Sunday, 29 September 2013

Yarndale.

Yesterday the long awaited trip to Yarndale took place.  It started with an early alarm to get into town to catch the bus, a long drive and a lot of traffic.  We got there with plenty of time to look around though.

The excitement started in the car park when we spotted the lovely bunting at the entrance.



When we got inside we all went our separate ways.  Kate and I decided we wanted to start at one end and work our way systematically through the aisles.  It seems everybody else had the same idea.  It wasn't long before I made my first purchase at Town End Alpacas.  Two beautifully soft and delicious balls of Aran in two shades of brown.  So wonderfully lovely and so very hard to choose, I'd say it was the softest alpaca yarn I encountered all day which is lucky really otherwise I might have regretted such an early impulse.  They can be found at www.town-end-alpacas.co.uk for those of you interested.

We fought our way through the people to find some of the most beautiful hand dyed yarn, it was all just so exciting that I wanted it all.  Here are some of my personal highlights.


Yarn in varying weights, bases and colours from fivemoons who can be found at www.fivemoons.co.uk

 
Scrum my yarn and hooks from For the Love of Yarn, Lisa can be found at www.fortheloveofyarn.co.uk


More lovely yarn from Brough Lea Farm based in the Peak District.  They can be visited at www.broughleafarm.com

I held out though because I had one person in mind, it was of course A Stash Addict.  I am just in love with her neon colour ways and the way she combines her colours is just beautiful.  I went with a skein in mind but when I got there I just couldn't decide.  


Awful photograph!  Anyway after much deliberation I went for the centre skein called The Reaper.  I balled it up on the way home (with some help from Kate)and it now looks like this.  Beautiful!


Kate was torn between two lovely cakes of yarn in two different colour ways, I held them up to help her decide and only after a while realised how comical I may have looked.  She went for the one on the eft in the end.


A highlight for me was meeting some animals, I am a sucker and do like to say hello to
fellow inhabitants of this planet.




I saw some amazing big knitting on Ingrid Wagners stall, I just had to have a go and it was surprisingly enjoyable and satisfying.  I wanted it all but sadly had not enough money.  I will definitely be considering this in the future.


I was also very excited by the vast quantities of unspun fleece, some of it so soft I just wanted to climb in and sleep!


For a while now I have been considering taking up needle felting and when I arrived at Adelaide Walker I just had to take the leap and buy some wool tops and the necessary.  The colours (and prices) just couldn't be resisted.  I got home and just couldn't wait to start, here is what I made.


When stopping for a cup of tea and a sandwich I had another moment, I was looking at my alpaca yarn and thinking how soft it would be on my ears, I tested this theory out and was so in love with how soft it was that I didn't realise Kate was talking to me, turns out they make good ear muffs.


The highlight for me was seeing the work by Lucy of Attic 24, she is a definite crochet inspiration and her use of colour is wonderful.  So pretty!



When discussing my granny stripe blanket I was told off for only using three colours, I promised to use more in the next one.  Tom will be pleased to hear that, haha!

I also stopped to admire some of the bunting on the table, these were from all over the world and sent after Lucy asked for bunting to be sent for the event.  Here are some of my favourites.


By the time I got home I was very very tired but also very very excited.  Here are my purchases pre tampering.


I also got a lovely little porcelain Christmas tree decoration and some antler buttons, couldn't resist.



Yarndale was blooming amazing and I would definitely recommend it to anyone considering going next year.  It was a little overwhelming but go with this in mind and consider each purchase carefully because there is just so much to choose from.  I would say to go with only artisan products in mind.  I was a little disappointed buy how many people were getting hugely excited by yarn that can be purchased on any high street, for me that is not what a fibre festival is about but each to their own.

I have come home with a mountain of business cards and a bucket full of inspiration, wonderful little day out indeed and can't wait until next year. 


Thursday, 26 September 2013

The best yarn shop in the Midlands.

Ok, so I would like to write a little blog about Knit Nottingham who have recently been voted the best yarn shop in the Midlands.  Let me tell you why.

Firstly the shop itself is great.  Eleanor will be the first to admit that sometimes it can be a bit messy but for me this is what makes it so great.  As a reasonably new knitter I look back on my early days with mixed emotions.  I remember visiting a shop that shall remain nameless not long after I started my first ever cabled project which was a scarf knitted in Cygnet Super Chunky, here it is.

 
I never did get around to photographing it with the ends sewn in and right now I can't be bothered to rummage around to find it.

Anyway I digress.  As I said I went to a different shop full of enthusiasm and excitement about knitting cables for the first time.  I entered said shop with it's neatly and perfectly stocked white shelves, a highly polished floor, a display of books so tidy I didn't think I was allowed to look at them and was greeted by a bark of "can I help!" as soon as I touched something.  It was not a friendly greeting and has not prompted a return visit.  I explained I was just browsing and was asked what I was currently working on.  I explained in an excited fashion that I was knitting a chunky cabled scarf and these were my first cables.  The response I received and will never ever forget is "I hate chunky yarn!"

Not long after this and while still knitting said scarf I attended Knit Nottingham for a crochet workshop and here my opinion of yarn shops and knitters changed completely.  I was greeted by Eleanor who was possibly a little hungover but still full of enthusiasm at the thought of teaching people how to make what I now know is one of her favourite things, a granny square.  The shop was, as I have now learnt to be normal, in a little disarray but mostly tidy because of the fact the table needed to be pulled out.  The furniture is mismatched and for a while one of the seats was broken but to me this makes it look loved and shows that the shop is not just a hobby for someone with some extra cash but a business that is run by people who truly love yarn, knitting and crochet and their focus is on that, not a pretty table full of books you can't touch.

The shop always looks like it has been busy which I find exciting, I want to know what people have been buying and making with the yarn on offer.  I find the ongoing projects dotted around interesting and learn from them by asking what they are, will be and how they are constructed.  I love to see finished items to inspire me to try something new.  Most of all I love the fact I grab things from the shelves, flick through the patterns and indulge the need to touch things before buying them because I don't feel afraid to do so.  This for me is something so many shops lack in.

The next reason I think Knit Nottingham is so wonderful is the workshops, events and classes they teach and take part in.  I have attended a number of workshops with Eleanor and I have to say that my world has changed.  The first workshop I attended and the first time I visited Knit Nottingham was to learn to crochet, I had tried to learn so many times but could not grasp it.  I was "hooked" from the first day and wanted to start a blanket as soon as I got home.  I still haven't made one but I am working on one as we speak.  I have also learnt how to knit socks, finish my knitting properly and knit a sweater.  The finishing class revolutionised my knitting and I now feel confident to sew up, graft and make things look great.

Here we have the guru and the results of her teaching.


The shop have also arranged a trip to Yarndale which is taking place this weekend and which I cannot wait for.  It's to be held in Skipton in Yorkshire and is a festival of all things wooly.  They have also arranged for Amy Singer (of knitty.com) to teach a number of workshops in Nottingham.  In all honesty I had not heard of Amy or Knitty until recently but I have to say I now understand what all the excitement is about, it is well worth a visit and some of the patterns are stunning.  The are still spaces available so if you fancy popping along then give the shop a bell.  I sadly cannot make it due to being in Devon for a visit to the in laws.

"Knit Nottingham state that "Knit Nottingham is a yarn shop based in the centre of Nottingham and online. We stock a wide range of value and artisan yarns, patterns and accessories for every knitter, crocheter or spinner."  I just love what they have on offer.  The shop is only small so stock has be kept to a reasonable level.  This means that each and every yarn in the shop is loved by those who sell it.  I genuinely believe that Eleanor and June do not put on a sales patter, they do love what they are selling.  They may not love all the colours but we all suit and like different things and this is appreciated.  

Whenever I have been to buy a new project I have met nothing but honesty.  "Put that back, the colour doesn't suit you but this one does." "That pattern won't look good on you try this one." "That pattern is too easy for you, try this harder one I know you can do it."  It's fabulous to leave with a shared confidence and enthusiasm when starting a new project.  Oh I do love that feeling and Eleanor and June certainly add to this.  The yarn is great, affordable and exciting.  It is not high end "designer" yarn with the price tag to match but good quality and nothing that either Eleanor or June would not use themselves.  If I do find I get stuck with a project I know either Eleanor or June are at hand to help and they do this willingly and without question.

Knit Nottingham has opened up a whole new world for me.  I haven't had an easy year or so and the shop has acted as a haven when times have been hard.  I was always greeted by a friendly face and a listening ear when things were bad and I now consider Eleanor to be one of my friends and a blooming good one at that.  I have been introduced to "Knit in Notts" a wonderful knitting group held on Tuesday evenings and founded by the lovely Steph of Nettynot.  Here I have made more friends with similar interests to me.

This may all sound very twee but if I hadn't visited Knit Nottingham my life would not be as happy is it now, it has opened up so many opportunities to learn, create, meet new people and so much more.  It is not just a yarn shop but a social hub and a place to see friends and catch up on all the latest gossip.

I wish the whole team all the best of luck to keep on winning these awards and keep getting better and better!

Xxx



Monday, 23 September 2013

I have fallen in love with Wales!

This weekend we went to Wales with a couple of friends.  When we were looking to book we wanted a remote cottage where we could spend our evenings relaxing after visiting places in the day time.  The best place ever was found and it literally could not have been any better.  We stayed in a cottage called Maes Gwyn which was located in the middle of a number of sheep fields and up a very long steep hill.  The view was absolutely incredible!!


When we arrived on the Friday we stayed at the cottage exploring the fields around, playing some games and generally relaxing.  Out of all the sheep in the fields there was just one who had been shorn, I think the farmer must have needed a new jumper.

 
I took the opportunity to spend some time finishing a project as the plan for me was to take small packable projects I have been meaning to finish for a while.  Here is my completed Rowan Pure Wool Granny Cowl, only felt right to take a picture with the sheep in the background.  Some might think that is just mean.



The first morning we woke up the mist through the valleys was incredibly impressive, it could be seen at times circling and rising into the sky to form a cloud.  We enjoyed a coffee outside before deciding we would head to Barmouth to visit the Atlantic Ocean.  This photograph may look a bit odd but it is a full 360* panoramic view from where I was stood.


Barmouth was a lovely little town but not dissimilar from most other seaside towns.  We had a wander around and after getting quite soaked in the mist we headed back to the cottage to dry out in front of the fire whilst enjoying a civilised cheese board.

Tom and I then went for a wander to say hello to a few more sheep and take some more photographs of the incredible location we were staying in.



 You can just make out the roof of our cottage in this photograph.  The view was beautiful.

 I managed to knock up a pair of hand warmers made using Noro Furin and Rowan Cashsoft 4ply, I love how they have turned out.


For tea we headed to the local pub The Eagles, due to the remoteness we were a bit concerned it would be a local pub for local people but we couldn't have been any more wrong.  We received a warm welcome and felt right at home.  I loved to hear all the locals speaking Welsh, it's great that the language is still being used and it really added to our holiday feel.  The food was wonderful, I had a steak and it might just be the best Steak I have ever eaten.  I of course had to try the local tipple.




From here the evening became a little less civilised and we started to play drinking Uno, I can honestly say I do not recommend this game to anyone ever!!!

After waking up feeling as though I had risen from the grave I was coaxed into the car for a trip to Harlech.  The journey wasn't much fun but it was most definitely worth it.  The main reason for the visit to Harlech was to see the castle, such an impressive structure and remarkably intact.


We explored the castle as much as our legs would let us, there were a lot of stairs that were not the kindest.  We started by climbing a windy, dark and damp stair case to get to the highest point of the castle.  The Mountains looked beautiful in the distance.

 
These stairs were particularly hairy but I made it to the top, heights are not something I am great at so I was quite impressed.


It was certainly worth it!



I particularly loved how the light shone through the windows and doors and framed the views over the bay. 





We all absolutely loved the Castle and who couldn't when it looks like this!


After leaving the Castle we popped into a local art sale and just fell in love with art by a local artist called Jayne McCormack.  We deliberated between a number of stunning paintings but decided to settle on one of the Welsh landscape which we had both fallen in love with so much.  The blue also caught our eyes as it is perfect for our recently decorated lounge.  I have to say it looks stunning hanging on the wall, this photograph does not do it justice.


From here we went for a well earned cup of tea and some Welsh Cakes, I do love Welsh cakes, yum yum yum! We stopped at The Cemlyn Tea Shop and the tea was served in brilliant little tea pots with an inbuilt strainer that sits in the centre.  We had a chat with the owner of the tea house and learnt a lot about tea.  Apparently in China a tea is brewed 4 times, the first is for washing feet, the second for friends, the third for family and the fourth and best is for yourself.


On the way home from Harlech we stopped by the estuary to photograph yet more stunning scenery.  I cannot begin to explain how exciting the Welsh landscape is, I just never knew Wales was so stunning!


I just loved this house on the left, when we drove past I noted just how immaculate it was.  Somebody loves it as much as I would if it were mine.


When we returned to the cottage we played more games and I took some time to work on the sock I have been knitting for what feels like forever, I do actually think I have been knitting it forever.  Anyway, i finished it but forgot how to kitchener stitch so had to leave the needles in until I got home today.  Here it is nearly complete, I just need to knit it's sibling now!


Sadly this morning we had to say goodbye to our little slice of Wales.  We had to be out of the Cottage by 10 so it was an early start, a big breakfast and into the car we got.  I just had to snap one last photograph of the view.


I can honestly say I was blown away by what Wales has to offer, I just feel so excited to have such a wonderful place not so far away.  We will most definitely be going back to explore more.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

What a lovely lovely day of embroidery.

I have had such a wonderful day today.  A while ago I decided I wanted to learn to how to hand embroider because I had seen so many beautiful things like this!

Seriously, wow!

My hunt for a workshop started online and I couldn't believe how hard it was to find a hand embroidery workshop in Nottingham given the amount of craft studios and workshops there are, they al, seem to be machine embroidery.  I therefore widened my search to the whole county and I found workshops run at the Manor Farm Tea Shoppe in Bleasby, typically the hand embroidery workshop had been run the day before I was reading about it online.

I read closely and found out the lady running the workshops was called Jane Lightfoot and also held private workshops at her home. As is necessary I looked up her Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jane-Lightfoot-Designs/246582298747187) and internet (http://janelightfoot.com/) pages and checked out what she was capable of and here are some lovely examples.


My mind was made up so I made contact to find out about how these workshops are run.  I was told they're best done with a partner so I got hunting.  My friend Sarah from primary school said she was interested but lived too far away.  After suggesting she visit for a night it was all booked and the date was set, so exciting!

We arrived this morning at Jane's and were taken to her beautiful sewing room where we immediately got started.  We first learnt how to French knot and ribbon stitch and made a lovely little daisy.


Then we moved on to make a tulip using chain and ribbon stitches.


Next we moved onto my favourite ever embroidered flower, the bullion rose.  It's a tricky stitch but so beautiful, one very big smile appeared when I finished this one.


Once we had finished our practice flowers and drunk tea and eaten amazing homemade flapjack, we moved onto making our needles and pins case.

The first part of this process was to choose the fabrics and ribbon to adorn our cases.  This was tricky because Jane has a beautiful and extensive selection of fabrics.  I faffed, faffed a bit more and then forced myself to make a decision.  One the fabric was cut with a very nifty fabric cutter much like a pizza cutter we started the machining.


I was better than I remembered and managed to get things reasonably straight.  The ribbon was a little tricky though as I had chosen a thin little piece.


Once we had finished stitching the material onto the front we started our embroidery.  We took a little break for lunch where we were fed with the most delicious home made quiche, salad, beet root and then cake and scones.  I was so full I could have had a little sleep.

I decided that I loved the look of some stocks that had been sewn by Jane so I made a start with one of these in the centre of my pin case with some variegated silk ribbon.  Ooooooh, I love it!


Next I just had to make a bullion rose, they are so pretty.  This one turned out with a few more petals than I intended but I think I like it more because of this.


Then I made a pair of pretty tulips as we were running short on time and another bullion rose would have taken me ages.  I also wanted a nice variety on the front.


Then we sewed the side ribbons in place.


The next job was to sew the front, the wadding and the lining together.  We used a walking foot which is something I knew nothing of but now think is one of the best things ever.  It was a tense moment turning it the right way out but also very exciting.  All we needed to do now was slip stitch together the hole and sew in the pages.


And here it is, my stunning, wonderful, beautiful and favourite stitched thing ever!




Here is mine and Sarah's together on the table while we stood looking at them smiling.


I could not have wished for a better day.  Jane was fantastic and I feel really inspired and confident to continue embroidering on my own.  I would highly recommend her workshops and if you can't make one at the Manor Farm Tea Shoppe then do consider getting in touch to arrange a private workshop as it was wonderful.  

Thankyou Jane for such a lovely day. X
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