November yarn shows

Where has the year gone?  It seems I blinked and missed it!  It just means that now we’ve reached autumn, the knitters’ favourite time of year, and it’s peak yarn show season.  Being a solo yarn dyer I try to plan out my year’s schedule carefully, but sometimes it’s a bit like buses that all come along at once.

First up is the Yarnporium this coming weekend, November 5th and 6th.  It’s an event held by the team behind Yarn in the City, and there is a great range of stalls and workshops over the two days.   The event is located very centrally at King’s College London on the Strand, and is perfect for people travelling across London as well as further afield.

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Then the following Saturday 12th, I’ll be back at Hitchin Festiwool.  This is my third year there as a vendor.  It’s always such a friendly event, and I’m very much looking forward to catching up with lots of people from previous events.

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I’ll be bringing your favourite colourways of course, as well as a brand new Brambleberry colourway inspired by the season.

These are my last two shows for the year, so I hope you can come along!

 

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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.

knit-a-thon

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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

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:

 

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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.

 

gojy

 

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:

prismatic

 

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?

 

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.

in the village: Walthamstow Summer Garden Party

It’s amazing how many people in London don’t even know that Walthamstow has a village.  Well it does, and it’s lovely!  Cute, quirky, independent shops, an ancient house, and a great sense of community.  I think I’ll save the detail for another post, but this is just to say that on Sunday I’ll be having a little travelknitter yarn stall at the Walthamstow Village Garden Party (well, if I ever get rid of this cough, but that’s another matter).

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Fingers crossed for good weather, and make mine a Pimm’s!

exhibition: Kaffe Fassett, A Life in Colour

a life in colour

A few weeks ago I arranged for a some fellow knitters  to meet up at the Fashion and Textile Museum in south London for the Kaffe Fassett exhibition, “A Life in Colour”.

I wouldn’t describe myself as a particular fan of Kaffe Fassett’s work, but he’s a bit of a legend in the knitting and textile world, so it was a good opportunity to find out more.

The first part of the exhibition focused on some of his other artwork such as paintings and ceramics, but I was keen to move on to the knitting.   I was delighted to see all the ends left loose on his first ever knit cardigan:

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I believe he’s quite renowned for not weaving in the ends on his work, which is quite a sin for knitters.  It makes me think that there’s hope for us mere knitting mortals!

I’d joked that I would need sunglasses in order to cope with the bright colours in the exhibition, but the effect really wasn’t eye-searingly bright at all.  There were large wall-sized knitted hangings:

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as well as some fantastic quilts, which I loved.  Quilting is one of those hobbies that’s on my “to-do-when-I have-time” list, and I found Kaffe’s work really inspiring:

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I really liked this quilt made from men’s shirts.  It’s definitely the sort of thing I’d love to own and use:

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And of course there was plenty of the classic Kaffe Fasset knits, such as the Long Leaf Coat published by Rowan in 1992:

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The museum also has a lovely little cafe, where we spent about an hour in the cafe afterwards drinking tea and eating cake (they had to kick us out at closing time!).  I’d highly recommend a visit, and the exhibition is  on until the 29th of June.