Saturday, 20 January 2018

Craftivism is Not Futile

We hold in our hands the power to kick-start great change. It is a shame that Vanity Fair, when suggesting Hillary Clinton should take up knitting and get off the political stage, seem to ignore how the whole Women's March came about. They have, it seems, forgotten that sea of pink hats marching on Washington. Pity. It's the marches first anniversary soon and I hope people remain vigilant to what goes on in politics, be it in their own country or in the world. 

The only response to "Go knit and be quiet" is to be quiet, go knit a pussy hat, put it on, march, and be loud

Sunday, 14 January 2018

KB100DECK: A Knit British Gathering in Bath

KB100DECK Knit British
Images are a mix of my own and Mazzy's

Yesterday I did something I haven't done in a long time: I went to a meet-up with complete strangers at a hotel. What connected us all is that we listen to Knit British, Louise Scollay's podcast all about British wool. This week saw her 100th episode and a gathering was organised in Edinburgh to celebrate the occasion. Sadly, the southwest doesn't see a lot of knitting/wool events, so a brave person set up a Bath meet-up for anyone who couldn't make it further afield. Thanks again, Mazzy!

KB100DECK Knit British

It was a success! We all had a lovely time knitting and chatting with each other, ogling yarn and WIPs. There were cream teas and sandwiches as well as two pop up shops and a raffle. Becca of Bluebell Yarns had every hue of hand-dyed yarn you can think of as did Rachel of Cat and Sparrow. Of course I couldn't resist buying something, but I did manage not to add to my stash. Instead, I bought two sets of beautiful Fripperies & Bibelots stitch markers. 

KB100DECK Knit British

There was even a two-person (at one point even a three-person) frogging session as a jumper that turned out too small had to be undone. Speaking of jumpers, I am glad to say I got on a bit with my own and have nearly reached the hem. After that, I only have to knit the sleeves. 

I returned from the gathering having met new knitters, marvelled at their skill, and having added a  Knit British name badge to my collection. Not bad for a Saturday afternoon!

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Kirstie's Handmade Christmas: The Jumper Challenge

Kirstie's Handmade Christmas jumper challenge

I promised on #knittinghour that I would blog about the Christmas jumper challenge from episode 4 of Kirstie's Handmade Christmas so here it is! It took me this long to put fingers to keyboard because, as you may have seen on social media, this was quite a controversial episode. Have I calmed down now? Somewhat, yes.

(If you haven't seen it, you can still catch  episode 4 here for the next two weeks.)

Familiar faces

I was really excited about this episode because it was all about knitting as the main feature of the show. And not only that! Monique, a Twitter #knittinghour regular, was on it so of course I had to see her in the flesh (sort of) instead of as an avatar online. It's exciting to see people as actual live people, moving and talking, getting a better understanding of who they are.

So I rushed home from work, missed the first few minutes of introductions, and jumped right into the speed-knitting challenge. To my surprise, I knew all but one of the participants! There was Jon from Easyknits whose hand-dyed fibre I've spun, Jess from Ginger Twist Studio whose yarn shop I visited in Edinburgh many years ago and where I discovered Ripples Crafts, and, of course, Monique from #knittinghour. Tiam was the only knitter I hadn't heard of before. Tiam's speciality is knitting with super chunky yarn, so that explains why I hadn't come across her yet. Chunky isn't really my cup of tea, though I have given it a go.

First impressions

Anyway, back to the speed-knitting challenge: Monique also chose a chunky project to save time (very wise, I think), while Jess ( the "Usain Bolt of knitting", as Kirstie called her) and Jon used lighter yarns for their accessories. At this stage, to me there wasn't yet a clear winner. After all, these were small projects and you can't really tell how the knitters will cope with a whole jumper. Still, to me it was obvious that Tiam was not a winner. As the judge herself said, her hat was "perfect for beginners", so it didn't require the skills demonstrated by some of the others. Especially Jess showed a lot more skill at this early stage already, so I disregarded Tiam and focused on the other three contestants. 

After the speed-knitting challenge, they were all sent off to knit their jumpers, ready to be modeled  by them on the show. And this is when things got really exciting - and extremely controversial.

The jumpers

Jon was the first to reveal his Christmas jumper and it was stunning! Full of colour, made from his own hand-dyed yarn, his own design, and it fit perfectly. Even Kirstie was gobsmacked. He was hands down the favourite and it's easy to see why.

Jess also used some of her own hand-dyed yarn to knit her design, Vintage Winter. It suited her very well and there's no doubt this lady has skills! 

Monique knitted the Port Charlotte jumper by Kate Davies, adding festive words and LED lights to it. Loved the jumper and the new additions went together well, I thought. She is great at knitting jumpers, as I knew from her blog and tweets.

Finally, Tiam modeled her very chunky reindeer jumper. It was so different from all the others and, matching my first impression, didn't show as much skill as others had demonstrated. I was a bit put off by the fact that some bits had been glued on and the reindeer wasn't actually intarsia, but  embroidered. The jumper had tinsel in it, was oversized and shapeless, so it could not be judged on fit. (Shape and fit were, explicitly, two of the judging criteria.) It was just too easy compared to the others, though there's a lot going on as far as types of craft used.

The judging

Personally, I thought Jon would win, no doubt about it. Jess and Monique were a possibility, too, because you never know what the judge prefers. Speaking of judging: At that point in the show I had no idea who the judge was because I missed the introductions. As the show went on, though, I wondered whether she was particularly good at knitting, to be honest, based on how she spoke about the work.

For instance, a lot of knitters would object to being complimented with the words: this looks "like it's from a shop" (said about Jess's fantastic speed-knitted hat). Other zingers from the judge included: "Is it machine-knitted?" (about Jon's jumper), and "Garter stitch is the stitch for me."

The winner

Turns out that the judge, Jade Harwood, is co-founder of Wool and the Gang, who are known for their chunky yarns. I would say that makes her a bit biased. Especially as she chose a winner who needed all of 6 hours to finish her Christmas jumper, used super chunky yarn for the speed-knitting challenge as well as the jumper, and, I feel cheated by not knitting intarsia. Jade announced Tiam as the winner and I am still amazed that anyone on the should managed to keep a straight face at that point.

The social media storm

Social media exploded with people tweeting that Jon was robbed. Frankly, everyone was robbed. Who would expect the quickest, simplest, most shapeless jumper to win this? Compare it to Jon's 160-hour Fairisle jumper! 

To be fair, on its own, the reindeer jumper is fine. However, compared to the skills demonstrated by the other knitters, it should never have won. Mind you, if anyone knits a jumper like this, I'd be thrilled. Managing to knit a garment is an achievement, so well done! It's the kind of jumper I can imagine seeing on the high street. So in a way I can see why Jade chose it. But it holds no candle to Jon's, Jess's or Monique's work.

Over to you

What do you think? Is this too harsh? Did the judge make the right decision? What's your favourite? Let's hear it!

Monday, 1 January 2018

Have a Knitting New Year

Happy New Year with knitting
Image source
I don’t know about you, but for me 2017 was an odd year. It was marked by extremes: politics and health have been awful, but personally it has been perfect. Our wedding and honeymoon were by far the highlight of the year for me. I do hope that 2018 will bring a better balance for everyone so we can avoid such extremes.

I wish you a year full of joy, good health, successes that matter, people you love, and enough time for knitting and all the things you enjoy.

2017 WIPs and FOs

Like many, I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, not even crafty ones. However, there are a few things I hope to knit this year. I have said it many a time, but I really do want to finish my jumper! Not only am I looking forward to wearing it, but I want to finally get it out of the way so I can knit something else.

I doubt I will have any more time to knit in 2018 than I did in 2017, but it would be nice to have more FOs this time. I am ashamed to say I only finished two things last year and they were small projects at that: my pussy hat and a pair of socks for my mother for Christmas.

A knitting to-do list

So what’s the plan? I am looking forward to knitting a two-tone hat with Amano Puyu, using this lovely caramel shade for contrast, but I need to design it first. Then there’s the Samite yarn I bought in the hope of knitting a spring/summer top one day. Other than that I have no plans for my stash. Reducing it would be good, too. At the moment I am stopping myself from buying yarn because I just haven’t got the space for another skein.

Over to you

What are you looking forward to in the new year? Did you set yourself any goals or challenges or will you just take things as they come? And have you got something on your list of things to knit that readers should definitely know about?

Not sure yet? Here are 10 New Year's resolutions for knitters and crocheters to get you started.

Thursday, 28 December 2017

John Arbon at the Bath Christmas Market

Bath Abbey Christmas tree

I hope you have all had a good Christmas and are looking forward to an exciting new year! 

As usual, we had no snow, but we enjoyed a quiet few days. Luckily, I have some more time off and I intend to spend most of it catching up on sleep. I am afraid I haven't knitted a single stitch so far, but I have every intention to make progress with my jumper.

A lot has happened since my last post, but illness kept me from updating you as usual. I intend to catch up gradually, so you remain in the loop with all things knitting, such as a woolly discovery I made at the Bath Christmas Market this year.

Sadly, I was only able to go once and I didn't get to see all of it. Unlike last year, the chalets were spread out further across the city. That was a welcome change because it allowed for more space and the market wasn't as packed as usual. I remember a year when you couldn't look at anything because you were stuck in a sea of people just sweeping you along.

This year there was lots of time to explore. There were more chalets than ever before, which made a nice change from the usual vendors. To my surprise, in a small street next to the Roman Baths I discovered someone many knitters will be familiar with: John Arbon Textiles! I am sad to say I didn't buy any of the socks they were displaying and I now wish I had! It was painfully cold on the day and I tried to keep moving. A pair of their socks would have come in handy, come to think of it. I hope the sellers stayed warm!

John Arbon Textiles

Have you ever been to the Bath Christmas Market? What markets in the UK would you recommend?

As it is nearly 2018, I wish you all a healthy, woolly, successful New Year. See you soon!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Christmas Gifts For Knitters: 2017 Edition

It's nearly Christmas and my favourite part about it is finding gifts for others. Now, we're all busy people and don't always have enough time to browse the shops, so I have made this list of my personal top 4 Christmas gifts for knitters to make things a little easier. Not sure what to get the knitter in your life? Check out these knitting essentials:

For the knitter who has everything

1. If they have everything they need, but you want to give them something to match their love of knitting, this knitter pin badge from Kelly Connor Designs is just the ticket. It's the perfect stocking filler and would look good on project bags, coats or shirts.

For the chaotic knitter

2. The Knitter's Keep from Cocoknits is a great tool that will make your knitting just that little bit easier. Its magnet is ideal for holding metal stitch markers, cable needles and other small notions you need to move on and off the needles sometimes. No more dropped or lost notions for you!

For the filthy knitter

3. Readers of this blog will have seen me rave about this naughty "I love a good fingering" project bag from The Knitting Goddess. It is still available, along with other great bags, so have a look around the website. Even knitting Whovians will find something to love.

For the wool lover

4. If you're thinking of giving the knitter in your life some yarn, you can never go wrong with one of Blacker Yarns' creations. I recommend Tamar Lustre Blend, a DK weight yarn that will keep them warm in winter. It makes wonderfully cosy jumpers and shawls, but is also suitable for smaller projects such as gloves and hats.

What's on your wish list this year? Have you got ideas for other knitters that we should know about? I'd love to hear them.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

My RosaFlora Wedding Shawl

RosaFlora Wedding Shawl

I promised you a decent photo of my RosaFlora wedding shawl in action and now I can finally share it with you. I love our wedding photos, all taken by John and Soph of John Barwood Photography. This is one of my favourites and it shows off the shawl nicely. It a worth every stitch and every bead.

The big day

We got married at sunset by torchlight at the Roman Baths. We had dinner on the terrace overlooking the Great Bath where we had our ceremony and, as clich├ęd as it sounds, everything was perfect. Well, I couldn't hear my entrance music, which was a shame, but in the end it didn't matter because our guests applauded and cheered as I walked towards them. I have to say, that was unexpected and  sent my heart soaring. I nearly cried when I finally reached Mark... and then the registrar told me off for kissing him since that was "reserved for the end of the ceremony". (Of course he was joking.)

What I wore

But back to the shawl! I loved wearing it and I think it rounded off the dress nicely. I didn't go for a traditional wedding gown at all and simply bought a white textured dress from Lovedrobe I found at Evans for all of £69. It's short and ends just under the knee, has a v-neck and back, but doesn't come with the sleeves I would have preferred. So having a shawl was a great way to cover up. Luckily the weather was fine - I was worried it would be too chilly in my outfit during the outdoor ceremony as we had had a few very cold days.


The shawl had just the right weight and drape thanks to the golden beads I added to the edge, and the silk lace adds a touch of luxury. I felt wonderful wearing it. I definitely recommend RosaFlora as a wedding shawl so if you are thinking of making it for yourself, go for it! 

I used the recommended yarn in a cream colourway with pink accents and am very happy with it. Please note that the yarn on the seller's site looks much more lustrous than it actually is. The pattern is fairly easy to knit if you like lace. I only made mistakes at the beginning because I didn't pay attention, but once you get going, you're off. It took e just over a month to finish, which is half the time I had planned. And the shawl is huge! I hadn't expected that.

Over to you

Have you ever knitted something for a wedding, either your own or someone else's? Let me know how it turned out in the comments.