Friday, 8 April 2016

Tips on Combining a Holiday and a Yarn Festival

Every so often, an opportunity for an expedition in pursuit of yarn and knitterly people comes along which I cannot resist. Edinburgh Yarn Festival is one such, especially after last year, when I heard all the talk, and did nothing but wish I could be there.

So this year, I had the conversation early: could we make a bit of a holiday of it, and go up to Scotland for the Festival, which happens to fall just after my birthday? The answer was a resounding yes (I'm a very lucky person, and he's very special), and after the excitement, came the considerations of how to make this work. We've been to knitting events together before, but never on this scale, and it's never been more than a long weekend.

We had a brilliant time, but preparation and communication were key to balancing the two reasons for being in Edinburgh, so here're some tips on how to make that negotiation work!

Our first day included a trip to the Botanic Gardens

Make sure you have enough time

When you're heading North in March, and you have a limited number of annual leave days, it can be tempting to cut the trip as short as possible. We took the conscious decision to arrive early, and give ourselves a full day after travelling to explore and spend together before the Festival began. We also declared Sunday a non-travelling day (on the British rail network, unless you can leave at lunchtime, or have a direct train it really isn't), and so had the luxury of a Sunday evening together in Edinburgh before a very respectable lunchtime train. We got home in daylight and with enough time to establish we had no food for dinner before the shops shut!

Calton hill from my preferred breakfast spot

Take time to find your bearings

If you are going to be spending portions of the weekend apart, definitely worthwhile making sure you both know where the bus stops, and where key landmarks are. Yes, we have phones, but being able to say "I'm about 10 minutes down the Royal Mile from the Castle, I'll meet you on North Bridge" makes it much much easier than being forced to describe the four closest buildings, and hoping to goodness that combination doesn't come up too often.

Susan Crawford's amazing Vintage Shetland Project presentation

Have a clear idea of what you want to do at the Festival

While it is a holiday, and you want to enjoy that section of the break, you will enjoy those times more if you are confident that you will have time to do everything you want to do at the Festival too. Who do you have to see? Which vendors are must-visits? What's on your shopping list? Do you have classes or talks booked? How long will you want to sit and knit in the podcast lounge? If you know the answers to this sort of question, you can talk about how much time you'll be at the event, and enjoy both sets of time without feeling guilty that you should be elsewhere, or that you're missing out!

Involve your non-knitter in the event

Isla (of Brityarn) and I, randomly on the street
Mr P likes to see where I'm going to be, so I got him weekend tickets for the marketplace, and he was therefore able to come and go as he pleased. He knew when and where my classes were, and had the option to pop along and catch me if it fitted with his plans. He's also started to be frustrated at hearing about all these people he cannot picture, so he declared that if I was introducing him to someone, he wanted photographic evidence of us for future reference.
Jo (of Shinybees, on her birthday) and I in the podcast lounge





Plan things to do together

With limited time together, it's easy to just find yourselves wandering around, getting progressively hungrier, and then wondering what to do with the evening. Worse, if you (as the knitter) have nothing planned for the evening, and you're having the best time in the podcast lounge, you might find yourself tempted to stay beyond what is fun or friendly towards your other half. Make arrangements for things you're looking forward to - we went to the cinema* one evening, and a comedy show another - and you'll be all the more refreshed for more fibre adventures the next day.

*It can be worth sourcing vouchers / special deals in advance if you anticipate this sort of outing, though it can limit the amount of independent traders you can support.

Thursday, 30 April 2015

A Question of Storage (Part One)

I was recently listening to the Prairie Girls Knit and Spin podcast, when Susie and Danie were discussing their storage solutions for knitting needles. What made me think was how fixed in space their solutions were: from vases, to mugs, to pencil cases, they were all focused on the moment before the project is begin. Since almost every knitter you meet will have a different preference for DPNs, or circulars, or straights long enough to hold under your arm, it isn't that surprising that each knitter's knitting basket / toolkit is different, and yet, everyone's normal is their own way of doing it.

So in the interests of show and tell, I thought it might be worth sharing my own choices. They aren't perfect (and I'm thinking about ways to improve them, but am wary of pushing too far towards processes that won't be followed – if I don't end up using my systems, they aren't very valuable!)

First, my straight needle holder: I don't use these often, so really, this has become a long-term storage solution. It has a handy diagonal slant to allow access to shorter needles, and pockets of a variety of widths, together with a top flap to stop things falling out! When I'd made it, I found the usual Needle Roll idea wasn't going to work with my collection of needles or fabric choice, and so I have what I rather like to think of as a Needle Fold, instead.

Much more useful and regularly used is my small Needle Roll with Swallows, which holds my circular tips and DPNS. With two rows of pockets, it does still hold all of these at the moment, though it is possible that, were I to finish all my WIPs, it would be rather tight. The button and ribbon closure works well, though I'm ashamed to admit that I completely failed to add that vital 'stop them all falling out' flap, so it is somewhat less portable than I would have hoped in the planning stages.

Finally, the circular needle storage has lost its button (#ugly), but is nonetheless my preferred option. I looked at various ways of storing circular needles in a long, straight or dangly fashion, and couldn't bear the thought of the tangles... so I made felt tubes and sewed them to the centre of a cotton wrapper. The resulting pockets take my range of circulars and cables, plus crochet hooks, and occasionally (when I remember to put it away) needle gauge.

And as for notions - I have a couple of re-purposings for you. My absolute favourite stitch marker and small notion keeper? The egg from the middle of a Kinder egg: will fit enough to keep you knitting, and you get to justify the chocolate purchase!

For those times when the egg isn't quite enough, I've a lipstick holder (that I got in a Christmas cracker), which has the benefit of being big enough to hold a selection of yarn needles.

Monday, 27 April 2015

What is Ugly?


APlayfulDay's series of blogging inspiration prompts has spread ripples throughout my crafting (particularly knitting) community. If this blog started as a way to stay in contact with the knitting group I was leaving behind, and to share my experiences in craft and creativity with my friends and family as our lives moved geographically further apart, it still exists because I have found so many new, fascinating and wonderful communities of creative spirits and funny, enthusiastic knitters, bakers, writers, ponderers, and seamstresses that I want to be a part of.

 I may disappear for months at a time, and then re-appear with a flurry of posts (while carefully not mentioning that I was ever away, or the re-curring possibility that I'm talking to myself), but I have learned these things about myself: when my 'real' life is busier than usual I retreat from extra external interaction; I still want to contribute to the conversation; I plan far more posts than I will ever have time to write; work-life balance is a work in progress.

This challenge has made me sit up and take notice of blogging, of sharing thoughts (in format longer than 140 character) and of my wider community once more, and so, while late to the party, let's think about 'Ugly', the penultimate theme.

When I think about blogging, I often think about the very opposite of Ugly – the time taken over layouts, backgrounds, styling and taking the most perfect photograph tends to ensure that the blog is Beautiful, maintained as the best presentation of our creative lives, especially where that life is perhaps aiming for a professional finish. The glimpses we have into another's life through their blog may make it look as though they have a wonderful, dedicated, crafting space, full of satisfying and successful creative projects. Their wardrobe is carefully curated, and their photographs full of natural light and good focus.

In our online communities (distinct from the 'village' where everyone's news is everyone else's speciality), we can curate the image we present of ourselves: my knitting group knows that I'm finding one project particularly difficult not because it's hard, but because I'm bored of it; they know when I decide not to knit for a week, or when I've had to rip out a project three times; I don't tend to share this with the blog, because it is tedious, because I am bored of my moss-stitch project, because ugly ripped-out-knitting is not appealing.

But perhaps it's time to make a change. Let's wave a banner for all the means we have to share our imperfections. Why not carry on the #messytuesdays tradition? Why not share our #whenknittingattacks moments?

Maybe it's time to remember that a mistake shared is a mistake you might not make again, or might spare someone from making. Maybe now is the moment to share my lessons learned, so that someone else doesn't have to make it, or could believe that blocking will make that much difference.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A knitting workshop focus: Introduction to lace 22nd November

Lace knitting can be chunky, warm and rustic, or delicate, light and ethereal. It can be modern or evoke a vintage feel. It can be geometric and striking, organic and intricate.  (All the images here are of my knitting, simply because I don't want to use other people's photos without permission, but search any image collection for lace knitting, and you'll see what I mean!)

It can brighten up a formal look, or add a touch of elegant glamour to a casual outfit. For the product knitter, there is plenty to like; for the process knitter, there is a world of possibilities, of intricate stitches and fun techniques.

All that, and in terms of pennies per knitting hour, lace knitting is by far the most economical road to tread. I'm planning my next garment: Bonny, by Tincanknits. It will cost me less than £20 in yarn - a single skein of laceweight - and that's despite more stitches than I'm going to think about very hard.

At the same time as offering all these opportunities for the knitter, lace tends to daunt us a little. But there are charts! But it's difficult! But it's so fine! But, but, but!

It isn't that difficult, and charts in and of themselves aren't incomprehensible. They're different, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing, and written instructions can run parallel to those charts to ensure you are comfortable with both forms.

My Beginner's Lace class is designed to teach you all you need to know about knitting simple lace. Beginning with a focus on reading your knitting, and exploring specialist cast-ons, increases and decreases, we'll experiment with swatches to see how these elements work together.

We'll explore patterns for lace knitting, looking at the differences between charted and written-out instructions, and you will start to knit a simple sampler scarf, which you can finish at home.

If you'd like to join me for this class on the 22nd November at the Malvern Cube from 10 am - 1 pm, please email me: ruthcrafts [ at ] ruthv [ dot ] co [ dot ] uk. The class costs £25, to include materials (needles and yarn) for the workshop, as well as the pattern and kit to knit the Flower Lace Stole so that you can consolidate your skills.