Monday, 30 August 2010

And at last, sunshine!

We decided to risk a few more camping nights, departing on pure faith as it was still raining after a miserable rainy week.  And the sun came out!  It was still fairly windy at times, but we had lovely sunny skies so it felt really worthwhile to be away for the last weekend of the summer holidays.  But it was sure cold at night - this morning our breath was showing clearly in the air, and even by 10am it had only warmed up to 13 degrees C.  We haven't had much of a summer, and now it's gone.  We were in Romsey, where there is this lovely old abbey dating from 970AD. I did find a small quilting shop opposite Bradbeer's department store, but they didn't have anything on sale and I can't bring myself to pay full UK prices unless I am desperate for something.  Bradbeer's itself had a small yarn department, mostly Sirdar and Paton's, and I picked up six zippers on sale for 50p each.

Today (Bank Holiday Monday) we went to  a boot sale (like a flea market) where I managed to pick up two dollshouse books for 50p each, and also this really cute plastic watering can house.  I've googled, and apparently it is Forget-me-not Cottage, home of Fifi from a children's tv show I've never heard of.  But it is about the size of a real watering can, and I think could accommodate some 1/24 or 1/16 dollshouse furniture.

Sunday afternoon when we were just lazing around the campsite, I finished the applique on this block from my 25-block Applique Quilt, by sewing on all the flower centres.  I think this is block 14, so I still have a long way to go.

Remember how annoyed I was getting with my hand-dyed sock blank?  Well, last week I reached breaking point and gave up, pulled out the entire blank, wound it into a skein and washed it.  I thought I had securely tied the skein in three different places.  Judging by the yarn vomit I ended up with, my confidence was misplaced. At this point I had left the part-knitted socks on the cable, and carefully washed them without getting the needles wet.  Washing did not improve the wonky stitching at all.  So once this mess of yarn had dried, I unravelled the socks, untangled the yarn vomit, wound the whole thing AGAIN and washed it again.  It has now dried straight and I just need to rewind it in to a ball.  And start over.  Again. (knitting is fun, knitting is fun, knitting is fun...)

In a similar vein, I was knitting away on my Bergere de France Eyelet Jumper while sitting in our awning, feeling quite pleased at how nice it was looking now that I had got about 4 inches of the lace knit.  Previously, I had lost confidence as the lace on the needle seemed to stretch far too wide and I thought it was going to be too big.  So last week I washed it as well on the needles, and blocked it a little, and it came out exactly the right width.  Anyway, so I was admiring it in the awning, when it occurred to me that it didn't look like the pattern picture.  With a sinking feeling, I re-examined the pattern instructions, and eventually discovered that I had omitted to read one pattern line: "knit 16 rows in 2 strands of  Absinthe"  So my striping sequence was 16 rows out.  So I had to pull back to where the blue stripe starts in the picture (and I had knit at least twice as much as this).  (knitting is fun, knitting is fun, knitting is fun, grrrrrrrrrrrrrr).

DS heads back to school this week so we will be moving back into our normal routine. DS is now slightly anxious that my dollshouse will still be under construction on the dining table when his French exchange partner comes to visit in November.  I reassured him that it isn't very likely, and we could always tell the French person that it is a quaint British tradition.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Stupid questions I've been asked while knitting

I am used to being asked if I am 'crocheting', when I knit in public.  For some reason, that word seems to spring more readily to mind amongst non-knitters. And I've had all the usual questions about 'how do I have the patience' and 'can't you just buy that at the store'.

But  an elderly work colleague who at least knew what knitting was, has just really stumped me.  He came up to me in the break room, where I was knitting the fourth finger on my Sanquhar glove , and asked me, wait for it..., if. I. had. knit. it. all. myself.  I was so astounded I had to ask him to repeat himself, because I thought I had misheard. But I was right the first time.

Does he think that you can buy fair isle gloves partially knit, with the needles threaded through waiting to go?  (I suppose it would be like those tapestry cushions where they've already stitched the middle and you just have to finish off the background). Or maybe he thought that someone else had knit all the hard part and I was just finishing off the final finger.

I hardly knew what to say, so I just smiled and confirmed that I had.  Then he informed me that you never see people knitting anymore.  I decided against trying to explain Ravelry, or Knit Camp, and just smiled and agreed.  Then he went away, and I kept knitting.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Where is the Laundry Fairy when you need her?

I'm just back from a few days camping in the extremely wet south of Wales.  We were meant to stay another night, but we lost the will to live after it rained for the fourth night running, and all day on Thursday.  Everything we had with us is damp and nothing was drying because the humidity was about 98%.  So now I have a load of wet muddy laundry to do, as well as all the laundry from Knit Camp, plus the entire house is draped with sleeping bags, curtains, and bits of awning that we are trying to dry out.  We did have some intermittent sunshine the first few days, and enjoyed our visit to the Medieval Village at Cosmeston, and the fabulous National History Museum which is a big collection of historic Welsh architecture all brought together and rebuilt in one park (and there were some Welsh quilts in the gallery and on some of the beds).  There was a great haberdashery shop in Portcawl which was like an Aladdin's Cave, where I picked up some spring-loaded closures and cord with which to sew my own project bags for knitting.

While I was camping, I was able to follow a bit of the Knit Camp fall-out on my mobile phone.  Which has been very interesting because although there has been much more positive coverage as the knit campers start to blog their positive experiences, the car wreck fascination has continued.  Apparently one blogger who has portrayed her personal 'completely honest' account of her week has attracted over 3,000 hits, probably because her blog was getting re-Tweeted a lot. Even my little blog has shown a 276% increase in visits (I just checked my stats) because people are so interested to find out what it was really like. I don't think I have said that this was my first event that I have attended which was taking place as much in the virtual world as it was in the real world.  Even the campers actually in Stirling were still getting a lot of their information from Ravelry and from Twitter (partly due to the information vacuum on campus), and it was possible to attend an event or a class, then look online to see what other people thought of it.  Like a room of endless mirrors, with all the different experiences to compare to one's own personal experience - which then influenced one's own perceptions of what was happening.  And the post-camp post mortem has been more of the same, with some really positive Tweets and blogs from campers and tutors, versus the people determined to record every wart and blemish.  Which personally I think is a bit reckless, given that the internet lives on forever on back-ups and in archives.  I'm still really grateful that I had the opportunity to be there, and I made some good friends and have some really positive memories.

So I haven't been able to do any dollshousing for two weeks, and the sum total of my sewing is to stitch on two circles onto my applique project.  But I have been getting a lot of knitting done.

This is the right Sanquhar Glove, where I am just working on the third finger.  I have really enjoyed this project, despite being laceweight Shetland wool, it isn't a difficult knit at all.  The pattern is easy to memorise, and the construction is quite enjoyable.  I changed the order of knitting from the pattern by doing the little finger first, and then a few more rows before I started the four fingers.  The palm is a little loose on me but I am hoping that when I block it, it will shrink up a bit (and also that the stitches will even up). The pattern is one size but I am a loose knitter.

I made a start on knitting up the hand-dyed Sock Blank from my class with Debbie Tomkies during Knit Camp. I've really enjoyed seeing how the colours are knitting up from the diagonal stripes of colour that I applied, but I HATE knitting from this sock blank.  I know that they are sold with the suggestion that you knit them straight from the blank, and as mine was originally knitted with a double strand of yarn, I thought it would be a good idea to knit two socks at a time, straight from the blank as I unravel it.  But I think because the blank has been wetted, then heated, then dryed as part of the dying process, the kink in the yarn is very set and it has been like knitting with springs.  The kinks constantly wind around each other, wind around the knitting and generally get in the way of the knitting, and also the uneven yarn makes my stitches extremely untidy and is ruining my gauge.  I finally gave up in disgust and unravelled the entire blank by winding it around the atlas in the car, then rewound both strands into one ball, which has partially relaxed the kinks.  Ideally you would skein it and wet it again, but I've got the socks attached to it.  I am also finding the yarn a bit hard to knit with, it is splitty (but then I am using Addi Turbos which are very pointy) and it feels like all its natural oils have been stripped out, so that it is a bit coarse and lifeless - again, I wonder if this is a by-product of the dyeing process.  I don't think I will buy a sock blank again.

I did some more rows on my Haapsalu Shawl and have now completed the first repeat of the Reverse Lily of the Valley pattern.  It's hard to show the pattern as it hasn't been blocked and I've got twelve repeats crammed onto a short wooden needle.  I love the feel of this Garn 2-ply alpaca, it is so soft and lustrous. I think this will be a very cuddly shawl. I am getting on very well with the nupps now - the secret seems to be to release all tension on the yarn so that you can take really big stitches to make the loops, and then before proceeding with your knitting, to stick the left hand needles through the loops of the nupp and tug them straight.  Not only does this make them more even and uniform in size, it immediately tests whether you have left them loose enough to purl into on the return row.  On the return row, I again insert the needle and then before purling, I count the loops to make sure I have seven loops of the nupp - no missed loops, and also that I am not accidently including the next stitch.

I took my Neckwarmer in Malabrino Silky Merino on the camping trip but didn't actually get any rows done.  This is how far I got at knit camp.

While I was unpacking, I came across the sock yarn I bought from Artisan Yarns and the ceramic buttons I bought from Incomparable Buttons at Knit Camp.  These buttons are so gorgeous and by coincidence look absolutely fabulous with the Iris yarn I bought at the New Lanark Mill so I will have to find a project that I can use both for.

So now I am back in the boring land of laundry, and housework, and trying to sort out two weeks' worth of mail and bills and paper.... I miss Knit Camp!!!

P.S. almost forgot, but I just found the bag as I was unpacking.  We stopped at the wonderful Get Knitted shop in Brislington outside Bristol, on our way to Wales, and after fondling everything in the shop, I came away with a sweater's worth of Rowan Summer Tweed in a lovely burgundy shade.  I have two other jumpers in this yarn, and they have been perfect for summer wear, just warm enough without feeling as hot as wool, and really soft and drapey.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Knit Camp - the pictures (at last)

I'm home, after a long day of slogging travel.  Travel just is not fun any more, you are just one more cow in the endless cattle trudge onto the train/off the train, ditto bus, ditto check-in at airport, flight delays, passengers who hog the armrest so you have to sit twisted the whole time.  But the airline took my suitcase ok, it wasn't overweight despite the yarn goodies inside, and they gave it back to me ok at the other end.  I even brought home my University of Stirling mug. And I did some more knitting on my Haapsalu shawl on the plane with wooden needles.

The loch on campus, with swans, and my residence in the distance.

Jo (centre) at the Clapo-teaparty, telling us about the tutors having to leave the country, and the ensuing cancellations

The Rocky Mountain sock yarn I received in the yarn swap - isn't it lovely!

Stirling castle from behind

The fabric I bought at Matcha Patcha in Stirling

Debbie Tomkies (left) and our dyeing workshop table

My two practice skeins, and my finished sock blank

Part of New Lanark Mill, with waterfall at far left (taken from the hill up to the car park)

The DK wool I bought at New Lanark - colourway 'Iris', £1.95 a ball!

The lumpy results of my first ever attempt at spinning, and behind it, the coloured roving that Jon gave us for practicing with.

The garter stitch lace edging on the 2x2 ribbed doll-sized shrug from my disappointing Vintage Knits class (two hours of my life wasted)

Excited knit campers boarding the boat for our cruise on Loch Katrine

Heading out onto the beautiful loch, while our captain does a commentary.  This was the top deck, you could sit indoors on the lower deck if you wanted to.

Jared Flood holds up the Girasole blanket in our workshop.

Another view on campus - this is the crag behind the campus.

Airthrey Castle on the campus

The band at the Ceilidh

Jo (left) preparing to introduce the Ethnic Lace panel.  (l-r) Liz Lovick, Nancy Bush, Donna Druchunas

Nancy Bush holding up a shawl she bought in Estonia

One of Nancy's Estonian lace samples, showing the nupps, with my surprisingly grubby finger in the picture for scale.

The Guinness World Record attempt, with Miriam Tegals in left foreground (who holds the GWR for fastest knitting), and Ann Kingstone (the Knit Camp vest designer) on the left spinning wheel.

A portion of the luminary panel.  Debbie Stoller is out of picture to the left, then l-r, Liz Lovick, Deb Thomas, Nora Gaughan, Annie Modesit in her knitted helmet, Woolly Wormhead, Jared Flood, Nancy Bush hidden from view, and Lucy Neatby.  As you can see, most of them brought their knitting and worked on it during the panel.

These bunnies were everywhere on campus, and quite unafraid of humans

A view from the bridge across the campus loch.  I crossed this bridge several times a day, going between the residences and the classrooms/dining hall/ computer lab etc., and the views were always stunning.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

Knit Camp - the end :(

Today is the last day of Knit Camp, and tomorrow I will be heading home.  I have had a very intellectual day, with three really interesting lectures.  Today was the first day that I didn't have to get up for a class, so I treated myself to a lie-in.  Only I overdid it and didn't wake up until 09:45h, so had to scoot to get to my 10:30 lecture in time and didn't get any breakfast.

My first lecture was Ethnic Lace, in which Liz Lovick talked about the Shetland lace tradition, Nancy Bush talked about the Estonian lace tradition, and Donna Druchunas talked about the relatively new lace production by the Inuit which they sell to raise money.  It was really interesting, particularly the portion where they talked to each other and asked each other questions, after giving their individual presentations.  Nancy and Donna handed around samples, and as I was knitting on my Estonian lace shawl as I was listening, it was fascinating (and humbling) to handle actual Estonian knitting and Nancy's samples.  Her nupps are way neater than mine.  Maybe mine will look better after blocking.  Nancy did say that she thought 2-ply Shetland lace yarn was the perfect yarn for Estonian lace, and my alpaca is a lot more slippier than Shetland lace yarn so perhaps that is why I am not getting as neat a result. Then they opened it up to questions from the floor and there were some really good ones.  Particularly interesting was the question as to whether they could be said to be exploiting the native traditions when they go in, take the patterns, and publish books about them.  Liz and Nancy had really good answers to that one, the gist of which is that the majority of native knitters felt that the promotion of their native traditions was benefiting them, and Nancy talked about how she had been helped with her book on Estonian lace and how she became involved with the English translation of the Haapsalu shawl book.

After that, I shot over to the dining room for lunch, then back to the marketplace.  I was a little early, so I looked in on the Guinness world record attempt, Sheep to Sweater.  They had a team of seven workers in an internal courtyard, including four spinners, someone plying the thread, and two knitters: the Guinness world record holder Miriam Tegals, and a friend of hers who seemed equally fast.  They had started with a sheared fleece as it is the wrong time of year to shear a sheep, and apparently the rules said they couldn't card the wool, so the spinners were working directly with some pretty disgusting looking fleece from Shetland.  At that point, the two knitters were about halfway up the back and front respectively.

Then I went into a lecture with Donna Druchunus again, Introduction to Japanese Knitting.  This was a short course on how to read Japanese knitting patterns, which are almost entirely schematic-based.  There wasn't a computer in the room, so Donna used the white board a lot, cribbing from her I-touch which she also passed around to show actual Japanese patterns.  She is going to send us a detailed handout covering the huge amount of information she gave us about how to read the schematics.

I checked back into the GWR attempt.  By now they had two knitters working on sleeves, Miriam and her friend almost finished on the front/back, and still some spinning and plying going on.  But at that point, they had about 15 minutes left and were still going to have to sew the jumper up, so I'm pretty sure they didn't get the world record.  The UK record was an hour longer, so I expect they broke that. 

My final lecture was the Luminary Panel, which was absolutely fabulous.  I thought the room would be packed, but there were only about 40 people there (I didn't count but there were loads of empty seats).  This was an amazing gathering of so many great knitters:  Debbie Stoller moderating, Liz Lovick , Deb Thomson, Nora Gaughan, Annie Modesitt, Woolly Wormhead, Jared Flood, Nancy Bush and Lucy Neatby.  I don't know when there has been a gathering like this, apart from Sock Summit.  This should have been televised, it was so good, or at least recorded for a podcast.  Debbie asked the panel some fabulous questions, and there were some really insightful answers about issues such as 'where do you see knitting in 10 years', or 'how has the internet impacted knitting' or 'do you feel that the rapid spread of information via the internet etc. is eroding local traditions', as well as cute questions on 'how did you start knitting', and also 'what are you working on now' (which seemed to be authoring books, across the board).

Back to the room for a quick change, then off for the BBQ by the loch, which turned out to be the terrace outside the dining room, and hamburgers.  But there was beer and wine, and it was very jovial, everyone's in a good mood after the long week.  Tonight is the final party, and I am heading over there now.  Hopefully I will get everything into my suitcase tomorrow and hopefully it won't be overweight for the plane.  It has been a really fabulous week and I am so glad that I came.  I have met some absolutely lovely people, had some great classes, done more knitting in a short space of time than I ever have, seen great knitwear, been inspired and just generally had a good time.  You should have been here!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Knit Camp Day Five - Friday

I'm sitting here with my eyes watering as the stench from the Avon Skin So Soft is completely overpowering.  I applied it tonight for the first time as I did get bitten by some midges on my pre-dinner stroll around campus to see the castle, and I am going to have to walk back after this with bare arms and legs.  I'm dressed up in a skirt as we had the Ceilidh tonight, which was a lot of fun.  No wonder this stuff repels midges, it's absolutely vile, sort of a combination of talc that's gone off, mixed with citronella.  I may have to burn the clothes I'm wearing...

This morning's class with Jared Flood was brilliant.  He is a very thorough and scientific teacher, eager to share all his knowledge with us, drawing diagrams on the white board and making very detailed explanations of everything from how to read a chart, to his favourite left leaning decrease (the SYTK - Slip, Yank, Twist, Knit).  This was the Girasole Blanket boot camp, and I scored a skein of bubblegum pink Cascade 220 from the practice yarn to start my sample with.  I completely screwed up the crochet circular cast-on, so it's just as well it is a sample.  I've done Emily Ocker's cast-on before, which generates an odd number of stitches (I think), but Jared's version casts on 10 stitches and I did something wrong because I had loops hanging out.  He also covered how to block large knitted items and how to knit the lace edging on at the end.  I don't know if I will ever knit this blanket as it is enormous, but I enjoyed the class.

After lunch, I headed over to the Marketplace, which is in a building I haven't been in before, nearer to the residences than the building where the classes have been held.  I didn't really know what to expect, but it was really good.  Bigger than I expected, bigger than Knit Nation I think.  I particularly liked that there were a lot of regional or local specialists there, including a rare sheep breeds display with greasy fleeces from several breeds I'd never heard of.  There were a couple of places doing ganseys, some Shetland knitting, Shilasdair from Skye, loads of indie dyers, and some familiar faces like Toft Alpaca, Uppingham Yarns, Artisan Yarns, P/Hop patterns from Medecin sans Frontieres, EasyKnits, Blacker Yarns, a stall selling JC Rennie yarns on the cone and loads of others. It didn't seem particularly busy when I was there in early afternoon, but I talked to a few traders at the Ceilidh and they seemed satisfied with their day.  It will probably be a lot busier tomorrow, Saturday, when day visitors can come.

So what did I buy?  I bought six gorgeous handmade ceramic buttons, in deep blue with lilac flowers on them; a skein of hand-dyed sock yarn from Artisan Yarns plus I ordered two skeins of cochineal linen lace yarn from her; 3 P/Hop knitting patterns for two shawls and a hat; 2 shawl pins; and a drop spindle from a South Yorkshire trader that starts with a W (I know that is useless, but the spindle is in my bedroom and I am in the computer lab).  Not only does it spin a lot better than the ones we were practicing with in class, the owner showed me a different way of spinning with it which I found a lot easier.  I was actually able to produce five feet of fairly smooth (but still relatively thick) yarn right there and then.  So I am hoping to spin the coloured top that Jon gave me in class, into useable yarn.

The fashion show got cancelled, and may be rescheduled for tomorrow, so I dropped my things back in the room and went for a walk around this gorgeous campus.  I went clockwise around the loch, past the golf course, and headed up to see the castle - which formerly had the grounds to itself before this became a university.  By then I could hear the call of the bagpipes, so I followed it along, past the memorial gardens, to another set of residences where a lone piper was giving a splendid concert.  I don't think I have blogged that there have been pipers and drummers rehearsing here all week as there is some sort of competition going on in Glasgow.  It is so amazingly appropriate as you are walking past the beautiful loch, with the sunlit crags towering over the trees, to the stirring sound of pipes in the distance.  On the way back to my room, I passed another group of about 10 pipers and drummers, and paused for a free concert for several minutes.

The Ceilidh was held in Stirling Management Centre, which is on campus but I think run as a separate hotel and conference centre.  We sat down to a very nice dinner which included smoked salmon starters (delicious) and Haggis with Neeps and Tatties as a second course.  I tried the haggis but was not sold, I decided to stick to the neeps and tatties.  However the food was all a million times better than the student grub we have been served in the campus restaurant! Somehow we ended up with Lucy Neatby, Annie Modesit and Debbie Stoller sitting on our table, and they entered into a spirited discussion on the relative merits of combination knitting vs other kinds of knitting which I wish I could have heard better as it sounded quite entertaining. It was fun to see everyone around the room knitting in between courses as well. After a very big dinner, the music started up in the other room:  two accordions, a drum kit and a fiddle.  The drummer was also the caller, and he soon had us up in sets to do a big circle dance that I can't remember, and then the White Sergeant.  He introduced the latter as 'not very energetic' and I, being gullible, fell for that one.  I am not very fit, and I tell you that one session of yoga a week does not enable you to do two back to back sets of the White Sergeant.  I had to sit the second one out.  It was very entertaining watching knitters stumbling through the unfamiliar dances in high spirits, and Debbie in particular entered very much into the spirit of it all and seemed quite good at it as well. 

I can't believe that tomorrow is the last day.  It seems to have gone really quickly, and at the same time it seems like I have always been spending my days knitting and surrounded by other knitters who are all lovely.  It will be a shock to be home and not have as much time to knit.  I worked on my Haapsalu shawl this morning, I am getting better at the nupps now, and I took my neckwarmer to the Ceilidh as it is an easier knit and I am less likely to screw it up while chatting to people (and drinking...).

Knit Camp Day Four - Thursday

For anyone who doesn't give a hoot about knit camp, I apologise that this is a boring blog week.  I have met several other knitters here who also quilt, but mentioning dollshouses draws the usual blank look.  I was too tired to post last night after the coach trip, so I am actually blogging this on a beautiful sunny Friday morning before breakfast.  Looking forward to my class with Jared Flood this morning, and then SHOPPING!!!!!

Yesterday started with excitement because I picked up my finished and dried dyed yarn from Debbie Tomkies.  I am really thrilled with how they turned out, and I am looking forward to knitting my socks as soon as possible.  The mini-skeins look great too, so I will have to find a little project that I can use them for.

Then it was off to my morning class, 'Vintage Knits', originally to be taught by Franklin Habit.  About a month ago it was announced that Joan Michael McGowan (White Lies Designs) would be taking this over.  The class was very full as there were also people attending who had originally been booked on an all-day class with someone else (Susan Crawford I think).  I was disappointed in this class as although Joan was very pleasant, she really didn't cover very much.  She spent about 45 minutes giving a quick canter through knitted fashions since the 19thC, and a brief overview of how she would convert one 40s pattern for modern knitting.  Then she gave us a pattern for a simple garter stitch lace edging, and that was it.  She picked up her own knitting and settled back for a chat.  Not what I was expecting from a three hour class.  And in order to knit the lace edging, you first had to cast on 70 stitches and knit 4.5 inches of 2x2 ribbing in a T-shape, to make a mini-doll shrug.  Then you knit the edging, picking up an edge stitch on the shrug as you knit.  Due to people's knitting speeds, some people spent the entire morning knitting 2x2 ribbing, which is probably not what they expected either.  I managed four repeats of the lace, but I was fairly bored.  Some class members tried to prompt Joan to teach by asking questions about how to date patterns or how to understand vintage knitting terms but she gave rather woolly short answers.

However, after lunch I had a very enjoyable class with Jon Dunn of Easyknits, who was trying to teach the seven of us how to spin using a drop spindle.  I've never done any spinning before, and I don't think I am going to have a new career in this.  He gave us some lovely Blue Faced Leicester roving, soft and downy, and showed us how to split it up and pre-draft it ready for spinning.  Then we practiced the 'park and draft' which is basically learner-spinning where you spin the spindle to get some twist in the thread, park it between your knees while you deal with feeding in more fibre, then repeat.  We tried to graduate to continual spinning standing up, while feeding in more fibre, but I really couldn't get the hang of that.  I managed to produce about 8 metres of thick lumpy single, and 8 metres of thin/thick slubby yarn.  But then he showed us how to do an Andean plying bracelet, then ply our two ends into a yarn.  Like magic, my lumpy shoestrings blended together into a twisted yarn which if you squint really hard, you can fantasize might be sold by Colinette.  I will definitely try to knit something (small) out of it.  He also gave us a lovely top of dyed roving, so maybe I am going to have to try again.  I don't own a spindle, but Jon showed how you can even spin with a chopstick stuck into a potato.  I can just imagine my husband's face if he saw me doing that...

There is definitely an air now here of getting down to business.  Pretty much everyone I have chatted to has now had classes, and there seems to be more people around and more day-campers showing up. I wore my knit camp vest again yesterday but still haven't seen anyone else wearing one.  Which is making me look like a real show-off   :)

Then it was back to the room to get changed, and off on the coach trip to the Trossachs for our boat ride on Loch Katrine.  We had one full coach, which left on time, and a nice driver who gave us a commentary on the lovely drive through the sunny meadows and mountains, including pointing out a real highland cow with big curving horns.  At the loch, we split into two groups.  My group went on the 45 minute boat ride first, out on the gorgeous little loch, which stretches for miles between the hills. There is a little necklace of lochs stretching towards Loch Lomond, and apparently Sir Walter Scott wrote a poem about Loch Katrine and its beautiful views. I was a bit worried about my tendency to seasickness, but the loch was completely calm.  Very very pretty, and when I went down to get a cup of tea, someone else was having a Bailey's which I thought was genius, so I had one too.  Then the groups swapped over, and my group headed up to the cafe for a BBQ meal and more drinks and cakes.  About now the midges descended in droves and we managed to export our own little drove because they flew into the bus while the door was open as people got on.  So the first 20 minutes of the bus ride back involved lots of slapping and waving and huddling into jackets and scarves.  Fortunately they didn't seem to bite me at all, even though I hadn't put on my Avon Skin So Soft (because it smells like dead old ladies) - maybe they don't like my sunscreen.  One of the husbands on the bus had been bitten all over and looked like he had measles.

It's another gorgeous sunny day here and the marketplace will be opening this morning, so I will head over there after a quick lunch.  I'm hoping to also see the fashion show, then it is off to the ceilidh!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Knit Camp Day Three (Wednesday)

It's almost 10pm and I am really tired, but I wanted to make a quick update before I forget everything.  I'm sorry there are no pictures but I've got no way of uploading pictures until I get home.  I will have to do a bumper post with pics in it then.

After meeting more nice knitters at breakfast, I headed off for my first class of the week, "Dyeing Sock Blanks" with Debbie Tomkies.  Debbie was brilliant, really nice, incredibly well prepared (she even provided gloves and disposable aprons, even though the class list said to bring gloves) and I really enjoyed the class.  We first practiced dyeing with Procion dyes on a small skein of wool (enough for a cowl, Debbie said) to get a feel for how the dyes spread.  Then we dyed our sock blank of double stranded yarn - enough for a pair of socks.  I went with Monet pastels in diagonal lines, which should (I think) give me broken colour.  It is going to be so great to wear socks I dyed myself.  I haven't even seen the finished result yet as it was still cooling when I left.  She is going to dry the results overnight and we can pick our work up tomorrow. 

There was one discordant note, which was that a needlefelting teacher (with one student) had to share the quite large room with us four students and Debbie, apparently because there is a shortage of rooms with sinks - which you need for both classes.  This had obviously put the other teacher's nose out of joint, and there was a lot of huffing and flouncing before she calmed down.  Her one student looked a bit embarrassed, but our Debbie remained completely calm and professional.  Both classes were quiet so there was no interference or problem about having them in the same room.  The other teacher was actually offered a different room before the classes started, but said that she "wasn't going to move now that she was all set up". We all felt a bit uncomfortable about her behaviour at first, but as I said, the classes proceeded quietly and she didn't make any further fuss once she started teaching.

Then I had time to get changed out of my old clothes before having lunch, then back across the beautiful loch to get on the bus for the outing to the New Lanark Mill.  The programme said the buses would leave at 1:30 but by the time they had taken everyone's name, and someone had been allowed to run back inside for god knows what, we didn't leave until about 2 pm.  When we got to the New Lanark Mill after quite a long drive, complicated by roadworks and diversions, the very nice guides were looking a bit stressed because they had expected us an hour and a half earlier.  And everything was due to close down for the day at 5 pm (in about an hour and a half I think, not sure what time we got there).  They also expressed surprise that we hadn't left earlier even than our original 1:30 time, to get from Stirling to the mill on time. They did their best to give our group of 78, split into three parties, a whistlestop tour.  I left the guide after a while because it became obvious we were only going to have time for the main mill building, and I went to look at the Millworker's cottages, Mill owner's house, the village shop and the old schoolhouse, but I had to rush to quickly see everything.  We had time in the gift shop to look over the yarn on sale (in bags of 10, really good value at £19.50 for DK and I bought a gorgeous yarn in colour 'Iris' which is blended blues and purples).  They also had aran and chunky weight.  Apparently they buy the wool in from the Falklands already dyed, then they blend it, card it and spin it on site.  You can buy it on their website as well.  Then we went up to the cafeteria for a hot buffet dinner at 5pm, and they drew a prize draw for free yarn (not me unfortunately) and then it was back on the bus a bit after 6pm.  I was the first one back to the bus, and in chatting to the drivers I learned that they had been told by their company that we would leave the University at 1pm, and leave the Mill at 5 pm.  So obviously a lot of miscommunication going on.  It made our visit quite rushed - I hope the event tomorrow isn't similarly delayed as we will end up missing our boat ride on Loch Katrine.

The trip back went faster, and everyone was kniting away and chatting  happily on the bus.  I am knitting my Sanquhar glove, thanks to my absolute star of a husband who managed to find the chart I forgot to bring with me for the fingers - he photographed the chart, and emailed it to me.  Thank you!!!!!!

We asked our coach driver to drop us right at the student union as we were late for the Stitch and Bitch with Debbie Stoller, but Debbie had graciously waited to arrive until the coaches turned up.  She came in quietly and started mingling and sitting chatting with various groups.  She was fresh off the plane from Holland, where she had been visiting family while she waited for the visa thing to be sorted out.  She came over to our group and politely posed for several pictures.  Everyone I talked to had had a great day, with great classes.  And more than one person said that although they had ended up in classes they hadn't originally planned to be in, it had worked out really well and they had a really great time.  There was lots of show and tell going on as people shared what they had learned in their classes.  I wish I had registered for the Nancy Bush class on Estonian lace as I could really use some help with my nupps, and the people who took that class had some great samples.

Anyway, I am now going to stroll back across the gorgeous loch to my room, and have a nice cup of tea in my U. of Stirling mug.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Knit Camp - Day Two

I thought I had over-packed, but we have had every kind of weather today from torrential rain through to the current baking sun.  This morning when it was chilly and damp, I was able to wear my Knit Camp vest to breakfast.  On the way I was stopped by a delighted Ann Kingstone, the vest's designer, who said I was the first person she had seen wearing it.  She complimented me on my version, and I complimented her on the design.  Several other people commented on it as well (mostly repeating a version of "I cast on and knit 1.5 rounds...") so I sat down with one of these friendly knitters to eat my breakfast.  After we had chatted for quite a while, I finally read her nametag and realised it was Nic, who does the podcast Yarns from the Plain. Which I have actually listened to.  I was just recovering from this brush with fame when Woolly Wormhead came and sat down with us as well, and I ended up swapping camping stories as she lives in a converted bus.

Anyway, enough namedropping, you want to know how knit camp is going.  Well, it is bizarre because there is the Knit Camp that is happening on Ravelry, which seems to be a camp of hysterical disappointed people (many of whom are not actually here).  And then there is the Knit Camp that I am actually attending, which is friendly and in lovely surroundings, and lots of knitting going on.  Yes, the organisers have had some challenges, and last night at the Clapo-teaparty, instead of having a Q&A, we actually had Jo (the main organiser) telling us that the next day's classes with overseas teachers would have to be rescheduled.  Then this morning, many of us gathered at 07:30am where Jo announced which classes were affected and when they have been rescheduled for.  I am lucky as it barely affects me.  I had one lecture this morning with Nora Gaughan, which I was mainly taking to just see her, and I was planning on spending the afternoon in Stirling anyway.  So I spent the day in Stirling, and have just collected my lecture refund from Jo just now.  The rest of the week is back on schedule as the immigration business for the teachers is now all sorted.  So it is mainly a problem for people who now have a conflict between a rescheduled class and a previously booked class - which isn't me.

The Clapo-teaparty was otherwise fine, like a giant knitting group.  The bar was open, although understaffed so the queue was very slow, and there was a presentation of a small thank you knitted blanket to Jo and a big thank you card.  And there were pastries. I had several nice chats with other knitters, including two local ladies who told me how to find the Matcha Patch quilting shop in Stirling Enterprise Park, and the McAree Brothers beads, yarn and craft shop.  I also fell into conversation with Jane Galbraith, a Rowan design consultant, and her friend Peta from Skye, and we ended up going to KFC for dinner together where we all raised a glass to Elizabeth Zimmerman for her hundredth birthday.

Today, after the morning gathering and then breakfast in my vest, I headed into Stirling where I spent most of the day putting on and taking off layers as the weather changed dramatically every 30 minutes.  The MatchaPatch store turned out to be quite a nice little quilt store, and they were having a sale so I picked up some great sunflower fabric and a few other half yards of this and that.  I toured the Thistles shopping centre during one of the torrential downpours, and found some of the tiny hair elastics at Claire's Accessories (100 for £2.50) which another knitter had discovered make great stitch markers.  I am always losing stitchmarkers so this will be a good resource for me.  Then I hit McAree where I fondled lots of yarn (Patons, Sirdar, Rowan, lots of buttons, beads, etc.).  Then I did the touristy bits like admiring Scottish houses near King's Park, viewing The Story of Stirling at the Smith Art Gallery, walking up the hill to the castle (didn't actually go inside) and admiring the various old town buildings etc.  Oh, and I found a sweet shop in the old fashioned shopping arcade, which of course I had to sample in the interests of science - to see if Scottish pic'n'mix differs from English pic'n'mix.

Then back to the University to my room to get changed as it is now roasting hot outside, then over to Yarn Camp office for my refund and to fondle lots of yarn at the Yarn Gathering stall (arranged by colour, and yummy) and on the Jamieson & Smith stand (bought a fair isle 'finger' gadget that lets you strand more than one colour of yarn, and a shade card).  And now I'm here on the free internet.  Tonight is the pub quiz - I am ignorant and know no facts at all, but I will likely go along to cheer - and drink of course...

Monday, 9 August 2010

Knit Camp - Day One

I'm here!  and they have free internet!  It's mid afternoon, I flew from Heathrow to Edinburgh this morning, then got the train to Stirling where I met another knitter at the station and we got the bus to the campus.  All very easy although tedious.  Having read all the hysterical meltdowns happening on the Ravelry Knit Camp threads about cancellations and deported teachers, I felt a bit worried, but I have to say that so far it has been well organised.  I walked in the door, was immediately shown to my room in the same building, then came back down and was handed my Welcome Pack.  I checked through that, and everything is in order. 

So now I'm having an explore until the Clapo-teaparty in an hour and a half.  And I am pleased to report that I have a completed Knit Camp Vest in my suitcase.  I wimped out of the corrugated ribbing on the bottom band and just did horizontal stripes, because my hands were getting so tired. Then I did a final block overnight and packed it this morning. I may unpick the bottom band and change it later.  My wrist is still quite tired and RSI-ish today, so I haven't done much knitting.  Hopefully it will calm down.  I don't think I've ever put in so many hours of knitting in such a short time.  But the vest fits and looks pretty good, so I'm pleased. It's fairly warm here, so I'm not wearing it yet.  It felt good to do some machine knitting again, I used to really enjoy it but haven't done much at all for about 7 years, ever since we moved house.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Knit Camp here we come

This week has been dominated by my insane decision to attempt to knit the official Knit Camp Vest in time for my departure to Knit Camp. I decided this on Tuesday 2 August and I leave tomorrow, Monday 8 August.  I had previously ordered the kit of yarns from Jamieson & Smith with the idea that some day I would knit a version of this using my knitting machine for the fair isle - because the pattern repeat is 24 stitches wide which happens to match the width of a standard gauge punchcard.  But reading on Ravelry about all the anticipation and excitement around Knit Camp, I became overpowered by the desire to take part.

So far my evenings after work have gone like this:  Tuesday evening.  Punch the card according to the chart (took me ages as I can't count), decide desired measurements, write new pattern to suit my measurements and a knitting machine - finish around midnight.  Wednesday:  print out chart in large size, and write down all the row numbers / colour changes, then in the evening start knitting the back on the machine.  Haven't machine knit for quite a while so it goes slowly with some mistakes.  Finish 12:30 am.  Thursday evening:  Knit the front, it goes faster because I am getting better, but there is a tricky bit rehanging the shoulders to centre the sheep motifs, finish 11:45 pm (by now, my family are forgetting what I look like).  Friday evening:  Having trimmed off all the ends and darned a few dropped stitches during my daily commute to work, tonight I washed and blocked the front and back. Finish at a normal time - yay! Saturday: 7:30am start, seam the shoulders, and the two sides (with some re-dos to get the motifs to match up properly), then pick up and knit the neckline.  Two and a half times, because the first couple of times I picked up too tightly and it puckered.  Pick up and knit one armband.  Have to unpick and re-knit the cast off row because it was flaring.  Why do I knit so slowly and I still haven't packed...  I'm pleased with it but I think I will still be knitting the bottom band on the journey to Stirling.

I'm really looking forward to Knit Camp, I used my redundancy money to book up for several events and some classes and it just sounds like it is going to be a really great event. I am flying from London Heathrow to Edinburgh tomorrow morning, then by train to Stirling, and bus to the campus where the event is being held.   Hopefully all the transport modes will go smoothly  And tomorrow night is the Clapo-teaparty for which I did all that Clapo knitting, should be good.

Don't know if I am going to be able to blog while I am up there, it is unclear whether we are going to have access to the uni computers or not.  If not, I will tell you all about it when I get back!

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Knit Nation - Saturday, Rav Party, verdict, and back to normal

A long day yesterday, which had some ups and downs, but ended very well with the great Rav Party.  Early start for me to get up to London in time for my 9am class with Marjan Hammink, a.k.a. Yarnissima.  This was 'A gathering of tricks' mixed with 'all about cables' because Marjan had stepped in at the last minute to take over for the absent Wendy Johnson, who suffered from a back problem and had to cancel.  There were 11 of us in the class, and I was surprised at how many of them were complete beginners.  Not just a couple of ladies who couldn't read charts, but people actually having trouble casting on, or knitting.  I would rate myself an advanced beginner, and there were a couple of obviously expert knitters, so the class went with those of us who were capable, just working our own way through the well presented handouts on how to do cables without cable needles, and Marjan working her way individually around the remainder helping them.  So she never really lectured the whole class, and you had to keep listening to what she was telling other people so that you didn't miss out on helpful hints.  Having said that, she was absolutely lovely and very helpful.  She had brought along several of her amazing socks, and had a helpful sample knitted up of all the stitches we were covering.  You can see my sampler in the pic, we covered right and left cables without a needle, then proceeded to a more complex braid, then traveling stitches etc. 

The great thing for me was that I now know how to do the twisted cable on my Eyelet Jumper without a cable needle!  This is a huge step forward as the instructions actually specify using two cable needles.  I had worked out how to do it with one cable needle, and now I don't need any!  Result.

So the class finished at 12, then I had to try to find my way out the building.  The classrooms were dotted at random around the enormous campus, mine was on the 7th floor of a building on the corner of the campus.  I took the lift to floor '0', which turned out to be the basement, then I tried floor '1', still no exit.  I was starting to feel trapped, so had to take the lift back to the 7th floor to ask the way out.  Which turned out to be floor '2'.  Go figure.  I headed back to the marketplace, quite busy now that it was a Saturday, and had another look around, then a nice chat with AlpacaAddict on the Knit & Crochet Guild Stand.  The raffle was called at 1:30 pm, I didn't win anything but the excitement was infectious as people crowded into the marketplace to listen to the numbers being called.

Then after that - nothing.  I now had six hours to kill before the Ravelry Party at 8 pm, and there was nothing to do and nowhere to go.  I queued up for about 20 minutes to eat in the single place available to eat on campus, the Library Cafe, which had run out of almost everything except jacket potatoes and fried chicken breasts.  There were several knitters outdoors on the windy terrace, but still nowhere inside to knit.  I hadn't signed up for an afternoon class.  It was very hot and humid, but I set off for Harrod's.  I hadn't been in there for 20 years on principle, but it has now been sold to new owners so I ventured in.  I was astonished to find it absolutely heaving with tourists and normal people, every floor was crowded with couples and their children, pushing buttons, picking things up, sitting on furniture, crowding into restaurants. It was like a theme park.  A far cry from 1998 when I was a bit scared to be in there because it was so exclusive.  However, no knitting department, and their toy section had a disappointing collection of Dollshouse Emporium houses and furniture, of all things.  You would have thought Harrods would have had some of the handmade houses and handcrafted furniture that Britain is so known for.  Then I went to the V&A museum and looked at the handknitted baby dress in the Victorian section, and at the pullout sheet of handknitting in the textile studies collection.  All in lace from sewing cotton, like fairies had knit them. 

By now I was very hot and bothered, so slowly made my way back to the campus where there was still nothing to do.  I even asked at the information desk if there was somewhere to knit inside, and they looked a bit baffled and hesitantly suggested the now-closed Library cafe.  There were only 2 other knitters in there and we were soon kicked out when the library closed.  I was seriously considering going home at this point rather than waiting another 2.5 hours for the Rav Party.  So I went and sat outside on the terrace (the only place left to go) where I was soon joined by Coralfin, a knitter from Paris, and we had a nice chat and ended up going for supper together.

Anyway, it was all worth it as the Ravelry Party was fabulous!  Jess and Casey personally welcomed everyone at the door, we were all handed a custom-printed goodie bag (pictured) with discount vouchers, buttons, a temporary Knit Nation tattoo (and I am hoping mine will last until work on Monday), and a hat pattern inside, and everyone got a free raffle ticket.  Some of the goodie bags had extras, my friend got a ball of Biggins Yarn, and I got a pair of gorgeous KnitPro wooden straights!

There must have been a couple of hundred knitters there at least, there was music, and a bar, and loads of lovely shawls and knit wear to look at on other people.  Ysolda had a photo booth set up, where my new friend and I got our picture taken, which printed out on a special postcard which included a KnitNation graphic.  Our group was very talkative as we all sat there knitting, and Jess and Casey both came by to speak to us personally for several minutes, autographing our bags and my photo postcard.  We had a woman all the way from Canada, my friend from France, another woman from Belgium, and two UK knitters.  Then at 9:45 came the fabulous raffle (pictured) with loads of great prizes, and I won a bottle of Soak in the special Ravelry scent!  The party was going on until midnight but I reluctantly said goodbye at 10:30pm so that I could make the long trek home.  It was a great party, everyone was in such a great mood and Jess and Casey made it feel really homely and sociable.  I'm glad I met them as Jess said that they aren't going to Knit Camp now after all, so even though I've signed up for the Ravelry talk and BBQ there, I wouldn't have seen them.

So, final verdict on Knit Nation?

  • Great communication in advance, and enthusiasm
  • Great graphics, professional website
  • Good organisation at the event, everything seemed to run smoothly and well.
  • Great teachers, famous names, Jess and Casey
  • Good central location, good public transport connections
  • Lots of great yarn at the marketplace, positive to be able to shop indy dyers etc. and imports like wollmeise
  • Great Ravelry Party and goodie bags!
  • Good atmosphere in the marketplace
  • Lacked the social element of the I-Knit weekender, nowhere to sit and knit inside, no events or activities provided for non-class-attendees other than the marketplace.  For example, at I-knit you can sit and knit for charity, or just sit and knit and chat at tables with drinks, there are fashion shows, etc.
  • Lack of onsite catering - nothing at all for Thursday and Friday evenings, the Library Cafe seemed overwhelmed by numbers on Saturday
  • Event a bit lost on this enormous campus, which was hosting several other events at the same time as well as university classes etc.  Watered down the sense of happening. Classes very dispersed instead of all in one area.
  • Cloakroom provided for leaving items in, as well as being very hard to find (up on the 5th floor and down several corridors), costan eyewatering £4 per item.
  • Marketplace a bit unbalanced in favour of yarn, not much else on sale (very few patterns, only a few books, not much hardware)

Someone who chatted with Alice (one of the co-organisers) said that she is considering doing Knit Nation again, but maybe not until 2012.  I enjoyed going and being part of it, but I don't know that I would go three times again, I think one day would be sufficient.

Anyway, life will now be back to normal for a week, until Knit Camp in Stirling.  Here is a quick round up of what I've been working on.

I've cast on for the Sanquhar Glove pattern that I bought at Ally Pally last autumn.  Labelled 'the insane Sanquhar glove' by one knitter on Ravelry, this is a traditional Scottish fair isle pattern knit in laceweight wool on 1.5mm needles.  At first I felt very tentative, as I was afraid I was going to drop stitches, break the yarn, bend needles etc.  But then I got hooked and I have been positively addicted to it all week, racing up the cuff and into the Duke pattern around the thumb gusset, knitting on the train and on my lunch hours, and during all the Knit Nation events.  I'm really enjoying it.  Sorry the picture is blurry.  Apparently when you block it, the stitching will even out a lot.  I am knitting this in Jamieson & Smith 2 ply laceweight.

I have also started a surprise gift for my son, which is a fabric portrait of his two cats using outlines from "Claire's Cats Volume 2" by Darcy Ashton.  I have customised the white cat to look like his cat Lucy.  The outlines are fused on but I need to add embroidery now.

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