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 …

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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.

My Socky Wocks

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Been reading Russell Brand’s My Booky Wook today, hence the title of my post: rather worryingly, his unique narrative voice seems to have implanted itself in my head, so that my own thoughts are now taking on his intonation and turn of phrase. The last time that happened to me was with Hunter S. Thompson. Had I been immersed in Generation of Swine while posting about socks I would no doubt have been describing them in terms such as “ugly” and “depraved”.

So, anyway, they’re finished. My first pair of knitted socks, in Lana Grossa’s Meilenweit Cotton 100 Spirit, from a basic free pattern. I plan to wear these to the inaugural meeting of the Ely KTog next Thursday – I’ll be the demented woman removing her boots to wave her stripy feet at anyone who’ll look!

Round and round and round she goes

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I am so close to finishing my first pair of knitted socks … SO very close. Just the toe decreases to go, then a bit of kitchener stitch, and with any luck (last-minute disasters not being entirely ruled out at this stage) I’ll have a pair of wearable trainer socks. Toes crossed …

My DPNs are 2.75mm, and though for a nice snug fit I should really have gone one size down (if only Lantern Moon made their lovely rosewood SoxStix in 2.5mm), counting my rows would have been even trickier: even now, I’m unsure exactly how many foot rounds I’ve done.

I am still only a beginning knitter, and though sock structure is no doubt very logical (and is, in fact, making vastly more sense to me since I started these), figuring out where the gusset shaping ended and the foot began is somehow still beyond me. I’m off for a recount.

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.

Good things come to those who …

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… are too forgetful and disorganised to realise they’re waiting.

On Friday, I returned home from a trip into town to purchase new socks. I specifically wanted green socks, so I’d chosen the only pack in the shop which, in addition to green, included assorted colours I’d be likely to wear. Exhibit A:

A parcel had been delivered while I was out, and when I unwrapped the fuschia tissue paper I was astonished to find two skeins of Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock Multi in the gorgeous “Desert Flower”. It took a couple of reads through the receipt before I even remembered I had ever seen the colourway before, and realised this was an order I mistakenly thought I’d cancelled four months ago. Exhibit B:

Bearing in mind the timing – and the fact that I have never, as far as I can recall, purchased either a single item or a pack of anything in which these colours have found themselves together – I thought this was all pretty eerie.

Paul smiled. “Could it not just be that they’re colours you like?” he asked.

It’s only me who’s hearing the Twilight Zone theme, then.