Thursday, 8 September 2016

Packed full of potential

Once upon a time, when I was less confident in my dress-making skills, and less frustrated by ineffective clothes shopping trips, I used to make myself bags. Drawstring bags as gifts for friends; zipped washbags for hens on a hend do; project bags for me and the knitters around me; lavender bags for older relatives; the odd hand-bag for myself... nothing very complicated, and nothing very ambitious or accomplished.

And since I'd been making these for ages, when I wanted a new bag to carry my laptop and A4 folders on occasional trips out to make progress in environments safe from distractions, I rummaged through my old Burda World of Fashion issues and found this baby-kit bag.

Pockets seemed a good idea - a zipper top and flap similarly so. A couple of adjustments were needed to be sure my laptop would actually fit, and I added a layer of wadding to the internal divider in the hope that it would provide a little extra protection against knocks.

Fabric choice was straightforward and out of stash - I think I originally planned some cord trousers from this, but decided that the wale was too wide, and combined it with a length of cotton from the quilting stash for linings and details.

I'd definitely recommend this sort of sewing to anyone learning to sew, wanting to improve their finishing skills, or simply building on their techniques and understanding - it gives you the opportunity to focus on those skills in combination with straight seams, and without the added complications of fit.

The final result is big.Bigger than I had anticipated from the two-dimensional measurements I had been looking at. The depth of this bag makes a lot of difference, and while I do use it regularly, it doesn't quite play the role I had hoped. Rather than allowing me to take my laptop into work with me if I need to complete something at lunchtime or afterwards, and fit my lunch and wallet and knitting, this is the 'overnight with projects' carryall.

For example, if I'm off to work one day, I can pack my lunch, glasses, wallet and site pass alongside my washbag, pyjamas, change of clothes, notebooks, reference book, project folder, novel, Kindle, brolly, knitting and spare knitting, chargers, and laptop. And then it takes me from work, through a train journey to an evening with a good friend to the next day, which I can spend out and about working solidly, before heading to the theatre and back on that same train home and to bed. It's big but it's presentable, and if I'm a little careful about the balance (I really must cut back the number of notebooks I carry), isn't too heavy.

What I still need to find is the perfect bag for my original need - I'd like to be able to carry my laptop and charger in a bag with my keys, phone, wallet, lunch and sock project. I've recently started following Emmaline Bags on Instagram, and certainly feel there's more of this sort of making in my future.

Monday, 29 August 2016

It's all coming up - Babies

Why do buses all come along at once?

I'm not sure this is a particularly useful question, but in terms of life events, I've certainly hit a 'certain' age: by which I mean that while I'm not yet that woman of that age (whatever age that actually is), I am a woman of child-bearing years, and since our social circles are formed of those of an age with us, I now find myself regularly encountering people wearing slightly larger, more empire-line outfits, quietly taking half-days off to attend doctors' appointments, and finally declaring the start date of their maternity leave.

Unsurprisingly, I've also now gathered around me a small selection of favoured baby knits - simple patterns for effective garments in little sizes, which I can rustle up according to the preferences of the parents. I'm even considering taking this a step further, and beginning a full-on baby trousseau - not for me, but so that I am always ready for a surprise announcement. While I decide whether that smacks a little too much of madness, I'll share my favourites, in case you find yourself in a similar predicament.

For the classic baby set

Stephanie Purl-McPhee's Nouveau-ne comes in one size - newborn; but should that be viable for your climate and the time of birth of the baby concerned, it is an excellent pattern. It includes hat, cardigan, and bootees, all of which share the same classic lines and striking unisex pattern.

It hadn't previously occurred to me to look for a set, but I've knit the bootees and cardigan once already in a pastel green, and am planning a second (white) set for a particularly traditional family.

For an interesting and versatile knit

Ysolda Teague's Envelope Sweater is one of the first baby knits I knit. Knit first from cuff to cuff, and then from the yoke edge down, this will keep your interest throughout, and result in a cushy, warm, garter stitch hug for the baby lucky enough to receive it. It is one of very few patterns for this useful neckline, too, which makes it more unusual than you might expect.


 For a quick garter stitch solution

Stephanie Purl-McPhee's Cutest Baby Bootees are effectively made like tiny socks - which means that they are not only a quick knit for that friend you see all-too-rarely, and whose news reaches you only just in time to whip them up, but you can also make them in the most wonderful range of colours as a stash-busting project!

They also combine well with other garter stitch projects, for those times when bootees alone are not quite enough - I've made them from the same yarn as a Baby Surprise Jacket (wonderful pattern all of its own, of course) and found myself with a modern and stylish set; and held the yarn with another 4-ply/fingering weight for the Purl Soho Garter Hat for a top-to-toe gift.

For simple contemporary style

The range of patterns available from TinCanKnits for babies and children is simply brilliant, and they all reverberate with strong modern lines and contemporary style. My current go-to pattern (in progress) is a Flax - for a little boy due in October, and I think it's a perfectly simple and effective. A little of me really wants to make the i heart rainbows jumper, but I fear my colourwork is not yet good enough to pull it off, and it really needs to be done right.

And a final note for the seamstresses out there:

I've also been stitching for the little ones recently, and can definitely recommend Boutique Casuals for Boys and Girls by Sue Kim. I happened to pick up the issue of Sew Magazine that included this adorable little dress, and after a little wrangling with the pattern pieces (via download etc), and a little googling of details regarding sizing, spent a lovely couple of evenings sewing it up. I'm wondering if the next rabbit hole may not after all be building a trousseau of sewn items with matching knits... there's a lovely little cardigan in What to Knit - The Toddler Years that would look brilliant with one of these.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Thinking about Identities

Woman, daughter, wife, worker... the ways we negotiate the complex web of identities that comes from any participation in society and the structures of the family are a perennial favourite in feature columns for women's magazines and Saturday supplements, to which I'm not all that interested in adding. What has struck me recently however is how closely our more specific and self-defined identities are related to the contexts in which we developed that personality; played that role; assumed that identity.

To some friends, I am a linguist, an academic, a reader; and they expect me to understand the finer points of eighteenth-century narrative fiction, or the progression of theatrical representation during the English Civil War and Glorious Revolution. To others, I am a crafter of some experience; and I'll weigh in quite happily to discussions of tension and cable charts, swatches and steeks; dress-making cheats, hand vs. machine quilting; good sources for paper-craft supplies; recipes for tray-bakes; measuring drop for curtains. In yet another circle I am the competent administrator; fond of an excel formula, useful fact checker and proof-reader for anything to do with my current area of expertise, and the person most likely to write an email that is a tad too long and complex for the readership.

These roles are masks we don, and in general terms, we swap between them quite easily - who isn't a slightly more confident person in their friendship group to the workplace, or more likely to swear with one group of friends than with another? Accents, registers, posture, all vary based on the context for that identity, and as human chameleons, we maintain them all. Of course, there's the occasional moment of doubt; when you see people out of context, or bring different friendship groups together, but as a rule, we wear our disguises lightly.

Lightly, that is, until a something happens to make you see the difference between who you may be in one place and at one time, and who you are now... For me, the first such experience for a long time came when I was looking after my parents' house when they were away. I was home alone, and had carefully ensured that there was enough sewing (the dog being rather to participatory when it comes to knitting) to keep me occupied. In the interests of keeping myself moving, however, I had also brought along my running gear, with the intention of heading out for a jog a couple of times over the long weekend. I had not counted on the sudden doubt, discomfort and extreme self-consiousness that struck me when I came to set out.

Let me say it again - I was alone. The dog had no strong opinion on my ability to jog around the block, and my sister (who had popped in briefly), had assured me that it was quite possible. It is a rural area, and the one set of neighbours who would recognise me would not think it remarkable. Yet I had that gut-renching sense of exposure that you get when you're about to step into a studio class for the first time; or present to a new group of people. I got over it, and it was fine, but it took me some time to work out where that feeling had come from. I was wearing the wrong mask. When I lived there, I was the bookish child; the one whose school shirt on her last day had SWOT written across the back as a badge of honour; the one whose only sporting prowess was the left-handers' knack for winning half-rounders by being difficult to bowl at; I walked, and I read as I walked, but I did not do exercise. Now, four years after starting an office job and deciding that some habits needed to change, I am, in my home life, a person who has a gym membership; I go to classes two or three (or four or five) times a week, depending on work and other commitments. But that person is not the person who goes back to look after that dog. There's a shift that happens (possibly on Preston station), that ensures that once I'm there, the mask I'm wearing is the most appropriate for the context. But sometimes contexts need to change, and when what was a good habit to get into has become a part of your identity, then I think it's time to incorporate that change into the identity you're wearing.

Tied into these clashes of context and role are the ways in which our social media presence, and the algorithms behind these outlets, reinforce the single identity on each platform. I use Instagram largely to capture my crafting progress, or the natural world around me and so Instagram shows me other people who share photos of yarn, of patchwork, of makers making and the creative process; of those reflecting the beauty of nature in their work and lives. It doesn't show me (at least at the moment), those who may disagree with me politically, or whose lives are full of animals, or football, or Big Brother. Twitter is a little broader - more likely to include commentary on the worlds of arts, culture, language study, politics, geekery, writing - but still it shows me the world according to my preferences: reflecting the things I post, the world I have said I am interested in, encouraging me, if I want to fit in with the world I have asked it to show me, to present myself in those ways.

How would it respond to a post out of character, off-message? Seamlessly, no doubt, but as I've noticed some around me starting additional profiles to allow them to post certain things to some followers, and keep other elements separate, it has made me wonder why it is that in encouraging us to connect, these technologies drive us towards a more two-dimensional and pigeon-holed existence. Certainly there have been those who have questioned openly how our interactions through such media have affected responses to political debate: in both the general election last year and the EU Referendum, the reinforcement circle of seeing only the viewpoints you will agree with presented to you seems to me to explain at least in part the shock and surprise of some at the outcome. Like privilege, which ensures that those who have are sheltered from the travails of those who have not, and have to consciously seek exposure to other ways of living and of thinking, social media places us in increasingly siloed environments, while at the same time giving us the illusion of connecting more widely.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Making Lemonade; or Hay while the Sun Shines

Every once in a while I am summoned North to ensure our somewhat mad golden retriever is fed, watered and exercised while the usual inhabitants of the house are elsewhere. This tends to involve lengthy train journeys and using up some annual leave, but what I need to remember is that actually, it is also a series of days of freedom in a beautiful setting, with no other demands on my time than those of the dog's routine.
In fact, my most recent visit has been particularly revealing in terms of how a negative could be turned into a positive, and how looking on the bright side can really transform an experience.

Problem the first: the dog and knitting do not work very well together. She likes to be fussed, and in particular sees the times in which the humans are in soft chairs as times for putting her head in your lap and licking / investigating whatever you may be holding.

Solution: Pack a sewing machine. It might seem a little crazy, but actually, my sewing machine does fit in my suitcase, and I'm (thankfully) strong enough to carry heavy things.

Problem the second: the planned project I had thought I could whip through on this long weekend has a significant decision outstanding on it, and was not ready to bring.

Solution: Let's start all the things! I have a fabric and pattern stash for exactly this sort of eventuality, and in fact very rarely buy that fabric without a pattern / project in mind for it (otherwise I end up with the wrong amounts of stuff), so out came the box of fabric, and the box of patterns, and with a quick notions check - I have a zip stash too, and a collection of thread, I was all set.

Problem the third: I forgot to pack my dress-making shears.

Solution: turns out I'm in a house where I can put my hand on shears, and tape measures, without much difficulty!

Problem the fourth: I had checked that the Burda pattern 'envelopes' I pulled out included the pattern pieces, but not the precise details, and found that waistband and facings were missing when I opened them. I also had forgotten that being Burda Style magazine patterns, the traced pieces would be all that was in the packet - so no instructions.

Solution: after 15 years of sewing experience (but not considering myself particularly accomplished - I make it work, and the first 5 years were characterised by student theatre, where if it will last the week of the show, and pass muster from the auditorium, you're golden), I discovered that I can actually draft waistband pieces and neckline facings without much difficulty. I can also sew a skirt and dress without instructions. Woot!

Pins travelled surprisingly well in their pincushion, and cutting out was straightforward - barring the fact that my knees don't like the floor as much as the pins and scissors do. Sewing up was actually very enjoyable, and the dog seemed quite content to remain under the table while the work was being done above it!

So at the end of the weekend, what do I have to show for it? A new Belcarra top for work, which fits and will hopefully serve me well if summer has in fact actually arrived; the front (with pockets) and two back pieces of a skirt from Burda style, which needs the waistband interfacing and lining, an invisible zip and a hem (turns out the zip I found in the right colour and length was not an invisible one, and for this pattern, it would make a difference); and a third iteration of my trusty Burda style dress, to refresh the Kaffe Fassett model which I'm shocked to discover I made 5 years ago, and as a more colourful, breathable alternative to my black 'office' version.

Not bad, when considering it was combined with at least 3 hours of walking per day, and a tiny bit of knitting did also get done!

Now to address the question I don't yet have a definite answer to: why do I have to travel 300 miles to get any sewing done? Yes, knitting is easier to turn to in odd moments at home, but I do have occasional stretches of time, and weekends are just as prevalent in the Midlands as the North... I need to tidy. My sewing table is well set up, but it gets used to put things on, and I really need to remember that I need that space clear if I'm to get a project out, work on it, and put it away again.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Top Haps

Shortly after I knit my first Hap, I failed to manage everything I was carrying with me effectively, and dropped it en route to the railway station. It was found, and all is well, but in posting my loss on social media (in the hope someone local would spot it and know who it belonged to), I found a particular fact of note: the majority of responders thought I must have mis-typed, and had instead lost a hat. My husband is proud to state that thanks to KnitBritish, he now knows what a Hap is.
It was for Louise's wonderful Hap-Along that I knit said Hap – Brooklyn Tweed's Kelpie. This was rather a serendipitous happenstance: I had been bought an Eden Cottage Yarns yarnling sampler set for my birthday; have a signficant stash of sock-leftovers for the final stripe, which I didn't dare risk a yarnling on; and came across a sale in the Isle Yarn shop just before the cast-on date. It was a pleasing and steady project – the construction of a hap means you've plenty of simple lovely garter stitch to help you familiarise yourself with the yarn before you begin the more intricate lacy sections.

My second Hap of 2015 was in fact not finished until 2016, but it was perhaps my most impetuous project ever – I saw Karie's publication announcement* for the Mahy (rav link) on Twitter, decided it had to be made, and arranged a detour from planned events on a weekend away to ensure yarn was bought. Pattern, yarn and cast-on all came together within 2 days of publication, and progress only stalled as I hit the Christmas knitting crunch. Helpfully, the size of the Mahy is also such that it finally justified the long-delayed purchase of blocking boards: children's play pieces from John Lewis (handily delivered to our local Waitrose) which can be configured according to the shape of the garment. I was very pleased to finish this in time to meet Karie at Joeli's retreat in February!

And the latest, possibly greatest news of 2016 in terms of haps? Kate Davies has turned her attention to the hap shawl for her very-very-nearly-published book project. With essays and historical research alongside contributions from Gudrun Johnston, Lucy Hague, Martina Behm, Jen Arnall-Culliford, Veera Välimäki and other absolute stars of the knitting galaxy, this project is one which has been murmured about in hushed tones over the last year until the news of pre-orders opened, and since I placed my order, and started seeing the designs being featured on Kate's blog daily, the anticipation has only been building. Words do, at this point, fail me, and I can only direct you to read the blog, pore over the beautiful designs, and perhaps order the book.

(ETA: since I first published this post, I have also become aware of the lovely Louise Tilbrook's beautiful Hebridean Hap design, recently published and inspired by the amazing tale behind Rachel Atkinson's Daughter of a Shepherd yarn.)

The moral of my tale? Haps are amazing. They can be simple, they can be stunning, they can be striking; they speak of hard work, of comfort, and of style. And they mean you can talk about being Hap-py to your heart's content!

*if you haven't seen her more recent publication announcement - that of the Kickstarter campaign for This Thing of Paper - head over here to find out about it. (Brilliant and inspiring, in my opinion)

Saturday, 21 May 2016

A New Start - the Engines On socks

If years can be said to have a theme, then 2016 for me is turning out to be a year of new starts. Over the last few years, there have been a lot of changes of direction in my life and work, and as those have stabilised, I've begun taking stock, and looking at new goals, new plans, and what I want to be spending time with.

I'm very much looking forward to seeing where this new impetus takes me, and in the spirit of adventure have already made it to two fantastic knitting events this year - Joeli's Kitchen Retreat 2016 (back next year as Joeli Creates a Retreat), and Edinburgh Yarn Festival.

The yarn fumes were of course overwhelming, and the creativity of a group of knitters really rather infectious. Little wonder, then, that having spent some time chatting with Helen of the Wool Kitchen and Amelia of Woollenwords, I walked off clutching a skein of Ground Control, and determined to make the most of this beautiful yarn.

Anyone who knows Helen's dyeing palette will recognise her inimitable sense of colours together, and in Ground Control in particular, the flashes of bright and warm incendiary shades amongst the deep and tonal greys. The Wool Kitchen Sock yarn, composed of 80% superwash BFL and 20% bamboo, has a wonderful strength and woolliness to it, whilst the bamboo gives it just that touch of sheen and drape.

To celebrate those rocket-fuel moments, I decided I needed texture - something to break up the smoothness of stocking stitch and inject instead a pop of contrast. Paired with a slipped-stitch heel and deep ribbed cuff, the knit-purl texture is at once soft and comforting and strong and structured. The resulting sock is a simple and straightforward unisex knit, sensible and yet showcasing the yarn's rebellious streak!

The pattern is available through Ravelry by clicking on the button below.

Engines On - socks

Thursday, 19 May 2016

My Name's Ruth, and I'm a... podcastaholic

I'm a podcast addict. Have been for years, when the podcasters I listened to became daily companions, and my Radio 4 habit moved from the radio itself to the downloadable/portable version. The situation is even worse now, since I've upgraded my phone and now have the magic to ensure all my favourites are downloaded automatically as they are released. I regularly end up with a dozen hours or so of podcast material sitting waiting patiently for me to go for a long walk, or be stuck on a train.

And that's fine... I walk to and from the station every day, to exercise classes a few times a week, and I listen all the time. Often it is as an accompaniment to knitting – the 10 minute train journey to work is less irritating and more productive if I'm knitting and listening to a podcast than if I'm just waiting for us to get somewhere.*

Why listen to podcasts? I work in an office without radio, so can't listen to most things live. Even Saturday Live, that bastion of British slow weekend listening, is on at a time when I might need to be running errands / prefer to be in the great outdoors. Being freed from the radio schedules enables me to catch up with Start the Week, In Our Time, or Ramblings at a quiet moment in the week.

I'm also freed from radio reception – so I can listen to podcasts from France or further afield that I would not be able to pick up on my radio, and which mean I can practice what my teachers always preached – listening to actual French on a regular basis.

It also means I can pick up on the plethora of podcasts which are not tied to the radio, and feed my knitting habit! In my actual daily life there are sadly few knitterly encounters, but with the Knitmore Girls, Shiny Bees, APlayful Day, Caithness Craft Collective, Knit British, Down CellarStudio, 2 Knit-Lit Chicks, Commuter Knitter, Prairie Girls Knit andSpin and Yarns from the Plain, I have a wide range of knitting 'friends' with their fingers on the pulse of current knit-culture, and I can keep up with them all (almost!)

A final benefit to this podcast habit? A saving in eye-strain. I work with a screen all day, and as the years creep on, I find that by the end of the day I'm sometimes too tired to watch another screen. So I switch on my podcast, and am entertained and informed.

Are you a fellow listener? If you're laughing to yourself on the train, is it because of something they said? Who are your favourites? Do you have a preferred listening station?

*This is why I don't succeed in staying up to date with videocasts – the times I listen are not times when I can be looking at a screen, though I do sometimes prise myself up early enough in a morning to catch 20 minutes with the Knitgirllls before I have to leave!

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Picking up a Work that has been long in Progress

How old is your oldest WIP? When do you start the counter? When you cast it on? When you put that skein aside with a plan to knit the project? Or when you welcomed the skein into your stash?

This latter might seem extreme, but the story of the project I'm now trying to resurrect starts then: when Felicity Ford arranged a dyeing workshop to celebrate Liz's hen do in 2011 (she blogged about it here), and I dyed a skein of sparkling lace-weight in a range of greens.

That skein sat patiently waiting for a project to come along until some time in late 2012/ early 2013, when I finally wound it into a cake, and embarked on Laminaria (inspired at least in part by Leslie of the KnitGirllls, whose Shipwreck Shawl is amazing). I clearly started some knitting at this point... and then it languished.

I decided last year that I wanted to pick it up again, and definitely made progress, completing all of the first chart. On the train / train / tram / bus journey to my accommodation for the recent Joeli's Kitchen Retreat, knit, and ripped, and knit, and ripped, and counted, and decided I must be in the transition chart, and knit again. And I'd just worked out where I was with the chart when I arrived at my destination, and realised that there would be no opportunity for complex lace over a weekend of conversations. Since then, I've been prioritising some tiny knits (which will be shown off once their recipients are here to receive them), and it's only now that I've a bit of time ahead, and (confession:) am stuck with Second Sock syndrome that I've decided this is the moment to work out exactly where I am.

So, expect rude words, and ripping, and counting, and a possible bout of startitis if I fail to stick to it!

Monday, 2 May 2016

A Royal Exchange: Malvern for Manchester to see King Lear

An unexpected side effect of having occasional reasons to travel North is that I can sometimes make it to exhibitions or theatre productions that would otherwise pass me by. Recently, a weekend trip put me in Manchester for the day, and if I chose the weekend to be one on which I could catch King Lear, who would judge me?

I haven't seen King Lear since I was 17 or so, and the local amateur theatre team staged it. Of that production, I remember being heartbroken over Edmund's betrayal, and the absolute devastation of Lear's breakdown. I also remember the minor distractions of costumes that didn't quite work, the audience all around being visible in the well-lit space, and being slightly impressed that Lear could carry Cordelia. (Yes, I'm the person watching great work and simultaneously undermining it by mulling over the practicalities of exits and entrances, lighting and costume changes. Sorry.)

This time, the distractions were wonderful - the Royal Exchange is a brilliant venue that I've not spent enough time in, and the realisation that the wings encircle the audience in the theatre 'pod', who in turn encircle the stage was a moment that made my heart glad.

Also, they made it rain. Proper rain, so the theatre technicians spent the interval vacuuming the water out of the set. It was understated and fantastic, and the way that stage became cliff, and castle, and heath without any physical change to set was testament to the skill of the production, and the strength of the performances.

Don Warrington's Lear is bombastic, determined, and driven by something you can't quite see to make decisions that he thinks are for the best. Regan and Goneril are clearly different women, allies from the nursery with different driving forces who too easily become rivals for Edmund, while Cordelia transforms from youngest, favoured child to leader of an army.

This raised one question I don't know how to answer - where is the King of France in this venture? His wife's claim is his, and yet she is the one leading the army? I found the added distinction between Regan and Goneril as powerful women leading their husbands from within the bounds of social norms and Cordelia, leading an army dressed in trousers and armour intriguing.

Lear isn't a play I know well (I don't think I've ever read it all), so the alliances, betrayals and suspense carried their full weight. The strength of the production - of each individual member of the cast, who brought character to each role, and beyond that, belief in all the possibilities of that character. The Fool (Miltos Yerolemou) and Edgar/Poor Tom (Alfred Enoch) in particular brought a life and conviction to their scenes which made the wild spaces beyond society all the more appealing, and the political, social world unreasonable. I've not seen a more powerful presentation of the need to rebuild a society that has been poisoned by poor decision-making at the top.

Lear is a tragedy: everyone knows it ends badly. But hope is a powerful thing in an excellent production - and the tragedy was all the more harrowing for the very real sense that it could all have been prevented, and ended well. This production (by Talawa Theatre Company) continues at the Royal Exchange until the 7th May, and will then be moving to Birmingham Rep in a couple of weeks (19th-28th May). I heartily recommend it.

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.