Knit Nation 2010 – Wollmeise, Yarnissima, Knitwitches and more

1 Aug

A quick trip to Knit Nation on Thursday and Friday this week make me realise that it’s time to get back to pointy sticks and tying holes with string, as a friend puts it. I also need to learn to read knitting. That’s another story.

Alice ‘Socktopus‘ and Cookie A are the brains behind Knit Nation, where the motto was Learn Shop Knit Spin. Also ‘Unus Multorum’ but I don’t know what that means. Perhaps “Spend lots of money, have a giggle with your knitterly pals, fondle yarn, raid the housekeeping”.

With some snafus (Paypal related) trying to book classes early on, and due to some changes in teachers it turned out that the classes I was going to take ended up being cancelled anyway. Boo. Seems it wasn’t meant to be. On a whim, I checked what was available on Tuesday and signed up for Yarnissima‘s ‘Baby Spice Socks’ class on Friday afternoon and Helen’s friend had a Marketplace preview ticket that she couldn’t use for Thursday night.  Win!

I refute the allegation that there was a ‘stampede’ to get to the Wollmeise Stall on the first night…especially I was rather near the front of that queue with lovely Helen, as we formed the advance party for our group. We behaved ourselves! Ok, we kind of trotted down the marketplace hall and we did bypass all of the other stalls en route to Wollmeise (we went back afterwards, and the next day). Claudia had brought a metric ton of yarn so really, there was more than enough to go around, and even with hardcore addicts seeking out particular colours it was all remarkably amicable, cooperative and gleeful, frankly. We pawed, we picked, we replaced, we handed over and made others happy.  There was an intense air of concentration as knitters carefully laid out skeins of yarn on the red shopping bags, assessed colour choices, did considerable mental maths to see how the budget could be stretched.  Considered putting skeins back. Rationalised that they were saving the airfare they’d have to spend to get to Germany to buy more, bought those skeins (it’s a bit like carbon-offsetting.  Yarn offsetting).

As ever Claudia had planned stock carefully and there was even enough of the elusive lace to replenish baskets more than once each day. I was reasonably restrained (or so I thought) and came away with three sock and one lace from Wollmeise and then some Knitwitches silk for me and for my mum. I bought some undyed yarn for experimentation from Artisan  Yarns, I think it was an angora/cashmere/silk blend. (not the easiest websites to negotiate, unfortunately – why is this so often the way with knitterly sites?) and some virgin Knitwitches cashmere.  Soooooooft.

Yarnissima’s class on Friday was relaxed and lovely – unlike the baby sock I knitted, which had tension like steel wool and would have only been suitable for an infant with a club foot – and it helped me to get my head around techniques for more interesting sock construction. I usually do top-down, as I love a good heel flap, frankly, but there’s always that elusive ability to maximise your yarn as you can with toe-up. Before class I was able to have lunch with GingerLucy and Klozknitz, two very favourite people, and the post-marketplace preview on Thursday turned into crepes with Lotusen, GingerLucy and Rooboost. It was lovely to bump into Bittersweetie too and to meet Hoxton Handmade.  Work and related night-time events mean it’s been a very long time since I got to see my knitter girls and I miss them so this was all the more valuable.

When I came home I dug out Ysolda’s Ariel wrap I’ve been knitting since the Wollmeise market trip last year and did a few more rows. (I was too in awe of her to talk to her – knitting royalty). I unearthed the Sindelfingen Rainbow Opal socks, yarn procured on the same trip. Much to my chagrin, I also decided to frog and start over on the Lucky Clover because, true to form, I stopped concentrating at one point and then did all sorts of crazy things (doubled up on rows, omitted to finish the row in the correct pattern repeat, frogged and then did it wrong all over again) and it wasn’t getting any prettier. The plan is to cast on some more projects, including the Lucky Clover again. Yes, this might seem like folly but it might also keep me engaged, having projects to choose from.  I’m also working on an idiot-proofing my knitting, as well as learning how to read it in the first place. Imagine not being dependent on written instructions? Chart-reading 101 is in order.


Who fancies a Lucky Clover knitalong?

23 Jul

It’s not my idea, but the brainchild of the very lovely Helen over at Craft Actually. She has designed a gorgeous pattern for a shawl, which is available on Ravelry at the moment or via the link on her blog. Helen is raising money for Cancer Research UK, and $5 from every pattern sold in July and August will be doing towards this great cause. Apparently she’s going to do a knitalong for the pattern in August, so get ahead and get the pattern now!

Book Review: Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burt

4 Jun

I was sent a review copy of Obsessive Consumption by Kate Bingaman-Burt. Partly for the intrinsic contraction involved in acquiring a tome about compulsive buying, I was interested before even flipping the cover.  She’s been drawing a daily purchase since February 2006, along with illustrating her monthly credit card statements.

What an intriguing yet scary proposition. Have you ever tried to keep any kind of purposeful diary – whether it’s on calories, your weekly budget or steps pounded on the pavements? I think it’s inherently altering, in that being ultra aware of what you’re doing, and also being obliged to document it, you behave as you should. Not as you normally would. That could be just me, of course, and I suppose the key is continuing on with the experiment. Lose your self-consciousness and it becomes possibly more mundane for the author but more revelatory to the reader.

She says that her art is a way of documenting her experiences in a consumer-driven world, that also gives her the opportunity to converse with a Teen Vogue reader or an anti-capitalist. The style looked familiar to me and I realised where I’d seen it before: in the accompanying book to Faythe Levine’s Handmade Nation.

You can buy a copy of the book direct from her website – and it also includes an original daily drawing!  The fact that I’m tempted to buy one means that I’m probably already too far down the path of obsessive consumption to be saved.

Quilts 1710-2010 at the V and A

22 Mar

I’ve written about the V&A Quilts 1710-210 elsewhere and though I admit wasn’t entirely convinced at the time, when I reviewed the photos I realised how complete the exhibition actually is.  It’s not Denyse Schmidt or Gee’s Bend (well hardly, this is British Quilting) and it’s more focusssed on art than craft, but it’s certainly worth seeing and there’s bound to be something to inspire (that isn’t supposed to be a quilting pun).  I suppose I was hoping for more contemporary work when in fact this is a comprehensive archive of works from 1710 onwards.  There are quilts made from military uniforms, finest silks, pyjama factory offcuts, London scenes toile du jouy.

:: Caren Garfen ::

:: Janey Forgan ::

:: Fine Cell Work ::

I preferred the pieced works overall, though Pauline Burbidge‘s work is stunning.

The exhibition runs til July and tickets are £10 for adults.  There are lots of quilting books available in the exhibition shop as well as the special collection of Liberty Tana Lawn, a limited edition of 18 prints.  They’re £11.50 pm, and 150cm wide.   There will also be a range of workshops at Liberty and the V&A and although it’s a bit grown up for me, I admit I’m tempted to invest in some of the fabric for a new bed quilt for myself. I wonder how many people came out of the exhibition thinking they same, that they’d love to pick it up again or give it a go? Yes, they’ve had record pre-sales for the exhibition, but I hope they get the crafters in there, then home and making too.

15 Feb

Hi folks – hoping to post properly later, but just chiming in to say that I'm going to have to moderate comments, as a spammy 'dissertation' service keeps leaving bogus comments and Typepad aren't inclined to do much about it. Bah. So if you would like to say something, I will get it approved as soon as I can!

January Times

19 Jan

I'm a freak, I know. I love January.  Time to start over, it's even better for new pencil cases than September.   A friend once told me that it's a lousy time to start those physical processes of transformation, like detoxes, if you live in the northern hemisphere. All we want to do is hibernate.

I'll try to take the blog out of hibernation a bit more (woohoo says the world. Oh, no it doesn't) but as it turns out I'm writing loads elsewhere which is why this has been so sadly neglected.  I left an unfilling job and now I'm freelancing – all over the place.  And I've had s-u-c-h-f-u-n for the past three months! Some interesting work has already coming my way and there will be more.

I've been cooking a lot, and watching a lot of movies.  Jen, I have some new partners in crime for cinema outings.  I miss the edginess of watching a film with you though, as I could never tell if you were going to walk out on me, heh.  However the boy has a new Magic Cinema Card and he's just dying to use it. 

So this week there's been:

The Road 

On Friday, The Road.  The world has ended, the survivors have descended into cannibalism. Viggo's wife has walked off into the night and he's following her last words, to 'go south'.   So many questions about this movie. Like, why did they replace the normal kid-sized kid from the movie with his much smaller doppelganger for the poster.  It's not a barrel of laughs this one but the landscape is stunning. The ending irritated me.  The kid really irritated me.  Also Viggo looks a bit like my dad.  Freaky.

Up in the Air

On Sunday, with a remit to choose something less mournful, we saw Up in The Air.  Clooney being Clooney. Interesting tableau of modern relationships and how to be alone – and lonely – in a crowd of people.  Best title sequence I think I've ever seen.  It's from the director of Juno  (also – good soundtrack) and while there are laughs in it, given that it deals with two very fundamental issues – relationships and redundancies, it's not ostensibly one to have you falling about. It's also that much more real than the former. 

Book Of Eli

And for various reasons, we went to see The Book Of Eli on Monday. I'm a big fan of From Hell, also directed by the Hughes Brothers. This movie is going straight there.  I thought the Guardian review wasn't keen and then read the Observer one. Note: next time will read before going to the cinema.  It's like a remake of the Road after the directors found God.  I so nearly walked out, but wrongly thought the boy was immersed.

All I could think was 'If Jen was here… we wouldn't be….'

Making space

9 Dec

Are you excited about Tristmas (as we used to call it) this year? I am. I really am. At the moment I am trying to strike the balance between making Flib Towers look like it's been covered in glue and then shat on by the glitter pigeons; and leaving it so late that I'll be waddling from all the mince pies and too lethargic to string a single streamer.

Firstly, if you are going to be in London for Christmas and you're at a loose end, then check out what the lovely Simon from the Making Space is up to.  He's running a Christmas Day craft workshop. It's at Sunbury Workshops which are near Columbia Road.  You can donate to charity if you like, but the tickets are free.  'Cos, you know, it's Christmas.

I've been to another workshop there since the Mask Making, details will follow soon.  All I am going to say is that it reminded me of Claire, the Purl Pirate…

There's soooo much baking going on around here at the moment. Despite my reservations about the amount of butter involvoed in most of recipes and the thoughts of handing loved ones a slice of heart disease on a plate, I have been cracking on with quite a few of the recipes from the Hummingbird bakery book.  I heart it, I think. Because of that I am quite tempted to try the Primrose Bakery cupcakes although when I've tried them, I haven't been so impressed – perhaps because you've no way of knowing how long they've been around?

Something that's around at this time of the year but they rarely linger is mince pies.  I've made a tray or two lately.  When this was blogged elsewhere, I used their new name:

4152262687_d0b104bdf1_bSplody Mini Mince Pies

Makes 24 mini pies (doubling up the quantities will make you even more popular) in mini mince pies trays…

You will need:
160g plain flour
40g vegetable shortening
40g cold unsalted butter
Juice and finely-chopped zest of 1 small orange
Pinch of salt
400g mincemeat (you could make your own but shop-bought is fine)
Optional – 1 beaten egg to glaze, and cinnamon sugar to dust


Mini tart trays
Small round cookie cutter, approx 4-5cm
Small cookie cutter for decoration


  • Put
    the flour in a shallow dish and add the shortening and butter, chopped.
    Spoon the flour over to coat the fats, then put into the freezer for 20
    minutes. While you're waiting for it, add the salt to the orange juice
    and zest, and place in the fridge.
  • Blitz the fat and flour into
    crumbs in the food processor, then slowly add the orange juice til it
    gets to that stage just before it whirls into a huge ball of dough.
    Remove and combine it by hand, and divide into 2-3 discs to chill in
    the fridge (so you're always working with cold dough later).
  • Wrap the discs in clingfilm and put in the fridge for 20 minutes, and preheat the oven to 220c/gas mark 7.
  • Roll
    out the dough very thinly and cut out 24 circles. Place in the tin and
    fill each with less than a teaspoon of mincemeat (not too splody,
    please). Reroll the remaining dough and cut out your top shapes. You
    can brush with egg wash and sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar now if you
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes depending on your oven, and do keep an eye on them!