Monday, 24 March 2014

Spring gallivanting

I've been gallivanting around on two successive weekends, including a knitting retreat in Yorkshire.

Last Sunday I took advantage of having a season ticket and went down to London to the Spring Knitting and Stitching show at Kensington Olympia last Sunday.  This is the new version of what used to be called the Stitch and Craft show, and this year it was relocated to a different hall which is all on one level.  It's a mixed show covering many crafts and normally I quite enjoy it as I have varied interests.  However this year I found it disappointing and felt that it was poor value for money for the expensive entrance ticket (£12.50).  There seemed to be fewer stalls, and a disappointingly high number of non-craft 'tat' stalls selling scarves, handbags, hair clips etc.  That's not what I come to a craft show to see.  There also seemed to be much less of a 'buzz' on Sunday anyway, and fewer exhibits to look at.  The number of workshops and lectures also seemed reduced from previous years. I couldn't find a single button stall to buy buttons for my gilet, there were only a few plastic buttons on general craft stalls.  There was a fair assortment of quilting and knitting stands, but other crafts seemed underrepresented compared to previous years.  Overall a disappointment although I did manage to find some Rowan Aran yarn for my projects for the Yorkshire knitting weekend.

I needed to start some simpler portable projects for commuting and to take to the SkipNorth knitting retreat, because all of my current projects are charted.  I got the Aran yarn for a hat, and to make a pair of Fetching fingerless mitts, and some DK yarn to crochet some slippers and to learn how to do thrum knitting.  I've also cast on for a simple slouchy stockinette hat in some Elizabeth Lavold Silky Wool that I bought in New England a few years ago.  I will confess that I finally bought one of those needle threaders that they market at these fairs  on the stall that I generally walk past thinking "I don't need one of those".  Well now I do, grrrrr.  Hope it works, it seems kind of flimsy.

I bought some buttons in our local fabric store the next day and sewed them on my Gilet so it's now done.

Then on Friday, after a happily shortened work week, I set off up to Haworth in Yorkshire for the SkipNorth knitting retreat. This was my second time but it was actually the tenth anniversary so we were able to buy a sturdy commemorative bag which came in useful for shopping and for the overspill for my suitcase on the return journey.  On the journey there, I cast on for my hat and for my Fetching fingerless mitts, and worked some more rows on my Haapsalu lace edging.

There were around 34 of us I think, knitters, crocheters, spinners etc. and it takes place in a rather impressive youth hostel in the village where the Bronte sisters' parsonage is located.  On Friday afternoon there are workshops:  I took Beginner's Crochet and Learn to Thrum.  I know how to crochet after a fashion, enough to do edgings on cardigans or blankets, but I don't really know what I'm doing.  Our excellent teacher Laura gave us some great handouts and let us try many different shaped hooks.  I found that the ergonomic hooks sat much better in my hand than the plain metal ones I've always been using.  I have a simple pattern for crocheted ballet house slippers and over the weekend I began puzzling out the sole.  It was going fairly well except that I can't count and started going wrong on the increases and decreases so will have to sort that out quietly one evening now that I am home.  In the Thrumming workshop, I knit a small sample mitten to learn the technique of knitting in 'thrums' which are loose bits of roving which then line the inside of the mitten to give a fleecy lining.  I'm going to knit a pair of thrummed slippers now, and I bought some Drops Big Merino and some rainbow dyed merino fleece on our shopping expeditions for them.

Before dinner, there was a small Fair where partcipants could set up a stall if they wanted to sell things.  I bought a lovely ball of hand-dyed pink lace yarn from Eden Cottage yarns in Yorkshire which is a fairly good colour match for the yarn I am using for my Haapsalu Shawl, with the intention of using it for seaming the lace borders to the main shawl.  That way I can use all my mohair yarn up on the lace edging.  There will be plenty left over of the hand-dye for another project.  I also bought a pattern for fingerless mitts called 'Forgotten Love', featuring twisted stitches, from the excellent Jane - designer of the Cranford mitts which I knit last year and have worn so often.  And I bought a cute cushion from another member (sorry, don't know the name) which is now on my sofa.

Friday evening after supper was the amazing and humongeous P/Hop Swap, where everybody brings their unwanted stuff to swap with others.  When you get home, you make a donation to P/Hop which supports the charity Doctors without Borders in return for your goodies.  People brought absolutely amazing stuff.  At first, we all had to take turns choosing our most preferred item, but after three rounds of that it turned into a glorious free-for-all where one woman's junk was another woman's treasure.  In my first three goes, I picked up a magnifying stand which I think is going to be very useful for my Fimo food making, a KnitPicks binder for storing interchangeables and their cords, and a Kaffe Fassett knitting book.  After that I tried to be good, but a lot of stuff was getting left behind so I ended up coming away with several more books including a couple on Tatting, some gorgeous Cherry Tree Hill peacock dyed mohair, some mystery cakes of soft grey yarn which I can use to make something for DH, some Rowan chain-knit Kidsilk scarf yarn in vibrant pink, and some royal blue bulky chenille which was so soft I couldn't resist it.  Last night when I got home, I cast on for a simple cowl in the chenille.

The upshot was that my suitcase was almost instantly full on the first evening, and by the return journey was so stuffed that I actually broke the wheel on the way home - oops.

Saturday we headed out on the coach with the first stop being Saltaire, a model town near Bradford from the 19th century, built around an enormous woollen mill which has been partly renovated into an art gallery.  After exploring the gallery, and the great Antiques shop upstairs near the historical exhibit, I headed out into the sunshine for a lovely walk around the town. If you would like to see pictures, visit the excellent photoblog by GreensideKnits who also recently visited Saltaire.

Back on the bus and eating our packed lunches, we headed to Arcadia Textiles, who are now a Drops Superstore with excellent prices. I bought 11 balls of a lovely cherry red Drops Karisma superwash DK at only £2 a ball to knit the Lush Cardigan pattern by TinCan Knits that I bought at Unravel.  This is also where I got the slipper yarn.

Then we headed off to The Skep knitting and quilting shop, where I got a half yard of two different fabrics which I plan to make into a project bag.  And we hiked up the hill to Bond's, a wonderful rabbit warren of haberdashery, where I found red buttons for my cardigan, plus I picked up several cards of blue buttons for future projects at just 10p per card.  They also were selling doublepoints at £1.50 a pair, so I picked up some larger sizes to fill gaps in my knitting needle storage display.

After a relaxing evening of knitting, crocheting and watching the spinners at work, it was time for bed in the youth hostel's bunk beds - I had a top bunk which was not fun when I had to get up in the night!  I'm too old for this...  There is a bed and breakfast nearby where some clever people were staying, I think that might be my preferred option next time I go.

Sunday we headed off to Winghams Woolworks, where the spinners went slightly crazy on yarn fumes.  This is where I bought my roving for my thrums. I also petted the Ashford 4-harness table top loom for a while - I can see a weaving loom in my future one day.  Then we made a stop at Coldspring Mill, a camping shop in an old mill which has a ground floor full of lower-end yarns like Sirdar and King Cole.  They have a huge selection and I ended up falling for a summer lacy t-shirt pattern (Sirdar 9775) and buying some pale blue cotton blend 'Breeze' to knit it with.  While we were out and about, I finished the pair of Fetching mitts that I was knitting in Rowan aran yarn.  I've also started a matching hat from a different pattern.

It was all over at 2pm on Sunday and the group started breaking up to head home.  Trains were disrupted from Leeds and I got diverted via York, but still got home earlier than I expected due to a lucky connection with a fast train direct to London.  When I got home, I opened my poor broken suitcase which exploded all over the living room.  (You have to imagine the soundtrack with DH exclaiming "How much stuff?!?" in the background)

An enjoyable weekend and so nice to see several friends from last year - it's great to spend time with a lot of like-minded people.

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