Handmade Fair

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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Shetland Trip

I was once again invited to tutor a knitting workshop in Shetland with Arena Travel back in May. Ive been home a few weeks now, but keep thinking about what a fabulous time we had!

I adore Shetland and couldn't wait to get there this year, especially after the disappointment last year when the trip was abandoned due to bad weather. I went with a group of 14 knitters and our tour guide Caroline and we had good weather pretty much the whole time this year and only had a few drops of rain towards the end of our stay, the rest of the time it was dry, warm and bright.

We had a packed schedule and first on the agenda was a morning knitting workshop where I revealed the project for the week which was a fair isle and lace bag. The aim of the first workshop was to introduce participants to the 2 handed fair isle method.

In the afternoon we visited the Jamieson & Smith HQ in Lerwick where we were given a presentation by Director Oliver Henry. Oliver told us about how the fleeces are graded and how the yarn is produced. We were shown the lovely new yarn called 'Shetland Heritage' which we all fell in love with. Its really soft and comes in 11 traditional Shetland shades.

We spent rather a lot of time in the Jamieson & Smith shop where they had all their amazing yarns and patterns on display and for sale. Everyone had a lovely time looking at all the shades and we all did a little retail therapy!

We spent our second day at the Shetland Museum Archives where we were shown round the knitting and spinning areas with a guide. We were lucky enough to be given a spinning and knitting demo and a few of the group had a go at using the traditional knitting needles and knitting belt.

We spent some time in the afternoon at the Shetland Textile museum where we met the fastest knitter in the world Hazel Tindall and did a little more retail therapy. I bought this lovely fair isle chicken made by Polecraft

We had a full day workshop on Sunday - some of the group went on a boat trip for part of the day and they saw lots of wildlife and birds, including puffins and seals, although we could walk down and see the seals on the beach near the hotel any time we wanted. The scenery on Shetland is just beautiful and I'm not sure I've ever been to anywhere that the views have me quite so enthralled, watching the sun and shadows of the clouds on the sea and the land is mesmerising - and it doesn't really get very dark in the summer time so even at night there is a light on the horizon.

On our final day we had a lace workshop and we also made some dorset buttons which are always good fun to do. The image below shows the lace trim for the bag being blocked. I always soak my knitted pieces for a while before I put them together - soaking makes a massive difference to wool in particular and is in my view imperative to a good finish.

We spent our final afternoon visiting some local studios and touring the island a little. We had a lovely visit to Shetland Handspun where Elizabeth talked us through her spinning process and showed us her beautiful hand knits.

We also visited Neilanell's studio shop. I bought 2 pieces from her collection last time I visited Shetland and had promised myself not to buy anything new, but in the end I couldn't resist - Neilanell's designs are just so gorgeous, Im not sure that any of us left the store without a purchase!

As with all the Arena tours its always sad when it's time to go home, but we had an amazing trip and made some great friends. We also ate some wonderful food in the bistro at the hotel and I came home a good few pounds heavier, but my wallet was definitely lighter so at least there was balance!

If you fancy coming on an Arena tour, the next one I will be tutoring will be to Norway in March next year. You can find more information here

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Imogen Blanket Kit

I often look to traditional designs when collecting ideas for new projects and I love trying to work out designs from old images, part written patterns and snippets of existing vintage crochet. In 2012 I decided to base my crochet club project on the Victorian era and focused particularly on lace designs. The pattern for the 2012 project is no longer available, but I get asked for it pretty much on a daily basis so it seemed logical to design a new project, which echoes the design themes used in the original project.

The Imogen Blanket uses brand new motifs and there are no repeats of pieces made as part of the 2012 project, however, the yarn palette, taken from the Rowan Cotton Glace range, is similar to that used previously. I really love the vintage feel of this blanket and wanted to echo the subdued rich yarn shades in my choice of Bronze beads from the Debbie Abrahams range, which are used on some of the motifs and as an accent on the lace border. There are just 2 motifs to master – the Princess Rose and the Victorian Daisy motifs and techniques used are relatively easy. If you haven’t crocheted with beads before you can find a demonstrative video (showing my hands threading the beads and incorporating them within the crochet fabric) on my web site along with more information about the kit.

The Imogen blanket kit uses 7 shades of Rowan Cotton Glace and the kit includes 18 x 50g balls along with the beads, ribbon and of course the pattern. The kit costs £99 (based on the recommended retail price of 18 balls of yarn at £5.50 each, so the beads, ribbon and pattern are included for free).  The pattern is not available separately at this time.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Norway 2014

I'm just back from a wonderful trip to Norway, tutoring the Northern Lights knitting cruise and I have to say that after the amazing trip its pretty tough being back at home - it appears that no one is prepared to cook breakfast lunch and dinner, no one to make my bed and hang up my towels and no one seems to want to do the washing up either! Even looking out the window to my garden I find that the view is a little disappointing in relation to what Ive got used to over the last 8 days and so I find myself in a bit of a post 'holiday' grump!

Day one of the trip, myself, 18 knitters, 3 artists, 2 added husbands, art tutor (lovely Mike Chaplin) and our tour manager Caroline set off to Bergen. We arrived at lunch time and no sooner had we arrived than some of the group managed to find one of the many yarn shops just behind the hotel. The weather was wet, but the intrepid group of yarn hunters were not deterred, many of them seeking out yarn and knit shops along the Bryggen and in back streets around the city to find an array of lovely yarns and garments. Deneen & Rosemary both bought an Oleana cardigan - something Ive been coveting for quite a while, but as yet have not saved enough pennies for. If you want to take a look at the Oleana web site then click on this link

We had a lovely meal at our hotel and an early night after our day of travelling. Day 2 was also spent in Bergen, where we were treated to a guided tour of the city, visiting all the sites around town and getting an insiders view of how things work not only in the town, but in Norway itself.

There are lots of yarn companies in Norway with many famous brands, but actually lots of the yarns are made in China or Sweden, so it was really great to find a store selling true Norwegian yarn. We managed to find a small shop specialising in local yarns and many of us felt that buying lots of hanks of it was too good an opportunity to miss! You can see more of the yarn range here and there is an image of the yarn shades I bought below:

Later on in the day we boarded our ship called NordNorge, which is one of the 11 ships that make up the Hurtigruten fleet - you can find out more about our ship's route by looking at the Hurtigruten web site here. It was really exciting setting sail later on in the evening and we all spent a bit of time getting our sea legs and exploring the ship which was to be our home for the next 6 days. We found a good knitting spot at the top of the ship and made it our daily base for our knit classes. The project I prepared was a knitted bag based on traditional Norwegian designs and included the fair isle and intarsia and the group also got to make Dorset buttons and do some beading.

We were lucky enough to have some fabulous weather - which was a huge relief as the week before had been stormy and wet. We were treated to some amazing scenery along the way and kept having to put our knitting down to gasp at the view.

We crossed into the Arctic Circle on day 5 and many of the group went on a trip to the North Cape - they rewarded themselves with apple cake, cream and hot chocolate on their return. The food on the cruise was plentiful (to say the least) and of a very high standard - huge buffet breakfasts with hot food, cheeses, smoked salmon and gorgeous fresh bread, followed by huge buffet lunches with an equally wonderful array of tempting foodie delights and a served evening meal which was beautifully cooked and presented.

Pretty much every port we called into had a knitting shop and the knitters did their best to fill their suitcases with yarn and patterns. One of the group (Pat) was incredibly prolific and not only completed the knitted bag project, but also worked on a hat and headband. There is knitwear and knitters everywhere in Norway and the choice in the yarn stores was huge. Most larger towns have a store called 'Husfliden' which sells home things like table mats and smart ceramics alongside national costumes (of which the Norwegians are extremely proud) and yarn. There is a link to the Tromso store web site here if you want to get an idea of what the stores sell.

Dale of Norway sell knitting patterns, yarn and made up garments. The garments are beautiful and the designs are just fabulous. Norway has a huge 'library' of traditional patterns, including the Marius design shown below and they also recently designed a sweater for the Sochi winter Olympics.

Arne and Carlos (those famous Norwegain designers) have also designed their own version of a Norwegian Sweater which features space invaders - not traditional at all, but great fun! 

All too soon our time on our cruise was over and we had made it all the way up the Norwegian Coast to Kirkeness and the Russian border - where we took pictures and played with this beautiful polar husky puppy. Our final day was spent on a bus tour followed by lunch at the Snow Hotel where some of us also got to go on a dog sled ride across the frozen fyord. It was totally amazing and one of the most incredibly and exhilarating experiences of my life so far. The dogs were incredible and so so fast - tearing off over the frozen ice at a terrifying speed.

I was so lucky to have the nicest group of knitters ever - including Deneen, Rosemary and Kathrin from Switzerland, Melanie from Germany and Lucy and Nancy from the US - the UK participants were a great bunch too and I don't think I have laughed so much in a very long time - thanks in particular to Mandy, Trudy, Wendy, Trixie and Fifi who managed to make everyone laugh until their sides hurt most of the time. Thank you to all of you for making it such a memorable trip and to Caroline too for looking after us so nicely.

I have my fingers crossed that the lovely guys at Arena will ask me to return to Norway again in 2015, so do keep an eye on their web site for more info. There are more trips for knitters including Shetland, Iceland and Ireland trips and I will be off to Shetland at the end of May with another group of lovely knitters. 

Monday, 20 January 2014

Didn't we have a lovely time...

We had the most wonderful day at The Waltham Abbey Wool Show yesterday. It was the first ever show organised by the lovely team at The Crochet Chain shop located in the town and between them they managed to pull off a really great show!

There were lots of fabulous stalls holders and inspirational knitters, crocheters and stitchers, including the lovely Jeanette Sloan with her gorgeous alpaca yarns. The show was really busy and there was a great buzzy atmosphere all day.

We were really chuffed to have been invited along and we are already looking forward to next years show. You can read a really good review of the show by fab hat crocheter Claire Mackaness here