Sunday, 21 February 2016

Unravel, The London Craft Guide and some 5,000 Year Old Wood. . .

On Saturday, I got up at an insanely early hour to get down to Lime Street station in time to catch the 5:47 train to London.  Thank goodness the coffee shops open at 5:30am.  Still, even fully caffeinated, it's never a good idea when half asleep to start a complicated lace pattern on a moving train.

This is the start of what will hopefully be a gorgeous lace and cable wrap.  I foolishly thought that with 6 hours of train time, I'd get the first repeat of the chart (80 rows) done.  After making mistakes and having to rip back, I ended up with only eleven rows completed, which nonetheless felt like a great victory.  That's only 494 rows left to go.  Sigh.

Anyways, after arriving at Euston,  jumping on the underground for the quick trip to Waterloo and hopping aboard another train, I made it to Farnham around 10am.

A short, pretty ten minute walk from the station gets you to Farnham Maltings, the annual site of Unravel, yes, yet another U.K. yarn festival.

The set of buildings is quite cool - they normally house a theatre and several craft studios and if you look at their monthly calendar there are tons of interesting courses, exhibitions and events happening on a regular basis.

I wasn't entirely sold on the venue for a crowded yarn fair, however.  It definitely has its charms in that it's a bit higgledy-piggledy; you walk into one room of exhibitors, which leads into another. A set of stairs takes you to another room and in an annex of that, are more vendors.  Then you make your way to the basement - yet more to see - and in various alcoves and display cabinets along the way are examples of work by textile artists.  Oh, but don't forget the platform at the back of the Great Hall and the vendors tucked away behind the back wall.  The organisers do produce a good programme with a map of all the rooms and a list of corresponding vendors, but it's still very easy to miss some.  And when it gets crowded - as it did about an hour after I arrived - it's really hard to move between and among the tiny rooms.

I only really managed one photo so as not to jostle or be jostled, but it was for one of my favourite booths - The Little Grey Sheep.  I first came across them at Yarndale and bought a skein of their hand-dyed Gotland yarn.  They have the most gorgeous yarns from their own flock of sheep in Surrey and under the photo of Jose, is a display of their mini-skeins.  I bought five luscious, beautiful, deep colours that I'm sure I'll use in a future colourwork project.

Down in the basement was another vendor on my must-see list.  IST Crafts.  I am always in awe of people who work with wood and so I treated myself to a hand-turned Turkish spindle made out of English bog oak that is over 5,000 years old!  How special is that?  I love it.  Yes, I know I haven't yet mastered the art of drop spindling, but I have an upcoming class at the Edinburgh Yarn Festival and I'm determined to crack it.  Apparently with this spindle, when the yarn is wrapped around the bottom, you can also create a ball with a center pull. 

Another stop was at the Yarn in the City booth.  Rachel Brown and Allison Thistlewood, the women behind the annual Great London Yarn Crawl  (which I've sadly never been to,  but it's on my list!), have just published The London Craft Guide.  While similar in focus to Leigh Metcalf's London Stitch and Knit, that I reviewed in December,  The London Craft Guide also includes eleven patterns for knitting, crocheting and sewing projects.

There are fewer stores highlighted in the London Craft Guide, but such is the inexhaustive nature of the hidden treasures to be found in the big city,  that they listed one very centrally located, that had flown under the radar of Metcalf - Beadworks, near Covent Garden.

I popped in on my way home and it's a lovely, fully stocked store, with a large selection of size 6 beads (the ones most knitters use because the hole is big enough to fit a tiny crochet hook in).  I was able to find some vibrant green beads for a future project.

The Yarn in the City booth also sold yarn, including this skein of sock yarn especially dyed for them in Union Jack colours, so it had to come home with me too.

The London Craft Guide also lists a few stores in popular day-trip destinations from London - Brighton, Oxford and Cambridge - so while there is some overlap with Metcalf's guide for the London shops, there is enough new material in the book to warrant having both on the shelves. Some of the patterns are especially lovely including the Knightsbridge Shawl by Anniken Allis, the South Bank Shawl by K. M. Bedigan and Because Sock Yarn by Kate Atherley which uses up one skein to make both fingerless mitts and a matching shawlette.  I think the latter is where my souvenir skein is headed.

I didn't get home until 10pm and I've been trying to recover sleep ever since, but I'm glad I made the trip south.  I got to chat with some people who had been at Gwlana with me last year and I also got to meet my course tutor and ask her a few questions about my module.  And while I didn't stay for the screening,  I learned there's a documentary called YARN looking at global artists and knitters, which will be out later in the year.

Bring on Edinburgh!


EMartin said...

I was a first time visitor to Unravel on Sunday and I adored it. I didn't have so far to travel as you (South Oxfordshire - yours sounds like a mammoth day out!) I think the Maltings is a great venue and Farnham a very interesting town. I also loved the Little Grey Sheep as I already have some Blacker Gotland as well as
a fantastically soft and silky Gotland sheepskin from Gotland itself. I also loved Whistlebare's colours, and several other umissables. Ouch. Stash increasing by the minute... Good luck with the spindle - I admired, but was not, at present, tempted.

Blithe Spirit said...

Yes, my stash is getting a bit out of control too and Edinburgh Yarn Festival also beckons. Looking forward to my drop spindling class though!