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.

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


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.


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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.

Show me the Monet!


I travelled down to London on Saturday for The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings at the Royal Academy of Arts. Train and tube travel has been nightmarish lately due to engineering works on the major lines, but my day out was a full and rewarding one, and the exhibition was a joy – from Monet’s early caricatures to his black crayon drawings of cattle and farmhouses, and the vibrant yet subtle pastel studies he made of sunsets and twilight.

I was struck by this comment from one of Monet’s contemporaries, quoted in the Gallery Guide: “Every scrap of paper, no matter how small, was drawn upon with country scenes, tiny seascapes and fishermen. Every sheet of paper that came into his hands was destined for a drawing.” What better inspiration could a would-be compulsive sketcher hope to find? Monet, it is clear, was passionate about sketching, and in addition to the 80 works on display, this exhibition also makes many pages of his sketchbooks available for browsing in digital form.

With me I had a very basic sketching kit of black Profipen, watercolour bijou box and credit-card-sized set of 12 coloured pencils; over the course of the day, I covered two pages of my hand*book journal, sketching anything that took my fancy – from my train ticket, to the pattern on the dress of the passenger next to me, to a couple of Monet’s pastel drawings, to the evening sky outside Stowmarket. After an hour and a half of wandering lost around Aldgate/Whitechapel towards the end of the afternoon, I also managed a browse round Atlantis Art Materials, where I picked up a couple of drawing pads and some handmade papers.