rainy day Cornwall: Falmouth

The current horrendous UK weather has prompted this post.  The wind and rain reminds me of what we experienced last year on a little week away in Cornwall.  It was in March, which can have quite lovely spring weather, but last year it was the second coldest on record.  The seaside isn’t really my location of choice for a week of wind, hail, sleet and snow!  Trying to make the most of a holiday around all that weather was quite a challenge at times.

Anyway, we booked a lovely little apartment called Puffins in the middle of Falmouth.  If you’re looking for a modern apartment in a perfect location, then it completely fits the bill.  A fondness of puffins really is recommended though, as the decor is very puffin-focused, right down to puffin salt and pepper shakers.  But who doesn’t love puffins, right?

Our apartment had a great view however, with double height windows:

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Due to The Amazing Molly having a work emergency to tend do, I was left to my own devices for a couple of days.  My Plan A for the holiday had fallen in a heap, as there was no way in the world that I was going to do any coastal walks.  Plan B was then to come up with ways to spend time in Falmouth during crap weather.

Here are my recommendations, in no particular order:

Go to a pub with a bookshop!    This place was such an unexpected find.  The entrance to Beerwolf Books looks like an interesting old boozer…

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then you go up the staircase, to discover a lovely pub with a bookshop at the back.  Sheer genius.  Seriously, why doesn’t every town have one of these?  I could spend a lot of time somewhere like that.

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When there is a short respite from the rain and the howling winds, go for a little walk to the next town over, Penryn.  Stock up on supplies at the Bailey’s Country Store Farm Shop (I got a slice of fantastic egg and bacon pie to eat on the go, and I got some frozen homity pies to eat later.  Seriously, the only two places in the world I’ve ever found homity pies are Cornwall and Tasmania.  There’s a huge gap in the market, hint hint.  I could live on the potato-and-cheese goodness forever).

Then have a nice cup of tea and a bit of cake at Miss Peapod’s Cafe.  The focus is on local and organic food, and I managed to snaffle a comfy couch just when there was a rare patch of sunshine coming in.

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The cafe is part of Jubilee Wharf, a great multi-use eco-development in Penryn.  Jubilee Wharf is also home to various workshops, studios, alongside flats on the top floor.  I had a look around some lovely clothing and jewellery studios.

When you have some company again (The Amazing Molly eventually returned), stop by Dolly’s Tea Rooms for a delicious cocktail served in a teapot and teacups.  Tasty!  They’re also now hosting a knitting evening once a month, but I only discovered this a day too late to attend myself.

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On the topic of knitting, there’s a traditional “wool shop” in town, The Wool Basket.  I thought it would be just the place for something more on the novelty yarn end of the spectrum, and indeed it was, so I picked up something suitable for knitting an easter bunny.  Worked a treat, and the staff were very lovely actually,

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Falmouth actually has a great selection of little independent shops, with a good range of interesting, handmade products, as well as a good smattering of vintage furniture shops.  There are also lots of art galleries to spend time browsing in, but I didn’t take any photos of those to show you.

In a nutshell, Falmouth is a lovely little place, that somehow manages to combine Cornish fishing history with tourism and university students.  I’m sure it’s at its best in summer, but even in the depths of an unexpected winter, it’s a great spot.

2014 UK knitting events

It’s that time of year again where we pull out our trusty diaries and plan for the year ahead of knitting and fibre events, right?  Or is that just me?

I’ve pulled together a list of all the major knitting events in the UK for 2014, and some of these dates are hot off the press.  Calendars at the ready..

19 Jan                Waltham Abbey Wool Show  Marriott Hotel, Waltham Abbey (new event!)

21-23 Feb          Unravel Farnham Maltings, Farnham, Surrey

13-16 March     Knitting and Stitching Show  Olympia, London

26-27 April       Wonderwool Wales Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells, Powys, Wales

24 May              Highland Wool Festival Dingwall Mart, Scotland (new event!)

27-28 June       Woolfest Mitchells Lakeland Livestock Centre, near Cockermouth, Cumbria

12-13 July         Unwind Brighton Dome Corn Exchange Brighton (new event!)

26-27 July        Fibre-East Redborne Community College, Ampthill, Bedfordshire

5-7 Sept            Bristol Wool Fair exact location in Bristol tbc.  (new event!)

6-7 Sept            British Wool Weekend The Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate

27-28 Sept       Yarndale Skipton Auction Mart, Skipton, Yorkshire

16 Aug             Popup Wool Show  The Oval Leisure Centre, Bebington, Cheshire  (new event!)

9-12 Oct           Knitting and Stitching Show Ally Pally, London

6-12 Oct           Shetland Wool Week Shetland

18-19 Oct         Bakewell Wool Gathering Bakewell Agricultural Centre, Bakewell

2 Nov               Festiwool North Herts College, Hithin, Hertfordshire (new event!)

20-23 Nov       Knitting and Stitching Show Harrogate

Please note that the Edinburgh Yarn Festival will be taking a wee break this year, and are planning a bigger event for March 2015.

I’m amazed at how many new yarn and fibre based events keep springing up all over the country.  And every one is different, with a different theme, focus, atmosphere, and fabulous vendors.  I’m trying to work my way round them all, but there’s just so many to choose from!  I might visit the new Unwind event in Brighton this year (good excuse for a weekend away) and my dream is to get to Shetland Wool Week one day.  Maybe this year?  Because we all know that knitters DO travel.

giveaway winner

Hi there knitters!  For those of you in the UK, I hope you’re managing to stay dry and out of the floods this week.
Thanks to those of you who left comments in response to my last blog post.    You had some great stories to tell about gifts you’d received.  I certainly got lots of giggles!
I put the number of commenters in to the handy random number generator, and came up with the following:

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That means that the prize goes to commenter number two, that is Linda!  Please do get in touch with your details, and I’ll get your prize in the post to you.  Happy new year!

giveaway giveaway

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going to a wonderful Christmas Party organised by the folks behind the lovely Pom Pom Quarterly magazine.  If you’re not familiar with PPQ, I’d highly recommend you check it out.  Not only does it have modern knitting patterns, but it also includes articles and delicious recipes, all bundled up in a lovely sized magazine with great production values.  Oh, and it’s London based too, and I love supporting local indie businesses.

So there was no doubt that I was going to head along to their end of year shindig.  I didn’t actually take any photos of the party, largely because I was too busy drinking mulled wine and scoffing cheese and biscuits!  To get a feel for the evening, check out some blog posts from other partygoers here, here and here.

Towards the end of the evening there was a draw for a sack full of lucky door prizes.  Somehow, my ticket was drawn first!

Anyone who knows me is well aware that I rarely knit with anything thicker than 4ply, so it was with some irony that I received a knitting kit from Wool and the Gang containing chunky yarn:

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The kit includes 200g of chunky wool in a dark forest green colour, nice rosewood needles (size 10mm), sewing up needles, and a pattern for a beret.  It’s labelled as an “intermediate” pattern, but it’s knit flat and seamed at the end, so could maybe do with some tweaking if you’re comfortable knitting in the round.

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I can’t see myself putting this to good use any time soon, so it needs to go to a new home.  That means the giveaway is up for giveaway!

So, if you’d like to get your hands on the kit, just leave a comment telling me about the most unusual, unexpected, or surprising gift or item you’ve received.  It could be something wonderful, or truly horrendous – tell me about it!  The winner will be announced in the first week of January.  Can’t wait to hear your stories!

more yarn crawls…

It may have been a bit quiet over here on the blog, but I’ve been busy behind the scenes.  There’s bit a bit of dyeing, a bit of knitting, and quite a bit of yarn crawling!

Back in the summer, there was the Great London Yarn Crawl, set up as a fundraiser, that saw intrepid yarn hunters travel across London on various routes, searching out woolliness across the city.  Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the event itself, but I set to work dyeing these little cuties for donation:

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These are mini-skeins of my Camelsilk and Superwash Merino yarns.  I’m not sure if they made it in to the goodie bags, or whether they were part of a door prize, but if you ended up with a little mini, please let me know!  I love to hear where my babies end up.

Since then I’ve done a spot of travelling, and wherever I travel I have to search out yarn shops.  Over the past little while I’ve been to Suffolk, Berlin, and Paris, so expect travelknitter guides coming up soon.

In the meantime, if you’re in London I can highly recommend the fab E17 Designers Market, in the lovely Walthamstow village.  If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s walking distance from Walthamstow Central tube, on the speedy Victoria Line.  I’ll be there on Saturday from 2pm to 6pm selling travelknitter yarns, of course, and stocking up on a few chrissy gifts.

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It’s the perfect opportunity to do some shopping for handmade gifts while having a lovely mulled wine at the same time.  Sounds like a great Saturday afternoon to me.  See you there!

north-east London yarn crawl

A few weeks ago I put together a little yarn crawl for my Walthamstow Knitters group.  Even though London doesn’t have anywhere near as many yarn shops as other major cities like NYC, we do actually have quite a few if you know where to look.  Some of my fellow group members hadn’t been to some of the shops around our fair city, so a yarn crawl was much needed!  For those not familiar with London, well, it’s a pretty big place and very spread out, so travelling all across the city isn’t recommended.  I decided to keep the yarn crawl focused on the general north-east bit.

Here’s a run-down of our day:

We started at London’s newest yarn shop (and our very own local), AbSTraCt.  It’s owned by the very creative Alessandra, and it’s right in the gorgeous Walthamstow village.  It’s the sort of place that you wouldn’t stumble across by accident, but you’d be very pleased if you did.

We somehow picked one of the hottest days of the hottest summer in years, so we started off by enjoying the sunshine with some pastries and a spot of tea.  Lovely way to start a day!

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The shop is brand-spanking new, and Alessandra has put a lot of work in renovating the space, stripping back walls and floorboards, and giving the place a great artistic feel.

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She’s stocking a range of yarns across all price points and fibres (including some travelknitter yarn, of course!  Can’t get more local than that!)

It was tempting to stop there all day, but once we’d made our purchases and scoffed all the tea, it was time to move on.

Next stop: Nest.

This has become one of London’s favourite yarn shops.  Again, it’s not a place that you would just come across in passing, as it’s tucked away in a row of shops in a residential area of Crouch End.  It’s well worth seeking out though.  They have a lovely range of yarns, haberdashery, tea and cake, and their window displays are always beautiful.

We were kindly supplied with a jug of iced water so we could relax while we mused over our purchases.

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I did come away with some lovely new buttons, of which my stash seriously rivals my yarn stash!

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We the jumped on a bus back to Finsbury Park, and after walking a few blocks we were at the Handweavers Gallery.  This is a great place, but slightly off the beaten track (and they really need to put an apostrophe in their name!).  As the name suggests, the focus isn’t on knitting, but they do have a good range of yarns, books, and gadgets for all fibre crafts.  And really, which knitter doesn’t get the urge to expand their repertoire of hobbies?  There is a large range of yarn designed for weaving, and it all looks so amazing:

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There’s plenty of fibre for spinning and felting too…

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A couple of us bought mini niddy-noddies, some of us bought fibre, and I had to stop myself from buying an armload of books!

We then carried on to Stoke Newington, to the lovely Knit With Attitude.  Shamefully, it was the first time I’d been in to the shop since it had moved premises; it’s now in a much bigger shop, co-located with Of Cabbages and Kings.  The arrangement has meant that both venues get a bigger shop, and it means that you can shop for yarn and lovely designer/maker gifts all at once!  They also run some great craft courses, which I’m very keen to sign up to.IMG_4623

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We then jumped on the train for a couple of stations to London Fields.  Our destination:  Fabrications and Broadway Market.  Unfortunately I was completely exhausted and overheating by then, so couldn’t face taking any pictures.  We were all pretty knackered, so had a quick mooch around and got something to eat.  I’d been keen to look for vintage buttons, but I couldn’t quite muster the energy.  One of my fellow yarn crawlers managed to spot a handknitted jumper on the market for the bargainous £5, so that was a great score.

All in all, it was a rather fabulous, yarny, fun, and exhausting day.  Bring on the next one!

If anyone would like a map of the yarn crawl, just let me know.  I’m thinking about putting together little route maps of yarn crawls around various cities, so it would be good to know if this would be something that people would use.

A couple of hours in Sheffield

One thing that I make a point of doing in any city that I’m in, is scouting out local independent businesses, and Sheffield was no exception.  I had a couple of hours to spare last Monday morning before catching my train back to London, so I did a bit of internet research to track down a place to buy handmade items in Sheffield.  Despite spending a weekend surround by designer talent at the Folksy Summer School, it still was not an easy feat to track down!  I found it incredibly difficult to find anything on the internet about where to find crafty/handmade shops in Sheffield.  It was such a hard task that when I wanted to search out the shop details in order to compile this blog post, I couldn’t even find the link again!  After much searching, I managed to track down a lovely shop called Bird’s Yard (although even the website seems to only mention the Leeds store, not the Sheffield branch, but you can find them on Facebook). It’s tucked away down a cheery looking shopping lane, Chapel Walk.

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The shop stocks all sorts of handmade goodies by different local designers and crafters, ranging from jewellery, clothing, cushions, to gorgeous handbound books.  I can’t leave a city without a souvenir of some description, so came home with a handmade needle case, as I need just the right equipment for all that sewing that I do, right?

Whilst en route I also found the famous Police box, which is situation in Surrey St.  I walked past it the first time, went past two officers in the street, but didn’t dare ask them where it was!  Turns out it’s on a rather nondescript corner, and was hidden by a white van at the time.

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Apparently the box is still in use, but a peek in the window suggests it’s something of a storage unit.

The plaque on the front gives a nice potted history, which I’ll include a few snippets of here:

This Police Box, which is still used operationally, is the sole survivor of 120 boxes which served the Sheffield City Police for nearly 40 years.  Introduced in October 1928, the boxes were sited on Police beats all over the City and provided a contact point for police officers and members of the public.  The boxes were visited by patrolling officers at hourly intervals when information was passed by phone between patrolling officers and supervisory staff at police stations.  A blue electric lamp, controlled from the local police station, was located on the top of each box and was used to indicate that there was an important message to be passed out.  Occasionally the boxes served as a temporary lock-up for anyone who had been arrested and was awaiting transport to a police station.

That’s all very well and good, by why is it green, and not blue?  Police boxes are always blue!  Haven’t they ever seen the Dr Who TARDIS?  Someone needs to get out a tin of paint and sort that out.