The Great London Yarn Crawl

Some of you may remember that at the end of the summer holidays I went on a woolly day out at the zoo and gave you a teaser of something exciting I learnt. I’m sure you were all on the edges of your seats wondering what I had learnt…

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spinning spindle

Well, it was spinning my own yarn!

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I sat down for a quick lesson and got hooked! One of the organisers of the Pom Pom Parade, Allison mentioned the Great London Yarn Crawl (and actually co-created it). Despite being out of knitting action, I still decided to go along for a little tour and natter (and a goody bag!).

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Since it was a spinning lesson that introduced me to the yarn crawl, I chose a route that included spinning goodies. I was on the Red Route, led by the lovely Renee and Zoe (who it turned out I’d already met in real life), and we visited Nest, The Handweaver’s Studio, Prick Your Finger and Loop; it was an epic journey around North/East London on buses with lots of lovely chattering. At the Handweaver’s Studio I picked up a drop spindle and some wool to spin (Grey Shetland and some bundles of pink and purple merino) and I got a refresher lesson in spinning on the bus.

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Of course I got a couple of little bits in the other shops (purely to support the independent businesses!): Vintage sparkly buttons; odd ends of yarn and felt for a top secret project; and a chunky crochet hook with a soft handle (for when I am ready to slowly start crocheting again).yarn crawl 005

After a busy day of shopping we headed to a lovely pub where we met all the other groups. There were lots of generous sponsors who donated prizes, and I won a lovely skein of pink-purple yarn and matching stitch-markers from Inked Yarn. Hooray for prizes!
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It was such a lovely day meeting so many lovely knitters, spinners and crocheters. After the success of the inaugural yarn crawl, there are plans for another one next year. Hopefully I’ll be back knitting by then… (physio on Saturday to possibly get injections :-S)

Crochet Along update

It is about time I updated you all on my CAL progress. I took photos earlier in the week but have been too tired to post them (I’m soon going to need two hands to count the number of times this week that I have fallen asleep with my glasses on and a book/ipad in my hand). I had a bit of a panic when I realised how far behind I was, but have had a sudden surge of productivity (at the expense of my knitting) thanks to a little crochet case I made last weekend.
I made a simple little roll (think knitting needle rolls) with pockets large enough to hold medium-sized balls of yarn and a small pocket for spare hooks. I realised I wasn’t getting much crochet done because lots of the blocks require a few colours of yarn, and when I carry them in my bag they all get tangled. So with this crochet roll I can carry 5 or 6 shades of yarn without them getting tangled, and it is quick to pack away at the end of my travels.


From left-right, top-bottom you can see block 7 (corner granny), 8 (popcorn flower), 6 (textured bluebells), 3 (square target), 5 (twin stripes), 10 (openwork square) and 9 (arcadia). I am currently halfway through block 12 (fine lines) and will try to finish it tonight, so I can start week 4 tomorrow.

You may have noticed there are a few missing – block 4 went seriously wrong and needed too much concentrating so I have abandoned it temporarily until my brain is up to concentrating. I started block 11 (baby blocks) a couple of days ago and just couldn’t work out how to carry the yarn across to each part of the checker board. With knitting you can have strands of yarn crossing the back because there are different stitches for each side. I just couldn’t figure out how to train the yarn and keep it on the back of the block. I also realised I didn’t really want lots of loose yarn hanging on the back of my blanket (and there is NO WAY I am going to break of the yarn and sew it in a million times). So I decided life is too short to stress over one crochet block (that to be honest isn’t too inspiring really) so I’m skipping it completely! Please don’t kick me out of the crochet-along!

Well back to block 12, and choosing the colours for the remaining stripes. I’ve got a lot to choose from after collecting this parcel from the sorting office this morning…
Lots of shades of purple and pink Sirdar dk wool and wool blends from Deramores (with a 20% off offer).

p.s. there is still time to enter my giveaway!

SALE shopping (aka Should Alison Learn to Escape shopping)

I feel like I need to add lots of background information to this post to justify what I am going to say (and ease the guilt).

Count them – TWO big bags…

Since last autumn I have bought no more than 4 or 5 items of clothing, and most of these have been knitwear. My sewing had got to the stage where I would try clothes on and think “I could make this” or “This doesn’t fit properly” and so I decided I wouldn’t buy clothes that I can make myself. At this point the list of shop-bought possibilities included underwear, coats, shoes and cardigans.

As a teenager I knitted a jumper and a cardigan, but they didn’t get much wear as they were very chunky and I now know that chunky knits are definitely not the most flattering choice for me. I really want to knit a wearable cardigan, to add to my wardrobe and to prove to myself that I do actually have the patience for it, so a few weeks ago I picked up a pattern book, and then have spent weeks pondering over different yarns online. The only problem is that for a cardigan to fit me, made in good quality yarns, the cost adds up; £5ish for a 50g ball, times 12 or so balls depending on the style, quickly gets pricey.

So, with all that background information, I can proceed to share my not-so-impulsive sale shopping! A friend informed me that there was a sale at John Lewis, and since I was passing through Oxford Circus I thought I should pop in..

First thing I put in my basket (yup, I had a basket on wheels and I filled it!) was this gorgeous shade of 4-ply chain yarn. It is cotton, linen and viscose and has at least 4 subtle shades of yummy purples. I’m slightly scared of the weight of this yarn, due to my tendency to get finger-cramp when knitting on thin needles, but the colour was just too perfect to resist at half price (enough for a cardigan at £40 instead of £80)

Next I loved the vibrant colour of this cotton blend. There was someone else hovering around it for ages and we discussed how bright it would be in a garment under natural light, but it was too good to pass; on getting it home I discovered is almost the same shade as a slightly sad-looking cardigan I’ve had for years, which I love wearing in summer to add a pop of colour to a simple outfit. This is aran weight and came to under £30 for enough for a cardigan, which competes with shop bought prices 🙂 *

Finally I couldn’t resist the delicious colour of this yarn, and the silk and cashmere make it lovely to touch. I don’t think the colour comes across properly (although I did work out how to reset the white balance and exposure on my camera) is a cherry pinky-red – too red to be deep fuscia but not quite red.

Now I need to match up these yarns with patterns. All three yarn colours will fit in with my current wardrobe, however they are not winter-weight so I may need to get a move on with my knitting so I can wear them in autumn. My favourite from my Cherished book is the Skylark, but I don’t think it is a good pattern for a first cardigan! I’m really tempted to try Miette on ravelry.com but first I need to get some long/circular needles (looking at the weather outside that wont be today!). Jumper knitters, what do you knit with? What is the best way to hold 100s of stitches safely?

I also grabbed some eco cotton in white and lemon to make a present for a friend’s baby (gender not yet known**) and a few fabric remnants from a huge basket – we were having to reach in and pull handfuls to the top as the basket was so deep. A few of these are pretty-must-get-just-in-case fabrics, and some have a purpose in mind.

There is a metre of purple jersey for a simple summer top, two lovely cotton prints to add to my stash (or use for my new favourite detail – contrasting secret pockets), some thick grey felt that can always be useful and some white linen for embroidering onto. Oh, and a glow-in-the dark skeleton window sticker for when we next have a doctor/hospital role play in my classroom. I also picked up my new sunglasses – one classic tortoiseshell pair and one fun purple pair – and managed to wear them for a few hours at the school summer fair (before the rain came out of course!)

Hope you have all had a fun (and maybe more frugal) weekend.

*I really need to stop comparing prices of my makes with what I would spent on RTW in a shop – handmade garments made with care from quality materials, and providing me with hours of crafting enjoyment, are obviously worth more than mass produced fast fashion so I need to start comparing like with like.

** I totally understand the reasons for not knowing the gender of a baby before it is born, and love that it can limit the amount of stereotyping if people are forced to get neutral clothes and gifts, but at the same time I find it hard as so much fabric and patterns are designed for baby boys or girls. When I made a basket liner for a colleague’s baby, I spent hours searching for a nursery print that wasn’t pink or blue, and gave up and picked a normal print – is there a market for cute baby animal prints in neutral and natural colours?

*** Do you like the photo montages? I have always wondered how everyone does such great photo layouts on their blogs, and then Shivani introduced me to picmonkey which is so simple to use. I can finally have rounded corners on my pictures! 😀 I am obviously not going to spend all day exploring it, when I have a class worth of reports to write by next week, am I?