Adulthood

There are times when being an adult can be a real drag. Like when you have to get up for work at 6am everyday, or when those bills come through the letterbox, or you’re cleaning up an ex-mouse from outside the bedroom door that the cat thought you’d appreciate while the aforementioned animal excitedly tries to trip you down the stairs and kill you. 

But to balance those things are the moments, like this afternoon, when you realise that it’s total legit to enjoy a cocktail in the garden at 4pm on a Friday afternoon with some completely inappropriate appetite-for-dinner-destroying carb-y snacks, just because it’s Friday and the sun is shining and you fancy it. 

Cheers everyone! Happy Friday! 

Admitting defeat

Last week I made a conscious decision to try and get all my wips (work in progress) finished before casting on something new. “Startitis” is legendary in the knitting world and has a tendency to strike in times such as the new year when you’re done with all the gift knitting, might have received yarn during the festivities, and everything else just feels so last year.

I was determined not to fall into that trap and suddenly find myself with ten things on the needles rather than five, so I dutifully totted up the floundering projects and set to work.

Top of the list was “the tent” I have been knitting this project since September. It was supposed to be finished for our holiday in January. It wasn’t. The waves and waves of 4ply linen in dark grey seemed to defeat me every time I picked it up. It never seemed to grow and so I stopped and strangely it didn’t grow in the slightest whilst sitting in the knitting basket. With some cheerleading in the background from my mum I made it my priority, knit on and on, round and round, kept track of decreases, learned how to box pleat and suddenly it was done!

I excitedly blocked it, dried it and then pulled it on. I dashed to the mirror and it looked…meh. I was completely and utterly underwhelmed. The pleats looked like they were too far down my shoulders, the drape wasn’t actually very drapey and quite frankly it didn’t suit me.

It’s remarkable just how many projects I have like this in my chest of knitwear. I think all knitters have them; things that didn’t quite turn out as expected or hoped for. In the past I have simply left them in the box, reluctantly wearing them every so often to try and justify all the time and effort I put into them. Today I’ve decided that needs to change. I am going to admit defeat, accept that this was the wrong project for me, rip it out, re-wind the yarn and use it for something else. I feel liberated by this decision. It’s only knitting, I can rip it out and start again!

Excuse me while I dream of unravelling all those floundering projects and lose myself on Ravelry searching for new exciting things.

Dark corners and damp wool

It’s the first of July. and the heat has finally arrived. I was beginning to think that a proper summer was going to allude us, I seem to forget year after year that it’s not really summer until after the last weekend in June. Why? Because that last weekend is home to Woolfest, a place of all things sheepy, yarny and almost without exception, rain!

IMG_3711I think this is my fourth year of visiting Woolfest. What started out as a trip to my parents which happened to coincide with the festival has now become a sacred annual tradition, in the diary without negotiation. The thing I love about Woolfest is that it isn’t simply a knitting event. Instead more of the focus is on where the yarn actually comes from, with almost as much space devoted to sheep, aplaca, goats and rabbits as there is to yarn. They have a “fleece creche” where spinners can park their wears until the end of the show, and it’s held at the Livestock Centre rather than a fancy hall. All of which adds to the rustic and somewhat chilly charm of the place (being a Livestock Centre means the entire rear of the space is open to the elements). It almost always rains and with a profusion of both sheep and knitwear the smell of damp wool pervades. An aroma that I find remarkably comforting.

IMG_3702This year, instead of being armed with the usual three page list of “must haves”, I had only one essential, some mustard yarn from EasyKnits to match what I’d bought the previous year. I’d enjoyed knitting with it so much that I got carried away and ran out of yardage before reaching the sleeves. I dashed to their stall armed with my final length of wool wound around my wrist for comparison. Not an exact match, but as they pointed out I could always alternate skeins or lurk in dark corners.

After visiting them and my other favourite, Ripples Crafts (who’s new yarn base has a hint of yak blended with wool and silk, making it squishy with a beautiful sheen that shows off dye perfectly), we hot-footed it to the main ring to watch a sheep shearing demonstration. I’ve long wanted to see a shearer (or in this case shearess) in action and was awed by the the skill and speed of the work. One person, shearing a sheep in a mere two minutes, talking the crowd through it and moving the hogget around with ease. Not only fascinating, but the perfect pause in our yarn buying extravaganza to see the product in it’s raw state. IMG_3721

Four hours later we staggered back to the car laden with all things woolly, already talking about the trip next year and dreaming of what we will be making with our new stash. 

The Great Paris Yarn Crawl of 2015

Everybody talks about the food in Paris, the wine, the cafe culture, the stunning museums and architecture, the lazy picnics by the Seine and the fashion. I talk about the yarn stores.

IMG_2696I adore the yarn stores of Paris, they are all so different, full of character, yarn and in some cases wine. I have two favourite stores that over the past five years I’ve been visiting every November. One convinently has a cafe within it which serves excellent food, especially brunch, and the other is a five minute walk from one of our favourite bars. Both of these things are factors in my ability to return as they offer a respite for the bored husband during my inevitable yarn fondling and indecision. At the first he can hide in the corner with a coffee and a book while I dash about, at the second he holes up in the bar with a Negroni whilst awaiting my yarn-loaded and newly cash-strapped return.

However our recent trip was a little different. We were visiting the city with the family in tow and this presented an ideal situation, the lure of a fellow knitting-addict, enabler and partner-in-crime who would happily spend hours if not days in the pursuit of yarn stores. Thus the Great Paris Yarn Crawl of 2015 was born. An entire day exploring not only the stores I know and love, but new-to-me boutiques all over the city. Whilst my Mum and I hot-footed (or rather damp-footed, it was quite the rainy day unfortunately) around the city in search of skeins Mr L was able to browse the cities comic stores at his leisure. A win-win situation for us both.

IMG_2693I thought you might be interested in our itinerary for the day. I’m afraid I don’t have many images as I was too busy fondling yarn or dodging raindrops. Below I’ve edited our exploration to include only the stores where we actually purchased yarn and found them to be worth the visit. I’m sure the others would have things of interest to other knitters, but these three were our favourites not only as a result of yarn selection, but also the reception we received whilst there and their general approach to all things knitting and notions.

L’Oisive Thé: This quirky teashop also doubles as a yarn store. The shelves on one side are crammed with tins of unusual teas, and on the other two sides hang skeins of yarn from lots of independent dyers. I find it impossible to walk out without buying at least something (and this time we came away with more than 12 skeins between us, oops!) They are also well known for their food and baked goods, so this is the perfect stop for either lunch or a little something, We had lunch and a lovely glass of rosé and spent almost two hours there chatting about knitting and yarn. I’m super excited that they are opening a bigger store this year and can’t wait to return to see it. vscocam-photo-3

Metro: Corvisart or Place d’Italie, 10 rue de la Butte aux Cailles &
1 rue Jean-Marie Jégo

Les Tricoteurs Volants: A new-to-me store that I found because they have a good Instagram account. They not only have a good range of yarn but also a nice selection of buttons and interesting notions. The owner was sitting happily knitting and chatted to us and helped us make decisions. Here I found a wonderful combed yak yarn I’d never seen before as well as gorgeous matte black darning needles. 

Metro: Gare l’est, 22 rue de la Fidélitévscocam-photo-1

Lil Weasel:  It’s rare that I actually buy yarn here, and yet I have such a soft spot for this store. Their collection tends to be quite “standard” French yarns with only one or two more interesting dyers that are mostly things I can get in England. However they have recently started stocking The Plucky Knitter, a dyer that I’m really fond of, which when they have new stock is very dangerous for me indeed! The other bonus of this shop? They’ve expanded across the passage and how have a dedicated fabric store, and I always end up buying from their extensive collection of beautiful fabric and patterns. 

 Metro: Etienne-Marcel, 1 passage du Grand Cerf

vscocam-photo-2

I hope this guide is useful, and if you have any tips about crafting in Paris let me know in the comments so I can include them in future trips!

Women that knit

The women in my family are knitters. It’s what we do. My earliest memory of my grandmother is her sitting in her chair in her flat knitting premature baby clothes. She always knit for the local hospital as well as for me. I was a premature baby and I’m pretty sure that the hand knitted tiny garments I wore to keep me warm and safe are one of the reasons it all worked out okay. Knitting has a power like that, or at least my grandmothers knitting certainly did.

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Her needles always clicked as they were straight and metal and they made balls of super wash wool disappear and reappear into jackets and hats and jumpers like a special form of magic.

She tried to teach me to knit when I was around five years old. But I was impatient and a tomboy and much more interested in running around in the garden wearing my fathers shirts and pretending to be Columbo than being stuck indoors with sticks and string.

I regret that my grandmother didn’t get to see me take up her skill and make it into something of my own. I think she would be very proud of my ability to take 400 yards of a brightly coloured wool and turn it into socks, with my circular carbon fibre needles that are so different to hers.

But I am fortunate that my mother sees me knit all the time. She taught me when I finally came to the realisation that this was something I felt I should have in my life. One winters evening on a flying visit north she patiently sat through my very first knit and purl stitches. She then followed up the tuition with patient phone conversations and helpful hints. Do you have any idea how hard it is to teach someone a craft when you can only hear their voice. This was before Skype or FaceTime and my mum had the patience of a saint!

Imagine her surprise when she next sees me knitting, almost a year later and exclaims at how my hands look nothing like hers or her mothers. I hold my needles very differently and she finds it strange to watch them create the same things from such a different style.

Why am I ruminating on all this? Because here I sit with my wedding knitting. I am about to cast on and it feels more significant that other projects as it will be more tied to a place and an event than ever before. Not least because I am following in my grandmothers footsteps like never before. My favourite photograph of her is the one of her knitting on her honeymoon. Soon I will have a similar picture taken. I don’t usually knit on holiday, but I know I have to this time because it would have made her giggle to see it. I’m breaking from tradition and not knitting for my new husband. Instead I’m knitting for myself, because according to him it keeps me sane and in that way it’s all knitting for him!

So knitting will have played a big part in my wedding and honeymoon. But no mother, if you’re reading this, you’re not allowed to knit during the ceremony!

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