two exhibitions

One of the amazing things about living in London is the availability of just about any exhibition you can imagine.  And because London is so rammed full of people, there are many exhibitions that are on for extended periods of time.   I tend to think to myself, “oh, there’s plenty of time to go to that.  I won’t go right at the start when there’s a rush”, and of course, I then forget until the last day and never actually make it.

There have been two exhibitions recently that I have actually managed to see, so here’s a little review.

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Open for a month was The Cornershop,  a traditional corner shop in East London full to the brim with all the usual stuff (newspapers, chocolates, tinned food), with the difference being that all the items were handmade in felt.

I remember making a conscious decision to not go on the opening weekend, but in the blink of an eye I realised the month had gone past and it was the last day to see it.  I headed over to Bethnal Green on a Sunday afternoon, and found the shop appropriately located just round the corner from Quilter St.

 

quilter street

What I unfortunately hadn’t realised though, was that the shop was also one street away from the Columbia Road flower market, (a Sunday institution in London) and was therefore absolutely swamped with people.   I hadn’t been expecting such a queue outside!

 

cornershop

 

The Cornershop was put together by artist Lucy Sparrow, who had spent untold hours/weeks/months sewing together all the usual shop goods rendered in woolly felt (and kindly brought out sweets for those of us queuing!)

Eventually I made it in.  All the daily necessities were in stock:

 

felt crisps

 

biccies

 

newspapers

 

The downside to this exhibition though was despite it being billed as “the fluffy shopping experience”, there were signs instructing people to not touch the items.  It’s completely understandable (I hate to think what sort of state the work would be in after being fondled for a month) but a large part of the charm of nice woolly felt is in its tactile quality.  It was quite bizarre being part of a trail of people snaking through the shop just taking photos, moving along slowly in turn as if on a conveyer belt.

At the conclusion of the exhibition there was the opportunity to purchase various felt items, although I talked myself out of some smiley produce.

 

fruit n veg

 

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All good fun.

 

The other exhibition I went to was considerably different:  “Making Colour” at the National Gallery.  This was an exploration of the many different ways in which colour has been made throughout the centuries, and how this has affected the art that has been produced.

making-color

Each room focused on the creation and use of a particular colour, exploring its source and meaning.  I loved finding out about the different ways that colour has been extracted from various materials over the years.  Some of these I was familiar with (cochineal insects for carmine red, for instance) but some I hadn’t known about, such as images of men carrying massive pieces of  bright blue lapis lazuli on their backs, dug from mines in Afghanistan.

The emphasis of the exhibition was really on how colour was used in paintings, and pieces from the gallery were used to good effect.  I have very limited knowledge of art however, and while the exhibition also included some samples of yarn and other textiles (cochineal again), I couldn’t help but think how much I’d really love to see something similar focusing specifically on yarn.

Being held in the gallery, there were no photos allowed, and I’m aware that an absence of photos makes it difficult to write a blog post about colour!  I also felt that I needed some sort of souvenir to take away, so I got this print; a mid 1700s colour wheel by Moses Harris.  It should go quite nicely on my wall for inspiration:

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The theme of colour and colour wheels is also very much reflected in this month’s issue of the very wonderful Uppercase magazine, which I picked up last week.  It’s gorgeous and endlessly inspiring.  You can take a peek at Issue 22 here:

If only I could find the time to get creative and make a yarn colour wheel.  How amazing would that be?

 

after the show

Phew!  It’s been quite a summer for knitting events!

Last month I spent a weekend in Brighton, with the excuse of going to Unwind Brighton.  Unfortunately the class that I was booked on to had been cancelled a couple of weeks prior to the event, so I was left with plenty of time to wander around the city, rummaging through some of the many second hand shops, and catching up with knitterly friends.

I even cast on for a new knitting project (and a sock, no less!);  Pavilion by sock designer extraordinaire, Rachel Coopey.  This is a pattern that was designed for Unwind, and drew its inspiration from the famous Brighton Pavilion.  It was released as a mystery sock pattern, meaning that there was a “clue” or part of the pattern released on a weekly basis.  I’m far too fussy to ever purchase and knit a mystery pattern, but I was late discovering this one so had already seen other people’s projects, so I knew it looked fantastic.

Pavilion Sock in travelknitter BFL

I’m knitting it in the travelknitter BFL Supersock in a dark teal.  I have to say, I’m really in to teal at the moment, and seem to be dyeing up numerous similar-but-different versions.  I’ve decided that there’s no such thing as too much teal yarn.

Unfortunately I’ve barely touched the sock since Brighton!  I have so many excuses:  I’ve been too busy;  I can only work on this pattern during daylight hours as the colour of the yarn is quite dark; it’s a bit too complex for knit nights… all the usual stuff.

I’ve just landed myself a brand new job which I can actually get to on public transport (you have no idea of the commute I’ve been doing for years), so I’m hoping that will mean an hour or two knitting time of each day on the bus.  I don’t know if anyone has ever been excited about a long bus commute before!

Last weekend The Amazing Molly and I packed up the car and headed north for the Pop Up Wool Show in Chester.  Although I often sell my yarns at events locally, this was the first time I’ve travelled to do so.  It was all rather frantic beforehand (a week of rain didn’t help with trying to get yarn dry!) but I had good fun once I was there.

I always love getting direct feedback on what people think about my yarns, and of course it’s fabulous catching up with old knitting friends, and meeting online friends in real life.

mini suitcase of mini yarns

I had the world’s smallest suitcase filled to the brim with little 10g “travel size” mini skeins.  It’s actually a vintage suitcase I picked up in Brighton, but it was in quite a state so I had to put in a bit of effort cleaning it up (if you need any tips on cleaning a vintage suitcase, just ask!).  I was pleased to see how popular the mini skeins were – they’re just so damn cute, and a really good way of sampling different yarns, or adding sections of colour to bigger projects.  They’re actually just wonderful for admiring in their own adorable way, without even needing to do anything with them (stash as art, anyone?)

The following day we decided to so some local sightseeing, so before driving back to London we did a quick trip to Crosby Beach just outside Liverpool to see Antony Gormley’s Another Place.  The weather was rather autumnal and definitely knit-friendly!

Antony Gormley

on the beach

It’s a permanent artwork consisting of 100 cast iron statues of Antony Gormley (each weighing some 650kg) spread out at various distances across the beach, all facing the horizon.  The tide comes in and out over the day, alternately revealing and submerging the statues at intervals.  After being exposed to the elements for a number of years, the statues are weather-worn and barnacled, with the tidemarks visible.  I imagine you could see something different on every visit, depending on the weather.

Definitely worth a trip on a blustery day.

more knitting events

Since my post a few months ago there have been a couple of updates to the list of knitting events for 2014.  And guess what?  I’m planning on vending at both of them!

The first addition is the Popup Wool Show taking place on Saturday 16th August in Bebington, Cheshire.  There are some amazing yarn dyers attending (as well as travelknitter, of course!), including Fyberspates and Natural Dye Studio, so it’s well worth checking out.  It’s a part of the world that I’m not familiar with, so I’m looking forward to making a weekend of it.  If you live in that neck of the woods, I’ve been reliably informed that there are good transport links from both Liverpool and Chester.

PopupWoolShowflyer2

The second addition to the list is Hitchin Festiwool.  This is a brand new event in Hitchin, Hertfordshire on 2nd November.  Hitchin is a lovely market town, and an easy train ride direct from London King’s Cross.  I’m especially looking forward to it as I have friends who live  in the area, and I’m expecting it to be a lovely atmosphere.

festiwool

 

So, book them in your diary, and be sure to let me know if you’re planning on coming!

 

 

 

White Gum Wool comes to London

One of the highlights of my recent trip back to Australia was taking the opportunity to meet up with Nan Bray at her farm, White Gum near Oatlands in the midlands of Tasmania.

I’d heard about Nan’s ethical superfine merino wool a few months prior, and so we arranged to meet up on my trip back to Tassie.  I thought we might have a little chat, I’d pick up a bulk order of yarn, and I’d be on my way.  However Nan was so incredibly welcoming and generous with her time, we got a fantastic tour of her farm in to the bargain.

the farm

Even though I grew up “in the bush” in Tassie, I didn’t grow up on a farm, so I don’t know a lot about the intricacies of wool farming.  I loved hearing all about Nan’s stories of how she is raising the sheep.  The sheep all have access to such a wide range of grasses and plants in the paddocks that they get all the nutrition they need, and the sheep know what plants to eat when they need particular nutrients or are feeling unwell.   The sheep are kept together in their natural family groups, allowing them to pass on such knowledge through the generations.  The sheep are raised on strong ethical lines.  Nan is able to avoid using all mulesing, and has been able to stop tail-docking.  It’s so lovely to see the sheep running around with their tails waggling!

White gum sheep

It was a warm day, so we found the sheep all huddled together in a coil to keep nice and cool.

on the farm

To find out more about Nan’s farm (and yarn), you can check out this episode of Landline.

So, now we know all about where the yarn comes from, this is what it looks like when it’s all dyed up in a few of my travelknitter colourways:

London Skies

London Skies White Gum Wool

Autumn Spice

Autumn Spice White Gum Wool

Double Happiness

Double Happiness travelknitter White Gum Wool

It really is the softest merino I’ve ever come across, and it’s very light and lofty.  There’s an amazing 470m per 100g, so it goes a long way.  I love it!  It’s been really interesting developing new techniques to dye the yarn as it isn’t superwash, which means it keeps its lovely natural woolly texture and smell.  I love seeing how it takes the colour in very subtle, muted ways.

These skeins are all available at Wild and Woolly in East London.  If you’re elsewhere in the world and would like some, just drop me a line or send me a message through my etsy shop to request a custom order.

sending yarn in to the world

The last few weeks have been even busier than usual, as I’ve been spending my weekends putting together a lovely stash of hand dyed yarn for a special wholesale order.  It has involved this:

  • Days spent over the dye pots, stirring up a mixture of new and tried-and-true colours
  • Keeping fingers crossed for some sunshine so I can get the yarn dry in between the spring rain
  • Re-skeining every single skein so they all look nice and neat and show the different tones of colour
  • Putting together a new logo and printing out brand new label wrappers
  • Playing with all the new lovely skeins, holding them up, shuffling them around, putting them in to piles, seeing what looks good together, and basically just admiring all the colours and textures (tell me I’m not the only one who does that…)

Once I’d finished playing, I put all the skeins in to a box,

 

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took one last look before closing the lid….

travelknitter yarns

 

and then hopped on a bus, and handed them over to their new caretaker, Anna at Wild and Woolly.  And I couldn’t think of a better home for them to go to!

The sun was streaming in the window, so we sat down with a glass of homemade lemonade and just enjoyed being surrounded by yarn.  The window display was just perfect for the occasion, complete with knitted deck chair and skein sundaes:

 

window display

There’s something about spending time in such a gorgeous yarn shop with someone who’s so passionate about the craft that has really inspired me to (gasp!) actually find the time to knit again.

Anna will be stocking my BFL Supersock, Tanami 4ply (supersoft baby camel and silk) and a brand new yarn, White Gum 4ply (it’s a UK exclusive!)  I’ll tell you more about that one in the next post…

London’s newest yarn shop: Wild and Woolly

Many of you visited your local yarn shops last weekend, as May 3rd was the national Yarn Shop Day.  And for those of you in London, there’s a brand new shop to visit – Wild and Woolly.

I made my first visit to Wild and Woolly in Clapton (Hackney) a few weekends ago.  I’ve been following the blog, where the lovely owner Anna had been posting some work-in-progress photos of the renovations, so had an idea of what it looked like.  I can assure you, it really is rather fantastic!

 

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The front window is a perfect mix of great design and fabulous Victoriana:

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And the yarns really are rather fancy.  Anna is stocking a great range of yarns, both international and locally sourced.  There’s a mixture of commercially dyed skeins, natural coloured yarns, and hand dyed loveliness.  Everything is displayed beautifully, and I love her system of moveable apple crates.  Anna is very generous with her time, and she’s provided a table so there’s space to sit and knit for a while.

shop interior

The space is light and bright.  I always think that natural light is an absolute must for a yarn shop – I’m always holding up skeins of yarn to get a better sense of the colour, or peering in to a mirror to check if a colour is wearable against my skintone. Or is that just me?

 

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If you’re anywhere near London, I highly recommend you pop in for a visit.  The nearest train stations are Hackney Downs, Hackney Central, or Clapton (depending which route you take) or there are lots of bus routes in the area.  The shop is open every day except Mondays.

Oh, I haven’t even mentioned the best bit… there will be travelknitter yarns in stock very soon!  Very exciting!

 

so many things!

The last post a while back about rainy weather was a bit of a ruse really, because I was on my way to Australia for three weeks.  Well I arrived back safely, and for those of you in the UK, aren’t you glad that I brought some sunshine back with me?  I’m so glad that spring has finally sprung!

It’s now time to come out of hibernation.  I’ve actually been really busy over the past few months with various bloggable things, and I’ve composed so many in my head, but that’s a very different thing to actually getting the posts online.  It’s hard to know where to begin, so I’ve decided to make a list here so you can all hold me to account.

  • A quick trip to Paris, including visit to yarn shops and fabric shops galore (with updates to previous travelknitter’s guide).
  • A weekend in Berlin, where I attempted to visit the main yarn shops, with varying success.  Discovered some amazing markets though.
  • Three weeks in Australia.   Where do I even begin?
  • My quick trip to Melbourne, which included visits to the city’s two newest yarn shops, with lots to update on my Melbourne yarn shop list.
  • A trip to Suffolk, which included some happy yarny discoveries.
  • A new yarn event coming up in August.
  • And a new yarn shop opening in London.

Phew!

Time to start posting…