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.

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woolthamstow

Being a recent arrival to Walthamstow, I quickly set about getting involved in various things, including kicking off a new knitting group.  We have a group on Ravelry, as well as a group on Meetup, and we have a really good mixture of knitters and crocheters, so there’s no discrimination here!

We meet on the first and third Monday of each month at the recently refurbished The Bell.

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It’s a good local pub, with polished wood floors, rickety second-hand furniture, and comfy couches that are just right for sitting and knitting.  We tend to snaffle the couches by the window, so we get the best light and we can do some knitting promotion with the passers-by.

One of the walls even features William Morris-esque floral wallpaper, in a nod to the William Morris Gallery down the road:

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The food always goes down a treat:

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1-knit night

If you’re local to E17, please do come along and join in.

And just a little snippet of news:  Woolthamstow is about to get even woollier…

exciting!

knitting at the dinner table

Thanks to the joys of social networking over on Ravelry, a bunch of fellow yarny types and I got together on Sunday to combine two three of our favourite pastimes:  knitting, eating, and drinking.  Some time back I’d suggested in a discussion thread as there are so many amazing places to eat in London so we should try to arrange a regular meet-up to visit some of them.  Due to my crazy work hours I couldn’t make it to the last one, but this time round we’d booked a Sunday lunch at MsMarmiteLover’s Underground Restaurant.

MsMarmiteLover is true to her name...

For those who aren’t familiar with the concept, this is one of a number of supperclubs hosted in super-seekret locations around London, most commonly in the home of the host.  This particular underground restaurant is in north-west London, very close to transport, and seems to be exceedingly popular.

Upon arrival we were shown to the garden at the back, where we mingled in the sunshine sipping a glass of bubbly.  Once called inside, we made our way through the four course menu (pescatarian, but with a vegetarian option for the main course).

This blood orange and fennel salad looked amazing, and was rather tasty:

As this was an afternoon affair in MsMarmiteLover’s house (not your usual quick turnaround restaurant) we had lots of time to chat and knit in between courses.

We seem to have provided quite a bit of entertainment for the fellow guests, several of whom came up to us during the afternoon to ask what we were working on.  Because I spend so much time knitting with others in various public locations (pubs, trains, parks), I forget that we’re actually quite a novelty sight.

There’s a great pic of us (les tricoteuses) over here at MsMarmiteLover’s blog.

The afternoon’s highlight for me was definitely the company.  My knitting companions were of course all fabulous to spend an afternoon with; the other guests were really friendly; and MsMarmiteLover and her assistants were all lovely.

I’d love to hear about recommendations for other places in London to eat and knit.

knitting in style

I’m completely in love with London at the moment (maybe it’s the sunshine?) and I’m particularly enjoying making the most of all the wonderful creative things that are happening.

I spent a lovely afternoon yesterday knitting with Beki in the surrounds of the Parlour.  It’s a cute little pop-up space in Clerkenwell, designed to be ‘a place to write letters, engage in good conversation, play games like cards, drink punch and enjoy soothing music’.

We had tea and scones, and caught a poetry reading.

They even have a gorgeous red chaise longue; I’m determined to have one myself when I grow up.

Beki and I have both been thinking about various arsenical cardigan designs (and she’s already started on hers), so the setting was perfect!  I wore my ‘It Cannot Fail to Please’ jumper, which was just the thing, but we were too busy knitting and scheming to actually get a photo.

The Parlour is only open until Wednesday, so pop on your favourite frock and stop by for a spot of old-fashioned relaxation.

getting out there

Finally, I handed in my uni assignment today (at 4pm to be precise).  Hurrah!  I’m free!  And just because I haven’t spent enough time staring at my computer, I decided it’s time to update the blog.

I did actually manage to leave the house for non-work purposes twice this week, and both happened to be knitting related.

Wednesday evening saw the long-awaited ‘Knitting from the top-down’ class at Socktopus, taught by the very lovely Jared Flood (Brooklyntweed).  Unfortunately it also coincided with the London tube strike, so the class was delayed an hour whilst we fought London traffic to get there.  Although I went there with the intention of learning more about top-down design (my very favourite method) I actually managed to learn Magic Loop as an unintended bonus.  There was more knitting than fan-girling, so no pics of Jared!

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I do have a picture however to document the glorious sunshine that came out for  Worldwide Knit in Public Day yesterday.   I cast aside my essay for a few hours and joined in the London SnB Knit Crawl – the first chance I’d had to work on my current knitting project for ages (although I clearly wasn’t paying attention and had to rip back most of my work).

I won’t say too much about the afternoon, but I was very impressed with the design work that went in to these cupcakes:

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I actually baked a giant batch of cupcakes tonight myself (surprisingly good, strawberries n’ cream), as I’ve been doing a bit of batch-baking as part of my Unicef fundraising.  I’m starting to get a little cupcaked-out; who knew that was possible?

perfect saturday

The sun has finally come out here in London (for now) and I spent a fantastic Saturday afternoon this weekend with Woollystuff enjoying it.  The afternoon had all the elements of perfection:

A trip to Broadway Market, one of my absolute favourite markets in London (not that I’ve been to them all, but I’m working my way through the list!).  Every stall is fantastic, filled with local produce and hand crafted goodness – no sign of imported tat here.  After an initial mooch around the market, we sat in the park, scoffing yummy spinach borek, and working on our knitting.  I’ve just about finished the front of my vintage top, so hopefully photos won’t be too far away.

After lunch it was back to the market for dessert:

I bought the most delicious rum & raisin fudge from this stall.  It should come with a health warning, it was so delicious.  I’ll definitely be back for more.

We had a rummage through Fabrications, but I managed to come away without any additional purchases.  I was very excited to see however that they are now stocking the fabulous Hungry Girls’ Cookbook.  Melbourne handmade goods are taking over the world!

The afternoon then finished with a glass of white wine in the sunshine.  How often do such perfect Saturdays come along?

travelknitter’s guide to Paris

Needless to say, I had the most amazing time in Paris.  I had no idea that I was going to love the city so much.  I mean, I figured it was going to be pretty great – one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world.  I was just so surprised at my reaction though – I was practically in tears when the time came to leave, I wanted so much to stay. I really did have the best five days ever.

So, what to post on the blog?

I pretty much spent the whole time on my feet, hitting the streets and shops.  I had every intention of buying certain amounts of to-be-found-only-in-France yarn to bring back as a souvenir of my trip.  So did I buy yarn in Paris?  Nope!  Not a single, solitary skein.  And why was that?  I blame Alice.  I’ll get to the reason why.

One of the definite shops to hit was Le Bon Marche.  Their 3rd floor mercerie is well-renowned, so I had to check it out.  They’ve got a great range of a number of yarn brands, such as Rowan and Noro, as well as some less familiar in the UK, like Bouton D’Or, Annie Blatt, Phildar, and Plassard.  The yarns are presented beautifully in wooden shelves, with not a skein out of place.  The store was divided up according to brand, so that each yarn brand had a section like this:

The whole store seemed to be very ‘hushed’ so I wasn’t sure if taking pictures would cause a stir, but I got away with it.

They also had a great button section, but I managed to restrain myself:

Anyway I was pottering around, thinking about buying some lovely chocolate coloured alpaca yarn, when I heard a familiar voice.  I’ve got terrible eyesight, so I was squinting a bit, but still couldn’t quite believe that standing in front of me, in Paris, completely at random, was Alice and a friend (also called Alice).  Poor thing, she was wondering why on earth there was some woman in the yarn store staring at her!

After I recovered from the shock of seeing a London knitting friend in Paris, Alice pulled out of her bag her latest project:  a laceweight scarf made from the most divine red Louet Mooi.  Oh, it is so soft!  I draped it around my neck without a single prickle.  From that moment it became my dream yarn, so I decided not to buy anything else until Alice gets the Mooi in her store later this month.

Even though I didn’t buy any yarn, I still managed to fit in quite a bit of yarn-related shopping:

The first yarn store I visited was Boutique du Comptoir (26 rue Cadet, 9th arr).   It is a cute but tiny shop.  Sadly only half the store is dedicated to yarn but what they have is lovely (Rowan, Noro, Habu etc).  Again the yarns were laid out in wooden cube shelving, but mostly too high to touch.  Not so good for encouraging impulse purchases.

Next up on the yarn store tour of Paris was Entree Des Fournisseurs (in the courtyard off 8 rue des Francs Bourgeois, 3rd arr).

This place is lovely.  Their knitting section has quite a focus on baby items, and they had the most gorgeous knits on display – think handknit children’s jackets lined with Liberty print fabric.  Gorgeous stuff.  They also had the best range of buttons that I saw in Paris – so much so that I went there twice!  The buttons aren’t cheap though, so I restrained myself from stocking up ‘just because’.  I was on a specific button finding mission.

Another one of my finds was Pappo Paulin (47 rue du Caire, 2nd arr). I’d seen a reference to this shop somewhere on the internet, but I’ve now lost the link.  I had a great time wandering around the local area, as it’s very much in the rag trade district, surrounded by wholesalers of clothing, jewellery, and all sorts of bits and bobs.

I went in with the aim of finding the perfect buttons for my Coraline cardi.  Whilst the store is a general  haberdashery, with beads, ribbons, etc, they had a pretty good range of buttons too.  My Coraline’s in quite a tricky shade of green, so I was really struggling to find just the thing.  I met the lovely store owner, Pierre, who was kind enough to help me out.  He led me out the back, down a precarious set of stairs, with the warning, “it’s very French…” and showed me to the Basement o’ Buttons:

It was quite something!  I had great fun rummaging through the dusty old drawers.

Fellow Raveller Anne kindly volunteered to meet me for lunch one day on my trip, and she certainly picked a good spot.  We went to Presto Fresco which has the largest salads I’ve ever seen.  I had some sensational vegetarian ravioli, which was as fresh as pasta can be.  We also got free samples of their strawberry wine.  Mmmm.

Not only does Presto Fresco  do brilliant food,  it’s also around the corner from supreme mercerie, La Droguerie (9 rue du Jour, 1st arr), the name of which is spoken in hushed tones in knitting circles.  I was so intrigued about all the stories I’d heard, but once I set foot inside, I was very very glad to have Anne with me to guide the way!   There is absolutely no self-service:  make a list of what you want (hanks of yarn are on display around the walls in a rainbow of colours, sample buttons are pinned up) and then be prepared to queue for what will seem like an eternity.  We were there on a weekday afternoon, but I certainly wouldn’t want to try it out on a Saturday.  I actually bought a few vintage buttons which I hope will work perfectly with Coraline, but again I resisted the yarn.  Photos inside the store are strictly forbidden, but this is a glimpse from outside:

Coraline’s not quite ready for full photos yet, but here’s a glimpse of her at the Palais-Royal.  I wasn’t particularly planning on going there, but was on the hunt for my dream perfume and was quite pleased with where I ended up:

Don’t think that I spent the entire trip just shopping though… I managed to fit in a few touristy things too.  No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower, right?  Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Australian Embassy is right next door.  We’re a classy nation!

Whilst the tower is stunning and the view is breathtaking, I was surprised at just how lovely the iron work is itself:

Being in a new city, it’s always hard to know where to eat.  Especially in Paris, where everything is so horrendously expensive (even by London standards).  Here’s my tip:  if you’re in the area, stop by Korcarz (29 Rue des Rosiers, 4th arr).  I had the most amazing apple strudel (apple slice) that I have had in my entire life.  The rest of their pastries looked just as good.  I would catch the train back to Paris just for that strudel alone. But I think there will be many things calling me back….