Monday, 26 May 2008

Keep it, Gift it, Thrift it...or Swap it?!

I have started a group on Ravelry (opps)!

I have yet to finish something for myself that I like, suits me and/or fits well. It is disappointing as I think very carefully about the projects that I work on for myself.

Yet, nonetheless, there is always something not quite right about the yarn, or the colour or the fit - I live in hope of the day when something I make resembles a knit even half as effortlessly lovely and stylish as a Brooklyn Tweed knit!

Most of my projects fall by the wayside before they are finished. The remainder get put in a cupboard, some might be worn once and are then abandoned, chalked up to experience.

I know that I am not alone - so I have set up the group for those of us who have knits that we are not certain about, that we have knitted and do not meet our expectations one way or another...

...but somehow cannot bear to frog.

So if you have something that you have made, you would prefer not to frog it but instead:
  • would like input n whether to keep it, gift it or thrift it (donate to charity);
  • bite the bullet and frog it (and seek suggestions for things to make with the yarn that might give you a better result); or
  • offer your Finished Object for swap / trade with someone who would love and wear it

then come along and join us at the Keep it, Gift it, Thrift it...or Swap it group!

Who knows - someone might just love a Finished Object that you would be grateful to see the back of in return for a different FO, yarn or tools?

Saturday, 24 May 2008

I have been a bit coy...

...about the knitting related things that I bought back from Wonderwool.

I am not sure why. What I am sure about is that I destashed some yarn a little while ago and I went to Wonderwool determined not to bring home any impulse buys. I was absolutely clear that I should resist the temptation of all yarn that I would have no idea what to do with later.

I think that my recent Storm Water Scarf disappointment was a good prompt to focus on yarn with specific projects (or people) in mind?

I was almost successful - what helped, in addition to the lack of time, was that a little bit of me felt a bit awkward about fawning over other yarn on other stands when my mother had tables loaded with interesting stuff, like this:

Plant dyed, Artisan Yarns silk. No, I promise that this is not a yarn advert for my mother. However, as I spent a lot of time at her stand, it was difficult not to be tempted by the things that she had on offer!

Also, of all things, I did a Ravelry trade with my mother for 14 balls of pinky-mauve Big Wool at Wonderwool. I traded for this skein, one of her skeins of sock yarn , two books and a hat pattern.

The reason that I chose this yarn is that while I noticed a lot of people fondling this and the banana silk yarns on my mother's stand, not many appeared to sell - so while people were drawn to the colours and textures - just from the comments that I overheard, they were not sure quite what they would do with it?

I wasn't sure either, otherwise I would have made suggestions - so I traded for this yarn, just to see what I can make with it. This goes utterly against my earlier ethos but I was careful to ask the fella which skein colour suited me the best and this was his choice.

So we shall see...!

The other yarn that formed part of my Ravelry trade with my mother is this skein of plant dyed, blue faced Leicester sock yarn:

I have not been able to photograph this yarn in a way that captures its true colours. In fact, it is a deep cherry red and burgundy. It is contrasty but not this contrasty - is contrasty even a word?!

These were the two books and the hat pattern that I also traded for. The hat pattern is the one that the Fella modelled in the sheep walk - how could I resist that?!

Yup, a sock book, an accessories book plus a hat pattern. This may seem like an odd choice for someone who isn't good with dpns and isn't keen on knitting socks. However, South West Trains seem to be decomissioning all of the First Class carriages on my train route into Waterloo. So space to knit with 14" straights is becoming a real battle - I am facing the sad reality that I need to diversify into smaller, shorter needle knits, in order to be able to continue knitting (while burping other newspaper reading commuters on my knee).

One of the highlights of Wonderwool for me, was the opportunity to meet Posh Yarns Dee and Tony - I returned again and again to their stand trying to select the yarn that I wanted to bring home with me. It was very tough and I was very hard on myself, keeping my yarn+known project acquisition objective firmly in mind.

After my prickly Koigu sock yarn experience, I knew that I wanted to invest in some Sophia cashmere sock yarn. Just a combination of the above train situation and preparing against for the possibility that I might get the urge to spend another 2 months knitting a pair of socks for myself. After much deliberation, this was my final selection:

Also, I decided that I needed another skein of sock weight yarn, of a different sort, for a specific project that I have in mind, later on this year. As I had heard a lot about Emily, I picked this:

And seriously, that was it. My purchases, in their totality - two days surrounded by yarn but I headed home with supplies for only 4 projects. I was practically in awe of my self restraint.

However, there was one skein of yarn at Posh Yarns that kept catching my eye but I kept making myself put it back. I picked it up, I put it back. I went away, I came back, it was still there, I picked it up, I put it back. I picked it up, I put it back.

Which skein was it? Well, it was this skein of Laura that featured on top of my earlier posh yarn table photo:

You see, I had already made my one sensible purchase of cashmere sock yarn for me.

I knit so slowly that I could not justify it as another sock purchase for myself and I liked the colourway too much to bear the thought of knitting it up as a present for anyone else.

So-I-walked-away-one last last time and put-it-out-of-my-mind. That's where it should end, right? Me feeling a twinge of regret and wondering which lucky knitter now has that lovely skein of yarn?

Well it seems that Dee happens to know us knitters even better than we know ourselves (at least she has me exactly pegged). On Sunday - I got back from a stroll around the food section with the Fella to find that Dee had popped by with this:

Inside that bag? Wrapped in pink tissue paper?

I am sitting here, with this yarn sitting in front of me and I am still smiling - thank you Dee!

Isn't that just beautiful? I do not know what this will be yet but I do not mind. I am quite happy to sit here and pet it and love it - I might even call it George!

Castle Cat Couture Hat

Now this on the other hand, I absolutely love - just because it is so silly and I am sort of proud of it, as the pattern is my very first ever one:

Yep, this folks is my final version of the Puss in Boots, Castle Cat Couture hat sported with yet another UFO scarf that I need to finish from last year. I have adjusted the proportions a bit and added the optional hat band.

Pattern is all written up and will be emailed over to Robynn by the end of this weekend. Honest. Honest. Honest.

I will cross post this over at my Katherine Laarzen blog by the end of this weekend.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Storm Water Scarf - Blocked!

Here it is, worn as both a wrap:

Here it is, worn as a scarf:

I am not sure about wearing it as a scarf - all those 4608 ssk, yos and yo, k2togs look a bit lost?

It is about 18914 stitches in total (including cast on and off). Trust me, I felt every stitch.

If I look at the elapsed time it took to knit this and think when and where I worked on it. I come up with about 32 hours of work, which sort of feels right. However, this means that I only managed to worked at the rate of 588 stitches an hour (9.8 stitches a minute)? This means that (on average), I worked about 270 stitches during each commute - just over 5 rows a journey.

However, that is not right. Generally, I was managing 10-12 rows per journey. This is about 1176 stitches an hour, which means that it should only be about 16 hours of work? Either way, it still felt like a-very-long-time.

It is also known as the Midwest Moonlight scarf and for those with stitch library books, I think that it the Crazy Patchwork stitch?

I am not sure whether this will stay under my roof or head off somewhere else.

You see, I do not love it and I am not convinced that it suits me. I think that I picked this colour because I know it is one that my mother likes and it was the nicest colour available in the shop at the time I was there.

So I did not buy it because I felt a huge, personal draw to the colour - I bought it because I had heard a lot about Seasilk and wanted to see for myself what it was like to work with. However, as the scarf took so long to make, I am loathe to give it away immediately. It's just disappointing to have something that I do not utterly love at the end of such a long process.

So mum, if you like this, is there anything that you would like to trade me for it?! What's the retail value of a handknit Seasilk scarf, patiently worked on Lantern Moon Ebony needles? If I decide that I work at UK minimum wage, this scarf is worth somewhere between £106.32 - £194.64?! I don't know, maybe I should just put it away for a while, wait to see how I feel about it later?

I have to ask, is there a syndrome for the pathological dislike of things that you make for yourself? Do I need therapy? I suffered with the same thing after I made the shaped lace tee (ugly lumpy thing) and it's the reason that I have not ripped back the Ribbed Shrug to redo the ribbing yet.

I know that I am not alone in suffering from this affliction though - I do know others who are constantly unpicking the things that they make for themselves. Maybe I should start a Ravelry support group: 'Knit it, hate it, gift or thrift it. Ho hum, move on'.

Yogicknitter is now planning to knit this - the big shawl version. It will not take her very long to whip it up and she is going to make it in Monarch, Handmaiden Camelspin yarn that she picked up from Purlescence - a very lovely colour and yarn. So watch that space to see something that is likely to be rather more lovely than my own modest effort!

Ha! My peonies have ants too...

...I do not mind wildlife too much as long as it stays firmly outdoors and does not intrude into my home. If it decides to invite itself in - well, that is an entirely different matter.

From time to time, I might zap the odd infestation of insects (if they are overpowering my plants and causing a lot of damage) but I do try to let nature take care of itself. Mainly because a lot of birds have made their homes in neighbouring gardens and feed (or dust bath) in mine (sparrows, robins, blue tits, blackbirds, starlings) and I do not want to harm them.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Don't you just hate it when...

...your plants make it through the winter...

...they push up shoots in Spring...

...they slowly, slowly, slowly develop leaves and buds...

...which gradually fatten promisingly...

...reaching their stems ever upwards up towards the sky...

...ready to deliver the most glorious early summer blooms, when...

...some unkind passerby rips their heads off. Like so:

When I left home this morning, the above stem looked rather more like this:

Why, just why do people do this? What is that destructive thing in people's heads that makes them casually spoil the things that they hapen to set eye on as they pass other people's homes?

This minor, thoughtless damage has made me realise how much I enjoy my peonies and how I wait for them to flower each year. I feel very protective of them. So here is a very quiet appeal to the General Public in my part of London:

Please leave my peonies alone to flower. I appreciate that my front door could do with a new lick of paint but it doesn't mean that I do not care about either my house or my flowers.

I know that you will say that if I cared for these plants, that I would not have planted them in the front of my house. The sad truth is that they spent the best part of 5 years, not flowering in my back garden, so I transplanted them (in desparation) to the front of my house where it is sunnier. Okay, so it took another couple of years but they have now got the idea of how to flower, so I like to think that they are much happier (if it wasn't for the fact that you persistently damage them).

I appreciate that it's very difficult to resist the temptation to lop off most of their heads as you walk past (as you have done without fail for the past 2 - 3 years) but trust me, if you were just to leave them alone, let them do their thing - not only they will reward you with the most gorgeous, deep pink blooms (brightening each and every time you walk past my home for the next few weeks), they will wave me off to work and still be there to greet me at the end of each long work day.

It's the small things in life that make a difference to one's day, y'know?

For anyone else who does not live anywhere near me - this may be the most intact that you will ever see my 'front of house' peonies:
I just hope that this many buds will still be there tomorrow morning...sigh.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

A Prize for Perseverance....Please?!

It is finished (at last):

It's now blocking. Proper photos and stats when it is dry and I have enough light to bring the scarf's true colours out!

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Of Wood Peonies and Butterflies

My wood peony has just bloomed for the very first time since I planted it (about 7 years ago or so, I think):

The plant itself is huge and because it has never flowered before, I have always thought of it as a 'leaf interest' plant. It was interesting how delicate and fragile the flowers appeared to be in comparision with the strong presence of the rest of the plant.

In all honesty, the flowers did not last very long (perhaps a week at the most) and, as my garden is so small (very little room for fleeting or non-performers), I am very glad that I have other reasons for enjoying this plant and keeping it as a permanent feature in my border.

Now I did not spot this lovely creature in my garden, I caught sight of this Peacock butterfly fluttering happily around my parent's garden.

It made me realise that I had not seen a butterfly in a very long time. In fact, worryingly for a woman with a house full of yarn, my garden seems to be a haven for moths and other slightly less than desirable creepy crawlies. I suspect that my honeysuckle may help to explain this but surely it is possible to have a garden that will attract both?

Hmm. Now I do have a variagated butterfly bush but it has never really thrived in my garden, which is (North East facing). Does anyone have ideas for plants that would do well in a very small, part shady garden that are attractive to butterflies?

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Wonderwool 3 (Mid Wales Mouthful)

Sunday at Wonderwool was much quieter than Saturday. This gave me the chance to stroll around the Mid Wales Mouthful part of the event with the Fella.

Last year, Wonderwool was paired with the Smallholder Show and somehow, I suspect that this might have offered families a little bit more to see and do than the Mid Wales Mouthful?

While there were a couple of fun, food things on offer, I did not really think that there was very much for younger visitors. The two things I did spot were:

a bicycle powered smoothie maker

the fruit art lady contemplating...her fruity layout?

So, gently putting families to one side - what counts as a gourmet, Mid Wales Mouthful then?

You know, I am not sure. The food fair part of the event was a sort of large farmer's market. There were plenty of preserves, delicious cheeses, homemade cakes, nuts, chocolate, cider plus other British alcohol on offer alongside produce from organic butchers and veg suppliers.

There was also a stand selling excellent bread and a patisserie stand where we picked up some apple strudel and brownies as a Sunday afternoon treat. Yum, yum, yum:

Then, there was a stand selling 26 of their 37 varieties of scotch egg. I hate scotch eggs...shudder.

There seemed to be a lot of stands selling large packs of sausages and there was also someone selling Welsh jerky, including vegetarian jerky. Yes - Welsh jerky. Don't look at me like that, I have no idea why one would need jerky in Wales - for the long arduous hikes between home and the village pub, perhaps?!

Now the Fella led our purchase of jerky yet I notice that he did not take any of it home to Canada with him! Actually, writing this has reminded me that it is sitting in my cupboard, so I have just taken a photo, opened a pack and now I am sitting here, writing this and chewing long and hard on something which describes itself as "Blackbeard's Buccaneer Jerky".

I take it all back - I have no idea why I am chewing on something that looks like it's been hoiked out of an Egyptian tomb or why it is being made in Wales but d'you know what? It's not bad - salty, spicy and it tastes totally of that welcoming wood fire smell you get when you walk into a good pub with an open fire, on a bitterly cold winter's night.

During the course of the weekend, the Fella did some wandering about on his own. Once he returned triumphant with cider. However another time, he returned with a bottle of Elderflower wine - um, not so successful! However, on Sunday we did pick up a trio of Herefordshire wines which were...

...alright! I was surprised as I am not a fan of British wine at all. To be honest, I thought that those might have to quietly exit the house via the same route as the Elderflower wine.

To finish off my account of the food fair, there were stands selling Bara Brith and Welsh cakes. Now these are both very bright memories from my childhood (warm and buttered) and this photo may tell you why we thought that this man deserved (and got) some of our business!

Otherwise, here are my Mid Wales Mouthful photos and below is our food haul!

In terms of Wonderwool on Sunday, it got very quiet towards the end of the day and, despite one very wonderful 'pick me up' moment when I got back to the stand to find that Dee had popped by with a present for me (grin...more on that another time), our energy had completely flagged and there were signs that, at least for some of our party, some of the excitement had started to wane:

Um, perhaps it was time to go?!

It seems only right to wrap up my account of the Wonderwool weekend with the main protagonists for the weekend - Anne, Tony, Aria and that sort-of-new business venture, Artisan Yarns.

In terms of Artisan Yarns, I think that my mother was pleased with how the weekend went - raising both profile and awareness of what she is doing, not to mention everything she learned about having a stand at this type of event. (I know that I learned a lot too.)

Actually, if we hadn't all been so tired, I think that I would have been sad about packing away the stand at the end of Sunday. As it was, once it was all dismantled and packed away, the Fella and I headed the 3 hours home, where we pretty much collapsed.

Anne and Tony, on the other hand, did something far more sensible. They loaded Aria and headed back to their campsite to conclude their weekend together in the peace and quiet of rural Mid Wales.

A sunny Monday morning near Builth Wells!

Wonderwool Weekend

The End

Monday, 12 May 2008

Wonderwool 2 (Yarn-Fibre-Stuff)

My camera battery died at Wonderwool, so my photos all became a bit piecemeal. I have played with photo time in this post, just to keep topics logically together (with thanks to my mother for some of the photos in this post and in my Flickr set).

Usually, I go to knitting events on a yarn and accessories stalking exercise. Two weeks ago though, I was at Wonderwool as an exhibitor - a lot of fun and a completely different experience to being at a show as a consumer. Naively, I thought that:

  • being there before the show opened would give me the chance to get in quick and make off with all of the best yarns and bargains. Nope, it didn't...

  • I would have some calm, structured time away from the stand to potter about, meet people, take photos and study carefully everything that was on offer. Um nope, that did not happen either...

  • About ten minutes into the show, I would emerge from my virgin exhibitor show chrysalis as a confident doyenne butterfly of yarn stand holding. Nope, I was terrified. Every time someone asked me a question (invariably one that I could not answer), I half froze and found myself opening my mouth, to squawk inarticulately, 'Mu-uum...'

In fact, the whole weekend seemed to be one mad rush of set up, poking a camera about, rearranging the stall to give things a chance to be seen and fill gaps after sales were made plus trying to keep an eye on whether my parents and the Fella had coffee, water and occasionally, food or a chance to sit down. It-was-all-pretty-much-non-stop!

The very first thing that I did after the Artisan Yarns set up on Saturday morning, was race over to see Posh Yarns. I had hoped to get there before the show opened to take photos of their stand before the hoards descended. I was too late...

...a bunch of knitters had beaten me to it! Yarn purchases were in full flow and here's Starry Starry Knit (right), with her hands happily full of yarn:

Now just in case you have not met the very lovely Dee and Tony, here they are demonstrating their clear mastery of twisting hanks into neat skeins – I think that the movement in this image makes it look like they are twisting in time to music!

Here is a close up of some very splendid, posh and soft yarn:

Dee and Tony won't realise but it's actually very lucky for them both that I had a couple of close calls with a trestle table while setting up my mother's stand. This taught me that their table would never take my weight.

Well, I had never seen so much posh yarn in one place before, nor in such a wide array of colours. I just wanted to throw myself onto their table, into the middle of all that glorious colour and just sort of, you know, cuddle all of that gorgeous softness. (Phew, another faux pas fibre moment avoided!)

Below is a mosaic of some images of some other stands and familiar faces from yarn, knitting and craft companies that you may recognise - I need to say that a nicer bunch of more tolerant people (of me with my camera) you would be hard put to meet:

There were so many things to see that I didn't manage to take pictures of it all. However, here's a little bit more yarn eye candy from the long established Natural Dye Studio:

Now, for those of you who prefer their fibre in a less spun state, I came across these in my travels around the show and I thanked my lucky stars that I have not yet been bitten by the spinning bug otherwise my bank balance would have been in serious trouble:

Opps, how did Gerard and Craig from IKnit end up in this section...?!

Well there's a lovely link, handed to me on a plate - fibre mixed with two of London's most fashionable knitters and knitting shops owners?

Well, it might not be the catwalks of London but Wonderwool at Builth Wells did have a sheepwalk and a fashion show for people to show off their exhibits and wares to the gathered crowd:

On Saturday, Anthony Worrell-Thompson (celebrity chef) headlined the fashion show. However, I was too busy freaking out about walking onto a platform dressed like a weirdo to take any photos of him in action. You see, I am not exactly sure what my mother had in mind when she volunteered me and the Fella to represent her Saturday - personally, I think that we could have doubled as extras from 'Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em'!

Scary! Others managed to pull off their outfits and accessories with a lot more aplomb:

Suffice it to say that we did not volunteer to do the sheepwalk again on Sunday!

Now in reality, this next picture belongs in the stall holder section. However, this lady had two coats, both of which should definitely have graced the sheepwalk. One was green and gold but this is the one that stood out from everything else that I saw at Wonderwool:

This, ladies and gentlemen, is a peach, eyelash, fashion yarn version of a Kaffe Fassett coat pattern.
Now - just who among you would have had the knitting balls to make that, eh?! I am completely and utterly awestruck - what a completely inspired, gutsy, free from convention project.

After all, what would you do if you liked the shape of a coat but did not have 15 years to work your way through all that artistic, complicated colour work, in very expensive yarns?
The answer to your problem has to be as simple as the coat on this lady's back: you shrug off any preconceived notions about a Kaffe Fassett design and then, whip up your own version of the Chinese Rose coat (just guessing), crocheted in a bunch of out-there fashion yarns, in a very unexpected colour. Why not?!

Frankly, the rest of Saturday whizzed past in a blur. By the end of the day, we were all dead on our feet and looking forwards to dinner and a good night's rest.

We trailed out and trooped back tiredly towards Aria and our car. At which point, I saw one of the nicest family scenes of the day:

A stand holding family, camping at Wonderwool and unwinding at the end of a very busy day with their knitting - now, just how cool is that?

Here are my Wonderwool During the Show photos!

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Oh Good Grief!

Will this skein of yarn never end? Will this scarf ever be finished?

One skein of Handmaiden Sea Silk (400m)
One vampire of a pattern (life force sucking)

It's truly a race, what will end first?

This skein of yarn or my will to live....?

P.S. the attractive cling film yarn wrapper?
The only way I have found to keep this ball of yarn slipping apart into one large tangly mess.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Wonderwool 1 (Before The Show)

This post is really about two people called Anne and Tony, a camper van called Aria and a fairly new business venture called Artisan Yarns.

Now just in case this sounds entirely random, I should explain that Anne and Tony make up one half of my four parents. Here they are - Anne (Yarnartisanne), Tony and Aria:

Without a doubt, my mother is my family’s true textile artist. I do not fib - when she is not textile printing, quilting, embroidering, sewing, knitting, dyeing or possibly, spinning - you will find my mother at her textile gallery, The Small Gallery, in Hereford.

My memories of growing up in my mother’s house are rich with the inherent disorder of works in progress, art supplies, fabrics, threads, wool (as we called it then) everywhere (needing to be heaped out of the day so we could eat at the dining table) and the smell of natural plant dyes heating on the stove.

Opps, I digress as usual. Last Autumn, I showed Anne around the hand dyed yarn stands at Alexandra Palace (she was really there to see the exhibition work). It seems that this trip helped to crystallise some ideas and Anne started to introduce some artisan yarns at her Gallery, just before Christmas. Since then, the yarn collection has been expanding and Anne has started to dye yarns again as well. In fact, here are some of her hand dyes in a box (alongside a pink Knitwitches silk yarn scarf), ready to go off to Wonderwool:
Except not many people know about what my mother is doing yet, as a Gallery website and blog are still pending... enter Wonderwool as an opportunity to start raising awareness about Artisan Yarns at The Small Gallery!

As an aside, just in case you think that Tony is the long suffering partner of an overtly creative person (he is, but still), I need to tell you that Tony holds his own on the creative front -he is currently the oldest Art Foundation student at Hereford Art College.

The third character in the photo above is Aria - a brand new camper van, manufactured in Brazil to the original VW specification - very cool on the outside, very plush on the inside and apparently, no power steering so a bit tricky to drive!

Now it turns out that taking to the open road in a camper van is something that Anne and Tony have always wanted to do, so they hired Aria for the Wonderwool weekend. Just on the basis that their accommodation for the weekend would double as a decent yarn transporter.

They were right too.

This is Tony’s study before the yarn was loaded into Aria:

This is Aria after the yarn was loaded for the drive to Builth Wells:

You will note that my parents were careful to provision sensibly for the weekend:

Aria loaded, Anne and Tony set off for Wonderwool. The Fella and I caught up with them at 7pm, when we helped them to set up the stand. By the time that 10pm had swung around, we were barely able to speak we were all so tired and the stand still had a few things left for us to sort out.

Now I haven’t been to a Knitting Event as an exhibitor before so I was very curious to see how things really looked before it opened its doors to the public.

You know, it really was a bit like, 'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse':
So we crept out quietly to collapse - my parents at their camp site, the Fella and I at our B&B (a pub). However, we were all back by 8:30am on Saturday to finish off the stand and prepare for the 10am opening - fanfare please... this, for those of you who were not able to make it to Wonderwool this year, is Artisan Yarns, set up and sorted for the start of the show!

The rest of my Wonderwool Before the Show photographs have been uploaded to Flickr and I will post about the rest of last weekend in the next day or two!