where I’ll be

What a summer of festivals!  Not the usual music festivals that people usually got to in the summer, but rather yarn festivals!  I feel like I haven’t really had a chance to stop and catch my breath.

Not that things are about to slow down, mind you, but I am taking a slight change of direction.  The Big News:  I quit my job!  I finished up two weeks ago.  It’s pretty exciting, although not quite as dramatic as it sounds, as I’ll keep doing freelance work in order to keep food on the table.  Nonetheless I have a little plan to spend more time doing yarning, and perhaps even a bit more blogging!

So where am I off to next?

First up is my first ever trip to Glasgow.  I seem to be going up to Scotland on a semi-regular basis these days (and almost always for woolly events), but somehow I’ve never been to Glasgow.  I’ve booked the trip to attend the In the Loop 4 Conference.  A three day academic conference about knitting?  Oh yes, count me in.  And a knitting event where I won’t be doing anything work-related?  Even better.  I can’t wait.

IamgoingIAfter a week in sunny Scotland, it’s then only a few days before the Yarn in the City Great London Yarn Crawl and Popup Marketplace.  Quite a mouthful, but an awful lot of fun!  I won’t be on the yarn crawl itself as I’ll be flogging my wares running a stall full of hand-dyed travelknitter yarn.  It’s being held on Saturday 5th September at the beautiful Chelsea Old Town Hall, and if you like yarny things, I’d highly recommend going along.


And then continuing the theme of rampant capitalism and self-promotion, I’ll be at the Hitchin Festiwool on 14th November selling my yarns.  This is the second year for Festiwool, and I had such a good time last year that I had to book again.  I found it to be such a friendly, relaxed event, with a really interesting mix of vendors.

Please do let me know if you’re heading along to any of these events too.  Would be great to catch up.


knitting retreats – UK edition

I like to combine holidays and knitting.  I’m not very good at just relaxing for extended periods (although I am very good at afternoon naps) so I tend to book my trips and holidays around a particular goal or purpose.  Knitting fits in nicely with this.

My last holiday was a couple of weeks ago, when I ventured up to the Lake District for the fabulous Woolfest.  I was really there for work, running the p/hop stall for a couple of days, but I managed to take a few extra days’ leave and tack a bit of a holiday on to the end.  Actually, I don’t think I’ve been anywhere this year that didn’t revolve around a yarn show.

knitting on holy island

If however you tend not to travel the country attending yarn shows but would like a knitterly holiday nonetheless, the UK is a fantastic place for lovely knitting retreats.

What is a knitting retreat you ask?  They generally involve the following:

  • A bunch of knitters getting together at a particular venue, often for 2-4 days.  Accommodation is usually part of the deal, but some events have flexibility to attend in the daytime only if you have other accommodation.
  • A retreat may include classes or tutorials with teachers, although some are more informal where attendees simply share and learn from each other.  Think curling up on a comfy chair with something nice to drink and long hours spent knitting with other lovely people.
  • Locations are generally either somewhere beautifully rural (and probably sheepy) or in a city location with excellent transport links.
  • There is usually always lots of cake.

If a knitting retreat is the sort of thing that tempts you, here are a few destinations to consider.


Shetland is one of those destinations that is on just about every knitter’s wishlist.  Each year I wistfully imagine heading off to Shetland Wool Week (this year it’s from 26 Sept to 4th October).  It’s never yet been a realistic prospect for me, but it’s nice to plot and scheme.  The folks behind Shetland Wool Week have now started running six day tours of Shetland, and their first tour sold out within a matter of days.  I’m terribly envious.  There are more dates in the works, so there will be more opportunities to check diaries and bank balances.


Another place on my list of “want-to-go-but-still-haven’t-made-it”: Wales.  And gwlana would be an amazing excuse to go.  Gwlana is Welsh for woolgathering, and there are two retreats held each year, each very different in focus.  Their autumn retreat is scheduled for October 23rd to 26th..  Workshops for the October retreat include shibori, indigo Dyeing, and ombre knitting, and the teachers are the very lovely designer and podcaster Brenda Dayne and Caerthan Wrack of Triskelion Yarn and Fibre.  It’s taking place over my birthday weekend, so if anyone is stuck for gift ideas…

Scottish Highlands

Helen of Ripples Crafts has been hosting knitting retreats in Scotland for a few years now (I went to one on of Helen’s retreats on the island of Tanera Mor)  and this year she is again hosting a retreat at Glencanisp Lodge in Lochinver.  Helen’s retreats are kept very affordable by not having teachers running workshops, making for a very informal few days where people share and learn from each other.  I hate to tease you and then tell you that the retreat is all booked up for this year, but I’d recommend keeping an eye out in the future.


One of the UK’s major cities, and I’ve never been!  For years people have been telling me all the great things about Manchester, and I’ve finally been spurred on to visit: I’ve just booked tickets to the Joeli’s Kitchen Retreat on 27th & 28th February next year.  It’s slightly different in that the retreat price includes workshops and talks but attendees make their own accommodation arrangements.  Workshop teachers include Karie Westermann, Kate Atherley, and Joeli herself.  If you’re interested I’d suggest reserving your spot as quickly as you can.

What do you think?  Do you have any plans to go to a knitting retreat?  I’d also love to hear about any that you’ve been on.

knitting strange creatures at the Grant Museum

Last week I had an amazing opportunity to spend an entire knitting in probably one of the strangest, most interesting places ever:  The Grant Museum of Zoology at UCL.  It houses an amazing collection of all sorts of animal skeletons and specimens, and if you ever wanted to check out a collection of dodo bones, that it’s the place to go.

So why on earth would anyone go there to knit?

It’s an incredibly creative museum that hosts a myriad of events based around the theme of an exhibition.  The current exhibition is called Strange Creatures, the inspiration for which is the famous painting of a kangaroo (“kongouro”) by Stubbs.  This was the first Western painting of an Australian animal.

Stubbs' Kangaroo

What is shown in the painting is a particularly strange creature for two reasons:  not only was the kangaroo a very unusual and exotic animal to the Europeans who viewed it, but the animal above is made even more strange by virtue of the fact that Stubbs had never seen a kangaroo, and was painting based only on descriptions of others.

From this starting point, the museum curated the Strange Creatures exhibition, and invited knitters to a one-day knit-a-thon.

Prick Your Finger hosted the day, and I was only too thrilled to be a part of it.

Armed with wool and needles, we happily ensconced ourselves in the museum from 10am to 10pm, drawing inspiration for the critters around us.


Of course, it was important to have an Australian (and a Tasmanian, no less) on board!  I was particularly moved by the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger).  Its extinction through state-sponsored hunting was highlighted by this amazing knitted pelt by Ruth Marshall.

knitted thylacine

Ruth has designed a pattern available for knitters: the very cute endangered Leadbeater’s Possum, aka Fairy Possum, found in Victoria.  The sale of the pattern helps to raise money to support the work to save the possums.  (You can buy the pattern as part of a kit on her website).  We had the patterns available on the day, so a few of us set to work.

Here’s one that was finished in super-quick time:

knitted possum

And here’s mine, which I took home to block before sending it back to the museum to include in the rest of the exhibition:

leadbeaters possum

I couldn’t bring myself to lash it on to sticks though.  Too sad.  The pattern includes instructions for adding some bushiness to the tail, but I chose to leave it.  I was pretty knackered by the end of the day!

The day wasn’t just about furry critters though.  People took inspiration from all the samples around them, and we taught lots of people to knit on the day.  People went home with everything from a giant squid to an armadillo!

The fabulous workshop co-host Max of Max’s World was on hand, and also brought some of her amazing knitted months.   I’d been so excited to see them for the first time at the I Knit Fandango, and it was great to spend more time checking them out.   She brought them to the museum and we could see them alongside specimens – showing just how detailed and accurate they are.

knitted moth

knitted moth

knitted moth and specimens

The Strange Creatures exhibition runs until 27th June, but the museum is a fascinating place to visit anytime.  Do check it out.




updated: UK knitting events 2015

Each year, usually around November, I put up a post of the major knitting events coming up for the year. There are so many knitterly and yarny events happening that’s it’s just about impossible to capture all of them, but I try to keep track of the larger events spanning a day or more, that people are likely to travel outside their immediate area for.

The annual round up is one of my most popular posts, and I know that it works as a very useful reference for myself when I’m planning which events to attend in the coming year, so I hope that other people find it useful also.

We might only be a few months in to the year, but there has been so much happening in terms of events, that I thought it might be helpful to do an update. When I first posted this year’s events, there were a number of unconfirmed dates for gatherings that were still in the planning stages. Since this time some events have in fact been confirmed, and some have been cancelled. We can’t have you planning your year’s schedule around outdated information, right?

When planning out my yarny schedule for the year I like to print out the list so I can check dates, book leave, and track the applications for the events that I’ve applied to.  However copying from the blog post isn’t straightforward, as there’s some coding that gets in the way.  I’ve therefore put it all together in a handy little pdf for your ease of viewing.

Download the travelknitter guide to uk knitting events 2015

I hope you find it helpful, and please do let me know what you think.

on interactions and community

The title of this blog post is the first theme in the brand new “Love Your Blog” challenge hosted by A Playful Day.

love your blog creativity challenge with A Playful Day

I don’t often get involved in blog challenges, but this one clearly speaks to me.  I think there have been many knitting bloggers reflecting on how our blogs have been falling by the wayside, sometimes as life gets in the way, but also pushed aside as we all interact on quicker, more immediate social media platforms.  Well, no more!  Let this be the start of a knitting blog resurgence!

The theme is also particularly relevant to what I wanted to post about anyway, and ties in very neatly with what I’ve been thinking about.

I’ll mention a couple of events that I’ve been to in the last few weeks that are definitely all about community.

First up was the recent Edinburgh Yarn Fest where I ran the p/hop stall, fundraising for Medecins Sans Frontieres/ Doctors Without Borders.  I think one of the major achievements of the organisers (Jo and Mica) was the way in which they were able to facilitate a real sense of community at the event.  There were plenty of spaces for people to meet and relax informally (such as the Podcasters Lounge) as well as a hilarious Ca-Baa-ret on the Saturday evening.  Social media has been abuzz for weeks now with people sharing their experiences of the weekend, whether stash enhancing or selfies of meeting knitting heros and the like.  It was the sort of event that absolutely brought people together.

phop at eyf

My own experience of the event was shaped by my work in running the p/hop stall.  Somehow I managed to not leave the stall for more than half an hour over the whole weekend, which meant that my interactions were based entirely on whoever stopped by.  Luckily I had a wonderful team of volunteers helping out, and I got to meet loads of p/hop supporters.

I had loads of help from Heather, who was an absolute gem and was great fun to hang out with.  We had a brilliant time getting creative with the stall layout, using only what I had in my suitcase and what Heather could find the Asda next door.  Mop handles for the win!

It was the first time that we’d met “in real life” so as we were getting to know each other, we had a conversation that went something like this:

Heather:  So you knit then?

Me:  Well yes, sort of, in theory, but not so much in reality these days.  I don’t seem to find the time for actual knitting any more.

Heather:  I see (looking dubious).

Me:  I do lots of knitting-related things though.  I dye yarn, I organise two knitting groups, I co-ordinate p/hop, and I go to lots of knitting events.  I don’t knit much anymore, but I still seem to hang out with knitters a lot.

Heather:  Ah, so you’re a knitting groupie then!

(much chuckling followed).

It was a funny conversation, but there’s also an element of truth behind it.

I do find myself somehow very actively involved in this thing that we call the knitting community.  Pretty much all of my online interactions of any kind revolve around knitting, whether on blogs, Twitter, or Ravelry.  My so-called “free” time is also largely spent on knitting activity.  I organise two knitting groups here in London, both of which I set up as a way to bring together knitters from different sections of the community.  You might think that going to two knitting groups gives me lots of dedicated knitting time, but it doesn’t seem to work out that way!  Co-ordinating p/hop involves a significant part of my week, with much of this time spent connecting with other knitters around the UK and around the world, whether online or face to face at various knitting events.  I feel pretty privileged to have the opportunity to be surrounded by so many inspiring people.

Somehow being involved in the knitting community is something that really resonates with me, and has turned out to be something I devote a great deal of time to, even if it means I don’t have much time left to knit.

Where I don’t quite make the grade as a “knitting groupie”  though is that I’m really rather shy, and I’m horrendously bad at taking the first step to introduce myself to people, especially if they’re a designer or dyer who is well-known.  I have that little voice that questions “why on earth would they want to speak to me?”  So there are no knitting celebrity selfies for me, I’m afraid.


Spring Break

Last week I helped out at the wonderful craft night, The Make Escape.  If you don’t already know about it, it’s a fantastic (and free!) evening for adults to get creative and crafty in East London – think paper, glue and sequins!  Each event has a theme around which the crafty projects are based, with this event being Spring Break.  Regardless of the theme, there is always a space for knitting, and this was where I spent the evening teaching people how to knit.

The Make Escape

It really was a whole heap of fun!  Also teaching that night were the lovely Kareem  and my good friend (and incredibly talented) Sarah.  I lost count of how many people we “recruited” in to the wonderful world of knitting, but it was certainly a few.  I was quite chuffed to be able to teach continental to a couple of knitters too; one who was left-handed, and another who was struggling to grasp English-style throwing when it didn’t connect with her memories of watching her mum knit.  I showed her how to hold the yarn in her left hand (just like her mum) and so  it made a lot more sense for her.

Not bad for a knitting groupie eh?

I think that this post has helped me start to make sense of where I fit in this amazing knitting community.  While you may not be seeing many WIPs or FOs on this blog, I’m starting to think that it’s OK.  There might actually be a place, and a space, for me in this great big knitting community whether I “actually knit” or not.

first event for the year

Edinburgh Yarn Fest - I'm going

Well, the planning for this year’s yarn shows has begun in earnest.

I’m very excited that the first event I’ll be travelling to this year is the Edinburgh Yarn Fest on March 14-15th.  It is a biannual event, and this will be my first time going.  I’m not entirely sure what to expect, other than it will be amazing!

Judging by the dicussions happening over on Ravelry and on Twitter, I’m not the only one getting excited.  People are travelling from far and wide (across the UK and Europe, and I’ve noticed that people are also travelling from the USA!) so it’s bound to be a special event.

I’ll be heading up for a very special reason: I’ll be loading up the suitcase full of knitting and crochet patterns and samples and I’ll be running the p/hop stall over the weekend.  Please do come along, say hi, and pick up a pattern or three.  If you’d like to stop for a couple of hours and help out on the stall, that would be great too!

2015 UK knitting events

The year is drawing to a close, and so it’s time to bring you the list of UK knitting events for 2015.  Once again we’ve got an impressive lineup for the year ahead, and the list just gets bigger every year.  Unfortunately that results in a few duplications over weekends, but that just takes a bit more planning.   Who’s excited?

Confirmed events for 2015:

18 Jan
20-22 Feb
5-8 March
14-15 March
27-28 March
25-26 April
9 May
15-16 May
16-17 May
16-17 May
23 May
30-31 May
26-27 June
25-26 July
7-8 Aug
15 Aug
11-13 Sept
26-27 Sept
26-27 Sept
26 Sep-4 Oct
7-11 Oct
17-18 Oct
29 Oct-1 Nov
26-29 Nov
Waltham Abbey Wool Show Waltham Abbey, Essex
Unravel Farnham Maltings, Farnham, Surrey
Spring Knitting and Stitching Show  Olympia, London
Edinburgh Yarn Festival Edinburgh, Scotland
p-LUSH  Ricoh Arena, Coventry
Wonderwool Wales Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys, Wales
Wharfe Wool Fair Otley Courthouse, West Yorkshire
I Knit Fandango Lindley Hall, London (new event!)
John Arbon Textiles Open Weekend South Molton, Devon
FOFEST  Exeter, Devon  (UPDATE: cancelled until 2016)
Highland WoolFest Dingwall Mart, Scotland
Proper Woolly   Holsworthy, Devon  (new event!)
Woolfest Mitchells Lakeland Livestock Centre, Cockermouth, Cumbria
Fibre-East Redborne Community College, Ampthill, Bedfordshire
British Wool Show (previously British Wool Weekend) York Auction Mart
Popup Wool Show  The Oval Leisure Centre, Bebington, Cheshire
Bristol Wool Fair Clifton and Durdham Downs, Bristol
Yarndale Skipton Auction Mart, Skipton, Yorkshire
Masham Sheep Fair  Masham, Yorkshire
Shetland Wool Week Shetland
Knitting and Stitching Show Ally Pally, London
Bakewell Wool Gathering Bakewell Agricultural Centre, Bakewell, Derbyshire
Geeky Puffin Knitpalooza (retreat with one-day market) Edinburgh (new!)
Knitting and Stitching Show Harrogate, Yorkshire
Possible events:
There are a few events that may well be held again next year, but details are still to be confirmed.  However I know people are chomping at the bit to start planning for next year, so I had to get this blog post published sooner rather than later.

Unwind, held in July 2014 at the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, Brighton UPDATE: not being held in 2015

Glasgow School of Yarn held in October 2014 in Glasgow

Festiwool, held in November 2014 at North Herts College, Hitchin, Hertfordshire

Time to start preparing the shortlist of the events that I’ll get to in 2015!  What’s on your must-see list?