumn and winter months. They also kick-started progress with my second Embossed Leaves sock, and I hope to have the pair finished and blogged by the end of September. Something for the weekend, indeed, but enough yarn and inspiration to keep me going for a full 12 months until I can do the I Knit Weekender all over again …

Alpine Frost is finished


I purchased a single skein of Knitwitches’ cashmere/silk blend (aptly named “Seriously Gorgeous”) at last year’s I Knit London event with the idea of attempting knitted lace. The yarn was adamant, however, that it wanted to be turned into the Alpine Frost Scarf from Interweave Crochet, and now that’s what it’s become, I can see that it knew its stuff.

This was my carry-everywhere project for a while, as it was so easy to do. A bit of blocking made it quite the most lovely thing I think I’ve ever made: a very simple pattern repeat, yet such a pretty result. It has also taught me that I should always crochet with yarn that’s this luxurious, as it has rewarded me with the beautiful sigh-inducing softness that I associate with knitted garments. I almost can’t wait for the autumn to be here so I can wear it without attracting so many bewildered stares …

Das singende, klingende … er, Bäumchen of fingerless mittens


They grow on trees. No, they really do.

Three pairs of basic crocheted fingerless mittens, made for my father, my mother and my yarn guru Liz. The pair made for Liz required much fussing and faffing with two not-quite-matching skeins of Noro Kureyon to produce the near-identical twins you see here.

I do wonder whether any of my neighbours witnessed me hanging hand-crocheted mittens from trees; and, if they did, whether they were at all surprised by my behaviour. By now, one likes to imagine they were not.

Have your cake … but don’t eat it


I machine-sewed another felt wrap, based on the pencil-roll project in The Creative Family; Melody will now be able to carry along her crayons on the long train journeys we’ll be making over the Christmas period.

With the many smaller remnants in the crayon box, I had some fun making crayon cakes – an idea for which I must thank CraftSanity. Here they are before …

… and after 10 minutes in the oven on a low heat.

They were so pretty as they melted that I had to resist the urge to grab every crayon and oil pastel in the house and bake ’til we had a stack of cakes in rainbow colours climbing to the very ceiling. Fun though it might have been, I would have regretted it.

And I’ve had cakes on the brain, it seems, because I have also crocheted these little fellas – based on a pattern by KTBdesigns – to go with M’s tea set.

Lastly, my Christmas cards for this year, of which I’ve made only a handful.

This is one of the simpler designs from Paul Jackson’s wonderful collection of paper creations, The Pop-Up Book, which I recently tracked down at my local library, having found much in it to delight and impress me when I first browsed its pages years ago.

My Christmas card-giving has diminished over the past 14 years. This is, I suspect, the very last time I will send them.

I’m free … freeforming


I’ve no idea what this thinks it is, nor what kind of life it envisions for itself, but it is growing … I suspect it may have antibiotic properties …

Troobs in progress


I have given myself permission not to fret about fitting in any sketching or painting ’til November is out, so as to catch up with crocheting and sewing gifts for Christmas.

I have two crocheted cupcakes to complete (intended as play food to accompany my daughter’s tea set … I offer this as justification for what sounds on the face of it like an insanely silly undertaking, even to me, and I’m the one doing it), three pairs of fingerless mitts to get started on, another crayon wrap to sew, a sketch to frame and a number of cards still to make. Next year, by some miracle I might start planning the handmade stuff about six months earlier …

The project pictured – Danielle Kassner’s “Troubador Socks” from the Spring 2008 issue of Interweave Crochet – is my first attempt to get to grips with fair-isle crochet. I’m already doubting my choice of yarn, but after getting about seven rows into the toe and unravelling three times, I am just about at the stage of no longer feeling I’m wrestling with spaghetti, and instead, enjoying the process. These will be what they turn out to be: no expectation, no deadlines, no stress.

This isn’t, of course, one of my Christmas projects.

I’m such an idiot.

Oh ma boteh, ma divine …


Two days on, I am still suffering the aftereffects of Too Much Fun on Friday night, but the party/exhibition/gig at the Ada Street Gallery in London was soooo very worth it!

As I’d decided I would present Beee with her Boteh Scarf that evening, I spent the train journey to King’s Cross crocheting like a mad thing to finish the edging, then fastened in the yarn ends in a small hotel room in Bethnal Green, where I hurriedly draped the curtain across a chair as a backdrop for this photo – with just half an hour to go before the party.

I used a 3.0mm hook and 1.5 skeins of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in the “Desert Orchid” colourway. I find a sweet symmetry in having both started and finished the scarf on trips to London for events celebrating Anno’s Africa.

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