Monday, 29 June 2015

Celebrating British Wool at Woolfest 2015. . .

Woolfest 2015 was amazing.  I've been twice previously but both times it poured cats and dogs, and I was with the Liverpud who -  bless him -  tried to look interested and to save him from boredom, I hurried myself along and tried to do the whole show in less than two hours. You can't do it justice in that time.

But this year, the sun was shining, the Liverpud dropped me and three knitting friends off at the venue and took himself off for a walk, and we had over five glorious hours to explore the show.  All of us, Liverpud included, had a great day.

Going on Saturday made a big difference too.  It was less manic and I really got the chance to look at every booth and have longer and really interesting conversations with the vendors.  And I even got to try drop spinning which has re-awoken my desire to learn how to do it properly.

I even bought some fibre from Skybluepink Designs to induce me to watch the Craftsy course I bought,  and to get out that drop spindle lying in a box under my bed.  I just fell in love with these colours!

I may have gone slightly overbudget (well, that was a given), but I did keep to my goal of only buying British wool - not difficult when there was so much fantastic yarn on offer.  I also wanted to challenge myself by buying wool I'd not tried before so even though I love, love Titus and John Arbon, I was able to restrain myself in their booths and bring home something new instead.

My first purchase was two skeins of Susan Crawford's Excelana 4ply in this glorious limited edition colourway called Coral Lombard.  How could I resist?  The name alone had me smiling, not to mention the rich colour.

Oooh and then look at the deep purple in these skeins of aran wool from the Hebridean Islands, bought at the Sheepfold booth.  There are flecks of blue and brown in there too and I think these are destined to become winter mitts and cowls.  I have some dark brown Herdy wool in my stash that would complement it perfectly.

I've not tried any wool from the Falkand Islands before but I'm a big fan of Blacker's yarns and so these two skeins came home with me.

And then there's Jillybeans.  Sadly due to family circumstances, she wasn't able to be at Woolfest but had given a friend a lot of skeins to sell on her behalf.  I absolutely adore how she dyes her wool - all of which is 100% British, a mixture of Shetland and BFL.  Look at how rich her colours are!  No idea what I'll do with them yet, but I always like having her yarns in my stash; the right project is sure to come along.

And then I fell in love with these two beauties.  I love the colour and rustic feel of these organic skeins from Garthenor.   This will definitely become a shawl. Perhaps Lucy Hague's Taliesin or Karie Westermann's new design Mahy.

And then there was a booth called Riverside that was selling huge skeins for hand or machine knitting.  They didn't come with information tags, but the company write-up in the brochure said all their wool was sourced and spun in the UK.  I got this enormous 1000g skein for only £20 and since I regularly use grey as one of my "neutral" colours in knitting, I jumped at the bargain.  It took me three hours to wind it up (no, I don't have a ball winder).  It seems to be fingering weight and this is what it looks like - the biggest ball of wool I have ever wound.  Should last me quite a while.

Apart from all the yarn, I was really delighted to come upon these unusual buttons from the Wool Clip collective.  They are made from Cumbrian slate and I think they would look fantastic on a rustic wool cardigan.  I am so, so pleased with all of my purchases.  That should tie me over at any rate until Yarndale!

Thursday, 25 June 2015

A Colourful Handmade Wardrobe in the Works. . .

I'm working on so many projects right now and enjoying every minute of it.  I'm in love with the yarns that I'm using, the designs are fun and challenging, and I'm excited about having all these new, colourful additions to my wardrobe.  Next month I'll be off on holiday and I want to bring ten knitted items with me and wear a different piece each day (this is predicated on actually finishing some of the pieces in this post, but I live in hope. . . )

First up though is something I have finished.  Here's what I'm calling my Hap for Springtime, based on Kate Davies' Hap for Harriet.   

I used two skeins of Blacker's Blue-faced Leicester laceweight in this gorgeous moss green colourway.  I saw this colour everywhere the last few months as I was knitting this and walking through the countryside - the colour just glows in the sunshine.  It was in all the new growth of leaves, among the mosses in deep woods and on the moorlands, and in the fresh grass of country meadows.

This is the perfect summer shawl, lightweight but really warm for chilly evenings.  I love it!

I'm also digging out projects that have been languishing for ages.  I loved this rich magenta wool when I saw it in the skein about five years ago.  I bought enough for a cardigan, knitted most of the pieces and now it's just waiting for a bit of blocking and seaming.   I am so, so close to finishing this.

The minute I finished my hap, I cast on for another top with some of my Rowan Summer Tweed.  This is Scout, designed by Julia Frank.  It has an interesting construction; you increase at each end and as you work from the bottom up on the back and fronts, you are also creating the sleeves.

And here's another summer top in the works.  I'm not sure this self-striping yarn is going to work with the pattern so the project has stalled a bit, but I'm still committed to knitting some more on it and seeing how it goes. 

Not forgetting my Bowland cardigan though, designed by Susan Crawford. I've done one full repeat and love my choice of colours. This may well be the project that I take with me on holiday.

And remember all those crocheted hexagons I was creating as part of the Rowan Crochet-a-long? I've finally decided what to do with them all and am seaming them together today.  Lots of ends to weave in, but this pile will hopefully become something nice soon.

Woolfest this weekend!  I am so excited. I'm going up with three friends and there is bound to be lots of laughs, lots of knitting time, lots of lattes and with any luck some very restrained wool buying!

Monday, 22 June 2015

Three Years. . . .

So yesterday was the summer solstice which always prompts me to ponder my new life in the UK as it's also the anniversary of moving over here.  Three years already!  And things are very good.  I love my new more laid-back lifestyle; lots of hiking, crafting, walking to work, gardening, and cooking. Work is much more interesting and fulfilling in my new job, not to mention I got a pay raise with the new position and it allows me to continue to work part-time, cover all my living costs and still save for holidays,  wool festivals and retirement.

With the more simple lifestyle, my consumerism is also way, way down from what it used to be and I'm much more thoughtful about what I buy, where it comes from, what it's made from and whether I really, really need it. While my yarn diet this year has been completely blown, I have managed to keep to my resolution of not buying any new clothes and I've even been purging the wardrobe and paring it down to items that I really like wearing.

People were the hardest thing to leave behind in Toronto but friends have kept in touch, and have come to visit, and I have managed to find a core group of like-minded hikers and knitters to hang out with who are interesting and inspiring and barmy in the best possible English way.  The Liverpud is my best friend and we continue to laugh and build a life together. And Mum will be coming over for two months and I look forward to taking her to some of my favourite places.

This is a little bit of what living in Britain is all about for me.

My first English rose!  This is Wildfire - a gorgeous, vibrant orange colour and it's in full bloom in my front yard.  I could never have grown roses in my tiny flat in Toronto.

And here is how I spent the solstice Sunday.  Our walking group went to Abersoch, a popular seaside town,  and I went walking along several miles of the Welsh Coastal Path around parts of the Llyn Pennisula.  The coastal path is marvellous - very well signposted and maintained.

Nothing but sky and sea and sheep.

Islands in one direction. . .

. . . and mountains in the other.

And back for an ice cream in Abersoch during low tide.

An anniversary needs a cake and this is a Dorset Apple Cake from Paul Hollywood's British Baking book.  I love this recipe; it is much less sweet than many British cakes, the flavour coming from cinnamon and Bramley apples which are left in slices throughout the cake.

Absolutely delicious.  Just like my life for which I am profoundly grateful.  I'll always be a proud Canadian, but the UK is definitely my home now.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Rah Rah Humbug. . .

Hooray, my fourth garment of the year is completed.  This is Humbug by Carol Meldrum (coincidentally the same designer who wrote the Knit Your Own Boyfriend book). 

It's knit in Rowan Summer Tweed.  I got forty balls of it in four different colours when it went on sale for 50% off at the Black Sheep (the yarn is being discontinued).  These photos are a little washed out - the colour is more of a rich caramel.  The yarn was lovely to knit with and I think it will get softer with washing.  It's really perfect for summer garments and I love this layering piece which is surprisingly warm, yet comfortably so.  It's also fun to change the look depending on what colour I wear underneath.

The only modifications I made were to knit 3/4 length sleeves and also to reduce the number of holes by knitting eight rows between each hole instead of the four that the pattern called for.  I've seen versions where a ribbon is woven between the holes for yet another versatile look and I may try this if I can find the right ribbon.  First I'm off to find more patterns for my remaining Summer Tweed.

Monday, 15 June 2015

A Day With My Knitted Boyfriend. . .

Meet Fritz, a knitted boyfriend that I made for a friend's birthday.  

I have to admit I grew a little smitten with him. And so before I let him go, I spent a full day with him appreciating his many good qualities - he is very good at listening, he never talks back, and is perfectly happy to do whatever I want.

He even got completely immersed in the book that I'm currently reading.

And he too loves his lattes on early morning train journeys.

He even helps out with the knitting.

We went on Saturday to London - one of our favourite cities.

We love to walk along the South Bank, stopping occasionally to watch the world go by.

Fritz was quite dwarfed by the public statues.

But he loved watching all the traffic on the Thames.

Especially this boat painted in a very modern, abstract way.

Which was the perfect thing to see en route to the Tate Modern and their fabulous Sonia Delaunay exhibit.

It's on until August 9th, and I highly recommend visiting it.  She was so multi-talented - a painter of whirls of colour and movement and energy (her paintings of tango dancers are fantastic); a fashion and costume designer (there was a gorgeous coat, hand embroidered with wool on fabric, that she made for Gloria Swanson and a vibrant knitted swimsuit as well); a fabric designer (gorgeous swatches on display, swathes of silk and shapes and colours),  a graphic designer working on lots of art magazines, and she even designed a unique bookcase intended for a student dorm.  It was an enormously inspiring exhibition.  One of my favourite bloggers, Kate Davies, has enthusiastically written about Delauney's influence here and here and the latter link shows some of the exhibit (photos weren't allowed but she went to the opening).   Fritz enjoyed it too.

No trip to London would be complete without a quick stop at Loop.

Fritz had fun among all the skeins of gorgeous yarn.

And he helped me pick out my first ever skein of Wollemeise in a colourway that made me laugh - it's called Franz with Chicken Pox.  This is begging to be a shawl - I will just need to find the perfect pattern.

I grew very attached to Fritz and we had a great day together.  But he wasn't for me and I didn't want the Liverpud to get jealous, so off he went to surprise my friend who will take excellent care of him. And lo and behold, he met another Fritz at the same party!  They are now best buddies.

And if you want to knit your own Fritz, you can get all the patterns from Knit Your Own Boyfriend by Carol Meldrum.  The book is very funny to read as well.  I will admit to find the process a bit fiddly, not having previously knitted any toys, but I got there in the end.  I enjoyed knitting the fair isle sweater and the goatee especially and there are patterns for all sorts of hairstyles and accessories so you can really customize your own boyfriend.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Lots of Summer Projects on the go. . .

I really need to focus on finishing projects.  I have one top that just needs some neck edging; another cardigan fully knitted that just needs the sleeves seaming and two more cardigans that just need sleeves.  I'm still working on my Hap for Harriet but it's a LOT of garter stitch and I'm ready for it to be done now (about 2/3rds through).  And that Rowan crochet scarf just needs joining up. 

My problem is that I get bored too easily and thus I CAN'T STOP CASTING ON NEW PROJECTS!

Can I be excused this lovely fair isle cardigan though?  This is Bowland by Susan Crawford and she's hosting a KAL on Ravelry that started on Monday.  I've long wanted a proper colourwork cardi and I just love this design.  I also am a big fan of Susan's vintage designs and I enjoy following her blog and reading about her adventures raising sheep on her North Lancashire farm.

I'm using stash for mine - a combination of John Arbon alpaca/merino 4ply, some Blacker classic and some Titus.  Here's my swatch.

The Rowan CAL has also given me the confidence to cast on for Marie Wallin's Aster.  This is the very first crochet garment I've attempted so am a bit nervous but I do love this deep aubergine colour.  I'm not taking any chances with this and am using the yarn called for in the pattern - Rowan's Summerlite 4ply.  And it's lovely to work with.  I think the sleeves and seaming will be a bit tricky on this, but so far the body seems straightforward and it's quite fun to work on.