Something for the weekend

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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 …

Oh ma boteh, ma divine …

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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.

I knit, you knit, we all scream for I Knit

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The long-anticipated I Knit Day 060908 has been and gone, and three days on I haven’t shared any incoherent blather about it here. ‘Til now!

I was a knitting-show virgin when I attended last year’s Stitch ‘n Bitch event, the first show put on by Gerard and Craig of I Knit London. This time, I’d arranged to travel down by train to London with members of the Cambridge (and Ely) ktog: Liz, Rosie, Anne, Sue, Mary and Deb. There were delays to our trains both there and back, but having packed our “emergency knitting” (and anyone lucky enough to have been in the Yarn Harlot’s audience will know the impracticality of such a thing!) we were at least happily occupied chatting and knitting – or, in the case of three of us, crocheting. Liz also presented me with 2 skeins of gorgeous sock yarn from Indie Dyer, which I journalled yesterday: click on the image to largify if you wish to know the conditions I work in to bring you even scant sketchbook content these days!

Pen & coloured pencil in Canson watercolour sketchbook
The Royal Horticultural Halls were fairly buzzing with people I recognized from last year’s event, and with sparkly celebs of the yarn world such as Sasha Kagan, Erika Knight (whose Ribbed Shrug from Glamour I’m currently knitting) and “Rebel Knitter” Mazzmatazz. Not least, there was Jane Waller with her gorgeous 1940s collection, which totally transformed my perception of women’s fashions of that era when I heard her speak at last year’s I Knit Day.

The star of the show, however, was the famed Yarn Harlot, Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, a ticket for whose sold-out talk in the Lindley Hall I’d snagged nice and early (another reason to thank Liz). As I’m only an occasional reader of the ‘Harlot, I really had few expectations of her before she stepped out on the podium: I think what I anticipated was something opinionated and witty and mildly entertaining. She gave us so much more than that!

I found her immensely engaging: funny, smart, articulate, composed, funny, compassionate, inspirational, funny and fascinating – and did I mention the woman is seriously funny? She took us on a tour through subjects ranging from Einstein, through theories of alpha, beta and theta states of mind to the outrageous price of Rowan in Canada, the laughable conclusions made by a potentially valuable Cambridge study into “repetitive visual-spatial tasks”, the perils of being a writer in the niche market of knitting humour, how yarn crafts might help to prevent Alzheimer’s, and the comments – at once hilarious and deeply offensive – made by strangers to those who knit in public. I came out of that hall feeling uplifted and empowered – and frankly, those are words I would never normally be caught using. I’ll stop short of saying the experience was life affirming. (Even though, ahem. It was.)

Here are Liz and Anne meeting Yarn Harlot (or should that be the other way round? It seems Stephanie knew who Liz was! And these two have now found fame among the photos Stephanie has posted to her blog).

I’ve gone a bit pretentiously for a “reportage” feel with the black & white pics. Here’s one showing SP-McP in glorious (coordinated) colour.

The Knitpickers sock bag I purchased was put to immediate use, holding a ball of Liz’s hand-dyed yarn and some dpn’s I’d brought with me …

Thus, I was able to continue in style my destined-to-become-a-tradition of casting on for a pair of socks while at the event. And since, by my reasoning, a space-saving solution such as this does not fall into the category of “materials”, it cannot be considered an indulgence and therefore doesn’t really count as an expense; happily, this meant I was able to splash out guilt free on a skein of Seriously Gorgeous (and believe me, it is) cashmere/silk – some of the softest stuff I’ve ever had the pleasure of fondling. I plan to use it in an attempt to knit a lace project (gulp), in the form of a small shawl to be worn at the next I Knit Day …

Finally, this is part of Alison Murray’s Gingerbread House, a huge, eccentric, delightful knitting project undertaken for charity.

The day ended with more delayed trains – not entirely a bad thing, since it gave Liz and me time to enjoy an extra G&T, and led to us bumping into Susie, with whom we chatted (and whose fabulous shawl I oohed and ahhed over) on the journey home.

Happy daze

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Much knitting and crocheting has been going on in the drinking establishments of Ely and London recently, and I am proud to count myself among those responsible for the knitting (a little of it, in my case), crocheting (a fair bit) and drinking (rather a lot).

Thursday 28 Feb saw the inaugural meeting of the Ely KTog at the Lamb Hotel: the headcount was nine (if one includes the small and very cute head of one knitter’s month-old baby) and the evening was such a fabulous success that it will now be held fortnightly. We all felt very much at home in our cosy little corner of the bar. This is the less unsuccessful of the two photos I took …


I’d been casting on the same sock repeatedly for several days, however, and never advancing beyond row 2, so when the time came to head down to London on Saturday, I put it to one side and grabbed something less taxing. I’m taking a second stab at Interweave Crochet’s Boteh Scarf … this time in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock in the “Desert Flower” colourway, and using a 3mm hook rather than the recommended 4mm in the hopes of avoiding the limp seaweed effect that afflicted my first attempt.


The first triangle was crocheted on the train journey from Ely to Kings Cross; the second while glugging wine at The Enterprise, a pub in Chalk Farm, after a lunchtime browse round Camden’s markets; and the third over coffee at the Roundhouse Café with Claire, whose cabling skills and headless body you can see here. Claire and I did a lot of laughing about knickers, as I recall. We are nothing if not intellectuals.


One of the staff enquired and enthused about what we were doing, which made a truly refreshing change from the usual sniggering and/or bewilderment. And Claire gifted me this fragrant cedar heart to keep the moths away from me yarn.


Jane Birkin’s one-off concert in aid of the charity Anno’s Africa was the reason I’d chosen the Roundhouse as our meeting place. The show rounded off a superb day and was totally worth missing my last direct train for … I got home around 1.15am, still buzzing.

Bitchin’!

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On Saturday I headed down to London for the first ever UK Stitch ‘n Bitch Day, starring Debbie Stoller and organised by I Knit London.

It was also my first knit & crochet show, and I spent a little while feeling out of my depth among the more experienced yarn-fondlers cramming the main hall; but the atmosphere was enthusiastic and welcoming, and extremely conducive to knitting.

When one has all day to relax and browse what’s on offer, there is no real excuse for impulse purchases, and I was restrained enough not to come home with the pink ivory hook, crochet wrap, blue-green silk yarn, book on freeform crochet/knitting and various sock patterns I’d been eyeing. I opted instead for a set of 2.75mm rosewood SoxStix from Purlescence, which I put to work straight away, casting on for a pair of trainer socks, using the leftover Meilenweit Cotton Spirit I’d packed for the occasion. I was surprised to find that these needles aren’t at all slippery, but I’ve quickly come to love the feel of them, as my stitches no longer go sailing off the ends – and their short length makes a sock project ultra-portable.

Lunch and a G&T later, I bumped into a fellow member of the KnitCambridge group, who I haven’t seen for months. It was delightful to catch up with her, compare notes on the progress of our young daughters, and receive her invaluable help with my nascent sock disasters. Here’s Chika, also in sock-knitting mode …

Here’s my sock, not much progressed …

… and here am I.

My other purchase was, unsurprisingly, Debbie Stoller’s Son of Stitch ‘n Bitch. Debbie sat down – at OUR table, hurrah! – to sign copies of her book for a queue of knitters, so Chika and I got ours signed and then took part in the SnB group photo (see Flickr) before catching the train home together – still knitting.