Thursday, 29 December 2016

A Woolly Engagement - With Photos!

A woolly knitting engagement k2tog

I'm not sure what happened this year, but it has seemed like the shortest year of my life. It has probably also been the worst year for a lot of people for various reasons and while we look forward to 2016 coming to an end, many of us are very likely worried about 2017.

The only good thing, it seems, to have come out of this year for me is our engagement. After 9 years, Mark and I are fairly sure that we like each other so we are making it official now and getting married next year. 

Wool and engagement ring

The proposal was not at all how I expected it (and I didn't know it was going to happen then and there), but it was better! We were on holiday at the seaside in Torquay, out in a garden, all by ourselves. Mark was so nervous that I had to put the ring on my finger myself because he was afraid he'd drop it. And of course I said yes, as if there was ever any doubt.

And being a knitter, of course our engagement photos had to have a woolly theme. After all, what encapsulates the love between two people better than k2tog? May life knit us together for many more years to come till our yarn is cut short.

Engagement ring photo
(Photography: John Barwood)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Opal Advent Calendar: The Final Six

Opal Advent Calendar 2016 on Absoknittinglutely

Hello again! I hope you are enjoying the Bank Holiday today and had a wonderful Christmas. Are you like me at this time of year? I have no idea what day of the week it is or the exact date because Christmas was filled with a lot of excitement, rest, mindfulness and a distinct lack of routine.

No wonder I am late showing you what I found in my Opal Advent Calendar the last 6 days. In the past week, the calendar felt noticeably lighter and I held on to the hope that a mini-skein of red sock yarn would be somewhere in there. Well, there is no really red skein, but I did get one that was close. I now have 26 little skeins of yarn that I can't wait to cast on even though I feel I should probably get back to my jumper from last year... One little skein won't hurt, though, I'm sure, and besides: I haven't knitted a single stitch this Christmas. I am looking forward to seeing how they all knit up. It is hard to tell because they are multicoloured and I don't think I have used Opal yarn before. 

Once the calendar was empty, I couldn't help but take it apart to see how it was constructed. The yarn was held by 4 cardboard shelves with little cubicles arranged around a hollow centre. The printed sides all slotted together and I noticed that the calendar was made in the German town my grandmother is from. What a nice surprise!

Opal 4-ply sock yarn

I am already looking forward to whatever calendar I choose next year. Maybe it will be a woolly one again because it was a lot of fun and the contents are useful for some of my projects. Or maybe I will go for something entirely different, who knows? Luckily, there is lots of time to decide.

Enjoy your last days of the year!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

At first I was going to show you the last mini-skeins from my Opal Advent Calendar, but it's been such a wonderful day full of Christmas goings-on that I simply want to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy holidays, whatever you celebrate at this time of year, regardless of faith or lack thereof. 

As I tweeted earlier today, seeing how much I love Christmas, you'd never guess I was a born Muslim turned atheist. This season is such a wonderful time for me for a variety of reasons: the decorations, the twinkling lights everywhere, the atmosphere, strangers being more friendly and charitable towards others, choosing gifts for the ones you love, baking cookies, making your home feel even more cosy, crafting seasonal decorations, the food... There is so much I enjoy about Christmas and I hope that you do, too. 

This year Mark and I are spending the holidays by ourselves and the days are filled with music, films and food preparation. I cook, he bakes, and currently the flat smells so wonderfully of lemons because of Mark's first baked cheesecake that's cooling in the oven.

Today we will have a traditional German Christmas Eve dinner of potato salad and Frankfurters, but tomorrow I am making our usual German/British Christmas dinner. (The German bits are potato dumplings and caramelised sauerkraut.) 

I wish you all a fantastic time, peace and good health. See you after the holidays!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

More Opal Advent Calendar Yarn

9 more days have passed, 9 more mini-skeins of Opal yarn have jumped out of the Advent Calendar to join my stash.

There is an array of colours, many featuring blues and greens as well as purple. At the start I wondered if all Opal calendars had the same colourways in them, but now I am not so sure. I have seen other people's mini-skeins and they are quite different. To be honest, I am still hoping for a nice red skein similar to one I saw another knitter get. I am a bit bored of the greens and blues of my own calendar now. Still, I do not regret buying it and would do it again in order to get a move on with my Beekeeper's Quilt.

Even though it is the 18th already, I haven't started knitting any hexipuffs. So the yarn is waiting patiently in my stash till all skeins are out of the box. There is no chance I will knit all of them in one go, so the quilt will slowly grow as it has done over the past 5 years. There's no rush after all.

The mini-skeins have me wondering how a pair of socks would look, made from random colourways. I think it would look very nice, actually. I can also imagine knitting a jumper in this way, but I suspect you would need a few more calendars to get all the yarn together!

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

#craftblogclub Secret Santa 2016

knitted Cecelia Cowl

A little while ago I treated myself to my first hank of pencil roving from Countess Ablaze. This is wool that's been loosely spun to the thickness of a pencil. You can either spin it into yarn or knit it as is. Originally, the plan was to spin it. Originally, the plan was also to use it for myself, but you know: The best laid plans of mice and men...

Last year I took part in a Secret Santa organised by the ladies of the #craftblogclub Twitter chat and it was so much fun that I am joining in again this year. I was assigned my swap partner and then it dawned on me that I had no idea what to make! Of course it was going to be something knitted. (I briefly considered other crafts, but let's be honest, nothing comes close to knitting.)

Cecelia cowl

Since I needed a project that would knit up quickly, I decided on a cowl and searched for suitable patterns. In the end I went for the Cecelia Cowl, a free downloadable pattern. The yarn used there is chunkier than pencil roving, so I cast on more stitches and, frankly, hoped for the best. It went well and the cowl turned out wider than in the original pattern. The top photo of this post shows it folded in half. 

I love how the colours pop and I am considering buying more of this roving in the Psychosocial colourway to knit something for myself. Luckily I do have quite a bit left over, so I may get a hat out of it. Well, it may be a game of yarn chicken, but you never know. Worth a try.

Countess Ablaze pencil roving psychosocial

I hope the recipient loves it - it's so squishy! After some online stalking of her blog, I think it will suit her.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Opal Advent Calendar: 6 More Days of Yarn

Opal Advent Calandar

After 6 more days of Advent Calendar goodness, I now have these six colourful mini-skeins of 4-ply to add to my stash. There really is something for everyone. So far blues are dominating and I hope there will be more reds soon. I have seen others posting photos of their Opal Advent Calendar yarn and they certainly have a different mix. So every calendar seems to have a different arrangement of colours. 

In other news, we have finally got round to putting up Christmas decorations at home. The tree is up, too, and we will light it this evening along with the Advent wreath for a hygge night in.

Have a happy Advent! Schönen dritten Advent!

(If you are reading this on a large screen, I apologize for the quality of my photos. I noticed recently that my pictures aren't as clear as they used to be. While I'd love a DSLR at some point, I make do with my point-and-shoot camera or the iPad. The latter doesn't seem to do very well anymore.)

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Opal Advent Calendar 2016

I could not resist. This year I was simply too tempted by calendars different from the usual chocolate-filled variety and when I saw that something like a woolly calendar actually existed - a knitter's dream!-, I had to have it. I didn't hesitate even though the price would have put me off at any other time. At up to £55 this isn't a calendar you can just buy without being sure you want to spend that kind of money.

The Opal Advent calendar is filled with 24 mini-skeins of sock-weight yarn. I think they are perfect for knitters working on the Beekeper's Quilt, which is what I will be using mine for. As it is 4th December, I have now opened four of the doors. Every day you get a little skein of yarn in a different colourway. Each mini-skein has a festive band around it with a different design. I've now had a snowman, a house, baubles and stars, and all skeins have been mixed colours. I'd like there to also be some solid coours, but I suspect there probably aren't any.

It is exciting to see what's behind each door and I like knowing that what I am getting will come in handy for a project. So in a way this calendar lasts you quite a bit longer than the chocolate kind - it's a gift that keeps on giving. Here I can keep the yarn and knit it into something and the finished project will still be around afterwards.

The calendar itself is in the shape of a cube. It is quite large so I am having to move it from place to place every day because I have nowhere to keep it. The yarn is behind doors on four sides of the cube that each have a different festive design. The cube is very sturdy and made of thick cardboard so it doesn't get damaged in transit if bought online. There is a handle on the top for you to carry it. I suppose you could even hang it from the ceiling if you wanted to. 

I may well buy another one of these next year because I am enjoying the suspense so much. Let me know if there are any other kinds of Advent calendars for knitters! It's such a fantastic idea.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Knitted Advent Wreaths

Knitted Advent wreaths

Happy first Advent!

Advent wreaths don't seem to be well known in the UK, but they are essential in Germany. I haven't had one since I moved to England 7 years ago and I miss the tradition every year. So this time I decided to get all the components and make one myself. It is a traditional ring of fir branches, decorated with pine cones, berries and little baubles. There are four candles on it for each of the four Sundays before Christmas. I love it!

Handmade German Advent wreath

As knitters, you have probably heard of knitted wreaths so I thought I'd show you my favourite four. Enjoy!

Do you have an Advent wreath as well? Or do you make Christmas wreaths, knitted or otherwise?

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Hitomi Shida: 260 Knitting Patterns

Hitomi Shida Japanese stitch library on Absoknittinglutely

Social media is a great thing. Without it I wouldn't know most of you and my days would be duller. I wouldn't be able to stay in touch with friends from the past as easily and I wouldn't know what's going on in their lives.

The internet has made connecting with people so much easier and it is strange to think that there is a whole generation of people now who never had to do without smartphones and the internet. Networking is easier, too, and last week the internet helped me get my hands on a book I had wanted for some time.

Japanese stitch patterns for knitting by Hitomi Shida

As you know, I blogged about a Japanese stitch library by Hitomi Shida that's on my wishlist. Someone on Instagram saw this and told me there was a copy of it on Etsy. I quickly had a look and, yes, there it was! It was the Chinese version of the Japanese book, sent from Hong Kong. I didn't hesitate, ordered the only copy, and it arrived yesterday.

Charted knitting stitch patterns

This is as good a book as I had hoped it would be. 260 intricate stitch patterns fill its pages and there are ideas for scarves, hats and socks. The stitch patterns are charted so you need to be a somewhat confident knitter who is used to reading charts without any further help. There are a few symbols I may need to look into a bit more, but luckily there are photo tutorials for some of the more complex stitches at the back of the book. I can't read a word of it, but the images help a lot and if you have knitted for a while, you will probably have no problems getting on with these patterns.

Knitting tutorial in Chinese

I heartily recommend this book. Japanese stitches are so very intricate and beautiful. If you like them and easily knit with charts, try and find a copy of this book. I can see why it is so popular and I am very grateful to the person who pointed me in the right direction so I could get my hands on it. Thank you!

Saturday, 12 November 2016

On My Christmas Wishlist

The countdown has begun and people are either very excited about Christmas or dreading it right now. I fear I am one of those who absolutely love Christmas and the build-up to it. Sorry! (Not sorry.)

Have you been asked yet about what gifts you would like this year? I have and was surprised that my first thought was: "Not more yarn!" You see, my stash is full to bursting. I have already had to buy an extra box for my latest purchases and I do intend to use up some of them before I add any more. So I hope I won't get any yarn this year, no matter how much I love it.

So in a world where I didn't yet have a stash, what would I want this year? 

1. In my last post you will have read that I treated myself to a bottle of Soak. I chose my favourite scent, Celebrate, but there is one I have been wanting to get for a long time. I am fairly sure that it was Fig that I liked so much when I tried a sample at the Edinburgh Yarn Fest this year. So that is definitely an essential on my list.

2. This month I also got my hands on a Madelinetosh Unicorn Tail in the Jade colourway and I loved it. These miniskeins are just big enough to yield 4 hexipuffs for the Beekeeper's Quilt, which is perfect for me. I would love a few more of these to get on with my quilt and enjoy the soft smooshiness that is Madelinetosh.

3. Oops, that was yarn, wasn't it? Well, I can't resist it. And there is another yarn I would like to have some more of: Ysolda's Blend No. 1 is beautifully soft and was a revelation when I discovered it in Edinburgh. I didn't expect it to be this good at all, but now I want more of it to make a shawl. I still have a hank of it in my stash and am waiting for the right project (or more yarn) to come along.

4. There is a knitting stitch library that I have been searching for for a long time. I haven't been able to find a copy of it, sometimes only missing it by a day before it sold out. This elusive book is a Japanese stitch library by Hitomi Shida. It's very popular and seems quite rare and I can see why. The stitch patterns are amazingly intricate and so different from most things you will see in other books. I'm not giving up hope, though. One day it shall be mine!

Tell me what's on your wishlist this year! Is there anything you have had difficulty getting your hands on, too?

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Just a Little Knitting Pick-Me-Up

Bugs are making the rounds and nearly everyone around me has been ill lately. Unsurprisingly, the flu got me last weekend, just as I was about to get a flu jab, of course. My timing is impeccable. 

To cheer myself up, I browsed A Yarn Story in search of my favourite Soak scent, Celebrate. I put a big bottle in my shopping basket, but of course that wasn't all. Just a few days later a package with all my goodies arrived, individually wrapped, safe and sound.

So apart from wool wash, what did I get? Well! I just had to get my hands on a copy of Ysolda Teague's Little Red in the City, which Kate Atherley of fame recommended when I took her class. The book contains patterns and a lot of help to get you on your way to the perfectly fitted garment. Each garment is shown in standard and plus sizes so you get an idea of what it will look like on you. I love that!

I also enjoyed the mix of regular font, longhand font and sketches. It's not only a useful book, but a pretty one, too. Many of the photos were obviously taken in Edinburgh, which just happens to be my favourite city, so that's another big plus. It will take me a while to get through this book to really appreciate it, but so far I am very happy with it. 

As a treat, I also ordered one of Madelinetosh's Unicorn Tails in jade. I've never used Madelinetosh before, so being able to get such a small amount of yarn was great for a trial run. I cast on some hexipuffs today and have already made three. There should be enough yarn left to knit a fourth so I would definitely buy a Unicorn Tail again to make progress with my Beekeeper's Quilt (going in 5 years now!).

The yarn is beautiful to knit with and very soft. It's a single ply South African superwash merino yarn in an absolutely stunning shade of green. If you were wondering, you get 47 m (52 yards) in one small hank of this Tosh Merino Light yarn.

This haul definitely cheered me up and I don't regret this unplanned splurge at all. Of course I am well again by now and can enjoy my goodies. Do you like to treat yourself to anything when you're poorly? What was your last purchase?

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Starting Over: It's Not Always a Bad Thing

We all hate ripping back a knitting project after having spent some time on it already. When you have a deadline it is even worse because you know you may be cutting it close. But it isn't always a bad thing.

Since my last post, I have taken the plunge and undone all of the scarf I started for my mother. Those had been many hours of work, but I hated how long the pattern took to knit and I didn't enjoy it one bit. Despite being quite simple to knit, the fact that I had to use 2 mm needles just made it unbearable.

So I went ahead and ripped back totally and started over. I decided to use a lace stitch pattern instead that would knit up quickly on slightly larger needles. I went through my reliable knitting library that I only have in German, but the original is English: "300 Strickmuster leicht erklärt & schnell gestickt", by Lesley Stanfield. 

What I like about the book is that the stitch patterns are charted, which I prefer. There are no written instructions at all. After a bit of maths I cast on and off I went! I have made so much progress in so little time already that this scarf will definitely get done before Christmas. I think I have now knitted nearly half of the scarf in only a few days.

So things are coming along nicely. How is your Christmas knitting doing?

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Christmas May Come Too Soon

Normally, I'd say Christmas cannot come soon enough. I enjoy that time of year and am usually done with Christmas shopping by October. This year is different.

This year I have barely started buying gifts and I am only knitting one Christmas present - and it is one my mother asked for last year already.

Because I was working on my first jumper at the time, I was excited to finish it soon and knew there would be no time to knit anything else. Well, the jumper still isn't done, but this time I need to finish the present first.

My mother was very specific about what she wanted: a black and white striped loop scarf. Finding the right yarn wasn't easy and, as it turns out, the yarn we agreed on last year is no longer available. So thanks to follower power, a quick tweet led me to Zauberball 4-ply instead. It looks like what I think my mother is looking for (fingers crossed).

What I didn't expect was that I would need to use 2 mm needles with this yarn, though. Progress is incredibly slow and I am not entirely sure I will actally get this done in time for Christmas. I may choose a different stitch pattern to speed up the process. I'm not knitting on anything else, no matter how tempted I am to cast on something new. I will finish it! 

I am improvising the scarf and it is going very well. I cast on about 120 stitches or so, am knitting in the round to create a loop made out of a knitted tube, and am using cabled stitches to create vertical stripes for a bit of texture. They look really good and I am enjoying this simple pattern. I am not even halfway through the first ball of yarn - and I have a second one yet to use up.

Are you knitting for Christmas already? Is it going smoothly or are you having difficulties as well?

Thursday, 13 October 2016

YARN: The Documentary

YARN film documentary

Last week YARN came to Bath and I was a very lucky knitter and won two tickets in the A Yarn Story giveaway. So I grabbed my knitting and my non-yarny French colleague and off we went to the Little Theatre.

This was a special interactive screening and  the theatre enabled us to knit while watching the film. The lights were dimmed, but just enough to see what you were doing. Good thing, too, as I managed to drop a few stitches along the way!

Many local yarn lovers had made their way to Bath to watch the documentary. The film follows 4 artists who each have very distinctly different approaches to their art, but what connects them are the techniques they use to work with yarn and create something meaningful.

YARN weaves together wool graffiti artists, circus performers, and structural designers into a visually-striking look at the women who are making a creative stance while building one of modern art's hottest trends. (Official website)

There's the Icelandic artist Tinna Thorudottir whose graffiti is both political and a need to bring her love of life back into oppressed paces. There's Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam who realised her work was missing something crucial: a relationship with humans. Then there is the Polish artist Olek who simply left for New York because Poland wasn't ready for her yet. And then there is Tilde Bjorfors whose circus performers have created a stunning visualisation of the life and all its struggles in their show Knitting Peace.

All are connected by the writer Barbara Kingsolver's poetic narrative that lead from one to the other and back again, revealing the breadth of fibre arts today.

If you like art, fibre crafts and documentaries, I recommend YARN wholeheartedly. Make sure you get to one of the select screenings or go to the official website and request a screening.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Hygge: 10 Ways to Get Cosy

While I love the colours that autumn brings and I appreciate that the heat of summer is finally on its way out, this is also a season that I dread a little. Why? To quote a popular TV show: Winter is coming.

I neither cope well with heat nor with cold and winter is the worst possible season for me. But the colder seasons also have their advantages that help me get through them. In one word: hygge.
Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special. (Source)
There is something to look forward to and to distract us from how miserable winter can be! 

Do you feel the same? If you do and could do with a few tips for how to get through the cold days, here are some things you can do to bring a bit of hygge into your life.

1. Go on a mission to find your new favourite tea

I love tisanes and the occasional black tea. My favourites are green teas with all manner of flavouring or herbal teas. As soon as the temperatures start to go down, I like to check out tea shops and specialist websites to find what may become my new favourite tea. The search is exciting, you may even come across something you may not have known even existed (olive leaf tea, anyone?) and at the end of your search you will have a big mug of hot tea to indulge in - and hopefully many along the way.

2. Get experimental in the kitchen

Where there's drink, there is food. So grab your cup of tea and head to the kitchen to try a new recipe! Whether you love to bake or cook, have a look through the cook books that are gathering dust on their shelves or search Pinterest for inspiration. Personally, I find that this is the time of year I like to get back into making stews (sadly, I am not a good baker so I leave the oven to Mark). This year I have discovered warm salads in a bid to have a healthier diet. You can be sure I will be trying out new recipes, improvising my own warm salads, and relishing making our favourite stews. What would you like to try?

3. Build a fort

Metaphorically speaking or, if you like, quite literally! Get cosy under a chunky throw or one of your knitted blankets and just enjoy the warmth. If you have a fireplace, I envy you. Light that fire and enjoy it with a good book, your partner or with a cup of hot chocolate (don't feel guilty about adding a good dollop of whipped cream for good measure, too).

4. Dress for the occasion

And by that I mean get into your onesie and those knitted socks. Recently, I have been coming home from work and getting straight into my Christmas onesie. It's perfect! This is also a good opportunity to get your winter wardrobe ready and dig out those chunky knits that we will need soon enough.

5. Light some candles

Nothing creates instant cosiness quite like candles in the evening. Whether you like them scented or plain, they cast such a wonderful light that we can't help put slow down, relax and enjoy. I like having holders for my tea lights - not only do they add colours and patterns to the room, but they also seem safer.

6. Enjoy the bubbles

With or without candles, a long hot bath is always welcome after a chilly day. This is the time to finally use that special bath bomb and bubble bar you've been waiting to use or to try a new luxurious bath oil. The warm water and the scent will relax your muscles and get you ready for good night's sleep. I'm looking forward to using the bath bombs I bought on holiday in Torquay the day Mark proposed to me. That makes them extra special.

7. Do what knitters do

Of course we'll be knitting, no question about it! But this time of year is perfect for large projects with heavier yarns. How about using that stashed DK or chunky yarn you've been neglecting for a while? Wouldn't they make the perfect wrap or blanket for winter? Maybe you have enough yarn for a jumper, too. This is your chance to cast on a project with squishy, woolly yarn that will get you through the winter. And remember: The bigger the project, the warmer your lap will be as you knit. Bonus!

8. Fill your home with seasonal decorations

I always wish I had more space to do this. There are so many thing you can do to make your home look lovely with seasonal decorations. Right now the shops are filled with pumpkins in all shapes and sizes, all manner of candles and decorative cushions, rustic decor and more. I really like the little munchkin pumpkins and found a great way to use them two years ago. I simple hollow them out enough to slot a tea light in the middle and, voila! There's the perfect autumnal candle holder.  Give it a try. It's far easier than hollowing out a whole pumpkin and they last quite some time, too.

9. Become a player

Invite friends over for a day of board games and time will fly by while you're having fun. Classic games such as Monopoly, Ludo or Trivial Pursuit are always engaging, but there is a whole host of fun games out there and I am sure you and your friends own some of them. So why not set a date and enjoy a bit of friendly competition?

10. Escape for the Weekend

If all else fails and you can't stand the dreary days and long nights anymore, a trip to somewhere new may be just the thing you need. If you don't want to stray too far and a warm destination isn't on the cards, sometimes a weekend in a part of the country you've always wanted to explore is a great idea. Decide on what you want from your stay: Do you prefer an active, outdoorsy break or would you like to simply relax somewhere cosy and perhaps have a spa break? There's lots to choose from and once you have narrowed down your choices, go ahead and book that trip. It will be the perfect break from everyday life and you will return with more energy and in higher spirits, ready to kick winter in the butt.

Let's do it! Let's make this autumn and winter the best we have had in a long while. You'll find me in the kitchen in my onesie, so grab a tea and meet me there.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

The Yarn Shows That I Love

For a few weeks now, I have been wanting to write about what type of yarn shows I enjoy and why. Oddly, I found it difficult to put into words until I came across a tweet that clarified for me why some excite me while others simply don't.

You may have been to Yarndale or Shetland Wool Week recently so I hope you can tell me why you enjoy them, too. Yarndale is on my list of shows to visit one day and it is definitely one of the good ones that I don't want to miss out on.

The first show

Now, I was quite spoiled by my first ever wool show, which was the last ever Fibre Fest. It wasn't that far from me and I loved the day out and discovered so many wonderful sellers I hadn't even heard of before. Going to such a show opens your eyes to what is available out there and most of the wares won't be in your standard wool shops. So this was quite an exciting experience and I think back fondly of making my own batt with Wrigglefingers, buying my first two spindles, eating seabuckthorn ice cream (I had no idea what that even was at that point - other than delicious), and having a very random, though lovely chat with a fellow knitter as I rested my feet.

The Knitting and Stitching Show, by comparison, is a completely different animal. It has a far more commercial air about it, there are fewer independent vendors and the show is not about fibre and its origins, primarily - even if you focus solely on the knitting side of things.

A close-knit family

What I like about Wonderwool, Fibre Fest and Edinburgh Yarn Festival is that the atmosphere is much friendlier and personal. The majority of visitors who go to these particular shows seem to know the vendors and other visitors. There is a closer relationship and the emphasis lies not on the buying (although of course it is important), but the experience. We want to get to know the people who supply us with yarns, dyes, accessories and tools. We want to hear how the product has been made, where the materials are from. The vendors are easy to speak to and usually small business owners, often one-person businesses. You can feel you matter to them and your purchase makes a difference.

The Knitting and Stitching Show is anonymous. It is big, with ample opportunity to spend money, but it's not as much fun or as exciting or varied. Will you find something unique? Probably not. Will you easily find the same products in shops? Absolutely. And you would never see sheep or alpacas there, I'd wager! 

What do you look for in yarn shows? Which is your favourite and are there some you hope to get to one day?

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Cornish Tin II: I Finally Got It

Hurray! This week I got my hands on 4 hanks of Blacker Yarn's limited edition Cornish Tin II. I nearly forgot the day it launched and only my Twitter feed reminded me. 

Some colourways were already sold out when I checked with Blacker so I panicked and spent the tail end of my lunchbreak trying to make a purchase on the tiny screen of my phone. In the end I bought my hanks of 4-ply from Brityarn because Isla stocked exactly the two colours I had my eye on. 

If you really, really want to get your hands on some 4-ply or DK, you do need to hurry because there isn't much left, it seems. Check out all yarn stores you know of just in case. I missed out on the first Cornish Tin last year and am still sad about it.

The yarn feels lovely and soft and has a subtle sheen. It will work very well for the shawl I have in mind. I can't wait to knit one in two colours! This woollen-spun yarn is a blend of wool, alpaca and mohair - so it's something quite special to have in your stash. Nice and soft and not scratchy at all so far. You get about 350 m in a hank, so that's quite a good amount.

Have you managed to buy any of this yarn? Which colours did you choose and what are you planning to make?

Monday, 19 September 2016

A Woolly Engagement

Engagement photo shoot with a ball of wool

Yesterday, Mark and I had an engagement photo shoot,  3 months after our actual engagement and 12 months before the wedding.

Everything about the photos - from finding a photographer to worrying about how we will look in the photos - has been stressful because they are very important to me. However, we have a good photographer and the quality of his work is excellent. Will we look good in the pics? Goodness knows, but we can be sure that he will have done his best to make us look our best!

This photo wasn't actually part of the shoot because I was distracted at the time and forgot to mention this was one I definitely wanted. So I asked my colleague if she would take a quick snap during lunch and she did a good job, as you can see.

(For those obsessed with yarn - who isn't? - this is a ball of Blacker Yarn's Tamar in DK.)

There may be further yarny engagement photos to come, so keep your eyes peeled!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

Wedding Shawl: Update 5

RosaFlora wedding shawl

I am in love with this shawl. RosaFlora took me only one month to knit, a third of the time I had anticipated. This is the first time, if I remember correctly, that I have knitted a shawl without any remaining mistakes. I couldn't resist adding more beads than the pattern called for, so the bind off is decorated with golden glass beads throughout. 

This is a delicate shawl made from pure silk and it is lovely. It is very large, too, even though I didn't block it aggressively and there was still a lot of give in it when I matched the dimensions suggested in the pattern. This is probably the largest shawl I have ever made.

silk beaded wedding shawl

The knitting didn't go as smoothly as hoped at the start, but I managed to fix it all. As I went on, the lace became easier to read and I made fewer mistakes. And, can I just say, stitch markers were essential! 

Then, just as I blocked the shawl, I realised I forgot one single bead in the bind off! Once the piece was dry, I undid part of the bind off to fix it and had to block that part again, but it was easier than I feared it would be. I am really looking forward to wearing this shawl on my wedding day! Only one whole year to wait now...

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Feeling the Need For Autumn Knits

Today is a grey rainy day and I am feeling very autumnal. During our weekly shop I had all these ideas of hearty stews and warming bakes that I only get once the leaves start to turn golden. No sign yet of changing leaves, but the temperature has fallen and it is dark and damp. We may yet get a few hot and sunny days, but today it feels like autumn.

Now that my wedding shawl is finished (watch out for the blog post coming up soon), I am thinking about what to knit next. My thoughts have turned to the wonderful 4 hanks of Blacker Yarn's Tamar in DK, but it has been impossible to find a nice shawl pattern for which I can use them all. All shawls that take my fancy are knitted in 4-ply and would be a little too bulky in DK, at times I don't have the right amount of yarn either. I will have to keep looking or come up with my own design, which I was hoping not to do.

Photo by David Fraser
During my search I once again stumbled upon a design that caught my eye as soon as it was published: Karie Westermann's Byatt. I love the two-tone section and am definitely going to knit this shawl at some point. I was hoping to use Tamar for it, but that won't quite work, I think. I am sure I have enough other yarn in my stash, though. 

Due to my pattern search not yielding quite what I was looking for, I returned to an older WIP from last year. You may remember my Pixelated Pullover that was nearly finished. In the end I only had one sleeve left to knit, but realised that there were quite a few things I wish I had done differently. The fit was off in places and I had a very, very huge sleeve. So I put it all aside and didn't feel like continuing. 

I still don't really feel like it because my mind is all about shawls right now, but this is probably the best time to get back into it. It's getting cooler and winter will be here sooner than I'd like, so having the jumper ready (or at least nearing completion) would be great. And so I got it out of its bag, delighted in the fact that the moths left it alone all this time, and started ripping back. Further and further. Row after row. 

Pixelated Pullower

I ripped back until I reached a suitable section from where I should be able to continue easily. That said, I haven't checked if I can find my place in the pattern yet. The jumper odyssey continues!

Monday, 29 August 2016

Knitting Inspiration: Autumn Is Coming

I know, I know, it's been pretty hot here lately and I am sure not many of you are thinking about autumn yet. Nevertheless, this is the best time to get ready for some autumn knitting so I have scoured Ravelry once again to bring you the four best seasonal knits to get you in the mood. Of course orange had to feature heavily. I just love how it makes the knits stand out and the colour does make me look forward to that season of falling leaves again.

So what should you be knitting right now?

1. Why, an acorn, of course! And this one's for free as well, so it can't possibly get any better. Knit it as a decoration or to cuddle with. It will make a great little gift, too, if you need something extra for a knitworthy friend.

2. Ysolda's patterns are well known and you have probably come across them before. Ishbel is a very popular shawl so if you haven't made it yet, this is your chance. It is perfect for lace lovers and is available in two sizes for one or two skeins of 4-ply, repectively. 

3. I have been following Amanda's blog, Owl Print Panda, for a while now and her knits and spinning are always fantastic. It comes as no surprise then that Baile, a beautiful cardigan with lace panels at the front, is so tempting. It will definitely keep you warm when the first chill of the season sets in.

4. Of course you can't have a selection of knits without a pair of socks. We will need plenty of them as it gets colder so why not get knitting now? These Jelly Rolls are fun to look at and knit. I want to wear them right now - never mind it's around 20 degrees C here at the moment. These socks are knitted in two colours, feature a double rolled cuff and are perfect for using up leftover yarn, too. Sold?

What autumn knits are you working on right now (or planning to start)? I will be making a shawl from Blacker's Tamar yarn that I got at the Edinburgh Yarn Fest earlier this year. I have four colours to play with and am really looking forward to it. Happy stash diving!

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Wedding Shawl: Update 4 - The Beads Are Back

At last! The beads arrived quickly thanks to great customer service at Debbie Abrahams. I had to exchange my original purchase of size 8 beads for size 6 because I forgot what my go-to size was. Here they are now and I have been knitting away eagerly to make up for lost time.

That said, this shawl is a much faster knit than expected. Today I noticed I have only one chart left to knit. Amazing! This gives me lots of time to knit the pattern again, perhaps in another colour. I may end up with a choice of shawls on the big day!

How is your knitting going at the moment? Are you about to finish a project as well?

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Passing the Time

So what do you do while waiting for beads for your current WIP? Read a bit of Yann Martel's latest novel and dig out very old WIPs, of course.

It's embarrassing to say how long I have been working on the Beekeeper's Quilt, really. I have made a large number of hexipuffs, but not enough for the full quilt, mainly because I have run out of all my leftover sock yarn. Luckily, I found the last bits of yarn from Handdyed by Kate that make up incredibly soft hexipuffs thanks to the cashmere in them.

I have also knitted parts of a small bag Mark's mum is making for me. The pattern is a bit confusing and we both had problems with it, but completely different ones. So I tried to figure out what was going on and I hope any issues can be resolved because I couldn't actually find anything wrong with the section Mark's mum found dificult. 

Another WIP I picked up in the meantime is a shorter version of Viajante made from some of my earliest handspun yarn. It was a big skein of unknown yardage, so I just knitted on until I ran out of yarn. It is long enough to cover the shoulders so it could be great in winter instead of a scarf. As this shawl still needs blocking, I can't show you any photos yet.

Keep your fingers crossed for the arrival of my beads so I can continue with the wedding shawl. I miss knitting it.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

The Wedding Shawl: Update 3

I have hit a snag.

I have made a lot of progress since my last update, mainly thanks to finally adding stitch markers and a lifeline to this WIP. As someone who makes stitch markers, I should really have done this much earlier, right? I am very good at not taking my own advice, as you can see.

Anyway, the markers now divide all the repeats so I'll notice straight away when I make a mistake and the stitch count is off. The lifeline prevents me needing to undo far more than necessary if I do have to rip back sometimes. All in all progress is much quicker now and knitting is far more fun, too.

And yet I have been forced to take a break. Why? Because silly me bought the wrong size beads.

I was just about to start adding the first bead when I realised that I couldn't get my crochet hook through them. Hm. That never happened before. I bought the beads from the same place as usual and I had been very confident about the size. After all, there are only two to choose from. Unfortunately, I forgot I tend to buy bigger ones than those meant for lace and 4-ply yarn so now I need to exchange them for the correct size

Until then I will have to be patient. In the meantime I have finished a Christmas knit that I started over a year ago, made from some of my very first handspun. That only took one evening, so now I think I will pass my time with reading that book I started not too long ago and put the needles to one side even though I can't wait to get on with the shawl. I am very much enjoying knitting it!

Saturday, 6 August 2016

Review: Wollmeise Wool Wash

When I went to the Edinburgh Yarn Festival I bought a hank of Wollmeise lace and didn't notice that I got a small sample of wool wash, too. Can you tell how excited I was about the day that I didn't even see this? It was a nice surprise when I found the small bottle in the bag nearly a week later! 

It didn't take long for me to give it a go, bit for some reason I simply assumed it was a wool wash like Soak that doesn't need rinsing. Oops. It says right there on the bottle that you need to wash and rinse your knitting. Luckily, my mistake doesn't seem to have caused any problems, though.

My sample was the scented variety (there is also a scentless one) which is quite strong, but nice if you like florals. To me it had a typical detergent smell, if you know what I mean. Not unpleasant, but it reminded me if laundry soap. There was no doubt this is for washing fabrics. I used the contents of the small sample bottle to wash a cowl, a hat and some gloves that I had been wearing quite a lot in Edinburgh. For some reason I only ever go there when it's cold!

I checked the Wollmeise website for more info later on, which states that the ingredients are eco-friendly and of high quality. It is gentle and can be used for wool as well as other delicate fabrics. You can use it to wash your woolly things by hand or in the washing machine as long as you do not exceed 40 degrees Celsius. Wollmeise recommends 15 ml for every 10 L, though I have to say I measured by eye.

My freshly washed knitting was nice and fluffy afterwards so I would recommend it, especially if you use Wollmeise yarn a lot as the wool wash was made specifically for this yarn. It could not top my favourite Soak, however, which comes in a variety of scents and requires no rinsing. Perfect for lazy me.

Have you tried the Wollmeise wool wash yet? Do you like it?

Friday, 29 July 2016

The Wedding Shawl: Update 2

Stitch by stitch, row by row, the shawl is growing. The wedding is still more than a year away so I don't mind the many times I have already had to rip back and fix mistakes. I'm glad I am not in a rush.

I have now finished the fourth chart and there are four more to go. The rows will get longer and there will be more of them per chart, too, but now the most interesting part of the pattern begins. The leafy sections start here and I haven't knitted a pattern quite like this before, so I am looking forward to it.

Not much else has happened in the way of knitting, as you can imagine. I am focusing entirely on this wedding shawl and all other WIPs have got to wait. How many things are you currently working on?

Sunday, 24 July 2016

The Wedding Shawl Update: Slow and Steady

It's cast on and looking good.

The RosaFlora knitting pattern consists of 8 charts and I am right in the middle of the fourth at this time. I took the photo after the third chart so I have added a little bit more to it since then. Just after I took the photo I noticed that the last few repeats on the left were off! Oh dear. Luckily it was easily fixed and now looks just like it should.

Actually, I have had to rip back and fix mistakes more than usual. I really need to pay close attention to what I am doing. You can imagine how glad I am I started knitting this shawl early! Last night alone I only managed four rows, one of which I ripped back three times...

But it will be worth it because the shawl is stunning. I am looking forward to knitting the rest of it and seeing what it will look like once finished. I will keep you updated with photos - and keep your fingers crossed for no more mistakes!

Saturday, 16 July 2016

Dye For Yarn: Blushing Maiden

The yarn for my wedding shawl is here! I bought it from Dye For Yarn, two Germany independent dyers I have ordered from once before.

Their 100% silk yarns look so beautiful on their photos that it is hard to resist them. The pattern I am using for my wedding shawl uses this particular yarn (100% Tussah silk), so I made sure to get it, too.

Choosing a colour was easy: Blushing Maiden is described as a hank of golden cream with a little bit of rose. It looked very slick and shiny on the product photos, which was a little misleading as the yarn isn't that shiny. I had the same experience with the previous two silk yarns I bought there. This colourway isn't really a golden cream either, but it is the same shade I would have had to use if I had chosen undyed silk yarn somewhere else. So all in all it is okay and will make a very nice shawl. The pattern uses just one skein, so I hope the shawl will be big enough.

Let's cast on!