Sunday, 26 June 2016

Woolfest with Westcliffe

Another milestone passed:  my first holiday as a woman alone.

Last week, I took myself off to Blackpool on the train to the Westcliffe Knitting Hotel, run by the lovely Paula Chew.
I had never been to Westcliffe before, and knew nothing about it until I was trying to find a way to go to Woolfest in Cumbria on my own without being lonely.
And honestly?  The whole experience surpassed my expectations.

From the moment I arrived I was made welcome.
Everyone else on the holiday had been there before, but it was not at all cliquey:  I was quickly made to feel part of the group.
The food was delicious, with excellent vegetarian options.
My room was comfortable, with everything I needed.
The sitting room quickly felt like home from home, with woolly projects sprouting out of every orifice as The Knitters took up residence.

The itinerary was flexible, with some choosing to learn Tunisian Crochet, while others others opted out and carried on with their own projects.
Four of us, including our tutor Michele, started to knit a funky geometric Modular Blanket. I am afraid I didn't get far, due to my own special holiday project.
A couple of days before setting off for Blackpool, I signed up for a test knit for Susanne Sommer, SosuKnits, on a pretty tight deadline.
It quickly turned into Brioche Bootcamp :)
You may remember that I only learned how to Brioche at the start of June.
What better way to get to grips with a new technique than to test knit a massive shawl with a 2 week turnaround time?!
There were some accidents and incidents involving dropped stitches, the inability to count and general late night brain-fog... but it is going well.
At the time of writing I have just begun the final border section and it is going to be gorgeous, if I say so myself!

But back to the holiday... we had outings to local wool shops, including the little gem that is Vivian Westwools.  I was very much taken with Vivian and his carefully curated collection of yarns, from £1-a-ball acrylic to the much-fondled prize bison balls.
Tempted as I was by a selection of local hand-dyes, I bought some self-striping sock wool and some West Yorkshire Spinners Illustrious DK in the colour Sea Glass to knit the Cecilia cardigan from their beautifully-presented collection designed by Emma Wright.
It won't be long before that is on the needles.

One afternoon, we sat in Stanley Park and did a spot of knitting outside the cafe, where there was cake.
Boy, was there cake!

We had plenty of free time to do as we pleased.  I fell into a pattern of a daily stride along the promenade as if I had a dog to exercise.  I was wary of spending too much time alone in a town full of care homes for the elderly and exuberant hen parties, because I am still just one beat away from a meltdown, brought on by the strangest things.
I did a pretty good job of holding it together.
But there was no hope of me going up Blackpool Tower or buying a stick of rock on the pier, because I didn't want to be doing it without him.

And then there was Woolfest itself :)
Have you been?
It is a proper sheepy wool festival, with a good mix of independent yarn producers, dyers and designers.
I had hoped to celebrate the Summer Socks Knitalong with a mini-meet-up, but it didn't happen (my own fault for not checking back in the Ravelry group before setting off).
However, I was absolutely delighted to meet a couple of dear blog-friends for the first time, Ambermoggie and Mr Mog.
That tipped me over the edge, but in a good way.
I don't think any of us expected we would make that happen, but we did :)

Now I am home again, with plenty of woolly goodness to share with you after I unpack and get back to my knitting.

Westcliffe goes to Woolfest (picture taken from their Facebook page)
If you are tempted by a Westcliffe holiday, there are still vacancies on their "Westcliffe on Tour" holiday to Yarndale in September.  That holiday is based at a hotel in Harrogate, so you won't get to sample Paula's cooking, but it promises to be a fun and friendly experience.

I would be signing up myself if it wasn't for a certain four-legged friend who needs to be given a special treat when I collect him from the boarding kennels in the morning!

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Summer of Socks

How odd - the blog has turned into a parade of finished objects, with no indication of works in progress.
Maybe that all happens over on Instagram now, because it is so quick and easy.
I am Theroobeedoo if you are over there too.

Needless to say, life has been going on.
I try to stay away from The Archive, but sometimes it calls to me.

It was FL's birthday on Sunday, so I paid a visit to The Tree and planted more poppy seedlings, in the hope that a few will thrive.  There ought to be an entire poppy-field up there by now. Maybe they will surprise me next year.

I wrote to a girl, in the belief that he had an affair with her in the 1980's.  Just to let her know he was gone.
"If it had been me I would have wanted to know" is what I said.
I wrote it kindly, with good intentions.
No reply so far.
Either my super-sleuthing has traced the wrong woman, or she doesn't want to acknowledge the past. It doesn't matter.
But I meant what I said.  It was one of my greatest fears when we were apart, that he would die and nobody would let me know.
Now I am the keeper of The Archive and I feel a responsibility to tell the others.

Moving forward, I am looking forward to my first holiday on my own.
I am off to a knitting hotel by the seaside.
For realz.
I will tell you all about it when I get back.
It includes a trip to a wool festival - so exciting!
I aim to pack lightly, so it seemed like a good time to join the Summer of Socks Knitalong.
I can't imagine having the concentration to knit brioche in a group situation, so P-Rex may have to stay at home.
And my True Friend sweater has stalled at the point where I have pick up stitches along the side of the "bib".
I seem to be incapable of getting it right.
So it all about the socks, and the first Shawl Society pattern, Talisman, by Helen Stewart of Curious Handmade.

I am using a cake of gorgeous Urban Hints gradient by The Wool Kitchen, from Wild and Woolly Shop, in the colourway Indigo.

I am saving the cast-on for my holiday - woo hoo!

I'll buy you a stick of rock ;)

Monday, 13 June 2016

FO: Spindrift Shawl by Curious Handmade

This weekend I took a day trip on the train to visit my mother for her 91st birthday.
Uh huh.  Fun times.
My take-along knitting was the final section of my Spindrift Shawl by Helen Stewart, of the Curious Handmade podcast.
My version was truly Spun-drift because I made the yarn myself, especially for this project.
I used some beautiful Fuzzlings from Fondant Fibre.  They were composed of a mixture of fibres:  merino, massam, stellina and silk, which made for a really interesting spinning experience.

  • The silk required a longer space between my hands when drafting, as otherwise I got "stuck" and the singles broke.
  • The massam was quite hairy and sticky and needed to be blended well with the merino on its way towards the wheel.
  • The stellina was springy and needed to be kept under close control, wrapped into place by the other fibres.

Keeping all of these elements in mind as I worked was a fun challenge, but meant I lost sight of my intention to spin a fine fingering weight yarn.  It came out slightly thicker than planned, so with reduced yardage.
The joy of a Curious Handmade pattern is that Helen uses a percentage system to allow the knitter to track progress.  As long as you weigh your ball at the start and check it again at the percentage markers, you can tell whether or not you are going to have enough yarn.
I knew at 10% that I only had 70% of the yardage I needed to complete the shawl as written.
So I dug around in my box of odd balls for a good match, thinking I would use it for the five eyelet stripes.  That still left me 10% short of yardage, so I took 10% out of the main stockinette portion to compensate.
So far so good!
But my chosen "match" (leftover Sock Hop from my Chelsea Morning socks) was so bright that it sucked the life out of my handspun, which looked dingy in contrast.
Next up, I tried a light pistachio green alpaca / silk mix from Lioness Arts... very pretty, but again the shawl was dragging around in the doldrums, feeling very sorry for itself, and I knew I would never wear it.
Third time lucky?
Oh yes!
I found the leftover yarn from my Artio Shawlette.  It is a Skein Queen yarn, with some cashmere in the mix, in the colour Spring Lime.
Suddenly the project started to sing - choirs of angels appeared on the horizon and the sun broke through the clouds :)
However, I forgot to weigh my golden nugget...
I settled down on the train and began to knit.

It soon became apparent that I was powering through my available yardage at an alarming rate.
I worked alternate stripes in lime / handspun, until at the end of eyelet section four it was clear my yarn was running out.
So I did the only sensible thing...
Instead of turning my work at the end of a right side row, I shuffled the stitches to the other end of the circular needle and worked the picot bind off, still on the right side.
Smug face ;)

I blocked it as soon as I got home that night.

And here it is!
I am really pleased with the finished piece.  The handspun is soft and sparkly, with a sheen from the silk and a crispness from the massam.
The shape is very evening-appropriate:  just the thing for a Regency Ball!
But failing that, it looks great with denim for everyday.
Lucky, that!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

FO: Sew This Pattern Venus Kimono

It is so very long since I went on holiday without a man, a car, a dog, a sewing machine, a dictaphone and The Book To Type that I had started to panic.

How much can I fit into my backpack?
What do human beings wear on holiday?
Can I pull off the illusion that I know how to do this social thing?

I am determined that everything will fit into a single backpack, because I refuse to be that red-faced woman on the train with a massive suitcase blocking the aisle.  So my holiday wardrobe needs to be multi-functional.
I hit upon the idea of sewing a kimono:  it can double as boho daywear and dressing gown.
I have this idea in my head that I will find myself invited to a midnight knitting party in my hotel, and turn up to find everyone in their fab and funky penguin print pyjamas.  This garment is my answer to that particular scenario, peculiar to "the tribe of knitters"!

I had two metres of this lovely block-printed Indigo Flight cotton from Merchant and Mills.  I bought it to make a Dottie Angel dress before I decided that I felt unbearably frumpy in that style.  I don't mind looking like a middle-aged Art teacher, but I would prefer the emphasis to be on the Art!

It is very narrow fabric (110cm) so I knew it would be a squeeze to fit the pattern pieces in.  I shortened it in two different places:  2cm from across the sleeve and upper body, and another 2cm below the arms.  It is still a good length for me, with plenty of width in the sleeves.

I used the Venus Kimono pattern by Sew This Pattern.
It is a very simple make.
There are French seams everywhere, and rolled hems.
I love the shoulder pleats, which give extra drape and pizzazz, though I think they could become dangerously bulky in the wrong fabric.
The curved edge sweeps down the fronts and round the tail, with plenty of coverage, though obviously that will differ on a larger frame.
The pattern only comes in one size, but as my adjustments prove, it is easily adjustable - you would just need more (wider) fabric.

Venus Kimono by Sew This Pattern - one size, pdf only, but very simple to put together with no need to trace.

Two metres of 110 cm wide Indigo Flight block-print cotton from Merchant and Mills.
I used the underside of the fabric as my right side, as I love the subtle tones of dappled blue, rather than stark white against indigo.

Other:  Thread.

It is exactly what I wanted it to be:  a soft, drapey multi-functional garment that looks kinda hippy, kinda boho, and very relaxed.
Woo hoo!