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?

a knitter’s trip to Berlin

Last weekend was the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall.  I have vague memories of watching the news as a kid and seeing the wall come down, but unfortunately I was still in primary school so my knowledge at the time was limited.   However ever since then I’ve had a keen interest in Berlin, and have wanted to go there for years.   I had even started planning a trip a couple of years ago, and have the travel guide on my bookshelf to prove it.  For some reason, I didn’t go.

So when my last birthday rolled around, the Amazing Molly knew it would be the perfect place to go for my birthday weekend.

I knew I’d love the city.  I just didn’t expect to love it quite so much.

Love love love.

autumn in Berlin


It just seems to have a mixture of everything I love in a city: that great clash of history and youthful energy, amazing creativity, lots of street food, incredible markets, and a public transport system that includes trams.  What’s not to love?

We were only there for a weekend, but I’d desperately love to go back for longer (and I have no doubt that I will).  Here is a bit of an overview of some of my favourite bits.

Whenever  I travel anywhere I do my research beforehand and try to find the best local yarn shops.  Unfortunately that’s a bit tricky for a weekend in Berlin, as pretty much everything is shut on a Sunday, and yarns shops tend to close early on a Saturday as well!  That’s a helpful bit of info I wish I’d known before I went.

So here’s a list of  yarn shops in Berlin, largely for my own reference for future visits:

  • Die Woll-Lust  Mittenwalder Str 49, Kreuzberg (open M-F 11am -7pm; Sat 11-5pm)
  • Boucle  Nassauische Str 11-12, Wilmersdorf (open M-F 11am – 7pm; Sat 10-3pm)
  • Fadeninsel Oranienstr 23, Kreuzberg (open M-F 10am-6pm; Sat 10am-4pm)
  • Handmade Berlin Monbijouplatz 9 (open M-F 12-7; Sat 12-5).

Handmade Berlin also do coffee, apparently.


Handmade Berlin


In between trekking across town to peer in windows of closed yarn shops, we found some lovely little vintage markets dotted around.  There was one (can’t remember the location!) that was full of beautiful mid-century furniture.  I love the way that there would be tiny little stalls that would specialise in just one item, like milking stools or vintage sewing boxes.


vintage sewing boxes

No trip to Berlin could be complete without spending some time getting to grips with some of the history of the wall.  Although much of it is now gone, there are sections that are still intact, including some that ironically now have to be protected themselves.

We went to this section of the wall, known as the “death strip” as so many people tried to make the crossing through “no man’s land” between the two walls.

Berlin wall marker



It’s so powerful to see the tracks marked out where people built tunnels to try to escape, now delineated through freshly mown grass.

Right nearby is the amazing Mauerpark Flea Market, which I believe is quite a Sunday institution.   It is definitely one of the biggest markets I’ve ever been to!  Every time we turned a corner, we would think “ah, this must be the end!” only to be faced with yet more stalls ahead of us.


Vintage buttons: my favourite rummage.

vintage buttons

It has an amazing array of general jumble, furniture, clothes, and pretty much anything else you can imagine.  I could have happily bought enough vintage furniture to fill a whole house, but had to be more restrained.

We quite happily had a rummage through tubs of these and came home with a carry bag of knobs for a fraction of the price at Anthropologie:



There are still market stalls selling pieces of “the wall”, but bear in mind that it is now estimated to have been sold three or four times over by now!

The market completely wore us out, but over to the side of the park is an open-air auditorium where street performers ply their trade to huge audiences.  It was amazing.  We originally just went to have a sit down for a while before doing more sight-seeing, but the performers were so good that we spent the rest of the afternoon there, and gave up  on the rest of the sight-seeing that we’d planned.

Next time, next time.

(PS  If you like Trippen shoes, I found the factory outlet store at Kopenicker Str 187-188, Kreuzberg.  Nearest U-bahn Schlesisches Tor.  Keep it a secret until I get to go back again).

Gods Own Junkyard: a Walthamstow institution

more neon


For the past year or so I’ve been very very lucky to live only a short walk from Gods Own Junkyard  (yes, I’m fighting the urge to put in an apostrophe).  If you don’t know about it, it’s an amazing place filled to the rafters with nothing but neon.  It’s all the work of the Chris Bracey, who has been the go-to person for neon signs for the past few decades, ranging from the stripclub signs of Soho through to just about every neon sign that you’ll see in a film.  His work is just amazing, and you can even see it in Selfridges Oxford Street.


GOJY at Selfridges


I’ve been meaning to put together this blog post for a long time.   Sadly I’ve been prompted to post it now as Chris Bracey died last weekend.  Of course, I found out on twitter:


twitter screenshot


I was pleased to hear that his family will be keeping Gods Own Junkyard open and I hope you’re inspired to visit.  I’ve taken so many friends there, and no-one has been disappointed.  You can even stop and have a drink at the cafe while you’re there.  It will definitely brighten up a London winter’s day.




when I’m not knitting

My knitting time has been steadily decreasing to a point where it’s pretty much non-existent.  So many other things (ie work!) get in the way.  I know that lots of knitters are able to use any spare scraps of time to fit in a few rows here and there, but I just don’t seem to be able to do that.  For me, knitting is a creative process, and I find that I just can’t be creative when my head is full with so much other stuff. 

I may not be knitting, but I’m still doing knitting-related things.

I’m involved in one rather large project in particular:  I’ve just recently started as the co-ordinator for p/hop!




For those who aren’t familiar with p/hop, it stands for “pennies per hour or pleasure”.  It’s an amazing fundraising project that raises money for Medecins Sans Frontieres, and its success is entirely down to donations from within the knitting and crochet community.  Everything element of the project is community driven:  designers donate patterns, and knitters then “purchase” a pattern, making a donation of what they feel the pattern is worth.   We have stalls at knitting and fibre events across the country to help spread the word.  Knitters also offer their time and skills to whip up samples of the patterns to help promote the designs.  And then someone volunteers to co-ordinate it all and keep it ticking over.  And now that someone is me!

P/hop is such a unique project, and to date has raised over £47 000 for MSF’s work.  There are now 60 amazing patterns available, so if you’re looking for a new project to cast on, be sure to head over and take a look.

Oh, and if you see me at knit night or at a festival still carrying around the same half-finished sock from months ago, I promise that I’m still very much involved in knitting, even if I’m not actually doing it much anymore.



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.



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!




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






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



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.


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:



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.