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?