Heading to Fibre East

The Etsy shop is shut, the bags are (almost) packed, and the excitement is high: this weekend will see Travelknitter yarns at Fibre-East in Bedfordshire for the first time.

I’m getting just a little bit excited about this now – too excited to type properly actually – so I’ll keep it brief!

I’ll be bringing all the yarns and colourways that you know and love, as well as a few limited editions and two new colours.

There will a new shade of grey to add to the collection:

 

travelknitter_greys

 

And a spiffy new holiday-inspired summer colour that I’m rather in love with:

travelknitter_Freycinet

I’ll be in the Jacob marquee, so please come and find me and squish some yarn.  Looking forward to it!

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Paris-inspired socks

One of the most amazing things about being a yarn dyer is the opportunity to collaborate with some truly fabulous people and to get involved with some great projects.

I’m very excited to say that Travelknitter yarn has been used in a project that is very close to my heart: the brand new London Craft Guide by Yarn in the City.  This is just the sort of book that I would have loved to publish myself:  a great mixture of travel inspired knitting projects, coupled with a guide to London’s wonderful crafty venues.  Perfect!

My brief was to provide yarn support for a sock pattern inspired by the Eiffel Tower.  I instantly knew it had to be the BFL Supersock, which is my idea of the perfect sock yarn:  smooth sturdy-but-not-itchy British Bluefaced Leicester blended with nylon for extra strength.  I had a look through my own photos of previous trips to Paris, and decided to create a new blue-grey colourway, inspired by the glorious ironwork structure:

eiffel tower ironwork

After a few experiments at the dye pots, a new colourway was created:

Puddled Iron

 

I chose the name Puddled Iron, after the wrought iron that was used to build the Eiffel Tower.  I’m in love with this colour!  It has a more blue-ish tone than my usual greys, but I think it really works.   And I love how the kettle dyeing gives a subtle tonal quality to the colour, making it perfect for both plain and lace patterns.

Puddled Iron BFL

 

The images of the finished pattern have now been released, and I’m thrilled at how my yarn has been used to knit up these gorgeous La Ville de l’Amour socks by Fiona Hamilton-Maclaren.

La Ville d'Amour socks

Image credit: Juju Vail

The socks are worked toe-up (my favourite!) and the pattern comes in a range of five sizes too.  I’ll have to cast on for these beauties.

You can read more about the pattern, including an interview with the designer, here.

La Ville de L'Amour

Image credit: Juju Vail

I haven’t yet seen the sample socks, but Yarn in the City will be launching the London Craft Guide at Unravel (February 19-21), so I’m looking forward to seeing all the projects in real life.  And just to add to the excitement, you’ll also be able to pick up a skein or two of Travelknitter yarn on their stall!  BFL Supersock Puddled Iron will be available, as well as a few other lovely colourways.

If you can’t make it to Unravel (or just don’t want to wait that long!) you can purchase the yarn right now over in my Etsy shop.

To get a copy of the London Craft Guide as soon as it’s released, you can pre-order your copy here.

This is one book that I can’t wait to get my hands on.

travelknitter in York

I’m actually doing pretty well on my resolution to do more trips around the UK this year; I just haven’t blogged about any of it yet.  Time to make a start.

Recently I spent a long weekend in York.  It’s one of those famous touristy cities that everyone-except-me seems to have gone to, despite the fact that I’ve lived in London for a total of six years.  I needed to sort that out.

I snaffled a cheap ticket up on the train (£13) and an even cheaper route back on the OK-but-crowded Megabus.  It might take twice as long, but only involves sitting on the coach for half the journey, before changing on to a train at the train-station-with-cooling-towers.  Strange experience.

For all my travelling I actually hate being a tourist, and I’m pretty rubbish at it too.  By that, I mean I hate doing the usual touristy things, paying money to see the sights, and taking photos of all the famous places.  For example, I walked past York Minster, failed to capture it all in one photo, and then left the throngs of tourists to it.

I did enjoy walking around the city walls, although I have no photos of that because it was raining.  I just find it amazing to have such ancient city walls right next to residential flats and a supermarket.  Many hundreds of years on, the walls still make a good circuit around the city centre.

I stayed in a convent, for something a bit different.  Bar Convent was rather sweet, but don’t be confused in to thinking it’s a place for boozing: the Bar in the name is in fact Mickelgate Bar, a medieval gatehouse entry in to the city of York.

I wonder if driving through an ancient gatehouse makes peak hour traffic more bearable?

I’d done my crafty research beforehand, and discovered a york craft trail.  Brilliant idea!  I made a few notes, and had my shortlist all ready to go.  York is such a small place, and easily covered on foot.  However, I have no sense of direction, so I kept the map in my bag,  and just wandered.  It worked well, and eventually I stumbled across all the places I was hoping to see anyway.

Hot on my list was Duttons for Buttons:

They had a really good range of buttons (actually the largest in the UK, apparently) but I didn’t have anything in mind, so came away empty handed.  The unexpected bonus was the top floor of the building, which they’ve named their medieval room. This was where they keep their yarn, although it’s mostly of the acrylic/baby yarn variety.  The room itself is amazing.  After removing a modern ceiling, the original beams from 1422 were uncovered.  Seriously, 1422! I just find that completely incredible.

I was upstairs for ages, on my own, just marvelling at the history.

York has quite a number of yarn shops actually.  The two dedicated stores are

Ramshambles:

and Poppy’s:

Both are perfectly nice shops, stocking quite a few of the usual suspects, such as Debbie Bliss, Rowan and the like.  Living in London though, I’m spoiled for choice, and was hoping for more in the way of local wool and hand-dyed yarn.

My favourite crafty shop on this trip was Grace and Jacob:

Their primary focus is on feltmaking, but there are lots of other goodies as well, including lovely fabrics, haberdashery, and a small range of hand-dyed yarns.  I had a lovely time chatting away to the woman who was working there, and I’d happily go back for another visit.

After mostly avoiding the usual tourist traps, I did make it to one exhibition: the lovely Quilt Museum.  Due to the delicate nature of the fabrics, the museum can have only a few quilts on show at any one time, but they were great to see.  I love the fact that a dedicated quilt museum actually exists!  I don’t even quilt (although have grand ambitions) and came away feeling very inspired.  One day, one day.

emergency travel knitting

When I travel somewhere, a key feature of my planning is working out what knitting to take.  It’s right up there with decanting my toiletries into little travel bottles and checking the local weather forecast.  For me, planning what knitting to take is far more serious than what clothes to take.

For my latest trip to Australia, my usual routine was all out of sync (thank you, work-induced migraines), and I hadn’t planned a thing.  To make matters worse, it was to be my niece’s third birthday during my visit, and I hadn’t even had time to get her a pressie.

On the morning of my flight, I woke up and suddenly decided to knit my niece Sophie a polar bear.  Of course, who wouldn’t decide such a thing a few hours before travelling to the other side of the world?

I only had half a skein of suitable yarn, so I did a mad dash to my local department store.  My heart sank when the yarn was no longer on display, but I found a small stash on clearance.  Hurrah for finding the yarn at a discount!  But boo for it being discontinued by the store.

Anyway, it was a night flight, so I mostly snoozed on the plane and didn’t start knitting until the day I arrived in Australia.  It was a bit of a frantic push to get it finished in time.  I had to catch a 14 hour bus ride to visit my niece (ooh, love those Australian distances!) and I used that time to finish off the knitting.  It all went pretty smoothly.  The only difficulty was trying to do the embroidery for Otto’s face.

I mean, what do I know about embroidery?  Nothing.  I had to do some research to find out what french knots and satin stitch are, and my results weren’t brilliant.  I think my main difficulty arose from working the embroidery on a knitted, rather than woven, fabric.  One of the eyes worked really well, but for some reason I just couldn’t get the second eye to attach properly!  And poor Otto’s nose was overstitched about a zillion times, because I couldn’t figure out how to get a nice smooth edge when working with the v-shape of knitted stitches.

Luckily the end result was very cute, and no-one would ever know the difference:

Pattern: Otto by Ysolda

Yarn: Sublime Extra Fine Merino DK, less than 2 skeins.  Incredibly soft yarn, and perfect for snuggling.

Modifications:

I made very few changes to the pattern actually.  Like lots of other knitters, I found that the snout as written came out too long, so I ripped back and worked the increases every round, to get a shorter, snoutier snout.  I wasn’t overly thrilled with the design of the leg gusset, and I was left with a few gaps to sew up.  I’d use a more traditional method for the legs if I re-did the pattern.

I finished off with a garter stitch scarf made from some leftover alpaca/silk.  I added a little buttonhole and spent ages buying just the right button for it.  I got to my SIL’s place, asked to borrow a sewing needle, to be told that she doesn’t own one.  Can you believe it?  Yep, if something is torn or loses a button, she throws it out!  Clearly, we’re only related by marriage…

I solved the scarf problem by folding over one end to make a little loop to hold the scarf closed.  I mean, a polar bear surely doesn’t want to get a cold neck in a gust of wind?

Although Sophie really wasn’t all that fussed about the bear, she is clearly well-practised at being photographed, and she posed perfectly for me:

I was the only gift-giver who stayed away from things stereotypically pink and sparkly, so I’m quite happy to be the quirky aunt who gives home-made stuff.  Hopefully she’ll appreciate it one day.